Kernels Lose Finale, Look For New MLB Affliliate
By Jeff Johnson, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS The evidence was everywhere Monday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Los Angeles Angels clothing and hats were on sale in the souvenir shop. Stuff that usually spends the winter in Cedar Rapids (such as weight equipmment and batting practice balls) was packed and ready to be shipped to California.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels still can't say anything publicly without risking substantial fine. It's baseball's infamous Rule 56, you know.
"Rules prohibit us from discussing our affiliation plans," was Kernels General Manager Doug Nelson's pat answer before a 10-3 loss to Clinton in the season finale.
But there will be a new major league affiliate here when the 2013 Midwest League season begins April 4. You can book it.
"I don't necessarily know where I'll be next season," said Kernels Manager Jamie Burke, whose club finished 53-86, tied for the worst mark in Kernels history. "But everything is leaning toward the Midwest League. Which I think would be good with me."
Burke was asked if that means Cedar Rapids or some other MWL city.
"I don't know," he said. "It'd be nice if it was here. But I think they're going to look a different way. They're going a different direction."
After 20 years. That's the last time the Kernels were in the affiliation free-agency pool.
This breakup is sudden in a lot of ways. The Kernels and Angels have had a harmonious relationship over the years, with renewals of Player Development Contracts just assumed.
Then GM Jack Roeder and then club President Wally Krouse were given World Series rings after the Angels won it all in 2002, which shows you how strong a bond there was at one time. But the Angels underwent massive front-office changes this past offseason, including a new major league GM and farm director, and that created a different dynamic.
And there is a general feeling among the Kernels' board of directors (the local men and woman who own the club) that it is time for change. Attendance has leveled off, with this season providing the fewest number of fans since the newer Veterans Memorial Stadium opened in 2002.
The Kernels will likely today officially inform Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball of their intention to terminate their relationship with the Angels. MLB will divulge those major and minor league teams in affiliation free agency between Sept. 12 and 15, with a two-week window of open negotiation Sept. 16 through 30. All Player Development Contracts must be agreed upon and signed by Oct. 7.
So who will be providing players for the Kernels next season? That's a real good question, though the early smart money is on the Minnesota Twins.
That's a partnership that makes sense on both sides. The Twins are in Beloit, widely considered the worst facility and city in the MWL.
Only six of the 16 teams in the Midwest League have PDC agreements for next season, with other desirable major league partners such as the Cardinals and Cubs theoretically available right now. It is expected, however, that the Cubs will move to Kane County next season. The Cardinals are in Quad Cities.
Other major league teams without a 2013 PDC agreement are the Mariners, Reds, Padres, Royals, Athletics, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Marlins, Nationals, Astros and Mets.
LOW-CLASS A AFFILIATION AGREEMENTS THROUGH MONDAY
Midwest League (A)
Beloit (Twins) – Expiring
Bowling Green (Rays) – Signed through 2014
Burlington (Athletics) – Expiring
Cedar Rapids (Angels) – Expiring
Clinton (Mariners) – Expiring
Dayton (Reds) – Expiring
Fort Wayne (Padres) – Expiring
Great Lakes (Dodgers) – Signed through 2014
Kane County (Royals) – Expiring
Lake County (Indians) – Signed through 2014
Lansing (Blue Jays) – Signed through 2014
Peoria (Cubs) – Expiring
Quad Cities (Cardinals) – Expiring
South Bend (Diamondbacks) – Expiring
West Michigan (Tigers) – Signed through 2018
Wisconsin (Brewers) – Signed through 2016
South Atlantic League (A)
Asheville (Rockies) – Expiring
Augusta (Giants) – Signed through 2014
Charleston (Yankees) – Signed through 2016
Delmarva (Orioles) – Signed through 2014
Greensboro (Marlins) – Expiring
Greenville (Red Sox) – Signed through 2016
Hagerstown (Nationals) – Expiring
Hickory (Rangers) – Signed through 2014
Kannapolis (White Sox) – Signed through 2014
Lakewood (Phillies) – Signed through 2014
Lexington (Astros) – Expiring
Rome (Braves) – Owned by Braves
Savannah (Mets) – Expiring
West Virgnia (Pirates) – Signed through 2014