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MLB raising minimum salary for minor leaguers in 2021

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NEW YORK — Major League Baseball is raising the minimum salary for minor league players in 2021, according to a memo sent Friday from the commissioner’s office to all 30 teams and obtained by The Associated Press.

Two years after successfully lobbying Congress to exempt minor leaguers from federal minimum wage laws, MLB opted to give those players a wage increase between 38% and 72%. The bump was discussed at last week’s owners meetings and confirmed in the memo from Morgan Sword, executive vice president of baseball economics and operations.

Players at rookie and short-season levels will see their minimum weekly pay raised from $290 to $400, and players at Class A will go from $290 to $500. Double-A will jump from $350 to $600, and Triple-A from $502 to $700.

Minor leaguers are paid only during the five-month season and don’t receive wages during the offseason or spring training.

The raises come as MLB is negotiating with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the governing body of the minors, to replace the Professional Baseball Agreement that expires after the 2020 seasons. MLB proposed cutting 42 of the 160 required affiliated teams during those negotiations, a plan criticized by small-town fans and politicians at the local and national level.

“MLB’s priorities include reducing the travel burden on players and improving player working conditions,” Sword wrote. “These and other objectives only can be achieved with agreement of the National Association, or absent an agreement, following the expiration of the current PBA in September. However, we can move forward unilaterally with our goal of improving compensation for minor league players.”

A group of minor leaguers filed a lawsuit against major league teams in February 2014, claiming most earned less than $7,500 annually in violation of several laws. While the case has not yet gone to trial, Congress passed legislation stripping minor league players from protection under minimum wage laws. Congress put the “Save America’s Pastime Act” onto page 1,967 of a $1.3 trillion spending bill in 2018 at MLB’s urging.

The most talented players frequently get hundreds of thousands _ even millions _ of dollars in signing bonuses, but there are also players who sign for as little as $1,000. The financial burden has prompted some players to use tattered equipment, accept charity from more fortunate teammates, or in the case of one player, to live out of a school bus.

By comparison, the major league minimum is $563,500 this year, and the top players make over $30 million annually. For players on 40-man rosters on option to the minors, the minimum is $46,000 this season.

Commissioner Rob Manfred repeatedly has said player wellness is MLB’s priority in negotiations, seeking improvements in facilities, travel and salaries. MLB teams are fully responsible for minor league player salaries under the current PBA.

At the winter meetings in December, Manfred became agitated when asked why improving minor league salaries was being offered as a defense of the proposal.

“Obviously there is a way to pay people more without reducing the number of franchises,” Manfred said. “I think the question there becomes who should bear all of the costs associated with the player-related improvements that we think need to be made in the minor league system.”

The Toronto Blue Jays independently issued 50% raises to their players with minor league contracts before the 2019 season. They are the only team known to have paid their players more than the minimum.

Only players on 40-man rosters are part of the major league players’ union.

Minor league salaries have been stagnant for years, and players have strained to make ends meet on as little as $5,500 per season. Some players live in overcrowded apartments, sleeping on air mattresses, subsisted on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and sacrificed potential training hours to work better-paying jobs in the offseason.

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Yoenis Cespedes breaks silence, aims for Opening Day

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Yoenis Cespedes broke his silence with the media on Sunday, saying he didn’t want to talk about the past but he is hoping to be ready for Opening Day.

On Monday the New York Mets outfielder had told reporters he did not plan to talk to the media.

“Not today, not tomorrow, not at all this year,” he said, only to change his mind six days later, answering questions through an interpreter.

Asked by reporters if he planned to be ready for Opening Day, he said, “If I continue progressing the way that I am, yes.”

He has been working out with his Mets teammates since Monday.

While recovering from surgery on his heels last May, Cespedes fractured his right ankle in multiple places in an accident at his ranch just west of the Mets’ training complex. He and the Mets agreed in December to an amended contract that cut his base salary from $29.5 million to $6 million. He would raise his pay to $11 million if he has one active day on the major league roster and to $20 million if he has 650 plate appearances — a figure he has reached just once.

“I’m not going to speak about the past,” Cespedes told reporters. “I committed an error and I paid the price for it, but today I’ll be talking about the present and the future.”

He said the chance to raise his salary by staying on the field was important but he would have come into this season with the same motivation regardless of how his contract was structured.

“A big part of the motivation is the people who have been out there and have been saying that I can’t do it. So I am going out there to prove that I can,” he said.

The 34-year-old Cespedes won a Gold Glove in 2015 and a Silver Slugger the following year. He has played in only 119 games in the first three seasons of a $110 million, four-year contract, just 38 since the end of the 2017 season because of hamstring strains, a hip flexor, surgery on his heels and his broken ankle.

“I feel good. I am happy with the progress,” Cespedes told reporters. “Every day I am still working to get better and better. It’s not as fast as I want it to be, but as the season approaches I feel really good right now.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Fans heckling Astros spring opener get signs confiscated

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Fans hoping to heckle the sign-stealing Houston Astros at their spring opener were met with quite the coincidence.

They got their signs taken.

In the Astros’ first spring training game since their sign-stealing scandal rocked baseball, some fans brought signs jeering Houston, and ballpark personnel confiscated them before the Grapefruit League opener against the World Series champion Washington Nationals on Saturday night.

In a Series rematch, the Nats got hearty cheers, while everyone in an Astros jersey — including the mascot, Orbit — was booed. Houston did not use any players implicated in MLB’s probe.

Two men in Nationals gear sitting behind the Astros dugout briefly held up crudely drawn signs just before first pitch. One read: “You see my hate?” in large block letters. And another said: “Houston” with an asterisk below it, suggesting the Astros’ 2017 World Series title should be permanently blemished because of the cheating.

