Saving the Minor Leagues: The Case for Radical Realignment
Saving Minor League Baseball
Major League Baseball continues its foolish quest to destroy professional baseball in towns across America. Commissioner Rob Manfred is proposing a radical restructuring of the minor leagues with the stated goal of essentially eliminating 42 teams and decades-old leagues. This agenda risks significant long-term damage to the game and could inadvertently produce the final century of baseball as we know it. Yet, if restructuring is truly the goal, there is another option.
MLB’s Diabolical Plan
Manfred seems intent on realigning the minors. MLB claims three primary reasons for seeking realignment:
- The wear and tear travel takes on prospects,
- The goal to pay affiliated minor-league players a higher yearly wage, and
- That too many players will never make big league rosters.
This author previously addressed the faults with MLB’s stated justifications. However, it seems money is likely the true driver of this dubious contraction proposal.
For our purposes today, let us take the first reason given on face value. Fourteen leagues operate across North America. They vary in size from eight to 16 teams. The larger leagues encompass multiple states, sometimes with distances between teams of more than 1,000 miles. Because of these geographic gaps, clubs have high travel costs and players face lengthy travel.
Moreover, the AA leagues are concentrated in the eastern half of the country. Many prospects are called up directly from AA. The current geographic distribution gives an unfair competitive advantage to eastern and central clubs over their western counterparts.
An Alternative Proposal
However, there is some legitimate usefulness in reform. For your consideration, here is a proposal to create 20 leagues of eight teams each. These leagues will be geographically compact. The levels of play will be more evenly distributed throughout the United States and Canada. As much as possible, teams from the same state will be placed in the same league.
This requires reclassifying some teams. For clarity’s sake, we will do away with the confusing present situation of multiple levels of A ball. Instead, the teams will be grouped into five levels: AAA, AA, A, B, and C (a nod to history).
Therefore, to make the numbers work, the new Wichita team joins C ball. The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp get bumped up to AAA. Swaths of the Midwest and South are reclassified. Addressing the AA situation in one fell swoop, the entire California League joins that level. This move gives all eight Pacific and Mountain MLB teams an opportunity to have western AA affiliates.
Present leagues will continue in their altered form. For instance, your favorite leagues, from the Appalachian to the Pacific Coast, will survive. The names for the six new leagues necessitated by this plan will harken to their geography or a formerly defunct league of yesteryear. Baseball history fans may enjoy the return of the Federal League and American Association.
Because this is just one author’s dream, this realignment takes place under the MLB realignment proposal described here. Under these combined plans, fans receive two new MLB teams, no minor-league teams are contracted, the travel burden is reduced, and a certain city north of the border with a proud baseball history might just see a return to the diamant…
|International League||American Association||Federal League||Pacific Coast League|
|Buffalo Bisons||Charlotte Knights||El Paso Chihuahuas||Albuquerque Isotopes|
|Columbus Clippers||Durham Bulls||Indianapolis Indians||Fresno Grizzlies|
|Lehigh Valley IronPigs||Gwinnett Stripers||Iowa Cubs||Las Vegas Aviators|
|Montreal Expos||Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp||Memphis Redbirds||Reno Aces|
|Pawtucket Red Sox||Louisville Bats||Oklahoma City Dodgers||Sacramento River Cats|
|Rochester Red Wings||Norfolk Tides||Omaha Storm Chasers||Salt Lake Bees|
|Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders||Richmond Flying Squirrels||Round Rock Express||Tacoma Rainiers|
|Syracuse Mets||Toledo Mud Hens||San Antonio Missions||Vancouver Canadians|
|Eastern League||Southern League||Texas League||California League|
|Fort Wayne TinCaps||Birmingham Barons||Amarillo Sod Poodles||Inland Empire 66ers|
|South Bend Cubs||Montgomery Biscuits||Arkansas Travelers||Lake Elsinore Storm|
|Great Lakes Loons||Rocket City Trash Pandas||Corpus Christi Hooks||Lancaster JetHawks|
|Lansing Lugnuts||Rome Braves||Frisco RoughRiders||Modesto Nuts|
|West Michigan Whitecaps||Lexington Legends||Midland RockHounds||Rancho Cucamonga Quakes|
|Akron RubberDucks||Bowling Green Hot Rods||Northwest Arkansas Naturals||San Jose Giants|
|Dayton Dragons||Biloxi Shuckers||Springfield Cardinals||Stockton Ports|
|Lake County Captains||Mississippi Braves||Tulsa Drillers||Visalia Rawhide|
|Midwest League||Florida State League||Carolina League||New England League|
|Kane County Cougars||Bradenton Marauders||Asheville Tourists||Hartford Yard Goats|
|Peoria Chiefs||Charlotte Stone Crabs||Carolina Mudcats||Norwich Sea Unicorns|
|Burlington Bees||Clearwater Threshers||Down East Wood Ducks||Portland Sea Dogs|
|Cedar Rapids Kernels||Dunedin Blue Jays||Fayetteville Woodpeckers||Lowell Spinners|
|Clinton LumberKings||Florida Fire Frogs||Greensboro Grasshoppers||New Hampshire Fisher Cats|
|Quad Cities River Bandits||Fort Myers Mighty Mussels||Hickory Crawdads||Tri-City ValleyCats|
|Beloit Snappers||Lakeland Flying Tigers||Kannapolis Cannon Ballers||Hudson Valley Renegades|
|Wisconsin Timber Rattlers||Tampa Tarpons||Winston-Salem Dash||Vermont Lake Monsters|
|Northwest League||South Atlantic League||Union Association||Mid-Atlantic League|
|Boise Hawks||Daytona Tortugas||Altoona Curve||Wilmington Blue Rocks|
|Idaho Falls Chukars||Jupiter Hammerheads||Harrisburg Senators||Aberdeen IronBirds|
|Eugene Emeralds||Palm Beach Cardinals||Reading Fightin Phils||Bowie Baysox|
|Hillsboro Hops||Pensacola Wahoos||Augusta GreenJackets||Delmarva Shorebirds|
|Salem-Keizer Volcanoes||St. Lucie Mets||Charleston RiverDogs||Frederick Keys|
|Everett AquaSox||Princeton Rays||Columbia Fireflies||Hagerstown Suns|
|Spokane Indians||West Virginia Black Bears||Greenville Drive||Lakewood BlueClaws|
|Tri-City Dust Devils||West Virginia Power||Myrtle Beach Pelicans||Trenton Thunder|
|Pioneer League||Tennessee League||Appalachian League||New York-Penn League|
|Grand Junction Rockies||Bristol Pirates||Burlington Royals||Auburn Doubledays|
|Rocky Mountain Vibes||Chattanooga Lookouts||Mahoning Valley Scrappers||Batavia Muckdogs|
|Wichita Wind Surge||Elizabethton Twins||Bluefield Blue Jays||Binghamton Rumble Ponies|
|Billings Mustangs||Greeneville Reds||Danville Braves||Brooklyn Cyclones|
|Great Falls Voyagers||Jackson Generals||Fredericksburg Nationals||Staten Island Yankees|
|Missoula PaddleHeads||Johnson City Cardinals||Lynchburg Hillcats||Erie SeaWolves|
|Ogden Raptors||Kingsport Mets||Pulaski Yankees||State College Spikes|
|Orem Owlz||Tennessee Smokies||Salem Red Sox||Williamsport Crosscutters|
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