Minor league salaries

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This topic contains 117 replies, has 15 voices, and was last updated by Brian Walton Brian Walton 3 weeks, 6 days ago.

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  • #79564
    Brian Walton
    Brian Walton
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    This issue has been a hot button for me for a long time. I finally decided to put my thoughts down in one place.

    #79577
    Brian Walton
    Brian Walton
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    I received this note from reader Larry Gibbons (name shared with his permission):

    Dear Brian,
    Enjoyed your article on minor leaguers. My belief is that the MLBPA has a number of other reasons to “do the right thing” and organize the minor leaguers.

    What’s going on now. The owners, perhaps directed by the analytic departments, perhaps by greed, seem to be working towards aligning player careers with the years of control. After arbitration, free agency contracts have, with a few notable exceptions, declined in quality and quantity. We see more make-good contracts than ever before. Contracts have become shorter and less generous beyond the arbitration years. Right now, the 200 or so unsigned free agents must choose between being squeezed or else tossed on the scrap-heap of (baseball) history. More and more they look like the most obvious victims of owner-collusion, but not the only ones.

    What’s coming. There seems to be a growing awareness (dred?) regarding the possibility/probability of a work stoppage at the end of the current CBA. The most logical bargaining position for the players will be to reduce years of control and guarantee a minimum percent of revenue going to salaries. It is unlikely the owners will acquiesce.

    We have witnessed an amazing increase in revenue and a great reduction in long-term, high salary contracts. The percent of revenue going towards player payrolls has skewed sharply in favor of the owners. As this trend continues, we will see the continuation and possibly the acceleration of the trends to divide baseball into “haves and have-nots.”

    The MLBPA, in the last negotiations, embarrassed themselves by being so passive, ineffective, and compliant. If they do not become more of an activist trade union, they will continue to become less a factor and more a “company union.” If that is possible.

    What should MLBPA do? The minor league players are workers in the traditional sense of the word. They must live with a small fraction of the MLB minimum salary and benefits. As you stated in your article, most if not all minor league players live below the federal poverty line. They literally do not receive a living wage and are desperately in need of representation.

    The MLB Players Association, in my opinion, should start acting like a real trade union and organize the minor leagues. This would have several positive effects:
    • They would be seen as “doing the right thing” by organizing and supporting a large group of underpaid, unrepresented young players; and
    • Take away from the owners the obvious pool of “scabs” thereby leveraging the players position in talks leading up to the next CBA

    This pool of unrepresented workers now must live with a small fraction of the MLB minimum salary and benefits. They literally do not receive a living wage and are desperately in need of representation. MLBPA should ponder that these minor leaguers are the only source of replacement workers (scabs) for the owners to threaten the major league players worst nightmare: a regular season played without them.

    #79579
    stlcard25
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    It is a black eye on the game that these players are being treated this way. I fail to see how it wouldn’t benefit a team to pay their players a livable minor league salary. I guess maybe the computers say it’s acceptable to lose a potential useful player now and again to avoid paying a few million dollars in salaries for all of them?

    Like you said, Brian, it would be the right thing to start and it would probably only take one team to do it to get the ball rolling. I wish it were the Cards.

    #79580
    Brian Walton
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    Sadly, I highly doubt any team would break ranks with the others.

    #79583
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    gscottar
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    Most owners, by nature, are not going to give the players anything that they aren’t forced to. It has always been that way. Let’s not forget that at one point in time the lifestyle that Brian described for today’s minor league players was the lifestyle of most major league players. I can remember stories of Richie Hebner being a grave digger during the off season to make ends meet. That was in the 70’s and 80’s.

    The union gradually became stronger and stronger until obviously things are much different for today’s big league players although Mr. Gibbons is correct that a major storm is brewing for the next CBA. That last two offseasons have been a disgrace in my opinion in the way ownership has squeezed the free agents. I’m not saying I’m a big union guy, because I’m not, but there is no doubt that the system as currently designed drastically favors ownership. This whole Competitive Balance Tax is the biggest scheme out there. It is nothing but an elaborate ruse and excuse for ownership not to spend money (fortunately for the Cardinals it is probably going to prevent the Cubs from signing Harper).

    For those that have a membership to The Athletic, today’s article by Jim Bowden is spot on. (Although Brian might say that it was actually written by Scott Boras). :o)

    • This reply was modified 8 months, 1 week ago by Avatar gscottar.
    #79588
    Brian Walton
    Brian Walton
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    gscottar, here is the second reader comment of 319 so far at the end of Bowden’s article.

    Tom H.
    3h ago
    69 likes

    Boras paid him to write this

    And no, I am not Tom H. I hadn’t seen the article until you linked it here.

    I seriously wonder if Bowden was a GM again if he would write that – and further if he could convince HIS owner to spend the money. But whatever. He is entitled to his view.

    Personally, I don’t care about Machado and Harper. They will get paid. However, I do think their youth blinds some to the fact they are not superstars (at least yet) but are wanting to be paid like one. My worry is more about the rank and file free agents whose market is hung up by the agents of these two trying to squeeze out every last dollar and year.

    We have read many reports back to October that the Nats offered Harper 10 years at $300 million and later came back with an even better offer. That still isn’t enough for the player and his agent, who want a record deal. To get that, they need more bidders, but teams can see the growing stack of bad contracts across the game and some are drawing the line.

    #79589
    Brian Walton
    Brian Walton
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    Regarding the labor agreement, the players cannot be too upset. Despite most impartial observers agreeing that the owners took them to the cleaners in the last CBA negotiations, the union members recently extended Tony Clark for three more years to take them through the next one, too. If I was an MLB player, I would not be looking among the ranks of former players for the next Marvin Miller, who had years of union experience outside of sports.

    Bottom line, I cannot feel too sorry for the MLB players for the situation they are in. So they are frustrated with the rules they agreed to? Start by looking in the mirror – and then lawyer up.

    So what if the MLB players go on strike in 2022? They will likely get even more money coming out the other side. Good for them, but minor leaguers will almost certainly receive none of it. So the gap just increases.

    #79591
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    mudville
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    I don’t understand why the players put up with such low salaries. Unemployment is at an all time low. Everybody seems to be looking for help. Why don’t these players just quit and go out and get a better paying job?

    Regarding collusion, I think its abundantly clear that there is real collusion occurring among players and their agents. Any one of the 200 unsigned free agents could sign for at least the league minimum which is $555K for 2019. Yet we read that agents are waiting for other agents to make a move first. If these agents aren’t talking to one another directly, then surely they’re ‘talking’ to one another through the media. That’s collusion.

    All this being said, I would like to see the kids get paid more. I would like them to have better living conditions. I would like them to have healthy food available to them. Work stoppages and threats and constant whining about conditions is not the answer. Probably the answer is to value these kids as people, not things to be used.

    #79592
    Brian Walton
    Brian Walton
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    mudville said:

    I don’t understand why the players put up with such low salaries. Unemployment is at an all time low. Everybody seems to be looking for help. Why don’t these players just quit and go out and get a better paying job?

    Really? That reads like something Branch Rickey would have said 80 or 90 years ago. “My way or the highway, kid!” They want to become a major leaguer and should not have to give up their dream because they cannot afford to live on unfairly low wages. That is the issue that matters, IMO.

    #79595
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    gscottar
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    Boras can be blamed for everyone’s problems I suppose but he doesn’t represent every player and the fact remains that the last two off seasons have been a hot mess for the players. Activity is flowing like thick molasses and player salaries decreased for only the fourth time in the last 50 years. If there is any collusion going on it is on the part of the owners.

    To your point Brian I agree that Tony Clark does not appear to be up to the job.

    #79597
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    mudville
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    There are many who struggle big time while trying to fulfill their dream. Any of them could have done something else. They chose not to.

    The major league minimum is $555K for one year. From there is goes up, and in many, many cases, it goes way, way up. Shouldn’t every major league player take, say 10% of his salary, and just give it to the minor league players so they can have a better go of it? And if they won’t do it willingly, is there some way we can force them to do it?

    Activity is flowing like molasses because the agents/players refuse to sign. Its as if $555K to many millions of dollars is not enough money for them.

    #79598
    BlackHillsCard
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    Mudville, why should players have to play their young years (and arguably their best years) at the MLB level for the league minimum for 2-3 years and then get stiffed in arbitration for another 2-3 years only to reach free agency and not get paid millions while the owners and MLB just had a year where they made record breaking profits?

