Around the Indy Ball Landscape
A couple of interesting tidbits came across the wire in the last day or so, including another possible hotspot for Atlantic League expansion.
The Boston area has popped up as a potential landing spot for an Atlantic League franchise, and as this article from the Boston Globe suggests, there may be some legs to this one.
It wouldn’t be unprecedented. The Nashua (NH) Pride was one of the original Atlantic League franchises, located roughly 45 minutes north of Boston. The proposed stadium in this case would be in Malden, MA, which would be a little bit closer geographically to the rest of the league’s cluster of teams, Sugar Land notwithstanding of course (but I guess technically they would be closer to the Skeeters than Nashua would be).
Not sure why they specifically chose Springfield as the ballpark to resemble, no offense to the Double-A Cardinals, looks like a great stadium, but someone on the committee must like it.
This would make a long bus ride, and a flight to Sugar Land might even be easier on everyone than bussing some 7.5 hours for York / Lancaster, more for Southern Maryland. And one of the Atlantic League’s cushier perks for players is the relatively easy travel… I hadn’t thought much about when the Barnstormers had to trek to Nashua three times a year when they first came into the league until now. It would have been a little rough but it’s been done before. And it still pales in comparison to some of the Eastern League’s trips (Richmond to Portland), the South Atlantic League (Lakewood, NJ to Augusta, GA), or the American Association (St. Paul to points in Texas). I always like the idea of our league expanding and having new places to go… I’ll volunteer to ride the bus.
Also, the Atlantic League won’t be the only independent league expanding its travel itinerary this season. It was announced yesterday that the Can-Am League and American Association will play an interlocking 100-game schedule that features a select number of teams from each league crossing over for an interleague play scenario.
While it’s good to see indy ball broadening its scope, there are some questions with this one. First off, the number one reason stated as to why they’re doing this seems to be an odd number of teams in both leagues, but while the American Association has 13 teams for the 2012 season, the Can-Am League has six. Not sure how that helps anyone. And the fact that not every team crosses over at some point doesn’t completely jive with me – who determines which teams cross over, which don’t, and why / why not? Obviously it can’t be totally balanced with 13 teams in one league and less than half of that in the other, but there’s a real lack of balance on the schedule there.
At the same time, for those who will cross over, the prospects of going somewhere else and facing different competition are exciting for both those in the organization and for fans of those respective teams. This is especially beneficial for the Can-Am League, I think, with only six teams, which unless I’m missing something with the whole odd-number of teams thing which this doesn’t seem to help, branching out the smaller Can-Am League seems to be the biggest positive in this. There’s more in it for them than for the American Association where 13 teams is plenty, just needing to fix that odd-number situation somehow.
From the on-field competition standpoint, in the Atlantic League, it always seems that as the season goes on, the hitters gain more and more of an advantage over the pitchers. For one, everyone places a premium on pitching, so when MLB organizations or foreign leagues come calling, the top arms are usually the first to go and the toughest to replace. But also the fact that it’s an eight-team league, and teams face each other 20 times a season, hitters get so familiar with pitchers, and seeing the same guys time and again, those that have been around since early in the season anyway. To me, that seems to be the case in the eight-team Atlantic League… I can’t imagine having only five different teams to face over the course of an entire season in a six-team league. So I would think that especially for the Can-Am League, this has to be an enticing situation to expand their reach. I think for the American Association, a league with as many as 13 teams sounds pretty strong to me, but the more the merrier I guess. And it is good for fans.
And of course it was a natural fit… Miles Wolff is commissioner of both leagues. It does make one wonder about how this might impact the future landscape, if we’re moving toward the two leagues merging together to form one big league. That’s what the North American League did, absorbing teams from the Northern, Golden, and United Leagues all into one. There have long been suggestions about how to integrate independent baseball, maybe a postseason Indy Ball Championship Series, though that’d be tough to pull off since leagues end at different times. But this is quite a development in the big-picture of independent baseball, and I think in a mostly positive way. I think it helps further legitimize the Can-Am League especially where fans will now see 10 different opponents come to their ballparks instead of only five this summer. It will be interesting to see if it leads to anything further between the two circuits.