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The Major League Baseball vs. Minor League Baseball war just got worse

The minor leagues are being attacked, so they fought back.

Four Winds Field, home of the South Bend Cubs
Melqui Rodriguez/South Bend Cubs

In October, it was revealed that Major League Baseball wanted to eliminate 42 affiliated minor-league teams. Josh Timmers covered that here. Tim Huwe wrote about why it was a terrible idea. I posted more details of the proposal here in November. And another article by Josh explained why MLB wants to do this. (It’s all about MLB having power over its minor leaguers.)

Friday night, Minor League Baseball sent out a four-page memo detailing exactly why all of this is a terrible idea. You can read it here (link opens .pdf). It lays out in detail Minor League Baseball’s positions on the following topics:

  • Facilities
  • Player health and welfare
  • Schedules
  • Team travel
  • Hotels
  • Clubhouse conditions and amenities
  • Player salaries
  • Subsidies
  • The Dream League scenario
  • Public financing of ballparks
  • Relocations
  • League realignment

The entire memo is worth reading. In my view it lays out perfectly MLB’s attempted power grab in all 12 of those areas, and the memo concludes:

The observation by the Commissioner that MiLB has in any way adopted a “take it or leave it” position, on any issue is, to put it gently, demonstrably inaccurate.

That was a response to Commissioner Rob Manfred’s claim during the Winter Meetings that Minor League Baseball was doing just that.

In an article at Hardball Talk Saturday morning, Craig Calcaterra quotes MLB’s response to the memo:

“If the National Association [of Minor League Clubs] has an interest in an agreement with Major League Baseball, it must address the very significant issues with the current system at the bargaining table. Otherwise, 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.”

This doesn’t sound too friendly, to put it mildly. And one minor-league owner, not named, was quoted by Bill Shaikin in the Los Angeles Times:

“Rob is attempting to decimate the industry, destroy baseball in communities and eliminate thousands of jobs, and he’s upset that the owners of the teams have gone public with that information in an effort to save their teams,” the owner said on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing negotiations. “That’s rich.”

There’s really only one word that can describe what Rob Manfred and MLB owners are trying to do with this power grab over the minor leagues: Greed. Major League Baseball is a $10 billion business. They could easily afford to invest more money in helping out Minor League Baseball, its cities, employees and players. Instead they’ve chosen to fight a war. I’m on Minor League Baseball’s side here, though this will be a tough battle to win.

Manfred certainly hasn’t made any friends among baseball fans during his tenure as Commissioner, which hits the five-year mark next month. I often wonder if he’s even a baseball fan. Let’s be straight here — Manfred is simply doing the bidding of the people who put him in his position, the 30 MLB team owners. They had better be careful what they do, or they risk killing the proverbial golden goose.

It’s worth reading the entire MiLB memo linked above. These negotiations just got a lot more contentious.