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The long, winding road for Lorenzo Cain
If you think the Royals weren't supposed to be here, Lorenzo Cain REALLY wasn't supposed to be here. Yet, here we are.
Lorenzo Cain just won the Lee MacPhail ALCS MVP trophy. Think about that for a minute: the 28-year old outfielder who had never posted a wRC+ above average since his 43-game debut back in 2010 took home the most valuable player hardware for the Royals, on their magical quest for a World Series title. Of course, anything can happen over a short sample, and the Royals made sure it was the shortest sample possible with their sweep of the Orioles, but it was a culmination of sorts, as well as a great testament to why players with promise shouldn't be given up on.
Cain was drafted in the 17th round of the 2004 Rule 4 Draft out of a Florida high school, 496th overall, by the Brewers. Given his draft position, he wasn't thought too highly of as a prep player. Sure, the potential was in there, but Cain hadn't started playing baseball until his sophomore year of high school (when he received his very first baseball glove) and was presumably raw by the time he was drafted. In a world where draft prospects are noticed early in the process by scouts through traveling teams and youth showcases, Cain was late to the party. By the time he was a senior he'd turned himself into a draft-worthy player but hardly one of certain promise.
Keep the tools in mind, however, when thinking of Cain. He's everything a scout, coach or fan can dream on, checking in at 6'2" and 185-pounds with speed to burn and oozing athleticism when he was selected. Unrefined? Perhaps, but teams take dozens of these kinds of chances every year in the draft and sometimes they pan out. Cain's story is along those lines as the raw tools eventually translated into results. After two season in rookie ball and one at High-A, he started to finally climb the Brewers' ladder in 2008, when he put up wRC+s of 125 and 128 in High-A and AA, respectively. Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein took notice in his 2009 Future Shock review:
Year in Review: The toolsy outfielder rebounded from a tough 2007 campaign, making major strides in translating his athletic ability into baseball skills.
The Good: Milwaukee credits Cain's step forward to a more disciplined approach, as he learned to lay off of breaking balls out of the strike zone and wait for pitches that he can drive. This also allowed him to begin to tap into his power, as his 11 home runs represented a career high, and with five more in the Arizona Fall League, the Brewers dream about him hitting 20 or more homers eventually. He has above-average speed, and is a good baserunner and a solid center fielder.
The Bad: Cain's game still needs some refinement. He can fall in love with his power at times, and becomes a bit pull-conscious. He still needs to work on his outfield play, particularly his jumps and reads. There are fears that if he can't stay in center, he'll profile as more of a tweener.
Perfect World Projection: He's not a huge impact player, but a nice everyday center fielder who can beat you in a variety of ways.
Glass Half Empty: He becomes a fourth outfielder who can play all three spots.
Cain lost time in 2009 due to injury and performed poorly when on the diamond, missing the cut and finding his way off the Brewers' top prospect list. He was good in the high minors in 2010 and earned a promotion to the big leagues, where he logged 43 games, slashing .310/.348/.415 in his rookies season, good enough for a 107 wRC+ with seven steals and 11 doubles. As predicted, he notched positive defensive values with a UZR/150 of 5.4, accrued primarily from playing in center, in addition to a handful of innings in left and right. The Brewers had their center fielder of the future on their hands.
And then they didn't.
In December of 2010, Cain was traded, along with Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi, for Zack Greinke. It was a blockbuster of a deal, as the Brewers sent four highly-regarded players to the Royals in exchange for the 2009 Cy Young winner. The change was likely tough to embrace for Cain and his fellow tradees. Kansas City had lost at least 93 games in seven of the previous eight seasons, making it one of baseball's blackest of black holes. The change of scenery didn't exactly improve Cain's performance: It was back to AAA for Cain with the Royals, save for a six-game trial where he didn't turn heads. But his minor league time appeared useful, as he was excellent over 128 games.
