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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Starting next season, MLB teams will be required to provide housing for minor league players.

Why it matters: "This is a historic victory," Harry Marino, director of the nonprofit Advocates for Minor Leaguers, told ESPN. It's also just the beginning of a fight for improved quality of life.

State of play: Minor leaguers are expected to train year round while being paid roughly $15,000 per year on average — and that's after a recent salary increase.

  • Most players work offseason side gigs, cram into apartments and subsist on food unfit for professional athletes. The fear and anxiety caused by this lifestyle has contributed to MiLB's mental health crisis.
  • Companies like Big League Advance have emerged against this backdrop, offering players money upfront in exchange for a cut of future earnings — a practice some critics view as predatory.
  • The Astros this season became the first team to provide housing for all minor leaguers, and other teams offer similar benefits. Now, there will be a universal rule.

The big picture: This housing upgrade comes amid MLB's efforts to modernize the minors, which included 2020's restructuring, the aforementioned salary increase, reduced travel and upgraded facilities.

  • All that adds up to "the best we've ever done in terms of providing an environment conducive to professional development," says MLB executive Morgan Sword. More improvements are needed, though, and they wouldn't even be that expensive.
  • Food for thought: The annual cost to pay all MiLB players $50,000, give everyone furnished housing, cover in-season meals and fly players to road games would be $16 million total per team, per Baseball Prospectus. MLB owners are worth a combined $75 billion.

What they're saying: "This is a black eye for the game [and] for the country," said Advocates for Minor Leaguers co-founder Bill Fletcher Jr. "This is hiding in plain sight, and it's egregious."

  • But it's not hiding anymore. The push for change has accelerated in recent years and reached a peak in 2021, with some players going so far as holding in-game protests.
  • Marino thinks such "unprecedented behavior ... upset the status quo," helping yield this week's housing win.

The last word, from Fletcher: "People talk about wages, hours and working conditions, but it is really about dignity. Am I going to be respected as a human being?"

Go deeper: Reimagining how MLB prospects get paid

Go deeper

Updated Dec 2, 2021 - Sports

MLB enters first work stoppage since '95 as deal expires

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred (left) and Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark. Photo: Matt King/MLB via Getty Images

Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement expired at 11:59pm ET Wednesday without a new deal in place.

Why it matters: With no CBA, the MLB is in a management lockout — the first work stoppage since a 1994-95 strike led to the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years.

Dec 2, 2021 - Sports

What to know about the MLB lockout

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Hope you enjoyed the recent flurry of free-agent activity, because it's likely the last non-lockout-related MLB news for a while.

Driving the news: The owners locked out the players after the collective bargaining agreement expired at midnight last night, leading to MLB's ninth work stoppage — and first since 1995.

Dec 2, 2021 - Sports

NFL suspends Antonio Brown, 2 others for misrepresenting COVID vaccination status

Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown. Photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The National Football League (NFL) on Thursday suspended three players —Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown and safety Mike Edwards as well as former wide receiver John Franklin III — for violating COVID-related protocols.

Why it matters: The suspensions come after the NFL reviewed allegations that the players "misrepresented their vaccination status," and ultimately concluded that all three violated league protocols.