Some teams are beginning to take steps towards changing things for the better. While at the Winter Meetings, I heard one official claim that an increase in minor league per diem was being discussed. I almost took off my shirt and ran around Indy half-naked, but I've been unable to confirm this (other people I spoke with said they hadn't heard a darn word about it). I'm hoping it was at least informally introduced. I'll keep working on it.
One thing that seems more concrete comes via Blue Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos. In a fan chat, he recently talked specifically about minor league per diem:
We addressed improving the nutrition at the big league level last year and I've talked to our Minor League trainers and strength coaches about doing so in the Minor Leagues. MLB rules dictate that club pay their players $20 a day for meal money, we've already instituted a policy to increase that to $25 a day in addition to having our strength coaches work with clubhouse people to provide nutritional and healthier options for our players.
This is a very sound policy. The minor league players are the future of major league organizations. Yes, only a small percentage of them eventually make significant contributions, but they are the future nonetheless. Wouldn't it make sense for the players to eat healthy?
One good thing about Anthopoulos' statement is that the strength coaches are going to work with the clubhouse people to ensure that better options are available. With around one half of daily calories consumed at the clubhouse, this is an easy fix. Teams can throw all the meal money they want at players, but if crappy food is all that is on the pre-game and post-game spread, then they're going to eat crappy food.
A little more should be done to educate players as well. Let's face it, most of us are 22 or 23 year-old guys. Guys don't always think about fruits and vegetables. Some teammates are just clueless when it comes to food. More knowledge on the subject couldn't hurt.
The increase in per diem for Jays' players is great news. Meal money has been at $20 a day as long as most in the minor leagues can remember (some former minor leaguers claim it was at that level in the mid-90s, others disagree). When you eat as much as a young male athlete, this isn't nearly enough.
A quick assessment of the cost to the Blue Jays reveals the following:
Extra $5 per day for around 70 games played on the road=$350 per player.
Around 26 players on each minor league roster= $9100 per team
Four full-length teams= $36,400
Two short-season teams= around an additional $9100
Total cost (not including spring training, extended spring training, etc.)= $45,500
This is slightly less than the amount the BlueJays paid to Lyle Overbay each game in 2009 ($49,074--and seven cents per game).
I think teams can afford an extra $5 in meal money. Hopefully more teams follow in the birdsteps of the Jays.