The extra seasoning was perhaps just what the doctor ordered, due to his lack of overall baseball experience. He was 25, however, and it would have been easy to dismiss his AAA performance. 2012 was destined to be his breakout, but the universe had other plans. Instead of bursting onto the major league baseball map, Cain was derailed by a series of injuries, starting with the fifth game of the major league season. He was injured trying to rehab and only managed to log 61 games with the Royals, in which he put up 1.7 fWAR, mostly on the back of strong center field defense. Still, it was a sign that if Cain could stay healthy and contribute for a whole season, he might just turn into a real difference-maker.
This is obviously what the Royals were hoping for when the 27-year-old reclaimed the center field job in 2013, but Cain fizzled at the plate. His 80 wRC+ over 115 games was not what anyone was hoping for, and with Jarrod Dyson knocking on the door, Cain either lost playing time or was moved to right field on occasion. In yet another year when it was all supposed to come together for Cain, the results were less inspiring than hoped for. His defense in the outfield saved his value, however, as he was able to accumulate 2.7 fWAR thanks to a UZR/150 of 29.2, fourth-best in the majors for all outfielders. He had the defense thing covered, but the bat was still lagging. Although he'd posted a career minor league slash line of .294/.366/.430, he managed a measly .251/.310/.348 and left a lot to be desired. Worst of all, the clock was ticking; as he approached his age-28 season, Cain's leash most certainly was tightening considering the team's aspirations heading into the 2014 season.
And then it all clicked. He hit for more power. He stole more bases. He was more consistent. He played a career-high number of games, and even managed to get luck on his side. The defense held, the offense came around, and when the dust settled, Cain put up nearly 5 fWAR in his long-awaited breakout campaign, good enough for seventh-best among all major league center fielders. As you can imagine, the timing couldn't have been better. The Royals scratched and clawed their way into the playoffs with only one extra game to spare. An untimely falter by Cain (or any of his teammates) could have seen the Royals at home right now rather than entering the World Series for the first time in 29 years.
Instead, Lorenzo Cain finally blossomed before our eyes. The physical gifts turned into defensive and offensive production and Royals have certainly needed every bit of it he could muster. On the biggest stage of his career, Cain was stellar in the ALCS, going 8 for 15 (.533) with five runs scored, two walks and three strikeouts while making highlight reel catches appear entirely routine. He certainly captured America's attention during the series as the Royals pushed their magical season one step closer to completion.
This is Lorenzo Cain: a guy that wasn't supposed to play baseball, wasn't drafted highly, rarely received accolades in the minors, was traded to one of baseball's worst-performing franchises, suffered from injuries, failed to perform in the majors and looked to be on the verge of washing out as a defense-only player at best. Instead, that vision that Kevin Goldstein and countless other scouts had seen for Cain in the past finally manifested itself. It came at the perfect time for his team, as they're one step away from a World Series crown. Baseball's funny sometimes, and I guess that's why we watch it. Lorenzo Cain's been magnificent, and he's certainly worth watching, too.
Minor-league lawsuit claims MLB fails to pay minimum wage to minor-leaguers
Behind the romantic notion of baseball's hard-scrabble minor leagues lies the less-idealized reality that the players are paid poverty wages.
By: Brendan Kennedy Sports reporter, Published on Fri Oct 17 2014
CLINTON, IOWA—Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams is just an hour and a half northwest of here. That old corn field from which he carved a supernatural baseball diamond is a little ways up the Mississippi, near Dyersville, Iowa, where it stands today as a tourist attraction, preserved to look just like it did in the movie.
Down here in Clinton, a shrinking factory town that’s home to the minor-league LumberKings, sits a field for a more earthly dream, though equally romantic.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be one step closer to my ultimate goal in life,” says Eddie Campbell, an earnest, 22-year-old starting pitcher for the LumberKings. “And that’s to play Major League Baseball.”
The minor leagues are often glorified as a simpler, less corrupt version of America’s national pastime, where the game is unadulterated by fame or money and where long bus rides build character. But behind the pastoral charm is a less idealized reality: that it operates on the backs of workers earning poverty wages.
