Orioles out of Bluefield
The Orioles announced today that they will end their 53-season relationship with Bluefield, W.Va., where the club has its Rookie-level affiliate.
The Orioles have had a minor league team in Bluefield since 1958, and that's the longest such relationship between one parent club and a baseball town in affiliated baseball.
So in a sense this is a sad day, a historic break for the Orioles.
But let's not get carried away. For the Orioles, Bluefield had outlived its usefulness. The Orioles have two other short-season Single A affiliates in the Gulf Coast League Orioles, who play in Sarasota, Fla., the club''s minor league headquarters, and the Aberdeen IronBirds, who are an easy drive from Camden Yards.
Bluefield is a haul from Baltimore -- six hours plus in a car, I have been told, With most of the other minor league clubs closer, it sort of became the forgotten affiliate.
Bluefield will likely get another major league parent club while the Orioles will cut down their number of affiliates to six, which falls in line with some other teams. That means the Orioles will reduce the number of minor leaguers they employ -- they'll shuffle the Bluefield roster to other affiliates and pare the system a bit. That, too, makes sense. It's about quality, not quantity, and having too many players can be a strain on the development process.
Yes, Bluefield and the Orioles had plenty of history. But it is tough to get too worked up about this one.
Here's Andy MacPhail's prepared statement on the issue:
"On behalf of the Orioles, I wish to express our deepest appreciation to the town and residents of Bluefield for their support of the Orioles organization and over a thousand players who have worn the Bluefield Orioles uniform in the last 53 seasons. While extremely difficult, we believe the decision to end our affiliation with Bluefield is in the best interest of the franchise moving forward. The history of Orioles baseball is not complete without Bluefield, and we have enormous respect and gratitude for the club and the community that helped launch the careers of legends such as Cal Ripken Jr. and Boog Powell. We hope and expect that the next organization in Bluefield enjoys as long and as productive a relationship as we have enjoyed.”