Three Orioles minor-league affiliates under the same ownership group issued matching statements Wednesday praising Congress’ creation of the “Save Minor League Baseball Task Force,” designed to protect Minor League Baseball teams from Major League Baseball’s proposal to have 42 teams lose their status as affiliated franchises.
The Triple-A Norfolk Tides, Double-A Bowie Baysox and High-A Frederick Keys — Baltimore’s three highest affiliates — supported Congress’ task force, formed by Representatives Lori Trahan, D-Ma.; David McKinley, R-W.Va.; Max Rose, D-N.Y.; and Mike Simpson R-Idaho, to advocate for the communities and teams that would be adversely affected by MLB’s proposal. In November, 106 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter urging MLB Commission Rob Manfred to abandon the plan.
The Tides, Baysox and Keys are all owned by Maryland Baseball Holding LLC. The trio issued nearly identical statements within an hour of one another Wednesday afternoon, each beginning by praising the creation of the task force followed by a quote from that respective team’s general manager. The teams had previously not commented on the proposal, directing such requests to Minor League Baseball.
“We appreciate the support of Rep. Lori Trahan (D.-Massachusetts), David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and the members of the task force in standing up for Minor League Baseball and speaking out against MLB’s effort to cast off thousands of jobs, reduce affordable, family-friendly entertainment and undermine grassroots support for our great game,” the team’s statements read, quoting Norfolk’s Joe Gregory, Bowie’s Brian Shallcross and Frederick’s Dave Ziedelis.
The Baysox and Tides’ statements then noted that they are not among 42 teams facing the loss of their player development contracts, the deals that bind them to MLB parent clubs, referencing the list the New York Times released last month. The Keys, however, were on that list and mentioned that in their statement.
Per an MLB source with direct knowledge of ongoing negotiations with the league and Minor League Baseball, the Times’ list was an initial proposal and not a guarantee of which teams would lose affiliated status should the proposal come to fruition; part of negotiations between the two organizations is which teams would lose their affiliations, per the source.
However, even if the Keys were not included in the group of 42, the proposal would likely still see the Orioles lose at least one affiliate, either to another organization or via a lost player development contract. The proposal includes a limit of five stateside affiliates per franchise; the Orioles have six, including their Gulf Coast League affiliate.
Minor league teams that lose their affiliated status would not necessarily be “eliminated,” as the statements put it. The teams would no longer have their players and coaches provided by MLB parent clubs, but the franchises themselves would still exists. Although it’s certainly possible some of the teams fold after being pushed into independency, MLB’s proposal include the creation of a subsidized, pseudo-independent league called the “Dream League," while others could become members of amateur summer leagues. But that’s a steep drop from being hosts of the future stars of Major League Baseball.
“Minor league teams are vital to the social and economic lives of millions of Americans; they support scores of local businesses and jobs, provide accessible entertainment, help promote tourism spending and donate tens of millions of dollars in charitable contributions,” the statements read.
“With this proposal, MLB is willing to break the hearts of dozens of communities across the country,” the GMs said in the statement. “We are going to resist this plan and are gratified that so many in Congress are willing to join with us.”