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Thursday, July 28, 2022

HEAR ME OUT! Abolish the minor leagues

So let’s remove the minors. Let’s remove the idea of a rebuild entirely. Let’s remove prospects. Every minor league team is now independent. Every league is an independent one. MLB teams get their 40-man roster and that’s it. Wanna throw promotion and relegation into it? Cool. Leading high school players can sign with any of the 120 teams that pay them a decent wage (not like MLB owners do). If they crush it in Round Rock, well, then an MLB team can pay that team $20 million or $50 million for his contract and fund their operation for the next year or three. You don’t want to pay your star catcher who’s given you everything for seven seasons? Fine, but you’ll have to pony up for someone to replace him because you can’t trade him for the false dawn of what might happen in five years with some magic beans in the form of a centerfielder who needs to spend eight months in a weight room.

Yeah, I’ve heard, these teams can’t survive without their MLB affiliations.

Bullshit.

If they’re such great baseball towns, then people should come out to see a team actually built to win its league instead of in service to a team in a bigger city. Lighting it up your freshman year of college? Sign with a Double-A level team and keep working your way up.

I don’t want to read about some 20-year-old hillrod “working on his change-up” as a reason I should buy tickets now. I don’t need meaningless minor league homers on Twitter as proof that a team might take a crack at .500 in 2026. #### all that. Do you want that guy striking everyone out in Colorado Springs? ####### pay for it and leave all of us the #### alone with your Prospect Pervert Reports. Every player everywhere can be subject to the highest bidder. And GMs can’t buy more time, and owners can’t keep swindling their fans with the ever-moving goalposts of rebuilds. This is the way.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 28, 2022 at 04:23 PM | 26 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: minor leagues

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   1. JJ1986 Posted: July 28, 2022 at 05:11 PM (#6088788)
The ridiculous juvenile tone underscores any possible point the author is making.
   2. ReggieThomasLives Posted: July 28, 2022 at 05:16 PM (#6088789)
The MLBPA would never agree to this. 7 years of indentured servitude transfers millions to veteran major league players every year. .
   3. ReggieThomasLives Posted: July 28, 2022 at 05:17 PM (#6088790)
The MLBPA would never agree to this. 7 years of indentured servitude transfers millions to veteran major league players every year. .
   4. salvomania Posted: July 28, 2022 at 05:50 PM (#6088792)

I'm not sure the MLBPA would ever agree to this. Seven years of essentially indentured servitude transfers millions to veteran major league players each year. .
   5. Mellow Mouse, Benevolent Space Tyrant Posted: July 28, 2022 at 06:01 PM (#6088794)
But what about the MLBPA?
   6. McCoy Posted: July 28, 2022 at 06:02 PM (#6088795)
Was their father the district attorney?
   7. Mellow Mouse, Benevolent Space Tyrant Posted: July 28, 2022 at 06:07 PM (#6088798)
Was their father the district attorney?


No, because I am pretty sure then he would have told them that the MLBPA has limited influence over the minor leagues since the minor leaguers are typically not members of the union. But IANAL, so who knows.
   8. Jack Sommers Posted: July 28, 2022 at 06:16 PM (#6088800)
It was a juvenile tone, but I admit I chuckled a little at the last paragraph
   9. TomH Posted: July 28, 2022 at 06:56 PM (#6088802)
Bill James said this a lonnnng time ago.
   10. Zach Posted: July 28, 2022 at 07:37 PM (#6088808)
Leading high school players can sign with any of the 120 teams that pay them a decent wage

What about minor league sports makes people think that they throw off huge piles of cash?

Back in the days of the free minor leagues, bonuses for amateur players tended to be small, then the contract would get sold to higher leagues for gradually increasing sums. Salaries weren't that high, either.

In a free minor league system, I predict that bonuses would be extremely small below AAA. They'd probably be somewhat higher for hot prospects who are major league ready, but fringe players would get the equivalent of NBA 10 day contracts or NFL game by game contracts.

Minor league salaries would remain tiny, because
<stops to clear throat>
ALL THE REVENUE IN BASEBALL IS MADE BY THE MAJOR LEAGUES.
   11. GregD Posted: July 28, 2022 at 08:27 PM (#6088813)
this seems based on the minor league teams having control over a minor league player's rights and then selling those rights to the majors, possibly even with the existing minor league contract still enforceable. That seems even worse for players than our current system.

