Thirty-five years ago, George Plimpton profiled a can't-miss pitching prospect for the Mets, who threw 168 mph and was a great April Fool's Day prank.
Posted: April 1, 2020, 12:00 pm
Players in the big leagues make millions of dollars but it can be a financial struggle for players further down the ladder. And that was before Covid-19By the end of January, John O’Reilly was champing at the bit to get to spring training. Like most minor leaguers, the 24-year-old pitcher, newly assigned to the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, viewed baseball’s preseason as a mecca of opportunity. Sure, O’Reilly who played last season in Double-A, minor league baseball’s second-highest level, wasn’t expecting to make it to the majors and become the Pirates’ opening day starter. But with a decent showing perhaps he could inch his way up minor league baseball’s arduous, low-salaried ladder.And, when it started, O’Reilly was having what he considered to be a highly successful spring training. He had been called upon to finish innings for major league pitchers. In one game, he pitched against the New York Yankees, a big deal for a kid from New Jersey.Then on the evening of 13 March O’Reilly got a message from the organization. Beginning tomorrow morning everyone must go home. By that point the Covid-19 outbreak had been officially declared a pandemic. It was no longer safe for any large groups to gather together. Baseball games were no exception.“It is definitely scary,” O’Reilly says. “Less of a chance to go out and play the game you love with your teammates. You look forward to it for the five months you’re away [during the offseason].”O’Reilly went home to his family in New Jersey where he is anxiously following the news. With no gyms open, nowhere suitable to throw, and unlike Major Leaguers, no guarantees of being paid this season.Mitch Horacek, a 28-year-old pitcher in the Minnesota Twins organization opted to stay in Florida with his girlfriend’s family instead of going home to the cold of Colorado. One day Twins doctors were cautioning players to wash their hands and avoid signing autographs. Three days later, Horacek’s big league hopes were paused. Horacek had been following Covid-19’s growth since the first outbreak in Wuhan, China, and sensed baseball could be shelved a while.“One of our last games had almost 10,000 people,” Horacek says. “It was a culmination of my nerves. I kept thinking someone here might have this virus, we should do something. Of course things got way more crazy.”The exodus from camps was chaotic and unprecedented. As teams were figuring out how to operate in the new climate, Horacek, O’Reilly and hundreds of other minor leaguers started to worry about when – or if – they would be paid.Then again, money is always a concern in the minor leagues. Players are provided housing and a $10 per diem during spring training. They get no salary. During the regular season, players make anywhere from a measly $1,160 a month to a slightly less measly $2,100 a month, depending on which level they play at.Despite being professional athletes, these players’ salaries often fall below the United States’ minimum wage, forcing many to get creative to make ends meet. Horacek says it’s commonplace for players to double the occupants allowed on a lease so they can all afford to pay rent. Many offer pitching or hitting lessons, but a huge chunk of players take second jobs that they can fit around their baseball career, such as delivery driving. Horacek used to engage in another common cost-cutter for minor leaguers: skipping breakfast.Minor leaguers understand it’s all part of the sacrifice, namely because they have no other choice if they eventually want to make it to the big leagues. “I watch guys I’ve pitched well against. There are guys on TV I’ve struck out before so I know I’m good enough,” Horacek says.Last season was Horacek’s best training camp and, had a few more stars aligned, he says he could have been called up to the big leagues. Instead he toggled between Double-A and Triple-A, his dream dangling so close. Horacek’s taxable income from baseball for 2019 was less than $8,000.Minor leaguers’ low salaries have been discussed frequently over the past few years, most notably in 2018 when Major League Baseball lobbied Congress to exempt minor leaguers from making minimum wage. More recently, MLB floated the idea of contracting 42 minor league clubs at the end of the 2020 season. Bernie Sanders, currently competing to become the Democratic presidential candidate, has been a vocal opponent, calling the possible contraction another example of “corporate greed.” Sanders, along with over 100 members of Congress, created the Save Minor League Baseball task force in November which has pushed back on MLB’s plans for contraction and continued low salaries.After the start of the baseball season was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, MLB agreed to pay minor leaguers a spring training stipend of $400 a week. The league has since announced that minor leaguers will continue to receive the weekly stipend, plus health benefits, until the end of May. Ironically that’s more than many minor leaguers receive when not in the midst of a global pandemic.Horacek was met with plenty of pushback on Twitter when he initially expressed his concern about pay. “It’s a perception problem,” he says. “Someone might perceive baseball as less of a job than working at a stadium concession job. Just because my job is fun doesn’t make it easy and it doesn’t make my bills go away.