Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wants to “develop the framework for a more cohesive and efficient model” for the minor leagues. That will include slashing 25 percent of minor league franchises. Associated Press/LM Otero

Minor league baseball is in for a major shake-up, with teams already being eliminated.

But all seems calm for the Portland Sea Dogs front office. The staff is back working (and socially distancing) at Hadlock Field

“We are planning and preparing for the 2021 season as we normally would be this time of year,” said Geoff Iacuessa, the Sea Dogs president and general manager.

Normally, the Sea Dogs would be planning for the opening day of ticket sales – usually the first Saturday of November. But no date for sales has been announced.

One reason for that is no schedule has been announced.

Iacuessa said the schedule cannot be approved until there is an agreement between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball – which officially is called the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, which had governed the minor league teams.


But the days of the NAPBL seem numbered.

Major League Baseball is flexing its muscle and taking over.

On Sept. 29, MLB announced that the Appalachian League – an advanced rookie league of 10 teams – would be converted to a summer collegiate league in conjunction with USA Baseball, the governing body of amateur baseball. The Minor League Baseball office was not mentioned in the announcement.

The move is the beginning of MLB’s quest to reduce the minor league landscape by 25 percent, from 160 to 120 teams. Other advanced rookie and short-season leagues (including the New York-Penn League, which has the Red Sox-affiliated Lowell Spinners) seem destined be converted, as well – to either collegiate or independent pro leagues.

On Sept. 30, the contract between MLB and Minor League Baseball expired. The minor league office in St. Petersburg, Florida, sent out a press release saying that negotiations continued for a new agreement.

Major League Baseball’s statement was telling: “We intend to work with Minor League owners to grow the game by building a new model …” Notice the talks are with owners, not with the Minor League Baseball office.


On Wednesday, Major League Baseball announced that Minor League Baseball would transition to New York, where MLB is headquartered. Commissioner Rob Manfred hired his own people to “help develop the framework for a more cohesive and efficient model.”

Signs of MLB’s takeover surfaced last year with its contraction plan. It looked like Minor League Baseball might put up a fight, but the coronavirus pandemic and canceling of the 2020 minor league season put a financial strain on many minor league teams. Pat O’Conner, Minor League Baseball’s CEO, said over half of minor league teams would either have to sell or face bankruptcy. O’Conner announced his retirement a month ago, with no successor named.

While there are struggling teams, the Sea Dogs have maintained their solvency, avoiding layoffs, and paying their gameday employees throughout the season.

Now it is onto 2021.

The lack of an official agreement between MLB and the minor leagues “has not affected our day-to-day operation,” Iacuessa said. “While we are waiting for what the final details of the new (agreement) will be, we know the game-day experience for fans won’t impacted.”

The new agreement is likely to be official word of the MLB takeover, and the reduction of teams.


THE EASTERN LEAGUE is not in trouble, but at least one of its teams could be. The Mets-affiliated Binghamton Rumble Ponies, annually ranking at or near the bottom in attendance, might be moved to Brooklyn, site of the Mets’ popular New York-Penn League team. That move will likely affect the Sea Dogs schedule.

REDUCING THE number of minor league teams would help Major League Baseball pay its remaining minor leaguers a better salary.

Low pay in the minors has long been a point of contention and has resulted in a class action lawsuit by a group of players, claiming MLB violates minimum wage laws. MLB tried to get the lawsuit thrown out, but the U.S. Supreme Court denied MLB’s request in a ruling on Monday.

MLB may eventually have to pay back wages to minor leaguers.

For the future, MLB announced last January that it is bumping up salaries next year, ranging from a 38 percent to 72 percent increase, depending on the league. Double-A players, including the Sea Dogs, will get one of the biggest raises, from a salary of $350 a week to $600


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