As was reported yesterday, four of the current Cincinnati Reds minor league affiliates are on the chopping block by a proposed plan by Major League Baseball that they would like to implement following the 2020 baseball season. Among those teams are the rookie-level Greeneville Reds and Billings Mustangs, as well as the Advanced-A Daytona Tortugas and Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts.
The Chattanooga Lookouts co-owner Jason Freier spoke with the local NBC affiliate about the news that his team could be one of the teams being contracted as a minor league affiliate. He had a few things to say, but this seems to be the main point he was making:
We think at the end of the day the only reason that makes sense to reduce teams and not give them a chance to improve facilities for instance is for Major League Baseball to save money
This seems to be what many are feeling on the situation. This is about Major League Baseball teams wanting to cut operating expenses. It’s not about facility improvements or less travel – it’s about them not having to increase much pay for players. With the pressure seemingly on them to actually start paying minor league players an actual amount of money that works with being able to pay rent and eat food, if they cut out 80 jobs and keep the overall pay the same – the remaining players would get a raise and Major League Baseball could claim “oh, look, we gave them a raise! Now give us our standing applause!” all while never actually paying out a penny more than they were before – just giving more money to those guys remaining.
One theory that’s been floated out there is that this is all a big negotiating ploy by Major League Baseball in order to get minor league teams to begin to pay at least some of the minor league player salaries. Currently Major League Baseball get a percentage (this rate changes per level) of the gate from their affiliates. Whether this rate increases and that helps cover player salary, or there’s some other agreement that puts some of that salary on the minor league teams – the belief is that this is where things are leading. We’ll have to see, but there’s only a year for the two sides to figure something out as the agreement between Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball is up following the 2020 season.
The Daytona Tortugas are owned by three men. Rick French is one of those three owners, and he spoke with the News Journal in Daytona Beach.
It’s just a tragedy,” said Rick French, one of the Tortugas’ three owners. “We’re going to do everything humanly possible to keep that from happening. As owners we look at ourselves as custodians of baseball history in Daytona Beach.
The owners, as expected, aren’t the only people concerned in the towns where affiliated minor league baseball could be cut out. Congress member Michael Waltz noted that he and other members of Congress signed a letter and sent it to Rob Manfred about their oppositions to this new plan. JJ Cooper of Baseball America had it first, in picture form. Several representatives have also shared the letter on their social media feeds since. I went ahead and typed the letter:
Dear Commissioner Manfred,
We are writing to express our firm opposition to Major League Baseball’s radical proposal to eliminate numerous Minor League Baseball clubs. If enacted, it would undermine the health of the minor league system that undergirds talent development and encourages fan loyalty. It would particularly be felt in areas far from a major league team or where tickets to a major league game are cost-prohibitive.
Tens of millions of fans attend Minor League Baseball games each season. These professional baseball clubs are vital components of our communities because they provide affordable, family-friendly entertainment to members of our communities, support scores of allied businesses, employ thousands of individuals, donate millions of dollars in charitable funds, and connect our communities to Major League Baseball. A number of these Minor League clubs operate at a loss, but continue to persist due to strong fan support and club ownerships’ commitment to their communities and America’s Pastime.
The abandonment of Minor League clubs by Major League Baseball would devastate our communities, their bond purchasers, and other stakeholders affected by the potential loss of these clubs. We want you to fully understand the impact this could have not only on the communities we represent, but also no the long-term support that Congress has always afforded our national pastime on a wide variety of legislative initiatives.
For over a century, Congress has taken numerous actions specifically designed to protect, preserve, and sustain a system and structure for both Major and Minor League Baseball to flourish.
You are the most important steward of the great game of baseball and tasked with ensuring the popularity and love of it across the world. Reducing the number of Minor League Baseball clubs and overhauling a century-old system that has been consistently safeguarded by Congress is not in the best interest of the overall game of baseball, especially when Major League Baseball’s revenues are at all-time highs.
As members of Congress who recognize the tremendous value of the Minor League system, we ask Major League Baseball to strongly reconsider its proposed course with Minor League Baseball and do all that it can to ensure the continuation of affiliated baseball in our communities.
The letter was signed by a total of 105 members of Congress – though at this time those members are not listed anywhere.
Statement from the Daytona Tortugas
We are shocked and disappointed to learn that Daytona is one of 42 cities on Major League Baseball’s “contraction” list as part of the 2021 proposal. Contraction is Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred’s euphemism for a city that has apparently outlived its usefulness to our national pastime.
We want our community to know that we reject that way of thinking and will do everything humanly possible to protect the future of professional baseball in Daytona Beach and Volusia County. We also stand with the other 41 communities across this country that have been placed on Major League Baseball’s “hit” list by league executives whom are too short-sighted to realize that baseball is played — and fandom cultivated — in the cornfields of Iowa, in the sandlots of Tennessee, in the mountains of West Virginia and yes, on the playgrounds and baseball fields a block or two from The World’s Most Famous Beach.
42 is a number that has far greater meaning to our country’s Civil Rights history than the way MLB is cavalierly tossing it around today. It symbolizes hope. It symbolizes diversity, And it symbolizes inclusion. All of those characteristics were on display on March 17, 1946 at City Island Ball Park when Jackie Robinson took the field for the first time as a professional baseball player and broke baseball’s color barrier. To this day the aptly renamed Jackie Robinson Ballpark serves as a historic pilgrimage site for baseball fans, civil rights advocates, and anyone who supports equal rights, dignity and compassion for all.
As owners of this franchise, we see ourselves as proud caretakers of YOUR team. Minor League Baseball has been played in Daytona Beach for 100 years. Jackie Robinson, if he were alive today, would have celebrated his 100th birthday this year. And we stand 100% behind this community, its leaders and elected officials in doing whatever is necessary to ensure that Major League Baseball and its commissioner don’t rob this community of its history or OUR national pastime. We believe both Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson would stand shoulder- to-shoulder with us on this issue.
Professional baseball will be played at The Jack in 2020 but we need all of the 386 to make your voices heard for it to be enjoyed for generations to come. #StandWithTheJack