If you see a mistake, let me know. I’ll fix it as soon as I can.
The Durham Bulls are the Triple-A franchise of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Triple-A baseball is one step below major league baseball. How do we know that? Because Major League Baseball says Triple-A baseball is one step below Major League Baseball.
Major League Baseball has 30 teams: 15 in the American League and 15 in the National League. Each major league team has a AAA team in their farm system. Thus, there are 30 AAA minor league baseball teams — who said I couldn’t do basic arithmetic? Except, of course, that there’s a AAA Mexican League with 16 teams and recognized by Major League Baseball as being AAA, but I’ve never been able to figure that one out. (This is the last mention of the Mexican League for another year.)
The 30 Triple-A teams are divided into two leagues: The International League with 14 teams and the Pacific Coast League with 16 teams. So that sort of makes sense, so far.
What also makes sense is that, mostly, the International League is made up of teams who have their major league affiliates in the eastern and midwestern parts of the country, while the Pacific Coast League’s parent clubs are, mostly, in the southwest and west.
But, hey, it’s baseball, so there will inevitably be a few quirks in the system. The Marlins, Brewers, and Cubs affiliates, for example, are all in the Pacific Coast League not in the International League.
The Durham Bulls are in the International League.
The International League
The 14 teams in the International League are matched up with major league teams without regard to whether the parent club is in the National League or the American League. The IL has teams affiliated with Boston, New York (Yankees), Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago (White Sox), Toronto, and Minnesota. That gives the IL 9 American League and 5 National League affiliates.
Logic would say that since AAA is the next step down from the majors, the teams would prefer to be in close proximity to each other. Sometimes that’s true. Toledo is linked to Detroit, Pawtucket is the AAA team of Boston, and the Atlanta Braves’ AAA club is just a long taxi ride away from Atlanta over in Lawrenceville, Georgia. On the other hand, Charlotte is pretty far from Chicago and the Durham-to-St. Petersburg distance is a good bit more than average.
Obviously, all the teams in the “International” League are in the US, but up until recently there was a team in Ottawa. That gave us the chance to sing along to “O, Canada” four times a year.
With the re-opening of relations with Cuba, my bet is that we will see an International League team back in Cuba as soon as a major league team can make a deal. Note that the Tampa Bay Rays played the Cuban National Team in Havana last spring. Maybe a new team could be named the Sugar Kings, after the last International League AAA team that played in Havana. Why not move the Atlanta Braves affiliate since they only drew 3,000 fans per game last year (the Bulls brought in more than twice as many)? Only problem I see with a team in Cuba is learning the words to La Bayamo, the Cuban National Anthem, much less singing it.
With teams from both the National and American Leagues, what about the designated hitter rule? The DH rule is in effect in all games except when both clubs are National League affiliates. That means that no Durham Bull pitchers will go to the plate this year (except in the very weird circumstance where a pitcher could go to the plate as a pinch-hitter — not likely, but possible).
The International League has three divisions: North, West, and South
Divisions and Affiliations
Buffalo Bisons - Toronto Blue Jays
Lehigh Valley IronPigs - Philadelphia Phillies
Pawtucket Red Sox - Boston Red Sox
Rochester Red Wings - Minnesota Twins
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders - New York Yankees
Syracuse Chiefs - Washington Nationals
Columbus Clippers - Cleveland Indians
Indianapolis Indians - Pittsburgh Pirates
Louisville Bats - Cincinnati Reds
Toledo Mud Hens - Detroit Tigers
Charlotte Knights - Chicago White Sox
Gwinnett Braves - Atlanta Braves
Norfolk Tides - Baltimore Orioles
Durham Bulls - Tampa Bay Rays