Brian Walton’s introduction: Now and then, one of our regular readers asks to use this forum to air an idea. Sometimes I agree, even if I don’t support the thought. This is one such case. I offer my comments at the bottom.
There has been some angst over the looming outfield logjam in Memphis, as well as some question about room to move up pitchers. Perhaps the St. Louis Cardinals could consider fielding two Triple-A teams.
It has been done before, but not lately. The last time a major league team fielded two Triple-A teams was in 1963. That year the Milwaukee Braves had two Triple-A teams, the Denver Bears of the Pacific Coast League and the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League.
The Bears went 71-87 and featured Bob Uecker and Tommie Aaron, Hank’s brother, among many future major leaguers. The Maple Leafs finished 76-75 and fielded players like Sparky Anderson and Rico Carty.
The reason to field two Triple-A teams would be to provide innings at the highest level for legitimate Major League prospects who are ready for the challenge, or who would benefit from additional experience. So it is not just a matter of finding enough players. The question is whether there are enough legitimate prospects at, or ready for, the highest level.
There is not a challenge to find enough outfielders. It is probably not an issue with pitchers either, as it would relieve the necessity of moving pitchers to the Triple-A pen who would benefit from a slot in the rotation. Even at middle infield, there have been examples of players being moved off their position to make way for another prospect.
There are other questions involved besides staffing the teams. Perhaps others may want to raise those issues and fill in some detail.
Brian Walton’s comments:
I will start. I feel the narrowing of the player development pyramid as the major leagues near is a good thing. In other words, I don’t sense there is a problem that needs to be solved.
But, I will focus on this idea as proposed. I have several major concerns with it, any of which I see as a potential show-stopper.
First, the financial commitment involved in all aspects of the creation a second team would be huge, making it impractical from the start. I am primarily talking about the ongoing costs after the non-trivial tasks of locating a city and leasing a suitable facility in which to play have been solved. Expenses for the incremental 25-30 players, coaches, equipment, travel, etc. would be sky-high.
Second is the question of ongoing need. Even if a case could be made right now that a second competitive Triple-A team could be staffed – which I highly doubt is valid – who is to say the need would exist next year or ever again? This is not a light switch that could be turned on and off. There are huge entry and exit costs.
Third is the practical problem of finding a league in which to play. One of the existing Triple-A leagues would need to be willing to expand. For competitive reasons, it would probably have to be the International League. Unless another organization would follow suit, there would be an uneven number of teams, making scheduling a logistical nightmare.
I am sure there are other major inhibitors, but I will stop there, as my rebuttal is approaching the length of the original post.