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No collegiate alternative


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I've beeen thinking a lot lately about competitive imbalance in MLB and why a team like the Yankees is only really possible in one of all the professional sports in this country. Why has that been allowed to continue when the chance of a Daddy Warbucks all-star team has been mostly eliminated in the NBA and NFL? (NHL seems more of a special case as a strong niche sport).

The one thing that keeps coming to mind is the fact that collegiate baseball is an afterthought in American sports. I'm not a big college sports fan, but friends of mine who are constantly talk about a sort of honesty or integrity in the collegiate game. For many who have grown disenfranchised by overgrown contracts and celebutante players, college is a refreshing change. (I know there are arguments that the NCAA is just as bad, but that is not the common perception).

Where do you go if you are a baseball fan who is fed up with MLB? I enjoy minor league baseball, but the product isn't close to a good college basketball or football game and the overwhelming majority of games are not televised. Meanwhile, if you look at how many teams there are for developing ballplayers (college + all minor league/independent teams), the talent is just too spread out until it gets to the major league level.

This may be a subject that interests only me, but I think that a MAJOR reason that changes have not been made in baseball to prevent one team from winning 25% of the league championships is that when television helped to spread to popularity of the collegiate alternative in football and basketball, it has not done the same for baseball. When the NBA has bad years, people satisfy their hankering for basketball with the NCAA and it's March Madness jewel. MLB is the only easily-accessed venue for nationwide baseball fans and feels no pressure of competition for revenue from the college ranks. If they did, I think MLB would be structured more similarly to the NFL/NBA and the Orioles/Rays/Jays would not be in the place they are in.

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I agree. I'd love to see college ball get a little more love. If ESPN actually covered it everyday like they do with football and basketball instead of only showing games on ESPNU and the CWS, it could be a lot more relevant.

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The problem with baseball is there are not a lot of "baseball fans" compared to the amount of "team fans." I'm not trying to badmouth Yankee fans, but they are a good example for this argument. There are a lot of Yankee fans who are diehard baseball fanatics, but I am willing to argue a much higher percentage are only fans of the Yankees and don't really watch baseball otherwise. I doubt we see Jay-Z in Omaha anytime soon. And I doubt Spike Lee turns on a Cubs-Pirates game at 2 in the afternoon on WGN. And this applies to the vast majority of fans of all 30 teams.

Football gets ratings cause it is football and this is America. People will watch whatever teams are playing. Basketball is similar during March Madness. I just don't happen to find many people who will sit down and follow complete baseball games not involving their teams, especially below the MLB level.

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Major League Baseball made a deal with the devil regarding minor league baseball. Used to be a huge, thriving, independent minor league baseball scene. The PCL almost jumped to MLB status in the 50s. There were real alternatives to watching major league ball, or even playing major league ball.

But player acquisition costs got high. Minor league teams got tired of working so hard to find and develop players. So they decided to sell out the idea of trying hard to win, in exchange for constant revenues from the majors.

The end result is a huge minor league system that lots of people go watch, but nobody is really a fan of. They take the kids to the BaySox game, let them play on the playground, eat hot dogs and ice cream. But if you miss two weeks you might not even know who the shortstop is because he's been called up to AAA.

That's the main difference between NCAA football/basketball and minor league baseball. The players are good, the teams have long histories, but the NCAA teams are real teams that try to win championships and awards, while the BaySox are just there as a holding pen for a few future Orioles.

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