Minor league

From BR Bullpen

Minor League baseball is professional baseball played at a level below the major leagues to develop players for MLB. It comprises leagues and teams that are part of Organized Baseball, long known by the corporate name "Minor League Baseball" but since 2021 as the "Professional Development League". Independent leagues are not affiliated with Major League Baseball but under the reorganization have a loose association with them under the name Partner Leagues. They are considered to be professional baseball but not "minor league" baseball.

The minor leagues serve as the farm system for the majors. There are multiple levels of minor league baseball, ranging from Rookie Ball (limited to players in their first or second years of professional play) to Triple A, which is the step right below the major leagues. Branch Rickey, the general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1920s and 1930s, is credited with coming up with the idea of the farm system after being burned by minor league operators who would sell players on option to the highest bidder. Rickey decided that if the Cardinals owned the minor league team, the Cardinals could decide the disposition of the player in question.

Originally, a minor league was a separate entity with a pennant race of its own. The clubs would try to develop talent, either by signing new players or buying players from lower levels or players who had been released by higher-level teams. The team could then hold the player to win more pennants (see Lefty Grove) or sell him to the majors or to another minor league club to turn a profit. Now the minor leagues are part of the major league franchise itself, with five steps from complex-based leagues to the majors. Those teams are either fully owned by the major league parent club or are provided players and staff by the club through a working agreement which runs for a set number of years. In either case, their operations are largely subsidized by the parent club. There have also been a few unaffiliated teams in the minor leagues in recent decades, who either independently sign players, or receive them on loan from a number of organizations, although this has practically disappeared in the 21st century.

Branch Rickey's moves towards subsidizing the minors were very controversial at the time, leading to this famed exchange between Rickey and Kenesaw Landis;

Landis: You have this arrangement which obligates Springfield to take optional players only from the owner of the Dansville club, it's competitor...suppose Springfield and Danville are in first and second positions, making a fight, and that Springfield can get an optional player who will strengthen Springfield. Have you a right under this agreement to say to Springfield, "You shall not take that player?"
Rickey: I think we have
Landis: Is that good?
Rickey: It is not good for Springfield.
Landis: Is it good for the league? Is it good for the whole institution?
Rickey: Many a club makes an agreement that is bad for itself. It is entirely a question of can a man make a deal for himself.
Landis: I am not dealing with the selfish interests of Springfield in the deal. I am dealing with this question: Here is a pennant race in the Three-I league that is, as far as the principle is concerned, just as important as if it were a pennant race in the National or American Leagues. They are fighting your club. You have the power to say to them: "This avenue of strength to your club is shut off." It is pretty plain that would be bad for the league, wouldn't it?
Rickey: I get your point: Danville and Springfield are contending for the pennant in the same league. All right. Suppose...we withold the benevolent hand and say, "You can't have any optional player from us, and your other sources of supply are stopped; there, that will leave you in second place and Danville will win"...Yes, that is in it; you are right.
Landis: That is in this; isn't it.
Rickey: Yes, that is in there.
Landis: Big as a house, isn't it?
Rickey: It is not big as a house.
Landis: I think it is as big as the universe. This is just as important in the Three-I league as it would be in the National or American Leagues.

The independent leagues operate in parallel with Organized Baseball. Their business model is more akin to what was in vogue before minor league teams were roped into major league farm systems. They sign their own players and earn their profits from ticket and merchandise sales, in addition to the occasional sale of a player to a major league organization.

See Also[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Michael Clair: "How do Minor League teams pick their names? Meet the company behind the revolution", "Cut 4", mlb.com, January 26, 2017. [1]
  • Warren Corbett: "Voices for the Voiceless: Ross Horning, Cy Block, and the Unwelcome Truth", Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Vol. 47, Nr. 2 (Fall 2018), pp. 78-82.
  • John Feinstein: Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life In the Minor Leagues of Baseball, Doubleday, Random House, New York, NY, 2014. ISBN 978-0385535939
  • Ray Giler: "Minor league baseball is better business, not bigger business", USA Today Sports, May 8, 2017. [2]
  • George Gmelch: "Taking a Longer View of Living in the Minors", The New York Times, August 19, 2001.
  • George Gmelch: Inside Pitch: Life in Professional Baseball, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2006. (Originally published in 2001). ISBN 978-0-8032-7128-9
  • George Gmelch and J.J. Weiner: In the Ballpark: The Working Lives of Baseball People, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2006. (Originally published in 1998). ISBN 978-0-8032-7127-2
  • Ernest J. Green: The Diamonds of Dixie: Travels Through the Southern Minor Leagues, Madison Books, 1995. ISBN 978-1568330433
  • John Hoppin and Vicki Hoppin: Ballpark 2 Ballpark: Journey Through the Minor Leagues, 2 volumes, Black Rose Writing, Castroville, TX, 2018. ISBN 978-1-6843-3059-1
  • W. Lloyd Johnson, ed.: The Minor League Register, Baseball America, Durham, NC, 1994.
  • Lloyd Johnson and Miles Wolff: The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Baseball America, Durham, NC, 1997 (originally published in 1993). ISBN 0963718975
  • Pat Jordan: A False Spring, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2005. (originally published in 1975) ISBN 0803276265
  • Jerry Klinkowitz: Owning a Piece of the Minors, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, IL, 1999. ISBN 0809321947
  • David Lamb: Stolen Season: A Journey Through America and Baseball's Minor Leagues, Random House, New York, NY, 1991. ISBN 039457608X
  • Greg Larson: Clubbie: A Minor League Baseball Memoir, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2021. ISBN 978-1496224293
  • Joseph L. Price: Perfect Pitch: The National Anthem for the National Pastime, Mercer University Press, Macon, GA, 2018. ISBN 9780881466560
  • Arthur P. Solomon and Allyn I. Freeman: Making It in the Minors: A Team Owner’s Lessons in the Business of Baseball, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2012. ISBN 978-0-7864-6867-6
  • Neil J. Sullivan: The Minors: The Struggles and the Triumph of Baseball's Poor Relation from 1876 to the Present, St. Martin's Press, New York, NY, 1990.
  • David M. Sutera: Vaudeville on the Diamond: Minor League Baseball in Today's Entertainment World, Rowman & Littlelfield, Lanham, MD, 2014. ISBN 978-0810891777
  • Bill Weiss and Marshall Wright: The 100 Greatest Minor League Teams of the 20th Century, Outskirts Press, Parker, CO, 2006.

Related Sites[edit]


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Related Articles: Independent Leagues | NAPBL | Organized Baseball
Related Categories: Ballparks | Coaches | Executives | Leagues | Managers | Owners | Players | Teams | Umpires
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