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 (The $3,000-a-month maximum salary guideline seems outdated, but then again the league keeps fielding teams every year.)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 wore a cookie monster costume to help close out the Spectrum on Oct. 31, 2009.
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