Even with the Rule 5 draft turning out to be much busier than had been anticipated, much of the best writing in minor league baseball last week centred around the reorganization of MiLB, as teams were “invited” to become MLB franchisees.
“The Best Way to Kill Major League Baseball is to Kill Minor League Baseball”
Washington Post columnist Barry Svurga has seen first hand what happens when a community loses its minor league team. Svurga was a beat writer covering the New-York Penn’s Elmira (NY) Pioneers when their restless owner, unhappy over the parent Red Sox’ preference for development over winning, moved the franchise to Lowell, MA, a city which now finds itself on the outside looking in after last week’s changes.
“YOU MADE A MISTAKE, SIR, AND FOR THAT YOU’LL PAY, AND MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL WILL PAY FOR IT IN THE YEARS TO COME. THAT’S WHAT I THINK THE FANS WOULD SAY.’’
If you spend time in minor league parks, especially early in the season when crowds are still on the slim side in many places, you get to see the same faces every game. A gathering that includes girlfriends, host families, and die-hard fans makes for a friendly atmosphere, and some of the best information (not all usable, of course) has been gleaned from this source. There’s a love of the game that won’t be deterred by a stumbling team full of raw prospects on the field or nasty spring weather. Many minor league teams also have perennially-returning employees coming back year after year for the same reason. Retired textile sales and marketing man Dan Carubia has ushered for the NY-Penn Tri-City Valley Cats for the past baker’s dozen of years. He’s watched all manner of Astros prospects come through Joseph L. Bruno Stadium on their way to World Series glory. More than a guy who makes sure you get to your seat, Carubia is an ambassador for the team and the game. Tri-City now finds itself without a team.
The Lancaster JetHawks of the California League have had a successful quarter century of operation, including a pair of league titles. The location, in Los Angeles County, put them in proximity of several other Cal League teams, but MLB teams loathe the hitter-friendly desert winds that wreak havoc on pitcher development. The parent Colorado Rockies wanted out of Lancaster, according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times, and last week’s shuffle gave them the chance – Lancaster was dropped as an MLB affiliate, to be replaced by AAA Fresno, which was given a take-it-or-leave-it message from MLB about their concerns over dropping two levels.
Part of the rationale that MLB floated to justify their revamping of MiLB was the need to straighten things out in geographic terms: reduce team travel, bring affiliates closer to the parent club. Giants Future points out that the proposed Mid-Atlantic League will do little to reduce the travel burden.