In an unmistakable signal that MiLB is no longer negotiating for its survival—just its surrender—MiLB President Pat O’Conner has resigned.
The move comes after O’Conner had changed negotiating teams three times in roughly the space of three weeks last month. As BA noted in its story, the unmistakable signal from both MLB and MiLB owners was that O’Conner’s push to retain his power and MiLB’s independence was the proverbial sticking point.
All that remains is for the billionaires to haggle with the millionaires over how they will exploit the players and extort the cities and counties going forward.
MLB will undoubtedly thank O’Conner for his service, as BA did, while asking him to make sure the MiLB employees and the offices in St. Petersburg are both packed up and cleaned out.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR FANS OF MINOR-LEAGUE BASEBALL?
That remains to be seen. Much will depend on how willing MLB is to assume ownership of the franchises (a.k.a. teams). I believe some MiLB owners will want to sell and some MLB organizations will want to buy, while others will be content to continue with a functional equivalent.
The tipping point will probably be how expensive the upgrades will be. While some folks believe that cities and counties will be falling all over themselves to retain affiliation, ignorant of the most severe economic downturn since the 1930s, what’s more likely is that MiLB owners will be told by cities and counties to “pay for it yourself” because the money is simply not there.
This is where BA has suggested that MLB will intervene and pay for those upgrades in exchange for an ownership stake, a percentage of fees, or both. Again, the extent of those upgrades has been kept secret from so it’s really impossible to speculate further. And that’s assuming that the upgrades weren’t just a negotiation ploy.
About the only thing that seems certain is that the minors as we knew them are gone.