Stephanie Metzger, Jessica Quiroli, and myself are putting together a semi-regular chat where we talk about what’s going on in baseball. It was formerly known as the MiLB Life Chat and we have rechristened it “Three Up…”. We got together today to talk about things like minor league pay and the recent Men’s Health article “How To Talk To Women About Sports”. Enjoy.
MINOR LEAGUE PAY
Quiroli: Let me just start with a big story in the minors. The lawsuit that minor leaguers filed for unfair pay. There’s so many opinions on this, but I think, ultimately, this is going to be so hard to resolve. I do think they should have better wages. But I also think there’s a kind of internship quality to the minors. Thoughts?
Wright: I see both sides point of view. The teams see it as a way for the players to adjust to the baseball lifestyle and for that adjustment period, they shouldn’t be paid like the pros. But I side more with the minor leaguers. I’ve had both a paid and unpaid baseball internship and in both instances, it was hard for me to survive. Had to be extremely careful with money to the point where I didn’t know if I was going to have enough to get back home. It’s the same situation for a lot of the minor leaguers. I talked about it with one of the Royals minor league catchers and we were comparing salaries. I told them I was being paid minimum wage which was around $7.50 an hour and he said he did the math and they were making about $4 an hour. If the team hadn’t put them up in a hotel all season, I don’t know how they would have made it.
Metzger: I absolutely think they should receive more pay, but I like the way you put it – “internship quality.” Some of these guys in the minors aren’t studs or prospects, they’re there to fill a spot, so filling their pockets with cash probably isn’t right. Though one could argue that the studs and prospects get signing bonuses. But I’ve heard the stories – six guys sharing a 2-bedroom apartment, furniture made from pizza boxes. No one should have to live like that.
Wright: One thing I’ve noticed with the minor league pay situation is team internships for people wanting to work in the front office is tied to whatever happens with that lawsuit. The team I worked for this season said they normally just paid their interns $500 a month and they had to work like 50 hours a week. This season, due to that lawsuit, we were paid minimum wage and only allowed to work 30 hours a week.
Quiroli: Great points…when I talk to guys off the record about pay, they’re honest about the unfairness. Especially guys who’ve been doing it a long time, and then see the bonus money increasing all the time. Great point, Steph, about the ‘non-studs’ or whatever…they’re more valuable to the club. But in the end, there’s got to be a solution that brings more financial balance. You can’t have guys pulling change out of the sofa (one story) & other guys millionaires before they’ve even played a major league game. There’s got to be more equal ground.
Metzger: It’s crazy, how one player I know has a family and kid that lives off his bonus. Other guys, they can’t do that because they can’t afford it, unless their girlfriend/wife makes good money. It’s unfair to have to see some guys put their life plans on complete hold simply because of these wages.
Wright: One of my college friends was engaged to a minor leaguer and their families said the only way they could get married is if she found a job that could support both of them. She got a teaching job and they were married within the year.
Metzger: I guess one could argue that everyone goes through this, though. I mean, I know I couldn’t get married at this point in life unless the guy I marry makes bank. One could argue that everyone has to start somewhere. It’s pretty unfair though.
Quiroli: Agreed. And I’m always amazed that fans believe these guys make a ton of money. And even more amazed at the guys who I’ve talked to who say the major leaguers are all about the money, that’s why they like the minor league games. It’s like, what are you even talking about? The guys in the minors want to make money. A lot of (I’ll say it) guys don’t want to see those players make a ton of money, and they forget that, like any job, you want to move up. True, if they move up, they’re playing a kid’s game. But it’s a business, and a tough one. That’s the other half of it. Making money as a writer in the minors, unless you’re a big time prospect writer, it’s not there. But you have MLB reporters trying to write about prospects they haven’t even seen or worked with. That happened with Bryce Harper. They were writing about what they HEARD. But back to the financial aspect, I guess writers & players have a little in common…. Great story, Jarah. And, of course, during the winter, they’re lugging boxes or caddying.
Metzger: Ugh. Writers who analyze prospects without seeing them in person drive me CRAZY. But that rant’s for a different day. I guess, like industry, they want to see how bad you want it. Interns make crappy pay and they assume the ones who “want it” more will stick around through it. I guess the claim could be made for ballplayers though the odds are stacked against them from the start.
Wright: Thanks. After working with players as a reporter and intern, I’ve realized we’re really alike in terms of working conditions. Unless you’re “it” or you’ve “made it”, you have to grind it out to get to the prestige and the money.
MEN’S HEALTH ARTICLE
Quiroli: The odds are stacked against most of them…and that’s the hard truth of it. Hopefully, the lawsuit leads to a bit better life for them. I’m surprised it took this long. Ok, can we talk about the dipshit Men’s Health article ‘How To Talk To Women About Sports’?
