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Around the Indy Ball Landscape

Could the Atlantic League expand back into the Boston area in coming years?

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.

-DH

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2 responses

  1. One thing I haven’t seen is whether the interleague games will count in the standings of the teams that crossover. Without every team partcipating, will the interleague games merely be exhibitions? If they count in the standings for the teams that are crossing over, that may create some fairness issues in the standings. Not to mention the fact that the American Association is widely considered to be a higher level than the Can-Am. Just look at the players who come to the Atlantic League once the AA season ends…it’s a much greater number than the Can-Am. I expect the AA to dominate the Can-Am in head to head matchups. I think it’s pretty much accepted that the American Association is the second-best indy league after the Atlantic League. I think a more exciting interleague scenario would be the Atlantic League vs. the American Association in some type of crossover. It would be a chance for the Atlantic League to re-affirm itself as the top circuit, and a chance for the American Association to prove they aren’t lower. Since we’re already flying to Sugar Land, why not? Although even players in the AA will tell you the Atlantic League is the highest-level league after playing in both. But who wouldn’t want to watch that? From a purely competition standpoint, the Can-Am would make the most sense playing the Frontier League in interleague play, as the Frontier League is admittetly for younger, “A-Ball” level players not far removed from college or the low affiliated-minors. Of course with the AA and Can-Am sharing the same league governance, it’s not hard to see why this was the first step.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:39 am

  2. Robert Helineva

    It well could be good news for the Atlantic League as Dulles VA has shown a start up of there own. I suppose the hold up is the financial backing and infra structure of a stadium and sponsorship and community commitment of a serious kind. In addition, I doubt that Sweetwater will be by itself in the ‘western’ division. Now that Texas expansion has started it would be logical to make a western division vs just having 1 club in the middle of nowhere so to speak. There already is a strong representation Latino players and Mexican league player transactions within the Atlantic League. Adding a few more clubs in Texas is something to consider for sure.
    As for the Can Am league. I have grazed over the statistical charts now and then and what I recall immediately was the gate draw. I recall clubs having an average attendance of well under 1 thousand. On the surface that doesn’t sound good and a few of the towns are in fact within a rather small market. I have doubts about a few clubs in that league and how they will survive financially. I truly hope that I am wrong. The Can Am league too puts players back in affiliate based teams and the die hard fans cheering for their home team certainly want to come back to the park in the years to come.
    I like the Atlantic League motto something close to affordable tickets, skilled players and modern stadiums for family fun. If this goal is attainable for new clubs or expansion then the community and fans alike are the winners.

    December 5, 2011 at 8:19 am

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