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S.Sox
07-05-2007, 02:04 PM
I was wondering about the level of play in the various Indy leagues. I noticed the Atlantic League has several teams with loaded rosters that include former MLB names.
The Long Island Ducks have former MLB players-Donovan Osborne,Danny Graves, John Halama,Edgar Alfonzo, Jose Offerman, Pete Rose Jr.,Carl Everett, and finally Damian Rolls..on thier roster today..Wow!!!
I'm guessing (because I know nothing about the Atlantic League) they pay better or offer better playing conditions or..???
I just found that interesting , anyone who is aware of the difference please let me know..I would love to see those names in the GBL!!
S.Sox

Silver Sox Fan
07-05-2007, 02:58 PM
I'm definitely not an Indy League expert but I would rank the leagues as follows in terms of level of play. This doesn't mean it is the best league per se as many would see the Frontier League as one of the best indy leagues because they are able to keep costs low and still draw decent attendance.

1. Atlantic. They do indeed play the best, they play in city-finanaced (mainly) stadiums that are the best in the Indy League, and are a frequent stopping point for former MLB players hoping to get another look from the Show.

2. Can-Am, Northern, American Association, GBL. These are the ones with the least restrictive roster rules. GBL is the least restrictive while the others require a minimum number of rookies and a maximum number of veterans (those with more than 5 years of service). Salary caps vary from about 50K to 100K.

3. Frontier. Most restrictive roster rules...no one over 27 allowed and similar roster rules as those in category two.

4. United and South Coast. Brand new (2 yrs or less) so we'll see what happens with them.

So basically, those restrictions probably affect level of play and who you will see. For example, Frontier will never have an MLB guy like you mentioned due to the max age. The others could see big names if they are willing to play for about 3K per month or less in most of those leagues. If the guy lives in the local area of the league the chances are improved, of course.

But level of play is hard to quantify and it changes year to year in some of the newer leagues.

As for the GBL, they are still expanding the league and looking for recognition that will improve overall level of play. The more contracts they sell to MLB and the better the promotions and in-game atmosphere, the more fans, scouts, and other teams will take notice. Then that leads to better sponsorship and, if properly reinvested, leads to more of the above. The bottom line with Indy baseball is that it is intensely local. Success happens there, not at a corporate office. That is why other indy leagues draw 2-3 times better than the GBL in some markets and why they have convinced cities to pony up money for stadiums. As the GBL builds the local fan base, local sponsorship, etc. and can demonstrate that the league is here to stay, they may have some of the same things. Of course,many of those league have been around for 10-15 years so we'll just have to see where the GBL is by that time.

One thing is for sure. Most indy leagues in the so-called indy graveyard folded in the first 2-3 years so the GBL has at least made it that far.

Thorp
07-05-2007, 09:44 PM
Some Indy leagues are expanding too quickly and not taking care of business at home. Players are asking to be traded as they are not being taken care of either.

aabfan
07-05-2007, 11:12 PM
I've been asked to post in about this topic since I've been following the Northern League and other indy leagues since they started in 1993 with over 860 games experience as well as the websites (nlfan.com (http://nlfan.com/) and aabfan.com (http://aaBfan.com/)) and highly active forums (http://p200.ezboard.com/bnlfanmessageboard) in all indy ball. I'm going to pop a few balloons, bust some myths and probably upset a few people here. Sorry, but I was specifically asked by one of your posters to chime in.

1. FORGET the facility or who pays for a ballpark. What matters is the league and the ownership of the individual teams. After that it's the quality of the ballpark itself that matters.

2. The AtL is probably tops in indy ball because it (a) has the longest season, (b) it has least in salary cap and (c) it's in the largest east coast markets --not who paid for the facility. As a result it provides the most money, practice and quickest departure to the MLB if an ex-MLB player choses to keep trying to make it back to the show. It also doesn't hurt for any other players trying to do the same. MLB players take longer to get their timing down and a season that starts earlier and last longer is more practice to be in shape for a possible call up.

3. The roster rules for the C-AL, AA and NoL are functionally identical; I don't know the status of the GBL's. They restrict the number of veterans to a maximum (4) and a minimum number of rookies (5).

