The Cardinal Nation blog

Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Proposed Astros-Blue Jays Florida complex hits a snag

Unless you are a regular reader of this blog, you may be wondering why a St. Louis Cardinals-focused writer would be covering the spring training home of the Houston Astros. After all, the Houstonians are no longer even divisional rivals of the Cardinals, having been relocated to the American League West.

The reason is simple. It affects the ability of the Cardinals major and minor leaguers to prepare for each season and in the case of the farm system, during and after, as well.

The current Grapefruit League alignment has the Cardinals, their Jupiter partners from Miami and the New York Mets as the only teams located in southeast Florida. This limitation causes scheduling impacts, especially for minor league spring training, extended spring training and fall instructional league.

There was considerable excitement in 2013 when the Houston Astros, currently training in Kissimmee (near Orlando), recruited the Toronto Blue Jays, inhabitants of the Tampa-area burg of Dunedin since their 1977 inception, to join them in a new state-of-the-art dual-team facility in Palm Beach Gardens.

It would be just a stone’s throw from Jupiter, offering the Cards two additional opponents nearby during spring training. It would also ease travel for the Florida State League Cardinals and create additional variety of competition for all minor leaguers in various Jupiter-based camps as well as the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.

On a longer-term basis, the arrival of the ‘Stros and Jays would block any of the three current area clubs from having the right to exercise escape clauses in their current leases. In all fairness, none have threatened to move, but at some point, if clubs continue to flee Florida, it would seem to have to become a consideration.

The fly in the ointment is the citizens of Palm Beach Gardens, who adopted a “NIMBY” attitude toward the proposed baseball complex. Due to concerns about traffic, light and noise, the City Council directed all work be stopped on the project.

While the Astros still hope to find another 100-acre location in Palm Beach County, the team’s general counsel who is also leading the project is not waiting around. The teams want a new home to be ready for spring 2017, so construction needs to get underway by the end of 2014.

As a result of the rejection, Giles Kibbe was quoted by MLB.com as saying he will also be looking elsewhere in Florida – and even in Arizona.

The latter was a direct volley fired at the Sunshine State, loser of many MLB clubs to Arizona in recent years. The current tally between the states is 15-15. Florida knows getting teams to move back east would be very difficult against the current tide.

In their desire to encourage teams to stay put, the Florida state legislature has anted up. They have earmarked $50 million in funding for the new facility, which would reportedly cost between $100 million and $110 million to build.

Lest one think the mention of Arizona is an idle threat, however, a move west would provide clear benefits to the Astros. Not only is it closer to Texas, the Phoenix area hosts 15 other MLB clubs in close proximity, including every other Western Division team – in both leagues.

Here is hoping it never gets to that and the issues can be resolved to enable the Astros and Jays to relocate to southeast Florida. But the matter is much cloudier this month than last.

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6 Responses to “Proposed Astros-Blue Jays Florida complex hits a snag”

  1. blingboy says:

    Does McGwire get in the Cards HOF?

    • Brian Walton says:

      Depends on his competition, but my guess is that yes, as soon as he gets on the ballot, he will get voted in. However, if he is up against Willie McGee, he will get smoked! ;-)

      • Nutlaw says:

        You’ve been waiting for McGee to get into a Cardinals Hall of Fame for years, it seems! (Or at least writing about the suitability.) It was my immediate thought when hearing about the process!

        • Brian Walton says:

          Not really. I have been trying to be a voice of reason against those who have wanted McGee’s number to be retired. When he was not announced as one of the initial 22 today (because he did not qualify), some went nuts on twitter about the “slight”.

          In May 2006, I wrote this: “Why McGee’s number should not be retired”. The positive for him is that all four players I compared him to are in the first Hall class. I think the Cardinals got the first group right.

          I do see how McGee could make the ballot cut for the top six modern players. Though based on my feelings in 2007, he would actually be seventh, but as part of a very tight grouping with John Tudor and Ray Lankford. I had a big spreadsheet in which I considered HOF recognition, awards, World Championships, etc. I need to dust that off, pronto.

          I also plan to probe on voting details as I am hoping ballot box stuffing will not be allowed/encouraged as it is for the All-Star Game.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Come to think of it, six versus seven is irrelevant. There can be six to ten on the ballot, not just six. I will be surprised if McGee is not among them.

  2. [...] actions have been focused on currently waylaid plans by the Houston Astros with the Toronto Blue Jays to gain approval to build a new complex in Palm [...]

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