FANDOM



Minor league baseball
[1]

Minor League Baseball logo

Sport Baseball
Founded 1869
No. of teams 240
Country(ies) United States
Canada
Mexico
Dominican Republic
Venezuela
Puerto Rico
Most recent champion(s) various
Official website www.minorleaguebaseball

Minor league baseball is a hierarchy of professional baseball leagues in North America and South America that compete at levels below that of Major League Baseball. All of the minor leagues are operated as independent businesses, and many are members of Minor League Baseball, an umbrella organization for leagues that have agreements to operate as affiliates of Major League Baseball. Several leagues, known as independent leagues, do not have any links to Major League Baseball. Many alumni of independent baseball, however, have worked their way to the major leagues and many former MLBers play in independent baseball. In minor league baseball, many of the highly touted prospects fail to impress, and many players who are not so well known succeed.

Each league affiliated with Minor League Baseball comprises teams that generally are independently owned and operated, but always, with the exception of the Mexican League, directly affiliated with (and occasionally named after) one major league team through a standardized Player Development Contract (PDC). Major and Minor League teams may enter into a PDC for a two- or four-year term and may reaffiliate at the expiration of a PDC term, though many relationships are renewed and endure for extended time periods. For example, the Omaha Storm Chasers (previously known as the Royals or Golden Spikes) have been the Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals since the Royals joined the American League in 1969, but the Columbus Clippers changed affiliations for the 2007 season from the New York Yankees to the Washington Nationals, and are now, beginning in 2009, affiliated with the Cleveland Indians. A small number of minor league teams are directly owned by their major league parent club, such as the Springfield Cardinals, owned by the St. Louis Cardinals, and all of the Atlanta Braves' affiliates except for the Lynchburg Hillcats. Minor League teams that are owned directly by the major league Club do not have PDCs with each other and are not part of the reaffiliation shuffles that occur every other year.

The purpose of the system is to develop players available to play in the major leagues on demand.

Today, 20 minor baseball leagues operate with 246 member clubs in large, medium, and small towns, as well as the suburbs of major cities, across the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela.

Minor league baseball also goes by the nicknames the "farm system," "farm club," or "farm team(s)" because of a joke passed around by major league players in the 1930s when St. Louis Cardinals' general manager Branch Rickey formalized the system, and teams in small towns were "growing players down on the farm like corn."



Baseball evolved in the mid-to-late 19th century from an amateur pastime into an organized professional sport.

Fully and openly professional baseball teams arose in 1869. The earliest professional association, the National Association of 1871 to 1875, comprised all fully professional teams. This proved unworkable. There was no way to ensure competitive balance, and financially unsound clubs often failed midseason. This problem was solved in 1876 with the formation of the National League, with a limited membership which excluded less competitive and financially weaker teams.

Professional clubs outside the National League responded by forming regional associations of their own. There was a series of ad hoc groupings, such as the New England Association of 1877 and the Eastern Championship Association of 1881. These were loose groups of independent clubs which agreed to play a series of games for a championship pennant.

The first minor league is traditionally considered to be the Northwestern League of 1883 to 1884. Unlike the earlier minor associations, it was conceived as a permanent organization. It also, along with the National League and the American Association, was a party to the National Agreement of 1883. Included in this was the agreement to respect the reserve lists of clubs in each league. Teams in the National League and the American Association could only reserve players who had been paid at least $1000. Northwest League teams could reserve players paid merely $750. This implicitly established the division into major and minor leagues.

Over the next two decades many more minor leagues signed various versions of the National Agreement. Eventually the minor leagues joined together to negotiate jointly.

In the late 1890s, the Western League run by the fiery Ban Johnson decided to challenge the National League's position. In 1900, he changed the name of the league to the American League and vowed to make deals to sign contracts with players who were dissatisfied with the pay and terms of their deals with the National League. This led to a nasty turf war that heated up in 1901 enough to concern Patrick T. Powers, president of the Eastern League, and many other minor league owners.

They worried about the conflict spilling over into their operations. Representatives met at the Leland Hotel in Chicago on September 5, 1901. In response to the National-American battle, they agreed to form the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, called the NAPBL, or NA for short. (The NA uses the name Minor League Baseball today.) Powers was made the first president of the NAPBL, whose offices were established in Auburn, New York.

The purpose of the NA at the time was to maintain the independence of the leagues involved. Several did not sign the agreement, and continued to work independently.

In 1903 the dog fight between the American and National Leagues ended in the National Agreement of 1903. The NAPBL became involved in the later stages of the negotiations to develop rules for the acquisition of players from their leagues by the National and the American.

