Arthur: MLB’s minor-league plan would cut off 4 million fans

From SABR member Rob Arthur at Baseball Prospectus on November 21, 2019:

You might have missed it among the half-dozen or so other scandals engulfing baseball–sign stealing, opioid addiction, inconsistent air resistance, etc.–but MLB has a radical new plan for transforming the minor leagues. The league office advanced the scheme to increase wages and shrink travel times, but their proposal would reduce the number of teams in the minors by 25 percent. The effect on attendance would be equally dramatic: four million fans of those contracted teams might be locked out of minor league games.

MLB announced the plan as a way to improve playing conditions, standardize the number of affiliates per team, and pay minors players better. The last reason is clearly intended to distract from criticisms of the plan as killing jobs. (Bernie Sanders, for his part, wasn’t buying it.)

It’s clear that MLB could afford to both pay minor league players a living wage AND keep the current number of teams. At a time of record revenue (and likely, soaring profits), the league certainly has the resources to do both. Instead, the reduction in minor league size appears intended to offset whatever minor loss of money the owners will take from paying players.

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Originally published: November 21, 2019. Last Updated: November 21, 2019.