“One guy said there are plenty of people who would like to have my job in a second but while somebody might want to take my job, they can’t. They physically can’t.”Back in February, MLB, largely at the behest of Sanders and the congressional task force, announced that it would boost pay for minor leaguers, starting with the 2021 season. Salaries are then expected to range from $1,600 a month for rookies up to $2,800 a month at the highest level, Triple-A.But for many, that’s not nearly enough. Enter Advocates for Minor Leaguers, a new group founded by a group of former players that is seeking annual minimum salaries of $15,000 for minor leaguers. Ty Kelly, a utility player who spent most of his 11-season career in the minors, says the organization was prepping to launch before the coronavirus halted spring training but it is prioritizing taking care of players left in limbo.“I used to find an apartment for five months in the offseason. Then find a new lease for the next offseason,” Kelly says. “There are tons of guys in that situation that don’t have a home to go back to. It was necessary for us to launch now and try to help them.”Advocates for Minor Leaguers has already had a rush of donations, which Kelly attributes to the public’s connection to minor league baseball and a growing understanding of the players’ plights.Kelly is one of the lucky minor leaguers who had his dream realized. After seven-plus years in the minors, making a salary below the poverty line, the New York Mets called him up and his life instantly changed. “It was crazy. I was called up from Colorado Springs, my least favorite AAA field by far, went straight to Washington DC to play with the Mets in this pristine park,” he says.Kelly was signed to a 25-man major league contract, where he was paid a prorated salary based on the MLB’s minimum (currently $550,000 a year). He suddenly had protections. He had a union. The Mets team hotel was a Ritz Carlton where Kelly ordered a $20 omelette and coffee with no guilt.Even when Kelly, or any player, is sent back to the minors, they still earn a prorated salary base of $91,000 for the rest of the season. Even though Kelly was better off financially, it was somewhat jarring at first to return to the conditions and second-class citizenry of minor league baseball. These cultural differences are felt everywhere, from salary to resources to facilities.For example, the Mets recently spent $57m to upgrade their spring training facility in Port St Lucie, including a pristine new clubhouse. But according to MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo the minor league St Lucie Mets would have to remain in their basic clubhouse when spring training ended as a reminder of what they’re trying to achieve.Despite the conditions, despite the unlivable wages, despite the slim odds of making it to the majors, the dangling carrot is too hard to walk away from for guys like Horacek.“Every year you play is like rolling craps,” he says. “Say you need to roll a seven. If you stop rolling the dice, you have no chance.”
Posted: April 1, 2020, 9:00 am
As we await Major League Baseball's report on the Red Sox alleged sign-stealing from their 2018 championship season, MLB does not want the notes from its interviews with Red Sox - and Houston Astros - personnel used in a current trial involving those allegations, The Athletic reports.
Posted: April 1, 2020, 4:03 am
Jason Kipnis aired some of his grievances over the challenges players will have getting back into game shape after a long layoff.
Posted: April 1, 2020, 2:26 am
The Dodgers and Angels haven't said how they will distribute the $1 million each MLB team pledged to pay stadium workers during the coronavirus shutdown.
Posted: April 1, 2020, 1:46 am
We're watching the 2005 season along with White Sox fans. What'd we notice? Jermaine Dye might have started slow, but he definitely found his footing and ended his season as the World Series MVP.
Posted: April 1, 2020, 1:03 am
Nick Ahmed of the Arizona Diamondbacks wonders if wearing masks is a viable option to get the MLB season started.
Posted: April 1, 2020, 12:20 am
Astros owner Jim Crane claimed in a legal filing on Monday that Major League Baseball "explicitly exonerated" him in the league's investigation.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 11:56 pm
Even with major leaguers likely to receive some semblance of another spring training to get ready, teams are going to have to be creative with how they handle starting pitchers whenever baseball returns. Gonzales was slated to be the Mariners' starter on opening day. After weeks in Arizona and Florida of building up arm strength pointed toward the start of the regular season, they’re back into offseason mode trying not to lose all that was gained during spring training.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 11:28 pm
This season is going to be unusual. So why not a home run derby to determine playoff seeding? Or a rule change to let the best players bat in big moments?
