Bigoted Tweets Gives Us a Chance to Look in The Mirror

Sean Newcomb

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Over the course of just a few weeks, at least three Major League Baseball players’ social media behavior came back to haunt them. First, it was Milwaukee Brewers’ reliever Josh Hader, whose vile tweets were unearthed just after his All Star Game appearance. Yesterday, the past came back to bite Atlanta Braves’ pitcher Sean Newcomb (just after Newcomb pitched 8 and 2/3 no-hit innings) and Washington Nationals’ shortstop Trea Turner. 

Seven or so years ago, both Newcomb and Turner let racism and homophobia go from their brains, into their fingertips, and out into the world via Twitter.  Both players (likely at the behest of their employers) apologized almost immediately. Naturally, they blamed the tweets on their youth (both were around 18 at the time of the offending tweets), but that’s no excuse. It also serves as a helpful reminder that athletes should be admired for their athletic abilities, but admiring their characters is often a challenge.

Another striking contrast is what other ballplayers (in an array of sports) do to help their communities, raise awareness on social issues, like racial injustice, and what the megaphone provided to athletes is capable of doing.

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Durham Bulls Athletic Park is Too Nice for Crash Davis

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Is that headline too harsh? After all, Davis was one of the all-time greatest minor league hitters. The quintessential quad-A player.

It’s too bad Davis never played in the Durham Bulls’ current home.

Wait. This just in. Apparently, Crash Davis is a fictional character.

Regardless, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park is a gem and the legacy of the classic baseball flick Bull Durham is everywhere the eye can see.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

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A Must-Read on Pay Discrepancies in Minor Leagues

Last week, The Sporting News’ Ryan Fagan published a must-read piece on the immense pay discrepancy between Minor League baseball players and those playing in the NBA’s G-League. The gist is simple: the G-League announced a pay raise for its players, which raises the minimum salary to $35,000 a season, plus benefits.

Meanwhile, a triple-A baseball player might only bring in $11,825, with far fewer benefits than those playing minor league basketball or hockey.

Fagan’s piece goes into the sinister intent behind the Save America’s Pastime Act, which exempts minor league baseball players from the Fair Labor Standards Act.

It’s easy to write-off minor league ballplayers and ignore their financial struggles. After all, a few of them will go onto make big bucks in the majors. But, we can’t ignore that many are working multiple jobs and still barely making ends meet. They might play a game, but it’s their job, and we can’t fault or punish them for pursuing their dreams. At the very least, they need to make a decent wage.

I hope this conversation continues and we can find ways to ensure minor league players in all sports can earn a fair return on their work.

Lids’ Bizarre Marketing for MLB Memorial Day Caps

In recent years, MLB, along with their on-field merchandisers New Era and Majestic created a whole host of caps to “honor” the country, moms, dads, and the troops. On Memorial Day–which should be noted, is a holiday honoring those who’ve died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces–ballplayers wear camouflage jerseys and hats. New Era and Majestic design new caps and jerseys every year, and of course, they’re made for retail.

I’m not into the whole camo thing, but it’s cool. MLB donates proceeds to its Welcome Back Veterans organization, something its done since the first “Stars & Stripes” caps debuted on July 4, 2008.

However, sports paraphernalia superstore Lids had a bizarre take when they sent an email advertising the caps. Three of the Memorial Day caps were displayed–resting on fancy pillows–with the header “WE SALUTE OUR KINGS”.  Lids also has a banner ad on its home page pushing the same message.

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Finally Going to SunTrust Park (Well, in June)

A little over two years ago, I picked up my southern sticks and moved to Washington, D.C. Nats Park is now my “home town” ballpark, which isn’t ideal, but the location has allowed me to check out numerous ballparks, including three MLB stadiums last year.

However, I have yet to make it back to Atlanta for a homecoming trip to SunTrust Park.

Until now (well, in June)!

I’m getting hitched in just a couple months, and wouldn’t you know, the Braves in in Atlanta the weekend of my wedding. So, on the Friday before the wedding, I’m heading over to SunTrust Park to check it out, see my favorite club play in their new digs. Who knows? The way things are going, maybe they’ll still be playing well by the time late-June rolls around.

Or is that too much to ask?

I’ve heard mixed things about SunTrust Park. The obvious (they’re not in Atlanta anymore) to the more surprising (the concourses are a bit tight), but I’m ready to look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. I’m still not thrilled with what the Braves did and how they did it, but we can’t turn back the clock (except when wearing throwback unis) and convince the Braves to stay in Turner Field, so it is what it is.

One of my best buddies, groomsmen, and brewer in Atlanta said the Terrapin Tap Room is doing some of the best stuff the heralded Athens brewery’s done in years, so I’m excited to enjoy some libations, walk around the park, and finally get to root for my home team in a park I haven’t visited.

Until then, I hope to keep up the blogging. I recently wrote a piece for my day job about how minor league players are getting screwed, which inspired me to start writing about baseball more than I was.

MLB to Portland Picks Up Steam

As Oakland and Tampa Bay fumble their way through finding themselves new stadiums, a group of business people in Portland, Oregon unveiled the Portland Diamond Project with one goal in mind: bringing Major League Baseball to Portland.

This of course comes on the heels of additional rumblings of either an expansion or relocated team moving to Montreal after another successful exhibition series packed old Olympic Stadium. Like Portland, investors in Montreal are willing to fund their own facility.

Early season attendance woes aside, I’m all for bringing MLB to Portland and reestablishing the Expos in Montreal. With that said, we’d likely see a realignment to balance the leagues and schedules, which will ultimately transform the league. The designated hitter will become a league-wide thing and the National and American Leagues as we know it will likely go away. We’d also see an expanded playoff system, and who doesn’t love baseball extending well into the fall? (I kid, I kid)

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Apparently, Predatory Lenders Found Their Way Into Baseball Too

A few weeks ago, Congress passed a bill embedded in the gigantic spending package making it easier for Major League Baseball owners to pay minor leaguers as little as possible. The new law ensures MLB owners only have to pay players for games played in the regular season. Never mind spring training, off season appearances, or anything else.

In recent years, minor leaguers shared stories often horrific stories about their lives in MiLB. They often face difficult living conditions and struggle just to eat a decent meal. As glamorous as being a pro baseball player seems, it’s really only glamorous for the guys raking in the big bucks in the majors.

A consequence of low wages is more visible this week, after top Cleveland Indians prospect Francisco Mejia filed a lawsuit against the company Big League Advance, which effectively bought a stake in Mejia’s future earnings. Basically, companies like Big League Advance provide minor leaguers with a sum of money in exchange for future earnings. In Mejia’s case, Big League Advance provided him with $360,000 in exchange for 10 percent of Mejia’s future MLB earnings. As a top prospect, Mejia could end up earning big money.

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