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.
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.
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?