Monday, August 18, 2014

Wild Things strike out at deadline

The trade deadline in the Frontier League was Monday, and the Wild Things opted to stand pat.

And so did almost every other team in the league. The only trade was the Rockford Aviators picking up a pitcher from the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings of the independent United League for a player to be named.

Washington did make one roster move, releasing catcher Cole Martin, a rookie out of the University of Michigan. Martin batted .357 (5-for-14) with three doubles and seven RBI in five games after being signed July 30.

The move leaves Washington with the league-minimum 22 active players.

With 16 games remaining the regular season, Washington trails first-place Evansville by one game in the East Division. Southern Illinois is 1½ games back of the Otters and Lake Erie is in fourth place, only two games out of first. Each division winner and the four remaining teams with the best records will qualify for the playoffs. Lake Erie currently holds the final playoff spot.

Washington is off until Wednesday (6:05 p.m.) when it hosts West Division-leader River City in a doubleheader. It’s the opening games in a six-game homestand that includes the Wild Things retiring the jersey number of Chris Sidick Friday night.

All 16 of the Wild Things' remaining games will be played against teams currently with a winning percentage of at least .568.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Deadline is approaching

The transactions deadline for the Frontier League is Monday. This is the equivalent of Major League Baseball's nonwaiver trade deadline of July 31. It will be the final day of the season that teams can makes trades, though there are some moves that can be made after the deadline. For example, you can replace players put on the DL or get purchased by a MLB club, but you can't make a trade for the replacements.

Last year, Washington was a seller at the deadline, sending pitcher Shawn Sanford to the Schaumburg Boomers, who went on to win the league championship. A few days before the deadline, Washington dealt relief pitcher Anthony Collazo to the Evansville Otters. Collazo was the winning pitcher Friday night in Evansville's 5-4 victory in 10 innings over the Wild Things.

Washington is a buyer instead of a seller this time. During the team's series this week at Windy City, manager Bob Bozzuto told WJPA Radio's Randy Gore that he's actively pursuing a few deals, talking to teams not only in the Frontier league but other independent leagues as well.

Will Washington make a move? Should they make a trade?

Adding a quality hitter seems the most logical thing the Wild Things can do. They had the 11th-lowest batting average in the league in June and 12th in July, and those numbers were put up with both Stewart Ijames and C.J. Beatty in the lineup. In August, Washington has the best batting average in the league at .308, but can the Wild Things keep that up without Ijames, Beatty and Danny Poma, who hasn't played since last Sunday because of an injury? They were the three players who carried this team offensively for the majority of the season.

Washington does not play another game the rest of the season against an opponent with a winning percentage or less than .570. Six of the remaining 17 games will be played in the hitter-friendly parks at Gateway and River City. Would the Wild Things be willing to deal for a clout-or-an-out power hitter? Should they?

Should they try to add another arm? That they have listed tonight's starting pitcher as "To be determined" suggests they need another starting pitcher. The bullpen, which has been stretched to the limit recently, could use another arm. Pat Butler has pitched each of the last three nights. Matt Purnell had a similar stretch recently.

The clock is ticking. Will the Wild Things pull the trigger on a trade?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Down on the farm

There are currently seven former Wild Things in the minor leagues (might be a record for one time) and, of course, Vidal Nuno is pitching in the major leagues for the Arizona Diamondbacks .Nuno gave up two runs in 5 2/3 innings with no walks and six strikeouts but did not get a decision in the opening game of a doubleheader Wednesday at Cleveland.

Here is a look at how the seven former Wild Things are doing in the minors:

C.J. Beatty (OF, Winston-Salem, Class A, California League, Chicago White Sox)
Beatty made his debut with Winston-Salem Tuesday night after having his contract purchased by the White Sox. He went 1-for-3 with a walk and also threw out a runner at home plate in his first game, then went 1-for-4 with a run Wednesday night. Beatty has been playing right field for the Dash.

