Minor League baseball

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


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.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.