Concern Rises In Daytona Beach Over MiLB Elimination, Relocation
Next summer's 100th anniversary of MiLB in Daytona Beach "should be a happy occasion," but with MLB contemplating eliminating or relocating 42 minor league teams by the end of '20 -- including the Single-A Florida State League Daytona Tortugas -- next summer "could be one long goodbye," according to a front-page piece by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of the Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL. Tortugas co-Owner Rick French said of MLB's possible overhaul, "We're going to do everything humanly possible to keep that from happening." Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry also is "ready to put up a fight" to keep the Tortugas. He said the club is an "integral part of Daytona Beach." Henry: "They're part of our economic system. It'd be devastating to downtown to lose them." The Tortugas have the second-highest attendance at games among the Florida State League's 12 franchises, averaging 2,116 fans per game (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 11/19). FSL teams averaged 1,255 fans per game in '19. The next-lowest average for a full-season MiLB-affiliated league was the Single-A California League, which averaged 2,342 fans (David Broughton, THE DAILY).
BLUEGRASS BALL: In Kentucky, Musgrave & Desrochers note Single-A South Atlantic League Lexington Legends President & CEO Andy Shea and his family, who own the club, are "still trying to figure out why the Legends were targeted for closure" as part of MLB's overhaul plan. The Legends, who are coming off back-to-back SAL championships, have "just received an award for best Class A minor league team." Shea said, "We have no idea how we ended up on the list." He added that attendance figures have "remained the same over the past few years," but from what they have been told and read in news reports, it "does not appear that attendance or ticket sales were part of MLB's decision-making process" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 11/19).
POLTICAL SUPPORT: In Rochester, Freile, Lahman & Spector note the Single-A New York-Penn League's Batavia Muckdogs and Auburn Doubledays also "could have their ties to a parent club eliminated" under MLB's plan. U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in statement said, "America's favorite pastime should not become part of Upstate New York's past." He added, "It's no secret that New York's minor league teams are institutions within their communities, which is why I implore MLB to reconsider any such plans and will be reaching out to them directly to advocate for our New York teams." Schumer said he plans to call MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and "make a strong push" on behalf of the minor league teams that would be affected by this proposal (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 11/19).
SAD STATE OF AFFAIRS: In Daytona Beach, Ken Willis in a front-page piece writes MLB has been on a "slow drip," departing the "collective national consciousness for a couple of generations." Perhaps MLB's leaked plans are "just a first salvo in upcoming negotiations to extend its current agreement" with MiLB, which expires after next season. There also is "no way MLB clears all of the legal and/or congressional road blocks" between now and the end of '20 to "follow through on their wishes." Whether it is "just delayed or scuttled altogether is another story" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 11/19). THE ATHLETIC's John Sickels writes the "plot to kill the minors may or may not be an elaborate bluff," but even if it "does not happen, the fact that it is even being proposed is a bad sign for the future of the game." MLB "needs to grow more fans," and "cutting down on minor league affiliates, especially in such a coldly brutal manner, will reduce the number of fans, not grow that number." Even proposing it in this manner is an "insulting and egregious breaking-of-faith with many communities who have loyally supported their teams over the decades" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/19).