| Appleton after crescent
APPLETON – Major League Baseball extended invitations on Wednesday to smaller league teams to remain in associated baseball as it overtakes the player development system.
The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are one of 120 smaller league franchises to receive an invitation, and while it was rumored and expected for several months, the Timber Rattlers have been officially asked to remain an affiliate of Milwaukee Brewers.
Nothing is official until teams sign the new Player Development License, a process that is expected to last well into January or early February.
If you’re like us, you probably have some questions about what this means for Timber Rattlers and the future of minor league baseball at Fox Cities Stadium. Do not worry, we have answers.
With the help of Timber Rattlers president Rob Zerjav, who is not allowed to talk about specific details of the PDL until it is signed and approved by Major League Baseball, this is what you need to know.
What is a Player Development License?
PDL replaces the previous Professional Baseball agreement between MLB and Minor League Baseball which expired on 1 October. PDL, which is a 10-year contract, states new standards smaller league teams must meet for facilities, such as larger clubhouses for the home and visiting teams, as well as improved player facilities to solve more health and wellness issues for players at home and on trips.
Do teams have to sign PDL?
No. Teams can choose not to sign the agreement, and thus refuse the invitation to stay in associated baseball. That is unlikely to happen with the Timber Rattlers, who cherish the relationship with the Brewers and already have a stadium that meets most of the expected new standards.
Will Timber Rattlers leave the Midwest League?
No. The Timber Rattlers will remain in the Midwest League, effectively swapping places with the Carolina League. The Midwest League moves to the high class A and the Carolina League drops to the low class A. The Midwest League will also go from 16 to 12 teams. Burlington, Clinton and Kane County did not receive an invitation to remain in the ball, and Bowling Green is expected to move to the Mid-Atlantic League.
Was it possible that the Timber Rattlers would not receive an invitation from Major League Baseball, or that they would end up with another team in addition to the Brewers?
It was possible, but not likely. Zerjav said when he first learned that Major League Baseball wanted to make changes, which was in the fall of 2019, there was not only fear of remaining a Brewers-affiliated company, but also remaining in the 120 teams. After talking to insiders in the industry, he said by June this year that he felt pretty good that Timber Rattlers was going to be one of the 120, but that it was not until about a month ago that he was sure that they would stay with the Brewers.
“We’ve always had a good relationship with the Brewers, and they’re always said they wanted to be in Appleton,” said Zerjav. “But at the end of the day, it was out of their hands. They could make recommendations and they let us know that they had recommended to Major League Baseball that they wanted to be in Appleton, but the decisions were made out of New York, so they were not entirely sure either. & mldr; It’s always the little thing in the back of my mind that says, ‘Hey, who knows?’ “
Will Fox Cities Stadium fans notice a lot of difference in the product on the field when Timber Rattlers changes from low-A to high-A?
For the casual tab, not much will be different. These are still young players who in most cases are just starting their professional careers. The talent level will be a bit higher since most players will have had a year or more of professional baseball under their belt instead of starting their careers in Wisconsin. The best part for fans may be that when the Brewers previously wanted to pull a player out of college, they could just play with the Timber Rattlers at the end of August, or skip Wisconsin altogether and jump to high-A.
“Now every time a player is drafted by the Brewers, they will more than likely come through Appleton at some point,” said Zerjav. “So if fans really want to see all the top prospects and everyone in the Brewers system, they’re going to get through Appleton, and there’s really no chance anyone is going to skip us anymore.”
When smaller league salaries increase as part of the new deal and the Timber Rattlers switch to a higher game level, will it affect the player’s costs?
Not for the Timber Rattlers. Brewers pay salaries for players and coaches, as well as health benefits and things like claims settlement with players. It’s an expense that Timber Rattlers need not worry about.
“That’s one of the reasons we can be a successful entity, because we do not pay player salaries,” said Zerjav. “All this is taken care of by the big league club.”
Will fans notice changes on the Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium due to the new Player Development License?
Not likely. While the Timber Rattlers are always improving the stadium that opened in 1995, any upgrades will likely be in areas of the stadium fans do not look like the clubhouses and fitness areas. The home clubhouse is probably already up to standards, Zerjav said. The teams are expected to have a few years to start making upgrades, but by 2023 and 2024 the rules will be stricter, and by 2025 teams must largely comply with new standards.
“Player needs, coaching needs are evolving,” said Zerjav. “When I first started, we had a manager, a coach, a pitching coach and a coach, and that was it. Now we have a manager who hits a coach, a pitch coach, an assistant coach, usually another coach who helps in the bullpen. We have a coach, a strength trainer, an internal trainer. We have two video boys. So exactly the amount of staff they now have far exceeds what these stadiums were originally built for and what our stadium was built for. We have been able to change them on the website, but the visitor page is very close from a coaching point of view. You also start to see female coaches. You see female judges. Some of the new standards require you to have changing rooms for female employees, as when our stadium was built in 1995, there was nothing to think about at the time. ”
When Major League Baseball looks at the end of January or the beginning of February to get all the PDLs returned from teams, when might we see a game plan for the 2021 season?
Not until mid-February or later. Major League Baseball will probably not announce until February who is in and who is out, because some teams may see the PDL and say that this is not what they want to sign up for, so replacements must be found. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a chance that the smaller series season will not have its traditional start date in April.
“There is already talk that training in the spring may be delayed at least for the Single A and Double A players, so we may be looking at a shortened season,” said Zerjav. “There are just so many things in the air right now that having a schedule delayed a bit is not the worst thing in the world, because hopefully we will be able to know a little more about the vaccine and where we are with COVID-19.”
How many games will the Timber Rattlers play?
If an entire season is played in 2021, the renewed schedule for minor leagues requires a 132-game season for Class A teams, down from 140 previous seasons. That means the Timber Rattlers would have four fewer home games. Class AA teams will play 138 games and Class AAA teams will play 144 games.
With no season in 2020 and uncertainty around 2021, are the Timber Rattlers in good shape financially to potentially survive another summer with little or no baseball?
Yes, although Zerjav for obvious reasons hopes it does not happen. Zerjav and his staff have been working since the summer to put in place plans with the knowledge that the economic effect did not play in 2020 had made and the potential for it to happen again in 2021.
“We feel very comfortable and confident that we will feel good if we do not have a season or have a limited season next year,” said Zerjav. “We will definitely have a season next year. We would have been in a much better place if we did. But we feel very confident that we have ends in a row, and we have a plan for if and when that happens. ”