What The Majors Did To The Minors

ALSO: BIG-NAME MUSICIANS TO PLAY FENWAY PARK THIS SUMMER

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Pregame Pepper

Did You Know?

Surprise slugger Jesse Winker deserves to start the All-Star Game after producing a pair of three-homer games during the first quarter of the campaign . . .

Marcus Semien, third in the AL MVP voting as an Oakland shortstop last year, could pull a repeat now that he’s the Toronto second baseman . . .

Philadelphia’s game against Washington Sunday was delayed 20 minutes when protective netting behind home plate collapsed without warning in the eighth . . .

Newcomer Patrick Wisdom has done so well at bat and at third base for the Cubs that Kris Bryant has become a regular in left field . . .

Adding Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Willy Adames has improved Milwaukee’s defense so much that the Brewers are a contender again in the NL Central.

Leading Off

That Championship Season

By JB Manheim

I have finally grasped the true reason why MLB reorganized the minor leagues this season. Oh, the solons of the game will tell you it is to enhance player development, reduce travel, and improve the level of facilities across the affiliated teams. And sure, it will do that.

But in a little-noticed action following the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the leaders of the game decided that they could no longer count on attendance and $12 beer sales to fill their coffers. They needed to diversify. They needed to develop new sources of revenue to assure the financial security of their franchises.

A committee was formed in October to identify new business opportunities related to the game that carried guaranteed income streams. It quickly became apparent to the members of the group that baseball had pretty well rung out every available penny from the game at the highest level, so they turned their attention to the affiliated minor leagues.

Though a few of these teams are owned by the major-league clubs themselves, most are not. So the challenge was to see how much of the cash flowing into independently- owned minor league organizations could be redirected upward without -- and this was regarded as important -- so annoying fans and affiliated clubs that they would rebel and bolt from the structure altogether.

Several options were considered -- purchasing the remainder of the affiliated teams outright, imposing a head tax on minor-league attendance, and the like. But all of those were regarded as too obvious and too direct. It would be far too easy for minor- league owners and fans to mobilize against such an in-your-face intervention. After all, people in fly-over country do have their loyalties.

That's when the committee hit upon the golden idea. Don't try to profit from the affiliates directly. Instead, arrange them into new, confusing aggregations -- pseudo-leagues, if you will -- to which no one could possibly have an existing attachment, gain control of all the companies that manufacture championship memorabilia, then generate massive demand and let nature take its course. The more combinations, the more winners there could be. Not only would that make more people happy, but that's also where the new, reliable money would be found.

After all, every team wants to be a winner, and every winner and its fans want to celebrate that accomplishment. Just think of all those mugs, caps, banners, pennants, trophies. The possibilities are boundless.

When understood in that light, suddenly the 2021 reorganization of the minor leagues makes perfect sense. Consider the need:

- Champions: Midwest Division of the Triple-A East Region

- Champions: Northeast Division of the Triple-A East Region

- Champions: Southeast Division of the Triple-A East Region

- Champions: East Division of the Triple-A West Region

- Champions: West Division of the Triple-A West Region

- Champions: East Divisional Round-Robin Playoffs of the Triple-A East Region 

- Champions: West Divisional Playoffs of the Triple-A West Region

- Champions: Triple-A Regional Playoffs

- Champions: North Division of the Double-A Central Region

- Champions: South Division of the Double-A Central Region

- Champions: Northeast Division of the Double-A Northeast Region

- Champions: Southwest Division of the Double-A Northeast Region

- Champions: North Division of the Double-A South Region

- Champions: South Division of the Double-A South Region

- Champions: Central Divisional Playoffs of the Double-A Central Region

- Champions: Northeast Divisional Playoffs  of the Double-A Northeast Region

- Champions: South Divisional Playoffs of the Double-A South Region

- Champions: Double-A Regional Round-Robin Playoffs

- Champions: East Division of the High-A Central Region

- Champions: West Division of the High-A Central Region

- Champions: North Division of the High-A East Region

- Champions: South Division of the High-A East Region

- Champions: High-A West Region and De Facto West Division Champions

- Champions: Divisional Playoffs of the High-A Central Region

- Champions: Divisional Playoffs of the High-A East Region

- Champions: High-A Regional Round-Robin Playoffs

- Champions: Central Division of the Low-A East Region

- Champions: North Division of the Low-A East Region

- Champions: South Division of the Low-A East Region

- Champions: East Division of the Low-A Southeast Region

- Champions: West Division of the Low-A Southeast Region

- Champions: North Division of the Low-A West Region

- Champions: South Division of the Low-A West Region

- Champions: Divisional Playoffs of the Low-A East Region

- Champions: Divisional Playoffs of the Low-A Southeast Region

- Champions: Divisional Playoffs of the Low-A West Region

- Champions: Low-A Regional Round-Robin Playoffs

- Participant

Why, sales of the ink alone could sustain a weak MLB  franchise. Plus, those are aspirations we can all get behind. And now that I know where the smart money is going, I can invest wisely and plan my retirement.

JB Manheim is Professor Emeritus at The George Washington University and the author of the new novel, This Never Happened: The Mystery Behind the Death of Christy Mathewson. His satire, like his novel, pokes at the boundary between baseball fact and baseball fiction. Visit his website at jbmanheimbooks.com. 

Cleaning Up

Fenway Park Hits Home Run As Concert Venue

By Dan Schlossberg

Ever since The Beatles performed at Shea Stadium in 1964, big-league baseball teams have used their ballparks to bring in extra revenue by staging concerts during road trips.

The Boston Red Sox have done that better than most.

They’ve had 80 concerts since their first in 2003 and have an ambitious schedule lined up for this year as well.

Billy Joel, Lady Gaga, and the Jonas Brothers headline a list of stars that begins with Guns ‘n Roses August 3 and runs right into October.

The Foo Fighters were one of several name acts to give concerts at Fenway Park.

Since New York is the top out-of-town market for the Fenway Park concert series, the reaction of Red Sox fans will be interesting if and when Billy Joel performs A New York State of Mind.

He’s been to the century-old ballpark before, along with Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, and a host of other musical luminaries — many of whom had more hits than the ballplayers who usually play there.

McCartney said on several occasions that Fenway is his favorite place to play.

According to the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, the economic impact per concert is more than $9 million per concert for the local economy.

That includes money spent on hotels, restaurants, souvenirs, parking, and such transportation services as MBTA, Amtrak, Uber/Lyft, and local streetcars (subway). Hot dog and peanut vendors make their fare share too, since concerts invariably sell out the 37,000-seat venue.

Both the Commonwealth Hotel, a stately property that often hosts visiting ballclubs, and the Marriott Residence Inn Back Bay, a block from the ballpark, relish the concerts because they fill rooms that would otherwise go unfilled. The Vert Hotel, over on nearby Boylston Street, also benefits.

In fact, the Residence Inn reported that the concerts produced as much demand for space as the Boston Marathon, graduation weekend, citywide conventions, and the Head of the Charles Regata.

According to the convention bureau, the average attendee at a Fenway Park concert spends an average of $26.10 on concessions inside the ballpark and $42 on Boston restaurants before and after each show.

Tickets were sold in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C. and the 10 lower Canadian provinces — a factor that prompted 35 per cent of attendees to stay in the area overnight.

Unlike baseball games, concert are rain-or-shine events. Ticket prices vary according to seat locations but are expected to disappear quickly.

For further information, see www.redsox.com/concerts.

Here’s The Pitch weekend editor Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has enjoyed the Hotel Commonwealth, which has a 755 Suite named for Hank Aaron’s record, and the Marriott Residence Inn Back Bay, the closest hotel to Fenway. A baseball writer for forbes.com and Latino Sports, he can be contacted via ballauthor@gmail.com.

Timeless Trivia

Minnesota slugger Josh Donaldson says Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is among pitchers who might be using illegal substances to improve spin rates . . .

Surprised to see the Yankees with a gaping hole at first base, where 2020 AL home run king Luke Voit has missed time with left knee surgery and a strained left oblique . . .

The team is also desperate for help in center field now that Aaron Hicks is out for the year after wrist surgery . . .

Joe West confiscated the bat of Cardinals pitcher Giovanny Gallegos for allegedly doctoring baseballs. That may be just the tip of a huge iceberg.


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.


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