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LWIB: Mandatory Slotting in MLB, Bartolo Colon's Surgery, plus Major and Minor League Tidbits PDF Print E-mail
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Pete Toms Article Archive
Written by Pete Toms   
Monday, 16 May 2011 13:51

Last Week in Bizball by Pete Toms

This week in “Last Week in BizBall, mandatory slotting, Colon’s surgery plus a record number of tidbits, major and minors.

SLOTTING UPDATE

Most baseball biz pundits assume that “mandatory slotting” will be negotiated into the next CBA. (Negotiations are already underway) LWIB, Jeff Passan reported that there is much more opposition to “mandatory slotting” on the labour side than is widely believed. Commissioner Selig and Rob Manfred, MLB’s Executive Vice President, Labor Relations & Human Resources, have been adamant for years that mandatory slotting is key to promoting competitive balance. In other words, it is the end of the “signability” problem. I don’t believe MLB desires “mandatory slotting” to promote competitive balance, but rather to control escalating spending in the Rule 4 draft. I’m in the camp who thinks “mandatory slotting” will put small revenue teams at a further competitive disadvantage. In recent years, many small revenue franchises have outspent large revenue franchises in the draft, rightfully concluding that this approach yields better results than investing in veteran free agent players. I also believe that the emphasis on the draft is one of the factors contributing to the surprisingly strong on-field performance of small revenue franchises thus far, this season. Many have also pointed out that “mandatory slotting” won’t end “signability”. If a player isn’t chosen in the “slot” that they believe reflects their value, they still won’t sign. I hope the PA takes a strong stand against “mandatory slotting”, not because of any philosophical opposition to “capping” of compensation, but because it is bad for fans.

COLON’S SURGERY

You all know about the resurrection of Bartolo Colon’s career this season. You also know about the recent NY Times report of Colon’s controversial off season surgery where his fat and bone marrow stem cells were extracted and then injected into his throwing shoulder and elbow. You also know that the Times report has led to another round of debate amongst baseball’s chattering classes about science and ethics and cheating and all that. LWIB, I came across a couple of posts from guys who see this the same way I do. (but they are more articulate). First, from Michael McCann:

There is no question that stem cell surgery has done wonders for a lot of people with serious injuries or disabilities and holds great promise for medicine. And like the innovation of Tommy John Surgery 35 years ago, stem cell surgery might allow pitchers and eventually batters to continue careers that would otherwise be shut down due to injuries, wear and tear or old age. Maybe we'll see more guys playing at a high level into their late 30s and even 40s. More Julio Francos wouldn't be a bad thing. Fans would get to see their favorite players play longer. And players, knowing that they could have 15 to 20 year careers, would likely take longer-term perspectives in how they view issues in collective bargaining.

Of course, steroids can also do wonders for people with various ailments. The same is true of HGH, which helps people recover faster from injuries. Steroids/HGH can also prolong big league careers that would have otherwise ended. But that hasn't stopped Baseball from viewing them as means of cheating.

Does the authoritative moniker "surgery" for stem cell surgery make it more acceptable than injecting someone with a steroid? Or are we okay with stem cell surgery because it takes cells from one part of the body and merely relocates them to another part (as opposed to a steroid which uses as an external substance to change the body chemistry)? Are the lines between medicine and cheating really clear?

David Schoenfield asked, “Where do you draw the line? Is this about cheating or legality or medical ethics or keeping a level playing field or about baseball players using only their God-given abilities and bodies? Are performance-enhancing medical procedures OK, but not performance-enhancing drugs?”

