Monday, June 29, 2015

Is there really a player to be named?

Kevin Brandt
Traded from Washinhgton to Laredo during
spring training for a PTBNL.
Have you noticed that the Wild Things have traded a lot of players to other independent leagues and received only a "player to be named later" in return?

Actually, they've been getting nothing in return in the majority of those trades.

Sometimes the team the Wild Things send a player to goes out of business before Washington can get somebody in return. A few times the team that owes the Wild Things a player was part of a league that folded before the trade was completed.

The player-to-be-named-later-trade is often done just to get a player out of the Frontier League so he can't play against Washington and help his new team beat the Wild Things.

Sometimes you can get the odd situation in which a player is traded for a PTBNL and that player turns out to be the original guy. In other words, a player is trade for himself. A Wikipedia search revealed that this has happened four times in major league history, most recently in 2005 when former Pirates infielder John McDonald was traded from Toronto to Detroit for a PTBNL and then back to Toronto.

This also happened, in part, with Jonathan Kountis. The Wild Things reliever was traded last November to the Kansas City T-Bones of the American Association in exchange for pitchers Hamilton Bennett and Andy Noga along with a PTBNL. Bennett and Noga never signed with the Wild Things, and last week Kountis was traded back to Washington by Kansas City.

The Frontier League website lists all transactions back to the beginning of 2006. Here is a list of PTBNL trades, dating back to 2006, made by Washington in which (I believe) the Wild Things have received nothing in return. At the least, this is a trip down memory lane. How many of these guys do you remember?

Washington is owed a PTBNL from:

Laredo for Jeudy Valdez
Laredo for Kevin Brandt
Fargo-Moorhead for Jhonny Montoya
Frontier Greys for Joe Poletsky
Lancaster for Jhonny Montoya
Roswell for Michael Miller
Abilene (league defunct) for Lyndon Price
Roswell for Matt Kretchmer
Roswell for David Peters
Roswell for Rashad Taylor
Roswell for Wes Kartch
Alpine for Rob Herrmann
Abilene (league defunct) for Mickey Jannis
York for Justin Edwards
White Sands for Alex Casillas
San Angelo (league defunct) for Steve Macfarland
Amarillo Dillas (league defunct) for Cory Wine
Las Cruces (league defunct) for Aaron Guinn
Lake Erie for Matt Sutton - listed on transaction page as for future considerations
Lancaster for Joe D'Alessandro
Joliet (of defunct Northern League) for Tim Alberts
Joliet (of defunct Northern League) for Ismael Castro
Slippery Rock (team defunct) for Jarrod Klausman
Newark (team defunct) for Pat Peavy
Fullerton (league defunct) for Jon Grijalva
North Shore (team defunct) for Julio Medina
Rockford for Robert Morgan and Ryan McGraw
Sussex (team defunct) for David Reaver

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Going Mobile

Stewart Ijames
Playing in Double-A for Mobile


Former Wild Things outfielder Stewart Ijames (2013-14) has been promoted and added to the roster of the Mobile BayBears, the Arizona Diamondbacks' affiliate in the Class AA Southern League.

Mobile ends its all-star break tonight and hosts Tennessee.

Ijames began the year with Visalia of the high-Class A California League and was an impact player for the Rawhide. He batted .267 with 16 doubles, 15 home runs and 37 RBI, helping Visalia to the first-half championship in its division. Ijames was second in the league in home runs and 11th in doubles.

No hitting

After getting swept in a Sunday doubleheader by the Frontier Greys -- the league's travel team -- and scoring only one run in the process, you thought things couldn't get any worse for the Wild Things' struggling offense.

Think again.

For the first time in the franchise's 14-year history, a total of 1,162 games (1,193 if you count playoff games), the Wild Things were victims of a no-hitter Wednesday night.

