This week, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee reached out to the non-profit group Advocates For Minor Leaguers for further information on Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption. Evan Drellich of the Athletic and Jeff Passan of ESPN (Twitter thread) were among those to cover the development in detail.
The focus of the current inquiry is on how the antitrust exemption affects minor league player pay, the 2019-20 reduction of the number of minor league teams, and the league’s acquisition process for international amateurs. Senators from both parties released statements, which can be found in Drellich’s piece, expressing support for a reexamination of the exemption. MLB has not commented on the matter.
The exemption has been in place for a century. It dates back to a 1922 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that MLB was an intrastate affair outside the purview of the interstate commerce being regulated by federal antitrust law. In subsequent cases, the Court has acknowledged its original reasoning was overly simplistic and no longer applicable in declining to expand the exemption to other professional sports leagues. The Court has nevertheless left the onus on Congress to overturn MLB’s exemption with a new piece of legislation, which it has yet to do.
Passan and Drellich examine the implications of the antitrust exemption in greater detail. Its arguably biggest impact has been in allowing teams to fix low salaries for minor leaguers, most of whom are not part of the MLB Players Association and do not have their own union. Drellich notes that other issues like television blackouts and the process for relocating MLB franchises may also be impacted were Congress to modify or lift the exemption.
While an overhaul of the antitrust exemption could have wide-ranging effects on affiliated ball, this is hardly the first time Congresspeople have hinted at the possibility. In recent years, legislators on different sides of the political aisle have publicly expressed a desire to reconsider or revoke the exemption. Those have come in response to MLB decisions as varied as the minor league restructuring and the call to move the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver. To this point, Congress has not moved forward with any serious threat to the exemption; it’s possible, seemingly likely, this inquiry from the Judiciary Committee also winds up blowing over without an alteration to the existing system.
The Committee’s examination into the international amateur market comes at a time when that process may be nearing an overhaul anyhow. MLB’s desire for a draft to replace the international signing period proved a sticking point in last offseason’s collective bargaining negotiations — one which has yet to be resolved. The MLBPA refused to sign off on an international draft during the winter, and the parties agreed to extend their window for those talks. If the league and union agree on an international draft by July 25, the qualifying offer system — which serves as a drag on the market for some free agents by attaching draft pick forfeiture for signing them — would be eliminated. If the parties do not agree on an international draft, the current amateur signing process and QO will remain in place, likely to again be a key topic during the post-2026 CBA negotiations.
In a separate post Wednesday, Drellich reexamined many of the potential effects that could arise from an overhaul of the international amateur system. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark declined to delve into specifics on the status of negotiations, telling The Athletic:
“We agreed in March to explore whether a negotiated and mutually acceptable agreement could be reached for an international draft. Additional time on this complex issue was needed precisely because the league’s proposal was not and is not anywhere close to acceptable. The league committed to further negotiation on these complex issues, and we expect those discussions to continue in the coming days and weeks. Whether in the end a negotiated, mutually acceptable agreement can be reached remains to be seen.“
$10 bucks says nothing changes after this is over.
I’d say virtually no chance. At best, 1-10 of these things results in anything. I still have no idea what the PEDs hearings were all about.
Wasn’t the hearings in response to Canseco’s book? I might be wrong. I was out of the loop in the mid 2000s.
Those were about senators getting tv time and looking like they cared about kids.
Dog and pony show.
You folks forget this current Administration.
With control of the Senate via 50-50 split (VP breaks) and majority in House; perhaps they see this as a way to save likely lose 2024 majority; based off history: So they will try undo mistake “Save America’s Pastime Act” which horribly betrayed minor leaguers; (introduced H.R. 5580) it exempts minor leaguers from min. wage protections.
Is that wager in dollars, bucks, or both?
Well it’s a good thing the Senate doesn’t have more important things to worry about.
That only matters if you think the Senate can make constructive improvements on our current issues. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening. Fortunately, most of the excess and deficiencies of our system self-correcting no matter what the government does.
Supplies get short, so their prices increase, so more suppliers jump in to make more money, which floods the market, which decreases the margins, which decreases the amount of supplies,
The only way the system gets screwed up is if the government steps in to artificially lower the prices.
Which they did by pumping 4 trillion in cash into the market while seeing a huge generation decide to retire en masse.. Should have left it alone then. Covid had a real-world activity that we couldn’t do much about….even though it was used as a political pawn. So now we’re paying a lot more for things while not able to supply the workers. It’s gonna be a good time to buy soon…lots of real estate needing buyers soon. Smart people buy in a bad economy.
JoeBrady & Dock_Elvis;
Don’t know what to say. Brilliant? On target? Politics in this country (and the free world) are out of hand?
The marketplace always corrects things. And who didn’t see this coming? Will take some more time though. Bottom not in for a while yet.
As for Congress and MLB – every time they get involved to “help” people, it hurts those people instead (but magically Congresspeople get their family, relatives, and friends high-paying guaranteed jobs with outrageous benefits…that do next to nothing). Look at all they daily transactions and injuries listed on this site – and they don’t get all of them! MLB is a complete joke. Rotisserie League with human beings.
Oh look, douch3 Anthony Franco deleted all the comments that went against the narrative. How utterly pathetic.
There should be bipartisan focus on bringing back the 40+ short-season teams the league gutted as part of the minor league ‘reorganization’. These were important to player development and the small towns that held a link to professional sports. The dollar amounts that these teams cost are incredibly insignificant compared to the $85m per year Apple deal and the $30m per year Peacock deal.
Would you support a minor league expansion through a tax increase?
Baseball is doing well enough on its own to reinstate and fund the 40+ teams they cut in 2020.
I suspicion MLB is adjusting because they are scared of a market drop off for their product. They’re banking as much cash as possible. I had an older usher come up and thank me for bringing my boys to a Mariners game on Tuesday. She works and doesn’t see kids. She said the Sounders had a game across the street the next day. Everyone was staying home and going to that. Mariners claimed 21,000 attendance. But if there were 12,000 in the seats that would have been closer to accurate. Tons of competition for entertainment. Baseball is shrinking domestically.
Where I live Little League season ended a month ago. (Gotta get ready for the televised LL WS.). Soccer season is still on for the kids. I think the soccer leagues around here play spring, summer and fall. Not hard to see what sport is cultivating young fans and which isn’t.
That is the sad reality I suppose. This is why I feel so passionate about MILB games – it’s a connection to smaller town families at a lower cost entry point. It is an avenue to grow the sport and connect with the fans. The connection is damaged when teams contract for less than a penny on a dollar to MLB. The connection is damaged when 18 year old kids are given $20 a day, a loaf of bread and sandwich meat to make ends. MLB is at a time when they should be connecting with as many fans as possible – through the minors, through community outreach and Little League funding and through celebrating the players and not the MLB logo.
So far, research hasn’t shown that youth soccer leads to large scale soccer fandom later on. If that were the case soccer would be our national sport. More children have played youth soccer since the 1990s than anything else. I don’t have the clips. But it seems to be a game that….so far….Kids play, but not largely watch. Kids grow up and become NFL fans. The pro soccer market has to grow domestically you’d think.
My advice for baseball would be to make a left hand turn….make the games matter more. It’s fine to make them fun for newer generations. But make the post season matter. I’d advocate for two separate leagues. I’d advocate for realignment. Save money on the travel.
MLB has NOTHING on minor league baseball for game day experience. MLB games are a hassle….let’s be honest. If you have children…dragging them downtown into traffic…walking…concessions..distance from the action for reasonable tickets. You get a better experience on TV. MLB games have become destinations.
MLB games are bars…let’s be honest. They’re built for corporate sales, and selling beer to 20 somethings with disposable income.
The issue with the minors is there’s very little local player appeal. If a player is any good he moves up. But I’m not sure minor league games are all that cheap. You’re still talking $20 tickets very easy. Concessions don’t change. It’s also a more gimmicky environment.
Baseballs flaw is that it has always sold MORE than the game. That’s fine when there’s less competition. Now they have PLENTY of that. Baseball is lousy at selling baseball…selling its actual virtues. They somehow think the economics of the game are marketing appeal. Who talks about WalMarts economics like this?
It’s hard to sustain a business with such poor real time opinion of its product.
I think eventually we’ll see a Players League
Why would it take a tax increase? The parks and teams were already there and profitable.
The elimination of the anti-trust exemption will lead to even further decreases in minor league affiliates.
This has long been MLB’s threat each time that the anti-trust issue is brought up as it pertains to minor league pay and minor league contraction. Like most threats from MLB’s offices – its empty.
The next step in contraction would be to eliminate all 30 low A teams. Everything else has already been contracted. No matter how greedy, inept and short-sighted MLB’s leaders are, even this is a step too far and they know it. This would fundamentally change the game and the product on the field would deteriorate significantly.
Good….because many of these minor league franchises have solid local level value. Let them be operated locally. Let’s give Nashville the opportunity to pay and control its own player contracts and see of they just can’t kick Tampa in the nuts. That’s the free market. Let’s see the 30 MLB teams put all their players at their spring complexes…see how that marketing works.
Local operators will be driven to market to local needs. We’d have a game much more driven like NCAA sports are. The minors could be realigned through sheer competition.
MLB teams cover seasonal minor league salaries that tip off at something like 70k/season. Oh, I think there’s many many localities and investors who can get that covered. We’ll open the game to millionaires and a lot of corporations.
MLBs issue is that it doesn’t HAVE competition. It runs a lot of its teams as an excuse to have a handful of teams to have someone to play.
I grew up going to A ball games. I don’t think MLB realizes how big of an impact minor league ball has in growing and keeping baseball fans.
I’m far from the only small town fan to move to a big city and buy mlb tickets.
The realization that countless families won’t have those great summer nights at the ballpark saddens me. And it should alarm MLB at a time the game is already struggling to grow new fans.
Very short sighted move, IMO. Minor leagues are both player development and marketing/pr.
“I don’t think MLB realizes how big of an impact minor league ball has in growing and keeping baseball fans.”
I don’t think they care. They want the tv money first, and fan interaction is a distant 2nd.
But would I be a fan and watching games if I didn’t grow up around the game? Likely not.
Does cable/satellite/streaming money all come in the same from a smaller market fan as one down the street? Yes.
Good. It’s about damn time.
I strongly recommend Stuart Banner’s “The Baseball Trust: A History of Baseball’s Antitrust Exemption,” if you are interested in better understanding the implications of this arrangement for both players and fans.
I’d like for this to be real but senators investigating a bunch of billionaires right as their campaigns need mid term election money is awfully convenient.
Can they fold in how illogical “territorial rights” are when they prevent the A’s moving further away from SF, from Oakland to San Jose? Oh, and those rights to San Jose were given to the Giants from the A’s in 1992 to prevent the Giants moving to Tampa. But…they didn’t move to San Jose. Where is that same courtesy given from SF to OAK now we have “Las Vegas” threatening our green gold guys from the East Bay (where they belong, 4 rings, etc). Isn’t that scenario the definition of “anti-trust”?
San Jose is the 10th biggest city in the USA, it has rabid fans who have proven they will show up to support the Sharks+Quakes AND now the 49ers are located a 10 minute drive from the Shark Tank? That says they are the San Jose 49ers to me! The A’s have belonged in SJ since 2008 and they should have been playing there since 2010. Fix this stupidity now, make them the SJ A’s.
@a’sfaninuk well the a’s do have a history of picking up and leaving, philly to kc then to oak in the middle of a new stadium being built for them. imo the a’s made there bed and they should lie in it. if they would of stayed in kc and built a winner they would of pushed the cards market because as it stands now only kc fans in the midwest (especially in mo) are pretty much the kc metro area and that’s it.
The Saber-toothed Superfife
Well, they took over minor league teams and absolutely RUINED going to a minor league game…..
Cost $20 last year, now costs $50 this year.
Save baseball, remove Manfred.
It was just a matter of time before someone blamed baseball’s problems on the commissioner instead of on the people who employ him.
Well yeah. Because *this* is the most pressing issue we face right now.
Get Off My Mound
Rob Refsnyder for MVP
Nothing better to do?
Ghost of past pirates
There are a lot more pressing problems in the country that the Senate should be working to correct. Fix them, then baseball
It’s called multitasking. Everyone does it and its not unreasonable to ask paid public servants to do the same.
maybe they should multi-task on real issues and figuring out how to compromise with each other, because how things are now in d.c. it’s a giant peeing contest between the left and right. now i can careless on which side your on but we need to start listening to the other side and finding middle ground instead of our current system of “i’m on this side and your on that side and your proposed bill is solid but i’m voting against because your on the other side”.
What’s the worst possible thing that could happen to baseball? Is there an answer to that question? And what’s the best possible thing that could happen to baseball? It’s entertainment. Do we want baseball to make the most money possible by appealing to the most number of people possible? Or do we want the game to be as great as possible? If it’s not about the game, it’s about the money. I’m not at all sure how the Senate or the Supreme Court could achieve anything towards making the game better.
The best case scenario is an antitrust ruling would open up MLB to free market economics. It would FORCE them to make better decisions, or face competition. This played out with baseball cards as one example. Topps forever owned a sole license and had zero incentive to put put great cards. Then Donruss and Fleer entered. Competition forces a business to innovate or die. And it forces then to care about consumers they need to compete for. And MLB is lagging and a prime target for another league to make a run at.
Competition is usually a good thing for consumers.
I honestly question whether Major League Baseball is actually the best way to consume baseball. Sure. It’s the best players right now. But that’s about where it ends. Almost everything not between the lines is a mess for the casual fan. And MLB focusing on TV makes sense because of a wider audience….but it also is part of a billion programming options and a young generation that doesn’t even watch real-time TV. Watch the Orioles get 1 hit for 3 hours, or PLAY as the Orioles while gaming? I’m staring at 3 boys doing that right now as I type.
If we’re going to be realistic we have to admit that removing the antitrust exemption would not result in competition within the sport. New leagues are not going to appear like magic. If that was likely or even possible we’d see it happening in other pro sports that don’t enjoy this special exemption.
The biggest changes would come potentially at the minor league level, and perhaps in the control MLB exerts over team locational decisions. The latter may be the driver of this entire exercise as we know some of the owners are unhappy with the way MLB dictates where they can build their stadiums. Some teams would likely have moved already if not prohibited by MLB. It isn’t like Congress takes up many issues without being lobbied by some powerful interest, so this is my guess for why this issue is being revisited now.
I think you’re correct. But baseball is putting itself in a bad place. There’s interest from a good handful of locations on expansion. It’s somewhat similar but not as gross as what the NBA faced when the ABA formed. There’s some expansion type cities that could collude into a league with the basic intent of forcing expansion. Zero history gives them less interest in tradition. They could begin with robo umps….many many things to push the game forward in the way things like the three point line did with the ABA.
There’s also the same television tool in play. There’s plenty of opportunity with the right financing.
I think in my lifetime we’ll see the league owned by the players. They’re atleast 50% partners now. If their union was smart that’d be the future focus. Why would the 700 best in any profession work for other people? We’re already seeing individual players retire with assets to purchase into teams.
Seems crazy…but I can see it coming.
But I think there’s trouble baseball can’t deal with. Like it’s fan base averaging 61 or so…long boring games…even video game baseball competes. Society needs to come back to baseball itself. And baseball does almost zero but defeat itself.
Outside of the minors being available for fans….the nature of youth baseball needs to change. In my area a kid starts travel ball at 7 or 8. It’s an expensive sport. So you just eliminated a lot of kids economically…if they wished to play. I’ve had many scouts bring this up in conversation. I seriously can’t count the number of mental error lack instincts plays in any random MLB game I see. It’s what happens when kids don’t PLAY baseball enough…and NO jamming 8 games into a tournament on a weekend doesn’t teach that. Youth baseball has become about parents…and having their summer families. And it’s sold by economic interests and others playing on the notion of college scholarships. But nothing changes. It’s still about 7% of kids who get a college scholarship.
Mike Trout had it right. He played other sports and developed his athleticism. Didn’t focus on his Perfect Game scout rating at age 12.
I have extensive baseball background and I have four sons. One chose cars and is heading for a high performance engine program. Two don’t play. And my youngest loves it and plays YMCA ball at 8 now.
MLB wants to do something? Send out a million wiffle ball bats.
Yes indeed. Time and again we see how MLB is the worst managed of all the pro sports, and not just recently, but historically. More recently the huge media deals have insulated ownership from the realities of what is happening with their audience. Revenues are up, but youth are going elsewhere for their entertainment. Some of the teams run youth baseball programs locally, but as far as I know MLB doesn’t actively promote the sport to kids. They seemingly expect their customers to just show up out of loyalty to the game, generation after generation. And lots do, but it’s a declining number overall. What’s the plan for reversing that trend? I sure don’t see one. A player-owned league? They sure couldn’t do any worse.
Other pro sports have solid competition from “amatuer” leagues as well. The NFL and NBA have big time NCAA versions nipping their heals. I know many people that won’t watch NBA games.
If you’re still there…….
I don’t watch either.
I was an avid NBA and NFL fan for decades. Stopped watching the NFL 15 years ago, the NBA 10 years ago.
