Tag: baseball

Reactions to the new MiLB/MLB Agreement

Reactions to the new MiLB/MLB Agreement

Major League Baseball sent out a press release on Friday, February 12 announcing all 120 Minor League Baseball teams, their affiliations, and highlighting some features of the agreement. All 120 teams have agreed to 10-year deals, meaning there will not be the every-other year shuffle of affiliates so fans really start following a given team’s system that plays in their town for the next decade. Every team that was extended an invitation to be among the affiliated clubs accepted, with the only one that did leave some doubt being the Fresno Grizzlies as they dropped from Triple-A all the way down to Low-A.

Much has been made of the less than creative league names, but that is sure to change sooner than later, and there is plenty of question about how the 2021 season will look given the ongoing pandemic, but what about the long-term implications of the deal? Let’s dive into the good, the bad, the misleading, and some wish list items that has come out of the deal.

Good

10-year deal: This is big, the mass shuffle of affiliates is now a thing of the past and the clubs can truly market themselves as an extension of the big-league club they are affiliated with. No longer will we see a team like the Lancaster Jethawks (more on them in the bad) who were affiliated with five different big-league clubs in their 24 seasons.

Low-A Warm Weather: This one is easy to overlook, but the swapping of progression for most teams at the A ball level makes much more sense now compared to the past. No longer will we see players make their full season debut, in April, in Ohio or Michigan, or Wisconsin, instead they will be in Florida, California, or the Carolinas. It may not seem like much, but there is enough of an adjustment for a high school draftee transitioning into pro ball without many having to pitch in near freezing temps for the first time.

Bad

42 Cities Removed: There are now 43 cities across the county that used to have an affiliated minor league club that don’t anymore. This means states like Colorado go from having multiple minor league teams to none, while states like Montana have no affiliated baseball of any kind in their state any longer. True, many have turned into summer collegiate leagues or independent teams, but a place like Lancaster, California lost their 25th season to the pandemic and currently sit with no immediate plans to host a baseball team any longer.

Shortened Draft: The draft has been shortened from 40 rounds to 20. This is not a massive issue since the great majority of big-league ballplayers are either international signings or were drafted in the top five rounds, but it cuts the number of players who get to call themselves pros in half.

Misleading

Salary Increases: In the release, the first bullet point of the “many improvements” is a 38-72% increase in player salaries. This was much needed but is also highlights just how bad player salaries were. JJ Cooper of Baseball America helped crunch the numbers and Rookie level salaries (yes, there is still Rookie ball, but complex only) went from $290/week to $400/week. Both levels of A ball went from $290/week up to $500/week (the biggest jump of any level), while Double-A now gets paid $600/week compared to $350/week and Triple-A jumps to $700/week from the old rate of $502/week. Players only get paid during the season, so 6 months of A ball means a player makes roughly $13,500/year while Triple-A players make $18,200. Compare that to the Triple-A player who is on a big-league deal with a minimum wage of $570,500, which would be $21,942.331/week if paid out over the same time frame. This means one player could make more in a single week than another makes for an entire season.

Better Geographical Alignment: The release points out that, on average, Triple-A clubs are more than 200 miles closer to their MLB affiliate than previous seasons. For the most part this is an improvement, but there are still some outliers that stick out like a sore thumb. The Colorado Rockies Triple-A affiliate is still down in Albuquerque, New Mexico but their Double-A affiliate remains all the way out in Hartford, Connecticut. Then there is the High-A East which has five teams in the North Division and seven in the South Division that will include bus rides from Brooklyn, New York down to Rome, Georgia and back. Sure, scheduling will likely have those teams make stops at other clubs along the way, but that doesn’t exactly scream “better geographical alignment”.

Modernized Facilities: Part of the agreements between the Minor League and Major League teams included requirements for improvements, modernization, and general upgrades for fans, players, and staff alike. At first glance this doesn’t seem like it could be anything but a good, but let’s take a look at why so many ballparks need improvements. The old California league teams, now mostly consisting of the Low-A West division, saw Bakersfield and High Desert run to the Carolina League back in 2016. The remaining teams didn’t have commitments for more than a handful of years, makes it tough to commit to sinking millions into ballpark improvements. Then there is the Rocky Mountain Vibes, formerly the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, who saw their Triple-A team move to Amarillo only to be replaced by a short-season club, then be eliminated from affiliated ball all together. It is no surprise, with all those moving parts and without a long-term commitment, the owners of the ballpark didn’t dig up right field and insert better irrigation at a field that would rain out with the sun shining because water would merely pool in the outfield rather than drain.

