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Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Rob Manfred called out by advocacy group after ‘rejecting premise’ that minor leaguers aren’t paid living wage

On Tuesday, Manfred spoke with reporters prior to the All-Star Game in Los Angeles, and was asked to explain why many minor-league players are paid below minimum wage. Manfred “rejected” the premise.

“I kind of reject the premise of the question that minor-league players are not paid a living wage,” Manfred said (via Baseball America). “I think that we’ve made real strides in the last few years in terms of what minor-league players are paid. Even putting to one side the signing bonuses that many of them have received, they’ve received housing, which is obviously another form of compensation, so I just reject the premise of the question. I reject the premise that they are not paid a living wage.”

Manfred is not blessed with great PR skills and rejecting the premise that minor leaguers are not paid a living wage only figures to inflame players. Advocates for Minor Leaguers, a nonprofit organization working to improve conditions for minor leaguers, released the following statement after Manfred spoke Tuesday:

“Most Minor League baseball players work second jobs because their annual salaries are insufficient to make ends meet. The commissioner makes an annual salary of $17.5 million. His suggestion that Minor League pay is acceptable is both callous and false.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 19, 2022 at 04:19 PM | 33 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: minor league pay, rob manfred

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: July 19, 2022 at 05:18 PM (#6087416)
Is that story accurate? Was he really asked about "minimum" wage and he turned into "living" wage? Cuz that's not how that conversation usually goes. Living wage advocates recognize that minimum wage is not a living wage (that's the whole point -- companies might be following the law, the law is insufficient) while the corporate types are happy to focus on minimum wage. Now if he was asked about "living" wage then this is a fairly standard corporate response.

Any of our lawyers following all of this closely? It seems to me things are all over the place. I thought the minor-leaguers eventually lost their argument that they weren't seasoal employees; and apparently Congress made doubly sure it was clear that they are not covered by min wage laws; but then this recent judge (per the ESPN article) ruled they are full-time. Meanwhile I have no idea how room and board is counted in these circumstances. Still, as far as I know, MLB and the minor league teams have little/no financial obligation outside the season (and spring training, etc.) I assume there are still lots of teachers out there taking summer jobs, certainly lots of academics taking on summer teaching.

To be clear, I personally think this seasonal, casual, contract employment stuff should be much more regulated, limited and put me down with the living wage advocates. But the law is the law and, with the recent changes, MLB may (may!) be going further than they are required to.
   2. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: July 19, 2022 at 10:30 PM (#6087446)
The athletic says he was asked about a living wage. And like every other greedy corporate drone, he flat out ####### lied in response.
   3. Hombre Brotani Posted: July 20, 2022 at 05:38 AM (#6087467)
Like many people in America today, Manfred believes minor leaguers, and others who make minor league money despite delivering an honest day's work, can live just fine on their meager salaries if they'd only cut out Starbucks and avocado bread.
   4. Russ Posted: July 20, 2022 at 11:14 AM (#6087478)
Even putting to one side the signing bonuses that many of them have received, they’ve received housing, which is obviously another form of compensation, so I just reject the premise of the question


This is really stupid unless the players can choose to take a wage in place of the housing. Do the minor leaguers pay taxes on the crappy housing allowances they receive?
   5. . . . . . . Posted: July 20, 2022 at 11:54 AM (#6087482)
I'm with Manfred here. This seems like a quintessential example of a field where a "living wage" is a fake concept, because no one is "living" as a minor leaguer - its up-or-out and generally by the time you're 25, you either start to make real $$ or you've moved on to a real career. No one forces anyone to become a professional athlete, there a gazillion other ways for these folks to make a living (and the vast majority of the US citizens in the minors have either (1) received substantial bonuses that, amortized over the career, push the players well above living wage or (2) have free college degrees to fall back on).

Like, I think its dumb that the majors pay starvation wages to minor leaguers; but thats because I think its penny wise and pound foolish for the teams, not because I'm worried about Joe Shortstop, who's 23 and has a degree from USC.
   6. . . . . . . Posted: July 20, 2022 at 12:09 PM (#6087484)
Also, should add that for players who are true career minor leaguers - aka minor league FAs - salaries are generally low six figures, which I assume passes the muster of even the most enthusiastic activist.
   7. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 20, 2022 at 12:33 PM (#6087487)

Also, should add that for players who are true career minor leaguers - aka minor league FAs - salaries are generally low six figures,


Do you have a source for that?

