The Major Problem with the Minor Leagues

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Current Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton signed a record-breaking $325 million deal with the Marlins in 2014. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

Saying there’s a lot of money in baseball is an understatement. Baseball contracts make up a majority of the hundred largest sports contracts in the world. Between the massive deals that pay tens of thousands per game such as Giancarlo Stanton’s thirteen-year, $325 million dollar contract and Miguel Cabrera’s eight-year, $248 million dollar contract, it is easy to assume that professional baseball players are swimming in cash. And that may very well be true—for major leaguers, at least—who earn an average of $4 million per year. But behind every great major league team is a farm system of minor league teams whose players, by comparison, earn practically nothing. According to USA Today, most minor league players earn between $3,000 and $7,500 for a five-month season. For some perspective, the average fast-food restaurant cashier r earns an average of $21,803 per year. The prospect of making millions in the majors should make struggling through the minor leagues worth it, but less than 10 percent of all minor leaguers reach the big leagues. Something has to change so that the ninety percent who don’t make it have a respectable career to fall back on.

The MLB has been able to pay minor leaguers below minimum wage because of their designation as “creative professionals”. This is problematic for players because they cannot afford the cost of living on their own nor the necessities to play baseball at a high level. As a result, players have to pool resources and sacrifice nutrition to survive. Players often have to work low-wage jobs to stay afloat. Every so often, major leaguers designated for assignment in the minor leagues are known to provide for the minor leaguers on their team. Slugger Nelson Cruz of the Seattle Mariners is known to purchase catered meals for his minor league teammates when he is on assignment. This is not to say that major leaguers’ generosity is a bad thing; rather, minor leaguers should not be put in situations in which their livelihood relies on it. Major league baseball is a multibillion-dollar business propped up by people working for less than minimum wage. At the very least, minor leaguers should be considered regular employees subject to labor laws so that front offices will have to pay them a livable wage. Alternatively, the MLB can connect minor leaguers to vocational or educational resources so that they can pursue an alternative career if they don’t pan out. Either way, the MLB cannot continue to neglect the workers that make it so successful for much longer without consequence.

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