Atlantic League A Good Baseball Primer

ALSO: TEN MOST SURPRISING SWAPS OF THE 2021 TRADE DEADLINE

IBWAA members love to write about baseball. So much so, we've decided to create our own newsletter about it! Subscribe to Here's the Pitch to expand your love of baseball, discover new voices, and support independent writing. Original content six days a week, straight to your inbox and straight from the hearts of baseball fans.

Pregame Pepper

Did You Know?

During his four-year, $110 million contract with the Mets, Yoenis Cespedes played in 127 of 546 possible games (including eight last year before he opted out with “Covid concerns”) . . .

Size isn’t everything: little Jose Altuve (Astros) has more walkoff homers against the Yankees (2) than towering New York slugger Aaron Judge has against the whole American League . . .

Slumping Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman was the only All-Star to skip the “mandatory” player availability media hour . . .

Tough task: the Yankees, barely over .500, face a two-week stretch against first and second-place teams without their best hitter, best reliever, and most of their outfielders . . .

The Mets, out of the playoffs since 2016, have not won a World Championship since 1986.

Leading Off

An Ode to the Atlantic League

By Ray Kuhn

Baseball is baseball. At the root of it — whether it is tee ball, the major leagues, or a senior citizen league — the game of baseball is the same. That could, and should, ultimately be expanded to cover softball as well but at the end of the day, all things are created equal. 

This is regardless of the format, and covers any type of league or level you can think of. Sure, some of the rules aren’t exactly the same and some liberties are taken, but it’s still baseball. 

And that, my friends, is what warms the heart and really matters. It is all about the emotional connection and impact that baseball brings to the table. 

Sure, we got a 60-game regular season last year and an exciting playoff, but something was missing. At the major-league level, it was having fans in the stands and being able to attend a game in person. Compared to all of the other professional levels, though, we were a lot better off and they simply took the year off. With that year off came a void that not only was difficult to fill at the time, but now that it is back, we know even more what we were missing. 

Attending a major league baseball game is a very precious opportunity and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. However, at any given time the most games that could possibly be going on are 15. For multiple reasons, taking in one of the games isn’t exactly the most convenient, possible, or realistic opportunity for many. And that is where minor- league baseball and independent leagues come in and fill a very important and vital role across the baseball landscape. 

At just two-and-a-half years old, my daughter wasn’t exactly born at the best of times for attending live sporting events. With that being said, given her age, the attention span is still in work in progress as well as ice cream in a helmet can be just as exciting as the action on the field. Regardless of that fact, sharing in a live, in person, baseball game and all that it has to offer is a memory that can’t be overstated or ever taken away. 

In this situation, it was more about just the numbers on the scoreboard and instead about simply having the opportunity to set foot in a ballpark again and take it all in. The green grass, the crack of the bat, the sound of the ball hitting the glove and everything in between can’t be replaced or replicated. And for that, I’m talking about myself as someone who has been to more games than I can count. 

With that being said you can only imagine the emotions I felt when I was returning to a live baseball field, aside from my slow-pitch softball games, for the first time since 2019 while also taking my daughter to her “first” game. Back in 2019, who knew that things would be paused for the next year of our baseball lives? But given everything else going on in the world, that does tend to lose importance. 

In minor-league and independent league baseball, the stakes are just as high for the players on the field (if not higher as they try and reach the show). Things take place at a more relaxed pace. The cost follows suit and ultimately create an atmosphere more conducive to families and young children. 

Seeing that former All-Star and current Olympian Ian Kinsler, along with Danny Valencia, were going to suit up for Long Island Ducks in early July for a few games to prepare for the Olympics was all I needed to buy some tickets. Whatever benefit my daughter got out of going to the game was more than enough for me, and I was more than happy to watch Kinsler bash a double off the left-field wall when he was back in Arlington with the Rangers. 

What happened was that my daughter was mesmerized. Of course, the mascot, Quackerjack, caught her attention as did the pink foam finger and quacker toy she just had to have, but the action on the field truly caught her attention. Prior to our outing, she already understood baseball at least to the point that there is a pitcher and a batter, but it didn’t take long for her demand the opportunity to go down on the field “to play with the men.”

No trip to the ballpark is complete without eating ice cream out of a plastic helmet, and the post-game fireworks didn’t hurt either; it was a true success. The fact that the Ducks pulled out a victory with a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth inning was exciting but also secondary to the true success of the night. 

While of course we were rooting for a Ducks victory, and to see Kinsler turn back the clock, the outcome on the field was not of the highest importance. And that was both refreshing and a lot less stressful. 

There is nothing like the adrenaline a Mets-Braves match-up brings with the NL East on the line, but as far as a fun family outing while introducing my daughter to live baseball and making memories, the Long Island Ducks are perfect. And next time, we will be going to a game that allows her to have a pregame catch in the outfield and run the bases after the game. 

Ray Kuhn can be found writing on Fantasy Alarm and podcasting at Friends With Fantasy Benefits after previously covering the Houston Astros as part of the FanSided network at Climbing Tal’s Hill. Reach him at @ray_kuhn_28 or raykuhn57@gmail.com as he is always interested in talking or writing about our great game. 

