About a month ago, MLB announced some rigid plan in which they wanted to contract forty-two Minor League teams. MLB claims it is for the sake of their minor league players: less travel time, better facilities and even better pay.
This new plan got a lot of criticism, not only by the fans and MiLB owners but also by members of the US Congress. According to Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, this plan is nothing more than an ordinary money grab, which will cost thousands of (temporary) jobs and robs communities from a source of income.
Baseball is a business. And like most businesses nowadays, MLB is only looking for short term success by cutting costs. Today, companies are looking to maximize their profits by cutting jobs rather than to look at the long term. In a certain way, MLB wants to do the same.
MLB owners want to cut costs at the expense of communities and MiLB owners. If MLB owners really would have been concerned about the pay of their minor league players, they could have taken care of that problem years ago. By claiming they care for the well being of their players (all of a sudden), MLB owners may think they will look like some benefactors. But others are paying the price.
For years MLB is suffering from falling attendance. The organization has come up with several reasons for this but it is not mentioning the (perhaps) most important reason: Their product has become too expensive for the average fan. For a family of four, a visit to an MLB ballpark will cost 300-400 dollars on average. Many families cannot afford that anymore. To those families, minor league baseball is an affordable product. A visit to a MiLB ballpark will cost a fraction of a visit to an MLB ballpark.
But rather than lower their prices, MLB owners want to save money at the other end of baseball: the Minors. But by doing so, they forget that they cut off the access to their product for many potential fans. They take away the opportunity for children to watch professional baseball, even though it is on a much lower level than MLB. Without the minor leagues, children will turn to other sports and MLB will lose many future fans. The time that baseball was America’s pastime is way gone. MLB now has to compete with the NFL, NBA, and soccer and it is losing ground steadily.
The other day, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred accused MiLB owners of ruining the relationship with MLB. MLB wants to contract forty-two minor league clubs and says take it or leave it but the MiLB owners are the ones who are ruining the relationship between the two… An odd statement for sure.
If you check Facebook and Twitter, you can read many comments by fans claiming they long for Bud Selig, even though he was disliked a lot. People seem to forget that Rob Manfred is only the spokesperson of the MLB owners. He is their puppet. He presents the plans the owners come up with.
As the tension between the two organizations rises, MLB, in the person of Rob Manfred, has threatened to turn its back on the Minor Leagues and create their own leagues if they cannot reach an agreement. In that case, MLB clubs would be free to join forces with any club they want (read indy teams). That can be considered bluff. The minor league season ends in early September. This would mean MLB has only seven months to create new minor leagues. As this demands a huge organization of officials, office personnel and logistics, it may be almost impossible to do this in that time span. And besides, it is very doubtful if the facilities of Indy clubs will meet the demands of the major league owners. Even if MLB will cut off the negotiations in May or June, it is still a daunting task to create their own minor leagues.
I doubt if MLB will be that stupid. If they will turn their back on all of the affiliated minor league teams, they will feed the anger of millions of baseball fans of which many will turn their back on Major League Baseball.
Perhaps it is time the fans will boycott Major League Baseball for a while. Stop attending games, stop watching games on TV and stop buying their merchandise. This will hurt the MLB owners where it hurts them the most: in their wallet. Only this may make them come to their senses again.