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Elephant Rumblings: MLB fining teams in the majors for brawls in the minors

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Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

Happy Tuesday, Athletics Nation!

An interesting note popped up in the baseball world during yesterday’s A’s off day. According to Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, a new fine has been implemented by MLB that activates whenever any team within an MLB team’s farm system has a brawl or bench clearing event. An added wrinkle is that with each successive incident within the team’s minor leagues, the fine doubles. So while the first brawl ends up costing the parent team a measly $500, by the end of the year a system that has its 9th bench clearing has a new $128,000 fine on top of the previous $511,500 it’s already paid.

Seeing how its rare to have a team brawl with only its own members, a pair of slap-happy teams could end up costing each of their affiliated clubs hundreds of thousands of dollars at the same time. The whole point of this fine, of course, is to discourage exactly that: successive brawls and fights between teams.

As pointed out in the initial report, with MLB’s realignment of the minors last year minor league teams now commonly face each other for six or seven games in a series. Spending a week together at a time could be dangerous if tempers start flaring early in a series. Three incidents in a series would octuple the sitting fine for the MLB team, and if two out of their four affiliates were to be excessively rowdy, a team would have fines jumping from five digits to 7 quickly.

While the initial fee does seem minimal, it is worth it to put in perspective how quickly the fines pass some round numbers. Keep in mind that these are season-long and across all teams in a minor-league system:

  • $100K: Hit cumulatively after 8 incidents, first single fine over this amount after 9 incidents
  • $1M: Hit cumulatively after 11 incidents, first single fine over this amount after 12 incidents
  • $10M: Hit cumulatively after 15 incidents, first single fine over this amount after 16 incidents
  • $100M: Hit cumulatively after 18 incidents, first single fine over this amount after 19 incidents
  • $1B: Hit cumulatively after 21 incidents, first single fine over this amount after 22 incidents

While it’s unlikely that many systems would ever reach double-digits in the number of brawls they have over a season, its a pretty effective method to diminish fights. Fun fact while I’ve crunched the numbers, it only takes only 17 brawls to eclipse the A’s 2022 payroll in cumulative fines.

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