There are only 120 minor league teams in 2021 thanks to Rob Manfred and MiLB re-alignment. The Angels will have their foreign league affiliates still as well as rookie ball in Arizona. The big change comes with A and and High A.
So the IE 66ers move from High A to Low A which is big for them. It will, however, allow the Angels to see newly drafted players sooner and closer to home. The Orem Owlz rookie team is gone, as are the Burlington Bees. Both of those teams are no longer part of Minor League Baseball.
The new team in the mix is the Tri-City Dust Devils based out of Pasco, Washington. Pasco is near the Oregon border about in the middle of Washington State. They will play at Gesa Stadium.
I live in the Quad Cities, home of the River Bandits. We just got promoted from low to high A, and are newly affiliated with Kansas City. Good news for locals, and I can interested in KC’s prospects. Sadly, our nearest teams, Clinton and Burlington, got the axe. So, no more Halos for me locally. Interesting how it all came down though. The owner of the RBs is a big political insider, and he’s been pouring money into the stadium for nearly the last decade. Now, they only need a minor interior remodel to be compliant with MLBs new and stringent requirements. Back when he was dropping millions into what already seemed a nice park, folks wondered about the investment. Now he looks like a genius. Seems to me that he either just got lucky in terms of timing, and truly thought the stadium was worth focusing on independent of affiliation. Or, he’s just really clever and read the tea leaves. Or, maybe, this regional political insider got tipped off early enough to beat the curve. I know Senator Chuck Grassley was very involved in the negotiations. Originally, the River Bandits and Cedar Rapids were on the chopping block, but they ultimately both were spared. Bummer to lose the Angels team though.
California League is now Low A, Good Grief.
That’s not so terrible, since rookie development all happens in the Arizona complexes of the same teams. It means easy shuttling between home base and introductory level pro play. The front office will have an easy go of monitoring the recent draft class in its first year of action.
That, plus the experiment of the new Draft League and a later summer draft, are innovations I like. The short-season league contraction, and reduced Northwest League circuit, I don’t.
The reason for the demotion is pretty sound and practical. MLB wants consistency in terms of the quality of facilities, and they want every promotion to lead to nicer digs, not the other way around. Turns out, the formerly low A Midwest League has nicer facilities than the former high A Cal League. So they swapped them.
Tri-City, Washington is a tough draw for the Angels, especially in a reduced Northwest League of only six teams. It means small crowds and long bus rides – Pasco really is in the middle of nowhere, and its average attendance is the lowest of all remaining Northwest teams. I can’t imagine ever taking in a game there. Maybe I’ll catch an away game in Hillsboro (where the D-Backs affiliate is).
Boise gets really screwed here. Both Boise and Salem lost their affiliations. Boise was affiliated with the Angels for a decade, so it would have been a natural landing spot for our high-A club. Apparently MLB thought their stadium needed significant upgrades, despite their average attendance dwarfing Tri-City’s by more than a thousand attendees per night.
If my main gripe about Salt Lake is the elevation affecting pitching and evaluation, I’d be somewhat hypocritical about keeping Boise. Salem seems like a natural fit, though.
Salem had a small stadium with the lowest attendance in the Northwest League, so I understand how it might get the axe.
Boise definitely had park factors that made it a fit for the Pioneer Legaue (which it’s joining now as part of the MLB’s partner league initiative). They made sense as a Rockies affiliate, though, given Colorado’s own park.
Hillsboro, as in Hillsboro Hops? Let’s keep in touch. It’d be fun to take in a game with you.
Yeah, my mother lives in Portland, on a houseboat on the Willamette River. Pre-Covid, we go up there a few times a year.
Would definitely take in a Hillsboro-TriCity game with you once the vaccines roll out.
So now our furthest east MiLB team is in MadBama. All of this makes sense I guess. Easier to scout the kids and instruct them in the West. I love MiLB baseball, but I don’t think the contraction is the national tragedy some think it is. There just wasn’t a mad clamor for tickets at a lot of these stadiums. It’s OK for a business to be a business and cull the herd a little. I think the draft league and closer affiliation with the more competitive independent leagues could actually lead to more small towns enjoying better and more MLB relevant baseball down the line given time. It could actually be beneficial down the line to have more leagues and teams that a player can latch on to without being contracted to an MLB team, more opportunity, which may generate more interest with the kids. Plus, as discussed before, maybe they’ll get some regional women’s leagues going in some of these facilities in the future. That would be cool too.
