Former Mets minor league infielder Andrew Ely announced on Twitter yesterday that he was released from the organization. The 25-year-old spent most of his season with Double-A Binghamton, where he hit .162/.309/.229 in 222 plate appearances.
Ely’s poor performance can be explained largely by a torn labrum. Ely says that rather than have his shoulder surgically repaired, the Mets recommended he play through the injury, then have it operated on after the season. Ely took the Mets’ advice. With a poor 2018 under his belt and a bum shoulder, Ely is now teamless. And if we know one thing, it’s that teams love injured players coming off of poor seasons.
I bring this up not so much to harangue the Mets as to get on my favorite soapbox and say: minor leaguers have a raw deal. Ely isn’t the only one getting used and abused by their parent teams. Minor leaguers, as we have mentioned here countless times, don’t make a living wage and Major League Baseball, in fact, lobbied to have federal law allow them to continue underpaying minor leaguers.
If Ely were acting in his own best interest and not the team’s, he likely would have undergone surgery soon after the diagnosis of a torn labrum. He would’ve missed a sizable chunk of the 2018 season, if not the remainder, but he would have been on target to begin spring training next year. The Mets still would have released him in all likelihood, but he would be a more attractive candidate for other teams this offseason. He could participate fully in spring training, then start the 2019 regular season on time, hoping to bounce back from his shoulder woes. As it stands now, if he undergoes surgery, he likely gets a late start to spring training and may have to stay in extended spring training rather than begin the regular season with his teammates. That’s if he’s able to get a contract, which is anything but a certainty.
If Ely isn’t able to get a contract? It’s back to the real world. Ely was a business administration major at the University of Washington, but the last five years of his life have been dedicated to baseball. Without knowing his network, Ely is not guaranteed a job in his chosen field post-baseball and he may have to shake off the rust to even get back into the arena at all. Getting a job will be difficult and if he were to get one, it wouldn’t come with glamorous pay. Ely could consider joining a school (high school or college) as a coach and/or give private baseball lessons. Ely would not have been able to build up any kind of savings with the pitiful wages in the minors. He got a $100,000 signing bonus from the Cubs in 2014, but various kinds of life issues, including health and family, could have reduced that kitty.
These are the kinds of issues we’re thinking about when we call for minor leaguers to be paid livable wages. Teams will chew up and spit out players without a second thought. It’s unfair to the players, especially those taken in the later rounds like Ely (32nd round in 2014), to have to give up their bodies without any kind of a safety net. Major League Baseball is a billion dollar enterprise and each of its 30 major league teams are responsible for paying the salaries of their minor leaguers. The least the league could do is offer more financial security to the people it asks to concede years of their lives along with daily blood, sweat, and tears.