If Major League Baseball was not sure before that its effort to contract Minor League Baseball was a battle being waged on two fronts, it must be convinced now.
In a statement coming Friday from the offices of US Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) and Rep. David McKinley (R-West Virginia), the representatives renewed their attack on efforts to trim the 160 affiliated minor-league teams by more than 25 percent.
Trahan’s congressional district includes Lowell, whose Spinners are on the hit list after an affiliation with the Red Sox that has lasted nearly 25 years, and referenced MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s Thursday comments from the MLB owners’ meetings about the contentious state of talks on their joint operating agreement that expires in September 2020.
“We were disappointed by Commissioner Manfred’s dismissive tone toward ongoing negotiations surrounding the future of Minor League Baseball,’’ said the statement, which followed Trahan and McKinley co-authoring a letter signed by 104 Republican and Democratic representatives decrying the contraction plan. “When we lead our bipartisan call with 104 of our colleagues expressing concern with the MLB’s plans to eliminate as many as 42 affiliated teams, we did so on behalf of communities that stand to lose out on the deal — not as a public relations ploy.’’
On Thursday, Manfred said, “I think the current kind of ‘swirl’ surrounding the minor leagues is another example of people not doing business in the room and trying to get public about it.’’
Manfred said that the sides will probably reach an agreement at some point, but in the meantime, “We are not going to stand by and let the dialogue or the story that’s out there be a misrepresentation of what happened.’’
There are too many minor-leaguers without a realistic shot of making the big leagues, reasons MLB, plus a need and desire for upgraded facilities, better pay, and better geographic alignment in regards to travel. The Spinners are one 42 teams on the contraction list, with some earmarked for play in an MLB-supported independent ‘Dream League.’
“Minor League teams provide an enormous cultural and economic benefit to the communities they call home,’’ Trahan and McKinley went on. “Their abandonment by Major League Baseball would devastate them, their bond purchasers, and other stakeholders affected by the potential loss of these teams. We believe it is appropriate that the MLB fully understands the real impact their plans could have on the communities we represent. Congress has long been a partner with the MLB in preserving and growing our national pastime, and we expect our concerns to be taken seriously as negotiations continue.’’
MLB was not immediately available for comment.