Minor League Players Pay Gets Pummeled By Congress And MLB

Minor League Players - Poverty Level (Photo: Yahoo Sports)

Minor League players know the burden they assume when they sign on with a major league team. But the U.S. Congress didn’t need to pile on…

For most fans of baseball, the pay minor league players receive never enters their thoughts. I would submit that most fans find anything to do with baseball finance and economics boring and not worth their time. If true, it’s unfortunate because more than anything the economics of baseball determines the product we see in the players the team we root for puts on the field.

One caveat before we move on to the main thrust of this article. It goes without saying that if any of us were to be drafted in the 16th round of the June Amateur Draft, and the 207th overall, we would jump at the chance to realize a boyhood dream of someday standing on the mound at Yankee Stadium pitching in a World Series with our family and friends back home rooting us on.

Minor League Players - A Heavy Load Sometimes (Photo: Bleacher Report)
Minor League Players – A Heavy Load Sometimes (Photo: Bleacher Report)

We wouldn’t take the time to realize the odds against us, as one of 6,000 minor league players (200 per 30 MLB teams) competing for 1,200 jobs on a 40-man major league roster.

Nor would we consider that the average time spent at the big league is only 5.6 years, which is less than the time it takes to reach free agency and the chance “to get paid” as they say.

So, I get it if someone says to me, “Hold on Steve, no one is forcing these minor league players to do what they do, just like no one forces a worker to flip burgers at McDonald’s for a career at minimum wage.”

Postscript: 2/2/2019

Here’s a revealing comment received from a reader belonging to the Facebook Group Married To The Yankees:

Thomas McNally So a friend played for the Staten Island Yankees some years ago. He made 3 grand a year.. Fulfilled his contract when his agent (father) tried to renegotiate and get him between 25-30 thousand because that’s what he deemed fair for his age, there was no negotiating. He was told “thanks” when he tried lowering his demand, they came back with there isn’t an offer any more.. They fed them cold cuts and peanut butter and jelly, and don’t pay them while families put them up during the season .. Shameful…

But here’s the thing. Minor league players don’t work for the prevailing minimum wage, and it’s because they been barred by the U.S. Congress from doing so. Back in March of last year, the U.S. Congress saw fit to bury “on page 1,967 of the $1.3 trillion spending bill, the Save America’s Pastime Act exempted Major League Baseball from federal wage and overtime rules. MLB reportedly paid millions lobbying for the act, which formalized what has been status quo — no overtime pay; no pay during spring training and the off-season”.

I have to write that down – it’s the Save America’s Pastime Act!

Minor League Players Lifestyle (Photo: Deadspin
Minor League Players Lifestyle (Photo: Deadspin

And so it is not surprising that most minor league players toil for yearly wages below the U.S. Poverty Line. A story published by USA Today revealed the following:

“Most earn between $3,000 and $7,500 for a five-month season. As a point of comparison, fast food workers typically earn between $15,000 and $18,000 a year, or about two or three times what minor league players make.” Moreover, “While the minimum salary in Major League Baseball is $500,000, many minor league players earn less than the federal poverty level, which is $11,490 for a single person and $23,550 for a family of four….”Michael McCann, Sports Illustrated
Minor League Players (Sports Yahoo.com)
Minor League Players (Sports Yahoo.com)

A good read to expand further on what this means in practical terms to a minor league player is explained in this story published by NPR.  Beyond that, though, I would urge you to join Jeremy Wolf, a former minor league player himself, who is engaged in an effort to level the playing field for minor league players, and the standard of pay they receive as they pursue their dream, while also ensuring the best talent always makes its way to the major leagues, no matter what it takes.

Jeremy’s website is More Than Baseball.org, and you can join the team he is trying to build by scrolling to the bottom for the “Contact” link. Note: The first link you see (Join Our Team) appears broken, and I’ll ask him to fix it.

Minor League Players Lifestyle (Photo: ESPN.com)
Minor League Players Lifestyle (Photo: ESPN.com)

The impetus should be for minor league players to form their own union. That’ll scare the hell out of major league teams, but unfortunately and with the extensive lobbying effort (i.e., $$) by MLB to get the Save America’s Pastime bill passed, this might be the only way to bring about reform.

If you’ve made it this far thru this article, put a “Like” on this page, only to indicate you did take the time to get this far – because you not only care about the welfare of the team you root for – but you also care about the well-being of baseball.

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.

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