This won’t wait until the usual Thursday night time slot because it’s good news!
The game of minor league musical chairs has finally come to an end, and the Shorebirds are in the same chair they started in – however, the party arrangement is going to be significantly different.
Today it was officially announced that the Delmarva squad has been extended an invitation to remain as the class A affiliate of the Orioles – an invitation they would be foolish to turn down, considering their former mates in the Orioles chain up in Frederick were frozen out, demoted to a new MLB Draft League consisting of draft-eligible college players and playing a short season of about 68 games against several former NY-Penn League teams.
Instead, players promoted from the Shorebirds will indeed be returning to Aberdeen, which hopscotched Delmarva to become the Orioles’ new high-A team, perhaps in a new league that will cover the Northeast. (At this point, there are only five high-A teams in the region, which means they may instead be a division in a larger league.)
However, the South Atlantic League as we know it is no more. Several of the teams in the 2019 version of the league were promoted themselves to the high-A level:
- promoted to High-A: Asheville (Col to Hou), Greensboro (stays Pit), Greenville (stays Bos), Hickory (stays Tex), Jersey Shore (formerly Lakewood, stays Pha), and Rome (stays Atl).
- SAL (A ball): Augusta (SF to Atl), Charleston (NYY to TB), Columbia (NYM to KC), Kannapolis (stays ChiW), and Delmarva.
- no affiliation: Hagerstown, Lexington, West Virginia
So we have no chance to avenge our 2019 playoff loss to Hickory. Bummer. Even more so: Lexington will be involuntarily retired as two-time defending SAL champion.
In turn, the revised SAL gains former Carolina League teams: Carolina (Mil), Down East (Tex), Fayetteville (Hou), Fredericksburg (formerly Potomac, stays Was), Lynchburg (Cle), Myrtle Beach (ChiC), and Salem (Bos).
This would mean the new SAL goes no farther north than Fredericksburg and Delmarva and no farther south than Augusta. I could see this as an arrangement:
Southern Division: Augusta, Charleston, Columbia, Fayetteville, Kannapolis, Myrtle Beach
Northern Division: Carolina, Delmarva, Down East, Fredericksburg, Lynchburg, Salem
They could also create a Central Division of four teams out of Carolina, Down East, Fayetteville, and Kannapolis. It would put Delmarva in the Northern Division with three Virginia teams.
There’s a lot to like about this rearrangement in that it eliminates some of the longer travel runs for the Shorebirds, although they are now the outpost of the new league as Maryland’s only team. One big difference: we will no longer see some familiar affiliates such as the Phillies, Yankees, Pirates, or Mets. On the other hand, we will again see Cleveland’s and Tampa Bay’s youngsters for the first time in a decade, and the Cubs farmhands for the first time in my memory.
So the waiting is over. Now we need to see what kind of season we will have in 2021.