Freitas Awards Try To Spotlight Minors Top Operators
See also: Durham Wins Triple-A Freitas Award
See also: Altoona
Wins Double-A Freitas Award
See also: Daytona
Wins Class A Freitas Award
See also: Aberdeen
Wins Short-Season Freitas Award
See also: Alan
Ledford Named Minor League Executive Of The Year
Claus Named Minor League Manager Of The Year
See also: St.
Paul Wins First Independent Organization Of The
On the Website you'll notice some awards that you're used to seeing a little bit later in the year, or perhaps that you've never noticed before at all.
What they represent is, quite simply, the best of the minor leagues. And we're hoping that by giving our minor league awards a bigger stage, we can shine a brighter light on the people who are responsible for making the minors as successful as they have become.
The most notable of these awards are the Bob Freitas Awards, which recognize outstanding minor league operations at the Triple-A, Double-A, Class A and short-season levels. Our Freitas Awards have been handed out since 1989, and they're named for Bob Freitas, who was a longtime ambassador for the minors and a field representative for the National Association for many years.
What that means is that he went from minor league club to minor league club, giving teams encouragement as well as practical ideas on how to improve their operations. He was one of those people who knew everybody, so if a league needed someone to operate a franchise, he could usually find someone.
It wasn't a prosperous industry, as it is now, and most operators were happy just to be running a baseball team and paying the bills. It was also a different age of communication and cooperation.
As we all know, things are a lot better now and a team can usually make money just by moving to a new ballpark in a new market and opening the gates.
But the Freitas Awards seek to recognize the enduring spirit of the man, which we hope is something that will remain in the fabric of the minor leagues no matter how big the business becomes.
That means we aren't necessarily looking for the team that draws the most fans or does the flashiest promotions, but rather those franchises that are on a path of long-term excellence and are true parts of their communities.
We have an artificial device to help us do this: No franchise can win the Freitas Award until it has been in operation for at least five years, so those franchises that come out of the gate strong but fade quickly aren't going to be recognized.
But in truth, we would probably see through those franchises anyway. When we're whittling down the list of candidates, teams first have to pass muster with everyone on the staff. More important, we know people across the country who also follow these things closely, so when we have a candidate to consider, we get as many informed opinions as we can find.
You may have read in our last issue when Athletics general manager Billy Beane compared our prospect rankings to open-source software, and I thought that was one of the best analogies I've heard on what we try to do. When we rank prospects, it's not one of us holed up in an office making the judgment. It's someone gathering as many informed opinions as he can, making sense of it all, then presenting it to you.
We try to do the same thing with our awards. We gather the information and make the ultimate decision, but we like to think the people out there in the ballparks are actually making our decisions for us.
In addition to the Freitas Awards, you'll also find our Minor League Executive of the Year and Minor League Manager of the Year recognized in this issue, two awards that are pretty self-explanatory.
Here too, we're not just looking for the manager who won the most games or the executive whose team drew the most fans (though for this year's winner, that's actually the case). We're looking for people who do things that other people might want to copy, and who show the potential to be leaders in their fields. And in the case of our manager, in particular, we're looking for someone with the potential to go on and work in the big leagues.
We're also introducing a new award in this issue, one that we hope carries on in the spirit of the Freitas Awards: our Independent League Operation of the Year. Independent leagues have had a lot of ups and downs since they returned to the minor league landscape a decade ago, but the strongest leagues have proven themselves as good outlets for players and fans.
The new independent award recognizes front-office excellence, as the Freitas Awards do, but with a nod to on-field success as well. One of the differences between independent and affiliated ball, of course, is that indy teams control the makeup of their teams, so the best franchises draw fans and win games.
No matter what the criteria, however, the St. Paul Saints were a shoo-in as our first winner. First in the Northern League and now in the American Association, the Saints are the flagship franchise for independent baseball.
So enjoy our look at the best of the minor leagues this year, and we hope you're inspired by all the great work that's going on in ballparks across the country.You can contact Will Lingo by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.