Sunday January 17th, 2021 8:12PM

Jackson loses team as affiliated minors shrink to 120

By The Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — Jackson, Tennessee, lost its Double-A baseball team for next season, one of 40 cities dropped as professional affiliates as Major League Baseball went through with its plan to cut to 120 farm teams.

The New York-Penn League, which started in 1939, was eliminated and the Pioneer League, founded the same year, lost its affiliated status and became an independent partner league. The Appalachian League was converted to a college summer circuit for rising freshmen and sophomores.

Each franchise’s top four affiliates will include one team apiece at Triple-A, Double-A, High-A and Low-A. Additional clubs are allowed at spring training complexes and in the Dominican Republic.

Jackson had fielded a Double-A team since 1998, first as a farm team of the Chicago Cubs through 2006, then of Seattle through 2016 and Arizona since 2017. The Amarillo Sod Poodles will switch to the Diamondbacks from San Diego, and the San Antonio Missions from Milwaukee to the Padres, dropping down from Triple-A.

“If we have the necessary advocacy, Major League Baseball has stated a commitment to provide sustainable opportunities for the Jackson Generals to maintain professional baseball,” Generals general manager Marcus Sabata said in a statement. “We will wait, respectfully, for more clarity and for the process to play out while continuing to advocate for, and invest in, the city of Jackson and the state of Tennessee.”

MLB ended the Professional Baseball Agreement that governed the relationship between the majors and minors. The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, which had governed the minors since 1901, is closing down, and the minors will be run from MLB's office in New York under the supervision of Peter Woodfork, MLB's new senior vice president of minor league operations and development.

Washington is dropping the Fresno Grizzlies in California as its Triple-A team in favor of Rochester, New York, which had been affiliated with Minnesota. The Twins’ Triple-A team will be the St. Paul Saints, which had been an independent team.

The Saints, one of the rare independent clubs to become a farm team, play at 7,000-seat CHS Field, a 5-year-old ballpark about 11 miles east of Target Field at the other end of a light rail line. CHS Field served as Minnesota’s alternate training site during the pandemic-altered 2020 season.

Minnesota moved its Double-A affiliate from Pensacola, Florida, to Wichita, Kansas.

“We have long admired the creative excellence of Marv Goldklang, Mike Veeck and their team in making the Saints one of America’s most successful minor league brands,” Twins president Dave St. Peter said. “We are incredibly excited at the thought of Minnesota baseball fans having the opportunity to watch their favorite Twins prospects as they wear the Saints uniform and play at gorgeous CHS Field. Simply put, a Twins-Saints partnership would not only be historic, but a wonderful boon for baseball in the Twin Cities and beyond.”

Frenso, California, will wind up as the Low-A team of Colorado, according to the Fresno City Council. The Rockies were planning to terminate their affiliation with Lancaster, California.

Major league teams issued 119 invitations Wednesday, and the Rockies then became the final franchise to settle its alignment when the Fresno City Council approved the deal.

The Frederick Keys of the Carolina League also lost professional status. The team, which had been a Baltimore affiliate, will be part of the Draft League that was announced last month for prospects ahead of the amateur draft.

The Nashville Sounds of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League reunite with Milwaukee, its parent club from 2005-14, from Texas. Rock Round rejoins the Rangers after two seasons with Houston, and the Sugar Land Skeeters move to the PCL from the independent Atlantic League to become Houston’s top farm team.

The Jacksonville Shrimp move up from Double-A to Triple-A with the Miami Marlins. The Wichita Wind Surge, who were to have started as Miami’s Triple-A team in the pandemic-canceled 2020 season, will drop a level to affiliate with the Twins. The team had been the Marlins’ Triple-A New Orleans Baby Cakes through 2019.

Binghamton, New York, which had been targeted for elimination, will remain as the New York Mets’ Double-A team.

“This result is nothing short of a home run,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who is minority leader.

The Brooklyn Cyclones shift from the New York-Penn League to the new High-A full season Mid-Atlantic League and remain with the Mets. As part of the changes announced by the Yankees last month, short-season Staten Island is being dropped along with Double-A Trenton, New Jersey, which will be replaced by Somerset, New Jersey. Trenton will join the Draft League.

Hudson Valley moves from Tampa Bay’s New York-Penn team to the Yankees’ Mid-Atlantic League team, while Lansing stays in the Midwest League and shifts from Toronto to Oakland. The Augusta GreenJackets of the South Atlantic League shift to Atlanta from San Francisco, and the Asheville Tourists switch to Houston from Colorado.

The Florida State League and California League shift to Low-A from High-A.


AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell and Teresa Walker contributed to this report.


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