Major-League Coaches Underpaid For Time They Invest

by Danny Gallagher | Posted on Saturday, March 12th, 2016
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Kevin Seitzer

JUPITER, Fla. — I’ve always wondered what Major League Baseball coaches earn for a living.

It took a while but now I know roughly what most of them make. And to tell you the truth, they don’t make much.

Compared to the manager who earns anywhere from $500,000 and up to the low millions, coaches make a mere fraction of that. Those chaps, who run the bench, first base, third base, the hitting, the pitching, the bullpen and the catching, all make $250,000 or less, except for a few, from what I was told this week. There are coaches, who pull down salaries in the $150,000 range. A pittance really, for the amount of time they put in.

When former Expos pitcher Dennis Martinez became bullpen coach of the Houston Astros for his first and only stint as a major-league coach in 2013, he told me Saturday that he earned “$120,000 or $150,000, something like that.” Which is not much, is it?

“Players making the minimum salary make double, sometimes triple what coaches make,” Braves hitting coach and former Blue Jays hitting instructor Kevin Seitzer told me. “We’re not in the same ballpark as the players making the minimum. The minimum salary keeps going up for players but not for coaches.”

As you might know, the minimum salary for a player is $507,500. When I took a guess that Seitzer, he of the 6-for-6 performance in a nine-inning game in 1987, earned in the “three hundred” range, he quickly replied, “Not even close.”

Former, long-time A’s and Cards pitching coach Dave Duncan apparently earned about $500,000 in his last year but he was an astute exception. And you have to think that Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire is making much more than the norm. And you would think that Barry Bonds would have negotiated a higher-than-normal salary with the Marlins to take over as hitting coach this season even though he had no previous major-league or minor-league experience as a coach. I can’t imagine a former star like Bonds coming in and working for less than the norm. I imagine he worked out something to his benefit when he dealt with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.

The one good thing in coaches’ favour is that they do have some protection because they are a part of the players’ union along with players, managers and trainers. If coaches are fortunate to reach 10 years of major-league service time, then they receive a full pension. Ten years of service can mean a combination of playing, coaching and managing time.

Take Marlins bullpen coach Reid Cornelius. He has only several years of credit as a player but now he’s closing in on 10 years of service because he’s in his sixth season with the Marlins.

“When you’re a bullpen coach, you make less than the other coaches,” Martinez said. “After the manager, it’s the pitching coach, the hitting coach and the bench coach, who make the most money. When you’re a coach, you have no leverage when you’re talking salary. That’s reality. When you are a player, you have an agent pulling for you.”

Coaches’ salaries constitute a concern the MLBPA should be addressing in the current round of negotiations involving the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Messages I left for the players’ union and executive director Tony Clark through media-relations officer Greg Bouris went unanswered.

So when you think of the Blue Jays’ coaches, think that they are underpaid for what they do. That’s bench man DeMarlo Hale, pitching instructor Pete Walker, hitting mentor Brook Jacoby, assistant hitting coach Eric Owens, first-base coach Tim Leiper, third-base man Luis Rivera and bullpen coach Dane Johnson.

When the going’s good, the players get credit. When the going’s bad, the coaches feel the heat. And they don’t get enough money for what they do.

Seitzer is in the second year of a two-year deal with the Braves and there is an option on his contract for 2017. He left the Jays after the 2015 season when he and management couldn’t agree on a deal. He had been fired previously by the Royals, who had employed him for four seasons. He also worked half a season for the Diamondbacks.

“I took a pay cut to go to Toronto,” Seitzer said. “I didn’t like the way they handled things. I didn’t think that was right. I loved it up in Toronto. It’s just that we couldn’t come to terms. We couldn’t work things out with the contract. It’s a business.”

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Danny Gallagher
About the Author

Danny Gallagher played adult sandlot baseball in various cities across Canada for 27 consecutive seasons. He has covered MLB since 1988, writing three books on the Montreal Expos along the way. Follow Danny on Twitter @dannogallagher7.

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