See the rules on nlfan: http://www.nlfan.com/FAQ/roster.shtml

4. The FL refers to itself as a developmental league which is why they only allow a maximum of 3 veterans and a minimum of 10 rookies. It's as old as the NoL, very successful with continuing expansion.

See: http://www.traversecitybeachbums.com/news_view.php?id=11

5. The NoL and AA salary caps are $105K for the season. The GBL (last season) had a salary cap of $88K.

See: http://www.norcalblogs.com/bullfight/archives/2006/07/local_baseball.html

6. The ULB and SCL are similar to the GBL in that they have central ownership. The other leagues are NOT centrally owned with separate ownership groups for each club. This is easily the biggest difference between indy leagues and a relatively new innovation (starting with the GBL).

7. As for ranking, I sincerely doubt the GBL ranks up with the NoL or AA. Between the salary cap and the quality of ballparks --especially in the NoL (which is mainy brand new ballparks with all major amenities)-- the GBL certainly lags. One need only look at the attendance figures for most NoL and AA clubs to see that they are double the GBL.

Here they are (through July 4, 2007):


TOTAL TO DATE OPENINGS AVERAGE
Northern League

WINNIPEG 139,670 22 6,349
KANSAS CITY 116,418 20 5,821
SCHAUMBURG 87,395 19 4,600
JOLIET 76,837 21 3,659
GARY 65,540 19 3,449
FARGO-MOORHEAD 74,428 23 3,236
EDMONTON 52,819 24 2,201
CALGARY 31,460 22 1,430


American Association

ST. PAUL 124,734 22 5,670
EL PASO 114,072 26 4,387
LINCOLN 87,475 22 3,976
FORT WORTH 67,233 17 3,955
SIOUX FALLS 71,928 25 2,877
PENSACOLA 49,151 22 2,234
SIOUX CITY 51,347 27 1,902
COASTAL BEND 36,379 22 1,654
SHREVEPORT 28,960 19 1,524
ST. JOE 19,606 27 726

Can-Am League

BROCKTON 70,019 21 3,334
QUEBEC 47,710 16 2,982
WORCESTER 52,557 22 2,389
NEW JERSEY 45,691 21 2,176
ATLANTIC CITY 47,156 22 2,143
NORTH SHORE 38,419 18 2,134
SUSSEX 51,721 26 1,989
NEW HAVEN COUNTY 30,104 17 1,771
NASHUA 29,791 19 1,568


Golden League

YUMA 21,696 10 2,170
CHICO 26,260 15 1,751
LONG BEACH 23,061 14 1,647
RENO 15,597 10 1,560
ORANGE COUNTY 13,095 11 1,190
ST. GEORGE 12,059 17 709


When you're drawing more and paying more you're going to have better players. The GBL got some former NoL/AA/C-AL players who wanted to play closer to home, but other than that you're not going to get the best players unless you have all the amenities (pay, facilities, crowds). These all matter to most ballplayers.

8. Is the GBL actually "expanding?" It only has six clubs and had eight at one time. Sorry to say having upward to four "suspended" teams is not a good sign. Leagues have recovered from such problems (FL and C-AL) but don't kid yourself that league is "expanding" when it's still trying to get back to the same number it had in its inaugural season.

9. The indy graveyard has leagues that lasted 3 season --depending on what you consider "dead."

Western League: 8 seasons, '95-'02
Prairie League: 3 seasons '95-'97
Heartland League: 3 seasons '96-'98

If you're actually looking for the indy league graveyard, it's here: http://www.indyleaguesgraveyard.com/

10. The idea of sponsorship may work in a centrally run GBL/SCL/ULB but it's definitely NOT part of any other indy leagues. Instead of a central office running everything, the individual owners run the league (via committee) through league offices (with a major exception in the FL where Bill Lee IS in control). Any sponsorship is at the local, not league, level.

11. Expanding too quickly? I'm not sure which leagues you're talking about but expansion is rarely the problem. The Northern League, which I know the best, didn't "expand" too quickly. It grew from 6 to 8 clubs in its fourth season (1996). Excluding the 4-season merger with the NeL, it waited six more seasons to expand to ten (2002). The last expansion waited another three season (2005) prior to the split that created the AA --which was due only in part to expansion to Alberta.

The problems with other leagues are varied and most have stayed pretty much the same size, sometimes with contractions (NeL/C-AL; FL) but is usually due to weak franchise that were, in GLB-speak "suspended."

12. As for where the GBL ranks, I have little way to judge but I think it's really at the same level as the other centrally-run leagues SCL and ULB.

13. You're ignoring at least one other league that's below all them: The Continental League. It's a better example of bad "expansion" when you create a (doomed?) league of four teams with only ballparks.

14. If a club can build attendance it could get a new ballpark but I don't see much sign, based upon the attendance figures, to show that many of the GBL communities are need of any new ballparks. Until you have regular attendance in excess of ballpark capacity (and not just because they're small to begin with) and a community willing to invest in one it just isn't going to happen.

Few communities build new ballparks for indy clubs they already have. Of the twelve clubs that were in the NoL at its peak only one got a new ballpark (Winnipeg). The rest, if they got anything new, got upgrades --the most significant being Sioux Falls (where the city paid $9M) the rest being much smaller. The Saints, one of the most successful in all indy ball, still plays in a sub-standard (for most indy leagues), high school facility and have been trying for 6-7 years to get a new ballpark (and are still 1-2 years from getting one).

Again, if I've upset some people here: Sorry. I was asked to comment and, as I do in my own forums, I pop "FAN-tasies" and other fan myths about how baseball and indy ball work. I normally steer clear of other league forums and, happily for some of you, will not make a habit of posting here.

Like most fans (and owners) in the NoL, you really need to look beyond your own team and league to learn how they work. The NoL, by being one of the oldest, has several books that cover it and can be useful. I have a list of them here: http://www.nlfan.com/league/books/

Between "Wild and Outside" and the brief stories in the sections of "The History of Independent Ball" you can learn a lot about how indy ball has worked.

Silver Sox Fan
07-06-2007, 12:16 AM
Guys, I asked Bill to post here and I hope you can see the perspective he brings. I lurk a lot on his board, nlfan.com, and really enjoy his perspective on things.

For Clarification, since Thorp is a guy who is in UBL terriority, he is probably talking about their recent article where they were trying to get to 18 teams. Not the preferred model for indy league expansion to be sure.

As far as my comments, I rolled the GBL in with the other leagues only on the basis of roster rules. The GBL COULD get the same quality of players and maybe someday will. They don't exclude players over 27 as the Frontier League does. But, it does come down to those things mentioned (pay, facilities, etc)

And, as for the parks, my comment was meant to infer that if the GBL could cement themselves as a community fixture and could improve attendance to near capacity they would have standing to move out of the college parks to a stand alone (perhaps multi-use) facility.

Other than that, I am glad Bill took the time to clear some things up and to give a perpective of someone who was attended hundreds of Northern League games. Thanks.

nlfan
07-06-2007, 01:37 PM
The fact is the GBL is the first of a new business model that has different dynamics. Unlike the NoL, where there's well established "2.5K/gm 'line of death'" (leading to relocating of franchises) and separate owners, there at least the expectation that the strong clubs will support the weak. If more GBL clubs sell off, the dynamics will match this and things may become "less" stable.

The GBL seems to have found a niche but it's likely to remain in existing facilities for a while until clubs show they have outgrown them. That path is where the upgrades will come in.

The real question for the GBL is if/how it can expand. For now, it doesn't have much geographic competition (unlike the Battle for Wichita (http://p200.ezboard.com/fnlfanmessageboardfrm61.showMessage?topicID=1.topi c) that's pitting the NoL, AA, ULB and possibly several others including a rumor of the GBL itself).

One thing to watch out for is "hollowing" out of the league. As distances increase so do the travel costs. If the league starts losing weak clubs in its center and expanding to the margins this can bring trouble. The NoL is the prime example that became all the more unpleasant after the AA split. As long as there's intelligent and firm control from the head of the league this probably won't happen.