Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Talking elimination, 2 teams, finances, changes

What you could see coming for weeks, if not months, became official Sunday night. The Florence Freedom's 5-0 win over the Frontier Greys, combined with the Wild Things' 6-5 loss to Evansville earlier in the day, officially eliminated Washington from the playoff race.

It's hard to say that you're in a playoff race when you've spent almost the entire summer in sixth or seventh place in a seven-team division, but Washington was still alive because of simple mathematics.

The only thing remaining for the Wild Things this week in a road series at Schaumburg and a home set with Windy City is the chance to avoid finishing in last place, both in the East Division and the overall standings. Washington enters Tuesday 1 1/2 games ahead of last-place Lake Erie in the East and two games in front of Schaumburg, which currently has the league's worst record at 37-53.

This is the seventh time in eight years that Washington has missed the playoffs. There has been only one postseason game played at Consol Energy Park since 2007. One! That's all.

For those who remember what this franchise once was, and to compare that to what we see now, the difference is stunning.

It's painfully sad.

You might recall the post on this blog from July 21 of this year in which I ranked the 13 Frontier League franchises (the Greys, the traveling team, was not included) according to their current state and attractiveness to potential players. Washington was slotted No. 10. The three franchises I ranked behind Washington were Normal, Florence and Rockford. With Normal winning the West title and making the playoffs for the first time, the CornBelters have to be re-ranked ahead of Washington. If Florence makes the playoffs as a wild card, it will be the Freedom's second postseason berth in four years. Florence also would be re-ranked ahead of Washington.

That leaves only Rockford ranked behind Washington. And Rockford's situation is so dire that, according to sources, the Frontier League recently took over the daily operations of the Aviators and will run the team for the remainder of the season. It's almost a lock that Rockford will fold after this season.

The Wild Things failed to capitalize -- both on the field and at the gate -- on last year's playoff run. Washington currently has 18 fewer wins than a year ago, second only to Schaumburg's 21 for biggest drop in wins, but the Boomers won the league championship last year. Washington's attendance is seemingly stuck between 1,800 and 1,900 for the second year in a row.

This is a franchise that is stagnant at best, a sinking ship at worst.

That means the upcoming offseason will be the most important one in Wild Things history. There are many topics that must be addressed. A good game plan for the future is desperately needed.

The first question to be asked in the offseason should be this: Is it really in ownership's best interest to run two teams, the Wild Things and the Pennsylvania Rebellion of the National Pro Fastpitch league? If you think things are bad with the Wild Things and the Frontier League, then you need to check out the Rebellion and the NPF. The Rebellion make the Wild Things look like the New York Yankees. The Rebellion missed the playoffs in a five-team league. Four teams went to the postseason. One of those playoff teams was a first-year team that wasn't wasn't even allowed to acquire players through an expansion draft but still finished ahead of the Rebellion.

How any NPF team can remain in the financial black is beyond me. Judging by their poor attendance and the cost of having to fly to Florida and Texas to play games, the Rebellion have to be losing money.

A lot of money.

That might be why the Wild Things had to leave at 2 a.m. last Tuesday, instead of on Monday (a travel day in the league schedule), to play at Traverse City. That's about a 10-hour bus trip, then straight to the field. All to save the cost of one night's lodging. The Wild Things players were glad to see the game rained out last Tuesday in Traverse City. Washington, however, left at 5 a.m. this morning and will be playing at Schaumburg a few hours after arriving in Chicagoland. Again, apparently all to save a few dollars.

I have a feeling the Rebellion's financial losses are now impacting the Wild Things. If that's the case, it's a very bad sign. One of financial trouble ahead. And the solution is not to raise ticket or parking or concession prices.

Operating two teams, with one front office staff, and neither team able to sell out a small ballpark, makes no financial sense. The time to pull the plug on the softball team, if it is indeed a financial drain on the Wild Things, should be before 2016, which happens to be the final year for Consol Energy's naming rights deal at the ballpark. A 10-year-contract was announced by Consol and the Wild Things in April of 2007. That means the deal runs through the summer of 2016. If another company doesn't step forward and put its name on the ballpark, it will be a big financial hit for the Wild Things.

