A story from ESPN shared the latest details of a lawsuit that was filed against Major League Baseball back in 2021, that is still being handled by the U.S. Justice Department.

Four former Minor League Baseball affiliates, one of which being the Tri-City ValleyCats, are involved in a suit against the MLB after the league chose to cut 40 MiLB affiliates in September of 2020. The teams allege that Major League Baseball overstepped its jurisdiction in making this decision, a complaint that deals directly with MLB's Anti-Trust Exemption.

This week, an update on the case was provided, and we have the latest details on where the ValleyCats currently stand in their case.

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2021: Four Former MiLB Teams File Suit Against Major League Baseball

In order to move forward, let us first take a step back, and understand origins of this legal battle. As mentioned previously, Major League Baseball made a unilateral decision in 2020 to consolidate their Minor League system.

With this decision came the removal of 40 Minor League Baseball teams as affiliates, leaving teams like the ValleyCats with no direct connection to a Major League ballclub. Three other teams that were impacted are now involved in the suit: the Staten Island Yankees, Salem-Keizer Volcanoes and Norwich Sea Unicorns.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred / Getty Images
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred / Getty Images

In December of 2021, the teams filed suit against Major League Baseball, stating that the league had violated Anti-Trust laws and that the league had entered a horizontal agreement between competitors that has artificially reduced and capped output in the market for MiLB teams affiliated with MLB clubs.

As a refresher, the term anti-trust refers to the regulation of the concentration of economic power, particularly in regard to monopolies and other anticompetitive practices, according to Cornell Law.

So, in short, the ValleyCats and three other teams are suing the MLB for what they believe was a violation of anti-trust law, or exercising more power over MiLB teams than is legally permissible.

The case was initially dismissed in October, but motions to re-consider have allowed it to move through the judicial system, and a new update on the case was provided this week.

2023: What's the Latest, and What Might the End-Goal Be?

Here is the latest update, per ESPN:

"The U.S. Justice Department asked a federal appeals court to narrowly consider Major League Baseball's antitrust exemption, a filing made in a case involving four eliminated minor league teams hoping to end the sport's century-old legal protection." - via ESPN

Here is a quote from Assistant Attorney General Jonathan S. Kanter and others, explaining the motion to consider:

"The United States therefore does not take a position on whether the exemption applies here. Instead, the United States files this brief to reaffirm, as the Supreme Court has said, that courts should 'not extend' the Federal Baseball exemption." - Assistant Attorney General Jonathan S. Kanter via ESPN

In summation, this case is far from over, and may end up re-defining how much power Major League Baseball has over the sport of baseball as a whole.

Now, the question becomes this: what is the end-goal of this lawsuit?

Joe Bruno Stadium / Courtesy Tri-City ValleyCats
Joe Bruno Stadium / Courtesy Tri-City ValleyCats


There could be a financial benefit that is provided to the ValleyCats, the three other teams involved, and quite possibly, even the rest of teams in Independent Baseball. A financial backing from Major League Baseball would have a massive impact on Independent League teams and their ability to operate without an MLB affiliate helping them.

There is also the option, though extreme, that a reversal of MLB's decision could be required, allowing the 40 teams that were cut from MiLB to re-affiliate.

No matter what the result, the Tri-City ValleyCats are fighting on behalf of Minor League Baseball teams in communities like ours, and that is a noble cause that we can all get behind.

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