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As of this writing, it’s May 30. The last day of pay for Minor League Baseball players facing a postponed — and potentially canceled — season is May 31. Around half of Major League Baseball’s teams have stepped up to extend that pay a month, or through the rest of what would be the regular season for MiLB, but that’s not a universal solution. Baseball America has a continually updating story on just which teams have agreed to pay their players $400 per week beyond May 31, and while it’s a growing list, it’s not as long as it should be.
Some background: Minor League players, after initially being sent home without any direction from teams besides “stay in game shape without financial assistance from us,” were given $400 per week from the scheduled start of the Minor League season in early April through May 31. That $400 per week was, embarrassingly, a significant raise for low-level players, and an even more significant pay cut for those who had already escaped the tremendous indignity of the lower minors and were used to being a little better off thanks to the the wages of the high minors, which nearly approach the poverty line instead of sitting miles below it. As of a week ago, there had been no word from any teams about how they were going to handle the post-May 31 pay situation. Reports trickled out during the week, with some clubs extending things through June, others through August, but still, around half of the league has remained silent, and we’re one day from the final day of the initial promise.
Not only are some teams maintaining silence on the issue, but there are those like the Oakland A’s that have outright said they won’t be paying their minor-league players a dime beyond the initial May 31 promise. New Dodgers’ pitcher David Price is giving each minor leaguer in the team’s system who isn’t on the 40-man roster $1,000 per month from his own personal funds, but the A’s — whose principal owner, John Fisher, has a net worth exceeding $2 billion — can’t find a way to scrape together the less-than-one-million-dollars it would take to pay every single A’s minor leaguer for the next few months. Price will collect at most half of his guaranteed 2020 salary thanks to the prorated salary agreement, and has a net worth equal to four percent of Fisher’s, but yeah, the guy who also owns Gap Inc. in addition to a pro baseball team can’t afford to make sure his most vulnerable players can eat and pay rent.
As Advocates for Minor Leaguers has pointed out, it would cost each club an average of less than $750,000 to continue to pay all of their minor-league players the $400 per week through the rest of what would have been the season. As I’ve pointed out before, two-thirds of MLB’s principal team owners are billionaires: each and every one of them can afford that $750,000, even if it means that The Business is in the red at the end of the year.
There is also this from Jeff Passan:
Across baseball, hundreds of minor league players were cut today and lost their jobs, sources tell ESPN. Hundreds more will be released over the next week. In the end, upward of 1,000 players could see their baseball careers end. The minor leagues have simply been devastated.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 28, 2020
Passan has a full story on this over at ESPN as well. It’s a weird coincidence that the number of lost minor-league jobs is the same figure as the expected job loss from the plan to shrink Minor League Baseball, right? Like with shortening the draft and delaying international free agency, this is a collective decision by MLB to just power forward through the pandemic, using it as an excuse to achieve the goals they already had in mind. Yes, these players would have eventually lost their jobs if MLB’s plan to disaffiliate over 40 clubs happens — and all indications are they’ll succeed on that front — but the teams have decided to just do it now, depriving these players of a paying job in the present, at a time when finding employment elsewhere isn’t exactly an option.
There is one silver lining in the release of these players, and it’s that they should now be eligible for unemployment. While under contract, that wasn’t an option — which is partly why that $400 per week stipend for minor leaguers was so vital — but now they should have a couple of months to apply for unemployment while the $600 per week from the CARES act is still available. Of course, they shouldn’t have to be unemployed, because again, it wouldn’t cost all that much to keep paying these players. If owners like Fisher don’t have $750,000 on hand to pay their employees, what are they doing in a business that it costs billions, plural, to purchase your way into?
They do have the $750,000, of course, they just don’t want you to think that they do. Rich people don’t get rich by spending their own money, and the owners who have cut players in their systems letting state and federal governments foot the bill for these players’ welfare is just another example of that.
A number of other teams will surely extend the pay of their minor-league players, maybe by Monday given how much more conspicuous their silence will be by then. However, don’t be surprised if anyone else pulls an A’s on their players, and just says they can’t or won’t pay. There will be a public relations hit, but that hasn’t stopped MLB teams from any number of awful, greedy decision-making of late, either, especially when it comes to Minor League Baseball.
This from Patrick Dubuque on secondhand sport and obsessions with efficiency is worth your time.
As is Craig Goldstein’s take on the MLB economic proposal sent to the MLBPA this week.
ICYMI, here is my own take on said proposal.
Scott Boras told his clients not to “bail out” MLB’s owners by accepting a terrible deal, placing the blame for the financial decisions and investments (like, say, in real estate, or in turning stadiums into malls) of those billionaires squarely on them. The ultra rich love talking about personal responsibility until they’re personally and financially responsible for their own decisions.
Michael Baumann asked a couple of experts about MLB’s plan to return from a health and safety perspective, and hoo boy will you not be more confident in any of this being a good idea after reading it.
- Sheryl Ring spoke with labor lawyer Eugene Freedman about unionizing the minor leagues over at Beyond the Box Score. [sniffle] the websites you founded in your youth, they grow up so fast