MiLB players can barely afford their hotel and meals, even after pay increase

This article is free for anyone to read, but please consider becoming a Patreon subscriber to allow me to keep writing posts like this one. Sign up to receive articles like this one in your inbox here.

​I keep seeing in random conversations on social media that it’s in bad taste, or won’t be well accepted, to continue to clamor for minor-league baseball players to receive raises right after they just received one for the 2021 season. This simply isn’t true: it’s exactly what MLB wanted to happen, sure, that everyone would feel compelled to lay off of their treatment of minor leageurs because hey, a raise, and I said as much back in 2019 when news of a 50 percent bump first appeared:

A 50 percent increase sounds impressive on the surface, and that’s what will go in the headlines. Many people won’t read the articles themselves, just the headlines and the tweets, and many journalists writing those unread articles won’t dig far enough into how it’s still not a living wage, nor in line with the players’ labor or MLB’s revenue. Then, if any player dares to speak up again about money despite the threat to their job, they’ll likely be reminded that they just got a raise, a 50 percent one! And the greedy player narrative will continue unabated, even though that guy is just trying to avoid having to decide if buying a sandwich at the deli instead of a value menu item from McDonalds means he won’t be able to afford that cockroach spray for his disgusting apartment.

Given that, asking for more isn’t in poor taste: the initial “more” was never enough, even before it was implemented! Teams are providing meals for players in 2021, and they cut out having to pay clubhouse dues, but there are still some caveats to consider here. The teams are providing a single meal during home games, not three meals: the players still have to cover breakfast and whichever other meal falls during their time away from the ballpark on a given day. That is difficult to do during homestands where there is no per diem for the players to pay for their food. Not only do minor-league players only receive a $25 per diem to cover multiple meals during a day, but they only receive it during road games. Eating during homestands comes out of the players’ own pockets.

This is a problem during normal times, but in 2021, with housing options limited and restricted due to social distancing measures, it’s even more of an issue. Players can’t live with a host family for free to save money this year — host families are their own issue to consider, that living somewhere has to even come to that sort of situation, but it was still a better option for some players than what was available to them otherwise — so that has some of them living out of their suitcase in hotels, even in their team’s home city. And that is causing financial issues, as Advocates for Minor Leaguers pointed out on Twitter last week:

These players are likely getting deals on hotel rooms given the lengths of their stay, while also probably not staying in your finest accommodations to cut the price even further, and yet, those rooms plus a couple of meals per day is eating up all of their salary. It’s cheaper to go on the road, where meals are paid for with a per diem. They aren’t great meals, considering how far that $25 has to be stretched, but at least it’s not the players’ own money. The only time any of them can save for any bills is when they’re on the road.

These players work far more than the 40 hours per week for which they are paid, aren’t eligible for overtime despite the fact they can put in 60 or 70 hour weeks, and have to eat off a value menu somewhere or buy instant noodles in bulk so they can sleep in a bed with a roof over their heads. And even then, they’re left with nothing, or they have to spend money they “saved” from their time on the road, when the per diem covered their still-inadequate meals. Advocates for Minor Leaguers says the Cardinals should be paying for these hotels or they should raise the player salaries, but the answer is that they should be doing both. The salaries aren’t enough to get by on in-season, and the hotel costs are only making that more obvious.

Asking for another raise isn’t “in poor taste” so much as MLB teams are unlikely to act on such a demand anytime soon. However, dropping those demands because they won’t be immediately met isn’t the answer: pressure and expanding public knowledge about the living and pay situations of minor-league players is what caused them to give in and offer up the raise they did in the first place. More pressure, which will come as people realize players still aren’t being treated well even after the jump in pay, is what it will take to secure more. Maybe, thanks to groups like Advocates for Minor Leaguers and large media sites picking up on this story, MLB teams will feel pressured to pay for hotel rooms at home to make this round of negative press go away. That’s the game, yeah? To create these rounds of bad press MLB simply by pointing out what they’re failing at, which MLB then has to respond to to make it stop, in ways that benefit the players. It’s never in poor taste to advocate for better working and living conditions for these players, and don’t let the fact they just got a raise tell you otherwise. We already know pressure works: keep it up.

Visit my Patreon to become a supporter and help me continue to write articles like this one.