More on the Mexican League
Here’s a piece from the Hardball Times, translated from the Spanish by Nathaly Morga-Oregel, about the Mexican League. It has a lot of information about the Mexican League (summer) which I had wondered about (for example, he says maximum salaries are capped at $8,000/month), although I’m not exactly sure the author establishes his basic premise, i.e., that the Mexican League doesn’t respect contracts.
Morga-Oregel’s main complaint seems to be that the Mexican League doesn’t do enough to help young Mexican and other players get into the MLB system fast enough. Frankly, I don’t see how it’s the Mexican League’s responsibility to try to produce talent for another league, whether the Mexican League is loosely affiliated with MLB or not.
There are some things which Morga-Oregel describes that are patently unfair. For example, if a team signs a Mexican player and later releases that player, the team apparently continues to claim rights in that player, meaning that any other team that wants to sign him has to pay his old team for his rights. However, that seems like an issue for the Mexican legal system, since I doubt MLB organizations are trying to sign players cut by Mexican League teams.
The other “problems” that Morga-Oregel describes are that Mexican League teams hold onto their best players as long as they can before selling them to MLB organizations and then seek the best prices they can get for these players. If the MLB team won’t agree to the Mexican League team’s price, no deal.
Isn’t this basically how independently run baseball clubs should act? If I have a star under contract, wouldn’t I rather keep that player playing for me unless someone makes me an offer exceeding what I think the player is worth on my own team? Yes, every single time, unless I’m simply a subsidiary of another baseball team, as most American minor league teams are.
Another example given is how current San Francisco Giants’ reliever Jean Machi played with the Mexico City Red Devils in 2011. He was pitching great and the Giants came calling but the Red Devils didn’t want to sell Machi until the Mexican League season ended in mid-August. Well, that’s hardly shocking, at least so long as the Mexican League is a real baseball league where teams try to win games to draw fans, and not a league which exists on heavy subsidies solely for the purpose of producing major league talent for MLB.
What Morga-Oregel implies, but does not actually state, is that the Red Devils’ holding onto Machi for an extra month or two actually violated the terms of a written contract between the Red Devils and Machi, or between the Red Devils and the Giants, who apparently signed Machi that February but sent him “on loan” to Mexico when he didn’t make the AAA Fresno Grizzlies at the start of the 2011 season.
The Red Devils may have violated a contract, but there’s no way to know from the article. In fact, Morga-Oregel writes that “there are no guidelines or regulations set by MLB regarding this process,” which sounds like the Red Devils were entirely within their rights to hold onto Machi until the Mexican League season ended. MLB is certainly capable of taking care of itself (ask the owners of Japan’s NPB teams, who were given a take-it-or-leave-it $20 million cap on player posting fees last off-season). Morga-Oregel also doesn’t blame the Giants, who could have simply released Machi when he didn’t make the Fresno Grizzlies so he could sign with another MLB organization, rather than assigning his contract to the Red Devils.
Morga-Oregel also claims that some Mexican players get shorted on the sale price when they are sold to MLB organizations, sometimes getting as little as 25% of the sale price. If a minor league player in the U.S. is sold from one MLB organization to another, how much of the sale price does the player get? That’s right — zippo!
One reason the Mexican League can compel young Mexican players to sign with their teams rather than MLB teams is that players who sign first with MLB teams are barred from playing in the Mexican League in the future. You know what? Japan’s NPB and South Korea’s KBO basically try to do the same thing with the young players from their countries. Don’t think for a moment that if some foreign league were willing (and able) to pay higher signing bonuses to American-born amateur players than MLB does, MLB wouldn’t try to do the same thing.
Most American minor leaguers get paid very little, often less than their counterparts in Japan’s NPB. Major leaguers wouldn’t have all the rights they now enjoy (for example, salary arbitration and free agency) except for the fact that they unionized in the late 1960’s.
What it comes down to is that the Mexican League has some heavy-weight financial backers and doesn’t have to accept terms from MLB that are completely one-sided in favor of MLB like most of the other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Also, Mexico is almost certainly a much more difficult place for players to organize and insist on their professional rights than the U.S.
While the Mexican League isn’t particularly profitable compared to MLB at least in terms of gate receipts, the league is probably a lot more profitable in other ways (TV and advertizing) than most people realize, if some of Mexico’s billionaires have ownership interests in Mexican League teams. The idea that the super-rich invest in sports teams simply for the love of the game and not to make profits is almost always complete nonsense.