Wilpons, Mets do the right thing with COVID-19 response

You would be hard-pressed to find a Mets fan who has never criticized the Wilpon Family for one thing or another in their tenure as primary owners of the ball club. Just a few weeks ago they attracted a ton of negative publicity for the new MLB clubhouse at Clover Field, which they won’t allow minor leaguers on the St. Lucie Mets to use during the Florida State League season.

But as organizations across every field of the economy set up contingency plans to deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, Anthony DiComo announced Sunday morning on Twitter how the Mets elected to deal with the situation.

Despite many missteps over the years, you have to give credit where it is due – the Mets handled this situation the right way and are doing right by their players, especially their minor leaguers.

Being a minor league ballplayer is a full-time job if you want to commit yourself enough to the game to make the major leagues, but the pay is laughably small. In Rookie-level and Short Season leagues (the GCL, Kingsport and Brooklyn for the Mets) players make $290 week. By the time they reach Triple-A Syracuse they have the privilege of bringing home $502 per week. These salaries are only paid during the season and minor leaguers are famously not paid during spring training.

That is why during the offseason so many players drive for Uber, or any of the other variety of apps that have popped up in the gig economy. Some guys play in winter leagues overseas and make more in a month or two there than they do for their primary baseball job in the USA. The lack of pay is the reason why an overwhelming majority of baseball players who are born in the US come from advantaged backgrounds – without a supportive family who has some resources, you can’t afford to play.

Many MLB teams have continued this mistreatment in the face of the Coronavirus epidemic and sent their minor leaguers home on and told them that they want them to stay in shape – both on their own dimes. These clubs will continue to not pay their minor leaguers until their seasons start, and at this point we really have no idea when the 2020 baseball season will get under way.

It should be said that the Mets are not promising to pay the minor league players their salaries while baseball is on a hiatus, but unlike some teams they are promising to continue to only pay players their daily per diem allowance of $25. That only makes a minimal dent in things, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t the right thing to do. This is a big decision to make during a crisis, and there’s no reason to believe that the Mets may not re-evaluate and pay a full salary once the season would have started.

Sunday afternoon the Yankees learned that one of their minor leaguers tested positive for COVID-19, and the club responded by quarantining all of their minor league players for two weeks. The team is paying for food to be delivered to the players during that time in a move that quasi-piggybacks on what the Mets are doing. As presumably more cases are found throughout baseball – it would be completely shocking if there is just one – more teams will have to take the same measures as the Yankees.

The only particularly troubling part of all of this is that if any other players are in fact effected, then allowing them to leave the complexes while they are still asymptomatic is recklessly irresponsible. Though now that there is potential for any number of players throughout the Grapefruit League to be infected with COVID-19, all teams should be quarantining themselves for two weeks to ensure the safety of the players, staffs, fans, and the general public.

As this epidemic evolves over the next few weeks – and hopefully we have more clarity on when the baseball season will start – how sports teams react to the shifting news will be an important barometer. Sports are an important part of society, and at times like this they can set the standard for how other kinds of businesses react.

By supporting their employees when it is not safe for them to come to work they put societal pressure on other industries to do the same. As Mets fans, we shouldn’t take for granted the Fred and Jeff Wilpon got their initial moves right and put the team in a leading spot in baseball and society.

7 comments for “Wilpons, Mets do the right thing with COVID-19 response

  1. March 16, 2020 at 4:14 pm

    How many players/coaches/support personnel do you think clubs have at spring training? Mets have their guys plus guys for Syracuse, Binghamton, St. Lucie and Columbia. That’s got to be 150 or so people, with many of those coming from outside this country. Then the same for all 30 teams. Maybe it’s surprising we haven’t had more positive results so far.

    • Joe Vasile
      March 17, 2020 at 11:34 am

      I would guess to say that the real number is closer to 300 players and staff in each camp. Because not only the Mets + NRIs and the clubs that you mentioned, but there are a ton of minor leaguers there from the Rookie-level and Short Season clubs plus all the minor league coaching staffs, roving instructors, consultants, coordinators that never leave the Port St. Lucie complex, etc. And that’s times every team. Honestly I think it’s only a matter of time before more cases become known just because of how packed in everyone is and that who knows how far it has spread without anyone showing symptoms.

  2. JImO
    March 16, 2020 at 7:42 pm

    I guess the Mets are doing ok in this regard. I haven’t seen any negative comments at all about this aspect of the situation.

  3. TexasGusCC
    March 17, 2020 at 12:45 am

    Nice angle Joe. That amounts to about $2,500 a day, $17K a week, and $70K for the whole month. Certainly a noble gesture and undoubtedly one every organization can afford to do except the ever crying Pirates and Marlins.

    • Joe Vasile
      March 17, 2020 at 11:36 am

      Thanks, I feel like we should give them credit where it is due when they get things right. Even though it is minimal, so far the only other team I’ve seen (as of around noon on 3/17) pledge to keep paying minor leaguers anything is the Rays. Kind of disappointing to see that more teams haven’t followed the Mets’ lead.

  4. José
    March 17, 2020 at 1:34 am

    ESPN is reporting that the MLB will likely be delayed until at least May 1, and others are saying until the All Star break.

    During WW1, the Spanish Flu cut down as many as 8 digits (in population) around the world, including 675K Americans. Yet people back then were far more concerned about the war casualties, which were substantially less than The Influenza. I’d say the reaction to the Corona virus is vastly disproportional to the actual danger.

    Well, I’m on forced vacation until April Fool’s Day, so it’s Time To Get Back On The Road (Gonna Leave These Troubles Behind)

  5. Scott Ferguson
    March 19, 2020 at 12:32 am

    I applaud the Mets and MLB for supporting the workers who will be out of jobs with the season delayed. MSG has done that as well, as well as a lot of large businesses are doing that too. People are coming together on this. It’s nice to see. I’m also working from home now for a bit. Hope everyone is ok.

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