Here’s a fun hypothetical exercise involving the reaffiliation of the AAA level of Minor League Baseball. AAA, the highest level of MiLB, consists of two leagues: The International League and the Pacific Coast Leagues.
Both leagues are old and encrusted with tradition and are a great example of the Minor League Paradox, which summed up…
In the minor leagues, teams move a lot. They rebrand a lot. They are reaffiliated a lot. Teams within the minor leagues change so often that it’s tempting to think of the whole system as a spiral of chaos that surely wouldn’t mind getting the ‘reset’ button tapped. However, that is not the case. The International League and the Pacific Coast League were formed around the turn of the century (the old “turn of the century” 1900) about the same time as the American and National Leagues. As such, the titles “International” and “Pacific Coast” are untouchable.
When coupled with the “spiral of chaos,” this creates the hilarious situation wherein all 14 Int’l league teams are in the United States. Quite international indeed. The Pacific Coast league features a whopping 3 of 14 teams (Tacoma, Sacramento, Fresno) located in states bordering the Pacific, and teams flung as far east as Nashville. The Tucson Padres are for sale and it’s a given that they’ll be moving soon. There’s a good chance that they’ll move even further from the Pacific Coast. More about that in an upcoming post.
The International League has never been all that international, but with the relocation of the Ottawa Lynx to Allentown, PA (Lehigh Valley IronPigs – now one of MiLB’s most successful franchises) the “International” title became obsolete.
The Pacific Coast League of the early 50s was comprised of 8 teams on the Pacific Coast. Despite the Dodgers and Giants moving to California and screwing things up for the PCL, the league name sticks and will likely continue to stick.
After that lengthy sidetrack, let’s dive down the spiral of chaos. Shall we?
Let’s pretend that the PDC (player development contract) system is thrown out the window. A few of the teams I’ll mention are locked up with their MLB teams for a few years into the future, so this is definitely a fantasy idea. If you’re interested, Minor League Source keeps good records of PDC status. 2012 (like all even numbered years) is a shakeup year wherein we will see some reshuffling this fall.
So, with PDC thrown out the window, these are the reaffiliations I’d be happy to see. Why? The main reason for minor league reaffiliaton is geography. There is a trend towards keeping farm clubs close to the parent club, and franchises like the Rangers, Phillies, and Orioles are lucky to have several of their MiLB affiliates just a stone’s throw away. It is more convenient for scouts and GMs to check in on talent at the drop of a hat. Pro players can stay at their own houses while on rehab assignment. To top it off, it’s more environmentally friendly. ‘Nuff said. Here it is:
Loop One: The Eastern Loop
-The Charlotte Knights gallop away from the White Sox and toward Miami Beach
-The Indianapolis Indians choose South Chicago over Pittsburgh
-The Syracuse Chiefs flee Capitol Hill for the gleaming Steel City
-The Nationals corral the Durham Bulls, who are seeing red about the poor attendance at Rays games
-The New Orleans Zephyrs blow gently down the gulf till they reach Tampa. They forsake the Marlins to close this loop of reaffiliation.
Loop Two: The Central Loop
-The Salt Lake City Bees make a bee-line *groan* from Anaheim to Minneapolis.
-Tired of flying their saucers all the way to Toronto, the Las Vegas 51s fly into the now-empty arms of Angels.
-The Rochester, NY club is happy to ignore the Twins. They simply stretch their Red Wings across Lake Ontario and wrap them around the Blue Jays. (OK, that got weird)
Loop Three: The Western Loop
-The Albuquerque Isotopes ditch LA and activate their powers within the system of neighboring Arizona
-The Dodgers find solace with the biggest little team in the minors: the Reno Aces. The D’Backs are plenty happy with New Mexico
If your team wasn’t mentioned, then their AAA affiliation must be working out just fine. Feel free to post any angry or annoyed comments and have a terrific day!