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What we should know about H.R.5580 "Save America's Pastime Act" - A Hunt and Peck

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What is this thing all about?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Talking politics is always a fickle task - guaranteed to get people upset in one manner or another. This is why political topics are not available for discussion on this very site. Online is just not a good medium to discuss these things. We are a baseball blog, specifically a St. Louis Cardinals blog.

Sometimes, however, the world of baseball and the world of politics align. H.R.5580 also known as "Save America's Pastime Act" is an example of one of these times. So I now will attempt to undertake the arduous task of providing unbiased information about this proposed legislation.  Here goes nothing.

Here is the link to the actual bill. It is quite short, but I will attempt to summarize it anyway:

Essentially there is a list of exemptions that do not meet the minimum wage requirements. This bill proposes to add minor league baseball players to that list of exemptions.

The bill was created in part as a response to the ongoing-class action lawsuit against Major League Baseball over minor league wages violated the federal minimum wage and overtime laws. Nathaniel Grow explains the concerns here:

As the argument goes, if major-league teams are forced to incur higher payroll costs, then they will likely cut back on other subsidies that they may currently provide to their minor-league partners.

Moreover, the minor leagues worry that, in some cases, MLB teams may potentially even decide to terminate their relationship with one or more of their minor-league affiliates in order to reduce costs. While most of the higher-level minor-league teams would likely survive such an scenario, the minor leagues fear that a victory for the players could spell doom for some of their lower-level franchises, especially those residing in particularly small metropolitan areas.

Major League Baseball has thrown its considerable weight behind the bill, issuing the following statement:

"There are approximately 7,500 players in Minor League Baseball. MLB pays over a half a billion dollars to Minor League players in signing bonuses and salary each year. Minor League clubs could not afford these massive player costs.

"MLB heavily subsidizes Minor League Baseball by providing Minor League clubs with its players, allowing professional baseball to be played in many communities in the United States that cannot support a Major League franchise. Moreover, for the overwhelming majority of individuals, being a Minor League Baseball player is not a career but a short-term seasonal apprenticeship in which the player either advances to the Major Leagues or pursues another career."

Many people have called out the bill as an attempt to further exploit the unrepresented minor league players. Here is Grant Brisbee on the topic:

If there were no other way for the industry to work, if there were just no possible way for a business to at least pay these players a living wage while they're in this pyramid, I guess I would at least listen to an argument that this has to continue. If the argument is that paying minor leaguers more would devastate baseball, you would have to at least listen.

Except, baseball is swimming in money. Contrary to the arguments made in the bill — which has already been ditched by one of the representatives who introduced it — extra salaries for minor leaguers wouldn't crush the poor, small town minor league franchises. They would take money away from Major League Baseball franchises, who are the ones paying the salaries.

Major League Baseball franchises are unconscionably rich. Paying minor leaguers a living wage, especially when most of them are going to be spit out on the other side, 10 years older and without any transferable job skills, shouldn't be a radical concept.

And Patrick Redford of Deadspin:

MiLB's wage structure is set up such that that they can barely earn a living while playing baseball. At best, they can break even. It's tricky to conceive of sports jobs on hourly terms, since the responsibilities of a professional athlete extend so far beyond simply clocking in and out on game days, but minor league baseball players live all of the round-the-clock lifestyle of MLB players, just without getting the pay to justify it.

To me, the bottom line is this: If the lawsuit against Major League Baseball is successful, it is might be possible that minor league teams will loose funding entirely without the enactment of "Save America's Pastime Act", as more money would have to go out to each team (though some have called "BS" on this argument). That seems bad, however, if the bill is approved, many players will continue to work without earning a living wage, which is also bad.

Yeeesh. This is going to get ugly, I'm afraid.

Congress Is Asked to "Save America’s Pastime" | FanGraphs Baseball

Here's why the Save America's Pastime Act is a river of molten sewage | SBNation.com

Ortiz: Dreaming isn't cheap in the minors | Jesus Ortiz | stltoday.com


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