Robbie Garvey (OF, Rancho Cucamonga, Class A, California League, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Garvey played 56 games for the Wild Things in 2012. This year, he's batting .240 in 106 games for the Quakes. He didn't show much power with the Wild Things, but Garvey has 15 doubles, nine triples and seven home runs in the hitter-friendly California League. He has 22 stolen bases and has been caught stealing only five times.

Stewart Ijames (OF, Missoula, Short-season, Pioneer League, Arizona Diamondbacks)
Ijames is in a league with players who are typically a couple of years younger than he is, but many of those younger players have more affiliated experience. Since joining Missoula, Ijames has been hitting Pioneer League pitching just like it was Frontier League pitching. He is batting .328 with seven home runs and 24 RBI in 18 games. He was named the Pioneer League Player of the Week for Aug. 4-10.

Steven Messner (P, Augusta, Class A, South Atlantic League, San Francisco Giants)
Messner pitched in eight games for Washington at the end of last season, then was signed by the Giants in the offseason and pitched well enough in spring training to make a full-season Class A team. He has a 6-3 record and 4.50 ERA in 28 outings (9 starts). In a start against Rome on June 26, Messner threw eight shutout innings.

Chris Smith (P, Tampa, Class A, Florida State League, New York Yankees)
Smith was very good for the Wild Things in 2012, when he had a 9-6 record and 2.92 ERA and struck out 116 in 129 1/3 innings. After playing in Washington, Smith was signed by the Yankees but suffered an injury that caused him to miss the 2013 season. This year, Smith has pitched well in setup relief, compiling a 1-1 record and 2.78 ERA in 27 outings for Tampa, the Yankees' top Class A team. Opponents are hitting only .225 against Smith, who began the year with low-A Charleston before moving promoted to Tampa.

Nate Striz (P, Tula, Class AA, Texas League, Colorado Rockies)
Striz pitched in nine games, getting three saves, for the 2012 Wild Things before he was signed by Boston. He moved to the Colorado system and began this year in the Class A California League, making 16 appearances before being advanced to Class AA Tulsa, where the Drillers' hitting coach is former Wild Things manager Darren Everson. Striz has 2-1 record, 6.83 ERA and two saves in 23 games for Tulsa.

Mark Williams (P, Brevard County, Class A, Florida State League, Milwaukee Brewers)
Williams, who played for Washington in 2011, was having a dominant season, with a 1-2 record, 12 saves and 1.86 ERA in 19 outings for Brevard County. He had allowed only nine hits in 22 1/3 innings. However, he was suspended for 50 games without pay after testing positive for an amphetamine in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. He is currently serving the suspension.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Beatty sold to White Sox; shades of Loggins in '03?

C.J. Beatty, right, is headed home to Winston-Salem, N.C., as his contract was purchased by the Chicago White Sox. His departure couldn't come at a worse time for the Wild Things.

With the Wild Things locked in a three-way tie for first place in the Frontier League's East Division, Washington announced Tuesday that the contract of left fielder C.J. Beatty has been sold to the Chicago White Sox.

Beatty has been assigned to his hometown team, the Winston-Salem Dash of the High-Class A Carolina League.

Beatty was second in the Frontier League in home runs (18) and fourth in RBI (57). Beatty also was batting .275 with 15 stolen bases.

This will be Beatty's second stint in affiliated ball. He spent two years in the St. Louis Cardinals organization after being drafted out of North Carolina A&T University.

What does Beatty's departure mean for the Wild Things? Well, it creates a huge hole in the middle of the lineup. It also makes some sense of why the Wild Things signed outfielder Pat Kregeloh, a rookie out of Shippensburg University. You had to be thinking that Washington's biggest need was not a backup outfielder.

If you're a longtime fan of the Wild Things, you might be thinking that Beatty's departure, which comes on the heels of Stewart Ijames getting picked up by Arizona last month, has the same feel of losing Josh Loggins in 2003. Washington was 45-29 when the Colorado Rockies purchased Loggins' contract on Aug. 18, 2003 and assigned him to Class AA.

