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Old 06-10-2012, 12:15 PM   #21
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Game 1 pitted our new acquisition Jorge Romero against the Titan’s new ace Sean Critch. It became the expected pitcher’s duel, as both gave up only one run in seven innings plus change. It took 13 innings to find a winner, and that winner were the Raccoons, when Ed Sullivan sent a sharp liner to center that CF Will Wilson misplayed, allowing Darryl Maloney to score from 2nd base and the Raccoons won 2-1. Ben Jenkins went three innings on just 24 pitches. We were above .500 for the first time since being 2-1 after winning the first series against the Crusaders in ’77. Who led the CL North on this April 4, 1978? The Raccoons and Loggers, tied at 1-0, the two worst CL teams in 1977.

Game 2 sent Powell in, but he didn’t have to try too hard to get a W. The Raccoons raped Augustinho Tibo for seven runs in the first, storming to a 12-2 win. Bill Baker and Tony Lopez made their first appearances, both scoreless. Raccoons shot out of the gate again in the last game and led 8-2 after six, before the pen started to crumble awfully. Hatfield had already been used in the eighth to get Vazquez out of a jam, Baker couldn’t close it at 8-5 and Wally Gaston saved it finally to win 8-7.

Thus, we swept the Titans to start the season. Could it start any better? We’d go up against the Aces next, who were also good out of the gate, 3-1.

For the third game in a row, the Raccoons scored multiple runs in the first inning, and for the second time during that stretch through a homer by Wyatt Johnston. We made it 3-0 on a suicide squeeze in the second, before Brandon Patterson actually stole home in the top 3rd – it certainly was a game of special plays. Ned Ray was shelled for four more in quick succession and pulled. Ben Jenkins held the Aces down and the Raccoons turned it around to 6-5 again by the sixth. Jenkins again went three innings, this time on 25 pitches, and again scoreless. Wright and Hatfield kept the Aces down to hold and save the 6-5 win, putting the Raccoons at a fascinating 4-0 record! And Jenkins, who was in there as mop-up / long man, now was actually at 2-0 and leading the CL in wins.

The Raccoons kept rolling. Homers by Johnston and Maloney in the second inning got game 2 righted early and the Raccoons won 5-2. Jorge Romero and Tony Lopez struck out the side in consecutive innings. Christopher Powell went the distance in the series-ending 3-1 win that followed.

And the Raccoons were a stunning 6-0 with the best record in baseball, the only team undefeated. Wyatt Johnston led the league in home runs, and trailed only the Knights’ Armando Delgado in RBI. Was this still my team? The team that had lost a billion games in 1977?

Falcons starter Kent Doyle started off by walking four in the first inning in game 1 against the Raccoons, pushing in two runs. That cost the Falcons. They launched two shots off Berrios, who led 3-2 when leaving after seven, but Tony Lopez blew the lead. The game went to extra innings, where Vazquez (so far with a 40.50 ERA) held down the Falcons until Johan Dolder tripled with two outs in the bottom 11th. Kieran Lawson singled through the hole on the right side to score Dolder and the Raccoons walked off, 4-3, going to a 7-0 record.

It ended right there, as the Raccoons lost the next game 4-2 to the Falcons. The team was out-hit and Ray struggled with control again in his second start. Jose Flores was 4-5, batting in both Raccoons runs. Freddy Lopez was the match winner in the rubber game, bolting a 2-run homer in the bottom 8th, pinch hitting for Wally Gaston, to get the Raccoons ahead again to win 4-3.

First home stint over, and we had an 8-1 record. I don’t know what to say but KEEP IT ROLLING!! We shared the best record in baseball with the Cyclones, and led the Continental League in defense (3.1 RA per game) and were second in scoring with 5.1 runs per game. We went on our first road trip now for New York and Indianapolis.

