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Housing is a start, but Minor Leaguers still deserve more

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Colorado Rockies news and links for Friday, October 22, 2021

For a game that’s noted for its vast use of statistics, these ones aren’t proudly displayed on MLB.com, MiLB.com, or Baseball Savant:

$10,500 — The yearly minimum salary for Single-A baseball players and they only get paychecks during the season (salary data from Sporting News).

$12,600 — The yearly minimum salary for Double-A baseball players and they only get paychecks during the season.

$14,700 — The yearly minimum salary for Triple-A baseball players and they only get paychecks during the season.

38-72% — The rate that those figures above increased in 2021 compared to where they were in previous seasons (not including the COVID-erased 2020 season)

40 — Minor League teams that were cut after the 2020 season to save money that could go toward increased player salaries and improved facilities in an effort to “modernize” MiLB.

$12,800 — The federal poverty line for an individual annual income (which is extremely low in comparison to the cost of living in many regions of the United States).

$29,415 — The actual livable annual minimum wage required to live in Fresno, Calif., home of the Rockies Single-A (low) affiliate Fresno Grizzlies (from MIT living wage calculator).

$1,005 — The median gross rent, which is the monthly housing cost expenses for renters, in Fresno (rent data from the U.S. Census).

$26,405 — The actual livable annual minimum wage required to live in Spokane, Wash., home of the Rockies Single-A (high) affiliate Spokane Indians.

$886 — The median gross monthly rent in Spokane.

$31,526 — The actual livable annual minimum wage required to live in Hartford, Conn., home of the Rockies Double-A affiliate Hartford Yard Goats.

$985 — The median gross monthly rent in Hartford.

$28,505 — The actual livable annual minimum wage required to live in Albuquerque, N.M., home of the Rockies Triple-A affiliate Albuquerque Isotopes.

$873 — The median gross monthly rent in Albuquerque.

40 — Hours a week that Minor League players can be paid for. Thanks to a line item in a 2018 spending bill passed by Congress, Minor League Baseball players can only be paid for 40 hours a week and are therefore exempt from minimum wage laws, even though baseball isn’t a 40-hour a week gig. No spring training pay. No offseason pay. No livable wage.

That’s why it’s a big deal that earlier this week Major League Baseball announced it is going to require teams to provide housing for Minor league players starting in 2022. While an official plan with who will be eligible and what would be defined as housing has yet to be announced, this is a big step forward to a group of baseball players who have suffered unlivable hardships to try to live their dreams of playing in the big leagues.

Many articles have documented the unjust treatment MiLB players endure from living in their cars, sleeping on the floor of a hotel banquet room, being put in cockroach-infested hotel rooms, having to sign six-month leases only to move on to a new city two months in, not having enough to eat, having to come up with their own equipment, and more. These are the kinds of conditions that lead to mental health crises when they are supposed to be steps to develop valued prospects to one day play in The Show.

In August, The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli wrote an in-depth article with 30 Minor League players for 20 MLB organizations. At the time, Triple-A Rochester (Washington Nationals) catcher Brandon Synder, who’s played baseball professionally for 16 years with 122 MLB games and 1,374 MiLB games, said, “Minor-league players need to be looked at as investments, not pawns. The problem is the only way (housing) changes is if organizations become accountable for it.”

Some players preferred to remain anonymous in Ghiroli’s story, including a Triple-A Albuquerque Isotope who said, “I agree the pay should be more, but if teams pay for housing, the pay isn’t as big of a deal because you are taking home that money.”

Clearly, the housing provisions are going to be vital to these players.

For years, conditions for minor league players have been dismissed because of claims like “they need to pay their dues,” “they get to play a game,” or “they will make millions one day.” They are human beings first and foremost and deserve to be treated that way. Secondly, making sure they are healthy by eating and sleeping well is only logical for athletes organizations expect to be the future of their franchises.

Furthermore, most won’t ever make it to the big leagues. Baseball America studied every player that entered the MiLB system from 1980-2010 and only 17.6% made it to MLB. It’s a sliding scale that goes from 73% of first-round draft picks making it to the top, 40% of third rounders, and less than 10% after the 11th round. (More recent data isn’t available yet because the outcomes are still playing out.) For many players, this will be their entire professional baseball career.

Thankfully players, with the help of organizations like More Than Baseball and Advocates for Minor Leaguers, are bringing these issues out of the shadows and into the public light in hopes of change.

That brings us back to the stats — ones that show MLB has a long way to go before truly improving working conditions.

$754,600 — The estimated amount the 2021 raises for MiLB players cost the Colorado Rockies.

$1 million — The estimated amount it will cost each MLB team to pay for housing for all of its minor league players.

$13.56 million — The amount the Rockies saved when Ian Desmond opted out of the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

$700 million — Dick Monfort’s net worth.

$1.3 billion — The value of the Colorado Rockies franchise.

$10.7 billion — Major League Baseball’s revenue in 2019, a record.

Minor league players train year round, following mandatory strength and conditioning routines from organizations. They aren’t paid for that work. Even if they get offseason jobs, it can be hard to keep up with all their training or make very much money working in gig jobs like being rideshare drivers or delivering food. When they show up to mandatory spring training, they aren’t paid for that work. As Sporting News’ Ryan Fagan said, “In a normal (non-pandemic) year, a player could report to spring training in late February, work every day on his craft to start the season, play games and pay for lodging on his own and not see a paycheck for six or seven weeks, until after the minor league season begins in April.”

Housing is a good start. Maybe pay for all work and a living wage could be next.

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Trevor Story’s 9 likeliest suitors | MLB.com

The good news, the Rockies are on the list. So are the Rangers, which makes sense considering Story is from Texas, but it also doesn’t if we presume he wants to go somewhere to win. The Yankees and Phillies are winning options Mark Feinsand included, but the Angeles are also on the list. Interesting.

Colorado Rockies: 1 trade target from every MLB team to consider | Rox Pile

With a tone of optimism, Noah Yingling put together a very comprehensive list of one “realistic” MLB player on all 29 other teams the Rockies could trade for to fill a hole on the team. Just in case new GM Bill Schmidt might be willing to try something different, it’s interesting to look through this very thorough breakdown.

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On the Farm: Arizona Fall League Edition

Desert Dogs 10, Salt River Rafters 5

Rockies prospects accounted for half of the Rafters hits in the game (three out of six) and combined to drive in three of their five runs, but it wasn't enough for Salt River as they dropped to 4-4 on Thursday.

Ryan Vilade (No. 10 PuRP) hit an RBI triple, drove two total, scored a run, and drew a walk. Michael Toglia (No. 4 PuRP) hit an RBI double, Ezequiel Tovar (No. 12 PuRP) added a hit and scored a run, and Willie MacIver (No. 22 PuRP) entered the game in the seventh and drew a walk in his lone at-bat. Even though the game was well out of hand by the time LHP Reagan Todd entered the game in the ninth, he still pitched a beautiful frame. Despite giving up one hit, he struck out the side.

On Friday, the Rafters will be back in action to take on the Solar Sox at 6:35 p.m. MT.

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