Baseball Is Running Out on Its Future
Image courtesy of © Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsIn a normal season finances aren’t great for the future players of Major League Baseball. They are paid pennies on the dollar and make substantially less than minimum wage over the course of a full year. During spring training, they go unpaid, and the only financial help they get equates to little more than meal money.
Earlier in the development of this global pandemic teams around the league negotiated to pay something like $400 per week to each minor league player. That money was always tied to a date as a deadline, and it’s now less than a week away. Once May 31 hits there are no more guarantees in place. In fact, we already know that the upcoming amateur draft is being shortened to just five rounds, which furthers the plan to scrap something like 40 affiliated teams.
While the casual assumption is that big bonuses are paid out to all draft picks and everyone is capable of supporting themselves on their journey, it’s hardly a thought rooted in reality. It’s a very small percentage of players that receive hefty bonuses, and there are plenty of guys on top prospect lists that are simply looking to make ends meet. Without some sort of a renegotiated agreement minor league players will essentially go a year and a half without receiving a “real” paycheck.
Obviously, the above assumption is working out of the premise that we won’t have minor league baseball in 2020. While it’s been shot down that the season will be cancelled, I think we can all agree that it’s going to be dramatically altered. With major league teams trending towards an extended taxi squad, we’re probably looking at something where just a few players not on the 40-man roster end up being utilized. Given the logistics of playing fanless games across the country in smaller locales at ballparks that are traditionally lightly manned, it’s an uphill battle that doesn’t seem worth fighting.
A developmental league of sorts makes a ton of sense. Having minor league players housed at their spring training facilities and then playing what would amount to intrasquad games could certainly work. Not having a full year of development would no doubt hamper even the best of prospects. Asking guys to get work in without competition doesn’t seem like a beneficial path either.
Contractually obligated to their parent clubs, minor leaguers face the reality of being virtually unemployable in the general workforce. Not only is unemployment through the roof with many businesses on hold, but it’s really only gig work that lends itself to accepting a schedule that could drastically change at a moment’s notice.
There’s no denying that the grind through minor league baseball is not for the faint of heart. There’s a substantial percentage of the population that will never make it. Weeding out talent on the basis of economic malpractice doesn’t seem like an intelligent path to take, however. Should nothing be done, the futures of major league clubs across the sport will be forever impacted. Even if the finances are set in order, the havoc wreaked by this pandemic on the lifeblood of big league baseball is going to have ripple effects well into the future.
We have already seen some clubs take a stand and commit to their future. The San Diego Padres are the most exemplary model of this as they’ll stand by their employees and players through this storm. On the other end of the spectrum the Oakland Athletics and their billionaire owner John Fisher will cease payments to players on May 31, also holding them to their contracts making the ineligible for unemployment and not able to seek opportunity within another organization.
Franchises are cutting ties with massive amounts of players right now, and it seems that Major League Baseball will be granted its wish to downsize the pipeline to the majors. No matter when baseball returns, and what the optics of the Major League discussions look like, it’s these minor leaguers that are constantly hung out to dry.
UPDATE: The Minnesota Twins organization is stepping up once again. They've built a strong system and infrastructure by going about things the right way since instituting a new front office. They've invested so much, and to turn from it now would be tough to swallow. Good on this organization.
Huge nugget from Twins Daily's own here as well. Despite other organizations releasing 30 or more minor leaguers in the past few days, all Twins players will be retained for the time being.
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