MLB Under Attack On All Sides For Failing To Pay Mimimum Wage

Major League Baseball may still enjoy immunity from federal antitrust laws, but that immunity doesn’t mean the league or its teams can ignore federal and state laws that require employees be paid a minimum wage.

So say several lawsuits and other legal actions filed against MLB and several teams in the last year. The latest lawsuit, filed last week in federal court in San Francisco, could significantly change the economics of the league were it to succeed. In that case, three former minor league players filed a complaint against MLB, the Giants, Marlins and Royals on behalf of 6,000 current and former minor leaguers claiming that minor league salaries violate federal and state wage and hour laws.

Last summer, a volunteer at All-Star Week festivities in New York sued MLB in federal court in Manhattan for violations of federal and state wage and hour laws. He claimed that he provided services for which he should have been paid at least the minimum wage. The case is pending.

And the federal Department of Labor is investigating the Giants and the Marlins for failing to pay team interns a minimum wage. It’s the second DOL investigation of the Giants. Last year, San Francisco settled a claim by DOL that the team had underpaid clubhouse attendants who often worked long hours for less than minimum wage and didn’t receive overtime pay. The Giants paid more than $500,000 to resolve claims involving 74 clubhouse workers.

DOL’s investigation of the team’s internship programs comes during a time of heightened scrutiny of unpaid internships. The department issued new guidelines in April 2010 limiting the definition of an intern to people: participating in a program primarily for educational purposes, for the benefit of the intern; who didn’t displace paid workers; who didn’t perform duties that benefited the company; and who didn’t expect a job offer at the end of the internship. A court decision in 2012 holding that two unpaid interns on the movie Black Swan should have been paid at least the federal minimum wage has unleashed a wave of litigation against media companies by current and former interns.

According to a report on FairWarning, the investigations involving the Giants have MLB officials worried and prompted league COO Rob Manfred to send a memo to all teams in September with a reminder of the importance of complying with federal and state wage and hour laws (FairWarning obtained a copy of the memo, which you can read here). MLB then invited representatives from DOL to meet with team executives during the Winter Meetings in Orlando in December. Those meetings did take place, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The claims by interns and volunteers pale in comparison, however, to those asserted last week by the three former minor league players. The 50-page complaint (link here) details the long hours of training, practicing and playing demanded of minor leaguers in return for a below-poverty level salary — somewhere between $3,000 to $7,500 for a five-month season. By contrast, the minimum salary for a major league player is $500,000. A few high profile draft picks are rewarded with million-dollar signing bonuses, but those are the exceptions, not the rule, the complaint asserts.

The collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the MLBPA governs a good portion of a minor leaguer’s working conditions, even though he’s not a member of the MLBPA and has no way of influencing the negotiations. Several efforts over the years to form a minor league players union have failed.

The legal claims are based on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the federal statute that creates a national floor of wage protection for workers. Employers must pay employees the minimum wage for a 40-hour work work and time-and-a-half for overtime. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. State laws can and often are more generous to employees, both in setting the minimum wage and in defining the groups of employees covered by the wage protection provisions. The complaint asserts claims under California, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and New York law. All of those states but North Carolina have minimum wages higher than $7.25 per hour.

The key battle in the lawsuit will come down whether minor league ballplayers are covered by the FLSA and similar state statutes or are they considered exempt employees. You can read the full list of statutory exemptions to the FLSA here. The exemption most likely to come into play is for employees of certain seasonal amusement or recreational “establishments.” Indeed, in the volunteer/All-Star Week lawsuit, MLB filed a motion to dismiss the complaint and argued that “professional sports events are amusement or recreational establishments under the FLSA. My quick review of the case law suggests this a fact-intensive inquiry — i.e., not one easily resolved by a court on an early motion to dismiss.

MLB will also fight hard to keep the court from certifying the case either as a class action or as one for “collective action” under the FLSA. Once certified, the plaintiffs who file the lawsuit prosecute the case on behalf of themselves and other similarly-situated employees. Obviously, the stakes are much higher — and the potential damages much greater — if the claims relate to 6,000 minor league players and not just the three who originally filed the lawsuit.

One particularly interesting aspect of the case involves the plaintiffs’ attorneys. Garrett Broshius, who played in the Giants’ minor league system for several years, is now a lawyer and player agent based in St. Louis. While in the minor leagues, he wrote a regular column for Sporting News on life in the minors and maintained a personal blog where he critiqued the working conditions faced by minor league players. His firm is one of two representing the plaintiffs. The other firm is a small, well-regarded litigation boutique based in San Francisco with experience in prosecuting class actions and antitrust claims.

Wage and hour law was not my area of expertise when I practiced law. But after reviewing the complaint, the statute and recent case law, it appears to me that the minor league players have an interesting and substantive case and one that won’t be easily or quickly dismissed by the court.




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Wendy's baseball writing has also been published by Sports on Earth. ESPN.com, SB Nation, The Score, Bay Area Sports Guy, The Classical and San Francisco Magazine. Wendy practiced law for 18 years before beginning her writing career. You can find her work at wendythurm.pressfolios.com and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.


150 Responses to “MLB Under Attack On All Sides For Failing To Pay Mimimum Wage”

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  1. Remus says:

    First luxury taxes, and now this? Commies are ruining baseball.

    -9 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • deathtoallpoliticians says:

      yeah, remus. paying minimum wage to people is somehow the work of the commies. did it ever occur to you that the minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour while mlb has recorded record 2013 PROFITS exceeding usd$8,000,000,000. definitely the work of commies. man, where did you do your research and go to school? cheers!

