On Wednesday, Kentucky congressman Brett Guthrie and Illinois congresswoman Cheri Bustos introduced a new piece of legislation called the Save America's Pastime Act. In a nutshell, the act says minor league ballplayers do not deserve increased pay or benefits.
Not surprisingly, Major League Baseball released a statement Thursday supporting the Save America's Pastime Act. It's actually pretty amazing to read. Here's the statement:
"There are approximately 7,500 players in Minor League Baseball. MLB pays over a half a billion dollars to Minor League players in signing bonuses and salary each year. Minor League clubs could not afford these massive player costs. MLB heavily subsidizes Minor League Baseball by providing Minor League clubs with its players, allowing professional baseball to be played in many communities in the United States that cannot support a Major League franchise. Moreover, for the overwhelming majority of individuals, being a Minor League Baseball player is not a career but a short-term seasonal apprenticeship in which the player either advances to the Major Leagues or pursues another career.
"Minor League Baseball players always have been salaried employees similar to artists, musicians and other creative professionals who are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act. Like those professionals, it is simply impractical to treat professional athletes as hourly employees whose pay may be determined by such things as how long their games last, when they choose to arrive at the ballpark, how much they practice or condition to stay in shape, and how many promotional or charitable appearances they make."
The vast majority of minor leaguers do not receive big signing bonuses -- not everyone is a first-round pick, you know -- and instead have to get by on sub-minimum salary wages. For example:
I have minor league clients making $3,000 this year before taxes and clubhouse dues. https://t.co/MzY0Oi0nIK— Rafa Nieves (@mlb_agent) June 30, 2016
Let's be crystal clear here: all this act does is help billionaire owners not spend money on minor league players. That's it. This is a way for owners to keep costs down and keep more money in their pockets. That statement is unconscionable and shameful on MLB's part. They stooped so low as to claim paying hourly is impractical because some players arrive at the park earlier than others. Seriously?
Minor league players are not "similar to artists, musicians and other creative professionals" as MLB wants you to believe. Artists and other creative professionals are free to shop their services to the highest bidder. If you pursue a career in baseball, you get drafted and that team owns your rights until you get released or reach six years of service time and become a free agent.
Let's just think about this for a second. MLB's statement says there are approximately 7,500 minor league players. Those guys are among the 10,000 or so best baseball players on the planet! If all 7,500 were paid $50,000 a year, it would come out to an extra $12.5 million per team per year. That's basically half what the Dodgers will pay Carl Crawford not to play for them this season.
No one is asking for MLB to make minor leaguers rich. Just pay them a livable wage. Players in the low minors take home a few hundred dollars per month. It's not even minimum wage. The benefits aren't all that good either. These kids are chasing their dream and MLB uses that an opportunity to pay peanuts. It's gross.
Oh, and by the way, MLB is reportedly on the verge of selling a portion of media juggernaut MLB Advanced Media, which is valued at over $3 billion, to Disney. That's on top of the league's already record revenues. Whatever the league is paying minor leaguers is a drop in the bucket. Don't let them trick you in thinking otherwise.