Rob Manfred isn’t just trying to be commissioner of MLB. He’s trying to become commissioner of baseball. He took another step in that direction on Wednesday as MLB announced an official partnership between it and the Atlantic League.
MLB and the Atlantic League have worked together previously. The independent league recently served as a testing ground for some of MLB’s proposed rule changes including the enlargement of bases, robot umps, moving back the mound, and the option for batters to attempt to steal first on any dropped pitch.
As mentioned in the original report from Evan Drellich at The Athletic, this move is largely about creating leverage against the other minor league owners.
“They’re going to come back at some point and say, listen — saying this to affiliated teams — ‘If you don’t like the deal, we have three independent leagues that tomorrow we can create a minor league with,’” one source said of minor-league owners’ concern.
MLB and MiLB are currently renegotiating the Professional Baseball Agreement which expires on September 30. The negotiations have already been tumultuous since it appears inevitable that 40+ minor league clubs will lose affiliation and longtime president Pat O’Conner announced earlier this month he would be resigning at the end of the year. It’s not clear that O’Conner will be replaced.
Teams that lose affiliation with MLB might wind up in the Atlantic League or the Frontier League which MLB is also pursuing a partnership with.
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