Every year in December, representatives from all thirty Major League Baseball (MLB) teams gather to discuss the direction of the league, propose changes, and make trades with each other. This year, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced his desire to eliminate 42 minor league baseball teams by next year. While it is unlikely that this news was a big deal to baseball fans in the Bay Area, who have both the Giants and the A’s to cheer for, many people across the country who support one of the teams to be eliminated were shocked. From the Fire Frogs of Osceola, Florida, to the SeaWolves of Erie, Pennsylvania, to the Vibes of Colorado Springs, Colorado, many fans were disappointed by the news.
The MLB claims that it is planning on severing ties with these 42 clubs because teams are too far apart, which raises travel fees, and some ballparks need improvements. The MLB also wants to save money.
MLB’s argument for cutting teams is flawed because these issues could be solved in simpler, less drastic ways than eliminating teams entirely, such as by creating rules to require higher standards for these stadiums, and funding renovations needed. The MLB could also easily reshuffle divisions to make traveling a less significant problem.
It is possible that the MLB could save money from this proposal in the short-term, but it wouldn’t work out in the long run, and it is not worth it to hurt the fans of these teams.
First, it is unlikely that cutting these teams would save the MLB very much money. The scale on which the MLB makes their profits is so much higher than in the minor leagues that eliminating these teams would not significantly affect how much money they spend or take in. According to Forbes, the New York Yankees, the team with the highest revenue in the MLB, made $668 million in 2018. The team with the highest revenue in the minor leagues, the Sacramento River Cats, made only $20 million — less than 3 percent of the Yankees.
Furthermore, the 42 teams that commissioner Manfred is suggesting be cut are not large teams like the River Cats, but the small, lower-tier teams, that make only a fraction of what the River Cats make.
The minor leagues are very important to the MLB for attracting new fans, and getting rid of a quarter of the minor league teams would in turn hurt the MLB’s ability to expand its fanbase. One of the MLB’s largest problems, an issue that Manfred has said he will address, is the decreasing number of young fans of baseball. Much of the crowd at minor league games is made up of families, presumably because of the cheap prices. The average cost for a family of four to go to a minor league game, including tickets, parking, food, and drinks is under $65, while the average cost to go to an MLB game is $210. Thus, minor league baseball attracts young people to the sport, who will later become fans of the major leagues.
Baseball is already slowly dying in the United States: salaries are going down, attendance has been decreasing, and general devotion to “America’s pastime” is dropping. Getting rid of 42 minor league teams doesn’t make sense, and would only hurt the sport even further.