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US Congress introduces resolution aimed at halting MiLB contraction plan

Rep. Lori Trahan, Democratic Congresswoman from Massachusetts

Rep. Lori Trahan, a Democratic US Congresswoman from Massachusetts, introduced on January 28 a bipartisan resolution urging Major League Baseball to back off of their dramatic reorganization plan for the affiliated minor leagues. 

The proposed resolution in particular seeks to change MLB’s stance on a much-debated plan to remove the affiliations of 42 Minor League Baseball teams and render them independent, a shift that many of those franchises say would drive them out of business.

Trahan leads the Save Minor League Baseball Task Force, a group also co-chaired by fellow Congressional representatives David McKinley, a West Virginia Republican; Max Rose, a New York Democrat; and Mike Simpson, a New York Republican.

The resolution reads in part, “whereas abandonment of 42 Minor League Baseball clubs by Major League Baseball would devastate communities, bond purchasers, and other stakeholders that rely on the economic stimulus these clubs provide.”

The resolution text also references various statutory exemptions that MLB enjoys, including the league’s antitrust exemption. But the resolution is non-binding and does not include any specific penalties or consequences if MLB follows through on its plan. Rather, the task force is seeking to be part of the ongoing Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) negotiations between MLB and MiLB.

“We deserve to have our voices heard in any conversation with such potentially devastating consequences,” Trahan said.

The resolution, carrying more than 60 co-sponsors, follows a bipartisan letter that more than 100 Congressmen sent last fall to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred blasting the contraction plan.

In addition to the federal involvement, a group of city mayors last week also formed their own task force seeking to provide a unified political voice.

“Minor League Baseball is most appreciative of the bipartisan support we have received from so many members of Congress,” said Pat O’Conner, Minor League Baseball president. “The resolution introduced today shows the widespread support for Minor League Baseball.”

MLB issued a pointed statement in response.

“MLB is confident we can modernize or minor league system, improve playing conditions for our players, and protect baseball in communities across America. However, doing so is best achieved with Minor League Baseball’s constructive participation, and a recognition that they need to be a part of the solution. So far their approach has neither been constructive nor solutions-oriented,” the league said.

“The most constructive role Congress can play to achieve these goals is to encourage Minor League Baseball to return to the bargaining table so we can work together to address the real issues impacting minor league players and communities all across the country,” MLB continued.

As tension continues to rise between MLB and MiLB camps, the ongoing acrimony continues to frustrate MiLB team owners, who for some their franchises hang in the precipice. 

Jeff Goldklang, president of The Goldklang Group, which owns three affiliated minor league teams, tweeted following MLB’s statement, “It’s one thing to defend a position. It’s another thing entirely to lie to Congress. I’m shocked that MLB has taken the positions they’ve taken.”