This post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.
And now, random musings about AAA Baseball:
AAA baseball is the best baseball in North America outside of the Major Leagues and perhaps certain fall/winter leagues (it varies). This is not in doubt. The athletes who play in cities like Sacramento, Buffalo, Charlotte, New Orleans, and Rochester are some of the best ballplayers on the planet.
However, they are not necessarily the best prospects. This is something often forgotten. Oh, to be sure, many of the best players in the majors have stopped in AAA for at least some time, but the idea that the minors is a ladder where players go up rung by rung is for the most part out of date. The truth is that, with certain exceptions, the vast majority of players in AAA are not prospects anymore, but rather players who have reached or are close to reaching their ceiling, but aren’t good enough to play for their MLB club. AAA has the most accumulated talent outside of MLB, but it doesn’t have the players with potential talent. No, it’s increasingly common that those players with the potential talent skip over AAA, only going back if they get injured or are clearly out of their league in the Majors.
Most people, however, don’t realize that. They still expect that every major prospect will come through, regardless. When Miguel Sano and (for a time) Byron Buxton skipped over Rochester last season, some fans took it as a betrayal. Never mind that, at the time, the Red Wings were pretty set in outfield and third base, or that the two of them were so clearly better than AA that only a fool wouldn’t call them up to the big leagues to help in an unexpected playoff hunt, as the Twins were in.
The solution to this, if there even needs to be a solution (aside from the fact that it might be in baseball’s best interest to have the more-populated cities of AAA see more future stars than the less-populated AA cities, there really isn’t a true problem to be solved), is unknown. Perhaps eliminating the very lowest of the minor leagues- the Arizona and Gulf Coast Leagues, could recombobulate the systems a bit and lead to it becoming more of a rung-by-rung set-up again. Who knows?
Perhaps because of the fact that you are watching the-best-who-aren’t-the-best in front of crowds filled with people just there for beer and/or fireworks, AAA can be a surreal place, especially if you sit behind the visitor’s dugout.
I have heard the late Jose Lima tell a group of half-drunken bros to be polite to the ladies and to remember that kids are around. I have seen Dmitri Young talk down a heckler and then proceed to hit for the cycle on a rehab assignment. I once spent something like 18 innings watching a game with the immortal Corky Miller standing in front of me, his mullet protecting him from a chilly Rochester night.
All of this for the price of a ticket that probably wouldn’t even get you in the door at many MLB stadiums, much less close enough to hear a reliever swear and throw his glove after a bad performance, inevitably leading to Mary, the first lady of the third-base side, telling him that it wasn’t the glove’s fault.
That there is not a Mike Trout Zooperstar is obscene. I mean, c’mon, it’s so obvious.
At one point, Jenny Finch’s husband, Casey Daigle, was a member of the Red Wings. Hopefully their kids get their mother’s arm, because it felt like every time he came on the mound, something bad happened. I don’t know if this is statistically true, but it sure felt like it.
Finally, a story. The Rochester Red Wings are owned by shareholders in the community, the result of lawyer Morrie Silver’s stock drive to buy the team from the Cardinals, who wanted to move the team.
However, I never had been able to get stock. While in practice the shares have no true value, in reality they can be really expensive and it’s really hard to get active shares. This is mainly because many of them have lapsed in the half-century-plus since the stock drive and many that do go up are reportedly bought by the Silver family. In addition, there is the fact that, unlike other community-owned teams like the Packers, there have never been additional sales of stock, which is kind of ridiculous from both a PR standpoint as well as the fact you’d have to imagine that the sales of shares could help fund stadium improvements (this, by the way, is why the Packers did their most recent shares-drive).
At one point, I thought I’d gotten one, but it turned out that it had expired and been given to the state (in theory I could have gone through New York State to get it back, but that would have required me finding the heir of the guy who had bought it originally and a bunch of other complicated things). But, this past year, I finally got one. I became a owner of Rochester Community Baseball:
What does it mean? Officially, nothing. One share isn’t enough to get me a personal luxury box, or give me the power to demand that they bring back those Abbott’s Milk Shakes, or even get me a ring if they were to win a Governor’s Cup next season. But it does provide something that is unique about small-city baseball in America: a sense of ownership.
You see, when I go to the ballpark this summer, I’ll be going knowing that, in a very small way, this is my team, my field, and my souvenir cup with Kyle Gibson and Logan Darnell on it (well, that’s what it was last year, probably will be different this year). Fans in St. Louis or Boston can claim they own their favorite team, but they are only speaking in metaphor. For me, it’ll be reality, no matter how small or insignificant that reality is.
And that’s something that AAA will hopefully always have over the majors, no matter how many uber-Prospects jump directly from AA.
(Seriously though, if any Twins front office members are reading this, can we at least have Max Kepler for a month before he gets called up? Please?)
At 5 PM: The Sliding Scale of Fictional Baseball Realism
This post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.