Baseball

A Minor League Baseball Bailout Would Be a Major Mistake

Taxpayers already spend millions to build minor league ballparks. Sen. Richard Blumenthal thinks they should financially support the teams, too.

|

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D–Conn.) picked the perfect place to pitch a taxpayer-funded bailout for minor league baseball: A stadium that taxpayers already paid $66 million to build.

But now, Blumenthal says, more must be given to those who have already received so much. During a Monday press conference at Dunkin' Donuts Park in Hartford, Connecticut, Blumenthal said he would push for Congress to send $500 million to minor league clubs that are "on the verge of bankruptcy."

"Minor league baseball is in peril," Blumenthal said, according to the Hartford Courant.

"We need to come to their aide," he said. "We did it for restaurants, theater, live music. Baseball deserves it as much."

Blumenthal's not wrong about the financial problems that plague some minor league teams, but that's hardly a compelling reason for taxpayers to pick up the cost—especially when Blumenthal and others in Congress have opposed efforts by the baseball industry to address those issues privately.

The minor leagues did not play at all during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even though Major League Baseball managed to squeeze in a 60-game season and playoffs late last summer. This year, minor league teams are beginning their seasons today—a month later than usual—but there will be fewer teams playing than in 2019. That's because MLB finally went through with a much-debated plan to reduce the number of affiliated minor league clubs that are used by major league teams to develop talent. Previously, each of the 30 MLB clubs had five or six minor league affiliates. Now, each will have just four.

It's a move that's meant to save the big-league clubs money, as it means paying fewer minor league ballplayers and financially supporting fewer clubs. Even though minor league teams are owned and operated mostly independently of their MLB parent organizations, the much richer big-league clubs provide a steady stream of revenue to their farm teams.

Blumenthal was one of several senators to object to MLB's plan to trim its list of official minor league affiliates. At a February 2020 press conference, he called the plan "unconscionable and inexcusable." Previously, he had called on Congress to revoke MLB's antitrust exemption (which isn't a bad idea on the merits) to punish the organization for its plans to cut some minor league teams.

But there's an obvious intellectual inconsistency here. In Blumenthal's ideal world, MLB should be forced to continue to operate more money-losing minor league teams and taxpayers should be forced to bail out those money-losing minor league teams.

Here's a better idea: maybe members of Congress should mind their own business and let baseball teams and leagues sort out their own finances.

Minor league baseball serves an important function to MLB as a way to evaluate young players and develop talent, so it's unlikely that the parent organizations would simply let their minor league teams go bankrupt. There is no need for the government to get involved—beyond allowing as many fans as possible to attend the games. That's the best lifeline for financially struggling teams.

It's bad enough that taxpayers are routinely and continuously put on the hook for the construction costs of privately owned baseball stadiums at every level. Study after study after study has debunked the idea that publicly funded stadiums are financially beneficial to anyone other than the team owners, who get free infrastructure for their business.

Blumenthal's plan would double down on that waste by asking taxpayers—many of whom would likely never choose to spend their money on tickets to minor league baseball games—to pay even more.

NEXT: Americans Oppose Deportations, Remain Skeptical About Asylum Seekers

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Minor league baseball is in peril,” Blumenthal said

    BECAUSE NOBODY CARES ABOUT MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL.

    1. “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
      – Ronald Reagan

      1. JOB FOR USA Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much SDW better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
        on this page…..VISIT HERE

  2. Blumenthal is looking forward to throwing out the first pitch on “Vietnam Veterans” day.

  3. Baseball should not get another dime until they reverse the blatantly racist move of the all star game to the ‘whites only’ area of Colorado.
    Then they should pay the wages and lost profits to the workers and businesses of Atlanta.
    Then they should go out of business in shame.

    1. Baseball should not get another dime until they reverse the blatantly racist move of the all star game to the ‘whites only’ area of Colorado.

      Wait, what? I know that part of Denver has gentrified quite a bit in the last 20 years, but Five Points and areas east are still heavily occupied by black residents, and the north side across the highway/South Platte is still majority Hispanic.

      1. 90% white, according to the infallible press.

        1. Denver is 50% non-Hispanic white, 30% Hispanic, 10% black, 10% other.

  4. how is Blumenthal still a thing?

    1. Connecticut is a strange place.

  5. I know the minor leagues exist, but I’ll be damned if I’ve ever watched a game or know the teams. Nobody cares. Maybe that was a thing 100 years ago. Anyway professional sports sucks.

