As a boy growing up in Helena, I’d often go to Kindrick Legion Field to watch Helena’s minor league baseball team – first, the Phillies, then Gold Sox, then, lastly, Brewers – do battle against other teams, but also, pre-game, to watch my great-uncle, Denny Dunn, get the field ready for play. Uncle Denny, a groundskeeper at Kindrick Legion Field, was committed to ensuring that the field was in impeccable shape for Helena’s teams. Even after he had been diagnosed with emphysema, well into his later years, I recall him sitting in the riding mower, covering every square inch of the outfield.
When the Brewers left in 2018, that was a big blow to Helena, another whittling down of the institutions that glue, empower and inspire our Montana communities.
Now, Major League Baseball (MLB) has proposed eliminating 42 minor league teams across the nation, including the three remaining Pioneer League teams in Montana – the Billings Mustangs, Great Falls Voyagers, and Missoula PaddleHeads. Indelibly, there are reasons for the proposed drawdown. MLB, whose teams are collectively worth more than $50 billion, has estimated that it can save $21 million per year, or less than $1 million per MLB team owner. In addition, higher-order statistical tools – think “Moneyball” – may have identified other methods by which to develop MLB talent.
That said, as the next U.S. Senator from Montana, I will not take the elimination of Montana’s three minor league baseball teams and the 42 teams overall lightly. I approach this not out of political opportunism, but a deep-seated belief that large, influential organizations in the 21st century – whether corporations like Amazon and Facebook, nonprofits like the National Football League, or pass-through businesses like MLB – should make America’s communities stronger.
After all, our small Main Street businesses, frequently under assault by mega-corporations, are meaningfully contributing to our communities. They hire locally and pay taxes. Their workers volunteer in the community. Many such businesses serve as meeting points, bringing people together, breaking down divisions, entertaining and informing.
ssive organizations like MLB should do more. Indeed, some may argue that showcasing a 7-game World Series as good as this year’s and a 162 game-long season is more than enough. I won’t disagree. In fact, MLB, as a legal business entity, has the right to provide society nothing beyond adhering to the rule of law and its core, profitable offerings.
But, likewise, the United States of America, vis-à-vis Congress, has no obligation to extend the anti-trust exemption conferred to MLB, nor to minimize the taxes incurred by pass-through entities like MLB. Should MLB move forward with eliminating Montana’s three minor league teams – indispensable community institutions that also connect MLB to rural America, a key source of its talent – I will join, if elected as U.S. senator, the others in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives whom object to MLB’s plan (already, publicly, more than 100 members) to rescind MLB’s sweetheart tax and monopoly privileges.
Similarly, our country has no duty to protect the special interest-built regulatory framework that enables Amazon to, again, pay no federal taxes, Facebook to algorithmically itemize our citizens into echo chambers, maximizing disinformation and division, or JP Morgan to create and sell the next-generation of economy-cratering financial derivatives, as it did prior to the 2008-09 Great Recession.
Our country’s continued greatness necessitates holding even the most powerful of organizations, however admired, accountable. I expect MLB, a recipient of political largess, to care every bit as much about America’s communities as my great uncle – Greatest Generation, U.S. Navy veteran, and Kindrick Legion Field’s groundskeeper – did.
John Mues is a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, former naval officer and U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Montana high school teacher, and senior engineer in the business sector with London Business School MBA.Read More →