Dick Durbin wants MLB to step up support for minor league players

As summer turns into fall, baseball spotlights illuminate the brightest post-season stars: Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, Jose Altuve.

In 2022, this autumn spotlight can also illuminate Rob Manfredcommissioner raising his right hand in Congress and swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

“This is definitely our plan,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) told The Los Angeles Times Wednesday.

threat to remove baseball’s antitrust exemption is a time-honored Washington ritual. After 100 years, the exemption remains in effect.

Congressional hearings are also a time-tested Washington ritual. Baseball never took steroid testing seriously until Congress held nationally televised hearings on the subject, and Durbin says he thinks the same could be true of minor league baseball. He said the hearing could take place “in September or October.”

According to the committee antitrust exemption acthe focused on influencing the minor leagues.

“Of course I would like to see a new set of laws,” said Durbin, “but I am a realist. Beyond that, I’d like to see Major League Baseball concede.”

Committee asked MLB and the nonprofit Minor League Defenders on how the antitrust exemption affects minor leaguers. The defenders responded earlier this month; the league’s response is due on Friday.

Meanwhile, Manfred sparked national outrage with his response to a question about whether owners could pay a living wage to minor league players or chose not to.

“I reject the suggestion that they are not being paid a living wage,” Manfred said on the day All-Star Game.

“I think it was a tactless statement,” Durbin said. “When a politician makes a statement, he corrects his remarks as quickly as possible.

“This does not reflect the reality of what is happening to minor league players. They are treated very badly.”

At first glance, of course, Manfred looked stupid. The starting salary for a triple A player, the highest tier in the minor leagues, is about $14,000. The federal government establishes poverty line for a one-person family, $13,590.

But sound bite that lit up social media did not include the rest of Manfred’s answer on how minor league wages have risen, how signing bonuses are independent of wages, and how housing is now provided to players. He previously told The Times how working conditions have improved thanks to upgraded facilities and less travel.

It’s enough?

In with allowance for recruits released this week, defenders said they would like to change the reward system from one in which teams control the minor leagues for seven years and pay by scale to one in which players can negotiate the terms of their contracts.

Theoretically, you can sign a contract with a team that will select you for three years instead of seven, and then sign with any team that offers you more money or the fastest way to the big leagues.

Sen.  Dick Durbin speaks at a press conference at the Capitol in Washington.

Sen. Dick Durbin, of Illinois, speaks at a press conference at the Capitol in Washington on July 20.

(Amanda Andrade-Rhoads/Associated Press)

This can lead to unintended but easily expected consequences: Dodgers buying up all the best prospects. Those would be the details Durbin would like the parties to discuss: how to come up with a newer and fairer minor league system, not the need for change at all.

“I can crusade like anyone else,” he said, “but what I’m looking for at this point in my career is real change. If there is a way to move towards a better scenario and they are willing to do so, I want to listen.”

Durbin competes for the minor leagues, but also for the minor leagues.

The committee’s letter to the MLB suggested “no further downsizing of minor league clubs”. When MLB took over the minor leagues last season, it eliminated 43 clubs that were affiliated with major league teams. There are concerns that MLB may increase the pay of minor league players by reducing the number of minor league players.

“Something has to happen for Major League Baseball to keep building its fan base,” Durbin said. “I think they have some real problems. They are reluctant to admit it when they talk about the length of the game, changing the rules, and the like.

“But I think there’s another element: they’re overpriced in the market for many American families.

“Minor league teams are catching on. They are affordable and nearby, and it will be much easier for children to get involved in the game. It tells me that baseball needs to change.”

Durbin was happy to talk about Savannah bananaswhose rules for supporters include the following: if a supporter in the stands catches a falball, the batter is out.

“The little leagues can teach the big leagues something about baseball,” he said. “I would like them to breed. I think it will increase interest in baseball.

“I want baseball to succeed. I like sports. But I think some owners need to think differently.”

After all, his beloved Chicago Cubs are now hiring a special hitter. One can agree with the need for fresh thinking without agreeing with what this thinking should be.

“The lights at Wrigley Field were the first abomination, but DH?” Durbin said. “Oh my God.”