Congress calls foul on MLB proposal to cut ties with dozens of minor league teams

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WASHINGTON — Congress has called foul on a proposal by Major League Baseball to cut ties with dozens of minor league team.

In an internal document provided to The New York Times, the MLB would end affiliations between 42 minor league teams and their major league affiliates.

The Kansas City Royals have three clubs on the list: the Burlington Royals, Idaho Falls Chukars and Lexington Legends. The Legends and the Chukars won league titles in 2019. The Burlington Royals made it to the Appalachian League championship series.

Now some lawmakers are taking a stand against the MLB, hoping to protect minor league teams and their communities.

Nearly 100 members of Congress, including Rep. Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat from New York, are urging Major League Baseball to reverse its proposal.  Brindisi said he’s ready to do whatever is necessary to protect the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, the AA affiliate of the New York Mets.

“This is an assault on America’s pastime,” Brindisi said. “This is a great community draw for us in the Binghamton area. It’s a family entertainment product that’s put onto the field every night.”

John Hughes is the owner of the Rumble Ponies. He said the proposal to end the major league affiliation of more than 40 minor league baseball teams would hurt communities across the country, including Binghamton, New York.

“This is an assault on America’s pastime,” Hughes said. “The current plan demolishes community pride, eliminates jobs from players and teams.”

The MLB said many of the teams on the proposed list don’t meet league standards. The MLB said it wants prospective athletes to play in better facilities. The league also says it wants to reduce the amount of travel and increase the pay of its athletes.

Pay is an issue where minor league players agree with the league. Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that minor league baseball players could file a class action lawsuit against Major League Baseball, the Kansas City Royals and other franchises, seeking higher pay.

Athletes’ pay, improved living conditions, and other issues will be part of a new agreement between Minor League and Major League Baseball. The current Professional Baseball Agreement expires in 2020.

In a letter to lawmakers, Major League Baseball is asking leaders to allow the negotiation process to take place.

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