Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The things you find on cable television

While scanning my cable system's program guide, I found this entry on the MLB Network for Dec. 24 at 7 p.m.:

MLB Network Presents

Lenny Randle, "The Most Interesting Man in Baseball"

Yes, that's the Lenny Randle who was a coach for the Wild Things in 2012.

I don't know if Lenny is the most interesting man in baseball or not, but I can tell you he was the most unique person who ever walked through the Wild Things clubhouse. Also, knowing Lenny's penchant for talking, I don't know how MLB edited this program down to a one-hour window. I once interviewed Lenny for 30 minutes and asked only three questions.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Former Beach Bums manager Langbehn hired

A day after the Washington Wild Things moved manager Bob Bozzuto into a front office position, they announced the hiring of Gregg Langbehn as Bozzuto’s replacement for the 2016 season.

Langbehn is the ninth manager in Wild Things history, and the seventh in nine years.

Langbehn managed the Traverse City Beach Bums from 2008-13, compiling a 267-212 record and took them to the Frontier League championship series in 2010.

“I am excited to become the manager of the Washington Wild Things upon my return to the Frontier League,” said Langbehn. “I look forward to working with the front office staff as we prepare for the 2016 season and continue to assemble our roster in our quest of returning the Wild Things back to the postseason.”

Langbehn’s most successful season came in 2012, when the Beach Bums went 64-32 and Langbehn was named the Frontier League’s Manager of the Year.

“As we began our search, Langbehn stood out above all the others,” general manager Steven Zavacky said in a news release.

“He comes with experience and most importantly, with both knowledge and success in the Frontier League. He will be a great addition to our team.”

The 46-year-old Langbehn was an 11th-round draft pick by the New York Mets in 1998 and played in the minor leagues for the Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers. He reached as high as Class AAA. Langbehn was a left-handed pitcher who had a 48-43 record and 3.32 ERA in the minors. The Schofield, Wisc., native finished his playing career in 1995 with Pawtucket of the International League.

Prior to managing in the Frontier League, Langbehn coached and managed in the Houston Astros organization. He spent the last two years as replay coordinator for the Cleveland Indians.

Bozzuto compiled a 58-68 record after being named manager Aug. 2 of the 2014 season. The Wild Things advanced to the league semifinals that year. Bozzuto was on the Wild Things’ coaching staff in 10 of the last 11 seasons. He submitted his resignation as manager in October. His new responsibilities with the team have not been announced but he will report directly to ownership.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Bozzuto out as manager, named vice president

By Chris Dugan
Sports editor

Bob Bozzuto is out as manager of the Wild Things and has been given a front office position with the Frontier League team.

Bozzuto, who was a member of the Wild Things’ coaching staff for 10 of the last 11 seasons, including the last 129 games as manager, resigned from his coaching job and was named Monday as the team’s administrative vice president.

“Personally, I needed a change,” Bozzuto admitted. “This way, I can have a little bit of summer.”

Bob Bozzuto
Bozzuto, a Greensburg resident who also is the athletic director at North Allegheny High School in Wexford, joined the Wild Things’ coaching staff in 2005. He became manager under a bizarre set of circumstances late in the 2014 season, after manager Bart Zeller unexpectedly resigned with the Wild Things in first place on July 6. Washington used a “coach-by-committee” before coach and former major leaguer Bob Didier resigned from the staff Aug. 2. Bozzuto was named manager later that day.

Bozzuto was able to steady the Wild Things through a rocky period and guided them to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. They won a wild-card playoff game at Evansville before losing to River City in the semifinals.

“I’m disappointed because one of my objectives was to bring a championship to Washington. The fans deserve it,” Bozzuto said. “Hopefully, I can do it in a different role.”
Bozzuto had a 58-68 record as manager. Washington was 42-54 this year and finished in fifth place in the seven-team East Division.

“With the addition of his tenure as field manager for the 2014 and 2015 teams and his experience as the athletic director for North Allegheny, Bob is the best possible adviser to assist us as we move our sports and entertainment venue (Consol Energy Park) into the future,” Wild Things managing partner Francine Williams said in a statement.

