MLB Opens Door for Big Season in American Association
American Association Daily provides insights and features on the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions going on with teams around the league. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier looks at how the stalemate to open the Major League Baseball season will reap big benefits for the American Association.
So, What’s the Problem?
On Saturday, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) rejected the league’s plan for a season that would likely last about 50 games. It was initially planned to play an 82-game season, but MLB had reduced that number to 50 in the most recent proposal.
That number is clearly a non-starter for the MLBPA. “It unfortunately appears that further dialogue with the league would be futile,” union head Tony Clark said in a statement. “It’s time to get back to work. Tell us when and where.”
The big sticking point goes beyond the length of the season, however. The owners are offering a guaranteed amount of $1.27 billion to players, with that number increasing to $1.45 billion should the playoffs be completed. The players want a guarantee of $2.25 billion, a rather big cut considering that games will likely be played with no fans in attendance, cutting the total revenue for the league by a sizeable amount.
A Golden Opportunity
The two sides are at a complete impasse. In fact, the MLBPA not only rejected the latest proposal, but refused to even counter. This makes it likely that there will be no baseball this season. At least not at the Major League level. However, this recent turn of events opens the door for the American Association to garner a huge amount of national exposure.
On Friday, the league announced that they would open the season on July 3 with six teams playing in three “hub” cities: Sioux Falls, Milwaukee, and Fargo. While only six of the 12 teams will be playing (including St. Paul, Winnipeg, Fargo-Moorhead, Sioux Falls, Chicago, and Milwaukee), it will make the league the largest professional baseball league currently set to play.
The Pecos League will be going with five teams beginning on July 1. The new Sugarland Skeeters league will begin play on July 3 and will host four teams. Both of those leagues will be playing in and around Houston, while the American Association offers three separate cities. That should add to the exposure.
In addition, the league is doing something really smart. Commissioner Josh Schaub and Executive Director Josh Buchholz are waiving the roster rules for this season, allowing teams to have as many vets as they can sign (a team can normally have no more than five vets). This will mean that the level of talent on the field will be better than ever, removing any impression that this is nothing more than a “beer league.”
Baseball has already helped to improve the talent pool by the release of over 1000 minor league players recently, so the number of AA, AAA, and even former Major League guys on the six teams’ rosters should be staggering.
Bound to Improve the League Recognition
While it will be a sad season in Sioux City, Gary, Cleburne, Grand Prairie, Kansas City, and Lincoln, there is no doubt that this is going to make the American Association the talk of baseball, and the sports world in general.
The NHL and the NBA will try to restart their seasons in July as well, but it may be hard to get a lot of fans on board for hockey and basketball in July. This is the summer and fans want baseball. The American Association is going to have six extremely talented teams managed by six outstanding managers. That is going to mean outstanding baseball on the field, translating to lots of highlights on ESPN each night.
So, Play Ball American Association. You will be the talk of the country come July 3.
By Robert Pannier