The LumberKings, named for the millionaire timber barons who once ran this town, are the Class-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, who, like every other major-league team, pay their A-level minor leaguers roughly $6,300 for the five-month season — about two-thirds what Jose Bautista makes per inning.
Players in the NBA’s affiliated minor leagues make three to five times as much, while the NHL’s unionized minor leaguers can earn even more, with greater benefits to boot. (The NFL doesn’t have an affiliated minor league.)
Minor-league baseball players regularly work 60- to 70-hour weeks with only two or three days off a month, but they get no overtime pay. They receive only a $25 meal per diem — no salary — for the mandatory four to six weeks of spring training. Same goes for any instructional leagues they may be required to attend when their 140-game schedule ends.
Players are required to pay $5 per day in clubhouse dues for each home game
A handful of players receive six-figure signing bonuses in their first year, but many sign for $5,000 or less. So most players earn less than the federal U.S. poverty line, which in 2014 is an annual income of $11,670 for a single-person household.
How does a $9-billion industry like Major League Baseball get away with this?
It has a steady supply of willing, non-unionized workers who are required to sign standardized, seven-year contracts binding them to a single organization. The players have little or no leverage to change what baseball considers a rite of passage. Besides, they’re chasing a childhood dream.
“I’m lucky to be able to be here and get paid to play the game I love,” Campbell says.
But critics accuse Major League Baseball of exploiting that dream while reaping the benefits of the minor leaguers’ cheap labour, and a lawsuit filed by 32 former minor-league players threatens to upend the current system.
“The Defendants have preyed upon minor leaguers, who are powerless to combat the collusive power of the MLB cartel,” reads a passage from the lawsuit, filed in February, which the plaintiffs hope will soon be certified as a class action.
“Baseball has just ignored this for so long that it has reached a tipping point,” says Garrett Broshius, the St. Louis, Mo.-based lawyer behind the suit and a former minor-league player himself who spent six seasons in the San Francisco Giants’ farm system.
Since 1976, when major-league players won the right to free agency, their salaries have increased by 2,000 per cent. The major-league minimum is now $500,000.
But minor-league salaries have increased by only 75 per cent over the same period while inflation has risen more than 400 per cent. In real dollars, Broshius says, minor leaguers earn less today than they did more than 30 years ago.
Though couched in legalese, the crux of the former players’ case is fairly simple: they argue they weren’t paid minimum wage, were not compensated for overtime and in some cases worked without pay entirely. They will be seeking back pay, though they haven’t yet set a specific amount for damages.
Major League Baseball maintains a longstanding exemption from antitrust laws, so its franchises can collectively agree on standardized minor-league contracts. But Broshius argues the league is not exempt from federal wage and hour laws.
Stanford University law professor Bill Gould agrees. “It’s quite clear that the league is working beyond the rules established by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 in terms of hours the players have committed and the pay they receive,” says Gould, who previously worked as a salary arbitrator for Major League Baseball. “The facts are very clear. They’re going to have to find some kind of exception.”
Major League Baseball refused to comment for this story, but in its “answer” — an initial legal response, filed in May —it put forward several potential defences, including the notion that minor-league players are seasonal workers and exempt from hourly wage laws. Gould says the seasonal exemption is baseball’s “only way out.
“If that doesn’t catch on, it seems to me that it’s a question of what kind of settlements they’re going to engage in.”
The minor-league lawsuit is the latest in a growing movement of semi-pro and student athletes fighting for fairer pay: the unionization push for Canadian junior hockey players, for instance, or NCAA athletes’ fight to organize and be compensated for the use of their names and likenesses in merchandising. The difference is that minor leaguers are unambiguously full-time professionals and represent the bulk of the league’s employees. Major League Baseball employs eight minor leaguers for every major leaguer.
“It’s a situation that is ripe for the owners to take advantage of those minor-league guys because they are chasing a dream and they want to get into the industry so badly that they’re willing to do almost anything to do it,” says Broshius.
