A month ago news broke at both Baseball America and The New York Times that Major League Baseball was pushing for an overhaul of Minor League Baseball, with a big aspect of that being the elimination of 42 teams in the United States. When the news first broke the teams were said to “mostly” be from short-season rookie-level teams.

The New York Times released the list of those 42 teams and it includes four teams that are currently Cincinnati Reds minor league affiliates. On the list released on Saturday the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts, the Advanced-A Daytona Tortugas, the rookie-level Billings Mustangs, and the rookie-level Greeneville Reds were among the 42 teams proposed to be eliminated by Major League Baseball.

The Reds, just like everyone else, would keep four full-season teams. But they wouldn’t include either Daytona or Chattanooga – and it seems both of those towns would lose their minor league affiliations, too. That is if the plan set for by Major League Baseball were to go through. And while I wrote that, mostly, I felt this was more of an “opening offer” that was meant to get the attention of minor league teams to get them to make some concessions to Major League Baseball in some areas last month when I was writing about all of this news, my tune is changing a little bit.

In another New York publication on Saturday there was more news on this front. The New York Daily News had more information, and you should be sure to read the entire article. There’s a lot of interesting things within from Bill Madden on the whole deal, but this part stood out a little bit more than the rest:

I cannot believe the arrogance of these people,” he said. “They don’t care about lawsuits or anything. They think they’re bullet proof. They’ve told us, ‘We’re doing this and there’s no discussion about it, and if you don’t like it, we’ll form our own minor leagues.

In the month since things first broke it has seemingly gotten worse. Or at the very least, we’ve learned more information about what’s been going on behind the scenes for a while now. This article has several quotes from sources that just make it seem like Major League Baseball isn’t playing around – this isn’t a negotiation as much as it is a heads up.

35 Responses

  1. Greenfield Red

    Because it’s coming out of New York, I’m sure they will include information on the upcoming Rule Y draft. That’s where every year, the Yankees can select any players they want from any major league or minor league roster to fill their organizational needs and wants. After all, we all know the rest of baseball exists to serve the needs of the New York Yankees.

    • Simon Cowell

      Sad but true. I suspect you are being sarcastic but it does ring with a certain level of truth. If mlb wasnt working to benefit the current pinstripes in NYC the commissioner would be sacked tomorrow.

  2. Colorado Red

    Doug,
    Have you seen a list of how many teams each MLB team loses.
    4 out of 42 seems a bit high for 1 team.

    • Doug Gray

      There will be massive re-alignment and affiliate changes if this goes through. Leagues, and levels, will have a lot of teams in them that didn’t used to be at those levels.

      • Jim m

        So how is it the Cubs loose zero teams??? And how the Reds loose a AA team? That dodsnt make sense. Bet the FO wishes they hadnt moved from Pensacola now eh? So alot of towns that count on minor leauge baseball gef kicked to the curb. Sounds like a huge Class action lawsuit coming.

  3. Norwood Nate

    So obviously the Reds would need to replace two teams, A+ and AA, where would those teams come from? Other affiliated teams that aren’t full season teams would then need to become full season teams at a new level? Seems odd.

    • Andy

      I think they are keeping franchises based on quality of facility, not current competition level

    • Doug Gray

      The remaining teams would basically see radical realignment. Some teams would change levels, new leagues would form for “easier travel” schedules. It would not be like what it is today. Everyone still gets 4 full-season teams. Everyone gets a complex level team in the AZL or GCL.

  4. Kevin Davis

    I think when MLB goes forward with this there will be a move in Congress to remove the anti-trust exemption.

    • Optimist

      I had the same thought when Doug did the first write up about the initial proposal. IIRC it would wipe out the Pioneer League, which gets the attention of Montana (Billings for the Reds), Idaho and Utah.

      This iteration adds Tennessee to the list.

      Hard to see small businesses, and municipalities not calling their congressional delegations.

