The Albuquerque Isotopes have already lost their biggest fan, an earlobe, a fight and the most games ever in one season. Now, it looks like they are going to lose their parent Los Angeles Dodgers, as well.
The Isotopes, however, aren’t going anywhere.
Albuquerque returned home Thursday for its final series of the 2014 season. And come April 9, it will again be at home for the first eight games of the 2015 season.
With or without the Los Angeles Dodgers’ players.
Last week, an Oklahoma City newspaper reported Los Angeles is going to move its Triple-A affiliate from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City. Isotopes general manager John Traub told the Journal there are, understandably, some misconceptions about what will happen if the Dodgers and Isotopes part ways.
“We’ve read the same reports and speculation,” Traub said. “But regardless of who our major league affiliate is, there will be baseball in Albuquerque next year. It will be Triple-A baseball and we will have a major league affiliate.”
The ‘Topes, who beat Las Vegas 10-5 on Thursday, were back home after losing all four games of a series at Oklahoma City.
If the Dodgers do leave, it will add to the ‘Topes’ strange, tumultuous season.
Albuquerque infielder and presumed future Dodger star Alex Guerrero had part of his ear bitten off by then-teammate Miguel Olivo during a dugout fight; the Isotopes appeared to come out on the short end of a bench-clearing brawl in Reno – and had six players suspended – and longtime superfan Ronnie “The Rabbit” Davidson, known for his “Cotton Eye Joe” dance, died of cancer. In addition, they are 60-79 – the most losses in the franchise’s 12-year history.
As for losing the Dodgers, Traub said teams – both at the major and minor league level – are not allowed to comment about possible new partners, or even make contact with other organizations until Sept. 16.
However, teams are allowed to talk about extensions with a current affiliate. The Isotopes and Dodgers are in the final year of their current two-year contract. When asked if he has heard from the Dodgers in the past month about extending their affiliation, Traub said, “No.”
But even if the Dodgers leave Albuquerque, it is nothing like following the 2000 season, when the Albuquerque Dukes franchise was sold and moved to Portland, Ore.
It took two years and a new stadium for baseball to return to the Duke City, with the Isotopes having the Florida Marlins as their parent team for their first six years. They hooked back up with the Dodgers for the past six years.
“I will be sorry to see the Dodgers go, even though I’m a lifelong Mets fan,” said Bob Schmidt, who was born and raised in New York and attended Thursday’s game. “The Dodgers affiliation has been real good. But it’s just business.
“It’s not like when the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles (prior to the 1958 season),” Schmidt added. “My mother never forgave them. She wore a black armband to school for an entire year after that.”
Tim Brunswick, vice president of baseball and business operations for Minor League Baseball, told the Journal he couldn’t comment on any speculation on future moves. But he said the Isotopes organization is, “in a word – outstanding.”
Marta Kriechel, at Thursday’s game wearing an Isotopes jersey, said a lot of folks she’s talked to don’t understand the team isn’t going anywhere. She will be going back to as many games as possible in 2015.
“I come here for the entertainment and experience, and I absolutely will come and support the Isotopes,” she said. “It’s a beautiful ball field and there is great camaraderie among fans. The Isotopes are our home team, not the Dodgers or anyone else.”
Marta’s brother, Bernie Kriechel, wearing a Dodgers jersey, didn’t exactly agree.
“I’ll still come out, but probably not as much,” said Bernie, who is retired military. “I wasn’t really into baseball until my girlfriend got me into it about two years ago. She’s a huge Dodgers fan, and we watch Dodgers game every night when they are playing and try to come out and see Isotopes every week to see some of the future players.”
Traub understands there are many Dodgers fans in Albuquerque, generations of locals who were comfortable with that bond since it started in the 1960s. But there are fans of other teams as well.
“More than anything else, this is a wonderful baseball town,” Traub said. “We are going to be fine, regardless. We’re going to continue to entertain the fans. Prices are staying the same next year We’ll still have fireworks nights, promotions and keep this facility as pristine as it has been the first 12 years.
“We aren’t going anywhere. No matter who’s in our uniforms, they are Isotopes.”