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Monday, December 03, 2012

The Economist: Not so fast (the case against Marvin Miller)

The magazine’s sports blog argues that Marvin Miller personified labor unions’ flaws as well as their virtues.

Reduced competition among free agents is great for veterans. But it’s not great at all for young players, who are effectively still bound by the old reserve clause…The union’s rank and file would be far better off if Mr Miller had dedicated more of his bargaining chips to pursuing sharp increases in the league’s minimum salary, or to challenging the amateur draft…

An even bigger black mark on Mr Miller’s record is his callous disregard of minor-league players…By ignoring [their] plight, [he] was complicit in the construction of a system that has presumably forced the next Mike Piazza out of the game prematurely…

His pronouncements during the past decade on performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) further sullied his reputation…

David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 03, 2012 at 04:46 PM | 137 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: marvin miller

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   1. Bob Tufts Posted: December 03, 2012 at 06:04 PM (#4315690)
Anyone who uses the word "labour" has no idea about baseball.

Miller opposed additional drug testing other than for reasonable cause due to fourth amendnment reasons. The Quest/CDT imbroglio and leaking of medical information proved him correct.

He also opposed additional testing because he did not believe that opening a duly negotiated CBA was a good idea - owners may try to constantly add items via public pressure and change already negotiated items.

If minor leaguers want a union, they should organize and form one (as I believe college athletes should) under NLRB standards. As executvie director of the MLBPA, Miller could only by law negotiate or intervene on subjects related to his membership (current players and former players if the issue dealt with their playing days).

And yes, Miller was smart enough to allow owners to restrict free agency - which drove the salaries of all players past year three in the majors higher. Pure free agency (which writers for The economist have in their choice of employers) would have caused too much uncertainty and turnover in rosters on a yearly basis and been poor for the game.

If The Economist believes that a minimum MLB salary for a rookie of ovwer $ 400,000 is a travesty, they've lost their minds!



   2. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 03, 2012 at 06:15 PM (#4315701)
Miller opposed additional drug testing other than for reasonable cause due to fourth amendnment reasons.

The 4th Amendment doesn't apply to drug testing of employees, or to any purely private situation of search. You can't claim 4th Amendment protection when your landlord uses his right of inspection and finds the pot growing in your basement. It's only a protection against Gov't activity.
   3. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: December 03, 2012 at 06:17 PM (#4315708)
The Economist thinks a labor leader made the wrong decisions, was counterproductive toward his stated goals, and only accomplished anything because of lax enforcement of labor law! Quelle surprise!
   4. AROM Posted: December 03, 2012 at 06:21 PM (#4315712)
I don't get the Piazza comment at all. It's not explained further in the text. Piazza signed in pro baseball in pretty much the same conditions of today. Late pick, very little signing bonus, presumably very low salary until he made it to the Dodgers.

Piazza could afford to take that chance since his family was rich, yes. But there's no reason a "next Mike Piazza" would not find his way to the majors. It's true he would not be drafted as the draft is only 50 rounds now, but he could still sign as a free agent, or else go to one of the independent leagues.

And someone with Mike Piazza's talent unleashed on independent baseball? It would not take long for a team to discover him.
   5. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: December 03, 2012 at 06:23 PM (#4315713)
If minor leaguers want a union, they should organize and form one (as I believe college athletes should) under NLRB standards. As executvie director of the MLBPA, Miller could only by law negotiate or intervene on subjects related to his membership (current players and former players if the issue dealt with their playing days).


personally I think minor leaguers* SHOULD be part fo te sam ecolelctive bargaining unit as MLB players

*not true "minor leagues"- like the Indy leagues, but MLB's farm clubs- the whole business of MLB "buying" so and so's contact from a AAA team has long been a sham- every player on Syracuse's or Columbus's roster was really signed by an MLB team, their salary and any bonus money is paid by an MLB team, their managers and coaches all work for that MLB team, etc.
   6. zack Posted: December 03, 2012 at 06:26 PM (#4315724)
I'm a big Miller supporter but this isn't unreasonable. I think it (and a lot of other similar criticisms) miss the mark by glossing over the fact that he's beholden to the union membership.

I will say that the way all the sports unions throw the draft picks under the bus at every chance is pretty deplorable.
   7. Bob Tufts Posted: December 03, 2012 at 06:53 PM (#4315762)
Miller opposed 2005 Congressional proposed legislation (the McCain-Davis Clean Sports Act) as it mandated federal testing and punishment.

To quote Miller:

"An employer can do this (test) , and a union can agree to do this, as part of collective bargaining," Miller said, pointing out the difference between private industry and government when it comes to drug testing. "But Congress can't. No government agency can conduct a search without first going to court and swearing before a judge that there's a probable cause to believe that player 'X' is guilty. Until the judge gives that order, the person can't be searched."

Congress' reaction:

House Government Reform Committee chief counsel, Keith Ausbrook said the committee believed the bill would be found constitutional because "there is a compelling government interest in the problem" of steroid use by professional athletes and school-age athletes. "Under the Fourth Amendment," he said, "if it's the only way to deter the use, it might not have to be so compelling." He added, "We think the record shows there's compelling interest in doing it to protect the integrity of the game and protect the health of players and children who look up to them."

Truly chilling.
   8. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: December 03, 2012 at 07:16 PM (#4315784)
won't somebody think of the congressmen
   9. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: December 03, 2012 at 07:26 PM (#4315796)
Congressmen are at their worst when dealing with an issue that is actually important, but they think it is unimportant, but they think they can pretend it is important. This seems to be one of those issues.
   10. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 03, 2012 at 07:34 PM (#4315805)
Bob Tufts--The Economist is a British publication, so it uses British spelling. As the story says, it is not true that the MLBPA can only negotiate on issues related to its membership. On the contrary, it is supposed to bargain on behalf of all workers in its industry, regardless of whether they are members or not. A minor leaguer could conceivably take legal action against the MLBPA for not representing their interests, but they'd a) become persona non grata among their peers and b) stand very little chance of success, since the courts have historically given sports unions a lot of leeway.

AROM--Perhaps I should have been clearer. The point is that for every Piazza--that is to say, a late-blooming talent unrecognized in his youth who finally gets to MLB--there are probably many players who drop out along the way, because it doesn't look like they have any clear chance of making The Show and minor league life sucks.

zack--In the 1960s and 70s, Miller was leading the players, not following them. If he'd only reflected the preexisting consensus view, the reserve clause never would have fallen. Even now, I imagine that a full vote of MLB players would prioritize issues like the minimum salary over pushing the record contracts ever-higher, since there are more minimum-salary players than $100 million players.
   11. Randy Jones Posted: December 03, 2012 at 07:49 PM (#4315824)
I generally like The Economist, but this is a terrible article.
   12. Joe Kehoskie Posted: December 03, 2012 at 07:53 PM (#4315828)
Bob Tufts--The Economist is a British publication, so it uses British spelling. As the story says, it is not true that the MLBPA can only negotiate on issues related to its membership. On the contrary, it is supposed to bargain on behalf of all workers in its industry, regardless of whether they are members or not. A minor leaguer could conceivably take legal action against the MLBPA for not representing their interests, but they'd a) become persona non grata among their peers and b) stand very little chance of success, since the courts have historically given sports unions a lot of leeway.

Are there any lawyers or legal analysts on record supporting the bolded part?

AROM--Perhaps I should have been clearer. The point is that for every Piazza--that is to say, a late-blooming talent unrecognized in his youth who finally gets to MLB--there are probably many players who drop out along the way, because it doesn't look like they have any clear chance of making The Show and minor league life sucks.

The idea that kids choose to play a sport or not play a sport based on hypothetical future earnings (or working conditions) is unsupported by any evidence. If this was true, very few kids would be playing sports like soccer and lacrosse, few kids under 6'2" would be playing basketball, etc.

Even now, I imagine that a full vote of MLB players would prioritize issues like the minimum salary over pushing the record contracts ever-higher, since there are more minimum-salary players than $100 million players.

Agreed. I've always been astonished that the minimum salary isn't a bigger issue in MLB and other pro sports.
   13. dlf Posted: December 03, 2012 at 07:58 PM (#4315832)
As the story says, it is not true that the MLBPA can only negotiate on issues related to its membership. On the contrary, it is supposed to bargain on behalf of all workers in its industry, regardless of whether they are members or not. A minor leaguer could conceivably take legal action against the MLBPA for not representing their interests, ...


Absolutely not. There is zero chance of a minor league player winning a Duty of Fair Representation claim against MLBPA. A Union has an obligation to bargain for members of the bargaining unit which, in open shops, includes both members of the union and the people holding the same or similar positions working for the same employer performing the same jobs. They absolutely do not have an obligation or even an opportunity to bargain on behalf of "all workers in its industry." To suggest that the MLBPA has an obligation to players in the minors working for different employers under different circumstances is to badly misread decades of labor law.
   14. Bob Tufts Posted: December 03, 2012 at 08:04 PM (#4315838)
Bob Tufts--The Economist is a British publication, so it uses British spelling.


