As many regular visitors to the website may notice I’m a bit of a Bisons fan. This has always worked out well for me. I’ve been a Cleveland Indians fan for over 15 years at this point and having access to the Tribes young prospects close by has always been a personal plus for me.
But heading into the 2008 season I was concerned and kinda disappointed that the writing was on the wall for the Buffalo affiliation of the Indians. Columbus, having just lost the Yankees franchise, was building a great looking new ballpark for the 2009 season. Here’s an artists rendering:
With it now in vogue to have your AAA franchise as close to the big club as possible, the Indians moving to Columbus was pretty much a given. The Pirates were accepted to rejoin the Bisons, having been the affiliate back in the 80’s and for a few seasons in the early 90’s.
However, the Pirates ended up staying with their affiliate in Indy. This was a relief on a personal level, as the Pirates, even with their years of high draft picks, have a very weak top level system at this current time.
This left the Jays and Mets without a home. Rumors went back and forth between which team would move to Buffalo. After basically being kicked out of Syracuse due to poor play, the Toronto Blue Jays were the front runners. A few weeks back Toronto GM JP Ricciardi came out with the following quote pertaining to moving the affiliate to Buffalo:
“It would be ideal for us,” said Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi, who confirmed the Blue Jays are parting with Syracuse. “There’s a couple of things up in the air. Hopefully, within the next week we’ll be able to see how it’s going to work out … Syracuse is only four hours away. If you look at the way baseball is shaping up, most of the teams, they have their triple-A club really close, so it would be nice if we could keep doing that.”
I had thought this had sealed the deal. A GM wouldn’t go public with this kind of comment unless he had something on the go.
But a few weeks later syracuse.com broke a story that was later verified, proclaiming the New York Mets as the new Buffalo affiliate. This was made official at a press conference in Buffalo on Monday, with personal, including Mets GM Omar Minaya:
In the meantime the other AAA affiliates left open were snapped up. The Marlins completed their expected move into New Orleans and the Nationals now call Syracuse home. This left the Jays out of luck, having to move all of the way out to Vegas. Jays brass tried to put a positive spin on the move but this quote from Las Vegas 51’s president Don Logan is a rarity in todays game. It displays his disappointment in the relationship and calls it what it is, a temporary solution.:
“It is what it is. We’re going to make the most of it…Obviously there are a lot more Dodgers fans here than Blue Jays fans . . . but we’re going to try to do some more things promotionally, and we want to grow the business.”
The 51’s have yet to even acknowledge the move on their official website.
As for the Blue Jays, well things will change. Their whole scouting staff will have to be overhauled. Prior to this move the Jays had all of their teams with the exception of Dunedin within a close proximity. Rookie level in Lansing, Michigan, low A in Auburn, New York (near Syracuse), AA in New Hampshire and AAA in Syracuse. Expenses will probably rise as new personnel will have to be hired or moved out to Las Vegas. The Jays will also not be able to rotate scouts from their other minor league teams. The PCL is a hitters league, differing from the pitching oriented International League. The worst case scenario for the Toronto Blue Jays has now come. On the plus side the contract is only for two seasons. If the Jays are serious about improving their chances of re-entry into the International League they will need to focus on fielding winning ballclubs. This can present a problem with developing players however, as this usually requires stocking the AAA club with veterans.
In the end things worked out pretty well for the Bisons. Buffalo crowds usually sported Indians or Yankees merchandise. With the move I can see fans drifting towards more of a Mets fanbase. At least when Scranton (Yankees affiliate) come to town they’ll have the makings of some fun ballgames and lively crowds. The Indians couldn’t be happier as well, having a new ballpark and both AA (Akron/Canton) and AAA teams in their home state of Ohio. On the whole this years AAA shuffle worked out well for most of the parities that were involved.