Minor league baseball, as we have come to know it, is about to cease to exist
Hundreds of minor league baseball players were cut en masse on Thursday, garnering gloom and doom headlines, but, now, come on.
This is what happens in baseball.
A tiny fraction of minor-leaguers make it to the bigs.
The rest, as is known well in the business, are there to play catch with those guys.
They’re there until they get cut, and have to get real jobs.
It sucks that this is the reality, but, it’s the reality.
A few outliers rise from the late rounds of the draft, from being undrafted free agents, to play in MLB, occasionally become key contributors, stars.
The vast majority are there to, you know, play catch.
So, no, the cuts aren’t a direct result of COVID-19 changing the business model.
This is change that was coming anyway just being hastened, as we’re seeing in other business sectors.
And honestly, the idea that having as many as nine minor-league affiliates makes any sense is so …
Trying to think when it stopped making sense.
Maybe around the turn of the century, if it still made sense then.
MiLB continues to exist because we’ve romanticized the notion of baseball being played in smaller markets, the Salems, Lynchburgs, Fredericksburgs, Richmonds, Norfolks, where fans can see guys on their way to The Show.
Dwight Gooden, for instance, struck out 300 batters as an 18-year-old in A ball in Lynchburg in 1983, which, looking back on it, who the hell’s bright idea was it to have Gooden go 191 innings in the minors at age 18?
If you want to know why he started having arm trouble at 24, there you go.
Teams want to be smarter these days about how they train future talents, and keeping guys in basically extended spring training is where the front offices, which have millions invested in arms and bats and gloves, think they can get the most bang for their bucks.
The hard part was always going to be cutting ties to the small- and mid-market communities that have hosted minor-league teams dating back forever.
You felt the blowback when MLB pushed out the hazy details of the plan for MiLB restructuring over the winter.
The cuts announced today, folks, are the first steps in what we resisted a few months ago.
MLB has already scaled back its draft this summer from 40 rounds to five, another acknowledgement that there isn’t going to be a need for so many guys to play catch with the rising stars in the future.
This is the emerging new normal for baseball.
It makes all the business sense in the world.
Doesn’t mean we’re not losing something.
Story by Chris Graham