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Monday, November 18, 2019

Rob Manfred’s plan to destroy minor league baseball

As if they aren’t squarely involved in enough transgressions against baseball, we should not be at all surprised to know the Houston Astros — the Jeff Luhnow Houston Astros — were the ringleaders of the MLB plan to essentially destroy grass roots baseball and contract 42 of the 160 minor league teams.

In recent weeks, details of the plan have been slowly leaking out, the MLB spin being it’s designed to (1) upgrade all the minor league facilities and (2) improve “wellness” for the minor leaguers in terms of travel and living conditions. In truth, as always, it’s designed to save money, lots of money, and the proprietors of these minor league teams, many of whom have their life savings invested in them, be damned.

Here is the plan which is slated to go into effect beginning in 2021:

1. Forty-two of the 160 minor league teams (26%) guaranteed under the present, expiring Professional Baseball Agreement between the majors and minors will be eliminated, most of them from the four short season Rookie Leagues — the New York-Penn, Appalachian, Northwest and Pioneer.

An update to a subject we’ve discussed earlier, with further details.

QLE Posted: November 18, 2019 at 12:08 AM | 188 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: contraction, manfred is thinking about it, minor leagues

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   1. "RMc", the superbatsman Posted: November 18, 2019 at 07:51 AM (#5901900)
"If you like your ballclub, you can keep your ballclub!"
   2. The Duke Posted: November 18, 2019 at 08:09 AM (#5901903)
I’m not one to take the side of owners but the article states that average club is costing the MLB 400k per year for salaries. If you assume thats all- in cost for MLB ( and it’s not clear that it is ). That’s $16 million per year for teams that the MLB has determined don’t add any value. Each major league team is having to add one major league player to its roster this year. That cost is 563k less the 100k that player would make at Aaa. So 460k x 30 = $14 million

So the blame should go to the players association who generated a new $14 million cost that needed to be offset.

Further, the average salaries of players in High A - AAA ball is probably above minimum wage so if you eliminate all the jobs below minimum wage you no longer have the PR issue of “paying slave wages “

Interestingly, this whole strategy mirrors what is happening in the real world with the $15 dollar an hour minimum wage. Companies are introducing technology rapidly to eliminate those now expensive jobs.
   3. Panik on the streets of Flushing! (Trout! Trout!) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 08:25 AM (#5901904)
I’m not one to take the side of owners


Could have fooled me.
   4. Rennie's Tenet Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:05 AM (#5901906)
The affiliated short season leagues never would have happened if the old minors system didn't exist. It's a pretty strange practice to sign guys from all over North America for amounts up to seven figures, then ship them off to little towns where supervision is haphazard.
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:08 AM (#5901908)
So the blame should go to the players association who generated a new $14 million cost that needed to be offset.

Are you serious?
   6. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:19 AM (#5901910)
Are you serious?


To be fair, it might just be a parody of a really, really stupid take.
   7. Rusty Priske Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:21 AM (#5901912)
Contracting the bloated, excessive affiliated minor league system is a good thing. If you also then take care of minor leaguers properly it is a VERY good thing.


Oh, and to the writer of the article - affiliated baseball is not 'grass roots', no matter how often you call it that to try and get readers on your side.
   8. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:27 AM (#5901913)
The NYTimes has a list of the teams to be excised. Apparently the plan is to also add two independent franchises to organized ball, but I don't see those listed anywhere.
   9. jmurph Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:42 AM (#5901917)
As a practical matter: the article mentions century-plus old Chattanooga being eliminated, but wouldn't another team move there? Or is MLB really able to just say "no more teams in Chattanooga!"
   10. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:43 AM (#5901918)

Interestingly, this whole strategy mirrors what is happening in the real world with the $15 dollar an hour minimum wage. Companies are introducing technology rapidly to eliminate those now expensive jobs.


Actually, this is incorrect. There are many high-quality studies that show that raising the minimum wage to $15 has had little or no effect on the number of jobs.
   11. JJ1986 Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:44 AM (#5901919)
I just glance at the list quickly, but there's a couple of AA teams on the list (which surprised me) and some that have been around forever.
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:44 AM (#5901920)
Contracting the bloated, excessive affiliated minor league system is a good thing.

Why? More baseball in more places has to be good for the sport.

If you also then take care of minor leaguers properly it is a VERY good thing.

Like leaving 1000 of them without jobs?
   13. The Duke Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:45 AM (#5901921)
Yes. I am serious. The players association only cares about major league players. They sacrificed all these jobs in the lower minors to get another roster spot. That’s a good trade for the mlpa. Did they know this is exactly how it would play out? No, but you can’t jam through cost increases and not expect there will be an offset. Has the players association weighed in here - I bet not - they’ve never cared. This is how business works the world over. No one should be surprised that the owners would look for offsets .

Furthermore, my guess is there are substantial analytics that show these roster spots only lead to marginal or negative value.

MLB is not in business to provide a social fabric to small towns or guarantee profits to minor league owners - should this be done by ripping off the band aid over night? Perhaps not but it got a 30-0 vote so it I assume, unlike the author, this action has overwhelming support

   14. Rally Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:47 AM (#5901922)
That’s $16 million per year for teams that the MLB has determined don’t add any value.


About 500k per team. Do you really buy that these teams don't add value? If you reduce the number of teams by 25%, then you have 25% fewer players under contract. True that the majority of minor league players never make the majors. But if you cut down their numbers at an early stage you miss the chance that some will surprise and turn into good players.

Maybe we can estimate what MLB would be missing by assuming the draft is cut 25% - players picked after round 30 don't get picked, have to find real jobs, and if they had MLB ability nobody ever finds out. You will miss out on a few players this way. Also miss a few non-draft players, as you have less space to give players from the Dominican a chance to move up.

