SUNDAY: Support for cutting minor-league teams isn’t limited to the Commissioner’s Office, reports Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports. Some executives, including Diamondbacks’ GM Mike Hazen and Blue Jays’ president and CEO Mark Shapiro, expressed support to Brown for some measure of reducing the number of players and affiliates in each organization. The goal of these contractions, per the executives with whom Brown spoke, would not be to cut aggregate player development costs but to more efficiently allocate their resources among the organization’s more promising prospects. Each, however, expressed some regret for fans of the affiliates in jeopardy. Brown’s piece is well-worth a full read for those interested in the potential benefits and drawbacks to making such a radical change to the affiliated ball structure.
SATURDAY, 9:02 pm: If the situation wasn’t fraught enough, it now appears that the ongoing dispute has begun to bleed over into the political arena: Sen. Bernie Sanders published a letter this evening threatening Congressional action against MLB’s proposal (link).
SATURDAY, 3:42 pm: Minor League Baseball has released its own statement in response to MLB (link from The Athletic’s Evan Drellich).
SATURDAY, 11:52 am: The relationship is strained and tensions are rising between Major League Baseball and its minor league affiliates. Negotiations between the two sides have failed to find middle ground, and both sides have publicly decried the other, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Commissioner Rob Manfred is now threatening to walk away completely if the minor league owners aren’t willing to make concessions.
For their part, minor league owners entered negotiations so appalled at MLB’s proposal to cut 42 teams that they have yet to soften their stance. Minor league owners stoked the flames of controversy by going public with their concerns – a tactic that infuriated MLB. But public opinion is very much a part of this debate, as among other things, MiLB blames MLB for misrepresenting their positions to the public.
With thousands of jobs hanging in the balance, Congress has begun to pay attention as well. Senator Bernie Sanders will meet with minor league owners in the near future, and if diplomatic efforts aren’t improved, expect further government interest.
On the other side, torching the entire minor league system hardly seems like moving in the right direction, though MLB maintains its stance that they will “work diligently to preserve organized baseball in a compelling, fan-friendly format in every American city that currently has an affiliate.” Along with the proposed cuts, MLB is tasking minor league owners with improving facilities and bearing more of the burden of minor league player salaries – a can of worms in and of itself.
The ultimatum issued by Manfred basically charged minor league owners to come to the negotiating table or plan on staying home. In a rebuttal to a four-page statement released by MiLB, MLB had no problem escalating the conflict, threatening with a reminder that once the 2020 pact runs out, “…MLB clubs will be free to affiliate with any minor league team or potential team in the United States, including independent league teams and cities which are not permitted to compete for an affiliate under the current agreement.”