With Minor League players waiting to see the determination of their fate with the season on pause due to COVID-19, one team has already announced that they will stop paying their minor league players. Other teams are still willing to commit to paying them, however, time will tell how long they will continue.
The Oakland Athletics recently issued out a statement in regards to longer paying minor league players after May 31 which is gravely concerning for those players as they were receiving about $400 a week. This comes with the knowledge that the Athletics owner, John J. Fisher, is worth an estimated $2.1 billion and that continuing payments to minor league players through September would be about $1.3 million. While it is understood that many teams are also paying for staff and other employees throughout these uncertain times, people must not forget that without the players there would be no baseball. This also comes at a time where Major League players are fighting for their own money and minor league baseball becomes forgotten as the owners and players clash to determine financial issues. The bigger question will be how long until other teams follow suit? As well as will the minor league players seek to unionize in these uncertain times?
The talk of whether minor league baseball players should unionize has been around for a while and the challenges around making it happen are the reasons why they haven’t done it yet. The first obstacle would be the owners, who are dealing with Major League ballplayers currently and would probably rather not deal with minor league players who are just trying to make a decent living. Of course, how much should minor league players make would be an issue and while the big bucks go towards players in the Major Leagues, given the fact that baseball is a multi-billion dollar industry, minor league players should be entitled to make enough money to not have to worry about how they are going to financially support their family.
The owners and Major League Baseball itself are treating playing in the minor leagues is like a privilege as the Players Association representing Major League Baseball players doesn’t represent minor league players. In an interview with sbnation.com, former minor league baseball player Garrett Broshuis stated how he thought minor league players could unionize “What is an appropriate bargaining unit, that’s an important question and one that can be debated quite a bit. You could go by Major League organization, you could go by minor league too, where maybe you’re focused on just the International League or Eastern League. If it’s a bit smaller, it becomes more manageable then.” His offer on just shrinking how large the union would represent could give them leverage in having talks with Major League Baseball, the owners, and in the legal system as well.
Of course, unity, which is huge for any union to get established, would also be a tough challenge as fear of the owners would cause minor league players to not want to unionize. These players need to realize that strength is in numbers and that if all minor league players were to get on board, then they would have a greater chance at unionizing. Another obstacle for them would be their own teammates and Major League Baseball itself as skill also could be a reason there is no union for them, players that are in the Major Leagues have been through the grind in the minor leagues and are being rewarded by being called up and making Major League money. Competition is everything in sports, and unfortunately, there is competition in dollar figures, and players fight against each other for the highest value once they hit free agency.
Of course, I am no expert in the financials when it comes to distributing money between owners, players, and employees, however, hearing the stories that many of these players have had to face and some still being in those tough situations leads me to believe that these players should at least be making enough to get by. The real money, Major League money, can still be the reward once a player makes it and should he be skillful enough to make it through free agency with or greater talent, then he should reserve the right to get paid like it. But hearing that these players are only making $400 during this pandemic and now one team no longer supporting them while their owner is worth billions, boils down to one thing, greed.