CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A recent report from Baseball America paints a grim picture for the future of several minor league baseball teams in West Virginia.
There have been ongoing discussions between Major League Baseball (MLB) and Minor League Baseball (MiLB) on a new minor league system and the report by J.J. Cooper indicated that MiLB is close to agreeing with the cuts.
The reported plan is to cut the minor leagues from 160 teams to 120 affiliated teams in negotiations for a new Professional Baseball Agreement, effecting the West Virginia Power in Charleston, Bluefield Blue Jays and Princeton Rays.
“If there is no major league affiliation then where do you get your players? Who pays the players, who insures the players, what happens to the values of the franchises,” Dave Weekley, host of MetroNews ‘Hotline’ told 580-WCHS.
MiLB released a statement about the article on Tuesday:
Regarding ongoing negotiations ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/U3MTM9rOPg
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) April 21, 2020
Weekley said MLB has some issues with the current minor league system that has stood in place for dozens of years.
“You’ve got rosters of players, some which sign huge bonuses and others when you take a look at the hours they spend at the ballpark make less than minimum wage,” he said.
“Plus this is a system that develops a huge amount of players and the vast majority of them will never make it to the major leagues.”
Baseball America’s report states “discussions between MLB and MiLB will continue on Wednesday and are expected to discuss the parameters of a system where the two sides could work together to ensure that most of the cities that currently have affiliated baseball will have ties to MLB clubs, even if those cities’ teams will not be fielding draftees and signees of the MLB club. It wouldn’t be MLB’s initial proposal, but a system that has been adjusted to give those cities a better chance of having a viable long-term baseball operation.”
Weekley said that losing affiliation would also crush the growth of the game in small towns because minor league games are the best chances to watch baseball in person and see up and coming stars for many young fans.
“This is a way that a whole generation of future fans get exposed in the game,” Weekley said. “That’s the part of this that is pretty crazy. We should be in the business of growing the game and as opposed to contracting.”
In March, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution aimed at protecting minor league baseball, asking the Government Accountability Office to study the financial impact of minor league baseball teams in their respective communities.