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Big League Stew

Mets put kibosh on Scranton Yankees relocation to Newark

Rob Iracane
Big League Stew

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With yearlong renovations looming at PNC Field in Scranton-Wilkes Barre, the New York Yankees need a temporary home for their eponymous Triple-A affiliate. Unfortunately, not even Michael Scott's  ex-girlfriend and local Scranton real estate agent Carol can seem to find them a new home in the greater Tri-State area.

See, Major League Baseball has a convenient anti-trust exemption that allows its member organizations to control entire swaths of the country. It's this rule that prevents the Athletics from closing up shop in Oakland and moving to San Jose without the San Francisco Giants signing off on it. It's this rule that allowed Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos to reap huge financial benefits in exchange for letting Major League Baseball relocate the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C.

So when the Yankees came knocking in nearby Newark, New Jersey, home of the struggling independent Newark Bears and their downtown stadium, the other area team, the New York Mets, blocked the move.

Despite the temporary relocation being planned for just one season, the Mets, who share the greater New York territory with the Yankees, objected, saying it wasn't a quid pro quo move like when both teams introduced Low-A clubs in Staten Island and Brooklyn a few years back. Up-and-coming Newark has a perfectly good baseball park right near public transportation and close enough to major highways, and a new parking garage that would be an ideal showcase for a big-time minor-league team like the Scranton Yankees.

Newark has a rich history of professional baseball, too. From 1932 to 1949, the city served as the host of the Bears, the Yankees' affiliate in the International League, and saw many legendary players pass through Ruppert Stadium in the old Ironbound neighborhood. Hall of Fame players Yogi Berra and Joe Gordon played for the Bears before being called up to the majors. Newark was also home to the Negro League-affiliated Eagles, who count Larry Doby, Biz Mackey and Don Newcombe as alumni.

So why would the Mets not allow such a simple request to go through? The Newark Star-Ledger's longtime sports columnist Jerry Izenberg put it best: {YSP:MORE}

Perhaps the Mets have a point. At 23 games out of first place, they are farther back than all but three other National League teams. A minor league team in Newark could be a problem to the current "minor league" team at Citi Field.

Ouch. It's true, though. The Mets, despite playing 25 miles away from Newark (an approximate five-hour drive in rush hour traffic), depend on the Northern New Jersey cities and towns to populate their already shrinking fan base. Having lost fans to their local rivals during the recent Yankees dynasty, even the appearance of a big-time minor-league team could usurp more support from a team struggling to fill seats at Citi Field.

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