By Jeremy Donovan
When people ask me who my football (hockey or basketball) team is, I answer: The Mets. I always get a confused look and, “ummm, they’re not a football (hockey or basketball) team.” Yes. I’m aware. But for me, there is no other sport than baseball worth dedicating a significant of time to watch and follow on a regular basis. I love baseball. It’s poetry in motion. It’s art on a diamond. The game, at its core, is perfect. Why do I love baseball?
I love baseball in part, because I played it, in some form from three years old on. I love baseball because I grew up with the game. Since 1992, when I was four years old, my hometown of Binghamton has had the privilege of having the Double-A affiliate of the New York Mets. While I can’t put a number on how many games I’ve attended, it’s easily in the thousands. I always say I grew up in Section 12. I’ve met lifelong friends who I call my “summer uncles” and “summer aunts.” I’ve spent several summers working for the team in different capacities and even when I was a member of the local media I covered the team religiously throughout the summer. Even now, I’m at dozens of games each year taking pictures. I’ve seen the likes of David Wright, Jose Reyes, 2x Cy Young Winner Jacob deGrom, Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso, and hundreds of other Mets stars come through Binghamton. Those in the visiting dugout have been just as impressive: Madison Bumgarner, Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, Torii Hunter, to name just a few.
The B-Mets/Rumble Ponies have often been the subject of relocation rumors. In 2011/2012 they were moving to Ottawa. In 2015/2016 they were moving to Wilmington, DE. Neither of those, obviously, happened. Neither of those really ever scared me. I knew, somehow, that they were nothing more than rumors. But, now, I’m starting to get worried.
Major League Baseball’s and Minor League Baseball’s agreement expires at the end of the 2020 season and MLB wants to eliminate 42 MILB teams. Binghamton’s has been mentioned as one of those.
Why would MLB want to do this?
THEY SAY it’s to make travel easier for players. THEY SAY it’s to be able to afford to pay minor league players more. THEY SAY it’s to be able to have higher quality facilities throughout minor league baseball.
I SAY… greed.
Major League Baseball teams are owned by multi-millionaires or billionaires. All 30 MLB teams are worth at least $1 billion, according to the StadiumTalk article published in October of 2019. Why look to small town America and the grassroots origins of the sport and its fan base to level the playing field, or should I say bank accounts, of the league? Instead, why not focus on how to level out the league itself?
Last off-season, three players (Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado) signed contracts worth over a combined $1 billion. Are you kidding me? Of the four major North American sports leagues MLB is the only one that does not have a salary cap. The MLBPA is one of, if not the strongest labor union in the country and has fought a salary cap every time the CBA comes up. That’s their right. But I think the time has come to institute one. No one person is worth as much as some of these guys are making (players and owners alike). You want a level playing field? Force the $90 million payroll Rays to spend a set minimum and force the Yankees to spend under a set maximum.
The $400,000-$500,000 a year’s worth of salaries it takes for a full minor league roster are a drop in the bucket for these owners who pay some of their superstars that much for one base hit.
So, rather than try to fix the problem at the richest levels of the sport, the plan is to decimate communities that, for some, have had minor league teams for over a century.
Every year articles are written about how attendance numbers at major league games are in decline. “Baseball’s too slow.” “Baseball’s boring.” “Games take too long.” Do you want to know where games aren’t boring? In the minor leagues.
Between every inning there is no lack of entertainment. Between theme nights, games on the field, games on the video boards, crazy mascots, there’s something for everyone. The ballparks are smaller so no matter where you sit, you’re closer to the action. The players are young kids looking to make their marks. They aren’t spoiled, pampered celebrities. They’re willing to sign more autographs, take more selfies, and talk to the fans. Sometimes connections players make with fans in the minor leagues last them the rest of their lives regardless of if they never make it to the bigs or if they make it to the Hall of Fame.
It wasn’t until I was 10, 11 years old or so that I realized exactly what having a Double-A team in my hometown meant. “Hey, these guys that are playing for the New York Mets used to be B-Mets. I have to start watching the New York Mets more.” My mom grew up a Mets fan, so I came by it honestly, but having the B-Mets in town certainly didn’t hurt.
What would have happened to me if the B-Mets had never come to town in 1992? Would I have kept playing the game all through school, hoping, praying that I’d one day play in the big leagues at Shea Stadium? Would I get giddy with excitement every February when pitchers and catchers report to spring training and feel that excitement build up until it bursts with pure joy on Opening Day (both for MLB and in Binghamton)? Would I have even pursued a career in broadcasting with the original goal of eventually taking over for Gary Cohen calling Mets games on SNY? It may sound overly dramatic, but a large part of who I am today is because I grew up in a minor league baseball town. I liked the game as a young kid. I didn’t love the game until after I started regularly attending B-Mets games.
How many kids (or adults for that matter) will turn away from baseball after Commissioner Rob Manfred and the 30 MLB owners choose their wallets over the good of the sport and take a beloved team away from a passionate community? Worse yet, how many young kids will never be given the chance to fall in love with baseball because their local team disappeared before they even had the chance to discover it?
I applaud Minor League Baseball and its owners for its combined show of support and vow to fight this proposal.
I implore Rob Manfred and the MLB owners to look big picture at the long term ramifications of this plan and realize that in no way is this good for the sport. Stop thinking about your bottom line and think about the fans. Not your luxury box season ticket holders, the little guys. The ones that come to one, maybe two of your major league games a year, and it’s the highlight of their summer. The same fans that show up night in and night out to support players that some day might play for you in the bigs and others that will never even get a cup of coffee. Those fans sit through 30-degree April nights, 95-degree July afternoons. They sit through rain, snow, you name it. The minor leagues are the lifeblood of baseball. Don’t bleed yourself dry to save a few dollars.