The Nationals drew pointed criticism yesterday after cutting the weekly stipend for their minor leaguers from $400 to $300 and even evoked a prompt response from their active roster. Left-hander Sean Doolittle and several other Nats veterans met “within hours” of the news, Doolittle tweets, quickly agreeing to cover the difference and ensure that minor leaguers would be paid their full stipend.
“All of us were minor leaguers at one point in our careers and we know how important the weekly stipends are for them and their families during these uncertain times,” Doolittle wrote. “Minor leaguers are an essential part of our organization and they are bearing the heaviest burden of this situation as their season is likely to be cancelled. We recognize that and want to stand with them and show our support.”
The wave of negative backlash has clearly altered ownership’s thinking, as Grant Paulsen of 106.7 The Fan now reports that the Lerner family today sent a memo to minor leaguers informing them that they will continue to receive the full weekly stipend (Twitter link).
It’s a rather embarrassing about-face for the Lerner family. The decision to slash the weekly stipend, after all, would likely have saved in the vicinity of $80-90K in the first place. As Britt Ghiroli and Emily Waldon of The Athletic pointed out, no other team in the league has opted to reduce that weekly amount. (The Athletics, though, opted to halt the stipend entirely.) It’s not clear how the organization plans to continue beyond the month of June, although it’s easy to imagine ownership being particularly wary of bad P.R. following this situation — particularly given how poorly it was received even among their own big leaguers.
Nats lefty Patrick Corbin retweeted The Athletic’s original story on the decision and also retweeted Keith Law’s observation that owner Mark Lerner’s net worth is estimated at $5.3 billion. Yan Gomes retweeted Doolittle’s speech and added the message: “Stand together!” Max Scherzer, Trea Turner and others also retweeted Doolittle’s message — one that resonated with other young players throughout the league. Rays minor leaguer Shane McClanahan (link) and young Indians southpaw Logan Allen (link) both tweeted that they hoped to someday be in position to make similar gestures. Of course, most would argue that players should never be in the position to have to step in like this in the first place.
While the Nats’ current minor leaguers are surely breathing a sigh of some relief, the organization also cut several minor leaguers over the past week — as has been the case with most other teams. (The Royals and Twins stand as notable exceptions.) Ghiroli and Waldon have the full list of 40 minor leaguers who were cut loose by the Nats (subscription required) — a group that includes former big leaguers Mac Williamson, JB Shuck, Allen Webster and Luis Sardinas.