For there not being a Minor League Baseball season happening right now – though, it would be over in normal years for most teams by now and the playoffs would be taking place – there’s a bit of news to discuss.
The biggest news just came out this morning when Pat O’Conner announced that he would be retiring as Minor League Baseball President. He’s been in that role since 2007. Of course, the only real surprise here is that he’s retiring. For O’Conner it’s been clear that he was likely out of the job soon enough.
A little more than a year ago we first heard about Major League Baseball’s plan to eliminate 42 teams from the minors, and get down to 120 full season teams and then have complex-only rookie levels. Since then it’s been both a public and a private battle between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball, with the latter side being represented by Pat O’Conner. Things were never going to go the way that Minor League Baseball wanted. Fair or unfair, they simply didn’t hold the kind of power that was needed to get what they wanted.
When the United States began to shut things down, including baseball, over the COVID-19 outbreak, it just made everything easier for Major League Baseball to get what they wanted. Many Minor League teams were simply trying to stay afloat from a business perspective, much less trying to remain affiliated. That led to what individual teams were asking to change. When August rolled around, things got a bit wild as O’Conner altered the negotiating team multiple times – with some speculation that he was fighting more to keep his job in existence, as Rob Manfred wanted Major League Baseball to take over operations of Minor League Baseball with the new PBA being up at the end of September.
At this point it’s clear that Pat O’Conner has lost the battle with both MLB and MiLB and this is going out more gracefully. This particular writer won’t be feeling badly for O’Conner, who actively worked to suppress salaries for minor leaguers. This quote will forever stick with me when I think about his time as Minor League Baseball President, via Evan Drelich of The Athletic:
It’s ironic: We went to congress and lobbied hard for the Save America’s Pastime Act,”O’Conner said. “Major League Baseball couldn’t have done it alone. We basically got legislation that many people said we would never get. One of the premises, and one of the well-known premises, was if we don’t get this legislation for Major League Baseball, they’re either going to cut teams, or they’re going to come after us for more money.
“And I’ll be doggone if we don’t get the legislation, and they’re doing both.
That’s not to say that I have any faith that Minor League Baseball is going to be better under a Rob Manfred leadership. Less than two weeks ago was the first time since April that MLB and MiLB had a meeting, and this was where MLB proposed their plan for running the minors moving forward. JJ Cooper has all of the details over at Baseball America if you want a more detailed look at what they plan to do. For now, the teams on the chopping block are not named – presumably because MLB learned their lesson – it’s hard to get pushback from those who don’t know what’s coming.
MLB approves instructional league later this month
Major League Baseball approved a plan to allow organizations to hold instruction league as early as this month. There are guidelines to be followed if an organization wants to do so, which will include COVID-19 testing among other things. Instructional leagues can be held at a teams spring training facility – which is where they tend to hold it – or at their alternate site location, but if a team were to choose that option, it can’t also still be used for the player pool. Don’t expect teams to use that option until the season is completed.
For teams this is great news. With no minor league season, and limited spots in the player pool for developmental purposes – teams will be jumping at ideas that will allow them to get as many guys onto a field with in-person instruction and competition as possible.
As for the Cincinnati Reds – as of today they have not announced their plans for instructional league. Last year they held things prior to spring training – a break from the past where it was held following the regular season after a few weeks off. More and more teams have begun to go the route of an instructional league type situation closer to spring training rather than following the regular season. When the Reds have more concrete plans for which direction they will go, I’ll have that information and pass it along.
Former Red Taylor Trammell speaks out
Taylor Trammell wrote a piece this morning over at The Players Tribune titled Baseball Is Not Black Enough. Go read it.