i'm missing baseball a lot but also, fuck baseball.
i've always had a complicated relationship with baseball. throughout most of my adult years, baseball has been the sport that has meant the most to me. bob uecker's voice is the soundtrack of summer to me and hundreds of thousands of wisconsinites. sometimes, i plan my yardwork around the brewers weekend schedule. uecker's voice is often in my headphones during a brisk, late-spring saturday evening or a humid, august sunday.
but as i said, fuck baseball. still the only major sports league to hold an antitrust exemption, they legally do not have to treat minor-leaguers like employees and say, pay them a livable wage, among other things. the minimum salary for a aaa ballplayer, that being only one step away from the major leagues, is less than $11,000. the minimum salary for an ahl hockey player, one step away from the nhl, is $45,000. the history of it is fascinating to a history nerd like myself but in the end, it's uniquely fucked workers in a country that's unique in its ways that it fucks workers. i love the sport, i love the strategy, and i love the history, but it directly contradicts many of my values i hold dearest. and while the antitrust exemption is unique, all sports are corrupt. insane profits have come at the expense of fans. billion dollar television contracts have made it harder and more expensive to see in-market games. this has bred a culture where seeing your hometown team play is not a right, but part of a capitalist economy you're required to pay for. mlb doesn't have to operate by the rules of every other business in this county. but you have to pay for it like every other business in this country.
this is one of the reasons i listen to bob uecker describe brewers games so often. for $2.99/month i can get every radio call of every game through the mlb at-bat app. i can also watching all out of market games. but my brewers? or the cubs, white sox, or cardinals for that matter? i'd need to subscribe to a service to see them. $50/month for youtube tv is the one i usually do so i can get the coveted fox sports wisconsin cable channel. when it comes to september i've usually got tired of finding ways around strategically placed free seven day trials and just pay for the the last month of the regular season and the playoffs. so i've always said fuck baseball. but i've always loved baseball.
prior to covid-19, mlb had submitted a proposal to eliminate 42 minor league baseball teams. anyone who knows anything about baseball or business understood that mlb was going to use covid-19 as leverage. from cbs sports on april 3rd:
MLB's plan to shear the minor leagues by 42 teams was in motion prior to the pandemic, but every source agreed that the league appears to be leveraging the situation to get its desired outcome. "I absolutely believe MLB is going to use this as their excuse to go forward with their contraction plans," one talent evaluator said.
some minor leaguers have not been paid at all during the crisis. this article from npr documents the struggles of some. the owner of class-a fort wayne and aa chattanooga applied for small business protection and received it, so no one's been furloughed yet. but those funds are gone now and while there might be more help on the way, i'm hard pressed to envision a scenario in which any minor league baseball is played in 2020. that makes me hard pressed to see a scenario where minor league players get paid without the cooperation of mlb. mlb is leveraging this cooperation with eliminating 42 minor league teams.
if mlb has an antitrust exemption and receives government funds to help it resume operations, what is it, exactly and why do i have to pay to see it? fuck baseball, but please come back.