Since they are British, they know nothing about baseball - hence my comment. /sarcam alert


it is not true that the MLBPA can only negotiate on issues related to its membership. On the contrary, it is supposed to bargain on behalf of all workers in its industry, regardless of whether they are members or not.



No. The NLRB recognized bargaining unit is (per MLBPA website):

"All players, managers, coaches and trainers who hold a signed contract with a Major League club are eligible for membership in the Association.'"



Coke to dlf.....
   15. Greg Franklin Posted: December 03, 2012 at 08:08 PM (#4315840)
The Economist writer here is not some clueless Brit. "D.R." is Dan Rosenheck. (The "labour" and other Briticisms are obviously his editor's work.) TFA links to his NYT article covering the same ground.

If minor leaguers want a union, they should organize and form one (as I believe college athletes should) under NLRB standards. As executive director of the MLBPA, Miller could only by law negotiate or intervene on subjects related to his membership (current players and former players if the issue dealt with their playing days).

Rosenheck basically argues that this tack is unrealistic, and that MM should have peremptorily organized them for their own good. His argument is, "well, major leaguers had absolutely no concept of collective bargaining back then, but Miller came in and raised their consciousness, so how come he didn't do the same for minor leaguers and young players? He coulda/shoulda, but he didn't." (Some of the old-time Prospectusians also hold this opinion that Miller kissed off the minor leaguers by not doing what was best for them.)
   16. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 03, 2012 at 08:20 PM (#4315858)
Randy Jones--Care to elaborate?

Joe Kehoskie--It's not a question of whether kids choose to play a sport, it's whether they choose to pursue it as a career. Basketball and football don't face the same problem, since there's no dues-paying period to endure--you get a free college education, and then get drafted by the top league when you're done.

dlf--I was using shorthand. That said, minor league players do perform the same job as major leaguers, and they don't Really work for separate employers, since the farm teams are controlled by their MLB parents. I don't know whether there are any precedents about the independence of minor and major league clubs. But in the end, I agree with you--probably the biggest reason no minor leaguer has tried to challenge the MLBPA is that the odds would be stacked against them. That doesn't exempt Miller from criticism. He represented the narrow interests of (in my view, a subset of) his union's members, which might make him a good negotiator, but doesn't make him a great champion of the working man.

Bob Tufts--Yes, I'm aware that the "major league" in MLBPA limits membership to major leaguers. My exchange with dlf addresses this point.

Greg Franklin--Thanks for summarizing my position accurately.
   17. Joe Kehoskie Posted: December 03, 2012 at 08:22 PM (#4315860)
Rosenheck basically argues that this tack is unrealistic, and that MM should have peremptorily organized them for their own good. His argument is, "well, major leaguers had absolutely no concept of collective bargaining back then, but Miller came in and raised their consciousness, so how come he didn't do the same for minor leaguers and young players? He coulda/shoulda, but he didn't." (Some of the old-time Prospectusians also hold this opinion that Miller kissed off the minor leaguers by not doing what was best for them.)

If that's his position, it's an absurd one, as Miller already had more than enough on his plate, the labor wars weren't truly won by the MLBPA until late in Miller's tenure (if not after Miller retired), and minor leaguers vastly outnumber major leaguers, which means they could dominate internal union matters, hijack CBA talks, etc., if organized into a single MLBPA.

At best, the minor leaguers would have their own MiLBPA, but attempts to organize one of those has been like herding cats. Minor leaguers historically have had no interest in a union because (1) they don't expect to be minor leaguers for long, and (2) players who didn't get big bonuses don't want to pay union dues.
   18. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: December 03, 2012 at 08:24 PM (#4315862)
The idea that kids choose to play a sport or not play a sport based on hypothetical future earnings (or working conditions) is unsupported by any evidence. If this was true, very few kids would be playing sports like soccer and lacrosse, few kids under 6'2" would be playing basketball, etc.

The idea that top-flight soccer players don't make very good money is hilarious.
   19. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 03, 2012 at 08:31 PM (#4315870)
Joe Kehoskie--it certainly is, and I"m sorry you find it absurd. I'm not necessarily saying that minor leaguers should have equal voting rights with major leaguers in the union, but I am saying that the MLBPA has systematically sold the interests of its future members down the river to benefit its current ones, and that Miller deserves blame for privileging the interests of the already-rich few over the genuinely struggling many. I understand he was catering to the interests of MLBPA members, but that doesn't make it right or praiseworthy.
   20. Joe Kehoskie Posted: December 03, 2012 at 08:31 PM (#4315871)
dlf--I was using shorthand. That said, minor league players do perform the same job as major leaguers, and they don't Really work for separate employers, since the farm teams are controlled by their MLB parents. I don't know whether there are any precedents about the independence of minor and major league clubs. But in the end, I agree with you--probably the biggest reason no minor leaguer has tried to challenge the MLBPA is that the odds would be stacked against them. That doesn't exempt Miller from criticism. He represented the narrow interests of (in my view, a subset of) his union's members, which might make him a good negotiator, but doesn't make him a great champion of the working man.

No, minor leaguers aren't challenging the MLBPA because they aren't members of the MLBPA or eligible to become members of the MLBPA so long as they're not on a 40-man roster. And, yes, it does exempt Miller from criticism, because the only place in which minor leaguers are a "subset" of the MLBPA's members is in the counterfactual you've created.

Joe Kehoskie--It's not a question of whether kids choose to play a sport, it's whether they choose to pursue it as a career. Basketball and football don't face the same problem, since there's no dues-paying period to endure--you get a free college education, and then get drafted by the top league when you're done.

The idea that potential major leaguers are quitting baseball because of the prospect of bus rides from Auburn to Batavia or because of the working conditions at minor league facilities that are palatial compared to just 20 years ago is entirely unsupported by any evidence. The explosion of independent leagues shows there's a surplus of players willing to bear any burden if it means they can continue playing baseball, even when they know their chances of ever reaching Double-A, let alone MLB, are probably zero.
   21. Joe Kehoskie Posted: December 03, 2012 at 08:34 PM (#4315872)
The idea that top-flight soccer players don't make very good money is hilarious.

A top American athlete has a better chance of making big money in the U.S. in soccer than he does in MLB or the NBA, NFL, or NHL? Not buying it.

Likewise, I'm not buying that millions of 7-year-olds are choosing to play soccer because they believe their career prospects and athletic skills are more in alignment in soccer than they would be in other sports.
   22. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 03, 2012 at 08:45 PM (#4315882)
Joe Kehoskie--The subset I was referring to was MLB players with 0-3 years of service time. Minor leaguers are a separate issue. They would have to challenge the MLBPA on Duty of Fair Representation grounds, which as dlf notes would be a tall order. They're really backed into a corner--they can't challenge the owners on antitrust grounds because of collective bargaining, but the MLBPA disowns them. Even if they were to form a union, I'm not sure whether they'd be negotiating with the parent clubs or the farm teams...

I don't see what the existence of independent leagues proves. Just because there are some people who are willing to play baseball professionally with no chance of making the majors doesn't mean that there aren't also other people, who might be good athletes, but who would only play baseball professionally if they had a credible shot of making the majors or if minor league life were more palatable. This is a counterfactual, so I obviously can't tell you how many of these players there are. But it seems strange to suggest that there's not a single person who would play minor league ball for a six-figure salary but not for $5,000 a year, or that not one person in that group would eventually blossom into a major leaguer.
   23. Joe Kehoskie Posted: December 03, 2012 at 08:46 PM (#4315884)
Joe Kehoskie--it certainly is, and I"m sorry you find it absurd. I'm not necessarily saying that minor leaguers should have equal voting rights with major leaguers in the union, but I am saying that the MLBPA has systematically sold the interests of its future members down the river to benefit its current ones, and that Miller deserves blame for privileging the interests of the already-rich few over the genuinely struggling many. I understand he was catering to the interests of MLBPA members, but that doesn't make it right or praiseworthy.

So it wasn't enough that Marvin Miller organized 800 ML players into a union at a time when ML players had few rights, and then spent two decades fighting tooth and nail on their behalf. Miller was also supposed to organize ~5,000 minor league players, 95 percent of whom would never play a day in the big leagues, into their own union or into second-class members of the MLBPA. That's sort of like saying Jonas Salk isn't praiseworthy because his cure for cancer never panned out.
   24. Guapo Posted: December 03, 2012 at 08:53 PM (#4315891)
Dan,

You're simply dead wrong about the minor leaguers. Also, you cite the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which governs labor relations between the federal government and employees, not private industry. (The principle you cite in the article generally applies to private industry as well, but it's not on point because minor leaguers aren't part of the bargaining unit. There's a distinction between union vs. non-union members, and bargaining unit vs. non-bargaining unit. They're not the same thing.)
   25. Joe Kehoskie Posted: December 03, 2012 at 08:58 PM (#4315894)
Joe Kehoskie--The subset I was referring to was MLB players with 0-3 years of service time.

