Whatever happened to what’s his name?

Tracking the roster changes on an American Association team like the AirHogs can be an interesting (and challenging) task. My wife and I started going to games their first year (once in a while) and got season tickets the next. So, last year we were paying more attention to the team and its members, because we were seeing them more often. After we joined the Booster Club, and we’re paying a lot of attention, since we’ve actually met most of the players.

I tend to obsess about the roster because I keep a database of the players on the AirHogs Boosters Mobile site. The goal of this originally was to be able to identify player jersey numbers since the names were left off the jerseys this year. (As a side note, not having names is probably a reasonable idea – it’s not an ego thing, it’s actually a cost issue. As players joined and left last year, the newer players didn’t have names on their jerseys, since it was expensive to make a new, named jersey. One advantage – you could tell the players with tenure, since they had names. The disadvantage? You still needed a scorecard to figure out the “new guys.”)

I used to just watch the transactions page at the league website, but it’s not real-time. (It’s not even close.) This year, we noticed that if you looked at the team’s roster page on the team website and then clicked “Transactions”, you got updates more quickly, but it’s still not completely accurate. The roster itself seems to be close to real-time, so people may come and go – if you don’t have a copy of the previous roster (or a good memory), you may never notice the difference.

There’s a couple of issues we’ve hit in spite of all this new-found knowledge – one, the reality seems to be that even with the hard limit of 22 players on the roster, there is some leeway on when people actually count against the limit – as in, we’ve seen players in games who are “officially” not on the team yet. (The current AirHogs roster has 20 players, and I really find it difficult to believe a team wouldn’t be at the limit all year.) The other is that apparently if a player is waived (not released, not traded), he won’t show up in transactions at all unless he’s picked up by another team.

All this means is that it’s very difficult to actually find out who is on the team without just checking the box scores every night, and waiting for the league site to update to find out who the new guy is. (The other option is to actually go to the games!)

A compounding factor – The goal of every player in the minors is not necessarily to win the championship, it’s to get moved to a higher league – from independent ball to affiliated, and then up the chain to the “show.”  A minor league manager’s goal (as one has told me) is to build an environment where that will happen.

So, if you’re a minor league fan, you have to remember that there will be much more “churn” than in other leagues. You may not notice it as a casual fan, but if you actually start following a team, you’re going to notice it a lot. As there is no trade deadline, it will never end.