Monday, July 28, 2008

Trade Deadline Approaches

As the 2008 MLB trade deadline approaches July 31st, I thought I would shed some light on the major deals already done up to this point:
1. CC Sabathia in exchange for Matt LaPorta and 3 other prospects - Indians/Brewers
Even though I am biased, this deal is clearly the cream of the crop and should propel the Brewers into the Wild Card spot in the National League. It provides the Crew with one of the best 1-2-3 starter combinations in all of baseball in Sabathia, Sheets, and Parra.
2. Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin in exchange for Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, and 2 prospects - Athletics/Cubs
Harden is not as dominant as Sabathia and is injury prone, but the Cubs have this guy locked up for another 1-2 years, where as Sabathia is likely a rental. They also gave up far less talent than the Brewers (Gallagher is the best of this group) and got another reliever in exchange.
3. Joe Blanton in exchange for 3 prospects - Athletics/Phillies
Blanton, much like CC, is pitching much better than his record would suggest. Anything is better than Brett Myers. The Phillies and Mets should go down to the wire for the NL East banner with this trade.
4. Richie Sexson signs free agent deal with Yankees after being cut by Mariners
Big Sexy is only hitting .216 this year, has more holes in his swing than a piece of Swiss cheese, and is even worse with RISP, but he will undoubtedly be limited to a platoon with Giambi off the bench. He may shine in a limited role with a change of scenery, not to mention a contending team.
5. Ray Durham in exchange for 2 prospects - Giants/Brewers
This is a win-win for the Brewers - either Ray's mere presence motivates guys like Weeks and Hall to consistently play better, or Durham will get 2-3 starts a week and provide a much needed bat from the left side with a high OBP.
6. Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte in exchange for Ross Ohlendorf and 3 other prospects - Pirates/Yankees
I like this trade a lot. Nady was going nowhere in Pittsburgh, and Marte is a stud, and probably was the best lefty reliever available besides Brian Fuentes. If Hideki comes back healthy enough to play outfield again, the Yankees can turn around and swap Nady in the offseason or next year's trade deadline for 2 or 3 prospects to replace the ones they lost.
7. Casey Blake and cash in exchange for 2 prospects - Indians/Dodgers
These "player and cash" trades are always suspect to me. What exactly does "and cash" mean? Are the two GMs like, "Hey I like the trade on paper...pick up this lunch tab and you've got a deal?" Blake is an above-average player going to an average team in a below-average division, and should help the Dodgers move past the Diamondbacks, unless they make a deal of their own. This seems unlikely, since the D-Backs have a lot of their young guys locked up for a few years and are unwilling to deal them.
8. Jon Rauch in exchange for a prospect - Nationals/Diamondbacks
The D-Backs never really replaced their departed closer Jose Valverde, and Rauch should provide stability in the back end of their bullpen for the home stretch.
9. Randy Wolf in exchange for a prospect - Padres/Astros
Roy Oswalt is on the DL, the Padres have pretty much cashed in their season already, and there's not too many more arms out there. You gotta love the optimism of Houston to be buyers at the trade deadline, and to think that they'll make yet another 2nd-half push.
The five big names players still out there who have been mentioned in trade talks are Matt Holliday, Brian Fuentes, Mark Teixeira, George Sherrill and AJ Burnett. It seems unlikely to me that the Rockies would trade either, since everyone's a contender in the NL West. There aren't any contending teams looking for a 1st basemen except Arizona, and as I said, they probably won't deal a young player for him, and their farm system not developed enough to trade any prospects. Sherrill and Burnett are probably your best bets to get traded. As for the Manny trade talks, after watching Baseball Tonight yesterday, I don't really see this happening until the offseason. Look for Jarod Washburn to go to the Yankees in the upcoming days, and for all three teams in the AL West to have a firesale, since the closest team to the Angels is 10.5 games back.
Brewers 60-45, -1.0 (4 v. Cubs, 3 @ Braves)
Reds 50-56, -11.5 (3 @ Astros, 3 @ Nationals)
Twins 57-47, -2.5 (4 v. White Sox, 3 v. Indians)
Erik - 21
Peter - 37

Monday, July 21, 2008

Silver Cross Field

All photos of Joliet and Silver Cross Field available on Flickr.

