Proposing a 120 Team March Madness-Style MiLB Mega TournamentBy Radar Rob | January 1st, 2021 | Discussion
2020 has brought about massive changes to the game of baseball as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first in history, the minor league baseball season was cancelled, hampering the growth and development of each team's young players. Late in the year, a massive reshuffling took place which reduced the total number of full season minor league teams from over 160 down to 120- where each organization has one team at each level: Triple-A, Double-A, A-Advanced, and Low-A. While this event is devastating to the small towns throughout the country that will no longer field a professional affiliated team, the change is an opportunity to inject excitement to the structure of the minor league postseason.
What I am proposing is a massive 120-team tournament where each of the 120 teams qualify, and is styled similarly to the NCAA March Madness Basketball Tournament. This will accomplish two goals: Number 1- to give national attention and media coverage of the minor leagues, putting every player on a national stage. Number 2- This seems like so much fun.
In any 120-team bracket, there are generally four sub-sections of 30 teams. I pondered the best way to divvy up the teams on whether the initial seeding should be based on region, organization, or level. In a single-game elimination tournament where presumably, the games are played in a minimal amount of time, travel becomes a concern if it is based on organization or level (more so for Double-A and Triple-A), unless of course, the tournament takes place at a neutral location. However, I think this style of tournament would be incredibly exciting for the local fans of these teams in small towns, where the opportunity for revenue and growth becomes a factor worth considering heavily.
Personally, I would like the four sub-sections to be divided by level, where a champion can be officially crowned to the best team at a given level, since it's a tall task from a speculative standpoint for a Low A team to beat a Triple A team. For each 'level' championship, I'd prefer a best-of-three scenario instead of the single-elimination to appropriately declare the level's best team, while maximizing the pressure and suspense of the tournament. Then, the champions from each of the four levels will play each other. Presumably the best Triple-A team would tend to beat the lower levels, so I think a semi-final of the Double-A winner vs. the Triple-A winner, and the A-Advanced winner vs. the Low-A winner is most fair. Then of course, the winners of these two best-of-three series play each other in the championship, where I think a best-of-five series fits. There might be concerns over the workload of these minor leaguers, where some organization may desire to limit a player's innings to prevent injury, but all-in-all these style of tournament sounds like more games than it actually is. Check it out:
Since 120 is not a perfect number for bracket style tournament, 8 teams, or 2 teams at each level will get a bye. This would presumably be based on regular record.
Round 1: 112 teams, 56 games total, cumulative game total for winner: 1
Round 2: 64 teams, 32 games total, cumulative game total for winner: 2
Round 3: 32 teams, 16 games total, cumulative game total for winner: 3
Round 4: 16 teams, 8 games total, cumulative game total for winner: 4
Round 5: 8 teams, 4 games total, cumulative game total for winner: Max. 7
Round 6: 4 teams, 2 games total, cumulative game total for winner: Max. 10
Round 7: 2 teams, 1 game total, cumulative game total for winner: Max. 15
Maximum 15 games for the best two teams if series is played to the last game. That is not bad at all.
Now here is my primary concern with the proposal. The first would be surrounding the rules of eligibility for players qualifying for a certain team. The minor leagues is so diverse and unique that throughout the season players a constantly in motion, whether they are promoted/demoted, released/signed, suspended, injured, etc. There would have to be a standard set that prevents teams from stacking certain teams with their top minor leaguers. Whether that rule is based on percentage of games played at a given level, or a static number of plate appearances or innings pitched, a rule is necessary, however, it shouldn't be so strict that it becomes a consideration in an organization's individual player decisions. For example, if a player is worthy of promotion, the playoff roster rules shall not interfere with that.
We are long overdue for MLB expansion as we now find ourselves in the longest post-1960 stretch without expansion teams. First things first, allow me to introduce you to the Portland Mavericks and the Nashville Stars. I really get the sense that out of all the proposed cities circulated in expansion rumors and internet speculation, the Music City Baseball and Portland Diamond Project groups are significantly further along than any other movements. Other popular cities floated about include Montreal, Las Vegas, Charlotte, San Antonio, and Mexico City, which I predict will remain destinations for a Tampa Bay Rays relocation. Manfred has stated that he prefers one of the new teams to be in the west and the other in the east, so this prediction fits that preference and the two groups with the most momentum. I really urge you to check out the stadium renderings- they are super modern and just fun to look at. Both proposed stadium sites appear to be on rivers: the Willamette River in Portland and Cumberland River in Nashville. The Nashville site renderings appear to have concert hall down the right field line, which is right on brand and insanely unique and creative. As for the names, the 'Stars' moniker is what is proposed with the plan and is an ode to the old Negro League team, so I stuck with that for the name. The Portland team name was selected from this list. I'm a fan of the 'Beavers' nickname, but that is already taken by Oregon State University, so for the sake of uniqueness, and the way it rolls off my tongue, I choose the 'Mavericks' instead.