Starting the series against the Crusaders, the Raccoons position players did not bat in a single run in game 1 – yet we still won 3-2. Christopher Powell had an RBI single and the other runs scored on two wild pitches by Tom Cox. Game 2 was a 4-2 loss. This time the Crusaders scored a run on a wild pitch by Berrios. Tony Lopez lost the game in the bottom 7th with two hits and a hit batter. Game 3 was a wild ride, as the Raccoons allowed five unearned runs over six innings. Pedro Sánz tied the game with a 3-run bomb in the top 7th. Hatfield came in in the bottom 9th to save a 6-5 lead and got two outs, but then served a 2-run homer to Hector Atilano, which lost the game 7-6 and broke a streak of seven converted save opportunities for Hatfield, dating back to last September.

This brought us into Indianapolis. We still led the division at 9-3, while the Indians were 8-5, and with little offense again. They were 11th in runs scored after the first two weeks, but that was nothing I hadn’t seen so far. You had to keep them from scoring to win.

Unfortunately, Jorge Romero allowed four runs to score in the second inning. A solo homer by Greg Swift had gotten the Raccoons ahead at first. In the bottom 5th, Romero struggled again. Jose Zavala tried to score on a flyball to short center. Dolder caught in and fired it in, as Zavala crashed violently into Maloney at the home plate. Maloney held on to the ball, Zavala was out, and to add insult to injury, he had hurt his elbow in the collision and had to be taken out of the game. The Indians won 4-1, as the Raccoons were unable to mount more offense. This was followed by a 5-3 loss in game 2. Powell took the loss and was removed in the fifth inning with a sore thumb. Raccoons were fanned nine times.

In came Juan Berrios in game 3. He had a shutout going, but ran into trouble in the ninth and could make it through. Hatfield got the final two outs with bases loaded with two K’s on full counts.

Something is strange about the standings at the moment. Oh, yeah. The Raccoons led the CL North. (faints) Next week: home games against the Knights and Thunder, then a road trip to Boston to end April. The road trip will continue into May against the Canadiens before interleague play will come upon us for the first time against the Warriors and Capitals.

In other news:
April 5 – Johnny Bates of the Condors has hit in 20 straight games, dating back to 1977.
April 6 – The Aces chill Bates at 20 games, as they defeat the Condors 6-4.
April 11 – Hunter “Lucky” Frazier lucks out: the starter of the Tijuana Condors suffers from radial nerve compression, ending his season. He had been 19-13 in 1977.
April 18 – RF Juan Medine of the Rebels is out for two weeks with a sore elbow. He’s hitting .381 so far and had 16 homers in 1977.
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Old 06-12-2012, 06:17 PM   #22
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Ned Ray was sent in first against the Knights, but did not get out of a 4-run fifth inning. Luckily, the Raccoons mounted a 5-run sixth inning themselves and won 7-4. Ben Simon was 3-5 and still left four on base. Clutch has been his problem since the league started play. Ned Ray’s performance was a concern. Four starts in, he was 0-1 with a 4.05 ERA but this did not account for six unearned runs he also had let score. This was no surprise, but the #4 starter was the area that needed to be addressed next in improving the roster.

Jorge Romero took the loss in game 2 against Atlanta after surrendering a grand slam in the second inning. Raccoons lost 6-1, and then took a 5-0 loss in the rubber game as they were two-hit by the Knights. The game was 2-0 after eight, but Vazquez was slapped around for the second time this season and allowed three more.

We still led the CL North with an 11-7 record, but the Indians, Crusaders, and even the Loggers were all within two games. Next up were the 9-10 Oklahoma City Thunder, against whom we had struggled so hard in 1977 with a 2-7 record. They were not putting up big numbers offensively, so the series really could go either way.

