Appy League Stuck At Nine

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.–Lee Landers’ stay at the Winter Meetings held in the heart of Disney has been anything but magical.

The Appalachian League president has found no suitors in his search for a replacement for the Blue Jays affiliate in Pulaski, and he said a proposal to field a co-op team as the league’s 10th member is no longer feasible.

“Optimism is waning fast,” Landers said after a league meeting on Wednesday and two days of working the lobby to fill the void left by the Blue Jays, who reduced their affiliates to a Major League Baseball-minimum five after the 2006 season.

Landers has submitted proposals to several major league organizations to add an affiliate, but he said the league will likely be forced to run a nine-team schedule in 2007.

Sylvia Lind, Major League Baseball’s senior manager of minor league operations, said from the perspective of major league teams, “Right now, there is no appetite for a co-op with a major league team.”

Sending a low-level minor league player to a co-op team could be  damaging to a player’s confidence, Lind said.

“We are not giving up hope,” Lind said, adding that MLB will continue to work with Landers to explore all options. “Even if the Appalachian League goes with nine teams in 2007, that wouldn’t necessarily be the case going forward. It would not be shutting the door (on baseball in Pulaski).”

The Appalachian League is shrinking while the Gulf Coast League continues to grow. Two organizations that already have affiliates in the Appy League have announced they’re adding teams in the GCL for the 2007 season, bringing the league up to 15 teams. The Orioles and Cardinals will both have seven minor league affiliates next year with the addition of the GCL teams.

Rumors that the Blue Jays were also going to add a GCL team have circulated through the meeting halls, but Lind said the Jays have not decided whether they’ll do that.

The state of the Appy League has been just about the only minor league news of any consequence to come out of this year’s gathering, as most leagues report wrapping up their annual meetings in record time.

In the only other notable decision, Lind confirmed that Major League Baseball approved a two-year extension for the Bricktown Showdown Triple-A championship game in Oklahoma City. The Pacific Coast League and International League signed a three-year deal for the game, which got off to a successful start in September, but MLB had originally approved it on a trial basis for one year.