Monday, September 18, 2006

Nats, FEMA Abandon New Orleans

The dozens of AAA fill-ins the Nats call up might have shorter commutes next season. The team's agreement with AAA affiliate New Orleans ends after this season, as do the agreements between the Mets, Yankees and Orioles. One possible outcome of this chain of events could be the Nationals securing Norfolk, VA as their new AAA affiliate. How, you ask? Follow the bouncing ball (courtesy of Brian at Nats Farm Authority):

-The Phillies have purchased Baltimore's current AAA franchise in Ottawa and will relocate the team to Allentown, PA, abandoning their current team in Scranton.
-The Yankees may end their relationship with Columbus, OH and move to Scranton.
-The Mets may leave Norfolk, VA in favor of Columbus.
-The Orioles and Nats are left to battle it out between New Orleans and Norfolk.

Obviously, the Nats would love to establish a market presence in Southern Virginia. Then again, so would Peter Angelos, who probably still considers Virginia "his" territory. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

I'm hopeful that the Nats can end up in Norfolk. It's nice having the A and AA teams nearby, and it would be even nicer to have the AAA club in our backyard. I'm of a mind that minor league teams, especially the higher levels, should be in "satellite" markets of the major league clubs that they support. This way a franchise can develop a more far-flung fanbase that might occasionally make a trip up to the big club's games. In this light, New Orleans' relationship with the Nats makes no sense. That city is simply too far away to have any kind of affinity toward the Washington region. In fact, after the events of the past year, it's safe to say that New Orleanians feel no affinity for the Capital whatsoever.

A few weeks ago
, I joked with Martin Gandy of Talking Chop that it would be cool to "trade" New Orleans to the Braves in exchange for Richmond. I was only half kidding. It kind of sucks to think that a city only 100 miles from DC is occupied by a rival club. I'm not sure if the Braves have any intention of leaving Richmond, but such a "trade" might actually work out for both clubs. The Braves could expand their presence in the South and the Nats could expand their presence in Virginia. Maybe someday.

But in the meantime, keep your eye on what happens with Norfolk. And cross your fingers that the O's don't end up there...

One thing that's not clear to me at this point: if the Nats leave New Orleans, do they take the franchise (i.e. players, coaches, etc.) with them to the new city or do they inherit the existing city's personnel? I suspect the former is true, but I am ignorant of such things. Anybody know the answer? Farm Authority, I'm looking to your expertise here...