There also has to be changes in the Wild Things' baseball operations. When you miss the playoffs seven times in eight years, there is something very wrong. The way you find players, the people you get recommendations from, where you're looking for players, it all has to be re-evaluated and changed. Somebody needs to think outside the box.

As one reader of this blog wrote last month, "Major changes need to be made at season's end because the way the Wild Things are doing things are not working. If you do the same things year after year and expect different results (that) is insanity."

Somebody in the front office or ownership needs to answer this: Why has a franchise that could pack the house almost every night fallen so far so fast that now it can't fill half the ballpark unless pyrotechnics are involved? If the answer is because the novelty of pro baseball in Washington has worn off, then that's too late to change. If it's the economy, then the Wild Things can't change that. But if it's because the front-office staff can only spend half its time selling tickets to Wild Things games because the other half is spent hawking Rebellion tickets, or if it's because the games have become boring, or the parking fee and ticket prices are too high, or the giveaway items have become worthless, or the team can't win, or the between-innings promotions are stupid or nobody in Pittsburgh/Westmoreland County/Fayette County hears/reads/knows about the Wild Things, or the customers are not treated with respect etc., then those things can and must be corrected. In other words, eliminated.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Two former Wild Things throw shutouts

Two former Wild Things pitchers who are now in the American Association recently had impressive outings.

Matt Sergey, who was traded this month from Washington to Laredo for two players to be named, threw a one-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts Tuesday night against the Grand Prairie AirHogs. Sergey walked only one batter and allowed only two baserunners in Laredo's 9-0 win.

Shawn Blackwell, who played for the Wild Things in 2013 and '14, is pitching for the Sioux Falls Canaries. He was named the American Association Pitcher of the Week after he threw a five-hit shutout against the North Division champion St. Paul Saints last Saturday. Blackwell did not walk a batter and struck out 10.

That Sioux Falls-St. Paul game, by the way, drew a crowd of 7,752.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Evansville forfeits 10

The Frontier League ruled late Monday that the Evansville Otters must forfeit 10 wins for using an ineligible player. Eight teams, including Washington, have been awarded victories via forfeit.

In a two-paragraph statement released on its website, the Frontier League did not identify the player, which was Will Oliver. A right-handed starting pitcher, Oliver had appeared in 13 games this season, 10 of which were won by the Otters and subsequently forfeited.

According the website, Frontier League Rules and Regulations state that the use of an ineligible player will result in the forfeiture of any games in which the player participated. Washington and East Division-leader Southern Illinois each will receive two wins via forfeit. Florence, Gateway, Lake Erie, Normal, Traverse City and Windy City each receive one win.

The Frontier League's ruling came one day after Evansville had apparently clinched a Frontier League playoff berth. Now, the Otters have dropped to a 43-41 record and are in the final wild-card spot, only one game ahead of Florence (42-42) with 12 games remaining in the regular season. The Wild Things' record improves to 38-46.

Oliver was dropped from the Evansville roster three weeks ago when questions about his eligibility were brought to the attention of league officials. He is currently playing for the Somerset Patriots in the Atlantic League.

The Frontier League has an age limit of 27. Oliver signed with Evansville in August of 2014 as a 27-year-old. The league does allow one player per team to exceed the 27-year-old age limit if he had been on a Frontier League roster for at least 100 regular-season games over the previous two seasons. Those players are classified as Veterans on the roster and can play in the league until age 30 (Chris Sidick, for example). Oliver had been with Evansville for less than 30 games when the 2015 season began and did not qualify for Veteran status as a 28-year-old this season.

There were several inconsistencies in Oliver's date of birth on rosters released by Evansville. For example:

* When Evansville played in the final series of 2015 at Washington, Oliver's date of birth was listed as July 4, 1990, on the Otters' roster, which would have made the pitcher 24 years old.

* When Evansville played a three-game series in Washington during May of this year, Oliver's date of birth was listed as July 4, 1988 on the Otters' roster. That would have made Oliver 26 years years old.

* On a roster Evansville distributed July 28 of this year to other teams in the Frontier League, Oliver's date of birth was listed as July 4, 1987, which is correct, but shows that he is 28 years old. This was about the time the league was made aware of Oliver's potential ineligibility.

