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Mookie the vlogger and MLB’s lobbying in Florida

Or “Mookie Betts starts a vlog” or “The League engages in lobbying to stifle minor league pay in Florida.”

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Los Angeles Dodgers v. San Diego Padres Photo by Adam Glanzman/MLB Photos via Getty Images

“The definition of what’s it changed — now it’s just weird and scary.”

At the core of this part of the essay is a sense that the world is changing. This change is not necessarily good or bad; it just is. In some ways, this portion of the essay feels super hypocritical. By day, I am a lawyer. I freely admit that the bulk of my energy and focus is spent working on my client’s behalf. But by night, I write essays for this site. So who am I to complain if Mookie Betts is moonlighting as a content creator when he started his own vlog?

Admittedly, my initial reluctance stemming from this news was remembering that I spent the better part of the last year following another former Dodgers’ vlog for news relating to his suspension and his eventual release: Trevor Bauer. I have done my level best to not write about him since his release for obvious reasons.

I will say the following though before moving on to Betts’ channel. When Bauer was not succumbing to self-aggrandizement and focused purely on his athletic talent, it was an interesting way to gain insight into the mechanics of pitching. Leaving aside the considerable baggage of his drama, he did explain it so I know how to throw his curveball now.

I suppose when I first heard the news about Betts the Vlogger, my initial response was trepidation and distraction. But this man is one who knows his daily trade. Betts has his hobbies, but no one can credibly claim they distract him from his work as the Dodgers’ right fielder.

Also, Betts seems less prone to delusions of grandeur, but it is safe to say that I do not know the man. More importantly, barring some odd set of circumstances that I do not anticipate (even for my Forrest Gump-ian type of life), I will never likely meet the man, which is at the core of initial trepidation about Betts’ channel: is it a genuine exploration of the man behind the mystique or is it a cynical way to boost one’s brand?

There is no way to genuinely know the answer to that question right now, but the vlog does create the illusion of getting to know the Dodgers’ right fielder.

The parasocial relationship

Part of me will never get used to players vlogging about their day-to-day lives. I acknowledge that my view will likely be the minority. If, like me, Betts is able to keep his focus on his day job, then there is no harm to indulging a hobby in what limited free time he has.

The idea of current major leaguers vlogging about their lives is a new one and gives insight into the behind the scenes life of a ballplayer. Let the man bowl, let the man vlog. At worst, the vlog creates a parasocial relationship where I get to understand Betts’ life a bit more. If the vlog turns cynical, I give people credit for being able to tell and react accordingly.

Two things that immediately jump to mind when watching Betts’ vlog. First is the production value with the subtitles and multiple camera angles used. Second, after watching the first episode, it is very that Betts is close with new-arrival J.D. Martinez. Their friendship has been widely reported, but it’s quite different seeing that friendship rather than hearing about it.

Admittedly, making a vlog about my life is not something that would occur to me. As alluded to in the introduction, that difference is not good or bad — it is just a difference in cultural norms. If anything, with the bulk of players now younger than I am, I must realize that times changes and I must change with them.

It remains to be seen what Betts’ vlog turns into, but in any event, the change will likely be interesting. However, speaking of the next generation...

Suffer the children: MLB lobbies Florida to exempt minor leaguers from minimum wage requirements

Los Angeles Dodgers v. San Diego Padres
Tanner Dodson #80 and David Freitas #71 of the Los Angeles Dodgers high-five
Photo by Adam Glanzman/MLB Photos via Getty Images

An interesting story popped up on my radar that was largely overlooked by the national baseball press about two weeks ago. Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents reported that Major League Baseball is engaging in lobbying in Florida for legislation that would exempt minor league players from the state’s minimum-wage law.

The result of such legislation would be twofold. First, Florida’s law would be in line with the Federal “Save America’s Pastime Act,” which was passed back in 2018 that did the same for major league players on a federal level. The federal act includes several minimum-wage exemptions, such as for baseball players, casual babysitters, some seasonal amusement workers, and border patrol agents. The law requires baseball players to receive an in-season weekly salary equal to the minimum wage for a 40-hour workweek.

However, as we are in spring training right now, you can likely see the obvious issue/loophole.

When Congress amended the federal law in 2018, the minor-league minimum was put at $290 a week — the equivalent of $7.25 an hour — without overtime eligibility. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. With this proposed bill, the teams that have spring training in Florida could theoretically and likely make their minor leaguers work without salary during spring training and the fall instructional leagues.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Jonathan Martin, R-Fort Myers, justified his proposal by equating the time that minor leaguers spend on the field and in training as an “interview for a job.” Martin noted that he was a clubhouse attendant for the Red Sox in Fort Meyers, twenty years ago and stated that minor leaguers were not envious of the fact that he made a higher wage while doing their laundry, vacuuming and preparing meals.

Martin also noted that the teams provide per-diem payments to players that cover room and board. “Not a single person or a single player for any of the major-league or minor-league teams is living on the streets, is without a shelter or without food or clothing when they’re working for the ballclub,” Martin said.

A future long-form “It’s not my Money(ball)” essay will debunk this lie in depth. In the interim, Garcia accurately noted that while Major League Baseball did raise minor league pay, most minor leaguers still earn less than $15,000/year, falling below the federal poverty line.

It is worth noting that Major League Baseball tried this argument in federal court last year and was slapped down by Judge Joseph Spero of the Northern District of California. Ultimately, the League settled the class-action lawsuit that was filed back in 2014 for $185 million in back wages to more than 20,000 expected plaintiffs. As part of the settlement, Major League Baseball also said it would no longer prohibit its teams from paying players during spring training — though teams could still choose not to do so.

As you may or may not remember, the minor leaguers voted to unionize in 2022, and they are currently negotiating for their first labor contract (paywalled). Unlike the lockout of 2022 with the major leaguers, this negotiation is largely occurring outside of the public eye and will be discussed in-depth at a later date.

I truly cannot recommend the Garcia article highly enough as it is well worth your time.