Archive for July, 2009

This Week in Bobbleheads – Week 17

Dog days of summer have started in baseball and the big push for bobblehead giveaways in the minors are very apparent in the month of August as these posts get larger and larger. Let’s get to this week then shall we?:

San Francisco Giants7/27/09Lou Seal (Stitch & Pitch) (Mascot) – What is more relaxing then going to a San Francisco Giants game than going with your needle arts projects too! Get your craft circles together for a fun filled evening with stitching and baseball. Fans will receive a very special Lou Seal themed bobblehead to take home along with being able to sit in the Stitch-N-Pitch area with other creative people. Rocker not included.

Bowling Green Hotrods 7/28/09 Joe Blanton – First 1,000 – Started in the A’s system and hit a homer in the 2008 World Series with the Phillies.

Memphis Redbirds 7/28/09 Adam Wainwright – First 1,500 – Wainright is being portrayed in his 2nd Redbirds bobblehead.

Wilmington BlueRocks 7/28/09 Everett Teaford – First 1,000 – The Rocks will try once again to give out Teafords since it was last postponed by rain. He has also been promoted to AA since.

Auburn Doubledays 7/29/09 Adam Lind – First 1,000 – The Bluejays powerful slugger began his rise to stardom here.

Madison Mallards 7/29/09 Maynard G. Mallard (Pitching) (Mascot) – First 500 – This time the jack-of-all-trades mallard will try his hand at pitching in bobblehead form.

Trenton Thunder 7/29/09 Derby (Mascot) – First 2,000 6 and over – Derby is the son of the Thunder’s original batdog Chase.

San Francisco Giants 7/30/09 Lou Seal (Policeman) (Mascot) – This time Lou Seal is in Police garb on motorcycle as part of Law Enforcement night.

Wilmington BlueRocks 7/30/09 Joe Biden – First 1,000 – The Delaware native has some catching up to do in political bobbleheads as this is his very first giveaway.

Evansville Otters 7/31/09 Jerry Sloan – First 500 – HOF coach in the NBA with several teams is being honored in his hometown.

Lake County Captains 7/31/09 Omar Vizquel – First 1,500 – Long time Indian and future HOFer at SS will get a bobblehead here.

Norfolk Tides 7/31/09 Ryan Zimmerman – First 2,000 17 and under – Another member in the neighborhood heroes series. He’s the Nats lone hitting hope.

Sacramento Rivercats 7/31/09 Eric Byrnes, Nick Swisher – First 1,500 – Not quite sure if there are 1,500 of each or is there equal amounts of each as part of a Rivercats anniversary duo.

West Michigan Whitecaps 7/31/09 Matt Nokes – First 1,000 – Another part of Tiger Fridays, Nokes will make an appearance as well.

Cleveland Indians 8/1/09 Victor Martinez – Can he be another trade deadline commodity?

Hagerstown Suns 8/1/09 Mike Mussina Statue – First 1,000 – Mussina played here when the Suns were a longtime Oriole affiliate.

Mississippi Braves 8/1/09 Phillip Wellman – First 1,000 – From what I’ve been told, this bobblehead will not throw a temper tantrum and there are no spare bases included.

Mahoning Valley Scrappers 8/2/09 Ted Toles – First 1,000 – Inducted into the Ebony Lifeline All Sport Hall of Fame, Ted Toles was honored in 1941 for his outstanding performance and leadership as a New Castle Indians baseball player.

Tampa Bay Rays 8/2/09 Scott Kazmir – Kids 14 and under – The 2008 AL champs series continues with this stud pitcher.

Wilmington will be my minors home away from home this week as I travel for the Teaford and Biden. Hope the weather holds up.

The Homer Strikes…

Those of you that know me? They know that I’m a Brewers fan. My baseball team is struggling right now. They need to make a deal. Get themselves a starter.

Problem? Anyone willing to trade a starting pitcher usually want to get themselves a starter coming back. For the Brewers? This poses a problem.  See, arguably the best prospect they have currently is in the Pioneer League.

The delightful comedy of the name Jake Odorizzi notwithstanding, the Brewers are in-line to lose a shot at the playoffs for two bugaboos. One that has happened often. One not so much.

