By Ken Reed

Four members of the House of Representatives — Lori Trahan, D-Mass.; David McKinley, R-W. Va.; Max Rose, D-N.Y.; and Mike Simpson, R-Idaho — introduced a resolution this week urging Major League Baseball to back away from its plan to eliminate 42 minor league teams.

Many of the teams targeted for elimination have been stalwart cultural institutions in their towns for decades.

“Minor League Baseball teams have had a major impact on small communities. These teams provide an enormous cultural and economic benefit to the communities they call home,” McKinley said in a statement. “Doing away with 42 teams is not a reasonable solution.”

The plan is widely seen as a cost-cutting move by MLB owners. However, Stanford University economist Roger Noll says the true savings of cutting 42 teams is about $22.5 million. That figure represents slightly more than the combined cost of one minimum-salaried player on every MLB team.

An important question to ask in this matter is instead of a collective action by MLB, why not allow teams that want to cutdown their minor league system to do it on their own? Noll believes its because MLB’s edict is an act of a cartel looking to protect all of its members.

“The point of a cartel is to coordinate cooperative behavior,” notes Noll, “to help members ignore the incentive to compete.”

To that point, the benefit of MLB owners killing minor league teams as a group vs. each MLB franchise deciding which of their minor league teams to chop on their own, if they so choose, is that under MLB’s collective minor league contraction plan every team can cut costs without worrying about losing a competitive edge against competitors who might snap up more potential big league players for their farm system.

Major League Baseball owners have long enjoyed the benefits of an antitrust exemption bestowed upon them by Congress. However, that exemption could be in jeopardy if MLB goes through with this plan to eliminate 42 minor league teams. Over 100 members of Congress recently sent a letter to MLB suggesting that they could seek to repeal baseball’s antitrust exemption if teams in their districts aren’t spared.

Minor league baseball teams are part of Americana. Chopping 42 of them to save the equivalent of the cost of one minimum-salaried player per MLB team seems to be an example of greed at its most petty.

You can express your feelings on this matter to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred at:

Rob Manfred
Major League Baseball
Office of the Commissioner of Baseball
‪245 Park Avenue‬
‪31st Floor‬
‪New York, NY 10167‬

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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