But first it went one away, Oklahoma’s. The Raccoons again were shut out on three hits this time and went under in an 8-0 bashing. The Raccoons stuttered past the Thunder the next day, winning 1-0, and it took a solo shot by the catcher Darryl Maloney to score that one. The team had six hits this time, which made a 3-game average of .33 runs and 3.66 hits. Miserable! Jorge Romero blew a 4-1 lead in the rubber game, allowing the Thunder to tie it in the seventh. Still 4-4 into the bottom seventh, Raffaele Antuofermo walked the bases loaded with Raccoons with no outs. Hoyt Cook came in for Wally Gaston and struck out. Jose Flores grounded into a play to throw out Greg Swift at home. Two outs, before Ed Sullivan rolled a ball up the middle that just so happened to get through between the middle infielders, scoring Dolder from third and winning the game 5-4.

We had an off day before hitting the road and were at 13-8, on equal footing for first place with the Crusaders. And surprise, surprise, while I was enjoying the radio broadcast of the Crusaders game in Las Vegas (3-0 New York eventually), I was handed a note that Wyatt Johnston had left for me. He didn’t want to be traded away anymore. He wanted to stay. Look who wants to play for a winner. Well, we’ll try to get something done. I had thought that Jesse Jeffries could mayyyyybe replace him eventually for a year or two, but he was batting way below .200 at the moment.

But first we had business with the 9-13 Titans. Just as the Raccoons had dropped from their 7-0 start, the Titans had rallied from their 0-6 opening. We opened with a 2-1 win. Christopher Powell held the Titans to two hits in 7.1 innings, but they made a run of it in the eighth that tied the game. Sánz batted in the winning run in the top 9th and Hatfield got his eighth save, leading the majors. Berrios was up next, but had a hard time getting anybody out, and left after 3.2 innings after giving up eight hits, two walks, and five runs. The Raccoons’ offensive slump continued, and a 2-run homer by Sánz was all the offense they put up in the 5-2 loss. To finish the series, Ned Ray dropped three early, but the Raccoons won on a 4-run fifth inning and a 9-pitch 1-2-3 bottom 9th by Hatfield.

The Raccoons entered May with a 15-9 record, half a game ahead of the Indians in the CL North. The strangest thing? We were 86-87 in runs – we were the new Indians! (shocked and in horror!) Well, the Indians were 85-86, so we were in fact very much alike. The problem with the Raccoons was that most players had a lower batting average than last year, and by as many as 40 points. Sullivan and Johnston had started especially slow and Sullivan and Simon had not yet homered at all in 1978.

May opened in Vancouver and the first game was another blow. The Raccoons lost 6-5 in ten innings and also lost Ed Sullivan to an ankle injury for a few days to a week. Following that horrible day, Christopher Powell (3-2; ERA just about three) went against Marcos Ramos (0-4; ERA of almost six). One of them went seven frames of 2-hit ball, the other was chased in the fifth and saddled with seven runs. The other was Powell, of course. Raccoons were beaten 8-0. The Canadiens completed the sweep with a 5-4 walk off win in the last game.

Horrible offense, and starting pitching with ERAs shooting upwards sharply – this had the potential to become a disaster. Still, the defense is carrying the team. Offense is down to 96 runs in 27 games (just over 3.5 R/G, 11th in the CL and 23rd overall, just over half of what the leading Dallas Stars had set up: 166 runs so far for the Texans.

I really don’t know what to do about it at the moment. Just about everybody has fallen into a hole compared to last season, we score even less, and STILL lead the division!? What!?

If somebody has a rational explanation for this, I’d be happy to hear it.

In other news:
April 22 – Capitals CF Jesse Whiteaway has a 20-game hit streak going.
April 23 – Whiteaway is cooled by the Wolves, halting his streak at 20.
April 26 – The Titans lose their big bat Shawn Gilmore for the season with a ruptured medial collateral ligament.
April 29 – Milwaukee’s Francois Dédé combines for a grand slam and six hits in a 12-2 win over Vancouver.
April 30 – David McCann, owner of the Topeka Buffaloes, passes away. His son Walt becomes caretaker of all club operations.

