Last week, Minor League Baseball announced two huge moves within the High-A level. The California League franchises in Bakersfield and Adelanto (Bakersfield Blaze and High Desert Mavericks, respectively) will fold at the end of the 2016. Their player development contracts would not be renewed, and two new Carolina League teams would rise in Fayetteville and Kinston. That would leave the Cal League with only 8 teams, whereas the Carolina League would grow to 10. The Florida State League would stay at 12 teams, the largest of the three leagues.
Bakersfield had a plan for a privately developed ballpark a few years ago, but the financing never materialized. Next, Salinas tried to lure the team north. That too went nowhere. With no relocation sites on the horizon, Bakersfield was on the clock to replace antiquated Sam Lynn Ballpark. The LA Times’ Bill Shaikin wrote an obituary on the 75 years of baseball in Bakersfield, a city of 300,000 that also lost its NBDL (D-League) franchise earlier this year. As for the fate of the westward-facing ballpark, the city’s trying to figure that out. Bakersfield’s exit makes San Jose Municipal Stadium the oldest remaining venue in the Cal League.
In tiny Adelanto, fewer tears are being shed over the Mavericks. The city even went to the lengths of threatening to evict the team over tensions related to the Mavericks’ onerous $1-a-year stadium lease. Instead, they made a deal with the San Bernardino County Fair to reuse Mavericks Stadium, a facility that opened in 1991. 25 years? It’s been a good – albeit sparsely attended – run.
It’s important to note that these contractions and expansions would not have been possible if not for both teams being in dire straits. No avenues remained in California, with Salinas fizzling out and Chico seemingly satisfied for now with independent ball. The serial, everyday scheduling of baseball makes it impractical to contract only a single team. Whether we’re talking the California League or the American League, it would take two teams to contract. And in the American League, that’s a payout that could reach $1.5 billion, though it should be noted that contraction is not in the cards for the next round of CBA negotiations.
Baseball America’s podcast last week covered the Bakersfield/High Desert contractions in great detail, with hosts John Manuel and J.J. Cooper talking about what ailed the markets, along with the issues facing California in general – including our own Oakland Athletics. It’s worth a listen.