CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Earlier this month, we reported (link 1, link 2, link 3) on the beginning of the negotiations between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball in regard to the upcoming Professional Baseball Agreement. The current PBA will expire at the end of the 2020 MiLB season, and it has been widely speculated that the next one will include major changes to the make up of the minor leagues.
An early report said that roughly 42 Minor League clubs could be on the chopping block.
On Saturday, the New York Times released an early list of the 42 MiLB clubs that could be severed.
The list included nine of the thirteen teams that currently make up the New York Penn League, one Pirates affiliate (Bristol), and three of the four minor league clubs currently based in West Virginia.
However, that list did not include the West Virginia Black Bears.
We once again reached out to Minor League Baseball for comment on the situation, and the list that was published in the New York Times.
According to Minor League Baseball, the list of 42 teams was the exact list that Major League Baseball presented to the MiLB as negotiations on the new PBA have begun.
It was the first proposal presented, with still one year left on the current PBA.
One factor that the MiLB says it will present to Major League Baseball is that a number of the teams on the list have not only been in their cities for decades, but they also keep a professional baseball interest in area that are far away (ex: 4+ hour drives) from Major League teams.
The two sides will continue to meet over the coming months, with Minor League Baseball still hoping to maintain as many of those clubs as possible.
“Minor League Baseball is a critical part of West Virginia’s future. Our tourism is exploding, we’re repairing and building roads like never before, we’re creating jobs, and people are visiting Almost Heaven West Virginia. I am working to find a real solution on this issue, starting at the top with Commissioner Manfred. I am confident we can show Commissioner Manfred what a fantastic partner MLB has in the great state of West Virginia. Simply put, these teams have to be preserved for all involved and the goodness of our communities.”West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, Tuesday
Senator Shelly Moore Capito also released a statement, saying:
“Minor league baseball has become a part of the fabric of many West Virginia towns. I have stressed to both Major League and Minor League Baseball my hope and encouragement to work together and also with the impacted communities and franchises. We have to communicate openly and honestly to understand the proposals and impacts fully.”
When asked about the possibility of the West Virginia Black Bears getting a bump up to become a full-season team – with it appearing that Major League Baseball is attempting to greatly minimize, or get rid of completely, the number of teams in leagues below Class-A full-season – Minor League Baseball said it is too early in the process to tell, noting scheduling issues that could arise given the Black Bears share Monongalia County Ballpark with the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Senator Joe Manchin also released a statement Tuesday.
“I will do everything I can to protect minor league baseball in West Virginia because many of these teams have been pillars of the community for decades. I’m contacting everyone I know in the MLB to ask them to consider the consequences of scrapping our local teams. Our national pastime has a rich history in West Virginia, and for generations, minor league baseball has brought our communities together and introduced countless youth to the sport. They need to understand the negative economic impact that this will have on our communities and that West Virginians have a true love for the game,” he said.
Stay with 12 Sports for any further updates on this process.