Stockton Ports coach Todd Steverson was banned for a year for ordering a position player to balk in the 18th inning to end the game. Steverson, who was acting manager, had already run out of pitchers and had already had another position player on the mound.
Winning games at the Minor League level is a distant second to developing prospects for the Major Leagues as far as priorities go. Major League clubs only care about winning Minor League games insofar as to keep their affiliates happy. If the parent club provides a competitive and watchable team, the affiliate has an easier time drawing fans to the ballpark.
Therein lies the problem, and why Steverson was handed such a steep penalty. In the big picture, a Single-A game in June means nothing. To the fans in attendance, it does mean something. Having been to Minor League games and worked for a Minor League team, I can tell you the fans who do show up want to see their team win. They certainly care more about wining an 18-inning game than a coach who is afraid of a player getting injured and having to explain it to a farm director after the game.
Minor League baseball had to assure fans that when they buy a ticket that the teams are trying to win. For organizations, winning at the Minor League level is a byproduct of prospects playing well and not something to be pursued at all costs like at the Major League level. This was Minor League Baseball’s way of telling the 800 fans who stayed to the bitter end - and all Minor League fans – that wins and losses still matter. The league made an example of poor Mr Steverson.
It’s an unfortunate byproduct of Minor League Baseball subverting itself to Major League baseball. If this arrangement was really a problem, Minor League teams could go back to paying the players themselves.