Bozzuto submitted his resignation as manager in October. He is not sure exactly what his new duties and responsibilities will entail. He will report directly to ownership.

“We’ve talked and we’ll meet this week and work out everything,” Bozzuto said. “There are a lot of things behind the scenes that have to improve. Nobody in the organization knows all the facets of being out on the road, the long bus rides and staying in lousy hotels. … I think I can be a good ambassador for baseball and the Wild Things.”

Bozzuto admitted the 100-mile trip that he would make from Greensburg to Wexford to Washington and back to Greensburg was taxing, but he will miss the grind.

“I tell people that I was excited about my job every time I made the drive up the hill to the ballpark because I never took it for granted,” Bozzuto said. “I always looked at it as a privilege. I will miss coaching, absolutely.

“The Washington Wild Things mean a great deal to me and my family. But they needed a change after 10 years. The organization needs some fresh ideas and a new outlook.”

Washington hasn’t announced a replacement for Bozzuto, though former Traverse City Beach Bums manager Gregg Langbehn has been rumored for weeks to be the Wild Things’ next manager. Langbehn spent five years in Traverse City before taking a job in 2014 as the Cleveland Indians’ replay coordinator.

Friday, November 6, 2015

One step closer to Parkersburg?

A developer has donated 10 acres for a proposed Frontier League baseball stadium in Parkersburg, W.Va.

Media outlets reported this week that Pat Minnite announced his donation on Tuesday. He says the next step is to determine how to fund the project and who will be involved.

Minnite, who last year bought 175 acres at the site for development of residential and "upscale" shopping, said he envisions the project as a sports and entertainment venue that would offer music, family events, restaurants, hotels and other amenities.

We know that Wild Things owner Stu Williams, has agreed to commit staff and resources to the process. In exchange, Williams would have exclusive rights to bring a team to Parkersburg. That agreement does not say the team must be an expansion franchise. It can be a team moved from a current Frontier League city to Parkersburg.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Did pace-of-play rules work? Well, maybe

The Frontier League made much noise last spring about its new pace-of-play rules, which included the much-criticized International Tiebreaker rule.

Prior to the season, the league issued a three-page release detailing new rules that were designed to speed-up play and generate shorter game times. The release included sections on the time limit between innings, when the catcher should throw the baseball to second base during the between-innings warmup pitches, how many seconds a pitcher has to deliver a pitch, walkup music, defensive conferences, limiting granting timeouts to batters, making the batter keep one foot in the batter's box and the ITB.

Did these new rules really speed-up games?


The league tracked the average time of all 9-inning games played at each of its ballparks from 2012 through 2014. At Consol Energy Park, the average times were 2:44 in 2014, 2:39 in 2013 and 2:43 back in 2012. The league average for Washington during the three-year period was 2:50.

The average time for all nine-inning games played in Washington this year was just under 2:39. We'll round up to 2:39. That's the same as in 2013 and three seconds under the average for games played at CEP from 2012 to 2014.

Washington did play a game on the road, at Traverse City, late in the season that lasted only 1:54. It was the third-quickest game in Wild Things history.

I will have to see the numbers for the entire league before saying the speed-up rules worked. What I did notice is the base umpire, who was supposed to carry a stopwatch and time the inning breaks, rarely did so during the second half of the season. That's probably because the players and on-field promotions people adjusted quickly to the new rules.

One more note: the Frontier League had a time limit of 2 minutes, 5 seconds for its inning breaks. Because of television, the Major League Baseball playoff games have innings breaks of 3 minutes, 15 seconds. That works out to more than 18 minutes of extra dead time built into a major league playoff game.

And it's the Frontier League that needs to hurry up?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sergey on move, again

You might recall that after Matt Sergey was traded in August by the Wild Things to Laredo of the American Association, the pitcher had an amazing impact on the Lemurs. Sergey did not give up a run in 20 regular-season innings and tossed six shutout frames in his only postseason start for Laredo, which won the league championship.