I awoke refreshed and ready to start the day following a great night's sleep in my king-sized bed, in a room that actually had curtains, unlike my bedroom at my house. After being denied access to the pool post-checkout, I started the drive into the city to have lunch with my friend John from grad school, since I had no interest in arriving in Joliet 8 hours before gametime. John put Erik and I up on the first two nights of the tour in his apartment in Wrigleyville, and apparently 4 blocks was still too far away from the ballpark, as his new pad is even closer to Wrigley Field. We caught up over some beers and a couple delicious Aussie burgers at Harry Caray's. As jealous as he was of Erik and my adventure(s), I was a little envious myself that he is going to a Red Sox-Yankees game in New York for his bachelor party. As the rain started to fall, I headed southwest for Joliet, and arrived a little after 4 PM, where I found a parking spot right across the street from the ballpark.

On the way in, I'll admit that I had a pre-conceived picture in my head of what Joliet would look like, and was already thinking of anecdotes to write on the blog (no doubt another Cudahy comparison would have been involved). After all, Joliet is really only known for two things - a casino, and as the place where Jake Blues from the Blues Brothers spent some time in the slammer. I'll have to say though...I think "impressed" is too strong of a word, but it was better than I thought it would be. Somewhere in between a town and a city (a "tity"?), it kind of reminded me of Davenport, maybe Omaha. Streets everywhere were laden with banners that read "If its fun, it's in downtown Joliet," "Joliet Reads!" and "No Parking on Gameday." I did a fair amount of exploring, walking past some cool churches and the Route 66 team store (apparently the old 66 corridor runs through Joliet). Seeing most of downtown still only took about a half hour, so in true Houses Erik & Peter Built fashion, I stopped in a local bar to watch FOX Saturday baseball and throw back some Old Style until first pitch.

I arrived at the gate just before it opened at 6, picked up my $5 GA seat, and went inside. It was decent; I mean, after seeing as many ballparks as I have, I've come to realize that everything's been done before in some variation, and it takes a lot to impress me at this point. Combine the entry of John O' Donnell Stadium, in which you have to walk up steps to get onto the main concourse, the architecture of the Rockford Riverhawks' stadium, and the interior of Haymarket Park, and you get Silver Cross Field. Instead of being sponsored by a financial institution or communications company as most ballparks are, Silver Cross Field went the route of the local hospital, and the entire staff wears nurse scrubs to play along. The site is wedged between the METRA line to Chicago, a little league diamond, and an old warehouse, and amenities include "viewing alcoves" to the street and train tracks, a kids' zone, a group hot tub/picnic area in right, and a rooftop seating area in left where you can watch the game on top of a concession stand so you can feel like you're at Wrigley. Pretty standard concessions and team store, but they did have a nice spot called "Guinness Pub" that featured jumbo imported beers and a small seating area.

The Joliet Jackhammers play in the Northern League, a collection of six teams from disbanded and restructured independent leagues, with clubs that range from Winnipeg to the Chicago area. The Jackhammers are coached by former major leaguer Wally Backman, and his team his basically comprised of relatives of major leaguers, a whole bunch of guys he coached on the South Georgia Peanuts, and his sons. As far as independent leagues go, I think Erik and I can agree that in terms of talent and entertainment, the American Association and the Golden League are pretty outstanding, the Frontier League is average, and the CanAm League is horrible. I would give the Northern League maybe a 'B.' Some shotty defense, but respectable pitching, and there were probably more home runs in this game (6) than I've seen in all the other independent league games I've been to combined. Two of those homeruns were by Jay Ricci of Gary, who also hit a double off the wall and a long flyout to center, and the only reason I could think of for why he's not on a minor league team is maybe "Pedro Cerrano" issues. Gary also featured Mike Rohde on the roster, which was a treat for me as he was one of my favorite Madison Mallards and I saw him get inducted into the Mallards HOF last year. The Railcats defeated the Jackhammers, despite a solid pitching performance by Nick Sevier, who went 7 and struck out 7. The Railcats' lead was slim heading into the 8th, but Gary reliever Kasiko Misawa shut the door on the Hammers by striking out 4 in 1 2/3 to pick up the save (0.40 ERA on the season). The most interesting play of the game occurred in the 7th, when Joliet bunted into a double play and everyone on the field, including the umpires, thought that was the 3rd out. The next inning started, and after a couple pitches to the first batter, the umpires suddenly huddled up with the managers, declared that there were actually only two outs in the previous inning, and then the teams changed sides to record that final out, in which the Jackhammer batter ended up striking out on four pitches.

