Even with proposed contraction, travel burden on minor league teams would remain the same, report says, CS’s Anton Dahbura, Boston Globe

April 20, 2020

Edward A. LeLacheur Park in Lowell, home of the Lowell Spinners. David Lyon

One major reason why MLB wants to realign and reduce by 42 the number of minor league teams is to lessen the toll on players from excessively long bus and plane rides.

A new analysis reports that MLB’s plan is flawed: The travel burden will remain essentially the same.

“I had a feeling it wasn’t as easy as throwing all the teams into a paper bag and pulling the teams out and putting them into different leagues. Our conclusion is first of all they won’t accomplish the stated objective of reducing overall travel and thereby decreasing wear and tear on the players,” said Anton Dahbura, co-author of “Minor League Baseball Realignment: Optimal Leagues by Distance and Affiliation,” from the Johns Hopkins University Department of Computer Science. “They’re essentially trying to fix a couple of problems and in the process they’re creating just as many problems.”

The authors went by the 42-team list that leaked last October, when communities such as Lowell learned that their Spinners, the Red Sox’ short-season New York-Penn League affiliate, were on an initial list that MLB presented to MiLB early in their negotiations on a new Professional Baseball Agreement, which expires in September.

Dahbura happens to be a part-owner of another team on that list, the Hagerstown Suns (South Atlantic League). More relevant to the study is that he oversees a group of applied mathematics undergrads who schedule eight of the 14 affiliate leagues. The authors have access to heavy-duty brain- and computer power, and for this study, they used “an Integer Linear Program, coded in MATLAB and solved using Gurobi Optimization software” to better understand the practicalities of MLB’s initial proposal.

A slimmed-down minor league system would mean each of the 30 MLB teams would have one affiliated minor league team at each level — Rookie, Single A, Double A and Triple A — with 120 teams in all. Working under assumptions of teams switching levels as well as affiliations, the study revealed that the new geography remained problematic.

Read more at Boston Globe.


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