This effects the Brewers chances directly for two reasons.

An injured Brewer pitching prospect is four words that just fit together.

The lost post of mine from Bus Leagues Baseball is the story of the Milwaukee Brewers Top 100 Baseball America prospects. And there was a prevalent theme. Pitchers careers died out from injury. From Tyrone Hill to Nick Neuguebauer to Mike Jones, the road to Milwaukee is paved with the corpses of torn labrums and ligaments. It just is, you know.

This is what has sunk the prospectdom of Zach Braddock and Alexandre Periard. Zach has had to be shifted to the bullpen because his elbow cannot handle the rigors of rotational work. Alexandre, a.k.a. The Canadian Hiroki Kuroda, who had two months in Double-A last season, fell back down the hill and is currently back in Brevard County.

The Jeremy Jeffress conundrum

Everybody has a marijuana joke for when a player gets bounced for a certain amount of time due to the ol’ Shad Grimgravy. They’ve recycled them from the Ricky Williams incident. But when you have a pitcher who can hit triple digits with regularity, you have a pitcher with instant trade value, no matter how mixed the results.

But since Jeffress has a real problem with drugs? You can’t trade him. He won’t help you this year. He probably won’t help next year either. He may be more likely to get bounced for life than bounce his slider in Miller Park.

Now the divinity of Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay is not under this blogs purview, so we won’t bother. All we’re going to say is, you have to be lucky as well as smart when you build a farm system. If Periard was doing well in Double-A?

Who knows what would be happening.

An Osprey Never Quits

The Missoula Osprey staged what might be minor league baseball’s comeback of the year last night, rallying from a late 7-0 deficit to beat the Billings Mustangs, 8-7.

Billings scored twice in each of the first three innings and held a seven run lead heading into the bottom of the seventh.  With two out, Missoula scored on a bases loaded walk (one of three free passes in the inning) to finally get on the scoreboard.

Bryan Gardner came on in the eighth for Billings and put two men on (via walk and hit by pitch) before escaping from the inning unscathed. He was sent back out to start the ninth, charged with securing the six run lead, when everything went to hell in ten easy steps.

1.  Alex Herrnberger walked.
2.  Henry Zaballa walked; Herrnberger advanced to 2nd.
3.  David Nick walked; Herrnberger advanced to 3rd; Zaballa advanced to 2nd.
4.  David Narodowski walked; Herrnberger scored; Zaballa advanced to 3rd; Nick to 2nd. 7-2, Billings

At this point, manager Julio Garcia had seen enough, replacing Gardner (final line: IP, 0 H, 5 BB, 4 R) with Daniel Corcino.

5.  With Bobby Stone batting, Zaballa scored on a balk; Nick advanced to 3rd; Narodowski advanced to 2nd. 7-3, Billings
6.  Bobby Stone singled on a ground ball to shortstop; Nick scored; Narodowski to 3rd. 7-4, Billings
7.  Offensive Substitution: Pinch runner Adonys Canelo replaced Stone.
8.  Ramon Castillo singled on a line drive to left; Narodowski scores; Canelo to 2nd. 7-5 Billings
9.  Offensive Substitution: Pinch runner Ender Inciarte replaced Castillo.
10. Paul Goldschmidt homered on a fly ball to center; Canelo scored; Inciarte scored. 8-7, Missoula wins

To recap, those seven ninth-inning runs were driven in by: a walk, a balk, an infield single, a single to left, and a walkoff homerun.  Three runs scored before the Osprey even got a ball out of the infield.  Missoula: where amazing happens.

Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (As Interpreted By A 21-Year-Old Minor League Pitcher)

Via today’s Roundup at The Big Lead comes this video of Palm Beach Cardinals Casey Mulligan doing his best to entertain the crowd during a recent rain delay:

I like that as you’re listening to all the adults laugh at Mulligan’s “Thriller” dance, one little kid who doesn’t get the joke pipes up with the one question everyone always wants to know about the tarp: can you use that thing as a slip and slide? (To answer your question, dear child: yes.)

