As Money Squabbles Delay M.L.B., Many Workers ‘Just Get Steam-Rolled’

Most clubs committed to paying their employees through May. But their plans diverged abruptly beginning June 1.

With the minor league season unlikely to happen this year, each M.L.B. organization had to decide individually whether to continue the weekly stipend to their 200-plus minor league players. All did so, besides a holdout from the Oakland Athletics — who reversed course last week after widespread criticism.

Owner John Fisher issued an apology. “I concluded I’d made a mistake,” Fisher told the San Francisco Chronicle.

In an industry where team owners are billionaires and the league itself took in more than $10 billion in revenue last year, some clubs have drawn praise for supporting their workers, while others have been denounced for doing much less.

The Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals, for example, guaranteed employment and full salaries to their baseball operations employees for at least June. (The White Sox even committed to paying their released minor league players this month.) The Kansas City Royals and Twins pledged not to release any minor leaguers. But some teams, including big-market clubs like the Los Angeles Angels and the Athletics, slashed their costs.

Royals General Manager Dayton Moore, who took a pay cut to help prevent layoffs, noted that even players who peak at low levels of the minor leagues help contribute to the long-term growth of the sport. “Those individuals go back into their communities and teach the game, work in academies, are JUCO coaches, college coaches, scouts, coaches in pro baseball,” Moore told reporters.

Normally, each major-league franchise releases about two dozen minor league players during the spring, according to numbers tallied by Baseball America. The numbers appear to be higher this year — the Arizona Diamondbacks recently released at least 62 players, and the Yankees cut 45. The lack of minor league games wasn’t the only factor: New rules to go along with this year’s reduced, five-round draft and the prospect of M.L.B. cutting at least 40 minor league teams next season have also led some teams to cut more aggressively.

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