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Kernels Lose Finale, Look For New MLB Affliliate

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    April 23, 2014 | 2:11 pm
    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