If the NFL can stock a roster with one training camp, why does baseball need five levels of minor leagues?

In this photo taken on Friday, April 17, 2020, Milwaukee Brewers minor league player Andre Nnebe throws as Canadian geese take the infield during an informal workout at Willie Stargell Field in Alameda. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)Milwaukee Brewers minor league player Andre Nnebe throws as Canadian geese take the infield during an informal workout. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

We know how NFL teams fill their rosters. Every year at training camp they bring in 100 potential players. They practice with them, evaluate them and by the time the season begins they have chosen the best 53 to start the season.

It seems to work just fine.

And then there’s baseball.

The baseball minor league system is nuts. There are at least five different categories of leagues, from Triple A to Rookie league (which has two subsets.)

As I wrote in my Sunday column in the Press Democrat, that’s ridiculous.

Currently, there is a big fuss about plans by MLB to shut down 42 minor league teams. Take a guess how many minor league teams will be left if MLB cuts 42 of them.

One hundred and twenty.

That’s a lot of players. And although it is a little hard to pin down an exact number because rosters are fluid, but there are at least 5,000 minor leaguers in the system. They get poverty wages — one web site calculated the average Class A player makes $290 a week — sleep on air mattresses in shared rooms or live with a host family.

And the chances of making it to The Show? Slim and none. Only one in ten minor leaguers makes it all the way through the levels to the Big Leagues. As an ex-player says in the column, there are only three players on each team that have the talent to make the majors. The rest are there to give them someone to play against. It’s like summer camp for 20-something jocks.

Baseball traditionalists (a phrase that may be redundant) are howling about the loss of the slice of Americana that is the minor leagues. If they really think they are going to miss minor league ball that much there is one solution.

Rent “Bull Durham.”

Contact C.W. Nevius at cw.nevius@pressdemocrat.com. Twitter: @cwnevius

This article has 38 Comments

  1. I talked with a couple of local young guys around 10 years ago. They were both ex minor league players who were at that time minor league instructors (one of them is now a major league manager). I asked them the question your question, why the need for as many as 120 minor league players. They told me it was important for players to develop at their own pace so the teams needed at least 3 to 4 levels of minor leagues. They said on a roster of 25 players the big clubs new that only five players had any chance to have a cup of coffee in the bigs the other 20 were there to create a team for the 5 who might make it everyone else was just cannon fodder. Now at the triple A level you might have as many as 15 with a chance at playing in the big leagues. Which basically means out of 120 players playing on five teams, at any time only 30 to 35 of them are looked at as possible major league player. The biggest difference between developing players in the NFL from MLB is the NFL doesn’t draft or sign anyone younger than 21 and MLB signs players from the Dominican republic and central America as young as 16 yo

    1. BTW, Spencer Torkelson reminded me of another Casa Grande High School player, Jonny Gomes.
      Even though he was drafted in the 18th round, he helped the Red Sox win the World Series.

  2. Ah, the American dream- to play in the major leagues. Some may never make it. Some are the part of the 20 players, who live a vagabond life, dreaming of glory, playing a game for as long as possible.
    Then they finally lose their skills and have to get a real job.
    Baseball is a lot different than football. A baseball player does not have to be a huge powerful physical specimen. The NFL covets size and speed over many other qualities. Baseball can have normal men, but their skills set them apart from many others.
    However, it may take years to hone their skills, and be lucky enough to get to the big dance. Kyler Murray could have gone the baseball route, but chose football. He did not want to toil for years in the minor leagues, so he became a star overnight in football.

  3. CWN, now you’ve done it again.
    You didn’t stick to football.
    TP and Razordoll will never let you forget that…

    1. Thanks for sharing. That was a good video with Grant. Funny I have been getting most of my 49er news from Facebook 49er group. Lots of good stuff and a variety.

  4. Of course what you say is true. MLB’s minor league system is a bit bonkers. But I think in part you are missing the point. The vast majority of the kids in the minors know they are not going to make the majors. The teams that employ them know the vast majority of players in the minors will not make the majors. Not in all places but in many places a minor league ball club adds a huge sense of community or at least it used to. For the most part, small town America is dying or dead so I guess it makes sense minor league baseball should also be on life support. A major point of small minor league teams is not feeding into MLB. It’s about the community more than anything. Disconnect your thinking from the vast majority of minor league teams (especially the independents) from MLB and look at those teams as small business ventures and part of the social fabric of small town America.

    1. Houston, I agree totally. Even in a big MLB city like NYC, I know bunches of people, including me, who’d rather attend a Brooklyn Cyclone or Staten Island Yankees game than those of their ML parent teams. I may not have a complete vested interest in the outcome, the final score, but the experience for the fan is a truer reflection of the sport, intimate seating, everything much lower in cost. Before everything major league became GIGANTIC. (I also prefer a two person NFL pre-game show compared to the dozens of talking heads that populate that mess these days)

      Ps: Did you see the “Brockmirer” series starring the brilliant Hank Azaria?

