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Game 111: Diamondbacks at Twins

No, they’re not a great team, but they’re usually better this year than the Twins.

Oakland Athletics v Minnesota Twins
Was teammates with tonight’s DBacks starter in 2018.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Time: 7:10 Central

Weather: Some cloud shade, still sticky, 88° at first pitch

Opponent’s SB site: AZ Snake Pit

TV: BSN. Radio: Loved by children of all ages, sometimes broadcast by them

MLB team record for strikeouts: 1596. Twins’ current pace: 1661

Merrill Kelly has been a solid starting contributor for Arizona since his debut in 2019, at age 30. Why so ancient? Because after four years in the minors for the pitching-packed Rays, he wanted a change. So he went to Korea, and won a championship there, and then signed with Arizona on a major-league deal.

He throws a 93-ish fastball, a good change, a cutter, sinker and curve... although his sneakiest pitch might be the rarely-used “slider,” a Dive Ball that just goes straight down at the plate. Digits:

There was some good news for Arizona players this week. No, not the trade deadline, which overall seems to have marginally improved the Diamondbacks, and more for the future than this season. (They’re currently sitting right on the edge of the playoff bubble.)

No, I meant players in Arizona for Spring Training or instructional leagues. Also players doing the same in Florida or California. Baseball has started back-paying those players (because of a lawsuit filed in 2014!).

Players won this lawsuit last year, based on the fact that teams were cheating state and federal minimum-wage/overtime requirements. It was standard for minor-league players to be paid nothing during spring training – but if they skipped it and said “I’ll show up when the season starts and you’re paying me,” they’d lose their jobs. Now, they’ll at least get the legal minimum.

This is only right. This is only fair. For too many years now, companies have been bending the definition of terms like “intern” or “trainee” or “independent contractor” to sharply reduce worker pay and/or benefits – sometimes, finding ways to legally eliminate them altogether. Add to this several rulings by a heavily anti-labor Supreme Court (amidst legal bribes provided by pro-business lobbyists), and it’s rather nice, for once, to see people winning a battle for better pay.

And we’re not talking about a lot, here; the average back pay is around $5250, and the total bill for MLB is $185 million. That’s $6.17 mil per team – just about one Kyle Farmer.

A bigger benefit for minor leaguers is that they’re part of the overall players’ union now. This means that minimum salaries now range from $675 to $1200 weekly, depending on level. Again, not a lot of money for what MLB teams make, but a huge step up from how badly minor-leaguers were paid before. MLB is even providing housing, now (although, unsurprisingly, doing a bad job of it).

This excellent 2021 ESPN article by Joon Lee details just how bad things used to be, and the toll it took on players – some even driven to suicidal despair.

For years, the MLBPA didn’t much care about minor-league pay, both because it was hard to organize minor-leaguers (understandably more afraid of punishment by the MLB clubs), and because many big-leaguers had the attitude of “I took my hard knocks back then, why shouldn’t kids today?”

But I’m sure the recent drop in veteran MLB salaries (largely due to newer analytics, not only MLB owners being miserly b**terds) had MLBPA members thinking that mere hard work and being a good teammate wasn’t nearly the path to security that it once was. (And it never really was.)

In any case, I’m happy to see minor-leaguers getting a little more. Now, if we could only do away with the owners altogether...

Today's Lineups

Geraldo Perdomo - SS Carlos Correa - SS
Ketel Marte - 2B Edouard Julien - 2B
Corbin Carroll - CF Jorge Polanco - 3B
Christian Walker - 1B Max Kepler - RF
Tommy Pham - LF Matt Wallner - DH
Lourdes Gurriel - DH Willi Castro - LF
Emmanuel Rivera - 3B Christian Vazquez - C
Jake McCarthy - RF Joey Gallo - 1B
Jose Herrera - C Michael Taylor - CF
Merrill Kelly - RHP Bailey Ober - RHP

Incidentally, Kelly’s given first name is Kenneth... so maybe he knows what the frequency is.