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:
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:
As 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.