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MLB's Rob Manfred Says He Rejects Idea Minor Leaguers Aren't 'Paid a Living Wage'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJuly 19, 2022

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred responded Tuesday to critics of the minor league wage scale, which has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years.

"I kind of reject the premise of the question, that minor league players are not paid a living wage," Manfred told reporters.

On Monday, the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary wrote a letter to Manfred regarding MLB's antitrust exemption, which was granted by the Supreme Court 100 years ago May 29.

Evan Drellich @EvanDrellich

News: The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has sent a letter to commissioner Rob Manfred asking for information about Major League Baseball's antitrust exemption, the latest step in the committee's inquiry into the exemption. Manfred has been asked to respond by July 26. <a href="https://t.co/IQKbj3uDZH">pic.twitter.com/IQKbj3uDZH</a>

"We seek information about how MLB's antitrust exemption impacts the league's structure and operations, with a focus on the exemption's impact on competition in the labor market for minor league ballplayers, as well as the operations of minor league teams," the committee stated.

Harry Marino, executive director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers, responded to Manfred and said "most" minor leaguers work second jobs "because their annual salaries are insufficient to make ends meet."

Zach Buchanan @ZHBuchanan

Harry Marino, director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers, responds to Rob Manfred: <a href="https://t.co/VDIPhwld8V">pic.twitter.com/VDIPhwld8V</a>

MLB raised the minor league minimum salary in February 2020, which went into effect with the 2021 season. Weekly pay increased to $500, $600 and $700 across Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A.

Last week, MLB agreed to a $185 million settlement in a federal class-action lawsuit after the league was alleged to have violated minimum-wage and overtime laws. Under the Save America's Pastime Act, a piece of legislation MLB advocated for, minor league players were exempted from minimum-wage requirements and overtime pay and not required to be paid during spring training and extended spring training instructional leagues.

Particularly given his own salary, Manfred's comments struck some as misguided at best:

Mina Kimes @minakimes

Most minor leaguers make $5-15k/year. Would love to hear Rob Manfred--who makes over $10 million--say what he thinks a living wage is! <a href="https://t.co/oo6j01whCT">https://t.co/oo6j01whCT</a>

Chris Williamson @CWilliamson44

Somebody tell Manfred to spend a couple weeks being paid like a minor leaguer and I’m sure he would quickly change up his stance. <a href="https://t.co/XbaVawDHr4">https://t.co/XbaVawDHr4</a>

Liz Roscher @lizroscher

Looking forward to Manfred freezing all his accounts to exist on what he's calling a "living wage." If that's what it is, why not prove it? Show us all how to live on a minor league salary, Rob. We yearn for your expert knowledge. <a href="https://t.co/dS1r3cd4ns">https://t.co/dS1r3cd4ns</a>

Jonathan Yardley @jtyardley

Does he not practice for these kinds of questions? Or get any feedback at all on how it comes across??<br><br>Rob Manfred makes $17m+ per year. A majority of minor leaguers make less than $30k per year, and that's probably being generous. <a href="https://t.co/QQQGYNr3Dk">https://t.co/QQQGYNr3Dk</a>

In August, The Athletic's Brittany Ghiroli canvassed 30-plus players who detailed the financial difficulties they experienced because of their pay. A member of the San Antonio Missions, the San Diego Padres' Double-A affiliate, described the situation as "brutal."

"One of the guys we traded [recently] had been sleeping in a living room with four other dudes," he said. "We are literally being used to help the MLB team. Why does he have to deal with that if he was an asset to helping the Padres?"

A member of the Pittsburgh Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis said some teammates slept in their cars rather than pay the $120 nightly rate for the team hotel.

For a number of reasons, Manfred isn't a popular figure among many baseball fans. That hardly sets him apart from his peers, though, because the nature of a commissioner's duties can often put them in direct opposition to those who follow the sport.

But Manfred's comments about minor league pay—and, in effect, his attitude toward those players—will raise more questions about whether his stewardship of MLB is actively harming the long-term future of the game.

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