If you don’t know who Kyler Murray is then you probably have a limited focus on which sports and teams you follow. That’s ok, though. Murray was the Oakland A’s 1st round draft pick last year and he was also the quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners. He signed a contract with the Athletics that allowed him to play one more season of college football.
Well, that one season of college football turned out to be one heck of a season. And it put him on the map for the NFL, to the point that some believe it would be wiser for him to enter the draft and forego playing baseball.
There are plenty of reasons for or against that move. Even as a backup quarterback, you are going to get paid well. In baseball, you get your signing bonus money up front, but after that you’ve got to work your way through the minor leagues. Your money isn’t guaranteed beyond that bonus. Heck, even among first round picks, only about half of them make the Major Leagues. Even fewer stick around for more than a cup of coffee. Baseball, however, doesn’t have CTE looming in the shadows, either.
But former Reds prospect and short-time New York Yankee big leaguer turned NFL quarterback Drew Henson was on MLB Network Radio this morning talking about the transition from college football to minor league baseball.
— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) January 2, 2019
Essentially, minor league baseball life isn’t great. Buses. Crappy to ok-ish hotels. Little fanfare. It’s a far cry from the NFL life, even if you are a nobody on the 53-man roster. That led to NBC Sports writer Bill Baer to tweet out this:
If Kyler Murray does end up playing in the NFL, and if his decision was influenced at all by the prospect of slumming it up in the minor leagues, that will hopefully be a wake up call for MLB to improve MiLB conditions. That it’s already even a thought should be embarrassing.
— Bill Baer ? (@Baer_Bill) January 2, 2019
Minor League Baseball is seemingly being treated somewhat like college sports these days. Not entirely – there are some differences. But teams are doing all that they can – like literally getting federal laws passed so they don’t have to pay more than minimum wage to players – to keep from having to pay guys, and instead trying to find ways to “improve the quality of life” side of things for the players.
The majority of facilities in the minor leagues are new. And they are nice. They’ve got good weight rooms, updated and mostly current locker rooms. The players are no longer being fed spreads of peanut butter, jelly, and bags of pretzels for the pre and post-game spreads. Teams, mostly, are paying for catered meals of quality food (the Reds are one of these teams).
The bus rides are still bus rides. They are nicer buses than they used in the 1980’s, for sure. But you still have 4, 6, 14 hour bus rides in the minor leagues from city-to-city. The hotels are still going to be hotels that are going to be mid-tier and you’re going to be sharing a room with a teammate. It’s nicer than it used to be, but it’s not a glamorous life, either.
And this all comes back to Kyler Murray. What if he decides that the NFL is a better option, in part because of the minor league lifestyle? Is that going to be enough for Major League Baseball to perk up it’s ears and decide that maybe they need to make a few changes? Maybe pay the players a little bit more so they aren’t struggling to live in the city that they are currently in with 3-4 roommates in a 2-bedroom apartment? Do they make travel any better?
If I had to bet on it, I’d say no, they won’t. It’s pretty obvious that Major League Baseball wants to spend as little as possible on the minor leagues. They passed a wage law to limit it. They’ve passed rules on how much they have to spend in the draft and on the international market. The teams have made some investments in other areas, but by-and-large, time-after-time, they show that they want to cut spending.
There’s this idea among some people in baseball that you need to “suffer” and “fight” your way through the minors. The “I did it, so you can too” mentality. I’ll never forget a conversation I had had with an opposing coach two years ago about minor league pay. He said that players shouldn’t be paid more because they need that carrot in order to get to the Major Leagues. I was dumbfounded. And angry. I didn’t continue the conversations. But was left thinking “yeah, you’re probably right – paying them $30,000 a year certainly means they will stop chasing their dream of becoming a Major League Baseball player”… But, that coach was and is not alone. I’ve heard similar things from others within baseball.
Update: Amir Garrett weighed in on twitter
If it was my choice I’m going to the NFL. Live good bro.. play in front of thousands of people. Or play in front of nobody lol. Go straight to the league and enjoy your life. Or grind it away in the minors.. the choice is yours… https://t.co/6EPkdVGrN0
— CountOnAG (@Amir_Garrett) January 2, 2019
Some of his replies dive into exactly what he’s talking about. And I have to say, I don’t think he’s wrong exactly. But, it’s easy to make a decision for someone else, too.