Monday, May 04, 2009

Can-Am League: Bittersweet to boot

When pro baseball bit the dust in Ottawa for this season, the message here was not to take in isolation. The Can-Am League team in Worcester, Mass., is also having trouble. The loop is down to six teams and with the fiduciary mess in the U.S., you have to fear for the league.
"Miles Wolff, the Can-Am League commissioner, confirmed that the Tornadoes have some outstanding bills from last year, but this year’s revenues ought to be able to go toward settling debts. Meanwhile, he said he views the team as one of the league’s most successful and well-run operations.

" 'Some people who have not been paid can look forward to being paid,' Mr. Wolff said. “For many of us this is going to be a tough year. We’re going to have to tighten our belts."
Learning that the league itself is in trouble is probably pretty thin gruel for people who have no baseball games to attend in town this summer (perfect time to check out the Ottawa Fury, people). It was not the fault of the city that the Ottawa Voyageurs did not make it to Opening Day.

The irony is that Miles Wolff, with the Durham Bulls in the 1980s and through his creation in some start-up independent leagues, was one of the top 5 things to ever happen to Minor League Baseball (MiLB). Twenty-five years ago, minor-league teams were mom-and-pop operations and their major-league parents treated them more as a sunk cost, not as a cash cow. Wolff turned the Durham Bulls into a licence to print money. Others followed his lead and MiLB has become very profitable in the United States. Thing is, with the U.S. in a recession, the affiliated teams which have a connection with Major League Baseball and know where their players are coming from might be better able to read out the economic storm.

As for here in Ottawa, for the last time, there are no flies on us just because we won't be watching anyone catch fly balls.


kinger said...

Did low-level sports take this kind of beating in previous recessions? Certainly not in 2001... but I don't really remember the early 90s, the 80s, or the mid-70s.

Independent baseball and the ECHL seem to be competing for the worst outcome.

Dennis Prouse said...

Tyler, that's a good question. Just one theory, but I think part of the difference might be the fact that these sports teams aren't usually their own entity anymore, but rather part of some rich guy's empire. When that empire wobbles, the easist decision to make is to sell off or abandon the costly toys. I'm not a horse racing guy, but apparently horse racing is REALLY suffering these days.

kinger said...

People still race horses? :P