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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

WhistlePigs and $2 beers: Minor league clubs ‘kicked out of baseball’ face uncertain future, liberation in exile

Sub required, but it’s a good read.

“I don’t think that when Major League Baseball blew up minor-league baseball that they had a full understanding of how minor-league baseball operated, and a full plan going forward as to how to operate it,” said Jeff Katofsky, owner of the Northern Colorado Owlz, a former rookie-ball Angels affiliate, who said the reorganization cost his franchise millions in value. “Financially, it beat the hell out of us,” he said.

Several officials described a scramble to find new leagues in 2021, undertake a new business model without MLB franchises subsidizing costs, and build rosters without MLB supplying the talent. “We had to fly the plane as we were building it,” said Matt Van Hise, general manager of the Boise Hawks, a former rookie-level Rockies affiliate. Several pronounced themselves stunned at the costs once handled by parent clubs. “It’s around $50,000 a year for bats and balls,” Haug said. “It’s crazy.”

Yet many felt liberated in exile. They praised the MLB officials dispatched by Manfred to expedite the transition. They forged deeper connections with players. They appreciated greater freedom in marketing. Some suggested the quality of play was better than affiliated ball; others reported improved merchandise sales. Many expressed optimism about their future economic prospects. After a canceled season in 2020, the minor-league operators sounded overjoyed that fans welcomed them back and embraced the new normal.

“I’ve been in this business for over 30 years, and last year was one of my favorite years I’ve ever had,” said Matt Ellis, president of the Missoula PaddleHeads, a former Diamondbacks affiliate in the Pioneer League.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 26, 2022 at 09:14 AM | 5 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: minor league baseball

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   1. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: January 26, 2022 at 10:00 AM (#6062576)
"I don’t think that when Major League Baseball blew up minor-league baseball that they had a full understanding of how minor-league baseball operated," ... Several pronounced themselves stunned at the costs once handled by parent clubs.

Oh I think MLB was 100% aware of "how minor-league baseball operated" from the perspective of how much they were subsidizing it.

“Financially, it beat the hell out of us,” he said.

Mission accomplished. They made it someone else's problem.
   2. John Northey Posted: January 26, 2022 at 11:58 AM (#6062612)
A big chunk reads as "we bought into this expecting to never need to pay out anything and make money with most expenses covered by someone else". Nice business if you can get it. Sadly for these guys they lost it. I knew a guy who ran a team in Thunder Bay which was all college players - so no salaries but you still had to pay for transportation, lodging, food, etc. He found it a challenge but enjoyed it. Told me he didn't make much out of it but he was glad he did it. These minor league teams now need to be like him - doing it because they love baseball and their community. Accept that financially break even is pretty much all you can hope for, and move on from there. If you make a profit, great, but don't count on it. The value of those teams will drop dramatically now but that is life. The smartest ones sold their teams before 2019, and plan to buy back in now. The rest...well...that is capitalism for you.
   3. Darren Posted: January 26, 2022 at 12:59 PM (#6062627)
I wonder if we'll see juiced balls, wackier dimensions field gimmicks, looser drug testing, pitch clocks, and even drastic rule changes in these leagues. Might be fun.
   4. Dr. Pooks Posted: January 26, 2022 at 02:36 PM (#6062639)
I knew a guy who ran a team in Thunder Bay which was all college players - so no salaries but you still had to pay for transportation, lodging, food, etc. He found it a challenge but enjoyed it. Told me he didn't make much out of it but he was glad he did it. These minor league teams now need to be like him - doing it because they love baseball and their community. Accept that financially break even is pretty much all you can hope for, and move on from there. If you make a profit, great, but don't count on it.


I used to check the paper's sports sheet for scores and standings of the Thunder Bay Whiskey Jacks frequently even though I lived nowhere close.

It's unfair to expect minor league owners to fund an independent baseball system for some amorphous greater good or nostalgia if there's no economic model besides breaking even.

If the argument for minor league baseball's continued purpose predicates on some community service, then their ownership and operation should be allowed to change to a non-profit model with the benefits and protections that it provides.
   5. Traderdave Posted: January 26, 2022 at 03:25 PM (#6062647)
A big chunk reads as "we bought into this expecting to never need to pay out anything and make money with most expenses covered by someone else". Nice business if you can get it.


In more than a few respects, MiLB is similar to mover theaters and gas stations. In movies, the greatest part of ticket sales goes back to the studio/distributor, the cinema operator's profit is based heavily on snacks & drinks. Gas stations are similar.

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