Wish List

MiLB TV Everywhere: Now that MLB has taken over operations of MiLB and there are long term commitments, there is no reason every club shouldn’t have their own broadcast team. This would take some time, but part of the modernization of the ballparks should come with the addition of camera wells and a broadcast booth ready for TV. MLB Network could then pick a Game of the Week to air mid-week, mid-day to fill programing but also allow fans to see the stars of the future and highlight great minor league cities.

Televise the Draft League: The Draft League, an amateur summer league run by MLB in conjunction with Prep Baseball Report, still has many questions looming, and it is not technically MiLB affiliated, but should have its own broadcasting package included in MiLB.tv.

Conference/Division Naming Contests: One of the many fun aspects of Minor League Baseball is the naming rights contests for teams when they move or re-brand that sees fans submitting crazy names and voting on them to determine what the team’s moniker will be moving forward (see Rocket City Trash Pandas). Why not take a big negative out of the announcement (uninspired league/conference/division names) and turn it into a positive by opening it up to a fan vote?

Allow Loans: Ok, this may be a wild idea on the surface, but stay with me. Under the new schedule of a July draft, teams will likely negotiate future contracts (i.e., drafted in 2021 but the contract begins in 2022), so why not allow teams that make up the Indy ball circuit loan those college draftees? This allows teams to sign a player to a same year contract, reducing the negotiation struggles sure to come with agents and teams arguing over when the contract begins, and let Indy teams bid to pay the player’s salary that summer in exchange for them suiting up for those teams. This wouldn’t work for top of the draft guys, and high school picks will likely head to the complex leagues but sending the 15th round college senior to the Missoula PaddleHeads helps strengthen the relationship with “partner leagues”.

The next twelve months will be fascinating to watch the minor league landscape settle in, but there are opportunities for Major League Baseball to better the game at the lower levels, and a season with so many moving parts as the 2021 season has is the perfect time to give it a shot.

MLB 2015 National League West Preview

Well, this division certainly made a lot of noise in the offseason, didn’t it? San Diego acquired seemingly every available slugging outfielder not named Cespedes. The Dodgers retooled the front office and subsequently, a large chunk of the roster. The overachieving Giants and their best-in-the-game manager Bruce Bochy are coming off yet another surprising World Series championship.

But let’s start with the bottom. The Diamondbacks and Rockies were terrible last year, and that doesn’t figure to change. For the 20 something year in a row the Rockies still don’t have any pitching, and even if Jon Gray and Eddie Butler break out, it’s not enough. The D Backs are now led by Chip Hale, and have added Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas, and while some of their young guys (see: Enciarte, Ender; Peralta, David; Owings, Chris) look like future studs, they’re still a couple of years away. Neither of these teams will factor.

With only a hint of sarcasm, the poor Giants. They lose the Panda to free agency, Hunter Pence to a broken arm for a while, Angel Pagan’s back is reportedly a concern, and their rotation is counting heavily on Tim Hudson and Jake Peavy, combined age over 70. Bochy can work magic, but look for a big step back this year. The Padres were serious about improving their putrid offense. Enter Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, and Derek Norris, and to a lesser degree, Will Middlebrooks. Their starting pitching remains a strength, if on potential alone. They might very well miss Huston Street, however, at the back end of ballgames. Very quietly, he has been baseball’s most effective closer for the last three years.

Projected Winner: The Dodgers. They just have a spectacularly good starting rotation, even if the criminally underrated Hyun Jin Ryu’s barking shoulder keeps him out the first month. There are very few lineup questions, if any, (the Pads still don’t know if Yonder Alonso, Tommy Medica, Carlos Quentin, or a Partridge in a Pear Tree will be starting at first base, or whether its Middlebrooks or Yangervis Solarte at third) and the departures of Brian Wilson and Chris Perez give Don Mattingly fewer catastrophic options to insist on using in high leverage situations out of the pen – even if closer Kenley Jansen misses the first 4-6 weeks after foot surgery. The Padres will keep it interesting, but probably finish four or five games back at the end of the season.

