STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - It might be the bottom of the ninth for the Staten Island Yankees.
Congressman Max Rose says a downsizing of Minor League Baseball could mean the end of the Baby Bombers.
"We should be extraordinarily concerned," Rose said.
Major League Baseball announced last fall that each team would be allowed just four affiliated minor league clubs beginning in the 2021 season.
There was an outcry, but it's been drowned out by the coronavirus crisis. And baseball now seems poised to move ahead with a restructuring plan.
That would force the major league Yankees to choose between dumping either the Staten Island team or the Charleston River Dogs, their two affiliates in short-season leagues.
"The Staten Island Yankees are a New York team and it would be a heck of a kick in the pants if the New York Yankees choose another franchise over the Staten Island Yankees but that’s a very real possibility," said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo.
Rose and Oddo penned a letter last week to the parent club in a plea to save the Staten Island team. Its home, the Richmond County Bank Ballpark, was built with $29 million in city funds 20 years ago. At first, sellouts were routine but attendance has waned, falling to just 65,000 last year, the lowest ever, even after a marketing blitz renaming the team the Pizza Rats for selected games.
"The reality is the Staten Island Yankees have never been the success that we envisioned but again that’s today. Today is a snapshot in time. A year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now Staten Island could be in a different place," Oddo said.
Attendance now ranks third-lowest in the New York Penn League - a stark contrast to their crosstown rivals the Brooklyn Cyclones, a Mets farm team. Nearly 175,000 fans turned out for Cyclones games last summer at MCU Park, a pop fly from the Coney Island boardwalk.
"I think it’s completely different franchises based on the geography, it’s easier to get to by mass transit," Oddo noted.
Last fall, New York Yankee owners came out in public support of the Staten Island Yankees, and said the negotiation process should play out before worrying about the team's future.
The team has said little else since.