Author Topic: Rob Manfred's plan to destroy minor league baseball  (Read 374 times)

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Offline Slateman

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And by Rob Manfred, you mean MLB owners

Offline Kevrock

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Link is unreadable with all the ads. Can anyone on a PC quote the content here?

Offline GburgNatsFan

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Link is unreadable with all the ads. Can anyone on a PC quote the content here?

It's unreadable on a computer browser, too. So I did a Ctrl+A to select it all and pasted it as plain text. Here you go.

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Rob Manfred’s plan to destroy minor league baseball
By BILL MADDEN
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS |
NOV 16, 2019 | 9:30 AM


As if they aren’t squarely involved in enough transgressions against baseball, we should not be at all surprised to know the Houston Astros — the Jeff Luhnow Houston Astros — were the ringleaders of the MLB plan to essentially destroy grass roots baseball and contract 42 of the 160 minor league teams.

In recent weeks, details of the plan have been slowly leaking out, the MLB spin being it’s designed to (1) upgrade all the minor league facilities and (2) improve “wellness” for the minor leaguers in terms of travel and living conditions. In truth, as always, it’s designed to save money, lots of money, and the proprietors of these minor league teams, many of whom have their life savings invested in them, be damned.

Here is the plan which is slated to go into effect beginning in 2021:

1. Forty-two of the 160 minor league teams (26%) guaranteed under the present, expiring Professional Baseball Agreement between the majors and minors will be eliminated, most of them from the four short season Rookie Leagues — the New York-Penn, Appalachian, Northwest and Pioneer.

2. The baseball draft will be moved from June to August, and reduced to 20 rounds, with the stipulation that the drafted players will sign contracts for the following season. In the interim, the players would then go into what has been described as the “Houston Plan” in which, instead of playing games, they will report to the major league team complexes and undergo analytics indoctrination — i.e. the analyzation of the hitters’ bat speeds, launch angles etc., and the pitchers’ spin rates, arm strengths and grips.

[More Sports] More than 100 members of Congress write to MLB commish over ‘radical’ plan to eliminate minor league teams »
3. With the elimination of the four Rookie Leagues, there will be a limit of 150 players each organization can have in its minor league system among teams at Triple-A, Double-A, High A, Low A and their minor league “complex” teams. (Presently, there is no limit. The Yankees, with nine minor league teams, have well over 200.) It was the contention of the Astros and most of the smaller market clubs, that there is too much money being wasted on players who will never come close to reaching the majors. They may have a point, but between the reduction of the draft and the limit on the number of players in an organization, who knows how many Mike Piazzas, Luke Voits or John Gants, will ever be signed.

MLB commish Rob Manfred wants to leave behind 25% of the current minor league teams.
MLB commish Rob Manfred wants to leave behind 25% of the current minor league teams. (John Minchillo/AP)
Meanwhile, the repercussions from this contraction plan are going to be enormous. Not just for the minor league communities, most of which are the grass roots of baseball, but for MLB itself which, conceivably will be hit with an avalanche of lawsuits from communities that have built new ballparks on taxpayers’ money, all of which would figure to threaten their long-cherished anti-trust exemption. It’s been estimated that $300 million in equity will be lost by the minor league owners whose teams are being eliminated. (Point of clarification: When a person purchases a minor league team, the only “insurance policy” on their investment is the PBA agreement that guarantees 160 teams. That agreement is expiring after this year and MLB is now intent on reducing that guarantee to 118 teams.)

“If we are forced to defend ourselves and fight for mere survival, we will,” said Minor League president Pat O’Conner. “We understand (MLB’s) concerns about facilities that are deficient and not up to standards of what 21st century baseball requires and we have said we’re more than willing to work with them on that, as we are in respect to other (wellness) issue. We can work on re-aligning some of our minor leagues so they are more geographically convenient and we can do things with our schedules, as in longer — five-game series — to cut out extra trips.”

Unfortunately, under the direction of Commissioner Rob Manfred, the MLB negotiators are telling their minor league counterparts, “that’s all well and good, but the contraction plan is going through, no matter what.” In other words, it’s no longer negotiable.

