Bill Baer

PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 02:  Hunter Renfroe #71 of the San Diego Padres poses for a portrait during spring training photo day at Peoria Stadium on March 2, 2015 in Peoria, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Minor league players are not “property”

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While introducing the players in each team’s lineup during Sunday’s Futures Game at Petco Park, MLB Network broadcaster Matt Vasgersian referred to players as “property” of their respective teams multiple times. It’s a colloquial way of saying a player is in a particular team’s minor league system. I made a tweet about one particular instance in which Vasgersian referred to Hunter Renfroe as “property of the Padres” and received a handful of replies noting that this isn’t exactly new behavior for Vasgersian.

This isn’t meant to single out Vasgersian because he’s not the only one to have called prospects “property.” As fans and media types have gained awareness of the labor issues in the minor leagues, referring to players that way has gone out of style, deservedly so. But we haven’t eradicated it yet. Let’s do that.

The plight of minor leaguers has made headlines recently when a proposed bill sought to change language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 so that Major League Baseball could continue to underpay its minor league players. One of the two Congresspeople who backed the bill, Cheri Bustos (D-IL), rescinded her support after receiving widespread public criticism. MLB doubled down, saying that minor league ball “not a career but a short-term seasonal apprenticeship.” They’re professionals right up until the time MLB has to cut a check.

So how much do minor leaguers make? According to MiLB.com, they earn $1,100 per month maximum in their first contract season, or $13,200 per year. They earn $25 per day in meal money at all levels, only for road games. Teams typically haven’t focused on making sure their minor league players eat well. The Phillies made headlines earlier this year by investing about $1 million to make sure their young players have healthy meal options. Most of them have to live on gas station grub, fast food, and ramen noodles. They’re sharing apartments with more roommates than there are bedrooms, often by a factor of two or three. Or, as was illustrated in the movie Bull Durham, players shack up with friendly locals known as “host families.”

The players are treated like indentured servants, so it follows that the language reflects that. Paying attention to the language can be a small step towards paying minor leaguers a living wage, as it forces people to empathize with them.

Kevin Kiermaier will return to the Rays after the All-Star break

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 25:  Kevin Kiermaier #39 of the Tampa Bay Rays makes his way back to the dugout after he flied out to center field during the fifth inning of a game against the Baltimore Orioles on April 25, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
Brian Blanco/Getty Images
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Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier is set to return from the disabled list after the All-Star break, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain reports. The Rays open up the second half at home against the Orioles, then head out on the road for nine games.

Kiermaier broke two metacarpal bones in his left hand, attempting to rob Tigers catcher JamesMcCann of a hit on May 21. He is expected to begin a rehab assignment with Single-A Charlotte on Monday.

Kiermaier went to the disabled list batting .236/.307/.447 with five home runs and 16 RBI in 137 plate appearances. He’s considered one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, so getting him back will be a boon for the Rays’ pitching staff.

Video: Yunel Escobar ejected after drawing home plate in the infield dirt

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 08:  Yunel Escobar #6 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim gestures to his teammates during a baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Tampa Bay Rays at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 8, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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Angels third baseman Yunel Escobar wasn’t a fan of a non-strike call on Orioles batter Chris Davis in the bottom of the seventh inning. Davis checked his swing on a 1-1 fastball from Tim Lincecum, appearing to register a swing, but it was called a ball. In protest, Escobar — due to a shift, positioned about where the shortstop would be — drew a large home plate in the infield dirt. He was immediately ejected by home plate umpire Tim Timmons.

Gregorio Petit moved from second base to third base in Escobar’s absence, and Johnny Giavotella entered the game at second base. Escobar ended the afternoon 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout.

Escobar has been otherwise solid for the Angels this year, batting .317/.365/.413 with 21 doulbes, 27 RBI, and 37 runs scored in 345 plate appearances.