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Will Congress Screw Minor League Players Today?

Posted by SD Buhr , 19 March 2018 · 722 views

If you believe that maintaining the status quo in minor league baseball is important, you aren't going to like this article.

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However, if you believe that some things - like simple human decency in the area of fair pay - are more important than whether or not the current minor league model is continued, I suspect you'll be joining me in raising your voice in objection to what Major League Baseball (along with their weak sister organization, Minor League Baseball) are conspiring with members of the U.S. Congress to do as early as today.

The Washington Post is reporting that MLB lobbyists and a handful of Congressmen plan to attach an amendment to the $1.3 trillion spending bill that must become law this week in order to avoid another government shutdown. That amendment would specifically hand baseball an exemption to federal labor laws for their treatment of minor league ballplayers.

Congressmen in MLB/MiLB's pockets introduced a separate bill to grant this exemption a couple of years ago, but it has gone nowhere. So, now, it's apparently time to slip the provisions into a bill that has nothing whatsoever to do with anything related to baseball.

It's what's commonly called a "Christmas Tree Ornament" amendment that gets attached to a big "tree," in this case the critical spending bill. And guess who's getting the big present? Yes, 30 multi-billionaires who simply don't want to share even a fraction of the enormous revenues that fans are giving them with the very poorest of their players.

And the amendment's supporters aren't even being up front with their intention to hang this ornament on the spending bill tree.

According to the Post report, the amendment has not been included in any of the drafts of the bill distributed thus far. The intent, clearly, was to hang this particular ornament on the tree at the last minute, when nobody was looking closely enough to even notice it.

Let me pose this question, for any of you who may still think there's nothing wrong with 20 year old ballplayers working for far less than minimum wage. If giving MLB this exemption is the right thing to do, why hide it this way, even from other members of Congress?

Players at lower levels (such as with the Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels) are making maybe $1,200 per month. That's GROSS pay, by the way.

The players that will be sent to Cedar Rapids at the beginning of April aren't getting paid that while they're down in Ft. Myers for spring training, either. They get paid only for time spent on an active minor league roster. In the minor leagues, that's five months... at most. Many players play in "short season" leagues that run only three months during the summer.

Just for reference, I made better money working for a fast food burger chain... in 1976.

MLB has obviously been threatening the minor league organization, along with those who own and operate affiliated minor league teams, with all manner of catastrophic consequences (up to and including contraction of teams/classes within the minor league system, no doubt) should MLB end up required to pay their minor leaguers anything remotely close to a livable wage.

You see, despite the millions of dollars MLB's billionaires have paid their lobbyists, 30 wealth old white guys only can carry so much clout with Congress. But when you threaten the hundreds of minor league teams in Congressional districts across the country and get the front offices and fans of those teams involved with personal lobbying to save their local teams, now you've got yourself some effective lobbying. Lobbying that MLB didn't even have to pay for, just use a little not-so-subtle coercion.

Don't think this is what's going on? Listen to this quote within the Post story from Pat O'Conner, the head of MiLB.

“We’re in 42 states, 160 cities. We’ve got over $3 billion of infrastructure, much of which is still being paid off by the clubs and the communities where they exist,” he said. “This is about constituents, this is about jobs at home, and this is about quality of life at home.”

So, obviously, the concern is for the, "quality of life at home," for the local fans, rather than the quality of life for players, many of whom are from poor Latin American countries and most of whom did not receive anything close to the large signing bonuses that get all the media attention when they sign contracts with a MLB team.

The minimum wage in the big leagues is approaching $600,000. For the roughly price of one minimum wage big leaguer on each team, MLB could afford to pay an extra $1,200 per month to 100 of their minor league players (that's four rosters worth of players). For under a million of their precious dollars per year, MLB owners could effectively make this issue go away.

The Twins reportedly will have an Opening Day big league payroll of $130,000,000 (and they are only in the middle of the pack among their MLB peers in payroll). Think about that for just a moment.

It's not a coincidence that minor league pay is determined by negotiations with the MLB players' union - a union that minor leaguers are not actually members of.

In effect, the billionaire owners are putting the screws to minor league operators and fans (not to mention the players) in order to save themselves from having to spend a small fraction of 1% of their annual revenues on additional minor league pay.

The contract between MLB and MiLB that sets the terms for how affiliates operate together is due to expire in 2020 and MLB isn't going to renew it until this matter is resolved. They are obviously using the contract as leverage to get the minor league organizations to lobby Congress on their behalf.

It's coercion, plain and simple, and it's shameful.

Yet, because Congress is Congress, don't be surprised if it's also effective.

(This article was originally posted at Knuckleballsblog.com.)

