Minor League Mash Up Coming in 2021

Did you see the latest about Major League Baseball’s realignment of minor league baseball? It’s a mess.

There is no more Southern League, Pacific Coast League or American Association. All the traditional has been scrapped in the name of “streamlining” the minor leagues into a regional setup.`

There were fourteen leagues in MLB’s farm system but now the minor league system is spread out in a massive realignment. Leagues have been replaced by tiers and regional alignments. It’s going to be a mess.

MLB claims this will allow for higher salaries, better facilities and create geographical rivalries.

The four new levels will be known as Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, and Low-A with the lower three of those levels split into three regional leagues, the Triple-A level remains at just two leagues. Several teams were either bumped up a level or dropped down and three previously independent-league clubs have been invited and are now affiliated with Major League clubs.

For example, my local Nashville Sounds which had been a member of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) is now grouped in the Southeast Division of Triple-A East.

Here is a graphic which shows the new alignment for the 2021 season:

Unfortunately with the fruit basket turnover of the minor leagues, 42 teams were cut from the realignment. This includes teams in the Pioneer, Appalachian and most of the New York-Penn League. These teams will be forced to go independent, join a collegiate summer league or disband.

With COVID-19 disrupting minor league baseball last season, it is certain that this new realignment plan will definitely make things much different as baseball takes the field this spring.

Gwinnett Braves’ Identity Crisis

I read last week where the Gwinnett Braves are having a name-the-team contest to change their name because there seems to be confusion between the Atlanta Braves and Gwinnett Braves.   I’m not sure who they say are confused about this.  I mean it’s pretty clear to me the difference between the ATLANTA Braves and GWINNETT Braves.  No confusion there.  They aren’t even the same.

No other Braves’ farm team has reported having the same issue.  Even the Rome Braves who are 70 miles Northwest of Atlanta never seem to have an identity problem.    In 2017, ever minor league team in the Braves’ organization are known as the “Braves” except for the Florida Fire Frogs in Kissimmee.   Mississippi (AA), Rome (A) and Danville (Rookie) all have kept the parent’s team name as their own.   No confusion there it seems.

I’m going out on a limb here and thinking the Gwinnett folks are wanting marketing monies for their team.  They want a unique identity for the team which means they want a stupid nickname that no other team has.  We’ve been down this road before as minor league baseball teams have come up with some of the most ridiculous nicknames for their teams such as Baby Cakes (New Orleans), Chihuahuas (El Paso),  Jumbo Shrimp (Jacksonville) and Biscuits (Montgomery) to name the ones that come to mind.

So what are the choices for Gwinnett?

  • Gwinnett Buttons – honors a dude named Button Gwinnett who signed the Declaration of Independence.  (See below on what happens to Button later)
  • Gwinnett Big Mouths – named after the largemouth bass in nearby Lake Lanier.  (Not to be confused with my ex-mother-in-law)
  • Gwinnett Gobblers – something to do with outdoors and hunting.  (Turkeys?)
  • Gwinnett Hush Puppies – not to be confused with the Georgia Bulldogs
  • Gwinnett Lambchops – some twisted fusion of home cooking and the tomahawk chop.
  • Gwinnett Sweet Teas – well, it’s the south so what would you expect?  It would give a new meaning to a two-bagger.

Names that didn’t make the cut were:  Duelers (because Button Gwinnett was killed in a duel), Dirt Daubers, Hash Browns, Peaches, Traffic, Grits, Goobers, Commuters, Fire Ants, Corn Cobbs, 85ers and Hustlers.

Those names missed the cut?  Wow.

I would have suggested Lexus (lots of those cars in the county), Tax Revenuers (taxes are high there), Baby Braves (would solve the confusion issue) or Ninjas (to honor Japanese steakhouses in the county).

Decision will be made in October or early November.

My prediction:  I don’t really care.



Nashville Sounds Begin 40th Season In Nashville


The Nashville Sounds hit mid-life as they enter their 40th season in Nashville.  Today they have their home opener at First Tennessee Park against the Oklahoma City Dodgers.  Sounds fans will remember that the Dodgers eliminated the Sounds in the playoffs last year.  The Sounds today’s home opener with a record of 2-3 after a season opening series at Round Rock.

The Sounds began play in the Southern League in 1978.  They finished their first season with a 64-77 record as the affiliate for the Cincinnati Reds.   In 1979, the Sounds went 83-61 and won the league title over the Columbus (GA) Astros.

The Sounds have won three league titles in their existence.  In addition to the 1979 title, they also won the Southern League title in 1982 over the Jacksonville Suns.  They won the Pacific Coast League (PCL) championship in 2005 over the Tacoma Rainiers.  The Sounds have reached the postseason 14 times and have won ten division titles and two conference titles.

