Minor leagues feel heat

Rich Fyle column

“Minor league baseball has a strong history throughout upstate New York and the game means a great deal to fans and the local economy alike.”

— Sen. James Seward, R-N.Y.

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

I would be no fan of a “Dream League” under consideration by Major League Baseball officials to eliminate 42 of 160 minor league franchises in an attempt to revamp major league farms teams, especially at the lower levels, after the current Professional Baseball Agreement expires after the 2020 season.

Under the proposal, the 42 newly independent teams would be welcome to join a lower-quality “Dream League” populated largely by undrafted and released players, a plan one minor league official called a “death sentence” for the clubs. Loss of major-league affiliation would significantly diminish a team’s market value.

As MLB teams, who financially support their affiliates, trend more to the increasing analytics age, officials are wary about travel costs and aging facilities in the low minors.

I was lucky to cover three different short-season New York-Penn League teams (Geneva, Newark and Troy) for 10 years over two stints.

Here are some of the notable celebrities who passed through those cities: Randy Johnson, Steve Finley, Marquis Grissom, Ben Zobrist, Jonathan Papelbon, Anibal Sanchez, Derek Bell, Roger Clemens (to watch one of his sons play ) and Hunter Pence.

Nine of the current 14 NY-P teams are slated for contraction, including Staten Island — the former Watertown Pirates/Indians franchise that relocated after the 1998 season — Auburn (Nats) and Batavia (Marlins). Tri-City (Astros) and Hudson Valley (Rays) appear to be safe, while Brooklyn (Mets) would be upgraded to the Double-A Eastern League, replacing Binghamton.

Nearly 1,200 players would lose jobs should the proposal be approved, and thus the “Dream League” would be conceived. It’s just another way of saying pro independent ball, but MLB teams would help subsidize franchises.

Non-drafted players would have to seek jobs in the “Dream League” or other independent leagues (Can-Am and Atlantic, etc.), hope to be signed by an MLB club and then assigned to a minor league affiliate. The MLB draft would be moved from June to August and last until 20 or 25 rounds instead of 40.

MLB and minor league executives need to negotiate more readily and figure out a solution beneficial to everyone, including themselves and the fans who pay the freight in lower minor league cities.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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