From the settlement article
The majority of the more than 5,000 players in the minor leagues make between $4,800 and $14,700 annually.
   8. The Yankee Clapper Posted: July 20, 2022 at 01:00 PM (#6087491)
I think the viable AAAA guys top 100K, as they move around trying to find a path to the big leagues. I recall an article - well over a decade ago now - noting that Cashman was willing to overpay a bit for those types when the Yankees were short on depth for a potential need. An extra $25-50K often got the player, and was virtually meaningless to the bottom line.
   9. . . . . . . Posted: July 20, 2022 at 02:00 PM (#6087496)
Do you have a source for that?

Among others,
https://blogs.fangraphs.com/the-surprisingly-complex-world-of-minor-league-contracts/

You are confusing the salaries paid in the low levels of the minors (super low, but offset by average signing bonuses >$100,000) with salaries paid to minor league FAs (a minority of minor leaguers, but the ones who are older and making an actual career out of professional baseball).



   10. Der-K's tired of these fruits from poisoned trees Posted: July 20, 2022 at 02:01 PM (#6087497)
7/8 - yeah, that's right.

i'm less on board with significantly higher minor league wages than some who otherwise share my lefty politics (we don't, after all, freak out about starving actors), but am decidedly still on board with raising them further.
1) as ag#1f and the article note, most earn under sub-poverty level. and, as yc noted, six figure salaries only go to the top tier of minor league vets. (it takes six plus years to get there, longer than the length of the average nba career.) i don't know how many people here know people in poverty or have spent time in that vicinity themselves; i don't recommend the latter.
2) a great many players do not get giant bonuses or have college degrees or whatever else one might think would make this ok.
if nothing else, look at the mass of stories about players who were living in their cars or 11 to an apartment. they weren't doing this because it was fun and if you don't consider that situation evidence that people were below a "living wage", i don't know what to tell you.
3) that mlb prohibited teams from paying minor leaguers in spring training was borderline criminal. this points to the comment about pennywise and pound foolish - even if teams were inclined to pay more, there was pressure from the league not to do so (and situations like this where it was flat out banned). as mlb has close to monopsony power, i get it - the same # of big league innings are played regardless of how you invest in the minors, so player development is zero sum for producing players. this is separate from the quality of those players - either because of how it impacts the attractiveness of mlb as a future career or how fully skills and tools are developed. to the extent that this is pennywise and pound foolish for mlb, versus for teams, is in how the minors help the game grow or not shrink. ymmv there.
4) one important difference between these players and the aforementioned actors is that these guys are tied to teams, they don't have freedom to work for other orgs at will. they are drafted and/or subject to capped bonus pools (which we know significantly depress bonuses) and then they are stuck with that org for years.
5) providing housing (the quality of which varies significantly) was a huge gain. they also, imo, should offer loads of free or highly subsidized food during the season - treating these players more like assets than lottery tickets. (there's been improvements here too.)
6) i'm not as worried about teams offering family housing to those that need it as some. that feels like something which the player can opt to pursue on their own, should they need to, perhaps with team assistance.
   11. . . . . . . Posted: July 20, 2022 at 02:28 PM (#6087501)
2) a great many players do not get giant bonuses or have college degrees or whatever else one might think would make this ok.


Is that the case? I mean, I just spot checked the top 10 position players on Somerset (the Yankees' AA affiliate), and all of them either had received a $100K+ bonus, were minor league FAs (i.e., making real money) and/or had a four year degree. I don't doubt these guys are scrounging to save money - heck, i did when i was in my early 20s - but I just can't get exercised over someone who got a $150K bonus and, if they last long enough for the bonus to run out, have a meaningful chance of making the show.

EDIT: which is not to say that it's smart for teams to chisel their MiLB players by forcing them to eat junk food or depriving them of reasonable living conditions, because it is obviously dumb and cheap and petty.
   12. Der-K's tired of these fruits from poisoned trees Posted: July 20, 2022 at 02:43 PM (#6087505)
attended college <> has a degree (i can't speak for somerset), frankly, most players that stick around for any length of time who attended college don't have (well, at least didn't leave with) a four year degree (staying in school kills your negotiating leverage); a majority of minor league FAs make 5 figures, not 6; yankees, historically, hit the minor league fa market a little harder than some other orgs - don't know about right now.
i guess the other thing here is level. AAA/AA is gonna have people on the 40 man, should have some high level minor league FAs. a majority of minor leaguers play below those levels. how do we distinguish what is "right" for a second year player versus, say, an eighth year guy? (i mean this as an open question - it's reasonable to have different standards here, i think)
   13. The Honorable Ardo Posted: July 21, 2022 at 01:15 AM (#6087559)
Manfred versus advocacy groups... it's a battle with no winners.
   14. bigglou115 is not an Illuminati agent Posted: July 21, 2022 at 10:06 AM (#6087588)
One of the things I was thinking about is the structure of signing bonuses. Look at Kevin Kopps. He got $300k. If that's a lump sum he got substantially less. That's not so bad if he immediately set it aside, but if he spent a significant portion of it, like bought a house or something, it's probably all gone now. A $300k signing bonus and 4 years of MiLB salary is probably about the same as making $100k for those 4 years, which is good, but if on the other side you're just a dude without a college degree is not "set up for life" money. You'd probably be better off lifetime if you just finished college.