   15. Rally Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:49 AM (#5901924)
As to whether the value lost compares to the expense saved, I'd rather let the individual teams make that decision instead of a league wide action. If you think you can develop players with a 5 team system and another team thinks it's worth it to run 7 teams, let them try and see who does a better job of producing more MLB talent.
   16. JJ1986 Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:58 AM (#5901928)
MLB is not in business to provide a social fabric to small towns or guarantee profits to minor league owners
They should be in the business of building a long-term fanbase in as many places as they can instead of just making as much money possible in one calendar year.
   17. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:58 AM (#5901927)
I like minor league baseball a lot more than I like major league baseball, and every year I go to more minor league games than I see major league games on TV. So I'm not a fan of this. I get why MLB would do this and think it makes sense for them. Unfortunately our modern sports & media world is such that it will be next to impossible for most of those places to support an independent team.

Number of teams to be excised by league and by state:

League        No.      State  No.
Appalachian    9        TN    6
NY
-Penn        9        NY    4
Pioneer        8        IA    3
Midwest        3        MT    3
South Atlantic 3        PA    3
Eastern        2        WV    3
Florida State  2        CO    2
California     1        FL    2
Carolina       1        MD    2
Northwest      1        UT    2
Southern       1        VA    2
                        CA    1
                        CT    1
                        ID    1
                        KY    1
                        MA    1
                        NC    1
                        OH    1
                        
OR    1
                        VT    1
                        WA    1 



One of the teams I see a lot, the Burlington Royals, are on the chopping block. The Burlingtons of NC, VT, and IA are all set to lose their teams. Don't name your town "Burlington" if you want minor league baseball. The five teams in the northeast corner of Tennessee around Johnson City and Kingsport and just across the border in Bristol, VA are all going, which will take away one of the more enjoyable ways to spend a week in the summer.

After this there will be no organized ball in Montana, Wyoming, or the Dakotas. Going east-west, there will be no organized ball between Minneapolis and Boise, which is 1,364 miles by the most direct route.
   18. PreservedFish Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:58 AM (#5901929)
About 500k per team. Do you really buy that these teams don't add value? If you reduce the number of teams by 25%, then you have 25% fewer players under contract. True that the majority of minor league players never make the majors. But if you cut down their numbers at an early stage you miss the chance that some will surprise and turn into good players.


But if every team does it in concert, then it doesn't matter.

   19. jmurph Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:59 AM (#5901930)
I'd rather let the individual teams make that decision instead of a league wide action.

Right, no one is required to have the short-season teams now, are they? Or even to draft in every round?
   20. jmurph Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:00 AM (#5901931)
After this there will be no organized ball in Montana, Wyoming, or the Dakotas.

I've always wanted to make it to some of those parks, this is a bummer (setting aside whether I ever would, who knows).
   21. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:01 AM (#5901932)
As to whether the value lost compares to the expense saved, I'd rather let the individual teams make that decision instead of a league wide action. If you think you can develop players with a 5 team system and another team thinks it's worth it to run 7 teams, let them try and see who does a better job of producing more MLB talent.

Exactly.

But if every team does it in concert, then it doesn't matter.


Which is why it stinks.
   22. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:04 AM (#5901933)
As a practical matter: the article mentions century-plus old Chattanooga being eliminated, but wouldn't another team move there? Or is MLB really able to just say "no more teams in Chattanooga!"
One of the justifications for eliminating the specific teams is shortening and simplifying travel. So if Chattanooga is out of the way then MLB probably could say "no more teams in Chattanooga!" The Down East Wood Ducks (average attendance 1,651) of Kinston, NC no doubt survived over Chattanooga (average attendance 3,518) because MLB is eliminating minor league ball in eastern Tennessee, while the Carolina League is surviving mostly intact.
   23. PreservedFish Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:10 AM (#5901935)
MLB is not in business to provide a social fabric to small towns or guarantee profits to minor league owners


No, it's not, but it is in the business of promoting the sport generally.

I don't know what the right number of minor league teams is. I 100% understand the impetus behind this change. It makes sense.

I'm also allowed to despise the severe & cynical business consultant mindset on display here. MLB should see itself, to at least some extent, as custodian of a public trust. MLB isn't just a business, it's a cultural heritage.

It's tough to argue that eliminating a team in Burlington, NC is going to seriously erode the sport's popularity, but still it's plain to see that a laser focus on profitability may turn out to be penny wise, pound foolish.
   24. winnipegwhip Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:15 AM (#5901936)
Is Jeffrey Luhnow the anti-Christ?
   25. Lassus Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:17 AM (#5901938)
Manfred is from Central NY, and as a native and current resident (after a 20-year absence) it is difficult for me to imagine a better breeder ground for an anus-licking corporate stooge with absolutely zero interest in anything long-term. If it makes somebody a dollar now and costs them a C-note next year, it's the dollar every single time around here. They'll thank a business owner for a beating and beg for the next one.
   26. "RMc", the superbatsman Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:23 AM (#5901941)
The NYTimes has a list of the teams to be excised.

Well, my Hudson Valley Renegades (Fishkill NY) are safe, I guess. They've drawn well for 25 years; if they expand their stadium to 6K-8K or so, they could easily draw well enough for an Eastern League (AA) team...and indeed, Binghamton and Erie are on the list!

As a practical matter: the article mentions century-plus old Chattanooga being eliminated, but wouldn't another team move there? Or is MLB really able to just say "no more teams in Chattanooga!"

