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.

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:

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

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.

68 Responses

  1. Jami Sanderson

    Doug, you always write thought-provoking columns. Salaries for MiLb players is always a sore spot for many people in professional baseball.

    My opinion comes from the perspective of being a host-mom— formerly Reds, now Twins.

    As a host mom I do see how hard these guys work day in and day out, and so many of them do not get a signing bonus. I see guys toss in the towel because they are weeded out by the financial struggle. I wonder how much better players would become in the Minors if they did not have to penny-pinch their way through a season—thereby lowering their stress level.

    I do think there are more factors for Mr. Murray to consider before jumping into football, which in my opinion would mainly be the higher probability that your brain can get scrambled and other major injuries.

  2. Scott C.

    I am so ignorant in this area, which is a shame sine I have been following baseball for close to 60 years now. So let me frame this from wha I understand. Player’s salaries are paid by the MLB Club. How about their per diems? The food and equipment in the clubhouse, who pays for that? How about bats? What are the minor league franchises responsible for? Obviously minor league teams do not have all the straps of income the MLB clubs have but there should be some responsibility.
    When you say they voted to pay MiLB players minimum wage does that mean they get paid hourly wages?
    I can certainly understand your angst if you are close to this situation. And I am sorry to ask so many questions but you have certainly piqued my interest here.

    • Doug Gray

      Players are paid for by the MLB team. The per diem is paid for by the MLB team. The food, at least in the Reds organization, is paid for by the MLB team. Players pay for bats/gloves. The minor league teams simply provide the stadium to play in.

      As for the law that was passed, it comes down to this: They legally have to pay minimum wage for 40 hours of work per week during the season (they still don’t get paid for spring training or instructional league or any strength camps they are *asked* to attend). But they don’t get paid for anything beyond those 40 hours. Which, essentially means that they make what they already made – but now it’s a law and it’s going to be very difficult to fight over it in court.

      • Scott C

        Thanks for the explanation. I can understand why you champion this cause, it is a terrible injustice and really discourages athletes from pursuing baseball. A very small minority will go on to decent paychecks but the vast majority will put their lives on hold for several years and have nothing to show for it. I agree with you something needs to be done.

      • MK

        In Spring Training the minor leaguers get $5 a week but all the meals are provided Breakfast and Supper at team hotel buffet style and lunch and fruit snacks at Complex. They share a hotel room, which for Reds is the Hilton, free of charge. Transportation to and from complex provided in vans. They love it when they are added to the big league roster for exhibition games as they get big league per diem of $150 for the day.

  3. jbonireland

    Doug as always thought provoking discussions. We talk of paying minor leaguers a livable salary and better conditions for traveling. Your arguements are well grounded, however baseball is a business and even though most owners are millionairs/billionaires business are run as corporations and are supposed to be profiable.

    To me baseball is a two tier system, major leaguers who demand bloated salaries for 6-8 months work and minor leaguers who are treated like serfs and share croppers. What if the commissioner and the owners stated that all players fit under one baseball contract. I doubt the major leagueres would go for that and therein lies the problem. Not an easy fix.

    • Doug Gray

      It’s actually a very easy fix. The problem lies in greed. Plain and simple. For the price of Jared Hughes in 2019 the Cincinnati Reds could more than double the salary for every single player in their farm system.

      • Oldtimer

        The MiLB players are paid like the MLB players were paid 70 years ago. The Reds of the 1950s and 1960s had to take offseason jobs to make a living from October to February.

        Even in MiLB now, there are millionaires playing with minimum wagers at the Rookie league level.

      • Doug Gray

        No, they aren’t paid like MLB players were paid 70 years ago. Major Leaguers were not paid minimum wage rates. Some minor leaguers are. In the Reds farm system this year there were less than 10 guys out of over 200, who signed a deal for more than a $1M signing bonus. Big leaguers used to not be paid well by comparison to today, but they’ve always been paid a lot better than what Minor League guys get today and it’s not close.

      • Simon Cowell

        You consider greed simple? If there was no greed there would be no players or owners. If we are going to discuss minimum pay it sounds reasonable that we have maximum pay. If we set limits a certain number of players and investers will move on to something else to invest their GREED into.

      • Oldtimer

        The MLB players in late 1950s made well under $10K minimum salary.

      • Doug Gray

        A quick google search has Joe Dimaggio making $100,000 for the 1950 season. That would be just over $1,000,000 in todays money. Pittance comparatively to salaries today. But compared to $6,500 that a guy makes playing for the Dayton Dragons all year in todays money?

