Manfred Should End Outdated Selig Policies on Minor League Pay & Blackouts

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 that 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.

Rob Manfred, Bud Selig (Getty Images)
Rob Manfred, Bud Selig (Getty Images)

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 Today we humbly beseech his replacement, Rob Manfred, to finally do something about a couple of the most outdated and ill-advised Selig policies.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 their blackout policy.

These two issues are illogical, at best, and offensive, 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 & future fan base.

FOX Sports writer Jon Paul Morosi posted an article recently that 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 in to 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).

Most of these guys are among the lowest compensated people at the ballpark.
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’s 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 even get 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

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 in to 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 just being 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.”

– JC

One More Decision Bud Selig Won’t Make

Admit it… as soon as you read yesterday’s post about Bud Selig and the decisions he is incapable of making, you knew this was coming, didn’t you?

Yes, I’m going to rant… again… about broadcast blackouts and how MLB doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about fans throughout Iowa and parts of Nevada (and a few other states) where fans are literally prevented from watching just about any team they care at all about play baseball on cable television or the internet.

I won’t rehash the issue in its entirety. You can click here to read all about it or just type “blackouts” in the search window at the top of our site to bring up any number of my previous rants on the topic. Here, I’ll just provide a little updated rant.

At a Hot Stove banquet the week of Twinsfest, I had the pleasure of listening in on a Q&A session with a panel that included Twins President Dave St. Peter. With encouragement from a fellow Twins fan and blogger who shall remain nameless (other than to say he has a view from Section 219 of Target Field for several Twins games a year) and emboldened by the beer or five I had during dinner and the following couple of hours, I asked Mr. St. Peter whether the Twins would ever address the crazy “blackout” issue that prevents me and my fellow Iowans from seeing Twins games either on cable television or via the internet.

St. Peter admitted that Iowa was in the middle of a “Bermuda Triangle” (his words) and that he and the Twins would like to see the situation changed, but the matter is dictated by MLB’s broadcast rights policy and any changes would have to come from league headquarters. He also suggested I write to Iowa’s Congressional delegation.

Frankly, I was surprised someone in baseball would actually encourage a fan to complain to my Senators and Congressman about MLB (because certainly he must be aware that such a complaint would naturally include a suggestion that baseball’s anti-trust exemption be considered for review), but I let the matter drop at the time.

I didn’t bother to let him know that I had already written a polite letter (really… I CAN be polite when I want to be… and when I think it might be more productive than being brutally honest) to Commissioner Selig a couple of years ago about the blackout policy and got exactly the kind of response I expected. That is to say, no response whatsoever.

I also didn’t point out ot Mr. St. Peter that this issue has been raised by far more influential people than I, such as former MLB president Bob DuPuy, who lobbied for an end to the blackouts… in 2008… with no effect whatsoever.

Of course, I don’t really expect Bud Selig to step in and make a decision regarding the broadcast blackouts. After all, we’re talking about a guy who is seemingly paralyzed by inaction regarding any decision at all that might not be 100% okie-dokie with all of the owners and all of the Networks, so it’s not logical to think he’d make a decision on this matter either.

Then again, considering the decision he did make on the whole All-Star Game/World Series home field thing, maybe we’re all just better off waiting for the next Commissioner anyway. After all, Selig will retire when the latest “last” extension is up in two years, right?

Yeah… right.

– JC

~You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant~

Flipping The @MinnesotaTwins The Bird

Some of you may still recall my rant a week or so ago about the absurd, insane, unfair, and downright indefensible blackout rules that prevent me (and all of my fellow Iowans) from watching Twins (and Brewers and Cardinals and Royals and Cubs and White Sox) games online. I mentioned somewhere in that rant that this would be my 51st and final year as a Twins fan if the rules don’t change by next year… which I know they almost certainly won’t do.

Many of you, I’m sure, believed that vow to be nothing more than an emotional (over)reaction to a situation that has, after all, existed for years and that I would eventually calm down and remain a lifelong loyal Twins fan. It’s a fair assumption.

It’s also going to prove to be an erroneous assumption. I’m going to burn all of my Twins gear… 3 jerseys, 3 Spring Training sport shirts, at least 3 caps, and more t-shirts than I can count… on Opening Day 2012 if the Twins still insist on including Eastern Iowa in their “protected home market”, despite FSN not bothering to do what it takes to actually get carried on a local cable provider.

In fact, I’ve already chosen the team I plan on devoting my fandom to, in place of the Twins. I’ll be trading in my navy and red for the black and orange of the Baltimore Orioles.

As a matter of fact, thanks to those absurd, insane, unfair, and downright indefensible blackout rules, I’ve actually already watched more Orioles baseball than I have of the Twins.

And I gotta say… I’m loving this year’s Orioles team.

I expected them to be better than they have been in several years. In fact, in my “offbeat predictions” post last week, one of the limbs I went out on was to predict the O’s would finish second in the AL East this year. That was before Baltimore went on to win their first four games of the season, with a sweep of the Rays down in St. Petersburg and before the Red Sox lost their first six (and counting) games of the season!