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      • James says:

        *whooooooosh*

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      • RMD says:

        That number is revenue, not profits.

        Anyway, it’s pretty clear that if MLB were to raise the pay for minor leaguers and pre-arb players it would be a relative pittance to do so. It would also likely bring more talent to try and play baseball rather than NCAA football or basketball.

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        • deathtoallpoliticians says:

          wow, am i wrong. you are correct and i am totally wrong. my bad. that is REVENUE and not PROFIT. i really, really screwed that one up. however, as you pointed out, paying minimum wage is not going to break the bank for mlb. once again, i was wrong regarding mlb PROFITS and admit it. totally my bad. thank you for the correction. cheers!

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      • NS says:

        You aren’t good at reading things or writing things.

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        • deathtoallpoliticians says:

          i admit i screwed up on PROFIT versus REVENUE. this does not change the underlying thrust of my argument. however, i was definitely wrong. no doubt about it. cheers!

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    • Los says:

      I know this is a joke, I just don’t get it. But our somewhat violent friend needs to calm down.

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      • deathtoallpoliticians says:

        i admit i screwed up on PROFIT versus REVENUE. this does not change the underlying thrust of my argument. however, i was definitely wrong. no doubt about it. cheers!

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  2. John says:

    How could he sue, this article says he was a volunteer. A volunteer is someone who does not get paid. What a joke.

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    • Anon21 says:

      Minimum-wage laws set certain restrictions on who can be considered a volunteer entitled to no compensation. I’m not an expert, but I believe one important limitation is that for-profit entities are not allowed to accept “volunteer” uncompensated labor.

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      • That Guy says:

        The volunteers aren’t entirely uncompensated. They are given shirts and hats and free entrance into the events they offer to help at. I used that a few summers ago to take my kids to the FanFest. Took me about 3 hours of my time, and my kids and myself got in for free. The shirt isn’t terrible either. Everyone that I worked with thought it was great.

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        • Anon21 says:

          Again, I’m not an expert, but I don’t think labor law allows for this continuum of compensation. If you’re exempt from minimum-wage laws, the entity doesn’t have to compensate you, but if you’re covered by them, you can’t just bargain your way out of the law’s requirements with swag or perks.

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        • bjoak says:

          Man, you are so lucky; I’ve been trying to talk my boss into paying me in shwag keychains instead of money for years now.

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        • Jason B says:

          My family hasn’t eaten in *weeks*, but goddamn do we love these “LES EXPOS 1994″ t-shirts featuring Delino DeShields!

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    • Neil says:

      That doesn’t mean that you can exploit the volunteer. He may not have been aware of his rights, or aware that he was being asked to do work for which others are paid.

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    • byron says:

      You can’t just call any position a “volunteer” and not pay them anymore than you can call any position a “dog” and not pay them. Just because you call it something doesn’t mean it actually is that.

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  3. semperty says:

    I wonder forcing teams to pay more for minor leaguers would lower the ceiling for major leaguers, or if owners would just flush the system with more money.

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    • walt526 says:

      I think it’s possible that we’ll see a lower minor league or two be contracted if the outcome is that it costs substantially more to employ minor leaguers. This could be a boon to independent baseball, which might not be a bad thing.

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      • Mark W says:

        It would be interesting to compare the wages of the players in a well run Indy League (like the Atlantic League) to a similarly situated High-A league.

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    • BrocNessMonster says:

      Drops in a pail.

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      • RC says:

        Agree that its drops in a pail.

        There’s a ton of value in the minor leagues. They probably save enough money bringing up Rookie A instead of Rookie B (with info gleaned from the minors) to pay for almost the entire minor league team’s roster’s salary.

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      • Eric R says:

        The complaint states, “routinely working over 50 hours per week (and sometimes 70 hours per week)”.

        The minor league baseball season is roughly 20-weeks long; at 55 hours per week that is 1100 hours. ~$5k is $4.54 per hour.

        Minimum wage, at $7.25 or more is an extra $2.70, times 1100 hours times ~125 per team is an extra $371k per team. Some states have higher minimum wages and tack on the extra employer side taxes and lets say $400-500k per team.

        Granted, that doesn’t include pre-season, post-season and off-season training. It could be a lot more if they are asking for a bump for every minute they put in.


        Couldn’t you argue that this is more an apprenticeship than a job? The players are getting free use of the facilities, medical coverage and access to elite coaching and trainers.

        If each minor leaguer gets 50 hours of time with a quality hitting coach over the course of the season, lets say valued at $100 per hour, that is a $5000 benefit. Maybe the teams should bump up the average pay to like $20k, but bill the players for coaching and not offer a stipend for food and lodging…

        +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Tim A says:

          8 Billion dollars with a B in baseball, and we cant afford to at least pay everyone minimum wage, come the fuck on, biggest exploitable asset in baseball right now is spending money to make minor leaguers lifestyle more conducive to professional athletes. Supplement all the food costs, and have a nutritionist with every team designing custom diets for each player. Doubling your investment in your minor league system comes at the cost of a 1WAR player in the majors, but gives you a higher volume of low cost high upside 1-6 service time players, I think its worth it, especially since it wouldn’t even count towards mlb payroll.

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        • Neil says:

          I don’t see how you could argue that the minor leagues resemble an apprenticeship program, apart from the fact that they are ‘learning’. They’re accessing a lot of work-related training, sure, but that’s hardly unique to apprenticeships.