Matt Daly is one of the former minor leaguers who joined the lawsuit earlier this year. He played five seasons in the Blue Jays’ farm system from 2008 to 2012 — earning less than $40,000 over his entire minor-league career — and remembers how quickly he became disillusioned with the life. “Everything seems glamorous and amazing when you’re a professional athlete. Then I got there and saw how different it was.”
Daly worked off-season jobs and lived in cramped apartments to make ends meet. After the birth of his first child in 2010, his in-laws paid the rent at the Dunedin, Fla., apartment he shared with his wife. “We wouldn’t have been able to afford it otherwise.”
Daly was released by the Jays in 2013 after he participated in spring training without pay. Now 28 and working for a home builder in Colorado, he says he understands people who think he should feel lucky to have been paid to play baseball. But he hopes those people also consider that the league is a multi-billion-dollar corporation, and when you compute the hours he worked with the pay he received, it doesn’t add up.
“I know every ball player that’s ever played this game is grateful for that opportunity . . . (But) realistically, you would be better off with a 20-hour work week at a minimum-wage job for a full year, from a financial standpoint. That’s something I hope people can respect and understand.”
LIVING THE DREAM
The first thing you notice in Clinton is the smell. Or smells. The strongest — a sour, stale-beer stink — comes from the Archer Daniels Midland corn-processing plant, a sprawling complex that dominates the town’s southern waterfront.
The company is Clinton’s biggest employer and looms large, not only in its physical presence but also in the town’s psyche. The plant’s workers have not been organized since 1979, when the previous owner, Clinton Corn, busted the local union after a nearly year-long strike. Clinton’s population has dwindled ever since, from a high of nearly 35,000 in 1970 to today’s 26,473.
The aroma of dog food competes, wafting over from the Purina plant. On a hot day with a little wind it makes for a putrid potpourri.
“This isn’t an ideal place to live for the summer,” admits LumberKings’ centre fielder Aaron Barbosa. “But at the same time we don’t make that much money and it’s cheaper to live in a worse place.”
Most players live four or five guys — sometimes six — to a one- or two-bedroom apartment in the cheapest building in town, splitting the rent to stretch their $625 biweekly paycheques. “Fit as many people in as you can in to save money,” Barbosa says.
Typically, the veterans get a bedroom while the others sleep on air mattresses in the common room or on the couch. “It’s only a place to crash,” shrugs catcher Luke Guarnaccia, 22, who shares a two-bedroom apartment with four other players.
The athletes are at the ballpark for about 10 hours every day, not including travel time or double-headers — the LumberKings have played 11 this season. For a 6:30 p.m. game, they will arrive around 1 or 2 and take advantage of the free peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the clubhouse before mandatory stretching, batting practice and drills. They may come earlier to work out in the gym with the team’s trainer.
“I knew it was going to be a lot of work,” says Blake Holovach, a 23-year-old left-hander from Kansas City. “But I didn’t know we were going to be at the field all day.”
Baseball’s grind of a schedule and repetitive practice regime necessitate long days at the ballpark. “But if you’re working at a job that requires you to put in that many hours,” Broshius says, “out of basic fairness it just makes sense that you should be compensated for those hours that you put in.
“If you’re working at McDonald’s and you end up working 60 hours a week for whatever reason, they have to pay you for all 60 of those hours and for 20 of those hours they have to pay you overtime. If McDonald’s can figure out a way to comply with those laws, then why can’t Major League Baseball figure it out?”
RITE OF PASSAGE
I arrive at the ballpark at 9:30 a.m. to join the LumberKings before a three-game road trip to Kane County, Ill. The team is in the middle of a stretch of 20 games without a day off to end the season, and their playoff hopes are dim.
This bus trip is an easy one, though — only two hours. Just long enough to watch a Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson buddy flick, and nothing like the eight-hour treks to Bowling Green, Ky., or Dayton, Ohio.
