The Kansas City Royals have provided a beacon of light during a dark week for minor league baseball.
While several Major League Baseball franchises released large groups of minor league players and announced plans to cease paying stipends to those that remain under contract, the Royals have taken a vastly different approach under new owner John Sherman and long-time general manager Dayton Moore.
As MLB Network's Jon Heyman first reported on Friday, the Royals have not only agreed to pay their minor leaguers through Aug. 31 — which is essentially the end of the minor league season — they are also not releasing any players. All minor league players who began the season with the Royals will be paid for the entire season.
It’s an approach many believe every franchise should be taking amid the coronavirus pandemic. MLB is bringing in record revenue every season while its 30 owners sit on stacks of money. None of them are at risk of losing their fortunes. Some wouldn’t lose a dime even if they paid minor league players in full. Yet most are looking to cut costs at all costs.
Not the Royals. They are standing behind their minor league players, and their reasons for doing so are both refreshing and powerful.
In a conference call with local media members today, Royals GM Dayton Moore said this about the club's decision to stand by their minor league players: pic.twitter.com/8ZfWWx95Jh— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) May 29, 2020
Here are Dayton Moore’s full comments:
Understand this: The minor league players, the players you'll never know about, the players that never get out of rookie ball or High-A, those players have as much impact on the growth of our game then 10-year or 15-year veteran players. They have as much opportunity to influence the growth of our game as those individuals who played for a long time because those individuals go back into their communities and teach the game, work in academies, are JUCO coaches, college coaches, scouts, coaches in pro baseball. They're growing the game constantly because they're so passionate about it. So we felt it was really, really important not to release one minor league player during this time, a time we needed to stand behind them.
The treatment of minor league players has long been an issue in baseball. Despite being employed by some of the wealthiest individuals in the world, many minor leaguers are forced to live on roughly $1,150 per month during the season. That amounts to less than minimum wage.
The Royals’ gesture doesn’t change that reality. It also doesn’t change that minor league baseball as we knew it likely will no longer exist once the pandemic ends. But it is a sign of genuine goodwill, which is something that is desperately needed during these times.
In addition to supporting their minor leaguers, ESPN's Jeff Passan reports the Royals will not lay off or furlough any team employees during the 2020 season. Only "higher-level" employees will take pay cuts, and the team's plan is to pay that lost money back at a later time.
The Royals are one of MLB’s smallest-market teams. They do not typically have a high payroll and rarely compete for big-ticket free agents. But they are taking care of their own here, which might signify a bigger change under the new ownership.
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