Top 100 Baseball Blog

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Mayors Berke, Whaley, Benjamin to Announce Mayors’ Task Force to Save Minor League Baseball

VIA MILB

Group seeks to protect America’s beloved Minor League against MLB’s
devastating plan to eliminate 42 hometown teams
 
WASHINGTON – Mayors of Chattanooga, Tenn., Dayton, Ohio, and Columbia, S.C. tomorrow will announce the official formation of the Mayors’ Task Force to Save Minor League Baseball.

The Task Force will be co-chaired by Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.

The mayors will host a telephone news conference at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 22 during the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C.  

Major League Baseball (MLB) in November proposed a dramatic restructuring to cut 42 of the 160 Minor League Baseball (MiLB) teams. Should the plan move forward, it would devastate communities across the country and have negative impacts for all affiliated minor league clubs, as it would decrease the value of the entire league. 

Among the 42 teams targeted to fold is Mayor Berke’s hometown Chattanooga Lookouts. The team, with roots dating back to 1885, has been an integral part of the community for generations.  

The mayors will discuss formation of the Task Force, which follows on a Congressional Task Force established in December, and the strategy to continue the momentum on this issue before taking questions.

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) on topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Jimmy Serrano: Former Pitcher Recalls His More Than a Decade in Professional Baseball

Right-handed pitcher Jimmy Serrano came to professional baseball with little fanfare. However, he stuck around for more than a decade and even spent some time in the major leagues. All in all, it was a good baseball career.

Serrano was drafted in the 18th round by the Montreal Expos in 1998 out of the University of New Mexico. A reliever, he posted strong numbers and progressed steadily, but never got the call to Montreal.

In March, 2002, he was traded with outfielder Jason Bay to the New York Mets, but never got to the big-league level with them. After his rights were bought by the Kansas City Royals in July, 2003, he finally landed with the team that would give him his big chance.

The Royals decided to covert Serrano to a starter after six years of strictly coming out of the bullpen. The results were strong and in 2004 the Royals gave the righty his big-league shot. Called up in August, he made a total of 10 appearances, including five starts, with the team. He more than held his own, going 1-2 with a 4.68 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 32.3 innings.

Serrano didn’t fit into the Royals’ long-term plans and he was allowed to leave as a free agent after the season. He wound up bouncing around, playing in the organizations of the Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox and Florida Marlins. He also played in Korea and independent ball before calling it a career after the 2009 season.

In 11 years as a professional pitcher across all levels, he was a combined 60-48 with a 3.51 ERA and 58 saves.

Keep reading for more, as Serrano discusses some of his memories and triumphs in baseball and shares what he is up to now.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?Kirby Puckett.  I grew up in Grand Junction, Colorado, home of the Junior College World Series. Kirby came through when I was a kid and I followed his career in the big leagues.

Can you please describe what your draft experience was like, being taken in the 18th round by the Expos in 1998?:  I had talked to about 10 different organizations prior to the draft and was told I would likely be selected near the 15th round. I was at my parents’ house hanging out with my brother-in-law when the phone rang. It was a scout from the Expos, a team that I had not previously spoken with, and he said ‘congratulations we selected you in the 18th round of the MLB draft, 534th pick overall.’  Then he asked, ‘are you interested in playing professional baseball?’  Of course, I said yes.  I hung up the phone, told my brother-in-law and then celebrated the news with my family.

You played for Cape Fear and Vermont in your first professional season; how much difference was their between the two experiences?:  When I went to Vermont right after the draft, I was eager to prove myself. After a short stint there, I was promoted to Cape Fear. During that promotion, my manager gave me some of the best advice that would come into play my entire career. He said, no matter what level you reach, never think you don’t belong there. There was a slight difference in levels, but I tried to stay consistent.

What do you remember most about your major league debut (against the Anaheim Angels)?: The day was filled with excitement, nervousness, and an overall surreal feeling. The strangest thing was watching ESPN the morning of my debut and seeing my name on the ticker as the Royals starting pitcher. Serrano vs.
[Bartolo] Colon.

You struck out two future Hall of Famers at the major league level-
Ichiro and Vlad Guerrero. Reflecting on that, which do you consider the greater accomplishment, and why?: They are equally tough hitters because they can hit any pitch in any count in any location.  I wish I could say that I had a strategy to strike them out but with those guys, there is no strategy. It's pretty much pitch and see what happens.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?:  Calling my family and friends to let them know that I was going to the big leagues. They were supporting me year after year and believed in me, it really felt like a group effort. Which it was.

