About a decade ago, I bumped into a newly professional player and asked about his first experiences in the minor leagues. "I've got to be honest with you -- I hate it," he said, before explaining how loose the oversight and preparation felt. After playing in a well-structured college program, he was shocked.
"It's like they throw you into the deep end of the pool and expect you to figure everything out," he said, before listing the many challenges that minor leaguers encountered. Finding food on salaries effectively below minimum wage. Getting enough rest through the long days of bus travel. Maintaining a weight-training program when some facilities had almost no equipment. Through all of that, trying to learn more about your chosen craft while playing on fields of varying quality.
Since that conversation, baseball front offices have changed dramatically, with a generation of staffers focused like border collies on efficiency -- pitch efficiency, swing efficiency, roster efficiency, per-dollar efficiency. And teams have recognized all the same things that the player outlined back then, creating the momentum for change which has led to Major League Baseball's recently revealed plan to significantly reduce the number of minor league teams, by 42.