Why the Rochester Red Wings Should Stay a Twins Affiliate

The Rochester Red Wings’ affiliation agreement with the Minnesota Twins ends this year. And while it’s entirely possible that it will be renewed, it’s also entirely possible it will not, as there is some discussion that, with the future of the Twins’ front office uncertain after the firing of Terry Ryan, now may be the time to again switch. This speculation is especially occurring because the New York Mets, one of the most popular MLB teams in the area, will also likely be available in the affiliation shuffle after this year, and the Mets are desperate to get a new affiliate closer to home, as opposed to distant Vegas.

However, I’m here to argue that the Red Wings should stick with the Twins, at least for another two years. Here’s why:

1. Don’t mess with success.

While it is true that the Red Wings have not had much postseason success during the Twins’ years, with only two appearances and no titles. However, this forgets that the Wings have been competitive for most of the Twins era and probably would have reached more postseasons if not for the tough IL North division and some bad luck. In 2014, for example, they were not eliminated until the final weekend of the year. 2015 saw something similar, and had the Red Wings finish with the same record as the previous two seasons, including the 2013 year where they made the playoffs. This season may see the Red Wings miss the playoffs despite currently having the third best record in the league.

It’s not the Twins fault that Rochester geographically lies in the International League’s toughest division, nor is it their fault that the IL doesn’t have a rule that kicks any team under .500 out of the playoffs, to be replaced by the Wild Card runner-up:

#ContractTheILSouth

#ContractTheILSouth

2. The Twins are a Better Farm System, from a winning perspective.

Here’s a look at the winning percentages of farm systems, as of August 3:

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 5.12.40 PMAs you can see, the Twins are a respectable 10th place. This is the entire organization, from AAA all the way down to the lowest of Rookie leagues. The Mets, meanwhile, are sub-.500 and are at 19th. And if you go level by level, the Twins have a better team in most of them: The AAA Twins (the Red Wings) have a better record than the AAA Mets (Las Vegas). The AA Twins (Chattanooga) have a better record than the AA Mets (Binghamton). The low-A Twins (Cedar Rapids) have a better record than the low-A Mets (Columbia). The rookie-ball Twins (Elizabethton) have a better record than the rookie-ball Mets (Kingsport). The Twins even have a better record in the Gulf Coast League! The only minor-league level where both organizations have teams and the Mets have a better record than the Twins affiliate is the High-A Florida league.

It’s been said that the two biggest determinants of minor league team attendance are also the two things the local GM (in the minors, the GM is more of a business position, not like the position in MLB) has the least control over: how the team is doing, and how the weather is. Except that isn’t really true, as the Minor League team CAN decide who it affiliates with. And when you look at the success on the field up and down the minors, the Twins clearly are the better choice when it comes to wins than the the Mets.

3. The Twins have better prospects overall than the Mets.

One of the neatest things about Minor League Baseball is that you can see the stars of tomorrow. And in this case, the Twins have a better case than the Mets. At the beginning of the year, MLB.com listed the Twins as the fifth best farm system in baseball. While obviously this has likely changed as players like Max Kepler and Byron Buxton have headed to the big leagues, it should be noted that the Mets were nowhere to be found in the top ten this year, and another site (which ranked the Twins 8th) put the Mets all the way down at number 20.

4. The Mets probably wouldn’t cause the big attendance boost some people think.

My fellow Rochester seamheads will remember the Empire State Yankees. In 2012, as their stadium was being renovated, the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees (now the Scranton RailRiders) played their home games on the road, mostly in Rochester. Before the season, some Yankee fans were declaring that the people of Rochester would love them and support them even more than they did the Wings, that it was a dream come true, etc. etc.

Well, here’s the secret: The Empire State Yankees were a bust. Look at this news report from back then:

Yes, the Baby Bronx Bombers were in town and, with the exception of a Andy Pettitte rehab assignment, they drew flies, despite the fact they had a very good team. And the Yankees are definitely far more popular in Rochester than the Mets.

Now, admittedly, the fact that they were the “Empire State Yankees” and not the “Rochester Red Wings, AAA Affiliate of the New York Yankees” probably had a lot to do with it. But when you consider that attendance wasn’t particularly skyrockety for the Buffalo Bisons when they had the Mets affiliation (although to be fair, the Mets system was even worse back then), I think it’s safe to say that in general the affiliation doesn’t drive attendance all that much- winning and weather does. And as I showed with number two and number three, the Twins are a better choice for that.

5. The Mets have horrible owners.

Red Wings fans still speak in hushed tones about Orioles owner Peter Angelos. Why, the only people who hate Peter Angelos more than Red Wings fans are Orioles’ fans! GET IN LINE, NATS FANS, THIS SPOT IS TAKEN! Peter Angelos’ interference with minor league operations, general incompetence, breaking of traditions, and favoritism (intentional or not) to other teams in the Orioles’ system (especially the AA Bowie Baysox) led to the end of one of the longest affiliations in baseball. Well, say what you will about Angelos, but to the best of my knowledge he never ended up drowning in debt after being caught up in a massive Ponzi scheme and as a result been unspeakably cheap for his team that was in the World Series last season and plays in New York City. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, has Peter Angelos been sued for firing somebody because she had a baby out of wedlock and then resolved it before it reached trial. And while I’m sure he (like, sadly, seemingly every single MLB owner) would sign somebody who was suspended for domestic abuse, he hasn’t as far as I know. Yet.

