Dear Commissioner Manfred,
It’s your friendly neighborhood blogger, Professor MadDog. You can call me Prof. Commish…can I call you Rob? I mean, it feels like we’re going through so much. Me loving baseball, you destroying it. It’s only fair I can call you by your name. Know your enemy, am I right? Anyway, Rob, it’s almost time for the Winter Meetings, and I’m here to talk to you about your plans to rip the fabric of America into shreds by eliminating dozens of minor league baseball teams and cutting out whole swaths of the MLB draft. Listen, I don’t care if you don’t have time, I do. And we’re going to talk about it.
Let’s start with the draft first. Seems like a simple thing, yes? Don’t draft as many players because obviously, the deeper you go into the thing, the more likely it’s some kind of loser who will never sniff the majors. So why go any further than your proposed twenty rounds? I mean, that’s pretty obvious to someone who doesn’t like baseball like yourself, but to someone like me, that seems ridiculous. Why don’t we ask Mike Piazza what his opinion on this is? Surely you remember Mike Piazza. He’s a Hall of Fame catcher, the 1993 NL Rookie of the Year, a guy with a bWAR of 59.6 and one of the best hitting catchers in National League history. Oh, and he was drafted in the 62nd round.
He’s an anomaly, you say? All right, let’s ask Mark Buehrle, who was drafted in the 38th round. He was the 1,139th pick in 1998. He’s not going to the Hall, but he had a heck of a career, fourteen years to be exact, with an overall ERA+ of 116. Buehrle pitched a no hitter and a Perfect Game, too. I guess that’s pretty good, right, Rob?
We better write off Mark Grace, Jeff Kent, Andy Pettitte, and two other Hall of Famers, John Smoltz and Ryne Sandberg, all of whom were drafted in the 20th round or later. Surely, the game won’t miss them. You’re right, Rob, let’s go ahead and draft a dozen Mark Appels and never give Roy Oswalt (the 23rd round) a chance. That’s some bold leadership, sir.
While we segue into the other topic I want to bring up, let’s discuss how even the guys who won’t make it to the bigs are important to the players who do. I’m talking your blue chip prospects, your can’t-miss sure-fire bets. Are we going to force them into the Show without giving them the proper education in the minors? Have you ever heard of the phrase “iron sharpens iron,” Rob? The warm bodies that you deride, the nobodies who aren’t making it to the Big Show… those are the people who push your prospects to greater heights. They protect them while they get experience. They teach them what it’s like to be in professional baseball. All of these things are important, and none of it can be taken for granted, especially by men in high offices in New York instead of the guys on the field who are a brotherhood day after day.
This leads me to my second point, and it’s frankly the most important one. Forty-two minor league teams on the chopping block. Forty-two teams eliminated, forty-two communities losing a connection to baseball. In an age where the major league version of the sport is trying to regain market share and find newer fans, the powers that be are shooting themselves in the foot with blackout television rules, internet radio rules, and now taking away the actual product in small towns and hamlets across America.
Let’s talk about two of these teams – the Erie (PA) SeaWolves and the Orem (UT) Owlz.
Orem, Utah is over eight hours away from the Colorado Rockies and nearly ten hours away from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Two of the three minor league teams in Utah would be affected by this ill-conceived plan, with only Salt Lake City remaining. This tells small town residents – and children – that they don’t matter. That baseball is only for “the city” and this is absolutely not the message that should be sent out there. Why are you making it difficult for children to see the game? What about growing the sport, Rob?
The Erie, PA Double-A Tigers affiliate is a fairly popular team, Rob. The SeaWolves have an owner and a community who have poured millions of dollars into upgrading their facilities, revamping their marketing, community outreach, player conditioning… you name it. This is a team and a community that truly loves baseball. They want to see the game live, they want to take their children to the ballpark and show the kids what this beautiful sport is all about.
The general manager of the SeaWolves, Greg Coleman, actually mentioned this in his own open letter to MLB. I’m sure you didn’t read it, Rob, because you’re so busy trying to destroy the sport. Allow me to remind you of something really important that he mentioned:
Over the past few days, I’ve encountered people who have never felt more detached from baseball. These longtime supporters are prepared to walk away from the game forever. After dedicating more than 20 years of my life to promotion the sport, that stings. The game does not improve when you reduce access to it.
Frankly, that’s it. This is the crux of the situation.
Rob, since you have taken the reins of this wagon, you have done your level best to run it off the road. Everything you have done is to lessen and cheapen the sport. Now, you are threatening to take it away from the very people you need to keep it alive – the moms, dads, and kids of small town America who fall in love with the sound of the ball hitting leather, the sound of the bat swishing and cracking, the smell of the grass and the dirt and the popcorn. They fall in love with baseball, and you are taking that away from them.
Yours in Christy Mathewson,