The business side of minor league baseball is starting to make headlines. As the minor league season draws to a close—and the affiliation shuffle kicks into gear—newspapers around the country are beginning to ponder the question of who will be coming to town next year.
Before getting to some of those stories, let’s just take care of a few mostly baseball-related news.
• The Rays and low Class A Bowling Green (the Sally League affiliate formerly known as the Columbus Catfish) locked up a two-year extension through 2010.
• The Rockies and short-season Tri-City also extended their PDC by two years.
• The Indians and short-season Mahoning Valley (New York-Penn) struck a two year extension to its PDC.
• As was reported in newspapers around the world, the Indians informed Major League Baseball of its intention to look for a new affiliate, essentially ending its 14-year relationship with Buffalo and giving credence to the rumors the team will move into Columbus’ new ballpark next season.
• [FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE] Just read that Double-A San Antonio re-upped with the
Tigers Padres, leaving no available Texas League teams and dispelling any rumors of the Marlins heading to the TL (see below).
• And lastly, my daughter turned 1 yesterday (sorry, couldn’t fight the parental pride).
On to the headlines . . .
Centre Daily Times columnist Guy Cipriano bemoans the short-season State College Spikes’ break from the Cardinals two years ago and their subsequent four-year PDC with the Pirates. Cipriano points to the Cardinals’ affiliate Muckdogs on-field success this season, and the lack of Spikes victories, as reason to question linking with the Pirates—much less signing a four-year deal.
Certainly covering the worst team in the league is no fun, but State College has been anything but a failure off the field. The Spikes have seen attendance go up by over 10,000 since their 2006 season as a Cardinals affilate and currently rank fifth in the 14-team league. Who a minor league team affiliates with is rather arbitrary unless, of course, it’s the hometown team. Being able to market the opportunity to see your big league team’s future is a great tool for any minor league team and, no matter their record on the field, should help draw fans at the gate.
The Pirates’ new emphasis on the draft, despite the Pedro Alvarez drama, should result in some good young talent coming through State College. In the long run, the relationship will likely be a success.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the Dodgers have spurned Las Vegas’ request to renew their PDC and the soon-to-be-former 51s may very well be welcoming a new team to town. Certainly the state of Cashman Field would be Dodgers’ main reason for leaving Las Vegas. 51s general manager Don Logan told me in an interview last season that the team is hoping to land a deal with the city for a new ballpark in the near future, and that Cashman Field’s clubhouse, batting cages and weight rooms are terribly outdated.
The paper suggests that the Marlins may come to town if the Dodgers end up in Albuquerque, currently Florida’s affiliate. However I think the Marlins would first make a play for a closer affiliate like New Orleans, which will likely be available once the Mets make their expected move to Syracuse. The Nationals, who will be kicked out of Columbus to make way for the Indians, likely will also consider a move to New Orleans or otherwise face the prospect of moving its Triple-A affiliate out West. The only seemingly available International League market will be Buffalo, which would make good geographic sense for the Blue Jays—afterall, there’s talk of moving the Bills to Toronto.
Speculation continues that the Brewers are on their way out of West Virginia in favor of relocating their low Class A affiliate to Wisconsin, which is less than two hours from Miller Park in Appleton. The move would certainly make sense for Wisconsin, which could expect a surge in interest by having a Brewers affiliate in town. And no doubt Brewers’ brass would benefit from being able to travel just two hours to watch some of their young prospects play—though I believe West Virginia’s Appalachian Power Park (built in 2005) is a tad nicer than Wisconsin’s Fox Cities Stadium (1995).
A rather well-written story in the Tacoma Index delves into the history and the challenge of running Triple-A Tacoma, most significantly playing in the shadow of the Mariners in circa 1960s Cheney Stadium. One thing the article does not mention is the fact that Tacoma and the Mariners have not renewed their player development contract, a relationship that dates back to 1995. It’s hard to imagine the Mariners going somewhere further away no matter the condition of Cheney Stadium.
The Knoxville News writes of a possible Southern League shakeup, as five teams have yet to lock up affiliates for next season. The article mentions the Dodgers interest in moving to the Texas League now that they have relocated their spring training home to Arizona—San Antonio is the only available team in the TL.
Not a shocker, but Yankees farm director Mark Newman says within this article that he expects New York to re-up with Trenton once their season is complete.
Maybe the Braves will release the Richmond territory now. Actually, International League president Randy Mobley told me last week that finalizing a backup plan in case the Gwinnett ballpark is not ready for Opening Day is why the territory has not yet been released.
MILB chief operating officer Tim Purpura said that while they do try and accommodate the higher classification league for relocation, it doesn’t preclude them from having conversations with other leagues that are interested. No league has been selected yet, and that there are still a number of leagues interested, he said.
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