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At last, it appears MLB is going to address the minor league salary issue

Better late than never, I suppose.

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Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball players make good money, even minimum-salaried players, who this year will receive at least $555,000. Many of them make millions, even tens of millions.

Players in the minor leagues, most of them, don’t make this kind of money, and in fact, have to live much of the time in-season on sub-minimum wages.

Josh Timmers has written about this topic here at BCB numerous times, including three times in the last week or so alone, here, here and here. The last of those links includes a link to this article written by Emily Waldon at The Athletic in which she details the tough lives most minor leaguers lead. If you aren’t yet a subscriber to The Athletic, it’s worth it just to read that.

Late Monday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan posted an article in which he states that sources told him that MLB owners had been meeting with representatives of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the group that operates the minors, and that “sweeping changes” could be coming to the way those clubs are operated, including salaries and better working conditions:

“We have received many questions regarding the decision of the Toronto Blue Jays to increase the salaries of minor league players,” MLB said in a statement to ESPN. “While each Club makes its own decisions regarding minor league salaries, the Office of the Commissioner is presently in negotiations with the National Association of Professional Baseball on the terms of a new agreement between the Major Leagues and the Minor Leagues to replace the agreement that expires in September 2020. The working conditions of minor league players, including their compensation, facilities and benefits, is an important area of discussion in those negotiations.”

The Blue Jays announced last week, as first reported by Ken Rosenthal in The Athletic, that they are going to increase the salaries of anyone who plays for any of their affiliated clubs — all the way down to the Dominican Summer League — by as much as 50 percent. This is obviously a good thing, especially after a federal law was passed last year — after lobbying by MLB — exempting minor-league players from having to be paid overtime, despite the fact that minor-league players (just like major-league players) are obviously working far more than 40 hours per week.

The ESPN article notes a lot of the public pressure that’s been placed on MLB to improve working conditions and salaries for minor-league players:

A class-action lawsuit filed against MLB is currently awaiting an appeal from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on its class certification. Garrett Broshuis, the lawyer arguing the case and a former minor league pitcher, is hopeful the conversations between MLB and the minor leagues can lead to substantive amendments because, he said, there are plenty of areas to amend.

”If Major League Baseball is serious about improving, there are so many different places,” Broshuis told ESPN. “College baseball players receive a higher per diem than minor league baseball players do. College players don’t need to pay clubhouse dues, whereas minor league players do. You look at housing, where you’re making so little that six players live in a two-bedroom apartment on air mattresses. That’s less than ideal.”

It’s really unconscionable that a $10 billion business like Major League Baseball can’t find perhaps $1 million or $2 million per team to pay minor leaguers a living wage. The Blue Jays’ move might have galvanized the entire industry. It would seem obvious that giving minor leaguers better working conditions, food and living conditions would help them play better and be better prepared for promotion to the major leagues. While MLB apparently now is leaning in the direction of doing the right thing, it’s too bad that they had to essentially be shamed into doing it.

I hope that improved conditions for minor leaguers can be put in place soon. Doing that would be good for all of baseball. As always, we await further developments.