The Journal Gazette
Thursday, November 21, 2019 1:00 am

Lawmakers ask MLB to halt minor league plan

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Nearly one-quarter of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives asked Major League Baseball to reconsider its proposal for a restructuring of the minor leagues after the 2020 season that would lead to 42 teams being dropped from their current circuits.

The TinCaps are not on the list of teams proposed to be eliminated.

Reps. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., and David McKinley. R-W.Va., took the lead in the letter sent Tuesday to baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and signed by 106 members of the House.

“The abandonment of minor league clubs by Major League Baseball would devastate our communities, their bond purchasers, and other stakeholders affected by the potential loss of these clubs,” the letter said. “We want you to fully understand the impact this could have not only on the communities we represent, but also on the long-term support that Congress has always afforded our national pastime on a wide variety of legislative initiatives.”

The Professional Baseball Agreement between Major League Baseball and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues expires after the 2020 season.

MLB's initial proposal, first reported by Baseball America on Oct. 18, would drop four Double-A teams: Binghamton, New York, and Erie, Pennsylvania, of the Eastern League and Chattanooga and Jackson, Tennessee, of the Southern League. The plan would eliminate the 28 teams from four Class A Short Season and Rookie Advanced leagues that do not play at spring training complexes and would lower the minimum guaranteed affiliation agreements from 160 to 120.

Major league teams supply players, coaches and equipment to the minors and say they spend nearly $500 million annually in salary while receiving back only $18 million.

Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem, in a letter to Congress on Tuesday, said MLB wants upgraded stadiums, reduced travel, higher pay and better accommodations for players and a more favorable process for reaching affiliation agreements. Halem wrote that if “significantly fewer than 160 affiliates” are guaranteed, dropped communities will be invited “to join collegiate summer leagues similar to the Cape Cod League (but under the umbrella of MLB), existing independent leagues, or a newly created 'Dream League' that also would operate under the auspices of MLB.”

Halem wrote “the majority of major league club owners believe that there are too many players in the minor league system” and said fewer than 5% of players selected after the 25th round of the annual amateur draft reach the majors.

“Most of the players on the rosters of rookie, short season and low-A teams are there to fill rosters so the minor league teams can stage games for their fans, not because the Major League Clubs require all of those players to develop major league talent.” he wrote.

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