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Baseball Analysis  Mike McCann / Minor Leagues

September 2004


By Mike McCann

It seems to me that most fans don't particularly care about minor league baseball playoffs. There are a number of reasons why fans don't attend playoff games like they do during the regular season. For me though, the playoffs are pretty exciting times as well. The pressure is turned up and the players need to be able to show if they really have what it takes.

Playoff baseball in the minor leagues doesn't have as much meaning as it could. The minor leagues are intended as opportunities for player development more than winning. The players are there to improve their skills and become more polished. It is much more important that a player is learning than if the team wins the game. I really enjoy seeing good individual performances, but ultimately the team has to work together to achieve a common goal - a victory. Part of the player's development is learning to work with their teammates. In general though, most organizations don't care that much about how successful a team is. I'm not saying that the minor league standings are completely ignored because usually if a team is successful, it is with many outstanding players, and that will later benefit the major league club.

The people involved with the minor league franchise want it to be successful because that helps them make more money. Fans are more likely to attend games when the team is winning than if it is losing. And now that we are in affiliation swapping time, the minor league teams are looking for major league teams with successful minor league systems. When affiliations are broken, one common cause is that the teams didn't make it to the playoffs very often. The fans in each minor league town want to have a winning team.

Of the full season minor leagues, most are broken into two halves. The playoffs then consist of the first half winner playing the second half winner. I don't think this is a very good way to do things. At the halfway point, are we supposed to erase the records and start over? I think that all leagues should have a playoff system which only takes into account the records over an entire season. In many cases, with players being sent up and down, the teams can be radically different between those at the midway point and the end of the season. I think what really matters is the overall records of each team to determine who deserves to make the playoffs. In many cases, if a team wins both halves it is given more home playoff games, but I think teams don't have to perform as much in the long run since they know that they are making the playoffs regardless. All players should be giving everything they have at all times, but I have to think that somewhere in their heads they know the goal of a playoff berth has already been accomplished.

The scheduling of minor league playoff games makes it very difficult for the fans. The location and time of these games are often not known until a few days before the game is played. Most people think that Labor Day signifies the end of the minor league baseball season because that is what they see on the schedules. Luckily, each team will have updated playoff information on its website so that fans can find out about home playoff games. Many fans need to plan in advance in order to take in a ballgame, so the last minute option won't always work. It's difficult to make plans to see a baseball game if you won't know whether or not it will even be played until the outcome of the previous night's game is determined. As always, you need to be flexible about things and hope that your team does well.

Many fans come out to the ballpark because of things beyond the game itself. People look at the promotional schedules and go to games based on that. The playoffs don't have any promotions, so it is often a deterrent from going to a game. But of course, I'm the type of person who goes to a game to watch baseball. I think that playoff time is exciting for any sport, so even if it means seeing some of the lower levels of minor league baseball, I think that it is a great time.

I am always looking for topics to write about, so please send me an e-mail and let me know what would be interesting reading for you. Feel free to ask any questions or give an idea for a column.

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