But you know who has done all of this? The owners of the New York Mets! Now, full disclosure, I own a very small (essentially symbolic) portion of the Rochester Red Wings (I covered this before). Not enough to make a difference, but I do own some. But let’s say I did own enough. Would I want to do business with the Wilpons?

No. No I would not.

6. The Red Wings shouldn’t be like other Minor League teams

Many minor league teams change affiliation with relative regularity. The Red Wings don’t- they were Cardinals affiliates from the late 20s to 1960, and then spent the rest of the 20th century and the first two years of the 21st with the Orioles. That means that it should still be another decade or two left with the Twins. Perhaps I’m just being a romantic, ignoring the business nature of modern baseball. And, to be sure, if everything was bad and the Red Wings were doing horrible with no good hope in the lower minors, I’d agree that perhaps it’s time to move on. But the Wings have been one of the most successful minor league franchises in history by not changing course at the first sign of trouble, and I see no reason to start swapping every decade or so now.

So… I say: stick with the Twins and nix the Mets. The reasons to stay with Minnesota lay in the evidence, and the reasons to go to the Mets are nowhere near as high as they seem.

And, besides, if the Mets want to be in Rochester so damn bad, maybe they can call back in two-to-four years. By that point, maybe whoever has replaced Terry Ryan will have shown how he will treat the minor leagues. And maybe they won’t be owned by the Wilpons either.

 

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Death To Copy-Pasted Minor League Team Names

There is something that annoys me in Minor League baseball. And that thing is minor league teams that just copy what their parent club’s name is. It is, in a way, almost insulting to the city that hosts the team plays in, making it impossible for that team to truly build a unique identity. To be sure, there are exceptions- the Pawtucket Red Sox have been around since the 70s and it seems inconceivable to think of them as anything else- but in general, they are generic names that make it impossible for the team to truly represent the town it plays out of.

So, today, I declare war on most of the Copy-Pasted Minor League Team Names…. after the jump:

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Chris Colabello: Too Real For Hollywood

So, there is this guy. He’s a ballplayer. Not a particularly great or notable one, but still a ballplayer. He’s so desperate to keep playing that after college he moves to the land of his ancestors: Italy. He plays baseball there, is pretty good. Falls in love with a local. Marries her, they spend their days split between Massachusetts and Italy. They have a son.

That son follows in his father’s footsteps, growing up and playing baseball on two continents. Trials and tribulations- of his own making and of fate’s- seem to keep him from reaching his true potential, and after college he, like his father, finds his baseball career seemingly at an end. Except instead of across the sea, the son stays near home: Independent Ball. The last hope or only shot of the truly baseball-desperate. Pitiful salaries, long bus rides, no fame… only dreams.

He spends seven years there, occasionally leaving to represent Italia, the land where he grew up and where his mother was born. Most would quit, or at least consider other options. This guy doesn’t. He keeps going, and finally, when he’s in his late 20s, he’s doing so well he cannot be ignored. A major league organization signs him, and at age 28 he begins his first Minor League season, nearly four years older than his average teammate.

And he is a revelation, as he becomes one of the best hitters on a team with some of the farm system’s best prospects. The next year, in AAA, he does it again and is named MVP in the league, becoming a fan favorite in a Upstate New York town in a season that began with him pacing his ancestral home to it’s best showing in the history of the World Baseball Classic.

Except…. it’s not the end. He was called up. He doesn’t do all that well in his first stint in the show, but it’s a dream that he had scraped and clawed for so long, finally achieved. That offseason, with no guarantees of a roster spot the next season, he is offered a big money deal from a team in Korea. He could make more money than he ever has. He refuses, as it would mean shutting the door, perhaps permanently, on his Major League dreams.

At first, it seems he made the right decision. He gets a roster spot and starts the year on a historic tear, breaking the team RBI record for April that had been set by a legendary man. He hits a home run in front of his parents as they are interviewed on television, a birthday gift to his mother.

But then… it falls apart. April proves the exception, and in late May he is sent down to AAA… even as the program-covers that greet fans at the Major League ballpark bear his face. He goes back and forth like a yo-yo, but ultimately he spends more time in AAA than he does in the show.

For some, this would be the end. Those gasps of major league greatness would be all there would be. Not for him. The next year, after a good start in AAA, he goes to a third country: Canada. He never recaptures that April, and he doesn’t play every game… but he doesn’t need to. He’s another bat in a lineup of big bats. He has a career year, and he is a mainstay in the starting lineup during the postseason, where he hits two home runs.

It seems, perhaps, that he has finally arrived. But then, the next season, he starts on a slump. Some wonder if he might again get sent down. And then, late in April, the slump becomes the least of his worries.

