Split Winter Meetings sport minor agendas

By Geoff Wilson
December 11, 2001

At this year's Winter Meetings Dec. 9-16 in Boston, the major league portion of the business will take place before the minor league portion really gets started. Given that contraction could be the most discussed topic coming out of the week, perhaps it will be best to get it out of the way first.

Once that dust settles, the biggest topic in the minor league portion of the meetings will likely revolve around the issue of dual ownership of franchises within the same league. The Trenton Thunder ownership group, led by Joe Finley, is rumored to be interested in purchasing another Eastern League franchise.

Such a rule change from the current setup, where owners may only have multiple teams in different leagues, would also favor Mandalay Sports Entertainment's Hank Stickney, who owns the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and is looking to get involved in running the California League's Bakersfield Blaze.

For the measure to pass, it would need to get 27 points in Minor League Baseball's voting system, which allots six points to each Triple-A league's vote, three points to Double-A leagues, two points to Class A leagues and one point to short-season leagues. It's starting at a deficit, though, because International League president Randy Mobley said his league was “strongly opposed” to the measure.

The Pacific Coast League, whose no vote would kill the measure if the IL also votes no, has not decided how to proceed.

“Between now and the Winter Meetings, I'll have learned a lot more,” said PCL president Branch Rickey. “Our executive committee has asked me to collect opinions from the membership in advance of our meeting and share them back and forth. (But) it won't be a cold issue, and we are not predetermined for the vote.”

“If Triple-A doesn't back it, I don't think it has very much chance,” added Texas League president Tom Kayser, who also said the stance of the Minor League Baseball office might go a long way in determining the vote. “We all listen with respect to Mike Moore and Pat O'Connor and the people in the National Association office. That's why they're there; that's why we hired them.”

The TL may have the biggest league item on an agenda, as it will likely approve the move of the Shreveport Swamp Dragons to Frisco, Texas, following the 2002 season (see Minor League Notebook on page 31).

Meanwhile, the IL and PCL have been working on a plan to televise a Triple-A Game of the Week for the 2002 season. Mobley and Rickey both confirmed their leagues were close to ironing out the details, with CNN/Sports Illustrated the most likely network to carry 20-25 games. CNN/SI televised games at Columbus, Pawtucket and Memphis in 2001 as a test run.

“We're very anxious for the broader public to get a look at the new Triple-A baseball,” Rickey said.