Modern Woodmen Ballpark, in Davenport, IA. One of the most scenic parks in America
A brief rundown of what’s happened, who are involved, reasons, and how to help
What’s going on?
Despite what is commonly and understandably thought, Major League and Minor League Baseball are two separate entities that partner through a contract called the Professional Baseball Agreement. As part of a new deal to extend their relationship with Minor League Baseball, Major League Baseball owners and the Commissioner’s Office has called for the elimination of 42 Minor League Teams as part of the new PBA that will to go in effect during the 2021 season.
Is my team on this list?
Statistically speaking, there is a 1 in 4 chance of your team being on this list. This decision mostly impacts the low minors (Rookie and Short-Season designation) but also the Midwest, South Atlantic, Carolina, California, Florida, Southern, and Eastern Leagues. The teams reported to be on MLB’s chopping block can be found in my PBA story here.
How can this happen?
It might surprise you, but Major League (MLB) and Minor League Baseball (MiLB) have a very long and complicated history that goes back to the late 19th century. There have been periods of rockiness, but for the past 30 years the two leagues have enjoyed a partnership that has involved very little conflict. Despite the three decades of good relations where MiLB has financially boomed, MLB has traditionally enjoyed a position of power in these relations and is using it to push for the elimination of 42 MiLB teams in 20 states. MLB has also proposed t the MLB draft from 40 to 25 rounds to eliminate players. This means a 37.5% reduction in the draft, several hundred lost fulltime MiLB staff positions, thousands, if not tens of thousands of lost seasonal jobs, and of course the loss of professional baseball in 42 communities.
When will this happen?
The current Professional Baseball Agreement, or the agreement that links Major League and Minor League Baseball into a formal partnership will end on September 30, 2020. This means 42 teams could play their last games this September.
What will happen to those teams? The “Dream League” (aka the “In-Your-Dreams-League)”
Are employees of teams and communities out of luck? MLB has talked about a “Dream League” or independent league that gets backing from MLB taking the place of these 42 teams. Currently, there is no explanation from MLB on how the Dream League will operate, nor is there any infrastructure in place to support such an endeavor. The Dream League will also tack on an additional $500,000 (at minimum) that Minor/Dream League teams would need to pay in workers-compensation insurance plus wages. For some communities this could mean ticket prices going up across the board to cover this expense that has been placed on MiLB teams.
How does this benefit MLB?
MLB pays MiLB players their salary. For players in Rookie and Short-Season-A this means $1,100 a month before taxes and clubhouse dues. Players in AAA with enough service-time in the Minors can earn as much as $2,700 a month before taxes and clubhouse dues. They are only paid for the MiLB season, so April-Labor Day weekend for full-season folks. By reducing the Number of Minor League teams MLB can reduce part of this this expense. What do I mean by part? MiLB teams contribute a part of their season ticket sales to pay an annual ticket tax to MLB to supplement the cost of MiLB salaries. This year MiLB paid a reported $20 million, or nearly $5,000 per player on their roster, in ticket taxes. So how much money will MLB lose as a result of cutting 42 teams and reducing the ticket tax? Based on current MiLB player pay rates, MLB’s losses will negligible with the possibility of them ending up ahead.
Something to note: in the background of all this is MLB’s recent intervention into politics to try to keep MiLB salaries down and their court room battle to keep MiLB players for earning money for things like playing in playoff baseball. This is also going on while MLB is fighting lawsuits from Minor League Baseball and pumping money into the campaigns of elected officials as they try to limit MiLB players pay through the “Save America’s Pastime Act.” As far as other expenses, Minor League teams foot the bills for hotel, travel, and keeping ballparks up to grade with MLB standards for MiLB affiliates, meaning MLB doesn’t contribute to these expenses.
Okay, so what does this mean for my community’s team?
Maybe more than you think. MiLB regularly contributes money to local causes and gets involved in community events. The Minors regularly pour multiple millions into their communities, participate in community service projects, and provide season-long entertainment. In a recent bi-partisan letter of opposition to the reduction of the Minors, 105 members of Congress describe MiLB as a public good and asset to the communities it serves. Losing our teams means not only losing this, but also losing all the joy, excitement, and entertainment that MiLB provides.
Who’s trying to eliminate these 42 teams?
This was a decision unanimously passed by all 30 Major League Baseball owners/ownership groups and supported by Commissioner Rob Manfred and Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem.
How do I get involved?
- Tell your Mayor!: There is an official Mayors’ Task Force to Save Minor League Baseball. Contact your Mayor, City Manager, or City Council and let them know about the effort being taken to save MiLB. Even if you don’t have a Minor League team in your community, or your Minor League Team is safe, I urge you to contact your city officials and add them to the list.
- Tell your Representative in Congress!: 105 members of Congress signed off on an official letter of complaint to MLB. This is a bipartisan effort to put political pressure on MLB. If your local Representative is on the list, GREAT! If not, get them there! Find out how to contact your Congressperson here.
- Get involved with people in your area!: Contact me (email@example.com or on twitter @savemilb) and if I know of people in your area I would love to connect you with them. Contact your local team and see if they can connect you with other fans.
- Support the cause on Social Media!: As baseball fans and consumers we are ultimately MLB’s market. Follow us, share our content, contact @RobManfred and let him know where you stand. Use the hashtags #SaveMiLB and #SaveMinorLeagueBaseball when sharing news, photos from the park, or when you want to let us know what Minor League Baseball means to you.
Even if your team isn’t on the list, or you love Minor League Baseball and you aren’t near it at the moment please raise your voice against this decision. Follow and share content that speaks to this matter (I will be using the @milb_my account to try to keep everyone up-to-date with the latest news). Speak out to Commissioner Manfred, Deputy Commissioner Halem, your favorite MLB team, or your elected officials.