The end of 2020….as it should have been.
This past week would have been the end of the regular season of the 2020 regular season, and postseason play would be wrapping up sometime this week. It’s sad to think all that has lost this season…and it’s sadder to think about why this season has been lost at all. But here we are, facing an offseason that will be longer, and slower, and much more filled with change for all of baseball.
MiLB President Pat O’Conner to retire
It’s hard to sum up the nearly 27 years of Minor League Baseball that O’Conner oversaw as President, Vice President, and COO, and although the very public last few years has been very, very tumultuous and will certainly tarnish his time, especially as he very much could be the last independent MiLB President there will ever be.
It’s easy to forget, but when O’Conner was named COO in 1993, the minors were a very, very different place. It was only five years after the seminal film Bull Durham came out, and that movie still is the way many people visualize minor league baseball. But over those years, the minors have changed. Many new stadiums have opened. Technology has improved. Workouts and the science behind them have changed. Food has slowly gotten better. Pay has…well, let’s hold off on that topic.
O’Conner’s time was mostly profitable, right up until the end of things.
It’s also impossible to look at his reign without the last four years. As MLB faced a lawsuit over the pay of minor league players (who are, indeed, paid by MLB organizations), O’Conner went to Congress alongside MLB commissioner Paul Manfred and lobbied for the “Save America’s Pastime Act”, first as an independent bill that lost support and failed, and then getting it added to the 2018 Omnibus Spending Bill. The threat made by O’Conner in 2016 was “many cities would be in jeopardy of losing their Minor League Baseball teams, resulting in the elimination of tens of thousands of jobs nationwide.”
The Omnibus spending bill with the Save America’s Pastime Act was passed in early 2018 after lobbying together by Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball. The following year, MLB proposed the very thing O’Conner had threatened would happen without the act, eliminating dozens of team from minor league baseball, a move that would lead to the events continuing today.
It’s not O’Conner’s fault that MLB is doing what it’s doing. Perhaps there would have been a better chance to fight for Minor League Baseball without the pandemic, as they waged a very public war of words painting MLB as the villains and had MLB on their heels in responses. But with the 2020 season cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and many teams in dire straits financially, the fight came out of the minor league side, and made it easier for MLB to suggest taking over the leadership of the minors on top of everything else.
The only thing that is still known for sure this week is that the minors in 2021 will be very different. But teams, and entire leagues, will not exist. And MLB wlll be in charge of it all. And maybe the shift from Bull Durham to today will pale in comparison to the new shift even more drastically to a new future.
The Return of the Volcanoes…sort of
The future of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes has been in limbo ever since being named in the initial release of teams that were candidates to be cut from Minor League Baseball back in 2018. While that list has since been reported to be changing, the future is still very much unsure.
But for at least one night, the Volcanoes will be back.
An email from the Volcanoes reported that on October 1st, the Volcanoes will once again take the field, for a game against the Corban University Warriors baseball team (NAIA), who also call the Volcanoes stadium home in the spring.
(October first, the day after the PBA expires. Somehow, I do not think that is a coincidence.)
Of course, the team will not be made up of Giants prospects. As of writing, it’s not clear who the players will be in the Volcanoes uniforms come October, but minor league players have always come and gone from team to team, and I’m sure the team is excited to be on the field, for at least once in 2020.
The Volcanoes will be selling cutouts for the game, which will be played without fans, and can be picked up after the game.
As per the email:
Fans should submit their photos to by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and make payment https://checkout.square.site/buy/OLFWMSRXGNSMRGSGAJ5LGXFL
No AFL in 2020
The Arizona Fall League will join all of the minors in 2020 as being cancelled. While baseball has recently confirmed that the Instructional Leagues will happen this fall, the fall’s prospect showcase will not make the cut. The AFL has long been a place for the top prospects to face off against each other or get extra playing time to develop, and there was talk there might even be an expanded version this fall to make up for the lack of a 2020 season, but the continuing pandemic has proven to be too much for the league.
It’s just another sad moment in a year of lost things for baseball and everything else. I’m almost getting numb to listing things that won’t happen this year, but the good news is that this will likely be the last on-field action to talk about, because it usually is the last on-field action of the calendar year in the US. We’ll see what happens for the various winter leagues.
Battle of the Bourbon Trail – Giants Updates!
The “Battle of the Bourbon Trail” tournament continues, and three Giants prospects continue playing there.
