Sunday, November 17, 2019

Monday Morning Hot Links

The hits just keep on coming.

There is a plan currently working its way through MLB in which 42 minor-league teams - most of them in the short-season leagues - would essentially be contracted. Among them would be the Quad Cities DJs River Bandits, the Astros' Low-A Midwest League affiliate. In September, Travis Sawchik noted that the Astros reduced the number of their minor-league affiliates from nine to seven, with the article wondering if we even needed minor-league baseball. The New York Daily News' Bill Madden leads his article (1st link):
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. 

You should click that link. Bill Baer has a good recap of the whole thing.

Why would MLB do this? Why would MLB put a slot value on each pick in the first ten rounds of the draft? Why would they cap international spending? To save money. You don't have to pay the pennies you pay for 1000 minor-league players, or staff. So if the outcry is going to be that MLB teams should take better care of their minor-league players, then MLB's answer is to have fewer minor-league players. Then you can pay them more and not be out any actual extra money.

What's the problem, exactly? Well, minor-league baseball provides affordable access to baseball for a large number of people, and that's not taking into account geography. I have never taken my daughter to an Astros game. Why would I spend that much money to go to a game when I know that she's going to want to go by the 6th Inning? I can take her to Round Rock (closer to me), and if she gets through six, it's fine, because I'm out maybe $40 total.

What if you're a baseball fan in Billings, Montana (one of the teams proposed to get the axe)? You lose your team, and you're a 12-hour drive from Seattle. It's a terribly short-sighted idea by people who have all the money in the world trying to save a little bit more of it. Baer:
They'll get their PR win by increasing pay for minor leaguers while drastically reducing its minor-league workforce. They may even save money overall. But the ripple effect of slashing 42 minor league teams across the country will stunt the sport's growth in the long-term. And that's bad for everyone.

Also included in that first link are the other components of the plan: Move the amateur draft to August and limit it to 20 rounds. Madden:
It was the contention of the Astros and most of the smaller market clubs, that there is too much money being wasted on players who will never come close to reaching the majors. They may have a point, but between the reduction of the draft and the limit on the number of players in an organization, who knows how many Mike Piazzas, Luke Voits, or John Gants, will ever be signed.

Interesting that - apparently - the three teams to spearhead this movement were Houston, Baltimore, and Milwaukee. Milwaukee GM David Stearns and Baltimore GM Mike Elias worked under Luhnow in Houston.

Or J.D. Martinez (2009 20th Round), or Tyler White (2013 33rd Round, or Josh Rojas (2017 26th Round, traded for Greinke), to be more personal. When we lived in upstate New York, the closest affiliated baseball team was the Oneonta Tigers. The stadium was terrible and I was wearing a sweatshirt in August, but I do remember seeing Casper Wells play for Oneonta. When Tri-City would come to Oneonta, I saw Jason Castro, J.B. Shuck, Fernando Abad, Bud Norris, and Brian Bogusevic. Apparently Chris Johnson was on that 2006 ValleyCats team but I don't remember him. We moved to Nashville about three months before Jose Altuve put up a .653 OPS for the 2009 ValleyCats. It was a very fun, cheap way to see guys that - clearly - I remember 10-13 years later. I don't know if the minor-league contraction thing is going to happen. I also don't think that one team/one person can destroy the very fabric of baseball, but between Taubman, trash cans, and taking away minor-league baseball in 42 communities across the country, the Astros are making a run at it.

Is Manfred going to make an example of the Astros? Well when Buster Olney writes that teams have treated him "like a high school crossing guard" it's certainly a possibility.

*Something I was recently thinking of FOR NO REASON AT ALL: Atlanta general manager John Coppolella got banned from baseball for life for being cute with international signings for a three-year period from 2015-2017. There is no way Atlanta was the only team playing with signing bonuses. To be fair, Coppolella was banned from baseball in part for trying to mislead MLB's investigation.

*Sean Pendergast notes that the email allegedly sent by Kevin Goldstein to scouts - the "see what you can (or can't) do email - came in August 2017. He found this Chronicle piece from August 18, 2017 about the Astros firing eight scouts.

*Wired: How the dumb design of a WWII plane led to the Macintosh.

*Yes, you can catch Insanity.

*Bloomberg: Inside the most watched YouTube channel in the world.

*A Musical Selection:

I'm a middle-class white guy who will be 40 in February. OF COURSE I love Ben Folds. I've seen Ben Folds play live at least three times. I have never seen anyone play a piano solo by banging the microphone on the actual strings inside the piano before, which I saw him do at Numbers (on Westheimer) in 1998 about ten days after my 18th birthday. Click here if you want to see this song live at Bonnaroo in 2015.