Oliver was one of the best pitchers in the Frontier League this year. He was leading the league in both wins (9) and ERA (1.59) as the time he was dropped from the Evansville roster.

All statistics accumulated in the games Oliver pitched will count. Oliver pitched two games against Washington. He gave up three runs (one earned) in seven innings during Evansville's 5-3 win at Consol Energy Park on May 21. The Otters scored four runs in the top of the ninth inning to win that game. Oliver pitched a complete-game, five-hit shutout in the Otters' 1-0 victory over Washington at Evansville's Bosse Field on July 26.

Evansville contended that the Frontier League had approved Oliver's contract this spring and that the pitcher should not be ruled ineligible. It is unknown what date of birth was listed on Oliver's contract this year or last season. The Frontier League does not require any kind of identification to be provided by a player with his contract, though teams require a photo ID from each player for payroll purposes.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ex-South Fayette standout to pitch against Wild Things

Dillon Haviland at Duke.

Dillon Haviland’s baseball career has come full circle.

Haviland, a McDonald native and South Fayette graduate, is a pitcher for the Frontier League’s Gateway Grizzlies. He will be starting for Gateway today (2:30 p.m.) against the Wild Things at Consol Energy Park.

It has taken five years for Haviland, a 6-3, 210-pound lefty, to make the journey from the WPIAL to Duke University to professional baseball and then back to Western Pennsylvania. He’s looking forward to pitching again in Western Pennsylvania. It will be Haviland’s sixth professional start.

“When I was moved into the starting rotation, I looked at the calendar – and so did my family – and  we started counting the days. We realized that barring injuries, a rainout or any unforeseen circumstance, I would get the opportunity to pitch a game here in front of family and friends,” Haviland said Friday prior to the series opener against the Wild Things.

Haviland was a dominant pitcher at South Fayette, leading the Lions to the WPIAL Class AA semifinals and the PIAA championship game as a hard-throwing junior. He threw three no-hitters and four one-hitters for the Lions. Haviland had a 10-0 record, 0.96 ERA and 100 strikeouts in only 56 innings as a senior, when he was named the WPIAL Class AA Pitcher of the Year.

Following his senior year at South Fayette in 2010, Haviland was drafted in the 48th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Being a late-round pick, Haviland had no bargaining power, so he accepted a scholarship to pitch in the Atlantic Coast Conference at Duke.

The college career got off to a slow start because of two injuries. During the fall of his freshman season, Haviland slipped during a running drill and braced from hitting the ground with his left elbow.

“The next time I threw a curveball in the bullpen, I heard a pop,” Haviland recalled.
It was a fractured elbow. The injury delayed Haviland’s start to the spring season, though he pitched in 13 games (eight starts) as a freshman for the Blue Devils.

The next year, didn’t go as well. A cranky shoulder was diagnosed as a torn labrum that led to a redshirt season.

After 2½ seasons of pitching in relief to limit the workload on his surgically repaired shoulder and producing solid statistics, Haviland was moved to the starting rotation at midseason this spring.
“We had a starting pitcher, Mike Matuella, who was drafted in the third round by Texas this year, go down with an injury,” Haviland said. “We had three relievers who could have become starters, but I guess the coach felt more comfortable with me doing it because I was older.”

Haviland finished the year with a 3-1 record and 3.40 ERA in 17 outings (seven starts) against some of the best competition in the nation. Opponents batted only .231 against Haviland, but he wondered if it was enough to get drafted a second time.
There were talks with scouts and pre- and post-draft workouts, but Haviland’s name wasn’t called during the draft and no free-agent contracts were offered.

“It got to the point I just wanted to play baseball. I had to get back on the field,” Haviland said.
That’s what made Gateway and Haviland a match. The Grizzlies were in last place in the Frontier League’s West Division and manager Phil Warren decided to overhaul his roster and plan for next season by going with 10 rookies fresh out of college. One of the hose is the 23-year-old Haviland, who signed in late-July.

Haviland has made five starts and gone at least six innings in each of the last three outings. He earned his first professional win Tuesday in the Grizzlies’ 5-4 victory over the Frontier Greys.

