MLB Contraction Plan May Include Better Compensation For MiLBers
Part of MLB's proposal to overhaul its minor league system stems from some lower-revenue clubs' belief that with fewer MiLB teams and "fewer players, they'll be in a position to better prepare and compensate their minor leaguers," according to sources cited by Buster Olney of ESPN.com. According to some club executives, the amount of money "saved for the elimination of a given affiliate" is upward of $1M. There already has been an "effort by MiLB to push for support from Congress, and one of the negotiating options that may be explored by the lower-level clubs, in lieu of an agreement, is to lock the doors on ballparks." But there are a lot of big league execs who "want to continue to improve the conditions for minor league players." Many organizations have "improved nutrition, providing more insight on rest, coordinating top-down hitting and pitching plans, and improving facility quality where they can." They feel that with a smaller pool of players under the MiLB umbrella, more assets "can be devoted to individual preparation -- and pay, which is increasingly an issue" (ESPN.com, 11/24).
FIELD CONDITIONS: In N.Y., Bill Madden cited sources as saying that MLB's number of minor league ballparks "not meeting up to standards had previously fluctuated from 23 to 30 before suddenly ballooning to 40 last month." In any case, the minor leagues have said that they are "more than willing to work with MLB in getting those facilities up to the enhanced standards now being proposed." They have also said that they are "willing to work together on the travel and schedule issues." Madden: "But it’s the ham-handed, haphazard way they are proposing to do it, threatening to gut the heartland of baseball Americana. ... It’s abundantly clear their main objective is to get rid of teams and leagues and save money by limiting the number of players they have to pay in their organizations" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/23). Triple-A PCL Las Vegas Aviators President Don Logan said facility conditions across MiLB "have to be dealt with." He said, “You’ve got stadiums with substandard lighting, substandard locker rooms. Major League Baseball is right. The other issue is travel. Those two things are key to this process. We understand it, they understand it. That’s the crux of it" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 11/24).
THE BOTTOM LINE: In Boston, Bob Ryan wrote, "The stated reason is to improve conditions for the remaining ballplayers. Ha! The big league clubs could have addressed this matter decades ago. No, it’s about what it’s always about: saving money." More Ryan: "I don’t ordinarily relish the idea of politicians getting involved in monitoring sports, but in this case, I hope there is a whole lot more piling on. They can’t let these people get away with this" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/23). In S.F., Bruce Jenkins wrote this is "really about saving money, as parent clubs are responsible for assuming minor league salaries and travel costs" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/23).
POLITICAL ALLIES: In Boston, Michael Silverman noted U.S. Reps Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) and David McKinley (R-West Virginia) over the weekend "renewed their attack" on MLB's proposal in a joint statement. It reads in part, “We were disappointed by Commissioner [Rob] Manfred’s dismissive tone toward ongoing negotiations surrounding the future of Minor League Baseball." Trahan and McKinley previously co-authored a letter signed by 104 Republican and Democratic representatives "decrying the contraction plan" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/23).