Handicapping the Mets Low-A Affiliation

Now that the Bombers' season is over after being swept by the Hickory Crawdads in the South Atlantic League Championship, the "musical chairs" dance that is finding a new low-A affiliate begins. Will the Mets continue their 22-year relationship with the Capital City Bombers? Will they continue to remain in the South Atlantic League? Or will the Mets be forced to find a new home out in the Midwest League?

There are four teams vying for four available locations at the low-A level as of now. The Devil Rays, Rangers, Red Sox and Mets will have to find homes between two available spots in the South Atlantic League and the two available spots in the Midwest League. Capital City and Hagerstown, Maryland are the only two South Atlantic sites left without an affiliation and Battle Creek, Michigan and Clintion, Iowa are the only two Midwest League sites remaining.

According to one South Atlantic League official, the Mets and Capital City Bombers in Columbia, SC are set to end their 22-year relationship and sign a player developmental contract with the Boston Red Sox after the San Francisco Giants signed with Augusta. So if this official is correct, Thursday's loss to Hickory was the final game the Bombers will have played as a Mets' affiliate. So where do the Mets head now to play their low-A games in 2005?

It does not appear the Mets are giddy at the prospect of sending their prospects to the Midwest League, although if they do not act fast, they just might have to do that.

The Hagerstown Suns of the South Atlantic League just ended their affiliation with the San Francisco Giants and appear to be the most likely destination for the Mets' low-A team for 2005. The Suns, according to their web site, had their highest attendance mark since 1992 when they drew 128,508 fans to their ball park in 2004, averaging 2,008 fans per game. According to one South Atlantic official: "If I had to handicap the affiliations, I think the Mets will sign a contract with Hagerstown".

Another South Atlantic League official confirmed that as well, stating that he expects an announcement could come as early as Monday, or at the latest sometime by mid-week next week, and that it appears the Mets will be heading to Hagerstown, Maryland.

Hagerstown is approximately 72 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. and approximately 480 miles closer to Shea Stadium than the Capital City Bombers. If in fact the Mets do sign a deal with Hagerstown, they will find themselves in the Northern Division of the South Atlantic League with the current 2004 SAL Champion Hickory Crawdads. The other teams in the Northern Division are: Charleston AlleyCats, Delmarva Shorebirds, Kannapolis Intimidators, Lake County Captains, Lakewood Blue Claws, and Lexington Legends.

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