        Now, you did say minimum – but there’s the rub: Nick Senzel makes the same amount of money as the third catcher on the roster in the minor leagues. Everyone gets paid the same until they reach the 40-man roster. The furthest back I could find with a quick search was the average MLB salary dating back to 1967. That year the average salary was $6000 per year. That’s $46,000 in todays money. Again – an absolute pittance by comparison to Major League minimum today – but it’s 8 times more than a minor leaguer makes today.

      • Cguy

        Doug . I concur. I believe that you also should share your revenue with those of us equally in love with the game but without a source of income from the game. What say you?

      • Doug Gray

        I will let you know when I start hiring people to work for me.

      • Bdh

        Contracts at the top are out of hand but so are the signing bonuses that the first few rounds of players and top international players get.

        You mentioned what Hughes contract would do for the entire system of players. What about the signing bonuses of the last three 1st round picks. Each of their signing bonuses were at least double what Hughes gets if not triple or more. Maybe that could be an answer there but I’m sure I’ll hear why it isn’t

      • Doug Gray

        Well, first, until MLB starts paying players their value before they reach free agency, signing bonuses aren’t “out of hand”. Mike Trout made $1.5M combined in his first three years in the Major Leagues. He was worth over $100M in free agent dollars for those three years. That’s why the bonuses aren’t out of whack. In fact, they are actually a lot lower than they probably should be because when those guys do make it, they make 15% of their actual value from the time they sign to the time they reach free agency.

      • Bdh

        Idk if I’m replying to the right comment here but it was the closest thing it would let me reply to

        I’m just not going to agree with you here Doug. Contracts of the top players are out of hand. It’s already to the point where the small market teams can’t go all in on more than a couple of a players at a time because of what it’ll do to the overall payroll.

        You also know that greed isn’t going anywhere so just saying stop being greedy isn’t really an option. It’s a business and money is always going to be the top priority for those making the decisions.

        As far as signing bonuses go if you want the guys sitting on the bench at the lowest levels to get more money then maybe lower the amount that we sign the top rounds for. You said it yourself about trout earning 1.5 through his first 3 seasons and that was at the highest level. Should Hunter Greene get almost 5x that before ever throwing a pitch out of high school? I don’t think so. Lower his bonus by about a Jared Hughes salary and you could double the entire farm systems salary like you just said and the kid would still get a 5mil signing bonus

      • Doug Gray

        MLB has $10,000,000,000 in revenue each year. The contracts at the top are not out of control at all. The Reds have the money to sign players. They choose not to. Please do not be fooled into thinking otherwise.

        And yes, just stopping being greedy IS an option. It’s just not one many people choose to take.

        I’m not for taking money away from the players to pay the players. The players are the only reason that anyone shows up to watch. Bob Castellini and Jeff Wyler? I don’t care one bit to EVER watch them do anything. I’ll never spend a penny to see them do something. So if they have to take a slightly smaller return on their investment so someone playing for the Billings Mustangs can afford to live, I’m on board that train.

      • Bdh

        Agree to disagree. Easy for us to sit back and say how organizations should spend millions of $

      • Doug Gray

        It should be very easy for all of us to tell an organization worth a billion plus dollars to pay their employees enough money to live on.

      • MK

        OldTimer in 1975 just out of college I got a job that paid $11,000 a year up from a high school teaching job that paid $7,000 so 10K would have been pretty good 20 years earlier.

  4. sixpack2

    The salaries are what they are. A business can run it as they see fit and people can choose to take the job or not. When I was 18,19, 20, 21 I was gaining experience for my life’s work and received very little pay. These players are trying to make a dream come true and if it does not they have the rest of their life to do something else. It is hardly earth-shattering to live with a couple other young men in an apartment and carpool to work when your young and getting started.

    • Big Ed

      1. There is a big opportunity cost to playing MiLB. Yes, we all had to pay our dues to some respect to get where we are. One difference for MiLB players (and for many athletes in Olympic sports) is that the 5-6 years in the Minors for guys who don’t make it to MLB are essentially wasted. While their contemporaries are working their way up in skilled trades, business, etc., the MiLB guys are not really learning any marketable skills. Learning the nuances of blocking pitches, for example, does not help a catcher become a better electrician or pilot. If he wants to be an electrician or pilot, he has to start at square one at age 27 instead of age 21.

