In the face of increasing resistance from Congress about its plan to contract minor league baseball, Major League Baseball declared in a statement that it held a “productive” meeting with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Monday.
Sanders, a Democratic candidate for next year’s presidential election, also emerged from the meeting with commissioner Rob Manfred with a slightly more upbeat prognosis on the flap. Sanders raised objections last week about the proposed stripping of major league affiliation of 42 minor league teams, including one in Sanders’s hometown of Burlington, Vt., as well as in Lowell, and three towns in Iowa, where the Democratic caucuses will be held next year.
In its statement, MLB said: “MLB fully recognizes the importance of professional baseball to communities throughout the United States without a Major League team and, as our national pastime, appreciates the support of the tens of millions of fans in our country.”
Late afternoon on Tuesday, the announcement of a “Save Minor League Baseball Task Force” will be announced on Capitol Hill.
Spearheading the Task Force announcement is Representative Lori Trahan of Massachusetts, whose district encompasses the Lowell Spinners, the Short Season-A affiliate of the Red Sox. More than 100 members of the House of Representatives from both sides of the aisle have expressed opposition to MLB’s initial proposals.
“MLB also understands that we have an obligation to local communities to ensure that public money spent on Minor League stadiums is done so prudently and for the benefit of all citizens,” MLB’s statement added. “MLB also must ensure that Minor League players have safe playing facilities suitable for the development of professional baseball players, are not subjected to unreasonable travel demands, are provided with compensation and working conditions appropriate for elite athletes, and have a realistic opportunity of making it to the Major Leagues.”
Sanders and Manfred met at MLB headquarters in New York, N.Y.
“Commissioner Manfred said that he is committed to a good faith negotiation with Minor League Baseball and is open to solutions that would maintain professional baseball in the 42 communities while addressing concerns about facilities, working conditions and wages for minor league players,” read Sanders’ statement in part. “While these issues must be addressed through negotiations between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball, I and other members of Congress will be carefully monitoring the progress of negotiations on behalf of fans.”
The current Professional Bargaining Agreement expires at the end of September. The sides will resume negotiations in San Diego Friday, and likely will be in talks for months to come.
“MLB is committed to negotiating with Minor League Baseball to find solutions that balance the competing interests of local communities, MLB Clubs, Minor League owners, and the young players who pursue their dream of becoming professional baseball players,” said MLB’s statement. “We repeatedly have stated both publicly and privately to the Minor Leagues that whatever the outcome of the negotiations, MLB will offer every community that currently hosts professional baseball options to preserve baseball in a viable, fan-friendly, compelling format with the full support of MLB. We remain confident that solutions can be reached that satisfy the interests of all stakeholders.”