“He’s getting better as we go,” Warren said. “He’s adjusting. Dillon pitched in college this year and will benefit from having an offseason. He has some improvements to make, but his secondary pitches are definitely good enough. He’s capable, that’s the big biggest thing with him.”

Today’s outing will be the first time some family and friends have seen Haviland pitch since high school, before the injuries, when he was a different pitcher.

“My velocity is not the same as it was in high school,” he admitted. “I’ve learned to be a better pitcher and work with what I have.”

Monday, August 17, 2015

Another trade

The Wild Things made another flurry of roster moves Monday, the most significant being trading left-handed pitcher Tim Flight to the Southern Illinois Miners in exchange for right-handed pitcher Jon Klein, the Miners' first-round pick in the 2016 draft and a player to be named.

Flight was in his second year with Washington. He has made 16 starts this season and produced a 3-7 record and 3.97 ERA. Flight has been a tough-luck pitcher, winning only one game since May. With the Miners, he will have a chance to pitch in the Frontier League playoffs.

Flight had been with Washington all season, and his exit leaves 12 players from the opening day roster who are still with the team.

Klein (6-4, 205) is a rookie out of Mercyhurst, where he was the PSAC West Division Pitcher of the Year this spring. He had a 8-3 record with a 2.24 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings. With Southern Illinois, Klein pitched in seven games (five starts) with a 3-0 record and 2.58 ERA.

Washington also placed catcher John Fidanza on the 7-day disabled list, released relief pitcher Jacob Westerhouse (0-0, 5.40), who was signed only last week, and signed catcher Eddie Sorondo and left-handed pitcher Scott Silverstein.

Sordono is a former Delaware State catcher who played 24 games this year with the Camden Riversharks of the Atlantic League, batting .250 with five extra-base hits.

The 6-6, 260-pound Silverstein is an interesting player. He is a former University of Virginia pitcher who won 11 games and saved four others last year for the Toronto Blue Jays' affiliate in the Class A Midwest League. This year, he struggled at high-Class A Dunedin and was released.

Waiting for the decision

The wait continues.

As of the time of this writing, it has been 13 days since I was told that former Evansville pitcher Will Oliver was ineligible to play for Evansville because he exceeded the league's age limit and did not qualify for Veteran roster status. It has been nine days since the Evansville Courier-Press wrote that Oliver will be declared ineligible. And it has been eight days since Oliver showed up in the clubhouse of the Atlantic League's Somerset Patriots and told a reporter "The (Frontier League) commissioner approved my contract in April, so it's their fault for missing it. ... They're nullifying my contract and I couldn't play anymore. They wanted to take away my wins."

And the wait continues.

People with the Otters have been interviewed. Lawyers have been contacted. Depositions have been taken. Everything short of calling in CSI has been done in Evansville.

The rumors have been circulating about what the Frontier League will do. The first rumor was Evansville would have to forfeit any game Oliver played in that was won by the Otters. This is the what leagues that have eligibility standards (high school, youth league, NCAA etc.) typically do when a player is declared ineligible.

Another was that the Otters would only be fined heavily. The latest rumor is Evansville will forfeit those games Oliver played in but the teams that lost to the Otters will not be credited with a win. That might be the dumbest idea I've heard yet (can the people who attended those games get their money back because a winner was not determined?).

I don't know exactly what happened in Evansville. I don't know why Oliver has been listed with three different years of birth on the Otters' rosters, who changed the dates and why. I don't know what year of birth was on his contract this year or last season.

What I do know is time is running out for the league to act on this matter. Most teams have only 18 games left in the regular season and they still don't know how many games they are above or below the line to make the playoffs.

It shouldn't take this long to make a decision.

When, and if, a decision is made, it won't be popular with everybody. Some managers want the league to drop the hammer on the Otters. Another manager told me nothing should be done other than a fine. Dragging this out, however, is only making the league look bad.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Change for the better

There is a scene at the end of the forgettable Rocky IV movie when Rocky Balboa, who has just defeated Ivan Drago, tells the Russian crowd, "If I can change, and you can change, then everybody can change."

What does that have to do with baseball?

