Saturday, February 27, 2010

Quote of the week

I couldn't help but laugh when I read this on

Although many of his Twins spring training teammates drive luxury vehicles to Hammond Stadium, Loek Van Mil, a 7-foot-1, 230-pound right-handed fastballer, rides a bicycle nearly five miles each way to and from the ballpark.

"I don't have a license to drive a car," said Van Mil, 25, who is from Utrecht, Holland. "And I don't care for cars. If I ever get a car, it will be a rundown one."

Nothing like a little extra cardio after a long day at spring training.

The story reminded me of a rumor about another tall pitcher. Apparently Randy Johnson occasionally chose his bicycle as his preferred mode of transportation in San Francisco last season. The 6-foot-10 future Hall of Famer could at times be spotted strolling up to the gates of AT&T Park, helmet firmly strapped to his head.

Unlike Van Mil, something tells me Randy actually owned a car or two, and I doubt they were of the rundown variety.

Here's to tall guys on bikes:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

HGH testing?

I read an article recently talking about HGH testing. Apparently the plan is to use a blood test in the minor leagues. First, I think this is great news. Developing a test for HGH has been difficult, and in my opinion, a test is needed. But there's a problem.

They're not going to catch anyone.

Okay, so they might catch a couple of idiots, but minor leaguers aren't using HGH. Unlike steroids, it's very expensive and hard to obtain. You need a pile of cash and a crooked doctor. I'm not saying that zero minor leaguers are using HGH, but the numbers are very, very small. They simply lack the resources to obtain the substance.

I also hope that the test has been thoroughly developed. If it hasn't been adquately tested, then minor leaguers shouldn't simply be guinea pigs. Maybe our lives really are worth less than others.

I'm all for HGH testing, but I'm a little skeptical about this news. Hopefully the test is a good one, and hopefully testing will be expanded to include non minor leaguers. Until then, I'll contain my excitement.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

College baseball replacing the minor leagues?

I love college, and I love baseball. It's only natural that I love college baseball as well. But some within MLB want to help out the college game. Huh? (scratching head while thinking)

Here's an excerpt from a recent Buster Olney blog:

So there is sentiment within MLB right now about wanting to help the college game. It could do so, of course, by very publicly funding scholarships, in concert with the NCAA. To put the dollars in perspective, for the cost of one Stephen Strasburg signing bonus of $15.6 million, MLB could fund 390 full $40,000 scholarships at college baseball programs, creating a lure for coaches. In theory, MLB could fund one full ride at every Division I college in the country, which would be a pretty big deal. Or maybe MLB could pick a conference or group of teams in an area where baseball is more prevalent, such as Florida, Texas or California, and fund scholarships there.

I'm not sure how much a few extra scholarships would actually help out college baseball. I think the effect would be fairly marginal. The whole idea seems a little silly to me. But other proposals being kicked around might have a much larger effect on college baseball, and on minor league baseball.

A recent Biz of Baseball article brought up all kinds issues. Stating that player development cost around $600 million annually (around 6% of most teams' budgets), the article claims that changes are needed to reduce costs.

I'm all in favor of trimming fat. Yes, too many players are signed each year in the draft. Many of these players are released within a year of signing. Out of the 40 plus players signed by the Giants in my draft class, only 10 remained just a few years later. Teams approach amateur players the way a newly made millionaire might approach real estate. They buy, buy, buy with no intention of even keeping properties. They get rid of it as quick as they buy it.

Yes, perhaps a level of minor league baseball could be cut as well. Maybe low A could be merged with advanced A, or maybe the two short-season levels could be combined. I've talked this over with a few people, with mixed results. Some think it could work, some think that there is too great of a real difference between the various leagues to merge any of them.

Measures could be taken to curb signing bonuses at the top levels slightly. This would save a bit of money as well.

But others are proposing more drastic measures. Some believe that the entire model of player development should be scrapped. The theory goes that baseball should approach player development in a manner similar to that of the NFL or NBA. They should allow colleges to develop their players.

There's one obvious problem with that. Our public universities weren't built to merely develop athletes. Yes, they are at times used that way, but I'm not sure if this is right.

More importantly for baseball, it wouldn't work. Almost 30% of MLB players are Latino. Close to 50% of minor leaguers are Latino. How will teams develop these players without a minor league system?

These players are signed when they are 16. Many are shoved to baseball schools around the time they get out of diapers. Are we simply going to send all the Dominicans and Venezuelans to our public universities to develop them? Something tells me this wouldn't work.

Furthermore, we shouldn't expect every kid in America to attend college. Some athletes are so talented that they should be allowed to play professional baseball as soon as they graduate college. Other athletes simply struggle with school. They shouldn't be shoved into college if they instead have the opportunity to play professionally.

I remember discussing this with a college professor some time ago. In his mind, baseball had the right system. Colleges shouldn't be feeder systems for professional sports leagues.

So yes, some improvements need to be made within player development. Inefficiencies need to be identified and trimmed from the budget. But the entire system shouldn't be scrapped in favor of a college development system, and the money saved shouldn't just go into the pockets of owners. Improvements should be made within the system. Those players who are brought in should be paid slightly better. They should also be provided better meals and affordable housing.

Again, I love college, I love baseball, and I love college baseball. But using college baseball instead of the minor leagues to develop your players just seems like a bad idea.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Playermail and a link

Playermail (different from blackmail)

I had a player email me not long ago about the cost of his insurance. He's a minor league free agent, so his insurance benefits expired. Here's what he said regarding purchasing COBRA:

"For me its $404.51 per month. If I had a family with a wife and kid for a total family of 3, its $1,375.40 per month. "

The player went on to say that there's no way he can afford it. He found little work in a tough economy this off-season. He made little money during the previous season, and was far from a bonus baby. If he doesn't sign with an affiliated team but instead plays independent ball, he'll simply go without insurance.

In fact, he didn't even get a gym membership this off-season. He had to save money.

Meeting the Straw man

On a completely different note, I met Darrly Strawberry recently. One of the heroes of my youth, it was a pretty cool experience. For some reason though, these experiences always seem to lack the expected luster. Here's what I wrote for Baseball America:

Hope February is treating all of you well!!