Washington Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton likely won’t be the most popular guy at the next MLBPA meeting.
Speaking to Kelyn Soong of the Washington City Paper about the financial struggles of being a minor league baseball player, Eaton extolled the virtues of being exploited by a system that now legally restricts its employees from earning even minimum wage.
The full comments are as eyebrow-raising as the synopsis seems.
“If you do [pay players more], complacency sets in,” Eaton said. “I think it’s difficult, yes, and it’s easy for me to say that because of where I am, but I wouldn’t be where I am without that … If I financially am supported down there and financially can make a living and not have to get to the big leagues, I think I’m a little more comfortable. I think that I might not work as hard because I know I’m getting a decent paycheck every two weeks, and may not push myself nearly as hard.”
“I don’t disagree with [the notion] that they’re being exploited, but I think it’s for the betterment of everybody,” he adds. “I know it sounds crazy … I think there’s a middle ground … There’s ground to be made up, but I think it still should be rough.”
Soong prefaced the quote with Eaton acknowledging players are “eating crumbs”.
There may be an argument for having to pay dues in the minors, but it falls apart when minor leaguers literally can’t afford to pay for a warm meal. Thanks to the Save America’s Pastime Act, which Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball spent more than $1 million lobbying for over two years, minor leaguers are now capped at how much they can earn.
The law states: “Any employee employed to play baseball who is compensated pursuant to a contract that provides for a weekly salary for services performed during the league’s championship season (but not spring training or the offseason) at a rate that is not less than a weekly salary equal to the minimum wage ... for a workweek of 40 hours, irrespective of the number of hours the employee devotes to baseball related activities.”
MLB began pouring money into passing the law shortly after the league was sued by former minor leaguers for failing to adhere to the Fair Labor and Standards Act in 2014.
What that law translates to for players is impossible to ignore. Players contemplating quitting not because they aren’t good enough to play, but because they can’t afford to survive. The Instagram account Minor League Grinders gives a daily rundown of the absurdity of trying to live on a salary below minimum wage as a ballplayer.
It’s why the Toronto Blue Jays earned headlines and praise earlier this year when they committed to paying their minor leaguers a 50 percent raise across the board.
As for the oft-injured Eaton, he may want to re-evaluate his comments lest he need any more rehab stints in the minors.
– – – – – –
More from Yahoo Sports: