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Friday, March 20, 2020

Coronavirus Pandemic Creates ‘Disaster Situation’ For Some MiLB Teams

This past offseason was considered to be the toughest most Minor League Baseball teams had ever faced. Roughly a quarter of all MiLB teams were on the chopping block in an MLB proposal that headlined negotiations between MLB and MiLB on a new Professional Baseball Agreement for 2021 and beyond.

Those issues, while still significant, have faded into the background. They have quickly been replaced at the forefront by the novel coronavirus outbreak, which has quickly waylaid MiLB’s (and all of sports) 2020 season plans.

The PBA negotiations have been paused by both sides as they work to figure out how to adjust, adapt and answer the many questions raised by the suspension of the season.

As of mid-March, the long-term effects health-wise of COVID-19 in the U.S. are not yet apparent. MiLB owners and operators all speak of their concerns for the actual health of their communities. But while that is seen as a future unknown, the financial ramifications are already becoming quite clear.

 

QLE Posted: March 20, 2020 at 12:34 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: contraction, coronavirus, minor leagues

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

House asks comptroller general to study minor leagues

Tonight, on The Edge Of Contraction:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House of Representatives by voice vote approved legislation Tuesday to have the comptroller general of the U.S. study baseball’s minor leagues, which are trying to fend off a contraction proposal from major league clubs.

The bill calls on the comptroller general to “evaluate the social, economic, and historic contributions that minor league baseball has made to American life and culture.”

Major League Baseball and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, which governs the minors, are negotiating a Professional Baseball Agreement to replace the deal that expires after this season. MLB’s proposal would drop the big league affiliation of 42 minor league teams and eliminate short-season leagues not held at major league training complexes.

“Major League Baseball would gladly participate in a serious Government Accountability Office analysis of the many problems in minor league baseball that are impeding the development of players,” the commissioner’s office said in a statement that cited “the widespread inadequacy of facilities, playing conditions, nutrition programs and burdensome travel demands. ”

Well, this is quite a turn, isn’t it?

 

QLE Posted: March 11, 2020 at 12:40 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: comptroller general, congress, contraction, minor leagues

Thursday, March 05, 2020

What’s Next in Fight to Protect Minor League Baseball?

On Wednesday, members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform are scheduled to consider H.R. 6020. If ultimately adopted, H.R. 6020 would require the Government Accountability Office to issue a “report on the social, economic, and historic contributions that Minor League Baseball has made to American life and culture.” Congresswoman Lori Trahan, who along with Congressman David McKinley lead a bipartisan Congressional effort to protect minor league teams, introduced H.R. 6020 last week.

A report by the GAO would likely become an influential document in negotiations between MLB and MiLB on a new professional agreement. Their current agreement is set to expire in September. MLB demands sizable changes to the economic relationship between the big leagues and the minor leagues. The most controversial of those changes would involve the severing of affiliations between MLB clubs and 42 minor league teams. While this severing wouldn’t force affected teams to fold, their expulsion from MLB-affiliated minor leagues, along with losses of financial support and MLB branding, would jeopardize their survival.

The economics of minor league clubs have a number of components, but player development contracts (PDCs) are a crucial ingredient. PDCs dictate the contractual affiliation between MLB teams and minor league affiliates. In general, PDCs call for MLB teams to pay the salaries of minor league players and staff. Meanwhile, owners of minor league teams typically cover expenditures for field upkeep, equipment, uniforms and other non-personnel operations. MLB officials are dissatisfied with this current arrangement. They have expressed a number of complaints, including that some minor league teams rely on dated facilities and are located far from their MLB parents. A number of targeted MiLB teams reject the relevance of those lines of critique.

Depending on its findings and recommendations, a GAO report could make it more difficult for MLB to justify sweeping changes. The report would be authoritative, objective and credible. This reflects the nature of the GAO, a unique entity in Washington D.C. The GAO is an independent, nonpartisan agency that provides evaluations and analyses for Congress. It is thus different from an executive agency, such as the Justice Department or the State Department, since it doesn’t report to the President. The nonpartisan quality of the GAO is also important. Neither the agency nor its leaders are beholden to the Speaker of the House, the Senate Majority Leader or the President. The fact that the GAO’s leader, the Comptroller General, serves a 15-year term illustrates that dynamic: he or she remains in office past the terms of multiple presidents and Congressional leaders.

A consideration of the latest step in the war over minor league contraction.

 

QLE Posted: March 05, 2020 at 12:57 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: congress, contraction, minor leagues

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Delegates swing for fences with resolution to keep minor league baseball

Today in minor-league contraction news:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A resolution to support the continuation of minor league baseball in West Virginia circled the bases in the House of Delegates.

As representatives of the West Virginia Power baseball organization observed from the balcony, the resolution passed the House of Delegates, 98-0 with two absences.

“As an avid baseball fan and former Little League all-star, I can’t imagine a Mountain State without baseball,” said Delegate Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, who elicited laughter when he mentioned his youthful accomplishments.

“That is our pipeline to the major leagues.”

 

 

QLE Posted: February 22, 2020 at 12:31 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: contraction, minor leagues, west virginia

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Untangling a Minor League Mess, Part II

And now, the second part of this story:

Earlier this week, we discussed the principle bone of contention between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball regarding MLB’s proposed contraction plan. MLB wishes to, among other things, transfer more control and money away from minor league baseball and eliminate short-season baseball. While they have tried to make their case that the measure is not a cost-saving one, that case isn’t particularly persuasive, as discussed in Part I of this series.

But while contraction is a cost-saving measure, that doesn’t mean major league teams don’t have a more efficient way of producing good major league players than in the current system, and that argument deserves to be assessed on its own merits. David Laurila recently talked to some MLB executives who explained some of their thoughts on the potential changes, and in a piece at FiveThirtyEight, Travis Sawchik laid out the potential benefits of fewer minor league teams while including keeping the level of competition higher, preventing teams from preying on players with little chance of reaching the majors and putting players closer to spring training sites where the quality of facilities is better and the coaching is more concentrated. (It’s worth noting that MLB hasn’t actually done a very good job of making that argument.)

 

QLE Posted: February 13, 2020 at 01:24 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: contraction, minor leagues

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Untangling a Minor League Mess, Part I

In 2011, Major League and Minor League Baseball agreed to extend their current Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) through the 2020 season. That agreement, which extended a prior agreement that wasn’t set to expire until 2014, maintained the status quo between the majors and the minors that most fans are familiar with today. There would continue to be over 160 affiliated minor league teams, with each team’s major league parent organization providing the players and the minor league clubs providing the facilities, travel, and fans. That agreement also included an increase in the ticket tax minor league teams pay to major league teams based on ticket revenue. That PBA is set to expire at the end of this season, and Major League Baseball wants to make drastic changes to the next agreement, changes that would dramatically reshape the minor leagues as we know them now.

The negotiations, which have thus far been quite ugly, first became public back in October when Baseball America revealed some details of MLB’s proposal (Baseball America, and JJ Cooper in particular, has done a great job covering the dispute); a later New York Times report confirmed the 42 teams set for contraction. Since then, the two sides have traded public missives, accusing each other of engaging in behavior that is not in the best interest of baseball.

Cumulatively, the changes proposed by MLB represent a move to gain power and consolidate control over the minor leagues. The MLB plan would move the amateur draft later in the year and decrease its number of rounds, get rid of short-season baseball, remove one-fifth of the independently owned full-season teams, take control of the Florida State League, and restructure existing leagues and reclassify some teams. The cumulative effect of these changes would be to diminish the power of MiLB relative to MLB and to potentially lower affiliate value for independently owned minor league franchises. With such sweeping and fundamental changes on the table, there’s a lot to sort through. But to get to the core of what’s at stake, it’s helpful to unpack one of the most significant changes under consideration: getting rid of short-season baseball.

To understand where Minor League and Major League Baseball come down on short-season ball, I will pose a few introductory questions and answer them based on my own understanding of the leagues’ respective positions before diving into the meat of the argument.

Another nice mess, courtesy of Rob “Stan” Manfred.

 

QLE Posted: February 12, 2020 at 01:25 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: contraction, minor leagues

Monday, February 10, 2020

Sunday Notes: MLB Executives Weigh in on the Implications of MiLB Contraction

Almost inexplicably, the proposed contraction of 42 minor league teams has largely become second-page news. Baseball’s biggest story just a few short months ago, a potentially cataclysmic alteration of the game’s landscape has found itself overshadowed by cheating scandals, managerial mayhem, and the controversial trade of a superstar by a deep-pocketed team. In arguably one of the most-tumultuous off-seasons ever, a hugely-important issue lies almost dormant within the news cycle.

Here at FanGraphs, we’re doing our best not to let that happen. My colleague Craig Edwards is taking an in-depth look at the situation — expect those articles in the coming days — and what you’re seeing here serves as a lead-in to his efforts. My own opinions aren’t included. What follows are the thoughts of a handful of high-ranking MLB executives, the bulk of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity.

In the opinion of one GM, lawsuits are likely, if not inevitable. Speaking on the record would thus be an invitation to trouble. Another pointed out that the ongoing discussions are at the league level, and independent of individual teams. For that reason, offering a public opinion wouldn’t be in his best interest.

With no exception, each executive expressed that his organization’s bottom line is to optimize player development, regardless of the structure of the minor leagues. An American League GM put it this way:

“I don’t think [contraction] would change our operations that much in terms of what we’re focused on internally. We want to put the best resources in front of our players, and whether we have 10 minor league teams, five minor league teams, or somewhere in between, we’re going to do the same thing.”

Come for the serious consideration of a major topic- stay for the Greg Maddux stories and notes on player-pitcher records.


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

House resolution proposed against minor league contraction

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four members of the House of Representatives introduced a resolution Tuesday urging Major League Baseball not to follow through with its proposal to eliminate 42 current minor league teams.

MLB made the proposal last year to the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the governing body of the minors, during negotiations for a Professional Baseball Agreement to replace the deal that expires after the 2020 season.

MLB wants to cut short-season leagues and reduce the number of farm teams each big league club affiliates with. It has proposed replacing the eliminated minor league teams with a not yet defined Dream League, somewhat similar to collegiate summer leagues.

The resolution was introduced by Reps. Lori Trahan, D-Mass.; David McKinley, R-W. Va.; Max Rose, D-N.Y.; and Mike Simpson, R- Idaho.

For those curious, the full text is here:

https://trahan.house.gov/uploadedfiles/trahan_056_xml.pdf

 

QLE Posted: January 29, 2020 at 12:28 AM | 3 comment(s)
  Beats: congress, contraction, minor leagues

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Mayors launch task force to oppose minor league contraction

This week in contraction news:

Dozens of mayors from across the United States have formed a task force opposing a proposal by Major League Baseball to eliminate 42 affiliated minor league franchises for the 2021 season.

The coalition launched Tuesday with three leaders and was up to 30 members by Wednesday afternoon, ranging from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Hillsboro, Oregon.

“All of us understand this plan is a major league error,” Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said.

MLB and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues are negotiating a minor league agreement to replace the contract expiring after the 2020 season. MLB has proposed cutting more than a quarter of its 160 affiliates, citing concerns over the quality of facilities, travel and player salaries.

 

QLE Posted: January 23, 2020 at 12:51 AM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: contraction, minor leagues

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Save the Spinners: How One Town Attempts to Stave Off MLB’s Contractual Plan for the Minors

LOWELL, Mass. — Major League Baseball’s controversial plan to reorganize Minor League Baseball faces headwinds as local communities who stand to lose their teams—and accompanying jobs, business and investment—unify efforts to persuade or, if necessary, try to stop MLB.

One such community is Lowell, Massachusetts, a city of about 112,000 people and home of the Lowell Spinners. The Spinners are the Class A Short Season affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. They are one of 42 teams rumored to face losing a major league affiliation as part of a tentative MLB initiative to contract the minor leagues.

On Tuesday, U.S. Congresswoman Lori Trahan (D-Massachusetts and Lowell native) chaired a community meeting at the Spinners’ LeLacheur Park. Trahan, along with U.S. Congressman David McKinley (R-West Virginia), is leading a bipartisan effort in Congress to ensure that MLB appreciates the gravity of legal risks and political fallout it could face.

“Major League Baseball,” Trahan stressed to a packed clubhouse room of community and business leaders, “received a sweetheart deal in 2018 by getting an exemption from the Fair Labor Standards Act.” Trahan’s remark about the FLSA exemption is sure to attract notice in the office of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and in offices of attorneys who are representing minor league players.

An update on the current state of Minor League Baseball contraction.

 

QLE Posted: January 08, 2020 at 12:41 AM | 10 comment(s)
  Beats: contraction, minor leagues

Sunday, December 29, 2019

MLB says it is committed to protecting minor league teams

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Major League Baseball said Saturday it is committed to protecting minor league teams, a day after U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal warned of possible congressional action if the organization followed through on minor league contraction plans.

“It is not Major League Baseball’s goal to eliminate any club in these negotiations, and MLB currently has a plan for every club to continue operations with some level of support,” Major League Baseball said in a written statement.

MLB has proposed a contraction plan that could end minor league baseball at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Connecticut, and ballparks across the nation by eliminating its affiliation with 42 teams. The Norwich Sea Unicorns — formerly the Connecticut Tigers — play in the Class A New York-Penn League.

I suppose it is possible to believe MLB on this- then again, I suppose it is possible to get people to believe that I have a nice bridge for sale…..

 

QLE Posted: December 29, 2019 at 12:56 AM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: contraction, minor leagues

Monday, December 16, 2019

Why some MLB executives think a leaner minor-league system is best for baseball

SAN DIEGO — Baseball’s minor leagues are a bloated and antiquated system that does not adequately serve either the player or his development, according to several Major League Baseball executives, who support a proposal to eliminate a quarter of minor-league teams and a movement to rethink how the sport may better prepare its next generation.

“The system has been around for a long time,” Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen said. “We have a lot of great partners. A lot of great relationships. There’s a great history within the game for the minor leagues. It’s part of the fabric of what we’re doing. But, it’s been a while since we talked about what’s the optimal way for us to develop players.”

MLB and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues are negotiating a contract that would replace the current agreement, which expires after the 2020 season. As part of that negotiation, MLB submitted a proposal that would pare the number of affiliated minor-league teams by 42, most of those in Class A or below. The remaining teams would be realigned, primarily by geography.

In response, Pat O’Conner, president and CEO of Minor League Baseball, the communities of the teams that could lose their affiliations, and various politicians — including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders — have vowed a fight to maintain the status quo. A slew of lawsuits from eliminated teams and their fans have been predicted. Sanders appeared to threaten the standing of baseball’s antitrust exemption. In a recent address that opened the minor-league version of baseball’s winter meetings, O’Conner said, “Big storm clouds loom on the horizon.”

Mind you, this would mean more if I had any belief that any general manager could publicly defy the interests of ownership today and still have a job tomorrow….

 

QLE Posted: December 16, 2019 at 01:04 AM | 111 comment(s)
  Beats: bad ideas, contraction, minor leagues

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Manfred: MLB `flexible’ on minor league cuts, irked by talks

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred countered outcry over Major League Baseball’s proposal to chop 42 farm teams by challenging the minors Wednesday to “move off the take-it-or-leave-it status quo approach” to their ongoing negotiations.