      1. I’m with Houston and Rib on this. Some of my most enjoyable days watching baseball have come at minor league parks. Serving as a “farm team” for an MLB team is something these teams do so they can exist — it is not the reason they exist.

  5. My advice to all you Trumpers out there: Don’t wait for it to be all over. Stop tweeting and retweeting your insane garbage and toxic lies now, before it bites you in the ass and brings your whole world tumbling down on you in a terrible deluge of awful publicity that the internet will truly NEVER forget. Stop watching Fox News and OANN and all the other crap right-wing news, and stop reading Breitbart. They’re all lying to you. Stop now and get out of the Trumpian bubble while you still can. Read up on some real news sources. Educate yourself. Deprogram yourself from the propaganda they’ve been feeding you.

    It’s late, but there’s still time to redeem yourself. Go to a Black Lives Matter protest, not as a counter-protestor, but to talk to people and learn. Expand your perspective. Try to learn what life is like for those who aren’t born with your privilege.

    Who knows, you might be a happier person if you don’t have to only pretend to be respectful of others who don’t look like you, but you actually feel respect for them.

    The world loves a redemption story, so go do it now — today. Don’t wait until its too late to try to pretend you never supported all this foul Trumpian quasi-fascist garbage.

    1. Unlike you moron, I support BLM and the President. Everything isn’t about being on one side or the other. YOU’RE the problem because you refuse to see anything between right or wrong, white or black, 100 or Zero. What makes you the arbiter of right and wrong? Humans are complicated. Black Lives DO Matter. Police definitely do need new rules about engagement. That doesn’t mean we need to get rid of police departments either. It also doesn’t mean I have to choose sides to understand and contribute to fixing a problem. Maybe take your stupid blinders off and start with some critical thinking and seeing the larger issue for what it it is instead of oversimplifying it for a change; instead of opening your mouth and being just another blowhard. This current movement will fizzle off just like all previous ones because we refuse to critically think about the underlying problems and face the uncomfortable side of being realistic. It’s all about politics and political correctness, right? “Appear” like you’re doing the right thing, but never actually address the underlying issues.

      1. How hard is it to realize blacks make up 13% of the American population, and Winfrey is a billionaire. They didn’t facilitate her privilege, white people did!

      2. The battle lines have been drawn…one side aligns with white supremacists …..the other with victims of racial injustice.

        if you are too dumb to see that you are tone deaf…….and worse than the enemy of progress

        1. Battle lines are just that. Start a civil war if you need to. As the commenter above suggested, I have more faith in this country being able to resolve our problems with critical dialog and find a way to treat each of us with respect. You go ahead and fetch your pitchforks and torches, idiot.

        1. As a matter of fact I also support both of those. You don’t have to have one or the other. Try having ice cream in moderation, chump. Or is that too hard for you like onewhiner above? ☝️

    1. Bruce,
      After observing what this blog has devolved into I doubt the PD will save it. CW was assigned this gig to be a place holder but i’m not sure the hate fest it has become is worth saving. I don’i imagine the tone will change thru election day and after election day I see half of those here dropping out because of anger and embarrassment. But then again i’m wrong around here at least half of the time.

      1. hate fest

        Coach, in politics I disagree with a lot of posters here and a lot of posters no doubt disagree with me. However, I can compartmentalize (and I hope they can too) and look forward to Niner discussion with them whenever there is actually something Niners to discuss.

      2. OldCoach,

        I agree with Rib. I think most posters will go back to focusing primarily on Niner football when there is actual Niner football to discuss. Sure, political comments will likely continue as well, given that the two major topics of political discussion on this blog (COVID 19 related issues and racial justice/law and order issues) have inescapable intersections with football, but the presence of actual football will overshadow them with regard to discussion here. Now if for some reason the season is delayed well into the fall (which I think we all hope is not the case), then all bets are off.

  6. Because Minor League cities have to have something to watch and root for, and it creates jobs and hopes for a lot of people.

    Candace Owens for AG

    Judy Mikovits in Fauci out

    Dan Bongino for anything he wants

      1. No way George’s hard on is as hard as mine for Grant.
        I may have the length of a typical Japanese/Asian male, but what I lack there I can make up for with the assist of my favorite little blue pill. ;p

  7. Get rid of some minor league teams. Why? Does it effect your life if they rather play the game then write about it. What’s the problem with these kids playing? These kids have very little illusions of making it to the big leagues but its a hell of a lot better job then sitting in some stuffy office writing about how they should dismantle minor league teams.

      1. It was one of those be carefull what you wish for situations. I didn’t miss Grant at first but after this guy, I surly miss him now.

      2. Don’t listen to these dimwits CW. You’re doing fine. It’s offseason during quarantine. Not much going on.

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