The LumberKings’ manager, Scott Steinmann, played three minor-league seasons before becoming a coach in 2003. He says the conditions for players are cushy compared to what he went through, recalling when he played in the Southern League and melted through eight-hour commutes on old buses with no air conditioning. Everybody would strip to their underwear and the bus would reek from 30 sweating men.
“This minor league, it’s kind of like a rite of passage,” he says. “You go through it, you’ve endured it, you’ve transcended up to the level of a major-league player. But all those guys up there have gone and played on fields like this and played in small towns like Clinton, and you always have those stories and those things to draw upon to say, ‘I’ve gone through a bit of struggle but I’m better because of it.’ ”
The LumberKings lose all three games to the first-place Kane County Cougars — the eventual champions of the Midwest League — and drive back to Clinton late Saturday night, arriving around 1 a.m. Sunday. The players have to be back at the ballpark in about nine hours for a Sunday afternoon home game.
Barbosa, the LumberKings’ lead-off hitter, collects six hits on the three-game trip, boosting his season-long batting average to .310. The 22-year-old from outside Boston is enjoying a breakout season and could get promoted to advanced Class-A next season. He plans to finish his civil engineering degree from Northeastern University this off-season, and says it’s “flat-out stupid” not to have a backup plan beyond baseball.
Barbosa won’t openly complain about his low pay, though he eventually admits it “doesn’t seem fair. “But it makes sense in a way, just because of how many of us there are.”
Baseball’s minor-league system is vast and deep. Most major-league teams are affiliated with eight minor-league teams, ranging from the short-season Dominican and Gulf Coast rookie leagues to Triple-A, which is one step below the majors.
Some minor-league teams are owned by the parent clubs, but most operate independently, linked to their major-league affiliate by player-development contracts. The major-league team pays the players and coaching staff and oversees all player development, while the minor-league team runs daily operations, such as tickets sales and concessions.
The LumberKings — who are in low Class-A, the lowest level of full-season professional baseball and four steps below the big leagues — are one of the few community-owned franchises left in minor-league baseball, and they have operated that way since 1937. They are a for-profit corporation, but general manager Ted Tornow says they have never paid dividends to their 1,000-odd shareholders. “Any profits have gone back into the team or the facilities,” he declares.
Monthly minor-league salaries range from $1,100 in rookie leagues to $2,150 at the Triple-A level. All players receive one-time signing bonuses, which range dramatically, from more than $1 million for a first-round pick to as little as $1,000 for a late-round college senior.
The LumberKings’ lone Canadian, Tyler O’Neill, signed for $650,000 last year. O’Neill — who grew up in Maple Ridge, B.C. — will be financially secure even if he has to stretch the bonus for five or six minor-league seasons. Some of his teammates, however, signed for a fraction of what he did. Kevin McCoy, a college senior, signed for $5,000.
So while technically every player receives the same in-season salary, the organization invests far more resources in highly touted prospects who are being groomed for the majors. But even the highest-ranked prospects typically spend years in the minors, and they need players to play with and against. That’s why teams need cheaper signs like McCoy to fill out the rosters.
McCoy, though, doesn’t see it that way. Like Campbell, he’s just happy for the opportunity.
“I feel very fortunate to be paid to play baseball, something I’ve been doing my whole life,” he says. “The Mariners are an incredible organization.”
The 23-year-old relief pitcher is a trivia buff and fitness nut who believes in the power of positive thinking. “(The low pay) doesn’t bother me because I have the mindset that you can’t put a finite, monetary amount on a dream, on an ambition, on an aspiration. It’s something that transcends yourself. You’re playing for every single kid that one day dreams of being in your shoes.”
There is a dissonance that occurs in every conversation with a minor-league player. When they talk about their commitment to the team and what’s expected of them, they use the language of employment: This is a business. I gotta do my job. This is what we get paid to do. But when the topic of their actual salaries comes up, they fall back on a different kind of cliché: You can’t put a price on a dream. We play a kid’s game. I’m doing what I love.
