I was thinking about this based on a few things.
In a different thread Steve was talking about the difference in development of football players and baseball players. Which are you more likely to make it in, things like that.
Also because Real Sports in their most recent episode did a piece on a couple lifetime minor leaguers that were playing for peanuts basically. "32 years old, living with my parents. Is that anyway to live?" (Personally I'd live with my parents if it meant playing a game even at the lowest levels for a living). It's not really news that unless you are a major league prospect you make no money. It's ultimately a life choice. No one put a gun to your head.
Third thing from my experience at the Baysox game last night, they can't be making money hand over fist. Free parking. $13 ticket I sat front row behind home plate. There was maybe 500 people there, and thats generous. Can't imagine Fredrick, Aberdeen, Delmarva, Bluefield, GCL, DRL, can't imagine these other leagues are doing any better. Norfolk, maybe. I'm sure when a major league superstar goes on a rehab assignment, the ticket sales spike.
At last nights game, a 26 year old Aderlin Rodriguez hit a monster home run, and finished the game a triple shy of the cycle, reached base in 4 of 5 plate appearances. Anderson Feliz, 25 years old, had a 6 RBI night. Neither one has a chance of seeing the big leagues because baseball has pretty much said they won't. That age in AA ball? Pass. Not in the Orioles top-30 prospects at all? Back of the line.
What it boils down to is this. Teams probably have their top-30 prospects they monitor closely. They have maybe another 20 guys they keep an eye on, recent draft picks, whatever. The rest of them are filler so that the guy they have in Aberdeen that they want to see develop can prove himself before going to Delmarva. Where there are 20some more guys who are filler for the maybe 3 guys that might make it from there.
Two levels of minor league ball. Call them whatever, but for the sake of this exercise we'll stick with AA and AAA. AAA is the 30 guys you view to be most likely to be in the majors one day. AA is the next 30 guys. And thats it. Draft becomes a 10 round event rather than a 50 round event. After the 10th round, the draft is a joke anyway and half those guys don't sign. A lot more high school kids may choose college. Only the elite high school kids will get drafted where they will play in AA, in what would likely represent something like the AZ Fall league. AAA would play more like a futures game.
All players in the leagues make a decent living wage because you're paying roughly 60 guys, not 250+. With better lineups, it's easier to market, more people probably go to these games.
It would take some time to filter out the not fit for it players. But if an 18 year old plays in AAA for four years, against teams top 30 prospects as well, there is no better measuring stick than that. Does him no good to play in Aberdeen for a year, Delmarva for a year, Fredrick for a year, Bowie in year four, he's finally maybe playing with more than 5 guys who are major league hopefuls but is 22 by then. Then you ask him to jump to the bigs, but he's been playing withs scrubs for four years. Have them play against other top prospects all the time.
I mean, maybe you don't need all that development in baseball. You can either do it or you can't. Maybe it's an illusion to justify having all these levels of minor leagues and rookie ball, and all these players at your disposal that you pay garbage to be punching bags. It will also prevent guys from living with their parents at 32 because by the time they got to age 25, they get hit with the rough reality that major league baseball isn't in their future.
Football is like this. Most guys know by age 21-23 if the NFL is for them or not. It's not, move on with life.