Free agency ruined those sports. It used to be that it took 3 years for an O or D line to learn to play together in the NFL, and years for the core of an NBA team to get their timing together. With the player movement both sports have turned into playground ball as opposed to a team sport. The NFL has turned into headhunters on D as opposed to wrapping the man with the ball up; the NBA seldom runs set plays – 3 superstars get together on a team, the rest of the guys are their helpers….or as Michael Jordan put it: “My supporting cast”. The media covering both sports don’t understand how those sports are to be played and pretty much deal in controversy – what star doesn’t like what other star on the team or doesn’t like the coach…..or isn’t getting the ball enough. They simply aren’t team sports anymore.
There are teams in MLB that do play team ball (in spite of the fact that the game is so individualistic) – that emphasize Baseball IQ on the field. I love watching the Astros play; Brewers were good but noticeably regressing; Red Sox are doing well; Braves of course, Orioles and Phillies are coming. The commonality to all starts with a sharp Baseball Ops heads that wants strong fundamental players, and wants the coaches to work with them, along with veteran managers that put the players in positions to produce.
Lately I’ve gotten a lot of satisfaction watching the Phillies and Orioles play. I don’t care if they don’t make the playoffs. The players have been trained correctly and are still coached up that way, and their managers are solid. They don’t do stupid things on the field of play, and I can live it when they force the opposing team to to play D….and most can’t. Physical errors in small amounts are expected….continuous mental errors (think teams like the White Sox) cannot be tolerated…and those teams will never win anything.
I think the reason NCAA football and basketball are so attractive is because the coaches have to be listened to and the players try to play as a team.
I’m just here to read the opinions of the Trade Rumors legal experts.
I’m absolutely shocked Cleveland couldn’t get a native American tribe to back their naming and re-design the Chief Wahoo logo. Missed opportunity. If the issue was respect…show it…FSU has the blessing of the Seminole Nation and works with them. Cleveland blew the chance to take their baseball tradition forward.
@dock i felt that cle should of renamed themselves as the tribe, imo who was really upset that cle was the Indians was it actual natives that were upset or was a bunch of caucasians that are trying to over correct from what this country did in the past. imo dock your right cle dropped the ball on this one they could of sat down with a lot of the natives in this country and came up with a name that honored the natives and not alienate tribe fans.
Bill Veeck was behind the Chief Wahoo design. And given his sentiments on issues…I actually believe he would have opposed it at this time. I have a lot of connection to the logo myself. But I get the logo. It actually is really strange. Odd…I was a funny kid…I thought Chief Wahoo was a Jewish caricature dressed as an indian when I was a kid. That was common in Looney Tunes and Mel Brooks.
But as far as the name? If the object is to remove something meant to honor someone…work with them to do so. You’d think it’d be an honor to be represented…and if not and something is wrong….get it right. They probably could have worked with any number of Ohio tribes to bring the same concept into the 21st Century. But they sidestepped.
I actually felt they’d go with Spiders. If you’re gonna change branding that could have killed.
But yeah…missed opportunity for sure.
How sad of life you must have to censor those who think differently than narrow minded folks like yourself. Worst writer on this entire site.
I’m almost positive he’s done this on a politically charged topic before. He’s either got thin skin, or he’s an activist masquerading as a journalist.
Trust me, he does it all the time. As soon as the # of likes show that his opinion is in the minority, he deletes the comment thread.
What should be examined is how these oligarchs bribe those in power to secure free taxpayer cash to build new stadiums and infrastructure, including the stealing of homes (like Texas Rangers and George Bush), and then use that cash to fund politicians and buy soccer clubs in the EU all while cutting payroll and tanking and threatening to move the fans’ teams if they don’t get free taxpayer cash. Blackmail, theft, socialism for the rich, these are the issues that the Senate should look at. We need to remove these parasitic oligarchs from owning our clubs and, if taxpayer cash is used to build stadiums and infrastructure,then the fans/cities/regions OWN the team they paid for, just like the Packers and so many soccer clubs in Europe. End Socialism for Oligarchs! No more free taxpayer cash for rich private oligarchs!
You need to re-read the beginning of your first sentence.
These are the people that will square away the mess? What do you think keeps them in power and provides riches for their families?
Could they examine how to lower gas and food prices? Only thing they can examine is their colon because they have their heads up their ass.
Their actions are what raised gas and food prices.
Even before my time, Civics was a core requirement in schools. Now it has gone the way of penmanship. The result is we vote for histrionic individuals who are anything but civic minded to represent us.
Its the mid term elections and they are simply looking to get cheap publicity from the even cheaper media. That’s what we deserve.
IMO, there should be NO exemption from anti trust laws. Its a precedent that has been exploited by foreign owned entities.