"They are not paying us right now,": The Grave Reality Faced by Baseball's Future

Editor’s Note: The quote from a current minor-leaguer in this story was obtained prior to Major League Baseball’s March 19 press release outlining a limited compensation plan. As Ian Eskridge tells us in this story, that’s not good enough.

Last week there were stories on every major news site that Major League Baseball, and the Major League Baseball Players Association are banding together to create a fund to provide relief for stadium workers. 

With that, there was a collective sigh of relief from the thousands of vendors that were seeing their livelihoods disappearing with every new tweet from the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization. These people that make sure to keep your throat lubricated, and your gut full while you enjoy a ballgame, will be able to semi-provide for their families in this uncertain time.   

With that announcement, two major groups have been taken care of: the players, and the stadium staff.  Minor league players on the other hand, have been continually left out in the cold.  

The issue of minor league pay has been under intense scrutiny for years. On Valentine’s Day this year, MLB sent out a backhanded valentine to the future of baseball when they announced that they are planning on increasing player wages from 38 to 72 percent, depending on the level of the player starting in 2021. But, despite the “generous” pay bump starting next season, they are still not making a living wage, for signing away their livelihoods. 

Now, these farmhands have been dealt yet another curveball with the COVID-19 work stoppage.

On March 19, MLB finally put out a statement of mercy, saying that they are going to pay out a lump sum to MiLB players. This lump sum will cover their minor-leaguers per diems from spring training, plus a housing stipend through April 8, 2020, when their season was scheduled to start.  

After waiting to get back to work and having the seasons start pulled out from under them, the minor leaguers can finally exhale, right?  

Obviously this pandemic — and it’s subsequent work stoppage — is the worst case scenario that anybody could have seen for the 2020 season. We are all at least experiencing a modicum of anxiety over this Coronavirus situation, regardless of our financial compensation. Now, imagine that you are working a job where you make between $400 and $700 per week for six months out of the year, ignoring the ability to make more due to the love that you hold for that job. You work a seasonal job in the offseason so you can try and pay bills, while also spending a large portion of your income on training.  This is the position of a minor league player.

I talked with one minor league player under the condition of anonymity and his tale is a common one during this unscheduled pandemic;

 “[They] ended up sending us back home. They are not paying us right now. I’m pretty sure only guys on the 40 [man roster] are getting paid. The non roster guys who were still on the roster at the end of the season last year are still on the big league insurance.”  

The minor-leaguers are now forced to look at a reality of living on around $400 a week until April 8, but even then, an uncertain future afterwards.  

Ineligible for unemployment due to employment contracts, and looking for non-existent jobs due to lockdowns, Major League Baseball has to stand with their future and finally treat them like humans. To not do so, is reckless and inhumane. 

Much like the 2020 Chicago White Sox marketing phrase, it’s time to ‘Change the Game.’

Follow Ian Eskridge on Twitter

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