Throughout the many controversial months of negotiations between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball, there was an underlying subtext to the negotiations. While many minor league team owners were suspicious of MLB’s plans for minors, some were receptive to calls from MLB that it could handle minors better than the existing MiLB structure.
The animosity felt by many minor league operators towards the leadership of the MiLB has proven to be a useful fulcrum for the MLB. A significant number of minor league operators have said over the past year that they are not happy with the way minors are being handled.
As minor league team owners sign professional development licenses and prepare to retire or disband leagues of which they have long been a member, several say they have received further confirmation of their frustrations with the way the national association (Minor League Baseball) operated.
Two recent revelations have added to their dissatisfaction with the leadership of the MiLB. First, they learned that the National Association (MiLB) had loaned the New York-Penn League $ 500,000 to ensure that Batavia could operate after its owner defaulted.
Second, they also learned that they will not be receiving the proceeds from national merchandise sales for 2020. Instead, this money was used to keep MiLB offices afloat last year.
In both cases, many homeowners said they were unsure if there was anything that could be done now to change either decision – that the money had been spent. But they see the two decisions as examples of MiLB offices spending money without the oversight that was necessary.
These minor league teams say they only learn decisions months (in the case of merchandise sales) or years (in the case of loan) after the decisions have been made.
For a team that sells at a modest price, national merchandise / royalties can fetch between $ 5,000 and $ 15,000 per year in a typical year. For top sellers, this figure can vary between $ 75,000 and $ 80,000. Losing any amount is a tough pill for teams to swallow in a year where earnings have been massively hit by the canceled minor league season.
The biggest frustration, however, was that MiLB management failed to notify owners of its plans to divert funds to running the national office. The MiLB’s normal sources of income were largely unavailable in 2020 due to the suspension and eventual cancellation of the minor league season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In April and May, many minor league operators were unhappy that the MiLB offices in St. Petersburg, Fla. Had yet to take the same leaves, pay cuts and layoffs as the teams themselves. same had to do it while the season was in limbo and then finally canceled.
If the league had asked to divert funds from the merchandise proceeds, several owners said they would have approved the move, although with the caveat, the MiLB would have to take action to reduce its own spending.
Additionally, several league owners and officials claim that MiLB violated its own protocol by failing to notify league presidents before loaning $ 500,000 to NYPL. According to the National Association’s agreement, loans of this nature require that league presidents be notified. This was not done in this case, as several league presidents have confirmed that they were only made aware of the loans recently.
Minor league owners were told the $ 500,000 loan would not be repaid. It was expected at the time that the loan would be repaid when the Batavia Club was sold to a new owner (for well over $ 500,000). But the contraction of the minor leagues to 120 affiliated teams instead meant that Batavia was left out of the MLB’s minors reorganization and that there was no sales proceeds to cover the loan.
The Batavia Stadium will now host a Wooden Bat League summer team, but this is entirely separate from the old New York-Penn League operation.
In a statement to Baseball America, when asked about the loan and marketing decision: MiLB said, “Minor League Baseball does not disclose members’ financial information in response to public inquiries. We have been transparent with our board of directors, are confident that the organization’s finances are in the best possible shape given the effects of the pandemic and the MLB’s decision not to renew the AAP, but we do not publicly comment on the details of the organization’s financial issues. “
Baseball America Outlook Report – June 17, 2021, presented by OOTP 22
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