Rob Manfred meets with Bernie Sanders to discuss possible contraction of minor league teams

Bill Baer

Last month, we learned that Major League Baseball was working to reorganize the minor leagues which would involve cutting 42 teams, mostly in short-season and rookie ball. The news made the rounds, including drawing attention from Nationals closer Sean Doolittle, which then prompted Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to take notice and make a comment:

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As a result, 100 members of Congress sent MLB a letter urging the league to reconsider. Shortly thereafter, the league issued a statement outlining its reasoning behind wanting to shrink the minor leagues. It listed four reasons: inadequate facilities, travel logistics, poor pay for minor leaguers, and upkeep for players who theoretically have a zero percent chance to ever make it to the major leagues. If you seek analysis of those claims, I went over each of the reasons in depth, highlighting the league’s specious and hypocritical logic.

MLB issued another press release on Monday evening, saying that Manfred and Sanders had “a productive meeting.” The statement read:

MLB fully recognizes the importance of professional baseball to communities throughout the United States without a Major League team and, as our national pastime, appreciates the support of the tens of millions of fans in our country. MLB also understands that we have an obligation to local communities to ensure that public money spent on Minor League stadiums is done so prudently and for the benefit of all citizens.

MLB also must ensure that Minor League players have safe playing facilities suitable for the development of professional baseball players, are not subjected to unreasonable travel demands, are provided with compensation and working conditions appropriate for elite athletes, and have a realistic opportunity of making it to the Major Leagues.

MLB is committed to negotiating with Minor League Baseball to find solutions that balance the competing interests of local communities, MLB Clubs, Minor League owners, and the young players who pursue their dream of becoming professional baseball players. We repeatedly have stated both publicly and privately to the Minor Leagues that whatever the outcome of the negotiations, MLB will offer every community that currently hosts professional baseball options to preserve baseball in a viable, fan-friendly, compelling format with the full support of MLB. We remain confident that solutions can be reached that satisfy the interests of all stakeholders.

The statement is simply a rehashing of those four points the league spoke about previously. Nothing new, just typical P.R. speak and a vague promise to offer “options to preserve baseball,” which is ambiguous enough to mean “not necessarily in its current form.”

Sanders, who has long been and still is fervently pro-labor, and Manfred stand on opposite sides on this issue. That nobody was converted during Monday’s meeting should come as no surprise.

Update: Here is what Sanders said about the meeting, via Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times:


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