During the offseason, Major League Baseball’s plan to contract 42 minor league teams — about one-fourth of all teams — made major headlines, even drawing ire from members of Congress. The league defended its scheme by suggesting that contraction would allow more money to be spent upgrading the mostly subpar quality of facilities and paying players more.
MLB’s defense was disingenuous to begin with, since the league had spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress to amend language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. That effort yielded results, as Congress indeed amended language in the act, reclassifying minor league baseball players as seasonal workers. As a result, they were no longer owed worker protections like overtime pay. If MLB was concerned about paying minor leaguers more, it could’ve just not lobbied Congress for this legislation. Additionally, some of the teams on the chopping block had recently won awards for the quality of their facilities. Even Minor League Baseball got into it with MLB as the two sides bickered in public statements. It’s been a mess.
The hypocrisy and genuine coldheartedness was on full display Monday, however. The Mets spent $57 million making offseason renovations to Clover Park, their spring training home in Port St. Lucie. It is also the home of the Mets’ High-A minor league team.
Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, the minor leaguers won’t get to fully experience those $57 million renovations. The upgraded clubhouse is for spring training only, not the minor league regular season. The minor league players will have to use a smaller, less exquisite — though still upgraded — clubhouse. According to DiComo, the Mets are doing this “to give minor leaguers a reminder of the status they’re working to earn.”
Mets pitchers and catchers reported today. Spring training ends for them on March 23. The luxurious clubhouse will be used for about six weeks. Players on rehab assignments will have access to it, but otherwise, the players who would benefit most from the clubhouse will not be allowed to use it. Taxpayers, by the way, kicked in $55 million of that $57 million.
This is a slap in the face to minor league players whose plight has been increasingly found in headlines, but are still begging for table scraps. It also falsifies MLB’s claim that contracting minor league teams would improve the players’ quality of life. Surely the Mets aren’t the only team who want to remind their minor league players about “the status they’re working to earn.” Their players aren’t the only ones barred from benefiting from facility upgrades.
MLB and the associated clubs want the good P.R. from headlines like “minor league salaries to be increased” and “stadium to undergo $57 million renovation project,” but they won’t cut into their profits to do so. Higher minor league pay will come at the expense of contracting one-fourth of all teams. Better facilities will come at the expense of reminding players where they are on the totem pole.