MLB and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues are negotiating a minor league agreement to replace the contract expiring after the 2020 season. MLB has proposed cutting more than a quarter of its 160 affiliates, citing concerns over the quality of facilities, travel and salaries for players.

Minor League President Pat O’Conner delivered an impassioned speech defending the minors to team executives at these winter meetings, and fans from small towns across the country have been outraged to see their teams listed as being on the chopping block. Manfred has even been roasted on Twitter by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Manfred said MLB “will remain flexible” in negotiations and is asking the NAPBL to do the same.

Every generation gets the Bowie Kuhn it deserves….

 

QLE Posted: December 12, 2019 at 01:14 AM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: contraction, manfred is thinking about it, minor leagues

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Minor League teams on MLB’s shutdown list are looking to rebrand

One of the many joys of Minor League Baseball is the unique team names. From the Biscuits and Yard Goats to the Rubber Ducks and Flying Squirrels, teams have been able to create unique mascots beyond the run-of-the-mill Tigers, Wildcats and Eagles of other sports.

The latest team to join in on the fun is the Connecticut Tigers, which announced on Friday that it will become the Harwich Sea Unicons for 2019. Fans in the Constitution State can grab the hottest new narwhal-themed baseball gear already.

But fans may want to jump on this new gear soon because the Sea Unicorns may not be long for Minor League Baseball. The franchise is one of 42 that Major League Baseball has proposed slashing in the name of saving money.

The move to eliminate a quarter of all minor league teams is not official, and there’s no timetable for a change yet either. MLB still has to negotiate its Professional Baseball Agreement next year, but it seems plausible that not all 162 teams will be around in the near future, much to the dismay of fans, owners, and at least one presidential candidate.

For those curious as for how the teams threatened by contraction are behaving in spite of this threat.

QLE Posted: December 07, 2019 at 10:07 PM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: contraction, minor leagues, reboots

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Minor league cities fighting back against contraction plan

NORWICH, Conn. (AP) — Mayor Peter Nystrom says he plans to fight hard to preserve his town’s little piece of Americana.

For a quarter century on baseball nights at Dodd Stadium, children have played on the hill next to the right field fence while neighbors chat in the stands and watch future major league stars.

But Major League Baseball has proposed a contraction plan that could end those summer nights at Dodd and other parks across the nation by eliminating its affiliation with 42 minor league teams, including the Connecticut Tigers, Norwich’s single-A New York-Penn League team.

The contraction plan is being proposed as Major League Baseball and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues negotiate a new Professional Baseball Agreement to replace the one that expires after the 2020 season. The 176 minor league teams affiliated with the NAPBL combined to draw 41.5 million fans this year.

Another round in the fight against a bad idea has begun.

 

QLE Posted: November 26, 2019 at 10:38 PM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: contraction, fight, fight, fight, minor leagues

Monday, November 18, 2019

Rob Manfred’s plan to destroy minor league baseball

As if they aren’t squarely involved in enough transgressions against baseball, we should not be at all surprised to know the Houston Astros — the Jeff Luhnow Houston Astros — were the ringleaders of the MLB plan to essentially destroy grass roots baseball and contract 42 of the 160 minor league teams.

In recent weeks, details of the plan have been slowly leaking out, the MLB spin being it’s designed to (1) upgrade all the minor league facilities and (2) improve “wellness” for the minor leaguers in terms of travel and living conditions. In truth, as always, it’s designed to save money, lots of money, and the proprietors of these minor league teams, many of whom have their life savings invested in them, be damned.

Here is the plan which is slated to go into effect beginning in 2021:

1. Forty-two of the 160 minor league teams (26%) guaranteed under the present, expiring Professional Baseball Agreement between the majors and minors will be eliminated, most of them from the four short season Rookie Leagues — the New York-Penn, Appalachian, Northwest and Pioneer.

An update to a subject we’ve discussed earlier, with further details.

QLE Posted: November 18, 2019 at 12:08 AM | 188 comment(s)
  Beats: contraction, manfred is thinking about it, minor leagues

 

 

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