As you may be able to tell, I’m actually getting excited for this team. The “veteran” sluggers they brought in to shore up their offense haven’t even started hitting yet. Vlad Guerrero finally hit his first HR of the season tonight, Derrek Lee has just one (as of the 5th inning of Thursday’s game, which I’m watching as I write this), and Mark Reynolds still hasn’t gone yard. (It seems the Twins aren’t the only team yet to get much thunder out of the heart of their batting order.)

JJ Hardy in his (and my) new colors

But Brian Robers has been hot and good old “number 2 in your program and number 1 in your hearts” JJ Hardy has been a double machine. He may only have three hits on the season, but they’ve all been two-baggers. And the young starting rotation has really done a nice job so far.

It’s actually kind of fun to root for a young-ish team on the rise (hopefully), that’s been built by former Twin GM Andy MacPhail and is being managed brilliantly by Buck Showalter. Only the Twins, among AL teams, had a better record from August through the end of the regular season last year than the Orioles did.

As an Orioles fan, I still get to vehemently root against the F’ing Yankees and the East Coast Bitch Sox.

Of course, the BEST part about becoming an Orioles fan is that I get to actually watch them play every game. OK… not EVERY game… for example, later this month when they host the Twins, I WON’T be able to watch those games (thanks to the absurd, insane, unfair, and downright indefensible blackout rules).

But there’s a chance I’ll be in Baltimore the last week of April and they’re hosting the Red Sox for three games that week, so there’s a very real possibility that I’ll actually be watching my first regular season MLB game in Camden Yards, instead of Target Field, this season.

I’ve even started checking out some of the Orioles blogs (scouting the future competition, you might say). There don’t seem to be nearly as many as the umpteen million Twins blogs around so I think maybe that’s a lineup that could use me!

And with that.. YESSSSSSSSS Adam Jones just tied the Tigers 4-4 in the sixth with his first HR of the season!

I wonder if there’s a song I need to learn. Ah well… until I find out, I’ll just stick with…

~You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant~

– JC

Join The JimCrikket Anti-MLB Blackout Movement

Several people have found one way or another to express support for my rant on the subject of the bizarre MLB blackout rules, which prevent those of us in Iowa from watching Twins games (and Royals games… and Brewers games… and Cardinal games… and Cubs games… and even WhiteSox games, for that matter) on

I want to express my appreciation for all the moral support.

A common theme, however, has been to question what we can do. I’ve given that question some thought. Obviously, a few isolated blog posts and even traditional media articles about the topic haven’t influenced the Twins or MLB to make changes.

I’m pretty discouraged, but your support brought to mind my favorite 18 minute and 34 second song… Arlo Guthrie’s classic “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”.

Now, I realize many of you have no idea about Alice’s Restaurant (or even Arlo Guthrie, for that matter… and shame on you for that). It is, after all, a song from the 1960s, years or even decades before a lot of you were born. But it was an important song to a lot of us who grew up in the Vietnam era. If you want to read the lyrics, click here and if you’re really ambitious, you can watch/listen to a 2005 Guthrie performance of the song on YouTube here. But do it when you have some spare time because I wasn’t kidding about it being an 18 minute, 34 second song. They made a movie based on the song. You know how movies based on books often have to cut good stuff out to make it down to a two hour movie? Alice’s Restaurant very nearly had to do the same thing… with a song.

But I digress… the point is, your kind expressions of support brought Arlo’s classic to mind.

While my fight with MLB and the Twins over blackouts doesn’t quite rise to the level of seriousness of conscription during the Vietnam conflict (which was the topic of Alice’s Restaurant), I feel much like Arlo.

If just one person (like me for instance) continues to scream at the powers about this issue, they’ll probably think I’m really sick.  If two of us do it… in harmony… well, I’m not sure what they’ll think. And if three of us rant on and on about blackouts, they may think it’s an organization. And can you imagine 50 people a day blogging, tweeting and otherwise hassling @TwinsPrez and @MLB about the blackout madness!? Friends, they may think it’s a movement.

And that’s what this is… the JimCrikket Anti-MLBBlackout Movement and to join, all you have to do is sing along.

All you bloggers, tweeters, facebookers, and old fashioned letter writers (you know who you are)… contact @MLB and @TwinsPrez and anyone else you know inside the Twins organization or MLB baseball… or write about this issue in your blogs occasionally… and include this refrain from the song…

You can get anything you want, at Alice’s Restaurant
You can get anything you want, at Alice’s Restaurant
Walk right in it’s around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want, at Alice’s Restaurant

Of course, if you’re tweeting or otherwise limited in terms of character length, just go with…

~You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant~

…and, in any event, link back to my little rants here at Knuckleballs. If you follow @Knuckleballs and/or @JimCrikket on Twitter, you’ll be seeing a tweet you can simply re-tweet to show your support.

If you REALLY want to get in to this and if you who have a voice that doesn’t send dogs and cats in to the river to drown themselves, you might even consider making a phone call to the Twins/MLB offices and singing the Alice’s Restaurant refrain.

… with feeling, of course. Arlo would demand it be done that way.

– JC