HILLARY SMITH: Can-Am addition to American Association brings depth

2013-12-01T21:00:00Z HILLARY SMITH: Can-Am addition to American Association brings depthHillary Smith Times Columnist nwitimes.com
December 01, 2013 9:00 pm  • 

While Americans were celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday, there was no holiday off day in Canada. So, it seemed a perfect time for the Can-Am League to announce that it had joined its forces with the American Association for a super independent baseball league.

The Can-Am League, with four members — down from five last season, will become the Can-Am Division of the league of which the RailCats are the defending champions.

The American Association plays a 100-game schedule, the Can-Am League plays a 96-game schedule. No problem. Essentially, the Can-Am League will be the East Coast wing of the American Association, playing under its previous scheduling rules, starting a week after the AA throws its first pitches May 17. 

Besides the schedule, and the Eastern affinity for lobster, the Can-Am League was relatively the same as the American Association. Miles Wolff was the commissioner of both leagues as both were offshoots of the 1995 rebirth of the Northern League. They have played interleague schedules for the past two years.

As the Can-Am League lost the Newark Bears for this season, the American Association lost the El Paso Diablos permanently and both leagues have an even number of participants (Can-Am four, AA 12).

The Can-Am Division will also be a part of the American Association's All-Star game, slated to be played in Winnipeg on July 29, and the schedules will remain unchanged.

Here's the thing: The Can-Am League has already promised the addition of an Ottawa team for 2015, with other areas under consideration. The American Association is always looking for travel partner cities, especially because the RailCats have no partner (the next-closest city is Kansas City, 533 miles or seven hours away). The addition of the Can-Am League makes the RailCats a perfect stop on a tour to the east.

If this arrangement lasts longer than a year is yet to be seen.

The benefits to the AA are tremendous. The fourth division allows for equal separation for the creation of an all-star weekend. It also makes the postseason tougher to reach, with four divisions, four winners and the possible elimination of the wild card.

Of note, the Wichita Wingnuts, winners of the Central Division each year that the RailCats have been a part of the American Association, are now in the South Division.

These are the four strongest teams — based on franchise strength, not on-field quality — that the Can-Am had to offer, and these survivors make the American Association more attractive to players with multiple contract offers.

However long the new, four-division American Association lasts, the year of parity will be interesting to watch.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach her at hillary.smith@nwi.com.

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