“It’s a system or a culture (the league) has created where it’s a business when they need it to be a business and a game when they need it to be a game,” says Lucas Mann, an Iowa-based writer who spent a full season with the LumberKings in 2010, chronicling the year in his book Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere.
The players also embrace an image of themselves as heroic underdogs, Mann says. “Even the word dream, right? These general terms do a really good job of whitewashing everything else.”
Roughly 10 per cent of the 6,000 active minor-league players will get a sniff of the big leagues. So only two, maybe three, of the 25 players currently on the LumberKings’ roster will get a chance to earn major-league money.
But LumberKings manager Steinmann waves away the long odds. “If you’ve got a uniform, you’ve got a chance,” he says.
He’s not wrong. Mark Buehrle, the Blue Jays’ veteran left-hander, was a 38th-round draft pick. He has earned $119 million over his 15-year career and will make $19 million next year. Mike Piazza, a 12-time all-star, was selected in the 62nd round — after most teams had stopped drafting — as a favour to his father. He became a superstar and earned more than $120 million in his career.
Stories like these are a powerful incentive.
“The only thing that keeps you going is the hope of making all that money, and hopefully it’s in a couple to a few years, so you don’t have to worry about the little money that we make now,” says Holovach, who was drafted in the 27th round in 2012. “It’ll all hopefully pay itself off.”
Until then, some players will get financial help from their parents while others try to save as much as they can in their off-season jobs, which range from giving baseball clinics to pumping gas to selling shoes.
To a man, the players say they wouldn’t trade their experience. They relish the competition and the camaraderie. The time between the lines, under the lights, is intoxicating.
“I have a lot of bills to pay and an apartment back home with my fiancée that I still pay for, and I barely get by,” says reliever Aaron Brooks, who sends her $200 from every paycheque. “But it’s way better than going home and working in McDonald’s or something. They may be making more money, but they’re not enjoying it.”
For others, the game is like an extended adolescence.
“I still feel like a kid so when I get these cheques I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s kind of a lot of money,’ even though it’s not,” says Campbell.
Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey, 39, spent 14 seasons in the minors (though the bulk was at the Triple-A level) and says he enjoyed the experience despite the low pay.
“Of course you’d like it to be more, but you also understand that you’re working towards something much like in any industry you start in the mail room to work your way up to being a CEO . . . Nobody’s holding a gun to your head saying you gotta be a minor-league baseball player. You do it because you love it and you dreamed about doing it.”
Dickey, who made $850 in his first minor-league season, worked a multitude of off-season jobs, from menial warehouse work to landscaping to working at a bookstore.
While he enjoyed his experience in general, Dickey says, he wishes there had been some type of union protection for when the Texas Rangers pulled back their initial signing-bonus offer of $800,000 and reduced it to $75,000 when team doctors found he did not have an ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow.
“Outside of that I kind of just accepted my surroundings. As a 21-year-old kid, whatever they were, they were. I didn’t really know the difference. When you don’t have something to compare it to, it’s hard to know if it’s unsuitable working conditions or not.”
FEAR OF BEING BLACKBALLED
The minor-league lawsuit won’t be resolved for years. The trial, if it comes to that, isn’t scheduled until the fall of 2016. The class-action certification could take months.
In the meantime, Broshius hopes the suit will spur minor leaguers to think about forming a union.
Several LumberKings players have ideas to improve their working conditions: housing allowances, increased per diems, ensuring adequate sleep on road trips. But they have no union and no representation in the major-league union, even though the collective bargaining agreements between the MLB and its players regularly affect minor leaguers.
For instance, the most recent agreement, in 2012, reduced the overall pool of money for signing bonuses — a concession made by major leaguers to win benefits elsewhere — and the agreement signed in 2007 delayed minor-league free agency by an extra year. “Yet minor leaguers have no voice at the table,” Broshius says.
The Major League Players’ Association refused to comment for this story. In an emailed statement, communications director Gregory Bouris said the MLBPA’s “general belief” is that “all workers, regardless of industry or profession, deserve the right to protect their interests by unionizing and/or pursuing statutory options that may be available to them through the court system.”
