MiLB Warming To MLB's Contraction Plan Amid Pandemic
The fate of minor league baseball is "more precarious than ever," as the economic realities of the ongoing pandemic have made MiLB appear increasingly "more open to accepting a widely debated plan" by MLB to overhaul the whole farm system, according to James Wagner of the N.Y. TIMES. The two sides in recent weeks have "discussed MLB taking over MiLB's independent operations." However, even before the "full force of the pandemic shut down sports in March, there were signs that minor league officials were coming around to accepting it." A month after MLB and MiLB in late January "traded yet another round of barbs in letters and statements," MiLB President Pat O'Conner "barred team owners and officials from speaking to the news media without his office's approval as negotiations ramped up." Minor league owners "were asked to tone down their appeals to Congress." The "biggest reason for MiLB's changed tone" was the "growing belief that MLB could exercise its nuclear option, walk away from the existing structure and form its own farm system." That "would jeopardize all minor league teams." With the prospect of a lost '20 season, some MiLB teams have been "eager to wrap up negotiations sooner rather than later," partly so a '21 schedule "can be made and they can start booking moneymaking nonbaseball events such as concerts and festivals" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/12).