Baseball notebook: New housing policy for minor leaguers is inadequate, says advocacy group

NEW YORK — An advocacy group for minor leaguers says Major League Baseball’s new housing policy is an improvement but still inadequate.

The player steering committee of Advocates for Minor Leaguers issued a statement Thursday objecting to housing two players per bedroom and not accommodating spouses and children.

“While the new policy represents a massive player victory, the specifics of the policy were determined unilaterally by MLB, which neither asked for nor received our input,” the group said. “Every player deserves the privacy of his own room. … Spouses and children should be given accommodations to ensure they can live with their families during the season. They should not be asked to share bedrooms with their teammates.”

The group also is against using host families and says it will identify teams that provide what it views as deficient housing.

“Every MLB team can easily find 30 apartments in each of its minor league cities every year,” it said. “In light of these three potential loopholes – and for as long as the policy fails to ensure that each and every player will receive adequate housing accommodations – all minor league players should have the right to opt out of team-provided housing and instead receive a housing stipend or reimbursement.”

MLB said in November it will require teams to provide furnished accommodations, with a single bed per player and no more than two players per bedroom. Teams will be responsible for basic utility bills.

“To the extent that apartments, rental homes or host families are not feasible,” MLB said, “clubs may choose to provide hotel rooms that satisfy standards put in place.”

“While the housing policy is a substantial endeavor, its successful implementation is a priority for major league organizations,” MLB said in a statement. “Like any new regulations, it is the responsibility of each club to fulfill the requirements. Because of the policy’s flexibility, clubs may exceed the minimum standards and adjust based on individual circumstances.”

Players on 40-man rosters have major league contracts and are represented by the Major League Baseball Players Association. Players with minor league contracts – the vast majority of minor leaguers – are not unionized.

After successfully lobbying Congress to exempt minor leaguers from federal minimum wage laws, MLB raised wages between 38% and 72% when the minor leagues returned last year from a one-season absence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Players at rookie levels saw the weekly minimum rise from $290 to $400, players at Class A from $290 to $500, at Double-A from $350 to $600 and at Triple-A from $502 to $700. Players are paid only in season.

• Major League Baseball will not require players with minor league contracts to be vaccinated against COVID-19 this season but is mandating that most staff receive the shots.

“Our expert consultants have advised that fully up-to-date vaccination of all on-field staff and others with close player contact provides a safer environment in which to prevent infection and transmission,” MLB said in a statement Thursday.

MLB’s decision was first reported by ESPN.

“Reasonable accommodations will be considered for staff members who receive an exemption to this requirement. Such exemptions will be considered on an individual basis and in accordance with state law. We continue to strongly encourage vaccination among minor league players and make resources available to minor league teams and players toward that goal,” MLB said.

GENE CLINES, part of the first all-minority lineup in Major League Baseball history and a line drive-hitting outfielder for the 1971 World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates, died Thursday. He was 75.

Clines’ wife, Joanne, told the Pirates that Clines died at his home in Bradenton, Florida, site of the team’s longtime spring training home. No cause of death was given.

On Sept. 1, 1971, Clines batted second and played center field for the Pirates in a starting lineup comprised entirely of players of Black and Latino descent. He doubled, singled and scored twice as Pittsburgh beat Philadelphia 10-7 at Three Rivers Stadium.

Clines batted .277 in 10 seasons, playing the entire decade of the 1970s with the Pirates, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets and Texas. He hit only five home runs in 870 games, but connected in the 1971 NL Championship Series against the Giants.

Clines later coached in the majors with the Cubs, Houston, Seattle, Milwaukee and San Francisco, and worked in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization with outfield, base running and hitting instruction.

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