Major League Baseball is angry with the Minor League Baseball for continuing to negotiate a new business deal with the public. The controversy escalated on Friday to the point that the MLB threatened to completely abandon its decade-long collaboration with the juvenile body.
Was it a real threat or just a bluff?
The MLB attempted a power move shortly after the release of MiLB for a long overthrow of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s remarks at this week’s Winter Meetings negotiations.
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“If the National Club (which governs minors) has an interest in agreeing with Major League Baseball, it must address the very important issues with the current system at the negotiating table,” MLB said in a statement received by The Boston Globe . “Otherwise, MLB Clubs will be free to work with any league team or potential team in the United States, including independent league teams and cities that are not allowed to compete for partners under the current agreement.”
The MLB statement was necessarily open to negotiation, so it is not certain that a new system will emerge, given the number of teams and championships. Today’s MLB proposal calls for cutting ties with 42 of the 160 small clubs, most of them participating in Single-A and league levels, as well as drastically re-aligning the championships after the 2020 season.
The proposal also includes the addition of two independent associations – the Saint Paul of the American Union and the Scottish Sugar of the Atlantic League – to the affiliated ranks.
If the MLB issued this threat only to make individuals and double A franchises sweat, then it might gain leverage. There are 46 teams combined in the US, Atlantic League, Frontier League and Pecos League – the four indy championships – and the majority of these championship stages meet MLB Seat Capacity requirements at Double-A (6,000) A (4,000). It is less clear whether these specialized parks would meet the MLB’s stringent requirements for land construction, amenities and accessibility, a key question, as MLB uses the threat of shrinking into subgroups to pay for upgrades.
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If, on the other hand, the MLB wants to sweat all MiLB, then the threat seems weaker. No independent park approaches Triple-A, at least not when it comes to seating capacity. The MLB requires at least 10,000 seats for the Triple-A courts. St. Paul’s CHS 7,210 seats (though officially attracting 8,061 fans per opening in 2019), while Sugar Land’s Constellation Field has 7,500 seats. The skills in other Indian clubs are similar or smaller.
MLB could work out separate agreements with existing Triple-A subsidiaries for 2021 and perhaps these teams could agree on a new partnership to maintain the franchise’s value. If MLB, however, cannot get 30 Triple-A subsidiaries from existing clubs, will it subsidize renovations to indy league parks to get them up to snuff? Why not open the door to lower-level parks, or does MLB only want 120 affiliates, regardless of commission?
It would invite those “cities that are not allowed to compete for an affiliate” (and what are those cities anyway? Older small league cities? MLB cities suburbs?) To build a 10,000 seat with all the bells and whistles MLB wants ; That would take time. Would it temporarily host teams in MLB parks?
Lots of questions and no answers.
The MLB will have to show details to support its tough talk of a complete split. Otherwise, this threat will be seen as just a vigor.