      2. I think Doug’s point with respect to Kyler Murray, which is repeated unseen for many elite athletes, is that baseball players hit the jackpot on average at a much higher age than do football or basketball players. The first few guys taken in the NBA and NFL drafts will make $10 million in their first 3 years. Not so much in baseball, as Murray got a $4.75 million bonus, plus about $10,000/year until he makes the majors. If MLB wants to attract the best athletes, then it may need to address this.

      3. While you are generally correct that a “business can run it as they see fit,” that is not exactly true in the case of baseball. If Bob Castellini wanted to pay his MiLB players double the salary scale, he would not be allowed to do so under the Major League Agreement. That ought to change.

      Given Murray’s small stature and shelf life of running QBs in the NFL, I believe that over the long run, he will make a lot more money in MLB than in the NFL. I heard the Drew Henson interview as well, and he is certainly correct that the NFL money and the roar of the Oklahoma or NFL crowd at 22 years old is a lot for enticing than the prospect of 5 months in Chattanooga before a crowd of 2,200.

      On the other hand, if Murray wants to remember his children’s names at at age 52, baseball is the clear choice.

      • Doug Gray

        In the minor leagues, Kyler Murray isn’t going to be making $8,000 a year.

      • sixpack2

        You make some good points and I will just say that nothing in life is guaranteed and we make choices. If you make the investments you take the risk of good or bad and any decision can lead to failure where you start over.

    • Rich H

      Sixpack, the point isn’t about making choices, it’s about paying people less than the minimum wage, while the owners make massive amounts of money. When a person works for your organization, you should have to pay them a living wage. People make this argument all the time about raising the minimum wage; do something else, should’ve made better choices, etc. That’s really almost besides the point though, even if a person should have done those things. It’s WRONG to pay somebody so little that they work forty or more hours a week and still can’t pay for food or housing. It is just not right. Especially when they can afford, easily, to pay their players more. It’s not right, and there are no ways to justify it.

    • MK

      The kids on the Dragons are playing in front of a full house every night. They bring home about $450 every two weeks. The guys selling beer are making more than them. The folks in the seats are not there to see the guy selling $8 beers.

  5. Cbus

    Why can’t minor leaguers form their own union? They aren’t part of the MLB players association, right? MLB players have the most powerful union in all of sports, they were all in the minors at some point. Couldn’t a minor league players union also be powerful and negotiate better wages?

    • Big Ed

      The practical difficulty would be a variation of blacklisting or fear thereof, in that nobody (and least of all the marginal prospects) would want to rock the boat. If you are Narciso Crook, for example, do you really want to jeopardize your outside chance at playing (or later, at coaching) to start a union?

      I do not see why the MLBPA could not address this issue in a number of ways, but those guys have their own financial interests, too.

    • Doug Gray

      The problem is that the guys with the power to make a change, the true prospects that the teams care about, usually have a signing bonus to get by on. They have far less incentive to fight the system. While the guys who need to form a union the most to get pay changes are the ones without the bonus who will be cut for even talking about it out loud.

  6. Stock

    I have no problem with how the minor leagues are run now and don’t think they will change if a once in 5 year player chooses football over baseball.

    Here is the way I see Murray’s decision though. If he becomes a superstar in whichever league he chooses then the best financial choice is baseball. More years, more money per year. If he becomes a washout in both the slight advantage goes to football. If he is in it for the money he needs to have an objective third party figure out the best course of action to maximize his pocketbook. My thought he is better than Andy Dalton so there will be a lot of money in football. It is a big risk for him to stick to baseball if he is looking at the money side of things.

    But I think he should follow his heart. What sport does he love? He is a millionaire either way. My guess is he chooses football. Nothing comes close to walking out onto that football field.

    Either way I would not allow 25 bus rides a year have an impact upon my decision. Very hard to convince me that players are underpaid. If they were they wouldn’t be there.

    • Scott C

      The issue for an athlete though is, you don’t know if you make it. Better to take guaranteed money than no guarantee. Not all athletes feel that way but if I was advising a young person that had the choice then the choice is not hard.

    • Big Ed

      Murray’s situation is a bit different than others picking between baseball and football. First, he is expected to move quickly up the ladder; Harold Reynolds said before the draft that he would pick Murray first overall, but Reynolds was an outlier on that. He is, allegedly, closer as a baseball player to Bo Jackson than to Russell Martin.