If so, those owners losing their teams will therefore get nothing for their investment now. However, to that, has MLB got a deal for them! If they wish, they can put their team in what MLB has dubbed a “Dream League” — which would be an independent league operated by MLB, with minimal cost to MLB. In addition to stadium maintenance and taxes which they’re already paying, the cost of players, managers, coaches, trainers and equipment people’s salaries and workers comp insurance would now all fall on the owners — between $350,000-$450,000 per year. When it was pointed out by the minor league negotiators there was no way these minor league owners, after losing all the equity in their teams, could then afford to own a “Dream League” team, the MLB response was: “Well they didn’t pay all that much for their teams in the first place so it’s only paper money.” Tell that to David Glass, who bought the Kansas City Royals in 2000 for $96 million and recently sold them for $1 billion. Or as one minor league negotiator told me: “I guess that means it’s OK they should be punished for being good business operators.”

[More Sports] Like Andrew Miller before him, Drew Pomeranz is quietly on the verge of a bullpen breakout »
Putting the minor league owners aside, what is especially cruel — and some suggest self-defeating insofar as growing and cultivating the game is concerned — are the cities and communities themselves being stripped of their teams. In the Class AA Southern League, they are eliminating Chattanooga, which has had a minor league franchise since the 1800s. Bristol, Tenn., in the hit-list Appalachian League, has had a minor league franchise almost as long. (You don’t think the Tennessee lawmakers won’t be rising up when the reality of these longstanding minor league teams being eliminated sets in?)

Three New York-Penn League teams are being saved in the plan by being upgraded to full season leagues, including Hudson Valley being moved to a new-formed Class-A league and Brooklyn, the Mets affiliate, which will be moved to the Double-A Eastern League, replacing Binghamton. That club is being put out of business despite the fact that the owner, John Hughes, has raised a considerable amount of private equity to upgrade NYSEG Stadium. And, by the way, Binghamton will be the host venue for next year’s Eastern League All-Star Game! Another NY-Penn League team being contracted is in Williamsport, Pa. Remember, MLB is saying a primary reason for contraction is because of so many ballparks not being up to major league standards — and yet it was OK for the Cubs and Pirates to play a regular season game in Williamsport last summer. Next summer, on its way out the door, Williamsport is scheduled to host another regular season game between the Red Sox and Orioles.

Williamsport was good enough to host the Cubs last season, but the Pennsylvania town is slated to lose its minor league team.
Williamsport was good enough to host the Cubs last season, but the Pennsylvania town is slated to lose its minor league team. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
According to minor league calculations, over 2,000 years of combined minor league baseball history is about to be extinguished with these contractions. And as we said, so many of these teams are grass roots baseball towns where most of baseball’s biggest stars passed through (and developed a forever fan base) on their way to the majors. An official from one of the teams in the Pioneer League, where most of the teams are in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, put it to me this way: “This is the only way people in these towns can see baseball. They can’t afford to drive 1,000 miles to Seattle. And you’re talking about young fans. You take their teams away and baseball has lost them forever.” (So much for MLB’s “Play Ball” initiative in which they bring former major leaguers into these minor league parks to hold clinics etc., to “grow the game”.)

Last month, in response to Major League Baseball attendance being down for the fourth straight year, Manfred said: “We’re going to draw 68 million people at the big league level and another 41 million at the minor league level. I’ll take 110 million people seeing the game live. That’s really an awesome number.” Except that he’s about to “contract” about at least four million of that attendance. Guess he feels they don’t really need it.

I’m told that when Manfred presented this plan to the owners a few months ago, the vote was unanimous 30-0 to move forward. It was the Luhnow, the godfather of analytics, and the Astros who first conceived of it, and they were quickly joined by the Brewers and Orioles, whose GMs — David Stearns and Mike Elias — both worked under Luhnow with the Astros. The rest of the teams apparently just said ‘OK’ without any discussion of the ramifications of such as a drastic attack on the minor leagues and all these communities across the country.

