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Meet the Mets!

Bisons and New York sign new affiliation agreement

It is now official.

After a roller-coaster week in which rumors and speculation were rife that the Buffalo Bisons would hook up with the New York Mets as their new major league parent, it became a done deal: The two clubs held a new conference Monday to announce a two-year affiliation agreement.

With the Syracuse Chiefs severing ties with the Toronto Blue Jays and heavyweights such as US Senator Chuck Schumer making a strong pitch to deliver the Mets to Syracuse, it was generally assumed in the closing month of the season that the Blue Jays would become the Bisons’ new affiliate. Conventional wisdom said that this would further cement a sports relationship between the two cities that includes the Buffalo Bills playing eight of its home games at Rogers Centre over the next five years, and a passionate rivalry between the Buffalo Sabres and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Teams could not officially begin negotiating new affiliation agreements until last Thursday, although third-party talks and side conversations are part of these cloak-and-dagger matters. In the days leading up to September 18, it was revealed that the New York Mets were interested in purchasing a controlling interest in the Syracuse Chiefs, or at the very least instituting sweeping management changes to that franchise. “We have had an interest in acquiring a AAA team for some time now,” explained Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon.

Ed Kranepool played two seasons with the Bisons (1963-64) before playing 18 seasons with the Mets. Ron Swoboda played here in 1964 before his promotion to the Mets, where he played six seasons. Cleon Jones hit 31 home runs for the Bisons (1964-65) before his 13-year major league career. All three players were part of the 1969 Mets World Series Championship team.

Buffalo-New York Connection

Bisons and the Mets, 1963-1965

These two teams were affiliated for three seasons in the 1960s, and the Bisons advanced to the playoffs in the 1964 season.

Bisons affiliations in the modern era

1985-1986 Chicago White Sox
1987 Cleveland Indians
1988-1994 Pittsburgh Pirates
1995-2008 Cleveland Indians
2009- New York Mets

New York Mets AAA affiliates

1968-2006 Norfolk Tides
2007-2008 New Orleans Zephyrs
2009- Buffalo Bisons

Recent New York Mets who have worn the Bisons uniform

Since 2000, 19 different players have appeared in a game for both the New York Mets and the Buffalo Bisons. The list is headlined by Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Rick Reed, who holds the Bisons modern era record with 35 wins from 1988-1991. He went on to win 59 games with two National League All-Star appearances with the Mets from 1997-2001.

Outfielders Moises Alou, Jeromy Burnitz, Karim Gacria and Alex Escobar all slugged home runs for both clubs while Mike Bacsik and David Weathers pitched in both New York and Buffalo. In the field, Jay Bell and Marco Scutaro both flashed their defensive abilities in Dunn Tire Park and Shea Stadium. Bisons favorites from their championship team in 2004, Raul Gonzalez, Mark Little, and Jason Tyner, also played for the Mets.

The list also includes catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., pitchers Matt Ginter and Jeff D’Amico and infielders Mike Kinkade, Ricky Gutierrez, Jorge Velandia, and Danny Garcia.

Unflattering articles in both the Buffalo News and the Syracuse Post-Standard that exposed the “stuck in the ’70s” management style of Chiefs owner Tex Simone and his son, general manager John Simone. “Ultimately it became a no-brainer,” said Wilpon. “When an ownership stake in Syracuse was not available to us, we decided to go with Buffalo, which has a much stronger ownership and management component in place.”

Assembling at Dunn Tire Park was a star studded cast the likes of which the ballpark had not seen since it opened back in 1988. Headlining the list of luminaries was Governor David Paterson, who came in with a large entourage of staffers and ample security crew courtesy of the New York State police. County Executive Chris Collins was on stage, as was Mayor Byron Brown. Erie County Legislature Chairman Lynn Marinelli was also on hand to represent county government. Referring to Marinelli, Rich Baseball president Jon Dandes quipped “…and former Bisons staffer…” Marinelli served as the team’s public relations director for two seasons back in the 1980s before beginning her career in public office.

Team owner Robert Rich Jr. spoke very positively of his new major league affiliate. “The Mets are one of the most highly recognizable franchises in all of sports and have a well established tradition of winning and excellence, which makes them a perfect fit for the Buffalo Bisons.”

In addition to Wilpon, representing the New York Mets were team general manager Omar Minaya and director of minor league operations Adam Wogan. While the Mets are fighting for their playoff lives in the competitive National League East division, and also making plans for their big move to a new ballpark, Citifield, come 2009, their need to identify a new AAA affiliate did not go on the back burner.

“We’ve had a good two years down in New Orleans,” said Minaya. “But organizationally, we felt that bringing the team back here to New York State would work well for us, and for many different reasons, Buffalo just makes for such a very good fit.” Minaya declined to speculate on a timetable for naming the Bisons new manager or field staff. “Our people from the AAA level are all serving on the big team right now in our playoff fight. Once the season is over we will evaluate our staffing needs and make a decision at the appropriate time.” Marty Scott served as the manager of the Met’s AAA affiliate New Orleans Zephys this past season.

Dealing with the myriad problems confronting New York State didn’t seem to concern Governor Paterson. “It’s not the budget, not AIG, not the Federal Reserve. It’s the Mets bullpen,” Paterson said, drawing a huge laugh.

With the Mets signature jingle “Meet the Mets” playing over the PA on a perfect sunny fall day, excitement was in the air at Dunn Tire Park. And after the dreary and depressing season that was 2008, can Opening Day 2009 happen soon enough?

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