Kevin Gray's On Baseball: Contrary to story, Fisher Cats aren't going anywhere
Eastern League president Joe McEachern chuckled while reading the Ottawa Citizen on Thursday — and he wasn't looking at the comics.
The newspaper presented a far-fetched scenario in which the Fisher Cats could move to Ottawa by 2013, and the New York Mets would send their Double-A franchise to Manchester after a so-called “trade of affiliations.”
No chance. Not even close.
Ottawa officials have, indeed, explored the possibility of bringing Eastern League baseball to its city, but the published report involving the Fisher Cats has more holes than Canada's worst goalie.
“It's not even feasible. For one, there is no process where, let's say, New Hampshire and another team trade affiliates. You can't do that,” McEachern said. “Teams sign a player development contract (PDC) for two or four years. You can't trade that contract like a major-league team trades a player.”
Furthermore, the Fisher Cats may never pursue a PDC with a New York team, an agreement that is part of a territorial waiver signed by Red Sox team president Larry Lucchino. That contract clause is based on major-league TV markets and precludes the Fisher Cats from entering a PDC with the Mets or Yankees.
► There's more about this story at Union Leader sportswriter Kevin Gray's blog, graymatter123.blogspot.com.
Binghamton Mets president Michael Urda has dismissed claims the franchise is likely to be sold or moved. Fisher Cats president Rick Brenner quashed the Thursday rumor when asked to comment.
“Unlike media speculation that has no foundation in fact, we are going to abide by the rules governing the affiliation process between major league and minor league teams and only say that both the Blue Jays and Fisher Cats are very happy with our eight-year relationship,” Brenner said.
The Ottawa Citizen made it sound like the 2013 Fisher Cats will be playing in the capital of Canada:
“All signs indicate Ottawa would become the new home of the Eastern League franchise in Binghamton, New York. That would involve a swap of working agreements between the New York Mets, the major league parent team of the existing Binghamton club, and the Toronto Blue Jays, whose Double-A team now plays in Manchester, New Hampshire. That trade of affiliations would occur after the 2012 season.”
Ottawa does have a history of affiliated baseball. The Triple-A Ottawa Lynx played in the International League from 1993-2007 before new ownership moved the franchise to Allentown, Pa. Poor attendance led to the Lynx' demise.
City-owned Ottawa Stadium, which seats more than 10,000, would need major improvements to attract an Eastern League team, according to McEachern.
“I won't deny to you that Ottawa has opened up the possibility of trying to attract a major-league (affiliated) team, but right now, it's so early in the process,” he said. “The Eastern League is investigating whether there is an opportunity there. We haven't identified anything beyond that. Undoubtably, it would need millions of dollars of renovations.”
The Fisher Cats have won two Eastern League championships and sent 52 players to the major leagues, including All-Stars Aaron Hill, Brandon League and Ricky Romero. Toronto's director of minor-league operations, Charlie Wilson, said the Blue Jays want to stay in Manchester “as long as we possibly can.” Wilson would not address the Ottawa report.
“Our organization has a policy about not commenting on rumors, whether it's about a player, potential trade or affiliation,” he said. “Now if you want to talk about our relationship with New Hampshire, it's amazing.”
Staff writer Kevin Gray covers baseball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.