Rosin d’être: Labor Omnia Vincit

OneOk Field, Tulsa

I didn’t grow up in an MLB city, which means that most of my experience with live baseball is with the minor leagues. I saw Pudge come up, and I was at the game when they announced that Tulo was promoted. I enjoy going to games and appreciated seeing these prospects in training.

I was blindly unaware in years past about the pay and working conditions for minor league players. I didn’t know that team owners were getting rich off of the talent I enjoyed watching for so many years. Or, rather, I didn’t know they were getting rich because they weren’t offering fair pay and benefits to those that were the reason the teams even had a nine to field.

Now, though, I know how the system takes advantage of MiLB players — and as Maya Angelou said: when you know better, you do better. So, I face an ethical quandary today. The nearest baseball to me is again MiLB-affiliated. I could go watch prospects for my beloved Tigers before they head off to Comerica, but should I?

On the one hand, wouldn’t I be contributing to the exploitation of MLB hopefuls — and enriching those taking advantage of them — by going to these games? Can I enjoy drinking beer and eating hot dog sandwiches knowing I spent more than a player’s per diem on my refreshments? Don’t we have a moral obligation to use our money in accordance with our values (mine being pro-labor)?

If we don’t attend MiLB games, though, the players wouldn’t have jobs that allow them to try and move into MLB. Demand spurs supply, but it’s not so good at influencing the means of production. So I’m torn over what to do.

Look at those young faces.

Is there an ethical third way? Should we “adopt” players to whom we give gift cards to supplement their incomes? Should we buy them supplies to help further them? Is that fair? What’s a reasonable workaround?

There has to be a way for patrons to side with players instead of just abetting owners. Doing that matters more to me than showing up to cheer or creating community recreational spaces or whatever other goods come of my attendance.

How do we subvert the graft?

7 thoughts on “Rosin d’être: Labor Omnia Vincit

  1. The other quandary is that boycotting often hurts everyone but the people it should – the concession stand workers (in MiLB, often civic orgs funding community projects), the small town announcer who is trying to use this (often well below minimum wage) job to get exposure, the intern in the mascot uniform also trying to gain college credit. The actual owners still get their share no matter what we do. This is an insidious problem and I don’t know where the solution lies. All I do know is maybe if the big league guys make this a sticking point for the next CBA, and if they go to strike over it, let’s not call the players overpaid bums. 😦

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Going to the game will reward the owners but it won’t hurt the players, who probably get a kick out of playing before big crowds.

    Go to the game and sneak in your own refreshments to smite the owners. You will have the thrill of the fear of getting caught and the players will at least get to hear your cheers.


    1. I agree. Lobster rolls, crab puffs, popcorn shrimp and fried belly clams are compact and don’t set orf the metal detectors. Take plenty with you and to hell with the concessionaires.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Back when I did taxes circa 2015, I had a return for a local HS star and his wife. The kid was in a rookie league his first year and his w-2 was a whopping 8k for the five months spent away from home and family. But. The but is he had more than 8k income from his investment of his signing bonus. The bonus was reported on a prior year so I don’t know how much he got but it does change the equation. This was not a high round pick. The wife said the money was paying for college for both of them – and allowing him to persue the dream for a few years.

    I’m not saying the present pay system is not problematic, it is. Waving six figures at a teenager will certainly direct his attention away from the four figures he gets later. But in this (small sample size) case the player was persuing the dream and getting an education, and was content. I’m sure good parenting helped with inv estment selection and other details, and I found these young people to have eyes wide open.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. All true, but Histy is also encompassing the “lifers” – the Crash Davises and the kids who, Buddha help us, sell shoes in the orfseason. Part of this discussion breaks into the larger discussion of a living minimum wage for everyone, and that discussion ain’t going nowhere until the Democrats figure out how to represent a coherent program to the voters with a bit more force than a light breeze. Instead we’ve got Nancy Pelosi clinging to her job like a tick to a deer’s ass. I’m not holding my breath.

      Personally, I would go to the games, cheer on the kids, make them believe there’s something beyond the semi-rural fields of dreams on which they now struggle to prove themselves. I would love to see someone found an organization dedicated to placing minor leaguers with at least some talent with teams in Latin America, Taiwan, Korea and Japan, perhaps even Australia. I only thought of this a few months ago when I was in Monterrey, Mexico planning a conference at a luxury hotel next to the university. Turns out the owner of the hotel also owned the Monterrey Mexican League team, the Sultans. They were staying at the hotel (and eating their way through the breakfast buffet every morning like a driver ant march). Obviously once spring training got underway for them they would be fanning out to their barrio apartments on the north side of the city but it reminded me that there are cheaper places to live where young ballplayers can hone their skills and earn a bit more money for themselves. They could then enter the draft in the US as more seasoned players and at least skip a few rungs of minor league poverty, if not leap directly to the show.

      Another thought: the situation in the minor leagues mirrors, in many ways, the equally exploitive, and even more coercive, environment of the NCAA scholarship player. In a lot of ways it’s even worse than the MLB system. Since I was for many years teaching at the University of Miami, with big-time NCAA programs in swimming, backandforthandbackandforthandbackandforthball, basketball, tennis, golf (!), baseball and especially football, I know a lot about this matter and it is truly sickening.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I, too, was involved in a small cog of the college athletics wheel for a great many years (a company I worked for was a licensed producer of NCAA branded material for the University of Wisconsin) and it was incredibly eye opening. Students who wish to use certain logos or phrases on their shirts – even if they were departments within the University system, or were student groups – had to have their designs approved by Trademark Licensing and then were charged royalties unless they had an exemption that was approved by TL. So students who paid tens of thousands of dollars to attend college had to pay extra for the use of their own school’s logo on their student pride shirts, and none of that money went to the students but to the University coffers. You could set aside 1% of branded, licensed garment sales alone and probably make enough to give a stipend to athletes. Not to mention all of the other branded and licensed items for sale, and the money made from boosters, ad sales, etc.

        I know MiLB probably doesn’t rake in the obscene levels of cash that big time college athletics does, but I read somewhere that the teams themselves could easily provide well balanced meals for pennies on the dollar for these guys and also add maybe $20 or so more dollars to the meal stipend and it wouldn’t cost the teams hardly anything, and would make the players healthier, etc.

        As I said, I don’t know what the solution would be, but doing nothing sucks, too.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Anybody remember “The Soloist ” film? LA Times columnist and brilliant musician, who happens to be living on the street? It’s a true story and the writer is still active at the LA Times. Lately he has asked how long we can continue the latest real estate boom before no one can afford to live in Southern California. As a lifelong free market guy, I’ve been wary of such ideas but he makes some good points. Our present economy, with millions paid to CEOs and little better than minimum wage to so many workers is a Wall Street attitude of short term vision rather than long term.

          The problem lies in buy-in. Average people (who elected Tramp president) actually think the ‘free market’ is free when it’s completely unbalanced.

          Oh well, there’s always the lottery. After I win and I’ve got my house on the hill and all my other assets firmly offshore and out of IRS reach I’ll undoubtably become a Tramp supporter.

          Liked by 1 person

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