What was it like to play in Korea?:  It was awesome! Great baseball, great teammates and I lived in a great area in Incheon. There were a few differences that I had to get used to like the 15-minute break after the fifth inning. The baseballs were not rubbed up and the pitching rubber had two levels - the actual pitching rubber and another level where your back foot goes.

What current or former player that you met or worked with were you most in awe of?:  I will say two former teammates,
Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester. We had a standing card game on our bus trips and it was myself and Mike Bumatay against Pedey and Lester.  Those guys were fierce competitors on and off the field. It was fun watching them play early in their careers and knowing they were going to be special.  However, I am pretty sure Mike and I whooped ‘em in cards!
What, if anything, would you have done differently in your baseball career?: Good question.  I am satisfied with the overall outcome from a playing perspective but if I could go back, I would probably just soak it all in a little more.  It goes by so fast and the people you meet along the way are sometimes only in your life for a week or a couple seasons. There are really great bonds built between teammates in such a short time.

What are you up to these days?:  I have worked in Technology for the past five years, honing in on the Sports and Entertainment industry.  My experience as a player has flowed over to my post-playing career and continues to open up opportunities.  When I am not working, I am raising three amazing kiddos; two boys one girl, and when I am not doing that, you can likely find me on a golf course.

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) on topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Logan Darnell is On Professional Baseball's Winding Path

For players, professional baseball is a journey that takes many twists and turns. Neither the path nor the destination can ever be foretold. Someone who can attest to that is pitcher Logan Darnell , who has just completed the 10th year of a career filled with changes and achievements.

The left-handed Darnell was a sixth-round draft choice of the Minnesota Twins out of the University of Kentucky in 2010. A starter, he progressed steadily through their minor league system, winning 31 games between 2011-2013. His development paid off by getting called up to the Twins for a brief time in 2014, spanning several call-ups. Appearing in seven games (four starts), he was 0-2 with a 7.13 ERA.

His debut was impressive, as he threw three perfect innings in relief against the Cleveland Indians in a 4-2 loss on May 6th. This included his first big-league strikeout, punching out Michael Brantley swinging in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Since his time in Minnesota, the lefty has not returned to the majors. He remained with the Twins’ system through 2016 and has since pitched in the minors for the Tampa Bays Ray and Washington Nationals. He has also played abroad and in the independent leagues. In 2019, he has pitched in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and for the Somerset Patriots as the independent Atlantic League.

Just 30 years of age. he is still pitching and looking to get back to the majors. In 10 years, across all levels, he is a combined 89-77 with a 3.96 ERA. He is a talented pitcher and given him being left-handed—which gives him even more added value, there’s no reason why this can’t be accomplished.

In the meantime, he recently answered some questions about his career.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: I would say Ken Griffey Jr. or Tom Glavine. Being a lefty and a Braves fan, it was a no-brainer with Glavine.

Can you please describe what your draft experience was like, being taken in the 6th round by the Twins in 2010?: Draft day was pretty cool. Me and all my friends were riding 4-wheelers on the farm I grew up on. I didn’t want to make it a big deal. I wasn’t in much control of it, so I let it happen and got the call while I was heading back from that.

What is the "unspoken" competition like in the minor leagues where players are each working so hard to make it to the big leagues?: I truly believe if you don’t pull for your teammates and help each other grow as a player you’re missing out on some of the best parts of playing. Negative thoughts or hoping others do bad usually means you’re doing bad anyway. The key is  help others and get better, and if either one of you make it to the bigs it’s a success.

What do you remember most about your major league debut (against the Cleveland Indians)?: I remember shaking in the bullpen, trying to breathe calmly. Once I got out there, instinct took over. It happened really fast, but other than that my brother and a family friend came up and we all slept in same hotel room that night and talked about it all night.

Who is a player you played with or against you are still surprised didn't get a shot in the majors?: I’d say Nick Struck has some electric stuff out of the bullpen. He prolly should have gotten a shot. But there are so many guys good enough, but not enough spots.

What is your favorite moment so far from your baseball career?: So many great moments; the debut was fun; playing in the playoffs in winter ball in Venezuela was a blast! Throwing a combined no hitter with Trevor May was memorable. A lot of great moments with teammates I’ll remember more than a lot of the baseball accomplishments.

