View Full Version : Changes In The Structure?
08-15-2005, 08:20 PM
I heard about this article on the Boise broadcast tonight.
Sounds like the new "goal" is that every MLB team will be responsible for 1 AAA team, 1 AA team, 1 advanced A team, 1 regular A team, and 1 short season A team. Rookie ball goes away, though the Pioneer League is upgraded and the Appalachian goes co-op.
Since I'm working well out of town, I may have mis-heard a part of the discussion talking about what sounded like a proposal to merge AAA leagues... and one to merge AA leagues. Didn't make much sense to me, I must have heard wrong.
Also request help here. With proposals to push BACK the draft and push UP the short-season schedules, they're talking about moving draftees into the instructional leagues (are records even kept on these?). Meanwhile, there are supposedly extended camps and schools (not the same thing??) that the discussion focused on for a moment, apparently with a proposal to shut down the schools in the states and expand them in Latin America and the Carribbean specifically for Latin ballplayers (THAT I understand).
Sounds quite intriguing, in any event.
09-21-2005, 07:04 PM
I heard about these proposed changes in the minor league structure too, but not to the level of specificity as you, Pounder. I haven't run the numbers but I wonder if a merge of the Pioneer into the same level as the NY-Penn and Northwest would create 30 total teams at that level. If this comes to pass, it'll be interesting to see what, if any, carnage would exist insofar as abandoned cities and upgrades/downgrades. May present opportunities for new independent franchises and leagues.
12-20-2005, 09:24 PM
Does anyone know if this was discussed at all during the winter meetings? I skimmed over the info on the meetings on the minor league baseball site but couldn't find anything. I know there are no changes in the structure for '06, but if they plan on making any by '07 can they wait until next year's meeting to make a decision?
I don't think the demise of the Gulf and/or Arizona leagues open anything for the indy leagues. The only Gulf League "stadium" I have been to is the GC Braves in Disney World, but if it is any indication of how the rest play, there is nothing there for an indy league to use. In 2000, when I was there, they played on a diamond that is comparable to one you could find in any city park. A cyclone fence backstop and a couple of metal bleachers. I'm guessing there is little fan base for these leagues even though they don't charge admission to the games. I couldn't imagine the fan base growing for a league that would have to charge admission.
12-21-2005, 04:43 PM
The potential demise of the Gulf Coast and Arizona Leagues really wouldn't open up opportunities for indy ball. First, every GCL team plays at a complex controlled by the Major League affiliate, and eight of them share the facilities with a Florida State League team. The fact is that you're right, most complex league games are played at secondary fields where there are little to no amenities for fans anyway; removing those league games won't free up facilities that would be worthwhile to pursue for an indy league.
Keep in mind, though, that eliminating the complex leagues won't reduce activity at their locations. Players just out of the draft will have to go somewhere, and many of them will attend extended instructional camps at the spring training sites. It may mean that organizations carry fewer players, though, since there will be no need to stock a full team at the complex level. Instead, organizations may carry only the players they deem worthwhile at that level.
The change that might open up some markets for indy ball is what's done with the rest of rookie ball. If the Appy goes co-op, many (including myself) believe that's the first step to shutting down the league altogether. Though many of those markets are smaller, there are likely some facilities and/or markets that would make nice additions to an indy league. The Pioneer League is more established, with larger, newer stadiums in decent markets. For that reason (as well as the number of teams required to give every organization a short-season team), I don't imagine the Pioneer would be pushed out. Plus, since PL teams are all owned by private ownership groups (as opposed to their major league affiliates, like complex teams and the Appy League), shutting down the Pioneer League would require Major League Baseball to provide market value reimbursement for to owners, amounting to more than a million dollars per team.
I would dismiss the idea that Triple-A and/or Double-A would combine into a single league. There has been no discussion to that effect that I am aware of. It makes no sense and it would be a logistical nightmare. Plus, it would increase costs for the minor league teams, especially for Double-A. (Before you think I'm nuts with that last statement, I know that a team in a unified Triple-A league would have higher travel costs than a team in a unified Double-A league. But Triple-A travel budgets are already high, so the impact wouldn't be as great as in Double-A, were much of the travel is still done by bus.)
To my knowledge the changes were discussed at length at the Winter Meetings, but no consensus was reached. Some teams are opposed to the proposal altogether, while others are still waiting for a comprehensive evaluation of the financial savings before making a decision.
As for a decision, baseball doesn't have to wait until next December to take action. A vote can take place over the winter or during the season - really at any time. So even though no action was taken for 2006, that doesn't mean we'll have to wait a year for a decision on 2007.
12-21-2005, 06:38 PM
On further consideration, this sounds like the "minnows" trying to equalize the advantage the "superteams" (Yankees, Dodgers, Atlanta) have by running more single A and rookie league teams, because they have the money to throw at more teenagers. Essentially, the new structure would equalize the number of roster openings all across the system. I can see where the bigs might object to that, even though Steinbrenner may not understand what good it does for him.
