Mike's Mets - The Red-Headed Stepchild

One of the top blogger's in the business is back.  Mack's Mets welcomes back Mike's Mets with previews of some of his recent posts.

The Red-Headed Stepchild

Since my return to blogging about 2-1/2 months ago, I've written several times about Minor League Baseball. I've speculated on what might be involved in developing prospects when there will likely be no Minor League season at all. I've shared my concerns over the future of the Minor Leagues, and the implications of MLB's plan to eliminate some affiliated cities. I wind up writing about the subject so often because I've come to understand the true importance of Minor League Baseball.

I didn't always feel that way. When I started watching baseball I didn't even know what the Minor Leagues were. I was ten years old, and it didn't even occur to me to question where the players came from before they appeared on my TV screen in New York Mets uniforms. Over a period of time I saw players coming to the Mets from their Triple-A affiliate in Tidewater, and slowly came to an understanding about how players were developed.

At one point in my teens I was so into baseball that I actually subscribed to The Sporting News, which was pretty much the only way to see what was happening down on the farm back in those days. I learned that there was a whole feeder system in places I never heard of, like Marion, Visalia, Wausau, Jackson and Tidewater. The paper might occasionally have a bit of info on a Mets prospect, but mostly they were just a list of names and their corresponding stat lines. No fancy analytics to be found, just old fashioned counting stats that were already a couple of weeks old by the time the magazine was delivered.

During this time period the Mets were desperately bad. I would scour the lines of stats for anyone who showed promise, at least as I understood promise. Look, this guy's batting .350! Why isn't he in New York right now? He has to be a better option than all the guys with .220 averages on the big club. Inevitably, it seemed, each new issue would show less promising numbers for that guy. I would simply jump back on the next prospect hot streak. It wasn't until I was a few years older that I got a clue over what player development really entailed.

As I advanced into my teens, my subscription to The Sporting News lapsed. Girls had replaced the Mets as the thing I spent most of my time thinking about. I still had little idea what Minor League Baseball really was. Despite the fact that there were several Minor League teams within a short drive from were I lived, excursions to ballgames were not something my family did. Even when I got my license and could take myself places, my focus was on going to Major League games, which you could still attend rather inexpensively back then.

It wasn't until I hit my early 30s that Minor League Baseball came into my life. Some old friends and I made a habit of attending New Haven Ravens games at Yale Field. That started a lifelong appreciation of Minor League ball for me. As Major League Baseball has grown more expensive and centered around corporate sponsors and selling luxury boxes, Minor League ball has replaced it as the most accessible way for families and working people to attend ballgames. As MLB's fan base keeps getting older, far more kids attend Minor League games than show up in Major League ballparks.


Tom Brennan said...

Mike, great article.

As a counterpoint, the NBA has a very limited farm system.

I would prefer the teams' states to ante up some $$ to further support their minor league teams financially, since the owners are so incredibly focused on dollars and cents.

I worked in Bridgeport for 4 years in the 1990s and lived in Nassau County in Long Island. A heck of a long drive. I went to one game in New Haven, which was great, but then had a 100 mile drive home.

Of course, after I left Bridgeport, they added a park and a team.

Mike Steffanos said...

Good point. On the other hand, the NBA rosters are smaller, and most players don't need the kind of development even really good prospects need. If the Mets are ever going to be more consistently successful, they're going to need to be more successful in player development. Both for home-grown, cheap players, and for making trades.

That was a hell of a commute. You're a far better man than I am for being willing to make that drive every day.

John From Albany said...


Thanks for another great post and the shout out.

holmer said...

The minor leagues have been in blood virtually my whole life. As someone from the New Haven area myself I used to see the West Haven Yankees, as well as the Ravens, and I took many a trip to Beehive Stadium in New Britain to see games. When I lived in Virginia I saw the Lynchburg Mets and the Tidewater Tides, mostly when Lynchburg came north to Alexandria or Tidewater traveled to Richmond. I stood about 10 feet from 18 year old Dwight Gooden warming up for a game against Alexandria and last summer I traveled to Kingsport and Columbia (2nd time for both cities) to watch minor leaguers in action. It is a relatively low cost evening out and the people in both places seemed to really enjoy themselves. In Kingsport the players were just outside the clubhouse mingling with fans and you could see they were just kids but they were human to the fans and fans develop attachments to these players over the years. I saw the names of the Kingsport players who made the majors and the list is impressive and I'm sure those New York players had fans in Kingsport, Tennessee. Now Kingsport is no more. Nor is Binghamton where I also take occasional excursions. MLB is making a "penny wise but pound foolish" decision because fan bases are made in the minors. If the Appalachian League ceases to exist, will they support those major league affiliates by buying cable TV packages to include their favorite team or merchandise from that team, or even watch that affiliate play in the playoffs? No to all. MLB owners disgust me.

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