The Wild Things went 8-5 the rest of the way in the regular season, including a 17-6 win over Chillicothe the night Loggins left the team. However, one could sense that without the league's MVP in the lineup Washington didn't have enough offense to go deep in the playoffs. That's exactly what happened as the Wild Things were swept in two games by Gateway in the first round, scoring only three runs in the process.

With Ijames and Beatty gone, and Washington facing the toughest remaining schedule of the top four teams in the East (see earlier post from today), you have to think that it will be a huge uphill climb for the Wild Things to win the division. It's going to take some extraordinary pitching performances or a steal of a trade (think Aaron Ledbetter from River City in 2006) at the league's transactions deadline Monday for Washington to overcome losing this much offense in the second half of the season.

Monday, August 11, 2014

It's a 21-game season

We awake today to find the Wild Things, Evansville Otters and Southern Illinois Miners tied for first place in the East Division (technically, Evansville is .003 ahead of the other two).

The first 75 games of the season now are basically meaningless, unless they are used to break a tie. To win a division title and avoid the dreaded one-game playoff as a wild card or missing the playoffs, the Wild Things must be better than the Otters, Miners and fourth-place Lake Erie Crushers, who are only 3 1/2 games out of first place, over the next 21 games.

The Otters will play another 22 games because of a makeup game remaining against Florence. Evansville and Lake Erie each will end the season with only 95 games because of contests that have been rained out and will not be rescheduled, so winning percentage will be more important than games behind in the standings.

Analyzing the remaining schedules for each of the East Division contenders, we find that all four have three series left at home and four on the road. That, however, is where the similarities end. If you look at the number of games remaining against teams currently with winning records, and the winning percentage of the nine opponents to be played, two things become obvious: 1. The Wild Things are at a distinct disadvantage. 2. Southern Illinois is the favorite to win the title.

The schedulemaker did hit a home run as Evansville will end the season with a three-game series at Washington while Southern Illinois plays at Lake Erie.

Here's a breakdown of each team's remaining schedule:

At home: River City, Gateway, Evansville
On road: Windy City, Evansville, River City, Gateway
Doubleheaders left: vs. River City
Games left vs. teams with winning record: 18
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .569

At home: Washington, Windy City, Florence (4 games)
On road: Schaumburg, Traverse City, Rockford, Washington
Doubleheaders left: vs. Windy City, vs. Florence, at Traverse City
Games left vs. teams with winning record: 9
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .489

Southern Illinois
At home: Greys, Florence, Normal
On road: Rockford, River City, Traverse City, Lake Erie
Doubleheaders left: None
Games left vs. teams with winning record: 6
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .461

Lake Erie
At home: Gateway, River City, Southern Illinois
On road: Joliet, Traverse City, Normal, River City
Doubleheaders left: None
Games left vs. teams with winning record: 12
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .527

Poma named Player of Week

Washington Wild Things outfielder Danny Poma was named Monday the Frontier League Player of the Week.

Poma, from Monterrey, Calif., had a big week, going 11-for-20 with three doubles and five RBI. Poma also went 5-for-6 in stolen base attempts.

He is the first Washington hitter to be named Player of the Week.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pitcher signed, Heck of a coach added

The Wild Things have been playing for quite some time while under the Frontier League roster limit of 24 active players. For example, they played a doubleheader Sunday against the Greys with the league minimum 22 active players.

To move closer to the 24-player limit, the Wild Things signed left-handed pitcher Christopher O'Hare from Lynnfield, Mass. He gives Washington 23 active players heading into tonight's game at Schaumburg.

O'Hare played college baseball at Fisher College in Boston, Mass., and comes to the Wild Things after spending parts of two seasons in the Philadelphia Phillies system. O'Hare was drafted in the 23rd round by the Phillies in 2013. At Fisher, O'Hare led the NAIA with a 0.86 ERA, had a 28-inning scoreless streak and a 19-strikeout game.

