A few days ago we were applauding Dodgers’ pitcher David Price for stepping up for the Minor Leaguers who fall into two categories: the haves and the have-nots. Roughly 40% of minor leaguers received signing bonuses of at least six-figures during the draft, free agency, or as an international signee or earned enough money because they were a major leaguer at points in their career. The other 60% are the majority of minor leaguers who signed for $5,000 to $25,000 are the “have-nots” who least can afford making less money. The Nationals were the latest team to cut into their pay according to Brittany Ghiroli of The Athletic. She reported that the Nats will continue to pay their minor leaguers, but will pay them $300 per week instead of $400 per week that was previously agreed to.
Keep in mind that minor league pay overall is a joke as these players live far below the poverty level and are exempt from minimum wage standards thanks to the “Save America’s Pastime Act” that Congress had passed in legislation stripping minor league players from protection under minimum wage laws in 2018. Their pay system had come under fire in Congress once again, and that pressure got MLB and their Minor League affiliates to change the pay system for 2021. But the 2020 pay system remained virtually unchanged and still had the majority of players set to make $290 – $350 per week if the 2020 minor league season was played. On the surface, $300 a week in pay sounds horrible, but that is actually still a slight raise for all GCL and all “A” ball players at Auburn, Hagerstown, and Fredericksburg who were earning the mandatory $290 before. For Double-A players, they were making $350 a week during the five-month pay season, so yes, they are taking a $50 pay cut except for the players who are on the 40-man roster who are getting paid through the MLBPA pay plan if no season is played. For Triple-A players, if they did not have veteran status or were on the 40-man roster they were making $502 before they took a pay cut to $400 and now to $300.
Part of the problem with players finances is that during the season most Double-A players and below live rent-free through the host family programs that is common in the minor leagues. When some of these players return home, that means paying rent for many and no off-season jobs due to COVID-19. It is the double-whammy so on the surface this is why many are actually have less now even if the weekly check is more than what they were making before. One twenty-two year old said he had to move back in with mom now.
We sent out messages to over a dozen minor league players looking for reactions, and shockingly got no negative responses to the new $300 pay per week. One Double-A player responded, “Better than nothing” and he was a player set to make $350 a week if there was a season, but one of the fortunate players that got a nice bonus when he was drafted.
Here are a sampling of many responses from #Nats minor leaguers. Not one negative word. I’m pleasantly surprised. pic.twitter.com/Er7ERSlsJ2
— Talk Nats ⚾ (@TalkNats2) June 1, 2020
These players are not working technically for the team right now as there was a COVID-19 work stoppage, and it is evident the minor league season will be cancelled. Most of these players are back in their off-season homes except for the players from Venezuela who are still in a West Palm Beach hotel — yes, paid for by the Washington Nationals. There is still an issue getting these players home. Aldrem Corredor, Israel Pineda, José Sanchez. Tomas Alastre Ángel Guillen are the Venezuelan minor leaguers still in West Palm.
When teams agreed to $400 a week in pay for April and May for minor league players, it was to make it easy across the board. The optics of the Washington Nationals cutting the pay to $300 looks bad when your principal owners are on the Forbes billionaire list, but so is the Marriott family and other corporate billionaires who have chopped heads and are paying nothing to employees. The Marriott Corporation last year turned over $1 billion in profit and reportedly furloughed “tens of thousands” of employees. In contrast, the Nationals made about $27 million according to Forbes after their windfall from winning the World Series which saved the team as they were looking at a huge loss after regular season revenues fell due to attendance dropping from 2.530 million in 2018 to 2.260 million in 2019 . MLB teams do not report profits, and the Forbes estimates are the best guide we have. Suffice it to say that what Marriott made in just one quarter last year was more than the Nats made in the last 10-years combined. Unfortunately, this year if no baseball is played, the Nats and most teams will lose more money than they made the last 10 years.
Baseball teams true value is built into the valuation of the franchises if they were sold. They do not generate profits like Fortune 500 companies. First, you have to be über rich to buy a franchise — just ask the dynamic duo of Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez how tough it is to raise a couple billion dollars to purchase the New York Mets. While they are reportedly still trying to pull it off, they will need someone of extreme wealth (more than they have combined) to make it happen.
If there is good news for the Nationals minor leaguers, Sean Doolittle tweeted out that the Nats players will step up to help the minor leaguers. I had already pledged that I would help raise money as I think we would have plenty of fans who would step in.
Players had a zoom call right after the news broke. Every player wanted to do something to help. It was unanimous. Proud to be a part of this group.
— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) June 1, 2020
This is the solidarity you hope for and maybe the Nationals will rethink the $300 per week for the minor leaguers and step in. Yes, other teams have cut back on their minor leaguers including the Oakland A’s who won’t pay them at all; but we expect more from our Nationals team.