Friday, August 29, 2008

My final post

Well, I went to the game last night to say goodbye to the hometown team. Yeah, I know...Ben Deach said check the website for 2009 ticket info; yeah, I know...GBL owners say they haven't made a decision but we all know the reality. And the other 200 people who were there last night know it too.

I want to start by saying thanks to guys like Curt Jacey, John Rice, and Ben Deach who busted their asses to make this thing work and to the great folks from the league office like Kevin Outcalt who actually listened to the fans. It was a fun three years that included a league title.

One thing I have never really discussed on this blog is that Kevin and Curt let me work with the team last year and John was the actual guy I worked with the most. I got to ask every question I wanted and got real answers. I got to hang in the booth for the better part of the second half and I got to try the different jobs that occur in there. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I really appreciated it.

It was a great three years and I had a blast going to the park and follwing the team. I told you my goal was to treat it like an MLB team so, through this blog, I think you saw how into this team I tried to be. I hope it added something to your enjoyment of the team as well.

Unfortunately, and this is no knock on the folks I just mentioned, the announcement of AAA baseball in concert with the tight budgets of GBL teams killed the Silver Sox. And no one is really to blame. You can't expect the GBL to continue to pour money into a team that draws in only 50-200 fans per game this year (with the exception of firework nights). And because of that, the people who did show up probably got a lessened experience from prevous seasons. Here are some examples:

-- All games in 2007 (home and away) were on the local ESPN affilate. This year, only home games were braodcast and it was only on the internet. This meant that you couldn't listen to the game at the stadium or on the way home if you had to leave. And, for the past month, no games have been broadcast at all.

-- I believe what was meant to be a monthly printed program became a one and done program. I never saw another one and, last night, there weren't any at all handed out. And, at no time this year did I get printed rosters like we got the last two years. This is key with a team with high turnover.

-- Speaking of turnover, the Sox sold zero players to MLB this year. Zero. Remember in 2006 we set the record for an independent team for the number of players we sent back to affiliated ball. Instead, we sent Crespi, Dixon, Brown and Senreiso--some of our best players--to other independent teams. If that is not a slap in the face to our team, I don't know what is. Brown was to complete a previous deal...the others? We got nothing in exchange.

-- And that is probably because the on-field product this year was SO bad. The pitching was the absolute worst I have seen in three years and it really detracted from games. I didn't count but I would wager that half the games we lost were the result of the other team scoring double digit runs. Because the entire pitching squad was so bad, guys would just stay out there and get bombed for 6,8, or 10 runs because there was no one else to come in. Last night was a perfect example when we got yet another "rent a pitcher" who got bombed and, with the expection of one mound visit by Leslie, stayed in the game depsite being totally ineffective. And even defense like the awesome plays from Hattig, Alvarado, and Madrid couldn't change that.

-- Giveaways were WAY down! There was the league wide giveaway of sun flower seeds and there was a (delayed) giveaway of a logo ball...but the other advertised giveaways like baseball cards and mini-bats went by the wayside. Just comparing this to Chico shows that other league owned teams are light years ahead of the Sox. This is part of minor league and major league baseball. This has to happen.

-- Website updates were atrocious. Last year we got game reports, player profiles, and an e-mail every time a player was sold to affiliated ball or to talk about roster changes. This year? No away games for the first month and then some reports from away games later; nothing on player movement (Crespi, Senreiso, and Dixon, our three best players. leave and no one tells us anything). Then our PA announcer of 2.5 years leaves. Again, no info to the fans. It made following the team very difficult unless you were hardcore enough (like me) to scour the internet for information. This hurt brand loyalty since we never knew who would be on the field from game to game (epsecially at the pitcher spot). I mean in the final games our DH was who??? A guy not on the roster and not on the GBL transactions page.

-- Speaking of transactions, the GBL quit trying to update this as well. Many transactions went unposted which is unacceptable since the league owns the team. They sign all the contracts so it is not like they didn't know when guys joined the team, even if it took a couple of days to be reported to them by local management.

-- On field entertainment fell to just a pizza box race, a dizzy bat race, and mascot race. This is less than last year (tricycle race, sign race, etc) and is way less than the other stadiums...just review the video I sent from Long Beach's sumo wrestling. The bottom line is, in yet another chicken and the egg scenario, I am not sure if the lack of fans killed the atmosphere or if the lack of promotions did. Either way, the stadium was dead silent a lot of the time this year. I mean I can hear coaches talking to players and players talking to each other...kind of cool but energy in a stadium really improves the environment.

