MLB would definitely shrink the minors again

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In reaction to the news that Major League Baseball has already been found to owe damages to minor-league players thanks to the class action Senne v. MLB suit, Maury Brown reported that we could see more MiLB clubs “dissolve” as a result of these increased costs:

In total, the increased cost with the minor leagues has raised concerns – both within MLB, and with some minor league owners – that additional contraction of minor league teams might take place when the current agreement between MLB and MiLB expires.

In speaking to several minor league owners, and sources within Major League Baseball, the idea that the number of affiliated teams could drop further is not being denied. When pressed in a meeting between minor league owners and MLB as to whether the number of teams could drop when the current agreement expires in 2030, Major League Baseball would not commit to it.

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Minor leaguers secure another win in Senne v. MLB

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The class action lawsuit, Senne v. MLB, has yet to actually go to trial — that won’t happen until June 1 — but the Senne side representing minor-league players and fighting for back pay has already racked up a few wins against the league. They won class action status in the first place in August of 2019, and had it upheld on appeal, too, in both the Ninth Circuit and Supreme Court. The latest W comes by way of a federal judge who declared that minor-league players are year-round employees, and are owed damages for not being classified that way in the past.

The Athletic’s Evan Drellich reported the news on Tuesday night, and included info on Judge Joseph Spero’s decision:

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Minor leaguers are demanding improvements to MLB’s new housing policy

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Back in October, when MLB announced that there would be a minor-league housing assistance mandate, it was pretty clear that it was going to be a positive, but there was no way it would account for everything it should. The final plan actually ended up being a little better than expected — likely due to the fact that it is very clear the league fears minor leaguers organizing — though, it still fell short of what it could be.

There is also the matter of how the policy came to be in the first place. As I wrote for Baseball Prospectus at the time the details were announced:

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The year in creating sports coverage, featuring leftism

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The end of 2021 approaches, which means another year of this labor-focused newsletter has wrapped up. It was an eventful year, for both major- and minor-league players, and the goal of this particular column, as always, is to remind you of the year that was. Let’s get right to it — each paragraph represents a month, and I’ll highlight a few pieces from all 12 of them.

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It’s time to pay MiLB players more, and more often

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While the clash between Major League Baseball and the Players Association is front-and-center at the moment thanks to the ongoing collective bargaining and the imminent expiration of the current CBA, we shouldn’t forget that minor-league baseball players have their own share of troubles and problems to solve. Advocates for Minor Leaguers pointed out on Tuesday evening an issue that those players are struggling through right now: the fact that players are not paid year-round, even though their contracts stipulate that they must work with their baseball careers in mind year-round.

Advocates’ tweet included two screenshots from the uniform player contract to make their point, the text of which read:

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Steve Cohen really should have logged off

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Major League Baseball might be taking steps to improve the living and working conditions of present-day minor-league baseball players, but what about those that were already ground into a fine powder by those horrors? Consider, for a moment, that after essentially doubling minor leaguers salaries, making it so they were no longer responsible for paying the clubhouse attendant’s wages via tips, providing for at least some of the players’ food, and recently promising to pay for the housing of “certain” minor leaguers, Minor League Baseball is still nowhere near the situation they should be: housing covered for all players, a living wage, equipment paid for by the clubs instead of the players, and so on. Now, consider that the minor-league players who were around for years before all of MLB’s recent upgrades didn’t even have access to that much.

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On concerns about MLB’s minor-league housing mandate

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MLB is going to mandate that teams provide housing for “certain” minor leaguers, news that was broken on Sunday by ESPN’s Jeff Passan and that we’ve already discussed in this space. However, as was pointed out on Monday, that’s about all we know: that piece mostly focused on the need for housing assistance and why, exactly, MLB has decided to reverse course on the issue now (the short version: they’re trying to appease players who are moving ever-closing to unionizing.) What we’ll focus on this time around, instead, is what the housing assistance should look like. It’s good to get these thoughts in order before the actual shape of things is revealed, so you already know what to look out for and be preemptively mad about.

Back in June, Beyond the Box Score’s Sheryl Ring brought up some legitimate concerns about MLB providing housing for minor-league players, having to do with landlord-tenant relationships, corporate housing, and more:

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MLB will mandate housing assistance for MiLB players in 2022

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Details remain essentially nonexistent, but we at least know this: all 30 of MLB’s teams will be mandated to provide housing for minor-league players starting with the 2022 season. No longer will it be select clubs deciding to pay out stipends or cover the full costs of housing, while others like the Cardinals and A’s plug their ears and wait for the season to end so they can stop being bothered about the horrific living conditions their players are dealing with.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan broke the news on Sunday night, and again, said news is vague. We don’t yet know if teams will be providing stipends to their players, as the San Francisco Giants have been doing for (some of) their minor-league players. We don’t know if furnished apartments are going to be provided, as has happened for Astros’ minor leaguers in 2021. We also don’t know which minor-league players are going to be provided with this assistance: all Passan was able to report at this time is that “certain” minor-league players would be provided housing.

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Maybe things are changing in the MiLB labor landscape

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It feels like we’re close to something in the Minor League Baseball labor movement, no? Maybe that’s just my optimism for a better future for those players talking, but there is a reason I’m as optimistic about it as I’ve been of late. That’s not to say I think it’s inevitable, but where in the past I’ve thought, “yes, it’s technically possible for organization and unionization in MiLB,” it’s starting to feel like it’s a thing that could actually happen at some point.

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Please don’t try to rehabilitate Jeff Luhnow

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Listen, I understand what the New York Post’s Joel Sherman was going for in a recent piece on the Astros, I really do. He tried to couch it all, and repeatedly, in language that protected him from saying the sign-stealing the Astros performed in 2017 was acceptable. His goal was instead to point out that what Jeff Luhnow built was more than a team that stole signs through an elaborate ploy involving technology en route to a World Series championship. And that’s true! Jeff Luhnow, as general manager of the Astros, did help build a team that continues to be competitive to this day, even two years removed from his direct influence at the top of baseball operations.

Here’s Sherman on Luhnow:

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