2020 can’t be gone too soon

The Dodgers won their first World Series since 1988.

That’s it. That is the only good thing that occurred in this miserable year in which over 345 thousand Americans lost their lives to a pandemic, nearly 20 million Americans have been infected with the virus, and the amazing speed with which vaccines were designed, tested and rolled out was not matched by actual shots in people’s arms. Only some 3 million Americans have been vaccinated in the two weeks since Pfizer/Biontech and Moderna started shipping vials of the product.

On the baseball front the Padres have been loading up in an effort to catch the Dodgers. In three days in December the team acquired “Blake Snell from Tampa Bay. By Monday morning, they had a four-year agreement with top Korean infielder Ha-seong Kim. Several hours later, they ended a weeks-long pursuit by scoring Yu Darvish and his personal catcher, Victor Caratini, in a trade with the Cubs.”

In labor news MLB showed that it believes profit should always come before people, destroying the minor league baseball structure as it had been for decades because it didn’t want to pay so many employees.

There will be 40 fewer minor leagues farm teams next year than there were in 2019. Those cutbacks hit hardest in the South and Midwest. West Virginia lost all four of its minor-league franchises. The entire Appalachian League got the boot. (It has been reconstituted as a summer league for unpaid college athletes.) The minor leagues—which rely on in-person interactions like concessions and ticket sales—were hit hard when the pandemic forced the cancellation of their 2020 seasons, but that’s not why these franchises got kicked to the curb. Plans to dramatically reduce the number of minor league franchises and players were in the works long before that, because Major League Baseball is filled with insufferable ghouls.

You don’t have to speculate about why big-league clubs decided to reduce their minor-league affiliates by 25 percent. They brag about it. In a 2019 piece at FiveThirtyEight titled “Do We Even Need Minor League Baseball?” baseball insiders argued that the minors were an inefficient way of grooming players to become major leaguers. There were more effective ways to, say, add velocity to a teenager’s fastball or improve a hitter’s launch angle than playing games—this kind of work could be done at closed-door facilities, and any time of year. And there were just so many minor leaguers. Why pay all those prospects, when only 10 percent of them will ever get to Chicago?


Paying lots of people to play baseball was a problem, in developmental and financial terms, to be solved by paying substantially fewer people to play less baseball, in substantially fewer places. It’s a testament to the almost religious levels of self-absorption among Major League owners and executives that they didn’t think (or perhaps just did not care) about just how awful it sounds to tell people, publicly, that baseball games are a wasteful byproduct of professional baseball, as opposed to the entire point of professional baseball.


What little leverage minor league franchises might have had disappeared with their 2020 seasons, although some, like the Staten Island Yankees, are pursuing their options in court. This month, after the realignment became official, the league offered a tepid helping hand to the franchises it had consigned to the scrap heap. Some of them will be absorbed into MLB-sanctioned summer leagues for college baseball players or “draft leagues” for players looking to showcase their wares for scouts—which is to say, they will be replacing rosters of low-paid workers with unpaid amateur volunteers. Others are abandoning the farm system entirely to try their luck in the independent leagues. Nearly two dozen franchises are still figuring out what, if anything, they’ll do next.

Thanks to WBBsAs for the pointer to the minor league story.

50 thoughts on “2020 can’t be gone too soon

  1. Does anyone know when the National League will make a decision on the DH? I think that will be a big factor in the club’s decision on Justin Turner. Whatever happens with the DH, however, he won’t get offered four years, nor should he.

    • That’s a big upgrade for the Mutts, and could put them within striking range of the Barves. They also got a quality starter in Carrasco.

      • My 32-year-old daughter – a social worker who deals with at-risk teens – just got her first jab.

    • I don’t think being traded to the Giants was the driving force behind his retirement. It’s a nice story, but …

      I think he retired because he was worn out physically. Mentally he may have been exhausted first by the bigotry he faced in those first seasons and then by being the symbol of civil rights within baseball.

      • He retired just before his 37th birthday, but I’d like to think that going to the Gnats was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I guess we can blame Buzzie Bavasi for that.

  2. Hmm. If the Times is to be believed, Justin Turner wants a four-year deal. He’s 36 years old. The Dodgers are looking at options to replace him if he sticks to that contract length.

    Like who? Well, DJ LeMahieu is a free agent and both Kris Bryant of the Cubs and Eugenio Suarez of the Reds are obtainable by trade. (There are a couple of left-handed hitters available too, but the Dodgers need right-handed power; they have plenty from the left side.)

  3. So I survived 2020, but since I was in close contact with it I need to self isolate from 2021 for two weeks. 😉 (jk)

  4. The Dodgers’ championship wasn’t the only positive development of 2020. On November 3rd, there was another important victory.

    • I drank barely half a glass of wine last night, but 2020 has still left me with a hangover.

  5. Major-league owners’ myopia is astonishing. Shrinking the minor leagues undercuts the sport at the grassroots level, discouraging the competition that helps players get better (and encourages young fans). And what will happen to 62nd-round draft choices like Mike Piazza?

  6. Happy New Year to all. Good Post Link.

    My compromise to having fewer minor league teams would be to allow drafted players play college ball and allow them to keep signing bonuses while also paying their tuition if the MLB club wanted to make that investment. They could also lend coaching advisors to schools.

    • My first reaction was that the NCAA wouldn’t go for it in general and secondly that it would be hard for them to treat baseball differently from other sports (don’t believe that the NFL drafts out of high school). But it is something to chew on, given pressure by college athletes to be paid. Turning colleges essentially into farm teams for MLB is problematic. Unless you created Dodger U (well Trump did it!) you would have your prospects far flung and being coached and developed in different programs.