Next: interleague at Warriors’, then home series against Capitals, Indians, Loggers, and Condors.
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Old 06-15-2012, 02:38 PM   #23
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The Raccoons took another hit to start the Sioux Falls series. We did win the first game 4-2, but lost Greg Swift (who twisted his ankle dashing into first base) and Johan Dolder (who had his hand fractured by Ramon Vasquez with a pitch). Dolder was put on the DL, with at least six weeks of recovery ahead of him. Luis Hernandez was called up from AAA. Swift’s injury would bench him for just a coule of days to a week, so he stayed on the roster. In turn, Sullivan was back in the lineup and was moved to #4, with Johnston (.210) up to #2. I had a hard time generating a lineup with at least six batters over .220 – the Raccoons were batting that bad. They lost the middle game 3-2, then relied heavily on Pedro Sánz, who batted in all runs in a 3-2 win in the rubber game, which Hatfield hardly was able to close.

More misery with the first game against Washington, a 7-2 loss with only four hits for the Raccoons. Tim Anderson got the team ahead with a 3-run shot the next day. In the bottom 5th, Wyatt Johnston hit into a triple play with Ray and Flores on second and first. 2B Sergio Martiel caught a lined ball over his head with a mighty jump and they caught the runners far advanced and both were put out quickly. The Raccoons still won, 4-2, but again only had five hits. Freddy Lopez contributed a home run as well. The last game got Greg Swift back, who slid into the shortstop position again. Swift went 2-4, which was already half the team’s hits in the 4-1 loss.

Offense was a *serious* concern by now. We had 111 runs over 33 games and only 253 hits – both by far worst in the league. How we still were at a 18-15 record, was a mystery. The rotation was mostly solid to good, that much was true, and the bullpen had come around well compared to last year, so the defense was carrying us with only the Crusaders and Falcons allowing less runs in the CL. We seriously needed more hitting.

After a pathetic 4-0 loss in the first game against the now division leading Indians, the Raccoons came back thanks to a terrible throwing error in the second game of the series. Up 4-1, I then made a mistake and sent in Hatfield to save it – in the eighth inning. I can’t count. Hatfield still went through the Indians, but yielded a run in the ninth as the Raccoons won 4-2. Two runs were unearned. The series’ rubber game was almost unbeatable in patheticness. The Indians committed three errors early, but the Raccoons still couldn’t score more than two runs. The Indians tied in the eighth and the game went to extra innings, where no team mounted any meaningful offense until the bottom 13th, when the Indians walked three, including issuing a 2-out walk to Ben Simon that brought in the winning run for the Raccoons, 3-2.

Still terrible offensively, we had gotten the Indians back on equal footing with us. Both our teams were now half a game behind the Crusaders. Next up were the 18-19 Loggers for the first four games against them this year.

In more bad news, Tim Anderson was injured in the first inning of the series. He hurt his shoulder badly on a play as he fired a ball back in and tore the labrum in his shoulder. His season was effectively over with about four months of recovery projected. That made two crippled centerfielders, and I only had those two. Gah! The Raccoons won 5-2 in this game, with two homers by Simon (his first two in ’78!) and the save by lefty Bruce Wright, as we faced the left-handed heavy artillery of the Loggers in the ninth and Hatfield was a righty and slightly tired as well.

Now where to turn to replace Anderson? Johan Dolder’s return was still a month away. I would have turned to last year’s top draft pick, Daniel Hall, who was beating up AA pitchers, but he was also out with a quad strain. There were also no promising players in the minors, they were all either hitting terribly or were fielding terribly, or were injured. For the time being, I slotted Flores over to CF, Sullivan out to LF, and Freddy Lopez would play 3B. That was a very bad move fieldingwise, but I had no other option, but to put Jeffries in LF. We’d try the first one first, then the other over the next week or so. Either way, Flores in center was a waste. He was great in left, and I would want him there, but he was the only guy fitting into center remotely.

Ah, I hate it. Three more against the Loggers. The Raccoons had gone 12-6 against them last year, had won the first now, and the last three games pretty well described the team in 1978. The middle games were 3-2 and 2-1 wins for us. In the first of these, the winning run scored on a wild pitch. Freddy Lopez homered the winning run in the other as I was already pulling my hair out. In both those games, the Raccoons also had considerable help from the Loggers and were walked a total of 11 times in those two games. Then came Greg O’Brien and did not walk anybody in the last game and crushed the Raccoons 7-0.

Four games, won three, and still scored less runs (10-12) than the Loggers!? Why does it have to be this way!? The Condors were our next opponent. Alex Miranda had just pitched a shutout for them (see below), but we’d miss him on this series. Overall the Condors were 15-26 to our (somewhat stunning, I admit) 23-17 record. But we already revived the Canadiens earlier in the month by letting them sweep us, why shouldn’t this happen again?

The series started with a 14-inning grind after the Raccoons had scored three early against Alfonso Meija. Former Condor Jorge Romero was once more ineffective and got behind. The game was 6-6 into extra innings, where the Raccoons only once touched second base in five innings before surrendering the winning run in the top 14th, when Jose Flores just so barely caught a ball bound to go out, but crashed into the wall and dropped it. The Raccoons struck out SIXTEEN times in the game, and Hatfield blew a 2-run lead in the top 9th. Sometimes I hate these guys. The middle game was a painful 6-1 loss, before we went to game 3. The Raccoons bashed Condors starter Pascal Robin for six runs in the first inning, including a 3-run homer by Kieran Lawson, the backup catcher, who normally could even kick the ball past the infield. Good news: not even the Raccoons could blow that lead and they won 8-2. Bad news: Joseph Meyer was moron enough to think that Jose Flores’ foot was in the strike zone. He smaked it pretty well and Flores was now out for a couple of weeks with a fracture in his foot.

That was my emergency centerfielder out. And what now!?

In other news:
May 13 – Richmond’s Riley Simon has a 20-game hitting streak going.
May 14 – Simon has his streak clipped by the Pittsburgh Miners.
May 15 – The Cyclones’ Jorge Velazquez will be out for up to six weeks with a strained medial collateral ligament. He had 124 RBIs in 1977, but had started slower into the current season.
May 15 – The Indians explode offensively to trump the Titans 17-0, as Jorge Vallejo throws a 3-hit shutout.
May 18 – Former Raccoon Alex Miranda tosses a 2-hit shutout as the Condors beat the Thunder 2-0. Miranda was 6-2 with a 3.51 ERA (bit worse than with the Raccoons there), he was still the King of Walk, but his new team scored a wealth of runs and he didn’t bother, apparently.
May 20 – Both Ray Kirk and Keith Carter go 5-5 for the Buffaloes in a 16-3 rout of the Pacifics. Kirk falls a triple short of the cycle, but homers twice, including a grand slam.

It’s May 22, and we will go on a 2-week road trip for San Francisco, Charlotte, and Atlanta from the CL South, then Boston in our CL North. I will also have a look at the draft pool that was published while we were aching through the Loggers.
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Old 06-16-2012, 05:05 PM   #24
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Robby Davis was called up from AAA to play centerfield for the next three weeks. It was a bad move, but I only had terrible moves for other options. Playing Sánz in CF would have been one. It didn’t help to cry over spilled milk, but the rotten luck I had with injured centerfielders was far from funny.

And with this we went into San Francisco. The Bayhawks had blanked us pretty good in 1977, when they beat us 9-0 for the season. This was the first matchup in ’78 and the spell was broken right in the first game, but again for a price. Everything seemed to have a price. In the 5-2 win, where Robby Davis hit his first majors homer in the ninth to score two, the Raccoons lost Jesse Jeffries. Another emergency outfielder down. Now Sullivan was back in LF, and Freddy Lopez got to start 3B again.

