Last weekend, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies minor leaguers from the Brooklyn Cyclones and Jersey Shore BlueClaws wore teal bands (akin to Livestrong bands) that read #FairBall during their final game of the season.
The following day, Phillies big-leaguer Andrew McCutchen wore one, helping shed light on the ongoing MiLB issues, which include (but are not limited to) insufficient pay and poor conditions.
Phillies president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski, denied that players were reprimanded or threatened by team officials in any way:
"“I’ve done some checking, and we don’t feel that it happened at all, to my knowledge. I’ve asked. First of all, we wouldn’t reprimand people for doing that. We really had no objection that people wore them.”"
The key part of his statement is “We don’t feel that it happened.” Of course, one of the most powerful men in the organization isn’t going to view veiled threats in the same way as the most powerless people in the game.
Minor leaguers are never in a position of power; they have no reason to lie about getting in trouble for wearing the wristbands when they were brave to do so in the first place. Whether the Phillies explicitly stated their displeasure or implied that the players should not repeat their behavior, it’s a bad look to be trying to silence them.
The Phillies have better pay and housing for minor leaguers than most MLB team
The Phillies are actually one of the teams who treat their minor leaguers better than most. This isn’t to say that minor leaguers are treated fairly in the organization, but there are minor leaguers in other franchises who have it far worse, including the Mets, who reportedly did not say anything negative to their Cyclones players for their part in the demonstration.
According to Advocates for Minor Leaguers, Phillies minor leaguers at various levels receive a housing stipend, their team hotels are covered, and the players receive salary for extended spring training. The Mets do none of these things, nor do most other MLB teams.
Yet even with the paltry raises MLB gave MiLB-ers this year, most prospects live under the poverty line. Out of their meager wages, they must pay club dues for uniform laundering and other expenses. Without the ability to show proof of income over $10,000/year, many are denied housing, and often resort to cramming as many grown men into apartments or houses as possible, sleeping on air mattresses; others sleep in their cars.
With the minor league season wrapping up, future Phillies will continue training or head to play in the fall leagues or winter ball, but many will also pick up jobs to make ends meet, because their dream job doesn’t pay. They’re expected to remain in playing shape and to come to spring training where they will not be paid for their participation, despite often appearing in the same games as the big-league players.
The Phillies might be taking better care of their minor leaguers than most clubs, but it’s far from good enough. And if they did and continue to try to stifle their voices, they will cement themselves as one of the more reprehensible franchises.