None of the 42 teams targeted by Major League Baseball in its proposed minor league overhaul and contraction plan are pleased. Thirteen, in particular, have reason to be even more distressed: They are targeted for complete elimination.
According to an industry source, the list that Major League Baseball presented to Minor League Baseball in March had 13 teams — two each in Iowa, Tennessee, Florida, and Maryland, one apiece in Washington, California, Kentucky, Oregon, and West Virginia — slated to cease operations.
The remaining 29 would be stripped of their Major League Baseball affiliations, MLB toying with the idea of newly created independent leagues, a designation minor league owners believe will drastically reduce the value of their franchises as well as offer a lower quality of play for fans.
Eleven, including the Red Sox-affiliated Lowell Spinners, would be placed in an MLB-supported independent “Dream League.” The others would be split among, presumably, two independent wooden-bat leagues modeled after college summer leagues. One based in the Rocky Mountain states would comprise much of the current Pioneer League (advanced rookie level), the other all but one member of the current 10-team Appalachian League (advanced rookie).
No changes to the list have been put forth by MLB since it was presented to Minor League Baseball in March, according to the source. The next face-to-face bargaining session is scheduled for Dec. 6 in San Diego, prior to baseball’s annual Winter Meetings.
The contentious negotiations over a new Professional Baseball Agreement — the current one will expire at the end of September next year — spilled into the public eye last month. MLB said it is seeking a smaller minor league setup, with better facilities and salaries, less travel, and closer proximity to major league affiliates.
Among Minor League Baseball’s complaints is that MLB is acting without sufficient regard for the economic impact the changes will make in communities.
The issue has become politicized. US Representative Lori Trahan, whose Massachusetts district encompasses Lowell, and US Representative David McKinley (R-W.Va.) co-authored a bipartisan letter with 104 signees to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, beseeching him to reconsider the plan. Trahan and McKinley will announce the formation of a “Save Minor League Baseball Task Force” next Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
Bernie Sanders is the only presidential candidate to speak out against the plan. The Vermont Lake Monsters, who play in Sanders’s hometown of Burlington, are slated to be placed in the “Dream League.”
“This has nothing to do with what’s good for baseball and everything to do with greed,” Sanders tweeted on Monday. “It would destroy thousands of jobs and devastate local economies.”
Listed with level and current affiliation in parentheses.
Burlington (Iowa) Bees (Single A, Angels)
Chattanooga (Tenn.) Lookouts (Double A, Reds)
Clinton (Iowa) LumberKings (Single A, Marlins)
Daytona (Fla.) Tortugas (Single A, Reds)
Florida Fire Frogs (Single A, Braves)
Frederick (Md.) Keys (Single A, Orioles)
Hagerstown (Md.) Suns (Single A, Nationals)
Jackson (Tenn.) Generals (Double A, Diamondbacks)
Lancaster (Calif.) JetHawks (Single A, Rockies)
Lexington (Ky.) Legends (Single A, Royals)
Salem-Keizer (Ore.) Volcanoes (Single A, Giants)
Tri-City (Pasco, Wash.) Dust Devils (Single A, Padres)
West Virginia Power (Single A, Mariners)
Auburn (N.Y.) Doubledays (Single A, Nationals)
Batavia (N.Y.) Muckdogs (Single A, Marlins)
Binghamton (N.Y.) Rumble Ponies (Double A, Mets)
Connecticut Tigers (Single A, Tigers)
Erie (Pa.) SeaWolves (Double A, Tigers)
Lowell (Mass.) Spinners (Single A, Red Sox)
Mahoning Valley (Niles, Ohio) Scrappers (Single A, Indians)
State College (Pa.) Spikes (Single A, Cardinals)
Staten Island (N.Y.) Yankees (Single A, Yankees)
Vermont Lake Monsters (Single A, Athletics)
Williamsport (Pa.) Crosscutters (Single A, Phillies)
COLLEGE SUMMER LEAGUES
Billings (Mont.) Mustangs (Rookie, Reds)
Bluefield (Va.) Blue Jays (Rookie, Blue Jays)
Bristol (Va.) Pirates (Rookie, Pirates)
Burlington (N.C.) Royals (Rookie, Royals)
Danville (Va.) Braves (Rookie, Braves)
Elizabethton (Tenn.) Twins (Rookie, Twins)
Grand Junction (Colo.) Rockies (Rookie, Rockies)
Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers (Rookie, White Sox)
Greeneville (Tenn.) Reds (Rookie, Reds)
Idaho Falls Chukars (Rookie, Royals)
Johnson City (Tenn.) Cardinals (Rookie, Cardinals)
Kingsport (Tenn.) Mets (Rookie, Mets)
Missoula (Mont.) PaddleHeads (Rookie, Diamondbacks)
Ogden (Utah) Raptors (Rookie, Dodgers)
Orem (Utah) Owlz (Rookie, Angels)
Princeton (W.Va.) Rays (Rookie, Rays)
Rocky Mountain (Colorado Springs) Vibes (Rookie, Brewers)
Quad Cities (Davenport, Iowa) River Bandits (Single A, Astros)