I still don't get why the PCL absorbed most of the American Association, just so you know where I'm coming from...
12-21-2005, 09:47 PM
The reality is that there are very few teams that have more affiliates in short-season ball. As of a few years ago, it was stipulated that every Major League organization have one affiliate in Triple-A, Double-A, High Class-A (also called Advanced A), and Low Class-A.
Short-season ball is where there is some wiggle room. Teams may have affiliates in short-season Class-A (NY-Penn and Northwest Leagues), Advanced Rookie (Appalachian and Pioneer Leagues), and Rookie (Gulf Coast and Arizona Leagues).
This is the breakdown of how many of each affiliate each Major League team has. After each organization is the number of short-season Class-A/advanced rookie/rookie affiliates.
Chicago Cubs: 1/0/1
Chicago WS: 0/2/0
Kansas City: 0/1/1
Los Angeles: 0/1/1
N.Y. Mets: 1/1/1
N.Y. Yankees: 1/0/1
St. Louis Cardinals: 1/1/0
San Diego: 1/0/1
San Francisco: 1/0/1
Tampa Bay: 1/1/0
As you can see, there really is no case of rich teams spending more money to secure more short-season affiliates in the United States. (Some teams have more rookie level affiliates in leagues in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.) In fact, every Major League organization has only two domestic short-season affiliates except the Mets, who have three.
So the restructuring is more about saving money than about evening the playing field between the rich and poor. It's also about a little different look at player development, arguing that draftees might be better served spending time at the complex learning in instructional leagues (with a host of instructors) than being sent immediately to a far-off outpost with just a few coaches.
Conspiracy theorists say that this is the first step towards downsizing the minor leagues, maybe trimming one of the full-season Class-A levels. Doing that would be difficult and expensive, though. Consider that market value for a Class-A full-season team is no less than $4 million to $5 million. That would mean that reimbursement to thirty minor league owners would amount to at least $120 million. That figure doesn't include the municipalities affected by a team being shuttered, some of which may have spent millions building or upgrading facilities to meet Major League-stipulated standards. Lawsuits would most certainly result; lawsuits would certainly ensue, and an argument could easily be made that it could be one of the greatest single challenges in recent memory to baseball's anti-trust exemption.
So I think baseball will stick with just ditching the complex league for the time being.
12-22-2005, 11:06 PM
The Appy League going co-op would be a shame. The Bluefield Orioles have been affiliated with Baltimore since 1958, the longest of any current affiliation. Personally, i'd move the NWL up to Low-A, dropping the Sally and MWL down 4 clubs each. That'd leave the NY/Penn, Pioneer, and Appy as short season leagues. You'd only lose 10 cities this way.
12-24-2005, 05:52 AM
The issue with cutting teams from any leagues other than the Appy League and the complex leagues is that you're dealing with outside ownership groups. Major League and minor league executives can sit down and decide the fate of the above three leagues without any outside consideration, since all the teams are owned by MLB. But when you cut teams from the South Atlantic League, to take your example, now you run into issues of cost and legality.
If you eliminate four teams from each of the Midwest and Sally Leagues, you're talking about eigth full-season Class-A teams. At $5 million to $6 million each club, that's a minimum of $40 million the big leagues would have to collectively cough up. That figure presumes that the teams on the chopping block are not money-makers, too.
And as I wrote before, what happens when teams and cities that don't want to shut down are told they have no choice? What if one is the Clinton, which just saw the state invest more than $4 million into the stadium? And ho goes in the Sally? Going from the bottom up in attendance, is it Columbus, who is working on a new ballpark as part of a huge development outside of Columbia? Greenville, who's opening a new ballpark in 2006? Maybe Augusta, where Ripken just bought the team and assembled a group of current and former big leaguers in the ownership group. I'm sure that their investment was for the purpose of seeing the team fall to a sort of eminent domain in a year or two.
The fact is that a cut of any size would surely result in a lawsuit, and a large one at that. And when you are talking about a group of businesspeople collectively determining the fate of other businesses against their wishes, you're talking about anti-trust. Now we've seen baseball's anti-trust exemption escape in recent years by a narrowing margin. But what happens when a lawsuit again challenging it includes among the plaintiffs not only eight no-name ownerships groups, but also the cities, counties, and states in which those teams play, as well us recognizable names like Ripken? After all the challenges the anti-trust exemption has withstood, imagine if it were a move in the minor leagues that cost MLB one of its most prized possessions and important advantages.
That's simply a risk that is too big to take right now. If teams outside of the Appy and complex ball are to be cut, it is going to take a great deal of maneuvering before an announcement is even made. And while there might be a handful of teams that might accept a buyout, I don't see a bulk contraction without more of a fight than baseball should willingly invite upon itself.
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