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MLB strikes out with reasons to pull affiliation from Spikes, others

Major League Baseball recently unveiled a proposal to drastically reshape the affiliated minor leagues. The plan would strip the MLB affiliation of a whopping 42 teams, including many in the New York-Penn League, including the State College Spikes.

We find that to be unconscionable, especially for the reasons MLB has stated publicly.

MLB says it wants to cut down on travel time for away games and improve facilities.

But State College is within 300 miles of all but three other franchises of the 14-team NYPL. Cutting down travel time could be achieved by playing longer series at outposts like Vermont, Lowell or Connecticut, as to only necessitate one longer trip per year. The trip could also include multiple cities furthest away from State College. We don’t think that’s an insurmountable obstacle.

And as for facilities, State College is routinely hailed as one of the best stadiums in the league. The Spikes have a wonderful arrangement with Penn State University in which Penn State utilizes the stadium for its baseball season in the spring, which is over long before the Spikes begin play in mid-to-late June. As a result, the field is always in immaculate, major-league-ready condition and the clubhouses (baseball-speak for locker rooms for those who aren’t hardball fans) are as nice as will be found anywhere, not just in the NYPL, but across the whole of minor-league baseball.

There are plenty of other minor-league franchises on the chopping block just like the Spikes — playing in a great facility in a league that makes geographic sense to them.

So, if it’s not for the reasons MLB has given, what is this really all about? Our guess is the one thing that seems to drive all decisions — money.

For the past several years, MLB franchises have taken a lot of deserved criticism for how little minor-league players are paid, especially those in the lower levels like the short-season Class A NYPL.

These MLB franchises, the least-valuable of which is estimated by Forbes magazine to be worth $1 billion (with a “b”), could choose to pay their players a livable wage. Nothing other than their own refusal to do so is stopping them. Player salaries don’t have to be the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars those on the major-league roster make, but most minor-league players (those who weren’t high draft picks awarded large signing bonuses) shouldn’t have to struggle to afford housing and food — a sad reality for many.

MLB will certainly hem and haw and state why this is tough but necessary for the good of the game. We fail to see how taking affiliated minor-league baseball out of small towns across this country is anything but a disaster that will cause irreparable damage to the sport.

Instead, this plan seems like it’s for the good of owners seeking to both escape criticism for paying players next to nothing and reduce operating expenses.

This foolhardy plan is a train wreck waiting to happen. Hopefully Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB realize it before it’s too late.

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