And just for the record, I know Kopps finished school and is using his signing bonus to fund an MBA, but my point is a 3rd round pick should probably not be in a situation like that.
   15. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 21, 2022 at 11:47 AM (#6087598)
but if on the other side you're just a dude without a college degree is not "set up for life" money.

I think prospects are guaranteed a college education funded by their team, if they don't yet have one.
   16. . . . . . . Posted: July 21, 2022 at 12:25 PM (#6087605)
And just for the record, I know Kopps finished school and is using his signing bonus to fund an MBA, but my point is a 3rd round pick should probably not be in a situation like that.


In a typical year, 1-3 of the 30 3rd round picks become big league regulars. With that in mind, I think a $600K average bonus is pretty generous, no? And in any event, no one getting a bonus of that size should be front of the line in the fight for a "living wage" - shouldn't we be focusing on people who, though no fault of their own, weren't born with an extraordinary talent that at minimum can get them a free college education?
   17. Lonnie Smith for president Posted: July 21, 2022 at 01:52 PM (#6087621)
Respectfully, there is not a ####### thing "free" about a college education on athletic scholarship, even a partial one. Those students have the one f/t job out of season and two (including travel and games) in season. The scholarships are subject to renewal, or not, each academic year and sometimes each semester/quarter. Student-athletes are strongly directed toward classes that keep them eligible, which means it would take them longer to graduate than their non-athlete classmates.

This is straight-up blame the victims nonsense. You don't want to pay minor leaguers a living wage, fine and good. I'm sure you have your reasons. This notion that student-athletes are chasing cheerleaders and living the dream, though, that is very much incomplete and generally unrepresentative, not to mention besides the point. Amateur sports at this level is flat-out exploitation -- by big corporations disguised as athletic departments and professional sports organizations -- and presumably most student-athletes understand at some level this is not their path to the big leagues or the Hall of Fame or whatever, and they treat the experience accordingly (see: just about every female student-athlete and most of the males).

Would you feel better if the bonuses were paid directly to the moms that drove carpool and the dads that worked three jobs to pay for travel leagues? In what way(s) does this very very tiny percentage of athletes getting a bonus offend your sensibilities...?
   18. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 21, 2022 at 02:03 PM (#6087623)
Would you feel better if the bonuses were paid directly to the moms that drove carpool and the dads that worked three jobs to pay for travel leagues? In what way(s) does this very very tiny percentage of athletes getting a bonus offend your sensibilities...?

Well, for 99.9% of kids that kind of investment in athletics is mindblowingly stupid, so we shouldn't do anything to encourage it. Youth sports in this country are a colossal waste of resources. Kid should play in their local school leagues, and summer youth leagues, and that's it. Hell, if I had my druthers we wouldn't have athletic scholarships at all.
   19. . . . . . . Posted: July 21, 2022 at 02:24 PM (#6087627)
This is straight-up blame the victims nonsense. You don't want to pay minor leaguers a living wage, fine and good. I'm sure you have your reasons. This notion that student-athletes are chasing cheerleaders and living the dream, though, that is very much incomplete and generally unrepresentative, not to mention besides the point. Amateur sports at this level is flat-out exploitation -- by big corporations disguised as athletic departments and professional sports organizations -- and presumably most student-athletes understand at some level this is not their path to the big leagues or the Hall of Fame or whatever, and they treat the experience accordingly (see: just about every female student-athlete and most of the males).

Would you feel better if the bonuses were paid directly to the moms that drove carpool and the dads that worked three jobs to pay for travel leagues? In what way(s) does this very very tiny percentage of athletes getting a bonus offend your sensibilities...?


