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Major League Baseball has continued giving in to the demands of Advocates for Minor Leaguers and the players they’re, well, advocating for, and it is a lovely thing to see in action. Advocacy works, it turns out, as MLB fears two things: the public being aware of the way they treat minor-league players with any more detail than they already have, and those same minor-league players finally getting together to organize into a union or unions that will get their rights in writing. So yeah, Advocates and the players are in a position to keep making noise about how things aren’t ideal yet. And the results have been excellent.
Consider this: at the end of January, Advocates for Minor Leaguers demanded, with the backing of players they spoke to on the matter, changes to MLB’s new housing policy, which was created without any input from the people it was for and would be affecting. They identified loopholes that existed to cut costs for teams and would be negatives for the players — such as throwing multiple players into bedrooms together like they were in college dorms — and stated that they would be publicly identifying the teams throughout the season that failed to make the changes the players demanded to the system.
For a longer time, Advocates (and people who founded it, like Garrett Broshuis) have been pushing for players to be paid during extended spring training: minor-league players aren’t paid during spring training, but the ones who end up in the extended version go even longer without receiving a paycheck, since players are only paid during the regular season while with a specific club. This kind of push has worked out in some ways in the past — if teams had an instructional camp for minor-league players after the 2020 MLB season, in which there was no MiLB season, they could only do so if they paid the players who attended, which is not the norm for something like that.
Both of these demands — improved housing, and for players who are doing their job in extended spring training to actually be paid for that fact — are coming along pretty well, if Advocates for Minor Leaguers’ first in-season progress report tracking those two items is any indication.
Our MiLB Progress Report shows how MLB teams treat their Minor Leaguers.
Some are paying players for Extended Spring Training and providing players at all affiliates with their own bedroom.
Others are paying players less than $5,000 a year.
How does your team measure up? pic.twitter.com/IUXjjLKvxj
— Advocates for Minor Leaguers (@MiLBAdvocates) May 26, 2022
There are just five teams that aren’t paying their minor-league players in extended spring training anything this year: the Angels, Athletics, Marlins, Brewers, and Reds. The Orioles are only paying half, per the chart, which I imagine means the players are only being paid at half their usual weekly rate. A problem, but less of one than the five teams that aren’t paying a thing at all, of course. Still, getting 24 of the teams to pay these players is impressive, and it’s only happened because noise is continually made up about the need to pay these guys.
There is much more work to be done on the housing side of things, but still, the progress there is positive. From the American League, the Blue Jays, Yankees, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Angels, and Astros are the teams that have failed to give their minor leaguers their own bedroom at every affiliate — I am also shocked that the A’s aren’t on that list, and the fact they aren’t should make it that much more obvious how easy this would be to do. What’s the Yankees’ excuse, exactly? How is it that the Guardians, perpetual cheapskates that they are, are the lone AL Central team that managed this feat? Maybe the Angels were hoping the city of Anaheim would just give them some housing at a discount.
In the NL, the Marlins, Mets, Phillies, Brewers, Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers, and Padres have failed to provide individual bedrooms for every player at every level. The Marlins and Pirates were obvious candidates for a list like this, but the Dodgers make more in annual revenue than any other National League team, and the Mets are owned by literally the richest man in the sport, Steve Cohen, who has a net worth of over $17 billion and a new luxury tax threshold penalty level nicknamed after him. Maybe Cohen just doesn’t see the comfort of minor-league players as an investment worth making.
Just under half the league — 14 teams — are giving every minor-league player their own bedroom, however. Which is more than how many were doing it before Advocates started making noise about the need for that sort of thing. Obviously it’s unclear how many clubs will be doing this by the end of the season or the start of the next one, but I’d be willing to wager it’s more than 14.
There are other issues worth addressing, yes — 1,000 minor-league players sent a petition to MLB around one month ago demanding back pay for spring training, teams are, as far as I can tell, not offering a stipend to players who want to opt out of team-provided housing because they don’t like how it is setup (think players with families who want them on the road, and have to share a bedroom with another player), and so on — but Advocates and the players they champion have found significant success with a narrow, but never-ending, focus. Work on a couple of things at a time, get them to a desirable place, and then don’t settle: move on to the next issue. Consider what’s here as just the latest steps on a long path, and one MLB is going to keep giving in to, because they fear actual unionization much more than they fear giving in to these demands that aren’t protected by a contract and the NLRB. Hopefully, though, players see what’s being done even without a union, and realize how much more effectively and efficiently these gains could be realized, and forever enshrined, with one.
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