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.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.