Recently, MLB presented plans to contract forty-two teams in the minor leagues. The intention is to realign several leagues and to keep one hundred and eighteen teams. Two new markets should be added: St. Paul and Sugarland, markets that are currently operating in independent leagues.
The initiator of this plan is the Houston Astros. The plan would influence many aspects of the minor leagues. Not only the number of teams but also the number of draft rounds, the moment when MiLB contract starts to run.
To start with the draft. Currently, the draft has forty rounds. In the new situation, there will only be twenty rounds with a limit of a hundred and fifty players. After being drafted, the players will report to a camp where they will be instructed before they start their on-field career the next year. You can only wonder if the player association will agree on the fact that players need to give up a year under contract.
As a result of the drafted six hundred players, fewer minor league teams are needed: hundred and eighteen instead of the current hundred and seventy. According to the plan, one or more independent leagues will be created, called Dream Leagues. These leagues will be run by Major League Baseball at a minimum of costs. Players that don’t make it to the draft, can sign with teams in this Dream Leagues. If they prove themselves worthy, they can still sign a minor league contract with an MLB club.
The key to this new plan is that analytics experts who say they are confident enough in their abilities to identify and develop talent. If the new plan would have been in place twenty years ago, players like Mike Piazza, Jorge Posada, and Luke Voit. All these players were drafted after the 20th round. It would mean they never would have had a shot and MLB would have missed some diamonds in the rough.
Even though MLB claims that cities and owners of contracted teams would join the Dream Leagues, it is more likely cities and owners will sue MLB for the loss of money. The claims will likely be worth hundredths of millions.
MLB claims its goal is to upgrade facilities that it believes have inadequate standards for potential MLB players, improving the working conditions for MiLB players, including their compensation, improving transportation and hotel accommodations, providing better geographic affiliations between major league clubs and their affiliates, as well as better geographic lineups of leagues to reduce player travel.
But as the plan proposed by Rob Manfred was proposed by a club, the Houston Astros, makes it clear that MLB isn’t acting in the interest of baseball but only in the interest of MLB owners. Why else do they want to have fewer minor league teams? Why else is analytics involved? How can this plan be in the interest of baseball if a town loses its team and fans need to travel four hours to go to the nearest Minor League club to watch a game?
Sure there are minor league facilities that desperately need to be upgraded or replaced. But if the goal of MLB really is to improve baseball facilities, it could transfer those teams of which the ballparks do not live up to today’s standards. You don’t need to contract forty-two teams to accomplish this. But once again it is all about the greed of the MLB owners. Nothing more, nothing less.