The MLB is officially in a lockout as of December 1st, as negotiations between the MLB and the MLB Player Association have reached a stalemate. Both sides seem to know what they want to talk about but can’t come to terms on an agreement on just about all of them. But what about Minor League players?
MLB vs. MLBPA
Both sides have their wants and their demands, but can’t come to terms, leading to the lockout. Reforms like earlier free agency, higher minimum salary, higher luxury tax thresholds, and a lottery-style amateur draft. But funny, something seems to be missing in these negotiations. Minor league players.
There is little to no mention of changes that would affect minor leaguers in the CBA. And that’s because there aren’t any unless you consider draft changes and higher minimum salary for new MLB players. But that’s laughable. It doesn’t change the livelihoods and lifestyles of the minor leaguers.
Both the MLB and MLBPA are ignoring a large part of what should be their constituency, as most MLB players should know the hardships of playing and attempting to thrive in the minors on such a minuscule salary and subpar living conditions.
Minor Leaguers’ Situation
It’s no secret that minor league players don’t get paid nearly as well as MLB players. But just how bad is it?
Just before the 2021 season, it was announced that minor league players would all be getting a pay raise anywhere between 39-72%! That sounds amazing, right? Wrong!
Pre-2021 Minimum Weekly Salary
2021 Minimum Weekly Salary
% of Increase
2021 Yearly Salary
These salaries are based on only 5 months of work. That’s right. Minor league players only get paid for 5 months of the year and many live below the poverty line established by the government.
But in the eyes of many, they are viewed as seasonal workers, even though they work on their craft all year round. If they do not, they risk losing their spot on a roster.
Many are forced to work jobs in the offseason just to be able to survive the coming season. This means they have to work to make money, then still have the time and energy to train their baseball skills.
Up until just this past summer, minor leaguers were also mostly responsible for payment of their living arrangements in the town they were assigned to. This put an even greater strain on the players and their measly salaries.
At the end of this past season, it was announced that minor league teams and their MLB parent organization would be required to provide adequate housing for all minor league players. This is a step in the right direction, but still a long way from paying minor leaguers an acceptable salary.
MiLB Should Be Part of the MLBPA
The MLB Players Association could, and should, easily bring the entirety of the minor league player body under neither the umbrella of the MLBPA. It currently includes minor leaguers who are on the 40 man roster list, mostly because those are the players who are on the brink of breaking into the MLB, and would be joining the MLBPA anyways. But those players are already at the top of the MiLB pay scale.
The MLBPA could fight for the rights of the minor league players by standing strong for a much higher minimum salary. Helping these players earn a better living would make their lives easier and even possibly raise their ability to play the game at a higher level. So why not do it?
Some quip that there are just too many players and not enough resources to go around to encompass the MiLB players. But honestly, it’s another case of the haves and have nots. Simply put, the MLB players don’t want to raise the level of the minor leaguers because those are the players that want their jobs and the MLB players don’t want to help them in any way, shape, or form.
Others view it as a right of passage. Many MLB players had to trudge through the same, if not worse conditions, than current minor leaguers.
Some think it’s what truly makes someone tough enough to handle playing at the MLB level. Whatever the case may be, the minor leaguers get stuck holding the bag asking for change on the corner just to make it to the next payday.
Until the stigma of minor league versus major league players is erased and minor league players are brought into the MLBPA, baseball will continue to struggle and not have a unified front when confronting the MLB and the owners of the MLB organizations. And at the moment, baseball can use all the help it can get as the lockout a possible delay to the 2022 season looms eerily ahead.