American Association Opts to Expand Playoffs
American Association Daily provides insights, features, and recaps of the action from around the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier reports that the American Association is expanding the playoffs for this season.
American Association Adds Play-in Game
According to sources the American Association officially decided on Monday that they will be expanding the playoffs for the 2021 season. This will allow for an additional team to enter the playoffs for a one game play-in contest.
According to the reports, the league will have the second and third place teams square off in a one-game playoff to advance against the top team in each division. The second-place team would host the contest.
Why the Change?
No official statement has been provided by the league as to the decision or why it was implemented. However, It appears that the ability of the Winnipeg Goldeyes to return to Canada to play is likely the catalyst behind the decision.
The challenge for several of the American Association teams has been to get a roster across into Canada to be able to play. Strict guidelines have been set in place that bar unvaccinated players, coaches, and other staff from being able to enter the country to play. This will have a dramatic impact on the rosters that teams will send.
For example, the Sioux City Explorers have eight vaccinated players on their 23-man roster. Of the eight, only one was willing to take the risk of going to Canada, taking the risk of testing positive. Should a player test positive once they reached Canada, they are required to be quarantined for at least 10 days. That means that nearly 2 weeks of their American Association season would be wiped out.
As a result, manager Steve Montgomery was forced to reach into the Pecos League as well as contact available players inside Canada to build a roster. Currently, he only has a little more than a handful of pitchers available for the series.
The Milwaukee Milkmen will follow Sioux City to Winnipeg, starting a three-game set on Friday. They, too, are faced with the same issue and have already reached out to Montgomery for names of players who will be playing for the Explorers and who would also be willing to play for the Milkmen.
To the league’s credit, they have waived roster rules regarding the signing and release of players to accommodate those teams who are having to build rosters on the fly. This ensures that there should be at least 20 bodies on every team that takes on the Goldeyes.
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Prepare for the Goldeyes Charge!
That the Goldeyes are able to return to Winnipeg is great news for the team and the league as a whole. Ownership has been willing to take the brunt of more than 14 months without earning any revenue, and great credit should be given to them for being willing to take a huge financial loss to keep their team active in the American Association.
Now it looks like they are going to be able to reap the benefits. With 17 home games left in the season, the Goldeyes are likely to face teams that have no more than eight or nine of their regular players. They are going to constantly face rosters of lower-level independent players, which should give them the opportunity to goal 14-3, maybe even 15-2 at home. This should dramatically bolster their playoff chances, especially with a third playoff spot now available.
Let the Debate Begin
It is great news that the Goldeyes are able to return to Shaw Park. They have been a faithful organization and fans have still supported the team despite only being able to watch games online. It is a true testament to how dedicated Winnipeg fans are to their baseball team, and they are well deserving of this opportunity to get to see the Goldeyes play at home, hopefully even reaching the playoffs.
However, there are going to be those who have valid grievances about how the situation is going to play out. Take Sioux City, for example. The two teams ahead of them in the standings, the Cleburne Railroaders and Kansas City Monarchs, both played the Goldeyes when the team was in Jackson, TN. They were able to bring their top roster to play, but Sioux City will not have that opportunity. It is likely that they could very well lose all three games in Winnipeg, putting them in a situation where they are battling with the Lincoln Saltdogs for the final playoff spot. Lincoln also played the Goldeyes when they were in Jackson.
Should the Explorers lose out on a playoff spot by a game or two, they are going to have a legitimate grievance. Again, it is great that the Goldeyes are able to return to Winnipeg, but this is changing the dynamics of the playoff race.
This is not just true in the South Division. The Milkmen visit Winnipeg following the Explorers for a three-game series. Kane County has a four-game series there (August 20-22), including having to play a double-header. The question will be if they have enough pitching to be able to handle that situation.
The Goldeyes then close out the season with three games against Chicago before welcoming the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks for four games. Should the Goldeyes get on a roll, they could very well be battling one of those two teams for the final playoff spot in the North Division. That could mean that either one of those teams, or both, will appear in Winnipeg with a greatly depleted roster.
Now, it can be said that this entire situation could be resolved if players simply got vaccinated. However, considering that these are experimental vaccines (and that is a fact, not a conspiracy theory) and that none have officially been approved by the FDA, it is understandable that players would decide that they are not going to let three baseball games determine something that could affect them for the rest of their lives. It is perfectly understandable if they would refuse the vaccine and not play for their team during this series.
Some will say that there is plenty of time for a team to put together a roster of vaccinated players to be able to go across the border. This is a lot easier said than done. First off, there is literally no quality professional players available because Major League teams have been hoarding players while snatching the very best from independent leagues. This is why there is at least 10 rookies on almost every roster in the American Association.
It also needs to be pointed out that a team simply cannot cut players and replace them with vaccinated ones just to get them across the border. In all seriousness, should Sioux City cut Jose Sermo or Chris Clare just to have a team of fully vaccinated players? That is ridiculous.
Unfortunately, the American Association is in a bit of a quandary. Adding the additional playoff game was likely put in place to help those teams that may be affected by traveling to Winnipeg. They probably hope that Sioux City would be minimally affected by this situation, still earning a playoff spot, even if it is third in the division. The same is true with the North Division teams.
Hopefully this roster situation will not greatly affect teams and the playoff race. However, if it does…
By Robert Pannier