Mulligan’s dance moves clearly leave something to be desired. Good thing he’s a decent reliever (1.16 ERA, 69 strikeouts in 46.2 innings at the A and A+ levels this season) and shouldn’t have to quit his day job anytime soon.

Two Games, Two Minor Leaguers, Six Homeruns

Going into last night’s game against the Binghamton Mets, Erie catcher Alex Avila was mired in a deep slump: 1-for 19 with two walks over his previous five games.

Avila took a liking to Binghamton starter Eric Brown, however, hitting three-run homers in the first and second innings as the SeaWolves jumped out to a 9-0 lead after two.  He later added a solo shot in the eighth to bring his totals for the day to three homeruns and seven RBI.

A fifth-round draft pick by the Tigers in 2008, Avila hit for some power in college, slugging 14 and 17 homeruns in his last two seasons at Alabama.  He struggled to put the ball out of the park last year in the Midwest League, homering just once in 213 at-bats (although he did hit .305), but is back on track this season with eleven round trippers in about 300 at-bats for Erie.

Avila is the second Tigers minor leaguer in as many days to hit three homeruns.  On Thursday, Toledo’s Brent Clevlen went deep three times in an 18-1 win over Syracuse.  Clevlen may not have had the best offensive performance in that game, however; teammate Jeff Frazier was 4-5 with a homerun and six RBI.

So…which Tiger is gonna hit three homeruns today?

Mike Moustakas Is Having One Of Those Months

I drafted Kansas City Royals prospect Mike Moustakas in my fantasy baseball league this year, thinking he might be a good guy to hold onto for a couple years.  He’s only twenty, had a great year last year for Burlington, and figured to be a key part in the team’s future.

Right now, however, the kid is struggling.  Even last month, CBS Sports threw up an update or two noting that he was having a tough time in Wilmington (A+).  On July 13, though, he went 2-6 with a homerun; I thought to myself, “Alright, maybe he’s getting ready to break out.”

Nope.

Since that day, Moustakas is a staggering 0-34.  He has one run scored, one RBI, two walks.  His on-base percentage for the season is .284, and to top it off, he leads the team with 17 errors in the field.  The guy is just having one of those months.

Let’s look at the silver linings to this situation, though.  One, Moustakas is, as mentioned above, only twenty years old and playing in High A ball.  That’s a decent level of competition against which he should struggle from time to time.  Two, like Jamie McOwen’s long hitting streak proved, lengthy streaks aren’t necessarily indicative of all-around ability – I’m guessing Mighty Mouse has hit a few balls hard during this skid, but they just haven’t found holes.  And third, this is giving him a chance to practice dealing with adversity.  As long as he doesn’t get too discouraged and keeps working, I think that can be a good thing.

Keep the faith, young Moustakas, and this, too, shall pass.

Boy, That Escalated Quickly

You looked at that title and thought this post was going to be about Tony Bernazard and the Binghamton Mets, didn’t you?

Actually, the escalation in question is the California League homerun race.  Just a couple weeks ago, I was ready to fit High Desert third baseman Alex Liddi for a Triple Crown.  The 20-year-old slugger was leading the league in just about everything, including homeruns, runs batted in, and batting average.

He still stands at the head of the line in the latter two (despite a spirited battle from teammate Jamie McOwen, who has seen his batting average slide to .335 since his hitting streak ended), but the first one?  Homeruns?  That’s another story.

Liddi has no homeruns and only five runs batted in in his last ten games.  His teammate, Joseph Dunigan, has four and nine in that same stretch, moving him past the Italian Stallion in homeruns (22-20) and narrowing the gap in RBI (78-73).

The big mover and shaker, however, resides in Lancaster.  Jonathan Gaston, the JetHawks leftfielder, has seven homeruns and twelve runs batted in in his last six games, including two straight two-homerun outings.  Last Wednesday, he and Liddi were tied atop the standings with twenty homeruns each; Gaston now has 27 and a commanding lead.  And, like Dunigan, he is narrowing the RBI lead by the day (78-72).

These guys can be shuffled up to a higher classification at any time, but until/unless they are, the homerun standings in the California League are gonna be a lot of fun to watch.

