Ever wonder how much money an independent league player makes?

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Over the last few years, we have dedicated some time to covering issues involving the unfairly low pay of minor league baseball players. Many of them make less than $10,000 per year, forcing them to pick up a job or two during the offseason. Some of them also work during the season when possible.

Pitcher Kaleb Earls was a pitcher in the Brewers’ minor league system, selected in the 13th round of the 2014 draft. He struggled over parts of three seasons and ended up playing for the Gateway Grizzlies of the independent Frontier League last year. On Monday, Earls received his Form W2 and decided to tweet about it:

In the ensuing conversation, Earls noted that his pay wasn’t much better in the minor leagues, which are affiliated with Major League Baseball:

Obviously, independent league teams have much less cash to go around. Although they should still strive to pay their players a living wage, it’s understandable that they’re not as readily able to make that happen. For the affiliated minor league teams, however, it would only cost each team $1.25 million to pay each member of its 25-man roster $50,000 a year. Each team has at least six minor league affiliates between Triple-A and rookie ball, so that would come to at least $7.5 million for each organization. Major League Baseball set a record for industry revenues for a 15th consecutive year in 2017 at more than $10 billion. Even a small-market team like the Rays would be able to afford $7.5 million per year — owner Stuart Sternberg reportedly has a net worth of $800 million despite the Rays’ payroll hovering between $66-77 million over the last few years.

It’s worth noting that while I personally would like to see minor league players make $50,000 or more annually, we can make that hypothetical $30,000 or $40,000 and the numbers become even more reasonable ($750,000-$1 million per 25-man roster). Keeping them below $10,000 is an embarrassment.

It’s not that owners can’t pay minor leaguers a fair wage, it’s that they don’t want to. Minor leaguers aren’t represented by a union, so they don’t have negotiating power. Owners instead spend a relative pittance to influence politicians to introduce favorable legislation. The MLB players’ union hasn’t shown any interest in including their minor league counterparts and has in fact been willing to sell them down the river to make other gains in collective bargaining.

Beyond the moral imperative, though, there’s a very sound reason for team owners to want to pay their players more. It allows them to stay in good health more consistently as they are not as stressed, sleep better, and can eat healthier foods. An athlete performs best — and thus can best create value for his team — when he’s healthy, of course. In 2014, the Red Sox created a “sleep room” for their big league players. In 2016, the Phillies invested roughly $1 million to ensure their minor leaguers have healthier food options. Clearly, some teams are already onto this.

Furthermore, paying minor league players a living wage means they will have more free time since they are not working a second job and stressing about paying bills. With that free time, they can watch tape, work on mechanics, talk with coaches or teammates, and spend some extra time in the gym or on the diamond. This could be the edge a player needs to take his game to the next level instead of becoming a bust, or simply retiring from baseball because he can’t afford it.

Teams are always looking for the next edge, not unlike Billy Beane’s famous “Moneyball” Athletics in the early 2000’s. This is a very clear and obvious edge staring them in the face and it has been for decades. If the moral angle doesn’t strike a chord for those balking at paying minor league players more, then the competitive angle absolutely should.

Gaylord Perry, two-time Cy Young winner, dies at 84

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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GAFFNEY, S.C. — Baseball Hall of Famer and two-time Cy Young Award winner Gaylord Perry, a master of the spitball and telling stories about the pitch, died at 84.

Perry died at his home in Gaffney, Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said. He did not provide additional details. A statement from the Perry family said he “passed away peacefully at his home after a short illness.”

The native of Williamston, North Carolina, made history as the first player to win the Cy Young in both leagues, with Cleveland in 1972 after a 24-16 season and with San Diego in 1978 – going 21-6 for his fifth and final 20-win season just after turning 40.

“Before I won my second Cy Young, I thought I was too old – I didn’t think the writers would vote for me,” Perry said in an article on the National Baseball Hall of Fame website. “But they voted on my performance, so I won it.”

“Gaylord Perry was a consistent workhorse and a memorable figure in his Hall of Fame career,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement, adding, “he will be remembered among the most accomplished San Francisco Giants ever … and remained a popular teammate and friend throughout his life.”

Perry was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and spent 10 seasons among legendary teammates like Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who said Thursday that Perry “was a good man, a good ballplayer and my good friend. So long old Pal.”

Juan Marichal remembered Perry as “smart, funny, and kind to everyone in the clubhouse. When he talked, you listened.”

“During our 10 seasons together in the San Francisco Giants rotation, we combined to record 369 complete games, more than any pair of teammates in the Major Leagues,” Marichal said. “I will always remember Gaylord for his love and devotion to the game of baseball, his family, and his farm.”

Perry, who pitched for eight major-league teams from 1962 until 1983, was a five-time All-Star who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991. He had a career record of 314-255, finished with 3,554 strikeouts and used a pitching style where he doctored baseballs or made batters believe he was doctoring them.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame said in a statement that Perry was “one of the greatest pitchers of his generation.” The Texas Rangers, whom Perry played for twice, said in a statement that the pitcher was “a fierce competitor every time he took the ball and more often than not gave the Rangers an opportunity to win the game.”

“The Rangers express their sincere condolences to Gaylord’s family at this difficult time,” the team’s statement said. “This baseball great will be missed.”

Perry’s 1974 autobiography was titled “Me and the Spitter,” and he wrote it in that when he started in 1962 he was the “11th man on an 11-man pitching staff” for the Giants. He needed an edge and learned the spitball from San Francisco teammate Bob Shaw.

Perry said he first threw it in May 1964 against the New York Mets, pitched 10 innings without giving up a run and soon after entered the Giants’ starting rotation.

He also wrote in the book that he chewed slippery elm bark to build up his saliva, and eventually stopped throwing the pitch in 1968 after MLB ruled pitchers could no longer touch their fingers to their mouths before touching the baseball.

According to his book, he looked for other substances, like petroleum jelly, to doctor the baseball. He used various motions and routines to touch different parts of his jersey and body to get hitters thinking he was applying a foreign substance.

Giants teammate Orlando Cepeda said Perry had “a great sense of humor … a great personality and was my baseball brother.”

“In all my years in baseball, I never saw a right-handed hurler have such a presence on the field and in the clubhouse,” Cepeda added.

Seattle Mariners Chairman John Stanton said in a release that he spoke with Perry during his last visit to Seattle, saying Perry was, “delightful and still passionate in his opinions on the game, and especially on pitching.

Perry was ejected from a game just once for doctoring a baseball – when he was with Seattle in August 1982. In his final season with Kansas City, Perry and teammate Leon Roberts tried to hide George Brett’s infamous pine-tar bat in the clubhouse but was stopped by a guard. Perry was ejected for his role in that game, too.

After his career, Perry founded the baseball program at Limestone College in Gaffney and was its coach for the first three years.

Perry is survived by wife Deborah, and three of his four children in Allison, Amy and Beth. Perry’s son Jack had previously died.

Deborah Perry said in a statement to The AP that Gaylord Perry was “an esteemed public figure who inspired millions of fans and was a devoted husband, father, friend and mentor who changed the lives of countless people with his grace, patience and spirit.”

The Hall of Fame’s statement noted that Perry often returned for induction weekend “to be with his friends and fans.”

“We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, Deborah, and the entire Perry family,” Baseball Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark said.