Rob Manfred
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Four minor league teams are taking on Major League Baseball in court.

As if MLB didn’t have enough to worry about with the lockout, further legal matters await.

Per Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic, four minor league teams have challenged Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption after MLB eliminated their connections to respective MLB Teams. The four teams include the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, Norwich Sea Unicorns, Tri-City ValleyCats, and the Staten Island Yankees.

In Staten Island’s case, the team was the Class A Short Season affiliate of the New York Yankees for over 20 years.

According to Kaplan, the meat of the teams’ case against MLB is as follows:

As for the core issues in the case, titled Nostalgic Partners v Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, the minor-league clubs argue MLB violated antitrust law by conspiring to eliminate their pivotal ties to major league teams. MLB undertook a major overhaul of minor league baseball, arguably seeking to rationalize the system, both geographically and economically. But Nostalgic, the company that owned the now-shuttered Staten Island Yankees, argued in its lawsuit the teams left standing were all too often owned by MLB teams or politically connected owners.


JB’s Take

I’m no lawyer, but this is a big deal. The case was filed in Manhattan federal district court which, more often than not, doesn’t happen unless the plaintiffs are prepared for the US Supreme Court. Given how popular the Staten Island Yankees were from the moment they debuted, to see them suddenly lose their affiliation was a shock.

Now, consider the Supreme Court recently struck down the NCAA’s age-old policy on athletes not being allowed compensation. NIL is now a thing and making college athletics more exciting, and the Court also touched on MLB’s antitrust exemption in the decision.

One way or another, the last couple of years have shined a bright light on the harsh conditions of life in minor league baseball. Whether it’s pay so low that as many as six players share a two-bedroom apartment, or traveling hours and hours by bus, changes need to come to the system.

In fact, it’s already coming. Starting next season, MLB will require all teams to provide housing for minor league players.

Stay tuned to ESNY for further updates from the MLB legal blotter.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.