Minors need major move
Time for MLB to step up interleague play
Good Morning, all. I hope your week is going well.
It is time for Major League Baseball to take the next step in minor league baseball's evolution. I have to admit MLB has done a better job at taking full ownership of the minor league baseball apparatus than I thought. Remember, for over a century until this season, minor league baseball was a separate entity that operated under a working agreement with the majors. That all changed in 2021 with MLB essentially calling all the shots.
So what is the next step? A change in how the schedule is designed. And I'm not talking about the weekly six-game series that was invoked this season. I think everyone understands, or should, that this was a COVID-19 inspired schedule that was not going to be permanent. At least I hope not. If minor league baseball is all about development, than MLB needs to take it to the next level, and the move need not be made in 2022 either. 2023 would work.
Minor League baseball not only needs to return to the traditional three or four-game series but needs to add interleague play at the AAA AND AA levels. As an example, AA-Northeast's Northeast Division needs to play some games against the AA-South's North Division. Each season the leagues could rotate divisions.
If the minors are about development, than how can playing the same team 24 times per season be the ultimate developmental blueprint? Players get stale playing the same team 12 games in 20 days. Besides, those players who make it to the majors will have a better feel for the game, if a varied schedule is deployed. It would also be tremendous for the fans. Speaking from a selfish perspective as a broadcaster for the Hartford Yard Goats, how much fun would it be if the Cubs' or Dodgers' affiliate came to town? Or the Dodgers' affiliate going up against the Giants' affiliate?
There is precedence for this. One season, when I was broadcasting for the then AAA Richmond Braves of the International League, we had interleague play with the American Association, which was then an affiliated league. We got to play games at Mile High Stadium in Denver, historic Bush Stadium in Indianapolis and then Pilot Field now Sahlen Field in Buffalo, among other places.
Will there be increased cost to this? Yes, but MLB should be able to pick up the additional travel costs. How much money are we talking about for all of the AAA and AA clubs to implement this concept, the cost of signing a free agent utility player? Heck, the Atlanta Braves just announced a $54 million operating profit for the second quarter of 2021. MLB could easily underwrite the cost of an abbreviated interleague schedule as part of an overall minor league season at the AAA and AA levels.
Here is hoping MLB steps up to the plate and hits a grand slam on this. The concept is a win-win for everyone and isn't that the best victory of all?
Sale a winner in my book
Chris Sale, sidelined for two years because of Tommy John surgery, is scheduled to return to the mound for the Boston Red Sox on Saturday against Baltimore. The lefty did a great thing, during his rehab assignment. According to the Telegram & Gazette's Joe McDonald, Sale did not want to be coddled, while pitching for Boston's new AAA affiliate in Worcester. He paid for an extra day for the entire club at the team's hotel and the team busses so the club could leave last Monday on the four hour bus ride to Scranton, PA rather than make the long ride on Tuesday, the day the six-game series was to start. Yes, he signed a $145 million contract and can afford it, but it was still a good gesture.
Wagering on radio? You bet
As the movement to bet on live sporting events grows, it turns out the most fanatic of bettors are big listeners to sports on the radio. Just don't tell that to FanDuel, DraftKings and others, who have bet their ad dollars to the tune of tens of millions of dollars on television to attract an audience. Now the second largest, radio network in the U.S.A., CUMULUS MEDIA, has cut a deal with WynnBET that centers around a sports betting app and radio programming.
Why radio? According to a pair of studies 42% of radio listeners have placed a wager via online sports betting compared to 28% of those who watch TV. Many of those who bet on sports listen to sports talk radio and the most passionate of sports bettors tune in to play-by-play sports on radio. And they said radio was dead. All it took was enabling sports betting to revive a flagging medium.
Barstool Sports and MLB in talks
And speaking of betting on sports, several outlets reported on Monday that Barstool Sports is in talks with MLB to televise weekday games next season. The package was previously held by ESPN, which would produce the games for Barstool, a sports media and betting company. The games would be streamed and presented with a particular appeal to bettors. Somewhere, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson must be rolling over in his grave.
Well that's it for today. As always, thank you for your support and have great week.