Since minor league contraction talks began, we knew that a legal battle would ensue. Minor League tams weren't going to sit back and be cut down without fighting for their livelihood. This past week, the first shots were finally fired. After the New York Yankees dumped their class A short season affiliate, the minor leagues are fighting back.
Here's a link to the main story from Baseball America. The "evil empire" New York Yankees are being sued by the Staten Island Yankees for at least $160 million due to a broken promise where they were allegedly told they'd always be a Yankee partner. The exactitudes of that agreement aren't explicitly stated, but obviously the Staten Island group thinks they have grounds.
The Staten Island Yankees have been a NYY affiliate since 1999. They were a Class A short season team. Due to the proximity to New York City, their team and venue was often used by the MLB club for rehab assignments. Their stadium was so close to the city that it featured an outfield view of the New York City skyline. One would think that with that kind of proximity, the big league team would have more of an interest in keeping them around.
It will be an interesting case to watch. I'm no former lawyer turned blogger, but there are specifics to the case that will likely apply towards other teams.
The promise that the Staten Island team would forever be linked to the NYY. I hope they got that in writing. Minor league partnership agreements typically just last 2 or 4 years. Maybe a Steinbrenner pinky swore?
$160 million for an asking price? Few minor league teams have a revenue over $10m annually. I'm not sure where $160m comes from. It sure does sound like a lot, even if that's a typically a Yankee MLB payroll. Is that the overall value of a minor league team in NYC? Will other cut teams be seeking some kind of buyout?
I'm going to assume that both sides are lawyering up drastically. Can an MILB afford the same lawyers the Steinbrenner's can? Unfortunately it's probably going to turn into a drawn out holdout, and the MILB side who just missed out on a season's worth of income might not have a lot to blow on lengthy legal fight.
This case will likely be a trendsetter for many other MILB teams. As MLB teams provide the MILB teams with players and coaches with paid salaries, the minor league teams just have to provide the games they play. If MLB teams pull their players, then all of the sudden the MILB has a complete lack of on field product. Minor League Baseball might not have much of a choice if MLB just doesn't give them players.
It's worth noting that in 2006, Owners of a 51% share of the Staten Island team tried selling their share for $5million. A far cry from $160m, even if that was nearly 15 years ago. While minor league teams obviously do not make as much as an MLB team, there's still a lot of money out there. Baseball is still a business and will still continue on.