      But second, the Heisman has some value to Murray as a baseball player. He will have endorsement (i.e., $$$) opportunities that Drew Henson or Phil Bradley or Brian Jordan did not have. If anything, the Heisman is worth more as a baseball player than a football player, because there has been a long line of failed Heisman QBs who didn’t make it in the NFL. RG3? Tebow? Johnny Football? Jameis Winston? Jason White? Matt Leinart? Gary Beban?

      • Doug Gray

        Rule #1 of draft stuff: Never, ever listen to anything that Harold Reynolds says. He knows as much as your neighbor does about the draft.

      • RobL

        You broke the first rule: Never listen to Harold Reynolds on prospects.

        Next, other than White and Beban, those guys have made a hell of a lot of money.

  7. Billy

    Thinking this over, and I don’t really see any (financial) incentive for a MLB team to offer more money to its minor leaguers. If it gave them a competitive advantage over the other teams, then it would make sense. If it is perceived that the difference in talent is negligible regardless of how much players are paid, then it stands to reason that the teams won’t play them any more than necessary.

    So what might a solution look like? Outside the box thinking here, but suppose an independent competitor league arose to rival MiLB. This new league would guarantee a higher wage for minor league players and would supply a competitive development environment. Former MiLB players would not be eligible, to prevent players from flaming out in affiliated ball and resorting to coming to this league instead. This isn’t some independent league; this is a league that develops premium talent and sells that talent to MLB (or an MLB competitor). The league would need some kind of posting system, whereby they sell the players as free agents and collect a portion of their earnings. This would fund the higher wages during the training and development years.

    In this setup, would minor leaguers choose the new league (and the relatively high floor that comes with it) or would they stick to MiLB (thinking they’ll hit it big and, not have to share with the new league, when they’re a star)? I really don’t know, but I’d be curious to find out. (Clearly this is all crazy unlikely to happen, and there are all kinds of legal considerations that I’m not even aware of.)

    • Doug Gray

      As someone who struggled to make anything like minimum wage chasing the dream I’m living now, let me tell you, there’s absolutely financial incentive to offering more money to minor leaguers. When you are able to worry less about rent and food, you are going to do better at your focused tasks. It would make a big difference in the offseason, especially, when guys wouldn’t have to necessarily work full-time jobs to scrape by and instead could focus on training more and becoming better athletes/players. Better players in the end means a better product means more money. There’s your financial incentive. But there’s also the part where just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. They can choose to spend millions of dollars to lobby Congress to not pay players (they did). Doesn’t mean they should.

      • Doc

        Unless there are organizations who are paying their minor leaguers considerably higher salaries than others, and those minor leaguers are clearly performing better than other organizations who don’t pay as much, then you have no basis for using the descriptor “absolutely”. At best, ‘in my opinion’ is all you can say, and everything you state as a positive benefit is strictly your opinion since you have provided no supporting data. If nobody is doing it, then there are no data to support that better paid minor leaguers perform better, develop faster, achieve higher, and so forth. If the benefits were as clearcut as you would believe, the wealthy teams would have considerably higher MiLB payrolls, their players would be clearly superior. In fact, if money made the players better, Billy Hamilton would still be a Red. He went from minor league pay/hotels/bus rides to MLB pay and amenities, and he didn’t improve one bit. Perhaps you can present data to show that players who went from the minors to the majors suddenly had a step change and became so much better. I doubt you can.

        MLB has a draft and theoretically, within some range, every team has about the same talent pool across the board and the same cost of acquisition of that talent pool each year. The teams cannot go out and buy the best talent that money can buy at the expense of the other teams. However, you imply that any team can, at their own discretion, pay their milb players more if they choose to do so. So, if the benefits are as great as you say they are, which teams are paying more, and where are the performance data to show they are performing better? The evidence is not there.

        Whether paying more is fair, or not fair, right or not right, I don’t know. I do know that more money does not “absolutely” improve anything except the income of the person being paid more money.

      • Doug Gray

        Well, aside from all of the studies that show that up to a certain point, making more money means you are less stressed, and lead a healthier life because of that. Or that when you have more time to train at your craft you improve at it. Paying them more would lead to both.

        But here’s the thing: No team is ALLOWED to pay more than others are for players.

