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Redrawing the MiLB Map: An Update

On Monday, we published a piece detailing how MLB’s proposal to reimagine the minor leagues would alter in-person access to professional baseball across the country. We were interested in how many people would lose their ability to watch affiliated baseball in person, or see that access shift from the minor leagues to more expensive major league parks. To arrive at those numbers:

[W]e took the geographical center of each ZCTA (a close relative of ZIP Codes used by the Census Bureau). We calculated the distance as the crow flies from each ZCTA to each ballpark in America, both in 2019 and in MLB’s proposed new landscape. From there, we took the minimum of all of those distances for each ZCTA. That gave us the shortest distance to baseball for each geographical center. We then matched the distance with the population of each area.

In the piece, we acknowledged the limitations of linear distance. It doesn’t account for natural barriers, like say, mountains or lakes, or things like the placement of roads. And, as several folks pointed out on twitter and in the comments, not all road conditions are created equally. How long it takes to drive 50 miles in the Washington D.C. metro area varies widely from how long that same distance takes in rural Montana. What’s more, residents of those respective areas likely view a 50 mile drive differently; if you have to travel a ways to go grocery shopping, your understanding of how burdensome a 100 mile drive to your “local” minor league ballpark is probably different than it is for someone who lives in a place with a meaningful rush hour and amenities that are closer at hand. So while linear distance is a good approximation of how the access landscape would change in the new minor leagues, we wanted to take a stab at being a bit more precise. Read the rest of this entry »

Take Me Out to the Ballgame? Mapping the New MiLB Landscape

In October, Baseball America and The New York Times reported on a proposal from Major League Baseball that, if enacted, would dramatically reimagine the minor leagues. The proposal was the opening salvo of the League’s negotiations with Minor League Baseball over a new Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA), the agreement that governs the relationship between MLB and minor league teams, and includes plans to shift the timing of the amateur draft, realign parent-club affiliations, league geographies, and levels in some cases, and eliminate 42 teams. In justifying the shift, MLB pointed to a desire to improve minor league compensation and playing conditions, reduce burdensome travel, and elevate the facility standards of minor league parks. Those are worthy goals, though the fact that many of them could be accomplished within the existing minor league structure by simply spending more money suggests that this move may be one that is also motivated by cost-savings and efficiency, rather than just concern for minor leaguers on long bus rides.

Earlier this month, the Times revealed which teams are currently slated for closure under MLB’s proposal. Those teams, along with their 2019 total attendance figures are listed in the sortable table below:

Proposed MiLB Affiliate Closures
Team Class Parent Club Location League 2019 Attendance
Auburn Doubledays SS-A Nationals Auburn, NY NYPL 39,381
Batavia Muckdogs SS-A Marlins Batavia, NY NYPL 43,118
Billings Mustangs Rookie Reds Billings, MT PIO 96,594
Binghamton Rumble Ponies AA Mets Binghamton, NY Eastern 182,990
Bluefield Blue Jays Rookie Jays Bluefield, WV Appy 20,909
Bristol Pirates Rookie Pirates Bristol, VA Appy 18,750
Burlington Bees A Angels Burlington, IA Midwest 67,369
Burlington Royals Rookie Royals Burlington, NC Appy 40,142
Chattanooga Lookouts AA Reds Chattanooga, TN Southern 228,662
Clinton LumberKings A Marlins Clinton, IA Midwest 121,325
Connecticut Tigers SS-A Tigers Norwich, CT NYPL 66,532
Danville Braves Rookie Braves Danville, VA Appy 30,007
Daytona Tortugas Adv A Reds Daytona Beach, FL Florida State 137,570
Elizabethton Twins Rookie Twins Elizabethton, TN Appy 27,569
Erie SeaWolves AA Tigers Erie, PA Eastern 215,444
Florida Fire Frogs Adv A Braves Kissimmee, FL Florida State 19,615
Frederick Keys Adv A Orioles Frederick, MD Carolina 263,528
Grand Junction Rockies Rookie Rockies Grand Junction, CO PIO 88,476
Great Falls Voyagers Rookie White Sox Great Falls, MT PIO 43,920
Greeneville Reds Rookie Reds Greeneville, TN Appy 43,617
Hagerstown Suns A Nationals Hagerstown, MD SAL 59,682
Idaho Falls Chukars Rookie Royals Idaho Falls, ID PIO 102,859
Jackson Generals AA D-backs Jackson, TN Southern 107,131
Johnson City Cardinals Rookie Cardinals Johnson City, TN Appy 80,612
Kingsport Mets Rookie Mets Kingsport, TN Appy 29,553
Lancaster JetHawks Adv A Rockies Lancaster, CA California 161,595
Lexington Legends A Royals Lexington, KY SAL 270,221
Lowell Spinners SS-A Red Sox Lowell, MA NYPL 100,687
Mahoning Valley Scrappers SS-A Indians Niles, OH NYPL 98,833
Missoula PaddleHeads Rookie D-backs Missoula, MT PIO 57,076
Ogden Raptors Rookie Dodgers Ogden, UT PIO 146,201
Orem Owlz Rookie Angels Orem, UT PIO 45,561
Princeton Rays Rookie Rays Princeton, WV Appy 24,133
Quad Cities River Bandits A Astros Davenport, IA Midwest 150,905
Rocky Mountain Vibes Rookie Brewers Colorado Springs, CO PIO 137,294
Salem-Keizer Volcanoes SS-A Giants Keizer, OR NWL 80,833
State College Spikes SS-A Cardinals State College, PA NYPL 119,047
Staten Island Yankees SS-A Yankees Staten Island, NY NYPL 66,520
Tri-City Dust Devils SS-A Padres Pasco, WA NWL 87,021
Vermont Lake Monsters SS-A A’s Winooski, VT NYPL 83,122
West Virginia Power A Mariners Charleston, WV SAL 118,444
Williamsport Crosscutters SS-A Phillies Williamsport, PA NYPL 64,148
Attendance numbers courtesy of Ballpark Digest. SS-A = Short Season-A ball; Appy = Appalachian League, NYPL= New York-Penn League, NWL = Northwest League, PIO= Pioneer League, SAL = South Atlantic League.

With a more specific list of affiliates in hand, we wondered how these closures would affect access to professional baseball across the country. Read the rest of this entry »