For about two months, a proposal to eliminate 42 Minor League Baseball teams from Major League Baseball’s affiliation agreement has simmered on the minds of baseball lovers across the country, including in Ogden.
That’s because the Ogden Raptors and all seven of its fellow Pioneer League teams are on the chopping block as part of a proposal Major League Baseball says is about cutting costs, eliminating undesirable travel and keeping its players out of subpar playing conditions.
The list of teams in the crosshairs to lose Major League affiliation after 2020 is almost entirely comprised of those that play in short-season leagues at the lower levels of Minor League Baseball.
As lawmakers across the country get involved to prevent a wholesale whacking of professional baseball from cities across the country, Raptors team president and partial owner Dave Baggott punched back in a video posted Wednesday to the team’s Facebook page, saying the Raptors are “going nowhere” as he attempted to “clarify the rumors floating around the future” of the baseball team he helped bring to Ogden in 1994.
“Please note that negotiations between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball are very early and nothing has been decided,” Baggott says in the video. “Minor League Baseball stands firm in its commitment to provide 160 affiliated teams to baseball fans across the country beyond the 2020 season. We have a great negotiating team that I completely trust. I’m confident that we will survive this scare.”
In the video, Baggott says the idea of increased costs and poor facilities is a “made-up excuse,” alleging that Major League Baseball visited and surveyed all 160 minor league parks last year and, using new, secretive criteria, determined each one of them failed to meet their standards — including the new $100 million park in Las Vegas.
Monetarily, it’s a shuffling of resources that takes the money paid to players assigned to those 42 teams and redistributes it to players at higher levels, hoping to address concerns over low pay to the large percentage of minor leaguers who don’t get massive signing bonuses.
“So they would rather disconnect grassroots baseball from millions of Major League Baseball fans so they can save approximately $600,000 per team,” Baggott says in the video.
The plan is credited in its genesis to the Houston Astros, a franchise recently in hot water for using cameras to steal signs during games and for a front-office member targeting female reporters, some of whom were previously critical of the team trading for a player under suspension for domestic violence.
“It is my opinion that all baseball operations people hate this contraction idea. In fact, most baseball ops people want more kids in their systems, not less,” Baggott said.
Baggott was in a contingent of MiLB representatives and team owners who met in Washington D.C. with members of Congress, which resulted in 103 representatives writing and signing a letter sent in “firm opposition” of the “radical proposal” to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. Those who signed the letter include Utah Congressmen Rob Bishop and Chris Stewart.
“The abandonment of Minor League clubs by Major League Baseball would devastate our communities, their bond purchasers, and other stakeholders affected by the potential loss of these clubs. We want you to fully understand the impact this could have not only on the communities we represent, but also on the long-term support that Congress has always afforded our national pastime on a wide variety of legislative initiatives,” the letter reads.
“For over a century, Congress has taken numerous actions specifically designed to protect, preserve, and sustain a system and structure for both Major and Minor League Baseball to flourish.”
If the “insanity” plays out as proposed, Baggott said that, aside from lawsuits filed by all 42 teams and their municipalities, the Raptors will play professional baseball at Lindquist Field in 2021 and beyond, whether as an independent team or “affiliated like we all want.”
“Mayor (Mike) Caldwell and Ogden City has our back on this and I’m so grateful for their support,” Baggott said.
The Raptors are coming off their best regular season in franchise history, compiling a historic 54-22 record and reaching a new attendance high at 146,201 across 38 home games.
Baggott urged fans to “keep packing Lindquist Field” lest an attendance decline is used as ammo against the team in the contraction battle, and to use social media to “tell people what the ballpark and the Raptors mean to you.”
Ogden’s 2020 season, in which the Raptors are still under contract as an affiliated minor league team of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is scheduled to begin June 19 with a six-game homestand against the Rocky Mountain Vibes and Grand Junction Rockies.