MLB takes small step to improving MiLB pay

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Major League Baseball isn’t about to give Minor League Baseball players another pay raise anytime soon — even if the one they did promise for 2021 is still lacking — but they have agreed to a welcome change with players’ money all the same. That’s because, according to Baseball America, MLB itself has proposed paying MiLB’s clubhouse attendants and providing (or paying for) meals before games.

Previously, clubhouse attendants were paid in clubhouse dues, which were the responsibility of the players, and a small stipend from the teams. This system was a ridiculous one even in the majors, where the minimum salary for players has been a whole lot better in the 50-plus years since the union negotiated what that figure was, but in the minors, where the vast majority of players are earning poverty-level wages? It was just another form of theft, where MiLB teams and MLB teams got away with not covering one of the essential pieces of the locker room by forcing the players to essentially tip the person doing their laundry so that they had clean clothes and the clubbie could make a living. MLB players, by the way, no longer have to pay clubbies, as of the 2017 collective bargaining agreement. MiLB had not yet escaped this awful setup, but will if this new policy is adopted.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with tipping — tip, and tip well, ok? — in a system where tipping exists, but just as with the restaurant industry, that sort of thing happens entirely because the business employing the person who receives tips isn’t paying them like they should. There’s a restaurant in a neighboring town that I… well, used to love going to, when that was a thing you could safely do, he says wistfully. They don’t allow you to tip, but that’s because they actually pay their servers in full, rather than offering up a few bucks per hour and expecting the customers to cover the rest of their pay via tip. What a novel idea, huh? MLB paying clubbies instead of leaving that to the players just trying to do the jobs they aren’t compensated well for reminds me of this, only MLB is still paying its minor leaguers worse than this restaurant pays its servers. And they aren’t exactly paying the clubbies well, either, since they, like the players, aren’t eligible for overtime and, also like players, receive what is essentially an annual prorated salary that requires another job to make ends meet.

As Baseball America projects it, players are looking at, depending on their level and pay, to save $40-100 per week in addition to the increase in pay they were expected to see in 2021, anyway. This is a good thing, of course, and so too is the fact that meals will be provided more regularly by the teams. There are still changes to be made, though. The quality of the meals themselves remains a question — J.J. Cooper believes the provided meals will be healthier ones, but that’s a guess. Recall former Mets player Ty Kelly tweeting about the team-provided sandwich with a single slice of deli meat and one slice of cheese — no condiments, no vegetables, not even something as simple as mayo on the bread — and how the players weren’t allowed to eat the food they had brought for themselves, because the team had provided lunch that day. It’s possible the quality of the meals will improve. It’s also possible minor leaguers are in for a whole lot of Mets Sandwiches.

There’s nothing in that BA report, either, about an increase in the players’ per diem on the road. Right now, it’s a paltry $25 per day — for comparison, in the American Hockey League, the NHL’s equivalent of MLB’s Triple-A level, the per diem is $75 — which doesn’t get you a whole lot in a town a player is visiting unless everything is spent on the value menu at a fast food joint. Maybe meals will be provided on the road, too, but that still leaves the players with just $25 to spend during all of the hours where they’re not at the stadium and far from home. This is another obvious area for improvement, and I’m curious to see whether MLB makes any change here, or if there is nothing compelling them to do so.

Of course, the real way to improve the lot of players and their financials is to simply pay the players a living wage, but I suspect we’re going to see minor changes like the clubhouse dues one to avoid doing just that. Remember, only players repeating the Triple-A level will see better than poverty-level wages in 2021, even after the universal pay increase: there might be a nearly 50 percent raise coming for 2021, but, as I said at the time that news was coming in, 50 percent of shit is still shit.

Plus, MiLB players are still responsible for their own equipment, so busted cleats and broken bats are theirs to pay to replace. The per diem is still miserably low, and only available on the road. Pay is still such that many players need to live with host families in order to avoid spending a massive chunk of their salary on rent, and the players who don’t end up with hosts have to band together in groups of six in small apartments that weren’t meant for that many occupants. Sure, the San Francisco Giants are planning subsidies to help players afford housing, but they aren’t extending that offer to all of their minor leaguers, and they are just one of 30 organizations even bothering to do this much. While shifting the responsibility for paying clubbies over to the teams themselves is significant, it certainly isn’t the end of what’s necessary.

  • You should read Jen Mac Ramos on Tony La Russa’s DUI, and how his embarrassment goes well beyond himself.

  • Also at Baseball Prospectus is this from Patrick Dubuque, on how the game of baseball has been solved and where that solving got us. Spoiler: nowhere good.

  • I find it curious that former Astros GM Jeff Luhnow says he is a scapegoat who should not have been fired because he didn’t know anything about the sign-stealing scandal, but he also fancies himself an expert who can comment on whether the punishment the Red Sox received for their own sign-stealing was sufficient.

  • The NBA is planning on having fans in attendance in some indoor arenas this upcoming season, which is wild to consider when coronavirus is rampaging through America once more, overwhelming hospitals and setting new records for infections each day. We haven’t even hit the holidays yet, where cases are surely going to spike further because people cannot help but gather together when they shouldn’t, and yet, we’re talking about putting fans indoors to watch basketball, too.

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