Editor’s Note: The story has been updated with details from the court filing.
The first lawsuit over the contraction of the minor leagues has arrived before the final list of 120 affiliated clubs.
The Staten Island Yankees announced on Thursday they will be ceasing operations. They also said they have sued Major League Baseball and the New York Yankees.
In a statement, the Staten Island Yankees said the New York Yankees “had made repeated assurances we would always be a minor league partner.”
In the court filing, the Staten Island Yankees are suing for at least $160 million. They state that the New York Yankees promised when selling the club to the current owners that as long as the Yankees retained its ownership share of the Staten Island club, they would remain affiliated.
The lawsuit also notes the offering memo when the club was put up for sale stated minor league franchises were guaranteed a Player Development Contract with an MLB club.
The lawsuit also notes that in the sale agreement, the New York Yankees promised to have a PDC in effect with the Staten Island team as long as the majority of purchasers (Nostalgic Partners LLC) remained as owners of the Staten Island team and the Trusts (owned by the Yankees) retained their ownership share. The lawsuit states that both conditions remain in effect.
The press release says the Yankees decision to leave Staten Island “would force Staten Island to field a subpar team with players that have no connection to the Yankees farm system. Additionally, this would require additional expenses including payroll for players, coaches and staff. Unfortunately, that additional expense and the loss of the connection to the Yankees in our shared city makes it impossible for the Staten Island Yankees to pursue this business model.”
One of the options presented to Staten Island was to field an Atlantic League club. The Atlantic League is a professional partner league, which means teams acquire and pay their players and staff directly. In affiliated baseball, MLB teams are responsible for paying minor league players and coaching staff. With salaries and worker’s compensation insurance, the cost of salaries for an Atlantic League partner league team is usually a few hundred thousand dollars.
Like everyone else in the New York-Penn League, Staten Island also was presented the opportunity to participate in the MLB Draft League, a summer amateur wood bat league. That league does not involve paying players, since they are amateurs.
Staten Island’s release said the organization is stepping aside and “will let others try to save baseball in Staten Island. While we have invested considerable resources into the development of the North Shore and hoped to remain a piece of that renewal, we have not been offered support to create a sustainable business entity.”
In the past, Major League Baseball has indicated it will present opportunities for baseball to continue in every community that loses an affiliated team. It is not clear whether the Staten Island Yankees’ decision to cease operations and sue MLB will leave the stadium empty in the short term or if MLB will attempt to work with another group to ensure that baseball remains at Staten Island’s Richmond County Ballpark at St. George.
The Staten Island Yankees said they have “filed a lawsuit against the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball to hold those entities accountable for false promises.”
It also says that a portion of any settlement or jury verdict would go to the Staten Island Yankees Foundation to be distributed to local Staten Island charities.
Major League Baseball declined to comment. The Yankees have not yet responded to a request for comment.