Sometime in the near future, when humans have rediscovered sports, the following scenario might play out in the Twin Cities ...
A Twins prospect, let’s say his name is “Royce,” is called into the manager’s office at CHS Field and told that the Twins are promoting him to the majors.
Royce has torn up the Pacific Coast League in front of sold-out crowds at CHS Field since his arrival. But now it’s time to go to the Show, and the young shortstop already has a dilemma.
Does he drive across town? Or have the Twins send a car? Or just Uber? Is light rail really that easy?
Yes, in this scenario, the Saints are the Twins’ Class AAA affiliate, simplifying call-ups and demotions while two organizations join forces to strengthen baseball’s footing in the Upper Midwest.
Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball are discussing an overhaul of the minor league system, and setting up geographically friendly affiliates is one goal. And the Saints sliding into the Twins’ network of affiliates is a possibility.
There are hurdles, but it’s possible.
MLB has suggested that 42 minor league teams be contracted as part of the restructuring. MiLB initially balked when first reports leaked in October, but these are vastly different economic times. In fact, sadly, contraction might not be needed for some minor league clubs because the pandemic will force them out of business anyway.
Talks between MLB and MiLB are ongoing.
A Baseball America report in October was the first to mention two independent teams — the Saints and the Sugar Land (Texas) Skeeters — as candidates to join affiliated baseball. Sugar Land is about 20 miles from Houston.
Can the Saints make the move to Class AAA?
CHS Field holds 7,500 fans, but crowds frequently shoot past capacity. The Saints averaged 8,060 fans per game last season, which was eighth in all of minor league baseball and more than the 6,846 fans averaged by the Twins’ Class AAA team in Rochester, N.Y.
Class AAA stadiums are required to seat at least 10,000, but there have been exceptions. The Saints probably would be able to get a waiver.
The ballpark is still in its infancy, and both the Saints and Twins believe there are proper training facilities there.
Twins fans could monitor prospects all summer long. The promotional advantages of a Twins-Saints collaboration are endless. By the way, Saints owners Marv Goldklang, Mike Veeck and Bill Murray once owned the Fort Myers Miracle, the Twins’ team in the Class A Florida State League. The Twins never complained about their wacky promotions then.
So … more group Twister!
Seems like many boxes are being checked here, but the devil is in the details.
As MiLB restructuring is being discussed, there’s a chance AAA teams become AA or Class A teams. And some Class A teams might move up a rung or two. Valuations are being placed on minor league clubs as a way to help compensate teams that are downgraded.
According to Baseball America, Class AAA is valued at $20 million, followed by Class AA at $15 million, high-A at $10 million, low-A at $8 million and short season leagues at $6 million.
A low-level Class A team would have to pay $12 million to move to AAA. If a Class AAA team wanted to drop to high-A it would get $10 million.
A big stumbling block for the Twins-Saints hookup is this: The Saints would have to write a $20 million check to become an affiliate.
That is very unlikely to happen.
There’s a chance that a more workable system is settled upon. Maybe the Saints can negotiate better terms. While the Saints aren’t salivating enough over becoming an affiliate to write an eight-figure check, the value of their franchise shoots up as soon as they become an affiliate.
If the geographical push comes to fruition, it would come at other costs. Nationally, 42 towns would lose baseball, and that’s troubling. Some could survive as independent teams.
For the Twins, it would end their association with Rochester, where they have been since 2003. They have had an excellent relationship with Silver family, who operates the Red Wings.
The Twins, however, have contemplated their options as minor league baseball is being altered. If the Saints don’t make the move, the Twins could look at Wichita, Kan. which is a Marlins affiliate. Sioux Falls, S.D., is hungry for baseball, but would need time to build a suitable stadium.
The Saints also have to weigh splitting with independent baseball after 27 years, and that won’t be easy. They cut their teeth on independent ball. Marv, Mike and Murray could opt to stay where they are and continue to sell out their stadium — and hold more group pillow fights.
But for now, as discussions continue, the window for the Twins and Saints to join forces is open.