This is not a good time to be a twenty-something year old baseball prospect trying to work through the minor leagues. Not exactly man-bites-dog news, I understand, because life is not ideal for twenty-somethings trying to build a resume in any profession.
But for those caught (trapped?) in baseball’s minor-league system, it’s like treading water in no-man’s land.
Major League Baseball has a full 162-game schedule set for the 2021 season, and all 30 teams have report dates and a full slate of spring exhibition games for spring training. But don’t be fooled — more than likely those plans aren’t worth any more than the paper they are written on.
The 2021 season is supposed to be the first year of MLB’s takeover of the minor leagues, with 40 teams being eliminated. But there is a very real possibility that this season will be no different than the last one under the old basic agreement.
There were no minor-league games last year, and according to some with knowledge of the situation, that is a possibility again. There is widespread speculation that under the best of circumstances the lower levels of the minor leagues won’t start much before Memorial Day, if that early.
“There is a possibility there won’t be a minor-league season as we have known it,” said one official, speaking anonymously for obvious reasons.
There will be a major-league season, but how much it will differ from last year remains to be seen. Despite all the plans for a full speed go ahead, there is a real possibility the major-league season could be geared toward a late May to early June start.
Whenever the MLB season does start, there will be some form of activity at the high minor-league level — either a base camp of “ready reserves,” as was the case last year, or scheduled play at the Triple-A level, with any other activity conducted at various spring training site.
There were five cities in Maryland affiliated with the minor leagues in 2019 — Aberdeen, Bowie, Frederick, Hagerstown and Salisbury. But Frederick will be part of the new wood-bat MLB Draft League, with Aberdeen becoming the Orioles’ High-A affiliate.
Frederick, which had been operating in the Carolina League, was originally designated as one of the cities that would lose its affiliation. But despite facilities that are inferior, the Keys have a history of stronger community support than Bowie.
Although major-league teams most likely will have some input, it is believed the various affiliation assignments will be made by MLB, which could lead to some interesting developments. The first fallout from the realignment of the minor leagues came when the Staten Island Yankees folded and on the way out the door launched lawsuits against its parent team and MLB.
The divorce between MLB and the minor-league system it is creating will not be amicable. Stay tuned.
It’s hard to imagine anything good resulting from the pandemic of 2020, but there is one consolation prize if you’re among those offended by the obscene number of bowl games that that made a mockery of the college football season.
It was almost an insult when coaches claimed the “postseason” games served as a recruiting tool, when in reality most of them served only one purpose — to get a jump on spring practice. You need no more evidence than the number of top players who opted out so they wouldn’t further jeopardize their potential NFL careers.
The NCAA would be doing everybody a favor if it borrowed the MLB playbook and eliminated about 40 of those games.
While on the subject, I wonder how many of those parents who helped pressure the Big Ten into playing a delayed and shortened season are second guessing themselves right now. This season hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park — or even the short cut to the NFL, which just might have influenced the thinking.
I’m enjoying it so much over here outside my comfort zone that I think I’ll stay on a roll. It seemed very convenient Notre Dame found a conference it could adopt in order to dump its independent schedule and qualify for a national championship.
Of course the Fighting Irish are members of the Atlantic Coast Conference for all other sports, so they had friendly faces in the right places. But you wonder what would have happened if the conference had used its hammer and said: “You can come in now, but it can’t be one and done — you have to stay.”
Granting a one-year pass was little more than an escape route for Notre Dame and a big gamble for the league. Notre Dame already has a win against Clemson (playing without top QB Trevor Lawrence) and should it repeat in the ACC championship game it will likely cost the Tigers and ACC a chance for the national title that would go with the big payday. Technically, of course, Notre Dame would be the ACC champion, but that would be little consolation to the other conference members.
What are the odds of the NFL and NCAA finishing the football seasons before spring training?
This story was updated after minor-league downsizing became official.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Aberdeen IronBirds