No, I would feel better if people directed their activism toward people who need it - i.e., people who are actually lower class - rather than middle class college kids playing ballplayer for a few years in their early 20s. I think the focus on the plight of the six-figure bonus baby is deeply classist and frankly offensive. But, look, there's a reason missing blondes sell papers.
   20. greenback needs a ride, not ammo Posted: July 21, 2022 at 03:17 PM (#6087631)
No, I would feel better if people directed their activism toward people who need it - i.e., people who are actually lower class - rather than middle class college kids playing ballplayer for a few years in their early 20s.

You may have stumbled onto why there aren't so many lower class kids playing minor league baseball today.
   21. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 21, 2022 at 03:35 PM (#6087640)
You may have stumbled onto why there aren't so many lower class kids playing minor league baseball today.

Because pursuing baseball as a career is a really dumb decision unless you're drafted in the top few rounds and get a $100K+ bonus?
   22. Biscuit_pants Posted: July 21, 2022 at 05:29 PM (#6087675)
Would you feel better if the bonuses were paid directly to the moms that drove carpool and the dads that worked three jobs to pay for travel leagues?


Sports are becoming more and more of a middle class thing with travel leagues, clubs, and expensive offseason programs. The only areas that can overcome this for outdoor sports are areas that never get cold enough to make you go indoors. There a poor kid can still make it on talent and ambition.

The only way I was going to go to college was through a sports scholarship, and I was/am exceedingly grateful for it. Raising my kids has shown me that there was almost no way I was going to get a scholarship if I played today. There are no 3 sport athletes anymore because 'your sport' is close to a full time job from 10ish on. High Schools coaches will tell you that they don't even look at kids that are not club kids. At least that is what they tell the club kid parents. I played for a ranked team and about half the kids never played anything but High School and rec leagues. Today, that number is zero on any ranked team.

Sports is big money, most of my college teammates make a decent amount of money coaching or private lessons, it's not a bunch of dads anymore.

I told my kids to only play if they loved it. Otherwise they need to do something that kept them in shape. Two of them found a sport, and luckily for me a non-expensive one and one took up rock-climbing.

Sports are way over the top now and we should not be encouraging people to make it a living. It should be more like what I have heard a lot of actors say some form of "I tell people not to go into acting (sports) the ones who ignore me are the ones that want to do it no matter what I say, those should be the ones in acting (sports)"
   23. Jobu is silent on the changeup Posted: July 22, 2022 at 08:20 AM (#6087743)
#5 is one of the most counterfactual "factual" arguments that I've ever seen. Perversely impressive.
   24. bigglou115 is not an Illuminati agent Posted: July 22, 2022 at 04:39 PM (#6087834)
@16, my point wasn't that a guy in that situation came out on the losing end, the point was that you start talking about a pro sports career being a break even proposition relatively early in the draft. If you're saying, "this kid probably shouldn't have chosen pro sports," in round 4, then that's a problem. Maybe not a society problem, but definitely a problem if you're a fan of the long term health of the sport, which relies on a robust minor league system.

Sure I care more about the disturbing amount of poverty in my own state, but that doesn't exclude me from thinking teams can afford to pay these guys more and will probably have to one day if they want to keep the minors viable.
   25. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 22, 2022 at 04:56 PM (#6087836)
Forgetting the moral issue of paying low rent salaries, what does it say to a prospective multi-sport athlete when he's being offered a pittance to play baseball vs. a full four year football or basketball scholarship at a university?

This is particularly an issue with high school players from low income backgrounds---disproportionately though not entirely African American, I might add---who might be the first in their family to be able to attend college, leaving them with credentials towards a prospective non-sports career even if their 1 in 100 chance of playing pro ball doesn't pan out.
   26. Zach Posted: July 22, 2022 at 07:19 PM (#6087857)
he point was that you start talking about a pro sports career being a break even proposition relatively early in the draft.

Almost all revenue in baseball is generated by the major leagues. If you're not on track to make the major leagues, it probably isn't a break-even proposition, any more than it's a break even proposition to play lacrosse or Ultimate Frisbee for a living.

definitely a problem if you're a fan of the long term health of the sport, which relies on a robust minor league system.


A robust minor league system would be one where salaries are paid from minor league revenues, and hasn't existed since WWII. Even then, baseball was a summer job for a couple of years for the vast majority of players, and almost all players had winter jobs.

The existing minor league system is a funnel for major league prospects, and is designed to get rid of minor leaguers as soon as it determines they aren't likely to be useful to the major league team.
   27. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 22, 2022 at 10:42 PM (#6087894)
Maybe not a society problem, but definitely a problem if you're a fan of the long term health of the sport, which relies on a robust minor league system.

MLB would make just as much revenue with much worse athletes. If every major leaguer active today had never been born, and they were replaced by the next best 1000 players, we'd like the game just as much. Competition is relative. It's a zero sum game.

