Sunday, July 1, 2012

Brewers to stay in Viera, whither the Nationals?

A quick bit of news coming through Our Sports Central's Florida State League feed. According to OSC, the Milwaukee Brewers have renewed their player development contract with the Brevard County Manatees through the 2014 season. The Brewers have used the FSL Manatees franchise as their High-A Florida State League team since 2005. Via OSC, 27 ballplayers have made it to the Major Leagues after playing with the Milwaukee farm club, including Ryan Braun.

Viera's Space Coast Stadium is unique among FSL stadiums, hosting one team during the spring (the Washington Nationals) and the other during the FSL season (the Brewers). The Brewers oddly opt to spring train in Maryvale Ballpark in Phoenix despite a 600 mile difference between the drive from Pheonix to Milwaukee (1,882 miles and 30 hours by Google Maps) and the drive from Viera to Milwaukee (1,297 miles and less than 22 hours by Google Maps). Meanwhile, the Nationals have located their High-A minor league franchise, the Carolina League's Potomac Nationals, play in Woodbridge, Va., much closer to Washington DC than anywhere in Florida.

(That, by the way, seems to be a trend for the Nationals, who opt to keep most of their teams close, being second only to the Braves in the NL East in closest farm teams. Maybe it's a way to keep costs down in order to move some of the admin costs to player retention or actual development. Meanwhile, the Brewers are last in the NL Central with an average distance of 970 miles from their developmental teams and the big league club.)

Perhaps the Brewers could combine their overhead and look to Florida to spring train as the Nationals have been eyeing other training locations, citing long travel times between their Viera location and other Florida spring training stadiums. In recent years, most spring training teams have colalesced around the Phoenix area in the Cactus League and the Tampa area in the Grapefruit League. A trip from Viera to the Red Sox/Twins spring training location of Fort Myers, for example, is over 200 miles and takes over 4 hours. Moving to Viera if the Nationals leave would allow the Brewers to lean on the Brevard County staff for spring training administration, possibly minimizing costs. Although they might incur longer travel times and pay more for gas and busing traversing the state of Florida during March and April.

So would staff pay and the reduction of their trip from spring training to Milwaukee outweigh the cost of traveling around Florida for a month? To be honest, I am not sure.

Either way, Space Coast Stadium was where I saw my first ever Minor League game and I am glad someone is going to keep playing there.