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Major League Baseball responds

BINGHAMTON (WBNG) — After 12 Sports reached out to Major League Baseball for a comment on its proposal to restructure Minor League Baseball, the Commissioner’s Office shared a letter sent to Congress by Deputy Commissioner, Daniel Halem.

Halem begins by pointing out that MLB and MiLB are in the beginning stages of negotiations to renew the Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA), the contract between the two bodies.

“MLB heavily subsidizes the Minor League owners. By way of example, Major League Clubs pay Minor League players alone nearly $500 million in signing bonuses and salaries each year. The Minor League teams, by contrast, pay Major League Clubs an aggregate of only $18 million per year under the existing PBA. Although some Minor League affiliates lose money, as a collective the 160 Minor League teams are profitable (with profits of approximately $100 million in 2018).”

Halem addresses specifically what the proposal intends to do.

“In the current negotiations, MLB is seeking significant improvements to the Minor League system in order to enhance the development of players and improve their experience, including: (i) ensuring that all Minor League affiliates have facilities suitable for professional baseball players; (ii) reducing the travel burden on Minor League players by reorganizing the composition of certain leagues within MiLB in a more geographically efficient manner; (iii) improving the compensation, accommodations, and amenities for Minor League players; and (iv) improving the process by which Minor League teams affiliate with a Major League Club.”

The letter states that over 40 MiLB facilities are not up to standard for Clubs and players, adding that it’s the sole responsibility of minor league owners to provide suitable facilities. The letter also brings up profitability and attendance being an issue for some MiLB teams.

“MLB does not take for granted the willingness of communities to invest public
funds in stadiums. But, we also recognize that it may not be a useful expenditure of
public funds to upgrade any facility in a market in which the affiliate consistently loses
money, lacks a significant fan base, or is located in a place that makes travel for Minor
League players burdensome or player development difficult.”

One of MLB’s main goals is to reduce the number of players in each minor league system.

“The majority of Major League Club owners believe that there are too many players in the Minor League system. Major League Clubs sign and release nearly 2,000 Minor League players each year. Less than 5% of the players selected after the 25th round of the First-Year Player Draft reach the Major Leagues.”

“We cannot commit to you that the next PBA will require MLB to guarantee 160
affiliates. Even if Major League Clubs determine that they will commit to 160 affiliates,
they are not willing to send their players to substandard facilities or impose on them
unreasonable burdens with respect to travel and working conditions.”

The letter adds that MiLB is fighting this as a need to save baseball in the communities at risk of losing their teams, but MLB is committed to providing these cities with an alternative option.

“MLB fully understands and appreciates the importance of baseball to local communities, and if the PBA negotiations result in an agreement on fewer affiliated Minor League teams, MLB will offer a variety of alternatives to those affected communities, including inviting them to join collegiate summer leagues similar to the Cape Cod League (but under the umbrella of MLB), existing independent leagues, or a newly created “Dream League” that also would operate under the auspices of MLB.”

“The focus of MiLB in our very brief negotiations has been the impact of changes to the PBA on the value of their franchises — not on the impact of changes on local communities. We
know for a fact that many Minor League owners — including owners in districts represented by Members of Congress who signed the letter to the Commissioner — are presently attempting to relocate their affiliates to different cities or sell them outright.”

In closing, Halem adds that negotiations between MLB and MiLB to reach a new PBA is in the beginning stages, and he expects many more to come.

Click here to read full letter.

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Nicole Menner

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