Surely, some independent team would move there in a New York (er, Tennessee?) minute. If MiLB really dropped all these cities, wouldn't open that open the door for more independent and/or collegiate league teams?
   27. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:29 AM (#5901942)
One of the justifications for eliminating the specific teams is shortening and simplifying travel.


Which also compromises the quality of the ML product, since it makes it harder for teams to come up with injury replacements on a quick turnaround. Most teams try to get a AAA affiliate in a market that's close to their primary one for exactly that reason. Now, a bunch of ML teams will be forced to use one that's way the hell across the country.
   28. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:30 AM (#5901943)
But if every team does it in concert, then it doesn't matter.


It matters as far as fans are concerned, since they have a vested interest in seeing the best possible product on the field.
   29. DL from MN Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:33 AM (#5901947)
makes it harder for teams to come up with injury replacements on a quick turnaround


The 26th roster slot should help mitigate the concern. That bench player is already on the team.
   30. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:33 AM (#5901948)
They should be in the business of building a long-term fanbase in as many places as they can instead of just making as much money possible in one calendar year.


Ding ding ding!

This move is not in the league's long-term interests. But I guess worrying about something like that is old-fashioned.
   31. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:33 AM (#5901949)
That 26th roster slot should help mitigate the concern. That bench player is already on the team.


That bench player is going to be yet another ####### relief pitcher, just because.
   32. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:36 AM (#5901951)

But if every team does it in concert, then it doesn't matter.

It may not benefit one team over another if they all do it in concert, but the game may be worse off if, in exchange for an extra reliever on every roster we lose late round picks like Mike Piazza or other late bloomers.
   33. DL from MN Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:38 AM (#5901953)
I am a little surprised to see Quad Cities on the list. That's a fun park to visit.
   34. PreservedFish Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:45 AM (#5901963)
#28 and #32

The difference would be unnoticeable. Yes, Mike Piazza and Max Muncy and so on enrich the game. But if they had never existed, we wouldn't have ever missed them.

This is a tangent but IMO you would have to dramatically reduce the quality of the players for it to make a noticeable difference. Even if the top 150 players were disappeared (and our memories wiped clean), we'd still be wowed by the athleticism and technique of the top remaining players. Cesar Hernandez would look like Robbie Alomar, Jason Vargas like Tom Glavine, Matt Albers like Goose Gossage. You'd have to disappear an awful lot of top players for the whole league to be noticeably lower quality.
   35. DL from MN Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:46 AM (#5901966)
there will be no organized ball between Minneapolis and Boise


There already wasn't any affiliated ball in North Dakota or South Dakota, although the American Association has teams in both Fargo and Sioux Falls.

   36. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:49 AM (#5901970)
I am a little surprised to see Quad Cities on the list. That's a fun park to visit.
They're eliminating all three of the Midwest League teams in Iowa along the Mississippi. What's more interesting is that Cedar Rapids seems to be surviving, despite the fact that it would be slightly farther away from any future league partners and doesn't draw any better than Quad Cities.

I suppose it's possible that the NY Times list is really a list of franchises being contracted, and that the Cedar Rapids franchise will eventually end up in Davenport, or Rockford or who knows where.
   37. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:49 AM (#5901971)
Is Jeffrey Luhnow the anti-Christ?

No, but his future dream is a shopping scheme.
   38. DL from MN Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:54 AM (#5901974)
Cedar Rapids is the closest to the affiliated MLB team - the Twins. I know the Quad Cities team was frequently flooded out in April, that could be a legitimate reason to avoid that location.
   39. "RMc", the superbatsman Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:54 AM (#5901976)
I asked myself, "Self? Is all this just a cynical ploy to get these communities up off their a$ses and start caring about their teams again, complete with 'Save Our Team!' movements popping up?"

I came up with two answers:

"Yes", and
"Isn't every ploy a cynical one, almost by definition? I mean, has there even been a genuine, open-hearted ploy...?"
   40. Tom Nawrocki Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:00 AM (#5901978)
This move is not in the league's long-term interests. But I guess worrying about something like that is old-fashioned.


Concur. If you saw Mike Trout play at Cedar Rapids, you're going to be an Angels fan for life.

MLB does pointless crap like playing a game at Disney World, or the "Field of Dreams," but it's not willing to spend $500K a year to develop fans in Lexington, Kentucky, or Erie, Pennsylvania. I'm glad I saw a game in Kingsport while I had the chance.
   41. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:10 AM (#5901984)
Now Main Street's whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there ain't nobody wants to come down here no more
They're closing down the stadium across the railroad tracks
Manfred says these teams are going boys
And they ain't coming back
To your hometown...
   42. ckash Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:12 AM (#5901986)
Lexington Legends had the 5th best attendance in the Sally in 2019. The support is there. The stadium is nice ( but not in a great part of town). The only reason I can see for their elimination is that they are in a geographic no-man’s land; too far north for the SAL and too far south for the MWL (although Dayton is about a 90 minute drive if 75 cooperates).

If MLB eliminates my successful local minor league affiliate then I’m probably done with baseball as a whole. No Reds games, no MLB At Bat subscription, no fantasy leagues. Not a cent of my money will MLB get if I can help it.
   43. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:12 AM (#5901987)
World Series games that few watch the end of.

Unbearably long and slow-paced games.

Elimination of lowest 25% of minor league ball.

This is going to end well.
   44. SoSH U at work Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:18 AM (#5901990)
If MLB eliminates my successful local minor league affiliate then I’m probably done with baseball as a whole. No Reds games, no MLB At Bat subscription, no fantasy leagues. Not a cent of my money will MLB get if I can help it.


I may join you. I've got a nice independent league park 10 minutes from my house. I think I may just embrace the Gary South Shore Railcoats and take in the occasional college game for my baseball fixes (I need to find something, since my youngest will be playing his final season of HS ball this spring).

   45. PreservedFish Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:18 AM (#5901991)
I'm half convinced that there's no real activity on slow games because they know that long games increase concession sales.
   46. The Duke Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:26 AM (#5901993)
Teams act in concert on almost everything they do. They negotiate with the players as one entity, set up the tv rights nationally, draft players in concert etc. there is likely an element of competitive balance being sought as well. Richer teams have larger farm systems. The Yankees have a ton more players suiting up everyday. If just one of those players every ten years turns into mike piazza or Albert pujols that’s a big advantage.

Also, I’m sure everyone on this board agrees that some kind of organized draft in Latin America is better for the game than the Wild West we have today. It seems people want to cherry pick here. Freedom to do what they please when it’s in your best interests but collective action when you think it accrues to your benefit

And I’ve always been of the view that

A) owners should lose their anti-trust exemption
B) strong financial backers could set up a new league and really do well
   47. winnipegwhip Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:30 AM (#5901994)
No, but his future dream is a shopping scheme.


Well Luhnow wants to be anarchy for the minors
   48. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:36 AM (#5901996)
Concur. If you saw Mike Trout play at Cedar Rapids, you're going to be an Angels fan for life.

I wonder how true this generally is. Like if you saw several good but not transcendent players, would that make you a fan for life of Team X?

When I was in the 8th grade my family moved to Wausau, WI, which had just lost the single-A Timbers of the Midwest League. Throughout the '80s they had several solid to great eventual major leaguers. Omar Vizquel, Harold Reynolds ... Edgar hit .300 there one year. As far as I could tell, that had zero effect on creating new Mariners fans, even though the town was pretty far from Milwaukee or the Twin Cities. For the few kids who wore a Seattle hat, it was all because of Griffey.
   49. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:39 AM (#5901998)
I'm half convinced that there's no real activity on slow games because they know that long games increase concession sales.
I think it's in-game ads, not concessions.
   50. Lassus Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:39 AM (#5901999)
B) strong financial backers could set up a new league and really do well

Er, what?
   51. DL from MN Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:41 AM (#5902001)
not willing to spend $500K a year to develop fans in Lexington, Kentucky, or Erie, Pennsylvania


Erie, PA is 1 hour and 40 minutes from Cleveland, 2 hours from Pittsburgh and 3 hours from Toronto. There are three MLB teams within a reasonable drive which is more than I can say about where I grew up.

Lexington is 90 minutes from Cincinnati and has Division 1 college baseball in the SEC.

The keys for developing fans of MLB are
1) Participation in little league - if the kids play something else they will be lost
2) Hand-in-hand with #1 - someone to play catch with (dad, brother, neighbor, etc)
3) Availability of major league baseball on television
4) Availability of major league baseball in person
5) Availability of minor league baseball, maybe
   52. PreservedFish Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:43 AM (#5902003)
It seems people want to cherry pick here. Freedom to do what they please when it’s in your best interests but collective action when you think it accrues to your benefit


Uh ... is this supposed to be a gotcha?
   53. nick swisher hygiene Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:47 AM (#5902005)
Should’ve stopped pretending a “speedball” had something to do with baseball, Bruce....
   54. Greg Pope Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:50 AM (#5902006)
I think it's in-game ads, not concessions.

Screwing around between pitches does not increase in-game ads. In fact, it's worse for the broadcasters since a 4 hour game with the same amount of breaks as a 3 hour game has the same number of ads. And they lose the opportunity to have another hour of programming (with ads) in that time.
   55. PreservedFish Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:52 AM (#5902007)
Screwing around between pitches does not increase in-game ads.

Greg, get your head outta the spreadsheets and watch a game, because nowadays they have ads between pitches.
   56. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:54 AM (#5902010)
Screwing around between pitches does not increase in-game ads.
Well, we've gone from zero in-game ads to a non-zero, and increasing, number of in-game ads in the last few years. Used to be during mound visits, but now they're running between pitches. And a frosty beverage to PF, I see.

And they lose the opportunity to have another hour of programming (with ads) in that time.
Fair point, although of course it depends on the relative ad rates. I wonder where MLB ad rates fall on the scale - are they more lucrative for a network than, say, a rerun of Friends or whatever?
   57. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:57 AM (#5902013)
Erie, PA is 1 hour and 40 minutes from Cleveland, 2 hours from Pittsburgh and 3 hours from Toronto. There are three MLB teams within a reasonable drive which is more than I can say about where I grew up.


Nobody is going to drive two hours to go to a baseball game and two more hours to come back from one if they aren't already a baseball fan, but there are plenty of small-town people who will go to see an A-ball game on a Friday night because it's only five or ten bucks and it's something to do.

If you want to build your customer base, you need a low barrier of entry.
   58. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: November 18, 2019 at 12:04 PM (#5902017)
</i>It seems people want to cherry pick here. Freedom to do what they please when it’s in your best interests but collective action when you think it accrues to your benefit</i>

Uh ... is this supposed to be a gotcha?


We demand either full communism or a libertarian war of all against all. Otherwise you're a hypocrite.
   59. Greg Pope Posted: November 18, 2019 at 12:23 PM (#5902021)
Greg, get your head outta the spreadsheets and watch a game, because nowadays they have ads between pitches.

Yes, but isn't that only during the playoffs? I don't recall seeing those on my local broadcast.
   60. Lassus Posted: November 18, 2019 at 12:24 PM (#5902023)
This is really fucking with post-industrial NY state's rural small cities something fierce.
   61. Greg Pope Posted: November 18, 2019 at 12:24 PM (#5902025)
Fair point, although of course it depends on the relative ad rates. I wonder where MLB ad rates fall on the scale - are they more lucrative for a network than, say, a rerun of Friends or whatever?

