I’ve written about the state of Minor League Baseball pay time and again. For those who are unaware, until a player reaches Double-A, they are paid what amounts to less than minimum wage for the time they put in at the field. And they aren’t paid during the offseason. Major League Baseball gets around the minimum wage rules by claiming that baseball players are seasonal employees. You know – like the kids that work at the local haunted house from September through November. Except that they are required to travel the country, and move to parts of the country, at the whim of their employer, and take drug tests while not actually working, in which they can be punished during the “working season”.
Now, to be fair, their salary, unlike those actual seasonal employees, isn’t accounting for their signing bonus. Guys like Hunter Greene probably aren’t trying to figure out a way to pay for rent, car insurance, food, a phone bill, and maybe some Netflix while living in Goodyear, or Billings, or Dayton. Some guys, though, aren’t getting big signing bonuses. In fact, some guys aren’t getting much of a signing bonus at all. College seniors, who have no leverage in the draft, often get bonuses of $5-10,000. Some of that goes to Uncle Sam. Some goes to their agent. Whatever is left, well, enjoy it, guys.
Some players are helped out in some cities with host families. This helps with rent, but not every team has host families (Daytona for example doesn’t have any), and even the teams that do have them don’t usually have enough for every player. But, it shouldn’t be a situation where out of the goodness of their hearts, fans of a local baseball team should shelter these guys because they aren’t paid as much as the nice woman as the McDonalds I stopped at this morning the handed me a hashbrown.
Save America’s Pastime Act
A few years ago there was a bill that was being pushed in Congress that was attempting to make Minor League Baseball players exempt from laws regarding wages. The guise was that teams would fold if they had to pay the players minimum wage. The name, hilariously was “The Save America’s Pastime Act”. It was quickly called out for it’s absolute ridiculous concept, because, well, first of all it’s not the minor league team owners that pay the players. The Cincinnati Reds pay the players on the Daytona Tortugas, not the owner of the Daytona Tortugas. A few days after sponsoring the bill, one member backed out after actually reading the thing. You know, because somehow that’s how things work. Ultimately, the bill never came to pass.
Where things are today
That, however, didn’t stop both Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball owners from creating a freaking lobby to try and get legislators on their side. And it seems that after hundreds of thousands of dollars into the pockets of members of Congress, they may be getting their way. Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post reports that in the latest government spending bill that’s going to be introduced into Congress there could be a provision within it that exempts players in Minor League Baseball from federal labor laws. Because of course.
There are some lawsuits that have been filed over the last few years to try and change the laws. Some of the lawsuits were to get back pay based on minimum wage laws. None of them have been successful, for a variety of reasons. Some are still undecided in the courts. For what amounts to the price of less than one Major League minimum salary, teams could give a solid raise to every player in the minors. For about the price of a low-budget reliever in the Major Leagues, teams could give substantial raises to every player in the minors and allow them to focus on baseball year round. You know, instead of building pools like Josh Smith was doing in the offseason. Or being a bouncer at a bar (because this seems like the kind of job you want an athlete working in, right?) like one minor former Reds minor league player was doing.
What can be done
The solution isn’t easy. Minor League players aren’t a part of the Major League Baseball Players Association. It’s why they are tested for drugs that Major Leaguers aren’t (such as marijuana). If they were to be allowed to join the MLBPA and become a part of the union, then they would be able to negotiate, as a group, for their salary. As things stand right now, that’s not a possibility. The easiest solution would be for Tony Clark and the current players to open up membership to anyone signed to a contract by a Major League team. Players in other sports at the lower levels have unions. The court systems could also step in, though, that seems unlikely given how things have played out in recent years.
Other professional sports minor league pay
The NHL treats their minor league players as actual professionals. In the ECHL, the lowest level of minor league hockey, players only get $10,790 per season. That’s more than twice what a player in rookie league baseball will get per year. Players in Low-A get 40% less than that. The ECHL players also get meal money of $39 per day, compared to $25 for minor league baseball players. The ECHL players also are guaranteed a furnished bedroom within a furnished, utilities paid apartment. That does usually mean they will have a roommate. If a player is married, they get their own furnished, utilities paid apartment. Players at the highest level of minor league hockey make over $90,000 a year. Players in the NBA D-League (or whatever it’s called this year) has a set of salaries. The lowest a player can make is $19,500 a year. The most they can make is $26,000 a year. There’s no salary in-between.
While this discussion certainly has some political undertones to it, please, for the love of God, keep politics out of the discussion in the comments. I will delete comments. I’m not opposed to banning you if you get out of control. And some of you have been warned more than a few times about it, too.