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Long Overdue, Minor League Baseball Players Finally Have a CBA

The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) had long been regarded as the best player union in all of the major professional sports. Whether you want to talk about fully guaranteed contracts, the absence of a salary cap, or salary arbitration, the MLBPA does an exceptional job of protecting professional baseball players at the highest level.

However, there are hundreds of minor leaguers in each of the 30 MLB organizations who haven’t received that same level of protection with a Collective Bargaining Agreement specifically designed for them. Any baseball fan knows full and well life in the minor leagues is not the most glamorous. Small towns, long bus rides, and less-than-stellar hotel rooms are all a part of the Minor League Baseball experience.

With that being said, there is a fine line between creating acceptable working conditions and those that quite frankly suck, and there have certainly been examples of that line being crossed over the past few years. First (and most importantly), the pay in the low levels of the minor leagues has been less than minimum wage levels, especially considering it only covers the duration of the six-month season and not the entire calendar year.

In addition to the pay, we’ve heard about meager living conditions, less than passable pre and postgame meals, and numerous other issues that make playing professional baseball a burden that many simply aren’t willing to take on in order to chase their dreams. What really stood out to me and others that followed the issue is why certain MLB teams wouldn’t invest in their future. Minor Leaguers after all are the next generation of talent that will find themselves playing in the big leagues in the future, so why would you not work to the best of your ability to maximize their development? Certainly, sleeping on a lawn chair, eating fast food every day, and working off-season jobs don’t lend to that at all.

Well, it looks like MLB owners and the league finally recognized that it was time for this reality to change. Finally, after efforts from organizations like Advocates for Minor Leaguers, the MLBPA, and media backlash, MLB and MLBPA have an agreement on a collective bargaining agreement for minor league players.

As part of the agreement, minor league players will receive a significant pay raise across the board as detailed in the table below

In addition to pay, minor leaguers will see improvements in living conditions, a formal grievance procedure with access to neutral arbitrators, and only six years of team control instead of seven.

According to The Athletic, the salary increases took effect as soon as the deal was ratified, and players are to receive retroactive pay for four weeks of this year’s spring training. These new initiatives are expected to cost MLB an additional $90 million in total. It’s worth noting that the only downside for minor leaguers is that there could be a reduction in the number of players in MLB organizations over time, but this was a no-brainer for MiLB players to accept given the benefits that will be available for those who are in fact able to remain on rosters.

Whether it was the handling of the Astros sign stealing scandal, the return from COVID-19, or the lockout and CBA negotiations prior to last season, Rob Manfred and MLB have taken on considerable criticism from the media and fans over the past couple of years. But here recently, you have to give the commissioner’s office credit. No games were lost last year to the lockout, the new rules have brought a level of excitement the game desperately needed, and this historic CBA for minor leaguers are all great developments for the present and future of our national pastime.

Hopefully, this agreement allows players who in the past may have given up on their dream due to the lack of pay or subpar living conditions to continue chasing the goal of becoming a big-league ballplayer. It’s a huge step forward for the game of baseball.

Brendan can be found on Twitter @_bbell5

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