My Minor Thoughts on the 2010 Season
Labor Day is usually seen as the last marker before the final push for a spot in the MLB post-season.Â Interest for fans hoping for a miracle or those just praying to hang on to that final spot gets turned up a notch. Â For a small niche of baseball fans though, Labor Day also marks the ending for another season.Â It is this weekend each year that the Minor League regular season comes to a close and unlike the MLB playoff series marathons that teeter almost into November, the whole post season will be over in less than two weeks.
Realizing this is a downer because now it is back to staring at the calendar and waiting for April to reappear once again.Â On the plus side though it also allows me to think back to all the games I went to and players that I saw.Â I like to go to a game and see a player that has been hyped up and wonder if he will be the next great or savior to rescue a long suffering franchise so I can say, â€œOh, him?Â I saw him back when he played for theâ€¦â€¦.â€. Â Speaking that phrase gives me a warm and enjoyable level of baseball nerdiness.
I wanted to share some of the highlights from the Minor League games I attended which took me to four different states.Â In doing this I was able to get quite a sampling of the teams, ball yards and level of talent that was on display.
This is a tough pick as I saw a number of players who would receive post season awards from their respective leagues, were named to the upcoming Arizona Fall League, the Futures Game in Anaheim or got national attention from publications like Baseball America.Â Guys like Brandon Belt (Giants) who jumped three class levels and was named the player who took the â€œBiggest Leap Forwardâ€ for the San Francisco organization by Baseball America.Â I cannot leave out the likes of Ben Revere (just called up by the Twins), Lonnie Chisenhall (Indians) and Eric Hosmer (Royals) who all played in the Futures Game and Brandon Laird (Yankees) who won both the Eastern League MVP and Rookie of the Year Awards.Â I tip my cap to all of them but the best I saw was Wil Myers who currently plays for the Wilmington Blue Rocks.Â Myers is a 19 year old catcher who some think could be every bit as good as Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, two of the more heralded prospects in the Royals organization.Â Baseball America has said that Myers is in the running for their Player of the Year Award this year and will almost assuredly be a Top 10 prospect in all of Minor League ball in 2011.Â I had seen him play before but the clincher was the other night when I saw him against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans where he went 2 for 4 with a grand slam in a pitcher friendly Wilmington yard.Â Myers is batting just under .340 and has only struck out three more times than he has walked with the Blue Rocks (37 to 34).Â Moustakas, Hosmer and Myers definitely give hope to a once proud Kansas City franchise.
This one is a bit of a no brainer as it has to be Kyle Drabek of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.Â I saw Drabek pitch once last year and again this year in the All-Star game where he was given the starting nod and pitched a scoreless inning.Â Drabek entered the year as the center piece prospect in the trade that sent Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays to the Phillies.Â It is one thing to be traded for the face of a franchise but add into the equation that Halladay also happened to be one of the premier pitchers in baseball and it turns the pressure cooker up a bit.Â Drabek has responded like the ace the Jays hope that he will be.Â He has won 14 games, tossed a no hitter, named to the Eastern League post season all-star team and earned the EL Pitcher of the Year award.Â I also found it impressive how he is able to take his game to the next level; against the Trenton Thunder, who have the best record in the Eastern League, Drabek is 4-0 with a 1.38 ERA versus them this year.Â The Fisher Cats open the EL playoffs in Trenton this week on the 8th and do not be surprised if Drabek gets the game one start.Â If you are remotely close to the Trenton area this will be a game worth seeing.
Being able to go to the Eastern League All-Star Game in Harrisburg, PA made this an easy choice.Â The game had six Eastern League All-Starâ€™s who played in the Futureâ€™s Game out in Anaheim during Major League Baseballâ€™s All-Star weekend; Zach Britton (Orioles), Lonnie Chisenhall, Ben Revere, Danny Espinosa (Nationals), Trystan Magnuson (Blue Jays) and Austin Romine (Yankees) plus Kyle Drabek and Brandon Laird who were mentioned earlier.Â Take all of this talent and mix it with a re-modeled stadium, an autograph session, Home Run Derby and a game where you get to see a grand slam and you have more than you could ask for as a baseball fan.Â Regardless of the level, if you get the opportunity, go to an all-star game and take part in everything from beginning to end.Â Between the festivities and the game you would be hard pressed to have a better day at a ball park
Best Game I Almost Saw
Mother Nature owes me one.Â Some of my friends from work and I had planned to travel to Reading, PA to see Stephen Strasburg and the Harrisburg Senators play the Reading Phillies and their own top prospect Domonic Brown.Â Unfortunately the rains came and the game was cancelled so with the scheduling of a double header the next day we were not able to go.Â One of the few disappoints of the year because Strasburg is obviously Strasburg and to see someone like him pitch at that level would have been special plus Brown will be the Phillies starting right fielder next year after Jayson Werth leaves.Â Brown has been called up to the Phillies since, where he primarily serves as a pinch hitter, and I got a live glimpse of what the buzz is about with him.Â I was at a Philâ€™s game where he came up to pinch hit and he promptly deposited a 440 foot shot into the right center field upper deck.