Washington was no-hit by Florence right-handed pitcher Casey Henn (2-6), who had lost six consecutive starts, in the second game of a doubleheader at UC Health Stadium. Henn walked one, hit one batter and the Wild Things' Danny Poma twice reached base safely via errors. Poma was originally credited with a single in the third inning, but a few innings later the official scorer changed the scoring to an error on the Florence shortstop. WJPA Radio's Randy Gore said that he agreed with the decision to score the play an error.

Washington entered the day last in the league with a .230 team batting average. The Wild Things were 12th in on-base percentage (.305) and 13th in OPS (.666).

A positive note is that Washington won the opening game of the doubleheader, 2-1, behind some stellar pitching from Luke Wilkins, Richie Mirowski and Matt Purnell and seven hits, including a home run by Poma to lead off the game.

Since scoring 13 runs in a win June 16 over Southern Illinois, Washington's offense has been mired in one of the worst slumps in franchise history. They have not scored more than two runs in each of their last seven games and have generated only seven runs over the last 56 innings. They do not have a multiple-run inning during that stretch.

I was planning to write a post tonight about the Wild Things' alarming number of strikeouts, but the no-hitter obviously takes top billing. Washington added 17 strikeouts in the doubleheader and leads the league with 293 whiffs on the season. The Wild Things are averaging 8.37 strikeouts per game, which is the most among all the teams in the five independent leagues -- Frontier, Atlantic, American Association, Can-Am and Pecos -- that start in April or May. Washington is on pace for 803 strikeouts for the season, which would be the team record.

The 8.37 strikeouts per game, however, would not be the leader among Class A affiliated teams (about half of the California League averages more strikeouts per game) but the pitching is better in affiliated ball than the Frontier League.

Washington manager Bob Bozzuto said Sunday that he knew his team would chalk up a lot of strikeouts, based on the track record of the players. He's hoping that extra-base hits will trump the strikeouts.

"We knew we would have to live with the strikeouts because it's in the their numbers," Bozzuto said. "We knew were were going to have strikeouts but also hit a lot of home runs and doubles."

Washington entered Wednesday fourth in the league in doubles and sixth in home runs.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Zeller not coaching

Price Cutter Park needs some improvements. (Headline News photo)

It appears that former Wild Things manager Bart Zeller won't be coaching baseball in the independent ranks this summer.

Zeller was set to be a manager for a team in the Heartland of America Baseball League that was to include 10 teams playing in the Springfield, Mo., area with Price Cutter Park as its home base.

Price Cutter Park used to be home to the Frontier League's Springfield-Ozark Ducks. The ballpark has basically gone unused since the Ducks left in 2005 and the St. Louis Cardinals moved their Class AA affiliate to a new ballpark in Springfield.

The Heartland was one of two indy leagues that wanted to use Price Cutter and had originally set a June 13 start date. That was pushed back to June 20, then to July 4. Now it seems that the league will not play in 2015 because of various reasons, one being that no deal has been struck to use Price Cutter Park.

The following are two links about the league shutting down. The first is about how Zeller had to email players telling them that the league was defunct, then had to send another email that stated the league was not dead and that players should report for workouts. The latter is about the league officially shutting down.

League shuts down; no it doesn't

Heartland League leaves Ozarks

Friday, June 19, 2015

Bozzuto not happy after latest one-run loss


This updated story from the Wild Things' 2-1 loss Friday night in 12 innings to the Frontier Greys didn't make it into print today because it was past the O-R's deadline. It does appear on the O-R's website.