I didn't enjoy baseball any less in the 70's and 80's when guys didn't workout, showed up hung over or on coke, and smoked during the game. In fact it was a much more entertaining game. I'd seriously question anyone saying baseball is better entertainment today than it was in 1985, despite much greater athleticism.
   28. McCoy Posted: July 23, 2022 at 11:55 AM (#6087956)
Baseball in 1985 was incredibly boring. It's incredibly boring now as well but longer.

The biggest difference between now and then is the death of print journalism, radio, and the death of sportsnew on TV.
   29. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: July 23, 2022 at 12:48 PM (#6087959)
Forgetting the moral issue of paying low rent salaries, what does it say to a prospective multi-sport athlete when he's being offered a pittance to play baseball vs. a full four year football or basketball scholarship at a university?

Seems relevant since it was a topic of discussion here a few years ago: FO: Kyler Murray gets paid
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray has agreed to a new five-year extension that makes him one of the richest players in the NFL. The deal goes from 2024 through 2028 and is worth $230.5 million, which is $0.5 million higher than the deal Deshaun Watson got from the Cleveland Browns. There is $160 million in guaranteed money. The annual value of this deal is $46.1 million, which puts Murray behind only Aaron Rodgers ($50.3 million annually).
   30. McCoy Posted: July 23, 2022 at 01:07 PM (#6087963)
If you're a multisport star athlete and baseball will only sign you with a paltry bonus baseball is probably not part of your multisport resume.
   31. Der-K's tired of these fruits from poisoned trees Posted: July 25, 2022 at 11:23 AM (#6088164)
This is separate from pay but:
Almost all revenue in baseball is generated by the major leagues.
Yes, but. I have largely lived in minor league markets, some with baseball, some without. This is simplistic but: in those places, people talk about MLB when they also have local minor league options and don't when they don't. If you ain't talking about it, you're not buying MLB.tv or whatever. This isn't the NFL or the NBA, where the college version is really popular (apologies to the SEC, where college baseball makes money) ... the idea of "X" being a loss leader normally doesn't hold a lot of water for me but I really do think that minor league baseball is pretty important in expanding the pie for MLB revenues, even beyond player development.

MLB would make just as much revenue with much worse athletes.
I think this is largely true. Not completely, but pretty close. Put a different way, having good prospects is way more important for teams than for the game. You do probably want to get a player or few "hyped" to draw eyeballs. Like, that Ohtani is in MLB grows revenue.

The issue (for me) here is twofold:
- moral issue of paying minor leaguers peanuts. Like, give them at least peanuts and lemonade.
- individual teams would likely benefit by treating them better ... so long as other teams didn't follow in turn - which they often would (increasing MLB costs without increasing revenues) or, in some cases, have been prohibited by the league from doing so.
   32. McCoy Posted: July 25, 2022 at 01:35 PM (#6088194)
The issue seems to be that there are two classes of minor leaguers, I guess 3, and how to quantify all of their benefits.


Lots of minor leaguers got signing bonuses that when factored into their regular pay will get paid well above minimum wage and even a living wage. Some minor leaguers got signing bonuses and made it to minor league FA and are making more than a living wage. Then you got whatever is left. Players that didn't get much of a signing bonus and either won't make it to minor league FA or won't get picked up even if they do. This group by their very nature don't stick around for long and probably shouldn't be encouraged to stick around.
   33. KronicFatigue Posted: July 26, 2022 at 11:21 AM (#6088297)
No, I would feel better if people directed their activism toward people who need it - i.e., people who are actually lower class - rather than middle class college kids playing ballplayer for a few years in their early 20s. I think the focus on the plight of the six-figure bonus baby is deeply classist and frankly offensive. But, look, there's a reason missing blondes sell papers.


Since baseball is a closed system, taking some money from 30 mega rich owners and redistributing to the minor league players is a bit easier than generally solving poverty as a whole. I don't stay up at night worrying about minor leaguers not making a living wage, but when presented with problem, the solution seems clear to me.

MLB would make just as much revenue with much worse athletes.
I think this is largely true. Not completely, but pretty close. Put a different way, having good prospects is way more important for teams than for the game. You do probably want to get a player or few "hyped" to draw eyeballs. Like, that Ohtani is in MLB grows revenue.


While I generally agree that MLB could lose a lot of talent and nobody would notice, it's funny that you bring up Ohtani. If MLB lost enough talent, and Trout was playing in Japan....that would be a major problem (for MLB)

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