U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer thinks Major League Baseball's plan to eliminate the Auburn Doubledays and other New York teams is off base.
Schumer, New York's senior senator, wrote a letter to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred urging him to reconsider a plan that would restructure the minor league system and phase out more than 40 teams, including the Doubledays and three others in New York.
The proposal is part of negotiations between MLB and Minor League Baseball for a new professional baseball agreement, which sets the terms of the relationship between the top league and the minors. The existing agreement expires in September 2020.
The negotiations are at a preliminary stage and no decisions have been made about the fate of Auburn and other minor league cities that would be affected by the termination of affiliations. But the plan is attracting attention because of the potential elimination of several teams, many of which play at the lowest levels of the minor league system.
A list published by the New York Times identifies the 42 teams that would lose their affiliations if the proposal is adopted. Two of the other New York teams listed, like Auburn, play in the short-season New York-Penn League: Batavia and Staten Island. Binghamton, the Double-A affiliate of the New York Mets, would also lose its minor league status.
The cities may retain baseball teams in a "Dream League" that's part of MLB's proposal. The Dream League would be for undrafted or unsigned players, but the teams wouldn't be affiliated with any of the big league clubs.
Schumer called MLB's proposal "startling."
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"These franchises are cherished by their communities in New York, and since demoting them to a new independent league could have a devastating impact, I'm urging MLB to stop, sit down with community leaders, local stakeholders and Minor League Baseball to rework this plan as soon as possible," Schumer said.
In his letter to Manfred, Schumer expressed concerns about the future of the New York-Penn League. The league, which is usually a first stop for draft picks or international players getting their start in professional baseball, would be affected by MLB's plan. Nine of the 42 teams on the list published by the New York Times play in the New York-Penn League.
Schumer said the potential dissolution of the league is "deeply troubling."
The senator also worries about the effects of the plan on other New York teams. Three teams — Brooklyn, Hudson Valley and Tri-City — would remain in the minor league system, but with different classifications. Reports indicate Brooklyn would replace Binghamton as the Mets' Double-A affiliate.
Schumer reiterated his hope that MLB would discuss the plans with local leaders.
"The decisions regarding the future of these teams is too important to their local communities to be made in a board room," he added.
Several New York elected officials have raised concerns about MLB's proposal. U.S. Rep. John Katko, whose district includes Auburn, signed a letter to Manfred urging the commissioner to reconsider. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul tweeted her support of minor league baseball in New York. She said the teams are "big economic drivers for our small towns and part of New York's identity and culture."