The biggest roadblock to unionization is the players’ reluctance to rock the boat for fear of risking their careers.
“The notion that these very young, inexperienced people were going to defy the owners when they had stars in their eyes about making it to the major leagues — it’s just not going to happen,” the late Marvin Miller told Slate in 2012. Miller, a former executive director of the big-league players’ union who negotiated baseball’s first collective bargaining agreement in 1968, said the fear of being blackballed had long deterred any organizing by minor leaguers.
By contrast, baseball’s minor-league peers in professional hockey have been unionized for nearly 50 years. In 1967, Mark Messier’s father, Doug, hired a lawyer and rallied his Portland Buckaroo teammates to fight for higher salaries and better health care. From there, the Professional Hockey Players’ Association was born and the union now represents 1,600 players in the American Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League and the Central Hockey League.
The difference in salary compared to their baseball counterparts is stark.
In the AHL, which is one step below the NHL, the minimum salary is $45,000, while the average is more than $80,000, according to the association’s executive director, Larry Landon. That’s roughly four to eight times the standard pay for a non-free-agent Triple-A baseball player. In the ECHL, roughly equivalent to baseball’s Double-A level, players receive $1,700 a month, which is closer to the salaries in baseball’s high minors — though still higher — except that all ECHL players have their housing and utilities covered.
Yet Major League Baseball generates more than twice the annual revenue of the National Hockey League.
“The faster the baseball players at the minor-league level can unionize, the better off they’re going to be,” Landon says. “Our guys are talking about this lawsuit, saying, ‘Why doesn’t Minor League Baseball unionize? Why don’t those players see what we have and take action?’ ”
LumberKing reliever Brooks says he wished there was a union in baseball’s minors but he doesn’t have the time or energy to devote to something like that.
“We’ve got 140 games and maybe an off-day or two a month, plus travel. There’s definitely things that need to change, but right now we need to do our job, which is to play baseball, which I think is a good enough opportunity.”
Daly, the former Jays’ minor leaguer who joined the lawsuit earlier this year, understands that mentality. “I never said anything when I was a player. If you get into anything like that, your job’s in jeopardy, your chance (at getting promoted) is in jeopardy.
“But truly, in your heart you feel that you’re basically not getting what you should given the amount of time and hours and effort that you’re putting into it from a true job perspective. It’s not fair.”
Blue Jays prospect Matthew Boyd reflects on the value of demotion in 2014
Toronto Blue Jays pitching prospect Matt Boyd struggled while making the transition to Double-A in 2014, but feels that he's found positives from the experience.
Blue Jays prospect Matthew Boyd Reflects on the Value of Demotion in 2014
Getting to the Double-A level, where so much is proven, is considered one of the biggest jumps in professional baseball. For Toronto Blue Jays prospect Matthew Boyd, the promotion to Double-A was one that he embraced, but soon felt overwhelmed by. His approach began to change. His mind wasn’t on the game he’d played all his life; instead he’d lost touch with a very simple mantra all players learn to live by.
"The game is the same no matter what level. And I didn’t think it was the same game," he said Sunday. "That was the biggest thing working against me."
That mental struggle, as well as foot pain that he’d been playing through, led to consistent struggles. In six starts through May, he surrendered 20 earned runs.
"The second time I went up to Double-A, in July, and got three or four good outings, I felt a lot better. I gained a lot of confidence back," he said.
The idea that the game speeds up the higher the level sounds a bit mystical. But, realistically, players in Double-A will have more finely tuned instincts, sharpened through repetition, making them quicker to figure things out. Sink or swim thinking caught up to Boyd. Players talk about the change in atmosphere, and a more professional manner overall . Everything looks a bit more major league.
"The pace is different. And not just the level of hitters, but even what the locker rooms are like is different. I had to learn my routine," he explained.
