The MLB’s “Living Wage” Problem? Solved!

During the top of the 5th inning of the July 19th, 2021 Red Sox game versus the Toronto Blue Jays in Buffalo NY the Red Sox announcers talked about how hard Minor League players have to work to move up the ranks to the Major League despite their low pay, and wondered why those players couldn’t be paid a “living wage”.

And that got me thinking: If every player in Major League Baseball was paid just enough to be classified as a member of the Top One Percent of Income Earners (former President Obama’s “One-percenters”) how much money would be available to all the Minor League Baseball players?

Way back in 2012 I wrote:

“Limiting just the top 25 highest-paid players for 2012 to a $343,927 annual salary would reduce their combined cost by over 98%, saving US $508,248,620 … or, about US$7.00 per ticket based on 2011 total attendance.”

While $500 Million dollars is a lot of money, this statement is a bit disingenuous: The “savings” would only last one year; once everyone’s salary was reduced there wouldn’t be any additional future savings.

So, ignoring that the idea of a “Living Wage” is a myth, let’s do a new calculation focusing on just 2021, and redistribute the income throughout the entire MLB Players Organization.

Major League Baseball has 30 teams, and according to Baseball America:

“…each organization may have as many as 40 players on its MLB roster, 38 on its Triple-A roster, 37 on its Double-A roster and 35 on every other roster. So a club with a standard setup of seven minor league affiliates would be allowed to have up to 290 players under contract.”

Or, potentially 8,700 baseball players under contract across all of Major and Minor League Baseball: 1,200 in the Major League and 7,500 in the Minor League.

Now, let’s limit every Major League Player to a maximum yearly salary of $737,697 – the level required to be in the Top One Percent of Income Earners for 2018. Looking at the List of MLB Player Salaries for 2021 provided by Spotrac I see 393 MLB players making more than the maximum and 24 making less. Limiting those 393 players to the maximum would result in an extra $1,862,453,405 for 2021.

To ensure “income equality” for those 24 players below the maximum we’ll need to set aside $24,145,915. Sportrac only provided salaries for 421 players, and as I don’t know what the other 779 MLB players make let’s assume they’re all getting the guaranteed 2021 minimum salary of $570,500: To ensure they also have “income equality” we’ll need to raise each of their salaries by $167,197 which will require another $130,246,463. These adjustments will leave a paltry $1,708,061,027 to split up among all the Minor League Players.

Depending on the league, a Minor League Player makes anywhere from $10,500 to $14,700 during their 21-week season.  As those Red Sox announcers recently pointed out, that’s not a “living wage”, and – living wage myth aside – I agree. So, let’s assume each Minor League Roster has 38 players, each player makes the average salary of all rosters ($12,600 per season, according to the Associated Press) and each will receive an equal share of the remaining $1,708,061,027: Each player will now receive $240,341.47 per Season, or $117.81 per hour (assuming the standard 2,040 hour working year).

FYI: $117.81 per hour is more than the hourly wage of 96% of every working American.

Unlike my statement back in 2012, all these players can continue to receive those new salaries every year, as long as the stadiums are full of spectators, prices don’t drop, and the Players Union doesn’t read this posting.

Bottom Line? If Major League Baseball paid their top 393 players only enough to be members of the “One Percent” of Income Earners – $737,697 per year – they would have enough “extra money” to pay each Major League Player $737,697 per year and pay every Minor League Player $240,341.47 per year (putting Minor League Players in the Top 4% of Income Earners).

Well, it seems I’ve solved the “Living Wage problem”. We still won’t have “Income Equality”, as Major League Players will make about 150% more than their Minor League colleagues. And as for “Income Equity“, note that 18.8% of Major / Minor League Baseball Players are people of color while 81.2% are Caucasian, so once again my solution might not work…but, that’s a topic perhaps best left to another posting.

Thanks for Reading!

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