Five things we learned Wednesday: Saving America's pastime

1. A stiff arm to minor league pay increases. You might have heard about the federal lawsuit that three former minor league players filed against MLB a couple years ago, alleging that minor league pay scales violate minimum wage laws. That lawsuit is still going through the courts, but MLB has found allies in Congress. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) introduced a piece of legislation called "Save America's Pastime Act."

That sounds like something we'd all approve of, right? I mean, who doesn't want to save baseball? I bet you didn't realize baseball needed saving! Here's what the act would do: H.R. 5580 would clarify that minor league baseball players are exempt from federal wage laws. How does that affect MLB? If the lawsuit succeeds in increasing minor league wages, that's money out of the pockets of MLB owners. MLB teams -- not the minor league owners/operators -- pay the salaries of minor league players.

On her website, Bustos issued a news release that stated, in part: "Minor League teams are critically important, not just to the players and their parent teams, but to the communities they serve like Peoria and the Quad-Cities. This common sense proposal will close a loophole to ensure the long-term viability of Minor League teams in communities across our nation and I look forward to working with Congressman Guthrie to get it done."

The viability of minor league teams has nothing to do with player wages; the minor league teams don't pay the wages. Because MLB teams need minor league teams to produce their major leaguers, it's not like the minor leagues will be suddenly wiped out if players make a few hundred bucks extra per month. What's going on here? Why would a Democratic Congresswoman want to enforce these wages for minor leaguers? Bustos is the daughter of a guy named Gene Callahan, a former MLB lobbyist, and both Bustos and Guthrie are among those MLB's PAC donated to, according to FEC filings in February.

Connecting those dots, I say, shame on you, MLB. This is a $9 billion industry. Every MLB team could afford an extra $500,000 to help pay its minor leaguers, and the MLB Players Association could consider fighting a bit for its minor league brothers. As Steve Silver wrote in the link above: "So even though there are thousands of non-unionized minor leaguers living below the poverty line, Major League Baseball can simply phone a friend and ask its former lobbyist’s daughter for some help in Congress. Seems fair, right?"

2. Danny Salazar makes bid for All-Star starting nod. He pitched seven scoreless innings as the Cleveland Indians won their 12th in a row. Hey, I said I'm going to keep writing about them! I tweeted that I'd still start Chris Sale over Salazar, even though Salazar has the edge in ERA (2.22 to 2.79) and K rate, and that upset a couple Indians fans. My rationale: The overall numbers are close, but Sale has been pitching at this level for five years, while Salazar has done so for three months. Also, Sale has pitched 20 more innings, which means he has had a much higher percentage of quality starts (78 to 53), as Salazar hasn't always gone deep into games. Because Salazar has 43 walks in just 93 1/3 innings, he has relied on a low hit rate, which means he depends more on his defense. How much of his success is attributable to Francisco Lindor, for example? In my book, it's an easy call: Sale would be the All-Star starter.

3. Is the Texas Rangers' bullpen getting tired? The New York Yankees scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth to shock the Rangers, with Didi Gregorius blasting a walk-off home run off Sam Dyson. With the Rangers' rotation beaten up, the speculation is that Jeff Banister has had to rely too much on his bullpen. Dyson is second in the majors, with 41 appearances, but he had pitched just once in the past week after four straight days off last week. The numbers don't actually suggest the rotation hasn't been delivering enough innings: It has averaged six innings per game in June, the same as it has averaged all season, and the Rangers are seventh in the majors in innings from their starters. That means the Texas bullpen probably hasn't been more worked than any other team's. It was just one of those games.

4. Jose Altuve is awesome! You knew that. But did you know he's THIS awesome?

5. Sonoma Stompers sign two women. The Stompers, of the independent Pacific Association, will have 17-year-old left fielder Kelsie Whitmore and 25-year-old pitcher Stacy Piagno in their lineup on Friday. Publicity stunt? Sure. Done with good intentions? Definitely. Here's more on the story.