By Marty Gordon
As many as 45 minor league baseball teams would be eliminated under a plan by major league baseball unveiled this summer. This past week, the preliminary list was released and includes most of the Appalachian League rookie league. The one exception is the Pulaski franchise, which is affiliated with the New York Yankees.
For now, the local Yankees are safe at second with at two rounds or more , maybe even more to before any final decision would affect the local community.
Yankees owner David Hagan said everything is preliminary as Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball continue their negotiations.
“And that is exactly what it is—a negotiation,” Hagan said. “It is so preliminary, no one knows the true details. Obviously, it is my hope the two can come up with a big compromise to help all the communities involved.”
Under a proposal, 42 minor league teams would lose their affiliations with major league teams with the lowest levels like the Appalachian League being the ones to go. Others in danger include several in higher A and AA leagues.
The preliminary list includes several longtime teams with rich histories such as Billings Montana (Cincinnati Reds), Chattanooga Lookouts (Cincinnati Reds with roots dating back to 1885), Erie Seawolves (AA, Detroit Tigers), Frederick Keys (Advanced A, Carolina League, Baltimore Orioles), Quad City Iowa River Bandits (Houston Astros), and Charleston West Virginia Power (Seattle Mariners).
At least two teams on the elimination list are affiliated with the New York Yankees. More than.$2 million in improvements has been done at Pulaski’s Calfee Park since Hagan and the Motor Mile ownership has taken over.
Hagan is happy Pulaski remains off the cut list, but he knows that could all change before a final decision is announced.
Jeff Lantz, the senior director of communications for MiLB, agreed with Hagan that it might be a little too early to consider what will happen.
“We’re against the elimination of any minor league baseball team at any level,” said Lantz. “MiLB is a great way to grow the game of baseball incommunities. Baseball is important whether it’s in Danville or in Charlotte. We will negotiate to save teams in all 160 markets. There is plenty of time for negotiations.”
This past week, more than 100 members of Congress sent a letter to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred urging the plan be scrapped.
The letter said: “If enacted, it would undermine the health of the minor league system that undergirds talent development and encourages fan loyalty. It would particularly be felt in areas far from a major league team or where tickets to a major league game are cost prohibitive.”
The elimination of smaller markets like Pulaski could also drastically affect the local economy. Estimates show Appy League teams have an economic impact of $1 million dollars every summer.
For now, the matter is in limbo since the current plan does not run out until November 2020.