Wild Things' latest one-run loss leaves Bozzuto fuming

By Chris Dugan
Sports editor
dugan@observer-reporter.com

If the Wild Things want to know why they are struggling with a 12-19 record, then all they need to do is look at their performance in one-run games and home contests to find the answer.
More than half of Washington’s losses have been by one run, the latest a 2-1 setback Friday night to the Frontier Greys – the league’s homeless traveling team – in 12 innings at Consol Energy Park.
The Greys’ Jhimor Veras hit a game-tying, pinch-hit solo homer with one out in the top of the ninth inning and Brandon Tierney scored from second base on a single by Ben Lodge, who entered the game as a defensive replacement, with two outs in the top of the 12th.
The loss dropped the Wild Things’ record to 2-10 in one-run games. They also are 4-12 at home, which is the worst mark in the league. Washington also is winless in two games that have gone to the International Tiebreaker, losing both at home.
Perhaps it was the latest case of this-close misery, and one day after a baffling decision by the umpiring crew to end the Wild Things’ game against Southern Illinois because of rain – though the rain had stopped – with the Miners leading 3-2 in the seventh inning, that set off Washington manager Bob Bozzuto. Or it simply could have been a disputed out call in the bottom of the 11th inning against the Greys.
With the score tied 1-1, the Frontier League’s new International Tiebreaker format – each half inning begins with a runner on second base and no outs -- began in the 11th. After holding the Greys scoreless in the top of the frame, Washington began the bottom of the 11th with Scott Kalmar at second base. C.J. Beatty put down a bunt that pitcher Nick Anderson (2-0) fielded and threw to Tierney, the Greys’ third baseman.
The throw was in plenty of time to get Kalamar, but the Wild Things’ right fielder made a hard slide and cut the feet out from under Tierney, who appeared to never make a tag on Kalamar, who overslid third base. Kalamar alertly got his feet and scrambled back to the bag. Base umpire Sal Giacomantonio called Kalamar safe and Greys manager Vinny Ganz bolted from the dugout to argue. Moments later, Giacomantonio, after briefly conferring with home plate umpire Mike Martin, changed his call and ruled Kalamar out.
That set off Bozzuto, who was still steaming about the reversed call 20 minutes after the game.
“I argued because (Giacomantonio) called him safe. I asked him why he needed help to make the call? His excuse was that we don’t have three (umpires). Well, if his job is to make the call at third base, then why does he need a third guy? Why? Because he’s not good.”
In the top of the 12th, Tierney, the designated runner because he was the last batter in the 11th, was still at second base with two outs. An intentional walk brought up Lodge, who singled through the left side of the infield against Washington reliever Richie Mirowski (0-2). The throw to home plate from Beatty was in time to get Tierney but sailed high and glanced off the top of catcher John Fidanza’s glove, allowing Tierney to score. Fidanza had attempted to make a leaping catch.
In the bottom of the 12th, Danny Poma began the inning at second base but David Popkins’ sacrifice bunt attempt was fielded by Greys catcher Julio Rodriguez, who threw to third base to retire Poma. Austin Wobrock delivered his third hit of the game with two outs off Anderson but the Wild Things were unable to advance a runner past second base.
The Wild Things stranded 10 baserunners in addition to having one runner thrown out at home plate, two at third base, one at second base and another ventured too far around first base on a single and was thrown out while scrambling back to the bag. With Washington leading 1-0 in the eighth, Kalamar tried to score on a single by Beatty but was out at the plate on a strong throw by Greys center fielder Matt Williams.
“We didn’t make plays,” Bozzuto said. “We didn’t get bunts down and the way we ran the bases was awful. All that aside, we go into the 11th inning with a chance to win because stopped them and began the inning with a runner at second base, but we bunt the ball back to the pitcher.
“It was a lack of execution. That has been the story of our season. We’re not getting timely hits and we’re not executing. It’s frustrating. The guys are trying.”
For most of the night, the game was a pitcher’s duel between Washington starter Matt Sergey and the Greys’ Jordan Kraus.
Washington took a 1-0 lead in the seventh inning against Kraus, a former Wheeling Jesuit University pitcher who is on the Cardinals’ coaching staff. Popkins, who started at designated hitter, tripled off the wall in right centerfield and scored one out later when Austin Wobrock laced a double down the right-field line. Wobrock was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a triple.
Kraus pitched well in his first start against the Wild Things, scattering seven hits over 6 1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out four.
Sergey was sharp from the outset. He allowed only one Greys player to reach third base through the first eight innings and took a three-hit shutout into the ninth.
Sergey got Francisco Rosario to pop out to third base to start the ninth and the Wild Things were within two outs of a victory. Veras then entered the game as a pinch-hitter for Matt Williams, the Greys’ leadoff batter, and hit a 1-0 pitch over the wall in left field to tie the score at 1-1. Beatty, Washington’s left fielder, made a leaping attempt to catch the ball but it carried too far over the wall. It was Veras’ fifth home run of the season.
“Sergey should have won that game,” Bozzuto said. “He did a great job. He was in control. Give Veras credit. He ran into one and did his job. It gets aggravating because the pitchers are doing their job. We should have scored more tonight.”
Notes 
The Wild Things made two more roster moves Friday afternoon, releasing, Edinson Rincon and Ryan Mathews, a pair of outfielders who were on the disabled list. Rincon was one of three former Double-A players from the San Diego Padres system who were signed in the offseason. He played in only 13 games and went 8-for-43 (.186) with 13 strikeouts and two doubles. He had not played since May 31. Mathews began the year by playing one game with Oakland’s Double-A affiliate, was released and signed by Fargo-Moorhead of the American Association, then released and signed by the Wild Things. With Washington, Mathews played in six games and went 2-for-21 (.095). … Washington first baseman Lee Orr was a late scratch from the starting lineup and replaced by Brady North. … Rodriguez snapped his bat in half over his right knee in frustration after striking out in the 12th inning. … Wild Things reliever Matt Purnell pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 0.39. ... Washington outhit the Greys 10-7. … The Greys (13-16) are two games ahead of the Wild Things in the East Division.

