Last week, in protest of Major League Baseball’s plan to implement an international amateur draft, Dominican prospects and their trainers boycotted an annual MLB showcase event. This forced Major League Baseball to cancel the workout, after briefly considering bringing in replacement players (because idiots will never learn).
This week, just by coincidence, Baseball America’s Ben Badler (who is all over this story, and who you should follow) reports that Major League Baseball has called several of these players in for surprise drug tests. All prospects are drug tested before they sign any contracts, though that, according to Badler, those tests don’t usually happen until the year the player signs. Given that these prospects won’t be eligible to sign until next July, Badler says, this is an odd request, “Given the timing, the decision to test players could be retaliation for the protest, raising further questions about the way the commissioner’s office uses its power and treats Latin American amateur players.”
While no one would condone drug and steroid use in developing teenagers, it should go without saying that Major League Baseball should not be retaliating against its future stars who are using the only leverage at their disposal to protest an unfair system. MLB’s proposed draft, by definition, robs Dominican and other Latino players of their rights to choose their team and limits the bonuses they can receive for their talents. It’s deplorable that a multi-billion dollar industry would pick a fight with 15 and 16 year old kids who live in poverty. This very well may be their only shot to escape that poverty, and it’s intolerable that the league is poised to fight them for every inch and strip them of their economic freedoms.
And yet, here we are. Major League Baseball seems determined to fight dirty in its effort to bring the international market to heel. Shame on them. Shame on Commissioner Rob Manfred. And shame on anybody who tries to defend a bunch of billionaires who pick on children.