News From The Trade Show At The Winter Meetings

Lake Buena Vista, Fla — The Baseball America booth sits at the front of the sprawling trade show in the Atlantic and Pacific Hall ballrooms at the Swan and Dolphin Resort here in Disney World.

The prime location, ahead of hundreds of other vendors hawking nearly anything you can find at a ballpark, means that at some point just about everyone attending the Winter Meetings passes by us. That gives me the opportunity to catch up with a variety of folks and hear some of the minor league news and scuttlebutt being discussed on the second day of the Winter Meetings.

Here are a few tidbits:



* There is some concern among team operators and league officials about the impact an expanded major league playoffs will have on the minor leagues. If Major League Baseball does in fact expand its playoffs in some fashion (perhaps as soon as 2012) and makes sure the postseason does not run into November, then an earlier start date to the season would be required in both the majors and minors — a prospect not particularly appealing to teams playing in cold-weather climates. The minor league season begins on the first Thursday following major league Opening Day and ends by or on Labor Day weekend (unless given approval to run longer).

The uncertainty over the future schedule has also proven a nuisance for some leagues, many of which try and plan their schedules several years in advance to allow teams to book non-baseball events during open dates on their schedule.

Commissioner Bud Selig is expected to discuss playoff expansion in meetings with league officials during the Winter Meetings.

* Plans for a completely renovated ballpark for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees is moving forward. Funds for the $40 million project that should create "a virtually new facility," team president Kristen Rose said today, will come from a $20 million grant pledged by outgoing governor Ed Rendell and a local match from a variety of sources–including some proceeds of the $14.6 million sale of the publicly owned team to Mandalay Baseball.

Few details about the construction have been ironed out. The architecture firm Ewing Cole unveiled potential designs of the new ballpark last month and principal Craig Schmitt is on hand here at the Winter Meetings. Both he and Rose said the Yankees have not yet decided whether the construction would be done over one or two seasons–the former requiring the construction to be done during the 2011 and 2012 offseasons; the latter requiring the team to find temporary housing while construction is completed.

* Appalachian League president Lee Landers said the Rookie-level circuit's expanded playoff system was a hit and 'one of the best things we have done not only for the athletes but for the fans too." They certainly plan on continuing it in 2011.

The Blue Jays move into Bluefield has gone smoothly, receiving approval at the league's meeting today, though there has been some hangup on getting approval from the Blue Jays on using their logo.