Over the past few days, several clubs across the league have taken action to guarantee pay to team employees through May 31st. In total, Jeff Passan reports 18 teams have pledged some level of pay to their staffs.
Conspicuously absent from that group are a few big market teams, including the Dodgers, the Nationals, the Mets, and the Yankees. A dozen teams have yet to take this step, but even so, the Yankees do stand out given how modest of a commitment would be required of them.
The San Diego Padres, for example, who run a league-average player payroll and rank in the bottom half in terms of team valuations per Forbes, have guaranteed pay to their baseball staff through the conclusion of the season, regardless of whether games are played. It should be noted that the Padres are cutting the salaries of employees making more than $60,000.
Still, if the Padres, about as middling a baseball team as can be in terms of finances, can find a way to guarantee pay to team employees for 2020, it strains credulity to think Hal Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees cannot. Other teams to pledge pay through May include the Royals, who according to Forbes are worth a fifth of the Yankees’ team valuation, and generate close to a third of the revenue of the Bombers.
The closest thing the Yankees have to offering assistance to their employees is the COVID-19 Disaster Relief Program they rolled out on April 2. The $1.4 million distress fund may sound generous, but it requires employees to jump through hoops, demonstrate need, and prove that they were directly affected by COVID-19. While the fund is directed toward stadium employees, rather than the operations staff that teams around the league have guaranteed pay to, it’s still representative of New York’s approach to making their employees whole during a crisis.
Basics of the New York Yankees COVID-19 Disaster Relief Program: pic.twitter.com/iW6BuI3PiD— New York Yankees (@Yankees) April 2, 2020
Employees deserve better than having to navigate through red tape during a crisis. While the program could help some, it mostly just pays lip service to the idea of assistance. Imagine working for the Yankees, a franchise that defines itself on exceptionalism, and having to navigate a corporate-speak channel to make ends meet? Then imagine looking at other teams across the league who have already guaranteed pay to their staffs. It’s a cruel exercise, but reality to hundreds of workers.
The Yankees, of course, aren’t alone in this position. The Mets, as previously noted, have taken a similar stance. Jeff Wilpon recently expressed to Governor Andrew Cuomo that any resumption of baseball without fans would require players to take a pay cut. So, no, the Yankees aren’t an outlier here, but is this the company they want to keep?
It’s time for the Yankees to live up to the lofty history of the franchise, to put substance behind the talking points, to act according to values. It’s time to do the right thing. It’s time for the Yankees to pay their employees.