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Detroit Tigers News: MLB seeks to strip minor league players of federal labor law protection

Meanwhile, Mike Fiers’ back is making the decisions around here.

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In the wake of an offseason in which teams and players engaged in an offseason-long game of chicken, Major League Baseball has had a provision inserted into the $1.3 million omnibus bill headed to Congress for vote later this week which would exempt all minor league players from minimum wage provisions under Federal labor law. The cynically titled, “Save America’s Pastime Act” is a one page provision within the bill that would remove minor leagues players from protection under overtime rules, and from the minimum wage.

It bears mentioning at this point, that major tax cuts have already been passed by the current Congress. It also bears mentioning that MLB’s revenues topped $10 billion in 2017 for the first time. Estimates from last season aren’t yet available, but MLB franchise valuations rose 19 percent in 2016 continuing an ongoing trend. Prices for broadcast rights continue to boom as well. 2017’s collective bargaining agreement finally put strict caps on spending pools for international free agents, another major win for baseball’s owners. And, in a separate move, the league and owners also sold a majority stake of BAMTech to the Walt Disney Corporation for $2.58 billion. Those profits are separate from MLB revenues, but the fact remains that baseball owners are doing incredibly well.

Several minor league players have attempted to mount class action lawsuits against MLB owners in recent years. And for several years, MLB and owners have been attempting to insert a provision into a spending bill to preempt them. The league argues that the partial seasons, and, as they see it, the impossibility of tracking hours and overtime, make minor league players seasonal workers, and further, that this should exempt them from minimum wage protection.

A great many minor league players earn just $1100 a month. Even at the Triple-A level, salaries generally top out at $40 thousand per year. There are approximately 4500 minor league players at any given time. Were major league owners to give all of them an extra thousand a month, the total, split between 30 teams, would only cost each owner $1.8 million per year. Even half that sum would be a huge boon to most minor league players. It’s really hard to see the owner’s pleas for legal protection for their enormous profits as anything other than disgraceful.

Minor league players may only play in games for half the season, but they’re under the control and direction of their organization year round. As a minor league baseball player, if you aren’t training full-time most of the offseason? You’re failing. They deserve a decent wage, and while this is the owners’ decision, we’d be remiss if we didn’t wonder where MLBPA head, Tony Clark, is in all this. Thus far, the player’s union has been silent.

Mike Fiers back issues may keep him in Lakeland

There’s been an awful lot of debate about the place of Mike Fiers, Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd in the Tigers’ rotation. With only two spots available, and with Fiers having a rough spring training, there has been growing frustration with the idea of leaving Norris or Boyd behind. A tight back now appears likely to delay the need for that decision. Fiers is probably going to start the season on the disabled list. It’s up to Norris and Boyd to get off to good starts and make the decision as difficult as possible for the Tigers.

Drafting bats is hard when you don’t draft them high

It’s a pay site, but Katie Strang at the Athletic investigated the Tigers’ struggles in growing homegrown lumber on Wednesday.

“It’s hard to get impact bats when you’re picking lower,” Avila told The Athleticlast week. “That’s why you see teams like us take more chances on pitching and you try to build through your pitching.”

Avila argues that it’s much more difficult to project bats than it is arms, because at the high school level, hitters aren’t facing much high-end pitching. There’s some truth to that, but other teams manage it somehow without necessarily drafting in the top 10 every year. Possibly taking almost nothing but arms in the high rounds has something to do with it?

The Tigers have it easy

Jeff Sullivan has the 2018 strength of schedule rankings up at FanGraphs. The Tigers have the fifth easiest schedule in the American League. This is the White Sox and Royals fault no doubt. Do you know who else has an easy schedule? Exactly. Teams slated to play the Tigers a lot. Like the Indians and Twins, who have the two lightest schedules on the docket.

How Big G escaped to the Big Apple

Ben Reiter of has a great in-depth piece on the behind the scenes machinations that led to Giancarlo Stanton’s move to New York. You get a good sense of the conflict in Stanton’s heart in recent years. It’s clear that Stanton dearly wanted to win for Miami. The death of Jose Fernandez, and ownership’s willingness to support a fine lineup with free agent pitching signaled the end to the slugger. Then Derek Jeter and company showed up to try and push around a superstar with a no-trade clause. It didn’t go well, as the Marlins pathetic prospect return attests. Stanton also takes a welcome shot at that damnable home run sculpture.

Around the horn

Matt Manning is temporarily sidelined with an oblique strain. Annie Maroon has a great piece up at the Hardball Times about her path from sportswriter to baseball fan. Stephanie Apstein has a good article on the Ohtani factor and what it portends for the Angels season. Tim Keown at ESPN investigates just how dominant a player Barry Bonds was. The answer is probably more than you imagine.

Our friend Isabelle Minasian over at Lookout Landing has a hilarious, near scholarly breakdown of the intense pre-game Spanish animal naming ritual practiced in the Seattle Mariners dugout.

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Let me tell you something. Walter Johnson didn’t throw 100 mph, and Babe Ruth couldn’t touch Justin Verlander’s fastball. Just sayin’.