Former Phillies catcher Todd Pratt brags about making it through the minor leagues on low pay “without one complaint” in tone-deaf tweet
On Tuesday, the former Phillies catcher decided to weigh in on the ongoing minor league pay scandal with an absolutely terrible take.
For starters, the argument that someone suffered years ago and therefore, people should continue to suffer is selfish and terrible. Past suffering is precisely why things should be improved; we can’t change what’s already happened, but we can do our best to prevent it from repeating.
Next, let’s talk numbers. $750 in 1985 comes out to $1,959.67 when adjusted for 2022’s inflation. When MiLB gave players a long-overdue salary bump, High and Low-A’s weekly minimum pay went from $290 up to $500. Minor leaguers are not paid during the offseason or Spring Training, though they are expected to keep in playing shape yearlong. Many live under the poverty line, making less than $13,000 per year.
Now, factor in that MLB teams are richer than ever. The national tv deals alone bring in billions, and the only team Forbes valued at under $1B was the Miami Marlins, still worth a respectable $990M.
So, everything has gotten more expensive and everyone gets to get richer except minor leaguers, the lifeblood of baseball. Seems very fair to keep minor leaguers under the poverty line while billionaires hoard their ever-growing billions.
When several Twitter users pointed these facts out to Pratt, he doubled down on his experiences from a much more affordable era of history:
If your justification for criminally low pay is that you get to eat better food, you should probably stop trying to justify.
And for what it’s worth, former Phillies player Ty Kelly once told me about scrounging for PB&J sandwiches in minor-league clubhouses. Not exactly the nutritious, high-protein meal a professional athlete needs to sustain himself.
When I pointed out the cost-of-living disparity, he wasn’t too pleased.
In addition to hoping that things don’t get better for kids these days, Pratt seems happy to ignore is that cost of living in the United States has skyrocketed since his own professional career began. In North Carolina, where Pratt spent his 1986 season, rent increased from $205/month at the beginning of the 80s to $382 by the end of the decade. In 1985, the median rent in the U.S. was $339; in 2020, it was $1,104.
By his own admittance, Pratt wasn’t even paying that much and was getting meals provided in his living situation. Most minor leaguers today would love to have this setup, rather than cramming into tiny apartments on air mattresses and couch-surfing.
It’s interesting that Pratt is willing to be so cavalier about his minor-league days when he struggled through most of them, on the field, that is. The Red Sox drafted him in 1985, but he essentially failed out of their organization by 1991. He signed on with the Baltimore Orioles in November 1991 but was claimed by the Phillies in the Rule 5 draft weeks later. Luckily for him, the cost of living was so low that he was able to persevere as he bounced from team to team.
Pratt finally made his big-league debut with the Phillies in 1992, playing 16 games when rosters expanded in September. In 1993, he earned a roster spot on the eventual pennant-winner team, but when the strike truncated the 1994 season, the Phillies non-tendered the struggling catcher.
In 1996, Pratt was no longer with any team and began managing a Domino’s Pizza. He restarted his career with the Mets, and he spent parts of the next five seasons as their backup catcher before they traded him back to the Phillies during the 2001 season.
After a few more minor-league contracts with the Phillies, Braves, and Yankees, Pratt retired in 2007. That year, he was named in the Mitchell Report as having tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Former Mets employee Kirk Radomski, who pled guilty to distribution of several forms of PEDs, claimed that he sold steroids to Pratt between 2000-01.
No one is discounting the long, bumpy road Pratt took to the majors, though the alleged PED use would’ve given him a competitive advantage. But no one should be celebrating or glorifying the minor-league struggle, either, especially not someone who did it almost 40 years ago, in a completely different landscape.
If I sound mad, it’s because I’m furious. I have friends who gave up on their lifelong dreams because trying to hike against the avalanche that is minor league baseball is almost impossible. Barely 10% of minor leaguers make their big-league debut, and that’s not because the other 90% aren’t good enough. Beyond baseball, not paying people for their skill is just wrong, and anyone in the world living under the poverty line is inhumane.
It took Pratt the better part of a decade to reach the majors (and supposedly steroids to stay there), which is more time than most minor leaguers have to find their way. He’s lucky to be one of the small percentage that makes it to the big show. But if he wants to act like it was harder for him than minor leaguers today, no one should take him seriously.