Thursday, July 17, 2008

And That Happened

PCL 6, IL 5: No, I'm not going to pretend I watched it and I'm not going to pretend I care. I used to watch it, though, almost every year in fact.

But there's a limit to how much minor league ball a guy who doesn't really care for minor league ball can watch, and the fact is that the Futures Game really steals the thunder from the AAA All-Star game these days. It features prospects we recognize and who, in reality, are far more likely to make an impact on the big club than anyone in the AAA game. The Futures Game had Matt LaPorta. He even got his own ESPN feature story. The AAA game had Mike Hessman and Gino Espinelli. Great guys, I'm sure, but no one who we'll one day watch tearing up the bigs as we say "I remember him from back in the day."

The disparate treatment of the two games -- one gets a big stage in New York, the other is in Louisville -- reflects the overall decline of AAA baseball. Not a financial or structural decline necessarily, but a decline as a talent repository. Big league teams are now parking major prospects at AA, often promoting them directly to the big club from there. To the extent they get time in AAA it's brief. Hold them there any longer and teams risk infecting them with the bitterness of the guys who think that they're good enough to be in the majors but aren't and the desperation of the guys who know they aren't good enough but soldier on anyway. At least that's how the story goes when you talk to front office people.

I'm sure there's an element of that on AAA clubs, but does an environment of desperation and bitterness really pose a risk to our fragile eggshell prospects? Color me skeptical. In fact, I can't help but think that it would be a good environment in which to dip a phenom for a bit. Make him realize how fine a line there is between success and failure. Make him realize how fortunate he is to be on the fast track while so many others are spinning their wheels. Give them that "there but for the grace of God go I" feeling that motivates so many of us.

And for our purposes, make the AAA all-star game relevant again.

5 comments:

Gary from Chapel Hill said...

"...does an environment of desperation and bitterness really pose a risk to our fragile eggshell prospects? Color me skeptical. In fact, I can't help but think that it would be a good environment in which to dip a phenom for a bit. Make him realize how fine a line there is between success and failure. Make him realize how fortunate he is to be on the fast track while so many others are spinning their wheels. Give them that "there but for the grace of God go I" feeling that motivates so many of us."
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If the prospect was fairly well educated and thoughtful, then I would agree completely. But many of the top prospects have been completely removed from reality for almost their entire lives. I'm not sure that many would ever be reflective enough for "there but for the grace of God go I".

Pete Toms said...

I very much miss AAA here in Ottawa. I support our new CanAm League team but it's a big step down....Ok, the elite prospects are in AAA for a short period if any but most big leaguers play in AAA at some point, don't they? If you don't live in 1 of the 30 cities in North America that have an MLB franchise, AAA is the closest you'll get. It's great ball.

I get your point though. I look at the Futures Games rosters but not the AAA All Star game rosters. Maybe it should be called the AAAA All Star Game.

themarksmith said...

Are you trying to say my hometown of Louisville isn't as cool as New York?

Craig Calcaterra said...

I'll defer to Rick Pitino's opinions. What does he think?

Daniel said...

FWIW, I really liked Louisville when I was there. I got a River Bats hat and everything (although I think they're just the Bats now, I'm not sure).

I'm a huge fan of minor league baseball (at least AAA and AA) because the talent is decent and they do all sorts of crazy things during the game that you could never pull off in a major league game. Like have a dog in a jersey as the bat boy. And later have this dog go and take a leak in the grass right next to the visiting team's right fielder. How awesome is that?