Commissioner Rob Manfred Comments On Minor League Reorganization

Image credit: Rob Manfred (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed reporters Thursday at the owner’s meetings in Arlington, Texas. He spoke on a wide array of topics, including the Astros’ sign-stealing allegations, a reported tense discussion with the MLB Players Association and the proposed reorganization of Minor League Baseball.

Here are Manfred’s comments on the proposed reorganization of MiLB, and MLB’s position on the matter.

Additionally, here is our reporting on the story: 

Note: Comments have been lightly edited for clarity.

Manfred: “I have always preferred to do my business in the room. And I think the current kind of swirl surrounding the minor leagues is another example of people not doing business in the room and trying to get public about it.”

“We went to the minor leagues. We explained to them, I think really reasonably, number one, we have facilities—and I can show you pictures if you want to see them—that are simply not appropriate for professional baseball players. Inadequate showers, tiny locker rooms, no place for players to eat, no place for players to work out. We then explained to them they’ve moved 77 franchises since 1990. Left communities 77 times in order to get a bigger subsidy somewhere else. That’s fine, that’s their business. They want to move, they can move. What it’s done to us is produce travel that is not acceptable for professional players. Bus rides, long, six, eight, 10 hours and trust me, in a lot of cases, it’s not on a luxury cruise liner, it’s on a school bus. We made that point to them. We explained to them we think our minor league players need to be paid better. And last we suggested to them that maybe we’re drafting and signing players who don’t have a realistic opportunity to become major leaguers. Those are four pretty serious problems.”

“They came back to us and said on facilities, ‘A lot of our facilities can’t be fixed. We see all four of those problems as your problems. We’d like to keep the tens of millions of dollars in profit’ they make each year, they’d like to keep the appreciation that’s taken place in their franchise values and that we should deal with those four issues.”

“We kind of retreated. We thought about it. I’m not sure why Major League Baseball should pay to fix a minor league facility that the minor league operator is telling you can’t be fixed. It doesn’t make a lot of sense from our perspective. So we thought about that alternative, we didn’t really like that, so we went back to them and said ‘Look, you want to maintain the status quo, we can maintain the status quo, but we’re going to maintain it with 120 franchises that are functional. You don’t have 160 functional franchises.’ We got no response to that. What we got was a campaign of PR, misinformation, appeals to Congress. That’s fine. That’s all good. But at the end of the day Minor League Baseball needs to make an agreement with us and I’m sure we probably will make an agreement at some point. But we are not going to stand by and let the dialogue or the story that’s out there be a misrepresentation of what happened. We raised four issues, and in a cooperative, professional way said we need to deal with these four issues that are facing the business that we do together.”

“We provided to (MiLB president) Pat O’Connor, at his request, and with an assurance from him that he would keep it confidential, which he subsequently broke, a list of the facilities that we felt needed to be upgraded and if they couldn’t be upgraded that we were not prepared to operate in. Yes, we did do that.”

“We presented Minor League Baseball with a plan that covered all 160 of the franchises. So 120 of them would continue essentially under the status quo. We had a plan for the 40 where they could be involved in other professional leagues that operated under a little different economic model than the pure affiliation system. They didn’t have a lot of interest in discussing that. But I want to be clear. We make an agreement as to what we’re going to pay Minor League Baseball. Whether franchises decide to operate or not operate based on that agreement, that’s up to those individual franchises, we don’t control that. They can stay in business or not stay in business based on that agreement that’s ultimately reached and what the economics of that agreement are. That’s not our decision.”

Manfred also addressed Team USA’s failure to qualify for the Olympics at Premier12 and left open the possibility of roster eligibility changes for Team USA’s next qualifier in March. Only non-40 man roster players were eligible to participate in Premier12.

“We did have a conversation about the Olympics,” he said. “We thought with the qualifying tournament that was the Premier12 event that was just completed, we got right to the ninth inning thinking that the US team maybe was going to qualify, which is a good thing. Unfortunately that didn’t turn out to be the case.

“I think there’s sentiment among ownership that we should do the very best we can to make the most of our (next) qualifying opportunity which is in Arizona…”

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