O'Hare pitched in only 18 games in affiliated ball, including 12 this year for Class A Lakewood and one with short-season Williamsport. O'Hare's career was derailed when he received a 50-game suspension in January after a second failed test for a banned substance, reportedly a drug of abuse. Players are given a warning after their first positive test for a drug of abuse.

The Wild Things also filled a coaching vacancy Tuesday by hiring former Washington outfielder Andrew Heck as its first-base coach. Heck played for the Wild Things in each of the last two seasons and was in spring training this year. Heck is in his second season as the head baseball coach at Sewickley Academy and guided the Panthers to the postseason each season, including a spot in the PIAA Class A playoffs this spring.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Marks named Pitcher of the Week

Though the Wild Things have been in first place in the Frontier League’s East Division for the majority of the season they did not have a player receive one the league’s top weekly honors until Monday.

Washington right-hander Troy Marks was named the Frontier League Pitcher of the Week after compiling a 2-0 record and 0.63 ERA in two starts.

Marks pitched 14 1/3 innings and allowed only five hits and one run in wins over Evansville and the Frontier Greys. Marks had 20 strikeouts and walked only one batter during the week. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning Saturday night against the Greys.

After joining the Wild Things July 23, Marks has made three starts, compiling a 3-0 record and 0.92 ERA.

The Normal CornBelters’ Sam Judah was named the Hitter of the Week after going 15-for-32 with three doubles, two home runs and eight RBI.

The Wild Things made one roster move Monday, placing left-handed pitcher Zach LeBarron on the 7-day disabled list. LeBarron (1-2, 4.50) has not pitched since July 28.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bozzuto named manager

Bob Bozzuto
About an hour before Saturday night's schedule game time, Wild Things owner Stu Williams announced to the players that Bob Bozzuto has been named manager.

He also announced that hitting coach Bob Didier has "left" the team.

Williams told the O-R that Didier's decision to leave came before any decision to name Bozzuto the manager was made.

Here are some of the comments made by Bozzuto following Washington's 5-2 in over the Frontier Greys Saturday night:

"I'm the luckiest guy in the world, to be involved in professional baseball for a long time doing this. I'm very fortunate. ... I always said, even when I was coaching a college summer league team and American Legion teams, that any time you get put on a uniform, you should feel fortunate. To be able to represent a great organization, city and baseball team, I feel fortunate to have this opportunity.

"This team, this town, the season-ticket holders, the people who have filled this ballpark, they are like my family and friends. They’re very important to me. And this group of players is fantastic. They play through adversity, they do their job, they’re true professionals.

"I don't take this position lightly. It is very special, but it’s not about me. It’s about we and us."

According to Williams, the owner was informed several days ago that Didier had purchased a plane ticket to return to Arizona. After asking the coaches to meet after Friday night's game against Rockford and come up with a plan on how to delegate roles and work out any differences for remainder of the season, nothing had been finalized before the owner left the ballpark. Sometime early Saturday, Williams was told Didier was leaving. The two met at 2 p.m. and Didier informed Williams that he indeed was quitting and going back to Arizona. Didier wanted to talk to the players and inform them of his decision but was denied access.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Kaminsky traded

The Wild Things made a flurry of transactions Friday prior to the series finale against Rockford.

* Washington traded pitcher Alex Kaminsky (2-5, 4.96 ERA in 10 starts) to the Joliet Slammers for a 2nd-round draft choice.

* Second baseman Sam Montgomery (.211, 7 RBI in 30 games) has been released. A somewhat surprising move.

* Scott Dunn was activated from the 7-day disabled list and will pitch tonight's game against the Aviators.

* Dan Johnston (6-4, 200), a first baseman from Portola Valley, Calif., was signed. Johnston played college ball at Pacific with his senior year being 2012. He was drafted by the Marlins in the 46th round in 2010 but has not played professional baseball.