  8. I-71_Exile

    The NFL has a sweet deal with college football acting effectively as a free minor league system where players are paid with college scholarships (and some achieve degrees) and college seniors can step right in and contribute as rookies in many positions—running backs can even come in as stars. Since the average NFL career is three years, half of all players flame out by age 26. A more apt comparison with MiLB might be the NBA’s G-League—even though they have smaller rosters and just one team per organization. I suspect they have a similar pay scale (“suspect” means zero research on my part :) ).

    If you look at the minors like an internship or apprenticeship program—after all, minor leaguers are not suitable for their chosen profession by definition until they reach the majors—are they really that underpaid?

    The problem is the learning curve/development time needed to produce a serviceable major leaguer and the number of teams each organization has to field to provide this development. The Reds are funding the training of 200 employees or so across 8 affiliates in the hopes of developing 25 keepers.

    If cost is an issue, they could contract to four affiliates and double the pay.

    If every player is more “raw” coming in to MLB, is anyone?

    • Doug Gray

      The G-League pays $35,000 a year, for the 5-month season. They also earn bonus money for making the playoffs. They can earn up to a $50,000 bonus if they go to training camp with the NBA team and then stays with the NBA teams G-League affiliate. And starting this next season they will also allow “select contracts” for guys out of high school but not eligible for the draft because of the “one and done” rule, to play for $125,000 a year.

      Minor league baseball is not like an internship or an apprenticeship. At all. And yes, they are still underpaid.

      • I-71_Exile

        As I continue to think about this, a more apt comparison might be with the entertainment industry. Only a tiny fraction of the people who want to succeed have the talent/work ethic/opportunity to actually make it but the rewards for doing so are immense. Where else can you spend a few years of your life chasing a dream that will pay you $555,000 a year minimum at age 27? Those warm body prospects could simply say “no” and find a real job.

        Hollywood is filled with waitresses who scratch out a subsistence life for a chance at stardom. It’s a high risk, high reward endeavor—Powerball with one’s life. At least MiLB is training and evaluating the players along the way and providing room and board on top of their admittedly puny salary.

        It comes down to how much MLB is willing to pay to compete for the world’s best athletes and I think we have our answer: not much. The best now play football, basketball, and soccer.

  9. RobL

    Many people like to compare MiLB to an internship or apprenticeship. However, those programs have a high likelyhood of actually getting you a job in your chosen field. MiLB probably looks like the direct inverse of those. A very small percentage actually get a career in their field. So if the outcomes for apprentices is the opposite of a MiLB player, should it really be a comparison? The vast majority of MiLB players are there to only assist in the development of a few. Sounds like they are performing a job instead of being an apprentice.

    • Stock

      I think it is fair to split it up into several categories.

      Category 1. Business Owner 60% of restaurants fail the first three years. If this happens the owner wasted 3 years and thousands of dollars in pursuit of his dream that will not happen.

      This correlates to a 20th round pick signing for $10,000. Odds are he will never make it. He will spend 3 – 5 years in the minors and realize his dream will not happen. A higher percentage fail in baseball but they don’t have to put any capital up front either.

      Category 2. Signing bonus $75,000 – $200,000. This is more of an apprenticeship or someone going to college. You are learning a skill and being given a chance to pursue this career but there are no guarantees. You may not have chosen the right career path. The mailroom at the company I used to work for was full of college graduates. Probably not their major but it is what it is. Some waste 4 years in college and pay a hefty sum. I am sure there are plenty of apprenticeships that end in failure too.

      The player has talent and a chance but need to work hard to hone you skill. This is an apprenticeship. Not every apprentice succeeds but they are paid a decent salary in their attempt to do so.

      Career. These are people who know they won’t make it to the majors but their goal is be a coach or something along those lines. Maybe they have been in the minors for 10+ years. They have no obligation with a club. They play because this is what they want to do.

      Million dollar bonus babies. Hard to convince me that these players are underpaid. Great opportunity. Great pay.

      • Rich Harwood

        Stock, you must understand that there is a difference between opening a business and being an employee. A more apt comparison is not paying a manager at your restaurant because they are getting experience to maybe one day open their own restaurant. That is illegal, and wrong.

        Laws regarding internships have changed vastly, and interns like the ones you describe are now paid at least minimum wage, plus overtime if they work that much. This is because it is wrong for corporations making millions or more a year to tell people the only way to *maybe* get a job with them is to work for unfair pay. Which minor leaguers do for years.

        People like Hunter Greene are probably going to be fine, regardless of their professional baseball career. But people like Hunter Greene make up a vast minority of the minor leagues. The vast majority have serious struggles.