Wright: The word “ugh” comes to mind.
Metzger: Heh. A friend sent me that link and I thought I was reading a Sports Pickle or The Onion piece at first
Quiroli: It did seem like a humor piece. Like, ‘Haha. Good one!’ But no.
Wright: “She doesn’t care about statistics. She likes storylines.” I read that and was like excuse me. What am I? 5 years old???? Their excuse was just sad too. It was like they said we’re sorry we published it but not that we wrote it.
Metzger: Sounds about right. Sorta like the ol’ “Sorry I got caught cheating, but not sorry I actually I did it” apology
Quiroli: Right. The apology reminded me of when Keith Hernandez made that comment on-air about the female trainer in the dugout. He really didn’t want to say he was sorry. What’s so funny about the article is that, both stats & the story are what makes ALL of us interested, including men. Think about the greatest players in history. Guys don’t just run off the stats, they remember a game they went to with their dad, or a retirement speech, or a comeback that seemed impossible. When we talk about sports, whether it’s stats or not, we’re talking about human beings doing something we can’t.
Wright: One thing I thought was funny in that whole situation is the article angered everyone, not just women. I think the male backlash was unexpected and why they were like oh, we should apologize now.
Quiroli: I loved that too.
Metzger: I’ll admit, as a writer, I think the storylines mean more to me. But I think that’s because I’m a writer, not because I’m a woman. Plus, stats are very important to me. I’d get fired if I didn’t know/use stats.
Quiroli: EXACTLY. It’s all part of it. I’m going to talk about stats, whether in conversation or for work, and I’m going to talk about people & stories. And it’s all interesting & what sports is. I just don’t think that we’re at a point in history where an article like that should even need to be written. There’s way too many female sports fans & women in sports to be still writing that kind of silly fluff.
Wright: Stats seem to be what give us credibility as sports writers. Some of the guys I’ve worked with before were like eh, another woman in the press box. But whenever I started keeping a book, knew what a 4-6-3 double play was, and knew how to decipher an ERA, I got respect and never had anymore problems with them the rest of the season.
Metzger: It’s 2014 – women love and know sports, men love and know theater and fashion and it’s all okay. Blows my mind that it’s 2014 and people still adhere to gender roles
Quiroli: Couldn’t have said it better Steph. Getting into baseball & the WS…Brandon Finnegan’s story is so cool & so much fun to follow. It got me thinking about players we’ve covered whose careers surprised us, good or bad. I have a few.
Metzger: The immediate one that comes to my mind is Jose Ramirez of the Indians. In 2012, no one had heard of this small guy that came to Lake County. By the end of the year, all the writers in that press box were blown away by what we saw, and now look where he is.
Wright: Finnegan is from my neck of the woods and that guy is just a powerhouse on the mound. Agreed with Stephanie. Similar situation with Jurickson Profar. Another one was Nick Tepesch. He could definitely throw but seemed quiet and timid in interviews when I chatted with him in 2012. Then in 2013, he won a starting rotation job with the Rangers. I was excited to see him get the shot but didn’t expect it.
Metzger: Kind of disappointed about Mark Appel so far…
Quiroli: There was a point where Dellin Betances looked like he was never going to be what the Yankees expected. Between Triple-A & the majors, he struggled so hard with the issues we saw in Double-A. But things just seemed to get worse at the higher levels. It’s not a whole ‘we knew all along’ thing, because a lot of people in the media, and many fans, believed Betances should & would be moved to the pen. I felt so strongly watching him pitch that he was built for it. He had to learn to be a consistent strike thrower. I can’t believe how it’s finally clicked for him though. He’s moving into elite reliever status. I interviewed Mark Appel in college & he was so level-headed about the hype. And I think he had to be, because, yeah, he’s had a tough go of it.
Wright: With the Royals, Kyle Zimmer keeps surprising me. When he was drafted, the kid was throwing hard and accurate. He rehabbed in Idaho Falls and while he did have a limited pitch count, I wasn’t too impressed with his command. Then he goes to the AFL and does well before getting hurt again.
Quiroli: On the flip side, I could never have imagined what’s happened to Jesus Montero’s career. He had issues in the minors, but the downward spiral has been a wild freaking spectacle.
Metzger: Is it fair to say Montero’s issue is largely mental? Because I totally feel like it is. It’s been like a chain reaction of decline for him.