Players with 0-3 years of service obviously have it worse than Super Two and above, but that's nothing unusual in a union context. Plus, one person's sellout is another person's compromise. It makes sense that the early focus of the MLBPA was on older members who had less time remaining in the big leagues.

Minor leaguers are a separate issue. They would have to challenge the MLBPA on Duty of Fair Representation grounds, which as dlf notes would be a tall order. They're really backed into a corner--they can't challenge the owners on antitrust grounds because of collective bargaining, but the MLBPA disowns them. Even if they were to form a union, I'm not sure whether they'd be negotiating with the parent clubs or the farm teams...

Why would minor leaguers have to challenge the MLBPA at all? The only thing stopping them from organizing their own union is their potential members' lack of interest.

I don't see what the existence of independent leagues proves. Just because there are some people who are willing to play baseball professionally with no chance of making the majors doesn't mean that there aren't also other people, who might be good athletes, but who would only play baseball professionally if they had a credible shot of making the majors or if minor league life were more palatable. This is a counterfactual, so I obviously can't tell you how many of these players there are. But it seems strange to suggest that there's not a single person who would play minor league ball for a six-figure salary but not for $5,000 a year, or that not one person in that group would eventually blossom into a major leaguer.

So in your hypothetical world, players who spent from age 5 to age 18 (high school) or age 21-22 (college) playing baseball mostly on crappy fields and riding crappy buses and vans and did so for fun (T-ball through high school) or for a (likely partial) scholarship (college), suddenly blanch at the idea of playing baseball professionally — i.e., for pay — in great stadiums, with great equipment, in front of thousands of fans, and with the chance of making the major leagues and becoming fabulously rich. Sorry, but I'm not buying it.
   26. DA Baracus Posted: December 03, 2012 at 08:59 PM (#4315895)
The idea that top-flight soccer players don't make very good money is hilarious.


In America? No, they don't really. MLS minimum salary is $40k. The median salary is about $80k, the average about $180k IIRC. Only 57 players make more than $250k (arbitrary endpoint!), and many of those 57 are either foreign players or Americans who played overseas prior to MLS (or played in MLS, then went overseas and then came back), meaning that home grown players don't get paid very much. Sure it's more than you or I make, but in the landscape of professional sports the MLS pays most of its players minor league/lower level wages.

American players that play in foreign leagues for the most part either have dual citizenship or are/were internationals and make a lot more money than they would in MLS.
   27. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: December 03, 2012 at 09:00 PM (#4315896)
so marvin miller isn't a great person because he only brought 600 survivors to safety versus 6000?

give me a break. criticizing the guy for not handling all professional ballplayers is weak sauce.
   28. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 03, 2012 at 09:22 PM (#4315907)
Joe Kehoskie--No, that's not what I'm suggesting. I'm arguing that he could have advocated for better conditions for draftees and minor leaguers, as well as maximizing MLB free agent contracts. And I do think he's highly deserving of praise relative to what came before (universal slavery). I just don't think he's the saint he's now made out to be.

Most high school players do play for fun. And very young players don't have the opportunity cost of a career doing something else that adults do.

Guapo, my bad on NLRB vs. FLRA--I'll correct that. But can you explain in more detail what I"m dead wrong about? The work rules for players in affiliated minor leagues are determined by the MLB collective bargaining agreement--it's the MLB club that pays the signing bonus after the draft. Right?
   29. Randy Jones Posted: December 03, 2012 at 09:23 PM (#4315909)
The idea that top-flight soccer players don't make very good money is hilarious.


In America? No, they don't really. MLS minimum salary is $40k. The median salary is about $80k, the average about $180k IIRC. Only 57 players make more than $250k (arbitrary endpoint!), and many of those 57 are either foreign players or Americans who played overseas prior to MLS (or played in MLS, then went overseas and then came back), meaning that home grown players don't get paid very much. Sure it's more than you or I make, but in the landscape of professional sports the MLS pays most of its players minor league/lower level wages.


Most of the players in the MLS are not top-flight players. The few that are, are making very good money. The other American players that are top flight, are in Europe, making very good money. The baseball equivalent of the MLS is the PCL, not MLB or even NPB.
   30. dlf Posted: December 03, 2012 at 09:31 PM (#4315919)
I'm arguing that he could have advocated for better conditions for draftees and minor leaguers, as well as maximizing MLB free agent contracts.


You keep trying to implicitly include all laborers within an industry in the bargainin unit, something that is contrary to well established law. Miller had a legal obligation (Duty of Fair Representation) to seek the best possible outcome for members of the bargaining unit, here clearly defined as players on the 40 man roster plus trainers, etc. If he bargains away one dime of free agent contract value in exchange for one million dollars of benefit to the minor leaguers, the union would be liable to its members for a breach of that duty. He could not have negotiated for benefits for people outside the bargaining unit unless he could have redefined the membership in said bargaining unit. While doing so is theorectically possible, I find it hard to believe that it would have been politically possible in the 60s and 70s when the major league players were negotiating for things as basic as padding on the outfield walls.
   31. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 03, 2012 at 09:38 PM (#4315928)
dlf--Can you explain to me why amateurs and minor leaguers (who I suppose I should have distinguished more clearly) should be excluded from the bargaining unit, given that their work rules (the draft) are determined by collective bargaining between the MLBPA and the MLB owners?
   32. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: December 03, 2012 at 09:38 PM (#4315929)
+1 to dlf.
I'd even go further so as to argue that his responsibility lay with the then current membership even at the possible detriment (as opposed to non-advancement) of their minor league and amateur brethren.
   33. JRVJ Posted: December 03, 2012 at 09:48 PM (#4315939)
I am surprised, this being an Economist blog post, that there wasn't a call to open up (MLB) labor markets.

I thought that was a style manual requirement or something.
   34. dlf Posted: December 03, 2012 at 09:51 PM (#4315943)
Dan ~ We could make this into a long course on labor law, but to simplify it, the reason why amatuers and minor leaguers are not part of the bargaining unit is the same reason why an 18 year old Detroit resident hoping to one day be on the auto assembly line is not a member of the bargaining unit for United Auto Workers: just because someone may eventually be employed under the same conditions, in the same industry, by the same employer or collective group of employers, doesn't give them standing to demand representation by that union. The definition of a bargaining unit is narrow and cannot be extended to something as nebulous as everyone employed in or hoping to eventually be employed in an industry.

Edited to clean up a little
   35. Joe Kehoskie Posted: December 03, 2012 at 09:55 PM (#4315953)
Joe Kehoskie--No, that's not what I'm suggesting. I'm arguing that he could have advocated for better conditions for draftees and minor leaguers, as well as maximizing MLB free agent contracts. And I do think he's highly deserving of praise relative to what came before (universal slavery). I just don't think he's the saint he's now made out to be.

Aside from the rising tide clearly having raised all ships (compare signing bonuses now with those in 1966), if you're running a union, you want new members coming in hungry. Big signing bonuses are increasingly a detriment to the MLBPA, as players who used to go to arbitration over $50,000 differences are now often so rich by the time they get to MLB that they're signing away their arbitration years and even some free-agent years with increasing frequency.
   36. Joe Kehoskie Posted: December 03, 2012 at 10:00 PM (#4315961)
Most of the players in the MLS are not top-flight players. The few that are, are making very good money. The other American players that are top flight, are in Europe, making very good money. The baseball equivalent of the MLS is the PCL, not MLB or even NPB.

I'm sure the bolded part is correct, but if top-flight American players have to move overseas to maximize their earnings, that has to count as a negative vis-a-vis working conditions — working conditions being part of Dan's theory that potential MLB players are quitting baseball because of the working conditions in the U.S. minor leagues.
   37. dlf Posted: December 03, 2012 at 10:03 PM (#4315968)
Big signing bonuses have actually been a detriment to the MLBPA, as players who used to go to arbitration over $50,000 differences are now often so rich by the time they get to MLB that they increasingly sign away their arbitration years and even some free-agent years in one fell swoop.


I could suggest the contrary: because the players are financially secure, they are more willing to roll the dice for the monster follow-up contract. If you offer a kid who has made major league minimums -- good money, but not enough to retire your great great grandkids -- a eight or nine figure contract, he'll jump, but if you make that same offer to someone with a $5m signing bonus in hand, he may shoot for the moon. I doubt we could find anything other than anecdotes on either side of that set of assumptions.
   38. Joe Kehoskie Posted: December 03, 2012 at 10:08 PM (#4315973)
I could suggest the contrary: because the players are financially secure, they are more willing to roll the dice for the monster follow-up contract. If you offer a kid who has made major league minimums -- good money, but not enough to retire your great great grandkids -- a eight or nine figure contract, he'll jump, but if you make that same offer to someone with a $5m signing bonus in hand, he may shoot for the moon. I doubt we could find anything other than anecdotes on either side of that set of assumptions.

