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The Minor Leagues, Where Players Learn The Game

Bill Coppola, Florida State League Bradenton, FL.

What has changed in baseball this year as far as statistics? Nothing. Why should a shortened 60 game season be any different than one with 162 games? The starting pitchers still only throw 88 pitches, there are still more strikeouts than hits and home runs are as common now as apples in the produce aisle.

It may not be a full season or include fans in the stadiums but other than that, it is baseball as usual. Not having fans in the ballpark was not the owners call. Bickering about money for a few months with the players union before they decided on this shortened schedule is on them. As long as they continue to put out the same product every game, they feel like everything is ok. But is it?

The fact that there are no games being played at the minor league level, is something that may come back to haunt MLB and not in the long term future of the game. That should be a great concern for the average fan and this is why. Owners have made a commitment to cut back on player development and teams they will have at the lower levels. Not because of some brilliant new idea on how to develop future big league ball players but because of money. Fans could be cheated out of seeing well played games in the coming years.

Remember this, baseball is a business and in every business it is always about the money. I understand that any business is a risk where all can be lost but please, baseball is a cow that never stops producing milk.

Players at the lower levels need to play games, period. Having inter squad games this year will just be a temporary set back for most of them. But the long term impact of less teams and leagues at the lower levels is going to be devastating for the future of quality big league players. Organizations have already cut back their scouting and player development personal to the bare minimum. Truly there could have been a better way to make cuts to your budget.

It is the equivalent to losing a vital body part. As I have said in the past, you need seasoned veteran scouts to find amateur players and evaluate at all levels on the professional side. They don’t make a lot of money. According salaryexpert.com: “An entry level baseball scout (1-3 years of experience) earns an average salary of $30,728. On the other end, a senior level baseball scout (8+ years of experience) earns an average salary of $49,206.” Player development personnel salaries range from $96,000 to $146,000.

If owners think that is a lot of money wasted, they are listening to the wrong advisors. They have replaced these people with brilliant young college graduates that do not have a lot of baseball knowledge under their belts. They use analytics, algorithms and video quite well. But this is baseball and not NASA.

When they see a report that a guy throws 100 mph, their interest flags go up. A veteran scout or player development person sees that the guy throws 100 but can’t hit a 53 foot long tractor trailer from 60 feet six inches! Or that he gets the shakes when a big lefty comes to the plate. Or that he is home sick. There is nothing that can replace the eyes or instinct of a seasoned veteran baseball man.

The stars will always make it to the show, they are just that good but the majority of big league players come from years of playing games at the lower levels, under the guidance and patience of people who have seen it all. The next time you see a player not hit the cutoff man or look lost on the base paths, don’t blame the player. He will be a product of the new player development programs in professional baseball.

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