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Article: Manfred Should End Outdated Selig Policies

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#1 SD Buhr

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Posted 24 January 2015 - 07:23 AM

In case you missed it, there's a new commissioner of Major League Baseball.

I know that for many fans, that may come as a shock. There are fans who can legally enjoy a brew or two at ballgames who have never attended a big league game that wasn't played under rules dictated by Bud Selig. If it's true that "the exception proves the rule", then that applies to Bud Selig's role in "proving" the Peter Principle.There's no other way to explain that man surviving 22 years as commissioner of baseball.

But today is not the day to trash Selig. Today we humbly beseech his replacement, Rob Manfred, to finally do something about a couple of the most outdated and ill-advised Selig policies. These are two issues that I have long felt were the dumbest, most indefensible of all MLB policies and yes, I've written here about both before - several times, in fact.

I'm referring to baseball's policies concerning compensation for minor league players and the MLB.tv blackout policy.

(This article was originally posted at Knuckleballsblog.com)

These two issues are handled illogically, at best, and offensively, at worst, in the way that they reflect MLB's low views of the value they place on two of the assets most critical to the game's long-term viability -- their future players and their current and future fan base.

FOX Sports writer Jon Paul Morosi posted an article recentlythat listed a number of issues that Morosi felt Manfred should focus on as he inherits Selig's throne atop Major League Baseball. I may disagree with Morosi's view concerning Selig's legacy, but his list of topics where Manfred could make improvements included a number of valid possibilities.

Unfortunately, it did not include any mention of paying minor leaguers even minimum wage, much less a living wage, nor did Morosi mention the blackouts. I'm not surprised, of course. The next baseball writer from a major media outlet to properly and persistently shame baseball on either topic will be among the first.

I won't go into great detail concerning either topic. There are plenty of articles available with a simple Google search authored by far more knowledgeable and talented writers than yours truly.

But if you really want to read my take on the issues, you can find my thoughts on minor league pay by clicking here and on blackouts by clicking here (where I asked the Twins president why he didn't want me to be a fan) ... and here (where I attempted to start an "Alice's Restaurant"-like movement)... and here (where I basically just trashed Selig for his inaction on the subject).
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Most of these guys are among the lowest compensated people at the ballpark.

On the pay issue, suffice to say that, unless you are a US player drafted in the top couple of rounds or one of the very highest regarded international 16-year-olds playing ball anywhere in the world, signing your name on a contract to play professional baseball in this country is a losing proposition. You'd almost certainly have a better shot at making a living off your competitive fire by taking up Texas Hold'em.

Wages for minor leaguers start in the neighborhood of $1,100 a month. That's gross (in more ways than one). Uncle Sam is going to take his share and then there are clubhouse dues, all of which leaves a typical player with a few hundred dollars a month to cover luxuries like housing, transportation and food.

Of course, the players only get their money while they are assigned to an actual minor league roster. No pay for offseason workouts or team-sponsored appearances. No pay for spring training.

You think there's really little difference for a player who gets the final roster spot on a full season Class A roster coming out of spring training and the first guy left off who stays behind at extended spring training? Guess again. One guy gets paid a pitiful sum. The other guy doesn't get even that.

In his article, Morosi did include this item on his recommended to-do list for Manfred: "Engaging young athletes, especially African-Americans."

Here's a thought, Mr. Manfred. Maybe if you actually paid young players working their way toward the big leagues a living wage, athletically gifted kids (of any ethnicity) wouldn't laugh at you any time you suggest they put their talents to work at baseball instead of other sports, where at least they have a shot at becoming more famous indentured servants of major colleges.

The good news is that a lawsuit against baseball has been filed on behalf of minor leaguers, asking the courts to require teams to pay at least minimum wage salaries to players.

What is MLB's reaction to that challenge, under Selig and, so far, Manfred? They're trying to convince Congress to specifically categorize ballplayers as "seasonal workers," akin to carnival workers. And they're enlisting the help of their minor league affiliates to help lobby their elected representatives on baseball's behalf, via not-so-thinly veiled threats of "contraction" of minor league teams if baseball is forced to increase pay to their future players.

Those are nice guys running big league baseball, huh?

Likewise, the issue of blackouts has been out there for years. Promises from MLB executives (including Mr. Selig, himself) to take a look at the issue go back at least to 2008 and probably further. But here we are, in 2015, and still cable TV subscribers in Iowa are blacked out from watching any game involving the Twins, Cubs, White Sox, Brewers, Cardinals or Royals, unless it's a national network game. The blackout even applies to subscribers of MLB.tv.

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Look at all the pretty colors in Iowa and Nevada!

This has been frustrating to me and my fellow Twins fans in Iowa for years, but nobody in baseball or the media has really cared.

