COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has penned a three-page letter to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred to speak out against a proposal to disband 42 minor league teams across America.
DeWine called the plan "a horrible business decision," and quoted writers like Doris Kearns Goodwin and Horace L. Traubel to make his case. One of the teams supposedly on the chopping block is the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in Niles, and the governor wrote that losing them would have a tremendously negative impact on the region both from an economic and moral standpoint.
"The Scrappers play in a region of Ohio that has a long and storied baseball history," he wrote. "The culture is steeped in baseball, with numerous Major League Baseball players hailing from the area..."
Baseball America first reported the plan back in October, and besides eliminated both the Short-Season Class A (to which the Scrappers belong) and Rookie leagues it would also reshuffle the surviving 120 teams to be closer geographically. More than 100 Republican and Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives (including Northeast Ohio's Marcia L. Fudge, Dave Joyce, Marcy Kaptur, and Tim Ryan) recently signed a letter to the commissioner blasting the proposal, and U.S. Sen. and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has even threatened MLB with removal of its federal antitrust exemption should they not back down.
Manfred (who last year lobbied many of those same signatories to vote for a bill that prevented minor league players from earning higher salaries) responded by saying that the current minor league climate is not sustainable, and even threatened to eliminate the whole system altogether. In his own letter, DeWine called that statement "shocking, to say the least, and extremely disconcerting to anyone who loves baseball and understands the history of the Minor League Baseball structure that Ohioan Branch Rickey engineered."
The Scrappers are one of six minor league teams in Ohio, including the Akron RubberDucks and the Lake County Captains. All three of the Northeast Ohio teams are affiliated with the Cleveland Indians.
According to DeWine, Manfred himself said the minor leagues as a whole drew 41 million fans in the last year and the number is actually going up. The governor pleaded with the commissioner to fulfill his own promise to "make the game more accessible to those in undeserved areas" and even invited him to Niles for a Scrappers game.
MLB has noted that no reorganization plans have been finalized yet.