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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MLB supports voting rights, immediately has antitrust exemption threatened

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On Friday, Major League Baseball pulled the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to Georgia’s recently enacted voter suppression laws, those laws themselves a response to Georgia’s voters rejecting as much of the Republican party as they could in recent elections. You know, like the one that booted the truly wretched (and never elected) Kelly Loeffler from office and also convinced her to sell her stake in the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream.

You can debate whether what MLB is doing is the right thing or not — do the people in Georgia who will be impacted by this restriction of voting rights want these boycotts of the state? Is this anything more than a corporate reaction to which way the winds are blowing, in the same way their empty rhetoric around Black Lives Matter was around one year ago? — but what’s undeniable is that the decision to pull the All-Star Game out of Atlanta has infuriated the right. That’s no surprise, given they’ve been trying to spin what’s going on in Georgia as a strengthening of voter rights, not a direct attack on them, and also because like, three-quarters of what they’re up to now is culture war, America-is-being-canceled bullshit. MLB basically threw catnip for racists at a bunch of racists.

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After Kris Bryant grievance, the Cubs still feel free to manipulate service time

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Is what the Cubs are doing with 24-year-old second baseman Nico Hoerner service time manipulation? The most important answer is neither yes nor is it no: it’s that it doesn’t matter as much as it should, thanks to the Cubs themselves.

This isn’t the same as saying it’s not worth pointing out that what the Cubs are doing is service time manipulation. It’s that we still don’t have a definitive answer on what service time manipulation is, even though it sure felt like we were going to know well before this time last spring. The Cubs won Kris Bryant’s service time manipulation grievance last February, and that, in essence, was that for a while in terms of the players’ side being able to successfully point out that clubs were trying to get away with something as far as service time is concerned. As I wrote at the time the grievance was being arbitrated, the implications went far beyond just the state of Bryant’s tenure with the Cubs:

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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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A set free agency age won’t fix service time, or the obsession with cheap players

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Earlier this week, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wrote about a service time solution presented to him by an anonymous team executive. The idea is a set age for free agency for all players: “Make all players who celebrate their 28th birthday by a specified date eligible for free agency at the end of that season.” Rosenthal discusses some pros and cons of the plan, and ends on the idea that both MLB and the Players Association should be focusing on making sure service time considerations are no longer the impetus for whether a prospect is ready to reach the bigs.

I’d like to go in a little further on the issues with this kind of system, though, separate from the concerns Rosenthal raised. Primarily, I don’t think it even solves the problem it supposedly seeks to address. The idea is that, knowing a player might reach free agency sooner than six years (or seven years) after reaching the majors, a team would promote them to the bigs sooner. The more likely scenario, given what we know about how teams operate and view players, is that we’d just see more of a churn through players to ensure the roster was always stocked full of young-enough pre-arbitration players. So, an exacerbation of a pre-existing problem.

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The MLBPA has managed to triple the minimum salary before

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For Baseball Prospectus last November, I wrote about the need for the Major League Baseball Players Association to fight to increase the minimum salary in their next collective bargaining talks with MLB. I’ve brought this up a few times since, because those talks will begin at some point in the coming weeks or months, given the current CBA expires in December and the regular season is slated to start in less than a month: it should be one of the primary focus points for the union, as it has the kind of from-the-ground-up energy necessary to ensure a strong future for the PA and its members, much more so than the current trickle-down-ish model where massive contracts for superstars keep the average salary up while, in reality, the league exploits young, inexpensive players en masse.

My suggestion was to triple the minimum salary, and the reasoning why that instead of some other possible plans, like reaching free agency earlier, is below:

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55 years ago, Marvin Miller became MLBPA Executive Director

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March 5 is a pretty nifty day in baseball history — really, sports history — if you’re into labor at all. And you’re here reading this newsletter, so unless you’re one of those sad people who hate reads in between posting comments where the cringiest part always comes after the “however,” you’re probably into the labor aspect of things. Anyway, March 5, 1966: that’s when Marvin Miller was elected to be the first official Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Miller wasn’t the first choice of the players: that would be Judge Robert Cannon, who, despite his desire to be the commissioner of MLB and his willingness to do what the owners wanted, despite his advice to the players being to “make no demands, no public statements,” remained popular with the players. As his SABR bio points out, Cannon never even broached the subject of raising the minimum salary for players during his time as their legal advisor. He did not care about what the players wanted, nor did he ask. Cannon thought the players were lucky to work in the industry they did, and that what the owners gave them was what was right, so, from his point of view, his advice was to not blow that situation.

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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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