A true independent system--everybody on one year contracts shuffling around--would be interesting (but probably bad at player development since it'd prioritize competitive teams over letting guys figure things out.) But this looks awful.
   12. Srul Itza Posted: July 28, 2022 at 09:56 PM (#6088816)
This is the way


So now Mandalorians are writing baseball commentary?

   13. Walt Davis Posted: July 28, 2022 at 10:26 PM (#6088824)
If they crush it in Round Rock, well, then an MLB team can pay that team $20 million or $50 million for his contract and fund their operation for the next year or three.

In line with #11 ... why is this $20-50 M going to the minor-league team? So we replace the ML 3-year reserve and 3-year arb clause with a 8-9 year minor-league reserve clause?

Obviously some money would need to go to the minor leagues ... does a minor-league team gamble, say, $15 M to sign Bryce Harper with the intention of selling him on to the majors in 2-3 years for a nice profit? Maybe. A sales price of $20 M is great in isolation but doesn't cover the cost of the expensive prospects that bust so quite possibly you do need to sell Harper on for $30 M for that to make sense. This also leaves aside the problem of just how many minor-league owners have $30 M sitting around ever year to spend on these prospects above and beyond all the other costs of a full roster and fielding a team.

And how are the Burlington Indians (Guardians? No longer exist?) going to scout kids in California much less Latin America? Let's not even think about the local talent pool available to teams in Iowa.

Not to go all money-grubbing 21st century venture capitalist on this but for a system like this to work, you need money-grubbing 21st century venture capitalists who are willing to pay Harper $15 M out of high school in exchange for X% of his future earnings (or earnings over the first X years of his career). Then they can "loan" him out to the minor-league team most willing to pay them a bit for his services (or just the one that seems to do the best job of development) until they can get a ML team to fork over some major money.

A true independent system--everybody on one year contracts shuffling around

That is not an "independent" system. If you are Bryce Harper, why shouldn't a team be allowed to offer you a 12-year guaranteed contract and why shouldn't he be able to demand one? Every player forced to a 1-year contract would be a massive advantage to the owners. Now sure, if Harper is silly enough to sign a 12-year, $8 M contract with the Toledo Mud Hens then so be it.

There is absolutely no rule in MLB that requires a team to offer Bryce Harper a 12-year guaranteed contract. There is no (explicit) rule to keep a team from offering him a 6-year guaranteed plus 6 team options contract. MLB owners can shift to offering FAs 1-year contracts any time they want (as long as they don't collude). Teams offer multi-year contracts because they have decided the multi-year contract is in the team's favor ... or at least it's a preferred outcome to the player signing elsewhere.

In line with #10 ... are they great baseball towns? Much like the majors, the minors make their money off the casual fan. They use all the gimmicks and giveaways to draw these folks in. Even for a baseball fan like me, I went to minor-league games strictly for "fun" -- I didn't care who won/lost, didn't care too much if it was a "good" or close game, paid attention to the couple of legit prospects, didn't have a favorite player on my local team. I was a fan of, for example, the UNC Women's soccer team ... didn't give a #### about the Durham Bulls but enjoyed going to their games.

Maybe there was a time 90 years ago when people in Durham had a fan's attachment to the Bulls but that hasn't been true for a long time and I don't see how you could ever get it back. Certainly in Burlington NC, people go to the games (when they do) cuz there ain't nothing else to do. Sure, last I checked there was still a "major league lacrosse" league running and I assume there are some small number of genuine fans of those teams (though I bet they rely on a lot of gimmicks and giveaways too). If the minors want that level of success and revenue, I assume they could do so.

Admittedly, I grew up in a ML city so have never fully understood the fascination with sub-par baseball, basketball and football ... although I did become a fan of college b-ball. I'd probably find it even more puzzling now when you can dial up world-class sports from around the world whenever you want. So if you are a _baseball_ fan then watch the best of the best ... unless you're just sort of fascinated with the development aspect in which case go to the minors games to rub your amateur scouting jones.
   14. 57i66135 is a hard word for me. Posted: July 28, 2022 at 11:02 PM (#6088827)
   15. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: July 28, 2022 at 11:20 PM (#6088830)
A couple of relevant points here:

The highest ebb of the minor leagues predates television. If you're a baseball fan now, you can watch a major league team on TV or online just about any time you want; that diminishes the appeal of in-person attendance at a minor league game even if the team is independent.

