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NCAA’s Mark Emmert slams minor league sports. Minor League Baseball slams back.


The NCAA’s Mark Emmert would be a jackwagon if, for no other reason, than that he leads the NCAA and apparently believes all of the hypocritical crap that he and the NCAA’s water carriers spew about amateurism and student-athletes while they make billions off their unpaid labor. Or, worse, that he doesn’t believe it and spews it anyway. Really, the NCAA is the worst and Emmert is its leader, ergo: Jackwagon.

But during his testimony in the Ed O’Bannon trial last week, he took it a step further:

“To convert college sports into professional sports would be tantamount to converting it into minor league sports. And we know that in the U.S. minor league sports aren’t very successful either for fan support or for the fan experience.”

Just on the surface that is dumb, in that Minor League Baseball — though it has experienced ups and downs in its history — has been in a pretty damn sustained upswing for a couple of decades now. An upswing any way you slice it, really. Revenues. Profits. Attendance. New ballparks. Merchandise sales. And I bet if you polled fans of various sports and various levels and leagues of sports, you would find that minor league fans are among the most satisfied with that which they patronize than anyone. It’s affordable, it’s family friendly and it’s fun. When was the last time you heard anyone complaining about going to a minor league game?

Pat O’Connor, the president and CEO of Minor League Baseball took Emmert to task for this over the weekend. After schooling Emmert on just how wrong he was, O’Connor offers and invitation:

So, Dr. Emmert, there’s no denying that minor league sports are in fact immensely successful in regard to fan support and fan experience. And Minor League Baseball is thriving as an alternative to other more costly entertainment options. We have the thrills of a theme park, the emotions of a good movie, the element of surprise at a concert and the cuisine of your favorite restaurant, all wrapped up in one event and taking place in 70 ballparks on any given summer night. 

Please accept this as an open invitation, Dr. Emmert, join the American people and attend a Minor League Baseball game this summer. See for yourself just how much fan support we have and how the fan experience is like none other in the sports world. There’s something special going on at Minor League Baseball parks across this country and there’s never been a better time to be a part of it.

I assume Emmert won’t go. Mostly because it would likely pain him so to see athletes being paid, even if it’s just a little bit, to play sports.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.