Each year when we go to Maine for vacation I try to make it a point to hit Hadlock Field in Portland, home of the Red Sox double A affiliate the Sea Dogs.Â I have written before that Hadlock is my favorite stadium in all of baseball but I had an experience there this year that was second to none.Â The Sea Dogs have pavilion seating in right field just over the fence where I sat once before, two years ago, so when I called for tickets I requested the first row once again.Â The ticket person said something along the lines of, â€œOh yeah, I got some good seats for youâ€ and he was not joking as I would find out.Â Since my last visit they have added an elevated bull pen for the home team right next to the seating area with a single row of seats right in front, where we sat.Â While sitting in our seats I was able to literally look over my shoulder and watch the Sea Dogs starting pitcher warm up from about fifteen feet away.Â Then during the game I heard the pop of a ball in the mitt and when I turned around saw a reliever warming up.Â One of the first signs that you have amazing seats is when you are close enough to hear a reliever getting loose.Â For whatever reason if you find yourself in the Portland, Maine area and are a baseball fan be sure to get seats in Section 501.Â If you are wondering about the cost of these tickets: under $10 a piece.Â Only in the minors.
Is it April yet?
- Most baseball fans were curious to see if the Nationals would be able to sign their #1 overall draft pick, Bryce Harper, as the signing deadline neared. I kept a close eye on the signing deadline to, but the pick I had interest in fell under the radar to a lot of fans.Â In fact he was drafted precisely 1,498 picks AFTER Harper in the 50th round by the Kansas City Royals.Â A simple yet famous name to many, Joe Jackson.Â This Joe Jackson happens to be the great, great, great nephew of â€œShoelessâ€ Joe Jackson, of 1919 Black Sox infamy.Â Disappointed to report that he did not sign, but I am rooting for him to play in college and possibly get drafted again in a few years.Â Joe Jackson may play professional ball again after all.
- I loved the fact that so many people were out of sorts over Bud Selig erecting a statue of himself at Miller Park in Milwaukee.Â Though I will be the first to admit I would like to see it taken down, much the same way as our military removed the Saddam Hussein statue in Iraq, I was disturbed about another aspect of this.Â How could a bunch of people with any semblance of baseball knowledge choose to build a statue of Selig over Paul Molitor?Â Molly was a first ballot Hall of Famer who broke in with the Brewers and played fifteen of his twenty one years in the game there.Â I always thought of Molitor as a well respected and classy player which is not something you can say about every HOFâ€™er .Â There are statues of Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Robin Yount already outside the ball park in Milwaukee, which I am all for, but to add Selig next to these two?Â I picture a few Brewer employees running late for the Friday afternoon statue meeting and having a few too many Harvey Wallbangers at lunch and then as a joke end up convincing everyone to honor Selig.Â This has to be how it happened, right?
- It was interesting to witness the fanâ€™s and mediaâ€™s general indifference to A-Rod reaching the 600 homer plateau.Â Was it his aloof personality, the fact that he admitted to using PEDs, the general feeling that all baseball records dealing with the long ball are tainted, or some combination of these?Â It will be worth paying attention to Jim Thome who has 585 career homers as of this writing.Â I feel safe in saying that he will not approach number 600 until next year, but here is a player who is genuine, displays a solid character and has never been linked to anything questionable regarding his performance.Â I am curious to see the coverage he gets leading up to 600 and if there is a positive buzz.Â If not it could be a tell tale sign that fans just do not believe what they witness from anyone playing in the steroid era regardless of who they are.Â In Thomeâ€™s case it would be a true shame.
Matt has been a member of SABR and the Connie Mack Chapter since 2009.Â Along with his fascination with the history of baseball Matt gets most enjoyment from attending minor league games because of the â€œgrass roots feel of the gameâ€ he gets from the smaller ballparks.
Matt has been a writer since May 2009 focusing on current happenings in the majors, minor league ball in the Philadelphia region and the hometown Phillies.