Even if the Rochester Red Wings are able to solve their financial crisis in the coming months, there remains a distinct possibility the International League club will end its long-standing relationship with the Orioles in two years.
That possibility is strongly linked to the bid of Peter Kirk, who owns the Orioles' Double A and Single A farm clubs in Hagerstown and Frederick, to obtain a Triple A team for the Annapolis area.
Under the new agreement between baseball's major and minor leagues, there is a window of opportunity for such change. In the Orioles' case, this window comes Aug. 20-30 of 1992, during the second year of their two-year Player Development Contract with Rochester.
The Orioles or Red Wings could request a change of working affiliation during that period. The request would be submitted to commissioner Fay Vincent's office as well as the National Association for approval.
Is a split likely to happen? Would it make sense for the Orioles?
Probability depends largely on Kirk's success in gaining a Triple A franchise, and yes, it makes a lot of sense for the Orioles. Doug Melvin, the Orioles assistant general manager in charge of player personnel, admits having a Triple A club in Maryland "probably would be very good for the organization." Melvin cautions against making a quick assumption, however.
"We haven't gone out to seek any change with our Triple A situation," he said. "While [the Red Wings' cash flow] is a problem for them, it does not affect the players. The players enjoy playing there."
Said Kirk, who heads Maryland Baseball Partnership Limited and is president of a Columbia real estate company: "If we're fortunate enough to get a franchise and the Orioles would like to talk, we'll be happy to talk."
As a former Rochester resident, Kirk is not insensitive to the Red Wings' plight. He has seen the club's financial statements and has offered to share information from his operations in Hagerstown and Frederick. "Because of our relationship with the city and the owners there, I would not participate in taking the Orioles away from Rochester, unless something could be worked out where they get another team," he said.
Triple A expansion will follow National League expansion. Triple A will add at least two, and perhaps more, teams by 1993, depending on whether the National League moves into existing Triple A markets in Buffalo and Denver.
The Triple A expansion committee has cut a list of 18 applicants to nine, and it plans to visit those cities in May and June. A final decision is expected in late September. Also under consideration with Annapolis is Birmingham, Ala.; Charlotte, N.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Memphis, Tenn.; Ottawa, Canada; Quad Cities, Iowa; South Bend, Ind.; and Tulsa, Okla.
Kirk's plans call for a $9 million, 10,000-seat stadium to be built at one of two locations, either in Crownsville, near Annapolis, or in Prince George's County at routes 301 and 50. Kirk said the site ultimately would be chosen by the state, county and local governments.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer told the expansion committee he would ask the General Assembly for $4.5 million to pay for the stadium, that P.G. County would pay $3 million and Kirk's group $1.5 million.
Kirk said the P.G. County site is the front-runner because "it's more regionally accessible and also because the P.G. and Bowie people have stepped up with more enthusiasm than I'd ever expect in these [difficult] economic times."