The minor-league housing situation is even worse than realized

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About a month ago, it was revealed that MLB teams weren’t allowing their minor-league players to spend the season living with host families. While that made sense for COVID-19 protocol purposes, teams didn’t provide any kind of financial relief to these players who relied on the host system in order to save — or, more accurately, redirect toward another need — money from their paltry paychecks. The solution, to me, was that MLB teams should be paying for MiLB player housing.

A week after that, it was revealed that some teams aren’t paying for the hotels or the meals for minor-league players at the alternate sites. The reason? Nothing said that the teams had to do that, so, some of them decided they weren’t going to spend a dime on something they were not required to.

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Rob Manfred is letting gambling decide MLB’s direction

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There is some concern out there that, because Rob Manfred seems intent on ruining the game of baseball as you know it, seven-inning games are going to eventually be the norm instead of what allows for regularly scheduled doubleheaders while MLB navigates a pandemic. With the modified extra innings rules, the minor leagues being used as a laboratory for pace of play and even more extra innings quirks and so on, it’s no wonder people feel like this about Manfred and his plans. Worry not, though: we probably won’t lose nine-inning games, because it would make the gamblers unhappy.

That’s right! The gamblers. Calling the intrusion of gambling on Major League Baseball “creeping” does not do what’s happening enough hasty justice—it’s been less subtle than that— but it’s still fitting since gambling’s influence is not becoming all-encompassing all at once. It is there, obvious to anyone who has seen the ways in which it has been introduced into even league broadcasts, but now we also have Manfred bringing it up in an interview with Sportico.

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Jeff Bridich is gone, but does that mean anything for the Rockies?

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Longtime Rockies’ general manager Jeff Bridich resigned from the position on Monday, less than a month into the 2021 regular season. His exit was a “mutual decision” with Rockies’ higher ups, meaning they told him he was fired but could bow out on his own instead of getting tossed out. Rockies’ owner Dick Monfort finally tiring of Bridich and telling him to go doesn’t mean that there is a major change coming to the organization, of course. Bridich acted the way he did for years because Monfort wanted him to: it is entirely possible that Monfort just needed someone new as general manager so they can restart this whole cycle.

You might remember this line of reasoning from when the Pirates parted with their own longtime GM, Neal Huntington, and their team president, Frank Coonnelly, after the 2019 season. Here’s me on that:

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MLB, MLBPA finally begin discussing expiring CBA

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Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have had their first collective bargaining meeting of 2021, according to reporting by ESPN’s Jeff Passan. He has no details on just what went down at the talks, as both sides declined to comment on them, and a lack of leaks from the MLB side — come on, you know it would be them first — means we can’t really figure out just how the first conversation went.

Passan gives a brief overview of the current situation — distrust on both sides, the players being understandably dissatisfied with both the league and the way the current, expiring collective bargaining agreement has played out — but I want to focus on one specific item he mentioned:

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Some MLB teams aren’t paying for minor leaguers’ hotels or meals at alternate sites

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One week ago, I published an article stating that MLB should be subsidizing the housing of minor-league baseball players, especially given how awful the salaries of those players are. I brought it up then due to a rumor that MLB wasn’t allowing families to host MiLB players during a pandemic — understandable — but also wasn’t footing the bill or arranging for housing otherwise. While that was unconfirmed, we now have word from Advocates for Minor Leaguers that there are definitely MiLB players forced to pay for their own housing, even though they’re taking part at the alternate training sites that have them basically on call for MLB duty during its second COVID protocols season.

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MLB should be paying for MiLB player housing

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In 2021, Minor League Baseball players will see a raise from their previous poverty-level wages to… well, higher poverty-level wages. Every level in the minors, outside of those repeating the Triple-A level, will still have a salary below the poverty line, and the ones above it will be so just barely. There are some little qualify of life changes MLB has put into place for 2021 and beyond, like getting rid of clubhouse dues so that players were no longer the ones responsible for paying a club employee, and paying for meals before and after games, but still: in the end, we’re talking about players making poverty-level wages.

Bill Thompson, who you’ve likely seen published in various baseball outlets, tweeted on Wednesday that it turns out, “MLB is not allowing host families for minor leaguers this year due to COVID. Understandable, but there’s no indication they are then footing the bill for these players to get their own housing. That means the raises they enacted will be canceled out paying for housing.”

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MLB supports voting rights, immediately has antitrust exemption threatened

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On Friday, Major League Baseball pulled the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to Georgia’s recently enacted voter suppression laws, those laws themselves a response to Georgia’s voters rejecting as much of the Republican party as they could in recent elections. You know, like the one that booted the truly wretched (and never elected) Kelly Loeffler from office and also convinced her to sell her stake in the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream.

You can debate whether what MLB is doing is the right thing or not — do the people in Georgia who will be impacted by this restriction of voting rights want these boycotts of the state? Is this anything more than a corporate reaction to which way the winds are blowing, in the same way their empty rhetoric around Black Lives Matter was around one year ago? — but what’s undeniable is that the decision to pull the All-Star Game out of Atlanta has infuriated the right. That’s no surprise, given they’ve been trying to spin what’s going on in Georgia as a strengthening of voter rights, not a direct attack on them, and also because like, three-quarters of what they’re up to now is culture war, America-is-being-canceled bullshit. MLB basically threw catnip for racists at a bunch of racists.

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After Kris Bryant grievance, the Cubs still feel free to manipulate service time

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Is what the Cubs are doing with 24-year-old second baseman Nico Hoerner service time manipulation? The most important answer is neither yes nor is it no: it’s that it doesn’t matter as much as it should, thanks to the Cubs themselves.

This isn’t the same as saying it’s not worth pointing out that what the Cubs are doing is service time manipulation. It’s that we still don’t have a definitive answer on what service time manipulation is, even though it sure felt like we were going to know well before this time last spring. The Cubs won Kris Bryant’s service time manipulation grievance last February, and that, in essence, was that for a while in terms of the players’ side being able to successfully point out that clubs were trying to get away with something as far as service time is concerned. As I wrote at the time the grievance was being arbitrated, the implications went far beyond just the state of Bryant’s tenure with the Cubs:

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Mailbag: Is it currently ethical to attend MLB or MiLB games?

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The MLB season is starting soon, and around a month later, we’ll also get the start of the Minor League Baseball season, the first since 2019… and the first under its new, shrunken format. MLB’s hostile takeover of MiLB brought a mailbag question to my inbox, so that’s what we’re going to tackle today.

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The rare, true “it’s not service time manipulation” moment

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Bobby Witt Jr. spent most of spring training exciting Royals’ fans, but he was optioned to minor-league camp earlier this week all the same. Usually, this situation would call for a look at whether a player’s service time is being manipulated or not, but this situation looks a lot more like that of Chris Paddack and the Padres a couple of seasons back than it does, say, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Blue Jays from the same-ish time period.

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