Major League Baseball is a sports and business powerhouse that rakes in billions of dollars a year. With player contracts totaling hundreds of millions and royal treatment for many of its employees, all looks well for MLB on a surface level.
However, under the surface, it’s almost rotten. Headlined by poor working conditions, an unlivable wage, and unreasonable expectations, Minor League Baseball was on a downhill trend.
As time passes and MLB ownership faces more backlash, how much have things changed? Have wages been lifted or treatment been improved, and if so, are we on the right track? There have been some changes throughout MiLB, but whether they’re positive or negative is yet to be determined.
The title of this section doesn’t necessarily do the topic justice. It’s not just bad; it’s terrible.
From rookie ball up to Triple-A, minor league players are treated worse than Ben Simmons is by Philly fans. One of the biggest causes for this is Congress’ ruling on the “Saving America’s Pastime” act.
This act made it so that minor league players were viewed as seasonal workers, making them not applicable to federal labor laws. As a result, minor league players get paid under minimum wage.
Simon Rosenblum-Larson, a former minor league pitcher, wrote an op-ed on the situation. He revealed the average wage for six months of play for rookie ball (the lowest level of the minors) is $4,800, while Triple-A (the highest) gets paid $14,000.
In the offseason, players are expected to maintain their play and physical ability on a half-year’s salary. Without facilities and amenities at their disposal, they are solely responsible for any training, including its funding.
Major League Baseball makes over $10 billion in revenue annually, so supplying their minor league players with a bit of extra cash seems relatively easy in the grand scheme of things. If each MLB team funneled some money to its four minor league teams, each player could easily earn around $40,000 a year, making MiLB a more viable option.
The Good … ?
Due largely to the COVID-19 pandemic, MLB recently narrowed down its minor league affiliate teams from 160 to 120. While this took the MiLB away from several markets across the country, it gave a 40-70% increase in player salaries for affiliated players.
The league also improved facilities, cut clubhouse dues, provided better work conditions, and gave almost every player housing and WiFi accommodations.
These changes are significant to some, especially those at a higher level of play. However, those at the lower levels are still being left behind. Most rookie ball players still make under $10k a year, putting them well below the US poverty line of almost $13K.
Salary increases have been inevitable for both leagues. But while MLB has skyrocketed, MiLB sputters. Although there is good here, the reality is we are still leaving some hard-working employees behind.
State of the Game
There is a lot to be desired in Minor League Baseball. As a fan myself, going to see the local Hartford Yard Goats play is a wonderful experience highlighted by some talented players. There are minor leaguers everywhere throwing faster and achieving more movement on their breaking balls than some MLB guys. Yet the disparity in recognition and pay is night and day.
Things need to change, and they need to change fast. Thousands of employees are being taken advantage of in the shackles of the sport they love so dearly. They deserve better, and should get better in the near future.
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