The obvious challenge here was to make the divisions as geographically sensible as possible, while also maintaining long-time rivalries. I'll list the teams entering new leagues below:
Tampa Bay joins the NL
Colorado joins the AL
Nashville joins the NL
Portland joins the AL
The only point of having the American and National Leagues is for tradition, awards purposes, and playoff bracket structuring because this realignment is made under the assumption that the NL adopts the DH, making the rules for both leagues identical, which they should be in the first place whether you like the DH or not. The realignment isn't perfectly geographically divided, so for example, I wanted to have the Angels join the Dodgers, Padres, and D-Backs in the NL Southwest, but I couldn't bring myself to break up the Dodgers-Giants rivalry. I did however remove the Braves the NL East bunch and moved them to the NL Southeast with the Rays, Marlins, and Stars, which looks like it'll be competition of smaller markets. Honestly, I wasn't all that reluctant to do so given my devotion to the Mets, but geographically I couldn't include them with all those northeastern teams. Reducing player travel times for a team for around 18 or 19 games was the priority in this realignment.
For playoffs, the two additional expansion teams puts my mind at ease for expanding playoffs to 14 or 16 teams. For me, that's the only way I am okay with expanding the playoff format as expanded playoffs for 30 teams completely undermines the length and grit of the 162-game season. Yes, I understand the additional revenue opportunities with more teams in the playoffs, but if teams that are under .500 are making the playoffs after a complete season, that's a problem and that's not baseball. I would also be okay with reducing the total number of games down to 154 to allow players to have some more off days. Either way, check out the map below and leave your take in the discussion section!
'Mets Departure Effect'By Radar Rob | September 10th, 2020 | Discussion
Don't mistake coincidence for fate. Yeah, I took this from Lost, but how many times will a player leave the Mets, then become a significantly more productive player? Maybe it's a perspective-based thing being in NY, but does this phenomenon occur with other teams to the degree it occurs with the Mets? I suppose the first thought that comes to mind is the Marlins, but the players they traded were either already really productive players or minor league prospects that have yet to debut in the majors. As a Mets fan myself, this feels like a yearly occurrence, and while I always wish the best for the players, deep down it just hurts. Does the Mets organization somehow stifle growth? Are the atmosphere and expectations together too stress-inducing? Does the front office just flat out stink? I'll let you be the judge. Here, I will rank the biggest contributors to what I've coined the 'Mets Departure Effect'.
Played for Mets at the major league level in at least 2 different seasons
Graphics will show 2 seasons of Mets stats & 2 seasons of post-Mets stats
Only includes players that played for Mets after 2010
Objectively noticeable improvement in performance after departure
Years in parentheses denote most productive years after departure
Stats are specific to the years in parentheses
8. Zack Wheeler (2020): 2.47 ERA
Small sample size, but we all know where this one is heading. Wheeler is already working deeper into games, which was a flaw for him in NY. Cy Young votes are on the way over the next few seasons.
7. Rafael Montero (2019-20): 2.50 ERA
Not surprised, Montero was always a highly touted prospect, good for him.
6. Hansel Robles (2018-19): 2.64 ERA (after claimed off waivers by LAA on 6/23/2018)
I got excited when there were reports of Robles working closely with Pedro Martinez in the off-season of 2017, I guess it eventually paid off!
5. Wilmer Flores (2019-20): .842 OPS
Probably wouldn't have fit well with the current structure of the Mets roster, so I'm not dreading this one. If Flores read this article, he may have been happier about being traded away back in 2015.
4. Travis d'Arnaud (2019-20): .811 OPS (since Released by NYM on 5/10/2019)
People forget the 'Syndergaard trade' was orginally the 'd'Arnaud trade'.
3. Collin McHugh (2014-18): 3.51 ERA, ROY votes in '14, CYA votes in '16
Hindsight is 20-20 here, but trading McHugh for Eric Young Jr. was a solid trade for the Mets at the time, until the Astros worked their magic with McHugh of course.
2. Daniel Murphy (2016-17): .956 OPS, 2 ASGs MVP Votes ('16 &'17)
Definitely could've been resigned as a first basemen with the Mets after the Ruthian postseason performance in 2015. He did stay hot, just for the division rival.
1. Justin Turner (2014-20): .883 OPS, 1 ASG, MVP Votes in ('16, '17, '18)
Turner has been really good for a really long time now. *audible sigh*