Does A Minor League Schedule Matter?

Today, the American League announced a) team opponents b) how often those two would see each other during the season c) road vs. away numbers of games. Moreover, the Oklahoma City Barons found out their rivals for their second season on the farm. There isn’t much to trumpet about in this regard because the American League is not fond of diversity. Unless, of course, you find that by moving a typically Eastern team into the Western Conference via re-alignment is diversity, than by all means, call it diverse.

Here are the details, if you’d oblige reading. They’ll face Texas 10 times (5/5 split), followed by Houston, San Antonio, Abbotsford, Grand Rapids, and Charlotte 8 times each (4/4 split). Peoria, Rockford, Milwaukee, Lake Erie, and Rochester each face the Barons 4 times (2/2 split). And last, but certainly not least, Chicago, Toronto, and Hamilton get 2 a piece (1/1 split).

I’ve not chosen to bore you today with those numbers in hopes of boosting my web page views, although if you’re reading this, than plan B certainly worked. No, I’ve pointed out the Barons opponents today to highlight it’s insignificance.

Life “on the farm” brings with it great promise. It is incredible to see young talent on the tipping point of big league greatness and a life in the minors. In North American hockey, it has been argued there is no development league that is as important to its big league partner as the American Hockey League. I agree, unless we consider NCAA football a development league. It goes without saying that watching kids develop into career sports professionals is a worth while experience. So much so that I buy tickets to as many AHL games as possible.

However, the short version of the story is a lot kinder than the long version.

As player turn-over season after season occurs, very little player consistency is noticeable. This shows both the importance of the league as well as its rapid-fire loss of players on the verge. For development, the farm teams in the American League are birthing grounds for solid players. For a fan, this can be difficult to experience.

I loved Colin McDonald, he’s gone. I tolerated Alexandre Giroux, loved the goals he gave us, now he’s gone. I admired Martin Geber’s love of the game, now he’s gone. In comes the ripe crop of faces ready to leave their mark in Oklahoma City and beyond (said in best Buzz Lightyear voice).

I’ve squandered your attention so I’ll wrap it up.

In essence, any minor league schedule, especially in the American Hockey League is uninteresting. Why? Because unless your a fan of an incoming team (for nostalgic purposes), there is little to compare with from year to year. Our team has changed drastically, but so has the face of our opponents. This happens in the NHL as well, but on a more long-term scale. Locking players down for multiple years is key to this. Hanging onto guys that make a difference adds matchup excitement in division and out. This just isn’t a common practice in the A. It was not built to hang on to players, rather it prepares them to leave the nest.

But there are those that claim the almighty dollar is at stake. Don’t the ticket purchasers want more Stars vs. Barons rivalries? The majority of sports fans couldn’t care less in this market about rivalry; they want discounts, diversion, and dueling. You find me a regular Joe that would choose a Stars/Barons game over a discounted, mid-week Griffins bout, and I’ll take a nibble out of my JF Jacques jersey.

Could the American League make things interesting? Sure. By instituting some conference crossover. That’s certainly for another post.

Yes, I’m a little cynical today, and Yes I’m bringing you down with me. But before you get tizzed up, saving every last penny to see the Barons play the Checkers, you might get the same bang for your buck by springing for a Rockford game because at this point it just doesn’t matter.

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography