The first three parts of this series have mostly focused on the negative aspects of the reduction of the number of minor league baseball teams, as originally reported on by The New York Times David Waldstein and Baseball America’s JJ Cooper in a much more detailed look at things a handful of minutes later.
The first part of this series I wrote about the thousands of jobs the reduction of teams could cost – both for Major League Baseball employees, as well as jobs within the minor league organizations that aren’t paid for by the Major League teams. The second part looked at the effects losing those 40+ teams could mean for the long term future of the game.
Today, though I wanted to look at some of the potential positive outcomes. For the players who would still have jobs, there would be a raise to something a lot closer to a living wage. In both the Baseball America article and the New York Times article it’s noted that there’s a belief that an increase in pay is coming for minor leaguers and that it could be as much as a 50% increase over what it is now.
Increased pay would be a big step forward for the players who still have jobs in this scenario. Currently, when factoring in the amount of hours they actually spend on the job, some at the lower levels make less than minimum wage. Thanks to lobbying, anti-trust exemption, and a lack of union representation to fight for them – minor league players haven’t had much, if any ability to fight for better pay over the years.
The Toronto Blue Jays already did this on their own. 2019 was the first year in which they increased pay for their players, but on average, salary went up about 50%. That broke down to this:
This, of course, is only for players who have not yet reached free agency, aren’t on the 40-man roster, and have never been in the Major Leagues. Those players get paid different amounts based on many factors. This is probably a good estimate of what the new scale would look like if the talks reported are close to being true.
That pay difference is only for the season. They still aren’t being paid for spring training. During the offseason they don’t get paid. But having that extra money certainly helps. More money helps with having better food options – particularly on the road (assuming you can find somewhere open by the time you are out of the stadium). But it also can help with managing the stress. For players who are trying to help support a family, a few hundred dollars extra per month can truly be a difference maker.
Major League Baseball is also reportedly looking for updated and or improved facilities at some of the ballparks. Many of the ballparks that didn’t seem to meet their “wanted” standards were in the rookie-levels, which would be among many of the teams eliminated. But there are still some teams out there in full-season ball who have old, outdated, and at times sub-standard facilities.
With how the player development contracts work, sometimes an organization and an affiliate are simply the last two standing. That can lead to situations where a Major League organization has to basically just “deal with it” when it comes to the standard for where their team plays at. These issues can have an effect on development, and really, short of the Major League team simply paying to upgrade it for another business, there hasn’t been too much that they could do.
Another aspect that was mentioned was improvements in travel and accommodations. This is a factor at some levels, and not so much at others. When it comes to travel, below Triple-A, you’re taking a bus everywhere you go. In Triple-A they fly for most trips. In some leagues the trips on the buses are long and painful. The Reds, for example, have recently planned out the road trip schedule better for the players to maximize their rest and sleep schedules – but you can only do so much at times because you do have to actually get to the destination on time to play the next game. Teams are already doing what they can to try and mitigate the issues with travel.
When it comes to accommodations, or even the bus travel itself – these things are (mostly) paid for by the minor league teams and not by the big league club. This is likely going to be a point of contention between the two sides, but let’s say it goes through one way or the other. Shorter bus rides due to shaking up the leagues themselves would be beneficial for the players. Eliminating the 7-8 hour bus rides is huge. Maybe one thing that gets done is that instead of one bus they are two – giving everyone on the staff more room, and ability for comfort on the trip.
When it comes down to the actual hotels that are stayed at – the range of quality can be enormous. I’ve heard a few stories of places where, assuming the description was right, I’d have rather slept in my car than stayed there. That obviously isn’t an option for the players, coaches, staff, or bus driver. Well, I guess they could maybe all sleep on the bus in a parking lot somewhere – but you get the point. Some places have been described to me as dangerous, and while I won’t get into details – actual danger has been present. Having a minimum standard of the quality of hotel could go a long way towards providing a better situation for everyone involved in the minors – both players, and team personnel.
On one hand, there would be a lot of jobs lost if this were to come to fruition. But for those left, there would certainly be plenty of benefits.