After the game was a fireworks display NOT cancelled due to lateness. It was short but decent. I checked my car for any foulball damage and then hit the road back to Milwaukee. It was a great weekend, and I wish I didn't have to work the next day so I could have caught a White Sox game on Sunday afternoon. And PS - the luck of the tour continues - storms predicted both days and both games were played!

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 8 (skyboxes were beautiful)
views from park - 3 (METRA)
view to field - 9
surrounding area - 6 (downtown is a couple blocks away)
food variety - 4
nachos - 9 (huge plate, chili & sour cream, good chips)
beer - 7 (bonus points for jumbo bottles)
vendor price - 8
ticket price - 8 ($5 GA)
atmosphere - 2 (pretty quiet for most of the game)
walk to park - 5
parking proximity - 10 (I was really early; across the street for free)
concourses - 7
team shop - 6

best food - nachos
most unique stadium feature - hot tub/picnic area
best jumbotron feature - Lou Pinella/Ozzie Guillen Chevy rap commercial
best between-inning feature - anything featuring Jammer the mascot (best during-game entertinament: Champ the Wonder Dog retrieves broken bats from field)

field dimensions - 327/400/330
starters - David Dickinson (GRY) v. Nick Sevier (JOL)
opponent - Gary Southshore Railcats
time of game - 3:08
attendance - 4,914
score - 6-5 L
Brewers score that day - 8-5 W
Brewers 55-43, -3.0 (4 @ Cardinals, 3 v. Astros)
Reds 48-52, -11.0 (3 v. Padres, 3 v. Rockies)
Twins 55-43, -0.5 (3 @ Yankees, 3 @ Indians)

Erik - 20
Peter - 36

Philip B. Elfstrom Stadium

All photos of Philip B. Elfstrom Stadium available on Flickr.

A few months ago, Erik and I found out that classic recipe Schlitz was being re-released in a few scattered liquor stores in Chicago. Without hesitation, we felt an impromptu trip centered around beer and ball was necessary, and we chose this weekend to go. But then June rolled around - Classic Schlitz went on sale in Milwaukee, and Erik decided to take a job in New Hampshire. Since I was already really amped up for this trip, I decided to proceed on with it solo, and this afternoon I arrived in suburban Chicago to watch the Kane County Cougars.

I left work around 2, and despite driving down state roads most of the way, I still managed to hit traffic and construction and arrived at my accommodations for the night – a St. Charles Days Inn – almost 3 hours later. I had a few minutes to settle in and take a few laps around the pool (which was much smaller than advertised, but still nice) before heading out to the ballpark.

