MLB sued by former affiliates over minor league cuts
NEW YORK — Four minor league teams that lost their big league affiliations before the 2021 season have filed an antitrust lawsuit against Major League Baseball, using a law firm that has represented players’ unions.
Parent companies of the Staten Island Yankees, TriCity Valley Cats, Norwich Sea Unicorns and SalemKeizer Volcanoes filed suit Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, accusing the baseball commissioner’s office of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act.
MLB ended the Professional Baseball Agreement that governed the relationship between the majors and minors in late 2020, after minor league seasons were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Affiliates were cut from a minimum of 160 to 120, the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues that had governed the minors since 1901 was shut down and MLB took over operation of the minors. “The takeover plan is nothing less than a naked, horizontal agreement to cement MLB’s dominance over all professional baseball,” the lawsuit said. “There is no plausible procompetitive justification for this anticompetitive agreement.”
The suit alleged MLB made decisions to retain minor league teams based on whether they were owned by parent clubs or had political ownership, citing Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s interest in North Carolina’s Class A Asheville Tourists.
MLB said at the time that the changes would cut travel and improve conditions for minor leaguers. The league had no immediate comment Monday.
Staten Island was a Yankees’ affiliate, Norwich (Connecticut) a Detroit farm team and Tri-City (Troy, New York) a Houston affiliate, all in the short-season New York/Penn League, and Salem-Keizer (Oregon) was a San Francisco farm team in the short-season Northwest League.