    #79601
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    mudville
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    BHC – …. because they can. They’re making fabulous amounts of money.

    Speaking philosophically, and IMHO, at the bottom of it all is that people don’t value themselves and don’t value one another the way they should. If players would stand up and say ‘I’m better than this’, and then leave for something better, that would likely produce change. Or if others, regardless of being MLB related or MLBPA related, would say ‘Our kids should be treated better’, and then choose to do something, that would produce change.

    For the sake of argument, and to put it in more pragmatic terms, I don’t think you can talk about this in the same way that you talk about a business. Baseball is not a business. It is something else. It is America’s Pastime no matter how you define ‘America’s Pastime’. No doubt we should take care of it as such.

    #79603
    Brian Walton
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    Unfortunately, this is rooted in baseball’s antitrust exemption, which has been in place for almost 100 years. They have protection from the law to not follow the rules that other businesses do.

    #79643
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    gscottar
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    mudville

    Activity is flowing like molasses because the agents/players refuse to sign. Its as if $555K to many millions of dollars is not enough money for them.

    I disagree. We are talking about a multi billion industry whose profitability continues to rise. Why shouldn’t the players want a bigger share? People complain about professional athletes making millions of dollars but I’ve never heard anyone complain about an actor or actress making $30M for one movie. That is a strange phenomenon.

    #79645
    Brian Walton
    Brian Walton
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    Movie studio accounting makes MLB finances appear simple! But the common thread is that they are both entertainment. And in the movie business, even supporting players have union representation. Again, folks on this thread want to keep focused on the high end instead of the low end, where players have been exploited for decades and still are in today’s more enlightened era.

    #79660
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    CariocaCardinal
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    The lowest rung (extras) of the movie business are not unionized.

    #79662
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    gscottar
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    Well to be candid the brutal truth is that the vast majority of baseball fans don’t think about the minor leagues at all. They are focused on their favorite major league team and players and that is it. Whatever that is going on in the minors is an afterthought.

    Minor league baseball is obviously a passion for some on this board therefore it is good that the subject is being brought up.

    • This reply was modified 8 months, 1 week ago by Avatar gscottar.
    • This reply was modified 8 months, 1 week ago by Avatar gscottar.
    #79910
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    gscottar
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    I know this thread was supposed to be about the minors but this well written article highlights the trouble brewing between the players and owners.

    https://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/ben-frederickson/benfred-no-baseball-in-tension-rising-between-mlb-owners-and/article_b6be3ac9-e189-5bca-ba08-98f7706e0f35.html

    #79911
    Brian Walton
    Brian Walton
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    That column is already being discussed in the arbitration thread. Maybe it should have had its own…

    #79921
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    CariocaCardinal
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    Actually, I would recommend a labor issue thread. It will be discussed a lot over the next 3 years

    #79922
    Brian Walton
    Brian Walton
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    Fire one up, then.

    #79923
    Brian Walton
    Brian Walton
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    This is another minor league pay issue red hot right now. Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray was drafted by Oakland A’s in June and signed to a minor league contract with a bonus of $4.66 MM. However, his agent, the brilliant Scott Boras, has now announced that Murray, who is also a talented quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, will declare for the NFL draft tomorrow – unless the A’s give him another $15 million. That came after months of Boras statements that Murray was committed to baseball.

    MLB, wanting to keep a potential young star in their sport, will allow Oakland to give him the additional money by putting him on the 40-man roster now, even though he is nowhere near MLB ready. They have couched it by saying there was no pre-agreement to an MLB contract before Murray signed his minors deal, so it is ok.

    MLB previously allowed MLB contracts to be given to draftees, but agents exploited it, so MLB outlawed it. (I think the Cards last draftee to get one was Zack Cox.)

    My question is whether this will be an exception of one, or if the door is re-opened for players not close to MLB to get MLB contracts. I suspect Boras had this scenario planned out a long time ago.

    Should be interesting…

    #79924
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    lrcardinal
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    Another selfish brat who will probably never make it to the majors. IF Oakland was smart, they would let him go to the draft. Good riddens!!! That is not someone I would ever want in my organization! Way to honor your contract! You would have never won the Heisman if Oakland had not allowed him to play his final year.

    #79925
    Brian Walton
    Brian Walton
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    This tweet of mine was “liked” by MLBPA Communications:

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