But of course, it couldn’t stop there. Game 2, and Greg Swift left early with a hamstring strain and would miss some weeks on the DL. I was running out of players. Raccoons won 5-4 with some early punch, then almost blew it in the bottom 9th, after Bill Baker allowed a few runners and the Bayhawks scored three in that inning. Hatfield got his 16th save with a punchout. He actually had the worst ERA on the team (4.24 now, allowing an earned run here), but he still got his job done – his 16 saves led the majors by a good margin! Next was Roberto Vega of the Stars with 13.

Swift out – that forced me to play Hector Mendez as a starter. Just recalled from AAA after he had been batting .132 in 1977. This could not go well for much longer. We played the last game at the bay with only 22 men available, and what happened then? We lost Pedro Sánz in the first inning to a knee injury and he would be out for about a month. No! No…!!! NOOOOOOO!!!!

The Raccoons won 4-3 in the tenth after just barely tying it in the ninth, then winning on a stray Robby Davis homer. But what did it matter? Now that all four main outfielders (Dolder and Anderson more or less sharing centerfield) were out with injuries, it couldn’t take long for complete collapse to happen. Sweeping the Bayhawks was nice, but I didn’t know whom to play down the road.

During the off day we also finally received the injury diagnosis on Jeffries. Sprained UCL, out for a few weeks. Next guy to the DL. Wait, who was on there? It was a little crowded by now. Tim Anderson, Johan Dolder, Jose Flores, and Pedro Sánz (outfielders), Jesse Jeffries and Greg Swift (infielders), and Brett Justice (reliever, since ’77 on there). That’s almost a full set of position players. And four of them would start for the team.

Next up were the Falcons, who led the CL South. They were 29-18, but had slowed down a little in the last two weeks. Opening with a 4-3 loss in which Jenkins walked in the winning run for the Falcons in the 11th after Tony Lopez had shuffled the bases full,

That night, the Raccoons signed free agent outfielder Rob Pickett to a minimum contract. He had made 63 games for the Canadiens and 38 for the Rebels in 1977 and had batted .273, but his main capability was versatility in the outfield. He was slotted into CF, with Robby Davis moved to left. Sullivan went to 2B, moving Mendez back to the bench. The lineup was a mess as well: 3B F. Lopez – LF Davis – 2B Sullivan – SS Simon – 1B Johnston – C Maloney – CF Pickett – RF Hernandez. We were still only playing with 23 players on the majors roster – with eight minor league position players injured, there was nobody to move up! I had to keep looking for other cheap free agents.

With all the injuries and what else the Raccoons were unable to mount offense against the Falcons and lost game 2 closely by a 2-1 score. We didn’t score until the ninth inning and then it was too late. What little offense the Raccoons in the next game, was still enough. Ed Sullivan scored two runners but got only one RBI for the first run got in on a double play, while Jorge Romero delivered a 5-hit shutout of the Falcons in the 2-0 win. It was an ugly game with rain on and off the whole afternoon, but no delay was ever called and Powell, soaked wet, fought his way through to get the shutout. He needed only 95 pitches to go the distance, walking one and striking out six.

Knights left to complete the month of May. Powell was the victim of poor offense *and* defense in the first, where he went seven plus and was saddled with five runs, two of those unearned, in the 5-1 loss. Berrios was responsible for the disaster the next day as he was chased in the fourth inning in a 7-0 rout of helpless Raccoons. Ned Ray was in to finish the series and was hardly throwing any strikes. He lasted 3.2 innings with four runs (two unearned through an error he made himself), walking four and plunking one before my nerves ran out and I sent him to the uranium mines. Raccoons lost 5-3, and had I tared and feathered Ray earlier, this could have been much closer. Now it was a depressing sweep to end a depressing month. We had gone 13-15 in May and half the team was in the hospital. This had become a futile grind.

Yet, we were still only three games behind the Crusaders, which was even more fascinating than the incredible streak of injuries befalling the Raccoons outfielders. We’d play the Crusaders eight times from now until July 2.