        Someones desire for a position, or how many people want that position, shouldn’t have any bearing on their boss being able to pay them unfairly. Especially when their boss can easily afford to. Your argument that this does happen (which increasingly our society is trying to fix) doesn’t have any bearing on whether it should happen, or whether it’s right. Which it shouldn’t, and it’s not.

      • Gilbert Keith Chesterton

        A better analogy would probably be that baseball players are like gold miners.

        They invest a lot of time & energy in themselves with no guaranteed return.

        They work hard for years, making little to nothing, hoping to be among the rare few that actually strike gold (reach the major leagues).

        It’s a high-risk / high-reward career choice. And for those players who skip college and go straight out of high school, there is even more risk because they are passing up the ‘backup career’ that free college would offer them.

      • Rich H

        Gilbert, they aren’t gold miners, and they aren’t starting their own business, they are paid employees of a business. How much money they could make doesn’t matter; you can’t pay a prospective CEO or lawyer or doctor less than minimum wage when they are doing their internships or residency because it’s illegal.

      • earmbrister

        Mr. Harwood, thank you for your well written reply. I suspect that if you are a boss, that you take care of your employees. If you are younger, you strike me that you will go far, because when your employer compensates you well, and also provides a good work environment, the employee will work his or her butt off for you.

  10. AirborneJayJay

    Change the IFA system immediately. The Reds signed 2 Cuban SS’s that cost them $16MM. That money could have funded 8 years of enhanced minor league salaries. Neither of these Cubans will ever see the Majors. How many of these Cuban contracts have actually worked out all throughout MLB? Very few. Reds have been lucky with Chapman and Iglesias.
    Stop the signing of 16 year old and 17 year olds from the Dominican.
    Incorporate all IF A players onto the draft. Maybe then there would be money to enhance minor league salaries.
    Then assess a tax on player salaries over $20MM per year and all funds raised go towards minor league salaries. Minor league revenue sharing.

  11. Shawn

    Anyone that thinks the players shouldn’t make more than minimum wage is not someone I would want to associate with. You care nothing for your fellow man.

  12. Redsvol

    I don’t think its much of a choice really. Kyler Murray has much more potential as a baseball player and I think he’ll figure that out. He isn’t a top 100 prospect in football. No NFL coach is going to give him the keys to the team at quarterback. And before I hear about the Russell Wilson comparisons they aren’t even close. The NFL will make him into a slot receiver or a 3rd down running back. Those have very short careers.

    Its a comparison to have a 15 year career with low risk of injury vs. a 3 yrs career with great risk of injury. To me its no comparison. He will be given every chance to succeed in Oakland.

  13. Doc

    So, actually Doug, when you said earlier that it was an easy fix, that for the cost of what the Reds paid Jared Hughes they could double minor league salaries, it really is not an easy fix because the team is not allowed to do that. Getting 30 owners to agree is not likely an easy fix.

    Leading a healthier life or being happier does not necessarily make you a better ball player. It makes you healthier and happier. I repeat my earlier question: where is the uniform step up in quality in individual player performance when players go from minor to major leagues? You already have a ready made database of players who went from minors to majors, with a minimum salary of $550,000 versus a pittance, and all your job related expenses paid, quite a huge jump over their minor league salaries. You don’t need to try to make peripheral connections to happiness versus income studies done outside of baseball, you have all the data you care to examine from the thousands of players over many decades who have moved from minors to majors. If those players do not show a statistically significant jump in individual performance when their incomes and amenities go up by a huge percentage, then drawing inferences from peripheral studies is not sound science. In fact, many more perform worse at the major league level than they did in the minors. Salary level is a result of improved performance, not a cause of it. Increasing the minimum wage may do a lot of things, but it doesn’t make a hamburger flipper a better hamburger flipper.

    I am familiar with many of the types of studies you reference in your generalization, having had a 35+ year career in primary care medicine. Those studies tend to look at levels of happiness or life satisfaction versus income, not job performance improvements versus income.

    • Rich H

      Doc, if you are trying to talk about sound scientific argument, why on Earth are you bringing up the ridiculous premise that the jump in pay at the majors should be accompanied by a jump in performance? Completely ignoring the mental aspects of first being called up, you absolutely have to know that the level of competition is significantly higher, and destroys anything close to a control as you are trying to use it. You are either obfuscating, or don’t know what a sound scientific argument is.