MLB is really obsessed with facilities features, as in, down to the square foot. Lighting is big. Got to have LED. The drainage on the field is big, and expensive if you don’t have the latest tech. Plus, clubhouse space, training rooms, and separate lockers for female umps and staff. These are not unreasonable factors, but they can also feel nitpicky and seem like they’ve become more or less the sole criteria for getting cut or not. Clinton, IA lost their affiliation, and their park was a New Deal WPA project, which means it’s been around a long time and has an interesting history. Kane County, the only MiLB team in the entire greater Chicago area, lost their affiliation. Well, there are always winners and losers when you change things up.
As a small town kid, this hurts. Burlington and Orem, especially Burlington, loved those teams. Families opened their doors year in and year out to host players. I really feel MLB is going to lose fans and players.
Baseball history is full of small town kids who dreamed on baseball as a way out. Take away the local team and those dreams will turn to other avenues.
Living in Idaho, I make one trip a year to Anaheim or Seattle (to see the Angels play). These are expensive trips. But I used to be able to drive 50 miles to see the Orem Owlz play in Idaho Falls several times a year. This kept me connected to the Angels and I saw good young players over the years. The Pioneer League survives as an Independent League now but that is not the same thing as going and watching young Angels play. Us small town kids don’t have easy access to our professional teams anymore.
I do not think that it was in MLB’s best interest to drop so many cities from their roster, but Manfred thinks he has showed the way to earn more profits to the bottom line and the owner’s still believe this clown knows what he is doing. After all Selig got himself in the Hall of Fame he was a snake with no backbone along with constantly lying to all three sides (Fans, Owners, Players) but he taught Manfred that this was the best way to go and after all he raised attendance by looking the other way on Steroids, Suspended King George, and avoided Union Strikes and league wide shutdowns. But Manfred is just not as smart as Bud but the Owner’s love him even though he is slowly ruining the game..
So they lose Orem and Burlington but gain Pasco Washington? Manfred playing Musical chairs and now Orem and Burlington are left without a seat after the music stopped. Tri City were a Padres class A short season team. Weird.
Thanks for this news. Still not a fan of the downsizing. Manfred the clown. Many small towns across the nation will lose a community venue. I guess they will have to rely on high school sports.
I for one wish the Halo’s would work their way back to Cucamonga. Inland Empire is not a city conducive to a friendly environment. But at least it is not the High Desert Mavericks or Lancaster Jet Hawks.
Rancho Cucamonga is WAY a better location than San Bernardino…
I am a fan of both stadiums although the 66’er’s are closer by 15-20m min. I do prefer the Quakes stadium better and enjoying the entertainment aspect much more also. The surrounding area in Rancho far superior for sure and the Angels ran a great number of stars thru there too.
Lancaster got the short end of the stick. It’s not even going to be retained in the low-A version of the California League. It makes some sense, because no one wanted their pitchers to suffer there in the high desert. Fresno has received the invitation to the Cal League that Lancaster previous had.
Now won’t that be a fun bus ride, from say Lake Elsinore to Fresno.
Stockton, San Jose and Modesto are already in the circuit, so I imagine there are already some insufferably long bus rides. Fresno would fit nicely in the North division though, given proximity to those other three cities.
Ideally, the Cal League would re-integrate a Bakersfield affiliate, which would allow for some rational routing through the Central Valley among the Fresno, Visalia and Bakersfield sites. But that would likely require expansion to ten teams, or contraction of a healthy franchise.
If the MLB is being picky about stadiums Bako may be out for a while… that stadium they have there is oriented funny (I think) and is a total furnace. It’s also kind of a crap hole. It is one of the fastest growing cities in the state though, so they will probably get something together sometime.
They didn’t call them the Blaze for nothing.
Sam Lynn was a mess of a park. They’d definitely need a new ballpark and enterprising ownership. But the attendance was decent despite the fan experience, so there’s a business there if someone is inspired enough to grab it.
Bakersfield shot themselves in the foot years ago. That stadium features the sun setting directly behind center field. It was the only professional baseball stadium to face West.
They had a great thing with the Dodgers for years. Very much a point of pride in the community. The Dodgers said get a new ballpark or we’re leaving but the team never did.
I think a minor league park would go over great in the northwest part of town where my dad and sisters homes are. They could probably build it near the CSU, Bakersfield campus and even share it with the now D1 college squad.
But as long as the only option is a bad ballpark in the most meth-ed out part of town, no MLB team will want to go there.
How did I forget about those franchises. I’ve been to 2 of them. Definitely 2 and 3 team road trips.