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Major League Baseball to require teams to provide housing for minor league players starting in 2022, sources say

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Amid mounting pressure from players and advocacy groups, Major League Baseball will require teams to provide housing for minor league players starting in 2022, sources told ESPN.

While MLB has yet to outline its plan formally, six team officials told ESPN they are starting to prepare to help house players across each of their four minor league affiliates. In mid-September, according to sources, owners from the league’s 30 teams agreed unanimously to a plan that would provide housing for minor league players. Whether they will offer stipends that fully cover housing or provide the lodging itself has yet to be decided, sources said. An MLB spokesperson said the league is finalizing the details of the plan.

Minor league players have grown increasingly outspoken about their working conditions, criticizing teams for salaries that leave some below the poverty line and the financial issues that stem from having to provide their own housing for home games. The emergence of groups Advocates for Minor Leaguers and More Than Baseball, their use of social media to highlight the living conditions of minor league players and the willingness of players to talk on the record about their experiences illuminated issues about which players have spoken privately for years.

“This is a historic victory for minor league baseball players,” Harry Marino, the executive director of Advocates of Minor Leaguers and a former minor league player, told ESPN. “When we started talking to players this season about the difficulties they face, finding and paying for in-season housing was at the top of almost every player’s list. As a result, addressing that issue became our top priority.”

Momentum toward providing housing at the team level already was increasing behind the scenes, sources told ESPN. Multiple teams were discussing following the lead of the Houston Astros, who this season covered lodging for all their minor league players at home and on the road. Other teams offered rooms or stipends at certain affiliates but not all.

The total cost for a team to house all minor league players at home for one season, according to two executives whose teams had explored doing so before the league pursued its mandate, is less than $1 million. Though the minor leagues especially are populated with small towns and lower rents, they also include some of the most expensive cities in the country, such as Brooklyn, the High-A affiliate of the New York Mets, and San Jose, the Low-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.

Even in locations with lower rent, minor league players often pile into small apartments and sleep on air mattresses because their wages can’t provide more. Some players say they have spent nights in their cars or at stadiums when they could not afford a hotel. Others have trouble securing apartments, whether because of low income or nonexistent credit, and spent a majority of their paycheck on hotels, where teams’ discounted rates barely lessen the burden.

The physical toll is clear. The mental issues only compound the problems. When players are promoted, organizations typically will provide them a hotel room for a few days, then expect them to arrange housing themselves. Between procuring new accommodations and figuring out how to extract themselves from old ones, players say housing is the most acute problem for minor leaguers.

That would not be the case, according to players, were salaries higher. With signing bonuses between domestic and international players topping $450 million in 2021, not all players face financial issues. But after taxes, the majority of players’ salaried take-home pay is minuscule.

Salary increases for minor leaguers this season bumped their minimum pay to from $290 to $500 a week at Class A, $350 to $600 a week in Double-A and $502 to $700 a week for Triple-A. For a full season, Class A players receive $12,000, Double-A $14,400 and Triple-A $16,800. Some veteran players — especially those with major league service time — receive higher salaries.

“Most Minor Leaguers make less than $15,000 per year and won’t receive their next paycheck until April,” Marino said. “For the next six months, they will spend hours each day training – as required by contract – while trying to balance second and third jobs to make ends meet. Like housing six players in a two-bedroom apartment, this is a broken model from a bygone era. Minor leaguers will not rest until they receive the livable annual salary they deserve.”

Minor league players were exempted from federal minimum-wage and overtime rules after the Save America’s Pastime Act, a House bill that failed amid widespread criticism in 2016 but was written into law nearly 2,000 pages into a 2018 omnibus spending bill. A class-action lawsuit filed by players alleging they were underpaid and not provided overtime remains in the court system after the United States Supreme Court denied MLB’s attempt to dismiss the case.

The housing mandate will be the latest change in a minor league system that has undergone a drastic reimagining in the last year. MLB cut 42 affiliates as part of a restructuring of its development pipeline to 120 teams, touting that players would be paid more, travel less and work in better conditions. Critics said the loss of affiliated baseball in smaller cities made the game less accessible and provided fewer opportunities for players to climb to the major leagues.

The outcry strengthened the resolve of More Than Baseball, which provided housing grants to minor league players this season, and Advocates for Minor Leaguers, which has built a groundswell of support with a barrage of social media posts. Minor league players, who are not part of a union, have discussed organizing to further assist with improving their working conditions, according to multiple sources.

“It was this unprecedented behavior – minor league players unifying and utilizing their collective voice – that ultimately upset the status quo,” Marino said.

