Wednesday, April 24, 2024

THE CHEAP SEATS with STEVE CAMERON: MLB making a major error with minors

| December 11, 2020 1:25 AM

Forgive me.

I’ve used this quote somewhere in the past, so if you’ve previously seen it in the vicinity of my mug shot, I apologize, but…

The words are so timeless and accurate that perhaps I should toss them out once a month, or so.

The quote came from Bill Terry, a Hall of Fame first baseman (and later manager) who remains the last National Leaguer to hit .400.

Terry’s last appearance on the field came 84 years ago, although he managed the New York Giants — for whom he’d spent his entire playing career — until 1941.

Terry had plenty of opportunities to deal with team ownership as both a player and manager.

He found the men who were custodians of the game a bit wanting, to say the least.

And that brings us to Terry’s famous line…

“Baseball must be a great game to survive the fools who run it.”

WE ARE now long past Bill Terry’s time, and into an era when Major League Baseball owners are billionaires.


But you know what?

They are still just as foolish as Terry would have remembered.

These are the people who started an ugly fight with their players last summer, prolonging the battle with the union until they had whittled the season down to 60 games — all to save money they probably don’t really need.

By the time the “season” began in mid-summer, owners and players despised each other, and there wasn’t an ounce of trust on either side.

How stupid was that for MLB?

Well, assuming that the COVID pandemic allows them to stagger through the 2021 season, the two sides’ Collective Bargaining Agreement runs out after this coming season.

Those talks on a new CBA should go very smoothly, eh?

Mr. Hatfield, please negotiate with Mr. McCoy.

There almost certainly will be a strike or lockout to start the ’22 season.


You’d think that would be enough ignorance for one industry in a fairly short period of time, wouldn’t you?

Not for baseball, as Bill Terry told us nearly a century ago.

The sport’s next chapter in its manual for self-inflicted damage is coming with contraction of the minor leagues.

This very week, 120 organizations that have had operating agreements with MLB received “invitations” to be part of a new-look minor league system.

Unfortunately, 43 other teams did not.

MLB, which can’t even take care of its own house, now wishes to run the minors — lock, stock and barrel.

Although some of the changes (in leagues, ballparks and much more) have been spelled out by MLB, some others have not.

WHEN THE Mariners sent out the great news to its lucky six affiliates, the largest one (Triple-A Tacoma) responded that it couldn’t accept this gracious offer without more specific information.

I’m sure they’ll get it worked out — Tacoma has been with the Mariners for 35 years — but still, I loved the Rainiers’ answer, which basically said…

“Get your act together!”

If you care about pro baseball in our neck of the woods, you’ve probably already seen that Spokane remains in the plans as one of the fortunate 120.

The Indians will play a 132-game season in the Class A Northwest League, beginning next April.

Yikes, those night games will be chilly for a month or more.

Oh, but one casualty of the contraction is that Spokane’s 18-year partnership with Texas is now kaput.

The Indians will be affiliated with Colorado.

TWO OF the eight Northwest League teams that competed most recently (2019) in short-season competition — Boise and Salem-Keizer — were NOT invited to the party.

Basically, MLB cut them loose — which fits with the plans to develop less players, as the free-agent draft has been slashed from 40 rounds to 20.

And in places like Spokane, MLB has ordered upgrades to clubhouses, dining areas and other spots.

That will cost the Indians ownership money.

Will all this craziness fatten the billionaires’ wallets?

Yeah, maybe, in the short term.

Meanwhile, though, MLB will have ditched 43 franchises in places where young people outside huge metro areas go to fall in love with the game.

MLB might run off some of the chosen 120, too, places where owners decide that MLB’s offer doesn’t seem so hot.

Baseball is already struggling to make an impact with younger generations — the potential fans who might spend money on the big-league product as they get older.

Why on Earth would you do something ELSE to increase your struggles with groups that already are drifting away?


Where is Bill Terry when we need him?


Steve Cameron’s “Cheap Seats” columns appear in The Press on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. “Moments, Memories and Madness,” his reminiscences from several decades as a sports journalist, runs each Sunday.

Steve also writes Zags Tracker, a commentary on Gonzaga basketball which is published each Tuesday.