Why Marvin Miller should be in the Hall of Fame, exhibit 2,305

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Arguably the best guy at the most important position in the richest, most successful sports league in America just signed a new deal today:

Drew Brees’s deal is done … The deal includes $40 million in the first year and a guaranteed $60 million in the first three years of the contract. That’s the biggest guarantee for any contract in NFL history. After protracted negotiations, Brees has done very well for himself.

From baseball, a couple months ago:

The Diamondbacks and catcher Miguel Montero have agreed to a five-year, $60 million contract extension … The new deal falls short of Yadier Molina‘s recent five-year, $75 million extension with the Cardinals, but it’s still a nice chunk of change for someone who is just realizing his potential.

Tell me who is more valuable to their employer: Brees or Montero. Now tell me why the guy who is clearly more valuable gets what a decent but not great guy gets in the other sport. Then go bow before a picture of Marvin Miller. Then sing a chorus of “Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to play football.”

And if your counter is “it’s more money than Brees could ever spend, baseball players are just greedy.”  Ask yourself who benefits from the labors of these gentlemen. The answer: billionaire businessmen. That’s who Miller and those who have followed him are taking money from.  In light of that, I won’t lose a wink of sleep thinking about Miguel Montero’s paycheck. And why I will feel a little bad for Drew Brees, even though he just set himself and his family up for life.

Minor League Baseball teams sold over $70 million in merchandise in 2017

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Every so often here, we discuss the criminally low pay of Minor League Baseball players. Most of them make less than $7,500 a year, which includes the regular season as well as spring training, playoffs, and offseason training. The abysmal pay forces minor leaguers to eat unhealthy food, live in cramped quarters, and forego consistent, quality sleep, among other things.

What makes this situation worse is that Minor League Baseball is a huge money-maker for their parent teams in Major League Baseball. Josh Norris of Baseball America reported yesterday that Minor League Baseball teams sold $70.8 million in merchandise in 2017. That represented a 3.6 percent increase over the previous record set in 2016. This is just merchandise. Now think about concession and ticket sales.

Minor League Baseball COO Brian Earle said, “Minor League Baseball team names and logos continue to be among the most popular in all of professional sports, and our teams have made promoting their brand a priority for their respective organizations. The teams have done a tremendous job of using their team marks and logos to build an identity that is appealing to fans not just locally, but in some cases, globally as well.”

You may recall that Major League Baseball had been lobbying Congress to pass legislation exempting minor league players from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Doing so classified baseball players as seasonal workers, which means they are not entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay. That legislation passed earlier this year. Minor League Baseball generates profits hand over fist and it is now legally protected from having to share that with the labor that produced it.

Many points of divergence led us to this point, but the question is how do we change it? Minor leaguers are routinely taken advantage of because they don’t have a union. Compare the minors in baseball to the minors in hockey, where minor leaguers have a union. As SB Nation’s Marc Normandin pointed out last month, the minimum salary for American Hockey League players is $45,000 and the average salary is $118,000. They receive a playoff share of around $20,000, and receive health insurance that covers themselves as well as their families. Furthermore, the minor league hockey players’ per diem is $74, about three times as much as minor league baseball players’ per diem of $25.

Major League Baseball and its 30 teams have shown no inclination towards treating minor league players simply out of moral obligation or good will, so the minor leaguers need union coverage to force their conditions to improve. This could be as simple as the MLBPA expanding its coverage to the minor leagues because, after all, some minor leaguers do become major leaguers, right? Or the minor leaguers could themselves create a union. It’s easy to say, but tougher to do, which is why they still don’t have a union.

At any rate, every fan of baseball should be enraged when they read that Minor League Baseball keeps setting records year after year when it comes to selling hats and t-shirts, then refuses to share any of that wealth with the labor responsible for it. It’s morally reprehensible.