The Yankees’ current Triple-A franchise is anchored in the twin cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, an area in northeast Pennsylvania that has always supported baseball on some level. But the Yankees organization decided that PNC Field, the Triple-A team’s home park, is in desperate need of renovation. The job will take all of 2012.
And back in New York, management came up with a magnificent public relations idea. Newark had been the bellwether of all Yankee minor league teams dating as far back as when Jacob Ruppert was paying Babe Ruth’s salary across the river. Newark, through horrendous mismanagement, has seen its minor league team dissolve.
Newark has a ballpark. With that in mind, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman visited the city’s Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium, which does need work. He met with Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo. Together, they hammered out an agreement that could be done for the least money.
To understand the mechanics of what followed, you have to understand that Major League Baseball has a 90-year-old Supreme Court ruling giving it an antitrust exemption. The Boy Scouts of America have no such exemption. The NFL, NBA and NHL have no such blanket exemption. Chains of cloistered nuns or Trappist monasteries do not have an antitrust exemption.
Under baseball’s rules, the exclusivity of the Yankees and Mets territory is shared. The Yankees called the Mets and asked permission to put their Triple-A team in Newark for only a single year.
The Mets declined.
The Yankees tried again. They pointed out that it was only for a single year.
The Mets declined again.
The Yankees tried once more. They repeated that this was just for a single year. They said that if the Mets agreed for just that one season they would offer an evergreen matching proposal. In essence, they would give the Mets the same shot if they had a team with a minor league park in jeopardy, no matter how many eons into the future.
The Mets declined, saying their organization would only do something like that with mutual and immediate reciprocity as they did when the Yanks put a minor league team in Staten Island and allowed the Mets to do the same in Brooklyn.
But those were permanent moves. This was only for a year, the Yankees argued. They also offered a permanent waiver if a similar situation ever arose for the Mets. In addition, there was Yankee money involved in this final offer.
And once again, the Mets declined.
Today, DiVincenzo thanked the Yankees for their consideration and Brian Cashman, the Yankee GM, for his “professionalism.” But he could not hide his obvious disappointment:
“Unfortunately, the Mets exercised their territorial rights to block this temporary partnership and have prevented the chance for baseball fans to come to Newark and Essex County to watch players in minor league baseball’s highest classification on their way up to the major leagues. It would have rejuvenated interest in one of the highest levels of the sport in an important urban area.”
One of the concerns that influenced the Mets was their belief that a minor league team in Newark might have weaned potential Mets fans away from the affluent New Jersey suburbs.
Man, are the Mutts looking like big league arse-holes for making this call. And, if I’m the Yankees, I file this one away – but never forget it. And, the first time that they have the chance to screw the Mets in the future, the Yankees should call upon this memory and stick it to the Mets…right between the ears.