This week, the US Senate Judiciary Committee reached out to the nonprofit group Advocates For Minor Leaguers for more information about Major League Baseball’s antitrust waiver. Athletic’s Evan Drellich and ESPN’s Jeff Passan (Twitter thread) are among those to cover the development in detail.
The focus of the current investigation is on how the antitrust exemption affects player pay in minor leagues, the reduction in the number of minor league teams between 2019-20, and the process. acquisition of the tournament for the international amateurs. Senators on both sides issued statements, which can be found in Drellich’s document, expressing support for the waiver review. MLB has not yet commented on the matter.
The exemption has been in place for a century. It stems from a 1922 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the MLB was an internal affair outside the scope of interstate commerce regulated by federal antitrust laws. In subsequent cases, the Court admitted their original reasoning was too simple and no longer applicable in refusing to extend immunity to other professional sports leagues. However, the Court left the power to Congress to reverse the MLB’s immunity with a piece of new legislation, which has yet to be implemented.
Passan and Drellich consider the impact of antitrust waivers in more detail. Its supposed biggest impact is allowing teams to set low wages for younger athletes, most of whom are not part of the MLB Players Association and do not have their own unions. Drellich notes that other issues like TV outages and the MLB franchise process could also be affected when Congress amends or lifts the immunity.
While an overhaul of antitrust immunity could have wide-ranging effects on affiliated organisations, it is not the first time MPs have hinted at the possibility. In recent years, legislators on different sides afterward political aisle have publicly expressed a desire to reconsider or revoke the waiver. Those came in response to MLB decisions as well as minor league restructuring and calls to move the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver. Up to this point, Congress has not gone ahead with any serious threat to immunity; It is possible, it seems likely, that this request from the Judiciary Committee also ends with no change to the existing system.
The Commission’s examination of the international amateur market comes at a time when that process may be nearing an overhaul anyway. The MLB’s desire for a draft to replace the international signing period proved a pivotal point in last season’s collective bargaining negotiations – an issue that remains unresolved. The MLBPA declined to sign an international draft over the winter, and the parties agreed to extend the deadline for those negotiations. If the federation and federation agree on an international draft by July 25, the system provides eligibility – act as a drag in the market for some freelance agents by attaching draft option to contract them – will be removed. If the parties do not agree on an international draft, the current amateur signing process and the QO will remain, which will likely again be a key topic in the CBA negotiations after 2026.
In one separate post Fourth, Drellich reviewed the many potential impacts that could arise from an overhaul of the international amateur system. MLBPA CEO Tony Clark declined to go into specifics about the status of the talks, telling The Athletic:
“We agreed in March to find out if a negotiated and mutually acceptable agreement could be reached for an international draft. More time is needed on this complex issue as the federation’s proposal is not accepted and is nowhere near acceptable. The federation is committed to further negotiations on these complex issues and we expect those discussions to continue in the coming days and weeks. Whether a negotiated, mutually acceptable agreement can ultimately be reached remains to be seen. “