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Why controversy surrounds Adam Eaton and the Minor League Pay Problem

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Why controversy surrounds Adam Eaton and the Minor League Pay Problem

Washington Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton found himself at the center of the Minor League pay problem issue this past weekend.

On Thursday, Washington City Paper published an article describing the living and working conditions of a handful of the Class A-Advanced Potomac Nationals, one of Washington's minor-league affiliates. The article, which credited Eaton with saying that he doesn't believe minor leaguers should be paid "big time," but they could be paid slightly more. 

Additionally, Eaton said that he believes the MLB shouldn't make conditions in the minor leagues "more hospitable," because otherwise players could get complacent and, supposedly, have less of an incentive or drive to make the majors. 

Eaton's argument is more nuanced than those few quotes, and on Monday City Paper published an article with the entirety of Eaton's interview available online. 

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM WITH MINOR-LEAGUE PAY?

Four players sued MLB in 2014, alleging that its policies “artificially and illegally depressing” minor league salaries. The case was dismissed, but it elevated the concerns of minor league players and the disparity between the support for them and MLB players (here's a good place to start if you want to learn more about this fight). 

Many have had to live with host families or share small apartments with upwards of five teammates while in a major league team's farm system. Some, including Eaton, recall the abysmal food options provided to players by the teams, often including peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. 

The issue of whether minor leaguers are paid a "livable wage" has become a more prominent issue since the suit was filed.  In 2018 President Donald Trump signed the "Save America's Pastime Act," which enables MLB to exclude most professional baseball players from the Fair Labor Standards Act and thus insulates the current system of pay between the major and minor leagues. 

While those drafted in the earlier rounds may receive signing bonuses upwards of $8 million, those who do receive signing bonuses make up only a small percentage of those in the minor leagues. 

Last year, the monthly minimum salaries for minor league players were: $1,100 in rookie ball and Single-A, $1,500 in Double-A and $2,150 in Triple-A, according to an article from the Associated Press

WHAT DID ADAM EATON SAY?

Eaton's argument is complicated and mainly based on personal experience. (The Nationals outfielder spent time in the Arizona Diamondbacks' minor league system after he was drafted in the 19th round of the 2010 MLB Draft. Since then he's also spent time in the Chicago White Sox and the Nationals' minor-league systems, mainly on rehab assignments.)

It's unfair to lay out Eaton's claim as one claiming that nothing should change and minor league players should continue to be exploited. Eaton explicitly said that he "doesn't disagree [minor leaguers are] being exploited," but added that "it's for the betterment of everybody."

The outfielder credited his experience in the "dog-eat-dog world" of the minor leagues as helping him appreciate the majors all the more, because it kept him from getting complacent and made him focus on baseball.

But Eaton also admitted that there is what he calls "wiggle room" in the minor-league salaries; the minor league teams could increase salaries a little bit (but not too much, according to Eaton). 

WHY IS THERE CONTROVERSY?

The problem stems from the fact that Eaton's argument is complex, and he repeatedly backtracked in his interview with City Paper. Plus, words are extremely subjective. So while Eaton said that if MLB made the minor league life "more livable," then players would get complacent, he also said that minor league players shouldn't be exploited and should make slightly more money. 

Many articles published have used headlines that amount to "click-bait," which shave Eaton's argument down to "minor-leaguers should be exploited because it's a good thing." That isn't Eaton's whole argument, though. 

Understanding where Eaton's argument fits into the entire pay problem is important in understanding why Eaton is under scrutiny right now. And to do that, what amounts to a "liveable wage" and "liveable conditions" must be better defined. Eaton argues that minor league players should make enough so that they're "literally not eating crumbs," but not so much that they grow comfortable. As he claims, it's those minor-leaguers who are "milled by pressure," the 30th and 40th round draft picks with no signing bonus and no guarantee they'll ever reach the majors, who ensure a "longevity in the big league." 

HAS EATON SAID ANYTHING ELSE?

Well, yes. Eaton took to Instagram Monday, after the City Paper article with the complete interview transcript was published, essentially cleaning up his argument and apologizing for offending anyone. 

