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Rob Manfred Rejects Idea That Minor Leaguers Aren’t Paid Living Wage

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LOS ANGELES — Asked why Major League Baseball’s team owners don’t pay minor league players a living wage — whether it was because they might not afford to or because they didn’t wish to — M.L.B. Commissioner Rob Manfred suggested those players were actually compensated fairly.

“I form of reject the premise of the query that minor league players are usually not paid a living wage,” he said in a news conference with reporters before the M.L.B. All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.

“I feel that we’ve made real strides in the previous few years when it comes to what minor league players are paid, even putting to at least one side the signing bonuses that a lot of them have already received,” he said. “They receive housing, which obviously is one other type of compensation.”

How much minor league players, who are usually not represented by a union, are paid has been a very hot-button issue of late. Last week, M.L.B. agreed to pay $185 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by 1000’s of current and former minor league players over past wage claims.

Under the proposed agreement, which still must be approved by the case’s judge within the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, M.L.B. must formally notify all 30 major league clubs that they’ll not prohibit teams from paying players during spring training, prolonged spring training or any work period that will not be in the course of the championship season, which incorporates the regular season and the playoffs.

Moreover, each Congress (the Senate Judiciary Committee) and the manager branch (the Department of Justice) have recently taken an interest in M.L.B.’s antitrust exemption and the minor leagues.

Amid a wave of players and advocacy groups becoming more public with their concerns about life within the minors, M.L.B. reorganized the minor league system two years ago, a move it claimed would also result in improved working conditions.

M.L.B. raised pay for minor league players in 2021, with Class A minimum salaries rising from $290 to $500 every week and Class AAA salaries increasing from $502 to $700. And this season, it enacted a housing policy through which all 30 M.L.B. teams were required to furnish housing to most players. (Prior to now, players often needed to pay for their very own housing, which resulted in instances where several of them were jammed right into a room.)

Still, in line with Advocates for Minor Leaguers, a nonprofit founded in 2020, the “overwhelming majority” of minor league players “make lower than $12,000 — below the federal poverty line.” In an announcement issued Tuesday, the group’s executive director, Harry Marino, a former minor league player, rebutted Manfred’s assertion that they’re making a living wage.

“Most minor league baseball players work second jobs because their annual salaries are insufficient to make ends meet,” he said in an announcement. “The commissioner makes an annual salary of $17.5 million. His suggestion that minor league pay is appropriate is each callous and false.”

(M.L.B. has argued that minor league players were just like apprentices — like those in art, music and theater — temporarily aspiring to interrupt into the foremost leagues, where they’d be handsomely compensated. Probably the most talented amateur players can earn bonuses within the several hundreds of thousands once they sign with M.L.B. teams.)

Tony Clark, the pinnacle of the M.L.B. players’ union, who also met with reporters on Tuesday, and Manfred each addressed quite a few topics in regards to the sport, including the state of the annual amateur domestic draft; potential upcoming rules changes; and the competitiveness of teams.

The perimeters have until Monday to come to a decision whether to introduce a world draft, the one outstanding item from the collective bargaining agreement the edges negotiated over the winter.

M.L.B. has long wanted a world draft, while the union has opposed it. However the union has also desired to end the qualifying offer system through which draft picks are tied to top free agents, as they consider that system has hurt the market value for those players. To ensure that it to be dropped, the union would should comply with the draft.

Manfred, who has expressed interest in expanding M.L.B. to 32 teams, said he couldn’t provide a timeline on when that might occur, particularly because the continued stadium struggles of existing franchises — the Oakland Athletics and the Tampa Bay Rays — were priorities.

“I want to get Oakland and Tampa resolved before we are able to realistically have a conversation about expansion,” he said. “It’s just those situations for my part are serious enough and timely enough that they should be our No. 1 goals.”

Added Clark: “Growing the sport, we’re an enormous fan of. Expansion, we could be a fan of.”

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