The ballpark is a part of the Kane County Sports Complex in Geneva, which is about 4 miles from my hotel. Philip B. Elfstrom Stadium is home to the Kane County Cougars, an A-affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. The team was established in 1991 and was formerly the affiliate of the Marlins, and players such as Dontrelle Willis, AJ Burnett, Josh Beckett, and Josh Willingham were all Cougars. I’d been wanting to come to this park for a few years now – I had planned on going a couple of times when I lived in Madison, but weather and work prohibited this. When I finally arrived in the parking lot after going through a ridiculously long driving sequence, it looked like the state fair – rows and rows of cars parked on pervious pavers and grass. I was temporarily upset after dishing out $10 for an A-ball seat, but then once I got inside I realized where all the money went. This was easily one of the top 5 minor league ballparks I’ve ever been to. As with most A and AA ballfields, it’s more of a seating bowl and some out buildings, moreso than an actual structure, but since it’s built into the side of a hill and wedged between trees and homes in a park, it feels very intimate and enclosed (it reminded me of Dodger Stadium, on a much smaller scale). Ridiculously awesome beer and food variety, great views, exciting team, good promotional calendar, 3 team stores, great prices, and 3 huge picnic areas in the outfield. Even though the fireworks were cancelled because the game ran too late, I had a great time. Note to Kane County Cougars: if you get souvenir cups, helmet sundaes, and build some stuff around the park, I will rank you as my favorite minor league ballyard. This was the 6th Midwest League ballpark I've visited, and definitely the best thus far.

The game ran too late because there were 27 runs on 30+ hits, and at least a dozen walks/hit batsmen. I was expecting more of a pitchers duel between the A’s and Dodgers affiliate teams, since these organizations typically grow stud pitchers on trees and aren’t really known for powerful offenses. Obviously every pitcher sucked, and every hitter got like 3 hits, so nobody in the game really stood out too much to me. The Cougars got out to a 5-1 lead in the 45-minute first inning and pulled ahead to a 15-5 lead in the top of the 7th, but the Loons made a game of it in their half of the 7th with a pair of 2-run blasts. In the end, the Cougars won 17-10 at 10:20 pm, which was apparently 5 minutes too late to shoot off the postgame fireworks. A few things of note in the game that you don’t see everyday: (1) Both starting pitchers were out of the game by the 4th inning; (2) a batter for the Loons laced a broken-bat pop-up that landed softly behind the mound…which is already embarassing, and add to that that every infielder on the diamond went after it, allowing the hitter to end up with an infield double; (3) Jemile Weeks, recent 1st round draft pick of the Athletics and younger brother of Rickie Weeks, started at 2nd base for the Cougars. Add the bat waggle and about 30 pounds, and I would have sworn it was Rickie – hitting .140 in the leadoff hole, 1-4 with 2 Ks and 2 HBP, and a botched double play.

The rankings will show that my favorite between-innings feature was “Batboy leads YMCA,” but an honorable mention goes to the cats sitting in front of me. It was a girl with her dad, and along for the ride was her boyfriend, whom she was obviously introducing to Daddy for the first time. When that awkwardness wasn’t entertaining enough in itself, the father used to play minor league ball, and was sharing many stories and in-game strategy tips with this young chap, so hopefully for the girl that was a good sign that he approves of her choice in men. Tomorrow I’m heading into the city to have lunch with a few friends from grad school, and then it’s off to Joliet for game #2 of the trip.

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 5
views from park - 5 (park)
view to field - 10
surrounding area - 3 (park)
food variety - 9 (standard grill fair, but 4 separte grilles, two indoor and two outdoor)
nachos - 5 (I did not have any, but they looked pretty standard)
beer - 10 (excellent price and the best ballpark variety ive ever seen)
vendor price - 9
ticket price - 3 (even though it was worth every penny, still WAY too steep for minors)
atmosphere - 8 (one of the best A-ball crowds ive seen)
walk to park - 1 (huge parking lot)
parking proximity - 8 (free adjacent lot, but huge)
concourses - 8 (great views to field from concourse)
team shop - 9 (three small team stores)
best food - elephant ear
most unique stadium feature - three enormous decks in the outfield
best jumbotron feature - "Fish or No Fish" game
best between-inning feature - batboy leads YMCA

field dimensions - 335/400/335
starters - Given Kutz (GL) v. Jamie Richmond (KC)
opponent - Great Lakes Loons
time of game - 3:40
attendance - 6,705
score - 17-10 W

Brewers score that day - 9-1 W

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Home Run Derby Drinking Game

