Where the situation in Buffalo is relatively clear cut (see my babble from a few weeks back), the saga that is the Binghamton Mets is a bit more convoluted, and rife with rumors, suppositions, and innuendos.
As with every impending expiration of the player development contracts, professionals and novices alike like to begin playing Monday morning quarterback with the franchises they deem as ‘weaker’. They go to the official league websites, look at the total attendance statistics, and unnaturally assume that because Team A isn’t drawing like they think they should, well then they must be on the move to greener pastures.
This is very much what happened last fall in Binghamton. The PDC between Flushing and Binghamton expires at the end of 2012 – that is fact. What follows from there, however, is anyone’s guess, and guess they have ad nauseum. To try and sum everything up, I present this timeline:
In October of 2011 ballparksdigest.com penned this on their website:
“Beacon Sports Capital Partners recently asked Ottawa city officials about a ballpark lease for a Minor League Baseball team. Though city officials won’t identify the team or the league, we’re told there have been serious negotiations to buy the Binghamton Mets (Class AA; Eastern League) and move the team to Ottawa as soon as 2013, should a new lease be arranged.”
A news article that appeared in the Ottawa Sun at the same time stated:
“…speculation quickly suggested the Binghamton, New York, franchise might be earmarked for Ottawa.”
Binghamton Mets President Michael Urda was quick to refute both claims, and in an article that appeared in the Press & Sun-Bulletin on November 2nd:
“I don’t know anything about that,” Urda said Tuesday afternoon. “These are the same media sources that had us moving to Nassau County.”
The article went on to state:
“In regard to the latest report concerning Ottawa, Urda denied that any negotiations were ongoing.
“People may want to talk to us, but they haven’t. Nobody has talked to us ,” he said.
The New York Mets feelings in regards to Binghamton were addressed in the article as well:
“We always planned to have a team here in Binghamton,” (Jeff) Wilpon said then (late August 2011). “There’s no issue with that. We spoke to them (the owners in Binghamton), and told them that.”
Winter hit, and the rumor mill slowed. That is, until February 9, 2012. That’s when yet another article appeared in the Ottawa Sun stating:
“Beacon Sports has been representing the Binghamton Mets of the Double-A Eastern League, but the city is not mentioning which team would be relocating to Ottawa”
Interestingly enough, the article continued with this tidbit (remember this part for a little later in the blog post):
“Councillors Rick Chiarelli and Bob Monette both said a Toronto Blue Jays affiliation is critical to the long-term viability of baseball in Ottawa.”
This time around, the news hit the national scene, reported on in the New York Post and also by Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, who stated:
“The Binghamton Mets will be no more after the 2012 season, the Ottawa Citizen reports.
Beacon Sports Capital Partners is buying the Double-A team and moving it to Ottawa, according to the newspaper.
With the Mets’ affiliation agreement expiring with Binghamton after 2012, it would not mean the Mets will be playing Eastern League baseball in Ottawa in ’13 if the report is accurate. In fact, the report states Ottawa is likely to align with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Instead, it means the Mets would be looking for a new Double-A affiliate for the 2013 season — like they were when they relocated from New Orleans to Buffalo for Triple-A ball for the 2009 season.”
Once again, the ownership of the Binghamton Mets had to go on the defensive. This time, they came out swinging as they should:
“”The Binghamton Mets have not been sold, and we have not been contacted by anyone interested in our club,” Urda angrily said. “There’s 12 teams in the Eastern League and we have to address it every single week … Enough’s enough”
The first crack in the armor of AA baseball leaving Binghamton and heading north of the border came from the same website that first blogged about reports of it occurring in the first place. From ballparkdigest.com on May 4th:
“Here’s the situation, which we’ve cobbled together after discussions with several MiLB team owners. First: there was never a local group seeking to bring an Eastern League team to Ottawa: the entire move was engineered by Beacon Sports Capital Partners, which also works as a MiLB team broker. Beacon had been identified by Ottawa press outlets as representing the interests of a potential buyer, but that’s not entirely true: Beacon Sports has been working to drum up interest in the Ottawa market and was working as the broker on a potential deal if a buyer emerged.”
“But there never was a serious buyer for the team. Things like ticket drives and corporate sponsors were designed to pull a potential buyer from the woodwork, but so far no one has been willing to step up for serious talks.”
That would be the proverbial ‘strike one’. Now for strike two, and this is a fastball right down the middle; announced today, the following is from the New Hampshire Fisher Cats official website:
“The New Hampshire Fisher Cats and the Toronto Blue Jays today announced a two-year extension of their Player Development Contract (PDC), ensuring the Fisher Cats will remain the Blue Jays’ Double-A affiliate throughthe 2014 season.”
Strike two Monday morning quarterbacks, strike two. Everyone that threw a rumor out there hung the success in Ottawa on an affiliation with the Toronto Blue Jays, and that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
In all of this, the New York Mets brass have maintained that they are happy with the relationship with Binghamton. Currently in their 21st season of affiliation, it’s clear that the two organizations get along well. The New York Mets are concerned with developing players, the Binghamton Mets give them a venue to do so in that is close to both Flushing and Buffalo. Even though the impact on Binghamton as far as attendance is concerned is evident – down 25% at this point in the season compared to last (a direct impact on the unwarranted negative press during the off season) – New York’s main concern is the players on the field, not the butts in the seats.
Strike three in the equation would come in the form of a press conference in Binghamton announcing an extension of the player development contract between New York and the B-Mets, but as of yet this has not occurred. In years past, the press conference to announce such a deal has been a moving target. The current PDC was announced in April of 2010. After the 2000 season, it took the two clubs until January of 2001 to announce a new deal. I could only surmise that a delay in such an announcement has been in part because of the rumors that have been swirling about the team. For the sake of the team at the gate, if a new player development contract is to be signed, hopefully the two organizations do it sooner rather than later. The dust seems to be settling, and the rumors seem to be refuted by actual news reports, it’s time for the B-Mets to live on a few more seasons.