Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More on "Playing for Peanuts"

Okay, so after months of waiting, Baseball America finally printed my article on minor league salaries. I was beginning to wonder if it fell through some fiberoptic blackhole between St. Louis and Charlotte. Alas, it was finally found (probably buried under a stack of Ryan Sadowski rookie cards).

I wanted to give everyone a brief synopsis of the article. More importantly, I also want to provide a few numbers that were sent to the trashbin (with the Garrett Broshuis rookie cards). Here goes:

While salaries within Major League Baseball have escalated exponentially since the 1975 Seitz Decision established the modern free agency system, salaries of minor leaguers have barely budged. Though data on past minor league salaries is hard to obtain, estimates were made by talking to former players. In 1975, salaries for minor leaguers were the following:

· Short season A: $500
· Class A: $750
· Class AA: $1000
· Class AAA: $1250

Salaries today stand at $1100 in Short-Season A, $1150 in Class A, $1500 in Class AA, and $2150 in Class AAA; a total average increase of 74%. This pales in comparison to the almost 7000% increase in average MLB salaries over the same time period ($44,676 in 1975 to over $3.2 million today) and 2400% increase in MLB minimum salaries ($16,000 to $400,000). Meanwhile inflation has increased by almost 400%.

This results in many ballplayers living an impoverished lifestyle despite playing in front of record minor league crowds. The fact that salaries are only paid during the five month season and not during spring training and instructional leagues exacerbates the problem. Most players make less than $7500 per year and in a tough economy have been unable to supplement their income through offseason work.

One former roommate elected not to eat breakfast or lunch in order to save money. He instead waited until he arrived to the field each day around 2 pm, where he then devoured two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Other quotes within the story provide further revelations:

“We had twelve players, two wives and a baby staying with us all at once,” said Barbara Rothstein, a former host mother for the Norwich Navigators, the then Double A affiliate of the New York Yankees. “We didn’t charge them a dime. One month we had a $5800 food bill and we tried collecting $20 from each, but some of them couldn’t even afford that.”

“My parents pay my phone bill, my car payment, and help us out with rent in the off-season,” said one Giants' minor leaguer. “I’m 25 years old, married, and am living off of them. I wouldn’t be able to play if they didn’t help me.”

There are many reasons for this situation. Minor leaguers are not represented by the MLBPA and have no union of their own. Additionally, the large pool of players willing to do anything just for a chance to play creates little pressure to increase salaries. This is evidenced by the supply of cheap labor playing in the independent leagues. Lastly, actual minor league affiliates pay no part of minor league salaries even though they profit directly from their play. Many minor league franchises are now worth in excess of $20 million. Though the idea is unpopular, it may be time to shift some of the cost of minor league salaries to the actual minor league affiliates.

Players often cram into a two-bedroom apartment during the season to save money. Almost all of them sleep on air mattresses. Some skip meals to save money. Baseball is taking advantage of young men with dreams, and this should change.


obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

I totally agree. Great article!

Hopefully Neukom will read it or have someone show it to him.

If he is serious about making our player development the best there is, raising the salaries would allow more of their prospects to do what is necessary to become the best baseball player they can be, instead of having to scrimp by not eatting breakfast and lunch.

That is so not cool putting employees into such a position in order to survive on their poor salary.

Jeff Perro said...

Wow!! Jeez.... Minor league affialates paying the players they're making money off of!?! That sounds like that's gonna be a touchy subject! I can't wait to hear more about THAT!

Anonymous said...

Stupid question, but in terms of those salary numbers you posted, is that per month? Per 2 weeks? It can't be per year. Just trying to figure out what the math actually adds up to.

Anonymous said...

The numbers are PER MONTH. Players are ONLY paid while they are IN-SEASON, so a first year monthly salary in short-season of $1100 would only amount to $3300 before taxes and clubhouse dues. A single-A player would get $1150/month, or $5750 for the season before taxes and clubhouse dues.


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gbroshuis said...

Yes, definitely per month. And I guess it should be called playing for peanut butter instead of playing for peanuts.

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