Sometimes the people most resistant to change are pitchers. That shouldn't be the case because pitchers who are unwilling to adjust usually don’t last long in professional baseball.

This little fact is why Wild Things pitcher Matt Fraudin was willing to take a suggestion from pitching coach Ben Moore and make a change in his pitching arsenal. The early results have been fantastic.

Moore, the Wild Things’ first-year pitching coach but a veteran of 12 professional seasons as a player, recently suggested that Fraudin add a sinking two-seam fastball and try to get ground balls with the pitch. An Upper St. Clair native, Fraudin had used a four-seam fastball with considerable success while at Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina. The four-seamer, with its rising action, was a good strikeout pitch for Fraudin, who averaged more than eight strikeouts per game in his college career and 11.2 as a senior this spring.

Fraudin’s four-seam fastball, however, didn’t have the kind of velocity that major league scouts covet, so Fraudin went undrafted in June. He signed with the Wild Things in July and it didn’t take long for Moore to offer the young right-hander some advice.

“I didn’t tell him to do it, I merely suggested he try a two-seam fastball because he doesn’t throw 94 mph. From my experience, if you don’t have perfect command or don’t throw your fastball at a velocity above the hitting level of the league, then you’re not going to play baseball as long as you possibly could.

“Two his credit, Matt took the initiative to work on it on his own and he found it in three days. The results have been impressive.”

Fraudin (1-1) has made three starts for Washington, including a 10-1 win Wednesday night over the Frontier Greys. It was Fraudin’s first professional win.

Fraudin gave up one runs over five innings July 29 against River City in his first pro start. His next outing had a rough beginning. Fraudin gave up three walks and five runs in the first inning against Traverse City Aug. 6.

“It took time to get used to the mound at Traverse City,” Fraudin said.

After the rocky first inning, Fraudin retired 15 consecutive Beach Bums and pitched six innings in a 5-4 loss. The start against the Greys was Fraudin’s best to date. He gave up only three hits and one runs over eight innings. After the game, he credited the two-seam fastball, which produced 11 groundball outs.

“All I threw in college was the four-seamer. I’d mix in a few offspeed pitches,” Fraudin said. “Here, I’ve been able to throw the two-seamer and get a lot of run on it. I don’t have as much velocity but there’s a lot of movement.”

Friday, August 14, 2015

The towel has been tossed

Matt Sergey gets the water bucket after throwing the Frontier League's perfect game last August. The Wild Things were throwing in the towel today.

Carter Bell
For the Wild Things, Friday was officially Throw in the Towel Day.

Washington raised the white surrender flag on its season, trading two players who were in their second years with the Wild Things in exchange for, you guessed it, players to be named.

Washington dealt third baseman Carter Bell to the Joliet Slammers and Matt Sergey to Laredo of the American Association. The Wild Things dealt Sergey, who last August threw the only perfect game in Frontier League history, for two players to be named. Washington also traded pitcher Kevin Brandt and shortstop Jeudy Valdez to Laredo this year for players to be named.

Because Bell was traded to a team within the Frontier League, the Wild Things should get a player from the Slammers during the offseason. As for the trades with Laredo, read the post from June 29, 2015, and you'll see why it's unlikely the Wild Things will receive anybody for Sergey, Valdez or Brandt.

Sergey (3-4, 2.75) had been on the disabled list but the plan earlier this week was to activate him today so he could be the starting pitcher tonight at Normal.

Bell was batting .234 with four home runs and 19 RBI after hitting .289 last year. Bell was a third baseman for Washington but I have a feeling Joliet will play him at second base.

Washington lost two of three games to the Frontier Greys this week, dropping the Wild Things to 32-43 and nine games behind River City for the final wild-card spot with 21 games remaining.

In other words, it's time to throw in the towel.

UPDATE: Manager Bob Bozzuto explained the Sergey trade during tonight's pregame show:

"One of the things with Matt is it's third year in the league and he wants to play against older hitters to get picked up by affiliated teams," Bozzuto told WJPA Radio. "We will be getting two players to be named later for Sergey plus one or two with (Brandt and Valdez)."

He also added, "we are not throwing in the towel."