So I'm sitting here in my living room, flipping between the AAA All-Star Game and the replay of the Home Run Derby from Monday night, and of course enjoying a frosty beverage. And then, all of a sudden, somewhere around Josh Hamilton's 86th homerun and the 113th time Chris Berman said "back, back, back," I look at the bottle of High Life in my hand and have an epiphany - there totally needs to be a Home Run Derby drinking game! I raced to my laptop...and then forgot everything I was gonna write down, as it took forever for my dying laptop to boot up. Upset, I turned to the internet to jog my memory for this post, and soon found out that somebody had already come up for the idea of the Derby drinking game. And not only had the idea been taken, but there seems to be a modified set of rules for every year of the Derby. Without trying to reinvent the wheel, I use the pre-existing game as basis for my own, more generic and simplified version, since clearly even a sober person would not be able to keep up with all the rules of the current version of the game.

Maximum number of participants = 8. Each participant chooses who they think will win and puts $5 into the pool, with the winner taking all. Have plenty of beer on hand, and drink whenever:

1. Any player hits at least 3 homeruns in a row without recording an out
2. Chris Berman says "back, back, back"
3. A reference is made to the previous single-round record and/or Josh Hamilton
4. A player's child/children are shown
5. A player is shown holding a camcorder
6. A player is shown wearing his cap backwards
7. A player hits a homerun over 500 feet
8. A player hits a foul ball
9. A player's swing is shown in super-slow motion
10. The pitcher's face is shown
11. A fan in the crowd is shown holding a sign
12. A player wipes off with a towel
13. A clip from a previous Home Run Derby is shown
14. An aerial shot of the stadium is shown
15. A player is interviewed

I greatly look forward to playing this next year and taking the next morning off of work!

All-Star Week

All photos of Northwoods League All-Star Game available on Flickr.

Midsummer Classics dotted baseball schedules around the country this week, with of course the creme de la creme being the 79th MLB All-Star Game, played this year at Yankee Stadium for the 4th and final time, as the ballpark is being razed in favor of a $1 billion replica for the 2009 season. Monday Night I attended the Northwoods League All-Star Game with my parents in Madison. It was a showcase of some of the finest collegiate talent from around the nation competing in the national spotlight on ESPN-U. Following a special day on Sunday that featured a US Military All-Stars game and the NWL Home Run Derby (Mankato outfielder Michael Rockett took home the trophy with 10 HRs), the actual all-star game itself was sure to be a treat. It was the first all-star game at any level I'd ever attended and I was looking forward to it for many months, and it did not disappoint.

After purchasing some all-star game merchandise (see sweet logo above) and grabbing dinner, we went out to our seats to watch the teams warm up. The seats I purchased 2 months ago ended up being direcly behind a post (E-Mallards website for not specifying which seats were Obstructed View). Once we moved over, we observed a few interesting happenings that occurred even before the game started. First of all, there was one random other team's mascot in attendance - Slider of the Rochester Honkers. Why their mascot is not a goose and/or named Honky is beyond me, but that's another story. This tall lanky mascot would chest bump and basically just get really excited every time a Honkers player was introduced during the All-Star Lineups ceremony, and it provided a lot of entertainment to an otherwise long and mundane process. Secondly, the umpires were introduced - all 12 of them! Each set of 6 performed their duties for 4.5 innings a piece. I'm not sure if I was more surprised that the NWL actually had that many umpires, or that the ASG employed a "pinch umpire" system. Third, the singing of "O Canada," in honor of the Thunder Bay invitees, was probably the worst national anthem I've ever heard in person. He was horrendously off-key right out of the gate, he struggled to remember the words to the song, and at one point even took a long pause and started laughing before regaining his composure and stumbling to the finish. I tried to sing as loud as I could to help him out, but it was to no avail. This provides further fuel to Erik's theory that National Anthems should only be sung by children and barbershop quartets. Last but certainly not least, as is the tradition in Madison, Maynard Mallard the mascot brought in the game ball on a zipline and delivered it to the Mayor of Madison, who tossed a strike for the ceremonial first pitch.

