The Washington Nationals on Monday reversed course on their plan to pay minor leaguers after a bout of public shaming that even included their own big-league players. The team will now, according to reports, nix a $100 weekly pay cut and pay minor leaguers $400 per week, like most of MLB’s other teams.
Here’s the news from The Athletic’s Britt Ghiroli:
The Nationals are indeed now reversing course and paying their minor league players, sources tell me and @EmilyCWaldon. Memo said "Upon further internal discussion,” the team decided to not cut salaries.— Britt Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) June 1, 2020
“Upon further internal discussion” is a nice way of saying they didn’t like the response to Sunday’s story from The Athletic, which broke the news of their plans to cut their minor league players’ weekly stipends from $400 to $300 amid the coronavirus shutdown.
The decision was criticized around the internet — with many pointing out that the Lerner family that owns the Nationals is worth more than $4 billion.
Added pressure came when Nationals’ major-league players decided to step in, as announced by closer Sean Doolittle. Citing their own experiences trying to survive in the minor leagues, Doolittle said the players would come together to cover the stipend money lost by the minor leaguers.
Doolittle later added that the Nationals players had a Zoom call after it was reported the Nationals would be cutting minor league pay, and that the decision to do so was unanimous.
Players had a zoom call right after the news broke. Every player wanted to do something to help. It was unanimous. Proud to be a part of this group.— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) June 1, 2020
It was an inspiring move by the players and one they would be able to easily afford, as $100 per week for seven teams’ worth of players is a paltry amount for a group that had a $197 million opening day payroll last season.
However, it’s even smaller for a team owner worth more than $4 billion. The Nationals’ Lerner family is one of the richest ownership groups in baseball, and the fact that they wanted their players to subside on $300 per week while having to practice and stay in shape is an embarrassment. It’s not as bad as the Oakland Athletics deciding to pay their minor leaguers a whopping $0 while not allowing them to seek employment elsewhere in baseball, but it’s still a black mark on the game. Especially when the team is still basking in World Series revenue.
Meanwhile, the Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros and Cincinnati Reds — not the biggest market teams — have gone the opposite direction by committing to pay their minor leaguers through the end of the scheduled season.
The Nationals players stepping in also comes as MLB and the MLBPA hold firm in a standoff over playing the 2020 season. The MLBPA released a proposal to play 114 games with prorated salaries on Sunday, but odds are the owners will continue to dig in.
Amid that fight, the change-of-heart shown by Nationals ownership may be a sign of how much power MLB players have when they’re presenting a united front.
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