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Can Syracuse be a Match?

Top Nats officials today were up in my old college town, home of great barbecue, God-awful football, and snow that makes the grass a mere rumor straight up until late April. And if Washington has its way, the Syracuse Chiefs will be the team's Class AAA affiliate next year. Owner Mark Lerner, President Stan Kasten and GM Jim Bowden took the grand tour of Alliance Bank Stadium, discussed the possible relocation, and later came away believing that Syracuse is the best option.

For the last two years, the Nats have been affiliated with Columbus. But now Columbus has joined up with the Indians, setting up a whole scenario that brings to mind the dating scene on "90210" -- a small circle drops hands and looks for new partners.

From what I'm gathering, the Chiefs (who've long been affiliated with Toronto) actually would most prefer an affiliation with the Mets. But it looks like the Mets are heading to Buffalo, and an announcement on that agreement could come by Monday. Meanwhile, Syracuse officials are also hosting the Florida Marlins this weekend -- so indeed, no Washington-Syracuse agreement has yet been reached.

"We're in discussions right now," Bowden said today. "We don't have anything to announce at this time, but I think it will be a tremendous place for us, for our Class AAA club, and certainly would make a lot of sense for us. Geographically, it's obviously very close to Washington as far as the flight goes. And more importantly, a lot of the games are within one or two hours bus ride from there."

I saw some questions here yesterday about whether Washington retains rights to its players/coaches during a relocation. The answer is Yes on both accounts. Basically, a switch from Columbus to Syracuse will mean new hats, new unis, a new stadium and a new airport to get used to.

The travel, especially, makes Syracuse ideal. It's located right along Interstate 81, just like Class AA affiliate Harrisburg. And, the Chiefs play in the International League, an eastern-based league where the travel demands are fairly light. In the Pacific Coast League, on the other hard, where teams are spaced out from Portland to New Orleans, the travel is rigorous. Bowden said the team would most likely enter into a two-year commitment.

Also, today, the Nats signed two-year to their contracts with Class A Hagerstown and short-season Class A Vermont.

By Chico Harlan  |  September 18, 2008; 7:25 PM ET
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Next: Thoughts from Bowden on 2008 and Beyond


Going to my first game at the new park the 21st. What is the parking like. I see on the Nats website that there are a few parking lots available (HH is my first pick). What is it like? Is it a long/safe walk too stadium? Any info would be great. Thanks

Posted by: SLB | September 18, 2008 8:01 PM | Report abuse

Schneider vs: Milledge: that trade's looking pretty good for the Mets tonight

Posted by: brent | September 18, 2008 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Parking is fine, Metro is better.

Posted by: WFY | September 18, 2008 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Santana's tough enough as he is without the dumb umpire giving him the strike call on anything that's even in the remote vicinity of the plate. This is painful.

Posted by: BSG | September 18, 2008 8:17 PM | Report abuse

I went to see the SkyChiefs a few years ago, and the stadium is lousy. (At least when I was there) it was a nasty plastic green astroturf with an amazing patchwork of lines crisscrossing the field for everything from soccer to field hockey.

And for the argument that it makes geographical sense? Have you seen a map? One of the great values of a minor league franchise - particularly AAA - is that it expands the fan base, the market, the territory for the big league team. The Yankees' AAA affiliate is in Scranton, less than two hour drive. The Phillies AAA affiliate is in Allentown, an hour drive from Citizens Bank Park. The O's dominate the Chesapeake, from Norfolk in the south to Delmarva and Aberdeen further north.

Syracuse? Six plus hours from the District (only about 30 minutes shorter drive than Columbus). What about Richmond? Crappy stadium, but close. Can't help but expand the fan base and media market a little bit. Perhaps two years in Syracuse could be used to negotiate a deal with the Richmond City Council about a new stadium . . .

Posted by: Chris | September 18, 2008 8:25 PM | Report abuse

"And for the argument that it makes geographical sense? Have you seen a map?"

Syracuse makes more sense geographically than the other option still on the table, Las Vegas. Wouldn't you agree?

And as for Richmond, not only would the city need to be convinced to build a new stadium but the owner of the Syracuse franchise or some other franchise would need to be convinced to move his team there. Two separate and distinct actions that would need to take place. So would any possibility of the Nationals acquiring their own AAA franchise a la the Braves be distinct from Richmond deciding to build a new stadium.

Posted by: i'm not the real RKGF/419+1, but I know who she is | September 18, 2008 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Good Grief!! FLOP is batting cleanup behind Albert Pujols tonight AND the Reds pitched to Pujols (homerun). That should be grounds for firing both managers. LaRussa for writing that lineup and Baker for not intentionally walking Pujols.

Posted by: NatBisquit | September 18, 2008 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Lot HH is a long walk. Fork up the extra $5 and park in T.

Posted by: NatBisquit | September 18, 2008 8:45 PM | Report abuse

What would Langerhans say about Dinosaur Barbeque?

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | September 18, 2008 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Chris: To echo nrRKGF - For the Nationals to move their AAA franchise to Richmond, they would have to purchase the franchise, negotiate membership into the International League, ramp up & staff the FO & team, maintain the existing stadium, etc, etc, etc. From a financial standpoint (for the Lerners' & anyone else except the Steinbrenner family), that would be lunacy. Syracuse is the best available franchise choice, unless we could out-negotiate the Mets for Buffalo (unlikely).

Posted by: BIM | September 18, 2008 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Comment from previous string - If the Nats can't afford / land what CC or Sheets' asking price ends up as, why not focus on a pitcher at the Dempster / Lowe level? Both have shown the capability to perform at a solid #1 level (Lowe more than Dempster), and might be signable at a more palatable cost than either of the primary targets. That would give the team a viable #1 (non-ace) status starting pitcher to go along with Lannan, Redding (arbitration), Balestar, & whoever survives Spring Training as the #5.

Posted by: BIM | September 18, 2008 9:33 PM | Report abuse

@NatBisquit: No, that just proves that LaRussa is good at guessing & Baker has no clue how to handle a pitching staff (like that hasn't been proved with SF & CHC).

Posted by: BIM | September 18, 2008 9:41 PM | Report abuse

And don't we wish Dukes was still in the game at this point?

Posted by: BIM | September 18, 2008 9:52 PM | Report abuse

does anyone know why Milledge and Dukes were taken out of the game. Are they hurt or did they do something wrong. I cannot believe Acta would "throw" the game for his beloved Mets.

Posted by: mjames | September 18, 2008 11:39 PM | Report abuse

According to Manny's answer in his post-game press conference, he took Milledge and Dukes out just because he thought they could use a blow.

Posted by: yes, he said a blow. what are you guys, twelve? | September 18, 2008 11:44 PM | Report abuse

another brilliant move by Acta - clueless

Posted by: mjames | September 19, 2008 12:27 AM | Report abuse

Manny also took Guzman out of the game for no reason--it was not a smart double switch to flip the 2 and 9 spots at that point in the game, and it did not benefit them strategically at all.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | September 19, 2008 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Welcome to the club, folks.

Posted by: The Micromanagers Association of America | September 19, 2008 7:39 AM | Report abuse

Say, how about a merger?

Posted by: Armchair Managers Association of America | September 19, 2008 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Why MLB and MiLB don't come up with an agreement so that all minor-league clubs are within three hours' driving (not flying -- DRIVING) distance of the parent club is beyond me.

Posted by: Juan-John | September 19, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

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