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Staten Island Yankees, Mets' Binghamton minor-league team could be de-affiliated

Logos for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, the identity

Logos for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, the identity of the Mets' Double-A affiliate. Credit: Twitter.com/@MiLBPromos

ARLINGTON, Texas — Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred mostly confirmed Thursday that the leaked list of 42 minor-league teams that potentially could be de-affiliated was correct — including one member each of the Mets' and Yankees' farm systems — but further clarified that MLB still has not reached an agreement with Minor League Baseball on the matter.

In what is billed as a vast restructuring of the minor leagues, Manfred said they are proposing to de-affiliate dozens of teams in the lower levels, ranging from rookie ball to Double-A — a list that includes the Staten Island Yankees, the Yankees' short-season Class A team, and the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, the Mets' Double-A affiliate.

Manfred confirmed that MLB provided the list to MiLB president Pat O'Conner and said that O'Conner leaked the names of the affected teams, which was later printed in The New York Times.

"We provided to Pat O'Conner [the list] at his request — with an assurance that he would keep it confidential, which he subsequently broke — a list of facilities that we felt needed to be upgraded, and if they couldn't be upgraded, that we were not prepared to operate," Manfred said.

The New York Times' list had 42 teams; Manfred repeatedly said it is 40 teams. Either way, the teams in question run the risk of being de-affiliated and then either liquidating or becoming independent. Another 120 teams would remain at "status quo," he said.

Yankees president Randy Levine defended the Staten Island Yankees' facility in a statement and said negotiations still are very much underway. Levine was on hand for this year's owners' meetings, but Hal Steinbrenner did not attend them.

"There are negotiations currently taking place between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball," the statement said. " We have been assured today that there have been no decisions made regarding the elimination of the Staten Island Yankees. We support the Staten Island Yankees and their facility, and people should give the negotiations a chance to conclude before speculating on any outcome.”

Manfred said four major issues factored into the proposal:

 (1) A number of teams had inadequate facilities, "simply not appropriate for professional baseball players." This included small locker rooms, inadequate showers, and, at times, no places for players to eat or work out.

(2) Since 1990, 77 franchises have moved, leading to an untenable travel schedule, often completed with hours on school buses.

(3) The minor-league players who remain need to be paid better.

(4) There are players who are being drafted and signed who don't have a realistic opportunity to make it to the big leagues.

Minor League Baseball told MLB that they saw "all four of those problems as your problems," Manfred said. "[Minor League Baseball] would like to keep the tens of millions of dollars in profit [they] make every year . . . I'm not sure why Major League Baseball should pay to fix a facility that the minor-league operators tell you can't be fixed. It doesn't make a lot of sense from our perspective, so we thought about an alternative."

Previously, O'Conner told The New York Times that his "job is to save baseball in all 42 of those communities" — further highlighting how great the schism has become. And, in a few instances Thursday, Manfred indicated his frustration with the process and, by extension, Minor League Baseball.

"I have preferred to do my business in the room and I think the current swirl surrounding the minor leagues is another example of people not doing business in the room and trying to get public about it," he said. "We went to the minor leagues and we explained [our position] to them, I think, very reasonably."

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