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        • Anon21 says:

          Yeah, I think the reasoning you use to get to “apprenticeship” is unsound, Eric. If development time with hitting instructors counted as “compensation,” my employer could deduct the rental cost of my computer from my pay, reasoning that if I didn’t work for them, I wouldn’t get to use it. Both the computer and the instruction are provided at the employer’s behest and for the employer’s benefit. That has nothing to do with the minimum rate at which the employee must be compensated.

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        • M W says:

          ~125? Try 225 if not more! Most organizations have 7/8/9 minor league teams now. The Reds currently have about 275 players under minor league contract.

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        • Andy says:

          Apprentices get paid. Their pay rate is subject to minimum wage laws, and that rate is frequently higher than minimum wage, because of the scarcity of people with the requisite skills and training necessary to fill the job. Part of that apprenticeship agreement is that the apprentice will have the opportunity to learn from a fully-trained and skilled practitioner of the craft, in exchange for lower, though still legal wages.

          Your suggestion that a minor league job is in fact an apprenticeship for a job in the majors supports the belief that minor league baseball players are paid illegally poorly, and I agree entirely with it.

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  4. RC says:

    My understanding is that seasonal workers are not entitled to minimum wage.

    Now, I think thats a little ridiculous, but I’m pretty sure its legal.

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    • semperty says:

      I’m honestly not sure, but I believe you’re right. I worked at a local theme park that’s only open April-October, and there were constantly rumors that ownership was thinking of cutting the pay (despite most of us making minimum wage).

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    • TKDC says:

      I think it is bullshit to call minor leaguers “seasonal employees” and beyond that the whole seasonal employee exception in bullshit.

      I really hope they win.

      +21 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • TKDC says:

        To expand on that, and I’m not willing to look up the laws, employees that are basically obligated to work from year to year are not really seasonal. Being a professional baseball player is not a seasonal job, it is a full-time, all year, year after year commitment, and their employer effectively controls them. Paying them less than minimum wage, even when factoring in signing bonuses, is disgusting.

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        • RC says:

          Minor League baseball players are no more obligated to work year-to-year than fisherman who owe money on their boats, or any other seasonal worker.

          I agree its disgusting, as I frankly think you shouldn’t be able to run a business if you can’t pay your employees a living wage (which is much higher than minimum wage), but that’s not the labor frame of reference that we live in.

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        • Wil says:

          But the baseball season with playoffs and pre-season lasts over 8 months. Is that really “seasonal”?

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        • NS says:

          “basically obligated”

          Clever. The word basically here is a substitute for the word “not”.

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    • Anon21 says:

      Wendy addresses that in the post; it’s not all seasonal workers. As an example, you can’t legally pay a seasonal agricultural worker less than minimum wage.

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    • M W says:

      The following are examples of employees exempt from both the minimum wage and overtime pay requirements:

      Executive, administrative, and professional employees (including teachers and academic administrative personnel in elementary and secondary schools), outside sales employees, and certain skilled computer professionals (as defined in the Department of Labor’s regulations) 1

      Employees of certain seasonal amusement or recreational establishments

      Employees of certain small newspapers and switchboard operators of small telephone companies

      Seamen employed on foreign vessels

      Employees engaged in fishing operations

      Employees engaged in newspaper delivery

      Farm workers employed on small farms (i.e., those that used less than 500 “man?days” of farm labor in any calendar quarter of the preceding calendar year)

      Casual babysitters and persons employed as companions to the elderly or infirm

      The following are examples of employees exempt from the overtime pay requirements only:

      Certain commissioned employees of retail or service establishments

      Auto, truck, trailer, farm implement, boat, or aircraft salespersons employed by non?manufacturing establishments primarily engaged in selling these items to ultimate purchasers

      Auto, truck, or farm implement parts?clerks and mechanics employed by non-manufacturing establishments primarily engaged in selling these items to ultimate purchasers

      Railroad and air carrier employees, taxi drivers, certain employees of motor carriers, seamen on American vessels, and local delivery employees paid on approved trip rate plans

      Announcers, news editors, and chief engineers of certain non?metropolitan broadcasting stations
      Domestic service workers who reside in their employers’ residences

      Employees of motion picture theaters

      Farmworkers

      Certain employees may be partially exempt from the overtime pay requirements. These include:

      Employees engaged in certain operations on agricultural commodities and employees of certain bulk petroleum distributors

      Employees of hospitals and residential care establishments that have agreements with the employees that they will work 14?day periods in lieu of 7?day workweeks (if the employees are paid overtime premium pay within the requirements of the Act for all hours worked over eight in a day or 80 in the 14?day work period, whichever is the greater number of overtime hours)

      Employees who lack a high school diploma, or who have not completed the eighth grade, who spend part of their workweeks in remedial reading or training in other basic skills that are not job specific. Employers may require such employees to engage in these activities up to 10 hours in a workweek. Employers must pay normal wages for the hours spent in such training but need not pay overtime premium pay for training hours

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      • Gyre says:

        That list would seem to inclue baseball players. If the poor sod in the engine room never gets it, it’s hard to see a class given the ‘extras’ of players making a case. However, common sense no longer rules, just the roar of the crowd.

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    • paul ab says:

      A store that hires a temp for the holidays doesnt have to pay minimum wage?

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  5. Solid article and certainly an interesting thing to talk about; moronic comments aside.

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  6. ankle explosion hr celebration says:

    I’ve never understood the point of having a minimum wage if it was so trivially easy for companies to get around it, via “interns” or “seasonal workers” or what have you.

    I’m glad those exemptions are now being challenged seriously. Maybe one day we’ll have an actual for-real minimum wage.