Right, but if it's a choice between zero extra ads and the extra ads from a Friends rerun, the broadcasters should choose the latter.

I suppose mabye the teams don't care about that though.
   62. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 18, 2019 at 12:29 PM (#5902027)
Yes, but isn't that only during the playoffs? I don't recall seeing those on my local broadcast.
Oh no, they're starting to encroach on the regular season, too. At least here in Chicago.

Right, but if it's a choice between zero extra ads and the extra ads from a Friends rerun, the broadcasters should choose the latter.
If we're not there already, the choice will very soon be between, say, two between-pitch ads in each half inning and the extra ads from a Friends rerun.
   63. PreservedFish Posted: November 18, 2019 at 12:48 PM (#5902030)
I agree that the between-pitch ads are an insidious blight on the sport.

Baseball is not just a regular business. It's run by a cartel of rich white men who are already richer than anyone needs to be from their other businesses. It's already a total gravy train for everyone involved. These people are custodians of an irreplaceable national cultural heritage. It is unseemly and disgusting to invite a bunch of McKinsey types in so that they can recommend mass layoffs, Six Sigma'd advertising, etc. #### that ####.
   64. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 12:51 PM (#5902032)
Baseball is not just a regular business. It's run by a cartel of rich white men who are already richer than anyone needs to be from their other businesses. It's already a total gravy train for everyone involved. These people are custodians of an irreplaceable national cultural heritage. It is unseemly and disgusting to invite a bunch of McKinsey types in so that they can recommend mass layoffs, Six Sigma'd advertising, etc. #### that ####.

I'd agree with most of that, just point out that their being white and male has virtually nothing to do with it. Female, Asian, or Black billionaires would act exactly the same way. Being mega-rich overrides pretty much any other human distinction.

The top 0.1% has basically seceded from the rest of society, and couldn't give two ##### about the rest of us. We see that more and more every day.
   65. PreservedFish Posted: November 18, 2019 at 12:57 PM (#5902035)
I'd agree with most of that, just point out that their being white and male has virtually nothing to do with it. Female, Asian, or Black billionaires would act exactly the same way. Being mega-rich overrides pretty much any other human distinction.

Fair enough.
   66. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: November 18, 2019 at 01:11 PM (#5902039)
1. I (as an individual fan) want more levels to the minors, not less.
2. If you were designing the minor league system from scratch, it would have less levels than it does today. It's a ridiculous system.
3. I'm curious as to how big the minor league baseball as loss leader effect really is - creating interest in the big league product. I'm biased and think it might be sizable.
4. Wonder if MLB wishes that college baseball meant a lot more than it does (apologies to the SEC and a few other markets)?
5. Notice that none of the teams owned by MLB franchises are on the block. That's 'cause the severance terms are awful.
6. The Appalachian League is an accident of history and doesn't really make sense in 2019. That's too bad - I'm not far from Burlington either.
7. (jmurph/19) Yup. When there were more rounds, teams would stop at some point. That point would be past the current end (40).
8. The economics of indy ball are a bit challenging and we've seen that market get weaker with the rise of cheaper to run summer ball teams. Just recently, the Can Am and Frontier Leagues merged (partly because of Ottawa lease issues). I don't know how the Pacific League survives - I think half that league has triple digit average attendance. Adding players and markets would, of course, increase the number of teams and leagues.
9. Wait - they're talking about adding indy teams to organized ball? I presume they would be "independent" - there's no way we'll go back to the days of the SLC Trappers and Miami Miracle, right?

   67. Lassus Posted: November 18, 2019 at 01:15 PM (#5902041)
and couldn't give two ##### about the rest of us.

- Majority of remainder of nation and planet looks at snapper's Westchester location and NYC job -

"What do you mean, 'us', kemosabe?"
   68. Rusty Priske Posted: November 18, 2019 at 01:17 PM (#5902042)
I see people talking about the end of 'organized baseball' in places.

Uh, no. It is the end of AFFILIATED baseball. There is no reason every one of the cities can't still have a team. They just join an independent league. In other words, they could actually HAVE the grassroots baseball this article claims they are getting rid of.
   69. Tom Nawrocki Posted: November 18, 2019 at 01:35 PM (#5902047)
I've been to minor league games at Colorado Springs, Louisville, Kingsport, Rockford, Kane County, Memphis, Newark, New Jersey (Montclair)... possibly a couple more that I'm not remembering right now.
   70. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 01:39 PM (#5902048)
#28 and #32

The difference would be unnoticeable. Yes, Mike Piazza and Max Muncy and so on enrich the game. But if they had never existed, we wouldn't have ever missed them.


Perhaps. I might agree with the weak claim above but I certainly don't agree with the strong claim below. And I think if MLB starts getting complacent about the quality of its product here, they'll do it elsewhere and it will start to show. I mean, the cost of these 42 minor league teams in aggregate is about the cost of one mid-tier starter or two relievers. It seems a bit pennywise / pound foolish to me. But I'm also talking with someone else's checkbook - I live in a major MLB market so I don't really go to any minor league games.

This is a tangent but IMO you would have to dramatically reduce the quality of the players for it to make a noticeable difference. Even if the top 150 players were disappeared (and our memories wiped clean), we'd still be wowed by the athleticism and technique of the top remaining players.
   71. nick swisher hygiene Posted: November 18, 2019 at 02:03 PM (#5902052)
Returning to an era of independent minor leagues would be better for the game, right?

