MLB, minors term talks constructive, stop sniping for now

Sports

In this March 31, 2016, file photo, Elias Ruiz, front right, and Steven Woytysiak, both from C&H Baseball, help install a 35-foot-high safety netting that runs behind home plate and along the length of each dugout at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C. While Major League Baseball tries to figure out a way to play this summer, the prospects for anything resembling a normal minor league season are looking increasingly bleak. For minor league communities across the country, looking forward to cheap hot dogs, fuzzy mascot hugs and various theme nights, it’s a small slice of a depressing picture. (Whitney Keller/The Herald-Sun via AP, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — The tone of talks for a new agreement governing the relationship between baseball’s major and minor leagues took a positive turn when the bickering sides met electronically for about an hour and later issued a joint statement that termed the session “constructive.”

Negotiators for the governing body of the minor leagues asked questions during Wednesday’s session about what the administrative structure would be if Major League Baseball takes over their operation next year, a person familiar with the talks told The Associated Press.

MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem did most of the talking during the one-hour electronic meeting, the person said, speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.

“The parties are continuing their discussions, with the goal of concluding a mutually beneficial long-term agreement in the near future,” the sides said in a joint statement Thursday.

The sides did not address MLB’s proposal to cut the minimum total of affiliated minor league teams to 120, the person said. That is the most contentious issue in talks to replace the Professional Baseball Agreement that expires after this season.

The minor leagues are prepared to agree to MLB’s proposal, two people familiar with the talks had told the AP on Tuesday. The development was first reported by Baseball America.

No date was set for the next meeting.

Until now, the concept of a joint statement in these talks was inconceivable. The National Association hired lobbyists to push Congress to support minor league teams in their fight to keep affiliations. But the coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down sports in the U.S., cut off revenue and changed the dynamic of a long-term fight.

A radical overhaul of minor league governance would change the relationship between majors and minors that was established in September 1903 by the National Agreement for the Government of Professional Base Ball Clubs. That deal called for National League, American League and National Association teams to respect each other’s contracts.

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