Two more released

The Wild Things made two more roster moves Friday afternoon, releasing a pair of Experienced players who were on the disabled list. Gone from the roster are outfielders Edinson Rincon and Ryan Mathews.

Rincon was one of three former Double-A players from the San Diego Padres system who were signed in the offseason. He played in only 13 games and went 8-for-43 (.186) with 13 strikeouts and two doubles. He had not played since May 31. Rincon never seemed to adjust to the Frontier League's style of starting pitching, with is heavy on the breaking balls and changeups.

Mathews began the year by playing one game with Oakland's Double-A affiliate, was released and signed by Fargo-Moorhead of the American Association, then released and signed by the Wild Things. With Washington, Mathews played in 6 games and went 2-for-21 (.095) with four strikeouts. With the three teams this year, Mathews is 2-for-36 (.056).

The Wild Things tried to trade at least one of these players but could not work out a deal.

Washington now has only one player on the disabled list, pitcher Zach LeBarron (60 day DL).

Rain, rain go away, the game's not going to resume anyway


There is a four-letter word that irritates all umpires, players, coaches and fans:

Rain.

There has been plenty of rain so far this Frontier League season and more of it is expected this weekend. The wet stuff has already played havoc with many schedules. For example, Traverse City had five of its first 14 games rained out.

This week, Evansville and Windy City waited out a rain delay of more than three hours Wednesday night before playing. Last night, the Otters and Thunderbolts had a rain delay of almost two hours before they started their doubleheader. Game 2 didn't begin until 11:25 p.m. local time.

Rain was the story for the final two games of the Wild Things-Southern Illinois series this week. The middle game of the series, which started at 10:35 a.m., was played in steady rain for at least six innings. The game Thursday night was called in the middle of the seventh inning because of rain, after a delay of 1 hour, 21 minutes.

That brings me to the point of this post. After all the baseball I've witnessed, I still can't figure out why some games get delayed while some don't, and why some games are rained out or suspended because of rain and others are resumed. It shouldn't be a difficult decision. You play if the field is playable and it's not raining. You stop if the field is a mess or the rain is more than an annoying mist. Too often that's not the case.

A few years ago, there was a Frontier League game at Washington that was delayed for an hour at the scheduled 7:05 p.m. start time though it was not raining. The game was delayed because it "might" rain, I was told. That same year, a similar scenario unfolded in a Pirates game at PNC Park. The tarp was on the field, the start of the game was delayed, but it never rained.