Is there a Wild Card, perhaps?: It’s not outside the realm of imagination, that’s for sure. The Padres have a good shot. Here’s why: The NL Central has the Cardinals, Pirates, and an improved Cubbies team that figure to contend. The Reds are still potent enough to play some spoiler, and the Brewers, while probably ticketed for a last place finish, shouldn’t be walkovers. That division could beat up on itself and struggle record-wise. Meanwhile, teams like the Padres and, perhaps, the Marlins in the NL East can fatten up against legitimate bottom dwellers in their divisions and lock down one of the two wild cards. Will they? The magic eight ball says check back with us in July for a clearer picture.

Manny Machado’s Bat Throw, An Arbiters Dream?

Manny Machado is one of the best young players in all of baseball, but his antics over the weekend were ridiculous. He managed to empty the benches twice by acting like a 12 year old, or his off-season workout buddy Alex Rodriguez.

It all started when Machado was running from second to third on a grounder to Josh Donaldson at third. Machado tried to avoid the tag, but he lost his balance when Donaldson apparently tagged Machado too hard. Machado fell to the ground, slammed his helmet, and immediately got into Donaldson’s face, clearing the benches.

Later in the series, Machado managed to “accidentally” hit catcher Derrick Norris with his bat on his backswing.

It was all topped off when Machado swung at a ball down by his ankles, losing his bat that appeared to be intended for the Oakland A’s third baseman, but three things went wrong there.

1) The third baseman was Alberto Callaspo, not Donaldson who Machado had the beef with

2) The bat was nowhere close to the third baseman, instead had a better chance of hitting the third base umpire than Callaspo.

3) He claims the bat slipped out of his hand as he tried to make contact.

Now, the third thing does not immediately jump out as strange, bats slip out of batters hands, it happens. But when the ball is down and in at the ankles, and the swing would only make contact if the ball was letter high on the outside corner, it is pretty clear he was not actually trying to make contact.

Then again, this could work out really well for the Baltimore Orioles. It is likely Machado will be handed a suspension for his actions over the weekend, and given Machado’s comments after the game, he will likely appeal the suspension and claim he was trying to make contact with the ball.

Machado is arbitration eligible following the 2016 season, and while the Orioles will probably try to sign him to a deal before he gets there, might this swing be in the team’s favor should they go to salary arbitration?

Couldn’t you just imagine the two parties going before an arbiter, Machado’s camp saying “Manny is one of the best young players in all of baseball, just look at his numbers” and the Orioles responding with, “Yes, his numbers are fantastic, however, he claims this swing was an attempt to make contact with the ball, clearly there is some sort of underlying neurological issue yet to be discovered. We will pay him the league minimum but ensure he has health care for life to take care of the problem if it manifests itself again in the future.”

Hey, arbitration is said to be brutal, and when it comes to money people can do some crazy things, so I encourage the Orioles to keep this GIF in their back pocket.

The Mendoza Line Movie Review

The Mendoza Line is a low-budget film written and directed by Nathan Kaufman that does a decent job at taking a look at the side of baseball that is rarely focused on, the low-minors players with no real future in baseball.

The story follows a catcher, Ricardo Perez, in his fourth season in the low minors who is actually an undocumented worker carrying a fake social security number. He is on his way out of professional baseball, and his wife is on her way out of the marriage. The storyline following Perez helps move the story along, but it is the commentary that makes the movie.

Many people don’t realize just how little the typical minor league baseball player makes, many live below the poverty line, and the movie shows that pretty well. Perez’ wife works two low-paying jobs, and he says “she makes more than I do”, which can certainly be the case in the minor leagues.

The movie follows a supposed A ball team, the Marysville Gold Sox, which is actually a collegiate wood bat summer league. It also has some inconsistencies when referring to some minor league cities and the progression a play might make, but I am also hyper-critical when it comes to baseball movies.

