Today it became official. The Buffalo Bisons and the Toronto Blue Jays are a couple. Buffalo becomes the AAA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays for the 2013 and 2014 seasons, and the contracts were formally signed before a sizable contingent of officials from both clubs, elected officials, dignitaries and media from both cities at a news conference this afternoon at Coca-Cola Field.
"This agreement is for two years; we hope to make it for 42 years," said a beaming Paul Beeston, longtime President of the Blue Jays and well respected architect of the powerhouse teams which won two World Series titles in the early 90s at Rogers Centre. Some members of those teams were present at today's festivities, including former Manager Cito Gaston and former players Roberto Alomar and Pat Hentgen.
For the Bisons, this represents a golden opportunity to turn the page after four disappointing years with the New York Mets. The team was never competitive in the late season pennant chases, and more often than not, star players from the big club who were sent down on rehabilitation assignments often went to the Mets' AA team in Binghamton or their short-A team in Brooklyn, depriving Buffalo fans of having the chance to see some of the big leaguers in action.
Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos put an end to that notion, and in fact admitted that it will be easier now to shuttle players between the clubs (their AA club is based in Manchester, New Hampshire), than it was when the Jays' AAA team was located in Las Vegas.
Since Anthopoulos came on board with the team, replacing former GM J.P. Ricciardi, he has placed a greater emphasis at winning at the minor league level and stocking the farm with more talent, and the results are evident. The AAA Las Vegas 51′s enjoyed a winning season despite a horrific run of injuries for the parent club this past spring. The Jays have won league championships at the A and AA levels in their system. They want to continue that in Buffalo. "There's a great sense of pride. We want to have a good team and all our players want to win. Everyone in the organizations wear their rings with pride, granted they're not World Series rings, but they are something we are still very proud of."
Anthopoulos also reported that no final decision has been made as to who will manage the Bisons come 2013. It is widely speculated that former Bisons Manager Marty Brown will be called on to return to Buffalo. Back in July, Brown was in town for the AAA All Star Game, managing the Pacific Coast League All-Stars, and stated that he would welcome the opportunity to manage the Bisons if things fell into place. Anthopoulos did say that Brown is on "a very short list" to be named Manager, and that this decision, along with the designation of all minor league field personnel for 2013 would be made at the conclusion of the current season.
For the naysayers in Buffalo who point to the track record of the Jays' mediocre performance at the AAA level, Beeston had this to say. "We are not looking at Buffalo as a two year commitment but as a long term marriage. We know how badly people want to win here. We want that too. I have a long time relationship with the Buffalo organization. Our people, including our field manager John Farrell, are strongly linked to Buffalo. This is an association that is here for the long term. We will do all we can to meet your expectations."