The months of wondering are over. The Wilmington Blue Rocks will become the newest Nats franchisee, joining the ‘Burgs (Harris and Frederick) and newcomer Rochester for the new world order:
AAA – Rochester (new for 2021, formerly Fresno)
AA – Harrisburg (same since 2005)
High-A – Wilmington (new for 2021)
Low-A – Fredericksburg (High-A affiliate 2005-2019)
While there’s consternation over Frederick being bypassed over, I’d have to agree that the factors of location (off I-95), facility quality (Frawley Stadium, pictured above, is three years newer and has been renovated), and a larger market (New Castle County, pop. ~559K vs. Frederick County, pop. ~256K) were more important. I wouldn’t overlook soft factors like not wanting to deal with the Orioles fanbase or that one could take a train from DC to Wilmington.
Late last night, Fresno decided it couldn’t refuse MLB’s offer, ending a two-week “war.” This settles the California League (now Low-A) and the PDLs for the Rockies.
In the end, nearly half of the 30 organizations—ATL, BAL, BOS, CWS, CHC, CIN, CLE, DET, LAD, MIL, NYM, SEA, STL, TOR—kept their existing affiliates, albeit with some flip-flops between Low-A and High-A. This confirms the suspicion that none of this was about travel considerations; It was about money and power.
To that end, there is some drama left over how the leagues will be realigned. Baseball America is reporting that Bowling Green will join the Mid-Atlantic League, and surmising that the league will consist of 12 teams. Not explicitly stated: the Carolina League is gone.
As previously reported, things here could change. It’s possible, for example, that the Mid-Atlantic League will not have divisions, just an unbalanced schedule. It’s possible (but highly unlikely) that one of the invitees will turn down MLB.
As for us, we can return to having four full-season teams to root for and follow in the same time zone. When someone gets the bump, he can drive or be driven on the same day – even if it’s from AAA to The Show.