Cancellation of Minor League Baseball kills my soul

Primarily thanks to coronavirus, Minor League Baseball has officially cancelled the 2020 baseball season.  I say primarily, because the insinuation is that it was not the one and only factor in this decision; because prior to the world going into the shitter on account of a pandemic, MiLB was already at risk, because Major League Baseball is full of greedy cocksuckers, and they were trying to kill off associations with a large chunk of existing Minor League organizations.  Coronavirus just gives MLB a convenient scapegoat to push the whole thing under the rug for the time being, and possibly come back later to put the nails in the coffin at a later, easier time.

But commentary aside, the reality is that in 2020, there will be no Minor League Baseball, and that fact alone hurts my soul in a variety of ways.

Obviously, my love for the minor leagues throughout the years has easily made me prefer them over the MLB product, despite being but cogs in the grander machine, but there’s no denying the appeal of the more laid-back, relaxed culture of MiLB, where everything is not taken so seriously, and there’s vastly more accessibility and intimate closeness with the players and the teams, than their MLB parents.

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As the 2018 baseball season began to take shape, I had earmarked April 28th on the calendar.  Instead of jet-setting off to some other city to watch baseball somewhere else, or catching a Braves game at still-newish Racist ScumTrust Park, it was actually a minor-league game up in Lawrenceville that had my interest: The Gwinnett Braves Strippers Stripers versus the Durham Bulls, the triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.

It was kind of the best option of all worlds; I’m a baseball hipster that prefers minor league baseball over the majors, I could check out the newly enshrined Stripers and possibly get a new baseball cap to add to my collection, and I could check out the future of the Braves in uber-prospect wunderkind Ronald Acuña, who laughably was held in triple-A for obvious financial and team-control purposes.

Above all else though, it was actually a guy on the other team that I was more interested in: Jonny Venters, he of the former Braves all-star relief corps with Craig Kimbrel, but with the ridiculous power sinker from the left side that I had the luxury of watching for three straight years as he made MLB look like his own personal playground whenever he took the mound.  That is, until he got hurt, blowing out his elbow not just once, not just twice, but three total times in his long and arduous journey back to baseball.

Now he’s in the Rays organization, and at the start of the season, he was assigned to triple-A, presumably to keep warm and ready for whenever the Rays would need to get some reinforcements, he would be high up on the list.

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Only the Braves

Back during the summer, the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves announced they were going to change their name, moving forward.  After sifting through the dank and salt for viable candidates, the final ballot was narrowed down to the following six options:

  • Gwinnett Buttons
  • Gwinnett Big Mouths
  • Gwinnett Gobblers
  • Gwinnett Hush Puppies
  • Gwinnett Lamb Chops
  • Gwinnett Sweet Teas

Obviously, none of these were particularly fantastic options, but I figured Buttons would’ve won easily, since it was the least over-the-top campy name, and that there was the historical element behind it, as Button Gwinnett was whom the entire county was named after as well as a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Regardless, at the county level and those who were remotely interested in the distraction of a dumb story like this, there was much debate, but more pettiness when it came to the topic of renaming the Gwinnett Braves, that really could be summed up with the fact that all available options were pretty shitty.

So naturally, the winner of the contest ended up being the Gwinnett Stripers.

What’s that you say?  It wasn’t an option?  By golly, it wasn’t!  The Braves blindsided the fans yet again, with the bat of no-transparency, and went ahead and made choices without the people that sign their paychecks!

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This would make me a Rays fan for the remainder of the season

Worth watching baseball again: relief pitcher Jonny Venters continuing journey back to the big leagues, pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays’ Class-A Advanced Charlotte Stone Crabs

Jonny Venters is one of my favorite pitchers to watch, like ever.  Formerly a relief ace on the Braves, I enjoyed his ascent from AAA to the majors and watched him for the better part of three seasons, make hitters look absolutely foolish with a mega-power sinker thrown from the left hand and often at speeds in excess of 96 mph.

He was derailed when he blew out his elbow, requiring the dreaded Tommy John surgery that salvages careers, but effectively knocks guys out of action for at least a year.  To make matters worse, upon the return trail, something went horribly awry and he ended up blowing out his elbow again, requiring a second Tommy John surgery before he even made it back up to the majors.  So back under the knife he went, and another year lost to surgery and rehabilitation.

I actually watched Jonny Venters practice throwing again in the spring time of 2014, when I made a trip down to Orlando to watch some Spring Training baseball.  He was on a distant backfield of the Disney Wide World of Sports facility, practicing long toss with a catcher I couldn’t identify.  I was happy to see that he was back to performing baseball actions again, and had high hopes that the old Jonny Venters would be back to bolster the Braves’ bullpen.

But because life can sometimes be a harsh and cruel mistress, before the season even started, somehow Jonny Venters blew out his elbow a horrific third time.  Once again, he would need Tommy John surgery, and be knocked out of the third consecutive season.  To nobody’s surprise, by this point, the Braves had no choice but to release him, considering he was very much damaged goods, and unintentionally was a drain on payroll.

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Go G-Gobblers!

Surprising nobody: the Gwinnett Braves announce finalists for the team renaming contest and they all suck:

  • Gwinnett Buttons
  • Gwinnett Big Mouths
  • Gwinnett Gobblers
  • Gwinnett Hush Puppies
  • Gwinnett Lambchops
  • Gwinnett Sweet Teas

I mean, it was a forgone conclusion that the new name was going to be a PC-friendly, vanilla, uncreative and probably determined regardless of votes, but c’mon, these are pretty particularly poor as far as options go.  Sure, passive-aggressive griefing options like Tax Burdens and classic no-brainers like the G-Spots weren’t going to get through, but surely some way better options must have fallen by the wayside in this shitty contest.

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The Gwinnett Barves

A little bit of backstory: the Atlanta Braves are one of the few organizations in baseball that owns the majority of their minor league affiliates.  It’s why all the teams they own are called “Braves;” the Danville Braves, Rome Braves, Mississippi Braves and Gwinnett Braves.  At one point, they stressed the importance of naming all their teams Braves, so that they could really reinforce brand awareness and strengthen their identity to all parts of the Southeast in which they resided in.

This was a stark difference to the vast majority of the rest of Minor League Baseball, who had team names that were often more whimsical and often identifiable to their specific towns/regions, like the Montgomery Biscuits, Modesto Nuts, Las Vegas 51s, Buffalo Bisons and Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp just to name a few.  It was almost a rite of passage for young players to work their way up the ranks, through teams with less than prestigious names, before they had the chances to hope to play for one of the 30 Major League Baseball franchises.

Personally, I’ve always felt the Braves were an organization of squares, to name all their minor league franchises Braves, in such a calculated and serious-business manner.  Like their 18-year old rookies in Danville might be able to close their eyes and imagine that they’re in a 35,000 attendance ballpark in Atlanta and suddenly translate playing like a major leaguer in their rinky-dink park that maybe 35 people are actually at.  Or that their fans will automatically love the Atlanta Braves solely because their favorite players in Jackson, Mississippi were ultimately traded to the White Sox or Diamondbacks.

Anyway, what prompted this post was this news that I saw that the Gwinnett Braves are taking suggestions for new names for them to use in starting in 2018.  The Atlanta Braves are finally opening up to the idea of naming one of their Jesus affiliates something other than “the Braves.”

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When inspiration hits like a baseball to the nuts

No, seriously: Tim Tebow accidentally hits a fan in the balls with an errant throw that only Tim Tebow could be capable of making

All through the day, I couldn’t really find anything I wanted to write about.  Perusing through usual local and national outlets, looking for anything that seemed interesting to write about, scanning through sports sites and pop-culture sites to see if anything sparked any inspiration, no dice.  As much as I hate to do so, it looked like it would be a day in which I wouldn’t have something to write about, as the goings in my life aren’t particularly fascinating currently and there’s little there to write about either.

And then a story about Tim Tebow accidentally nailing a guy in the nuts with a bad throw shows up, I make the not bad face and now I’ve got something to write about.  The internet giveth.

Honestly, the story itself is nothing home to write about, despite the layers of irony there is about Tim Tebow making a bad throw, despite it being in baseball and not football.  To nobody’s surprise, Tebow personally dissuaded the situation, by checking in on the guy whose nuts he rang, signed some stuff, probably said some prayers and bowed their heads, and everyone went home all smiles and happy.  Story over.  But that’s what Tim Tebow does with people, personally, engages them, is friendly to them, and everyone walks away better for the encounter.

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