SELECT READ MORE TO SEE BOTH MAJOR LEAGUE AND MINOR LEAGUE TIDBITS

MAJOR LEAGUE TIDBITS

  • Despite a great on field start, Rays attendance is way, way down. Neil deMause reasons why. More recently, Michael Sasso chimed in, adding that the Rays TV ratings are also down BIG. Given the local economy and off season departures of star players, the awful attendance is not shocking. The big drop in TV ratings, particularly in light of the economy and on field performance, is a big surprise to me and perhaps more worrisome for the Rays than the gate.
  • Typically, I don’t editorialize, but this rubs me the wrong way. Tacked on to the price of the libations, soda and grub served to the folks in the most expensive seats at Yankee Stadium is a mandatory 20% “service charge”. The servers are suing because they don’t see any of that 20%. Plus, the servers’ union has turtled. Obviously, the patrons in the rich seats would tip the servers a LOT more if they weren’t being misled into believing that they are already paying a generous 20% gratuity. This is deceitful to both the customers and the employees. Such a crappy and disrespectful way to treat people. Thanks, Ballpark Digest.
  • LWIB the Cincinnati Reds announced that they will join the fast growing ranks of MLB teams using “dynamic pricing”. John Fay reported that the switch could come as early as next season. No word on how much of the ticket inventory will be dynamically priced or which ticketing software company the Reds will be partnering with. In March, Don Muret reported that the Cards had joined the A’s, Astros, Diamondbacks, White Sox and Twins in employing “dynamic pricing” this season.
  • Dan Steinberg doesn’t pretend to understand why, but Nats ratings on MASN are way, way up. “…Nats TV ratings on MASN are booming. Through the season’s first month, ratings in the D.C. market were up 80 percent, the second-biggest increase in Major League Baseball behind only the Rangers,…” (HT Fang’s Bites) I noted here last week, and Dan does as well, that O’s ratings on MASN are also up big time.
  • Dom Izzo reports that due to a carriage dispute between Cableone and Fox Sports North, Twins fans in Fargo have been unable to view a significant number of games. (HT Fang’s Bites)
  • Wanna keep score on the lawyers involved in the high end wheelin and dealin in MLB? Then read Brian Baxter (HT Sports Law Blog). One thing I learned from Brian’s post is that the city of St. Petersburg is lookin for lawyerin in the event that the Rays declare bankruptcy as an end to breaking their lease at Tropicana Field.
    MLB, in partnership with the Australian Baseball Federation, has operated the MLB Australian Academy Program since 01. LWIB, MLB committed to the program for another two years. According to this report, the program has helped produce 164 professional players over its first decade. Also from the report, “There were 81 Australians active with major league, minor league and other professional teams during the 2010 season, up from 48 in 2000, MLB said.” I expect MLB to increase the amount of resources they are committing to developing baseball internationally given the declining numbers of kids in the US playing the sport. (see here)

MINOR LEAGUE TIDBITS

  • Chris Milam, described in media reports as a Texas-based developer, reached an agreement with the owners of the Triple A Las Vegas franchise to purchase it for more than $20 million. Ballpark Digest wondered if that figure was quite a bit too high, suggesting that $16 - $17 million is more accurate. (That would be closer to the reported recent sale prices of Triple A franchises in Portland and Scranton) Milam’s purchase of the 51s is his first step in making a reality of his vision of a $1.95 billion Las Vegas National Sports Center complex. If fully realized, the LVNS will include new baseball and soccer stadiums, plus an arena. Initial plans are for a 9,000 seat ballpark, ready to expand to 36,000 for an MLB franchise. Milam has big plans for the arena (NBA or NHL) and soccer stadium (MLS) as well. There is a LONG way to go here, starting with land acquisition and financing.
  • Are the affiliated minors returning to Ottawa? If they do, will the Blue Jays be the parent club and minority partner? I sure hope so because I live in Ottawa and very much miss minor league baseball. Ken Gray has been reporting on the speculation, see here and here for his most recent updates.
  • Triple A departed Portland after last season because the baseball stadium was converted into a soccer only facility for MLS. Ballpark Digest reports that the affiliated minors are returning to the greater Portland area. It appears that a new 3,500 seat ballpark will be constructed in nearby Vancouver WA to house the Yakima Bears. (Northwest League)
  • It didn’t surprise me, and probably won’t surprise you either, to learn that the Rays and Red Sox are the first two organizations to replace traditional “pencil on paper, in the stands” pitch charting with an electronic alternative. “Off day” minor league pitchers in both organizations are now charting in the stands using laptops. Not only will this make the laborious and time consuming data entry of traditional pitch charts obsolete but it will also yield more information. From Matt Eddy at Baseball America; “The electronic charting system tracks exactly the same elements as does the manual-entry system: pitch velocity (radar gun sold separately), type, location and result. With the digital version, though, teams can instantly call up detailed reports on topics such as pitch type distribution, pitch location in and out of the zone, swinging-strike percentage and ball-in-play spray charts.” Matt also tells us that the Indians of the mid-00’s were the first to implement electronic pitch-charting systems. Some of those forward thinkers migrated to the Pirates along with Neal Huntington where they continue to further integrate pitch-charting with player development. Each home game across the Pirates minor league system is videotaped and each pitch “tagged” as part of an internal video library.
  • J.J. Cooper of Baseball America wrote a report detailing the difficult and tumultuous off season in the independent minor leagues. The most notable development was the folding of the seminal independent league, the Northern League. The NL, along with the Frontier League, were the first two independent leagues, both launching in 93. J.J. tells us that there were seven independent leagues last season, but “…only five are scheduled to begin the 2011 season.” Out of necessity (franchises folding or transferring to other leagues), the Northern League, Golden League and United Baseball League merged to form the North American League. J.J. isn’t optimistic about the fortunes of the new league, citing “significant travel issues.”


Pete Toms is senior writer for the Business of Sports Network, most notably, The Biz of Baseball. He looks forward to your comments and can be contacted through The Biz of Baseball.

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