Then there were the Wild Things' games against Southern Illinois. Umpires Mark Schmidt and Robert Reitz Jr., kept the Wednesday game going without a delay, even when heavy rain was falling at the outset of the seventh inning. The heavy stuff fell for only a few minutes, but I was surprised the game wasn't stopped.

The same umpires worked the Thursday game and had no choice but to get both teams off the field after the seventh-inning stretch because of a sudden downpour. It was a good old-fashioned gulleywasher that lasted only about 15 minutes. There were large pools of standing water on the infield warning track between the dugouts, but they drained quickly. It was during this time that an announcement was made in the pressbox that the game would resume in five minutes.

Ten minutes later, players were still not back on the field and it began raining hard again. When the rain finally slacked off and stopped at about 10:35, I assumed play would resume in 20 minutes. Instead, an announcement was made that the game was over and Southern Illinois had won 3-2. Remember, it was not raining at that time.

The reason for ending the game would be that more rain was on the way, right? I had already missed a print deadline, so I wrote a quick game story to be posted to the O-R's website, all along hoping that it would not begin raining before I filed the story and got to my car. I had made a rookie mistake and left my umbrella in the car.

The rest of my night went like this: I hustled to the car without a raindrop in sight. A drive to the O-R office and still no rain. A drive home -- seven miles from Washington -- and still no rain. I dragged my garbage cans to the curb and did so without being hit by a drop a rain. The clock struck 1 a.m. and I decided to check for rain before starting to write this post. Still no rain. ... It's now 2:28 a.m. and time to call it a night. Still no rain.

I have resumed writing this post at 10:45 a.m., and judging by how dry my driveway is, I'd be willing to bet that it still hasn't rained since the Wild Things-Miners game was officially ended.

This all begs the question: Why was the game Thursday night never restarted?

When it stopped raining at 10:35 p.m., it didn't rain again for at least four hours-plus. Was the game called off because it "might" rain? Wasn't the ability to resume games only minutes after it stops raining one of the selling points in replacing the grass field at Consol Energy Park with a turf surface? What was the umpires' reasoning for keeping the players on the field Wednesday afternoon when it was raining but not resuming play Thursday night?

I'm not an umpire, but I know a game should have been resumed Thursday night but wasn't and a game that should have been stopped Wednesday, if only briefly, wasn't.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Valdez traded

The Wild Things made one roster move today, which meant they had to make two moves.

Confused?

Here's what happened: The Wild Things were at the Frontier League limit of 13 Experienced players but activated left-handed pitcher Kyle Helisek, who is Experienced, from the disabled list so that he can start tonight's game against Southern Illinois. That meant another Experienced player had to either be released, traded, put on the disabled list or suspended.

Washington opted to trade shortstop Jeudy Valdez to the Laredo Lemurs of the American Association in exchange for a player to be named. What that really means is Valdez was traded and the Wild Things are likely to never get anything in return for him. This is the second player with Class AA experience that the Wild Things have shipped to Laredo this year for a PTBN. The first was pitcher Kevin Brandt at the end of spring training.

Valdez has been playing well for Washington since joining the team late in May. He is the team's second-leading hitter at .273 with three home runs but only six RBI. He has five stolen bases and committed only one error.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Good, the bad & the Ugly, 2015 version


The Wild Things have passed the quarter-pole in their season -- they did that with the completion of the series last week at Joliet -- and will take an 11-16 record into a game tonight at home against the Southern Illinois Miners. Washington is seven games behind first-place Evansville in the East Division.

It's still very early in the season. One former Washington manager used to say that he didn't even look at the standings until around the all-star break. But after 27 games, do you think the Wild Things, as they are currently constructed, can turn this season around and make a playoff push? I'd like to see what the readers of this blog think about this team.

There are several things that are working with the ballclub and some that aren't, which is why it's time for this year's version of "The Good, the Bad & the Ugly."