      Beyond that, when every team in MLB could afford to pay their players a living wage (Doug’s proposal is a living wage, not some six figure nonsense) what is the argument that they shouldn’t?

      • Doc

        Thank you for your assessment of my knowledge of what makes a scientific study. I guess I have spent my entire chemical engineering and medicine career operating in a fog, not understanding science. Glad my employers over the years never found out.

        I did not argue that they shouldn’t increase minor league players pay, and did not say that they shouldn’t anywhere in my argument. Doug originally stated that increasing pay in the minors would “absolutely” increase performance and that is the statement to which I responded (I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that you read my two responses in the order written, and read Doug’s original statement and response). There is no evidence that increasing pay increases performance.

        My statement about the jump to the majors increasing performance was a conditional statement, conditioned on the premise that if increased pay increased performance, then there should be a measureable increase in performance when someone jumps to the majors from the minors, and that there is a huge body of data out there which could be studied scientifically. There is no bigger pay and benefits increase than when that jump is made from minors to majors. Although you may not have intended to, you support my argument when you said that there are so many other factors. That is precisely the point; performance is not based on how much you are paid. It is multifactorial.

        In fact, in BASEBALL BETWEEN the NUMBERS, they looked at performance at the major league level versus free agent contracts, and there is no evidence that increased pay in free agency results in increased performance.

        If you raise minor league salaries, and I believe there are sound and humane reasons for doing so, the mere act of raising salaries will not “absolutely” result in increased performance, which is the statement I was refuting. My argument had nothing to do with whether or not salaries should be raised for minor league players.

      • Big Ed

        Doc, you are missing the point here. First, as Rich notes, the jump in level of competition from AA or AAA to MLB negates any sort of control or constant needed to evaluate what extra MLB money does for performance. A scientific study, if even possible, would evaluate what individuals at the same (say, the Midwest League), with the main variable being much higher income level or much better nutrition.

        Second, talk to any high school coach who deals with lower income student/athletes. Many of the students eat very poorly, specifically in protein. Children of single mothers, on average, do not eat as well as children of chemical engineers. I’ve had coaches tell me that the one single thing that they wish they could have in their programs was better fed players.

        In my opinion, it is a disgrace – one now being addressed – that MLB has not heretofore provided better food and fuel for the MiLB players during the season. Many of these guys are from the Dominican and Venezuela, and not from affluent families. For years, they ate the cheapest meals they could find during the baseball season, generally with low nutrients and high sodium. Would you be really surprised to know that some of these guys get bigger and stronger, when they ate properly for the first time? Take a look at Jose Siri, for example.

        Third, any study of whether MLB free agents perform better with the extra money is irrelevant to what we (or most of us) are discussing. Manny Machado was already making $10 million+/year, and he has presumably been eating properly for several years. Machado is not going to spend any of his extra $15 million/year on better kale or flank steaks. But providing better nutrition and training to Jose Siri, Debby Santana, Claudio Finol, etc., or even Hendrik Clementina, will pay off with better performance by at least some of them. It is a strange medical opinion to believe that excellent nutrition, as opposed to poor nutrition, has no effect on athletic performance.

        Some owner should take a stand and just pay his MiLB players more, and see what MLB does to punish him. MLB would lose the PR war. You would think that they could come up with some options, such as paying the guys on the MiLB roster year-round. A team’s paying every MiLB player $10,000 more per year would cost a MLB less than $2 million. The Reds/Dodgers just flushed $28 million on Homer Bailey; the Mariners just ate about $30 million on Robinson Cano. The Angels waste $2 million a month on Albert Pujols.

    • RobL

      Doc, in a vacuum, yes you are correct. More money does not improve performance. But you have left out that Doug states how the extra income would affect the player. More income would allow him to work on his skills and conditioning year round, rather than finding offseason work to make ends meet.

      I am sure that you would agree that spending more time developing your skills would lead to better performance. So it’s not the money itself that improves performance, it’s what that money enables one to do that increases the performance.

    • Rich H

      Doc, I did read all of your comments in order, and I understand what you’re refuting. My point is that you were refuting it here with a clearly flawed premise.

      You were telling someone something isn’t sound science (increasing minor league pay would lead to better performance), then trying to prove your assertion with a scientifically unsound argument. Since you’ve been in that field for decades and certainly do know what sound science is, you would by definition be obfuscating. That’s why I left it as an either/or situation.

