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Sen. Blumenthal to MLB: Stop MiLB Contraction

BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field

Another U.S. senator has come out against Major League Baseball plans to contract 42 MiLB teams, as Sen. Richard Blumenthal says Congress may need to reexamine MLB’s anti-trust exemption if the plan is implemented.

There’s been a steady stream of politicians across the country decrying a proposal by Major League Baseball to dramatically overhaul the Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) between MLB and Minor League Baseball. The current PBA expires at the end of the 2020 MiLB season. The current PBA was negotiated in 2011 and was basically an extension of the previous PBA, guaranteeing 160 MiLB teams and setting forth the standards for facilities, umpiring and player-development contracts. MLB’s first extensive proposal in the talks called for a reduction to 118 guaranteed MiLB teams, an overhaul of the draft and rookie-development process, and more. One of the teams on the MLB contraction list: the Norwich Sea Unicorns (Short Season A; NY-Penn League).

(Ballpark Digest has been intensively covering the ongoing PBA negotiations between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball, from the initial public revelation of MLB’s plan for MiLB realignment to the release of specific insight into MLB’s realignment proposal and the reaction of elected officials on MiLB’s behalf around the country. Recently, Ballpark Digest publisher Kevin Reichard outlined how MiLB could address MLB’s concerns without full-scale contraction and reported on the latest from the Winter Meetings, while contributing editor Jesse Goldberg-Strassler looked at the last time MiLB suffered a mass contraction.)

That Blumenthal would come out against contraction is no surprise: With Norwich investing $800,000 in Dodd Stadium improvements–improvements, ironically, aimed toward improving the player conditions–local officials are worried that the money will be wasted. And he’s far from the only politician to raise the issue of Congress reexamining MLB’s anti-trust and minimum-wage exemptions, as well as MLB’s generous allocation of visas. U.S. senators like Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) speaking out against the MLB proposal. In addition, last month saw the creation of a Congressional Task Force on the subject, joined by 106 U.S. Representatives of all political stripes.

As of now things are quiet on the talks front, but we expect them to resume once the New Year begins.

Photo of BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field courtesy of the Williamsport Crosscutters. The Crosscutters are one of the teams proposed for contraction.

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