Friday Focus – MiLB Contraction is a Huge Story, Lost in a Bigger One.

Friday Focus

It’s the classic case of bringing a knife to a gun fight. MiLB was always going to lose, its just starting to become clear they’re going to get their clocks cleaned.

First, it was reported nearly two months ago that MiLB had flatly turned back MLB’s proposal to cut approximately 42 teams from the ranks of MLB affiliation. They even got Congress involved and a bill has been put forward called the Save Minor League Baseball Act, it passed Congress, but has not come up in the Senate. Obviously, bigger fish have come along to fry, but Chuck Schumer himself was involved in meetings to save the Binghamton Rumble Ponies.

The Government Accountability Office opened an investigation and MLB responded recently “Major League Baseball would gladly participate in a serious Government Accountability Office (GAO) analysis of the many problems in Minor League Baseball that are impeding the development of players–including the widespread inadequacy of facilities, playing conditions, nutrition programs and burdensome travel demands. A thorough study would show that the status quo is not just outdated but failing both players and communities across the country that are at risk of being left behind by minor league owners who can move their team and leave town at any moment.

MLB is confident that we can simultaneously keep baseball in the communities in which it is currently being played and modernize our player development system so that it fits the 21st century, improves playing conditions and increases opportunities for players. We look forward to working with Congress and the GAO, but the most constructive role they can play at this time is to encourage Minor League Baseball to continue working with MLB to address the real issues impacting minor league players and communities.”

Suddenly on the 21st of April, a report came out saying MiLB was prepared to fully accept the contraction of “at least 40 teams”. This was done with a caveat that the two sides would somehow come up with a way to not destroy the communities affected by providing them some kind of benefit or swag from MLB. Who knows what that means really?

I hoped that the meetings held between the two sides on the 22nd would help shed light, but instead, it seemed to be more of a stalemate, neither side wanted to put out much definitive.

Now, I don’t have to tell you why all these reports conflict, but just in case, here we go. Reason 1, someone ran with something before they should have. Reason 2, Someone ran something that was put forth to drum up public support in the form of a worst-case scenario. Reason 3, MLB pulled or diluted whatever they promised to get this concession and since noting is signed, well, you get the rest.

Both sides of the negotiations will tell you there is not definitive list of teams potentially getting the axe, but there are enough lists by enough reporters with very few alterations to expect those are at the very least the clubs being discussed.

I understand the reason this is being proposed. I really think a commissioner who seems to think outside of the nostalgia bubble many baseball fans and lifers tend to see things through, is looking for a way to save money and Coronavirus is giving him a perfect excuse. Many of these clubs can’t survive without help at this point and he knows it.

It’s not that MLB has no point, its that there is more than one way to skin a cat. For many of these communities, MiLB is THE pro sport in town. It becomes their adopted root to feel tied to a team in MLB. They’ve supported the players as they rolled through, they love them, remember them and feel like this is an attack on their communities themselves.

Maybe the government will step in, I’m not a huge fan of government involvement in sports but taking the game away from up to 40 communities would be a blow that an already reeling country will not want to see happen.

If you take Rob Manfred at face value and it really is primarily based on the facilities, ok, so why are teams like Erie and Missoula on that list? See that’s the kind of stuff I’d like to fully understand. I’ve probably been to State College 15 times in the past two seasons for work and every chance I get I show up for a Spikes game or the Curve on the way home. Well attended all, so again, why are the Spikes on that list?

We talk about this because if we don’t this all happens in the dark, and darkness is where worst things happen. Bring these into the light and see if you can catch some of the roaches scurrying under the fridge. If there are 20 teams saying they can’t meet standards or operate at all without extensive MLB help, ok, I get it. If I, a relatively local writer can see a ton on the surface that make no sense, at least explain in less than generalities.

Take a look at where we are, and what’s been proposed. Wow, it’s almost like the middle of the country doesn’t exist, at least they’re consistent.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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