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Same risk, less pay

Players on the 60-man rosters are all assuming great risk, but those taking up slots 41-60 are being paid poverty wages while putting their lives on the line.

Boston Red Sox Summer Camp Workout Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

When the 2020 Major League Baseball season starts teams will have the option of using 60-man player pools. Some teams will take advantage of the full number of 60 while others will only take slightly more than 40. The actual number of players on a team’s roster is of little importance. What matters much more is what players after the traditional 40-man roster cutoff are being paid.

Hidden in all the announcements about the return of MLB was the breakdown of how the 60-man rosters will work. The most important tidbit of how they work is that players on the 60-man but not already on the 40-man will be paid minor league wages. MLB owners just can’t help themselves, when they see a way to make $7 million in profit versus $6.8 million in profit they just have to jump at the opportunity.

The key fact to keep in mind is that the players occupying spots 41-60 of a team’s roster are taking just as big of a risk by playing as the players in the 1-40 slots. Just because they fall past the number 40 that doesn’t mean they somehow aren’t taking the same health risks as everyone else on the team. There’s no reason that at the bare minimum these players shouldn’t be making a livable wage instead of the poverty-level wages that are their minor league contracts.

Instead of taking care of players who are putting their lives in the line, the owners are treating them as commodities. They are filling up a roster spot, no more and no less. That type of thinking wasn’t acceptable before COVID-19 and it certainly doesn’t pass muster in a COVID-19 landscape. The owners can afford to take care of every player on the 60-man roster and reward them for the risk they are taking to play baseball and help the owners to bring in more profits.

When you add in the about-face of many of the owners in abandoning their “no fans in the stands” stance it’s even more galling that they aren’t paying 60-man roster members better wages. The owners knew all along that as soon as a deal was in place to start the season they would start pushing to get fans in the stands and increase their profits even more. The owners can afford to pay players a wage that is in recognition of the health risks they are taking by even suiting up.

The owners have shown a complete disregard for minor leaguers since before I was born. That’s not about to change anytime soon. However, it is incumbent on fans to hold them to the fire for the actions they take towards the most vulnerable under their employ. The minor leaguers who are helping to fill out 60-man rosters deserve recognition for the risk they are undertaking in the form of better pay. The owners can afford to give them the pay they deserve. That the owners will not bother to actually pay those players more speaks volumes to the lack of skin the owners continue to have in an MLB landscape where COVID-19 exists.