MLB should be paying for MiLB player housing

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In 2021, Minor League Baseball players will see a raise from their previous poverty-level wages to… well, higher poverty-level wages. Every level in the minors, outside of those repeating the Triple-A level, will still have a salary below the poverty line, and the ones above it will be so just barely. There are some little qualify of life changes MLB has put into place for 2021 and beyond, like getting rid of clubhouse dues so that players were no longer the ones responsible for paying a club employee, and paying for meals before and after games, but still: in the end, we’re talking about players making poverty-level wages.

Bill Thompson, who you’ve likely seen published in various baseball outlets, tweeted on Wednesday that it turns out, “MLB is not allowing host families for minor leaguers this year due to COVID. Understandable, but there’s no indication they are then footing the bill for these players to get their own housing. That means the raises they enacted will be canceled out paying for housing.”

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Mailbag: Is it currently ethical to attend MLB or MiLB games?

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The MLB season is starting soon, and around a month later, we’ll also get the start of the Minor League Baseball season, the first since 2019… and the first under its new, shrunken format. MLB’s hostile takeover of MiLB brought a mailbag question to my inbox, so that’s what we’re going to tackle today.

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The rare, true “it’s not service time manipulation” moment

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Bobby Witt Jr. spent most of spring training exciting Royals’ fans, but he was optioned to minor-league camp earlier this week all the same. Usually, this situation would call for a look at whether a player’s service time is being manipulated or not, but this situation looks a lot more like that of Chris Paddack and the Padres a couple of seasons back than it does, say, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Blue Jays from the same-ish time period.

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Round-up: NCAA disrespects women athletes, revenue sharing, minor-league pay

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Today’s newsletter is going to be a bit of a week-end round-up of topics, as there are a few things floating around in my head or that I’d like to share with y’all. So, here goes.

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Usually part of the disparity between respect paid to men’s and women’s sport is in the pay itself, but don’t worry, the amateur-filled NCAA found another way to show they care less about the women athletes in their ranks than the men. The start of March Madness brought us social media posts showing off the truth of this, and it ranged from the space the women’s basketball players had to work out, to the food they were provided, to the kinds of swag and merch available for their half of the March Madness tournament.

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The entire MiLB season is delayed, and MLB should still pay the players

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There will be a Minor League Baseball season in 2021, unlike in 2020. (At least, that’s the plan, anyway: who knows what fresh horrors await us this year.) It won’t start until May, which we already knew for the levels below Triple-A: now, though, the Triple-A season is also going to get a late start, as it’s been pushed back another month.

The idea is that many of those players are already going to be in spring training, and others will end up in the returning alternate sites, where they will be, in theory, safer from coronavirus or spreading coronavirus than they would be with the kind of freedom just being on a minor-league team would bring. The idea is also that MLB couldn’t get the Players Association to agree to delaying the start of MLB’s season into May, but they have complete control over the minors, and can make them start when they wish. May means a better chance for fans in attendance with less potential to spread coronavirus since that many more vaccines will have been distributed by that point, and more fans means more money.

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It’s too late to save Minor League Baseball, but it’s not too late to punish MLB

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Major League Baseball is moving right along with their plan to disaffiliate around one-quarter of Minor League Baseball’s teams. Last week, they announced the new league names — basically placeholder descriptors before we end up with the Class-A Waffle House League or whatever — and which ones the remaining clubs now find themselves in after reorganization. No real opposition to the move exists — sure, fans of MiLB teams are furious, and some of those teams themselves are even suing, but there is no organized path to stopping MLB from doing whatever they want here.

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MiLB players, pandemic assistance, and a $15 minimum wage

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A new president, a new White House administration, and a Senate that could actually pass some Democratic party laws without being blocked by the Republicans on everything means we might actually see, well, some of that. Of course, this new era is also opening up with Joe Biden et al trying to tell you that they always meant $1,400 checks when they said $2,000 checks, and that they plan on reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans instead of just leveraging the power they’ve been entrusted with by voters to forcibly slap some bandages over a country that has no hope of stopping the bleeding, but hey. Optimism, or something.

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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.

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Senne v. MLB secures win after Supreme Court decision

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Lost in the shuffle of postseason news came a major development for an ongoing lawsuit against Major League Baseball. Senne v. MLB — the shorthand way of referring to Aaron Senne et al v. Kansas City Royals Baseball Corp — will keep the class action status that it won last August. In January of 2020, the Ninth Circuit court denied MLB’s request to rescind that class action status, and now, 10 months later, the Supreme Court has done the same.

Garrett Broshuis, a former minor-league player himself who is now a lawyer fighting for MiLB players past and present, expected that MLB would try the Supreme Court appeal route back when I spoke with him about the class action status being granted in 2019. That was MLB’s last option against a lawsuit that has been on a roll in the courts: Senne v. MLB will now resume “in the coming months,” per Jeff Passan, as there are no further courts for MLB to appeal to.

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The Professional Baseball Agreement expires today

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​What’s been in the news for well over a year now has finally come to pass: the Professional Baseball Agreement between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball has come to an end. The two sides are still discussing a new deal — there is no impasse in a one-sided negotiation — and when it’s finally signed, it will bring massive change to the structure of the minors and the teams within it.

As things stand, MiLB is going to see roughly 40 teams disaffiliated. Those clubs and their owners will have the option of going independent, with MLB paying whatever fees are required for entry into an independent league, or becoming a wood bat team for college players. MLB is, of course, also partnering with independent leagues like the Atlantic, Frontier, and Pioneer, and while it’s unclear what exactly being a “partner” league means, we see how MLB treats its current partner, MiLB: by getting rid of the implied subservience and just straight-up taking away their autonomy and shrinking them.

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