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Volume 27 No. 10
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Proposed Overhaul To Minors Exposes Rift Between MLB, MiLB

The Professional Baseball Agreement between the MLB and MiLB expires at the end of the '20 season
Photo: ST. PAUL SAINTS
The Professional Baseball Agreement between the MLB and MiLB expires at the end of the '20 season
Photo: ST. PAUL SAINTS
The Professional Baseball Agreement between the MLB and MiLB expires at the end of the '20 season
Photo: ST. PAUL SAINTS

News continues to reverberate around MLB's proposal to overhaul MiLB -- which could include eliminating some 40 minor league teams -- and one thing is clear: The two sides are very much apart. MLB has been in negotiations with MiLB because the Professional Baseball Agreement between the two entities expires at the end of the '20 season. Baseball America was the first to report MLB's proposal, which would dramatically affect minor league baseball's lower levels. MiLB President Pat O'Conner yesterday characterized the relationship between MiLB and MLB as contentious. He also took issue with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred last month in an interview with SBJ pointing to strong MiLB attendance in '19 as one reason why the sport is not dying at the same time that MLB is proposing a dramatic overhaul of minor league baseball. "They are effectively taking out a gun and shooting 25% of our lower levels," O'Conner told THE DAILY. "It's not dying. It's homicide." MLB says it is negotiating with owners of MiLB teams to reorganize elements of the system and improve working conditions -- including upgrading facilities and increasing player compensation -- for minor league players. MLB Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem in an email yesterday said, "We recognize that the minor leagues want to maintain the status quo. It works for them. They receive player/staff from our clubs and stadiums from local governments. They generate over $100 million in profit as an industry just from baseball operations. There has not been any consequence when their facilities fall into disrepair because they are guaranteed of receiving an affiliation irrespective of the state of their stadium. They routinely relocate their affiliates for economic reasons to cities that often do not work geographically for our clubs or players -- leaving nearly 80 former minor league cities since 1990. The system we agreed to in 1990 needs to be modernized -- we need to considerably improve player compensation and working conditions, reduce player travel, and modernize the facilities. The minor league owners need to share responsibility for that."

PARTNERSHIP UNDER "TREMENDOUS STRAIN": Halem said MLB provided MiLB owners with several ideas to achieve those objectives, including some involving 160 affiliates. He added that only three meetings -- one formal, two informal -- have occurred and instead of working together, MiLB leaked all of the discussions to the media in an attempt to pressure MLB. O'Conner said the MLB-MiLB partnership is under "tremendous strain" right now and that MLB has shown no inclination to negotiate their position to this point. "The relationship has changed drastically under this current administration," O'Conner said. "It's decidedly more handled like a labor negotiation, it's decidedly more just about the business. I find it very difficult to believe there is a general interest in growing the game and then cutting 40 teams out of grassroots America baseball."