MLB to Congress: Players, fans lose without antitrust exemption

Would minor league players be paid more if they were free to negotiate with any team?

Not necessarily, Major League Baseball warned Congress Friday. Instead, players could lose job opportunities and communities could lose minor-league teams, the league said in a 17-page letter to the committee investigating whether baseball should be stripped of its antitrust exemption.

“Without the waiver, minor league baseball could develop contrary to the interest of the public,” Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The committee has also joined forces with the nonprofit Advocates for Minor Leaguers, who claim the exemption allows MLB to unfairly restrict how much minor league players can earn and how long they must remain under the team’s control, the she moved in. Manfred said proponents were “erroneous” in claiming “free market principles” would benefit all smaller leagues.

“The truth is that the supply of aspiring professional baseball players vastly exceeds the demand by major league clubs for players to fill their minor league rosters,” Manfred wrote.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told the Times this week that the committee could hold hearings on the issue, with Manfred testifying under oath in September or October. Durbin said he believes minor leagues are “treated very badly” and he would like to see “concessions from Major League Baseball.”

Manfred was widely criticized last week after defending the pay of minor-league players, saying he would “reject the premise that they are not paid a living wage”. The federal poverty line for a single household is $13,590; The starting salary for a triple-A player — the top of the minor leagues — is about $14,000.

In the letter, Manfred wrote that 70% of Double-A and Triple-A players either earn a salary of at least $100,000 or receive a $100,000 signing bonus.

MLB will spend $1 billion on minor league operations this season — $750 million of that on player compensation — and generate $25 million from those operations, Manfred said — that’s 10% of MLB’s Spend income on the operation of the minors to get 0.2% of the income.

Manfred noted that the NFL does not have a minor league, while the NBA governs the G League, in which each NBA team has a team affiliated with it. In baseball, each MLB team has four minor league teams affiliated with it.

He hasn’t specifically threatened that MLB owners would reduce minor league operations to that level, but he said some MLB teams “may choose to run fewer than four affiliations” in the absence of an antitrust exemption.

In a free market, he said, teams could choose not to offer the housing, insurance, pension and college scholarship benefits that the league currently mandates for minor league players.

In 2018, after MLB pressured Congress to pass legislation capping minor leagues’ pay under threats that minor league teams could be eliminated without the legislation, Congress passed the law. MLB has since eliminated 43 minor league teams affiliated with major league clubs, although Manfred wrote in his letter that all but three of those affiliated teams have been replaced with teams affiliated with independent professional leagues or summer college -Play leagues.

The committee asked Manfred not to commit to any further eliminations of minor league teams. In his letter, Manfred said the league believes “the current minor league structure is sustainable” and as such “the league has no plans at this time” to eliminate any other minor league teams.

Manfred dismissed as “inaccurate” the proponents’ claim that congressional action was needed to “lift players out of poverty.” The average minor league player who never makes the major league is in and out of baseball in three years, he said, young enough not to fall behind in other educational or career opportunities.

He gave an example: A left-hander who fielded for three affiliated minor-league teams within two years, no higher than Class A level, and then started law school at the age of 24.

His name: Harry Marino, the managing director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers. MLB to Congress: Players, fans lose without antitrust exemption

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