Boyd’s journey began when the Blue Jays drafted the two-position player in 2013 in the sixth round out of Oregon State University. He went 11-4 with a 2.04 ERA for the season, while striking out 122 in 123 innings, and was named to the Baseball America All-America Third team and the All-Pac 12 First Team. He played first base and made an impact at the plate throughout high school and college, but he was fully converted to a starting pitcher as a senior for Oregon.
"It was time to focus completely on pitching. They didn’t want to burn me," he said.
He’d been a reliever through parts of college, but it’s the rotation where he feels most comfortable.
"You kind of control the game when you’re a starter, and I love that. You’re leaving your stamp on it. I could easily convert back to the pen if they need me to. But starting is a joy for me."
In his first season of pro-ball he split time between the Florida State and Midwest leagues, making just five starts, with 24 innings pitched. He started the 2014 season repeating Class-A Florida State League with Dunedin, but received an early season promotion to the the Eastern League. While some players can skip Triple-A, Double-A performance tends to dictate a lot.
Boyd struggled with New Hampshire, posting an 8.31 ERA in 22 innings in six starts in May. He was sent back to Dunedin, then moved back up to New Hampshire again in July. His ERA was still high in five starts there at 5.57 in 21 innings, but his K/BB was greatly improved at 23/2. He returned to Dunedin in August. Overall, he posted a 1.39 ERA with a 103/20 K/BB in 91 innings for Dunedin, but 6.96 ERA in 43 innings for New Hampshire, though his K/BB at least was good at 43/13. The problem was 55 hits in Double-A.
Boyd’s issues seemingly lock him up for a season back with New Hampshire. However, if fully healthy and consistent, he adds more depth to a system already deep with solid young arms.
Boyd’s difficult transition to Double-A, back to Class-A, then back up again was a lesson in keeping it simple. He’s focused now on developing his slider more, and picking up from where he left off in take-two of the Double-A experience.
"The second time around, I could see where I made mistakes, and I was able to build off of that. I got back to taking it one game at a time."
Sometimes an oft-used statement to sum up playing the game just works.
Sticker shock? Santana's agents make their case for $112M
November 13, 2013 10:04 am ET
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The asking price for free-agent starter Ervin Santana is indeed a bit more than $100 million, as reported.
In fact, it is a little more than a bit more. It is precisely $112 million for five years, according to people familiar with talks involving Santana.
The $100 million-plus figure, first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Foxsports.com, surprised some folks who were figuring on the $70 million to $80 million range for the pitcher who's among the elite of this market, along with Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez. Well, $112 million may shock a few more folks.
Stringfellow, Alou and White make a compelling case, if you listen to it.
The real question, though, is whether the general managers here are buying it.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Ervin Santana, Braves agree to deal
ESPN.com news services
Free Agent Profile: Ervin Santana
Tim Dierkes October 16, 2014
I’m predicting a four-year, $56MM deal this time around. Combined with the 2014 one-year deal, Alou would be able to say he ultimately got Santana five years and $70MM, not far off Steve Adams’ original estimate from last offseason.
“The current Collective Bargaining Agreement and its bonus pools have created incentives for teams to select high school players early in the draft “
This is a VERY good article with much valuable information. I can’t send it in its entirety because of the restrictions BB America has placed on me. However, you can access the whole piece by clicking on the link.
2014 Draft Report Cards: CBA Notes And Spending Trends
October 17, 2014 by Clint Longenecker
To go with our Draft Report Cards, here are some team-specific tidbits concerning the 2014 draft, as well as draft spending trends in the third year under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
• The current Collective Bargaining Agreement and its bonus pools have created incentives for teams to select high school players early in the draft before spending less in the back half of the top 10 rounds, and 2014 saw the most aggressive use of that strategy in the three years under the current CBA. Nearly half of the high school players drafted in the top 10 rounds (47.1 percent) went in the top two rounds. More prep players went in the first 89 picks (43) than in the next 225 picks (42). The percentage of high school players taken in each round fell in every round in the top 10 (with the exception of ties). Only one high school player was selected in the senior-heavy 10th round.