When I was a teenager working at the radio station, I made $3.35 an hour. That was a the minimum wage back then, and my employer was smart enough to realize that lots of kids would love my job, so there was no incentive to pay me any more than the minimum wage.
But then, one day, in early 1991, my boss came into the control room with a big smile on his face and said “Craig, I’m giving you a raise.” I was ecstatic. It was almost a whole dollar an hour more! I’d be making $4.25! When I got home after my shift and told my dad about it, he got a look on his face that was kind of like this, and said that they had to give me that raise because the minimum wage was going up to $4.25. I suddenly felt less special.
I’m guessing that many of the Miami Marlins who are not yet arbitration-eligible feel the same way right about now. Why? Ask Rosenthal and Morosi:
The minimum salary in the new collective-bargaining agreement increased from $414,000 to $480,000, giving even the lowest-paid players a handsome wage. Baseball’s economic system, however, allows clubs to otherwise determine the salaries of players in the 0-to-3-year service class almost unilaterally. The Miami Marlins, a team that spent lavishly on free agents this past offseason, are taking a particularly firm stand with those players, according to major-league sources.
The Marlins intend to automatically “renew” the contracts of virtually all their 0-to-3s at the new minimum, a move that might prompt the players’ union to file a grievance, contending that the team did not operate in good faith, sources say.
Typically, teams give moderate raises to those 0-3 players, putting them over the minimum salary. Do they have to? No. But so much in baseball is about respecting service time and seniority. Where your locker is. When you take your cuts in the cage. Where you sit on the plane or the bus. There’s an implicit understanding in baseball that, if you’re not a rookie, you get slightly better treatment than the rookies do.
That should, and typically does, extend to salaries too. A few thousand here or there is nothing to the Marlins. Giving their pre-arb players “raises” that only keep up with the minimum wage is treating them like they’re nothing as well. It’s bad form and I hope those cheapskates either change their mind about it or get all kinds of hell thrown at them by the union and the league.
UPDATE: Rosenthal has updated his story with a quote from former Marlin Cody Ross. He notes that this cheapskatery has a negative impact on the Marlins:
“That’s one of the main reasons I went to a hearing against them in my second year of arb,” said Boston Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross, who beat the Marlins in arbitration in 2010, receiving $4.45 million after the team offered $4.2 million.
“I never forgot about them not giving me a raise ever as a 0-to-3 player. I didn’t think it was fair for me to make the same as a guy who comes up from minor league camp and makes the team.”
So, sure, if you want to litigate arbitration cases because your players hate you, by all means Mr. Loria, continue this practice.