What are the main differences of playing in Mexico compared to Venezuela?: This is tough question because of the social distress of the country of Venezuela. Times are tough there and it is very draining mentally and physically to play there. I hope times will get better there soon because the people there deserve better. The baseball is good in both places, though.

Do you think you received a fair chance in the majors, and how badly do you want to make it back?: I think I got a chance; that’s all anyone can ask for. Whether it was fair or not gets into the category of opinion, and blaming others for things that may or may not be true. I have always said you make your own luck, and you can’t blame anyone but you for your circumstances. Just my logic. I’d love to get back for sure though; the competition is the best and the money doesn’t hurt.

What are the major differences playing in independent ball?: Indy ball is competitive now- reminds me of Triple-A before it became cool to have a ton of younger players there. Veterans and guys looking to get back in affiliate ball. Indy ball is all on you; not as much organizational rules or standards. Just show up play and do your job.

What is something from your career that you would like to do differently if you could go back in time?: If you could go back, all the mistake pitches, hanging breaking balls, homers given up, walks.. I’d prolly go back and not do those, but you also learn from those things. I wouldn’t change much; maybe complain less and be thankful more for what I had.

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) on topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Press Release: Minor League Baseball Position on Key PBA Issues December 13, 2019

PRESS RELEASE

During this week’s Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego, representatives from Minor League Baseball (MiLB) and Major League Baseball (MLB) engaged in formal and informal discussions regarding the Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) that were cordial and productive. Following those meetings, MLB has repeatedly and inaccurately stated the position of MiLB with respect to several key areas under consideration in the PBA negotiations. To correct the record, Minor League Baseball’s positions on the key areas are as follows: 

Facilities – Under the current standards outlined in the PBA, there are few, if any, facilities deemed to be noncompliant. MLB pays an architectural firm to inspect each and every MiLB facility at least once every three years. Written reports of their findings are in the possession of MLB and MiLB. MiLB has stated its agreement that there are facilities in MiLB that do not meet the changing player development needs MLB has identified, but that does not mae those facilities being non-compliant. MiLB has offered on multiple occasions to discuss and negotiate reasonable facility standards in the next agreement to address any unmet needs of MLB. Minor League Baseball has never expressed to MLB an unwillingness to address new standards and improvements in facilities. To state otherwise is untrue and a misrepresentation of the facts regarding the position of MiLB on facilities improvements. 

Player Health and Welfare – While not clearly defined, MiLB understands player health and welfare to include matters such as: game schedules, team travel, hotel and clubhouse conditions and amenities (weight training areas, training rooms space and amenities, dietary needs). MiLB has NEVER stated a reluctance or refusal to discuss these areas with MLB and to suggest otherwise is false.  

Schedules - In the current agreement, MLB teams have the right to review ALL Minor League Baseball schedules, veto non-compliant schedules and suggest changes to a league’s proposed schedule. If MLB has issues with a league schedule that is in compliance, they should come to the table and discuss changes to the PBA guidelines. MiLB has never indicated an unwillingness to review scheduling and schedule formats and has, in recent years, worked closely with the player development personnel of the individual MLB teams to adjust schedules and rethink scheduling philosophies to produce more desirable league schedules. MiLB is also troubled by MLB’s current position of wanting to cut the number of playing dates, which limits the club’s ability to generate revenue to cover what will likely be an increased cost of doing business under the next agreement. 

Team Travel – Under the current agreement, MLB teams review and approve travel itineraries for ALL MiLB affiliates. The current agreement has guidelines addressing mileage, commuter trips and departure/arrival times. The current agreement allows for “waivers” to the guidelines in the sole and absolute discretion of the MLB team. Any alleged inconveniences endured by the players have been experienced with the consent and approval of their employer. MiLB has advanced ideas that would improve player travel, to which MLB has not responded. Despite the Commissioner’s repeated misleading statements to the contrary, no minor league player in affiliated baseball is transported on a school bus. The only situation where MLB-contracted players travel by school bus or passenger van occurs in MLB-owned and operated leagues in Florida (Gulf Coast League), Arizona (Arizona Summer League) and the Dominican Republic (Dominican Summer League). 

Hotels – Hotel accommodations for MiLB teams on the road are the financial responsibility of the MiLB team. Under the current agreement, the MLB affiliate in each city is to review and approve the host hotel in each city. MLB identified 37 hotels of the 160 hotels used in 2018 as being “unacceptable” (often because, in the view of some player personnel, the hotels were not sufficiently close to restaurants). Fifteen of those hotels were rated acceptable by the majority of MLB team personnel who actually stayed at the property as a member of a visiting team or travel party. Ratings and comments were available through annual surveys conducted by the MiLB league office. In the balance of the cases, MiLB immediately addressed and corrected the situation deemed to be unacceptable. 

Clubhouse Conditions and Amenities – The unilateral MLB changes to roster limits (adding more players), coaching staffs (additional field personnel), support personnel (strength and conditioning, video, analytics, nutrition) have increased the need for space and amenities in MiLB stadiums. MiLB has acknowledged the need to address additional space to accommodate MLB’s changes. Matters of additional weight room space, additional training room space, separate commissary space to feed players and separate female clubhouse space are all legitimate issues to be addressed. In many cases MiLB teams have already worked with their MLB counterpart to address special needs despite no contractual obligation to do so. As in many cases with MLB’s argument, they fail to acknowledge issues are not a matter of non-compliance but rather a point to be addressed in a new set of standards. MiLB has made it clear that it is prepared to discuss changes to address these needs, which are created solely by MLB and not because of any failure to comply with existing standards. 

Player Salaries – While MiLB supports the idea of salary increases for the players, MiLB has no employer/employee relationship with any player as they are employed by the MLB team. Players are not MiLB employees and we cannot legally authorize or give a pay increase to the players. Only MLB can do that. As part of the ongoing negotiations, it is not a question of MiLB agreeing to a player pay raise. Rather, the issue is the amount of the additional subsidy that MLB is seeking from MiLB to help offset the cost of the pay raise it is considering for MLB’s minor league players.  

Subsidies – MLB’s stance that they are subsidizing MiLB teams is wildly inaccurate. MLB teams do pay for players, coaches and staff in MiLB along with certain player-related expenses of MiLB players and staff. MLB teams own these players’ contracts, assign where they should play, and realize the value of those future MLB players, either directly or as assets with value in a trade to another MLB organization. Ironically, almost 30 years ago, MLB demanded in a PBA negotiation that MiLB sever its employer/employee relationship with all players and took unilateral control of player contracts, benefits, rights and assignments, effectively removing MiLB from the player business. 

What is overlooked in MLB’s argument about subsidies is the value of money, goods and services MiLB contributes to the relationship each year. As part of the current agreement MiLB annually incurs expenses in excess of $60 million in cash, goods and services directly tied to players, coaches and staff. In addition, over $20 million a year is paid by MiLB to the commissioner’s office in the form of a “ticket tax” which is required under the current PBA, an amount equivalent to nearly 50% of player salaries below the Double-A level. MiLB teams also pay for a portion of the bats and baseballs used each year, and MiLB teams pay transportation cost (air and ground) for MLB-employed players and staff. 

MiLB purchases batting cages, batting practice equipment and maintains first class playing surfaces in the overwhelming majority of its facilities. All uniform costs are paid by the MiLB team. Although not required, most MiLB teams provide free housing and automobiles to its coaching staff and support personnel at a considerable cost to the local team. 

Furthermore, since 1997, MiLB has maintained an umpire development program designed not only to staff its leagues and train umpires to be the pool from which potential MLB umpires are selected. MiLB pays all of these incremental  development costs. MLB utilizes MiLB umpires as regular season vacation and injury replacements in MLB games, and acquires the contract of MiLB umpires when added full-time to the MLB umpiring staff, without reimbursing MiLB for these developmental costs. More than 35 umpires have advanced to full time MLB employment since this program was created.  

For all of these reasons, it is untrue to claim, as the Commissioner has, that MiLB is a “heavily subsidized” industry. Indeed, a reasonable argument can be made that the reverse is true. 

The Dream League scenario - MLB has sought to camouflage its Minor League contraction plan by claiming that baseball would continue in the 42 targeted communities in the form of so called "dream baseball leagues." However, in order to be eligible to join, the contracted teams would be required to agree to pay their players, manager, coaches, trainer, medical staff, and other baseball-related personnel, and assume responsibility for the significant workers’ compensation, housing, and a number of other costs, all of which typically have been the responsibility of MLB clubs. The incremental costs which these teams would be required by MLB to assume would be well in excess of $350,000 per year, which few, if any, of the contracted teams would be able to afford. Beyond that, many of the contracted teams are scattered in locations where it would not be feasible to play against one another. Thus, MLB's dream league is nothing more than a shell game designed to conceal the fact that its contraction plan will result in the elimination of professional baseball in 42 communities across the country.  

