Sean Doolittle rips minor league wages as 'disgusting' and 'exploitative'

Chris Lingebach
June 25, 2019 - 4:44 pm

Nationals closer Sean Doolittle called the pay scale in minor league baseball "disgusting" and "exploitative," telling 106.7 The Fan on Tuesday the players deserve more money.

"The pay in the minor leagues, I think it's terrible, it's disgusting, it's exploitative," he said. Doolittle joins 106.7 The Fan's Grant & Danny each Tuesday at 11:45, presented by Lindsay Volvo Cars of Alexandria.

"You know, I spent parts of six seasons in the minor leagues and I dealt with some injuries there, I saw a lot of things," Doolittle said. "I had the safety net of being a first-round pick, so I didn't maybe necessarily experience some of that hardship firsthand, but I watched it break a lot of guys. The strain that it puts on you and your family, it's really tough.

"Then by the time you're maybe in your mid-twenties, you're at a crossroads in your life, right, but maybe you don't have a college degree to fall back on. Maybe you only have a high school education, and it's like, 'Alright. Well do I want put my life on hold for four more years while I go back to school and work towards getting a job? How do I do that?' So, you know, you hang on as long as you possibly can."

"I just don't think... you know, and all the while this carrot is being dangled in front of you," he continued. "Like, some day you might get to the big leagues, right? And I don't know. I don't think it's the best way to do things.

Doolittle was asked the question in part because of controversial remarks made by teammate Adam Eaton, in which Eaton argued he's better off for having lived through the difficult work conditions of the minor leagues.

"I think the system itself is unique in the sense that it doesn't allow you to make a living down there, and that for me is something that' s special," Eaton said. "It doesn't allow people to get comfortable."

"If you do (improve conditions), complacency sets in. I don't know, I think it’s difficult, yes, and it's easy for me to say that because of where I am, but I wouldn't be where I am without that," he continued. "Salary wise, I think that maybe they could pick up a little bit. I think there's a little room, a little wiggle room there, but I don't think there should be complacency down there."

Eaton has since walked back those remarks, amending them to clarify that minor league players do deserve more money, and "my quotes are simply from my personal experience."

"It's tough. I don't know exactly what he said or the context in which he said it," Doolittle said. "But my experience, everybody's experience is different, but that's just the way I see it. I also think that the low payment in the minor leagues is kind of the foundation that the Major League Baseball pay scale is built on, and the less that they pay guys there, the less that they have to pay, clubs pay Major League Baseball players.

"Because, relatively, it's a lot of money. Objectively, it is a lot of money. But it's one of those things that, by comparison, they're able to maybe get you to sign something that's a little bit below your actual value, what you're really bringing to the team. There's a lot wrapped up in it. I think it's a pretty nuanced thing. I think they should be paid a living wage, something that's more fair."

Doolittle was asked how to fix the problem at this point in the interview.

"I think it starts, yeah, paying them a little bit more money," he began. "I think some conditions have started to improve in and around ballparks, right? More investments are being made into player development. Maybe slightly better facilities, better weight rooms, stuff like that. More access to those kinds of things during the season."

"You mentioned, yeah, just the living conditions," he continued. "I mean, in A ball, there were five of us in a two-bedroom apartment. In Double-A, I think there were like eight of us in a four-bedroom house. There's a lot of that going on so that guys can... and the whole time, you're sleeping on air mattresses and you're using Rubbermaid bins as furniture. We used the cardboard box from the TV as a coffee table one year.

"You know, it's not glamorous. It does kind of get romanticized sometimes, because some of like the most fun experiences of my life happened in the minor leagues, and I made friends that I'm still friends with to this day that are some of my best friends. But at the same time, like, I made it, and so many of those guys didn't, and I'm very aware of that so I try really hard to think of it as objectively as I can."

"Yeah, I don't know. I just think it could be better," he said. "Because right now, in order to make up for that, you see guys go play winter ball maybe in Venezuela, or the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico. And even for a month, if a guy is willing to leave his family for another month – you know, he's six months away during the season, a month in spring training – if he's willing to leave for another month, he can make what he would make for maybe two or three months during a minor league season in just one month maybe playing somewhere in Latin America. It's really tough. It's tough for a lot of guys and I think we could do a little bit better."

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