Your theory makes perfect sense, and is probably something the union hoped for, but there just doesn't seem to be a lot of "rolling the dice" in MLB these days. More and more young players are signing long-term deals, and the ML FA market seems to be getting weaker and weaker.

I haven't looked at the numbers in several years, but as of a few years ago, MLB players had actually given back quite a few points of revenue relative to the splits 10 or 20 years ago. Despite all the talk about ML player salaries being higher than ever, the average ML player was making almost $1 million less than he would have under the prior splits.
   39. dlf Posted: December 03, 2012 at 10:20 PM (#4315989)
Joe - are there fewer players entering FA now than 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago? There should be data for that assumption, but I'm too lazy to look it up. If you are talking only about the top end of the market, there are occasional years with an A-Rod and Manny B Manny in the same class, but going back to Seitz, that is rare and I'm not sure it is getting more rare.

As far as your second paragraph, is that a lack of negotiating strength cause by satiated players, or a direct result of the soft cap from the luxury tax / revenue sharing agreements which all agreed were major wins for the Owners during the CBA negotiations a few years back?
   40. DA Baracus Posted: December 03, 2012 at 10:32 PM (#4315995)
I'm sure the bolded part is correct, but if top-flight American players have to move overseas to maximize their earnings, that has to count as a negative vis-a-vis working conditions — working conditions being part of Dan's theory that potential MLB players are quitting baseball because of the working conditions in the U.S. minor leagues.


Not necessarily, MLS is the highest level of soccer most of these players can realistically play (from a technical standpoint, not a talent one). Work permits (UK) and foreign player limits (Italy and Spain for example) restrict many players from moving overseas, MLS also has foreign player restrictions. Xenophobia is rampant in soccer. For the leagues that are less restrictive of players, the teams aren't going to spend the time and money to scout non-international players in America when they have ample supply in their backyard.
   41. Randy Jones Posted: December 03, 2012 at 10:43 PM (#4316001)

Not necessarily, MLS is the highest level of soccer most of these players can realistically play (from a technical standpoint, not a talent one). Work permits (UK) and foreign player limits (Italy and Spain for example) restrict many players from moving overseas, MLS also has foreign player restrictions. Xenophobia is rampant in soccer. For the leagues that are less restrictive of players, the teams aren't going to spend the time and money to scout non-international players in America when they have ample supply in their backyard.

This is pretty much entirely incorrect. Work permits and homegrown player rules only matter if the players are not talented. That is the only limiting factor. The clubs in the top European leagues have more than enough money to scout whoever they want. There are various American players even in lower leagues in Europe. The only correct statement is the last sentence, which goes to my point that talent and ability are the only factors that matter.
   42. Cooper Nielson Posted: December 03, 2012 at 11:09 PM (#4316020)
Anyone who uses the word "labour" has no idea about baseball.

Hey, the Blue Jays won two World Series!
   43. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 03, 2012 at 11:14 PM (#4316023)
dlf--My understanding/argument is not that "everyone hoping to eventually be employed in an industry" has the right to be represented by a union. It's that the MLBPA has exclusive control over non-members' work rules, because of the draft.
   44. DA Baracus Posted: December 03, 2012 at 11:16 PM (#4316025)
This is pretty much entirely incorrect. Work permits and homegrown player rules only matter if the players are not talented. That is the only limiting factor. The clubs in the top European leagues have more than enough money to scout whoever they want.


I guess I'm not clear. I'm talking about your average MLS player is limited in the places they can go to make more money. They can't get a work permit to sign with a UK team because they're not good enough to qualify and, say, a Serie B team wouldn't waste time on him because they have the same or better options at home. And they can make $50k as a backup in MLS and take airplanes to away games, play in good stadiums and train at good practice facilities, so it's probably not a good comparison to a minor league baseball player who makes half that, rides a bus and uses minor league facilities.

But then, is anything? College athletes fly to games and have increasingly updated training facilities and minor league hockey players make more than their baseball counterparts.

There are various American players even in lower leagues in Europe.


And most of those players play in Scandinavian leagues, which aren't any better than MLS.
   45. Srul Itza Posted: December 03, 2012 at 11:20 PM (#4316027)
Even now, I imagine that a full vote of MLB players would prioritize issues like the minimum salary over pushing the record contracts ever-higher, since there are more minimum-salary players than $100 million players.


Communist
   46. Srul Itza Posted: December 03, 2012 at 11:25 PM (#4316034)
That doesn't exempt Miller from criticism. He represented the narrow interests of (in my view, a subset of) his union's members, which might make him a good negotiator, but doesn't make him a great champion of the working man.


He was not hired to be champion of the working man. He was hired to do what was best for the people who hired him, which was the MLBPA, which was in existence for 13 years before he was hired.

   47. Srul Itza Posted: December 03, 2012 at 11:27 PM (#4316038)
Rosenheck basically argues that this tack is unrealistic, and that MM should have peremptorily organized them for their own good.


If, in so doing, they had taken a piece of the pie which otherwise would have gone to the MLBPA, he would have violated his obligations, and perhaps even a fiduciary duty owed, to the MLBPA.
   48. Srul Itza Posted: December 03, 2012 at 11:30 PM (#4316042)
I understand he was catering to the interests of MLBPA members, but that doesn't make it right or praiseworthy.


Since they were the ones paying his salary, and who he was legally obligated to represent, it makes it both right and praiseworthy. To represent others, at the possible expense of the people he was supposed to be representing, would be nothing less than act of betrayal.

You keep talking about future members, but the majority of minor leaguers are never seeing more than a cup of coffee. Only a minority are future members of the MLBPA.
   49. The Yankee Clapper Posted: December 03, 2012 at 11:32 PM (#4316044)
The Economist writer here is not some clueless Brit. "D.R." is Dan Rosenheck.

What a coincidence. That's the guy that posted the article.
   50. Srul Itza Posted: December 03, 2012 at 11:34 PM (#4316048)
dlf--Can you explain to me why amateurs and minor leaguers (who I suppose I should have distinguished more clearly) should be excluded from the bargaining unit, given that their work rules (the draft) are determined by collective bargaining between the MLBPA and the MLB owners?


Not to step on dlf's toes, but the working conditions for minor leaguers are not fully subject to MLBPA collective bargaining. For example, unless I am misremembering, the minor league drug testing regimen was imposed by MLB. That is a very strong indication that the rules are not MLBPA bargained.

TO CLARIFY -- I believe they are bound by what the MLBPA negotiates, but that the ML CBA does not cover all of the working conditions in MiLB.
   51. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 04, 2012 at 12:15 AM (#4316088)
Srul Itza (and dlf, Joe Kehoskie, and Guapo): I am a journalist, not a lawyer, and if I have made a mistake, I would like to run a correction as soon as possible. But I am still waiting for someone to identify an error in this argument (which it is true I didn't spell out so precisely in the article, but I was writing for a general audience rather than a subset of legally knowledgeable readers on a discussion board.).

1. The MLBPA collectively bargains over very important work rules for non-MLBPA members, principally the draft. Those players are bound what the the union agrees to, even though they do not belong to it. That gives the union "exclusive control" over them, at least on some critical issues.
2. Addressing the criteria stated above, those players are doing the same job (playing professional baseball) for the same employer (the MLB team that pays their signing bonus).
3. They SHOULD therefore be considered part of the bargaining unit, and the MLBPA SHOULD be obliged to represent their interests, as well as those of its members.
4. Since the union does not represent their interests--to the contrary, it routinely sacrifices them in order to benefit its members--non-players harmed by the MLBPA's bargaining could try to take action against it, claiming discrimination on duty of fair representation grounds.
5. However, I think such players would have a very hard time prevailing, even though they are in my view in the right, because unions have historically been given broad leeway to cut deals that affect different classes of workers differently.
6. The fact that an amateur or minor-league player probably could not force the MLBPA to change its behavior does not morally justify the union's selling them down the river.

JRVJ: Well, true to form, I do think MLB should have a perfectly open labor market, with no draft and no arbitration. Everyone should be a free agent from day one able to sign with whoever they want for however much they can get for however long they can get. But I also think it should have radically expanded revenue sharing--based on market size rather than on actual revenues--to maintain competitive balance.
   52. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: December 04, 2012 at 12:30 AM (#4316095)
mlbpa is only involved w/ the draft because of the relationship b/w fa signings and the draft, iirc. take that away and the union has no say in the draft. (which is why it persists - union takes a hit wrt compensation for top fas but gets some say wrt how possible future members are treated in the draft. my understanding is that they'd like bigger draft pools but are unwilling to spend much political capital in the pursuit (not the least of which is because they may view themselves as getting some of the dollars not spent on prospects).
wrt international signees - acquired through a process where there are bonus pools, etc... - that structure was not reached through collective bargaining, as there's no implications on mlb fa signings. how do they fit into your model, dan?
   53. tshipman Posted: December 04, 2012 at 12:33 AM (#4316099)
What a coincidence. That's the guy that posted the article.


