MLB Team Elimination Plan Sparking Major National Protest; Vibes and Colorado Baseball Targeted
~ by Trevor Phipps ~
When the Colorado Springs Sky Sox left the city to head to Texas, local baseball fans got to welcome in a new rookie league baseball team renamed as the Rocky Mountain Vibes.
The reaction to the Vibes locally has been outstanding in their debut year in the Pikes Peak region.
However, recently it has been reported that Major League Baseball (MLB) is looking at restructuring their minor league setup, aimed at getting rid of many low level clubs including the Rocky Mountain Vibes.
The first news of the possible league restructuring came when Minor League Baseball (MiLB) President Pat O’Connor told multiple news sources that there were talks of eliminating over 40 minor league teams. The talks are coming at a time when the Professional Baseball Agreement between major league and minor league teams comes to an end at the close of the 2020 baseball season.
As soon as the news reports came out, many elected leaders, including national politicians, spoke out against the baseball league’s possible decision to eliminate teams. Many frown upon the decision to axe teams because Congress has helped pass laws to have the baseball league run the way it has for a number of years.
Upon hearing the news, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke up against the league’s decision in a letter. “Let’s be clear. Your proposal to slash the number of minor league teams has nothing to do with what is good for baseball, but it has everything to do with greed,” writes Sanders. “Your proposal to throw about 1,000 ball players out of work comes less than three months after an appeals court ruled that Minor League Baseball players could move forward with a class action lawsuit seeking higher wages.”
Although Sanders is known for his ultra-liberal stance on most issues, his comments against the minor league elimination plan have been supported on both sides of the political aisle.
In fact, more than 100 congressional members got together to write a letter against the league’s proposed move. “The abandonment of Minor League clubs by Major League Baseball would devastate our communities, their bond purchasers, and other stakeholders affected by the potential loss of these clubs,” the congressional letter stated. “For over a century, Congress has taken numerous actions specifically designed to protect, preserve, and sustain a system and structure for both Major and Minor League Baseball to flourish.”
Once the league’s decision (that was supposed to be confidential) came out, MLB Commissioner Ron Manfred spoke up against O’Connor for releasing the information to the public. Manfred said that the league is considering restructuring their minor league system to improve the facilities of the minor league teams that will be left.
Manfred also said that the change will allow the remaining minor league players to receive higher pay and it will allow the league to improve their geographic alignment. The commissioner also said that the proposed restructuring will help major league franchises stop “wasting” money on players with no realistic shot at playing major league baseball.
After congressional members spoke out, MLB Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem wrote a letter back to Congress.
“It may not be a useful expenditure of public funds to upgrade any facility in a market in which the affiliate consistently loses money, lacks a significant fan base or is located in a place that makes travel for Minor League Players burdensome or player development difficult,” Halem’s letter stated. “The majority of Major League Club owners believe that there are too many players in the Minor League system. Most of the players on the rosters of rookie, short season and low-A teams are there to fill rosters so the Minor League teams can stage games for their fans, not because the Major League Clubs require all of those players to develop Major League talent.”
Locally, the Rocky Mountain Vibes organization hopes that the two leagues (MLB and MiLB) can come up with an agreement that keeps the franchise around after the end of the 2020 season. Vibes President and General Manager Chris Phillips recently issued a statement to the public and on the Vibes’ social media pages that stated their disappointment surrounding the possible change as well as thanking others for their support in speaking up against the league’s proposed decision.
“Right now, Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball are in the earliest stages of negotiations. We can promise you, our loyal fans and partners that we are focusing on the positives, and the future. 2019 was a great inaugural season for the Vibes, and 2020 is promising to be an even better year!” Phillips said. “This proposed contraction would not only take jobs away from thousands of Minor League players, Front Office staff, and seasonal employees all over the country, but will also severely hurt business on a local level in our city, as well as dozens of other communities throughout the nation.”
“In Colorado Springs alone, the elimination of the Vibes would take away tens of thousands of dollars of charitable donations that we provide to local non-profits, as well as a reading program that supports over 17,000 children. We would lose out on the opportunity to be able to support our beloved military community here in the Springs. We would no longer be able to recognize and highlight the hundreds of thousands of military families here for what they do every day. This proposal from Major League Baseball is not just an attack on Minor League baseball, but a threat to the livelihood of communities like ours.”
The Vibes have issued a press release stating that the U.S. congress recently created the “Save Minor League Baseball Task Force” that is designed to prevent the MLB from eliminating MiLB teams. “We appreciate the support of Rep. Lori Trahan (D-MA), David McKinley (R-WV) and the members of the task force in standing up for Minor League Baseball and speaking out against MLB’s effort to cast off thousands of jobs, reduce affordable, family-friendly entertainment, and undermine grassroots support for our great game,” said Phillips. “With this proposal, MLB is willing to break the hearts of dozens of communities across the country. We are going to resist this plan and are gratified that so many in Congress are willing to join with us.”
If the proposed change were to take place, the decision would eliminate a total of 42 minor league teams including the entire Pioneer Rookie league that the Vibes and the Rockies’ rookie team based out of Grand Junction currently belong to along with several other teams in states like Montana, Idaho, and Utah. States like Montana and Colorado would both be left without any type of minor league baseball team at the end of the 2020 season.