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Small cities fight back against MLB proposal to cut minor league teams

A baseball pitcher throws the ball.
Reggie Lawson of the Peoria Javelinas. Photo: Buck Davidson/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Small cities around the country are fighting a Major League Baseball restructuring proposal that would cut the league's association with 42 minor league teams, AP reports.

Why it matters: The cities argue that the teams are a vital part of their communities — and some have invested significant municipal funds in stadium construction and upgrades to draw in fans.

The big picture: MLB is renegotiating its agreement — the current one is set to expire in 2020 — with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.

  • The minor leagues' current 176 teams that are affiliated with the NAPBL attracted 41.5 million fans this year.

What they're saying: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote that the plan "would be an absolute disaster for baseball fans, workers and communities throughout the country" in a letter he sent to MLB commissioner Robert Manfred Jr.

  • Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), whose district could lose a team based in Norwich, urged MLB officials to abandon the proposal in a bipartisan letter signed by 103 of his colleagues.

The other side: In a letter sent to Congress, the league said dozens of minor league teams do not have proper training and medical facilities, locker rooms and playing fields.

  • MLB deputy commissioner Daniel Halem wrote that "the majority of major league club owners believe that there are too many players in the minor league system."

Go deeper: Labor unrest lurks as free agency begins in the MLB