Joshua Kusnick
Joshua Kusnick

Agent highlights injustice of spring training for minor leaguers

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On Wednesday evening, agent Joshua Kusnick (pictured) tweeted about an injustice one of his clients, a minor league player, is facing at spring training. He wrote:

Have an milb client who showed up 2 weeks ago

He isnt being paid because spring training didnt start for milb 10 dollars a day per diem.

They have a 1200 deposit for the hotel. The player. Making 6k a year.

Player has no choice in staying at hotel Pays own way to field!

No gas reimbursement. If player has a car he must stay at hotel

This is insanity. Someone has to change this

As we have mentioned here before, minor leaguers aren’t paid during spring training. Despite this, teams place significant restrictions on their behavior, including how they travel and where they stay. Teams do provide a per diem for meals and will reimburse the player for his hotel stay, but that a player making so little is expected to take on the up-front cost of the deposit, as well as is quite unfair. According to Kusnick, the hotel will release the deposit when the player checks out.

I asked Kusnick to elaborate more on the issue facing his client as well as minor leaguers in general. He said, “These guys make less than minimum wage and they’re sold the lie that if they have a uniform they have a shot to get paid.” He emphasized, “It’s ownership’s oldest lie.”

Kusnick’s client, like many other minor leaguers, has to pick up a part-time job in the offseason to help make ends meet. His client gives lessons. Kusnick said, “It’s embarrassing to see pro athletes in America with part-time jobs in 2020 in an $8-10 billion industry.” He added that the players “have the anger but they don’t know what to do.”

Kusnick pointed out that his client got a bonus, and despite the injustice in question, his client generally has it better than most other minor league players in spring training. He urges us to think about the “undrafted free agent guys” who didn’t get a signing bonus, earning $6,000 per year and facing similar circumstances. “That’s not a fair shot,” Kusnick says. “It doesn’t make guys hungrier. It’s bulls***. It’s ownership selling bulls***. And they’re the kings of it. Ask Jim Crane.”

Asked about potential solutions, Kusnick suggested that the more prominent agents like Scott Boras use their “immense platform for good” to “establish real change.” He also suggested that minor leaguers could benefit from the MLBPA looping them in, especially “since they bargain away draft rights.” Kusnick doesn’t have faith in commissioner Rob Manfred even though he is “the only man who can do something now unilaterally.” An exasperated Kusnick tacked on, “Given the Astros situation, I’m not holding my breath.”

One thing is clear: Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball benefit from minor leaguers’ lack of unionization and their leverage deficit, forcing them to take on undue burdens just to go to work. Kusnick’s client and others like him shouldn’t be taking on the up-front cost of lodging and travel (“no gas reimbursement”). They should be paid a livable wage during the season, as well as during spring training and in the offseason when they are still responsible for training, nutrition, working on mechanics, watching video, etc. There are rarely days off for those in the minor leagues. It’s high time they are taken care of by teams that can, without question, afford to do so. Major league teams, not their minor league affiliates, are responsible for the salaries of the minor league players in their system.

Kusnick insists we “keep fighting and bringing attention to these issues so maybe one day the public pressure forces change. Until then, fight the bastards at every turn until they notice you and do something, if only to shut us up. It’ll work.”

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Diamondbacks minority owners sue Ken Kendrick over buyouts

Ken Kendrick
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Three minority owners of the Arizona Diamondbacks are suing managing general partner Ken Kendrick after Kendrick initiated a forced buyout for stakeholders who own less than 1% of the team, according to The Athletic’s Zach Buchanan. The three plaintiffs are businessman Alfredo Molina, former pitcher Jim Weber and an LLC called Carlise Investments.

The lawsuit alleges that Kendrick’s demand that minority owners with less than a 1% share either increase their buy-in or sell their shares at a price set by the team is illegal. The Diamondbacks say that the plan is supported by MLB, which the league confirmed to The Athletic. However the full extent of MLB’s support is unclear. Kendrick’s side says that MLB wanted the Diamondbacks to streamline the ownership group, while the plaintiffs say that the league merely okay’d Kendrick’s initiative.

Although just three of the minority owners or ownership groups are named as plaintiffs, the buyback plan reportedly impacts 22 total persons or groups. The buybacks don’t seem to be driven by coronavirus-related financial concerns, as Kendrick announced his intentions to the rest of the owners in a letter sent on January 13th.

Buchanan’s article has the full legalese details of the dispute, and I’m no corporate lawyer, but this reads like Kendrick trying to consolidate financial power. Kendrick has gained a miserly reputation, and has recently made headlines by squabbling with local officials and claiming that Chase Field is somehow a subpar facility for baseball. The Diamondbacks have reportedly toured Vancouver twice in the last two years, including B.C. Place Stadium.

The Athletic’s report says that Kendrick could control a voting bloc within the Diamondbacks’ stakeholders that controls as much as 90% of the team.

Arizona has made the playoffs just three times since 2004, when Kendrick became managing general partner.

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