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Muckdogs holding Rochester in financial muck

The Batavia Muckdogs lost less money in 2009 than in 2008, but the deficit still runs in six digits and their patron is hurting, too.

Named for “the rich Elba muck land” of the upper New York State region it calls home, the Batavia Muckdogs, the St. Louis Cardinals’ short-season Class A affiliate, continue to wallow in the financial muck – and they now have company.

On Monday, the New York-Penn League club’s operating parent, the Rochester Red Wings, announced the Muckdogs lost $143,495 during the fiscal year ending October 31. The total represented over 85 percent of the deficit reported by the combined entity, with the Wings also losing $24,349.

It was the second consecutive year under Rochester Community Baseball (RCB) that the Batavia franchise generated a six-figure deficit. In 2008, the Muckdogs lost $253,425. As such, an optimist might note that 2009 was less of a drain except for the fact that RCB had been profitable every year from 1995 until they took on the Muckdogs two years ago.

Prior to RCB stepping in, Batavia ownership had endured a series of losses, including another six-figure deficit in 2007. As a result, the locals were dangerously close to losing their franchise. Batavia had been a founding member of the New York-Penn League back in 1939.

There is not an immediate concern as the Red Wings already announced they will operate the Muckdogs for a third season in 2010. The plan beyond that is unclear as the negative effect on the Triple-A Rochester operation is evident.

When probed by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, RCB Chief Operating Officer Naomi Silver declined to label 2010 a “make-or-break” season in Batavia, but called it “a critical year. … We can’t sustain these losses indefinitely,” she said.

It is worth remembering from an earlier report that RCB will receive 10 percent of the proceeds if the Muckdogs are sold. Unless Batavia operations can finally turn a profit in 2010, it would seem RCB will have lost more than a sale of the club could provide them.

The Cardinals are not contractually committed to remain in Batavia after 2010. Average attendance has dropped below 1,000 fans per game and has declined each season during the Cardinals affiliation, despite the locals having been provided a league champion club in 2008.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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