The problem is, we won't get that--we'll get a G-league style stripped minor league system, and nothing else, because people will feel about independent baseball the way they feel about independent bookstores.....
   72. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: November 18, 2019 at 02:05 PM (#5902053)
I remember seeing Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams playing for the Clippers. And while I didn't become a Yankees fan (even I have a bar below which I will not sink), there was a special sort of satisfaction in watching the rest of their careers.
   73. nick swisher hygiene Posted: November 18, 2019 at 02:12 PM (#5902056)
You can convince me that Mike Trout is worth every penny of his contract.

But you can't convince me that one more fungible reliever per MLB roster is worth dismantling the minor leagues.

And that's because the concept of "value" is not quite as cut & dried as the management consultants would have it. Ziggy's "special sort of satisfaction" is difficult to quantify--but that doesn't make it unreal.
   74. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: November 18, 2019 at 02:22 PM (#5902066)
Where and how Indy baseball actually is popular doesn’t always seem to line up with where and how it actually is.

G league v true indies: I think there’s truth to this - the idea that players are part of a big league system seems to be worth something to fans

The extra mlb roster spot versus an extra low level team debate is a real false choice ... that’s decidedly not the trade off that’s actually occurring here. The extra roster spot was to deal with pitcher fatigue and was swapped out for September eligibility.
Minor league reorg is separate.
   75. DL from MN Posted: November 18, 2019 at 02:32 PM (#5902071)
There is no reason every one of the cities can't still have a team. They just join an independent league.


Around here people play townball, make a team of locals and play the team from the nearby city. There are also college wood bat leagues, I'm guessing the Northwoods League is going to love those three new sites in Iowa.
   76. Howie Menckel Posted: November 18, 2019 at 02:37 PM (#5902073)
New Jersey (Montclair)

ah, the Jackals.

it's on the grounds of a college campus and has the Yogi Berra Museum because Yogi used to live down the road ("if you see the fork in the road, take it" - because either 'tine' got you there).

college kids there for the $1 hot dogs and $1 beers (or, like $3 for 40 ounce or something like that) and to scope each other out. lots of families with young kids who spend the evening rolling down a hill near one of the baselines (the kids, not the parents).

attention paid to the game - by anyone - is minimal.

is that pretty typical for independent ball?
   77. Brian Posted: November 18, 2019 at 02:45 PM (#5902075)
With the value being put on prospects these days maybe we'll get back to where Minor League teams sign the undrafted players and, if they develop unexpectedly, the Minor League teams could do well auctioning those players off to MLB. An owner with an eye for talent would only have to hit on one player every few years for this to work out for them. Look at the Japanese posting fees. Maybe Driveline or other places that help players improve would buy a minor league team.
   78. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: November 18, 2019 at 03:00 PM (#5902083)
people will feel about independent baseball the way they feel about independent bookstores.....
The number of indie bookstores has grown significantly over the last several years. They're hardly a threat to Amazon, but they seem likely to survive. It's Barnes & Noble that appears to be headed towards hospice care.
   79. PreservedFish Posted: November 18, 2019 at 03:07 PM (#5902085)
#78 beat me to it. There's tremendous affection for independent bookstores - I have many peers, not fat cats by any means, that will gladly pay full sticker price for a book at the local store rather than purchase the convenient and discounted Amazon version.
   80. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: November 18, 2019 at 03:24 PM (#5902092)
Where and how Indy baseball actually is popular doesn’t always seem to line up with where and how it actually is.
This is a good point.

The Durham Bulls have a huge local presence and are absolutely integral to the fabric of the city. They finish around 10th in the minors in attendance every year, their hats are ubiquitous on local heads, and exactly zero percent of these hat wearers give a #### about the Bulls' connection with the Rays. An independent Bulls would be a huge success in any indie league that was even halfway reputable. But of course all of this makes it exactly the sort of market that MLB would want to keep a toe in, so indie ball isn't going to happen here. (EDIT: If MLB goes insane and puts an expansion team in Raleigh it could mean the AAA franchise leaving for somewhere else, which would likely result in some sort of indie league Bulls being born. However it's just as likely that the Bulls would end up as the AAA affiliate of the team 28 miles away, which would be cool.)
I see people talking about the end of 'organized baseball' in places.

Uh, no. It is the end of AFFILIATED baseball.
"Organized Baseball" is the umbrella term for the Major Leagues and its minor league affiliates.
   81. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: November 18, 2019 at 03:43 PM (#5902099)
77/brian: unlikely, i think. players won't want to play anywhere where they can't easily shift to affiliated ball should they get the chance (provided other options allow for that). short of, of course, indy teams regaining the ability to make draft picks... which ain't happening.
   82. caspian88 Posted: November 18, 2019 at 04:10 PM (#5902110)
The 26th all-season roster spot is essentially paid for by eliminating 12 September roster spots (which are roughly worth $1.05 M if a team uses all of them for the whole month, so at league minimum you have to have used fewer than half of your September player-days to lose money on your 26th man relative to the 2019 roster rules). This doesn't include flight, hotel, per diem or equipment costs, either.

Minor league baseball costs have nothing to do with this. MLB is just killing them to save another dime, so they can pocket that dime before cashing out. Maybe even get some municipalities to fork over some millions in hopes of postponing the murder of their teams for a few years.
   83. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: November 18, 2019 at 04:15 PM (#5902111)
Some of these teams are in cities big enough to support an independent league team. Erie and Lexington, KY should get slots in the Frontier League right away. The teams in rural West Virginia and the Great Plains, not so much.

The NY-Penn League has been gradually losing teams for a long time. Oneonta and Jamestown now have collegiate teams. It's pretty conveniently located for scouting so the whole league would work as a summer collegiate league. Not having an affiliated team in Williamsport is preposterous, though.

