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Saving Minor League Baseball

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:

  1. The wear and tear travel takes on prospects,
  2. The goal to pay affiliated minor-league players a higher yearly wage, and
  3. 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

AAA

International LeagueAmerican AssociationFederal LeaguePacific Coast League
Buffalo BisonsCharlotte KnightsEl Paso ChihuahuasAlbuquerque Isotopes
Columbus ClippersDurham BullsIndianapolis IndiansFresno Grizzlies
Lehigh Valley IronPigsGwinnett StripersIowa CubsLas Vegas Aviators
Montreal ExposJacksonville Jumbo ShrimpMemphis RedbirdsReno Aces
Pawtucket Red SoxLouisville BatsOklahoma City DodgersSacramento River Cats
Rochester Red WingsNorfolk TidesOmaha Storm ChasersSalt Lake Bees
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRidersRichmond Flying SquirrelsRound Rock ExpressTacoma Rainiers
Syracuse MetsToledo Mud HensSan Antonio MissionsVancouver Canadians

AA

Eastern LeagueSouthern LeagueTexas LeagueCalifornia League
Fort Wayne TinCapsBirmingham BaronsAmarillo Sod PoodlesInland Empire 66ers
South Bend CubsMontgomery BiscuitsArkansas TravelersLake Elsinore Storm
Great Lakes LoonsRocket City Trash PandasCorpus Christi HooksLancaster JetHawks
Lansing LugnutsRome BravesFrisco RoughRidersModesto Nuts
West Michigan WhitecapsLexington LegendsMidland RockHoundsRancho Cucamonga Quakes
Akron RubberDucksBowling Green Hot RodsNorthwest Arkansas NaturalsSan Jose Giants
Dayton DragonsBiloxi ShuckersSpringfield CardinalsStockton Ports
Lake County CaptainsMississippi BravesTulsa DrillersVisalia Rawhide

A

Midwest LeagueFlorida State LeagueCarolina LeagueNew England League
Kane County CougarsBradenton MaraudersAsheville TouristsHartford Yard Goats
Peoria ChiefsCharlotte Stone CrabsCarolina MudcatsNorwich Sea Unicorns
Burlington BeesClearwater ThreshersDown East Wood DucksPortland Sea Dogs
Cedar Rapids KernelsDunedin Blue JaysFayetteville WoodpeckersLowell Spinners
Clinton LumberKingsFlorida Fire FrogsGreensboro GrasshoppersNew Hampshire Fisher Cats
Quad Cities River BanditsFort Myers Mighty MusselsHickory CrawdadsTri-City ValleyCats
Beloit SnappersLakeland Flying TigersKannapolis Cannon BallersHudson Valley Renegades
Wisconsin Timber RattlersTampa TarponsWinston-Salem DashVermont Lake Monsters

B

Northwest LeagueSouth Atlantic LeagueUnion AssociationMid-Atlantic League
Boise HawksDaytona TortugasAltoona CurveWilmington Blue Rocks
Idaho Falls ChukarsJupiter HammerheadsHarrisburg SenatorsAberdeen IronBirds
Eugene EmeraldsPalm Beach CardinalsReading Fightin PhilsBowie Baysox
Hillsboro HopsPensacola WahoosAugusta GreenJacketsDelmarva Shorebirds
Salem-Keizer VolcanoesSt. Lucie MetsCharleston RiverDogsFrederick Keys
Everett AquaSoxPrinceton RaysColumbia FirefliesHagerstown Suns
Spokane IndiansWest Virginia Black BearsGreenville DriveLakewood BlueClaws
Tri-City Dust DevilsWest Virginia PowerMyrtle Beach PelicansTrenton Thunder

C

Pioneer LeagueTennessee LeagueAppalachian LeagueNew York-Penn League
Grand Junction RockiesBristol PiratesBurlington RoyalsAuburn Doubledays
Rocky Mountain VibesChattanooga LookoutsMahoning Valley ScrappersBatavia Muckdogs
Wichita Wind SurgeElizabethton TwinsBluefield Blue JaysBinghamton Rumble Ponies
Billings MustangsGreeneville RedsDanville BravesBrooklyn Cyclones
Great Falls VoyagersJackson GeneralsFredericksburg NationalsStaten Island Yankees
Missoula PaddleHeadsJohnson City CardinalsLynchburg HillcatsErie SeaWolves
Ogden RaptorsKingsport MetsPulaski YankeesState College Spikes
Orem OwlzTennessee SmokiesSalem Red SoxWilliamsport Crosscutters

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