Derek Fisher, Yordan Alvarez and Jack Mayfield all played together in Triple A at one point in 2019. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jim Crane (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jack Mayfield doubled in his first ever MLB at-bat. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jack Mayfield showed some serious glove work, too. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
In a time when so many in baseball seem to be having trouble with doing the right thing, Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is removing some major uncertainty for his franchise’s vulnerable minor leaguers. Crane has committed to paying all of the Astros minor league players through August 31.
Just days after the Oakland A’s informed its minor league players that they would no longer be paid the $400 weekly stipend after May 31, Crane declared that he’d keep paying his organization’s minor leaguers through the original end date of a typical Minor League season. (Of course, there is a good chance no Minor League baseball actually will be played in 2020.)
“With the uncertainty that our minor league players are facing currently, this decision provides our players with assurance that they will receive a paycheck through August.” Crane said in a statement. “We believe that this is the right thing to do.”
It is clearly the right thing to do in these coronavirus times. But that does mean that Crane does not deserve credit for doing it.
Many companies — including major sports franchises that should know better — have used pandemic realities to justify not paying employees. The Astros and Crane will not take that route with their minor league players.
Instead, Astros minor leaguers will continue to receive the $400 per week stipend and all their health benefits through August 31.
That’s a win for decency — and doing what’s right. With Major League Baseball in serious danger of becoming the only major professional sports league that does return from its coronavirus pause (the NBA, the NHL, the NFL and MLS all are poised to play), this is a sport that can use all the wins — and feel-good moments — it can get. The fierce bickering over money between the Major League Baseball owners and players is as bad a look as you can get during a global pandemic — one that threatens to hurt the sport for years to come.
Jim Crane paying the Astros’ minor leaguers can not overshadow that, but it’s still an important bit of light amid the baseball gloom. For the Astors — an organization that turned itself into a championship one for the first time by committing to its minor league system and developing players — this move also may be more than symbolic.
The Astros want to be known throughout the industry as a player friendly organization. Every bit of goodwill helps — and this is clearly one.
“Having a farm system of talented minor league players is a key aspect of the success of the Astros franchise,” first-year Astros general manager James Click said. “We hope that continuing the stipend for our players will provide them support in these challenging times.”
For Crane, a truly self-made shipping magnate, it continues a trend of trying to treat the people who work for him right. Crane flew 200 Astros employees to a World Series game in Washington D.C. last October, chartering two planes to do it. And he never tried to publicize it himself.
Sometimes it’s just not about the biggest headlines.