SO, YOU WANT TO BE A PRO BASEBALL PLAYER, HANH?
Last updated 6/5/2020 at 2pm
The current uncertainty about the future of the COVID-19 debacle and of the start of the 2020 major league baseball season has been dominating the sports pages and airwaves for the last three months as we enter June with some progress to this situation. With the 2020 MLB draft set for next week many high school and college prospects are having second thoughts of wanting to be in this draft. High school phenoms are agreeing to attend the college that’s been hot on their tails for the past year or so, while college underclassmen are agreeing to stay and play for their school another year. Many collegiate players who have graduated are having second thoughts about being drafted, mainly because there will only be five rounds instead of around the normal 40 rounds. My grandson, Lt. Logan Smith, decided last month to pursue his military career immediately rather than wait until his professional baseball career is over. Logan, who received his officer’s commission from West Point last month, wrote a nice letter to MLB requesting to have his name taken off of the list of college baseball prospects expected to be drafted next week. He put in his four years on the Army baseball team, playing in Abner Doubleday Stadium--the home field named after the game’s inventor and West Point alumnus-- starting his career as a walk-on Plebe and finishing it prematurely in March being voted the team’s Most Valuable Player. Logan gave the matter of the draft plenty of consideration, even getting in touch with Chris Rowley (West Point Class of 2012), one of the only two West Point graduates to ever play in the major leagues. Rowley is a right-handed pitcher in his ninth season with the Minnesota Twins and as many pro baseball players over age 30 find out, he was offered a minor league contract for 2020 with the assumption he would be elevated to the Twins’ major league team sometime during the season. Rowley recently sent an email to Major League Baseball which went viral foreshadowing to young prospects what it is really like being a professional baseball player. You want to be a baseball player? Here’s the hard truth: “It is becoming increasingly evident that Major League Baseball will do anything they can to pad their pockets, and it’s typically at the expense of the players—notably minor leaguers. The pandemic is no different. “The effects of COVID-19 have been devastating and hardships people across the world are facing are very real. But this is different. Baseball players have been expected to continue training and preparing to face the world’s best when play resumes. Would you continue to perform the physical labors of your job if your pay was cut? “When play was stopped due to COVID-19, MLB agreed to compensate most players between 50% and 145% of their salaries as players are expected to fully continue training. However, many veteran players who signed minor league contracts are being paid on average, less than 10% of their salaries yet are expected to be 100% ready to play. “On April 6, I submitted a proposal to MLB on behalf of many who worked hard to find a solution in an effort to compensate all players fairly. It was heard, acknowledged and ultimately denied in a manner than cannot be characterized as professional. MLB displayed an acute understanding of the dire financial circumstances it was placing its players in and chose not to act. This cannot be written off as an oversight. “The proposal would have added only $4.8 million to the $170 million already allotted from a league that netted $11 billion in revenue last year on the backs of many of those same players. “It would have added 2.8% of what was already being paid and would have helped approximately 500 veteran players stay afloat during play stoppage. The failure to answer that call rests squarely on MLB’s shoulders. “I get wanting to make money. I want to make money. Most people do. But most people don’t marginalize thousands of people across the entire industry to do so. “Major League Baseball and its Clubs’ obsession with the bottom line at the expense of the players—specifically the minor leaguers—has long been present in the game, and it’s past time to hold people accountable for it.” Rowley’s email struck a nerve to some organizations, especially the Houston Astros who announced last weekend they will continue paying their minor league players a $400 per week stipend and extended the benefits through Aug. 31. Others like the Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals and San Diego Padres have promised payments through August when the minor league season traditionally would end. The Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers are among a large group that committed salaries through June. But the Oakland A’s ceased all payments to their prospects after May 31 drawing considerable criticism throughout the industry, according to Saturday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle. KWICKIES…The state of Iowa restarted its high school sports programs Monday, according the ESPN. The baseball and softball teams returned to resume their seasons and prepare for the state playoffs. The NHL players are to be tested for the COVID-19 virus daily if the season is to continue. The cost is $125 per player per day which is expected to run into the millions. The NBA will decide this week on the format to be used to restart the league. ESPN reported that 16 of the 30 general managers said they want the league to come back with just the typical 16 playoff teams, with seedings based on the standings when the season was suspended March 12. The pandemic has caused minor league umpires to suffer a double-whammy in a lost year—no income and no real way to improve their craft. Class AAA umpires are sure to work if and when major league baseball begins play. Vacations, injuries and last- minute emergencies create opportunities for fill-in umps. But for Class AA and below, it’s looking like a shutout. And for some of the 236 minor league umpires, a lost year will mean the end of a career. If major league baseball begins on June 30 as proposed, it will be without each team’s furriest and funniest fans—the mascots—who have been forbidden by MLB from entering the ball park. JUST BETWEEN US…The Major League Baseball Players Association last weekend proposed a 114-game regular season, gave players the right to opt out of the 2020 season entirely, and prorated salaries the two sides agreed upon in March. Players would receive a $100 million advance upon reporting to a second spring training for three weeks and an expanded 14-game playoff format in 2020 and 2021. The proposed regular season would begin June 30 and end Oct. 31. Players have offered to wear microphones on the field to enhance the experience of playing with no fans.