The NA was signed because players were being pilfered from clubs in other leagues with little or no compensation to the teams. The 1903 agreement ensured that teams would be compensated for the players that they had taken the time and effort to scout and develop.

No NA team was required to sell their players, although most did because the cash became an important source of revenue for most teams.

These leagues were still fiercely independent, and the term "minor" was seldom used in reference to them, save by the major-market sports writers. News did not travel far in the days before heavy television and radio, so, while the leagues often bristled at the major market writers descriptions, their viewpoint of the situation in that day was that they were independent sports businesses, no more and no less.

Many baseball writers of that time regarded the greatest players of the minor leagues, such as Buzz Arlett, Jigger Statz, Ike Boone, Buddy Ryan, Earl Rapp and Frank Shellenback, as comparable to major league players.

In 1922 the United States Supreme Court decision Federal Baseball Club v. National League (259 U.S. 200), which grants baseball a special immunity from antitrust laws, had a major effect on the minor leagues. The special immunity meant that the American and National leagues could dictate terms under which every independent league did business.

By 1925 major league baseball crammed down a flat-fee purchase of $5,000 for the contract of any player from an NA league team. This power was leveled primarily at the Baltimore Orioles, then a Triple-A team that had dominated the minors with stars.

Leagues in the NA would not be truly called minor until Branch Rickey developed the first modern farm system in the 1930s. The Commissioner of Baseball, Kenesaw Mountain Landis fought Rickey's scheme, but ultimately the Great Depression drove teams to establish systems like Rickey's to ensure a steady supply of players, because many NA and independent teams could not afford to keep their doors open without the patronage of major league baseball.

The leagues of the NA became subordinate to the major leagues, the first minor leagues. Other than the Pacific Coast League, which under its president Pants Rowland tried to become a third major league in the Western states, the other leagues maintained autonomy in name, with total dependence upon the American and National league in economic and political fact.

Only 25 of the players on a Major League Baseball team's 40-man major league reserve list may be active for the major league club, except from September 1 to the end of the regular season, when teams are allowed to expand their game-day rosters to 40 players. The remaining 15 players are generally either on the disabled list or play at some level of the minor leagues (usually at the AAA or AA level). Players on the 40-man Reserve List are eligible for membership in the Major League Baseball Players Association. The minor league players work at the lower end of major league pay scales and are covered by all rules and player agreements of the players association. Minor league players not on the 40-man Reserve List are under contract to their respective parent Major League Baseball clubs but have no union. They generally work for far less pay as they develop their skills and work their way up the ladder toward the major leagues. Many players have signing bonuses and other additional compensation that can run into the millions of dollars, although that is generally reserved for early round draft picks.

Even though minor league players are paid considerably less than their major league counterparts, they are nevertheless paid for their services and are thus considered professional athletes. Baseball cards refer to "pro record" and "pro seasons" as including both major and minor leagues. For this reason, minor league players generally consider it an insult when someone asks when they're going to "get to the pros". More accurately, a player's aim is to reach "The Show" or the "big leagues."

Only 25 of the players on a Major League Baseball team's 40-man major league reserve list may be active for the major league club, except from September 1 to the end of the regular season, when teams are allowed to expand their game-day rosters to 40 players. The remaining 15 players are generally either on the disabled list or play at some level of the minor leagues (usually at the AAA or AA level). Players on the 40-man Reserve List are eligible for membership in the Major League Baseball Players Association. The minor league players work at the lower end of major league pay scales and are covered by all rules and player agreements of the players association. Minor league players not on the 40-man Reserve List are under contract to their respective parent Major League Baseball clubs but have no union. They generally work for far less pay as they develop their skills and work their way up the ladder toward the major leagues. Many players have signing bonuses and other additional compensation that can run into the millions of dollars, although that is generally reserved for early round draft picks.

Even though minor league players are paid considerably less than their major league counterparts, they are nevertheless paid for their services and are thus considered professional athletes. Baseball cards refer to "pro record" and "pro seasons" as including both major and minor leagues. For this reason, minor league players generally consider it an insult when someone asks when they're going to "get to the pros". More accurately, a player's aim is to reach "The Show" or the "big leagues."

Under most circumstances, minor league teams are not owned by Major league clubs, but have affiliation contracts with them. A small number of minor league clubs are directly owned by major league clubs, but these are rare. Major league Rule 56 governs the standard terms of a Player Development Contract (PDC) which is the standard agreement of association between a minor league team and its major league affiliate. Generally, the parent major league club pays the salaries and benefits of uniformed personnel (players and coaches) and bats and balls, while the minor league club pays for in-season travel and other operational expenses.