  • Platoon likes this



Thanks for a heads up on this. Why is Congress involved in this. And why MiLB baseball. It's bad enough MLB has an anti-trust exemption. So why not other under represented folks? Fast food workers, hotel staff, people who work at a corporate hog farm. I think it's a disgrace when MiLB players are the only ones who get the attention of our leaders. There are so many other classifications of workers to starve out of a job. In reality it's time for MLB players to get a little pragmatic, and acknowledge the fact that they are lucky to be where they are. I am sure they did work hard to get where that far. But I bet a third of them are where they are, are not simply on talent. There are likely extenuating and contributing circumstances involved. For example, you don't want to be a good minor league OF in the Twins orginisation. You could be in MiLB for quite awhile, talented or not.
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Winston Smith
Mar 19 2018 11:22 AM

Really? Congress is looking out for billionaire owners over young players many coming from Latin America?Shocking!

    • nytwinsfan and Platoon like this

You would almost think that the 150 or so players under contract in a team's minor league system is costing them less than $3 million a season. Heck, they give draft picks that kind of change before they even play a game for the organization.

 

Want to bet that many minor league mascots get paid more an hour than the players?

 

Only redeeming grace, with a free mail and locals supplying cheap housing, is that it keeps the players in an eat-breathe-play mode, spending ALL their time at the stadium working out or playing ball for five months, instead of spending excess money on fun and games.

 

But, yes, each team should spend more, if nothing else subsidizing the housing in some way (each minor league team owns a motel), having a great food/diet plan, better workout facilities, as well as a decent wage so you can send money home to mom and dad or a spouse.

 

It is a hard life. So few of those 150 ever get a cup of coffee in the show...just because there are x-amount of jobs and the talent pool gets new blood each year and there is always lots and lots of old blood still hoping to get the major league minimum again.

While I am sympathetic to the minor league players and find this type of action by members of congress to be disgusting, we should also keep in mind that the major league players union also sold out on the minor leaguers.They too share part of the blame for this exploitation.

You forgot to call the party those congressmen are attached to.

 

Please do so.

 

Even if it might pain (you) ;)

The players union represents it's members, which are the MLB players. As long as that's the case, they won't bend over backward to work for minor leaguers. One could argue they have enough problems right now trying to keep from screwing over their dues paying members. 

 

As of several weeks ago, my official voter registration category is "no party."

 

The only specific elected official I've seen tied to this legislation is Senate Majority Leader McConnel (R-KY). My understanding, however, is that MLB has enlisted bi-partisan support.

Although I believe that minor leagueballplayers should get more money, they are being paid minimum wage. $1200 a month is about $7.50 an hour. They at least have a shot at a big payoff.Meanwhile many people in the U.S. will be making that salary for many years to come and trying to support a family too. I will save my angst for them and hope congress will help those people by raising the minimum wage.

 

And since the first 10 rounds of the draft receive a bonus to sign, at least 25% of the players have got something already to fall back on. 

The US minimum wage is 7.85 in 2018, not 7.50. But either way, you are basing your calculations on a typical 40 hour work week. Take a look at a minor league schedule and see how many 5 day weeks those guys get. And consider that the "off days" are almost always "travel days" so they are spending most (if not all) of that day traveling for their work.

 

People act like these guys only work 3-4 hours a day, but from the time they arrive at the ballpark to the time they leave is often, if not always 8+ hours. And, as I mentioned above, they don't just work 5 days a week.

 

They aren't paid for spring training or extended spring training (for those players not placed on a full season roster at the end of spring training).

 

Those top 10 round guys that get bonuses also make up the great majority of players who ultimately make the major leagues and make that big payday. The others are going to be career minor leaguers. You should also take a look at the size of the bonuses for guys drafted after the top 4-5 rounds and ask yourself how long that bonus would last as a "safety net."

 

If you choose not to feel any "angst" for these players, that's fine. I'm sure the billionaire owners appreciate your support. 

 

 

    • Lefty74 likes this

Guess what we get to do today Brooks.... we get to play baseball"- The Rookie

 

It's not a job.It's baseball. They are young men in their 20's living their dream."Career minor league" guys stop at 30. Then they move on. Should there be more money?I guess. But I'm a teacher. Should I get more money? Sure. But I know that there isn't more money to be had. Nobody is getting rich running a minor league team. If more people paid to watch minor league baseball the players would get more money. Most sports are that way. I wrestled in college. Nobody pays to watch amateur wrestling. When I was 21 I would have loved to spend the summer playing ball. These guys get a uniform, having fans in the stand and enough money for a kid. Sounds like paradise to me.

    • shimrod likes this

 

Guess what we get to do today Brooks.... we get to play baseball"- The Rookie

 

It's not a job.It's baseball. They are young men in their 20's living their dream."Career minor league" guys stop at 30. Then they move on. Should there be more money?I guess. But I'm a teacher. Should I get more money? Sure. But I know that there isn't more money to be had. Nobody is getting rich running a minor league team. If more people paid to watch minor league baseball the players would get more money. Most sports are that way. I wrestled in college. Nobody pays to watch amateur wrestling. When I was 21 I would have loved to spend the summer playing ball. These guys get a uniform, having fans in the stand and enough money for a kid. Sounds like paradise to me.

 

I'm afraid you don't understand the way minor leaguers get paid. It has nothing to do with whether minor league team owners are "getting rich." They don't pay the players, the billionaire MLB owners do. And that pay has absolutely NOTHING to do with how many people attend minor league games.