They have gone through several affiliations with Major League Baseball (MLB) teams.  They have been affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds (1978-1979, 1987-1992), New York Yankees (1980-1984), Detroit Tigers (1985-1986), Chicago White Sox (1993-1997),  Pittsburgh Pirates (1998-2004), Milwaukee Brewers (2005-2014) and Oakland A’s (2015-2016).

Stump Merrill had the best winning percentage as the Sounds’ manager from 1980-1981 with 178 wins and 108 losses.  The Sounds had their best record in franchise history (97-46) in the 1980 season.

Some of the most notable players to have played with the Sounds and went on to Major League careers are:  Rob Dibble (Pitcher, 1987-88), Doug Drabek (Pitcher, 1984), Trevor Hoffman (Pitcher, 1992/2009), Barry Larkin (Shortstop, 1989), Don Mattingly (First Baseman/Outfielder, 1981), Willie McGee (Outfielder, 1980-81), Otis Nixon (Shortstop, 1981-82) and many others.

The Sounds have had two homes in Nashville.  They began at Herschel Greer Stadium and moved to the new 8,500-seat First Tennessee Park in 2015.   The new stadium is really one of the nicest minor league parks in the country.

Although some have hinted at bringing a Major League team to Nashville, I really don’t see that happening anytime in the near future.  I would like to see a better alignment in AAA where there weren’t any separate leagues but just one AAA league.  The Sounds are definitely a “big league” minor league team as they begin their 40th season.







2016 Minor League Baseball Champions

As we approach October, most of the minor/independent leagues have crowned their champions.  The independent Atlantic League is still in postseason play.  There were five teams winning their first title (El Paso, Bradenton, Great Lakes, Ottawa and Tucson) and two repeat champions (Midland and Myrtle Beach).  

The Scranton-Wilkes Barre RailRiders were crowned AAA champions.  

Minor League Champions

  • International League: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders
  • Pacific Coast League: El Paso Chihuahuas (first title)
  • AAA National Championship: Scranton-WB RailRiders 3, El Paso Chihuahuas 1
  • Eastern League: Akron RubberDucks (first title since 2012)
  • Southern League:  Jackson (MS) Generals
  • Texas League: Midland Rockhounds (third straight title)
  • California League: High Desert Mavericks (final game in the California League)
  • Carolina League:  Myrtle Beach Pelicans (second straight title)
  • Florida State League:  Bradenton Marauders (first title)
  • Midwest League: Great Lakes Loons (first title)
  • South Atlantic League: Rome Braves 
  • New York-Penn League:  State College (PA) Spikes
  • Northwest League:  Eugene Emeralds (first title since 1975)
  • Appalachain League:  Johnson City (TN) Cardinals (fourth title in seven years)
  • Pioneer League: Orem Owlz (first title since 2009)
  • Arizona League:  Mariners 
  • Gulf Coast League:  Cardinals
  • Mexican League:  Pericos de Puebla

Independent Leagues

  • American Association: Winnipeg Goldeyes 
  • Atlantic League:  Long Island Ducks vs. Sugar Land Skeeters
  • Canadian-American League: Ottawa Champions (first title)
  • Frontier League: Evansville Otters (second title)
  • Pecos League: Tucson Saguaros (first title)

College Leagues

  • Alaska League: Mat-Su Miners
  • Cape Cod League: Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox
  • Coastal Plain League:  Savannah (GA) Bananas
  • Futures Collegiate Baseball League: Nashua (NH) Silver Knights
  • Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League: Hamilton (OH) Joes
  • New England Collegiate Baseball League: Mystic (CT) Schooners
  • Northwoods League: Wisconsin Rapids (WI) Rafters
  • Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League: Amsterdam (NY) Mohawks
  • Prospect League: West Virginia Miners
  • Texas Collegiate League: Brazos Valley (TX) Bombers
  • West Coast League: Corvallis (OR) Knights
  • Western Major Baseball League: Swift Current Indians

Team of the Week:  Rome Braves

The parent team may be having one of the worst seasons in recent history but the Class A Rome Braves of the South Atlantic League (SAL) did the organization proud when it rebounded from an opening game loss to the Lakewood Blue Claws and won three straight to capture the title in a 6-1 win in game four.

This was Rome’s second league title.  They won the 2003 title in their first season in Rome.  Rome was the only Atlanta Braves’ affiliate to win a league title this season.

Alejandro Salazar had three hits, scoring two runs as pitcher Max Fried struck out 13 batters to start the celebration. Fried was also the winning pitcher when the Braves eliminated Charleston in the Southern Division playoffs.  

Rome spotted Lakewood a 1-0 lead but scored three runs in the fifth inning as Salazar and Anfernee Seymour scored for the Braves.

The Braves were only 70-69 overall but their 43-27 second half finish clinched the Southern Division by 2 1/2 games.  The Braves were 58-82 last season.

Outfielder Ronald Acuna led the team in batting with a .311 average.  Patrick Weigel led the pitching staff with 10 wins and was promoted to Class AA Mississippi in the Southern League to finish the season.