Now, however, thanks to WGN no longer broadcasting Cubs games on the national version of their network, a lot of Cubs fans outside of greater Chicago may suddenly discover the problem. Welcome to the club, folks. Maybe you can get the national media to notice the problem.

As with the minor league pay issue, there's some news on this front. Baseball has indicated they are looking into the matter and there may be changes to the policy forthcoming.

Hmmmm... I think we've heard that before.

Anyway, Mr. Manfred, if you want to convince me you are any different than your predecessor whatsoever, you can start by proving you give a damn about your fans and about being even mildly fair to the thousands of young players who are feeding your talent pipeline by clinging to their dream of playing big league baseball.

Until then, a lot of us will continue to view you as nothing more than "Bud Light."

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#2 brvama

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Posted 24 January 2015 - 10:01 AM

Thank you. I too share your anger, if I may say that, on both topics. What's really frustrating is that is very difficult for me to understand the rationale in all this. Any change as you suggest will not cause any hardship on MLB. In fact, it will increase their reach. Looking at the "beautiful" map I'm struck as to how someone in El Paso will attend more Rangers/Astro games b/c of the blackout. Or anyone in Gulfport, MS going to the Braves, Or Billings, MT to Seattle, Or Rapid City to the Twins. You get the picture. Many are outside of the regional area of teams and still blackouted. That thinking discourages a building of the fan base. Stupid! I sure hope they change this before I die.

#3 JB_Iowa

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Posted 24 January 2015 - 10:18 AM

Minor Leaguers:  Absolutey agree changes are needed.

 

TV Blackouts:  While I sympathize with your position and believe that MLB will eventually have to make changes, I don't think this is an easy issue or that the commissioner would have an easy time acting unilaterally on this subject.

 

The big paydays that many teams got from the regional sports networks may well have been based in part on the blackout policy.  Any changes may interfere with those contracts and make some owners very unhappy,

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#4 SD Buhr

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Posted 24 January 2015 - 10:46 AM

Of course it would make some owners unhappy. Making a change, however, would likely result in no significant loss in total revenues, but it may result in more of those revenues going to MLB Media, at the expense of teams getting as much from local media rights fees.

 

The MLB office knows the status quo is wrong. That's why they've consistently talked about changes. There would never be a change if the only people inconvenienced were Iowans and Nevadans. But, thanks to the Dodgers' local cable fiasco and, now, Cubs fans being potentially inconvenienced, there's more attention on the subject.

 

I imagine there are workable solutions out there that will address the revenue matters, but I do suspect it will take a serious threat to MLB's anti-trust exemption before real change occurs.

 

That's probably also what it's going to take to affect change for minor league pay, too. In fact, I believe it's baseball's fear of a serious threat to their anti-trust exemption that is causing them to try to get a law passed making minor leaguers seasonal workiers.

 

They're afraid that if they try to rely on their exemption to be allowed to continue screwing over the ballplayers, that might not sit well with some people and they may start re-asking why baseball should have that exemption in today's world.

 

They also know that MLB, by itself, might not get much of a sympathetic ear from most of Congress. Thus, the coercion campaign with minor league officials. Each of them have local Congressmen who are likely to listen to their local team officials.

 

It really is shameful. 

Writing about the Minnesota Twins and their minor league organization, with an emphasis on the Cedar Rapids Kernels, at Knuckleballsblog.com since 2010.

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#5 Thrylos

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Posted 24 January 2015 - 12:07 PM

I think that there is technology to tie MLB.tv with individual cable and satellite provider programs to determine blackouts.That would be fair.So the only instance of blackout is if your game is on TV through one of your local providers. I am all for no blackouts whatsoever, but I do see the point of the Sports stations that have paid MLB tons of $ (and signed contracts) for local exclusivity. They just need to determine what exclusivity is better.And they do have the tools. 

 

The whole minor leaguer situation is horrible.And, in addition to the commissioner, the MLB players' union is to blame, since a. they do not represent minor leaguers, and b. the less the minor leaguers make, the more $ for the Major Leaguers.$13 * 40 * 52 = $25K should be the absolute minimum for these guys.Not that they cannot afford it.I bet that if the Twins paid every single minor leaguer at least that, they still would pay less than what they paid Blackburn not to play in 2013.

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#6 ashburyjohn

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Posted 24 January 2015 - 12:37 PM

Look at all the pretty colors in Iowa and Nevada!

