American Association Daily provides insights and features on the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions going on with teams around the league. In today’s edition, we examine a new law passed in Minnesota which increases the minimum wage, a standard the St. Paul Saints could not pay and still stay in operation because of the league’s salary cap.
New Minimum Wage Law Endangers Saints
For over 25 years, the St. Paul Saints have established themselves as independent baseball’s most important franchise. It is not just that they have actor Bill Murray and Mike Veeck as two of the owners of the team, but the fact is that this is one of the most recognized teams in all of sports.
The Saints are well-known as the standard in fan friendly entertainment, and it is the innovations of Veeck that have become part of the sport no matter what minor league ballpark you visit. It truly is remarkable how the Saints and its owners have revolutionized the sport for its fans.
The Saints Coming to an End?
However, as great as the St. Paul Saints are and how successful they have been in drawing fans to their new Stadium, CHS Field, the team is in danger of actually having to fold. No, it is not because fan attendance is lacking, as the team is still drawing better than 8,000 per game. It is not because community support has waned, as fans continue to enjoy the experience of visiting the park maybe even more than watching a game at Target Field. Instead, it is a new law related to minimum-wage that may likely doom the St. Paul Saints organization.
As of January 1, Minnesota imposed a new minimum-wage that sets the standard to $9.65. The city of St. Paul is looking to raise their minimum-wage to $15 an hour, which has become a priority of its mayor, Melvin Carter. It is this new statute which endangers the longevity of the team.
For those unfamiliar with the rules of the American Association, each team in the league has a salary-cap set at $115,000 per season. That includes all 22 players on the active roster, 23 if the team decides to go with five rookies. The average team pays a salary per player of somewhere between $800 up to $4000.
Because of the number of hours that a player spends at the ballpark, participates in games, and even travels, there is no possibility that a player paid at the lower salary scale is able to earn $9.65 per hour. This would put the team in violation of state law, subjecting them to fines.
The Saints cannot raise the amount they are paying to players either. This is a hard salary, meaning that if the team was to raise the amount of money that they were paying, every other team in the league would be required to do so as well. Already, at least five teams in the league had owners that lost money last year (it may be more), meaning that it is impossible for the salary cap to be raised and still be able to maintain a league that has at least 12 clubs.
Working to Rectify the Situation
St. Paul Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Derek Sharrer is working with lawmakers to try to get the team an exemption from minimum wage and overtime laws. He has appealed to state lawmakers to grant this exemption.
Currently, the state of Minnesota allows exemptions to wage requirements for seasonal employers, such as ski resorts, carnivals, and circuses, and Sen. Dick Cohen of St. Paul is seeking to grant the same kind of exemption to the Saints. It should also be noted that the team is not asking for anything that is not granted by federal law already. In fact, Executive Vice President Tom Whaley points out that all the team is seeking to do is gain the same protections that every other minor league team in America has.
It would not be hyperbole to state that if the St. Paul Saints were not granted the exemption that it would not only be a huge blow to the city of St. Paul, but would be devastating to the American Association as well. The team has established itself as the gold standard of independent baseball, and would mean that the league’s primary income producer would be lost. The Minor League Sports Report will keep fans abreast of any developments in the situation.
Update: March 22, 2018, 8:52 AM CST
It appears that the United States Congress may be the solution to the minimum wage issue in minor league and independent baseball. Included in the $1.3 trillion budget proposal that is supposed to be voted on by Friday is the “Save America’s Pastime” Act. This provision would exempt all minor league players from having to be paid minimum wage.
This has been something that Major League Baseball has been advocating for some time, arguing that players are “seasonal workers,” and thus exempt from minimum wage standards, including overtime rules. Minor league baseball players can earn as little as $1,150 while independent players in the Pecos League can receive no more than $250 a month. That does not include other benefits that players receive, which could include housing and food.
American Association Daily Notes
The Sioux City Explorers added infielder Daniel Jackson. Jackson was with the team last season, hitting .214 in 29 games. The re-signing of Jackson gives manager Steve Montgomery a great deal of versatility, as he can play first, the outfield, and catcher…The Kansas City T-Bones signed RHP Patrick Young. The righty was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 2013 and reached AA-Richmond last season. In 116 career appearances in the minors, the righty has a 5.31 ERA and a 28-14 record… The Wichita Wingnuts announced the re-signing of right-handed pitcher James Campbell and the addition of right-hander Travis Banwart. Campbell was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 and spent four seasons with the organization before an arm injury sidelined him for all of 2016. He signed with Wichita last season, posting an impressive 2.91 ERA in 34 appearances. Banwart was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 2007 and has proven to have a live arm, reaching AAA in six different seasons. He also played three years in Korea. Last year, the righty split time between AA-Akron and AAA-Columbus (Cleveland Indians), where he had a combined record of 3-5 in 18 appearances.
Congratulations to Fargo-Moorhead Manager Michael Schlact on the birth of his new son.
By Robert Pannier
Member of the IBWAA