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DC bar to brew special beer to celebrate Nationals' World Series appearance

DC bar to brew special beer to celebrate Nationals' World Series appearance

Plenty of beer was consumed Tuesday night when the Nationals advanced to the World Series for the first time in franchise history.

Before Game 1 of the World Series next Tuesday, fans will be able to enjoy a new, special beer. Bluejacket, a bar near Nationals Park, is brewing a double IPA, aptly named 86 Years to commemorate the last time a Washington MLB team went to the World Series.

The beer is "a hazy double IPA double dry-hopped with Galaxy – it's a juicy fruit bomb of a brew that shows intense notes of passionfruit, peach and orange," per a release from the restaurant group.

The beer will be available on draft before Game 1 on Tuesday and available in cans by Game 3 when the series returns to the nation's capital. 

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Davey Martinez tells great story of Gerardo Parra's rise as 'Baby Shark'

Davey Martinez tells great story of Gerardo Parra's rise as 'Baby Shark'

WASHINGTON -- As the great ice skater Chazz Michael Michaels once said, "it gets the people going."

Nationals manager Davey Martinez was enjoying the evening with his team up 7-4 in Game 4 of the NLCS on Tuesday, just nine outs away from a World Series berth, when he felt something was missing. This game needed some juice.

The crowd had gone through a frontload of emotions with seven runs in the first inning and they were in the middle of a long wait until Clinchmas. So, Martinez peered down the dugout and called on the life of the Nationals' party, Gerardo Parra.

That gave the 43,976 fans in attendance what they really came to see and hear. They wanted their favorite band to play their biggest hit; 'Baby Shark.'

"I only put him in the game today to get the fans going again," Martinez joked.

Parra, though, came through with a single to back it all up. He has become a fan favorite on the 2019 Nationals and, for the most part, his production on the field has justified the hype.

Parra's greatest asset for the Nationals, however, is not his game. It is his presence in the clubhouse as the odd-ball who zips to his locker every day on a scooter, blows a party whistle after wins and wears red-tinted sunglasses in the dugout.

He's weird, but in a good way. And he is undeniably a key ingredient to a Nats team that is now further than any D.C. baseball club has been in 86 years.

As he sat at the podium soaked in various forms of celebratory alcohol on Tuesday night, Martinez told a detailed story about Parra earlier in the season, how a conversation between the two helped Parra realize exactly what his role for the Nationals needed to be.

"There was a point in time where he was struggling real bad. He was like 2-for-30, and it was kind of -- everything was kind of down a little bit. I didn't feel that energy, and I brought him in the office, and I said, 'hey, what's going on?' And he goes, 'oh, you know, I'm not hitting. I'm not helping the team.' I go, 'no, no, no.' I said, 'I don't care if you're 2-for-100, your job is to bring the energy every single day. That's who you are.' I said, 'you play that music loud. You pump up the guys.' I said, 'you're the guy that brings that energy every day,' and he just looked at me, and he goes, 'you're right.' He said, 'I'm not doing my job.' I said, 'well, go do your job'," Martinez recalled.

"Needless to say, after that, he started hitting again, and he came back to my office a few days later, and he goes, 'hey, thank you. I didn't realize that I need to have fun too, not worry about' -- I said, 'yeah, hey, bring it every day.'"

Parra has been the symbol of the Nationals' clubhouse chemistry this season which has been hailed as a strength. Major League Baseball is an everyday grind of 162 games and Parra has helped everyone on the team remember on a daily basis that it is just a game.

Martinez and the Nationals believe that approach overall is a big reason why they were able to overcome a 19-31 record to make the playoffs and now the World Series. Parra, though it may not show up in wins above replacement, has been invaluable.

"What he's done in that clubhouse has really changed the way these guys go about their business. I mean, it was business. There wasn't a whole lot of -- he made it fun for this team," Martinez said.

"Those guys up there, every one of his teammates love him, love him. All the fans love him. He's just that guy. He's the Parra Shark."

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