 

As a Nevadan now, I concur with the shortsightedness of this.First, and not that it affects most of the population centers in the nation, but the apparent need to color in every single square mile of the US with a team allegiance strikes me as obsessive rather than business-based.Do the teams in the Bay Area really believe that someone in Reno's going to slap his forehead and say "shoot! the game's blacked out, guess I'll hop in the car and drive across the Sierra to take in a game this afternoon"???I mean, some percentage of the A's tickets do get sold to folks from around here, just as the Twins rely on buses full of Iowegians coming up for a day trip or even making a weekend of it.But it's not because the game is blacked out on teevee.It's an event when I go.And I'm more likely, not less, to attend a game in person if I've watched the year's edition of the team some, and have gotten to know and root for the players. This seems like Marketing 101 to me; guess TPTB have taken the graduate level course though.

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#7 TheLeviathan

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Posted 24 January 2015 - 04:29 PM

Thrylos is right - the minor league fix has to be from both the union and the league as both have worked actively to create the abysmal situation we know today.  That, to me, should be the top priority of anyone in charge of baseball.

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#8 clutterheart

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Posted 24 January 2015 - 06:36 PM

There is too much TV money coming in so do not expect any blackout changes.

Better get a VPN or find the game online.

#9 notoriousgod71

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Posted 25 January 2015 - 12:37 PM

Another Manfred gem:

 

http://hardballtalk....partner=ya5nbcs


#10 JB_Iowa

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Posted 25 January 2015 - 12:51 PM

Another Manfred gem:

 

http://hardballtalk....partner=ya5nbcs

 

Olney is having a good time with this:

 

Buster Olney ‏@Buster_ESPN· 29m29 minutes ago 
Eliminate shifts? Wow. It might be a worse idea than telling pitchers they're only allowed to throw pitches that are straight.

 

Are there going to be little circles in which fielders must stand, even when they know the batter doesn't hit the ball in that area?

 

Re: 'No shifts.' Does that mean infielders can't play in or back? Outfielders can't play deep/in? Can't play the lines? No-doubles defense?

 

Re: No shifts: Does that mean first baseman must always hold the runner? Must stay on the bag? On the bag? In front of the base? Back?

 

Re: No shifts: Who will enforce it? If fielder must stay in his 'circle,' who will determine if he left a split second early? Reviewable?

 

 

I can just see the groundskeepers competing on who makes the best little circles.

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#11 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 25 January 2015 - 02:25 PM

while we are at it, can we end interleague play?(note I realize that the leagues need to be lined up for this to work)..

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#12 ashburyjohn

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Posted 25 January 2015 - 04:09 PM

while we are at it, can we end interleague play?(note I realize that the leagues need to be lined up for this to work)..

We can still have a World Series, though, right?

 

/ spring training games too...

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#13 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 25 January 2015 - 04:34 PM

Just as Selig was said to be the least horrible commissioner of the four major sports commissioners, we can hope Manfred was the least horrible option among all potential successors.

Though by suggesting baseball should ban shifts, it's obvious he lacks any fundamental understanding of the game. Again we can only hope Torre and other good influential baseball people can keep Manfred from breaking too many valuable objects while he's in office.
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#14 brvama

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Posted 25 January 2015 - 06:43 PM

When I read that ban I thought "And we complained about Selig."


#15 DutchFarmer

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Posted 25 January 2015 - 08:25 PM

Largely agree on both points.

 

Although to be fair you are incorrect that these players making this amount of income are paying uncle sam. After standard deduction, personal exemption, and earned income tax credit it is unlikely any of them have a tax bill. 


#16 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 08:26 AM

Another Manfred gem:

 

http://hardballtalk....partner=ya5nbcs

nathan-fillion-well-nevermind.gif


#17 Mike Sixel

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 08:30 AM

Wow. Well, it would save me a lot of time and angst if I never watched or listened to baseball again......so there's that in his "plan".

 

There are GMs who agree, that a team using brains to (in their opinion) increase their odds of winning is wrong. So. Sad.

One of the best opening day rosters in years. Now go get 'em.


#18 REPETE

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 09:58 AM

after reading the article on Max Murphy, I'm a little confused on the Minor League salaries.  He was a 9th round pick, and "quickly signed for $130K".  I assume that $130K is a signing bonus, meaning the stipend he gets for playing in the minors is just that, spending money.  The $130K is what he should be planning on thru his duration in the minors.  Am I looking at this all wrong? 


#19 Mike Sixel

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 11:06 AM

130K over 4-6 years.....good luck living on that. 

One of the best opening day rosters in years. Now go get 'em.


#20 REPETE

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 12:53 PM

130K over 4-6 years.....good luck living on that. 

I'm not saying $130K for 4-6 years is great, but it's not as dire as the article suggests.  "$1100/month" doesn't tell the whole story.  Plus, the schedule isn't as long & grueling as the Majors, so these guys can, and I assume have to, get "offseason" jobs to make ends meet.  So it's not nearly as bleak, when you consider it an opportunity to live out your dream, and potentially earn more than most of us could hope to make over 20 years at a regular job..  




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