      I know you said you didn’t know whether minor league pay should be increased or not, you weren’t taking a stance. It just appeared that how the current conversation was going, there would be no way to satisfactorily prove that one part of the argument for raising minor league pay. I figured it would be more productive to ask a larger, more poignant question: what is the argument not to?

      There are reasons to believe it could help players’ development, even if they are unproven, for the reasons Doug and Ed and Rob outline. Athletes DO perform better with improved diets, stress levels, sleep patterns, etc. You agreed that the players personal health and happiness would certainly improve. The teams can afford to do it. Our society has decided it is wrong to pay employees less than a certain amount, yet these players are paid less than that.

      So, instead of getting lost in absolute scientific proof of one hypothesis, what IS the argument against raising their pay?

  14. Simon Cowell

    I hear lots of people complaining about the current system. There are two factions. One group thinks that MLB players are overpaid. There is another group that thinks that the owners are making to much money and new to pay more to the minor league players.
    It is hard to disagree with both factions. But here is the problem. If you require the owners to pay minor league players more all while keeping the major leagues the same or by whatever the CBA states with the players union the same then who gets hurt? The fans that’s who. Any business that is forced to pay more in labor will pass that on to their customers. That isn’t just America. That’s how the entire world works. If you don’t like the system create a new one that everyone can agree with. Major league baseball competes directly with the NFL, NBA, NHL, and college sports. Sports in Cincinnati is already a bust for sports fans and has been the way for some time. Raise the prices to see the Reds and you’ll see a near empty stadium. To many years of a near-empty stadium and you will see MLB trying to move the Reds out of Cincinnati into a larger market.

    • Rich H

      In 2018, the worst attendance ever at GABP and for decades as an organization, it would’ve cost the fans less than a dollar per ticket purchased.

      • Rich H

        And that is actually for fan attendedance, I’m not sure if the source used ticket sales or not. So that cost could be even less.

    • earmbrister

      Not buying the argument that the fan will be hurt if you pay a living wage to MiLB players. The cost will be trivial to their overall operating budget.

      It’s like the Starbucks model of employee benefits. They provide better pay and better benefits, and yes, their prices are slightly higher. However, you’re getting a better product and a better environment. And the place is always busy.

  15. Gilbert Keith Chesterton

    Kyler Murray should opt for MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL over the NFL.

    He is woefully undersized as an NFL QB prospect (5’10” and 195 lbs), and would likely have to learn a new position to try to make it on an NFL roster.

    If he decides he only wants to be a QB, he would likely be a mid-late round type of pick who needs to hope he earns a spot on a team’s practice squad.

    With the non-guaranteed nature of NFL contracts, and the low-end pay for practice squad guys, NFL doesn’t make sense for Murray.

  16. Mister Redpants

    Could the Reds as a franchise possibly gain an advantage by being the first team to offer their minor league players a bigger per diem? The contracts are locked in but the Reds could go above and beyond the per diem amount to help the minor league players. Would this help them sign better minor league free agents or have any other benefit besides taking better care of their players?

    • Doug Gray

      Players aren’t signing for extra per diem. And I’m not sure that they would be allowed to give more, either.

  17. Nep O'Tism

    I imagine the NFL would be much different if they had 17 and 18-year-olds being drafted and not expected to contribute to the major league team for 3-7 years.

    Not an excuse for at least paying minor leaguers a bit more, but I will say this. You hear a lot more about football players being bankrupt during or within mere years of making millions-to-tens-of-millions of dollars. You don’t hear that so much about baseball.

    I also wonder if the hardship of the minors makes people grow up into a better human, as cheesy old-school as that sounds. You know there’s loads of NFL players who never had to make a budget, practice discipline, endure tough times, appreciate what they have, etc. There are people who went from HS diety who got everything handed to them, to College diety who got everything handed to them, to Pro who gets everything handed to them. The arrest rate of MLB players is about 1/5th of the NFL, which can’t even be explained by the aggression difference in the sport, as the NBA is still about 4x MLB’s rate, and NHL is about 1/3rd of MLB’s rate.

    …..of course all of that “making you a better person” stuff goes to the wayside a bit when you look at Hunter Greene’s $7.23m signing bonus and his projected salary his first three years in the majors to be like ~$600k/yr, and then look at Baker Mayfield’s 4yr/$32.7m rookie contract, that comes with a $21.9m signing bonus, and instant godhood status in Cleveland.