MIAMI -- Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark acknowledged Tuesday that he is aware of the living conditions minor-league players endure, since he played minor-league baseball, made sub-poverty wages and lived in cramped quarters. He elaborated:
"We've done what we can where we can," Clark said after I asked him about the subject at the Baseball Writers Association of America meeting. "We represent the players on the 40-man rosters, 1,200 members. But we are watching and stay connected to everything that happens in the professional baseball community.
"It's a personal trek for me. We do what we can where we can in support of those guys. Invariably those guys are going to become our members. We understand the challenges involved. But we also appreciate the challenges surrounding what they're trying to do."
Minor-league players often stack up five- or six-deep in a rundown two-bedroom apartment. They're making far less than minimum wage, often a few hundred bucks or less a month. Basically, they're living far below the poverty level, and very few people seem to notice, or do anything about it.
In the context of a BBWAA meeting, it was unlikely that Clark was going to say anything revelatory. Still, this remains an untenable situation. Major-league teams do everything in their power to suppress the cost of labor. Since major leaguers have a union, they're protected. Minor leaguers, who are affiliated with MLB teams just as much as major leaguers are, have no such protections. It's a terrible situation, and it would behoove the MLBPA to reconsider who they admit as members, and whose rights they work to protect.
As Clark himself said, "Invariably those are guys are going to become our members." It's time to treat them as such.
I spoke to Clark off the record following his talk in front of the BBWAA members at large. I'll fulfill my promise to keep our chat off the record, but will say this: Behind the scenes, there have been discussions on how to solve the problem of sub-poverty wages for minor-leaguers. Absorbing the approximately 4,500 players who toil in the minors at any one time into the MLBPA isn't on the table. But alternative methods to offer help have been put forth.
For the sake of the thousands of kids playing in the bushes who have absolutely no rights and next to no income, here's hoping those discussions start to bear fruit soon.