According to the New York Post, and if they write about it it must be true 😉 , the New York Yankees cut the ties with the Staten Island Yankees (former low A affiliate) because of the temporary moniker the farm team used.
Through the years since 2018, the SI Yankees adopted a temporary moniker after a photo of a rat dragging a slice of pizza in the New York subway emerged on the world wide web. The temporary name was Staten Island PizzaRats. Nothing uncommon as many minor league teams use alternate egos in order to earn some extra dimes with the merchandise.
The name PizzaRats was immensely popular among the fans, but the parent club in the Bronx was not amused.
Since the Yankees’ minor league players were shown in PizzaRats uniforms as part of the promotion, the Yankees said the Yankee brand was defamed.
The New York Post stated: “Newly released court documents show just how embarrassed the New York Yankees were when its minor-league affiliate temporarily rebranded itself the “Staten Island Pizza Rats” during the 2018 season.
In a June 15, 2018 email, Yankees Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost said the club had “absolute disdain” over the now-defunct Staten Island Yankees’ decision to honor the infamous rodent who went viral pulling a grimy pizza slice down a subway staircase in 2015.” According to Trost, this was not only an embarrassment to the New York Yankees franchise, it flew in the face of earlier contracts between both sides.
Staten Island Yankees president Will Smith stated in an answer that the MLB club agreed on the temporary name change because it was similar to another Yankees minor league affiliate, the Trenton Thunder, temporarily calling itself the “Trenton Pork Roll” in 2018 to honor the popular New Jersey meal.
The e-mails were released as evidence in a breach-of-contract lawsuit filed in state court in December 2020 by Staten Island Yankees’ owner Nostalgic Partners against the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball. In this suit, the MLB club is accused of being responsible for the folding of the Minor League club during the 2020 money grab move by MLB that cut about 40 minor league teams and which changed the Minor League landscape dramatically, making leagues that existed for decades disappear. In this lawsuit, the MLB club is also accused of trying to block the PizzaRats name change by threatening not to renew the PDC (player development contract) with their low A affiliate.
In the meantime, the owners of the former Staten Island Yankees have joined another lawsuit. Four minor league teams that lost its affiliation with their parent club before the start of the 2021 season, have filed a lawsuit against MLB to challenge the longstanding antitrust exemption.