    +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • TKDC says:

      The intern thing is a huge problem in DC and I’m sure in other high demand industries (like I’m guessing LA and NY). People from families with means can work unpaid internships that lead to all of the jobs. If you don’t have that, you’re at a distinct disadvantage. And our government fully participates in this, though they are starting to pay interns at federal agencies, Capitol Hill is still only a place where young rich kids can get internships.

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      • ankle explosion hr celebration says:

        yep, the unpaid internship actively works against social mobility. It’s pretty gross.

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      • RC says:

        It’s not just DC.

        Even in low paying sectors (like exotic animal Vet Techs, and such), many positions require full time unpaid internships before they’ll hire you.

        As to ankle’s post, almost everything in our work environment at this point works against social mobility. For all the talk about America being the land of opportunity, we’ve got a much heavier caste system than most of the developed world.

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        • Mr Punch says:

          The seasonal exemption is there for kids – lifeguards, etc. – though it has been abused. The big exemption is for jobs with tips, where the minimum wage is much lower. It’s no coincidence that we’ve been hearing from food service workers.

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        • ankle explosion hr celebration says:

          Mr Punch: the thing is, if it’s there for kids, then make it age-limited; it’s really that simple.

          I don’t even think it should be there for kids, honestly. I mean if they’re doing the work, why shouldn’t they be paid appropriately?

          RC, sadly true. Somehow the idea of that anti-mobility tendency being applied to internships and other semi-educational things particularly offends me, though, because it’s actively repressing people who are doing their best to learn a skill, to improve their position in the world. It’s basically just providing rich people with a tidy reason to declare their superiority: “Oh, but I spent so much time learning at these elite institutions.” Never mind the fact that the only reason you got the opportunity to do so is precisely because you were rich to start off with. Sickening.

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        • NS says:

          “The big exemption is for jobs with tips, where the minimum wage is much lower.”

          Rubbish. If tips+wage do not exceed the federal minimum wage, employers are required to pay it.

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        • NS says:

          “I don’t even think it should be there for kids, honestly. I mean if they’re doing the work, why shouldn’t they be paid appropriately?”

          What constitutes “appropriate pay” is obviously the core issue. The fact that any fumbling teenager can do the job tells you a lot about the value of that job just in terms of supply alone.

          There is a reason price fixing has never worked. Value is subjective and “appropriate pay” differs from one market to the next (even for the same exact job) the same way the “appropriate price” of any other commodity does.

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        • ankle explosion hr celebration says:

          By appropriate pay, I meant the minimum wage. Sorry if that wasn’t clear. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the minimum amount any large employer should be paying people, teenagers or otherwise. And yes, plenty of fumbling teenagers do exactly the amount of work of equally fumbling adults.

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        • NS says:

          I understood what you meant and it is perfectly circular. There is no good reason to assume the minimum wage is appropriate for any given job, let alone *every* given job.

          The fact that fumbling teenagers can do it means almost *anyone* can do it, which means the supply is enormous. Prices are determined in part by this factor. The market value of a lot of labor is well below minimum wage.

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        • JoeElPaso says:

          Even if the market value of a “lot” of jobs is below minimum wage (boldly claimed, but I am not sure that is empirically true), it is just one more example that market values have limitations, and we can justifiably do other things. Clean air and clean water, for example, are often “external” to market values. So also is a basic level of income in exchange for actively working: a very desirable value.

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        • NS says:

          That was weird. You pointed out that my claim was bold and unempirical and I was though to my self “huh, he’s right. He must be pretty sharp,”

          And then it was as if you wanted to out-do me, and proceeded with an impressive series of bold and entirely unempirical claims yourself, as if you were completely unaware of what you were doing.

          “Market values have limitations” is tautological, neutral, and imprecise. “We can justifiably do other things” is obvious, but advances the idea that we *ought* to do other things 0 degrees.

          Environmental issues are almost never externalities when you start from first principles rather than defaulting to the model of a centrally planned, corporate “free market”.

          Price controls have literally never worked. (You’ll note that is different than saying “price controls have never benefitted anyone”, so you can save yourself any examples of that.) Many of you have come to believe that wages are different from prices, but this is just a mistake.

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        • Erik says:

          It’s really a question of the value these jobs are adding to the corporation. If a seasonal employee is only adding $6 an hour of value to his company he will not be hired.

          If we are in a high labor supply economy, which we are, and there is a job that adds $15 in value, the company can hire 2 workers for minimum wage to do the job. Up the minimum wage to $15 and one guy gets laid off, or hours get cut in half.

          We can’t force square pegs into round holes. The fact that some people ignore the existence of these examples in the real world need only look at the number of illegal immigrants here in California working for cash under the table doing jobs at significantly below minimum wage. There are here specifically because of the large gap in the minimum wage and the marginal value so many real jobs actually add.

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        • Jim Rouse says:

          I’m a Licensed Vet Tech, and worked a 200 hour internship for zero wages. I had classmates that did get paid on their internships, but there are reasons why you might prefer to NOT be paid. Since I was unpaid, I could more or less dictate what I wanted to do on my internship, on a day to day basis. If I wanted to spend the day assisting in surgery, I had the right to do so. Since they weren’t paying me, they couldn’t just assign me to kennel duty, cleaning litter pans, etc. The people that did get paid, made $7-9 per hour. $1400 to $1800 pre-tax isn’t nothing, but it wasn’t worth having a poor learning experience, either.

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        • @NS: When you say, “Price controls have literally never worked,” what’s your criteria for something having worked? It’s possible that no instance of setting price ceilings has achieved its stated objectives (unless those objectives were so narrow as to be essentially meaningless), but plenty of economists think the price floor on labor has achieved its objectives and contributed positively to pretty broad ideas of economic and social development. Maybe they’re all wrong, or maybe you have a different idea of a working policy.

