Major League Baseball announced Thursday that it would be suspending the remainder of spring training and delaying the opening of the regular season by at least two weeks due to concerns over COVID-19. Shortly thereafter, Minor League Baseball released a similar statement to explain that their regular season would be stuck in an indefinite delay, with the resumption of competition nowhere in sight. Then came the news that spring camps were being shut down, with most Cubs players sticking around through the end of the month.
The same isn’t necessarily true for the minor leaguers, who know only that they are being flown out of Arizona on Sunday morning. Beyond that, they’re just as much in the dark as we are when it comes to what’s next for their development and where they need to be for the next several weeks. One prospect I talked to was repeatedly refreshing his Twitter feed hoping a beat writer would tell him what the next move would be. Another told me the biggest issue was “just not knowing anything right now, and that’s when it becomes unsettling.”
All of us are left searching for touchstones in a world suddenly enveloped in uncertainty, and athletes are no different. But what complicates the situation for minor leaguers is that they have no idea when they’ll finally be paid again.
Imagine you walk into work on Monday morning and your boss corrals you and all of your co-workers in the conference room. She tells you that a decision has been made to shut down the office indefinitely and that you aren’t going to be paid in the meantime. Finding another job isn’t an option because you have no idea when you’ll be called back, so all you can really do is hang out playing video games and watching Netflix. If, that is, you can afford the monthly subscription.
“I don’t know what I’m gonna do about money,” one prospect told me. “It sucks, man. If they pay us it will at least make things a little better instead of trying to get a job in the middle of all the chaos.”
Not that financial concerns are anything new for players in the minor league system. Every one of them who reported to mandatory minor league spring training camp last weekend had one thing in common: They weren’t being paid to be there. Minor leaguers are only paid during the regular season, which means none of them have cashed a paycheck since August of 2019. And they won’t do so again until well after the scheduled MiLB Opening Day of April 9.
But MLB announced salary increases for 2021 and the Cubs raised the minimum salaries for their minor league players starting this season, right? That’s absolutely correct, although the notion loses some of its appeal when you take a look at the numbers. The raises will see most Triple-A players earning around $14,000 for the entire season, with Cubs players coming in around $16,000 for their 20 weeks of work.
This is for athletes competing in a sport that requires constant training and practice throughout the uncompensated winter months. Showing up to camp is mandatory, but being paid for that attendance is not. It’s bad enough that these players would have waited until the second week of April to get paid, now it’s going to be an even longer wait. The young men following their dreams in the minors deserve to earn a living during their sport’s delay.
Multi-billion-dollar franchises losing a couple thousand dollars per player is nothing compared to those players losing 20% of their annual wages when every single dollar counts. It’d be nice to believe owners will do the right thing here, and maybe the really will, but I’d invite you to check out Adopt a MiLB Player just the same. They are doing great work by connecting players with fan sponsors who can prove everyday essentials they can’t afford right now. You can also check out their website to make a general donation.