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Three former minor league baseball players filed a suit yesterday (February 11) in federal court in San Francisco, claiming that 19th-century laws essentially keep minor leaguers in a state of indentured servitude. The suit is intended to become a class-action one, but it has to be certified by the court first.

The suit was filed by former players for the Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, and San Francisco Giants. The suit notes that while the Major League Baseball Players' Association agreement requires teams to pay players at least $500,000 a season, that agreement does not cover minor leaguers, who have no union. Most minor leaguers make $3000 to $7500 a year, despite 50-hour weeks, says the suit.

Major League Baseball's "longstanding exemption from the United States's antitrust laws allows it to openly collude on the working conditions for the development of its chief commodity: young baseball players," charges the suit.

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Comments

David Dodd Feb. 12, 2014 @ 10:13 a.m.

Not sure where this suit will go, but the players get paid by the month, here's the breakdown:

(Level,1st Year, 2nd Year, 3rd Year): Rookie - $1150, $1200, $1250; Short A - $1150, $1200, $1250; Low A - $1300, $1350, $1400; High A - $1500, $1550, $1600; Double A - $1700, $1800, $1900; Triple A - $2150, $2400, $2700

Added to this: $500 bonus after 60 days in Double A time, $1000 bonus after 60 days Triple A time.

All minor league players receive $20 meal money per day that the team is away from home. Not including the off season. So, while the kids don't make much, it gets a little better in AA and AAA. Also, because the seasons are much shorter up to High A level, the players are free to work elsewhere in the off-season.

The big problem with paying minor league players more money is how lopsided the structure of the game is. In order to bring fans into the Major League parks, clubs have to hire the best talent. And yes, a lot of those guys are overpaid. Clubs like the Yankees, for example, could easily pay their minor league players more, but the Padres or the Rays couldn't afford that. With 25 players on 6 clubs in the minors, that's a chunk of payroll even at the small prices for each player.

So, the only collusion I can see is that some clubs can afford more but protect the clubs that can't with a level playing field. However, without that level playing field in the minors, no way the game can be competitive. That's how owners see it, and I agree. One solution is to cap player's salaries in the majors and trickle some of the cash into the minors, but the Player's Union would fight that fiercely.

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aardvark Feb. 12, 2014 @ 11 a.m.

David Dodd: Unless the owners get together and agree to a better revenue sharing plan (similar to the NFL), I don't see a salary cap happening in MLB.

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Don Bauder Feb. 12, 2014 @ 11:53 a.m.

aardvark: Yes, a salary cap would be difficult to achieve in MLB. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 12, 2014 @ 11:51 a.m.

David Dodd: The minor leagues seem to be like a medical internship -- little money while you are lower grade, but a prospect of big bucks if you make it to the big leagues. An apprenticeship is another analogy.

Look at pro football. Colleges are its minor league. And players are not supposed to be reimbursed at all in college, although some take plenty under the table. Some Northwestern University student athletes are trying to unionize, and there is talk of that at other schools. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Feb. 12, 2014 @ 2:30 p.m.

Don, the minors may look like a medical internship, except that the minors have hundreds (thousands?) of players, and only a very few are chosen for the majors. Medical internships are not a time for weeding out all but the superstars. Most of those who start finish and move on to the big leagues of medical practice. (The weeding they undergo happens in the med school admission process and in the first year or two of med school. So, one reason that medical interns and residents don't get too upset about the pay being low is that they KNOW they'll be able to make up for it later. And I'm advised that medical interns now are paid something like a salary you can live on, not the pittance of years past.

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Don Bauder Feb. 12, 2014 @ 5:24 p.m.

Visduh: Yes, even as I wrote that I thought it was not such a hot analogy, because most doctors will go on to make good livings, but I couldn't think of another analogy other than apprentices. Best, Don Bauder

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