          I’m also curious what “first principles” you build from to create a system where environmental issues aren’t externalities. They’re usually treated as externalities in economics, so I’m just curious, not arguing. I’m always looking for new ways to approach environmental issues.

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  7. Mike Green says:

    Thanks for this, Wendy. It would be a mighty shame if it came down to occupying a minor league ballpark!

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  8. walt526 says:

    Are the MLB clubs the legal employers of the players? I thought that minor league teams were affiliates of MLB teams, but operated as an independent entity. That is, a player signs a contract with a MLB team, but the team then assigns the contract to one of it’s affiliates. If so, shouldn’t the lawsuit be brought against the minor league team? Obviously it’s the MLB team that has the deep pockets, but it seems to me that the harm is being committed by the minor league team that requires the player to work the extra hours.

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    • Richie says:

      Made sense at first, but then I thought it over a bit. Whoever has your contract is your employer. Like a consultant that works for Deloitte, gets sent to Atlanta for 6 months to work for XYZ and Sons, he’s still Deloitte’s employee during that time.

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      • bjoak says:

        Hopefully Wendy can weigh in on this. The language of “purchased his contract from” when teams bring up minor leaguers is confusing. Obviously the MLB team decides on the wages and the minor league team has no control over who they keep or lose, i.e. they have no control over their own payroll–so who really pays?

        I think my assumption has always been that the MLB team pays a lump sum to the minor league affiliates who then pay the players.

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  9. Ben Hall says:

    Thanks, Wendy. It seems that every time I read something you wrote I get an understanding of an issue that I wouldn’t otherwise have. I really appreciate your writing here.

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  10. Brian says:

    The reality is that paying low-level minor leaguers a decent salary is a rounding error for most teams in this day and age. Even if they decline to do it for the sake of being decent employers, you would think it would be sensible from the perspective of ensuring players’ focus on the task at hand.

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  11. gnomez says:

    I used to work (as an “intern”) for an independent team – one day I ran the math for my monthly salary, and realized it came out to roughly $1.30 an hour. This wasn’t just an office job, either: it was everything, from ballpark ops to IT work to janitorial duty, and exhausting to boot. I also wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.

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  12. Lex Logan says:

    Generally minimum wage laws are a terrible idea; mostly, they create a major obstacle for those trying to enter the work force. In the case of minor league players, interestingly, I doubt that even the mooted $10+ per hour wage would have any effect on clubs’ willingness to pay. Basically, it would be a minor tax on monopoly profits. However, there is no obvious reason for Congress to concern itslef with baseball. Ordinarily I would say that the law is the law, good or bad, but now we have a President who feels free to only enforce laws selectively, so that arguemnt won’t fly. Anyway, thanks again Wendy for another interesting report.

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    • JoeElPaso says:

      Empirical research has shown that this claimed effect of minimum wage laws is not true, at the level they are currently at (or even significantly higher). Google minimum wage Card Krueger .

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    • jfree says:

      I agree that generally minimum wage laws are bad economics and counterproductive. But that is solely because labor markets are generally competitive. Historically, the only exception has been small-scale things like a one-employer town. Or, in theory only, a one-closed-labor-union town.

      But baseball is not a competitive labor market. MLB is a trust/monopoly and it has been specifically granted the exemptions from its cartel behavior by both Congress and federal courts. And it is interstate as well. So this may well be one of the ONLY cases where an enforced federal minimum wage makes economic sense. And because Congress explicitly granted MLB the anti-trust exemption, then Congress is ultimately responsible for every single consequence of actual/potential harm caused by MLB’s monopoly/cartel behavior.

      The problem for these players/employees is that they worked in states with a higher-than-federal minimum wage. ‘Federalizing’ the issue will result in a lower claim than they deserve. Further, the MLB/federal government relationship is a textbook example of (pick your word) cronyism/kleptocracy/’govt failure’/’regulatory capture’/plutocracy.

      I wish these guys a lot of luck in their case. But asking for fair treatment from a government-protected kleptocrat is pretty much the definition of futility.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Mr Punch says:

    The unpaid internship thing is tough. Legally an educational link is required – but colleges must consider that unpaid work tends to discriminate against low-income students who need a paycheck. And especially in today’s job market, with few youth jobs yet an expectation of work experience, young people often do benefit. I favor enforcing the law and then deal with the consequences, but there will be costs incurred all around.

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    • Richie says:

      Once the consequences are inevitably worked through, the costs will be incurred entirely by the companies no longer getting free labor.

      I mean, I understand internships aren’t solely a wage dodge, that maybe a 20-year-old getting her occupational feet wet at Wendy’s Fashions isn’t generating $10 worth of value for the business each hour. At absolute most, this is an argument for a tightly-constricted, seasonal lower tier minimum wage.

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  14. Brian says:

    How absurd that a “free country” makes it illegal to volunteer your time to whoever you choose.

    -5 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • bjoak says:

      The idea is that workers are free from exploitation. The words “volunteer” and “for profit” don’t even make sense together when you think about it. How do you act as a “volunteer” if you’re making a profit, whether it is for you or someone else?

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      • Brian says:

        I know what the idea is. It’s just fucked up. You can only volunteer your time to a profitable company if you are rich enough to spend thousands on post secondary education. People aren’t allowed to make that decision for themselves.