  6. What about supporting professional cornhole players as well, and how appropriate for Democrats to do.

  7. The beginning of May has been for years when the ~100-game-season independent club leagues like the Can-Am started playing. Just sayin’.

    1. Not to be “That Guy”, but the Can-Am League no longer exists. It merged with/into The Frontier League in October 2019.

  8. Hell, everyone else is gettin’ some. What another $Billion$Trillion$ here or there?

  9. Was he in ‘Nam with Howard Stern?

  10. In Blumenthal’s ideal world, MLB should be forced to continue to operate more money-losing minor league teams and taxpayers should be forced to bail out those money-losing minor league teams.

    I don’t think you remotely understand what ending the anti-trust exemption means. It means that MLB can no longer operate a minor league system with unpaid players and a blacklist. It means that MLB cannot negotiate a geographic monopoly with media that undermines potential/new competitor leagues. It means MLB would not be able to hold a draft that forces players into being unable to negotiate a baseball contract with anyone else in future years. It means MLB would not be able to extort taxpayers into building a stadium with the threat of also leaving town and preventing any new team from entering that town/stadium.

    There’s a ton of shittiness and corruption about what Blumenthal is proposing now. Tells me he never had any intention of eliminating the anti-trust exemption but only in wetting his beak.

  11. I love me some baseball (GO ROYALS!) but building stadiums with public money is dumb. Bailing out minor league teams is dumb. The only thing that “needs” to be done is for the government to get out of the way and allow these clubs to operate normally. It’s been a month since the Rangers were packed to the rafters for opening day. Numbers in Texas continue to decline. Baseball is about as “safe” an activity as there is. You’re outside, in the sunshine.

    1. Or inside, in the LED glow, depending on which team is ‘home’.

      1. I THINK that the Rays are the only team that plays 100% indoors at home, but not positive. Most teams at least have an open-air roof.

        1. And the Rays could open at 100% capacity and still put 800 people in the seats.

  12. What Blumenthal is getting at is this long-held notion in some circles that professional sports teams are community property rather than owned by people who can afford them. Because the post-WW2 era has seen so much population migration throughout the country, sports teams are about the only common denominator providing any kind of community bonding experience. That’s why there’s so much heartburn whenever a team relocates and why public funding of these stadiums to begin with are so controversial.

    What he’s essentially proposing under the threat of an anti-trust exemption is that these teams should be owned by the city or in a public trust, with the “owner” as a de facto city employee who operates like the department head of some government bureaucracy. This is stupid for its own reasons, but there’s one really easy way for these teams to avoid it–pay for their own sports facilities, stop getting public funding to build them, and pay market value for the land instead of getting sweetheart lease deals from civically insecure city council members.

    If you want to get in bed with the government, you’re going to dance to their tune, one way or the other.

    1. Thank you for bringing up the anti trust exemption which among other things allows Minor League players to not be paid the minimum wage (for those without a large signing bonus). Asking for government money while operating under a government loophole, in largely government funded stadiums is high hypocrisy. End the Anti-Trust Exemption, get MLB to buy those stadia and then let MLB operate the minor leagues how they wish.

  13. minor league baseball under the AAA level is dying or about to be dead..Div 1 College Teams are more competitive than the old single A ball and in many cases better than most AA teams. And as small towns and cities have been destroyed by “globalism” no one goes to the small little stadiums to see single A ball. But no subsidizes for any sports team…besides the only real sport left in the US is MMA..Dana White should be President…great man…great man

    1. College teams would get destroyed by a double-a team. The best college players *might* start their pro careers in double-a after they get drafted and the vast majority of their college teammates don’t get drafted at all.

  14. Shaw webmail has lot of information
    shaw webmail

  15. I want to know Wait, what? I know that part of Denver has gentrified quite a bit in the last 20 years, but Five Points and areas east are still heavily occupied by black residents, and
    https://wapexclusive.com , the north side across the highway/South Platte is still majority Hispanic. This is serious,

  16. …and the root of the problem once again.
    Ignoring those Gov-Guns that threaten the people to pay for something the [WE] mob wants for *free*.

  17. Not to be “That Guy”, but the Can-Am League no longer exists. It merged with/into The Frontier League in October 2019.

  18. Blumenthal voted for HR 1625. He already did his part to save Minor League Baseball by dumping the Democrats’ sacred cow of wage protections for the players in favor of MLB owners.

  19. Were the Yard Goats being led to the slaughter? Is that why Blumenthal wants a subsidy for MiLB?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.