Furthermore, when looking at the sustainability of independent baseball teams, a 20-year look (1999-2019) at independent baseball’s five largest leagues shows that just over 100 teams participated in those leagues during that span, and that just 11 of the cities that fielded teams in 1999 still had a team in 2019. The 11 clubs that were in business all 20 of those years were Bridgewater (NJ), Crestwood (IL), Evansville (IN), Fargo (ND), Quebec City (QUE), Sauget (IL), Schaumburg (IL), Sioux City (IA), Sioux Falls (SD), Saint Paul (MN) and Winnipeg (MAN). It's worth noting that Bridgewater is outside of Newark, Crestwood and Schaumburg are Chicago suburbs, Evansville was once a Triple-A market, Fargo is the largest city in North Dakota, Sauget is across the river from St. Louis, Sioux City has over 80,000 residents, Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota (over 175,000 residents) and Winnipeg has over 750,000 residents. 

In many of the independent cities in the five largest leagues, the lifespan of the independent franchise was less than five seasons, and just because the team survived that long certainly doesn't mean it was profitable in each of those years (in many cases they certainly were not). A significant number of independent teams have folded leaving substantial unpaid bills in their communities. 

It is clear the independent model does not work in smaller markets and is NOT a viable long-term option for the markets where MLB is looking to contract teams. Public financing of ballparks - MiLB teams have worked with many communities across America to develop stadium financing plans that include public, team and developer financing. Over time, many of these financing plans have shifted from primarily public funds to public/private and joint venture projects which benefit the entire community. The Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner are quick to point out that MiLB benefits from public subsidies, suggesting we add “no intrinsic value” to our host communities. Yet MLB has benefitted in much the same way over the years with new stadiums and new spring training complexes which in many cases are funded primarily from sources other than the MLB team. 

Relocations – Over the past 30 years, MiLB has approved a number of relocations. Despite MLB’s contention these relocations were solely for the benefit of the MiLB owner, many of the relocations occurred in the early 1990’s when existing MiLB cities were unable or unwilling to meet the new facility standards imposed by MLB in the 1990 PBA negotiations. In each case, regardless of the circumstances, the MLB affiliate realized improved and upgraded player amenities and player development assets. Additionally, under the current agreement MLB has the right to review each relocation request and void a Player Development Contract (“PDC”) if it disagrees with a relocation. To date, MLB has never voided a PDC in objection to the relocation of a MiLB team. An accurate review of the history discloses several MiLB relocations in the past few years have been requested by, and approved, for MLB-owned MiLB teams. In the past 25 years MiLB has facilitated six team relocations expressly intended to address a stated need of MLB (Florida State to South Atlantic, South Atlantic to Midwest and California to Carolina). 

During the Baseball Winter Meetings, MLB shared with the media an internal Carolina League email that offered existing Carolina League teams an opportunity to explore relocation to Wilmington, NC, and a proposed new facility. The facts are that MiLB discussed with the Carolina League MLB’s proposal to expand that league, and suggested that the league research viable sites to accommodate MLB’s proposal. It was not an offer for teams to relocate, but rather a request for an expression of interest. What MLB failed to disclose (after making the assertion that MiLB team owners jump from city to city in search of a better deal), were the responses to the very email they shared, which were that more MLB-owned teams reported an interest in relocating than non-MLB owned teams. The Carolina League never intended to leave an existing city as it would potentially backfill a current city in the event Wilmington, NC panned out. Several of the MLB owned clubs seeking to relocate had very recently received significant public investment in the facilities they would be leaving. 

League realignment – MLB’s proposed realignment of MiLB leagues lacks applicability, practicality and totally disregards Major League Rules, MiLB’s constitution as well as individual league rules of governance. MLB fails to disclose that MiLB has nevertheless expressed its willingness to consider how it could accomplish league realignment in order to address MLB’s travel concerns.  The observation by the Commissioner that MiLB has in any way adopted a “take it or leave it” position, on any issue is, to put it gently, demonstrably inaccurate. 

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) on topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.