Each July, the top international prospects in all of baseball play an all-star game against the top American prospects in all of baseball. Some of the players involved are so good and so close to big league level that they could very well be key additions to contenders in the second half. Others will form the foundation of your favorite team as early as next season and for many, many seasons to come.
The 2017 Futures Game took place yesterday. The U.S. won, with Tampa Bay Rays prospect Brent Honeywell striking out four in two innings of work and Astros prospects Derek Fisher and Kyle Tucker each hitting RBI doubles. At one point White Sox prospect Michael Kopech struck out fellow White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada on a 100.7-mph fastball. Exciting, both in terms of storyline and in terms of baseball action.
But you probably missed all of that. Just as you probably miss the Futures Game each year because the scheduling of it is aggressively bad. Indeed, it is seemingly calculated to maximize the number of baseball fans — and baseball insiders for that matter — who do not see it.
Yesterday the game began at 4pm, which is the absolute peak time for big league action given that the early games were all still going on and the late games were all getting underway. While MLB.com sent some of its beat writers to Miami a day early in order to get people to cover it, the media contingent for local papers, TV stations and web outlets were back home or on the road covering their big clubs. Many national media members were en route to Miami for the All-Star festivities and not yet at Marlins Park. The park itself was about half empty.
Why Major League Baseball insists on scheduling the Futures Game at the worst possible time is beyond me. They could, if they chose, move the usual Sunday Night Baseball game to the day and give it a prime time showcase. I’m sure the Tigers and Indians players who played until almost midnight the night before their midseason vacation began wouldn’t have minded. Now that the second half does not begin until Friday — it used to be Thursday — they could play the Futures Game on Monday, do the Home Run Derby on Tuesday and the All-Star Game on Wednesday. They could also shift the whole All-Star break to a weekend if they wanted to, altering the schedule a bit more radically. It’s not like there are football or basketball games this time of the year to compete with weekend viewing.
I’ve asked MLB people about this several times in the past. Each time I do, I get some tautological explanation about how it’s scheduled at this time because they believe it’s the best time to schedule it or some such nonsense. Meanwhile, they schedule their D-list heavy Celebrity Softball Game to air via tape delay after the Home Run Derby. That’s not ideal, but at least it doesn’t have to compete with actual baseball. It gets its own showcase and a couple hours of promotion during the Derby.
The Futures Game is a cool event. It may be the best baseball event with the exception of actual Major League competition. Too bad MLB makes a point to ensure that it’s played at the same time as lots and lots of Major League competition.