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Playing for Peanuts


DrungoHazewood

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Anybody see this article on Baseball America? We occasionally discuss minor league salaries, but this really brings it home.

A few key bits:

"My first year in pro ball was 1974. I made $500 a month," said former Red Sox pitcher Bob Stanley, who now works as a private pitching coach. "When I got to Double-A, I made $1,000."

Today, many players receive only slightly more. In 2004, I made $850 a month. Fresh out of college, I thought I was rich. Then I realized that I had bills to pay. Luckily I had received a modest signing bonus that helped at first, but most players receive no such bonuses. Many are forced to ask their parents for help.

"My parents pay my phone bill, my car payment, and help us out with rent in the offseason," one Giants farmhand said recently. "I'm 25, married and living off of them. I wouldn't be able to play if they didn't help me."

With his wife on the team's insurance plan, premiums are deducted from his check in addition to taxes and clubhouse dues, resulting in a bimonthly check of around $308. And he is paid only during the five-month season, netting approximately $3,000 for the entire year. After receiving only a $2,500 bonus three years ago, he now has little choice but to ask his parents for help.
Still, the situation may soon reach a breaking point. One minor leaguer in the Giants system could not afford to buy meals last season. Unable to pay his bills, he had resorted to credit cards, and the debt had piled up. So he forced himself to not eat until he reported to the clubhouse, stuffing down two mid-afternoon peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

"They bring in nutritionists and tell you to eat healthy. Sure!" Stanley said. "How are you supposed to eat healthy on $20 a day?"

I understand the market economics here - there are thousands of guys lining up to take a shot at making the majors so most will do anything. But this is pretty ridiculous. You have the future of your $500M organization sleeping on the floor of an apartment with six or eight other guys eating on $20 a day, basically forced to live on Sheetz hot dogs and dollar cheesburgers at McDonalds. While getting their parents to pay basic living expenses.

You hear a lot about guys like Wieters pulling down a $5M bonus. But many of the players on the Keys or Baysox or Shorebirds make less in a year than I do in a month. And they got no signing bonus.

For a little perspective, let's assume that a typical MLB team has 200 minor leaguers under contract. And that an average guy earns $10k a year (many earn less, but a few AAA guys much more). That means $2M for the salaries of all the minor leaguers in the organization. Or less than half of Garrett Atkins' salary.

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In theory I'm pretty sure I could eat healthy on $20 a day, especially if there is clubhouse food to supplement that. But I'm sure they're using that money just to live too - supplementing rent, etc.

It's basic free market economics though - they get paid so little, because teams can get away with it. They can't really do anything about it, because the one's who are struggling enough to consider forming a union are the very one's who can't afford to rock the boat.

If I'm an owner or a GM, I think I'd want to do a little more. But I'm sure there is pressure from other teams to maintain the status quo.

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I heard Dave Johnson say that Steve made just about the same money that he made in the '80s. And that it didn't go very far then.

I know that down at Bluefield they still use host families some. I'm not sure about anywhere else.

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In theory I'm pretty sure I could eat healthy on $20 a day, especially if there is clubhouse food to supplement that. But I'm sure they're using that money just to live too - supplementing rent, etc.

I think the article says that they have to pay clubhouse dues to get the food, and that ends up taking most of that $20 a day.

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Question: Do guys in the minors get housing accomodations during the season? I know they are in hotels often, but when they are on a homestand do they stay in a team hotel or host family?

Seems like it's a combination of sharing a place with lots of teammates, or living with host families. The quote in the article from that one host family said they had something like a dozen people living with them including player's families, and that they had a $5,000 monthly grocery bill that the players were mostly unable to pitch in anything for.

In essence we have a situation where $billionaires running $500M corporations are asking for charity to feed and house their lower level employees.

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I heard Dave Johnson say that Steve made just about the same money that he made in the '80s. And that it didn't go very far then.

It's interesting that MLB salaries have outpaced inflation by many, many multiples but it appears that minor league salaries haven't even doubled in 35 years.

According to an online inflation calculator $500 in 1974 (what Bob Stanley said he was paid) is the equivalent of $2150 today. But it looks like the average today is less than $1000 a month before expenses and insurance.

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here - there are thousands of guys lining up to take a shot at making the majors so most will do anything. But this is pretty ridiculous. You have the future of your $500M organization sleeping on the floor of an apartment with six or eight other guys eating on $20 a day, basically forced to live on Sheetz hot dogs and dollar cheesburgers at McDonalds. While getting their parents to pay basic living expenses.

There is an uneven distribution of wealth in all segments of American society. It certainly is extreme here but let's remember that they are only playing for 6 months. I'm not defending the owners but this is a personal choice. A risk that one takes.

I made far less than that with no insurance and no job security as an adjunct professor for many years hoping that it would eventually turn into my profession's equivalent of the show.

Currently, I eat for between 5 and 10 dollars a day. I could spend more, but I choose not to. In India, a family of 5 can eat well for a single dollar a day.

It's a risk and they are playing a game they love to play. Yes, the wage disparity shouldn't be this extreme but it's a choice that each person makes.

Now please excuse me while I hide behind a barrier to protect me from the barrage of rotten tomatoes that will soon be thrown at me.

:leaving:

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I understand the market economics here - there are thousands of guys lining up to take a shot at making the majors so most will do anything. But this is pretty ridiculous. You have the future of your $500M organization sleeping on the floor of an apartment with six or eight other guys eating on $20 a day, basically forced to live on Sheetz hot dogs and dollar cheesburgers at McDonalds. While getting their parents to pay basic living expenses.

Sounds alot like college to me.

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There is an uneven distribution of wealth in all segments of American society. It certainly is extreme here but let's remember that they are only playing for 6 months. I'm not defending the owners but this is a personal choice. A risk that one takes.

I understand that. But some of these guys are the future of the team, guys you're hoping will be in top physical and mental shape, working on honing physical skills. Guys that teams are hoping will generate $millions in revenues for them. And the teams apparently just don't care if they are almost begging for food and shelter.

I made far less than that with no insurance and no job security as an adjunct professor for many years hoping that it would eventually turn into my profession's equivalent of the show.

You made far less than $850 a month, but only got paid six months a year? Is that adjusted for inflation?

Currently, I eat for between 5 and 10 dollars a day. I could spend more, but I choose not to. In India, a family of 5 can eat well for a single dollar a day.

Maybe the O's should put an affiliate in Mumbai. :)

I know that as a lowly civil servant I get between ~$45-70 a day for meals and incidental expenses while on travel, no matter my level of experience or pay.

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One other thing from the article:

Complicating matters, players receive no paychecks while attending instructional leagues or spring training. These events effectively turn the five-month season into seven months, giving players only a few months in the offseason to find a job and earn supplemental income.

They don't get paid for going to the instructional league. Or spring training.

So every time somebody comes up with the idea that Scott Moore or somebody needs to go to the instructional league to learn how to catch, remember, he's doing it on his own dime.

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One other thing from the article:

They don't get paid for going to the instructional league. Or spring training.

So every time somebody comes up with the idea that Scott Moore or somebody needs to go to the instructional league to learn how to catch, remember, he's doing it on his own dime.

Yep, getting that callup to the big club is a big deal in more ways than one. Among other effects, they can make as much in one week at the MLB minimum as they make in an entire season at AA or AAA.

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I was thinking the same thing! Top Ramen noodles anyone??

You read my mind. Substitute Ramen noodles for Sheetz hot dogs and a couple of big law firms for the $500 million organization and you just described my house senior year.

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