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.

World Series Umpires announced

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In the Major League Baseball system, the people are entertained by two separate yet equally important groups. The players who play the game and the umpires who call the balls, strikes and outs. These are their stories.

Wait, that’s not true. They’re not equally important and we certainly don’t want to hear the umpires’ stories. If the stories are about the umpires it usually that means they’ve screwed up.

Not always, though! In 2013, you may recall, I wrote a story about an umpire who made a much talked about call in a World Series game that (a) happened to be right, even if it was much-debated; and (b) his story is one I’ve always found compelling, even if he’s most famous for a call he got wrong.

Jim Joyce, though, an umpire who was widely admired and respected despite his famous blunders, is one of the few exceptions to the rule about what it means to know an umpires’ name. Most of the time we’re all lucky — umpires included — if the introductions are the first and last time we hear of them.

Here they are for the 2018 World Series, with Game 1 assignments noted:

Home: Tim Timmons
1B: Kerwin Danley
2B: Ted Barrett — Crew Chief
3B: Chad Fairchild
LF: Jeff Nelson
RF:Jim Reynolds
Replay, Games 1-2: Fieldin Culbreth
Replay, Game 3-End: Tim Timmons