Those numbers didn't keep Sergey in Laredo. He was traded as a player to be named to complete a deal with the Gary SouthShore RailCats, who are managed by Greg Tagert, who spent many years in the Frontier League.

Laredo is supposed to send two players to Washington to complete the Sergey trade. The Lemurs currently have 14 players on their roster who are Frontier League-eligible.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Driving excitement

Here's the link to an interesting story about Wild Things outfielder Scott Kalamar being the talk of the Lehigh Valley Amateur golf tournament.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Breaking down the FL's tiebreaker games

When the Frontier League decided last offseason that it would use the controversial International Tiebreaker rule -- the American Association and Can-Am League also implemented the post-10th-inning rule -- there were two popular reactions among the league's managers.

1. They said there was a sound reason for using the rule, though almost all admitted hating it and saying it was not real baseball. Washington's Bob Bozzuto and Schaumburg's Jamie Bennett were the two who spoke most passionately to me against the tiebreaker. Only two managers I spoke with said they liked the rule.

2. They said it would heavily favor the home team. The conventional wisdom was that, to borrow the analogy used by Evansville manager Andy McCauley, it would be like college football overtimes. The visiting team wouldn't know if playing it safe and for one run would be enough to win. The home team always would know if it should play for one run or the big inning.

It turned out that the visiting teams dominated ITR games.

There were 25 tiebreaker games played and the visiting team registered a 16-9 record. The road team won each of the first six tiebreaker games played.

The only team that managed to go the entire season without playing in a tiebreaker game was Windy City. Joliet played its first ITB in the final game of the regular season.

Washington and Rockford played the most tiebreaker games with six each. Both teams went 2-4.

Three teams went undefeated in the ITB format. Normal was 4-0, the Greys were 3-0 and Joliet 1-0.

The only team that played an ITB game and failed to win one was Lake Erie, which was 0-2.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Talkin' titles

Traverse City Beach Bums -- 2015 Frontier League champions

Trivia time.

Since the Wild Things joined the Frontier League in 2002, how many different teams have won the league championship?

Answer: Twelve.

The Traverse City Beach Bums become the Frontier League's 12th different champion in the last 14 years when they swept the River City Rascals, winning Game 3 last Friday night, 4-1.

Two teams -- Windy City (2007 and '08) and Schaumburg (2013 and '14) -- have won a pair of championships since Washington joined the league. If the Rockford Aviators fold as expected and the Greys are not needed, then the 2015 lineup in the Frontier League will consist of 12 teams. Of those 12, only three will have never hoisted the championship trophy: Florence, Normal and, of course, Washington.

Traverse City won its first championship in the franchise's 10th season. The record for longest run without a championship is held by Chillicothe, which never won the title in its 16 years in the league. Washington is 0-for-14.

By the way, the West Virginia Black Bears, the Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate in the New York-Penn League that played their inaugural season this year in Morgantown, W.Va., won the league championship. That should make every Wild Things fan cringe.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Late shows

The Traverse City Beach Bums and River City Rascals resume the Frontier League's championship series with Game 3 tonight in O'Fallon, Mo. Traverse City has a 2-0 lead and is on the verge of the franchise's elusive first championship.

The Beach Bums won Game 2 Wednesday night when they overcame a four-run deficit and won 6-5. Traverse City scored in each of the last five innings and pushed across the game-winner in the bottom of the ninth.

Late-game magic has been standard procedure for Traverse City, which has been one of the best teams in the league at scoring in the late innings. The Beach Bums tied for the league lead in scoring the game-winning run in its final inning of batting, whether it be the bottom of the 8th, top or bottom of the 9th or extra innings (and earlier in seven-inning doubleheader games).

The following is the number of times each team produced the game-winning run in its final inning of batting in the 2015 season:

15 -- Southern Illinois
15 -- Traverse City
14 -- Gateway
11 -- Greys
11 -- Normal
11 -- Washington
10 -- Evansville
10 -- River City
 9 -- Joliet
 8 -- Rockford
 7 -- Lake Erie
 6 -- Scahumburg
 5 -- Windy City
 4 -- Florence