Maybe I Should Just Forward This Directly To Dan Duquette

I’ve written about the Nashua Pride/American Defenders here many, many times. For various reasons, and despite all attempts to break me, it is an organization that holds a place close to my heart.

I want the Defenders to succeed, and I feel bad that I don’t personally do more to make it happen. There are probably a lot of people in the city who feel the same way – “We like the idea of the team, we just haven’t done enough to support it.” It happens.

The problem is this: the Nashua baseball fan has been abused and taken for granted for years. Every year, they hear that their team is endangered, on the brink of extinction, only to be saved at the last moment by a kind benefactor who assures them that things will be better this time around.

An ownership group led by former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette bought the Pride from local owner John Stabile (in 2005, conventional wisdom held that the one thing that could save the Pride was local ownership), who had been the main money man for three seasons, I believe, before taking shots at an “apathetic” community near the end of his foray into minor league sports.

At the time of Stabile’s comments, I noted that this was the absolute wrong attitude to have, that after being kicked in the proverbial head for five years or more, after seeing promise after promise after promise fail to come to fruition, the Nashua community needed to be nurtured. The team’s fan base was broken; only years of hard work and patience would bring it back.

Stabile didn’t have that patience (although, to be fair, I’d be a bit short-tempered myself if I lost as much money on the team as he did). I hoped that Duquette and his crew would be sharper, more willing to work with the community and convince people that the new Defenders were not an outside entity, but an honest-to-goodness member of the local community.

*Sigh*

“We were hoping to make a stronger connection with the community and that hasn’t happened,” Duquette said. “The stadium is charming. We would like to succeed here in Nashua but only if we get the support of the community.”

“All teams need to connect with the community in a meaningful way,” he said.

When asked why that connection hasn’t yet formed, Duquette seamed [sic] miffed.

“We’ve tried,” he said. “And we’re going to continue to try.”

It is July of the team’s first season of existence. Criticizing the Nashua community, even lightly, for not supporting the Defenders at this point is asinine.  It’s not a good idea.  Just don’t do it.

What you have to do – and I’ve written similar stuff here before – is show the people in the local community that you actually give a crap.  Get out there, players and coaches and front office and all, and build relationships. Go downtown and talk to people.  Volunteer at the Soup Kitchen.  Put it an appearance at Special Olympics softball practice.  Talk to kids in the schools.  Take every last nook and cranny in Nashua and blanket it with Defenders-related goodwill.  If someone of Eric Gagne’s caliber is coming to Holman Stadium, you get out there and spread the word.  Tell all 85,000 people in the city personally, if you have to.

What don’t you do?  Don’t pass out 4,000 vouchers for free tickets, then get pissy when thirteen people show up – putting a piece of paper in someone’s hand without showing that you give a crap about them won’t work at this point.  And don’t whine in the paper that you’re trying SO hard, but the community just isn’t responding.

I’m almost out of optimism regarding this team.  I’ll still go to games.  I’ll still hope they succeed.  But I harbor no illusions that it will actually happen.  I think they might have finally broken me.

Enjoy Canada.

It Never Hurts To Have Too Much Pitching

Sunday was a very good day for Red Sox minor league pitchers. Five of the organization’s six minor league teams saw an impressive performance from either rotation or the bullpen:

Pawtucket (AAA): Michael Bowden – 5 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 4 BB, 5 SO (73 pitches)
Portland (AA): Ryne Lawson – 6 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 3 BB, 4 SO
Greenville (A): Nick Hagadone – 3 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 2 BB, 4 SO
Lowell (A-): Anatanaer Batista – 4 IP, 1 H, 4 SO
GCL Red Sox (R): Manuel Rivera – 5 IP, 1 R, 1 H, 2 BB, 4 SO

The staff in Salem (A+) must have forgotten to eat its Wheaties.

Two of those pitchers, Bowden and Hagadone, were preseason Top Tens for the Red Sox. Bowden saw some major league action this season, appearing in one game for Boston. Seventy-three pitches doesn’t seem like a lot, especially for a guy working on a no-hitter, but he recently spent some rest time on the disabled list and is a prized prospect. As a Sox fan, it’s reassuring that the team seems to know how to handle it’s top young players (Augie Garrido, take notes).