The game itself dragged on quite long, as there was a lot of offense and a lot of pitching changes, but it was a great experience to be witnessing so much talent, most of which will probably be drafted in the next couple years. Every pitcher tossed between 2/3 and 1 inning, and every single player on both sides got into the game. The South All-Stars struck with 2 in the 1st, and the North countered with 3 in the 2nd. After that, it was all south as they motored on to an 8-4 victory, their first over the north in 3 years. It was hard to pick up and/or remember any one player since there were so many substitutions, but the two Madison starters, Matt Jansen and Rob Lyerly, looked like studs. Jansen started the game and struck out the side, and Lyerly was 2-2 with a walk and an RBI double. Josh Prince and the MVP of the game, Cory Vaughn, both also chimed in with 2 hits a piece for the South. After a long evening of watching pre-game fungoes, drinking cheap beer, and non-stop entertainment, we unfortunately had to leave after the 7th, due to a combination of my parents having to get up at 5 AM for work, and the out-of-nowhere arrival of a thick swarm of mosquitoes.

After arriving home that night, I could not have been more relieved that I had my folks tape the MLB derby, because boy did Josh Hamilton put on a show. I saw this kid come up with the Reds last year when I was in Cincinnati and he is going to be something special. In a constant effort to hit one out of the stadium, he put up 28 in the first round, but alas was too tired to sustain the momentum for three rounds, and ended up conceding to Justin Morneau for the crown. Come next year though, nobody is going to even remember that Morneau won, only J-Ham's remarkable performance. Milwaukee Brewer slugger Ryan Braun took third with 14 total homers.

The big day was Tuesday, the MLB All-Star Game. It was really special to watch, and I can only imagine what it must have been like to be there, to see the parade down 6th Avenue with all the all-stars past and present. And then to go to Yankee Stadium and see the largest assemblage of Hall of Famers and All-Stars on one field in the history of the game during the pre-game ceremony. And then to see Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson, Whitey Ford, and Goose Gossage throw out the first pitches, which were driven in by "The Boss" George Steinbrenner, who was clearly in tears on this remarkable evening. And then to watch the National League trying to win for the first time since 1996, only to be outlasted by the AL in 15 innings, and just under 5 hours. JD Drew may have won the MVP award, but the real MVP was the Mayor of New York and the Steinbrenner family for putting this together. It was only fitting on this special night that Commissioner Selig refused to concede the game in a tie as happened in 2002 - this game was going to go on forever if needed so as to make this All-Star Game a memorable one for ages and ages.

Tonight are most of the Minor League all-star games, and I will definitely be watching the AAA ASG on ESPN2. The 2nd half starts Thursday - let's go Crew!

NWL All-Star Game stats & lineups:

Michael Rockett CF, Mankato

erek McCallum 2B, St. Cloud
Carlos Ramirez C, Mankato

Eric Stephens DH, Rochester

Derek Wiley 1B, Thunder Bay

Devin Goodwin 3B, Rochester

Tony Balisteri SS, Rochester

Josh Upchurch RF, Alexandria

Chris House LF, Duluth

Brendan Lafferty P, Mankato

Ryan Goins SS, Waterloo

AJ Shindler 2B, Battle Creek

Cory Vaughn CF, La Crosse

Derek Melton 1B, La Crosse

Rob Lyerly RF, Madison

Joey Register DH, Waterloo

Jeff Cowan 3B, Wisconsin

Troy Frazier LF, Wisconsin

Rocky Gale C, Green Bay

Matt Jansen P, Madison

first half winners - Mankato (N), Madison (S)
MVP - Cory Vaughn

pitchers of record - Chris Sale (W), Alex Kalogrides (L)

time of game - 3:01

attendance - 5357

stadium - Warner Park, Madison WI


Brewers 52-43, -5.0 (3 @ Giants)

Reds 46-50, -12.5 (4 v. Mets)

Twins 53-42, -1.5 (3 v. Rangers)

Erik - 20

Peter - 34

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fifth-Third Field, Toledo, OH

All photos of Fifth-Third Field are available on Flickr.