Only the Titans left on the road trip. They had the most runs allowed in the Continental League, and their starters sported a whopping 5.47 ERA. If the Raccoons wouldn’t score big here, they wouldn’t do anywhere. What horrible things did they do to Boston’s starter Jerry Morris (who was 0-4 with an ERA over 4)? They ran into a 3-hit shutout and went down 4-0. To add insult to injury, all but one run were unearned. This was driving me crazy! Not the two errors and two wild pitches by Romero, who was supposed to lead the rotation in W’s, but the fact that this team couldn’t get hits for their lives this year.

At least they got to Elvin Woods (1-6, 5.90) on the second day, although they did not get a hit through three frames and got behind 3-0 early. Wyatt Johnston’s 3-run shot in the sixth righted the ship and they scored a couple more against the Titans pen in a 6-3 win. Titans still out-hit us 8-7. We then faced their ace Sean Critch in the rubber game – and Critch did not get out of either the first nor the second inning without major damage, as the Raccoons chained a few fluke hits together, aided by an error and a 3-run shot by Simon to the moon and back. Critch went 1.1 innings with seven hits and seven runs (four earned) against him. Berrios was also weak and barely made it five innings and he allowed all runs in the 7-3 win. Ben Jenkins pitched in the eighth and was injured (notice a common theme there) – no diagnosis given yet.

Next: short home stint with four against the Crusaders (who are leading the CL in runs scored, batting average, and starters ERA, so we could bleed a bit there), then interleague play against the Scorpions, followed by a series in Richmond. That short road trip would also lead into Milwaukee. Right in there is the first year player draft.

We still have seven players on the DL. Flores and Dolder should come back somewhere in the next seven to ten days. Flores could join us as early as the Crusaders series, and boy do we need him. Jenkins could go on the DL as well, we’ll have to see. He’s not the best link in the bullpen, but he’s really gotten his stuff together this year.

In other news:
May 22 – Alex Miranda pitches back-to-back shutouts, this time blanking the Loggers for three hits in a 2-0 win of the Condors. Glad I missed him. Not so glad I traded him.
May 29 – Beau Horn, star shortstop of the Scorpions, is out for the year with torn ankle ligaments. He had been .330 with 8 HR and 32 RBI.
June 3 – Joe Nelson of the Stars falls a triple short of the cycle in a 5-5 appearance for 10 total bases in a 7-2 win over the Gold Sox.
June 3 – Hector Atilano of the Crusaders was also 5-5 in a 12-0 win over the Indians, but the big story was …:
June 3 – Ethan Gittens of the Los Angeles Pacifics went down 9-5 with his team to the warriors, but along the way Gittens hit for a natural cycle, capped by a 3-run shot in the bottom 9th! It was the third cycle in ABL history, the second natural cycle, and the first cycle for the Pacifics and also the first that did not have the Miners on the receiving end.

And still, for a team that's filled a hospital and doesn't score runs, we're faring very well. I'm puzzled.
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Old 06-17-2012, 06:53 AM   #25
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I didn’t expect to get much against the Crusaders but a bloody nose. The first won torched was Ned Ray, who was saddled with five in the fourth inning and was pulled. The Raccoons got some good hits late and rallied, but fell short in a 7-6 loss. This was followed up by a Jorge Romero performance that was razor sharp after two months of mild to considerable struggles. He allowed four hits and an unearned run in seven innings, laying the ground for a 2-1 win over the Crusaders. Both teams only had six hits, and the Raccoons won on a Johnston homer in the sixth. Johnston’s season was slowly coming around, it seemed. He was now .220 with 7 HR and 19 RBI after a very slow start.

We got an update on Ben Jenkins shoulder strain – it would keep him off the mound for at least another week. With that, he went to the DL, and we called up Robbie McNeill from AAA, a righty like Jenkins, but with poor movement. He had gotten his 1977 AAA ERA of 6.06 down to 2.89, so maybe he had matured some. It was about time for a guy aged 27.

