As mentioned in this fanpost and this morning's Mug, the Giants are currently unhappy with their AA affiliate, the Connecticut Defenders, and may be considering leaving. The Brewers, among others, have been mentioned as a possible replacement.
As I said I would this morning, I emailed Joe Perez with the Norwich Bulletin, who wrote this column which started the conversation. I wanted to open our conversation up to all of you, so here is, published with his consent, the conversation we've had so far:
My initial email to Joe:
My name is XXX, but I write as KL Snow at BrewCrewBall.com. This morning I saw your column on the Defenders' bad relationship with the Giants, and noticed you mentioned the Brewers as a possible replacement. Have you heard any rumblings to back that up? The possibility the Brewers could leave Huntsville, which has been largely successful as a Brewer affiliate since 1999, was news to us.
Also, are there any efforts in place to fix some of the stadium problems, most notably moving in the fences?
Thanks for writing.
I had been told there was some mutual interest between Norwich and Milwaukee. How deep that interest is remains to be seen. It can simply be lip service from both sides.
The fences at Dodd Stadium aren't a problem. They are considered a problem by the Giants because they haven't hit at the stadium. Mind you, Nick Johnson won a batting title while playing there. Dodd is maintained very well. The field was resodded this offseason and has never looked better. That work included a new drainage system. They also spent money three years ago on a new scoreboard and indoor batting cage.
The one true problem at Dodd Stadium is the total lack of excitement caused by the Giants' dry farm system and that fans don't show up until late May.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
Some quick research shows the park factor for 2006 at Dodd Stadium was 0.89 for runs scored and .70 for home runs. From 2004-2006 the same factors are .91 and .65. Doesn't it make sense for the Giants (or any other team, for that matter) to want their minor league affiliates to play in an environment that's closer to neutral, for evaluation purposes?
Sure, but the park has always had the same configuration and it has only been deemed a problem the last three years. Why? Because the Giants minor leaguers haven't hit, for the most part. Why wasn't it an issue for the Yankees in their eight years in Norwich? Furthermore, if moving in the fences is so important to the Giants -- something the Defenders and the city of Norwich are not opposed to -- then why did the Giants ( who wanted the change) refuse to pay a penny to have it done and say the team and city need to pay the full cost? Because it isn't that important to them. If another team comes in and offers to share the cost, plus to have to resod the field again, it will get done.
Park factors, splits and any other stat simply do not reflect that as a Giants affiliate, the home team at Dodd Stadium simply has not been good.
Right, but how much of the attendance/fan atmosphere actually impacts the Giants? The Royals low-A team has played in Burlington, Iowa for decades. There's next to nothing in Burlington, and they consistently play in front of crowds of 500-700 people. The Royals stay there because it's a nice park in a good league and a decent place to evaluate talent.
My experience has been that ballpark atmosphere isn't a make or break factor for teams, as long as the minor leaguers involved are provided the best possible environment to play and be evaluated in. But if the weather makes it a tough place to play in April, and the park skews the hitting numbers, then it becomes a developmental problem.
By the way - I can somewhat understand the Giants' reluctance to help finance changes at the ballpark...not that many years ago the Brewers dumped some money into ballpark improvements for the Stockton Ports, in the Cali League, and by the time the improvements were completed the team wasn't even a Brewers affiliate anymore.
Do you mind if I publish this exchange? I think my readers would be interested in seeing it, and we could have this conversation on a broader stage.
And Joe's response:
If the Giants claim weather is a problem in developing and evaluating players, get out of the Eastern League. Every team faces the same weather as the Defenders. Why don't the Minnesota Twins and its affiliate in New Britain (an hour away) not complain about weather? Why don't teams further north such as Portland and New Hampshire complain? The problem with Norwich is that its a Giants affiliate and the Giants do nothing but complain.
These are the complaints I hear from the Giants players:
It's too cold
It's too wet
The park is too big
There aren't enough fans
Never do they acknowledge that they failed or could do better.
The park skews hitting numbers is true. Yes, Dodd Stadium is a pitcher's park, but counter why the Yankees won here and it discredits that excuse. Especially when you consider the Yankees' best players while in Norwich were hitters, not pitchers. The only developmental problem in Norwich are the players because San Francisco has no clue what it is doing.
This is where you come in. I've invited Joe to join the conversation here, feel free to share your thoughts.