Yeah, that's kinda dirty pool.
   54. The Yankee Clapper Posted: December 04, 2012 at 12:33 AM (#4316100)
3. They SHOULD therefore be considered part of the bargaining unit, and the MLBPA SHOULD be obliged to represent their interests, as well as those of its members.

As has been noted before, that just isn't true. In the real world, there is no guarantee that things would have worked out for the better if Miller had led a MLBPA effort to unionize minor leaguers. Organizing the minor leagues is probably doomed to failure even today, for reasons noted above. Otherwise, some union might have taken a shot at it. It's not like the MLBPA has a monopoly.
   55. Joe Kehoskie Posted: December 04, 2012 at 12:36 AM (#4316101)
2. Addressing the criteria stated above, those players are doing the same job (playing professional baseball) for the same employer (the MLB team that pays their signing bonus).

Playing minor league baseball isn't the same thing as playing Major League baseball.

6. The fact that an amateur or minor-league player probably could not force the MLBPA to change its behavior does not morally justify the union's selling them down the river.

"Selling them down the river" is a major exaggeration, since today's draft picks and minor leaguers are still dramatically better off than they were in the 1960s. Beyond that, there's no real need for minor leaguers to "force the MLBPA to change its behavior." If minor leaguers unionized, they'd get a seat at the table just like the MLBPA.

***
wrt international signees - acquired through a process where there are bonus pools, etc... - that structure was not reached through collective bargaining,

This is incorrect.
   56. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: December 04, 2012 at 12:37 AM (#4316102)
i'm anti-self linking, but until we're getting published in the nyt and the economist, we can all shut up. dan does excellent work (as do those publications, obviously) and this piece decidedly belongs here.
(same for the site w/ the john d'a posts - good stuff)
   57. Justin T., Director of Somethin Posted: December 04, 2012 at 12:38 AM (#4316103)
Yeah, that's kinda dirty pool.

It's nothing of the sort. Just because a few tools here decided it was unsavory to self link doesn't make it so. Dan doesn't try to deceive. The merit of his or anyone's articles can be judged via the discussion or click-throughs they create. I'm much more pleased to observe this discussion than to not know Dan's article exists.
   58. DA Baracus Posted: December 04, 2012 at 12:50 AM (#4316110)
I'm curious, what would it take for minor leaguers to unionize?
   59. Bob Tufts Posted: December 04, 2012 at 12:58 AM (#4316112)
From a Slate article by Lily Rothman in April:

The 94-year-old Miller told me that he contemplated bringing the minors into the fold to begin with and revisited the issue several times over the years. The appeal of unionizing every pro baseball player, though, was always outweighed by a lack of resources, the geographic decentralization of the minors, and the dreamy idealism of the players. “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,” Miller says.

During spring training one year, the Giants were holding their strike vote. Darrell Evans was the player rep. He passed out ballots to the players as part of the strike authorization procedure. He came by the area where the non-roster players were and gave us ballots.

I told him "Darrell, we aren't part of the union yet and shouldn't be voting".

He replied. "If a strike occurs, they will consider using you guys as replacement players. You listened to the presentations by the union. You may have a decision to make. It's best to make it now."

I voted "yes".
   60. Joe Kehoskie Posted: December 04, 2012 at 01:00 AM (#4316113)
I'm curious, what would it take for minor leaguers to unionize?

It would take a majority to vote in favor of unionizing, but I doubt more than 10 percent of MiLB players even give a crap. Hell, just in the DSL and VSL, there are ~1,200 players who probably don't even know what a union *is*, let alone why they should want one.

If players voted by level, I bet a union would pass overwhelmingly in 3A, it would be close in 2A, and it would fail miserably in 1A and R.
   61. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 04, 2012 at 01:02 AM (#4316114)
Der_K--well, I absolutely loved the old open-market system in Latin America, which funneled money precisely to the families most in need of it and attracted thousands upon thousands of talented athletes to professional baseball. I'm therefore unhappy about the new limits, but I understand that international free agents were seen as a loophole in the draft system that couldn't be allowed to continue. If I were going to try to press a case against the MLBPA, I certainly would want my test case to be an American draftee rather than a Latin American.

tshipman--I always put up my stories on BTF, closely monitor the comment threads, and occasionally amend/reference the original articles as necessary in response to the discussion (see http://www.economist.com/blogs/gametheory/2011/09/wild-finish-baseball-season). I hope that's not seen as a breach of etiquette; I never hide the fact that I'm the author.

The Yankee Clapper--I'm making two separate criticisms of Miller regarding minor leaguers. The first is that he didn't try to unionize them separately or incorporate them into the existing players' union; the second is that he sold them out as far as the draft was concerned. You're not addressing the second point. I don't think turning multimillionaires into multimillion-plus-one-aires necessarily makes you the moral champion of the working man that Miller is being made out to be, though I do think it makes you an effective representative of already-wealthy members (hence the frequent comparisons that have popped up online to Scott Boras).

Joe Kehoskie--I'm not aware of any precedent where it's been determined that playing MiLB and MLB are considered different jobs, though one might well exist. Can you point me to one? (That said, I think this issue is practically irrelevant, because even if I'm right that a good lawyer might be able to get non-members counted in the bargaining unit, judges are still very reluctant to tell unions how to do their jobs).

Today's draft picks and minor leaguers are dramatically better off than they were in the 1960's in absolute terms, but not in relative terms to the rest of professional baseball players. And as I said, I'm not sure you're right about a MiLBPA getting a seat at the table. They could certainly collectively bargain with farm teams on issues like transportation or stadium conditions, but on the big-ticket issues (e.g. signing bonuses) they'd still be butting heads with the MLBPA as part of the same bargaining unit.
   62. Tilden Katz Posted: December 04, 2012 at 01:05 AM (#4316117)
MLBPA could not represent minor league players even if it and a majority of minor leaguers wanted to. The National Labor Relations Board has the final say on what constitutes the "bargaining unit". The NLRB considers a variety of factors when determining who belongs in the unit, including pay and benefits. Considering the huge disparity of pay between minor league and major league players the NLRB would never consider them to be in the same "community of interest" with each other. Minor league players would just want different things than their major league counterparts.
   63. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 04, 2012 at 01:06 AM (#4316119)
Bob Tufts--this is you? That's awesome--I didn't know we had any former MLB players on BTF.
   64. tshipman Posted: December 04, 2012 at 01:10 AM (#4316123)
tshipman--I always put up my stories on BTF, closely monitor the comment threads, and occasionally amend/reference the original articles as necessary in response to the discussion (see http://www.economist.com/blogs/gametheory/2011/09/wild-finish-baseball-season). I hope that's not seen as a breach of etiquette; I never hide the fact that I'm the author.


Self-linking is a breach of etiquette. If the content is good and interesting, then either the blog finds it or it doesn't. Posting it yourself is poor form, in my opinion. Other authors have been criticized for the same behavior. The quality of the publication should not give you a pass.
   65. Tilden Katz Posted: December 04, 2012 at 01:12 AM (#4316126)
I'm not aware of any precedent where it's been determined that playing MiLB and MLB are considered different jobs, though one might well exist. Can you point me to one? (That said, I think this issue is practically irrelevant, because even if I'm right that a good lawyer might be able to get non-members counted in the bargaining unit, judges are still very reluctant to tell unions how to do their jobs).


It's not a question of members vs. non-members. In a right to work state (states that encompass ATL, MIA, TB, HOU, TEX, DEN, STL, KC and ARI), players cannot be compelled to join the union but they are still covered by the CBA. It's a question of bargaining unit members vs. non-bargaining unit members. Your argument is the equivalent of saying that a union representing a Ford plant must also look out for workers at the GM plant down the street. Unions have a responsibility only to members of the bargaining unit they represent and representatives, if they are lawyers, could be subject to discipline for going beyond that responsibility.
   66. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 04, 2012 at 01:14 AM (#4316127)
Tilden Katz--So how does the catch-22 for a draft pick get resolved then? You can't sue the owners on antitrust grounds because the work rules are collectively bargained with the MLBPA, but you can't go after the MLBPA on duty of fair representation grounds because the NLRB won't consider you part of the bargaining unit. Again, even if minor leaguers unionized, it's the major league union that determines the draft rules...I know that in practice unions can do just about whatever they want because the courts don't want to interfere, but in principle, there has to be a way out...

