A’s minor leaguers can’t afford to play home games

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Back in June, I wrote about how Cardinals’ minor leaguers were struggling to pay for their hotels during home games — that they were spending more than they were making on homestands, even while staying at a discounted hotel. It certainly was not a situation unique to those Cardinals’ farmhands, just given the math involved in paying for a hotel for home games while making a salary well below the poverty line, but St. Louis’ minor leaguers were one of the first to speak out anonymously and with a team-level identifier attached.

Now, some Oakland A’s minor leaguers are saying the same thing is happening to them. Alex Schultz at the SFGATE wrote about how A’s minor leaguers playing for Single-A Stockton can’t afford to pay for a hotel during home games, even though the A’s got a bulk discount at one. The situation is the same as it was for the Cardinals’ players highlighted in June: thanks to coronavirus protocols during the pandemic, not being able to stay with host families, or stuff six of themselves into a three-bedroom apartment to rent at a severe discount, is sucking up what little pay the players usually manage to take home.

The team hotel is basically the only realistic option for Ports players. It’s exceedingly difficult to rent an apartment at a reasonable price if you’re only in Stockton for the summer months. So that’s what the Ports players do: two guys per room, losing money while chasing their Big League dreams because the A’s won’t cover their housing in Stockton. The A’s owner, John Fisher, is worth more than $3 billion according to Forbes.

I should reiterate that the protocols are good and make sense: not all players are vaccinated, surely, if the rates we’re seeing for other leagues and sports and for America at large are any indication, and simply being vaccinated doesn’t mean everything is good and perfect going forward and you’re in a position to return to danger-free normalcy, either, though it is obviously a far superior situation to being unvaccinated. MLB’s mistake wasn’t in enacting coronavirus protocols for minor-league players: it was in failing to force its 30 team owners to adjust to the protocols, and instead leaving the entire burden of that on the players who aren’t eligible for overtime, who still make poverty-level wages with rare exceptions even after a nearly 50 percent bump in pay beginning in 2021.

Teams are required to pay for hotels on the road, but at home, there was no such rule in place, and still is not even after the enacting of coronavirus protocols. So, some teams, like the Houston Astros, are paying for their players’ living arrangements this season in consideration of the additional burden being placed on them. Some teams, like the Giants, were already paying out housing stipends for some of their minor leaguers even before the pandemic hit, just because. And then there are teams like the Cardinals and Athletics, teams that said, “Well, you’ll figure it out, probably” even though there was no conceivable way that the players could do so given their salaries.

There are teams being pushed into changing their stance, which is a positive. Advocates for Minor Leaguers has been pressuring clubs to do what’s right throughout the season, and it’s working: for instance, the Giants reversed course and paid their minor leaguers retroactively for participating in extended spring training, and will do so going forward as well, after a story broke based on Advocates for Minor Leaguers pointing out that 19 clubs weren’t paying their minor-league players for this time and work. And now, the Red Sox are going to do the same thing for their players at extended spring training, while also providing stipends to help with housing costs.

Meanwhile, check out the sleeping arrangements for some Cardinals’ minor leaguers just last week:

And the A’s, well, back to the SFGATE for that one:

We reached out to the A’s shortly before publication of this story asking if they have any comment about the working and living conditions of their single-A affiliate players. We also followed up for a third time about whether the A’s are considering revisions to their extended spring training system; when SFGATE reported on June 25 that both the Giants and A’s weren’t paying their extended spring training players, the Giants immediately remedied the situation and changed their policy, but the A’s declined to comment on the record and didn’t respond to a follow-up email a few weeks later.

And let’s not forget that something weird is going on with the A’s and their team-provided meals, as well as their supposed fix for that issue. If Oakland can cheap out on it, they absolutely will, and do.

With any luck, pressure will continue to mount, forcing teams to pay for housing for players for the rest of the season. You know clubs like the A’s and Cardinals, though, are just hoping to run out the clock on 2021, though, even though the season ends a few weeks later than it usually does this year thanks to the late start. If Oakland and St. Louis can just keep ignoring their players’ needs for another six weeks or so, then they’re home free on this season, and, if there are no coronavirus protocols in place in 2022, they’ve successfully avoided setting any kind of future expectation for assisting their minor-league players in any way. Meaning, they can continue to be extremely and notably exploitative even for teams in a system that is inherently exploitative.

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