Lingo: To Understand Moore’s Legacy, Look Around

No one likes a self-promoter. Or do we?

A self-promoter certainly makes a reporter’s job easier. If you need a comment, you know who to call. Even if you don’t, sometimes they call you. If you need to paint a picture of the self-promoter, you have plenty of words to use.

Painting a picture of Mike Moore is considerably more difficult. Calling him a recluse would be unfair, but he’s certainly the opposite of a self-promoter.

He doesn’t relish the spotlight. Quite the opposite, in fact. In the 13 years I’ve been at Baseball America and covering the minor leagues, I have interviewed Moore only a handful of times in person, and a few more times over the phone. And since the advent of e-mail, it’s rare to talk to Moore, as e-mail has become his preferred method of communication. It’s the way he let me know he was running for re-election in 2003, as well as announcing his decision to retire earlier this year.

You could debate whether this is the best tack for the president of a national organization to take, and in fact it was a topic of discussion during the brief presidential campaign process this summer. Several people talked about better communication as an important issue for Minor League Baseball to deal with, and even president-in-waiting Pat O’Conner talked about “a little bit of a disconnect” that had developed between Minor League Baseball’s central office and its constituents.

But the point here is the effect Moore’s behind-the-scenes persona could have on his legacy. How can we judge a person most of us hardly know?

Connecting The Dots

With Moore giving you little to go on himself, you have to rely on those around him and the conditions of his industry to accurately judge his presidency. The people around him (as you can read in the feature) tell the story of a person with a real idea of where minor league baseball was, as well as a clear vision of where he wanted it to go.

It’s difficult to understand now the circumstances Moore was working in when he became president. Sal Artiaga had taken over as National Association president in 1988, and he presided over the beginning of the true modern boom times for the minor leagues. Major League Baseball, which had subsidized the minors since the 1960s—keeping the teams alive so their young players would have a place to develop—took notice when minor league baseball became a marketable, profitable business again.

That led to the bare-knuckled negotiations of a new Professional Baseball Agreement in 1990, the first time MLB asked the minors to take back some of the costs of player development. While an agreement finally got done, relations between the minors and majors were strained, and factions developed in the minors as operators tried to digest a deal they didn’t feel good about.

Moore stepped into the breach, a remarkable achievement in itself because he was one of the chief negotiators of the deal. He acknowledged the divide and started trying to heal it.

“There’s still a number of people who feel we got a bad deal, and they blame Sal or they blame me,” Moore said after his election. “But I’m not happy with the deal either, and I think they believe that. The hardest thing was the lack of unity. We were going in too many different directions. So the people became mature enough to know it’s not one person’s fault or two persons’ fault. All of us were to blame.”

Standing On His Record

So Moore set about making things right. As the past 16 years attest, he did a bang-up job. The minors now speak with one voice. Attendance records that stood since after World War II have been broken again and again. Minor league teams play in facilities that would be the envy of any sport, and franchise values—once considered outlandish in the five- or six-figure range—now reach into eight figures.

Moore has presided over numerous renewals of the PBA during his term, and not once have the negotiations turned ugly. In fact, they rarely have even been discussed publicly. Minor league teams have taken on more financial responsibility, while getting guarantees that preserve their major league affiliations.

Again, private negotiations are bad news for reporters. There’s nothing to write about until the deal is announced. But it’s a heck of a way to run a stable, profitable business.

And in the end, that’s how Moore will be remembered, even if we don’t have colorful quotes to make the story more interesting.

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