The men didn’t get to show off their signs for long. A woman who worked for the ballpark quickly approached to take the signs. The men didn’t argue with the woman, but they did look confused as she walked away with the signs folded in her arms.

The Astros and Nationals share a spring training complex. Houston was designated the home team Saturday.

Matthew Silliman, who held one of the signs, said he didn’t know they were forbidden. He drove to the game from Tampa Bay and said he has been waiting to let the Astros know what he thinks of them.

“I’m a big Nats fan and it’s wrong,” he said. “They’re cheaters.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred concluded last month the Astros violated rules by using a television camera to steal catchers’ signs during their run to the 2017 World Series title and again in the 2018 season. Manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for one season and then fired by the team, but players were not disciplined.

Fans booed loudly every time the public address announcer said “Astros,” and fans behind Houston’s dugout heckled Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers Jr. as they stood on the dugout steps before the game. A few fans banged on their metal seats, attempting to mimic the banging on a trash can the Astros used to relay stolen signs to hitters.

One fan in a Nationals jersey yelled: “Hey Altuve, are you scared to play tonight?” Others screamed “You suck!” and “Cheaters!”

About a half-dozen fans wore shirts that read “bang foul poles, not trash cans” in reference to Howie Kendrick‘s decisive home run for Washington in Game 7 of last year’s World Series.

First-year Houston manager Dusty Baker said he didn’t think the reception was “too bad” and said his team will have to get used to it.

“You’ll probably get the same reception most places you go, especially the first go-round,” he said. “So, you’ve just got to put your big-boy pants on and then just try to shut it out and just play baseball and realize this too shall pass.”

Washington ace Max Scherzer, who started Game 7 to help the Nationals to their first title, also started Saturday and pitched two scoreless innings. He was asked if he thought Saturday night’s game would be more dramatic considering what’s going on with the Astros.

“Maybe, I don’t know,” he said. “We won the World Series, so it wasn’t like I have a vendetta to hold. So, for me over here we’re just trying to move forward and get ready for our season.”

Scherzer was a bit disappointed that none of Houston’s starters played Saturday when he allowed one hit and struck out two.

“You want to face the best,” Scherzer said. “They’re a great lineup, but I get it, it’s early in the spring, you’re not going to see them.”

And while Silliman didn’t get to keep his signs, he said it wouldn’t stop him from heckling the Astros with his voice.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “They’re going to get it all.”

He didn’t have long. The game was delayed because of rain after two innings and canceled about 90 minutes later when rain continued.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Fans heckling Astros spring opener get signs stolen

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Fans hoping to heckle the sign-stealing Houston Astros at their spring opener were met with quite the coincidence.

They got their signs stolen.

In the Astros’ first spring training game since their sign-stealing scandal rocked baseball, some fans brought signs jeering Houston, and ballpark personnel confiscated them before the exhibition opener against the World Series champion Washington Nationals on Saturday night.

In a Series rematch, the Nats got hearty cheers, while everyone in an Astros jersey — including the mascot, Orbit — was booed. Houston did not use any players implicated in MLB’s probe.

Two men in Nationals gear sitting behind the Astros dugout briefly held up crudely drawn signs just before first pitch. One read: “You see my hate?” in large block letters. And another said: “Houston” with an asterisk below it, suggesting the Astros’ 2017 World Series title should be permanently blemished because of the cheating.

The men didn’t get to show off their signs for long. A woman who worked for the ballpark quickly approached to take the signs. They didn’t argue with the woman, but they did look confused as she walked away with them folded in her arms.

The Astros and Nationals share a spring training complex. Houston was designated the home team Saturday.

Matthew Silliman, who held one of the signs, said he didn’t know they were forbidden. He drove to the game from Tampa Bay and said he’s been waiting to let the Astros know what he thinks of them.

“I’m a big Nats fan and it’s wrong,” he said. “They’re cheaters.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred concluded last month the Astros violated rules by using a television camera to steal catchers’ signs during their run to the 2017 World Series title and again in the 2018 season. Manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for one season and then fired by the team, but players were not disciplined.

Fans booed loudly every time the public address announcer said “Astros,” and fans behind Houston’s dugout heckled Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers Jr. as they stood on the dugout steps before the game. A few fans banged on their metal seats, attempting to mimic the banging on a trash can the Astros used to relay stolen signs to hitters.

One fan in a Nationals jersey yelled: “Hey Altuve, are you scared to play tonight?” Others screamed “you suck!” and “cheaters!”

About a half-dozen fans wore shirts that read “bang foul poles, not trash cans” in reference to Howie Kendrick‘s decisive home run for Washington in Game 7 of last year’s World Series.

First-year Houston manager Dusty Baker said he didn’t think the reception was “too bad” and said his team will have to get used to it.

“You’ll probably get the same reception most places you go, especially the first go-round,” he said. “So, you’ve just got to put your big-boy pants on and then just try to shut it out and just play baseball and realize this too shall pass.”

Washington ace Max Scherzer, who started Game 7 to help the Nationals to their first title, also started Saturday and pitched two scoreless innings. He was asked if he thought Saturday night’s game would be more dramatic considering what’s going on with the Astros.

“Maybe, I don’t know,” he said. “We won the World Series, so it wasn’t like I have a vendetta to hold. So, for me over here we’re just trying to move forward and get ready for our season.”

Scherzer was a bit disappointed that none of Houston’s starters played Saturday when he allowed one hit and struck out two.

“You want to face the best,” Scherzer said. “They’re a great lineup but I get it, it’s early in the spring you’re not going to see them.”

And while Silliman didn’t get to keep his signs, he said it wouldn’t stop him from heckling the Astros with his voice.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “They’re going to get it all.”

He didn’t have long. The game was delayed because of rain after two innings and canceled about 90 minutes later when rain continued.



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