Friday, July 23, 2010

DIE, YOU GRAVY SUCKING PIGS! (or “Big League Success as a Function of Minor League Health”)

Acclaimed musicians and part-time minor league scouts, Crosby, Stills, and Nash once proclaimed:

Teach your children well,
Their father's hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you'll know by.

And while it would take some fantastic verbal contortions to twist these trite dirty hippie lyrics into anything vaguely relevant to this article, I’ll take a brazen shot in the dark: If you’ve got a crappy hunk of crap big league ballclub, neglecting the kids (i.e. your minor league system) will result in the hell of a continued era of crappitude established by their crappy predecessors.

At least I think that’s what David Crosby was singing about, in between Bogarting massive water pipe hits of Acapulco Gold, of course.

A healthy, well-maintained minor league system will eventually pay dividends in the form of big league wins.

It stands to reason, right? Teams that draft well, pluck the primo international kids off the market, and develop their youngsters to meet their full potential will amass beaucoup wins in the minors, and when the kids are ready for the show, their winning ways will continue in the bigs resulting in pennants, glory, and throngs of ecstatic fans offering their wives, sisters, and mothers for your depraved sexual gratification. Well, maybe not pennants, but you know what I mean; nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more.

It seems a solid thesis to run with, but before we jump down the rabbit hole and examine said correlation (major league success resulting from minor league health), let’s play devil’s advocate and brainstorm a few scenarios that would shoot that theory to hell and back (with apologies to Audie Murphy).


An owner who decides to throw everything he’s got into the free agent market, minors be damned, could theoretically have a solid big league team while sporting color-coordinated bundles of suck throughout the minor league system.

I’ve always thought this was a weak strategy, but valid. I mean, in a world of limited resources, throwing all those resources into a market where value is often defined as “Wow, I’m only paying 11 million a year to this 36 year old declining superstar pitcher for the next five years!” doesn’t necessarily play well.

The free agent market is ugly, and if you’re not overpaying, you’re likely buying a player with warts. Lots and lots of nasty, puss-filled genital warts, or a Geritol addiction, or an inability to hit right-handed pitchers, or a stone glove, or a history of goat molestation. Or all of the above.


There are many teams that change owners virtually every year, and many owners who lack the patience to chart a plan and stick with it. There comes a point when the burden of losing becomes too much and said owners throw up their hands in a flurry of futility-filled frustration and scream, “FIRE SALE!” in a crowded movie house.

Lacking any semblance of continuity, minor league success or failure is more or less dictated by random factors (did frustrated owner trade old for young? young for old? pitchers for position players? load High A and deplete AAA?)


Some owners may draft brilliantly, make Wile E. Coyote supra-genius trades for promising young superstars, and only skim the cream off the crop of internationals, but still not care about the minor leagues.

In other words, they don’t strive to win games throughout their minor league system, but rather see it as little more than a venue to develop their future big leaguers. And, in doing so, it doesn’t matter to them if they surround their chosen few with entire squads of blind Mongoloid multiple-amputees.


Some systems are just loaded with guys who are minor league superstars, but marginal big league talent. This is often enabled by owners who don’t recognize the flaw of making the “one superstar for three semi-adequate pseudo-ballplayer” trades.

Along the same lines, some owners fill low minors with ringers and aging vets, fail to promote properly, or otherwise comprise their rosters in a way that skews results.


In the early stages of Wrigeyville’s (or any world for that matter) existence, minor league success is not a result of the care you have taken or the system you have built, but rather a reflection of what was bequeathed to you by the hands of the benevolent fake baseball gods.

So keeping these mitigating factors in mind, have the Wrigleyville big league powerhouses been accompanied by minor league squads of commensurate strength and impressiveness?

The short answer: More or less. More, I would say, but not necessarily as strong as I pre-supposed. The farm system’s of the twenty league winners Wrigleyville has seen thusfar have compiled a solid 6999-5975 win/loss record for a winning percentage of .539.

The best minor league record of a league champion was amassed by my Season 7 Moonbats (419-233, .643), while the weakest record was a still semi-respectable 310-342, .475 record by the Season 9 world champ Tampa Bay Stars.