Posted: March 31, 2020, 11:26 pm
The White Sox rebuild was scheduled to vault into contention mode during the 2020 season. But amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, fans are left to wonder if the 2020 season will ever come.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 11:06 pm
Angels pitcher and union representative Andrew Heaney said the players union has discussed beginning the season by playing games without fans in ballparks.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 10:53 pm
Former Braves and Astros catcher Evan Gattis said on a recent podcast appearance that he is "done playing" baseball.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 10:49 pm
Following three straight frustrating seasons that led him to consider retirement, Chris Davis was in the midst of an outstanding spring training when Major League Baseball came to a halt because of the deadly coronavirus. Now, as the slugger strives to find ways to keep his three daughters amused while confined to his house, Davis remains confident that he's poised to return to the form he displayed before signing a much-publicized and subsequently criticized seven-year, $161 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 10:41 pm
Giants fans didn't miss much, according to Strat-O-Matic's 2020 season simulation.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 10:22 pm
Prominent orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews has temporarily halted Tommy John operations at his Florida medical center in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement came Tuesday from his institute in Gulf Breeze. Some have questioned whether a reconstructive elbow surgery for a ballplayer is an essential procedure at this time.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 10:19 pm
How should pitchers make sure they are in shape when the season starts? Shawn Estes has some ideas.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 10:09 pm
Gerrit Cole, Mike Trout and other veteran major leaguers will receive $4,775 per day in advance pay for the first 60 days of the season during the stoppage caused by the new coronavirus, a total of $286,500. Less veteran players receive smaller amounts specified in the agreement: $16,500, $30,000 or $60,000, depending on the contract.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 9:44 pm
Whiffle bat in hand, Nationals shortstop Trea Turner took a page out of Juan Soto's book to psych out a pitching machine.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 9:41 pm
In order to get back on the baseball field, Nick Ahmed is willing to play as a masked man.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 9:04 pm
The city of Toronto's ban on public events for at least three months is not a good sign for any North American pro sports league. By Corey Seidman
Posted: March 31, 2020, 8:51 pm
New Boston Red Sox catcher Jhonny Pereda is among minor league players who are worried about their salary in 2020 due to baseball's shutdown as the coronavirus crisis continues.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 8:48 pm
Max Scherzer, an important voice in the MLB Players Association, is trying to stay read while thinking about how a 2020 schedule could shape up.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 8:43 pm
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts calls Jim Rome to discuss how long the MLB should abbreviate Spring Training when the league returns.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 8:25 pm
Would have been an interesting start to the season.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 8:24 pm
The Athletics currently play in Oakland, and once played in Kansas City, but they first played in Philly - where they found an elephant for a mascot.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 8:08 pm
27 years ago today, the Cardinals acquired outfielder Mark Whiten from the Indians. Whiten would, later that year, have a historic four-homer game.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 8:05 pm
MLB is doing right by its minor leaguers.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 7:33 pm
Or Babe Ruth or high school baseball war story. Or softball war story. Or even your best sandlot war story. Just tell me a story.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 7:21 pm
Jimmy Wynn, the diminutive Houston slugger whose monster shots in the 1960s and '70s earned him the popular nickname “The Toy Cannon," has died. The Astros said the three-time All-Star outfielder died Thursday in Houston, but did not provide further details. Just 5-foot-9, Wynn was packed with power.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 7:17 pm
Before Kyle Schwarber was a World Series hero, he was a multi-sport high school athlete...and chorus singer.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 6:56 pm
Reed had a monster season in the minors in 2015 but could not make the leap
Posted: March 31, 2020, 5:08 pm
Lucas Giolito had a transformative 2019, going from the pitcher with the worst statistics in baseball to the ace of the White Sox staff. Here are his 10 best outings in a White Sox uniform.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 5:06 pm
A trio of players made strong impressions on Giants manager Gabe Kapler during spring training.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 4:49 pm
MLB will extend the $400-per-week stipend to minor league players through May 31 or until the beginning of the minor league season, whichever occurs first.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 4:15 pm
Who will benefit most from an altered MLB schedule? Fred Zinkie outlines the players fantasy managers should keep in mind come draft day.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 3:36 pm
The Nationals GM wants to be as prepared as possible for when baseball resumes. The problem is no one knows when that will be.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 3:16 pm
Power Rankings Countdown: No. 25 Marlins still have something worth buying in fantasy despite bad roster
Even on a bad roster like the Marlins', Scott Pianowski thinks there's still something to buy in fantasy drafts.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 3:08 pm
The Astros asked a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge to throw out pitcher Mike Bolsinger's lawsuit or, at least, to move the case to Texas.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 3:02 pm
Major League Baseball will give financial support and healthcare to minor league players across the country.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 2:56 pm
Major League Baseball announced the decision to continue to pay minor league players through the end of May despite no games being played.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 2:51 pm
Washington Post Nationals reporter and author of "Buzzsaw," Jesse Dougherty, joined the Nationals Talk Podcast and discussed when he knew the 2019 Nats were for real.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 2:41 pm
The players will receive medical benefits as well.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 2:28 pm
How concerned should the Phillies be that they could now lose J.T. Realmuto? Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman discuss on today's Phillies Talk podcast.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 2:23 pm
Our Hindsight 2020 series kicks off by looking at some questionable personnel moves that GMs might want to take back. For the Red Sox, John Tomase focuses on 2010, when the Red Sox had to choose between two different Adrians \- and chose the wrong one.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 2:13 pm
A.J. Reed, the one-time slugging prospect who made his way to the White Sox last season, retired earlier this month.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 1:59 pm
TBA - Opening day, active rosters reduced to 26 players.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 1:23 pm
But the team would last just one crazy year
Posted: March 31, 2020, 12:43 pm
Cliff Politte finished 2004 with an appendectomy. He finished 2005 with a World Series ring.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 5:09 am
The A's lovable mascot actually has ties to the Giants ...
Posted: March 31, 2020, 5:09 am
Andy Behrens joins host Scott Pianowski on the latest episode to discuss his recent Tout Wars auction and why we might see someone hit .400 this season.
Posted: March 31, 2020, 3:31 am