In a letter to the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, condemned the proposed elimination of dozens of minor league teams across the country.
The MLB is discussing a contraction that would mean the end for 42 teams in the minor league system, including New England's Vermont Lake Monsters, Lowell Spinners and Connecticut Tigers.
"Shutting down 25 percent of Minor League Baseball teams, as you have proposed, would be an absolute disaster for baseball fans, workers and communities throughout the country," Sanders, a candidate seeking the Democratic nomination for president, wrote Monday in a letter to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. "Not only would your extreme proposal destroy thousands of jobs and devastate local economies, it would be terrible for baseball."
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Sanders' letter follows another sent to Manfred by 105 bipartisan lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, and Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Massachusetts, were among the signatories of that letter, which alleged that "the abandonment of Minor League clubs by Major League Baseball would devastate our communities, their bond purchasers, and other stakeholders."
In a statement to the New York Times, the MLB said its proposal was part of an effort to keep facilities up to standards and improve working conditions for players. Sanders tied the proposal to mounting calls for living wages for minor league players, who he noted make as little as $1,160 a month — below the federal minimum wage.
"Let's be clear. Your proposal to slash the number of minor league teams has nothing to do with what is good for baseball, but it has everything to do with greed. Your proposal to throw about 1,000 ball players out of work comes less than three months after an appeals court ruled that Minor League Baseball players could move forward with a class action lawsuit seeking higher wages," Sanders wrote. "In other words, instead of paying Minor League Baseball players a living wage, it appears that the multi-millionaire and billionaire owners of Major League Baseball would rather throw them out on the street no matter how many fans, communities and workers get hurt in the process."