-- My daughter caught a foul ball in Chico once and it was great for her. A real GBL ball with Kevin Outcalt's signature on it. We caught a foul ball tonight and it said "Minor League Baseball" and was signed by Pat O' Connor. Not only are the Sox not part of MiLB but O'Connor is not the commissioner. Not to sound snide but did the Sox get a cut-rate deal on balls that was cheaper than official GBL balls? This seemed pretty unprofessional.

-- Finally, advertising was way down. No radio ads on ESPN and no ads in the paper. I saw a TV commercial but it was so in frequent that in watching an A's game I saw it once. And to be honest, how many people are really watching an A's-Orioles game beside hard core fans who probably already have a decision in their mind about the Silver Sox.

In any event, I feel both the GBL and the fans gave up on the Sox this year and now they will be looking for a new home. If they tried to come back, I can't see it being economically feasible without stripping out even more of the stuff we have come to expect. Fan support is just not there. Remember that when the league debuted in Reno, their goal was 1500 a night to break even. So unless there are 1300+ paid no-shows a night, this team has been underwater all year.

I will always be a Silver Sox fan and a fan of the GBL. It was a good three years and I may have to take in a Chico game next year just to support the league. The GBL is a great concept and my appreciation for indy baseball has grown tremendously. I wasn't pleased with how it ended in terms of the experience fans got but, at the end of the day, it was what we allowed them to give us by not attending in larger numbers like we did in season one. In the end, the final homestand was the perfect ending...swept at home in front of 200 fans. Kind of the story of this season...swept out of town with only a few people even noticing they are gone. Sad, really, with as hard as the players and staff worked...and for the true blue fans who came all the Richard with his lollipops and the girl who sat behind me and knew everything about every player. But it is what it is.

Thanks for reading for these two years...I enjoyed the interaction with everyone and the ability to follow our hometown team so closely.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What a difference a week makes...

So if we hadn't hit rock bottom before, we are definitely there now. The hemmorage of good players continues as Senreiso and Brown have now moved on and the team is mired in a 6-game losing streak. And, it would appear, as close to an official word that the Sox are gone from Reno was found in the Tucson Citizen in an article about bringing the GBL to Tucson. In interviewing league owners and the commish, the author made this comment:

Former Tucson Sidewinders owner Jay Zucker is talking to the Golden Baseball League and the American Association to keep a pro team in Tucson after selling the Triple-A franchise to Reno, Nev.

The Sidewinders are set next year to move to Reno, which will lose its Golden League team, the Silver Sox.

So there it is...the swan song of the Sox begins in a couple of days when they play at Peccole for the last time. So hopefully you can make it out for one last time and support the team.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Personal Update

Sorry for the lack of updates. We had a death in the family so I won't be blogging until 24 AUG.

For what it is worth, the Sox are 14 games under .500 with 15 games to play so a loss tonight will assure the Sox of finishing that way on the season. But, we'll see where we are in a week. Maybe there will be something to cheer about.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Series Report: Chico @ Reno (8-9 August)

Game One: Despite some very poor pitching, the Sox had a very exciting come from behind victory on the backs of huge homeruns by Senreiso, McCoy, Brown, and Hattig. In fact, Senreiso belted two and Brown knocked a grandslam out of Peccole to lead the Sox to a 13-9 win. Jeffrey Leonard, to his credit, did his best to keep the team in the game. Chaffardet had another bad outing and was yanked after just three innings. I has to make you cringe when Chico's announcer reminds the fans that the early runs the Outlaws scored were "gift wrapped" as this just what they were. One in particular was the result of 2 wild pitches and a passed ball. And even with a huge lead provided by all this offense, the ninth was still a nailbiter as Billy Simon surrendered a 3 runs on two hits and two walks in the ninth inning. Chaffardet avoided the loss but his ERA climed to 9.17 and Simon's poor outing in the ninth increased his to 10.50. Kevin Picirillio also pitched. He is still not on the Sox roster and still has no first name on Howe Sports Data, but in case you were wondering, Rory Miller said his name is Kevin Picirillo, he is from Vacaville, CA, and pitched last in the defunct New York State League. No information on "B Wharton" who was an outfielder added to the Sox roster recently. But, the bottom line is that
a win is a win and so long as we have Senreiso (4-5, 2 HRs, 3 RBIs), Brown (2-5, 1 HR, 5RBIs), and Hattig (3-5, 1 HR, 2 RBIs), the Sox will still give fans something to cheer about even if the pitching still makes us pull our hair out!

