Minor-league baseball players from affiliates of each of baseball's 30 franchises are moving forward with a class-action lawsuit against Major League Baseball that argues they are underpaid. An NBC News report Tuesday said Senne v. MLB, first filed in February and scheduled for a September hearing, "portrays minor league baseball players as the game's exploited underclass." The named plaintiff in the case is (Miami Marlins single-A affiliate) Greensboro Grasshoppers first baseman Aaron Senne. When the Marlins drafted Senne in the 10th round of the 2010 MLB Draft, he signed for a bonus of $25,000, the second-lowest of any player who signed in the first 10 rounds.
The NBC News story continues breathlessly:
Minor league players have always been poor in dollars, and rich in grit, character, and the honeyed romance of playing for peanuts while pursing a dream. What changed, (former minor league player Garrett) Broshuis claims, is the salaries of Major Leaguers by comparison. Since 1976, when the top-hat class unionized and won the right to free agency, minimum salaries have ballooned by 2,500 percent. Minor leaguers, by contrast, have seen only a 70 percent bump in the same time period, a rate that doesn’t even cover inflation.
While the players involved in the lawsuit allege they are underpaid for the job they are hired to perform, court documents filed by the MLB earlier this year appear to argue the players' occupation isn't a job, but a pastime. Legal precedent supports this view. Supreme Court rulings in 1922 and 1972 have classified the game as "a matter of amusement." The 1972 decision according to Rutgers University professor David Greenberg included bizarre "rhapsodic odes" and multiple references to "Casey At The Bat" from Justice Harry Blackmun, and is one of the most mocked decisions in Supreme Court history.
The NBC report coincided with Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game at Minneapolis' Target Field, the venue that also featured several minor-league players during Sunday night's MLB Futures Game.
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- Will Green