• Sumo

By Ken Reed

There have been some unsettling developments in BaseballWorld recently.

First, we got a peek at Major League Baseball’s new uniforms, including the iconic New York Yankees jerseys, that will be sporting the Nike swoosh on the front. Yankees jerseys have remained virtually the same for about a hundred years. Nevertheless, starting next season the pinstripes will come adorned with a swoosh. God forbid!

Then we found out that it’s likely that the Houston Astros cheated repeatedly on their way to the 2017 World Series title.

According to Sports Illustrated, former Houston Astros pitcher Mike Fiers alleges that:

“Houston stole catchers’ signs from a camera positioned in centerfield at ‪Minute Maid Park‬. The signs were read on a television monitor just steps behind the Astros’ dugout. A signal for an off-speed pitch would prompt someone to bang a dugout trash can loudly enough for the hitter to hear. The absence of such a noise would alert the hitter to a fastball. The use of devices to steal signs is illegal in baseball.”

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is reportedly conducting a thorough investigation into the matter.

Now, we’ve come to learn that Major League Baseball is proposing to kill minor league baseball in 42 towns across America MLB administrators say cutting 42 minor league teams would improve conditions over all in baseball’s farm system. They contend that the new structure would make development of young players more efficient and improve working conditions for players.

However, owners of the teams slated to be cut are worried about survival.

“I didn’t have an inkling, let alone any reason, to think we’d be in this position,” said a subdued Andy Shea, team president of the minor league Lexington Legends, a team that’s slated to be on MLB’s chopping block.

His mother, and team owner, Sue Martinelli Shea, added, “My hope and prayer is that Major League Baseball will reconsider this.”

Fans and politicians alike are upset with this MLB plan.

New York senator Chuck Schumer wrote a letter to Manford expressing “deep concern” about the proposal. He also said he’s open to reconsidering MLB’s anti-trust exemption allowing baseball to operate as a monopoly if this plan moves to fruition.

Of course, this MLB plan has little to do with player development and a lot to do with money. MLB owners want to get rid of teams and entire leagues in order to save money by cutting the number of players they have to pay in their organizations. MLB owners appear ready to end baseball in small towns across the country in order to save less than $1 million per team. For a relatively small amount, in a $11-12 billion industry, owners are apparently willing to risk losing current and future fans — young and old alike — and damaging the one big advantage baseball has over other professional sports leagues: tradition and nostalgia.

As Bill Madden, of the New York Daily News wrote:

“These are the same communities in which MLB has conducted clinics and outreach programs in an effort to ‘grow the game’. The same communities where baseball fans, who can’t afford, or can’t travel to, major league ballparks, have a chance to develop and nurture a love for the game through the future big league stars that play in their towns every year.”

It’s amazing how short-term greed can make some business people blind to the big picture. I guess history, tradition, loyal grass roots communities, and current and future fans aren’t part of their nearsighted, profit-at-all-costs (PAAC) thinking.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans

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