No changes for White Sox minor league affiliates, but plenty different around them

The realignment of Major League Baseball is complete, and little changes for White Sox fans who want to follow the action on the farm. The White Sox were the only organization to retain the same affiliates and the same hierarchy. Just as it was before:

  • Triple-A: Charlotte Knights
  • Double-A: Birmingham Barons
  • High-A: Winston-Salem Dash
  • Low-A: Kannapolis Cannon Ballers

The storm blew through, and the White Sox only had to retrieve some patio furniture. But take a step outside and whole blocks around them are going to look quite different.

For instance…

League names

Back in the early 1990s, I remember being bummed out when the NHL shed its conference and division names for standard geographical identifiers. I didn’t know why or for whom the Blackhawks played in the Norris Division in the Campbell Conference, but winning both sounded more epic than finishing atop the Central and Western.

It’s a similarly sad day for baseball, because the historic league names have been removed from the standings.

  • Charlotte: International League → Triple-A East
  • Birmingham: Southern League → Double-A South
  • Winston-Salem: Carolina League → High-A East
  • Kannapolis: South Atlantic League → Low-A East

All of these are a downgrade. Teams lose the legacy of their associations, and we all lose the lyricism of “Sally League” without getting any clarity about what “A-ball” means as a standalone identifier in return. That’s a bad trade.

Opponents

Charlotte: The big news is that the Knights are now in the same league and division as the Nashville Sounds, which means I’ll be able to catch Charlotte games in person and be home in 15 minutes.

For a greater chunk of Sox fans, it may be relevant to know that they’re now in the same league as the Iowa Cubs, St. Paul Saints, Omaha Storm Chasers and Memphis Redbirds, who all shift over from the Pacific Coast League, and the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, who moved up from Double-A.

The Knights get to keep all their rivals from the International League’s four-team South Division (Gwinnett, Durham and Norfolk), while adding Nashville, Memphis and Jackson to the new Southeast Division. That’s only seven teams? That’s only seven teams.

Birmingham: Besides losing the Southern League’s rich, smoky name, the Barons’ landscape looks largely unchanged. Their division shrinks from six to four, keeping the Chattanooga Lookouts and Tennessee Smokies, and adding the fledgling Rocket City Trash Pandas. The other teams stay the same, save Jacksonville (which moved up) and Jackson (which lost its affiliation).

Winston-Salem: The Dash’s world gets a lot bigger, going from the 10-team Carolina League to the 12-team High-A East League. Beyond the two-team increase, their league’s map now extends as far north as New York’s Hudson Valley, and all the way to Bowling Green, Ky., out west. It’s easiest to tell the story on a map. The Carolina League footprint is in blue, the High-A East League is in red, and the common members are in yellow.

Kannapolis: Since the High-A East captured most of Kannapolis’ Sally League colleagues, the Cannon Ballers will get most of the Dash’s old Carolina League chums in the new Low-A East. Between the Carolina-based imports and the reduction of two teams, Kannapolis retains a pretty compact travel pattern (holdovers in bold).

Sally LeagueLow-A East
Kannapolis Cannon BallersKannapolis Cannon Ballers
Delmarva ShorebirdsCarolina Mudcats
Greensboro GrasshoppersDown East Wood Ducks
Hagerstown SunsFayetteville Woodpeckers
Hickory CrawdadsDelmarva Shorebirds
Lakewood BlueClawsFredericksville Nationals
West Virginia PowerLynchburg Hillcats
Augusta GreenJacketsSalem Red Sox
Asheville TouristsAugusta GreenJackets
Charleston RiverDogsCharleston RiverDogs
Columbia FirefliesColumbia Fireflies
Greenville DriveMyrtle Beach Pelicans
Lexington Legends
Rome Braves

What’s next?

There’s a lot left to decide over the next two months, even if this year is largely considered a transition year between the negotiations and COVID-19 complications. Baseball America provided a couple paragraphs about the next news, potentially starting with the further de-romanticization of the minors:

Even the name of the minors is in transition. MLB is expected to attempt to sell branding rights, much like the NBA has the Gatorade-sponsored G League. For now, MLB has been calling the minors its player development system.

League names will also not necessarily carry over to the new system, although some leagues have offered to convey their marks and brands to MLB. For now, MLB has been referring to the leagues by geographic designations. It is Triple-A East and Triple-A West, not the Pacific Coast League and the International League.

Now that the 120 PDLs have been signed, MLB is expected to announce the 2021 schedules next week. They are expected to announce start dates for Triple-A games beginning in early April, while Double-A and Class A leagues will be set to begin on May 4. Because of social distancing concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of minor leaguers will have to wait until after MLB spring training ends to begin their spring training.

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patrick

As a Memphian, this news excites me greatly. I’ll totally host a meetup.

Just John

If faced with a decision to buy a t-shirt in support of either the Madison Raccoons or the Rocket City Trash Pandas, I suppose the choice is obvious. (Not a joke)

Maybe we shoulda been the Windy City Screamin’ Scrapers. (Joke)

Last edited 3 years ago by Just John
phillyd

I already own a Trash Panda hat. My kids love the logo. Also excited the Barons will be returning to Huntsville-ish.

GrinnellSteve

What the hell is a Trash Panda?

I’ll now have easy access to the Knights in Des Moines, to a lesser extent in Omaha or St. Paul.

Milky✌️

The internet term for a raccoon

GrinnellSteve

My education continues. Thanks.

ThisReallySox

I am in Iowa city and am really excited about being able to see the knights in Des Moines.

RaydrsNapoleon

In Omaha. My two boys are teenagers… only 4 more years of local baseball (before they go pro of course). Love that the Sox are coming in time to fill that void!

Last edited 3 years ago by RaydrsNapoleon
asinwreck

I very much hope against hope that one of DC Comics, Alan Moore, or Mark Gatiss throws a bunch of money at MLB/MiLB to make the Charlotte Knights play in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Joliet Orange Sox

MLB must be sure there won’t be enough pushback to be a real problem for them but I think there will be pushback. Congressmen and Senators from the places that lost teams will at the very least make some noise about the anti-trust exemption.