The minor league bloodbath is just getting started
The next few months are going to be a massacre for minor league baseball teams around the country. MLB is reducing the number of affiliated minor league teams from 160 to 120 as part of an overhaul of the sport’s player development system (that, conveniently, will also save money). That means that at least 40 teams (potentially more, depending on how many teams in independent leagues are offered MLB affiliation) will be left out in the cold, their future uncertain.
The bloodletting began Saturday with a brazen news dump by the Yankees. About an hour after the presidential election was called, the Yankees announced that they were ditching their affiliates in Staten Island, N.Y.; Trenton, N.J.; Charleston, S.C.; and Pulaski, Va.
The New York–Penn League, where the Staten Island Yankees played, is being eliminated, and the parent club decided to move its High-A affiliation to the Hudson Valley Renegades (another NYP team) rather than continue the relationship with the Staten Island team. The Double A Trenton Thunder are being usurped by the Somerset Patriots (formerly of the independent Atlantic League) 35 miles up the road in Bridgewater Township, N.J. The Charleston and Pulaski teams will not be replaced.
The downsizing of the minor leagues had already been decided upon, so the Yankees’ affiliates had to have known there was a pretty good chance they would get the axe. Still, it sounds like the Yankees’ handling of this was abysmal. The owners of the Trenton and Staten Island clubs released blistering statements accusing the Yankees of abandoning them and claiming the Yankees didn't tell them they were being eliminated before the news became public.
Staten Island owner Will Smith said he didn’t know about the final call until the Yankees put out an announcement on Twitter.
“The Staten Island Yankees made every effort to accommodate MLB and New York Yankees requirements, including securing a commitment from New York City for ballpark upgrades,” Smith said in a statement. “However, MLB and the Yankees chose not to engage in any discussions with us. We were unaware of the final decision and learned about it by reading the statement on Yankees social media.”
Trenton owner Joseph Plumeri really took the Yankees to task, accusing the team of going back on its word and saying he learned of the decision when Baseball America reported the move on Friday night.
“[Friday night], we learned through the media, that New York Yankees management has made the calculated and ungracious maneuver to leave the urban setting of Trenton for the affluent confines of Bridgewater Township, leaving one of the finest facilities according to Major League Baseball without an affiliate,” Plumeri said in a statement.
“This move by the Yankees removes a key source of income for Trenton. Despite repeated assurances that the Thunder would remain its Double A affiliate over the last 16 months, the Yankees betrayed their partnership at the 11th hour. By doing so, the Yankees have misled and abandoned the Thunder and the taxpayers of Mercer County, who have invested millions of dollars over the years to ensure that Arm & Hammer Park remains one of the premier ballparks in America. While this community built the Yankees organization up and set minor league baseball attendance records, it seems the Yankees were only focused on trying to cut culturally diverse Trenton down in favor of a wealthy, higher socioeconomic area in Somerset.”
A Yankees official told NorthJersey.com’s Pete Caldera that the team notified Trenton and Staten Island of the team’s decision.
The Yankees say they’re going to help the Trenton and Staten Island organizations find places in the “reconfigured” independent Atlantic League, which MLB is using to experiment with all kings of funky rule changes. But there’s a massive gulf in the quality of play between the Atlantic League and the affiliated minors, especially for Trenton, and the Atlantic League, though certainly on better footing now thanks to its agreement with MLB, isn’t the most stable league. The Atlantic League team I grew up watching got evicted from its stadium so the city could turn it into a concert venue.
A lot more minor league teams are about to be cast aside. It will inevitably be an ugly process, but it doesn’t have to be as messy as the way the Yankees appear to have handled it.
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