Simon Whiteman: .271/.411/.371/.783, 19-for-70, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 16 BB, 15 SO, 2 HBP, 12 SB, 1 CS
Tyler Fitzgerald: .234/.351/.468/.819, 22-for-114, 8 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 16 BB, 33 SO, 2 HBP, 3 SB, 0 CS
Logan Wyatt: .192/.293/.269/.563, 15-for-78, 3 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 12 BB, 25 SO, 1 SB, 0 CS
Simon Whiteman continues to do his best getting on base and stealing bases, working hard offensively. Tyler Fitzgerald is showing some overall power, however, and drawing his fair share of walks, even as he’s striking out a lot as well. And Logan Wyatt’s tournament continues to be underwhelming.
It’s still hard to judge everything going on, but hey, it’s numbers to report on!
Comings and Goings
Abiatal Avelino was a part of the 2018 Andrew McCutchen trade…uh, the one that sent McCutchen to the Yankees…and had made appearances in 10 Major League games between 2018 and 2019. In 2019, he hit .283/.315/.444 in Sacramento. However, the Giants continued to collect right-handed infielders the left the now-25-year old a very redundant part of the landscape, and that led to his release. The Giants used the spot to get Drew Smyly back on the active 40-man roster.
In the distance of the NL East, an old friend alert:
Yes, that is Charlie Culberson, he of the Marco Scutaro trade of 2012. The former #51 pick in 2007, now 31, had hit .143 in nine games with the Braves this year. He had been a near post-season hero for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017, when he hit .500 over ten games, actually posting a higher batting average than OBP (.471), and hit .600 in the ill-fated 2017 World Series. He joined Atlanta in 2018, and had been a solid player for them until 2020. Culberson passed through waivers, and was sent to the Braves Alternate Training Site.
The Reading List
SFGate did an interview with John Gavin…wait, SFGate? Really? They aren’t just a link farm? Okay, sorry, SFGate did an interview with Gavin, a Bay Area native and former 8th round pick (2017) by the Giants. In some ways, it’s another in a standard set of interviews done this year, talking about how minor league players are handling the pandemic.
But it’s a different story for Gavin, who went through Tommy John surgery in February 2020, and would have missed the season anyway. Gavin had a tough year in 2019, putting up a 5.38 ERA mostly in relief in San Jose, after having a 2.87 ERA as a starter mostly in Augusta in 2018. Hearing his thoughts about what might have been is worth reading.
And now we come to the Marc Delucchi part of this section.
First, there’s his interview with PJ Hilson.
Hilson has big tools, and the 6th round pick was signed above-slot in 2018. The now 20-year old spent two seasons in the Arizona League, posting only an .657 OPS in his second go-around in the circuit in 2019. But he still started the season among the Giants Top 30 Prospects, which speaks to his impressive tools. Marc talked to him about those, and the work he’s putting in.
And then we’ve got Marc’s interview with Carter Aldrete.
Last season’s 5th round pick, nephew of a former Giant, and ASU alum and former teammate of 2020 Giants draft pick R.J. Dabovich, 2019 top pick Hunter Bishop, and the 2020 overall top pick Spencer Torkelson (over whom he has won a home run derby), Aldrete has a lot he can talk about.
For a quick watch, Joey Marciano was posting some of his offseason working out:
And for reading, his pitch stats. He was touching 98 with his fastball, which looks nice.
And as long as we’re talking about hold friends:
I touched on Kickham last week, but here’s just a little more about how he’s doing in Boston.
Look, there’s just not much more Giants-related to talk about, so once again, we’re going outside the system to wrap things up.
Team names are something I always love, and sometimes hate (Sod Poodles, I’m looking at you). But one team is taking a very presumptive belief that they will be among the 120 minor league teams that will be surviving this offseason’s changes, and are looking to change their name for 2021.
The Beloit Snappers, of Wisconsin in the Midwest League, are taking a vote of five names that could replace the turtle-themed current one. They range from fine (Sky Carp, a term for geese) to weird (Supper Clubbers) to very, very bad (Moo. That’s the whole name. Moo.).
Take a gander at the names they’ve chosen, and if you want to vote, go for it.
Beloit was on the initial teams on the list to be eliminated from the minors, a move which focused on teams with poor facilities or long distances from others. Beloit had a stadium that was due to begin construction in 2020, though that has been delayed due to…well, everything 2020. Whether or not the Snappers, like the rest of much of the western teams in the Midwest League, will be a part of the minors in 2021, is, well, TBD.