Sometimes we take technology for granted in today’s modern age. Growing up in the late 60’s and the 70’s, then going to college in the 80’s, minor-league players were almost mythical figures. For Cub fans they were huge myths. Topps Rookie Cards of Ty Waller and Gene Hiser were the only source of information unless you subscribed to The Sporting News or Baseball Digest. However, you were scouting the stat line. My how times have changed, especially with technology the last ten years.
For me, one of the highlights of the past few summers has been watching the Cubs’ minor league teams on a daily basis on MiLB.TV. While the big league team was rebuilding, I got to see Javy Baez destroy AA pitching in Tennessee. I got to see him change his stance and swing this spring at AAA Iowa. I got to see Addison Russell make his debut in the Cubs organization for AA Tennessee in 2014.
Before 2015 you could only access the radio on the Internet on MiLB.TV for the Cubs’ class-A minor league teams. At short-season ball, Mike Safford created an exciting following with his Boise Hawks broadcasts. You could listen to Wayne Randazzo do Kane County Cougar games in 2013 and ’14 but you could only see them at Western Michigan or the Quad Cities. On occasion, you might get to see Daytona play. But unless it was a AA or AAA team, you were still reliant on the radio and box score or the occasional blog description.
The Cubs changed that this year when they added MiLB.TV to both their new class-A affiliates in South Bend and Myrtle Beach. It was great to know that you would get to see every home game and about half of the away games. It was awesome watching Trevor Clifton and Jake Stinnett and seeing the movement on all their pitches. I got to see Chesney Young work counts and drive the ball to right field on a daily basis as well as see Duane Underwood throw an easy 95 mph fastball. However, short-season Eugene was left out of the equation.
One of the highlights for me this summer was getting to watch the Eugene Emeralds play the Hillsboro Hops at Hillsboro on MiLB.TV. I got to see three games late at night. The first game saw Justin Steele live up to all the hype I had heard about him. I was extremely impressed with his curveball, the tightness of it and the sharp break. I also got to see breakout prospect of the year, Oscar De la Cruz. He was just amazing as he threw mid-nineties heat for most of the game while striking out nine in six innings. In addition, I get to see Eloy Jimenez, Ian Happ, and Donnie Dewees for an entire weekend. I can only imagine how my summer would have been different had I the opportunity to see them every day.
For 2016 I think the Cubs need to, and have to, get MiLB.TV in Eugene.
1: Video is a great evaluative and analytical tool.
The Cubs could use the TV to analyze their hitting and pitching prospects on a daily basis. This would give the organization another way to access information about the progress of their prospects. Well, it might be a lot of information to process at first. Players themselves would have access to their own video plus it would help the scouting of other players and teams. At Cubs Insider, we’ve done our own evaluating and analysis this year using MiLB.TV with Javy Baez, Jen-Ho Tseng, Jake Stinnett, and Trevor Clifton.
When Kyle Hendricks came up to the Cubs in 2014, he made comments about the lack of scouting reports at the minor league level. I think whatever information you can give to teach the players how to read and discern a scouting report or how to look at video is only going to help them later in the majors. Maybe they don’t get a whole lot of video of other teams, but they begin to learn how to do those things that are going to be required at the major-league level. These include analyzing hitting and pitch charts and trends and analyzing swings and release points. The technology is just a tool. You still have to teach them how to use it.
There’s no doubt in my mind that adding MiLB TV for Eugene that it will help the players immensely when they reach the big league club.
2. Long-term plans
If Eugene is the place you’re going to be after 2016, you have put MiLB.TV in considering the main reason the Cubs went to Eugene was developmental facilities shared with the University of Oregon. These include the stadium, batting cages, pitching mounds, and other physical training activities. Video should be part of the plan.
3. They don’t have much competition for viewership at the time they play.
Most nights find the Emeralds playing at 9 p.m. Central/10 p.m. Eastern. By that time, South Bend, Myrtle Beach, and Tennessee are just finishing up their games. As a result, the Emeralds could be the lone franchise/affiliate going in the Cubs’ system late at night, depending on when and where Iowa plays.
4. The Fans
While it would benefit Cubs Insider and Cubs fans to watch the team on a daily basis, short-season A ball is not the prettiest thing in the world to see as there are lots of errors, and some pitchers just overpower hitters and vice versa. Short-season ball is a mix of recent draft picks out of college, high school kids with one or two years of pro experience, and international free agents who’ve never seen a tight breaking ball and hack away. However, I think you can get used to and get past those pretty quick.
I don’t think anything would excite me more than to see Dylan Cease and Bryan Hudson pitching next year on MiLB.TV in short-season A ball. Add in Darryl Wilson and Robert Garcia’s speed, Wladimir Galindo’s power, and it would be really exciting to watch them progress every game in 2016.
I think it needs to happen. I think it has to happen. I think it will happen.
It’s in the best interest of the players, the affiliate, the organization, and the fans to get it done.