      Still – have to feel these are opening negotiating positions from MLB, and the settlement won’t look anything like this.

  5. MK

    I checked the on-line newspapers of the Reds affiliate cities involved with losing teams. Greeneville and Chattanooga did not have stories on the subject. In Billings their concerns were 2 fold. Loss of the Mustangs as well as the team/league they have come to love and the fact that the City of Billings and their taxpayers still have eight years to pay off their new stadium loan, The last article in Daytona in which their management thought they were safe and due to upgrades in stadium turf and video boards they were coming up to modern standards. The lack of local coverage speaks volumes about their elimination.

    • Doug Gray

      The list of teams just happened to be released yesterday, so it’s not too surprising that there aren’t exactly articles flowing out about it all just yet. It will certainly be interesting to see what follows in the next few days.

      • Scott

        Hey Doug, I’ve searched for the list to no avail. Could you point me to the list. It would be an interesting read. Also I would love to read what you would do if you where to be appointed “king of minor league baseball restructuring “ I would think there are lots of improvements and changes that could be made, love to see your take.

    • KH

      This is incorrect on the Greeneville Reds side. The Greeneville Sun ( I believe is the local paper) had a full front page coverage on this topic when it was first released. The Greeneville Reds are new to the area but Kristian (GM) has done a wonderful job incorporating the Greeneville Reds in every aspect of the Greeneville community!

    • Jami Sanderson

      I wouldn’t think too much of those local papers not having stories. Why? Because newsrooms across the US are mostly running national stories from USA Today, AP and the like. There are very few local reporters anymore and the grunts who are left are squeezed for time.

  6. MK

    Is Dayton an option to upgrade to the AA Eastern League? The stadium capacity would work as it is at least larger than Akron. I would think the Reds would be happy to have their AA team that close

    • Doug Gray

      Without knowing how the realignment would work, who knows. I’d imagine that MLB actually does have a plan out there somewhere that outlines said realignment – but we haven’t seen it.

  7. Andy

    Kinda hoping with the Realignment that Lexington Legends will become Reds affiliate.

    • Michael R

      Sorry to burst your bubble but Lexington is on the chopping block as well for some reason.

  8. Andrew

    So disappointed to see the Vermont Lake Monsters on the kill list. Oldest professional stadium in the country and the team is our only professional sports team in VT. The team has a huge following locally and will crush the livelihoods of quite a few people Im good friends with. Big bummer

  9. jim walker

    The Baseball America article Doug links says that Appalachian and Pioneer League cities will be “encouraged to form summer wood bat amateur teams under the auspices and organization of MLB”.

    Presumably “auspices and organization” infer some level of financial support.

    It seems to me the purpose here from the MLB perspective is, in conjunction with the later draft, to get high school players and college players from mid and lower level programs on the same fields to so they can conduct a level a vetting ahead of the shortened draft.

    Depending on the exact details, this might turn out to be a lot like the hockey junior leagues in Canada and the northern US which essentially replace the rookie leagues in that sport.

    It would a different paradigm; but, how many of the guys in the MiLB system rookie leagues make it to their second season now? And, these leagues would still provide baseball for the involved cities and their fans. The real losers as I see it are those traditional class A and AA towns like Daytona, Chattanooga, Birmingham and the like unless they can pony up for the so called Dream League(s).

    • Bill

      As for the Dream Leagues, the issue the Minor League franchises have is that teams in those leagues will have to pick up paying the players. The Madden article estimated $400K+ to do this. Even if they could break even (most probably can’t), it would wreck any value in the underlying franchise compared to the current arrangement. Therefore, those franchise owners will want compensation for that loss.

  10. Bill

    Interesting article, however, I will point out that based on his work, it appears Bill Madden is an avid Yankees fan who’s team was knocked out of the playoffs by the Houston Astros who take his opening salvo in the article.

    There clearly are some structural issues with minor league baseball: payer play, facilities, travel, etc. If this is handled as poorly as the author suggest by MLB, it will become a dominating story with a maelstrom of negative press.

    • Wes

      Mlb is excellent at covering negative press. They have even trained the teams to be excellent at covering negative press. Reds.com guys work for reds and act accordingly. All media is controlled media (except for Doug of course). So mlb can control almost all press on the topic and say what they please to fit their narrative while at the same time use their partners in media like espn/Fox/Influence in local market to have all stories spent to same narrative. That’s how Corp America works and baseball is part of it no matter how much we want to pretend it’s not

  11. Bill

    Billings seems like a town where the weather would be problematic for full season baseball (Average hi, 60F; average low 35F; 2 days of snow, 19 days of at least some rain).

    Greeneville, TN is probably not viable for minor league baseball with a population of ~15K. There’s a reason the Reds own this franchise and Houston owned it before them.

    Daytona would seem to be a facilities issue … didn’t the Tortugas have to cancel games a few consecutive days because the field hadn’t drained following a rain storm? The park was first built in 1914, so it may one that is behind.

    Chattanooga is curious. It’s a decent size town and I presume the other Southern League teams are remaining in place.

    • jim walker

      I think the amateur wood bat leagues which Billings and Greenville seem targeted for would be short season leagues.

      Currently the rookie leagues they will replace start after the draft (typically around mid June). In the new scheme I’d expect them to open as soon as possible after Memorial Day and shut down in mid August versus the end of August. The purpose of doing this would be to provide as much pre-draft exposure as possible to the players.

  12. AirborneJayJay

    Are Daytona and Chattanooga on the list because of older stadiums and fields? Daytona’s is ancient.

    • jim walker

      This is my guess. The stadium in Chattanooga opened in 2000. I believe they may have recently done some renovations; but I think they have also been making noise about a new stadium.

      If the photos I found are current, the stadium looks to be a grandstand with a row of private boxes at the top. It is a bit funky in that while the covered grandstand runs most of the way down the 1st base line, it barely wraps around the home plate area on the 3rd base side. The permanent seating along the 3B line appears to end at about the 3rd base bag with the last couple of sections only half height compared to the rest. Capacity is given as 6K and change.

      • Keith

        Lived in Chattanooga for a while. You’re correct – 3b stands don’t have any covering. Stadium certainly feels older than its age, and is well below capacity most games. Hard to imagine a city that size (200k) not having a team, especially given proximity to Atlanta (100 miles). I loved going to games there, especially on used car night, when they gave away 10 used cars to lucky fans.

  13. Simon Cowell

    There is no win in this. Mlb is shooting itself in the foot

    • Michael Smith

      Agreed Simon. Baseball is finding new ways to possible drive off more fans

  14. muddie

    I can personally attest that the Greeneville’s Pioneer Park is the best in the league. My wife and I took in eight games in the Appalachian League this year and fell in love with it. Pulaski (NY Yankees) put a lot of money into upgrading their facility but Greeneville is the crown jewel. And yes, we attended a game in Pulaski.

    Thanks for your time and work here Doug.

  15. Big Ed

    I hope as a result of this that Congress repeals the new law that exempts minor league baseball from the federal (not state) wage and hour laws. That was a lobbyist special, thrown into another bill, and had little if any actual debate or discussion. It would be a simple matter for a stand-alone repeal bill to be voted on.

    And I’ve never understood the logic of the antitrust exemption. Neither of these issues would seem to be a partisan matter, given the various places targeted for closing, and should get support from both parties.

    I do understand the logic behind wanting to consolidate leagues geographically, and to eliminate some sub-standard facilities like Daytona. But if MLB expects any public or private money to be invested in better facilities, undermining the long-term stability of MiLB is a bad idea.

    MLB does not hold all the cards in this dispute. MLB’s biggest weakness is its tendency to not just to shoot itself in the foot, but to machine-gun its own foot.