But you can't convince me that one more fungible reliever per MLB roster is worth dismantling the minor leagues.

The two issues are unrelated. Businesses don't make a profit of exactly $1 each year and respond to a loss of profit in one place by adding profit elsewhere to balance things out. They think cutting the minors is a good idea independent of whatever their other expenses are.
   84. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 05:12 PM (#5902140)
is that pretty typical for independent ball?


Pretty much, yeah.

The teams in rural West Virginia and the Great Plains, not so much.


Which is bad for the Pirates, insofar as they deliberately moved two of their affiliates to West Virginia in order to try and broaden the footprint of their fan base.
   85. PreservedFish Posted: November 18, 2019 at 05:20 PM (#5902148)
The two issues are unrelated. Businesses don't make a profit of exactly $1 each year and respond to a loss of profit in one place by adding profit elsewhere to balance things out. They think cutting the minors is a good idea independent of whatever their other expenses are.


True. But the contrast shows that the minor league salaries are peanuts, and supports our argument that the owners are being penny wise, pound foolish when they bury all this history and goodwill just to save what is comparatively pocket change.
   86. "RMc", the superbatsman Posted: November 18, 2019 at 05:41 PM (#5902156)
If you were designing the minor league system from scratch, it would have less levels than it does today. It's a ridiculous system.

Whenever I create one of my historical OOTP leagues, I try to keep all of the teams in the largest possible cities, with only a handful in smaller "real" cities. (Of course, I also use promotion/relegation, so it quickly gets kinda messy.)

In this article, Bill James proposes making the minors bigger, a whopping 20 affiliates per MLB club. (He wants two teams at A level, four at B, six at C, and eight at D. That's 600 minor-league teams, people. Whoosh.)

The NY-Penn League has been gradually losing teams for a long time.

Actually, they're up to 14 teams, an all-time high. Oneonta and Jamestown left, but they were replaced by other markets outside NY state.

If this plan goes through, there would be only 5 teams left in the NYP: Aberdeen (MD), Brooklyn, Hudson Valley (Fishkill NY), Tri-City (Troy NY) and West Virginia (Morgantown). That's not enough for a league, of course, so some of these markets (Brooklyn, Hudson Valley, Tri-City maybe) could get kicked upstairs to the Eastern League, which would be shorn from 12 teams to 10; the rest presumably would go independent or cease to exist. Or the whole league could turn independent and/or collegiate.
   87. Dr. Pooks Posted: November 18, 2019 at 08:23 PM (#5902184)
With the value being put on prospects these days maybe we'll get back to where Minor League teams sign the undrafted players and, if they develop unexpectedly, the Minor League teams could do well auctioning those players off to MLB. An owner with an eye for talent would only have to hit on one player every few years for this to work out for them. Look at the Japanese posting fees. Maybe Driveline or other places that help players improve would buy a minor league team.


I read somewhere today that there is a flat rate for MLB teams to buy the contracts of independent ball players about 3,000 - 4,000$ inseason and 1$ to 1500$ over the winter (1$ if a player doesn't make an affiliated squad out of ST)

There would definitely be more undrafted talent available if they reduce the draft to 20 rounds.

But it would be hard to make a living selling players for a few thousand bucks at a time.
   88. Meatwad Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:44 PM (#5902198)
On the plus side it looks like minor league ball in South Bend will continue. And I dont think I saw any Cubs affilate on the list of teams to be axed.
   89. The Yankee Clapper Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:20 PM (#5902215)
Also, I’m sure everyone on this board agrees that some kind of organized draft in Latin America is better for the game than the Wild West we have today.
You’re wrong. The draft exists to depress the cost of labor, pure & simple. There’s no justification for extending it to screw players in Latin America, too, other than to make the billionaire owners even richer. They’re doing fine, they don’t need more advantages - make them compete to increase revenue.
   90. McCoy Posted: November 19, 2019 at 07:21 AM (#5902223)
If there is a market for baseball that MLB is walking away from them someone else will come along and fill that demand. Nothing is stopping an independent league from forming and signing players.
   91. dejarouehg Posted: November 19, 2019 at 09:29 AM (#5902246)
On the plus side it looks like minor league ball in South Bend will continue. And I dont think I saw any Cubs affilate on the list of teams to be axed.


Was pleased to see this as well. South Bend games are a ton of fun.

Feel bad for Binghamton. That area is a disaster. Home to a great school that has yet to figure out how to promote itself and thereby grow the region more effectively; it's an economic sh*t-show and this will only be another dagger. To be fair, went to a game there last April and it was just too cold to play baseball. No wonder every fan
who, with a little effort, had their choice of a getting a foul ball.

Feel worse for Tennessee. Saw a bunch on minor league games there this season. Tremendous fun.

Waiting to hear fallout re: Staten Island.

This is all a shame. MLB is correct to the extent that so many of these teams incubate players that have no chance to make the bigs. Still, many hundreds of MLB games, I've become a huge fan of minor league ball. A great form of entertainment, a great way to see some of the country that I'd otherwise never see, and a great way to promote the game.

As for Independent League ball, maybe it's me, but I just like knowing that when I go to a MiLB game, there's a slim chance that I can see a future MLB player on the way up, not an IL player trying to get into MLB on the way down.
   92. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: November 19, 2019 at 10:04 AM (#5902260)
In this article, Bill James proposes making the minors bigger, a whopping 20 affiliates per MLB club. (He wants two teams at A level, four at B, six at C, and eight at D. That's 600 minor-league teams, people. Whoosh.)
This is a really fun and completely impossible proposal. James proposes independent teams competing with affiliated clubs at the lower levels. (This has happened periodically, but I think it's been a while since we've had an independent team in organized ball.) He wants a rule saying that all players have to spend at least three years in the minors before appearing on a major league roster. He proposes significant limits on in-season promotions, with the idea that a minor league team gets to keep its stars for at least one full season. Most entertainingly, he lets minor league teams make trades with other teams at the same level. Each MLB team would fully control players on the 40 man, plus 30 or so other prospects. Beyond that the minor league teams can trade and jockey to look after their own best interests. IOW, the majority of players in a MLB team's minor league system wouldn't be entirely under the control of the major league team, and a lot of them would only be in the system because Johnson City needed a backup catcher or Billings used their excess of center fielders to acquire a new starter from Missoula.