The Ford and GM plants analogy doesn't work because they negotiate separate contracts. My argument is that if the GM employees were negatively affected by work rules collectively bargained by the Ford employees' union, then they would have a duty of fair representation claim.

tshipman--Is this written as a board policy anywhere? I'm happy to identify myself as the author when I submit the news item in the future, and the moderators could choose not to post it if they found that inappropriate.
   67. Joe Kehoskie Posted: December 04, 2012 at 01:16 AM (#4316128)
Joe Kehoskie--I'm not aware of any precedent where it's been determined that playing MiLB and MLB are considered different jobs, though one might well exist. Can you point me to one? (That said, I think this issue is practically irrelevant, because even if I'm right that a good lawyer might be able to get non-members counted in the bargaining unit, judges are still very reluctant to tell unions how to do their jobs).

Playing MiLB and playing MLB are substantially different in a business sense. MLB owners lose money on the DSL each year while they make millions on MLB. It's kind of bizarre to suggest DSL players and MLB players are similarly situated or that they should both have an equal seat at the table when it comes to deciding how to split MLB revenue.

Today's draft picks and minor leaguers are dramatically better off than they were in the 1960's in absolute terms, but not in relative terms to the rest of professional baseball players.

They're not? Signing bonuses have exploded over the past 20-30 years, while working conditions have dramatically improved (facilities, travel rules, etc.). And that's before getting to the issue of revenue. MLB's has exploded due to TV money, while MiLB's hasn't due to the lack of same.

And as I said, I'm not sure you're right about a MiLBPA getting a seat at the table. They could certainly collectively bargain with farm teams on issues like transportation or stadium conditions, but on the big-ticket issues (e.g. signing bonuses) they'd still be butting heads with the MLBPA as part of the same bargaining unit.

MiLB players work for MLB teams, not the MiLB affiliates. If a hypothetical MiLBPA came into existence, they'd bargain directly with MLB owners, just like the MLBPA.
   68. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 04, 2012 at 01:23 AM (#4316130)
Joe Kehoskie--signing bonuses as a share of MLB salaries have gone way down, not up--Rick Reichardt's signing bonus was more than the highest annual salary in MLB that year, wasn't it?

So which players' association would negotiate over the draft?? I imagine they'd be seen as part of the same bargaining unit and would do so collectively. Which means that in the absence of a MiLBPA, the MLBPA has exclusive control, and is discriminating against non-dues-paying members.
   69. Tilden Katz Posted: December 04, 2012 at 01:25 AM (#4316132)
Tilden Katz--So how does the catch-22 for a draft pick get resolved then? You can't sue the owners on antitrust grounds because the work rules are collectively bargained with the MLBPA, but you can't go after the MLBPA on duty of fair representation grounds because the NLRB won't consider you part of the bargaining unit. Again, even if minor leaguers unionized, it's the major league union that determines the draft rules...I know that in practice unions can do just about whatever they want because the courts don't want to interfere, but in principle, there has to be a way out...


It won't get "resolved" until Congress lifts the antitrust exemption on MLB (incredibly unlikely) or the general exemption afforded to unions acting in good faith (even less likely). An enterprising minor leaguer may be able to claim the owners and the MLBPA are colluding to expressly or implicitly suppress wages for minor leaguers (which would remove the antiturst exemption for the union), but there's really no evidence that that is happen.

The simple answer is that the minor leaguers are free to join a league with less restrictive labor policies. The problem is those leagues pay less than the minors.
   70. Bob Tufts Posted: December 04, 2012 at 01:25 AM (#4316133)
Today's draft picks and minor leaguers are dramatically better off than they were in the 1960's in absolute terms, but not in relative terms to the rest of professional baseball players


Comparing my tenure from 1977-1983 to now, ballparks are far better, conditions are a lot better, travel, coaching (access and quality) has increased.....more teams and an increease in minor league opportunities after the drastic falloff in the 1950's....dramatic increase in potential major leagues teams for which to play....

If you are truly talented (the 1%) and it is believed that you can provide marginal revenues for a team above your marginal cost, you will be compensated for your abilities. 99% of minor leaguers do not provide greater MR than MC at any point in their career, are easily replaced by a large pool of talent from many sources and are not paid significant wages.

half a coke to Joe...
   71. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: December 04, 2012 at 01:28 AM (#4316134)
tshipman--Is this written as a board policy anywhere? I'm happy to identify myself as the author when I submit the news item in the future, and the moderators could choose not to post it if they found that inappropriate.


No. Some people don't like it, and it comes up in various threads as a result of that. Others have no problem with it.

I've never seen Jim or Repoz (or Szym, when he was still on board) express an opinion one way or another, so I suppose the default is that they're OK with the practice. I think a little guidance one way or another would still be helpful, if nothing else than to answer the questions quickly when it comes up.

Personally, I see a distinction when it's an established poster such as yourself vs. some guy who creates an account just so he can link to his crappy blog.
   72. The Yankee Clapper Posted: December 04, 2012 at 02:08 AM (#4316140)
I'm making two separate criticisms of Miller regarding minor leaguers. The first is that he didn't try to unionize them separately or incorporate them into the existing players' union; the second is that he sold them out as far as the draft was concerned.

The 1st criticism of Miller has been thoroughly rebutted, IMHO, and the claim on the draft is no better. The draft is only subject to bargaining because the owners have linked free agent compensation to draft choices. That doesn't give the MLBPA much leverage - push too hard and the owners can just delink the draft and free agency, making it non-bargainable. More importantly, why should the MLBPA make the draft a priority? Should they take less in pension benefits to do so? Health benefits? Postseason compensation? Seems like a union should be allowed to make that kind of decision itself, rather than have someone come in and suggest that they should have taken less in those areas in order to benefit nonmembers.
   73. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 04, 2012 at 02:29 AM (#4316147)
Huh? The draft isn't collectively bargained only because of FA comp; it's collectively bargained because it's a restraint on players' freedom to choose their employer. If it weren't part of the CBA, or if the union decertified, the draft would become blatant illegal collusion.

The MLBPA should make the draft a priority because the draft stiffs amateur players of millions upon millions of dollars every year. And yes, the union absolutely should accept less in pension, health, postseason whatever in order to right this wrong. It has exclusive control over this issue, and by choosing not to prioritize it, the union is discriminating against non-members.
   74. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 04, 2012 at 02:36 AM (#4316148)
I've tacked on an addendum to the post summarizing some of this discussion. Thanks very much to the posters who highlighted issues that I should have addressed in greater detail the first time, and for correcting me on the FLRA.
   75. KingKaufman Posted: December 04, 2012 at 03:02 AM (#4316150)
The point is that for every Piazza--that is to say, a late-blooming talent unrecognized in his youth who finally gets to MLB--there are probably many players who drop out along the way, because it doesn't look like they have any clear chance of making The Show and minor league life sucks.


George Gmelch, an anthropologist and former minor leaguer, wrote an anthropological study of baseball a decade or so ago called "Inside Pitch." He points out that it's exceedingly rare for a professional baseball player to leave the game voluntarily, to quit playing before the point where he simply cannot get a job. Bad bus rides and lousy pay aside, it just doesn't happen very often.

Highly recommend the book, by the way.
   76. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: December 04, 2012 at 03:17 AM (#4316152)
George Gmelch, an anthropologist and former minor leaguer, wrote an anthropological study of baseball a decade or so ago called "Inside Pitch." He points out that it's exceedingly rare for a professional baseball player to leave the game voluntarily, to quit playing before the point where he simply cannot get a job. Bad bus rides and lousy pay aside, it just doesn't happen very often.

Highly recommend the book, by the way.

I can't believe this book exists and, yet, I'd never heard of it until now. Putting it up on my list - thanks for bringing it to attention, KingKaufman, it sounds excellent! This is just another reason why reading random threads on BBTF can have positive benefits, heh.
   77. Barnaby Jones Posted: December 04, 2012 at 06:21 AM (#4316170)
You can't sue the owners on antitrust grounds because the work rules are collectively bargained with the MLBPA


No, you can't sue on antitrust grounds because of the ruling in Federal Baseball Club v. National League. Well, I guess you could, but... yeah.

The Ford and GM plants analogy doesn't work because they negotiate separate contracts.


MiLBers and MLBers negotiate separate contracts. (well, sorta)

My argument is that if the GM employees were negatively affected by work rules collectively bargained by the Ford employees' union, then they would have a duty of fair representation claim.


I don't see how this follows. Merely being hurt by a union gain doesn't entitle you to join that union. Even if you work in the same field.

Personally, I see a distinction when it's an established poster such as yourself vs. some guy who creates an account just so he can link to his crappy blog.


This. Nothing wrong with an established content producer linking to his work and then interacting with the community. I hardly think people are going to b*tch and moan if Dan links to his ESPN articles. The issue is when random awful bloggers repeatedly link to their banal opinions, don't follow up in the comments, and generally just treat BBTF as a supplement to their rss link.

Huh? The draft isn't collectively bargained only because of FA comp; it's collectively bargained because it's a restraint on players' freedom to choose their employer. If it weren't part of the CBA, or if the union decertified, the draft would become blatant illegal collusion.