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Since then, a number of major league officials have privately expressed their concerns about the plan and how it could possibly be implemented in the face of so many conflicts and potential lawsuits. But whether or not they will openly challenge Manfred and his deputy point man, Dan Halem, at the owners meetings in Arlington, Texas, next week remains to be seen. A touch of irony: For over a year now, MLB has been asking Minor League teams to lobby their state governors and legislatures to enact legislation allotting “integrity fees” — a percentage of the baseball gambling revenue in their states — that would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for MLB. Perhaps they should not count on being too well received now by the governors and legislators in so many of these states with this contraction threat looming.

“I don’t see any way we can do something like this,” a major league official told me. “My God, we’ll be sued all over the place from these cities that have built or refurbished ballparks with taxpayer money, and this will really put our anti-trust exemption in jeopardy. It’s crazy.”

But a minor league clubowner who has been sitting across the table from Halem in these so-far fruitless negotiations on the new PBA is not so sure.

“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.’”

Last month, Congresswoman Lori Trahen, (D-Mass.) spoke on the House floor imploring her colleagues for support for saving the Lowell Spinners, the Red Sox’s affiliate in the New York-Penn League. “I rise on behalf today for millions of Americans to call ‘foul’ on Major League Baseball,” she said. “This plan is a betrayal of the fans and players as well as stadium vendors and employees around the nation. And it’s an affront to the people of Lowell who swung for the fences in building LeLacheur Park, one of the nation’s best minor league parks. MLB’s plan is way off base and will hurt so many communities across the country that rely on a minor league team’s presence.”

That cry figures to get much louder — and more far-reaching — in the coming months. But will it still go on deaf ears from Manfred and MLB?

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Offline Slateman

  • Posts: 53980
  • THE SUMMONER OF THE REVERSE JINX
Link is unreadable with all the ads. Can anyone on a PC quote the content here?

TL;DR - About a 90% reduction in minor league players so the owners dont have to pay more money to minor leaguers.

Offline Natsinpwc

  • Posts: 16303
TL;DR - About a 90% reduction in minor league players so the owners dont have to pay more money to minor leaguers.
What’s wrong with that. These guys have very slim chances of ever making the big leagues. They are just fodder to play with and against the chosen ones. Other sports survive without extensive minor leagues.

Offline bluestreak

  • Posts: 9957
What’s wrong with that. These guys have very slim chances of ever making the big leagues. They are just fodder to play with and against the chosen ones. Other sports survive without extensive minor leagues.

They didn’t have them to begin with. Many of these municipalities spent taxpayer money based on the promise of affiliation with MLB. It also seems shortsighted as baseball is a sport best enjoyed at the park. Cutting access to people  outside of major metros doesn’t seem like a way to cultivate fans.

Offline Kevrock

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Thanks Gburg, Slate

Shame. Love minor league baseball, and any amateur leagues really.

Less baseball is a bad thing.

Offline Natsinpwc

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They didn’t have them to begin with. Many of these municipalities spent taxpayer money based on the promise of affiliation with MLB. It also seems shortsighted as baseball is a sport best enjoyed at the park. Cutting access to people  outside of major metros doesn’t seem like a way to cultivate fans.
Most people in these communities don’t attend the games. Or if they do it’s for the other entertainment and not the baseball. Baseball has been losing popularity with all these minor league teams. It really does not help.

For the communities it’s tough luck. The risk they took. Just like being in towns where coal mining was king. Need to move on.

Offline HalfSmokes

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They didn’t have them to begin with. Many of these municipalities spent taxpayer money based on the promise of affiliation with MLB. It also seems shortsighted as baseball is a sport best enjoyed at the park. Cutting access to people  outside of major metros doesn’t seem like a way to cultivate fans.


Also baseball relies on broad political support to maintain its antitrust exemption and get things like the save America’s past time act passed. They’ve just lost a lot of that support

Offline Natsinpwc

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Also baseball relies on broad political support to maintain its antitrust exemption and get things like the save America’s past time act passed. They’ve just lost a lot of that support
Did you just fall off a turnip truck?