        Likewise, why shouldn’t people be allowed to play minor league baseball for next-to-nothing? Clearly, there are thousands of people that will willingly do this, for the small chance that they will get a shot at the big leagues. Teams don’t make any money off of them. If they did, they would be willing to out-bid other teams and drive up the prices. Make minor league salaries minimum $50K and watch the amount of teams shrink. It’s not like the pre-Marvin Miller days; there’s no reserve clause artificially keeping prices down. Minor league teams simply don’t make much money. The players who actually do have their salaries artificially suppressed are the ones taken in the first few rounds of rule IV draft. Most of them end up being paid pretty handsomely anyway.

        -5 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Simon says:

          Given the vast amount of surplus value that MLB teams generate from successfully developing talent through the minors, it’s totally illogical to suggest that there would be a reduction in the number of minor league teams if everyone was paid $50K as a minimum.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Erik says:

          Not sure I agree with this.

          The problem with minor league baseball is that there is a system in place that completely restricts competition. Players are signed to six year service contracts and subject to a draft system that completely destroys any real negotiating power they may have had. There is no system outside of MLB that offers the chance of playing in the major leagues, and the federal anti trust exemption ensures that no other league be able to compete.

          There is plenty of reason to argue that MLB teams could benefit from paying minor leaguers more, but they have no direct force pushing them to do so, so it will not happen.

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      • NS says:

        Just change the syntax to reveal your non-sequitur:

        “If you’re making a profit for you or for someone else, you cannot be a volunteer.”

        That obviously doesn’t follow.

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    • Jason B says:

      …because there are lots of people lining up to volunteer their time down at the ol’ Regions Bank/Comcast office/Whataburger?

      If people want to volunteer their time, there are *scores* of organizations who would LOVE to have them.

      (I think you’re in search of a nonexistent problem.)

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      • Brian says:

        So you don’t think they should be able to choose where they volunteer their time, and you don’t think they should be able to choose where to be an unpaid intern in order to improve their chances of getting a better job in the future? If that’s your opinion, that’s fine, but that is staunchly anti-freedom.

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        • Minor Leaguers Who Want To Be Able To Buy Food says:

          F*ck Freedom.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Naliamegod says:

          Studies have shown that there is no advantage to being an unpaid interm.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Simon says:

          Many people would love to have the freedom to donate chunks of time to better their future career prospects. Unfortunately, they’d starve if they did. Strange that sort of freedom isn’t an issue for you here.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Jason B says:

          I think you’re still in search of a non-existent problem. Of course people should be able to volunteer to do as they please for the benefit of whomever they please. Freedom is good and options are good; the more of them, the better.

          But can you go from the vague, theoretical notion of “FREEDOM = GOOD!” to offer concrete, real-life examples of “Gee Betty Jo wanted to volunteer to do X but they turned her away!”

          I am expecting not. People can ALWAYS find outlets for their desires to help people, and do. If needed I can supply the names of dozens of organizations who would appreciate their time and efforts.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Travis says:

    While I agree that minor leaguers probably deserve more money, in the end it is going to come down to what hours are actually considered working. Game time, team practices, team meetings is work but does that really get players to 50-70 hours a week. Seems like those things would be closer to 30-40 hours a week. What is time in the weight room considered? Doing cardio? Watching film? Extra BP? Is this work or is this personal betterment? Are they counting commute time as work when on a team bus?

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    • Nathaniel Dawson says:

      They should be considering commute time as paid time. If a company sends you somewhere to do some work for them, wouldn’t you be expecting to get paid for travel time?

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      • Nick says:

        Commuting is not the same as business travel. People don’t get paid driving to work at mcdonalds.

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        • Nathaniel Dawson says:

          That’s be great if every ballpark he’s required to play in was within 30 miles of where he lives.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Travis says:

        Travel Away from Home Community:
        Travel that keeps an employee away from home overnight is travel away from home. Travel away from home is clearly work time when it cuts across the employee’s workday. The time is not only hours worked on regular working days during normal working hours but also during corresponding hours on nonworking days. As an enforcement policy the Division will not consider as work time that time spent in travel away from home outside of regular working hours as a passenger on an airplane, train, boat, bus, or automobile.

        From DOL, so I don’t think it would be considered work time.

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        • Andy says:

          the point here, I think, is that _every single minute_ of a road trip is, for the purpose of the section outlined above, time spent working, and therefore subject to minimum wage laws.

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  16. Johnhavok says:

    I have never understood why baseball franchises dont take care of their mionor league players better in every aspect. You’d think they would want their players not to have to worry about the small stuff, like whether or not thay can afford to eat right, and focus on getting better at baseball. Yes there are some guys who get multi-million dollar signing bonuses, but for every one of them, there’s 10 guys whose signing bonus was nothing but the cost of the plane ticket to Florida or Arizona in the spring.

    1,100 per month for your first contracted season in the minors… maximum. Directly from the milb.com website. 25$ per day meal money. Nobody can live on that.

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    • NS says:

      Nobody can live on that? Do you think minor leaguers are dying?

      Moreoever, when you factor in the $25 per day, that’s $1600 per month. People all over the world survive on $400/wk and less.

      You’re talking nonsense.

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      • pft says:

        That’s the maximum, not everyone is getting that. Also, people all over the world don’t all have the same cost of living. Survival and living are not necessarily the same. Not to say minimum wage is a living wage, its not, but these players are making less 1/2 the minimum wage if the 3000 per 5 months is true.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • NS says:

          “Survival and living are not necessarily the same.”

          That’s rich. I bet you’re going to supply a very specific, useful definition of living and not just fumble around in the gray.

          It’s great that you understand the cost of living varies market to market. So does the cost of labor. Trying to fix either of those costs is a fruitless endeavor wrought with unintended consequences.

