Pitchers and catchers were supposed to report to MLB spring training this week. Instead, the baseball world is sifting through the garbage that was the owners’ latest proposal to the players.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported that in its latest offer, Major League Baseball asked the players’ union for permission to eliminate hundreds of minor league playing jobs.
Teams can currently employ 180 minor leaguers under the Domestic Reserve List, which sets the number of minor league players an organization can employ at any time. The league wants to cut that number to as low as 150 over the next few years. By those calculations, that’s as many as 900 playing jobs that the league wants to get rid of.
It’s just the latest sweeping change that the league is trying to implement for a minor-league system whose shortcomings have become a hot-button issue around baseball.
MLB already cut 42 minor-league clubs in Dec. 2020, ensuring that each organization now has just one affiliate in Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, and Low-A (120 in total).
They also cut the MLB Draft from 40 rounds to 20, eliminating an avenue for nearly 600 prospects to get their foot in the door of professional baseball.
While that already led to an abundance of jobs lost — during a pandemic no less — unliveable conditions for minor leaguers have been brought into the spotlight.
A class-action lawsuit is already in federal district court that is attempting to address the below-minimum-wage salaries of the players, who also were not provided with any form of housing during the season.
Housing is now being provided while MLB raised their pay to 16,800 at Triple-A, $14,400 at Double-A, $12,000 at Single-A, $9,600 for the complex league, and $3,000 for the Dominican Summer League.
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However, MLB is not budging on its stance that minor leaguers should not be paid during spring training. Per Passan, a lawyer for MLB argued during a hearing for the class-action lawsuit that minor leaguers “obtain the greater benefit from the training opportunities that they are afforded than the clubs, who actually just incur the cost of having to provide that training.”
The line that the league and team owners are drawing in the sand is a rather clear one. Rather than paying minor leaguers, they’d rather fire them — thus limiting the growth of the game and affording fewer opportunities for teams to develop. To also think that the players would throw the livelihoods of other MLB hopefuls away like that to get the 2022 season to start on time shows just how little they care about the state of professional baseball in the United States.
In no way is this negotiating in good faith — and it’s a shrewd tactic in an attempt to make the players’ union look like the bad guys. Either they accept and spark the loss of hundreds of jobs or they decline and the owners attempt to cry that the union is being unreasonable.
All for a fistful of dollars despite the overwhelming majority of owners being billionaires.