Atlantic League could help itself

When five Camden Riversharks pitchers combined for the Atlantic League’s only no-hitter of the season in September, three of the Camden pitchers didn’t appear on the Riversharks online roster or in the league’s transactions page. If the league — and its teams — can’t report who is playing where, how are ordinary fans supposed to know what players are on which teams?

The Atlantic League has pleaded its case for legitimacy for years, yet it still fails to offer some basic information. The league’s transactions page has been laughable since York entered the league in 2007. As fewer reporters cover the league, there are fewer options for news. So fans turn to the league’s transactions page: Some pitchers are listed by their wrong throwing arm, players are reported signed by the wrong teams, players’ names are spelled incorrectly.

In some circles the Atlantic League has dropped the “independent baseball” prefix. But head-scratching omissions and mistakes don’t happen repeatedly in the International League or Eastern League or Carolina League. The Harrisburg Senators update their roster.

A couple fans asked me this season why the newspaper doesn’t run league transactions on a daily or semi-regular basis. They would like to see what’s going on outside York. But that doesn’t seem like an option when the league can’t even decipher what player is wearing which uniform.

The Atlantic League will begin traveling to Texas in 2012. And while the league may be on the verge of becoming bigger and better — is an airline deal in place? — it also needs to concentrate on fixing what’s not working. A vacuum exists in this league for simple facts. When do rosters shrink to 25 players? Where is the league rulebook? Where is the league record book?

Other indie leagues like the American Association can list this vital information on their site, but the premier independent league seems to have trouble in this department.

True there are bigger issues with the league.

1. It needs to plant more teams in the Texas region, creating a third division.

2. It needs to align divisions geographically and shed the silly Freedom/Liberty setup.

3. It could use a league-wide uniform deal. (One company could supply every team in the league with uniforms in exchange for greater exposure and advertising at each stadium.)

4. Players want more money. (The $3,000-a-month maximum salary guideline seems outdated, but then again the league keeps fielding teams every year.)

5. If the league’s ultimate goal is to shuffle minor league free agents back to major league organizations, it needs to set a limit to the number of years/games a player can appear in the league. (Scouts don’t need to look at York’s roster if it remains virtually the same from 2010 through 2012.)

6. Consistency would be nice. (Keep the 140-game schedule or the 126-game schedule. Keep the Road Warriors, or dump the travel-team concept. If the league announces its postseason All-Stars before the end of the 2010 postseason, it should do the same in 2011. Why does Willie Upshaw win the manager of the year award for his work in the regular season in 2010, when Long Island’s Kevin Baez is overlooked for winning two division titles in 2011?)

7. Umpiring in the league could improve. (Why does one of the active umpires serve as the supervisor? How can he supervise umpires if he regularly works on one of the crews?)

Some of these challenges and concerns will be dealt with in the future. But the league is failing to provide bare-bones information to fans, and that’s the type of problem that can be corrected in a matter of weeks. For someone who has covered the league for five years, this is the frustrating part. The league appears to be growing and improving in some facets, but it continues to keep making some of the same mistakes. Roster moves aren’t made public. And when they are reported, they include mistakes. So if the league can’t get it right, who exactly is supposed to know what’s going on?

Here’s the big question the league leaders need to ask themselves: If the league doesn’t care about what happens on the field, why should the fans?

About Jim Seip

Jim Seip has been posting podcasts with Frank Bodani for years. He deserves a trophy.
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2 Responses to Atlantic League could help itself

  1. Josh says:

    You raise several valid points about the Atlantic League’s shortcomings Jim. I never thought about the uniform issue, but it does ring true. The Riversharks looked like they were wearing T-shirts last year as their home uniform. The crux of all the roster, statistical and other league issues is that this league was not built for a hardcore baseball fan. This league was built so that medium sized communities could have a place to take their families and spend less money then they would at a MLB game. It wouldn’t be that difficult to maintain a league wide transitions page, but there are few hardcore baseball junkies that go to these games(me being one of them). Let’s not forget that opening day partners owns now 5 of the 8 teams in the league. How can one expect zero conflicts of interests when you have the same owner trading among his teams? The bottom line is the league was designed on purpose to make the players and stats as incidental as possible. What kid cares who threw a no-hitter when he spent the bulk of the time on the merry-go-round. The AL knows what it’s doing, so this lack of stats isn’t happenstance. Maybe uniform’s should be their first priority, since they obviously don’t care about the player who wears it.

  2. Ben says:

    Jim,

    I agree with all of your points except number 5. I especially am irritated by the transactions page. I think Josh is right about the AtlL reaching out to non-hardcore fans, but at least here in York, a LOT of us want the team to win baseball games!

    I disagree with point 5 because the beauty of baseball in York as opposed to Harrisburg (where I also watch a lot of games each year) is that York exists to win baseball games whereas Harrisburg exists to groom players for another level of ball, and winning is secondary (Beasley sometimes has to leave a bad pitcher in the game just because he needs that many pitches according to Washington). For the AtlL, sending players back to affiliated ball is part of how the league attracts good players in order for its teams to fulfill their primary purpose of winning baseball games (since winning teams normally attract more fans and equal more money, this should make sense from a business angle too). For example, Nowak and Eymann played in York because of the potential of getting back to affiliated ball, so that aspect is important but not the main reason for the league’s existence. So, there should be no roster time limitations. Ramon Castro isn’t headed back to the bigs, but he makes York a better team. Can you imagine the Revs without Thurm or Shanks or DeSalvo? Or the Ducks without Navarette and Padge and Equivel? Those long-tenured members make the game more fun to watch and create story lines across the years.

    It’s true in affiliated ball, too, that lots of guys don’t have a shot at the bigs, but are still needed for the team. Only 3-5 guys on the Seantor’s team each year have a real shot at making it to the bigs. My favorite, Tim Pahuta, probably doesn’t have a shot anymore, but he still makes the team better and helps with the grooming of other players. Each team, whether Indy or affiliated, is going to have a lot of guys on it that don’t have a shot but that the team still needs.

    So, a hearty YES to all of your other ideas, Jim, but your roster time limitation would make the league weaker rather than stronger and distract from the main goal of winning games.

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