Sports Yard Goats

Senators seeking answers from MLB on paltry pay for minor leaguers like Yard Goats

HARTFORD — Over the last few years, Major League Baseball has taken control of the minor leagues, eliminating several leagues and franchises.

Though salaries and living arrangements for minor league players have improved, and a group representing them won a recent class-action lawsuit, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee still has questions.


“As a bipartisan group, four of us as senators are seeking answers from Major League Baseball,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Monday during a press conference at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. “We are seeking to hold Major League Baseball accountable for its apparent misuse of the federal anti-trust exemption it was granted 100 years ago. It is apparently using it to stymie minor league teams and players out of what they deserve. ... Minor league players are being paid a pittance, not even minimum wage.”

Minor league players not on the 40-man roster of their major league organization, which would include most of the players on the Hartford Yard Goats, for example, make between $4,800 and $14,700 annually and are paid only in season. Minor league players are being “exploited,” Blumenthal said, through the imposing of a uniform minor league playing contract.


Last week, Major League Baseball settled a class-action suit, agreeing to pay minor leaguers who alleged minimum-wage and overtime violations. The settlement will distribute $120 million, to be shared by 20,000 players, and calls for minor leaguers to be paid during spring training, extended spring training and instructional camps.

“We’ve made real strides in the last few years in terms of what minor league players are paid, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters at the All-Star Game in Los Angeles last week, “even putting to one side the signing bonuses that many of them have already received. They receive housing, which obviously is another form of compensation. I reject the premise that they’re not paid a living wage.”

Blumenthal joined with Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) in sending Manfred a letter last week seeking information.

“Commissioner Manfred said during the All-Star break that he thinks minor league players are adequately paid,” Blumenthal said. “Well, let him say that to the courts. Let him say that to us. The American pastime deserves fairness.”

At the heart of the issue, Blumenthal said, is Major League Baseball’s anti-trust exemption, which other pro leagues do not have, imposed by the courts in 1922 in the wake of the 1919 World Series-fixing scandal, the rise and fall of rival leagues and the naming off Kennesaw Mountain Landis as the first commissioner, with sweeping powers.

At that time, minor league teams operated independently, developing players and selling them to the major leagues. Over the decades, Major League Baseball teams developed “farm systems” in which they supply players to their minor league affiliates. In 2020, Major League Baseball aggressively pursued a new working agreement and now governs minor league baseball. More than 40 teams were eliminated, including the Norwich franchise, which played in the now-extinct NY-Penn League. The franchise is now part of an amateur summer league, the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.

“The strong-arming by Major League Baseball of the minor leagues, cutting 40 teams out, is a giant red flag, but it is only one more piece of evidence,” Blumenthal said. “Look at minor league pay; look at the agreements between minor league teams and major league teams. Major League Baseball earns $11 billion every year, many times more than all the minor leagues combined. The contraction, the strong-arming, the power-playing, it’s added to a picture of compulsion and misuse of monopoly power.”

In stripping away lower levels of the minors and eliminating hundreds of playing positions, Major League Baseball streamlined its player development process, focusing on fewer players, those with the best chance of making the major leagues. But with the elimination of franchises, there are fewer places where fans can watch games. Blumenthal said Major League Baseball is focused on this year’s bottom line and “eating its seed corn.”


Blumenthal, who is running for reelection in November, introduced the Minor League Baseball Relief Act in 2021, calling for emergency assistance to minor league teams that took big financial losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the cancellation of the 2020 season. He also was a leading supporter of the Save Minor League Baseball Act, an effort to block the elimination of teams.

The anti-trust exemption, he said, has outlived its necessity.

“Major League Baseball has the absolute right to do what’s best for their teams, their leagues, their players,” Blumenthal said. “But they should not enjoy this unique advantage, allowing them to exploit minor league players.”

Dom Amore can be reached at