Minor league teams often change their affiliation with major league clubs for a variety of reasons. Sometimes Major or Minor League Clubs wish to affiliate with a partner that is geographically closer. In recent years, some MLB clubs have attempted to place as many affiliated teams within their Blackout Area, to make scouting and player transfers more convenient and to take advantage of the existing fan base (interest in the parent team builds support for the minor league affiliate and early fan interest in developing minor league players reinforces support for the parent team as "local players" reach the majors). Sometimes a Minor League Club wishes to improve the caliber of players its major league affiliate sends to play there. Sometimes a major league club wishes to improve the facility where it will send its developing players. In even-numbered years, any Major or Minor League club with an expiring PDC may notify Major League Baseball or Minor League Baseball, respectively, of its desire to explore a re-affiliation with a different PDC partner. The Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball offices then send a list of the corresponding Major and Minor League Clubs seeking new affiliations, and there is a limited period of time in September within which clubs may agree upon new PDCs. If any are left over after this process, the Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball offices are empowered to assign Major and Minor League clubs to each other.

Going into the 2010 season, the longest continuous link between major league and minor league clubs was the link between the Orioles and their Rookie-level Appalachian League affiliate, the Bluefield Orioles. The teams were affiliated for 53 years, from 1958 through 2010. Baltimore ended the PDC after the 2010 season. At the start of the 2011 season, the longest continuous affiliation will be the 45-year link between the Philadelphia Phillies and their Double-A Eastern League affiliate, the Reading Phillies. The Reading club is owned by the Philadelphia organization.

The current minor league classification system divides leagues into one of five classes, those being Triple-A (AAA), Double-A (AA), Class A (Single-A or A), Class A Short Season, and Rookie. Furthermore, Class A is further subdivided into Class A Advanced, and Class A. Under the rules governing the affiliated minor leagues (specifically Major League Baseball Rule 51), Class A Short Season is a separate classification from the other leagues bearing the "Class A" name, despite the similarity in name.


Triple-A


This classification currently includes two affiliated leagues: the International League and the Pacific Coast League.[1] Triple-A leagues usually hold many of the remaining 15 players of the 40-man major league roster whom the major league club has chosen not to play at the major league level. It has recently been referred to as a "spare parts" classification, because frequently a player who is good enough for the majors (especially if he had signed with a team needing someone to play his natural position) is held in reserve at the minor league level for major league emergencies. Some veteran minor league players are informally called "Four A" players, meaning they are generally regarded as more experienced than a Triple-A player on his way up, yet are not talented enough to stay in the major leagues or do not project as having as much growth in their abilities as those who are less experienced. Some of the top prospects might be assigned here if they are not quite ready for the major leagues, with the potential to be called up later in the season. This is often called the holding cell for the players ready for the bigs.

Players at this level from the 40-man roster of a major league team can be invited to come up to the major league club once the major league roster expands on September 1, although teams will usually wait until their affiliates' playoff runs are over, should they qualify. For teams in contention for a pennant, it gives them fresh players. For those not in contention, it gives them an opportunity to evaluate their second-tier players against major-league competition.

In addition to the two affiliated Triple-A leagues, the Mexican League is classed a Triple-A league, though its clubs do not have PDCs with Major League clubs.

Double-A

There are currently three leagues in this classification: Eastern League, Southern League, and the Texas League. [1] Some players will jump to the majors from this level, as many of the top prospects are put here to play against each other, rather than against minor and major league veterans in Triple-A. A small handful of players might be placed here to start, usually veterans from foreign leagues with more experience in professional baseball. The expectation is usually that these players will be in the majors by the end of the season, as their salaries tend to be higher than those of most prospects.

Unlike the major league and the Triple-A level, two of the three Double-A leagues have their season divided in to two parts, the Eastern League being the exception. One team may clinch a spot in the playoffs by winning the division in first half of the season, then the teams' records are cleared and another team will also clinch a playoff slot during the second half. Wild cards are used to fill out the remaining teams; usually, four teams qualify for the league playoffs. This system is used at the Class A level as well.

Class A

Class A is a classification comprising two subclassifications: Class A-Advanced and Class A. Players usually have less experience or have particular issues to work out; pitching control and batting consistency are the two most frequent reasons for a player to be assigned to Class A baseball.

Class A-Advanced

One level below Double-A, the California League, Florida State League, and the Carolina League play at the Class A-Advanced level.[1] This is often a second or third promotion for a minor league player, although a few high first-round draftees, particularly those with college experience, will jump to this level. These leagues play a complete season like Triple-A and Double-A, April through early September. Many of these teams, especially in the Florida State League, are owned by major league parent clubs and use their spring training complexes.

Class A

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.