One of the advantages to moving across the country every couple of months is the opportunities it provides for taking in ball games. I am now four days into a new job in New Hampshire and on the way out I got to make a stop in Toledo and check out the world famous Mud Hens. You may remember the Mud Hens as the team Cpl. Klinger was a fan of in M*A*S*H or the team that Lou Brown managed for thirty years, before getting his shot with the Indians, in Major League. I was pretty excited to get to the game and check out the ballpark but, unfortunately, a hangover from the Milwaukee beer party and construction in Illinois and Indiana prevented me from arriving until just about game time.

Let me tell you, I didnt miss that much in downtown Toledo. I pulled off the freeway and right into a parking lot. On the two block walk to the park i passed several boarded up buildings. The entire downtown was deserted. Toledo is the model for Pete's argument that ballparks don't spur economic development (Fifth-Third Field was built in 2002).

The park itself is pretty nice. As I was making my way across Indiana, I did some quick calculations in my head and realizing I wouldn't get to Toledo until game time called ahead and got a ticket. $11 put me in the third row just to the third base side of home plate, not to shabby. Fifth-Third field has a lower deck, an upper deck of club seats and suites around the infield. It also has a group section called The Roost that is in the right field corner and is hung off two existing brick buildings. The concourses are fairly narrow but it was easy to make my way through them between innings. In left and center field the is a concourse where fans can stand above the 12-15 foot high wall. In right field there are two tiers of picnic tables.

The game itself was quite a long affair. The visiting Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees teed off in the first inning sending eight men to the plate and pushing across three runs. The Mud Hens scratched one back in the bottom of the inning then took the lead with 3 in the 5th. The Yankees fought back to even the game in the sixth and both teams spent the rest of the game wasting opportunites. In all the Yankees left 9 men on base and the Mud Hens stranded 11. Most of these runners reached with less than two out and there were many times that each time had multiple men on base and a chance to take the lead but blew it. The offensive star for the Mud Hens was Timo Perez, going 2 for 5 with 2 runs scored. In the end Yankees SS, and former Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales homered off Francis Beltran in the top of the 12th and the Mud Hens could not draw even in their half of the inning. I did see something at this game that I had never seen before. In the bottom of the 7th with runners on first and second and one out the Mud Hens attempted a sacrifice bunt but Yankees reserve catcher Chris Stewart touched the bat on its way through the zone. The home plate umpire called catcher interference, loading the bases. Of course, the Mud Hens couldn't take advantage as the next batter grounded into an inning ending double-play.

The Mud Hens, and most minor league teams it seems, stretched the Fourth of July into a weekend long celebration and had post game fireworks. Two problems occured with these. First, Sundays are Kids-Run-the-Bases day ad the crowd had to wait for what seemed like all the youths in Toledo run around the bases. Note to promotions people nationwide: Fireworks come before Kids-Run-the-Bases. Secondly, the fireworks display Pete put on in the ally behind his house last Saturday was far superior to that of the Toledo Mud Hens.

So, now I'm in New Hampshire and there are several minor league teams within easy driving distance. Hopefully, I can find some time off and make it to a few games.

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 6 (nice entrance but concourses are kind of dumpy)

views from park - 1

view to field - 8 (very close all the way around)

surrounding area - 1

food variety - 7 (pretty standard but there was one made-to-order grill)

nachos - 6 (points for effort with chilli-cheese nachos, but chips to sauce ratio far to great)

beer - 4 (only Bud/Bud Light, pretty expensive, but souvenir cups)

vendor price - 8 (other than beer, excellent)

ticket price - 9 (boo service charge for ordering over the phone)

atmosphere - 4 (not too much excitement for the Hens)

walk to park - 1

parking price/proximity - 7 (free street parking if you get there early enough, otherwise $5)
concourses - 5

team shop - 8 (lots of throwback Mud Hens gear but also half the store was dedicated to the Toledo Walleye, a minor-league hockey team that won't even begin play until the 2009-10 season)

best food - Muddy Dog - a chilli cheese dog
most unique stadium feature - The Roost party area
best jumbotron feature - Hot Dog race
best between-inning feature - one night only Rockin' Ray and Sky Dogs USA

field dimensions - 320/404/315
starters - Ross Ohlendorf (SWB) v. Yorman Bazardo (TOL)
opponent - Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees
time of game - 3:39
attendance - 9,515
score - 5-4 L
Brewers score that day - 11-6 W v. Pittsburgh

