EVERETT — In a demonstration of support and to gather information on the ongoing negotiations between Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball, United States Representative Rick Larsen, who represents Washington’s 2nd Congressional District, met with Everett AquaSox general manager Danny Tetzlaff and assistant general manager Rick Maddox to discuss the recent proposal by Major League Baseball to restructure the minor-league infrastructure by stripping the player development contracts of 42 teams.
The gesture from Larsen, a Democrat who is in his 10th term serving the 2nd district, was a greatly appreciated gesture for Tetzlaff, although the AquaSox are not one of the 42 teams that are proposed to lose their MLB affiliations, starting in 2021.
“It means a lot,” Tetzlaff said. “I appreciate him taking the time and that it’s a priority. He wants to stay familiar with what’s going on.”
Larsen is one of over 100 members of U.S. Congress to voice their displeasure in MLB’s proposal to slash 42 of 160 teams from affiliated baseball since it was unveiled in October. On Nov. 19, 100-plus members of Congress signed a bipartisan letter addressed to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and denounced the “radical plans.” Two days later, Larsen, Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) and Darren Soto (D-Fla.) followed with their own letter to Manfred supporting Minor League Baseball.
“The AquaSox haven’t been here as long as I have, but they’ve been here quite some time,” Larsen said, “and while they’re not on the list, it certainly shows that MLB is not afraid of putting teams on a list, whether it’s now or in the future. I want to be sure that Major League Baseball knows that here in the Pacific Northwest, we love our baseball, we want to keep our baseball and to keep our baseball here, we have to keep baseball everywhere.
“The AquaSox kind of represent the local dream of getting into the bigs,” Larsen added. “I think it’s just important to get behind a local organization like this that so many people enjoy.”
Negotiations between the MLB and MiLB on a new Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA), which is set to expire following the 2020 season, continue to be ongoing. But Minor League Baseball has swung back since Baseball America’s initial report the MLB was seeking major overhauls to MiLB with an emphasis on player health and welfare, which includes aspects such as game schedules, team travel and facilities in the minor leagues.
MLB’s alleged proposal — which would effectively eliminate the “short-season leagues,” like the Northwest League in which the AquaSox compete in, according to Baseball America — doesn’t sit right with MiLB.
In a document released by Minor League Baseball in regards to its position on key PBA issues, the organization stated that: “Shrinking the pool of potential talent will hurt clubs, players, fans and the game itself.”
The negotiations are something that Tetzlaff is keenly paying attention to, he says, despite the AquaSox not being on the list of 42 teams that would lose their affiliation.
“Yeah, I’m glad we’re not on the list,” Tetzlaff said. “But I have acquaintances and friends on other teams. I don’t like to see anybody — you know, there are some people who invested their whole career and might not have a team to work for. That would be kind of a kick in the gut. You have people that have given a lot to the game, not as players or coaches, but they’ve given a lot to the game as operators. Then to have that pulled away, that would be pretty tough for them.”
Hypothetically speaking, what would happen if the AquaSox were no more in Everett?
Due to the brevity of the AquaSox’s season and their location in Everett, the economic impact of a hypothetical departure from Everett would be small from an economic standpoint, according to the city of Everett’s economic development director, Dan Eernissee.
“I think it would be hard to put a dollar figure on that,” Eernissee said. “It would be more a blow in the same way Seattle losing the Sonics was a blow and people would be anxious to see how we could get a team back.
“The bigger issue,” Eernissee added, “is really the psychological impact. Are we on the upswing? Are we the next thing, in Everett? Or are we declining? Any time you lose a sports team it’s that psychological impact that you’d really feel. Just that pride in community and pride in place is really great.”
Eernissee added the AquaSox moving up to a full-season schedule would be a positive in terms of an economic standpoint, with more opportunities for patrons to visit local establishments surrounding Funko Field.
For the AquaSox, that would be a suboptimal scenario.
Tetzlaff has stated the potential difficulty playing a full minor-league season in Everett, which would start in April, due to the Everett School District owning Everett Memorial Stadium and the weather in the Pacific Northwest.
Of the 42 teams on the aforementioned list, the majority are short-season or rookie level teams, two of which, the Tri-City Dust Devils and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, play with the AquaSox in the Northwest League.
“I’m concerned on what could happen in five years,” Tetzlaff said. “Maybe something isn’t going to happen now, but what happens in five years when we have to negotiate again? How could that affect us?
“I really think everything is going to come together, and maybe that’s the internal optimist in me, but that it will be positive for everyone.”