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The looming specter of contraction

MiLB is supposedly willing to give up and allow MLB to contract 42 of its teams. How did MiLB get here and why did we let this happen?

Portland Sea Dogs vs Binghamton Rumble Ponies Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

This site, and so many others, have written extensively about Major League Baseball’s plan to contract 42 teams from Minor League Baseball. Dubbed The Houston Plan, it has been a hot topic at pretty much every baseball site and for good reason. A recent article from Baseball America hints that the plan is about to become a reality. There’s not much more that can be said about the plan other than that it being enacted is a sad day.

The nuts and bolts of what The Houston Plan is and why it is bad for baseball have been explained ad nauseam. This isn’t an article that is going to get into the nitty gritty of the sordid affair. Rather, this is a flat out emotional take on the situation. I’m not sure of any way to react to Baseball America’s report beyond base emotion. This one hits hard, and it’s not the last time MLB is going to effectively punch baseball fans in the face to make more money.

When the report first surfaced on Tuesday there wasn’t a lot of outrage to be found. There was plenty of anger, but not outrage. The difference between the two is important and says a lot about the power MLB now wields. The truth is that The Houston Plan becoming a reality was always the outcome that was going to take place.

The efforts to stop the plan were admirable and supported by many, but they were always going to be futile. MLB, and it’s head honcho Rob Manfred, never cared about any of those efforts. The economic impact to the cities that are going to lose a team don’t matter to them. Neither do the minor leaguers who will never get a chance or the fans who now have nowhere to turn for professional baseball, let alone affiliated baseball. All that mattered to MLB and Manfred was the bottom line. If cutting 40 MiLB teams meant that they could end the 2021 season with $11.9 billion in profits as opposed to $11.8 billion in profits then it was a move that had to happen.

The inevitability of MLB’s greed is what led to fewer instances of outrage and more anger. Outrage can be directed and used as a weapon. Anger is aimless and reactionary. Most of us reacted angrily to the news because there was nothing we could do to change that news. There was no place for us to direct our actions nor any hope that actions could even be undertaken. That left us stuck in place as we angrily wondered how MLB could so willingly take baseball away from us?

The answer to that question is why they were able to take it away so easily. We let them, for years now we have sided with ownership against labor. We ignored the corporate power grab tendencies of MLB because we only cared about baseball. Kris Bryant throwing to Anthony Rizzo to end a 108-year drought erased any misgivings we had about MLB’s actions or the intentions of the Ricketts’. COVID-19 has created a situation where the callousness of MLB, Manfred, and owners like the Ricketts’ is laid bare for all to see. We let the league and the owners become the big bad monsters who care not for baseball because we weren’t willing to look beyond the baseball and acknowledge what they were really up to.

No fan deserves blame for the league becoming what it has. We allowed it to happen sure, but it should never rest with the fans to uphold a love for baseball within the ranks of MLB executives and owners. We never saw inevitable conclusion of MLB’s business first baseball second philosophy because we shouldn’t have been expected to be the watchers of the stewards of the game. That should be the role of the Commissioner and others within the MLB ranks.

We know better now, that’s what matters. We may be too late to save Minor League Baseball from being gutted by MLB’s greed. But we can start supporting the players more. We can support labor and push for changes within MLB. When that doesn’t happen we can’t allow ourselves to be distracted by home runs and big moments. Ultimately we will have to do that which we find most difficult and speak with our wallets. MLB, Manfred, and the owners have shown that they care about money and money alone. It may very well be that exercising our purchasing power is the only way we will ever be able to get our league back.