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Majors let the clock run out on minor-league deal
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Majors let the clock run out on minor-league deal

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Its contract with Major League Baseball expired Wednesday, but the chair of the negotiating committee for Minor League Baseball remains hopeful a new agreement can be reached.

D.G. Elmore said his committee intends to continue to work to make that happen, hoping to preserve the connection between the governing bodies of major- and minor-league baseball that has existed since 1901.

“Minor League Baseball will continue to work in good faith over the coming weeks to reach a well-designed and fair agreement that meets MLB’s player development needs and continues the relationship between the two for generations to come,’’ Elmore said in a statement.

A 10-year extension of the Professional Baseball Agreement — the contract that binds Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball — expired on Wednesday. For the first time since 1990, a new deal has not been agreed to before the old contract ran out.

After months of inaction in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic which delayed the start of the major-league season and canceled the minor-league season in 2020, negotiations between the two groups have resumed in recent weeks.

At a time when major-league negotiators are seeking a major overhaul of the structure of the minors, proposing to eliminate as many as 42 existing teams, the future of minor-league clubs such as the Quad Cities River Bandits and Clinton LumberKings remains at stake.

Two of the oldest continuous franchises in the Midwest League, the Quad Cities club played its first game on the Davenport riverfront in 1960 while Clinton has fielded a team in the league since 1954.

River Bandits owner Dave Heller said last week he remains “completely confident’’ Quad Cities will retain a team in affiliated baseball into the future while LumberKings general manager Ted Tornow has said his organization holds onto the same hope despite being on a list of candidates for contraction.

Pointing out in 1990 no agreement was reached until the winter months, South Bend-based Midwest League president Richard Nussbaum told WSBT-TV he ultimately expects a new agreement to be reached, but added, “It’s just not gonna happen on Wednesday.’’

Nussbaum echoed Heller and Tornow in saying a lot of uncertainties continue to exist.

“There’s going to be a lot of governance issues that are going to be determined in the next couple of months,’’ Nussbaum said, conceding that change in the make-up of leagues from coast to coast is likely.

Elmore’s statement illustrated how Major League Baseball has started to exert more control over the minors, formally announcing Tuesday that the 10-team Appalachian League would shift from being a professional rookie-level league to becoming a summer wood-bat league for top-level freshman and sophomore college prospects.

That move downsized Minor League Baseball from 160 to 150 teams, representing nearly a quarter of the number of existing teams Major League Baseball has announced it hopes to shed as it redefines its development structure.

Elmore, who is the president of a family-owned company which owns seven minor-league baseball and one minor-league hockey team, acknowledged that change in his statement.

He said his group hopes to continue to work with Major League Baseball to “preserve affordable, family-friendly entertainment in each of our 150 communities across the nation.’’

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