Rob Manfred: “MiLB owners do not want to negotiate”

Yesterday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred took aim at Minor League Baseball owners, saying that they are not willing to negotiate about  an acceptable new PBA or upgrade their facilities.

In the presented plans, MLB wants to contract 42 MiLB clubs, dissolve rookie ball and A short season ball. All this under the guise of reducing travel time, improving facilities and giving the players a raise. What he leaves out of the discussion is that MLB owners will save lots of money with this move.

The Los Angeles Times stated yesterday:

He said the owners’ plan was “by no means a fait accompli.” He said MLB was willing to negotiate but said minor league owners have taken what he called “a take-it-or-leave-it, status quo approach” by refusing to consider funding ballpark upgrades, or to address aging ballparks that might be beyond feasible renovations.

Minor league owners have been vocal in their opposition to the MLB plan, and Congress has stood with them. More than 100 members of Congress have signed letters to Manfred urging him to back off….

“I think some of the activities that have been undertaken by the leadership of Minor League Baseball have been polarizing in terms of the relationship with the owners,” Manfred said.

“I think they’ve done damage to the relationship with Major League Baseball, and I’m hopeful that we will be able to work through that damage in the negotiating room and reach a new agreement. You know, when people publicly attack a long-time partner after they’ve committed to confidentiality in the negotiating process, usually people don’t feel so good about that.”

By stating that the plans were far from a “fait accompli”, which he never said before, Manfred actually says that MLB is setting its sights high. You can count on it that MLB has presented this plan but actually has another plan in place that is less drastic. If MLB can convince the MiLB owners to negotiate, they may come up with the real plan with which it will look like MLB has given in and MiLB has won. But in fact MLB will be rubbing its hands with glee as it will get what it really wants.

What Manfred and the MLB owners do not realize is that the children in the towns that will be out of MiLB teams will turn to other sports and turn their back on baseball. As MLB is suffering from falling attendance records, this move will make that attendance will even fall more in the future. But right now MLB owners are looking for short term success and it appears they don’t care about the future.

Also from the Los Angeles Times:

One important thing to remember: what MLB considers on the facilities front is totally different than what fans interact with during the course of a game. For a Major League team, a facility is defined strictly as the player amenities: clubhouse, workout area, support spaces like a kitchen or player lounge, and enclosed batting/pitching cages. It doesn’t appear as though on-field upgrades play any role in this evaluation: the Lowell Spinners (Short Season A; NY-Penn League) are targeted for contraction even though team ownership installed new high-grade LED lighting system and new turf over the past few years at LeLacheur Park. And fan spaces, attendance or market performance or potential certainly don’t play a role in the MLB evaluations.

But then again: MLB is not being very precise about what exactly constitutes an acceptable facility. One of the biggest factors fueling the growth of Minor League Baseball in recent decades was the introduction of facilities standards covering every aspect of a ballpark, ranging from the number of urinals in fan restrooms to the minimum size of a player clubhouse. This gave MiLB a road map for expectations when negotiating for new or renovated ballparks. This time MLB officials have not made it clear exactly what they’re looking for in a facility, nor are MiLB teams being given a chance to upgrade their ballparks to meet any guidelines. When MLB officials say that MiLB has not been willing to discuss facility upgrades or player comfort, that’s simply not true. Adding a mid-Atlantic league to cut down on player travel on the Low-A level would be welcomed by many in the industry, and any proposal to flatten out two levels of Single-A ball to further address player travel would certainly have its adherents.

It is clear that this is far from over. To be continued…


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