PRINCETON — Since the public reveal of the Major League Baseball proposal to cut 42 minor league teams when the current deal expires at the end of the 2020 season there have been a lot of questions about the two local teams.
The Princeton Rays and Bluefield Blue Jays are on the list of teams that would be cut if the current proposal is put into place.
Princeton Rays General Manager Danny Shingleton spoke to the Rotary Club of Princeton recently at the Chuck Mathena Center about what is going on and what will happen.
“This all came about right after our season was over last year so with no warning 42 teams were named and here we are standing here with our mouths open trying to figure out what to do,” Shingleton said.
The Professional Baseball Agreement between the MLB and Minor League Baseball expires September 30. It requires MLB teams to provide players for 160 minor league teams along with covering a large majority of the costs.
The decision to have the proposal include the cutting of a fourth of minor league teams was not agreed upon by all teams as some rely on development more than others.
Having six minor league teams like Tampa Bay has allows for players to get an opportunity to show the teams what they have and for the teams to find top players without dishing out tons of money.
“There’s some major league teams that do not agree with letting these teams go because like Tampa they depend on a large pool of players. The more players they have, the more they can train them to become better ballplayers,” Shingleton said.
Tampa Bay had the lowest payroll for players on its major league roster in 2019 instead relying on developing players in its minor league system which includes Princeton.
For Shingleton the best option involves Congress applying pressure on MBC which it is the process of doing including a ‘Save Minor League Baseball Task Force’ to get them to retract the proposal of cutting the teams.
“The best case scenario, in my opinion, is that Congress puts enough pressure on major league baseball that they sign a contract for three years,” Shingleton said.
A three-year contract would be shorter than the usual seven years but allow for improvements to be made.
Shingleton joined the Bluefield and Bristol Pirates general managers in going to Washington, D.C., to meet with politicians about the topic in early December.
“We met with several congressmen and women, a couple of senators about this whole situation. They’re all in agreement that this should not happen, it’s going to hurt our community and it’s going to hurt the economy, our fans,” Shingleton said.
The Rays, Jays and Pirates are three of the nine teams in the Appalachian League that would be dropped if the current proposal is put in place.
The lone team in the league that would remain in the minor league system is the Pulaski Yankees. they drew 95,897 fans last year which is around four times more than the P-Rays and Blue Jays.
A main concern for MLB teams is the quality of facilities that are in the minor leagues as the organizations rely on these places to help the development of their players.
“There’s a minimum standard that’s required by major league baseball for all facilities but along with that nobody has come to the 42 teams and said this is what you need to do, this is what we require and you have to get this done,” Shingleton said.
Once Shingleton knows what the standards the P-Rays need to be at they can start working on any improvements if they are needed over the next few years while a short-term agreement is in place.
“If they come out and say hey this is what you need to do if you want to continue to have a baseball team and say in three years that doesn’t happen then understandably you lose the team,” Shingleton said.
Other concerns the MLB had included player welfare, scheduling, team travel and quality of hotels players are staying in.
These 42 teams would be replaced with more squads at each organization’s respective spring training facility in Florida or Arizona. Tampa has its facility in Florida with one team along with two teams in the Dominican League.
“If they take these 42 teams away there will probably be more of the teams in their spring training camps Arizona and Florida that will take it over,” Shingleton.
Baseball has become focused on using analytics and tracking everything a player does on the field with numbers to determine if they have the potential to play in the Big Leagues.
They would be able to do that more efficiently at their spring training complexes.
“Major league baseball thinks they can do more with analytics and bringing players to their spring training facilities, train them there and then look at analytics to determine who is going to be a better ballplayer,” Shingleton said.
Something that analytics will not be able to know is how will a player perform when they step out onto the field under the lights.
For most of the players Rookie-level teams like the ones in the Appalachian League are the first time they are playing almost every game at night.
“There’s only so much you can do with analytics to find out if a player is he going to get to a stadium and freeze and not be able to perform,” Shingleton said.
Joined with playing in front of a crowd that is larger than they will ever see in games at the spring training facilities.
One of the options MLB is going to create for the teams that are cut is a Dream League which would consist of players who were not signed by major league organizations.
Most importantly the costs would shift from the major league teams to the local team which is not financially possible for most teams.
“For a lot of teams it is something they can’t afford cause wherever the team is at will incur the costs of manager, players, travel, hotel,” Shingleton said.
The negotiations are ongoing and Shingleton has not had an update since the middle of December. Both sides would prefer for them to not drag into the upcoming season when planning for the 2021 season begins.
Contact sports@ bdtonline.com