While billionaires and millionaires compete for bragging rights, let’s take the time to focus on the baseball players who are actually suffering from the coronavirus pandemic and Major League Baseball’s continued revenue dispute: minor-league players.
The pandemic and MLB’s negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association has resulted in teams having to layoff and/or furlough employees and minor-league players.
The minor-league ranks are the backbone of baseball. What happens when a player on an MLB roster gets placed on the injured list? The team calls up a player from the minor leagues. What typically happens after the injured player returns? The player previously called up gets sent back down. Where do teams send their top prospects/draft picks to develop? The minor leagues.
According to Daniel Gallen of pennlive.com, the average annual salary of a Single A player last season was $6,000; for Double-A players, it was $9,350; for Triple-A players, it was $15,000; according to Statista, the average annual salary for a major-league player was $4.36 million.
Most minor-league players aren’t top prospects being prepped for the big leagues. The majority of them won’t play a game at the MLB level. They’ll continually make a low salary. In this case, low literally means low.
Minor-league players are blue-collar athletes. For a sport’s sake, they have a low salary. Their job is to play ball for an MLB team’s minor-league affiliate. Now, it’s their choice to play. That said, they continually grind and currently can’t corral a steady paycheck, and some may have second or third jobs, as is.
Playing sports in an organized way is a blast and provides life lessons. On the other hand, it can be a cruel business, like many others. You’re certainly playing for the love of the game, but you also have to think about your financial well-being. Most MLB players don’t.
It’s the same concept with the NBA G-League. The average annual NBA salary this season is $7.7 million. According to Adam Zagoria of Forbes, the average annual G-League salary is $35,000.
G-Leaguers are playing for the love of the game, but some don’t know how much longer they’ll be able to keep it up from a financial standpoint. Sometimes draft picks get sent to their team’s G-League affiliate to work on their game; this takes away from players who are present the entire season.
To be clear: the premise of this article isn’t meant to come off as MLB upper management and players not caring about minor-league players; that would be unfair. Most, if not every big leaguer was once a minor leaguer.
Select players and teams have sent money to minor leaguers who have been cut and/or in general. That’s extremely considerate, and those who do as such deserve props.
The sad reality is that minor-league players are expendable to MLB franchises. They can always replace them and the focus isn’t on the teams they play for: it’s about whether they can help the big-league club. The monstrous business deals, eyeballs, and fans go to the big leagues.
At times, management may look at players’ statistics to determine who gets called up. Meanwhile, a top prospect’s presence could overshadow the success a player six years older or the team, in general, sustains. When a major leaguer is making a rehab start, they’re the story, which is understandable; it’s simply another way a minor-leaguer’s play can be overlooked.
Then you have the element of age. How often do we see position players over 30 struggle to get long-term contracts? Now think about what it’s like for a minor-league lifer hovering around 30: the first thing that stands out is their age, not statistics.
If an MLB season takes place this year, chances are there won’t be a minor-league season. If there somehow is, it likely won’t go much further than Triple A. It’s more leagues and humans for the sport to worry about; they won’t make money off it.
No fans in seats means no fans buying tickets, food, and souvenirs. It will result in less advertisements and promotions based on no one outside of those running and playing in the games seeing them. Plus, it’s highly unlikely they broadcast MiLB games. Most people will opt to watch the big-league game.
If Commissioner Rob Manfred announces that a 2020 season will take place, he and the sport will be met with joy, and rightfully so; it helps everybody, whether it be players, stadium workers, or management. That said, it still doesn’t ensure anything for a minor leaguer, especially those who have played in the ranks their entire professional career.
Everyone has been affected by the pandemic and the sport’s negotiations in some way. Perspective is important. Just because someone is loaded doesn’t mean they aren’t losing something valuable in their lives. At the same time, the idea that MLB players with multi-year, guaranteed salaries are being stripped of their livelihood is pushing it.
MLB players just need a season to begin. Minor-league players have no clue how much that helps their case. Some may have to move on from their passion; they’re the players who suffer, not the ones who play in front of enormous crowds and get payed gigantic salaries.