Things are tough all over

The majority of minor leaguers aren’t bonus babies — they’re jobbers like you and me — and things are tough for them too:

Most minor league players earn less than $10,000 for an entire season. These paychecks only come during the season, which makes finding a part-time job in the offseason a matter of survival. Part-time gigs have not been hard to find in past years. Companies have been eager to have a professional athlete on staff, sometimes simply for the trophy value alone. Even if a position weren’t readily available, they would often invent one just to have the athlete around.

The situation has been quite different for many minor leaguers this offseason. With the job market now going the way of the old Yankee Stadium—on the verge of implosion—an oasis of part-time jobs is nowhere to be found.

And it will be worse, not better, once spring training starts, because players don’t get paychecks until opening day. They only get per diems, and even those are meager:

Major League Baseball provided no relief for its farmhands this offseason when it denied a request to increase minor leaguers meal money per diem from $20 to $25. The Boston Globe reported that MLB officials felt that an increase was inappropriate given the current economic climate.

What? Are there no prisons? And the union workhouses – are they still in operation? Because for a minute there I was afraid that something had happened to stop them in their useful course!

(thanks to Pete Toms for the heads up)

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  1. TLA said...

    Amen GBS.  I’d bet the GMs’ and owners’ hotel bills from their respective retreats . . . errr meetings . . . this winter greatly exceeded the outlay necessary for a $5 per diem increase.

    New Slogan: “MLB.  Impervious to reasoned decision-making.”

  2. Leo said...

    This is pitiful.  These guys have no leverage.  Make a stink and unless you’re the next A-Rod, suddenly you’re exiled to riding the pine in some Godforsaken Carolina League outpost where they barely have the Internet, and the next season no one picks you up.

  3. MooseinOhio said...

    If I knew a young man that was talented enough to be drafted out of high school or head to college on a baseball scholarship – I’d push the college option as hard as I could.  Granted NCAA sports is a business but there are regulations that protect student athletes from being totally exploited by the schools and playing for a good college program is equivalent to low level minor league development.

  4. Millsy said...

    Don’t forget about the minor league umpires, too.  Friends of mine in that gig have the same problem…and they pretty much have to wait for someone to die to move up.

  5. The Common Man said...

    I agree with GBS’s analysis, but not his math.  If each team controls something like 200 minor leaguers, and pays them each an extra $5/day, over a 184 day season (March 1-August 31), that’s an extra $193,000 per team, or almost $5.8 million for the league.  Now, that’s a drop in the bucket, to be sure, and baseball has little reasonable defense for its deciscion, but getting the numbers straight is important too.

    Also, speaking as a former minor league clubbie, minor leaguers get a full spread of pre-game food during the year on the team, and teams pay for a post-game meal catered by a local restaurant.  Also, I assume since players need to be at the park earlier during Spring Training, there would be some kind of breakfast for them as well.  Also, many (but not all) minor leaguers do not have to pay rent during the season (or at least pay a drastically reduced rent), staying with local families who are eager to have a future star staying in their guest rooms.  These families may also choose to feed said players.  And I believe they continue to be paid their per diem during the season, in addition to their regular salary (at least for games on the road).

    It may not be a great and bountiful life, but they’re not on the side of the road holding up a “will play ball for food” sign, either.  I still say they should get the extra $5 though.

  6. Richard in Dallas said...

    If a person in the United States works at a minimum wage job, 40 hours a week, for 52 weeks, they are guaranteed $13,624.00 in compensation.  These jobs generally go to people that know virtually nothing and have no bankable talents.  They are merely warm bodies filling a need for SOMEONE to be where they are doing whatever menial task they do.  Why on earth would we expect our most talented and dedicated young ballplayers to subsist on less than that?  I understand that one must “pay their dues” to get to the big money in the show, but how many potential Hall of Famers go to work in their Dad’s company rather than pursue their dream because they don’t want to live in impoverished conditions on the outside chance that they will make it to the bigs?  Don’t we pay the mailroom boys a livable wage while they learn the business on their way to becoming an overpaid CEO?  MLB needs to make an adjustment here, perhaps in the form of a higher minimum salary…..

  7. Millsy said...

    Well, considering the $10,000 is only over a fraction of the year, and many of these minor league players are from Latin America or are high school graduates, they’re doing okay.  They may not have any other marketable talents above the minimum wage.  Any of the players that have significantly marketable talents were probably paid a hefty bonus when they were drafted.  With room and board often provided for minor leaguers, $10,000 for 6 months’ work seems livable.

    It’s a rough life, no doubt.  But minor league baseball teams aren’t exactly profit hogs, either.  While their talent may be marketable at the MLB level, while in the minors, they’re not bringing in millions for the team.  It’s a tough situation and maybe they’re underpaid, but I don’t think you can call it unlivable.

  8. GBS said...

    @ The Common Man – thanks for fixing my math.  My number seemed low, but I didn’t see the mistake.

    I had $5/day * 150 days * 30 teams in the league * six minor league teams each.  I forgot to multiply by 25 players per team (DUH!), which would be $3.4 million.

    So the cost is actually on the order of $3-$6 million, or $100k-$200k per major league team.  So for less than half the cost of a major-league minimum player, each team could make life tangibly better for their minor league players.  That still seems like a reasonable thing to do, and using the bad economy as a scapegoat for their greed is pretty lame and cowardly.

  9. Richard in Dallas said...

    If MLB were to susidize their salaries, they would hold on to better talent for a longer period, thereby increasing the talent level in the majors.  All the owners want to do is limit their monetary output by such means as a salary cap.  What about mandating higher minimums across the board at the same time, even if it were based on longevity?  Would a Crash Davis exist in today’s world, playing ball and mentoring young players for 10K a year?

  10. Jake (San Diego) said...

    “MLB officials felt that an increase was inappropriate given the current economic climate.”

    Actually, the current economic climate is what makes it appropriate…

  11. The Common Man said...

    @ GBS

    Minor league teams are not subject to the exact same roster rules as MLB teams.  Typically, I believe they have 30 players on their roster, at least five of whom are inactive for any given game, and (I believe) up to five on the DL.

  12. GBS said...

    Here’s MLB showing it has no regard whatsoever for about 90% of its minor leaguers.  Another five bucks a day per player?  That’s something on the order of $150,000 for the year – a pittance to the league, but a notable difference to the players.

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