Offline Slateman

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  • THE SUMMONER OF THE REVERSE JINX
Most people in these communities don’t attend the games. Or if they do it’s for the other entertainment and not the baseball. Baseball has been losing popularity with all these minor league teams. It really does not help.

For the communities it’s tough luck. The risk they took. Just like being in towns where coal mining was king. Need to move on.

https://www.milb.com/milb/news/minor-league-baseball-posts-attendance-increase-of-over-one-million-fans-in-2019/c-310645838
Plenty of people go to games.

What’s wrong with that. These guys have very slim chances of ever making the big leagues. They are just fodder to play with and against the chosen ones. Other sports survive without extensive minor leagues.
What's wrong is that it will hurt teams, particularly small market teams that rely on extensive farm systems to develop talent.

This isnt basketball or football where raw talent will get you onto professional roster or at least a tryout. It doesnt get you past double A in the big leagues.

The owners are doing this because they're greedy and dont want to pay minor leaguers a reasonable wage. It would be a drop in the bucket to simply get them up to minimum wage. But instead they'd rather risk a ton of lawsuits from all the governments they're about to freak over. While minor league attendance is increasing,  they're going to eliminate 90% of them

This will have pretty disastrous effects on the game for decades. Guys like Piazza, Mark Buehrle, Mark Grace, Dusty Baker, Roy Oswalt, Jorge Posada, Ken Griffey, Kenny Rogers, Orlando Hudson, John Smoltz, Andy Pettite, and Raul Ibanez never see a MLB diamond under this system.

Who knows what kind of effect this will have on the fan base. No more cheap family baseball games in small cities. Kids will grow up with only a cursory connection to the game.

Offline Mathguy

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It's also not like football or basketball because of what college sports do as a training ground for the pros.  Maybe college baseball would become a bigger enterprise.

Offline Natsinpwc

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If there is that much demand for baseball localities can have independent league teams. There is also plenty of high school and college baseball to watch. There will still be triple A, double A and single A. Isn’t that enough? Why should MLB feel Obligated to fund all of this? More and more players are going to college. That will just increase.


Offline Natsinpwc

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It's also not like football or basketball because of what college sports do as a training ground for the pros.  Maybe college baseball would become a bigger enterprise.
Where you been MG? Two of every three players drafted now come from four year colleges. The old days where most were drafted out of high school is gone. It’s more the Latin players now who need the years of training.  Just stop MLB from signing minors and have a draft for that too.

Offline Slateman

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Where you been MG? Two of every three players drafted now come from four year colleges. The old days where most were drafted out of high school is gone. It’s more the Latin players now who need the years of training.  Just stop MLB from signing minors and have a draft for that too.
And those players go right to Single A ball. They still need a crap ton of development. The top college player in last year's draft is only at Double A.Year before that was useless at the MLB level. 2016 player spent two full years in the minors before posting 0.7 WAR in 104 games this season.

Offline Natsinpwc

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And those players go right to Single A ball. They still need a crap ton of development. The top college player in last year's draft is only at Double A.Year before that was useless at the MLB level. 2016 player spent two full years in the minors before posting 0.7 WAR in 104 games this season.
Are they proposing getting rid of Single A? 

The draft has too many rounds also.

Offline Natsinpwc

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Do the Nationals or any other team really need six levels of minor league teams?

Here are the attendance figures for the NY-PENN League. Even the team in Brooklyn could not break 5,000 per game.  I could not even find attendance figures for the GCL Nats or that league. 

http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?t=l_att&lid=127&sid=l127

There are a few locations such as Dayton and Vancouver  that drive the lower level attendance--so keep them. 

Offline NJ Ave

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I'm not real quick to judge this one way or the other. First of all, I don't think you can really say it's punishing players, because the players who will drop out of the system are guys with no shot of ever making the majors, who make like $10,000 a year. They're literally better off not playing baseball.

