BEHIND THE PLATE: Sacramento new home to Giants’ Triple-A affilate
Start circling the Sacramento River Cats when they visit Reno next season.
They’re the new affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
After spending 17 years with the Fresno Grizzlies, the Giants severed ties with the San Joaquin Valley club and moved the Triple-A affiliate north along Interstate 5 to Raley Field where Sacramento was home to the Oakland Athletics’ Triple-A squad.
Where does that leave Oakland? Back east in Tennessee where the A’s will now be under contract with the Nashville Sounds as they open up a brand-new stadium for the 2015 season.
Every now and then, you see shuffling among minor-league teams, whether it’s at the highest level with Triple-A down to the lowest of short-season teams. But Thursday’s shakeup has both positive and negative consequences.
The Giants benefit greatly from the move because Sacramento is about a 90-minute drive to AT&T Park, while Fresno was at least double the time. Many transactions occur during the season, ranging from bringing players up through the ranks to major leaguers doing a rehab assignment. But when Oakland’s player-development contract with the River Cats ended this week, a golden opportunity arose for the Giants.
“Truthfully, the proximity between Sacramento and AT&T Park, when you have so many player moves that take place between your Triple-A club and Major League team, it was just very difficult to pass up an opportunity to get that close to our Triple-A club,” Giants assistant general manager Bobby Evans told the Sacramento media on Thursday.
While the contract with Sacramento is only two years, the A’s will be in Nashville for four seasons and the Houston Astros will now move to Fresno. The Astros’ old affiliate, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, signed a contract with the Dodgers.
It was definitely too good of an opportunity to pass for San Francisco, but Oakland suffers because Sacramento didn’t want them anymore. Sacramento wanted to house the Giants and even though the A’s tried to extend the contract, the River Cats wouldn’t budge, ending a competitive rivalry with the Reno Aces.
The River Cats were affiliated with the A’s for the last 15 seasons after they moved from Canada in 2000. Sacramento won 11 divisional and four Pacific Coast League titles and even led the league in attendance in eight of the last 10 seasons.
The Aces, though, don’t suffer any direct impact from the deal except that their I-80 rival is now two time zones away. Reno will become the favorite in this division beginning next season after coming one win away from winning the PCL title against Omaha last week.
For all the Giants fans in the area, once this two-year deal ends with Sacramento, don’t be surprised if Reno becomes an option if the River Cats and Giants can’t work out a new deal, like the A’s. Before the first pitch at Aces Ballpark, the idea of the Giants moving from Fresno to Reno wasn’t totally off the table. If things didn’t work out between the Aces and Diamondbacks, leaving Reno open for a new suitor, a three-hour drive from Reno to the Bay Area could have been an option for the Giants.
Instead, in this rendition of musical teams, the Giants get the better part of the deal, moving from Fresno to Sacramento where the Giants fans arguably outnumber the A’s fans, in large part to the two recent world titles. But the A’s Triple-A squad is left as merely a second thought, just like the major-league club as Oakland tries relentlessly to secure better accommodations.
If you have a Grizzly T-shirt or ball cap, don’t think twice about trading it in for River Cats merchandise.
The Grizzlies are now irrelevant to both the Giants and Aces.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.