U.S. Rep. John Katko is joining other members of Congress in asking Major League Baseball to reconsider a proposal that would eliminate over 40 minor league teams, including the Auburn Doubledays in Katko's district.
More than 100 members of Congress signed a letter to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred expressing their opposition to the plan, which was first revealed in October.
With the professional baseball agreement between MLB and Minor League Baseball expiring in September 2020, MLB's proposal would restructure the minor league system. The lower levels of the minors, including rookie and short-season leagues, would be eliminated.
Auburn, a short-season Single-A club, plays in the New York-Penn League. The Doubledays were one of nine New York-Penn League teams identified on a list of clubs that would lose their affiliations under MLB's proposal.
Abandoning the minor league teams, Katko and his colleagues wrote, would "devastate our communities." They also warned MLB that it could affect congressional support for various baseball-related activities.
"You are the most important steward of the great game of baseball and tasked with ensuring the popularity and love of it across the world," the members wrote to Manfred. "Reducing the number of minor league baseball clubs and overhauling a century-old system that has been consistently safeguarded by Congress is not in the best interest of the overall game of baseball, especially when Major League Baseball's revenues are at all-time highs."
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Katko added in a separate statement, "Auburn has long been home to the Doubledays, and year after year, families across central New York are proud to support this hometown team. From Dollar Nights to family-friendly promotions, this team has always provided affordable entertainment to our community at Falcon Park. The Doubledays help support our local economy in Auburn — and its departure would mean an end for not only fans and players, but for local vendors, businesses and employees who have supported the club for decades."
MLB's proposal is considered preliminary and no final decisions have been made about Auburn or any other minor league teams. But it's being pushed by some MLB teams that see flaws with the current arrangement.
One challenge is the quality of some minor league facilities. While there are teams with newer ballparks and modern amenities for players, others lack these features. There's also concerns about geographic imbalances that force major league teams into affiliations with clubs in other parts of the country.
The Washington Nationals, the Doubledays' parent club, has a Triple-A team in Fresno, California — nearly 2,800 miles away.
MLB's plan would address the geography problem by moving teams up or down in classification. According to a New York Times report, the Brooklyn Cyclones — the New York Mets' short-season Single-A affiliate that plays in the New York-Penn League — would move up to Double-A. Brooklyn would replace Binghamton as the Mets' Double-A affiliate, and Binghamton would no longer have a minor league team.
Other elected officials have panned MLB's proposal to eliminate some minor league teams. U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York's senior senator, issued a statement criticizing the plan. He asked Manfred and MLB executives to reconsider.