Game Two:

Monday, August 4, 2008

Series Report: Reno @ Chico (August 4-7, 2008)

UPDATE: D.J. Dixon is officially gone and is a member of the Winnipeg Golden Eyes of the Independent Northern League. Still no update on the GBL transactions page, the Sox webpage, or via e-mail. It would be nice to know why we sold our best player to another independent league, guys. Did he want it? Is it to improve relations with the Northern League? Did we get anything besides money back? And is this officially the sign that the Sox have given up on the season? Please let us know!
"We plan on winning the second half. We have seen everybody now. The teams that beat us at the beginning are going to see an entirely different team. I expect to be playing (first half winner) Calgary for the title and whoever wins the other division, to be playing them in the championship."

-- Jeffrey Leonard in the July 15, 2008 edition of the Reno Gazette Journal

Game One: Now I am not sure if Jeffrey Leonard still believes this but one thing is for sure: The Sox have assured they won't be swept in this series as they have in the past two of three series. In fact, Landavazo had a great outing going 6.1 innings and giving up just one run in his second start of the year. In 18 games in the GBL this year, he is 2-1 with a 4.87 ERA but if you count his time with the Sox only, his ERA is 2.20. With no update on Kevin Frederick's condition, it looks like we have Hall, Russell, Landavazo, and maybe Chaffardet if he can find his groove. Other than that, it still looks like we have at least one position for starter by committee. And so far, that has not worked well for us. On the offensive side, John Hattig smacked homerun number 10 as the Sox won to bring their record to 6-12 with 26 games remaining in the second half. It is not looking good but "it ain't over 'til it's over".

Game Two: Steve Russell had a shaky outing and then the game became a blow out once Reggie Leslie entered the contest. Ever since Leslie went on the inactive list a while back he has been one our most inconsistent pitchers. Not sure if there is still a lingering injury but in any event, he is not pitching as well as he did before going on the inactive list. The Sox were held to just three hits as the Chico Outlaws stymied them once again. Two of those came from Senreiso, who is also rumored to be moving on soon--this has all the earmarks of a Florida Marlins fire sale...except that we are not getting anything back or building for next year. Of course, the recent loss of Dixon frees up playing time for Ryan Brown who is also a slugger, but just not in the category of Dixon. But maybe he'll be able to handle the increased playing time and really step up. Time will tell.

Game Three: An ugly win is better than a pretty loss and the Sox definitely proved that axiom to be true. After spotting the Outlaws 3 runs without a hit, the Sox looked on their way to losing another game. A combination of errors, wild pitches, and a balk made the Sox look like a little league team. But they clawed their way back in and with the lead changing hands several times and Todd Galetka blowing his second save in four days, the Sox were able to survive by the skin of their teeth. Closer Mitch Arnold was anything but dominant as he gave up a run on a hit and a walk in is one inning of work en route to his third save on the season. Not to beat a dead horse but Rookie Adam Geery (he was playing JUCO ball before coming to the Sox) looked very shaky defensively and it would be nice to still have Dixon behind the plate to take charge of the game. But it was not to be. Best offensive moment of the night? SS Doug Sanders, clearly the weakest hitter in the line-up knocked in the two runs that ended up being the deciding factor in this game. Great props to him as I am sure his lack of success this year has to be really frustrating. The worst the Sox can do tomorrow is split the series so that is some good news for a team desperate for some wins.

Game Four: Jesse Hall got lit-up for seven runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning and the outlaws never looked back as they cruised to a 5-hit shutout of the Silver Sox, 11-0. I didn't listen to the whole game (checked out around 8:30PM) but there was a debut by some guy named "B Wharton" and another appearance by "Picirillo"; at least that is what they are called on Howe Sports Data. As for the Sox website and the GBL website, not sure if those are updated since they have been infected with a trojan since last week. My anti-virus caught it the two times I logged on anyway but I figured I shouldn't push my luck. It seems the GBL main page and the Sox Roster. You can go to the Sox mainpage without a problem if you use the address. If you go from the GBL page or do the address it will try to infect your computer.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Series Report: St. George @ Reno (August 1-3, 2008)

Game One: This game ended up with a lot more drama than us Sox fans would like. I worked late so I just headed home and turned on the game. However, it wasn't there. Mike Murray, PA announcer for the team resigned which put Ben Deach on PA duty and no one on announcing duty. There was no announcement on Mike so I can only assume it may not have been a completely amicable parting. In any event, I tuned to John Potter's broadcast for the game.

The next bit of drama came as Kevin Frederick had to leave with an unspecified injury during the second inning. I speculated that he may be hurt because it had been a while since he pitched and tonight didn't help that. There is no additional information on him on the website and without a home broadcast, there wasn't any provided last night.

