Through the Trenton Thunder’s brief existence, the club has already been the Eastern League affiliate to the Tigers, Red Sox and Yankees, serving as launching pad for such starlets as Tony Clark, Nomar Garciaparra, Trot Nixon, Carl Pavano and uh, Ron Mahay. According to this item from Jersey Baseball’s Dan Chicalski (liberally borrowed from the exceedingly talented Lupe Velez of Soft Hands), there’s a possibility, however remote, the Yankees and Phillies could be moving Double A affiliates. The Melkeys Of Tomorrow in Lakewood, NJ?
I haven’t caught up with any of my contacts lately, so I’m not sure where these rumors began, but this would be interesting, wouldn’t it? The Double-A affiliate of the Yankees becomes the Lakewood BlueClaws, a new entry into the Eastern League, one that would severely cut down on the BlueClaws’ travels. Instead of planning trips as far as the Cleveland suburbs, Lexington, and Georgia, they’d be more confined — with Portland, Me.; Akron, Ohio; and Bowie, Md., the most far-flung destinations.
And how about the Phillies’ affiliate in Trenton? With Finley’s expected new team in Allentown, Pa., to become Philadelphia’s Triple-A affiliate, they’d have their top two clubs in two of the city’s closest suburbs.
But here are the problems with the rumors, the reasons why it’s an extremely long shot for any of this to happen. Basically, these moves can’t be made in a vacuum. You can’t just make Lakewood the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate and Trenton the Phillies’. There are other clubs and allignments that would have to be taken into consideration.
The most obvious is that the Phillies already have their Double-A club in Reading, just 59 miles down the Pennsylvania Turnpike. And they’ve been affiliates since 1967, one of the longest — could be the longest; I’d have to look into it more — current affiliations in baseball. Reading is decidedly Phillie Country; Trenton, even if it’s almost half the distance from Philly, will always have a smattering of Yankees and Mets fans, no matter whose affiliate the Thunder are.
The other big snag is that you can’t just expand the Eastern League. For the BlueClaws to become a Double-A club — which could happen someday, certainly — Finley and his partners would have to purchase an Eastern League franchise, which they’d then “move” to Lakewood. (They would then sell their South Atlantic League franchise to another city that fits for that league, perhaps an expansion city.)
Pork Chop Pough was unavailable for comment.