Cutters on MLB’s list of possible minor league eliminations
The Williamsport Crosscutters are going about “business as usual” for the 2020 season despite being listed as one of the 42 Minor League Baseball teams Major League Baseball wants to eliminate.
MLB is looking to reduce the number of minor league teams it’s affiliated with and alter the geographical makeup of some leagues in its initial proposal to Minor League Baseball as the two sides begin their negotiations on the next Professional Baseball Agreement.
Major League Baseball’s initial proposal was leaked to Baseball America, citing the elimination of 42 teams as the starting point in its negotiations with Minor League Baseball. The New York Times published the list of the 42 teams which could be eliminated over the weekend, and the Williamsport Crosscutters were part of the proposed eliminations.
But the Cutters, who moved to Williamsport in 1994, published a statement Monday on Facebook saying, “… we do want to make it clear that nothing has or will be decided in this process for a very long time. Further to that, as MLB has stated publicly, their main concerns are around facility standards and significant distance of some clubs from their affiliates (neither of which apply to the Crosscutters) so this is just a natural process of negotiation on behalf of all 160 Minor League Baseball teams.”
The statement released by the Crosscutters on Monday is the only public comment the team has given as all 160 minor league teams around the country were instructed to refer all questions about the proposal to Minor League Baseball Senior Director of Communications Jeff Lantz. Lantz did not return phone calls from the Sun-Gazette seeking comment.
The Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball is negotiated every five years. It stipulates standards minor league teams must meet for facility standards. And in turn, Major League Baseball agrees to supply minor league teams with players and to pay their salaries.
The current PBA is set to expire in September of 2020. Negotiations between the two sides have already begun and there is a plan to meet again in a couple weeks and again at baseball’s winter meetings in San Diego from Dec. 8-12. For the last 30 or so years, the agreement between the two sides has largely gone unchanged, except for minor tweaks here and there, according to Lantz.
Speaking recently on “After Hours: A Minor League Baseball Podcast” Lantz said MLB’s initial proposal is about upgrading the facilities at minor league stadiums which do not currently meet the growing personnel associated with Minor League Baseball teams. While facilities are inspected every three years by an independent firm to make sure they are up to the code laid out in the PBA, minor league teams are now employing more field staff than ever before and need accommodations for that growing number of employees.
When these ballparks were built in the 80s and 90s, teams had a manager, a pitching coach, a hitting coach and an athletic trainer,” Lantz said on the podcast. “Now with the advances in baseball they have a manager, a pitching coach, a hitting coach, a fielding coach, a trainer, a strength and conditioning coach, teams are traveling with nutritionists, and video analysts for scouting purposes and player development purposes, and a lot of them are traveling with a clubhouse manager. So instead of needing room for four people like before, now you need room for nine.”
Lantz cautioned fans not to be shell-shocked by the initial proposal of Major League Baseball and made a point to say it was merely a starting point in negotiations. He did say Minor League Baseball is willing to negotiate on geographical parameters of certain leagues in the minors. He mentioned specifically the Class A South Atlantic League which has teams ranging from as far North as Lakewood, New Jersey, to as far South as Augusta, Georgia. He understands the travel demands of a league like that, or the Class AAA Pacific Coast League — which spans three time zones — could be adjusted to make traveling easier on players.
We’ve been planning for this negotiation for two years now. It’s unfortunate the proposal was leaked to Baseball America because you’d like to have a shot to get a counter-proposal to Major League Baseball and not have it be in public,” Lantz said on the podcast. “Nobody wants to negotiate anything in the media, which is what happened when Baseball America got their hands on the story. Both sides want to do something in the best interest of baseball, whether it’s realigning and keeping the 160 teams and making travel easier on everybody.”
Major League Baseball’s initial proposal to eliminate 42 affiliated minor league teams includes nine of the 14 New York-Penn League teams, including the Crosscutters and State College Spikes. Many of the other potentially eliminated teams are those which come from short-season rookie leagues like the NYPL, including the Appalachian League and Northwest League.
Included in the Major League Baseball proposal would be the formation of a Dream League in which undrafted or released minor league players could continue to play professional baseball in hopes of earning another contract with an affiliated minor league team. With stadiums and infrastructures already in place, teams like the Crosscutters would be frontrunners to join the Dream League.
“We don’t think a Dream League is a viable option,” Lantz said on the podcast. “Independent baseball might work in Sugar Land (Texas, a suburb of Houston) or St. Paul (Minnesota), but it hasn’t worked in small communities.”
The Williamsport Crosscutters remain confident they will host Minor League Baseball at Bowman Field beyond the 2020 season. The continued plan by Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred to host the MLB Little League Classic at Bowman Field will probably help keep a team in Williamsport so the field is continually maintained.
“We look forward to the Williamsport Crosscutters being part of this community for many more years to come,” the Crosscutters’ release said.
Teams which could be eliminated
• Auburn Doubledays (Nationals)
• Batavia Muckdogs (Marlins)
• Billings Mustangs (Reds)
• Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Mets)
• Bluefield Blue Jays (Blue Jays)
• Bristol Pirates (Pirates)
• Burlington (Iowa) Bees (Angels)
• Burlington (N.C.) Royals (Royals)
• Chattanooga Lookouts (Reds)
• Clinton LumberKings (Marlins)
• Connecticut Tigers (Tigers)
• Danville Braves (Braves)
• Daytona Tortugas (Reds)
• Elizabethton Twins (Twins)
• Erie SeaWolves (Tigers)
• Florida Fire Frogs (Braves)
• Frederick Keys (Orioles)
• Grand Junction Rockies (Rockies)
• Great Falls Voyagers (White Sox)
• Greenville Reds (Reds)
• Hagerstown Suns (Nationals)
• Idaho Falls Chukars (Royals)
• Jackson Generals (Diamondbacks)
• Johnson City Cardinals (Cardinals)
• Kingsport Mets (Mets)
• Lacaster Jethawks (Rockies)
• Lexington Legends (Royals)
• Lowell Spinners (Red Sox)
• Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Indians)
• Missoula PaddleHeads (Diamondbacks)
• Ogden Raptors (Dodgers)
• Orem Owlz (Angels)
• Princeton Rays (Rays)
• Quad Cities River Bandits (Astros)
• Rocky Mountain Vibes (Brewers)
• Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (Giants)
• State College Spikes (Cardinals)
• Staten Island Yankees (Yankees)
• Tri-City Dust Devils (Padres)
• Vermont Lake Monsters (Athletics)
• West Virginia Power (Mariners)
• Williamsport Crosscutters (Phillies)