NOTE: I’m a bit bass-ackward today. Usually, I post an article here on our own blog, then… maybe… a day or so later I’ll also post it over at TwinsDaily.com with a “This was originally posted at Knuckleballs” disclaimer. Today, I’m doing it backwards. See… I started out just intending to start a new discussion thread in the Forum section of TwinsDaily’s message board. After doing so, however, I realized it was really long for a message board item, so I went ahead and created a TwinsDaily blog entry, too. Then I decided I really might as well post it over here, as well. So… here it is! – JC
It seems to me that the bigger issue for a possible St. Paul affiliate is that neither the Twins, nor the Saints, nor anyone else can just say, “we’re going to do this,” and make it happen. Existing affiliated minor league teams are assured affiliations under MLB rules and nobody can just tell the Midwest League they’re going to put a team in St. Paul. There are really just a couple scenarios that could result in a Twins MWL affiliate in St. Paul (forget about a AA or AAA team… There isn’t a AA league anywhere near the midwest and even the new stadium doesn’t meet AAA minimum standards, which require a 10,000 capacity stadium, at a minimum):
For a NEW team to be awarded to St. Paul, the MWL would have to petition baseball to be allowed to expand and it would have to be by two teams to remain an even number. Since every MLB team already has a full season Class A team, expansion won’t happen.
Someone could buy an existing MWL franchise or at least convince owners of a current MWL franchise to relocate to St. Paul. They would have to give 18 months notice of intent to relocate. But the real problem is finding a franchise willing to relocate. The MWL has a lot of newer stadiums and teams are generally doing OK financially where they are. There are a few older ballparks that could certainly stand to be replaced, but those teams are pretty much all community owned, I believe. The teams in Beloit, Clinton and Burlington, for example, aren’t going to relocate or sell out because, even if attendance isn’t huge, they’re at least breaking even financially. Peoria, if they did decide to sell or be relocated, would almost certainly move to another central Illinois community. (There are a number of Frontier League team owners that would probably welcome the opportunity to become affiliated minor league team owners.) There really don’t seem to be franchise options available for a possible move north.
Finally, even if these obstacles were overcome, the MWL itself would have to approve a St. Paul location. Could that happen? Yes, but it’s far from certain. The league rejected an ownership group that wanted to place a team in Marion IL (southern tip of IL) back in 2005-06 somewhere because Marion was far enough outside the league’s current footprint that the increased travel costs for other MWL teams would be significant (and those costs are paid by the minor league team, not the MLB affiliate). The league has subsequently admitted Bowling Green KY, but it wasn’t a slam dunk. BG was essentially a “transfer” from the South Atlantic League so an affiliated minor league team already was located there. Even then, it was resisted by some members of the league. Scheduling also becomes a problem because players must be given off-days any time they have to travel by bus more than 500 miles and about half the MWL locations would exceed that distance from St. Paul.
In the end, if I were the Twins, I’d certainly like the idea of putting an affiliate in St. Paul so I’d be saying the same things St. Peter is. But when he says, “…a lot of things would need to happen for that even to be considered,” he ain’t lyin’ because it’s not a decision the Twins can unilaterally make and almost all of the parties that would have to give approval have strong incentives not to.