In the midst of hearings in the Senate to remove President Trump from office, US Representative Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), along with three others, introduced a resolution to the House of Representatives Tuesday morning imploring Major League Baseball to abandon its proposal to strip major league affiliations from 42 minor league teams across the country.
The bipartisan resolution, supported by 38 Democrats and 28 Republicans, is an outgrowth of the Save Minor League Baseball Task Force formed late last year by Trahan, US Representative David McKinley (R-W.Va.), and more than 100 other representatives in reaction to the threat of losing affiliated minor league teams in their communities.
Trahan’s 3rd District encompasses Lowell, home of the Spinners, currently a short-season Single A affiliate of the Red Sox.
The resolution is nonbinding, but after being assigned to a committee, the sponsors’ goal will be to bring the measure to the floor for a full vote.
Approval is not guaranteed, but the bipartisan support suggests passage would be more likely than not, an outcome that could stiffen headwinds MLB is already facing in its contentious talks with Minor League Baseball over a new working agreement.
Several passages in the resolution tout the significance of minor league baseball to the fabric and economy of the country, citing 40 million fans at games over each of the last 15 seasons, $45 million in cash and in-kind gifts and 15,000-plus volunteer hours to local communities from minor league clubs in 2018, and MiLB’s commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion.
The resolution also alludes to the antitrust exemptions that Congress has granted to MLB that feature sustaining its minor-league system.
“[A]bandonment of 42 Minor League Baseball clubs by Major League Baseball would devastate communities, bond purchasers, and other stakeholders that rely on the economic stimulus these clubs provide,” reads one passage, before the document culminates with a recognition of the “unique social, economic, and historic contributions that Minor League Baseball has made to American life and culture.”
Three Massachusetts representatives who had not previously joined the task force signed onto the resolution: Stephen Lynch (D-8th District), Bill Keating (D-9th District), and Seth Moulton (D-6th District).
Of the nine Massachusetts representatives, five of them — Trahan, Lynch, Keating, Moulton , and Joseph Kennedy — have signed onto the resolution. Both Massachusetts senators, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, oppose MLB’s proposal.
The western edge of Moulton’s district extends close to Lowell and includes a significant portion of the Spinners’ fan base.
“Moulton believes that these cuts would not only fail to solve prevailing labor standards within the minor leagues but would take jobs from Lowell and 41 other communities,” read a statement from Moulton’s office. “He looks forward to working with the owner of the Spinners and other members of the delegation to develop an alternative way to address the root issues of labor, facility standards, and player health in MILB.”
Last October, word leaked that negotiations between MLB and MiLB on a new Professional Baseball Agreement got off to a contentious start when MLB proposed stripping affiliation from 42 of 160 minor league clubs in an effort to streamline, modernize, and improve the minor league system’s setup, facilities, and salary structure.
The current PBA is set to expire after the 2020 season.
In response to the introduction of the resolution, an MLB spokesperson expressed confidence in finding a solution and also suggested that Congress apply its energy toward getting MiLB to work with MLB at the bargaining table.
“MLB is confident that we can modernize our minor league system, improve playing conditions for our players, and protect baseball in communities across America,” said the spokesperson in an e-mail. “However, doing so is best achieved with Minor League Baseball’s constructive participation, and a recognition that they need to be part of the solution.
“So far their approach has been neither constructive nor solutions-oriented. The most constructive role Congress can play to achieve these goals is to encourage Minor League Baseball to return to the bargaining table so we can work together to address the real issues impacting minor league players and communities all across the country.”
An MiLB spokesperson said the next round of negotiations is scheduled for Feb. 20 in Dallas.
Last month, on the same day that Trahan held a community meeting in the Spinners clubhouse at LeLacheur Park in Lowell, an industry source told the Globe that MLB was leaning toward keeping an affiliated team in Lowell as a full-season Single A club, but not necessarily with a Red Sox affiliation.
“We launched the Save Minor League Baseball Task Force for a simple purpose — to help ensure a level playing field in the negotiations between MLB and Minor League Baseball so that they yield a fair resolution and protect minor league baseball in communities across the country,” said Trahan in a statement.
“Congress has long been a partner to the league in protecting and expanding America’s favorite pastime. We deserve to have our voices heard in any conversation with such potentially devastating consequences. This resolution makes our position clear, and I am grateful to my fellow co-chairs and colleagues for their continued support of this effort.”
Said Pat O’Conner, president of MiLB: “Minor League Baseball is most appreciative of the bipartisan support we have received from so many members of Congress. The resolution introduced today shows the widespread support for Minor League Baseball and we thank representatives McKinley, Rose, Simpson, and Trahan for leading the charge in support of Minor League Baseball.”