The messy, ongoing standoff between Major League Baseball and its affiliated minor league franchises over an MLB-proposed contraction plan has roared back into public view this week, with increasingly vitriolic rhetoric that has escalated the tension between the sides in this months-old dispute.

Tuesday brought the release of a bipartisan congressional resolution imploring MLB to abandon the plan to cut affiliates, and on Wednesday, Minor League Baseball and MLB each released statements accusing the other of misleading the public about the state of negotiations.

MLB’s “claims that Minor League Baseball is not participating in these negotiations in a constructive and productive manner is false,” the statement read. The statement also said the sides had met recently, talks that Minor League Baseball characterized as encouraging, and have plans to do so again Feb. 20.

MLB responded by releasing a letter to Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Conner, saying in part, “MiLB and you personally are doing significant damage to your relationship with [MLB] by attacking MLB publicly and in the political realm.”

The dueling statements came one day after the introduction of the congressional resolution urging MLB not to follow through on its proposed plan to eliminate as many as 42 affiliated minor league teams as the sport negotiates a new agreement with Minor League Baseball to replace the one that expires after the 2020 season.

The congressional resolution, introduced by Reps. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), David B. McKinley (R-W.Va.), Max Rose (D-N.Y.) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), said the MLB plan to do away with 42 teams was “not a reasonable solution” and said the House “supports the preservation of minor league baseball in 160 American communities” — reflecting the current number of minor league affiliates.

In response, MLB issued a statement Tuesday accusing the minor league affiliates of failing to negotiate.

MLB “is confident that we can modernize our minor league system, improve playing conditions for our players, and protect baseball in communities across America,” the MLB statement said. “However, doing so is best achieved with Minor League Baseball's constructive participation, and a recognition that they need to be part of the solution. So far their approach has been neither constructive nor solutions-oriented. The most constructive role Congress can play to achieve these goals is to encourage Minor League Baseball to return to the bargaining table.”

Minor League Baseball’s leadership took issue with the characterization, saying in its statement Wednesday that it has “provided [MLB] with numerous substantive proposals” and accused MLB of “misrepresent[ing] our positions with misleading information in public statements.”

As part of its statement Wednesday, Minor League Baseball also released a letter it sent to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on Jan. 23 codifying and detailing its negotiating stance on the key issues.

“We look forward to the opportunity of re-engaging with your representatives in a constructive manner that reflects both the positive spirit of the partnership relationship we have enjoyed with you and your predecessors for so many years, and our mutual responsibility to ensure the continuation of the game of Baseball, in both small and large communities across the country, as our National Pastime,” the letter concluded.

MLB’s letter to O’Conner rebutted each of Minor League Baseball’s points and warned that the 30 MLB teams “are united in our negotiating position” and that the “misinformation tactics that you have employed have only made the 30 Clubs more resolute.”

MLB first made its proposal to eliminate affiliated teams — mostly from the lower levels of the minors — in November, saying its teams did not need so many affiliates, and proposing a quasi-affiliated “Dream League” to replace those affiliations. Minor League Baseball officials have characterized MLB’s proposal as a money-saving ploy to offset rising salaries for minor league players.

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