This is Werner Park, home of the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers. This is what a state-of-the-art Triple-A park looks like. Credit: Matt Ryerson-US PRESSWIRE
In light of the rumors about the Cubs changing Midwest League affiliations, there seem to be a lot of misconceptions about how the minor leagues work. I want to clear up some of those misconceptions.
Minor league ball clubs are independent baseball franchises. They have their own owner. With only a couple of exceptions, they are not owned by their major league affiliate. That owner leases a ballpark and staffs it with ticket takers, ushers, promotions, and concessionaires. They hire their own broadcasters and try to sign agreements to get their games on the radio or, in a few cases, television. They make a schedule and arrange (and pay for) travel to away games. In short, they have everything a major league team has with one exception: They don't have any players or coaches.
Now they could go out and sign their own players and pay them to play for them. That's what all of the minor leagues did before the 1930s and it's what they do in the independent leagues today. But instead, what teams do in the organized minors is sign an agreement with a major league team which is called a "Player Development Contract" or "PDC" for short. These agreements, which are signed for two or four-year periods, says that a major league team will provide players and coaches for that team and pay all of their salaries. In exchange, the minor league team gives those players a chance to play and develop their skills.
So currently, if you're going to a Peoria Chiefs game, you're going to see players that the Chicago Cubs have loaned to the Peoria Chiefs. The money you spend at that game doesn't go to the Cubs, but rather to the owners of the Chiefs.
I've read people saying that they wouldn't go, or would go much less, to the ballpark of a Cardinals farm club. Well, why the heck not? Yes, some of those players are going to become St. Louis Cardinals, but most of them won't. Most of them won't even make the major leagues. Others will get traded to other teams; maybe even to the Cubs. I don't hate any major league team so much that I wouldn't let them have my money, but even if you do, not going to a Cardinals farm team doesn't hurt the Cardinals at all. You're only hurting the owners of that particular franchise and then they may not be around the next time their PDC is up.
Minor league teams do move, just like major league teams do. I grew up watching the Madison Muskies and they left Madison in 1994 and became the West Michigan Whitecaps. But that's not what's happening in Peoria. The Chiefs are going nowhere. All that is happening is that the Cubs are rumored to be looking at signing a PDC with Kane County rather than with Peoria. This happened after the 2006 season when the Cubs switched their Double-A affiliation from the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx to the Tennessee Smokies. The West Tennessee team (now called the Jackson Generals) signed a new PDC with the Mariners. No one at the time around here seemed to care.
If the Cubs sign a new PDC with Kane County, the Chiefs are guaranteed to get a new team by the agreement that Minor League Baseball signed with Major League Baseball. And yes, Minor League Baseball is a separate organization from MLB. They've got their own commissioner and everything, although he's called a President and not a commissioner.
So here's the deal. Minor league baseball is a separate business from major league baseball, although obviously they have to work closely together or this whole arrangement doesn't work. MLB contracts their players and coaches out to minor league teams and pays their salaries. The minor league team is responsible for everything else. I'll admit it's more fun to watch a team made up of players from the Cubs, but it's still fun to see players from another organization too. For example, if you live in Pensacola and you've missed out on a chance to see Billy Hamilton play because you're not interested in seeing a Reds farm club, you're crazy and you don't like baseball.
Finally, there are few better values for your entertainment dollar than minor league baseball. So if you get a chance, go out and see a game before the end of the season. Next year too.
OK, back to the regular stuff. The upper minors all lost and the lower ones all won.
The Iowa Cubs lost to the Oklahoma City RedHawks (Astros), 6-3.
A second strong start by Horacio Ramirez, who allowed only one run on seven hits over seven innings. He didn't walk anyone and struck out one.
Blake Parker blew the save and took the loss when he allowed three runs on two hits, including a two-run home run, in the one inning he threw. Parker did strike out the side though and he walked one.
Left fielder Dave Sappelt was 2 for 4 with a two-run triple in the seventh. He then scored that inning.
The Tennessee Smokies were extinguished by the Chattanooga Lookouts (Dodgers), 11-1.
Starter Dae-Eun Rhee took the loss after he allowed three runs over 5.2 innings. Rhee gave up nine hits, two of which were home runs. Rhee walked one and struck out four.
In fact, Chattanooga hit six home runs off of Smokies pitchers, including three in the eighth inning off Casey Weathers that turned the game into a rout.
Third baseman Dustin Harrington was 2 for 2 with a triple and the lone Smokies run. Oh, and he also pitched a 1-2-3 top of the ninth inning while striking out two.
In game one, P.J. Francescon allowed a single and a two-run home run to the first two batters he faced. That was all the Threshers needed to hang the loss on him. Francescon pitched three innings and gave up five total hits. He didn't walk anyone and struck out one.
Eduardo Figueroa, Matt Spencer and A.J. Morris each threw one inning, allowing no hits and each one walking one batter. Figueroa and Morris each struck out two.
First baseman Taylor Davis was 2 for 2 with a double and an RBI single in the second inning.
In game two, Frank Del Valle started and took the loss. He threw four innings and allowed four runs, three earned, on four hits, including two home runs. Del Valle struck out five and didn't walk anyone.
Second baseman Ronald Torreyes was 3 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored. Left fielder Vladimir Frias was 2 for 3 with a double and scored the other run.
The Peoria Chiefs outlasted the Beloit Snappers (Twins), 9-6 in twelve innings.
Chiefs starter Starling Peralta pitched five innings and to the first batter of the sixth. He allowed four runs, three earned on five hits. He had some control problems as he walked five and fanned four.
Sheldon McDonald pitched two scoreless innings to collect his first professional win. The only baserunner he allowed was an error. McDonald struck out four.
Luis Liria pitched a scoreless bottom of the twelfth for his fifth save. He allowed a two-out walk, but no other baserunners. He did not have a strike out.
Shortstop Tim Sauders had a huge night, going 4 for 6 with a double, which was the only extra base hit among Peoria's twelve hits. Saunders had two RBI and scored three times.
Right fielder Jorge Soler was 2 for 6. He also scored three runs. Soler singled one runner home.
Center fielder Pin-Chieh Chen was 2 for 6 and scored a run.
The Boise Hawks sank the Vancouver Canadians (Blue Jays), 11-6.
Starter Justin Amlung pitched two innings and allowed three runs on six hits, including two home runs in second that put the Hawks down 3-1 early. Amlung did not have a walk or a strike out.
Michael Heesch got the win after tossing two scoreless innings. He gave up only one hit. He neither walked nor struck anyone out.
Left fielder Isaac Garsez had a double, a triple and a sac fly in a 3 for 4 game. He had three runs scored and two batted in. The Idaho native also stole a base.
Third baseman Stephen Bruno was 3 for 6 with two runs scored and two batted in.
Right fielder Willson Contreras went 3 for 5 and walked once. Contreras scored once and had two RBI.
Catcher Carlos Escobar went 2 for 4 with a double and a walk. He had two RBI and one run scored. Center fielder Trey Martin went 2 for 4 and scored a run.
Every Hawk in the starting lineup had at least one hit.
Yakima lost, so the Hawks now have a six-game lead in the East Division second-half standings with nine games to play.
Ben Wells threw an inning for the first time since June 4. He didn't allow any hits, but he walked one and struck out all three in game two.
Anthony Giansanti hit a walk-off home run to end game two.