"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Bush Wackers

When you have a few extra minutes, do yourself a favor and check out this excellent piece by Mike Ashmore, beat writer for the Trenton Thunder. It’s about the less-than-glamorous life of a minor league ball player:

The minimum annual salary in Major League Baseball currently sits at $400,000. Meanwhile, most players at the minor league level who haven’t reached minor league free agency are lucky to make $10,000 over the course of a season; a survey of players revealed that those in rookie ball make $1,250-1,300 a month while players in Triple-A, the highest level of the minors, can make roughly $1,000 more per month while under the contracted amount.

“I think the way things are today, most people look at professional athletes and assume they’re rolling in money,” said New York Yankees Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations, Mark Newman.

“And these guys are not.”

Most players in the minor leagues — some estimates have the number as high as 90 percent — will not play in the big leagues. For most, dreams of a career at the highest level are nothing more than that, just dreams.

[Drawing by Robert Weaver, 1962]


1 OldYanksFan   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:27 am

And we wonder why guys do steroids?
Or ANYTHING that will help performance?

FUCKING MLB and Selig!
Maybe $400k/yr doesn't make you rich, but you're pretty damn comfy. But if you're not quite good enough for the show, you make between minimum wage and $30k?

That's just nuts!

2 monkeypants   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:35 am

[1] How is that nuts? The players make millions of dollars at MLB because people want to see the best of the best, not the 90% of the other guys who aren't, or the 99% of the rest of the population whose even worse. You pay top dollar to see a good doctor, but you wouldn't pay nearly as much for the guys who didn't pass their final exam, would you?

3 Eric McCauley   ~  Aug 17, 2010 12:23 pm

Thanks for linking this Alex--great piece. I mentioned elsewhere earlier today that it's really cool to see the (almost) entire Padres roster play this week at Wrigley because I got to see them over and over again when they were playing in Portland and Sacramento. I'm happy for these guys, and the Padres...one of the lowest payrolls in MLB.

[2] I think OYF meant that minimum wage to 30k is nuts, as are the salaries paid to most guys in MLB. The disparity is tough to reconcile.

Unrelated and I get your analogy, but about physicians: It's really tough to get tossed from medical school--you *really* have to screw up. So unless you're going on a solid rec or word of mouth, you just may get the person who accidentally killed a few people in a third- or fourth-year clerkship or during the intern year. Or later--it happens all the time. You don't necessarily get what you pay for, or what your insurance pays for.

4 Dimelo   ~  Aug 17, 2010 12:30 pm

[2] I think what OYF is saying is, people will do anything to get an edge just to make it to the show. I agree with him, if all that's keeping someone from making 13 times more (from 30K to the MLB minimum) is by getting noticed by hitting a few more jacks, increasing the old average, speed, etc, is by doing PEDs then the temptation makes sense. Money is the root of all evil, so this falls right in-line with the thinking of corrupt politicians, wall street bankers, bankers approving loans for people they know wouldn't be able to pay their house, etc. If you can cheat a little and make a lot more money, then for some people it's worth the risk. I don't put a high value on money, but I won't act like I might be above that line of thinking either. It is tempting.

The only thing I'll disagree OYF with is, the blame being bestowed on MLB and Selig. That's life, dude, a life of riches awaits you if you get to "The Show" - if and only if you are good enough. The system may be tough, but it is fair. Why should players in the minors make more than what they are currently being paid? If that life bugs them so much then they have a choice. They can go do something else with their life.

The same with umps, it sucks, but people aren't paying high ticket prices to see the Bison Bears from Podunk, Iowa. They want the real shit. The real shit cost money. It's the difference between buying a 3 wheeler or a honda accord. The fake one is nice and can get you to the bodega, but a a real one will get you to Hollywood - if that's where your dreams take you.

I think actors live the same kind of lifestyle, as do doctors first getting into their profession. You start from nothing, that is the beauty of life. Sometimes starting from nothing will cause people to cheat on their way up the ladder. Don't blame MLB or Selig, blame Eve...she's the root of how all evil started, allegedly.

5 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 17, 2010 12:57 pm

Ashmore's piece was excellent, and echoed the excellent documentary Player to Be Named Later, which featured Marco Scutaro before he made it to the show.

[4] Yep, these players take a risk for a very big reward, so they shouldn't be looked as as charity cases. Having said that, teams should do their best to lighten some of the burden. It seems as if the Yankees are one of the few teams that does that.

However, what this story highlights is why it is absurd for fans to continually take the side of owners on salary issues. When the owners have the hammer, they often come down on the players hard. That's why I have no problem when the shoe is on the other foot.

6 monkeypants   ~  Aug 17, 2010 1:01 pm

At the same time, the plight of minor-leaguers has to be attributed at least in part to the MLB players association, who are none too keen to share their riches with MiL players or to bargain much on their behalf. Indeed, I suspect that both MLB players and owners don't want to introduce MiL players into any negotiations because any request can be used by the other side as a bargaining chip.

7 Raf   ~  Aug 17, 2010 3:31 pm

[1] It's a pretty sweet racket, if you ask me. You miss that there are quite a few perks that come with being a ballplayer. Some get signing bonuses, which helps with the apprenticeship in the minors. Some stay with host families, so they never want for food and structure and companionship. A player in rookie ball theoretically is getting world class instruction, playing in decent ballparks using pretty good facilities and traveling in style what with chartered buses and the like.

It's a tough life, don't get me wrong, it's a tough game, but these ballplayers don't have it nearly as bad as you think, and life in the minors certainly isn't as bad as it was 10, 15, or 50 years ago

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver