HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
December 4, 2006

An early look at the Hot Stove

By Aaron Schultz

It is early in December, and the baseball season will has been over for several months now, so I thought it would be a good time to take an early look at the Hot Stove.

While I usually like to do more Hot Stove stuff in late January, there has been enough going on, so far, this off-season that I wanted to discuss some of it now.

First off, before we get into the baseball discussion, I would like to share my pleasure with all of the readers in Dan Monson, the former University of Minnesota Gopher mens’ basketball coach getting fired.

Okay, officially he resigned, but we all know he was pretty much forced out.
When I heard the news Thursday, I was actually excited.

Let’s all hope they find the right coach for this program, and get us all excited about Gopher basketball again.

Alright, now to the sport of kings – baseball.

Starting with amateur ball, I haven’t heard too much in the way of player movement in the area, although there has been some team movement.

The North Star League has expanded by one team this fall, with Rogers getting added to the Class C mix.

How this will affect the North Star won’t really be known until the season gets underway.

Okay, now for what could have been major news in amateur baseball – a shift to three sites for the state tournament.

Members of the state board for the Minnesota Baseball Association had some talks about this prior to the 2006 state tournament.

At the state tournament was when I first heard that they were considering making the move.

As I sat at the annual state board meeting, prior to the first games of state being played, the board weighed the positives and negatives of moving to three sites.

Currently, the state tournament takes place at two sites over three weekends.

There were a number of reasons the board was looking at making the switch, with the biggest one being attendance.

Attendance has been down lately at the state tournament, and the board isn’t sure why.

But, consensus around the state is to eliminate the Thursday night and Sunday evening games. These are, typically, the games that draw the smallest crowds.

Another factor in considering going to three sites was weather concerns.

The past few tournaments, there has been bad weather, which has caused games to be played very late at night, or cancelled altogether.

By having three sites, and thus eliminating Thursday and Sunday night games, it would give the board more flexibility to deal with bad weather.

The third positive in going to three sites – it would give additional towns a chance to host a state tournament.

With the current system, some of the best fields in the state may host a state tournament, then not have another chance for more than a decade, or more.

While there seems to be too many positives not to do it, there are some big concerns in moving to three sites.

First off, by having three sites, it will eliminate the number of games a diehard baseball fan can see in a given day.

Also, a third site is one more facility that the state board has to deal with, and make sure everything is ready to go.

Finally, by having three sites, the total profit the host sites make will no doubt be less, making it less attractive to have the state tournament.

The state board also looked at the possibility of eliminating games from the tournament, which would help with the tight schedule and eliminate games Thursday and Sunday nights, the poorly-attended games.

At its meeting Nov. 18, the board discussed a number of different proposals and voted on them.

For this year’s state tournament at Hamburg and Norwood, along with the state tournament in 2008 at Chaska and Shakopee, it decided to make a few changes.

Currently, the state tournament format has two sites for both Class C and Class B.

In Class C, 32 teams make it to state, with single elimination through the first two rounds, then double elimination after that.

In Class B, 16 teams make it to state, and it is double elimination all the way through.

The changes for the next two state tournaments will keep 32 teams from Class C and 16 from Class B making the field.

But, in Class C, it will be double elimination when there are four teams left instead of eight, and in Class B, it will be double elimination after the first round.

Then, at the 2009 state tournament, which will be hosted by Arlington and Gaylord, the format will change again.

There will still be the same amount of teams making it to state, but both Class C and Class B will be a single elimination format throughout the entire tournament.

Yep, lose and you’re done.

The board passed this with a 6-3 vote.

I’ve been gnawing on these changes for a couple of weeks, and I don’t mind them.

I’m glad they didn’t eliminate the number of teams that advance to the state tournament.

Alright, not much space left, but I did want to talk a little bit about the Twins off-season.

So far, nothing, and that is no surprise.

The free agent market has been sick to this point, with average players getting way too much money.

Of course, our Twins are not going to overpay an average player.

With that said, they better get a trade done to get a veteran starting pitcher, and a good designated hitter.

One last thing, please don’t bring back Rondell White as your answer to the DH question.

Well, until January, keep the Hot Stove burning.