Following are the minor league (AAA through Rookie League) records of every league winner since Wrigleyville’s inception (in descending order by win percentage):

7 Helena Barking Moonbats 419 233 0.643
10 Helena Barking Moonbats 400 252 0.613
8 Cincinnati Howlers 381 271 0.584
8 Burlington Moose 378 274 0.580
2 Syracuse Bonebreakers 377 275 0.578
1 New York Highlanders 362 290 0.555
1 Scranton Schrutes 361 291 0.554
9 Helena Barking Moonbats 354 298 0.543
7 San Francisco Kickapoos 352 300 0.540
5 Las Vegas Westward Hos 315 271 0.538
5 San Francisco Kickapoos 345 307 0.529
2 Austin Annihilators 341 311 0.523
3 Santa Cruz Knights 339 313 0.520
6 San Francisco Kickapoos 336 316 0.515
10 San Francisco Kickapoos 336 316 0.515
4 San Francisco Kickapoos 329 323 0.505
3 Cleveland Renegades 326 326 0.500
4 Cleveland Renegades 322 330 0.494
6 Las Vegas Long Shots 316 336 0.485
9 Tampa Bay Stars 310 342 0.475

So what about today’s farm systems? Which franchises are developing the talent that will one day divide and conquer the friendly confines of world Wrigleyville?

Below are the records of all Season 11 minor league systems (again in descending order and split by league):

Memphis Blues 231 136 0.629
Cincinnati Howlers 227 141 0.617
Helena Barking Moonbats 225 143 0.611
Indianapolis Indians 222 146 0.603
San Diego Salmonbellies 220 148 0.598
Fargo Prairie Dogs 214 153 0.583
Charleston Tobacco Farmers 199 168 0.542
Las Vegas Rattlers 192 174 0.525
Portland Pandemonium 180 187 0.490
Chicago Aztecs 177 190 0.482
Hartford Crushers 167 201 0.454
Jackson Justice 164 203 0.447
Albuquerque Turkeys 153 215 0.416
Nashville Posse 140 227 0.381
Boston Knights 137 231 0.372
St Louis Silver Hawks 92 275 0.251

Tacoma Toyotas 232 135 0.632
Kansas City Spitoons 210 157 0.572
Toledo Christian Beavers 210 158 0.571
Jacksonville Manatees 209 158 0.569
Syracuse Moose 205 163 0.557
San Juan Santurce Crabbers 200 167 0.545
Seattle Supersonics 195 172 0.531
Vancouver Totems 221 197 0.529
New Orleans Hip Waders 193 174 0.526
Tucson Ectoplasm 187 181 0.508
Charlotte Chimps 184 183 0.501
Tampa Bay Stars 181 186 0.493
Trenton Tripods 170 198 0.462
San Francisco Kickapoos 167 200 0.455
Wichita Wind 142 226 0.386
Milwaukee Sturgeon 33 334 0.090

Personally, I don’t know which is more impressive, the system wide excellence displayed by Tacoma in compiling their 232-115 record, or the mind-boggling level of incompetence and neglect Pat (owner of the newly-coined "We spent $100 million and all we got was third in the division." Sturgeon) has demonstrated in winning a piddly 33 out of 367 games. Seriously, there are co-ed nursing home teams that could surpass that mark.

Another interesting barometer I’ve used these stats for is as a predictor of future success. Logically, if a team’s minor league system is vastly outperforming its major league squad, one could expect that there are sunny days ahead. And, conversely, if the farm system is underperforming the big league squad, one could anticipate an imminent decline as injury, age, and attrition takes its toll on aging major leaguers.

Following are the top five franchises in each league whose minor league record surpasses the big league:

Fargo Prairie Dogs 0.583 0.337 0.246
San Diego Salmonbellies 0.598 0.395 0.203
Cincinnati Howlers 0.617 0.465 0.152
Las Vegas Rattlers 0.525 0.430 0.095
Charleston Tobacco Farmers 0.542 0.453 0.089

Charlotte Chimps 0.501 0.326 0.175
Toledo Christian Beavers 0.571 0.419 0.152
Tacoma Toyotas 0.632 0.488 0.144
Seattle Supersonics 0.531 0.395 0.136
Trenton Tripods 0.462 0.337 0.125

So, by this theory, the above mentioned teams should be seeing a marked improvement as their minor league studs scurry up to the bigs. Below are the teams lookin’ good right now who may have trouble round the bend:

Nashville Posse 0.381 0.570 (0.189)
Boston Knights 0.372 0.535 (0.163)
Albuquerque Turkeys 0.416 0.558 (0.142)
Jackson Justice 0.447 0.523 (0.076)
St Louis Silver Hawks 0.251 0.326 (0.075)

San Francisco Kickapoos 0.455 0.849 (0.394)
Milwaukee Sturgeon 0.090 0.407 (0.317)
Tampa Bay Stars 0.493 0.640 (0.147)
San Juan Santurce Crabbers 0.545 0.651 (0.106)
Tucson Ectoplasm 0.508 0.593 (0.085)

Of course, nobody in the league is aghast at the possibility that San Francisco may not be able to indefinitely maintain an .849 winning percentage. As a matter of fact, half the owners are forming a neat, orderly line in anticipation of trading him their best, brightest, most promising young studs as a simple matter of tradition.

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