UPDATE NO. 2: This is what Lemurs manager Pete Incaviglia told the Laredo Morning Times about acquiring Sergey:

“We are very excited about getting Sergey,” Incaviglia said. “He’s a No. 1 guy and a guy you can build your rotation around. We were fortunate enough to win the sweepstakes on him. We gave Washington the best deal to get him here and hopefully he can make some key starts and fill that hole that (Greg) Holle left us with over these last three weeks. We’ve really struggled with Holle leaving.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A trip to Morgantown (actually, Granville, W.Va.)

Monongalia County Ballpark, home of the West Virginia Black Bears.

With the Wild Things playing on the road last week, it gave me an opportunity to make the trip south and watch the West Virginia Black Bears, the Pittsburgh Pirates' new affiliate in the New York-Penn League, play at Monongalia County Ballpark and make some comparisons between that team and its ballpark and what we see at Consol Energy Park with the Wild Things.

While the Black Bears are said to be based in Morgantown, the ballpark is actually located across the river from Morgantown in Granville, W.Va., which has a population of only 2,508, which makes it one of the smallest communities to have a minor-league baseball team. Sauget, Ill., population 155, is home to the Frontier League's Gateway Grizzlies and the smallest town to have pro baseball.

The ballpark is easy to find. No need for a GPS or Mapquest. From Washington, just go south on Interstate 79 and exit at the West Virginia University/Star City exit. Take a left at the exit stop and then a right at the first traffic light. Like Consol Energy Park, Monongalia County Ballpark is located just off an interstate and close to a shopping area. When you make the right at the traffic light, you enter a shopping/restaurant area. Proceed to the top of the hill and just past the Wal-Mart, on the left, is the ballpark.

Monongalia County Ballpark has two parking lots, one a reserved area located behind the left-centerfield wall, and a general lot located across the entrance road from the reserved lot. The playing field is much like CEP. It's all turf except for a dirt pitcher's mound. One thing I noticed about the turf is it is much more springy than at CEP. That's probably because the ballpark opened this spring and the turf hasn't had snow sitting on for months and pushing down the rubber chips. Twice in the first inning of the game I attended, batters hit balls into the turf only a few feet in front of the plate that bounced on one hop over the third baseman and into left field. It happened again in the top of the 9th inning.

Some of the positives of the park are padded outfield and side walls, which gives it a professional look and feel. There are no exposed concrete walls. The outfield wall height is eight feet, but it goes up to 16 feet for a section in left centerfield in front of the ticket office and visitor's clubhouse. One thing you'll notice is there are only 12 advertising signs on the outfield wall.

If you don't mind standing or patio-style table seating, then the area down the right-field line is interesting. This area gives you a good bird's-eye view above first base and the right-field line. I can see these being popular.

There is only one seating bowl in the stadium and all the seats are located from dugout to dugout. There are no seats beyond the outfield side of each dugout. In other words, nothing like sections 101 and 102 at CEP. And every seat is located behind the backstop net, which extends to the outfield side of each dugout. If you don't like watching a game through the netting, then this isn't the place for you, unless you purchase the SRO or patio tickets.

As we know, CEP is divided into two seating bowls. The upper level has aluminum bleachers with aluminum backs, and the lower bowl has box seats that were originally in Three Rivers Stadium. The seats at Monongalia County Ballpark are aluminum bleachers that have blue plastic seats attached to the bleacher. There are no armrests and no fold-down seats that you would find in an arena, theater or major league ballpark. I didn't mind the plastic seats, though that might have been because nobody was in the two seats to my immediate left.

Another oddity of  MCB is that almost every foul ball that goes over the netting will hit the pressbox and fly back, at pretty good rate of speed, toward the fans in the seating bowl. In other words, if the ball goes over your head, turn around and watch it. If not, you might get hit in the back of the head.

The level of play was good. The night I was there, the starting pitcher for the Auburn Doubledays was Erick Fedde, the Washington National's No. 1 draft pick in 2014. West Virginia started Seth McGarry, a draft pick this year who was a reliever at Florida Atlantic. Fedde's fastball was sitting at 93-94 mph and McGarry got his up to 93 mph. Attendance that night (it was a Tuesday) was 2,077.