Quiroli: Zimmer’s a good one. You can have someone that puts it all together, and injury just kills the momentum. I talked to a guy the other day that said he was better AFTER injury, but that’s not always the case. Montero’s issue has always been mental. There was a sense in the early part of his minor league career that he lacked focus. And, I think in many ways, that’s what brought him to the point where the GM was saying he had no expectations for him. That’s rock bottom right there. But, as for his playing ability, he was never going to be one of the best catchers in baseball. His value was in his bat. So once that wasn’t panning out, and then the weight gain, it just compiled.
Wright: I know this is slightly off-topic but the weight gain comment made me think of it. Rick Carlisle of the Dallas Mavericks said he thought Chandler Parsons had gained too much weight this off-season. Interesting to me to see that some male athletes have body image issues.
TREATMENT IN BASEBALL
Quiroli: Oh, definitely. They know they have a standard to live up to. I was thinking about the fact that we all have had these secret conversations about how players treat us. I think when you do this, you have to have a great sense of humor & be super focused & confident. But I also think we worry that talking about it makes us look weak, and that bothers me. I talk to so many girls that are afraid to speak out against players. Truthfully, I’ve not named names. And part of that is that it doesn’t matter. But the other part is that at times I worried it would affect me getting other work. And that pisses me off.
Metzger: Absolutely. Sometimes I find myself hesitant to tell anyone some of the stories, because I don’t want people to think I can’t handle this job or am too sensitive.
Wright: True. For me, it wasn’t the players or coaches who treated me bad but other men in the press box. If anything else, I’ve worked with coaches and players who protected me from the press box guys.
Quiroli: And, you know, the other thing is that the lawsuit got me thinking about how many lawsuits I & all of us could file for sexual harassment, particularly in the minors where those guys don’t seem to understand they’re professionals & so are we.
Wright: When I went down for interviews, they always asked how I was being treated and if they could help.
Quiroli: That’s the best. I’ve talked about how much Trenton Thunder manager Tony Franklin changed my career. And my life. He instilled in me that I deserved respect & that it wasn’t just about it being earned, which is of course part of it. But he let me know that as a woman in that clubhouse, no player ever had the right to degrade or humiliate me. That changed me. I gained new confidence because of him.
Wright: I still stay in touch with some of the coaches from Frisco. Coach and scout James Vilade has been one of my biggest supporters and I honestly can’t thank him enough because he told me I could make it in this business and that he would do anything he could to help.
Quiroli: Yeah, you don’t want the dreaded ‘Sensitive’ label. As if ‘total asshole’ isn’t a worse label.
Metzger: Another issue I worry about is, if I make a complaint about players hitting on me or harassing me, would I be burning my bridges with them/the team/team personnel? Would I be pegged as that sensitive woman reporter who players should avoid?
Wright: I’ll be honest. At one point, I came to a breaking point and had to wait until I got home to let it out so I could avoid the SENSITIVE label.
Quiroli: The worst thing that ever happened to me was actually in the majors. And had I said anything, ti would have gotten around. And I didn’t want to be attached to that player for the rest of my life & to have it be that I was his victim. I’d rather die. By the way, he’s out of baseball now, and if anyone knew who it was, no one would be surprised. He stood beside me, waited until I turned, dropped his towel, and laughed in my face. That guy was horrific as a person. And couldn’t pitch for shit.
Metzger: Good grief. I think the worst I’ve dealt with is a player sending me lewd photos and texts. I did an offseason phone interview with him and then he started hitting on me. He’s out of baseball too now
Quiroli: And before we go, three ballpark essentials for you when you’re covering a game?
Wright: My purse has turned into a mobile journalism kit but I would say my top 3 are my camera, recorder, and notepad.
Metzger: Good question. I think I have to go with recorder, notebook and a Luna bar to avoid the constant temptation of ballpark food.
Quiroli: I need moisturizer, two notebooks: one small, one large, and headphones. so I can pretend to be listening to something when I don’t want to talk. Oh Luna bars! Yeah…so then we’ll go five. I need my containers of fruit & veggies & Luna bars, so I can eat when I’m running in heels.
Wright: Haha. The other two would be laptop and binoculars to see bullpens lol
Quiroli: I can’t eat that vomit they have in the press box.
Wright: You guys are so smart with having food. I love ballpark food but can’t do it every night. I would probably gain like 30 pounds over the course of the season. No thanks!
Metzger: One team gives media a food card linked to a house account so we can get whatever we want at concessions. It’s lethal.
Wright: Yeah. That could be bad.
Metzger: It’s nice when I need to satisfy an ice cream craving though.
Quiroli: I cannot have such a card. I would eat my veggies still, but end up buying funnel cake & passing out on the gross carpet.
That’s all for this edition of “Three Up…” Stay tuned for more chats in the future!