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Report: MLB suggests increasing salaries for minor leaguers

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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.

Straight-away center field will be 385 feet at London Stadium

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Marley Rivera of ESPN has a story about some of the on-field and in-game entertainment, as well as some aspects of the field conditions, for this weekend’s London Series.

The fun stuff: a mascot race, not unlike the Sausage Race at Miller Park or the President’s race at Nationals Park. The mascots for London: Winston Churchill, Freddie Mercury, Henry VIII and the Loch Ness Monster. I suppose that’s OK but, frankly, I’d go with Roger Bannister, Shakespeare, Charles Darwin and Guy Fawkes. Of course no one asks me these things.

There will also be a “Beat the Streak”-style race which had better use the theme to “Chariots of Fire” or else what the heck are we even doing here.

They’ve also taught ushers and various volunteers who will be on-site to sing “Take me out to the ballgame,” which is a pretty good idea given how important that is to baseball. As a cultural exchange, I think some major league team should start using “Vindaloo” by Fat Les during the seventh inning stretch here. It’s a banger. It also seems to capture England a bit more accurately than, say, “Downton Abbey” or “The Crown.”

That’s all good fun I suppose. But here’s some stuff that actually affects the game:

The end result will have some interesting dimensions. The field will be 330 feet down each foul line, and it will have a distance of 385 feet to center field, which will feature a 16-foot wall. Cook also said it would have an expanded, “Oakland-like” foul territory, referencing the Athletics’ Oakland Coliseum expanse.

Those dimensions are unavoidable given that the square peg that is a baseball field is being shoved into the round hole that is a soccer stadium. As Murray Cook, MLB’s senior field coordinator tells Rivera, that sort of thing, while perhaps less than ideal, is at least in keeping with baseball’s strong tradition of irregular field conditions. It will, however, be one of the shortest dead center distances in baseball history.

Oh, and then there’s this:

Protective netting was also an important issue addressed when building the ballpark, with Cook stressing that his team has implemented netting that “is the largest you’ll ever see in any major league ballpark.”

[Craig makes a mental note to bookmark this for the next time MLB says it won’t mandate extended netting in the U.S. because doing so is too difficult]