Response to More PBA Updates
It’s been a few months since I last checked in about the PBA negotiations, proposed reduction of PDCs, etc. At that time (November 2019), Minor League Baseball had just released the list of 42 teams that MLB doesn’t want to affiliate with to the press and there was some verbal sparring and letters exchanged. Basically, it all got ugly pretty quickly and very publicly. It’s simmered down a bit since then. Here are some updates from late November, December, January, and February.
- First up is presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, who denounced the plan on Twitter in late November. I really can’t take for granted how weird this is. Minor league Player Development Contracts are the realm of minor league geeks. I never thought I’d see an issue like this reach such a wide audience. Here’s the official memo:
- In early December, it was announced that some lawmakers banded together to form the bipartisan “Save Minor League Baseball Task Force.”
- Embedded in this article, which also includes a statement from Elizabeth Warren, there is this important tidbit: “The MLB proposal puts all power on their side, and indeed the proposed 42-team contraction includes this angle: it includes new affiliates for the teams remaining. For instance, in the proposal the Bowling Green Hot Rods would rise from Low A to a Class AA Southern League team and assume the Cincinnati Reds affiliation.” This was not reported earlier. Apparently, MLB submitted a full list of who the affiliates would be in their ideal minor league system. I wish we had that list. Crazy.
- In mid-December, MLB issued a harsh statement. They were (and are) very upset about MiLB’s handling of the negotiations and leaking information to the press. MLB’s response was draconian and powerful: “If the National Association [of Minor League Clubs] has an interest in an agreement with Major League Baseball, it must address the very significant issues with the current system at the bargaining table. Otherwise, MLB clubs will be free to affiliate with any minor league team or potential team in the United States, including independent league teams and cities which are not permitted to compete for an affiliate under the current agreement.” Wowza.
- Here’s how Minor League Baseball responded:
- Bernie Sanders issued another statement on December 14 as well, this one a letter to Rob Manfred. Note that he calls out MLB’s antitrust exemption and corporate welfare in funding of stadiums. All the big guns have come out in this battle.
- Yahoo (still a thing, apparently) did an article where they talked to front office brass of the Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, and an unidentified team. The sentiments were similar to that of what Manfred and company have been reporting. MLB teams want more control over the physical aspects of player development: training, nutrition, recovery, etc. They want to have “smaller classes and more teachers,” in regard to allotment of coaching staff throughout their system.
- Just before Christmas, the New York Times published a nice article that didn’t offer much new reporting, but got some good interview questions from the owner of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, MiLB President Pat O’Conner, and even Mike Shildt, the manager of the Cardinals.
- In this AP article about Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal threatening MLB with legislation and such, there is this weird little statement: “However, minor league baseball owners have refused to bear any portion of the contemplated cost increases for improving facilities, working conditions and pay,” the MLB said. “Instead, they’ve indicated that they would prefer to simply eliminate franchises.” That’s an interesting wrinkle. I wonder if there’s any truth to the statement about MiLB preferring to eliminate franchises than pony up for upgrades?
- In early January, the Boston Globe published an article (paywalled, summary here) about the Lowell Spinners, and how it is likely that they will be preserved in some form. We’ll see how that shakes out. If the New York-Penn League truly is toast, would they join the Eastern League? Way to early to say, but unsurprisingly, MLB said, “the list leaked by Minor League Baseball is inaccurate.” As the world turns.
- The Erie SeaWolves were one of four Double-A clubs that were on the list of 42, and it came at a time when the team has sunk millions of dollars into stadium upgrades over the past few years. Many of those upgrades are profit-driven fan-service things, but this article seems to imply that the team may be able to re-direct some of those efforts toward the improvements specifically favored by MLB.
- Rob Manfred was quoted in Sports Illustrated: “I don’t think they should blame me for wanting to have decent working conditions for our employees,” he said. “At the end of the day we will not save one dime. Even if we went out and got rid of all 42 of them, what we would have to spend in order to get the improvements I want in the existing places it would probably cost us money. When we’re talking about profit, I’m not shy about it—this is not about making more money.” As much as I hate to agree with Rob Manfred, I think he’s right about this. Everyone seems to assume that MLB is penny-pinching with this proposal, but it’s not really about money. It’s about control of player development and teams wanting more power.
- The Daytona Tortugas were a somewhat surprising team to see on the list of 42. How did the City of Daytona Beach respond to all this commotion? Uh, by pledging $4 million in stadium upgrades to Jackie Robinson Ballpark. So much for MiLB solidarity, I guess.
- Most of know nothing about what the backrooms and clubhouses of minor league teams look like, and why MLB teams would want some of them to get the boot. We did learn from this article that the Chattanooga Lookouts are limited in their potential upgrades because of the site of their ballpark on the edge of the cliff. There was chatter a few years back about a downtown Chattanooga park. It will be interesting to see if that resumes as a result of this process.
- MLB announced that minor league salaries are being raised. I wonder if the announcement at this time is a bit of a power play by MLB. Now they can say “we are raising salaries with or without a reduction in PDCs.” Either way, this is a good thing.
- New York Senator/Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer visited Binghamton and hung out with VIPs from the city, the Eastern League, and the extended Rumble Ponies family. Does this mean the Ponies are safe?
- I usually don’t embed videos on this site, but this is something. Minor league baseball featured on the freaking Today Show? If this was 1995, I would be jumping with glee and blowing kisses to Katie Couric.
Alright, that’s what’s been going on. This really has been a bonkers story, and I never expected it to escalate the way it has. I’m not sure what to expect at this point. I think there’s a good chance that Double-A and Class A-Advanced are untouched. I’m not sure about Single-A or the Northwest League. I do think that the Appy League and Pioneer League could get booted out or converted to summer collegiate leagues. Something has got to give with the New York-Penn League. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll have more updates this spring. Thanks for reading.