He’s suspended for 80 games for using a Performance Enhancing Drug. An old one. East German. And suddenly, a story that seemed too extraordinary for Hollywood becomes one that is too real for Hollywood.

It’s the story of Chris Colabello, son of Lou Colabello. His has been a story of near-biblical persistence and long odds. A story that brought him from Italy and Massachusetts, through New Britain and Rochester and Minneapolis and Buffalo, and finally to Toronto. That he suddenly is caught using a Cold War-era PED in some ways casts a shroud of doubt on all of it.

There is, of course, no way of knowing if that is the case. It seems unlikely that he would have been using such a obvious and classic steroid for so long without getting caught. After all, this is a player who would have been subject not just to the MLB tests of the past few years, but also tests in the minors and in overseas competitions.

Perhaps he was using something else this whole time.

Perhaps it was just a mistake. It could have been a accident or (for the more conspiracy-prone) an act of malice by a trainer or pharmacist.

Or maybe, having finally truly tasted the highest heights of his profession, Chris Colabello thought he needed to do anything and everything he could to stay there, or perhaps even go higher. And perhaps, like Icarus, he got too close to the sun.

I don’t know. Nobody, aside perhaps from Colabello himself, knows.

And perhaps that is why his suspension is so unsettling to myself and many other baseball fans, particularly fans of the Twins and Blue Jays. An icon of hard work and perseverance, suddenly found to have been taking the easy way out. Over a decade of work, seemingly thrown away.

What this means… I’m not sure I’ll ever know. I’m not sure if we’ll ever know.

Perhaps it just means that Chris Colabello, like all of us… is human.

Continuucast 8 with @SethTweets!

It’s time for yet another Baseball Continuum CONTINUUCAST! This time with Twins’ prospect expert, Seth Stohs! Hit play above, download by right-clicking here, follow the RSS feed here or follow on iTunes here or Stitcher here (if the latest episode isn’t up yet, it will be shortly).

 

It’s a Minor League Baseball installment of the Continuucast!

 

First, Dan talks to Twins’ prospect expert Seth Stohs about the Minnesota, the Rochester Red Wings, Minnesota’s farm system in general, and the appeal of Minor League Baseball. Please note that I had some technical difficulties during the conversation, but I have used software to clean it up and make it as good-sounding as I can. Apologies!

 

Then, Dan does another belated “30 Teams, 30 Posts” by talking about how Trevor Story’s amazing first week with the Rockies in some ways is proof of just how fun and unexpected the minor leagues are, since they can provide great surprises even from non-top prospects like Story!

 

Come back next week when Dan will welcome the “Evil Empire” onto the Continuucast and speak to Yankees Blogger Stacey Gotsulias!

 

Music/Sounds Featured:

“The National Game” by John Phillip Sousa

“We’re Gonna Win Twins”

The instrumental music played in the background of Rochester Red Wings commercials

Excerpt of “Pennant Fever” from the Major League soundtrack

All sound and music used is either public domain or is a short snippet that falls under fair use.

 

“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2016): The Best Unofficial Tigers T-Shirts

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post (of varying amounts of seriousness) about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2016 season. Earlier installments can be found here. This is the Tigers’ entry.

Some of the best T-shirts for baseball teams aren’t from the teams themselves, but rather from fans and artists! Here are some of the best unofficial Detroit Tiger shirts!

For example, here’s a shirt that combined the Tigers with the Lions, creating a…. Liger, I guess. Tigon?

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.30.19 PMOr, hey, why not do ALL FOUR Detroit teams in one t-shirt?

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.41.50 PMWant a pixel-art shirt of the Tigers mascot? Because that totally exists:

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.43.24 PMI may have featured this in a previous round-up of unofficial shirts, but it’s a good one… CRUSH-IT CABRERA:

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.45.23 PMBane and the Detroit Tigers logo go together way better than you would think:

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.47.28 PMHere’s a cool-looking Justin Verlander shirt:

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.52.55 PMOr, you can go classic and pay tribute to baseball’s greatest battery:

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.55.35 PMYou can also pay tribute to the late, great, Ernie Harwell:

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.57.43 PMOr, finally, you could salute the Tigers teams of the 1980s with this Kirk Gibson minor league shirsey:

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 1.04.23 PM

Pretty cool, huh?

2016 WBC Qualifier Preview: Panama City (Panama, Spain, France, Colombia)

Like the Mexicali pool, this is a pool that will pit Latin America and Europe. However, in some ways the only European team will be France, as Spain weighs heavily on imported talent. This should be the most competitive WBC qualifier bracket so far, with only France being a team that I can say has no chance.

Go below the jump for more:

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World Baseball Classic Qualifier Preview: Mexicali (Mexico, Czech Republic, Germany, Nicaragua)

Another round of WBC qualifiers starts on Thursday, with two pools going. One of them, in Mexicali, is a odd mix of two Latin American countries mixed with two European nations. While Mexico is most definitely the favorite, it’s not inconceivable that a shocking upset will take place… just very unlikely. You can see the rosters here.

Go below the jump for more:

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