With the realignment of Minor League Baseball, yours truly mostly sees a negative outcome. But is the promotion of the Northwest League to high A, a bad thing perse? Not really. Here is my take on the development.
Personally, I think the main challenge the Northwest League will deal with is the weather at the start of the season. Wasn’t there a reason the league was short season in the previous decades? The California League, which place the Northwest League is taking, hardly (if not never) deals with snow on Opening Day. Could this be an issue that has been overlooked by MLB?
But since there have been rumors about MLB lowering the number of games at certain levels, this weather problem can be overcome.
Another issue may be the state of the facilities. For sure one is in a pristine condition: Ron Tonkin Field of the Hillsboro Hops. That ballpark was constructed in 2013 and is in tip top shape as you can see in this virtual tour. Also PK Park, home of the Eugene Emeralds and the University of Oregon, is a relatively new ballpark (as you can see here), constructed in 2009. But the question is if the other ballparks, which are well older than twenty years, will meet the standards of high A baseball, whatever those standards may be. If these ballparks will not meet the High A standards, I assume that these clubs will get some time to make sure they will meet the standards.
On the other hand, if these ballparks would not meet the standards, I don’t think that MLB would not have promoted the Northwest League to High A. But it is also known that MLB just disapproves ballparks because of their age, without even being there. So with Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver, this may become a problem since the ballpark dates back to 1951. MLB seems to forget that fans love this kind of classic ballparks. Pulling affiliated ball from cities only because of the age of a ballpark may alienate Minor League fans from MLB even more.
The promotion form A Short Season, which had a schedule of 2 x 38 games, to High A, which will lead to a schedule of at least 100 games (likely 120 or so), is a big plus for the fans. This promotion means more baseball that can be watched. And be honest, you cannot have enough baseball, can’t you?
To elaborate: With the promotion to High A, the Northwest League may face some issues. Especially inclement weather at the start of the season but also the state of the ballparks/club houses. A big plus is the fact that the fans will have access to more baseball and that may be the most important issue because MiLB teams depend on fans passing the turnstiles.