The future of the Vermont Lake Monsters is in doubt.
According to a New York Times report, the team is one of 42 minor league teams that Major League Baseball is proposing to sever ties with as part of a consolidation of the minor league system. If approved, the change would occur in 2021.
But officials at Vermont's minor league baseball team are vowing to fight MLB's efforts to cut ties.
"This is a pretty drastic idea, ... one that this industry has never seen before," said Kyle Bostwick, vice president of the Vermont Lake Monsters. "And we're a strong franchise that is economically viable. You know, we have strong local ownership with a huge impact on the local community, so it doesn't make any sense."
Bostwick said the MLB proposal is not a done deal and could be rejected by the Minor League Ownership Committee.
More than a hundred bipartisan U.S. House members, including Rep. Peter Welch, have signed a letter urging MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to reconsider the proposal.
In a written statement Tuesday, Welch said the plan would be a "devastating blow" to communities around the country. The congressman added that if the league follows through with the plan, he and his House colleages will "take a close look at the statutory advantages" for Major League Baseball, which Welch said includes the league's longstanding exemption from anti-trust laws.
News reports have documented MLB's concerns about antiquated minor league facilities and the distance between some teams and their parent clubs.
The Lake Monsters fair poorly by both measures: They are 3,000 miles away from the Oakland Athletics, their parent club, and the University of Vermont’s Centennial Field, where they are housed, opened in 1906 — it's one of the oldest in all of professional baseball.
Many of the teams that would lose their affiliations are from the lower rungs of the minor league system, which the Lake Monsters occupy. They are one of seven teams in the 14-team short-season Single A New York-Penn League reportedly on the chopping block.
Under the reported proposal, the clubs would be invited to join a so-called "Dream League." Comprised of players who were not drafted or have failed to stick in the major leagues, it would likely represent a lower level of baseball.
The New York Times quoted a minor league official as saying the plan would be a “death sentence” for the clubs.
Losing major league affiliation would diminish the cache of the Lake Monsters and other teams. More significantly, major league teams currently pay for the players and coaches at affiliated clubs, while the teams themselves cover field, travel and other operational costs.
Under the plan reported in the New York Times, MLB, which currently has 160 affiliated minor league teams, would cut 42 teams and add two more for a total of 120 teams.
MLB argues the consolidation would make player development more efficient and allow clubs to pay the remaining minor leaguers higher salaries. Critics have also said the minor leagues are chock-full of players who have no realistic chance of ever being promoted to the big leagues.
Nov. 18, 4:07 p.m. Comment from Bostwick was added to the post.
Nov. 19, 12:15 p.m. Details about the congressional response was added to the post.