The final drama came with the Sox blowing another lead to lose the game. Schnieder has blown at least three saves that I can remember. It is not a stat tracked by the GBL or Howe Sports so it is hard to tell exactly how many he has. I think, at this point, other than mentioning the bad pitching, there is no need to really dig into it. These guys are just not that good on the whole. There are some good pitchers and some flashes of solid work but for the most part, we lose a lot of games even though our hitters are racking up an average of 6.7 runs a game. Good pitching beats good hitting, and bad pitching erases good hitting as well. But I think my bigger issue with this is even though it was obvious Schneider was off his game, no one got up in the pen. I realize the guys are burned out but to watch your closer struggle badly and watching him give the game away was not enough to at least get a guy up? The feeling I got last night that our team really didn't care about winning the close game. It was all on Schneider, win or lose. And he lost it allowing 4 runs (3 of them his) on three hits and hitting two batters in that fateful 8th inning.

One bright spot was another big night from Ryan Brown who went 3-4 raising his average to .358 (2nd on the team) and he is now third in OPS behind D.J. Dixon and John Hattig. I am glad to see those three guys do well. They are really nice guys, have great chemistry with their teammates, and are solid ball players. With the losses continuing to rack up, these guys still give the fans a reason to come out to Peccole. Let's hope the Sox can turn it around in game two.

GAME TWO: Jesse Hall started for us and had a rough outing despite his current string of good starts for the team. He went 6 innings but gave up 6 runs along the way before yielding to Billy Simon who gave up two runs over his two innings of work. Mitch Arnold was able pitch a scoreless ninth but the damage was done. The Sox started the game up 3-0 but eventually lost 9-4. The potent Sox offense only managed 8 hits which included just two extra-base hits (doubles by Madrid and Alvarado).

On the rumor front, check out the comment on this blog entry indicating that Dixon and maybe Senreiso will be gone in a couple of days as their contracts were purchased. I am really happy for those two as they both have the skills to at least get a look (again) at the affiliated level. The bottom line is that at 23-37, the Sox are probably not going to catch red-hot Edmonton (34-29) or win the second half outright to make it into the playoffs. So since the pitching has never allowed the Sox to string together more than 3 wins at a time this season, even the loss of two power bats won't make a difference. So good luck, guys...I'll be keeping tabs on your progress just as we do for other guys like Kane Simmons (recently promoted to Class A Modesto for the Rockies).

GAME THREE: Another game, another loss, another sweep. I cringe writing that but it is what it is. Daniel Chaffardet started (it was supposed to be Derrick Landavazo) and got the loss, dropping to 0-3. He definitely pitched better this time but his supporting cast let him down as he allowed five runs, all unearned. The Sox decided to go with yet another new pitcher. He is not on the roster yet or the GBL transaction page but his name is Piccarillo. Unfortunately, despite a decent start, he allowed a grand slam and home run late in the game, pitching just 2.1 innings to establish his ERA in the GBL at 19.29. And St. George pitching was on tonight racking up 15 strike outs.

There is still no Sox broadcast which is getting frustrating because John Potter, although very good, really has nothing to add about our team or any insights into the players. I love what he does for the Roadrunners and just wish we could get that level of information as well for our guys. And the website continues to have a derth of information...rosters that still have Crespi but not some newer guys, no annoucement on Mike Murray who has been with the team since day one, and no information at all on the players. Last year, I really liked that when an acquisition was made, we got a quick e-mail to say where he came from with a quote on his potential from the manager or GM. We have no radio this year, no road broadcasts, and now no home broadcasts. I hate to bash the team since I am their biggest cheerleader with this blog but it is really starting to get disappointing. Game day activites are less than last year and that has turned off a few as you can see by the poll results on this blog. Many giveaways were delayed or never scheduled (for 3 months it has said check back for baseball card and mini-bat nights). It really feels like the Sox have mailed it in and that is sad for all those who have supported them through the years. And if the rumors are true about our two best players going to other INDEPENDENT teams (just like Crespi did), it really says a lot for what the players think of the team. With zero players sold to affiliated teams this year, I think it also says a lot about what the players think of Reno as a springboard back to affiliated ball. And, unless something changes in the next month, this will be the first season ever that the Sox never sold anyone back to affiliated ball.

We get the same e-mails every day telling us about the same promotions each week. I'd like it if we got one or two with some other information. Why did Crespi leave? What was Frederick's injury? What is Jeffrey Leonard's strategy for the way he uses his pitching staff? Again, I hate to bash the team on the "official" blog but there may very well be just four more weeks of Silver Sox ball EVER. Let's go out with a bang, guys!