          Not only can people live on what teams pay, they very obviously do – en masse. They’re literally all doing it right now.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Jason B says:

          Yes, people are living on $11,000 a year, or $16,000 a year, in this country. And are HEAVILY subsidized for doing so through scores of assistance programs, both governmental and otherwise, tax credits, etc. Perhaps if they made something closer to a living wage, some of those programs (the costs of which are ultimately borne by taxpayers to a large extent) can be scaled back, or they will qualify for fewer of them?

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • NS says:

          “And are HEAVILY subsidized for doing so’

          Some are. Some aren’t.

          “Perhaps if they made something closer to a living wage, some of those programs (the costs of which are ultimately borne by taxpayers to a large extent) can be scaled back”

          Yeah, the state is always scaling back its size and spending. Especially social programs. People always want fewer and fewer entitlements; it’s just human nature.

          Nope. And in the first place, the proposition that if you simply pay more to all of these people, they will be able to afford more on their own is unsound. Markets adapt. Try to control one price and you’ll lose the difference in the others.

          Try to control all the prices! That’ll do it.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Jason B says:

          You’re right. Let’s just pay everyone shit. Hey, if we made it out, bootstraps derp, everyone can just as easily, amirite?!

          Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Naliamegod says:

        You’re ignoring that the average minor leaguer is spending more money than the average person due to being constantly on the road. I remember reading an article that the food stipends for minor leaguers is a joke, and most of them have to pay out of pocket to get a good meal.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • SillyGomez says:

          Don’t many (most?) low level minor leaguers have host familes in the teams city that provide them with a place to stay and presumably, food? Should the host families get paid too for the hours they put in?

          Vote -1 Vote +1

    • jfree says:

      MLB has an exemption from anti-trust law. This is entirely the result of that. They can do whatever they want – exploit players/employees, exploit taxpayers, put a crappy product on the field, kill off the sport of baseball in any town they want, etc. And if anyone sitting in a garage has a ‘bright idea’ to create a better product to satisfy customers/fans, then MLB can (and most certainly has/will) kill them off (business-wise). And there ain’t nothing anyone can do because – MLB owns your politician who decides what is legal and what isn’t.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. Semi Pro says:

    Arguing a baseball player is a seasonal position because they get the winter off is like arguing a teacher is a seasonal position because they get summers off.

    +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. rocket man says:

    The guys running these teams today are corporate, ivy league boys. Why should they be any different than most fortune 500 companies, which owe the basis of their success to massive quantities of slave labor? Just got off the phone with my tv provider talking to my customer service agent in Manila.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • NS says:

      A revealing anecdote if ever there was one. That agent in Manila was making a fortune before the evil foreign corp showed up and made him work for way less.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • rocket man says:

        If your out their in the world and willing to work for peanuts, an American conglomerate will find you. Patience.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • NS says:

          *Will come and find you and pay you more than you would otherwise make, which is the only reason you’d take the job in the first place by definition.

          Pure evil!

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Rawlsian says:

          We are stuck in a world in which the means of living (money, food, shelter…) are kept in the hands of private entrepreneurs, whose primary interests must be profit, meaning that if we want to maintain an existence, we must subject ourselves to whatever the entrepreneurial class demands. Without any democratic, political representation, we find ourselves in the same position is slaves; not complying means starvation, homelessness and death.

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        • John Rawls says:

          Derp!

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        • Erik says:

          @Rawlsian

          By “not complying” you mean ‘choosing to be a bum.’ That is always a choice. For those who want to be lazy, and contribute nothing to society you can always become a bum and panhandle your way to survival. That the people who choose to work for a living will look down on you is not a bad thing, it’s good for society.

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  19. Dusty says:

    Baseball is a masonic ritual. America’s Pastime…sports are one of Satan’s greatest distractions. Home plate is a “poly”gon containing an upside-down five pointed star within it. The logos are rife with fallen angel symbolism. Houston, home of NASA and the Astros, has a pentagram logo.

    Why wouldn’t you have to sell your soul for pennies to be one of it’s pawns?

    Don’t get me wrong, I love baseball. I just love Jesus more.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. truth says:

    Now if only we can strip away that non-profit tag the NFL somehow holds on to.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • pft says:

      Seriously, I never knew that. That’s downright Orwellian if true

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • jruby says:

        Definitely true. The individual teams aren’t, but the NFL does not pay federal taxes on its ~9-10 billion dollar revenue.

        As Tom Watson at Forbes put it a few weeks ago, “An arcane tax code change that eased the 1966 merger of the NFL with the old American Football League landed the new combined entity in section 501(c)6 of the tax code, designated as an industry association. The designation actually covers ‘chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade, and professional football leagues.’ “

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Dt says:

          The nfl offices, which is what is tax exempt, doesn’t bring in 9-10 billion in revenue, that is a red herring. They get a small slice of the revenue and the rest goes to the teams which is taxed. This whole thing came up because some dumbass congressman wanted to get his name out there by suggesting they tax the nfl twice. Maybe he should have suggested taxing Microsoft and Apple twice, they make more profit in a quarter than the nfl has in revenue in a year.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Gyre says:

      I’ll bet Budman dreams about getting that every night!

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  21. marjinwalker says:

    And a report today that owners recently voted to allow teams to cut back or eliminate entirely the pension plan for non-uniformed employees. awesome.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • NS says:

      How could anyone live without a pension! The horror!

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      • Fatcat says:

        You’re right, let’s keep treating employees like shit and then wonder why morale is low and why people keep leaving! I just don’t get it, why weren’t they more loyal?! AFTER ALL WE DID FOR THEM!!