Monday, July 7, 2008

Brewers Trade for Sabathia

In a bold move by the Brewers' front office, a blockbuster deal was finalized at a press conference this morning, which sent the Indians' staff ace and reigning AL Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia to Milwaukee in exchange for a wealth of prospects - AA OF Matt LaPorta, AAA P Zach Jackson, low-A P Rob Bryson, and high-A 3B Taylor Green. LaPorta is generally considered the top prospect in the Brewers organization, and one of the tops in the nation, and although he probably won't be "major league ready" until next season, look for him to be on Cleveland's big league roster immediately. He was hitting .288 with 20 HR and 66 RBI for the Stars leading into this trade. Jackson has struggled mightily this year but still remains one of the top arms at Nashville, and he does have nearly a season of major league service time under his belt. Bryson is the wild card in the group, a 31st round selection last year. Taylor Green shows a lot of promise at third base for Brevard County and was voted the Brewers Minor League Player of the Year last season.

This trade is good for Cleveland since they desparately needed a bat in the lineup, and to unload some payroll. There are several reasons why Doug Melvin and myself like this trade and why it's best for the Brewers:

(1) The future is now - With Prince refusing a long-term contract offer similar to Braun's in favor of year-to-year arbitration, and with Sheets already being quoted as wanting to explore the free agent market, the time for the Brewers to win is this year. They have the best record in the majors since the "Boston Massacre" (May 20) and have pulled to within 3.5 of the Cubs and are in a tie for the NL Wild Card with the Cardinals.

(2) Compliment to Ben Sheets - Sabathia now provides the rotation with that 1-2 punch that can match up with every team in the National League come playoff time. If you add on top of that the nearly guaranteed 10-12 wins you get from Suppan, and the dominance of Manny Parra in the last 2 months, the Brewers have a solid 3 1/2 starters in the rotation now. Despite Sabathia's record, he has a sub-4 ERA and always gives you 7-8 innings a start, both important to the bullpen down the stretch.

(3) Depth in the farm system - The main reason to develop the farm system as the Brewers have is obviously to eventually see them shine at the Major League level without having to spend large free-agent dollars. The other reason, however, is to provide a team such as the Brewers with trading chips. AA-Huntsville has 10 all-stars this year, and the farm system also features highly-touted prospects such as Hernan Iribarren, Jeremy Jeffress, Mark Rogers, and 2008 top draft pick Brett Lawrie at other levels. As Melvin sees it, the system is so deep that he could afford to part with LaPorta and others, even if Sabathia is a half-season rental.

(4) Worst Case scenario is not that bad - The worst-case scenario here is that we lose both Sheets and Sabathia to free agency. If this happens, we receive 5 of the top 35 draft picks in 2009 as compensation, and let's not forget that Gamel and Escobar will most likely be on the big-league squad next year, Gallardo will be back, and we still have many more trade chips and a large enough payroll to go and get somebody else in the offseason. However, it seems highly unlikely to me that we wouldn't get to sign at least one of these two guys, and hopefully Sabathia's presence will motivate Sheets to re-sign here, and vice versa.

Sabathia's tenure as a Brewer starts tomorrow as he takes the hill against the Rockies at 7:05 at Miller Park. Playoffs here we come!!!

Brewers 49-39, -3.5 (4 v. Rockies, 3 v. Reds)
Reds 43-47, -10.5 (3 @ Cubs, 3 @ Brewers)
Twins 50-38, -1.0 (3 @ Red Sox, 3 @ Tigers)

Erik - 20
Peter - 28