Paul Wezner, Senior Editor
Sure, it's helpful for the Tigers to have winning teams at the lower levels - fan excitement across the minor league levels is always helpful. But do these players really learn how to win by winning in the Midwest League? It's debatable to say the least. On one hand, the reason some teams sit in the same rut year after year is because the clubhouse is filled with a losing attitude, and bringing in players that came up winning can help change that. On the other hand, it's rare that more than a couple players from any given day are going to make it to the big leagues, and two rookies will have trouble changing the general attitude of a veteran-laden team of 25 guys. But here's the ultimate kicker; neither Toledo or West Michigan used top prospects to dominate the competition. Far too many of the players on those teams were simply older than their league, and while some can't necessarily be blamed for being placed there (Mike Hollimon, who was in his first full season), it doesn't change the fact that they are experienced players playing largely against kids lacking the same experience. Does the Varsity learn much if they beat up on the freshman team?
Mark Anderson, Associate Editor, Minor Leagues
Truthfully, I put very little stock in minor league championships. Let's take a quick look through the 2004 Whitecaps roster that won the Midwest League title, as an example. Of the 32 players that suited up for the 'Caps in '04, 14 of them are no longer in baseball in any fashion. Of the 18 players still in baseball, nine of them have floundered significantly since leaving West Michigan (Blue, Francia, Graharm, Homer, Hunt, Kirkland, McKinney, Rodriguez, and D. Sanchez). That leaves Eulogio de la Cruz, Tony Giarratano, Christhian Martinez, Nick McIntyre, Eric Rodland, Brian Rogers, Jordan Tata, Anthony Tomey, and Virgil Vasquez, as having been reasonably productive at higher levels (and reasonably productive is relative for several of these players). With that in mind, it's hard to get excited about an A-ball club winning their title, and a AAA roster loaded with minor league and Major League veterans winning their title. If the Tigers had a crop of kids that routinely won titles as the moved up the ladder, I'd be more inclined to believe those championships were harbingers of future success; but watching last year's Florida State League runners up fall flat on their collective faces in AA this year didn't leave me terribly inspired to find much solace in a minor league title. It's a great experience for the young players, and a story they can tell their grandchildren, but it doesn't do much for the long term vitality of the Tigers organization.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
Winning championships are nice, but I don't put much stock into them. The team at Toledo was laden with older players that had plenty of experience at that level, and didn't have much in the way of prospects. It's far to early to tell exactly how prospect-laden the club at West Michigan is, but for the most part, it's similar to Toledo in the aspect that the 'Caps had a lot of players that were old for the league. This is especially true with their pitching, which featured polished college arms such as Erik Averill, Burke Badenhop, and Matt O'Brien, and also had pitchers repeat the level like Ricky Steik and Josh Rainwater, so they had a lot of prior experience and success, which should've allowed them to do well with the 'Caps. The team at West Michigan certainly has guys that I would consider prospects (Maybin obviously, but Hollimon, Joyce, and Justice also), but the fact that the team was largely comprised of older, polished players tells me that this team should've had success, and even though the 'Caps won a title, I'm not that excited from a future standpoint. The same will hold true for me next year, should the 'Caps win another title with many of the older, college players taken in the 2006 draft.
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