There’s an interesting article up over at The Athletic today. In it Brittany Ghiroli explores the challenges of the Washington Nationals’ Triple-A team being in Fresno. A very long — and not very direct — flight away from Nats Park.
It used to be a bit more common to see farm clubs a long way away from the big club but this age of frequent roster-shuffling, specialization and greater ability to diagnose injuries — and thus sideline players more readily — means that the shuttle between Triple-A and the bigs is used more frequently. When that shuttle requires a redeye flight in order to get a player to the park by first pitch of a day game or an early morning wakeup call to get there by an evening tilt, it can mean for some tired players. Or, in some cases, it can mean playing shorthanded for a day since you can’t get a guy to the park on short notice.
So why do the Nats have a Triple-A team in Fresno? Ghiroli notes that it’s the club’s failure to either (a) cultivate good relationships with minor league ownership groups with whom they need to affiliate; or (b) do what a lot of clubs have done and bought their way into the ownership group of a minor league team, thereby solidifying good relationships. As a result, the Nats have had their top farm club shuffle between four different cities — New Orleans, Columbus, Syracuse and Fresno — in fifteen years. Since they don’t own like the Mets now own Syracuse and they don’t have a solid relationship like the Indians do now with Columbus, for example, they have to play musical chairs every couple of years when affiliate agreements are up. Last time the music stopped they ended up in Fresno. Next time it could be someplace else.
Interesting read. Worth your time.