ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that Major League Baseball has suggested increasing salaries paid to minor league players — among other changes — in collective bargaining discussions with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, which oversees Minor League Baseball. The proposal has “strong support” among MLB owners, according to Passan.
The Blue Jays recently made headlines in choosing to increase minor league pay by 50 percent. Though salaries are still abysmal even with this bump — Single-A players would only make $12,000 per season and Triple-A players only $15,250 — it was a welcome step in the right direction.
Specifics about the proposed salary increases are not yet known. Currently, major league teams pay all of the salaries for their minor league affiliates. Bumping pay could mean those minor league affiliates might have to chip in.
Other suggested changes include a higher standard of living conditions and better transportation. As we have noted here and others have noted else where ad nauseam whenever this issue comes up, minor leaguers are often forced to live in cramped quarters, such as six people in a two-bedroom apartment, all sleeping on air mattresses. Minor leaguers travel pretty much exclusively by bus and sleep in lower-class hotels. Their salaries and per diems often force them to live off of fast food or similarly unhealthy diets. Focusing on salaries specifically is great, but also improving their quality of life and travel would be huge.
It is surprising to read that the proposed ideas have “strong support” among owners. MLB spent millions of dollars lobbying in recent years in order to make sure minor league players didn’t qualify under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which would have entitled them to minimum wage and overtime pay. That lobbying effort was ultimately successful.
MLB’s effort to suppress minor league pay and penny-pinch in myriad ways was always shortsighted and it seems the owners may have finally realized this. Sure, an owner may save millions every year keeping things as they have always been. Paying players a living wage, however, can be the start of a great relationship that could create organizational loyalty. A superstar prospect may decide to stick with the team that drafted him because he was treated well and didn’t have to worry about bills on his come-up. The organization may get surprising production from a minor leaguer who turned a corner thanks in part to a team-provided chef who cooked healthy meals. A higher percentage of players are more likely to realize their potential as a result of consistently getting eight hours of sleep staying at better motels or sleeping on real beds in their own homes. The potential return-on-investment down the road can be manyfold more than the short-term expenses.
Of course, one shouldn’t need a profit motive to pay employees a livable wage. It is morally and ethically correct to do so. That it hasn’t been seen this way by owners, by the media, and by fans is a multi-level failing as an industry, as a society, and simply as human beings. Thankfully, the tide is turning and we seem to be on the path of righting our wrongs.