I think it makes a lot of sense for some teams to be folded up and others closed in combination with the expansion of MLB club training academies where they can centralize development. Teams like Houston are finding it better to (cheat and) have fewer teams and more centralized instruction so instead of guys constantly moving levels and changing coaches they have longer stints with the same coaches, all coaching the same way.

I totally disagree with thinking that this will prevent guys from "finding" the majors. There will be more academies and different ways to get found, but there will always be a huge financial incentive for MLB teams to find players and therefore they will always be found. This isn't The Natural. Slate isn't going to walk into an adult league pickup game and see a rando throwing 98.

Offline HalfSmokes

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I don’t think it hurts the major league product at all or has any effect on anyone who will end up in the majors. It’s bad for the communities losing teams, but may end up being good for Indy leagues. My question is does a shrinking sport really want to further retract their reach?

Offline Count Walewski

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In theory, what will happen is that the 42 minor league teams that are cut will reorganize into "Dream Leagues" where guys who can't get into an MLB organization will play. I imagine these Dream Leagues will be heavily scouted, and if somebody there shows a flash of promise, they will get signed, the way that Maryland Blue Crabs players sometimes make it to the MLB now. Teams are so desperate for MLB talent that they will surely monitor the Dream Leagues for anyone who could possibly help them.

What gives me pause is that many insiders are skeptical that the "Dream Leagues" are even viable.

I agree this is greed on the part of the MLB owners: they want to outsource player development (they are likely jealous of how the NFL entirely outsources this to college) and they want to minimize their costs in case they are forced by Congress or somebody else to raise minor leaguer salaries. I also agree that MLB is exposing itself to significant optical risk, and possibly even legal risk, by doing this. They will face lawsuits and Congressional scrutiny, as the article notes.

Offline Slateman

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It costs ~500K to run a minor league team. That is, quite literally, chump change for MLB franchises.

Offline Count Walewski

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Well, given how Manfred's response to shortening game times is to focus on all the small things, it's maybe no surprise that his response to cost savings is to focus on cutting small costs. "All the Small Things" perhaps is his theme song.

There are of course viable independent leagues now, and MLB even cooperates with them, see how the Atlantic League is testing robot umps and new extra innings rules. In theory the "Dream Leagues" could be places where experimentation and rules changes prosper.

I guess the question is, do people go to MiLB games to see future ML talent, or do they go to be entertained by live baseball.

Offline Elvir Ovcina

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In theory, what will happen is that the 42 minor league teams that are cut will reorganize into "Dream Leagues" where guys who can't get into an MLB organization will play. I imagine these Dream Leagues will be heavily scouted, and if somebody there shows a flash of promise, they will get signed, the way that Maryland Blue Crabs players sometimes make it to the MLB now. Teams are so desperate for MLB talent that they will surely monitor the Dream Leagues for anyone who could possibly help them.

What gives me pause is that many insiders are skeptical that the "Dream Leagues" are even viable.

I agree this is greed on the part of the MLB owners: they want to outsource player development (they are likely jealous of how the NFL entirely outsources this to college) and they want to minimize their costs in case they are forced by Congress or somebody else to raise minor leaguer salaries. I also agree that MLB is exposing itself to significant optical risk, and possibly even legal risk, by doing this. They will face lawsuits and Congressional scrutiny, as the article notes.

That's pretty much the problem from a player development view, though: the players who need the Rookie and low-A levels to develop (and there are guys, especially late-round picks, who really make their names as prospects in those leagues) will suddenly be competing for Atlantic League-type jobs with 30-year-old AAA washouts.  The 19-year-olds will just get squeezed out in that scenario. 

Offline nats2playoffs

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Quote
Another NY-Penn League team being contracted is in Williamsport, PA. Remember, MLB is saying a primary reason for contraction is because of so many ballparks not being up to major league standards — and yet it was OK for the Cubs and Pirates to play a regular season game in Williamsport last summer. Next summer, on its way out the door, Williamsport is scheduled to host another regular season game between the Red Sox and Orioles.

So the Nationals should acquire Williamsport to become their AAA team, replacing the far-away Fresno, California team.
 :shrug: