When 2020 started it was clear that Minor League Baseball was in for a big fight. The Houston Plan threatened at least 42 MiLB teams with contraction, and it was evident that Major League Baseball wanted to exert more control over affiliated baseball. Then the coronavirus happened and baseball stopped being a thing. That put most baseball matters in the back of our minds. That doesn’t mean that the virus did anything to get MLB to step back from implementing The Houston Plan.
With each passing day, it becomes clear that whatever momentum MiLB had in the court of public opinion has faded. The majority of baseball fans still want to live in a world where the minor leagues exist. Those same people have more important matters to attend to at the present. This has resulted in the tidal wave of support MiLB had received from the majority of the public washing away. MiLB owners are on their own again, attempting to fight off a big bad bear who has no intention of losing.
With the public, otherwise occupied MLB has stayed the course with their intentions to shrink the size of the minor leagues. At the same time, a new wrinkle has been added into the mix. New wrinkle is a bit of a misnomer, those who have paid attention know that this wrinkle has been MLB’s plan all along. The language MLB has used to address their conflict with MiLB has left no doubt that The Houston Plan represents the beginning of the end for MiLB.
COVID-19 has merely helped to hasten the demise of the minor leagues as an organization. The news cycle being what it is MiLB owners were always going to have a hard time maintaining support among baseball fans. Chances are that at best minor league owners would have been able to stave off the death of their organization for a few years. Instead, those owners now have to realize that there is a chance that The Houston Plan doesn’t just contract 42 teams. They must be prepared for the end result of The Houston Plan. The owners need to begin to understand that this process ends with MLB owning all of the minor leagues.
That may be hard to imagine but it really shouldn’t be. MLB has had some intention to own the minor leagues all along. As soon as the International League capitulated to allowing the Rule 5 draft back in 1931 this is where MiLB was headed. They survived for years because they were dealing with owners and commissioners who were unwilling to follow through on the death blow because they actually liked baseball. Now they are staring down a group of owners and a commissioner who actively hate the game and view it as a money-making venture and nothing more. It’s not that previous MLB owners and commissioners didn’t think of baseball as a money-making venture. Rather, it’s that they thought of baseball as such while loving the game at the same time.
The year 2020 is probably a wash for the minor leagues and affiliated baseball in general. There’s little chance we see any affiliated baseball this year. When affiliated baseball returns I’m not so sure it won’t return in a completely altered form. The current group of MLB powers-that-be has been preparing for this moment for years. Minor League Baseball shut down to save lives, but the end result may well be the death of MiLB itself.