        *Lights cigar with a Benjamin*

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • John Rawls says:

          You’re right, the MLB is suffering mightily!

          *Sits back in first-world luxury the likes of which the whole of human history had never seen, cries about it.*

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      • marjinwalker says:

        really? you plan to work when you are 80? Because you will need to without a pension.

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  22. Johnston says:

    Is there anything that lawyers won’t do their best to ruin in exchange for a hefty fee?

    It sure doesn’t look like it.

    No wonder so many Americans hate them.

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    • Anon21 says:

      Yeah, I’m sure it’s from lawyers that the pressure for a living wage for minor leaguers come from. Before those dang lawyers came around, minor leaguers were thrilled to be scraping by on bad wages.

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  23. OpenThoughts says:

    Classic short term stupid executives.

    If you pay them a better class of athletes are willing to try baseball.

    Why would a guy in multiple disciplines pass up another professional sport?

    The new draft rules are probably going to dissuade recruitment.

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  24. Brad Johnson says:

    The poor compensation of minor leaguers has always struck me as a market inefficiency. Teams would very likely get more out of their minor league system simply by paying more. Even in sports, people are incentivized by cash.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • SillyGomez says:

      It’s seems apparent many here have no idea what goes into running a business. If you have to pay everyone a “living wage” you will be eliminating many businesses and raising prices, in general. Redistribution of wealth isn’t the answer most of the time as some would like to believe although for low level minor leaguers it might be overdue, assuming the minor league franchises can afford it. The MLB teams can, so this might be a different argument, MLB subsidizing MiLB franchises for costs like this. My understanding is MiLB teams operate on a pretty thin profit margin.

      If it’s that bad for some minor leaguers they can always move on to another career, they aren’t indentured servants. An exodus like that by enough players would force the issue for teams to raise the pay. Market and demand, funny how that usually works.

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      • Pot, meet kettle! says:

        Speaking of trying a different argument, the whole “gee why don’t people just snap their fingers and make $100K a year”? Let’s retire that old canard.

        Yes, people should aspire to do more and make more (like those minor leaguers, for instance, who are working their asses off and making a pittance while doing so on the slim chance that they can crack the big leagues and earn a handsome pay day). But it’s not quite as easy as wishing your way to a 6-figure payday.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • NS says:

      You’re smarter than so many incredibly smart, money-motivated people. After all, no team has tried this currently or historically. Every single one of those groups of executives has either never considered that idea, or thought about it but wasn’t smart enough to act on it.

      That, or there might possibly be more to it…

      But no, probably just you’re right and they’re all idiots who don’t even *want* to be successful.

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      • tz says:

        Maybe some have, maybe some haven’t. But there ARE (1) plenty of owners who act more like they just want to maximize the short term growth in market value of their franchise and (2) enough other previous market efficiencies to explore that this one hasn’t yet been exploited.

        Personally, if I had an average-revenue team and wanted to try Brad’s idea, I’d try to corner the market on the best scouts, baseball personnel, analysts etc. by paying well above the going rate. The skill set for many of these jobs is rare enough that you probably could build up a big sustainable advantage, if you move aggressively enough.

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    • jfree says:

      It is not a market inefficiency. It is the completely predictable consequence of the anti-trust exemption. This is Monopoly 101.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  25. Gyre says:

    Wow, the biggest storm of comments for Wendy comes from an issue that will never make the press or 7 o’clock news.

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  26. Erik says:

    I’m really torn on this issue. Being in LA and going to college and trying to work in entertainment during the biggest economic downturn of our lifetime I’ve experienced this first hand. There is a significant expectation in the industry that you will work for free, and you will work very hard, and you likely won’t get a job afterwards.

    It was to the point that I felt better off working for myself than working for free for others. Since then I’ve helped produce a few no budget films with likeminded individuals, and that’s where I end up torn. Now I find myself asking people to ‘volunteer’ their time, and work really hard for free, and be unlikely to get a job afterwards. It’s the nature of a high supply economy, and working at the bottom of an industry that was starving for money.

    I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to pay some of my biggest contributors eventually, but I’ve certainly been told politely to ‘fuck off’ more than a few times. If I had to pay everyone none of these projects would have ever got off the ground. In the case of MLB and their minor league affiliates I don’t think there is much comparison. MLB is bringing in a ton of cash and the only reason for this pay disparity is the anti-competitive nature of the sport and it’s anti-trust exemption.

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  27. Thomas says:

    As someone who interned for the Braves for two years and Nationals I understand. The Braves unlike paid minimum wage and OT you actually would have a pretty good paycheck over two week period where we played say 7 home games. Work 9-5 on non game days and 9am to 11pm on game days. If tarp had to be pulled then 6am. Sunday games usually 10am to 5pm. So over two weeks about 125 hours little less then 1000 before taxes biweekly. As young college kid was more than enough. Plus commission for large group ticket sales and signing sponsors. The Nationals with same schedule paid 500 wait for it Monthly. So over the month 250 hours worked out to $2 per hour before taxes. They also had a countless number of unpaid interns most of whom would only last a week or two. Unfortunately I wanted to start a family and had to leave paltry pay. I also got to spend a lot of time with players. Guys like Danny Espinosa Freddie Freeman Jayson Hayward lived well the 24/26 normal guy struggling to make it to next level usually lived with 3 teammates or host family just to get by and of course have to have full time job in offseason. Hope this was informative. PS Latino players usually put 5/6 people in the 1 or 2 bedroom apt with eldest getting bed seen Million dollar players sleeping on floor different culture.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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