Column: Durbin open to keeping antitrust exemption if MLB does more for minor league players

As summer rolls into fall, baseball’s spotlight shines on the brightest stars on the postseason stage: Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, Jose Altuve.

In 2022, this fall spotlight could also be on Rob Manfred, the Commissioner, raising his right hand in Congress and vowing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

“That’s definitely our plan,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.

The threat to strip baseball of its antitrust freedom is a time-honoured Washington ritual. After 100 years there is liberation.

The congressional hearing is also a time-honored Washington ritual. Baseball never seriously considered steroid testing until Congress held nationally televised hearings on the subject, and Durbin believes the same could be true of baseball’s treatment of minor leagues. He said a hearing could take place “in September or October”.

As the committee considers legislation to remove the antitrust exemption, it has focused on the impact on the smaller leagues.

“Of course I’d like to see a new law,” Durbin said, “but I’m a realist. What I would otherwise like to see are concessions from Major League Baseball.

The committee asked MLB and the nonprofit Advocates for Minor Leaguers how the antitrust exemption affects minor leagues. Proponents responded earlier this month; The league’s response is due Friday.

Meanwhile, Manfred sparked nationwide outrage with his response to the question of whether or not minor league owners can pay a living wage.

“I reject the premise that they’re not being paid a living wage,” Manfred said on the day of the All-Star Game.

“I think that was kind of an insensitive statement,” Durbin said. “When a politician makes one, he changes his remarks as soon as possible.

“It doesn’t reflect the reality of what’s happening with the minor leagues. They are treated very badly.”

At first glance, of course, Manfred seemed silly. The starting salary for a triple-A player — the top of the minor leagues — is around $14,000. The federal government sets the poverty line for a one-person household at $13,590.

But the Soundbite that lit up social media didn’t include the rest of Manfred’s answer, on how minor league salaries have increased, how signing bonuses are independent of salaries, and how housing is now being made available to players. He previously told the Times how working conditions have improved, with improved facilities and less travel.

Is that enough?

in one Handbook for new conscripts Issued this week, proponents said they would like to change the compensation system from one where teams control smaller leagues for seven years and pay on a scale to one where players could negotiate the terms of their contracts.

In theory, you could sign with the team that drafts you for three years instead of seven, and then sign with the team that offers you the most money or the shortest route to the big leagues.

Senator Dick Durbin speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington July 20.

(Amanda Andrade-Rhoades / Associated Press)

That could lead to an unintended but easily predictable consequence: the Dodgers are buying up the best prospects. Those would be the details Durbin would like the parties to discuss: how to get to a newer and fairer minor league system, not whether any change is needed at all.

“I can lead a crusade like anyone else,” he said, “but what I’m looking for at this stage in my career is actual change. If there is a path to a better scenario and they are willing to do that, I want to listen.”

Durbin fights for the minor leagues, but also for the minor leagues.

The committee’s letter to MLB called on the league to commit to “no further contraction of minor league clubs.” When MLB took over the operations of the minor leagues last season, it eliminated 43 clubs that were affiliated with major league teams. There is concern that MLB could increase minor league player salaries by reducing the number of minor leagues.

“Something has to happen in order for Major League Baseball to continue to build a fan base,” Durbin said. “I think they have some real challenges. They grudgingly admit it when they talk about game length and rule changes and the like.

“But I think there’s another element: They price themselves out of the market for a lot of American families.

“Minor league teams are catching up. They are affordable and close by and kids can get into the game much easier. It tells me baseball needs to change.”

Durbin was happy to talk about the Savannah Bananas, whose pro-fan rules include: If a fan catches a foul ball in the stands, the batter is out.

“The minor leagues can teach the majors a few things about baseball,” he said. “I would like to see them multiply. I think it would whet the appetite for baseball.

“I want baseball to be successful. i love sports But I think some of the owners need to rethink.”

After all, his beloved Chicago Cubs now employ a designated hitter. One can agree on the need for new thinking without agreeing on what that thinking should be.

“Lights at Wrigley Field was the first abomination, but the DH?” said Durbin. “My God.” Column: Durbin open to keeping antitrust exemption if MLB does more for minor league players

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