No. It's not a restraint on MLBPA memebers, so there is no prima facie reason it should be collectively bargained. The players keep the FA comp so that they have a say.

And no, it's it's not legally collusion, even if that's what it is in reality. The owners aren't going to get busted for collusion against John Q. Draftpick, because, again, they are exempt from these normal rules. The only reason they got busted for collusion at all is that it specifically violated the CBA with the MLBPA. Without a negotiated definition of collusion, they'd be exempt completely.
   78. Barnaby Jones Posted: December 04, 2012 at 07:15 AM (#4316177)
Also, I should clarify about the draft:

The draft rules are in the Major League Rules, not the CBA. The union does not negotiate those. The only mention of the Rule 4 draft in the CBA is to talk about player compensation. The whole rest of the draft is internal to MLB.

Essentially, the draft is NOT currently collective bargained, except for a very limited range of picks and in a very limited scope.
   79. bookbook Posted: December 04, 2012 at 07:39 AM (#4316182)
I have seen the argument that MLB's success in getting top players what they're worth has led to the winner-take-all society, where crappy CEO's "earn" $10 million per annum, and average employees at Citibank think they're worth their $400k in annual bonuses (to the detriment of the middle class). Thus, the Economist should be smugly self-satisfied about Mr. Miller's good work.
   80. dlf Posted: December 04, 2012 at 10:12 AM (#4316250)
They SHOULD therefore be considered part of the bargaining unit, and the MLBPA SHOULD be obliged to represent their interests, as well as those of its members.


Dan ~ I appreciate the replies and your willingness to re-evaluate your assumptions. Your thesis, however, flounders, on this particular assertion.

Steping back for a second, let's think through the union organizing process. Ordinarily, if a group of employees in a business or trade association wish to collectively bargain, they petition the NLRB for authority to hold an organizing election. The NLRB identifies the bargaining unit and then all employees in the unit are entitled to vote for or against the establishment of a union. Without trying to make this an offshoot of the OTP: Politics threads, recently, it has been hotly contested between elected officials over whether it takes a majority of submitted ballots or a majority of bargaining unit personnel whether or not they vote to organize. Regardless of that split, it is in both the union and management's efforts to clearly identify the bargaining unit. Usually, it is in the union's best interests to identify the BU as narrowly as possible to ensure that there is a true commonality of interests and for the management to define it broadly to minimize such commonality and minimize the chances of a successful certification election. Because of this tension, there are frequently complaints filed before the NLRB challenging the make-up of the proposed BU. Over the years, the NLRB (and reviewing courts) have published litterally thousands of decisions on what is and what is not a bargaining unit. Unfortunately for our discussion here, there is no bright line rule but rather a series of factors which must be weighed on a case-by-case manner to establish whether a proposed BU is adequate. Those factors include, among other things, (1) employees skills, (2)terms and conditions of employment, (3) employee interchange, (4) functional integration, (5) geographic proximity, (6) centralized management and supervision, and (7) bargaining history. For example, the more highly skilled the task, the more narrowly the BU is drawn.

The history of labor law suggests that if MLB tried to force a definition of MiLB and MLB players as the BU, the Board would have rejected that argument. Here, the likely determinative issue is that the interests of the two groups of players are not similar and, as you yourself have pointed out, are largely contradictory: while it is not 100% a zero-sum game, they are both arguing for a share of the same pie; for one to increase their benefits, the other must be harmed. Because of that, there is little or no chance the MLBPA would have been forced to include MiLB players.

Whether the MLBPA could have chosen to include the minors is a different question. Perhaps it could have. But think back to the mid-1960s when Miller was hired. (Noting that he was hired by an existing union; he didn't create this out of whole cloth.) At that time, the players had minimal leverage; stories like Mickey Mantle winning an MVP in '57 but being given a pay cut becuase, unlike in '56, he didn't win the Triple Crown are common. The Union was fighting for basic matters like a pension for retired players, padding on the outfield walls, and improved travel conditions. Would it have improved the MLBPA's leverage or hurt it to include minor leaguers who would have run through a brick wall to get to the majors when fighting over whether the walls should be padded? It seems to me that diluting the commonality of interest would have minimized the gains Miller was able to achieve.
   81. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 04, 2012 at 10:20 AM (#4316254)
KingKaufman--is that study only looking at people who have already committed to a career as a baseball player, or people in their early 20's who are trying to make up their minds?

Barnaby Jones--the Curt Flood Act excluded labor issues from the antitrust exemption.

It's the major league, not minor league rules that cover the draft.

My argument is that when it comes to the draft, really the entire bargaining unit is non-MLBPA members, yet the MLBPA still has exclusive control.

Wait, I'm very, very confused. What about the new draft pools limiting the amount each team can spend on amateurs etc.? That's not in the CBA? If so, then a) where is it, and b) why the hell can't someone harmed by it sue the owners on antitrust grounds?
   82. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: December 04, 2012 at 10:40 AM (#4316276)
My problem with this argument is that it's begging the question: Is the system overall really that bad, and are the minor leaguers really being treated unfairly? Baseball has to balance the players' rights with the need for some competitive balance, and while the current system is far from perfect, IMO it works pretty well. Minor leaguers and pre-arb players are underpaid, but the systems also allows teams like the Rays to remain competitive. And despite all of the handwringing in the media, baseball has as much or more competitive balance than any of the other major sports.
   83. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 04, 2012 at 10:41 AM (#4316279)
Well, I would argue that with better revenue sharing, you could maintain the competitive balance without screwing the youts.

dlf--I would say that only after securing free agency for major leaguers, the union should have expanded its remit and turned its focus to those players who still remained slaves.
   84. Bob Tufts Posted: December 04, 2012 at 11:04 AM (#4316303)
Let's look at where the current CBA covers minor leaguers (players that have signed a MLB contract but were assigned):

ARTICLE VI—Salaries

A. Minimum Salary

(2) For all Players (a) signing a second Major League contract
(not covering the same season as any such Player’s initial Major
League contract) or a subsequent Major League contract, or (b) having
at least one day of Major League service, the minimum salary
shall be as follows:

(i) for Major League service—at a rate not less than the Major
League minimum salary;

(ii) for Minor League service—at a rate not less than the following:
2012—at the rate per season of $78,250;
2013—at the rate per season of $79,900;
2014—at the rate per season of $81,500;
2015—at the 2014 rate per season plus a cost of living
adjustment, rounded to the nearest $100, provided that the cost
of living adjustment shall not reduce the minimum salary
below $81,500;
2016—at the 2015 rate per season plus a cost of living
adjustment, rounded to the nearest $100, provided that the cost
of living adjustment shall not reduce the minimum salary
below the 2015 rate per season.

(3) For all Players signing a first Major League contract who are
not covered by paragraph (2) above, the

2012—at the rate per season of $39,125;
2013—at the rate per season of $39,900;
2014—at the rate per season of $40,750;
2015—at the 2014 rate per season plus a cost of living adjustment,
rounded to the nearest $100, provided that the cost of living
adjustment shall not reduce the minimum salary below
$40,750;


Such sweatshop like oppression for 6 months of work per year!

And I repeat - the laws of economics apply - especially in The Economist. The supply of entry level talent has expanded significantly - in the US and overseas. And those that can provide greater marginal revenue (possess talent or are projected to be ML's and contribute to wins) receive greater pay.

   85. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: December 04, 2012 at 11:05 AM (#4316305)
But I'm not sure the minor leaguers "remain[] slaves." They don't have complete freedom, but it's still a far better situation than it was 40 years ago. And their right to sell their services on the open market has to be balanced against the teams' need to control the players they sign and draft for some reasonable period of time.
   86. Ron J2 Posted: December 04, 2012 at 11:15 AM (#4316317)
And someone with Mike Piazza's talent unleashed on independent baseball? It would not take long for a team to discover him.


Oddly enough he just might have washed out. He was nothing special in his first two years. And somebody who doesn't dominate an independent league might not get the time (particularly since he was a 1B/C and raw as hell behind the plate)

Yeah. He had mono. Still might not have gotten a second chance.
   87. Bob Tufts Posted: December 04, 2012 at 11:21 AM (#4316329)
Biography

Dan Rosenheck joined The Economist as an intern in 2004


And your compensation was minimal? The same entry level logic applies to minor league players.
   88. dlf Posted: December 04, 2012 at 11:22 AM (#4316330)
dlf--I would say that only after securing free agency for major leaguers, the union should have expanded its remit and turned its focus to those players who still remained slaves.