The US soccer pyramid is an interesting comparison. The second and third divisions are about 40% teams affiliated with MLS. The affiliated teams are divided between European-style second teams (LA Galaxy II, Sporting Kansas City II, etc), teams fully owned by the parent club but playing in different cities, and baseball-style AAA clubs. Then the fourth division is huge, 166 teams in two big leagues, mostly independent but also including some MLS youth teams and affiliates of independent teams from the second division (North Carolina FC 2, for instance). The fifth division is huger still, 450+ teams in 94 leagues and associations. The dream for baseball would be to somehow reverse time and engineer a minor league system like that, with independent AAA teams in big cities far from a MLB club (Nashville, Charlotte, and Raleigh spring to mind) competing against farm teams playing in Pawtucket, Alexandria, and Gwinnett County, on top of a pyramid that goes all the way down to a few hundred semipro weekend leagues scattered throughout the country.
   93. DL from MN Posted: November 19, 2019 at 10:30 AM (#5902269)
There would definitely be more undrafted talent available if they reduce the draft to 20 rounds.


Is this actually true? I always feel like the top 15 rounds are the actual players they are interested in obtaining, rounds 15-30 are for college seniors to fill out the short season teams (which will no longer exist) and rounds 30-40 are spent drafting college juniors and high school players that have no intention of signing a contract. I think we would see essentially no difference for rounds 1-20 in who gets drafted. A bunch of undrafted college seniors would then have a chance to sign as free agents immediately after the draft or shortly thereafter. The teams would basically stop drafting high school players with college commitments they have no intention of signing.

If those undrafted college seniors end up playing in a short season wood bat league in Montana or Tennessee the locals would see basically no difference in the minor league experience.
   94. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: November 19, 2019 at 10:47 AM (#5902280)
If there is a market for baseball that MLB is walking away from them someone else will come along and fill that demand. Nothing is stopping an independent league from forming and signing players.

If these teams are money-losing and need to be subsidized, they will never exist in a "market". Maybe 2,000 fans go to games but they would only be profitable if 3,000 fans went to games. The argument is that it's good for Major League Baseball to subsidize them nonetheless.
   95. Rusty Priske Posted: November 19, 2019 at 11:25 AM (#5902302)
"Organized Baseball" is the umbrella term for the Major Leagues and its minor league affiliates.


The height of arrogance.

I go to a couple of games per year to see the Ottawa Champions of the CanAm League. Is it the same quality of ball that we had when we had an affiliated team? No... of course not. We had a AAA team. But it is still baseball. And it is still great.

   96. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: November 19, 2019 at 11:29 AM (#5902304)
The argument is that it's good for Major League Baseball to subsidize them nonetheless.


Indeed. This statement is two years old:

The average age of a baseball viewer is 57, up from 52 in 2006. There won't be a youth movement, either, as just 7% of baseball's audience is below age 18.


As a thought experiment, it's hard for me to predict what's going to happen with MLB when the increases in extracting revenue from the fans become offset by a shrinking audience. My guess is they double down on the former which has already begun eroding the fan experience, personally.
   97. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: November 19, 2019 at 11:41 AM (#5902309)
As a thought experiment, it's hard for me to predict what's going to happen with MLB when the increases in extracting revenue from the fans become offset by a shrinking audience. My guess is they double down on the former which has already begun eroding the fan experience, personally.


"Market research shows that our average fan is wealthier than ever before! [because older people are wealthier] We can get more money out of these people than we've been charging!"
   98. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:44 PM (#5902340)
95/rusty: To be fair, Rusty, as I alluded to in #66, you no longer have the Champions either. (Sorry. That sucks and I hope they figure out a way to get pro ball back. Will it have to wait for light rail to reach the park?)
Regardless, the term organized baseball predates, well, my birth.
   99. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:45 PM (#5902342)
If this plan goes through, there would be only 5 teams left in the NYP: Aberdeen (MD), Brooklyn, Hudson Valley (Fishkill NY), Tri-City (Troy NY) and West Virginia (Morgantown). That's not enough for a league, of course, so some of these markets (Brooklyn, Hudson Valley, Tri-City maybe) could get kicked upstairs to the Eastern League, which would be shorn from 12 teams to 10; the rest presumably would go independent or cease to exist. Or the whole league could turn independent and/or collegiate.

Right - the idea here is to kill the NYP and that those markets would have teams in other leagues.
   100. Rennie's Tenet Posted: November 19, 2019 at 01:19 PM (#5902370)
The height of arrogance.


The term Organized Baseball has been in use for over 100 years. I think any arrogance has worn off.

I was looking at a map of teams to be contracted. It looks like there's a blob of them in the Northwest, and then a big blob over much of the East and Midwest. It seems like maybe ten teams wouldn't fit into a league, if leagues should form up. On the other, it also pretty that these Dream Leagues are intended to block the formation of new independent leagues.

Re the James proposal, I'd like to see the MLBPA put some effort into getting each Triple A team to buy it's own player, with the goal that in 20 years the high minors will be largely independent and developing it's own players.
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