The Staten Island Yankees, their prized affiliation with the reigning AL East champions in serious jeopardy, received public support from local government officials on Monday in an attempt to survive the imminent downsizing of Minor League Baseball.
Congressman Max Rose, whose district includes all of Staten Island as well as a piece of Brooklyn, and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo sent a joint letter to Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner to plead the case of their club, which has represented the Yankees in the short-season New York-Penn League since 1999.
“This team means so much to our borough,” Rose and Oddo wrote. “Not only does it offer jobs and a big economic boost, it provides civic pride and family fun. The impact the players have is evident on the faces of the children who show up at the ballpark every year — and that cannot be overstated.”
In an endeavor that began last year, well before the coronavirus shutdown, Major League Baseball aimed to cut its affiliated franchises from 160, more than five per team, to 120, exactly four per team, in time for the 2021 season. While Minor League Baseball initially fought back, even recruiting big-name politicians like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to support its cause, that effort stopped short when the pandemic hit. With the minor leagues profoundly weakened — and cancelation of the 2020 minor league season appears inevitable — MLB now appears very likely to get its wish
The short-season leagues, which began in June after the annual draft, will be eliminated as part of this restructuring. The Mets’ New York-Penn affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones, could move up to Double-A (replacing Binghamton) because they share an owner with their parent franchise in Sterling Equities. The Yankees, however, appear content with their top four affiliates, Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Double-A Trenton and Class A Tampa and Charleston, the last of which Rose and Oddo suggested specifically as an affiliate the Yankees could jettison in favor of Staten Island.
The government officials tried to appeal to Steinbrenner’s family ties, writing, “We know the Staten Island Yankees have special memories for your family, too, as your father personally selected the site of the Richmond County Bank Ballpark. We look forward to working with you to keep the Staten Island Yankees an important part of your organization — and our community — for many years to come.”
If the Staten Island Yankees lose their affiliation with the Yankees, they could join a “Dream League,” as per MLB’s proposal, featuring undrafted players. While that would at least make some usage of the facility, it couldn’t come close to matching the current appeal of selling fans on the hopes of seeing a future Yankee and would therefore considerably damage the franchise’s value.
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