October 20, 2019

American Association Playoffs Have a Different Look

September 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Not one single hint of disrespect is intended toward the four teams in the American Association playoffs because they earned their opportunity during the grind of the 100-game regular season, but there are some unusual sideline observers for the championship run.

The playoff field, which was not finalized until the very last day of the season when Wichita, KS nailed down the Central Division title and St. Paul, MN became the wild-card entry, does not include the perennial postseason faces of Gary, IN and Fargo, ND.

In fact, the playoffs also are without nine of the 12 players on the postseason All-Star team for the 14-team league.

The only playoff team from among the quintet of new entries in the American Association is North champion Winnipeg, which is hosting St. Paul, while runaway South champ Grand Prairie, TX gets Wichita at home in the first two of the best-of-five semifinal series scheduled to start Thursday night.

Both Gary and Fargo had a long history of playoff appearances in the Northern League, which vanished this season.  Gary, eliminated by St. Paul, 9-7, in the regular season finale, had been in the playoffs six years in a row.  Manager Greg Tagert, who led all of those playoff teams and won championships in 2005 and 2007, told The Gary Post-Tribune he believes this season’s disappointment will “sit longer” than in three previous playoffs when the RailCats lost in the championship round.

Fargo’s record has been even more outstanding with five Northern League titles, 14 playoff berths in 15 previous years, all under Manager Doug Simunic, and never finishing below .500 until this season (44-56).  The RedHawks were 52-37 in 2002, the only previous year that they missed the postseason.

Wichita Duo and Grand Prairie Closer Only All-Stars in Playoffs

The Wichita infield duo of shortstop Josh Horn and third baseman Juan Richardson and Grand Prairie closer Jon Hunton are the only members of the 12-man American Association postseason All-Star team who will be in the league playoffs.  St. Paul’s Jonathan Van Every was selected as Defensive Player of the Year, but, interestingly enough, he was traded to Brockton, MA four days ago despite his perfect fielding record of handling 253 chances without an error.

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Record Likely to Tumble

With major league rosters expanded starting Thursday, it seems likely Independent Baseball will tie and possibly break its 2008 record with 35 of its former players reaching baseball’s top level in a single seasonIt stands at 34 as of now.

 It has even been said one of those possibly getting an opportunity might be outfielder Joey Gathright, whose contract was only purchased by the Boston Red Sox from Yuma, AZ (North American League) Wednesday.  The 30-year-old, who has had two minor league seasons with more than 50 steals, was to report to Pawtucket, RI where the regular season ends Monday.  But Boston would not have brought him back if it did not have positive feelings from ’09, when he hit .312 in a 17-game stint with the parent team and was on the active roster for the American League Division Series.

HoJo, Son Suit Up Together This Weekend

What would the end of the regular season be without some intriguing on-field promotion?

The honor this year goes to the new Rockland Boulders (Ramapo, NY), who have struggled during the Can-Am League season but opened a showpiece stadium known as Provident Bank Park.

Rockland is signing longtime major leaguer Howard Johnson and his son Glen for the last two games against the Newark (NJ) Bears Sunday and Monday.  The older Johnson, known as HoJo for most of his 14-year major league career, is 50 and last played for the Chicago Cubs in 1995.  He spent the bulk of his career playing third base for the New York Mets, and is the only switch-hitter to lead the National League in home runs and runs batted in during the same season when he went 38-117 exactly 20 years ago.

Glen, also a 5-foot-11 switch-hitting infielder but not blessed with his father’s power, was drafted by the Mets in 2007 but went to college instead, playing three years at Jacksonville (FL) University and this season at Pace University (Pleasantville, NY), hitting .220 with a homer and nine RBI.

(This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes year round on Independent Baseball.  Fans may subscribe at www.WirzandAssociates.com, enjoy his blogs, www.AtlanticLeagueBaseball.com and www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, or comment to RWirz@aol.com.  The author has 16 years of major league baseball public relations experience with Kansas City and as spokesman for two Commissioners and lives in Stratford, CT.)

 

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