I will leave aside the moral / ethical assertion that MLBPA had an obligation to care for the benefit of non-members. I will, however, point out that your argument is with Ken Moffett, Don Fehr, Michael Weiner, and those who followed Miller. As late as the 1981 strike, MLB was trying to functionally abolish what had been won through the Seitz decision. In 1981, the union won a legal contest determining that the MLB's negotiating position (free agency compensatory picks from the signing team with di minimus protection that would have amounted to a de facto trade rather than free agency) violated the obligation to bargain in good faith. It was only after this court challenge ended the 1981 strike that free agency was assured. Miller retired the next year.
   89. Filty_Vegas Posted: December 04, 2012 at 11:23 AM (#4316331)
dlf- Continuing on this hypothetical if those who were organizing the MLBPA would have petitioned for the minor league players they almost certainly would have gotten them into the unit, right? Looking at NLRB decisions around that time, it seems that from a petitioning side, the NLRB were more concerned with an appropriate unit rather than with the appropriate unit. At some of the shops we represent that were organized around the Civil Rights era there are a ton of non-conforming units.

And while it ended up not mattering too much, one of the benefits of a broader community of interest is that it would have deprived the owners of their top replacement player candidates should the 94-95 strike have gone on longer.
   90. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 04, 2012 at 11:30 AM (#4316343)
Bob Tufts--Yes indeed. But my compensation was minimal because a) my productivity was lower b) The Economist had not acquired exclusive negotiating rights to my prime working years and c) the supply of journalists with my talent exceeds the demand. By contrast, top prospects sign away the right to be paid a market wage during their first seasons in MLB when they agree to a contract after the draft, and the demand for them far exceeds the supply.

dlf--That is indeed a fair point. Miller didn't stick around for long after his crowning achievement was secured--my beef is with his successors.
   91. AROM Posted: December 04, 2012 at 11:35 AM (#4316352)
I don't think Miller getting the majors and minors together as one big happy union was ever, or is ever, even remotely feasible. But pretending it was possible and had happened, this probably would have made it even harder for the Piazza type longshots to make it to the majors.

Minor league teams just don't make a lot of money. In the Pioneer league in 2011, attendance was a little over 2000 per game. It's better in the higher minors, the PCL saw about 6000 per game. The upper minors might support livable player salaries. The lower minors, probably not, and the rookie (complex) leagues - I don't think anyone even watches those except for the scouts.

They are profitable to the extent that MLB subsidizes the player expense. Now raise the salary from 15k to 75k, or whatever, and the likely response is that MLB decides they don't need so many farm teams. Maybe they'd cut things down to about 3 farm teams per franchise, and cut the draft down as well.
   92. dlf Posted: December 04, 2012 at 11:36 AM (#4316353)
dlf- Continuing on this hypothetical if those who were organizing the MLBPA would have petitioned for the minor league players they almost certainly would have gotten them into the unit, right?


I don't know much about the NLRB in the early 1950s or really enough about the minor leagues at that time. There were still a fairly large number of independent clubs and the PCL was a strong semi-independent league when MLBPA was established, right? Or was that a generation earlier? If the former, I suspect the BU would have had to be limited to the MLB controlled or affiliated minors. But I also suspect that if MLBPA tried to include the minor leaguers two decades later in the 1970s when the independent minors were dead, then (a) the Board likely would have certified and (b) the Owners would have been thrilled to dilute the Union's focused interests.
   93. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 04, 2012 at 11:39 AM (#4316356)
AROM, that's a very interesting point. If a universal players' union were interested in creating as many good-paying jobs as possible, it might bargain for MLB to continue subsidizing money-losing minor league salaries in exchange for other concessions.
   94. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: December 04, 2012 at 11:43 AM (#4316363)
They are profitable to the extent that MLB subsidizes the player expense. Now raise the salary from 15k to 75k, or whatever, and the likely response is that MLB decides they don't need so many farm teams. Maybe they'd cut things down to about 3 farm teams per franchise, and cut the draft down as well.
Absolutely. In fact, there have long been rumblings that MLB wants to cut the size of the minors as is (by eliminating a level of short season ball) and they've already slowly been shrinking the draft.

I'm not keen on the Economist intern v. minor leaguer parallel, for the reasons Dan mentions.

I wouldn't be surprised if any amateur did sue MLB wrt draft restrictions at some point in the near-to-mid future. The catch, of course, is finding a willing plantiff.

I have seen the argument that MLB's success in getting top players what they're worth has led to the winner-take-all society, where crappy CEO's "earn" $10 million per annum, and average employees at Citibank think they're worth their $400k in annual bonuses (to the detriment of the middle class).
Really? That's silly - those things would happen regardless.

AROM, that's a very interesting point. If a universal players' union were interested in creating as many good-paying jobs as possible, it might bargain for MLB to continue subsidizing money-losing minor league salaries in exchange for other concessions.
It could, but that would be nuts.
   95. Bob Tufts Posted: December 04, 2012 at 11:43 AM (#4316364)
By contrast, top prospects sign away the right to be paid a market wage during their first seasons in MLB when they agree to a contract after the draft, and the demand for them far exceeds the supply.



Top prospects are paid bonuses when they sign away their rights, so they are compensated for their abilities before they even start work. And due to public pressure and demands of the consuming public (i.e. golden goose), certain restrictions have been codified and mutually accepted in order to preserve "competitive balance" and the ability of all franchises to survive. Fewer franchises, fewer union jobs.

And free agency restrictions ironically end up driving up the price for all MLB talent (see left handed starting pitching) in the long run.


   96. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 04, 2012 at 11:51 AM (#4316380)
And free agency restrictions ironically end up driving up the price for all MLB talent (see left handed starting pitching) in the long run.


I've never seen any evidence of this. I certainly think free agency restrictions drive up the price for free agents, but they don't drive up the price of pre-arb players. Would the players' total take necessarily be lower if Stephen Strasburg were allowed to get $100-$150 million straight out of college, and league-average free agents were only paid $3 million a year rather than $5 million?
   97. Mike Emeigh Posted: December 04, 2012 at 12:14 PM (#4316419)
The historical reason why the Rule 4 draft was included in the CBA is that because draft picks are part of the compensation for major league free agents, anything that affects the value of those draft picks also affects the value of free agency rights - which are definitely a subject for collective bargaining.

-- MWE
   98. Bob Tufts Posted: December 04, 2012 at 12:35 PM (#4316467)
I certainly think free agency restrictions drive up the price for free agents, but they don't drive up the price of pre-arb players.


I agree. I was referencing all free agents and pending free agents and should have been clearer. The pre-arb and pre-free agency restrictions limit players to a small percentage of their open market value. I belive the pre-arb value is about 30% and the pre-free agnecy level is 75%.

To sum up the minor league experience, every player is delusional (or desperate) enough to believe that they will eventually sign a huge contract that they will accept their economic status due to the possession of a lottery ticket. And when a player dared try to hold out in the minors for an extra $ 100 to $ 200 per month, the minor league director would say "why are you worried about chump change? Save the negotiations for when you make the majors and we will talk about thousands or tens of thousands of dollars".

And a minor league player holding out or striking? Replacement players are waiting and ready, so the threat is empty.

   99. Joe Kehoskie Posted: December 04, 2012 at 02:44 PM (#4316666)
My argument is that when it comes to the draft, really the entire bargaining unit is non-MLBPA members, yet the MLBPA still has exclusive control.

But the union doesn't have exclusive control because they seized it; only because (1) minor league players haven't bothered to unionize; (2) no one else is available to bargain over the minor leagues and draft; and (3) FA compensation allows the MLBPA a seat at the table in such talks. And with regards to a lot of draft and MiLB issues, MLB has never even conceded that they need to be collectively bargained with the MLBPA at all; rather, MLB and the MLBPA have apparently agreed to disagree, with MLB — at least for now — negotiating with the MLBPA instead of spending years fighting over whether they need to negotiate with the MLBPA.

Wait, I'm very, very confused. What about the new draft pools limiting the amount each team can spend on amateurs etc.? That's not in the CBA? If so, then a) where is it, and b) why the hell can't someone harmed by it sue the owners on antitrust grounds?

Those are in the CBA.
   100. Mike Emeigh Posted: December 04, 2012 at 02:57 PM (#4316686)
And with regards to a lot of draft and MiLB issues, MLB has never even conceded that they need to be collectively bargained with the MLBPA at all; rather, MLB and the MLBPA have apparently agreed to disagree, with MLB — at least for now — negotiating with the MLBPA instead of spending years fighting over whether they need to negotiate with the MLBPA.


There's an argument to be made that the draft can be collectively bargained regardless of whether or not it's tied to free agency - indeed, that was the very argument that was upheld in the Maurice Clarett case with the NFL. However, that particular argument has never been conclusively adjudicated; the Supreme Court declined to hear the Clarett case even though there's a circuit split on the issue.

Regardless, it's to MLB's advantage to negotiate with the MLBPA on the draft anyway - if for no other reason than to prevent someone from doing what Clarett attempted to do with the NFL, and possibly get a different ruling in a different area of the country. You have to think that Scott Boras would love to have a test case.

-- MWE
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