The Good:
- The pitching. The staff has an ERA of 3.66, which ranks sixth in the league. The starters, who rank very low in the number of quality starts, has been pitching better than the statistics suggest. Even with Kyle Helisek (hamstring) on the DL and Ryan Bores, who opened the season in the rotation, retiring after two outings, the starting pitchers have done their job. The bullpen has been inconsistent, though much better in June than in May. Overall, the pitching has been better than an 11-16 record.

- Sam Mende. Though the Wild Things brought in several players who spent time at higher levels of affiliated ball than Mende, the versatile infielder has been Washington's best and most consistent hitter. Mende already has 11 doubles, a .280 batting average and has shown that he can play more than one infield position.

The Bad:
- The Double-A experiment. The Wild Things brought in more players with Class AA experience than ever before and those players have produced less than expected. The best of the bunch has been relief pitcher Richie Mirowski (0-1, 1.23 ERA, 23 strikeouts in 14.2 innings) who has been dominant at times and should be mentioned in the Good category. Two other pitchers with Double-A experience were signed in the offseason. One was traded at the end of spring training and the other retired. The four Double-A hitters are batting a combined .222 with 92 strikeouts in 297 at-bats. Jeudy Valdez has the best batting average of the bunch at .267 and David Popkins has 7 home runs and a team-high 18 RBI. There seems to be a big adjustment period going from facing Double-A pitching to Frontier League pitching and these hitters are struggling to adapt. Much more production must come from these players if Washington is to have any chance of getting in a playoff race.

The Ugly:
- The strikeouts and batting average. Washington is dead last in the league with a .227 batting average. It's hard to win many games with that kind of average. The most alarming part of the hitting has been the volume of strikeouts. The Wild Things have whiffed 224 times, which is the most in the league. All those strikeouts would be somewhat acceptable if the Wild Things were hitting home runs at a rapid pace (think back to 2009 with Grant Psomas, Jacob Dempsey and Ernie Banks -- lots of strikeouts but also many home runs) but they're not. They're tied for fifth in home runs and already have played in hitters parks at River City, Gateway and Normal. I know of nobody who tracks such a statistic as advancing runners, but I'd be surprised if the Wild Things are not last in this area and strikeouts are a big reason why. Too many times they've failed to advance runners because of strikeouts, which has led to too many missed scoring opportunities (only Lake Erie has scored fewer runs than Washington).

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Chris Sidick, HOF

Former Wild Things center fielder Chris Sidick has been selected as a member of the second Frontier League Hall of Fame class. Sidick is the league's all-timer hits leader.

Former Wild Things outfielder Chris Sidick has been chosen for the 2015 induction class of the Frontier League Hall of Fame.

Sidick, a Cecil native, played center field for the Wild Things from 2005 through 2011 and holds many of the league’s career records, including games played (588), hits (635), runs (414) and was a postseason all-star in 2006. A former NCAA Division III All-American while at Marietta College, Sidick had a .285 career batting average with Washington and 166 stolen bases. His 16 triples in 2006 remains the Frontier League record.

Sidick is one of five former players who will be inducted during the league’s All-Star Game luncheon July 15 in Schaumburg, Ill. Also selected were Mike Breyman, Bobby Chandler, Stephen Holdren and Jason James. Bob Wolfe, co-founder of the league in 1992, also will be inducted and the league’s 2002 All-Star Game Home Run Derby, the first to decide the winner of an all-star game, will be recognized as the special moment in league history.

Breyman played for Gateway (2004-08) and retired as the league’s career hits leader and tied for second in home runs and RBI.

Holdren played from 2006 to 2011 and had 100 career home runs and 351 RBI. He left the league ranked second in career runs, hits, home runs and RBI.

Chandler pitched from 1998 to 2002 for three teams and his 56 saves stood as the league record for 13 years.

James played five years for Rockford and Windy City, compiling a .347 career batting average.

The tie-breaking home run derby in 2002 was held in Kalamazoo, Mich., and one night after the major league all-star game ended in a tie.