MiLB Clubs Fight For Survival Amid MLB's Contraction Proposal
MiLB Senior Dir of Communications Jeff Lantz said both major and minor league baseball are getting together later this week to "open some dialogue and hopefully get to the root" of MLB's proposal to drastically reduce the number of affiliated minor league clubs, according to Julie Greene of the Hagerstown HERALD-MAIL. Lantz said that he hopes the two sides will have "hashed out an agreement to save the 42 teams' major league affiliations before the end of next year's minor league season." Lantz also said MiLB is "not sure exactly what went into creating" the list of clubs proposed in the overhaul (Hagerstown HERALD-MAIL, 11/20).
HITS CLOSE TO HOME: In Chattanooga, David Paschall notes Double-A Southern League Chattanooga Lookouts President Rich Mozingo and co-Owner Jason Freier are scheduled to attend next month's MLB winter meetings in San Diego. The Southern League named Chattanooga its top organization for the '19 MiLB season, "but that didn't keep" MLB from "making the Lookouts one of the teams they seek to ax " Mozingo: "This is a much more global issue than the Chattanooga Lookouts. There is a delegation that has been set forth by Minor League Baseball to negotiate with Major League Baseball, and I know they have meetings planned before and after the winter meetings. We have to be business as usual." Mozingo "realizes Chattanooga is on the MLB list because of AT&T Field, which has weathered 20 Lookouts seasons." But he said that the ballpark also "meets every criteria that Major League Baseball has set forth for Double-A franchises" (CHATTANOOGA TIMES FREE PRESS, 11/20).
FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES: In West Virginia, Eric Walker notes the Rookie-Level Appalachian League Bluefield Blue Jays and Princeton Rays are two of the teams "on the chopping block." West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred have "talked and are planning to meet soon to discuss the proposal" that would also eliminate the Single-A South Atlantic League West Virginia Power in Charleston. Justice: "Minor League Baseball is a critical part of West Virginia's future. I am working to find a real solution on this issue." Other West Virginia political leaders have "come out in opposition to the proposal," including U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R) and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D) (BLUEFIELD DAILY TELEGRAPH, 11/20).
WON'T GO QUIETLY: In N.Y., Rob Centorani notes Double-A Eastern League Binghamton Rumble Ponies Owner John Hughes, Binghamton Mayor Richard David and state Sen. Fred Akshar "slammed" MLB's plan in a news conference yesterday. They "talked about filthy-rich owners caring more about their bottom lines than the impact their proposal would have on dozens of small cities that have fielded minor-league teams for decades." If the proposal passes, the Mets would assign their Single-A New York-Penn team, the Brooklyn Cyclones, to the Eastern League and Binghamton "would be left without a team." Akshar: "I'm calling on the Wilpons to join this fight with us" (Binghampton PRESS & SUN-BULLETIN, 11/20). Single-A Florida State League Daytona Tortugas President Ryan Keur, whose team is also on the contraction list, said that the team "would continue to fight throughout" the '20 season. Yesterday, team co-Owner Rick French wrote in a Daytona Beach News-Journal Facebook group that the team would "fight to its dying breath to save the Tortugas" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 11/20). Single-A Midwest League Quad Cities River Bandits Owner Dave Heller: "This is the top of the first inning of a nine-inning game. We are not going to roll over and allow Quad-Cities to be contracted" (QUAD-CITY TIMES, 11/20).
NO TIME TO PANIC: Single-A New York-Penn League Vermont Lake Monsters VP Kyle Bostwick said that the team is "watching the negotiations but stressed the proposal was early in the negotiation process." Bostwick: "It is right now just an idea being floated in the back-and-forth of a negotiation. We're certainly watching it, but we hope that there's not too much stock put into it because there's as good a chance that it doesn't happen as anything." He added there are many "unanswered questions" about the proposal. He said, "We don't know anything about the business model. We don't know anything about how that would even work. ... It's based on one side of a proposal during a negotiation. So it's not anything that we're even considering right now" (VTDIGGER.org, 11/19). U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.-Ind.) tweeted, "Closing down Minor League teams, like the Vermont Lake Monsters, would be a disaster for baseball fans, workers, and communities across the country. We must protect these teams from corporate greed" (TWITTER.com, 11/19). In Pennsylvania, Cory Giger writes, "This is all still just a proposal, and no final decisions have been made about contraction." But it is a "serious matter" that MLB is "strongly considering" (Lock Haven EXPRESS, 11/20).
THE BIG PICTURE: In Massachusetts, Matt Vautour writes MLB's proposal is an "active move that would chip away at the game." A fan of MiLB is not "going to suddenly be able to be a regular at Fenway" if the club gets shut down. More likely, they will "resent the game that was taken away from them and spend their time and disposable income on something else" (Springfield REPUBLICAN, 11/20). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said if baseball is "fearful that young people don't like" the sport, "you're chopping them off at the knees if you take away baseball from markets that are hundreds of miles from major league cities" ("PTI," ESPN, 11/19). Rookie-level Pioneer League Billings Mustangs manager Chris Kukulski said that the team is "one of the most important assets" the Montana city has (MISSOULIAN, 11/20). In Cincinnati, Paul Daugherty writes, "There is something to be said for the small-town game. Its charms don't depend on the quality of play or players." They are "rooted more deeply in a feel," and "being there matters as much as what happens on the field" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 11/20).
WHAT GIVES? In Dallas, Evan Grant writes, "It's unclear what MLB's ultimate goal here is, though the league has faced mounting public pressure to raise pay for minor leaguers." One way to do that and "not really expand the bottom line: Just get rid of a bunch of minor leaguers." It also "could be viewed as leverage to force minor league owners to share some of the burden of costs the parent organization usually picks up like salaries and transportation" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 11/20).