Rumor Roundup: November 9

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Hello friends. I think we are now entering the fast-and-furious portion of this saga. In an effort to keep up with the story and save it for posterity–not to mention saving word count–I’ll probably be doing a bunch of these “Rumor Roundup” articles. Here’s what I’ve got for today, November 9, 2020. 

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Dispensing with the boring stuff straight away, we received word that a man named Peter Woodfork has been named MLB’s “Senior VP of Minor League Operations.” Presumably, Woodfork will be assembling a new team of folks to take the place of the old MiLB office in St. Petersburg. He certainly will have his hands full in both the short and long-term future. His experience (front office of D’Backs and Red Sox) seems to be mostly on the MLB side. I wish Mr. Woodfork all the luck in the world. Here’s hoping that the minors can once again become the lighthearted slice of Americana that we miss so much. 

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This is pretty interesting. J.J. Cooper posted today that MLB has set a deadline of today (November 9) for New York-Penn League teams to “provide an indication of interest” in their proposed weird-schedule summer collegiate wood bat league that I covered here.

Cooper notes that this bit of correspondence isn’t a final commitment. It seems that MLB is sort of throwing their hands up like “does anyone want to do this?” I can only speculate that there is going to be a mixed bag of responses from the NY-Penn clubs, but it doesn’t sound like owners are generally that interested in MLB’s proposal. From Cooper: 

“MLB is indicating that it needs to have an idea of whether there is enough interest from New York-Penn League teams to provide the six or more teams needed to establish a functional league in that locale. If not, MLB likely would look elsewhere to set up the wood bat league that is designed to provide a place for rising college seniors to play in the weeks before that year’s draft. MLB could also try to find other markets in the same area as the interested clubs to build the league out to a sustainable number of teams.”

There are some interesting things in there. Will they be able to scrape enough teams together? Will they have to try to recruit teams from other collegiate leagues? But the reading-between-the-lines bit that catches my eye is the “look elsewhere” part. Well, there’s one elsewhere league that has been totally ignored lately. Go West, Young Men! Could the Pioneer League be in play?

My biggest concern in this equation is seeing if the New York-Pennsylvania League itself folds up. That name has been attached to leagues for about a century, and it would be a shame to see it go up in a puff. Who owns the trademark to “New York-Penn League”? Can a handful of disgruntled clubs in the northeast reclaim that name and strike out as a truly independent league–not MLB partner league–somewhat similarly to what Miles Wolff did with the Northern League back in the nineties? We’ll be watching. 

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Hey now! Let’s end with something juicy. I missed this a few weeks back, but apparently there is a strong rumor that the Vancouver Canadians are poised to become an affiliate of the Oakland A’s. I should state outright that this is an unsubstantiated leak that was tweeted by a guy named Rob Fai. But this leak has some legs. Fai was the Canadians’ play-by-play guy until stepping down this summer, and he appears to be well-connected on the Vancouver sports scene. After apparently getting some “everybody calm down, nothing’s official” from Jays’ and Athletics’ beat writers, Fai clarified: “I have speculated this based on a few trusted conversations. Anything can happen between now and the official announcements, so its best to wait for the official word.”

If this rumor is true, there’s a bunch of things that pop to mind. First off, I’m very surprised that Oakland would be severing ties with Beloit. The A’s are notorious for chasing new facilities (Nashville, Las Vegas) even when there are geographically-closer options. I’ve been to Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver. It’s a cool place to catch a game, but it very much feels like a ballpark built in 1951. Maybe the player facilities are really nice?

Oakland sent lots of low-level prospects to Vancouver from 2000-2010, so this could be a satisfying reunion of a sort. Some fans in B.C. will be bummed that to lose the Blue Jays, but if the NWL and Midwest League are at the same level, it was easy to guess that Toronto would choose Lansing–their closest minor league team. 

Another reason this surprises me is that back in May, Beloit owner Quint Studer was mentioned to have had “encouraging conversations” with Oakland officials. It makes me wonder if Beloit has become a desired commodity on the new Class A-Advanced level. They may have multiple suitors lined up, and Studer might get a chance to choose the best option with regards to projected prospects or even a regional affiliate. I’ll tap the brakes on that sort of speculation. 

Wild times with much more to come.

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