Also, regarding the rant about MLB teams trying to win instead of just selling prospect hype: Before the controlled minor leagues and the draft, parity in MLB was significantly worse than it is now. The bad teams weren't forced to try to win without minor leaguers; they just gave up entirely.
   16. McCoy Posted: July 29, 2022 at 06:49 AM (#6088853)
I say let them crash
   17. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: July 29, 2022 at 09:24 AM (#6088861)
I was going to say that the headline was clickbait, since the text does not actually propose abolishing the minor leagues at all. But then I saw it was Deadspin, so that's overdetermined.
   18. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: July 29, 2022 at 09:25 AM (#6088862)
"highest ebb"?
   19. SandyRiver Posted: July 29, 2022 at 10:13 AM (#6088865)
And how are the Burlington Indians (Guardians? No longer exist?) going to scout kids in California much less Latin America? Let's not even think about the local talent pool available to teams in Iowa.

Or Maine (or most cold-weather states.) Most fans in Maine root for the Red Sox, and one obvious perk in Portland Sea Dog games is seeing the parent team's prospects. I'm sure that's a facet for all MLB-connected minor league teams. Also, Hadlock Field was packed for the Chris Sale rehab start earlier this season - not sure how all-indy would work for MLB teams rehabbing players coming off IL.

"highest ebb"? Definitely a malapropism, but could almost be valid for neap-tide periods.
   20. greenback needs a ride, not ammo Posted: July 29, 2022 at 11:09 AM (#6088869)
People here are old enough to remember the Salt Lake City Trappers, an independent team in organized baseball, that won 29 straight games in 1987. That's pretty much the model for what the OP is describing. Apparently the Trappers were built the old-fashioned way, through open tryouts.

The OP mentions 40-man rosters, so presumably some of those players would be on loan (or some such) to minor league teams. Even affiliated minor league teams back in the 1980s signed a few of their own players and coaches, which obviously created tension with the nominal parent club, but the OP apparently wants to flip the relationship, and have most players signed by the minor league team. So there's some precedent for this, and of course he's basically describing European soccer's current hierarchies. I would conclude the logistics are manageable, although that's not the same thing as optimal.
   21. sanny manguillen Posted: July 29, 2022 at 11:55 AM (#6088876)
Even affiliated minor league teams back in the 1980s signed a few of their own players and coaches, which obviously created tension with the nominal parent club, but the OP apparently wants to flip the relationship, and have most players signed by the minor league team.


A few minor league teams, notably the Miami Miracle, also participated in the draft via a loophole that got closed around 1990. It seems that as part of an overal labor agreement the draft could again be extended to the minors.
   22. Walt Davis Posted: July 29, 2022 at 03:59 PM (#6088897)
I'm sure that's a facet for all MLB-connected minor league teams.

Is this still true? Affiliations change so frequently these days, are there enough "traditional" majors-minors relationships left that this sort of sentiment holds for more than maybe a dozen?
   23. SandyRiver Posted: July 29, 2022 at 04:22 PM (#6088900)
My comment was colored by the nearest MiLB team to me being one of the strongest beneficiaries of that relationship. When the Sea Dogs' parent club was the Mariners, not so much.
   24. Naftali Greenwood Posted: July 31, 2022 at 09:42 AM (#6089062)
There's a biography of Ed Barrow that describes major-minor wars over reserving, optioning, etc. The thing proposed in "Hear Me Out" basically reversion to the way things were done 120 years ago. It failed when radio and the Depression destroyed the minors' financial base, forcing the minors to run to the majors for protection and losing their autonomy and integrity. Why would it be different now?
   25. McCoy Posted: July 31, 2022 at 09:54 AM (#6089063)
Savannah Bananas
   26. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: July 31, 2022 at 05:56 PM (#6089107)
Radio and the Depression didn't destroy the (free) minors, but they did weaken them. (Then, post-WW2, TV/air conditioning/interstate highways finished them off.)

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