A Las Vegas 51s keychain, circa 2001

The Buffalo Bisons did not enjoy their tenure as the New York Mets Triple-A afflilate, so they opted not to renew their player development contract when it expired. Next year, Buffalo will be affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays, a geographically better match.

That would leave the Las Vegas 51s without a partner, so they were more or less forced to sign a player development contract with the Mets.

It would be kind of neat to go out to Vegas and catch a baseball game next summer, but I can think of a few reasons that it probably won’t be in the cards for me.

I’m sure the hitters in the upper level of the Mets farm system will enjoy the return to the Pacific Coast League… the pitchers will face a bit more of a challenge.

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About Paul Hadsall

I'm the former editor of a weekly community newspaper and current contributor to Hot Stove Baseball. I've been a New York Mets fan for most of my life and I've been blogging about them, minor league baseball, baseball cards and autograph collecting since 2007. Contact me at paul@randombaseballstuff.com

12 responses

  1. Kind of like New Orleans, this looks like another “two years and out” kind of deal as I think the Mets would rather set up their AAA shop closer to home.

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  2. Will in Central NJ says:

    Not to pile on to the Omar MInaya regime, but it was read in the news years ago that unlike his GM predecessors, Omar never visited or schmoozed with the Norfolk Tides ownership, giving reassurances, financial and otherwise. Thus, the Tides were seduced by the Orioles, and became their AAA franchise.

    Meanwhile, the Mets’ highest minor league affiliate continues its wandering in the desert: New Orleans to Buffalo to Las Vegas. Every MLB team along the northeast corridor (with the possible exception of the Washington Nationals/Syracuse) has its AAA team based no more than a couple of hours’ drive away. The Mets? A five hour plane ride. Nice going, team.

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    • In the bi-annual game of minor league musical chairs, the Mets were left standing. Their prize? A AAA club five hours (by air) away.

      I remember reading something about Norfolk ending their relationship with the Mets. Essentially, the Mets treated the Tides as a waiting room filled with has beens and never weres who *might* be able to fill a spot on a major league roster should anyone get injured. It was also the place offering the last bit of seasoning for the AA prospects on their way to the big club. I went to see the Tides when Reyes was there. He spent a whole 42 games at Norfolk before moving up.

      Norfolk didn’t want a roster filled with guys like Lyle Mouton, Jorge Velandia, Jorge Toca, Prentice Redman and Esix Snead–all guys who were playing there when Reyes made his quick stop. And, so Norfolk sent the Mets packing. And they’ve been AAA nomads since 2006.

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  3. Will in Central NJ says:

    I understand that the Tides’, and now Bisons’ brass might have wanted more star power (such as it exists in the minors). That might be the case of any AAA franchise. But, scanning the rosters of other AAA teams, anyone can find fading major leaguers, stalled prospects, and so-called AAAA players on IL and PCL rosters. Earlier this summer, I saw Nelson Figueroa and Russell Branyan on the Scranton Yanks roster, for example. Pawtucket’s got Pedro Beato and Andy LaRoche.

    My point, Mark, is that there must be something more, below the surface, about what makes an affiliation with the Mets undesirable from a business standpoint. Sadly, this wasn’t always the case.

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    • Will,,

      Good point. Maybe there is something below the surface. After all, the Mets had their AAA franchise in Norfolk for nearly 40 years.

      Was it Minaya? Was it a sea change in the way minor league ball is run? With that, I mean that players moved up through the system and AAA was the top of the line. It appears that, in recent years, it seems as if the top prospects are at AA and AAA has sort of become a way station, as I described in my last post.

      Player development is the most important part of minor league ball, not winning and losing, though, if a team usually has winning affiliate clubs, it’ll eventually find its way to the parent club, if it hasn’t already. And, for minor league teams, especially in the past 20 years or so–the resurgence of minor league ball–the object is giving the fans bang for their buck, a good family night out and the correlation between winning and drawing is a loose one.

      Maybe there’s stuff we’ll never know about why Norfolk severed ties to the Mets. I’m not sure what kind of dance is done every couple years when the minor league agreement comes up, but maybe Baltimore had a better offer.

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      • Paul says:

        We probably shouldn’t factor out the offers of Baltimore and Toronto to Norfolk and Buffalo, and we should definitely remember that those teams have more geographic appeal than the Mets did. I have vague memories of Norfolk being unhappy when they Mets stopped coming down for their annual exhibition game, though that probably could get blamed on the MLB players union.

        The semi-annual Triple-A shuffle is probably getting a lot more play than it needs to because the Mets haven’t exactly given us much to talk about. Leaving aside Brooklyn, since it’s also owned by the Wilpons, the Mets’ other minor league affiliates have been reasonably stable. They’ve been in Binghamton since 1992, St. Lucie since 1988, Savannah since 2007, and Kingsport since 1980.

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  4. Will in Central NJ says:

    Thanks for your replies, Mark and Paul. I just wish that, prior to the Yanks’ relocation from Columbus to Scranton, that the Mets and Yanks worked out a mutual waiver on territorial rights, and that each somehow were able to set up Triple-A franchises within a couple hours’ drive, maximum, of New York City.

    Newark, New Haven, Bridgeport, Albany, Kingston, Easton, Jersey City, New Brunswick, Atlantic City, Wildwood, Suffolk County, LI…..anywhere close. I know that’s wishful fantasy on my part (with the territorial rights of the Phils and Red Sox also in play), but we can dream, eh?

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    • Paul says:

      It certainly would be nice, but thanks to the territorial rights headache and the economy, it has to remain just a dream.

      (Of course, any major league owner should be embarrassed if their team legitimately has to view a minor league team as competition to worry about.)

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      • Will in Central NJ says:

        My wishful thinking is based on the mutual waiver by the Yanks and Mets, resulting in the creation of the Staten Island Yanks and Brooklyn Cyclones, respectively. Now, the only hope might be if somehow, Ottawa and/or Richmond were restored to AAA, and made available to the Mets. At least we’d see the AAA Mets back in the eastern time zone.

        Heck, I’ve even read that Montreal would like to have pro baseball back in town. Fred Wilpon could further his respectful nods to Jackie Robinson by affiliating with a Montreal minor league team. (Robinson was promoted from the Montreal Royals to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.) What if….?

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        • Paul says:

          Someone would have to move an existing Triple-A team to Montreal – no new ones will be created unless Major League Baseball expands again. The Ottawa Lynx moved to become the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs and the Richmond Braves moved to become the Gwinnett Braves.

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  5. Canada has exactly one affiliated minor league team. And that’s Vancouver, which used to be a AAA town and which is now playing short-season A. Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton? All gone. So maybe the Mets pitching their tent in Montreal might not be a bad idea.

    Not being overly familiar with the minor leagues musical chairs game, but, should the Mets pitch their AAA tent in Montreal, does that mean the Las Vegas team has to be bought and moved?

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    • Paul says:

      It doesn’t have to be Las Vegas, but an existing Triple-A franchise would have to be moved to Montreal. (Given the geography, it would probably work better if someone could buy an International League franchise – I think Memphis and New Orleans are the easternmost Pacific Coast League cities.)

      The Ottawa Lynx were moved to Allentown to become the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs, and the Tuscon Padres look like they’re headed to El Paso.

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