Minor League baseball

The Major Leagues and Minor Leagues will stay together a while longer

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Maury reports that Major League Baseball and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues — which is what you had no idea the affiliated minor leagues were called — have reached an agreement on a new six-year Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA), extending through the 2020 season.

An agreement, you ask? Why on Earth would they need an agreement?  Don’t the Major Leagues own the minors? Don’t they have complete and total dominion over them and has it not been always thus?

Nope, though a ton of people seem to think that.  As Bill James wrote in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, however, things used to be quite different:

The minor leagues did not start out as what they are. By a long series of actions and agreements, inducements and rewards, the minor leagues were reduced in tiny degrees from entirely independent soverignties into vassal states, existing only to serve the needs of major league baseball.

As James noted — and as people who know their baseball history know full well — the minor leagues used to be their own show. The East Nowheresville Marauders would go out and scout talent themselves. They’d sign a guy. They’d develop him and then — if they wanted to and if the price was right — they’d sell the guy to a major league team.

But really, these teams were their own businesses in ways that we never think of minor league teams being today. They may keep a guy because their job was to win and sell tickets, not to develop talent for a “major league” like the NL or AL. And the guy may want to stay in East Nowheresville because he may have been a pretty big deal there and might have a cushy job waiting for him at the local bank after his playing days ended.

And it’s not like the fans thought that what they were watching was somehow inferior. Indeed, way out west in the old Pacific Coast League, people thought of the product as basically major league level, or at least something close to it.  In fact, there were multiple overtures by the NL and AL over the years to absorb the PCL in order to expand west before the Dodgers and Giants just up and moved out there. It was a totally different time and a totally different thing.

These days the system may work more efficiently to get talent in front of people’s eyes and there is obviously no going back, but I think we’ve lost something as a result too.  I’m still explaining baseball to my kids. When I take my daughter to Columbus Clippers games, we talk generally about how the guys out there are trying to make their way to the Cleveland Indians or some other Major League team.  My daughter, however, still can’t quite process how what she’s watching isn’t the be-all end-all and why the primary goal of the club as a whole isn’t to win, even if it’s a welcome byproduct. I’m worry that — like  me — she may one day come to think of a lot of those guys as frustrated and disappointed that their dreams weren’t realized, whether or not that’s actually the case.

Oh well.  Things change.

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez killed in a boating accident

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 03: Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins looks on during a game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on August 3, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Horrible news: Miami Marlins ace starting pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boat crash off of Miami Beach late last night.

No details have been released yet, apart from the fact that Fernandez was one of three people killed. The Marlins have issued a statement confirming Fernandez’s death, stating that the organization is devastated and that their thoughts and prayers were with Fernandez’s family. Today’s Marlins game against the Braves has been canceled.

Fernandez was only 24 years old. Though only in his fourth season in the majors, he was easily one of the best and most exciting pitchers in the game. In his four seasons he won 38 games and posted a fantastic ERA of 2.58 while striking out 11.2 batters per nine innings. He was an electric presence on the mound and was poised to become one of baseball’s most highly-paid and entertaining superstars.

His baseball exploits seem trivial now, however. His loss at such a young age, tragic. Our thoughts today are with Fernandez’s family, the Marlins organization and those who knew and loved him.

The Nationals are NL East champs once again

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals celebrates after clinching the National League East Division Championship after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 at PNC Park on September 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Another day, another division title in the bag. The Nationals coasted to a 6-1 finish over the Pirates on Saturday evening; coupled with a Mets’ loss later that night, the NL East title was theirs for the third time since 2012.

The Nationals put up a three-spot in the first and fourth innings, scoring five of six runs on productive outs while Washington starter Joe Ross tossed 2  innings of one-run ball in his second start off the disabled list. Prior to the game, manager Dusty Baker seemed reluctant to delegate a set number of pitches to the right-hander, opting instead to base Ross’s workload on his performance.

Washington’s bullpen carried the team the rest of the way, combining for 6 ⅓ scoreless frames to preserve their five-run lead. When Anthony Rendon snared a liner from Andrew McCutchen to end the game, all eyes turned to the clubhouse TVs:

Murphy had sufficient cause for worry: After trailing 10-0 through four innings, the Mets returned with an eight-run drive that culminated with Jay Bruce‘s solo shot in the ninth inning. Had Bruce hit the home run after Philadelphia closer Michael Mariot issued a pair of walks, and not before, the Mets would have edged out the Phillies, 11-10. Instead, their late-game rally ended on a fastball down the middle, and the Phillies’ 70th victory confirmed the Nats’ place atop the NL East.

While Max Scherzer donned his two-toned goggles and Bryce Harper braved the champagne showers in U.S. Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky’s swim cap, Baker was already thinking about Sunday’s start. Against the Pirates’ Tyler Glasnow, Baker announced his plans to start 24-year-old A.J. Cole, whose seven starts have yielded a 4.68 ERA and 0.2 fWAR in 32 ⅔ innings this year.

Cole hasn’t displayed the sharpest stuff in his sophomore season, touting a high 3.03 BB/9 and 1.93 HR/9, but with the division locked down and the Cubs in sole possession of home field advantage through the NLCS, the Nationals have bigger concerns as the playoffs draw near.