Kevin Newman, the Pirates' No. 1 draft pick this year, plays for West Virginia but he was not in the lineup that night. That's one of the problems with the expanded New York-Penn League rosters. You can see the team play one night, go back the next and find seven different players in the lineup. Kevin Kramer, the second-round pick out of UCLA, was in the lineup that night at shortstop. Nineteen players who were drafted this year by the Pirates have been assigned to West Virginia.

The player who impressed me the most was third baseman Mitchell Tolman, a seventh-round pick this year out of Oregon. Definitely a plus arm and he looks like he can hit a little. He's small for a third baseman (5-11, 195), so he might not stick at that position, though he definitely has the arm to play there.

The ballparks have about the same concession foods. MCB has a chicken sandwich and fries combo that CEP does not offer. CEP does offer combos with a drink. MCB's combos do not include a drink. MCB does sell one interesting item that CEP does not: wine.

The between-innings promotion edge goes to the Wild Things. The Black Bears' promos were fairly lame. They used the video board for canned promotions and had one on-field contest that was simply a person trying to hit a ball off a tee over the side wall down the left-field line.

Here are some other comparisons between the Wild Things/Black Bears, Frontier League/NYP and CEP/MCB:

Wild Things Black Bears
Stadium Consol Energy Park Monongalia County Ballpark
Capacity 3,200 3,500
2015 per game 1,907 2,351
League Frontier New York-Penn
Class Independent Short-season A
Roster size 24 35
Ticket prices $15-$12-$10-$5 $12-$10
Parking $5 $3
Hot dog $2.50 $4
Large soft drink $5 $5.50
Nachos $5 $4.50
Bottled water $3.50 $4
Draft beer $6 $6
Chicken & fries $11 w/drink $8 no drink

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Evansville pitcher was ineligible; what should the FL do?

Here is a link http://www.courierpress.com/sports/otters/otters-pitcher-oliver-to-be-ruled-ineligible-by-league_14260344 to a story in the Evansville Courier-Press about Evansville starting pitcher Will Oliver, who had been playing all season despite apparently being ineligible because of the Frontier League's age limit and roster rules.

Oliver (9-2, 1.59) pitched in 10 games won by Evansville, though he had exceeded the league's age limit and was not classified as the Otters' one allowable Veteran because he had not been on a FL roster for enough games prior to the 2015 season.

The Frontier League has an age limit of 27, which can only be exceeded by a player (Veteran) who was on an active roster or the DL for 100 FL games in the last two seasons. Oliver made his FL debut last season and pitched in five games late in the year for the Otters. He did not qualify as a Veteran.

According to FL website and media guide, no player or player/coach this season "may have attained 27 years of age prior to Jan. 1, 2015."

Oliver turned 28 last month.

I had been tipped off about Oliver's status last week by a scout and told that something might be happening soon. The scout mentioned that Oliver's birth year was different on the Otters' roster than on baseball-reference.com. I sifted through old emails and found an Evansville roster dated June 15, 2015 and it had Oliver listed as being born in 1988. The Otters' roster dated July 28, 2015 listed Oliver's birth year as 1987.

Oliver now is on the roster of the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League. He has not appeared in the Frontier League's transactions as being released or traded by Evansville.

What, if anything, should the Frontier League do about this? It seems that this was simply an unintentional paperwork mistake made by the Otters. Or was it? Should Evansville be made to forfeit the 10 games it won that Oliver pitched? Two of those 10 were against Washington.

UPDATE: Here is what Oliver told myCentralJersey.com Monday:

“I was in Evansville — and I found out from two other teams before my manager, which was irritating, but it wasn’t intentional because gossip got out fast — that I ended up aging out of the league due to a contract technicality,” said Oliver.

“The league commissioner approved my contract in April, so it’s their fault for missing it. Our manager sent me the contract in the off-season and asked if I wanted to play again, and I said of course. I loved it in Evansville, so it was a no-brainer. But I found out a few days ago that I aged out, and they’re nullifying my contract and I couldn’t play anymore. They wanted to take away my wins I had. I don’t think that’s going to happen, because that’s just not right.”

No word from the Frontier League about what they will do about the wins Evansville accumulated in games Oliver pitched.