Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blue Jays Spread Their Minor League Wings

Every two years, a few minor league baseball teams do a bit of a shuffle, moving affiliation from one major league franchise to another. The reasons for this are varied, but generally, minor league clubs want to be part of a decent development system that makes for entertaining baseball, while the big boys look for geographic proximity and a stable organization.

Unless you are the Toronto Blue Jays, that is. Two years ago, their affiliation with AAA Syracuse ended and they were forced to sign an agreement with the Las Vegas 51s of the Pacific Coast League. At over 2,200 miles, this is the furthest distance between any MLB club and its top affiliate. Although the agreement between the two is up this season, the only other AAA franchises without a contract are Portland (which will likely re-up with San Diego and move south to California) and Sacramento (which has had a long and successful relationship with Oakland). So don't expect any changes there. (Update: Toronto has indeed renewed their agreement with Las Vegas).

But Toronto has been busy on other levels. A couple of days ago they announced that they would establish a franchise in Bluefield, WV; a market that was recently abandoned by the Orioles after 53 seasons, the longest affiliation in history. Then last week came the announcement that the Jays would again look west, this time remaining in Canada and signing a 4-year agreement with the Northwest League's Vancouver Canadians, who replace Auburn, NY as the short-season squad.

This is great news for me, as I've been meaning to return to Vancouver for some time and will try to do so next summer to check out some games with the Jays' latest draft picks. Bluefield and the Appalachian League are also intriguing destinations.

But an entire Blue Jays minor league trip becomes rather daunting. With other teams in Manchester, NH, Lansing, and Dunedin, a six-team roadtrip comes in at 8,350 miles! Yankees' fans, on the other hand, only have 2,500 miles to see all five of their affiliates, while Atlanta comes in at a relatively easy 1,670 miles for their five teams, four of which are owned by the Braves. (Distances assume starting and finishing in the major league city and taking the shortest route, using Google Maps).

When all the schedules are out, I will try to put together some simple franchise road trips to see which ones might be the most enjoyable. For now though, I've got Vancouver and Bluefield on my radar for 2011.




  1. Dear Sean

    It is a pity that the Jays are moving out of Auburn, New York...there is no way that latte drinking Vancouverites can possibly come close to matching the magic of baseball in that town...almost Field of Dreams like.


  2. I guess I won't get the chance to see a baseball game in Auburn, NY. I hope Batavia doesn't lose their team too.Luckily I got to Oneonta a few years so I didn't miss that one.

  3. Gary,

    Auburn hasn't lost their franchise, it's just that another MLB team will operate there. So you'll still be able to see them.


  4. Guys,

    Auburn has joined nearby Syracuse in becoming part of the Nationals farm system.

    Good news so far out of Batavia in their struggle to stay there. The Cardinals have re upped with them for another two seasons.

    And after stating that they would end their control over the club, the Rochester Red Wings have decided to run the club for another season. However the team is still up for sale, but as of now things look good for the short term in Batavia.

    Gary, if you would like to get to Batavia, I strongly suggest making time in 2011, who knows how long they'll survive there...it has been a long struggle keeping them where they are, and if Batavia wasn't the city where the NY-Penn League was founded it is almost certain that they would already be gone....

    Peter - usrt