With a worldwide pandemic halting the run-up to the regular season, we’ve seen Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association engaged on a variety of complicated subjects. The sheer uncertainty of the situation has created major concerns for just about everyone involved in the game — some of whom are much better situated than others to take care of themselves.
The MLBPA has acted to provide emergency funds to certain players who are now staring at a potential loss and delay of wages. It has initiated a program to provide a $1,100 weekly stipend to players that depart camp.
That effort was initially rather limited but has now been broadened to cover a wider class of MLB players. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter), the MLBPA will now offer the sum through April 9th to all players who were on a 40-man roster as of March 13th of this year, even if they were already on optional assignment. Also included are all non-roster invitees to big league camps who accrued at least one day of MLB service in the 2019 season.
Quite a few big leaguers have no real need for that kind of support, though it’s not fair to paint with overly broad strokes for the entire league. Younger and/or less-established players may not have accrued significant earnings at all to this point of their careers.
That said, the effort doesn’t address the biggest player-related need in the game: that of the many minor-leaguers who have now been thrust into quite a tough position. Those players were unexpectedly sent home rather than continuing to participate in Spring Training. And they’ve been counting on their earnings to start back up again with the new season, which now won’t occur for some time.
It’s an unusual situation, but these are unusual times. Emily Waldon of The Athletic has become an unlikely nexus point for minor-leaguers in need of some form of assistance or job opportunity and those willing to help them out. (See, e.g., this Twitter link.)
Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reports on the difficulties faced by those non-40-man players. The matter is on the table to be addressed between the league and union, he says, but the salary situation of big league players is first on the docket.
The Rays have promised their minor-leaguers a $400 weekly stipend through the end of the month. The Mets and Dodgers have done the same, per Kyle Glaser of Baseball America. Some other teams are working to do the same, per Glaser, but it is obviously a situation that seems to demand leaguewide action.
It’s an especially tough spot for these hopeful future big leaguers, Dougherty explains, because they aren’t sure what type of employment to seek given the possibility of the season re-starting. The always difficult tradeoffs of immediate practicalities and long-term dreams are already proving tougher than ever.
One might hope that the league and union act quickly to provide at least temporary relief for these players. It’s one of several major problems with numerous dimensions. And that’s all before considering the fact that many stadium workers and other seasonal employees in big league cities are now looking at lost anticipated earnings with the season on hold.