Cleaning Up

Surprising Swaps Of The 2021 Trade Deadline

By Dan Schlossberg

The baseball trade deadline is always full of surprises. Players virtually certain to be swapped sit still, others nobody talked about change addresses, and teams that think they can make snag a division crown over the last two months hold onto their vets like Grim Death — which is often the result, by the way.

Freddie Freeman’s expiring contract did not make him trade bait, but his Atlanta Braves still made bids to snare Joey Gallo and Starling Marte before they went elsewhere. Atlanta made four Deadline Day trades, coupled with two others completed after the All-Star Game, and wound up with slugging outfielders Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler, Joc Pederson, and Eddie Rosario and closer Richard Rodriguez — surrendering only Bryse Wilson, Pablo Sandoval, Alex Jackson, and prospects.

Those names won’t set off any alarms but together, that’s an impressive haul for a team trying for its fourth straight division title.

With August waiver deals a thing of the past, all 30 clubs were active as buyers, sellers, or some combination of both. And all kept wary eyes on the upcoming off-season labor negotiations, with a very real threat of a work stoppage.

Now that 4:00 Friday has disappeared into the dustbin of history, here are a Baker’s Dozen of the most surprising deals:

  1. Yankees get Joey Gallo and Joely Rodriguez for a package of prospects — New York lands the left-handed slugger it lacked all season, and a southpaw reliever to boot, in exchange for a package of prospects — none of them blue-chippers. For reasons unknown, Texas even agrees to pick up the entirety of Gallo’s paycheck for this season.

  2. A’s land Starling Marte for southpaw starter Jesus Luzardo — The low-budget Athletics, spending for a change, add a quality center-fielder in their bid to catch the Houston Astros in the American League West. Miami cuts payroll and adds a pitcher of promise.

  3. Dodgers rob the rebuilding Washington Nationals of All-Stars Max Scherzer, the aging but still skillful pitcher, and Trea Turner, a shortstop who will bide his time at second, then replace departing free agent Corey Seager.

  4. Another payroll-paring club, the Chicago Cubs, make a rare all-city trade, sending coveted closer Craig Kimbrel to the White Sox for injured second baseman Nick Madrigal and a prospect.

  5. Not to be outdone, the Cubs wreck their entire infield, sending Anthony Rizzo to the Yankees, Javy Baez to the Mets, and Kris Bryant to the Giants — and even agree to eat the remainder of the Rizzo contract. The Yankees wind up filling a gaping void at first base and in the lineup, as Rizzo, like Gallo, bats left-handed.

  6. Less than two years after winning their only world championship, the Washington Nationals throw in the towel, trading every good player but Juan Soto. Exiting this week, in addition to Scherzer and Turner, are Yan Gomes, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Lester, Josh Harrison, and every ounce of credibility.

  7. The Colorado Rockies, afraid of another Nolan Arenado aftermath, keep Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, German Marquez, and their fourth-place rung in the National League West. Not a good time to stand still, guys.

  8. On the same day they return to Toronto for the first time in two years, the fourth-place Toronto Blue Jays tease their fans by bringing in new bullpen hands Brad Hand and Joakim Soria and much-sought starter Jose Berrios — giving the heavy-hitting Jays a real shot at a wild-card berth.

  9. At age 41, teams still trade for DH Nelson Cruz (Twins to Rays) and left-handed starter Rich Hill (Rays to Mets), with ancient Pablo Sandoval also hitting the road (Braves to Indians).

  10. After failing to land Tyler Anderson from Pittsburgh, the Phillies patch up their problematic pitching staff with a pair of Texas Rangers: starter Kyle Gibson and closer Ian Kennedy. But the Phils, Braves, and other suitors are jilted by Minnesota’s decision to keep center-fielder Byron Buxton. Philadelphia is rather desperate; it has not reached the playoffs or finished over .500 since 2011.

    Former AP newsman Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is weekend editor of Here’s The Pitch; national baseball writer for forbes.com; senior baseball writer for Latino Sports; and contributor to USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and Ball Nine. He is also the author of 38 baseball books. Reach him at ballauthor@gmail.com.


Timeless Trivia

The 2021 Dodgers were the first team to start a season with three MVP contenders (Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager) and three Cy Young Award candidates (Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, Walker Buehler) . . .

Tigers rookie Akil Baddoo – owner of the best name in baseball – hit .380-something in June to quiet skeptics who dismissed him as a flash-in-the-pan after a cold spell followed a hot start . . .

Center-fielder Joe Adell, a flop with the Angels as a 2020 rookie, is tearing it up at Triple-A as he tries to return to the bigs . . .

Don’t invite Max Scherzer and Joe Girardi to the same party . . .

Fellow All-Stars flooded Shohei Ohtani with autograph requests in Denver . . .

At All-Star time, Ohtani had 33 homers, a slugging percentage of .698, and an average of 11.69 strikeouts per nine innings – as a pitcher . . .

Ohtani hit six 500-foot homers in Home Run Derby and threw two 100 mph fastballs the next night . . .

Of his first 260 home runs, reigning National League MVP Freddie Freeman hit 130 at home and 130 on the road . . .

Prior to the 2021 All-Star break, Freeman had more extra-base hits (233) in the second half of the season over the last 10 years than any than any other player.


Know Your Editors

HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [bchrom831@gmail.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [nymfan97@gmail.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [ballauthor@gmail.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.