MiLB President Pat O’Conner On Low Minor League Wages

By Mets Daddy

December 20, 2017 2 Comments

While it has long been an issue, the topic of Minor League Baseball wages is once again a hot topic.  While it is not a very popular opinion, baseball justifies the wages as a function of their view of players as “apprentices.”  On the converse, each and every minor league player views baseball as their profession, and they ultimately have the goal of playing in the Major Leagues.

The topic has been a hot button issue with Major League Baseball winning the legal fight on the strength of its antitrust exemption.  The exemption was a large reason why the case Miranda v. Selig was not granted certiori by the Supreme Court, i.e. the Supreme Court will not overturn a decision affirming the pay scale for minor league baseball players.  This could very well have a negative impact upon the pending class action lawsuit, Senne v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball.  That case is much more limited in scope as it specifically addresses those states with specific labor laws.

With that backdrop, Josh Norris of Baseball America had a wide ranging interview with MiLB President Pat O’Conner.  Naturally, the topic of player wages emerged.

On the topic of the classification of players as short-term apprentices as opposed to their being employees, O’Conner said:

In a technical, legal sense we can debate what that title is. I don’t think that minor league baseball is a career choice for a player. Anecdotally, I tell people all the time, if I’m a scouting director and I sign a player and ask him, ‘Son, OK, what’s your career goal?’ (and he says) ‘I want to be a career minor leaguer.’ We’re tearing the contract up. You’re not here to stay long.
On the topic of baseball as a career choice, O’Conner said:
This is not a career choice, and people want to debate about the fact that McDonald’s worker make more than minor league baseball players, and that’s a fact. But I don’t think that somewhere there’s a major league in French fry prep that makes $550,000 (as its) minimum wage or starting wage.
*   *   *   *   *
How about the analogy that you’re chasing the brass ring and this is not a profession.
When looking through the prism of paying players a minimum wage, here are O’Conner’s statements about what a typical minor league player’s day is like:
OK, you come in at 2:00. You don’t have to be there till 3:00, but you come in at 2:00. From 2:00-3:00, you play cards. And at 3:00 you go out for infield or extra hitting or whatever, and then you come back and you take an hour. While the other team’s hitting, you take an hour and you get a sandwich that I (the club) pay for and you eat it. Are you working?
Certainly, these quotes do not paint O’Conner in the best light.  That goes double when you consider how little minor leaguers make.  In response to a Darren Rovell tweet about a Jaguars practice squad player making $6,500 a week and living in his car, Anthony Kay and P.J. Conlon had this to say:
https://twitter.com/TonyBuckets18/status/943218358744440832
https://twitter.com/pjconlon29/status/943235232559329280
However, it should be noted O’Conner did note in his interview that he believes an “adjustment in salary” is merited, but in doing so he did note that giving them an hourly wage where they are entitled to overtime is complicated.  What that adjustment will be is anyone’s guess right now.  Hopefully, it will be sufficient enough that players will not have to find a way to pay the bills on $6,500.

  • Ernest Dove

    The baseball minor league system and its pay has always been fascinating to me. I’ve always gone back and forth playing both sides here.
    Too many factors in play.
    16 & 18 yr olds getting 6/7 figure contracts before they even step on a field vs the college guys who get like $1-10K to start.
    Work 6 months out of the year and when not practicing or lifting weights your actual “job” is like 3 hours long in a day.
    Then there’s fact that some minor league games now are televised. Can/should those players in those games get paid more?
    Without the “career minor leaguers” on the field to help provide competition and development of top prospects there would be no top prospects taking over the mlb every year ready.
    Or should they treat milb like how guys in MMA and boxing do when they don’t have major contracts with UFC or boxing promoters? Those guys work normal jobs, train like people with gym memberships go workout and get paid whenever they get to fight?…….and on and on and on

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