There are plenty of old baseball clichés used, but also some decent humor as well. The movie also touches on the lack of African-Americans in baseball, steroid use, and the difference between drafted players and international signings.

Overall, the movie was a decent watch, mixing some cultural issues along with some decent comedic relief. It is a quick watch, a run time around an hour and twenty minutes, but it also flies right by. I wish the movie had been a bit longer and dove deeper into some of the cultural topics raised and it could have been a really good movie. Instead, I put it as a movie that is worth the time to watch, but not a must see like it could have been.

For more information and where to rent/buy the movie, check out The Mendoza Line’s website.    

How I found myself at a Chinese National Baseball Team game.

Since I have moved to Arizona, I have been able to experience baseball in a whole new way. I have talked to team scouts, scouts with major media outlets, and countless coaches and players. I got to know the incredible hidden gem that is a minor league spring game on a back field and found the best spots to stand to make sure I get accurate velocity readings from the team’s radar guns.

Then Spring Training comes to an end and 125+ players for every team head off to the level they are assigned to, but that doesn’t mean the complexes go silent (they certainly get a lot quitter, but silent they are not). Instead, Extended Spring begins, and players get to spend another 2 1/2 months living in a hotel playing baseball every day in front of crowds that get dwarfed by little league fields around the corner.

Around baseball fields, you get used to hearing foreign languages, usually Spanish, but being so close to the Rangers, I often ran into groups of fans carrying signs and cardboard cutouts speaking Japanese as they get a glimpse of Yu Darvish getting in some cardio on his non-throw day. The Japanese fans are no longer here in Arizona, so I was surprised when I ran into a group of women on the way to the field speaking an Asian language the other day. It caught me by surprise because it wasn’t the Japanese I got somewhat accustomed to hearing, it was certainly something different.

As I look up toward the fields, one Rangers team is taking on the Seattle Mariners while the other Rangers squad is facing a team in all red uniforms and yellow writing across the chest. My mind immediately races through the teams who have spring complexes in Arizona, and then across the rest of baseball, and no team has this specific color combination. I go to grab the days rosters and lineups from the bins set out so media and scouts know who is who given players are not wearing names on the back of their jersey’s. One lineup shows the Rangers and Mariners logos, while the other has the Rangers logo and a yellow “C” with a red outline in Old English font.

Still thoroughly confused, I decide not to set up behind the radar guns and watch the field that features several players I am interested in getting a look at, but instead head over to the field where the group of women I passed earlier have settled in, along with three Rangers players and one other guy. I set up right behind the plate and look out at the pitcher wearing the all red jersey I am unfamiliar with and read the name printed on the front of the jersey, suddenly I realize it is the Chinese National Baseball Team.

I would love to be able to tell you more about the players, but I still can’t tell you who any of them are other than the pitcher had a big, healthy body that I would say projects well, if I had any clue his age. See, instead of the entire squad being made up of players that tend to be 21-years old or younger that I have become used to seeing in Extended Spring games, the Chinese team had a wide range of ages among their players. The catcher took off his mask to holler something out to his teammates, and looked to be at least in his mid-to-late 30s, while the first baseman couldn’t have been more than 22 or 23, nor was he taller than 5’11”.

I couldn’t tell you who played for the Rangers, I really didn’t pay attention, instead I just watched in curious awe. A tall white man, clearly American, jogs out to the mound to talk to the pitcher, but then someone else comes out quickly after him. Usually when another person follows the manager to the mound there is a pitching change, but instead, it was a translator. I then looked into the dugout to see there were at least three English speaking coaches and the Chinese translator runs back into the dugout to bounce back and forth between coaches to help relay the messages the coaches are trying to get across.

I couldn’t tell you what the score was, who won, or even if the game was competitive, which is the case for pretty much all the spring and extended spring games I have been to as I have focused more on players than the game as a whole, but this day was different.  I not only didn’t care about the score, but I didn’t find myself caring who looked good and who didn’t, I simply sat back and enjoyed the oddity that was the Chinese National Baseball Team facing off against a Rangers minor league club in front of a crowd that totaled about a dozen.