While the Major League Baseball Players Association does not represent minor league players, some of its rank-and-file members have shown public support for the causes espoused by the advocacy groups. Multiple players, including Philadelphia‘s Andrew McCutchen, Baltimore‘s Trey Mancini, Chicago‘s Jason Heyward and Los AngelesChris Taylor, have worn a wristband distributed by Advocates for Minor Leaguers that includes the inscription “#FairBall”.

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Death of Tampa Bay Rays bullpen catcher Jean Ramirez ruled a suicide

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The death of Tampa Bay Rays bullpen catcher Jean Ramirez near his home in Fort Worth, Texas, has been ruled a suicide.

The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office released the finding on Thursday, three days after the 28-year-old’s body was found.

The Ramirez family released a statement through the Rays, thanking the team for its support.

“The loss of our son has been the most excruciating experience we have lived. Unfortunately, we sometimes don’t see the signs. Struggling in silence is not ok,” the family said in the statement.

“It is our commitment to honor our son’s life by helping other families,” the family added. “No parent should have to endure the loss of their child.”

The Rays announced the death in a Twitter post last Tuesday but did not release details. The Tampa Bay Times reported the body was found Monday in a field near the family home.

Ramirez, a native of Puerto Rico who attended high school in Fort Worth, was a 28th-round draft pick out of Illinois State in 2016. He played three years in Tampa Bay’s minor league system before beginning a three-season stint as a bullpen catcher with the major league team in 2019.

“We are very grateful to the Tampa Bay Rays organization, whom we consider our family, for their love and support,” the family said. “Our son felt loved by all of you.”

Manager Kevin Cash paid tribute to Ramirez in a statement released by the Rays on Tuesday.

“He brought so much passion and energy each day to our clubhouse and bullpen, and his love for the Rays and baseball was evident to all who interacted with him,” Cash said.

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Brad Ausmus joins Oakland A’s as bench coach for first-time manager Mark Kotsay

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Brad Ausmus, the former manager of the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Angels, has been hired as bench coach for the Oakland Athletics, providing some much-needed experience to the coaching staff of rookie manager Mark Kotsay.

The A’s finalized Kotsay’s coaching staff on Friday, also announcing the promotion of Tommy Everidge to major league hitting coach and the hiring of Chris Cron as an assistant hitting coach.

Ausmus, 52, managed the Tigers from 2014 to 2017, winning the American League Central at the beginning of that four-year stretch and finishing with a 314-332 regular-season record. The longtime major league catcher then went 72-90 in his only season as the Angels’ manager in 2019, a year tarnished by the sudden death of young pitcher Tyler Skaggs.

Everidge, 38, has spent the last eight years as a hitting coach in the A’s farm system and was originally drafted by the team in 2004. Cron, the father of Colorado Rockies first baseman C.J. Cron, spent the last eight years in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ minor league system, most recently as the organization’s field coordinator and has compiled two decades’ worth of managing experience in the minor leagues.

The hirings prompted Darren Bush to move from hitting coach to third-base coach and Eric Martins to move from assistant hitting coach to first-base coach. Mike Aldrete will transition from first-base coach to quality control coach. Kotsay, 46, spent the last six years on the A’s coaching staff and was hired over the offseason to replace Bob Melvin as the team’s manager. The A’s allowed Melvin to opt out of the final year of his contract to join the San Diego Padres.

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Buster Olney’s Top 10s for 2022

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A lot of the credit for the Atlanta Braves’ postseason surge was rightly attributed to the midseason deals made by general manager Alex Anthopoulos, because without Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall and Joc Pederson, Atlanta would not have hosted a championship parade.

But what may have been lost in that narrative was just how much organizational bedrock continued to develop underneath those additions. Austin Riley, just 24 years old, became one of the National League’s best players. Max Fried, who turns 28 next week, posted a 1.74 ERA in his last 14 regular-season starts. Ian Anderson, just 23, now has a full season of experience. The talented Kyle Wright, 26, may have reached a crossroads in his development during the postseason, with moments on which he can build confidence. Dansby Swanson had 62 extra-base hits last season and has developed into one of the sport’s most consistent defenders. Ozzie Albies is a multitalented star. And Ronald Acuña Jr. was the front-runner for NL MVP at the time he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

As the National League Championship Series began in October, the Braves were considered something of a long shot against the Los Angeles Dodgers — and similarly, they were betting underdogs against the Houston Astros in the World Series. So underestimate them now at your own peril.

The Braves’ ownership still needs to open its fattened coffers and pay Freddie Freeman. If that happens, Atlanta may actually have a better team in 2022 than that group honored in the championship parade, and have a legit shot at becoming the first team since the 1998-2000 Yankees to win back-to-back titles.

Early in 2022, with a lot of players unsigned and many more trades to come after the next labor agreement is forged, here are MLB’s top 10 teams:

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