More “baseball on the cheap”
Representative McKinley and now Senator Capito are concerned about the future of minor league baseball. What about Bob Nutting and the Wheeling Intelligencer?
From The Hill:
Congress and MLB are barreling toward a showdown over the league’s plans to eliminate 42 minor league franchises across the country ahead of the 2021 season.
The league insists the plan is needed to improve the finances of minor league baseball and conditions for developing players. But MLB is facing opposition from the general public and a broad coalition of lawmakers from both parties who say closing those teams would devastate communities in their districts.
West Virginia will definitely be affected by the move. Among the 42 teams are:
• The Princeton Rays (Appalachian League)
• The West Virginia Power (South Atlantic League) in Morgantown
• The Bluefield Blue Jays (Appalachian League)
Local congressman David McKinley, to his credit, expressed concern last year when the plan was first announced; he also helped organize the bipartisan “Save Minor League Baseball Task Force.”
Realizing the potential for good publicity in an election year, West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito recently got involved and yesterday introduced a bi-partisan resolution:
A bipartisan group of senators introduced a resolution Thursday urging Major League Baseball to abandon a plan to slash the number of affiliated minor league clubs, which has garnered harsh criticism on Capitol Hill.
Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal and West Virginia Republican Shelley Moore Capito teamed up to lead the effort, which follows similar House action.
Senator Capito appears to be a bit late to the ball game. I did a web search on “Capito + minor league baseball” and it lists nothing before last week. Regardless, the senator certainly wouldn’t want to miss a great photo opportunity:
I toured the @BluefieldJays’ facilities just last week to discuss just how much Minor League Baseball affects the economy and pride of towns across the country. Read the resolution: https://t.co/bclRMKRTBa pic.twitter.com/SocSyRtvOZ— Shelley Moore Capito (@SenCapito) February 27, 2020
What about our local “newspapers”?
What have our local Ogden papers had to say about MLB’s plan to eliminate three West Virginia minor league baseball teams? Nothing that I could find*. Using their online search engine produced zero articles/columns/editorials about MLB’s efforts to eliminate 42 minor league teams. Maybe our local papers’ lack of coverage has something to do with the papers’ owner, Robert Nutting, who also owns the Pittsburgh Pirates. As I’ve written previously, Nutting runs his baseball team in the same way he runs his papers – as cheaply as possible with little or no incentive to improve the product if it means spending money.
Neil Demause writing in Slate makes a similar point in discussing this issue:
There is one huge benefit to the league killing teams en masse as opposed to each MLB club making life-or-death decisions separately: It means that every team can cut costs without worrying that its competitors will gobble up more potential big league players, as Rickey did with the Cardinals 90 years ago. “The point of a cartel is to coordinate cooperative behavior,” notes [Stanford University economist Roger] Noll, “to help members ignore the incentive to compete.”
This makes sense to me. As I argued last summer, Nutting has figured out a way to make money by not competing – it’s “baseball on the cheap.” By this logic, baseball’s jettisoning of unprofitable minor league teams (which exist to develop players rather than make money) simply translates to more profit.
Finally, contrast this lack of coverage with how our local papers covered and even editorialized for an integrity fee that states with sports betting ought to be paying to the sports leagues. It was not surprising that in none of those articles, editorials, or columns was there a mention that the owner of their paper stood to gain millions with the implementation of such a fee. (That’s not surprising as the papers’ readers already know; the terms “full disclosure” is a foreign term locally.)
*Ogden’s newspaper empire mostly consists of papers that serve small cities like Wheeling. Not surprisingly, a few of these cities are scheduled to lose their minor league team. While I could not find anything about minor league baseball’s contraction in our local papers, I did discover articles and editorials in a few of the Ogden papers. Perhaps absence of a team explains the locals’ lack of coverage. I doubt it – not when two of their favorite politicians are making a big deal out of it.