Red Wings shop for parent club

Losses, expiration of deal threaten Triple-A team's 41-year affiliation with O's

August 02, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The longest working agreement between a major-league baseball team and its Triple-A affiliate could be nearing an end.

The Rochester Red Wings are prepared to file for free agency later this month, which could sever their ties with the Orioles after 41 years. Their two-year agreement expires after this season, and so could the strained relationship between the two sides.

Red Wings officials and fans remain frustrated by the lack of talent being funneled into the team, and a fifth straight losing season hasn't changed those feelings.

Naomi Silver, chief operating officer of Rochester Community Baseball, met with Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos in Baltimore two weeks ago and informed him that the Red Wings might explore other options. Rochester has between Aug. 20 and 26 to contact major-league clubs, with a Sept. 25 deadline for making a decision.

"I told him there was a likelihood that we may go this route," Silver said. "I certainly wanted to let him know I wouldn't make a move like this without giving him the courtesy of telling him, and he completely understood. He realizes it's a business decision."

Angelos was at the labor meetings in New York and couldn't be reached.

"I think Naomi made it clear that they're trying to do everything possible in the best interest of their shareholders and season-ticket holders, and that's understandable. I don't see anything unusual about that," said Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president for baseball operations.

Thrift pointed out that the Orioles signed several minor-league free agents during the winter who were supposed to be assigned to Rochester. But rookie pitcher Rodrigo Lopez made the club out of spring training, and Travis Driskill soon joined him. Outfielder Ryan McGuire spent two months with the Orioles before clearing waivers.

Rochester officials won't specify which teams might present a suitable match, but the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle listed the Pittsburgh Pirates, Minnesota Twins and Florida Marlins as possibilities. And Silver emphasized yesterday that the Red Wings could renew their agreement with the Orioles.

"In fairness to our fans and our shareholders, we thought that we needed to take a fresh look," she said, "but the fact that we've been affiliated with the Orioles for such a long time doesn't go unappreciated. Certainly the Orioles will be strongly considered."

The Orioles and Rochester form the third-longest continuing relationship in baseball, and the longest involving a Triple-A team. The Red Wings, affiliated with the Orioles since 1961, have won a record 10 International League Governors Cups, the last in 1997.

The Red Wings haven't posted five consecutive losing seasons since the World War II era.

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