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“I was in the show for 21 days once. Best 21 days of my life,” says Crash Davis, a fictional character in the 1988 film Bull Durham, as the long-time minor league catcher describes his time in the big leagues.
Bull Durham is one of the most popular baseball movies of all-time, and it follows a veteran catcher (Davis) and a young, promising pitcher (Nuke Laloosh) during their time with the minor league team the Durham Bulls.
While some of the details about the minor leagues are embellished in the movie, some of them appear to be accurate. The reality is that Minor League Baseball is a whole business in and of itself that many fans often struggle to grasp.
Major League teams have Minor League affiliations from whom they are allowed to call players up and down, but sometimes, those affiliations can change.
Most Minor League Baseball teams are privately owned and have contracts with the Major League teams with which they are affiliated. When teams switch affiliations, it is usually because the contract was not renewed.
Recently, several teams have switched affiliations and levels thanks to Major League Baseball’s new Professional Development League (PDL) which has changed the landscape of Minor League Baseball (MiLB).
What is the New Professional Development League?
After there was no Minor League season in 2020 thanks to the pandemic, Major League Baseball felt the need to revamp its system for player development.
The Professional Development League is essentially a new contract between the MLB and MiLB designed to restructure leagues to make them more geographically convenient and allow better player compensation.
Under the new PDL, there are five levels of Minor League Baseball: Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, Low-A, and Rookie Ball. At each level, leagues are divided into divisions or conferences based on their geographic location.
At the start of 2021 season, invites were sent to minor league affiliates to join the new league. This resulted in some teams switching affiliates, changing levels, changing divisions within a level, or being dropped from affiliated minor league baseball altogether.
This restructuring allowed for most Triple-A teams to be geographically closer to their Major League organizations.
This new PDL agreement also freed up some money to allow for higher salaries and/or better benefits for Minor League players. Unfortunately, this came at the expense of some organizations losing their affiliations with Major League Baseball.
Minor League salaries and their benefits have been in question for several years now, and while many appreciate the attention that it is now receiving from Major League Baseball, many also still believe that more can be done.
Why Did Teams Switch Affiliations Before the PDL?
Before the Professional Development League, teams still switched affiliations more often than many fans realize.
As stated earlier, Minor League Baseball teams are privately owned, so they have contracts with Major League teams that are sometimes not renewed for various reasons.
These affiliation-switches sometimes come with a rebranding of the Minor League team as many organizations like their Minor League affiliates to somewhat resemble the Major League team, especially at the Triple-A level.
When this happens, a complete turnover of player and coach personnel happens as well because the players and coaches for the team are under contract with the Major League team.
At the end of the day, Minor League Baseball is a business, and while the goal of the Minor Leagues is to develop players and get them ready to hopefully one day make it to the big leagues, when money is involved, teams and leagues often do what is best for them financially.
How much money do Minor League Baseball players make?
How much money a Minor Leaguer makes depends on how much experience he has and at which level he plays. Here are the average weekly salaries for a player at each level: Rookie ball, $400; Single-A, $500; Double-A, $600; Triple-A, $700. Minor League players are only paid during their season. Of course, these are averages, so some are paid more, but some are paid less.
How many teams were eliminated from affiliated ball in the PDL?
A total of 43 former affiliated minor league teams were not invited to the new Professional Development League. Many of these teams are now playing in one of the MLB’s partner leagues which consists of collegiate summer leagues as well as independent leagues. Some of them are no longer affiliated with the MLB at all.
Do other sports have Minor League teams?
Some other professional sports have their own versions of a minor league. The NBA has the G League in which each team has an NBA affiliation. The same goes for the NHL with the AHL and the ECHL serving as farm systems. In the NFL, each team has a practice squad from which they are allowed to pull players.
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