Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Are the BooJays coming to Buffalo?

Las Vegas mocks, Coca-Cola field rocks

Coca-Cola field, in downtown Buffalo

A major problem with the Jays this year has been the location of the farm team at Cashman field in Vegas. Generally speaking, the park is a hitter's paradise. Breaking balls don't break. The heat of Vegas allows balls to fly out of the park, and the infield is so hard that alot of balls that would be easy put outs streak out of the infield.

The result of all of this is that the batter's numbers are very much inflated, and the pitching numbers are very much deflated to the point where the AA club in New Hampshire is being used as the primary home to check pitcher's and hitting abilities, making the AAA club virtually useless to assess talent. The primary use of AAA Vegas is really a storage place for those Blue Jays whose talents are known. As well, planes fly anywhere from Vegas, and you can get to any major league ball park on a single flight in under 5 hours. However, due to the time difference, a player needed for the following day's game outside of Pacific time (12-15 games) must use the red-eye to get to the ball park in time for the afternoon warmups. That results usually in a game lost or poor performances due to lost sleep.

The Mets affiliation with Coca-Cola field in Buffalo is due to end this year. Minor league affiliates are not allowed to discuss affiliation switches before September 16th. The manager of the Bisons stated to the Buffalo news that  "I would guess that's true. It's a shame for us, really. Buffalo is a great city but I don't envision us coming back, from the things I've heard from the grapevine."

Minor league teams are not owned by the major league affiliates. The Toronto Blue Jays do not own the Las Vegas team. There is a very explicit contract maintained between the major league team and the minor league club. The Player Development Contract, governed under Rule 56 of the Major League Rules, are what defines the relationship between major league and minor league teams.

To end an affiliation, the minor league team or major league team must make written notice to their league's commissioner/president by September 11 (or the PDC continues), and the notice must be kept secret. September 16 to 30 is the window of time available for minor league and major league clubs to discuss agreements. If an agreement hasn't been signed by October 7th, the Commissioner and president of the minor leagues will determine affiliations based on factors such as location, player age, fan support, etc.

Of interesting note is that the benefits that a minor league club can receive from a major league affiliate are well defined. A team cannot provide economic benefits to the minor league club beyond what is provided for in Rule 56, which are summarized below.
  • Major League team must provide roster and player lists and all players must be affiliated with the major league club.
  • Promotional appearances and pictures of players
  • Assignments and transfers to be executed by Major league team.
  • Manager, training, instructors, coaches to be determined by Major league team. All salaries and benefits to be paid by major league club to these individuals.
  • All player compensation and benefits to be paid by major league team.
  • All spring training expenses to be be paid my major league team.
  • All travel expenses related to transfers and assignments to be paid by major league team.
  • Minor league club responsible for uniforms and their quality.
  • Bats and balls to be paid by major league club (2/3rds or 3/4th depending on league)
  • Minor league to pay for equipment manager (2/3rds or 3/4th depending on league)
  • Minor league to pay for up to 17 hotel rooms per night (13 double rooms for the team members, and 4 rooms for the managerial staff).
  • Transportation of team members to their homes or for other leaves to be paid for by the major league team in accordance with their player contract.
  • Airfare for up to 30 people to be paid by Minor League club.
  • Local phone calls to be paid by Minor league club. Long-distance and other features to be paid by major league club.
  • Minor league club to pay for hydroculator and whirlpool.
  • Minor league club to provide playing facility in accordance to rule 58.
So, the Blue Jays really can't make any promises beyond what is defined in the contract. It can't hold extra exhibition games, can't provide the minor league club with extra money, and can't otherwise woo the minor league team to use Toronto with financial benefits. This makes negotiations fair.

Alot of the reasons being bounced around for the Mets being kicked out of Buffalo is the quality of the team, the age of the players, the revolving door of players, and declining attendance (down 1,200/game since 2010).

When the Jays got the boot from Syracuse after 30+ years, it seemed like the Syracuse club was tired of the relationship and the 9 years of sub-.500 baseball. They felt that another team would be able to get them into the playoffs. So they signed with the Nationals.

However, of course, this is just a guess, as nothing really can't be said until the middle of September when the discussion window opens. The Mets, if they don't renew with Buffalo, would be forced into the Pacific Coast League as all International league affiliations have been renewed. The choices are pretty much limited to Oklahoma City (Houston) or Las Vegas. Both of these would really be terrible for the Mets. Therefore, I believe that there will be great pressure to renew, and Buffalo will have to end up making a choice between the Blue Jays and Mets.

However, because of the nature of the contract that is signed under Rule 56, the amount of pressure a team can exert on its minor league affiliate to renew is very limited. The Bisons, under the Mets rule, can determine from experience of its four years with the club of how the Mets will treak the club. Because the rules are defined so tightly, the minor league owner's decision to renew a PDC would be based purely on its ability to get people through their doors (attendance). These factors would include the quality of the team (which can only be determined by the major league team) which can be judged through the strength of the prospects (Toronto has a very strong minor league system), the popularity of the major league franchise in its home town (Toronto would be very popular and would attract some Canadians to the facility). The relationship itself to the MLB team (how fast are bills paid, how do they get along, other intangibles) is also a factor. Minor League teams want some stability on the team and some exciting players to draw players to the park. If the major league club is good and remains relatively injury free, the minor league club would also be stable and draw more fans. Playoff games are a huge bonus for the minor league affiliate.

Buffalo of course would be much easier for the Jays when they are at home. I live in the Falls, and my mouth is salivating at the chance to take the 20 minute drive (plus 10 minute border wait) to see the Buffalo Bluebirds in action. At $12 / game it's well worth the price. On the road, getting places would be harder with players connecting.

And of course, to the team, it would have the benefit of seeing talent in a realistic stadium where the pitching and batting talent could be accuratey assessed. For the fan base, it's great as well to take in the AAA club without having to worry about downtown Toronto parking and rush hour on the QEW / Gardiner / Don Valley on the way in to home games. As well, the presence of the BlueBirds in Buffalo would have the benefit of reconverting some New York fans back into Blue Jays fans.

The stadium itself is lovely. It's easy on and off to the I-190 in downtown buffalo and about a 5 minute drive from the Fort Erie border crossing. The food options are supposed to be excellent and the stadium holds 18,000.

Buffalo rocks, and I hope that the rumours are absolutely true.

1 comment:

  1. True what you are saying about Vegas. Jays don't want the prospects there but the trend across the minors has been that the prospects stay in AA and the few guys that are major league capable play in AAA.