Without antitrust exceptions, MLB’s ability to control business conditions for junior leaguers may not be ‘possible’, says Rob Manfred

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said it “may not be possible” for the league to enforce, create and maintain better working conditions for minor leagues if the antitrust exemption is stripped.

Additionally, Manfred said that without antitrust exceptions, junior affiliates “were more likely” to leave their existing communities.

“Without coordinated supervision and decision-making by MLB, it is likely that more Minor League affiliates will leave their current communities for a better player development environment, and fewer — not more — MLB-affiliated Minor League clubs exist in the future,” he wrote. Manfred.

Manfred’s position on antitrust exemption appears to have evolved. At the All-Star break, Manfred told reporters that he “can’t think of a place where the exemption would be meaningful, other than transferring the franchise.”

On July 18, the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah, asked the League to explain the potential impact of stripping the league of exemption. Antitrust of Minor Leagues.

Durbin released a statement Friday saying that Manfred’s letter only raises more questions about the treatment of young dropouts.

“Commissioner Manfred’s response to our bipartisan request for information raises more questions than it answers, and the discrepancies between today’s message and the reality experienced by minor league players reinforce the importance of the commission’s bipartisan review of baseball’s century-old antitrust exemption,” Durbin said. “We need to make sure that MLB steps up to the level when it comes to the fair treatment of players and communities, which is why the Judicial Committee is planning an upcoming hearing on this issue.”

In 1922, the Supreme Court ruled to exempt MLB from the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, allowing the league to have an effective monopoly on baseball in the United States.

In a 17-page document, Manfred argued that the league should maintain its current player development system because it already spends $1 billion a year to support minors, who are not making a profit and are supported by MLB teams. This allows teams to offer lower ticket prices and stay in areas that cannot “economically support a professional baseball team.”

In 2021, MLB teams generated combined revenue of $9.56 billion. The combined net worth of MLB owners is $96.55 billion, according to Statista.

Manfred stated that the business interruption did not affect the operations of the minor leagues. In addition, Manfred said that junior players should sign the uniform player contract because it is “the product of collective bargaining with the players’ union.”

A uniform player contract signed by each junior player states that teams control players’ rights for up to seven years in minor tournaments and seven years in major tournaments. Because of the antitrust exemption, if a minor player decides to stop playing the sport before seven years have passed in minors or majors, the team owns the player’s rights and cannot play the sport professionally elsewhere unless they are released from a contract.

As a result of the antitrust exemption, baseball players who sign the uniformed player contract cannot seek better pay elsewhere. Currently, players earn at least $700 in Triple-A, $600 in Double-A, $500 in Single-A, and $400 in Complex tournaments. Six teams, according to Advocates for Minor Leaguers, don’t pay players for extended spring training. In 2022, young retirees will have a minimum annual salary of $4,800 to $15,400. The US Federal Poverty Guideline for a single person in most states in 2022 is $13,590.

Players also receive signing bonuses ranging from $1,000 to $8 million earned by Gerrit Cole in the 2011 draft.

In mid-July, Manfred stated at the All-Star Game that he “refuses[s] hypothesis that [minor leaguers] They don’t get a living wage,” which sparked a wave of criticism.

Manfred said when asked if the owners couldn’t afford to pay the junior tie more money or simply chose not to pay them. “We have made real strides in the last few years in terms of what junior league players get paid, even putting aside the signing bonuses that many of them already have. They are receiving housing, which is another form of compensation. I just dismiss the premise of this question. I don’t know. What to say about it.”

Additionally in the letter, Manfred said the MLB would not be able to enforce housing, training standards, health insurance benefits, pension benefits, daily meals, integrity policies, and the number of subsidiaries and exclusive territories of minor leagues without excluding antitrust and for which small leagues are subject to scrutiny. Antitrust will not benefit the fans because some teams may decide to reduce the number of affiliates in the minor league if they cannot delegate the four that are currently required.

“There may also be fewer — not more — games being made by each Minor League affiliate because some clubs will choose to provide players with more rest and training time during the season, rather than actual game experience, during their development period,” he said. .

But that sentiment is not held by every major league team. A Major League Soccer general manager said younger players would benefit from a pay increase because their internal studies showed that players’ life conditions evolve into better baseball players when they are better compensated.

“I think they should have a union to negotiate better salaries,” the association’s general manager said. “It would also eliminate the bureaucracy that exists in implementing things like the Small League housing policy that does not uniformly apply well to each individual’s situation.”

Manfred also stated that the antitrust exemption allows the university to investigate and sanction market misconduct for international prospects that leads to teen abuse of performance-enhancing drugs to re-deal with scouts and coaches.

Major League Baseball has also previously lobbied for Save America’s Pastime Act — which aims to exempt junior runners from minimum wage and maximum hourly requirements — noting that it would prevent a minor league contraction. However, 42 minor league teams lost affiliation with the MLB prior to the 2020 season. When asked how the downturn would affect minor leagues, Manfred said business conditions had improved and allowed the league to mandate reduced travel for teams and argued that minor leagues would become less convenient for players, fans and communities without Its ability to impose standards on minor leagues and that paying junior employees the hours they work for salaried employees would be detrimental to the game.

“[Minor leaguers] “They are not allowed to do work outside their schedule without consent, and they are not paid for days or periods when they don’t work,” Manfred told the Los Angeles Times. Such a system is incompatible with highly competitive fields such as acting and music, sports or other creative or recreational activities in which the chance of success is slim but the potential reward is great.”

The letter marks the second legal response from Major League Baseball in July that addresses the minor leagues. On July 15, MLB agreed to pay $185 million to settle a federal lawsuit brought by a minor league that sought compensation for minimum wage violations and overtime by teams.