I would like to reply to the misguided and misleading letter to the editor that ran Saturday in the Quad-City Times, written by Dan Halem, who is with Major League Baseball (MLB).
In it, Halem tells the MLB side of the story, which is nothing more than a gross misrepresentation of the facts. He has written letters to the editor in each of the 40-plus markets that have Minor League Baseball (MiLB) teams slated for possible elimination by MLB, including the clubs here in eastern Iowa: the Clinton Lumber Kings, Quad Cities River Bandits, and Burlington Bees.
MLB is resorting to falsehoods and innuendo in their weak attempt to explain themselves.
Halem writes that "MLB wants to grow baseball, not eliminate clubs. We have made clear to MiLB during negotiations that there is a plan for every minor league club to continue operations with support from MLB."
The truth is that MLB will never grow the game of baseball by eliminating 40-plus MiLB franchises and ripping them out of their respective communities. It will have the opposite effect.
MLB is ruining the next generation of baseball fans. MLB does not care as it has become a $13 billion industry that relies almost solely on television and multi-media dollars to support its organizations.
Fans are staying away from MLB parks in numbers too large to ignore, while MiLB fans – especially here in eastern Iowa - have three excellent choices to pick from for their baseball experience.
The plan that MLB has for the clubs facing elimination is called the "Dream League." This plan is ill-conceived and should be labeled the "Nightmare League," as MLB is using this concept as a cover-up. It is doing nothing more than insulting the intelligence of all of the die-hard baseball fans in each of these 40-plus markets.
Halem writes: "Our goal is to modernize the minors by improving pay and working conditions for minor leaguers and helping players develop into the next generation of big league stars."
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The truth is that MLB is now only starting to pay the MiLB players more after MLB lost all of their appeals in a federal appellate court in San Francisco. That court recently ruled that former MiLB players are due back wages and the court expanded the lawsuit into class-action status – meaning thousands of current and former players will be paid for back wages earned.
Halem writes: "However, Minor League Baseball owners have refused to bear any portion of the contemplated cost increases for improving facilities, working conditions and pay. Instead, they’ve indicated that they would prefer to simply eliminate franchises."
The truth is that MiLB owners and their respective local and state authorities have spent millions of dollars to stay up-to-date with the Professional Baseball Agreement Guidelines regarding playing facilities and working conditions for the players. The Vision Iowa program helped all of the Iowa-based clubs with renovations to existing ballparks and/or new facilities specifically for the players. To state otherwise is a blatant lie by MLB.
As far as the MiLB players pay is concerned, it is the sole responsibility of MLB to pay their employees. MiLB clubs do not pay the players. That is the responsibility of the MLB clubs. Again, another misrepresentation by MLB.
In using Halem’s twisted logic, why would MiLB owners and operators want to simply "eliminate franchises" when they have poured their hard earned money and sweat equity into growing the business and the game itself for their respective communities?
All three of the clubs here locally (Clinton, Quad Cities and Burlington) have improved their playing facilities and have provided their respective communities with jobs and economic benefits – all in the name of growing "America’s Pastime."
Halem writes: "MLB wants to protect baseball here in Iowa."
The truth is MLB is spending $8 million to play one MLB game (Yankees vs. White Sox) at the Field of Dreams complex this upcoming summer. The total cost savings to MLB in its effort to eliminate 40-plus MiLB teams is $20 million. MLB does not want to protect baseball here in Iowa. MLB wants to look good in the public eye by bringing an MLB game to Iowa – while at the same time wanting to eliminate three very strong and active MiLB franchises here in eastern Iowa.
Local and state representatives, along with members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives from both Iowa and Illinois, oppose the elimination of 40-plus MiLB teams by MLB. These legislative bodies are the exact same ones that have approved past exemptions for MLB’s benefit and/or have appropriated funding for the betterment of MLB and their players in Clinton, Burlington and the Quad Cities.
By its recent actions and words, MLB is ruining the next generation of fans who love the game of baseball.
Ted Tornow is the general manager for the Clinton Lumber Kings.