I’m honestly not sure what they’re doing with Hagadone – he’s started eight times but only pitched nineteen innings. If I had to guess, I’d say they were building his arm strength up slowly while still getting him live game action, but that’s just a guess.

Lawson’s performance was, after looking at his numbers, the nicest one to see. The Eastern League has knocked him around this year to the tune of 1-8, 6.65 ERA. He doesn’t strike out a lot of guys, walks more than he strikes out, and has a WHIP of 1.62. New Hampshire beat him up in his previous outing, turning five walks and eight hits into eight runs. The six inning, one-hit performance at Trenton on Sunday was completely out of line with the rest of his recent starts, but maybe it’s something he can build on.

This Week in Bobbleheads – Week 16

Remember I had a dilemma as to whether to go to Michelle Obama bobblehead night or Hamels? I chose Michelle just so that Barack’s Brooklyn bobble wouldn’t be so lonely. That night the heavens opened up and there was actually a potential the game would be cancelled, which would have been awesome being that they opened the gates to start handing out the bobbles, and they would have had many leftovers to give out another night. Miraculously though, the storms ended and the start of the game was only delayed an hour, but I did complete both sets of Obamas. Here’s this week:

Memphis Redbirds 7/21/09 Dyar Miller – First 1,000 – A former Mets player turned minor league manager. Wonder if he’s still in playing shape, they can probably use him.

Los Angeles Dodgers 7/22/09 Manny Ramirez – First 50,000 – Hope it doesn’t come with fertility drugs.

Round Rock Express 7/22/09 Nolan Ryan – First 2,500 – This time, the xpress team owner has HOF plaque in hand.

Lowell Spinners 7/23/09 Justin Masterson – First 1,500 – Red Sox utility pitcher is the subject of possible trade rumors.

Madison Mallards 7/23/09 Maynard G. Mallard (Zip Line) (Mascot) – First 500 – Maynard seems to be going on a jungle adventure in this very original piece.

Clinton Lumberkings 7/24/09 Ian Kinsler – First 750 – This comes on the heels of “Turkey Leg Fridays” and a postgame concert to boot.

Erie Seawolves 7/24/09 Aramis Ramirez – First 1,000 – As a part of their 15th season celebration, the SeaWolves will feature bobbleheads from all three eras in team history. The first bobblehead features Aramis Ramirez from the Pittsburgh Pirates era!

Salem Redsox 7/24/09 Mayberry Deputy – First 1,000 – People to this day still think of Don Knotts.

Seattle Mariners 7/24/09 Franklin Gutierrez – First 20,000 – Finally someone other than Ichiro, haha.

Arkansas Travelers 7/25/09 Bobby Jenks – First 2,000 – The Travs celebrate one of the best pitchers to come through Ray Winder Field. Bobby Jenks pitched for the Travs from 2001-2003 and turned into a World Series hero for the White Sox in 2005.

Frederick Keys 7/25/09 Nick Markakis – First 1,000 – There’s even a sleepover plus fireworks planned for the night.

Pawtucket Pawsox 7/25/09 Jon Lester – First 4,000 14 and under – Are there even 4,000 kids around that area?

West Virginia Power 7/25/09 Pat White – First 1,000 – Famous college QB from the area.

York Revolution 7/25/09 Downtownaclaus Figurine – Great figure of the team’s mascot in a Santa suit.

Bowie Baysox 7/26/09 Scott Van Pelt – First 1,000 – Late addition to the schedule for this local sportscaster who eventually made it to ESPN fame. He is also scheduled to sign and throw a first pitch.

Indianapolis Indians 7/26/09 Nate McLouth Dual – First 4,000 – Gotta love a team that sticks to a committment of a bobble even after he leaves the organization.

Milwaukee Brewers 7/26/09 Bratwurst Racing Sausage – Where’s Randall Simon when you need him?

This week I may go down for the Markakis depending on how I do with Oakland signings. See ya next week.