If you’ve read my columns, you know I miss affiliated minor league baseball in Wichita. I know, our community just didn’t support Double-A baseball – first the Pilots in 1987-88, then the Wranglers from 1989-2007. The franchise left for Northwest Arkansas following a very uncomfortable 2007 season and now we have the Wingnuts, who played in the independent American Association.
It is what it is, probably slightly below Double-A quality with players on the way down rather than on the way up. That’s a generalization, but an accurate one.
I was looking through attendance numbers for Triple-A and Double-A franchises, which I like to do at the end of the season. Here’s how those 60 cities, and teams, ranked, starting with Triple-A.
Sacramento, 657,910; Lehigh Valley, 645,908; Columbus, 635,141; Louisville, 613,020; Round Rock, 596,985; Pawtucket, 592,326; Buffalo, 575,296; Albuquerque, 571,100; Indianapolis, 569,969; Toledo, 558, 059; Salt Lake City, 510,484; Durham, 500,073; Fresno, 481,606; Memphis, 464,041; Rochester, 462,004; Reno, 447,701; Syracuse, 416,382; Omaha, 406,276; Norfolk, 392,752; Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 388,733; New Orleans, 380,538; Oklahoma City, 367,082; Tacoma, 351,488; Gwinnett, 337,240; Las Vegas, 336,488; Colorado Springs, 328,053; Nashville, 319,053; Charlotte, 305,842; Portland (Ore.), 294,332.
Frisco, 544,152; Richmond, 463,842; Reading, 436,466; Corpus Christi, 412,369; Tulsa, 408,183; Portland (Maine), 390,722; New Hampshire, 386,102; Trenton, 384,028; New Britain, 368,523; Springfield (Mo.), 357,336; Jacksonville, 354,725; Arkansas (Little Rock), 326,066; Northwest Arkansas, 320,523; Harrisburg, 294,325; San Antonio, 289,113; Altoona, 286,321; Midland, 285,188; Birmingham, 275,887; Montgomery, 269,840; Tennessee, 262,415; Akron, 261,563; Carolina, 255,360; Bowie, 251,728; Chattanooga, 217,469; Binghamton, 203,823; Mobile, 186,256; Mississippi, 178,138; West Tennessee, 118,501; Huntsville, 91,237.
A few observations:
Texas loves its minor league baseball, especially in the suburbs. Check out the numbers for Round Rock and Frisco.
Why does Huntsville have a minor league team?
Northwest Arkansas, the landing place for the Wichita franchise, is doing just OK, especially considering a ton of top Kansas City Royals prospects were there this summer. Then again, Wichita would have killed for attendance of 320,000 in a season.
The baseball playoffs start Wednesday with some intriguing match-ups.
My favorite: Gotta be Minnesota and the Yankees. A lot of people think the Twins have a real shot given the Yankees’ lack of pitching depth. But Minnesota doesn’t have a true ace and today’s game – Francisco Liriano against C.C. Sabathia – is a really important one for the Twins. I have a funny feeling Minnesota could hit a wall in the playoffs without first baseman and former MVP Justin Morneau, who is out for the post-season. Jason Kubel and Delmon Young have stepped up nicely, however. Just how do you slow down that Yankees lineup, though? NY has 10 players with 10 or more home runs and even with A.J. Burnett (who is out of the rotation for this series) and Javier Vazquez struggling, I think the Yankees win in five games.
Texas vs. Tampa Bay – You know all about Cliff Lee, Texas’ No. 1 starter. But what about C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis? What you see might surprise you. Texas has better pitching than it gets credit for, but not as good as Tampa. However, the Rangers have a more dangerous lineup and will push the Rays, who have only one .300 hitter and only one guy with more than 100 RBI. Even though Tampa Bay earned home field throughout the AL playoffs, I’m picking a Texas upset in five games.
Atlanta vs. San Francisco – The Braves have done it with mirrors this season, or perhaps some Bobby Cox karma. San Francisco is pitching great lately and has a tremendous home-field advantage. The Braves need Derek Lowe to step up big in Thursday’s Game 1 against the Giants’ Tim Lincecum, who after struggling early has been pitching like a two-time Cy Young Award winner. I like the Giants in this series, and they might wrap it up quickly.
Cincinnati vs. Philadelphia – Nobody is giving Cincy a chance and I suppose I get it. Philly has been in the World Series the past two seasons and this might be their best team yet. How does anybody beat a team that can roll out Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels in games 1-2-3? But this Reds team has enough grit to compete. It’s going to be a matter of how well Jonny Cueto, Edinson Volquez and Bronson Arroyo pitch. Sometimes they’re really good; sometimes not. As much as I’d like to see this be a series, I can’t see it going past four games.
Who is the Opinion Line Caller?
Actually, this weekly blog feature needs to change, since calls are no longer accepted. Just e-mails and letters, folks.
Here is today’s entry, an actual Opinion Line opinion within the past week:
Has anyone noticed that you can’t get a good-quality toothpick anymore?
What are we, in Tennessee. You can’t get good-quality toothpicks anymore? Well, this person is a man whose deathly fear is dentures. He spends hours a day cleaning his teeth, a good quality except for the tantrums he throws inside Wichita’s quality restaurants when the toothpicks don’t measure up to his standards. He is meticulous in cleaning his house, grooming his pets and coming his hair. His desire to find a good toothpick has taken him out of state. He’s also tried ordering toothpicks online, to no avail. He’s close to snapping – and I’m not talking about a toothpick.
Do people realize how gross and rude and vulgar it is to pick their teeth in public?
What are you gonna do without a good-quality toothpick?