Teams were offering me centerfielders now, but demanded either Christopher Powell or Juan Berrios for them and that was not a trade I’d do, especially now with my outfielders to slowly come back to join the team in the next weeks.

Two more against the Crusaders. Game 3 was lost entirely on errors committed as three runs in the 4-2 loss were unearned. Sullivan and Freddy Lopez were the culprits and Lopez had botched enough plays now and seated again. Sullivan shifted to third and Mendez came in at second. The series ended with another 4-2 loss, this time with three runs walked in by Berrios, Baker, and Vazquez. Better lock yourself in the clubhouse before I find my good belt, you bunch of suckers!

Jose Flores was back with the team and pinch-hit in the last game against New York already. He was back in the lineup starting against Sacramento. Robby Davis moved into center and Pickett, who was batting .171, was sat down.

The Scorpions were a team mirroring the Raccoons pretty good. They had solid pitching, but had a hard time scoring runs, ranking 11th in the FL in runs scored. The Raccoons ran right into “Mauler” Correa in the first game. His ERA was at 2.66 this year (after 1.27 in 1977) but he led the FL in K’s. Ned Ray was rapped hard again with four runs in the first two innings and the Raccoons hadn’t anything going. Darryl Maloney was mowed down in a home plate collision in the top 5th by Jorge Chavez. Now, Maloney got the out and ended the inning scoreless, but didn’t get to appreciate the home plate umpire bringing out the fist, instead he rolled around in the dirt holding his knee and screamed from the top of his lungs. That was the next injury, right there. The Raccoons lost 5-3. Hector Mendez provided a big RBI double in the bottom 8th, bringing runners to second and third with two outs, but Hernandez could not convert that big chance.

The Raccoons exploded for a 9-1 win the next day, courtesy to a few big shots. Ben Simon was 2-4 with two homers and five RBI, including a grand slam. Ed Sullivan also hit a 3-run shot, while the only Scorpions run was unearned. Of course, every good game was followed by at least one terrible game, as the Raccoons were rolled over in the rubber game for a 8-4 loss. Powell was removed in the fourth and the bullpen added to the mess as good as it could.

Ed Sullivan was the CL Player of the Week with a .414, 3 HR, 8 RBI stat line. This didn’t help going to Richmond against a strong team that led the FL East. Game 1 was a 4-3 loss with another poor start by Berrios and another key error that lost the game for two unearned runs. Johan Dolder was back to ready the next day, but was assigned to AAA to complete rehab for a few more days, while I brought Pickett back into the lineup in RF for Hernandez, who was batting a frightening .125. The team still lost the next game, 4-1, with only five hits, three of them in the last inning. This brought us to 32-32, the first time this season we were not over .500 and the way the team was playing, we wouldn’t get over again. The final Rebels game brought us below .500 instead. The Rebels out-hit us only 11-10, but out-scored us a whopping, stinging 9-1. Raccoons reached scoring position in six innings. No clutch hitting again. Sullivan and Johnston kept hitting streaks going this far, with Sullivan having hit in 13, Johnston in 14 straight.

Next up is the draft and a few physical punishments for the staff.

In other news:
June 7 – the Cyclones send Clarence Houston, a leftfielder batting .250, to the Capitals for two prospects, including minor league starter Dave Paul, who joined the Cincinnati pen right away. In an effort to shore up their bullpen the Cyclones also send two minor leaguers to Milwaukee for reliever Henry Peters.
June 10 – The Richmond Rebels lose 2-1 to the Charlotte Falcons in a grueling 6-hour, 22-inning struggle. The Rebels’ Riley Simon goes 6-9 on the day.
June 11 – Luis Nunez holds the Miners to a single hit in a 2-0 shutout with his Knights.
June 12 – The Cyclones lose Terence Nolan to shoulder inflammation, robbing them of a key piece to their bullpen with his 1.96 ERA.
June 12 – Salem’s Adam Quinn has now hit in 20 straight games.
June 13 – In what has become a pattern this season, Quinn can not extend his hit streak past 20, as his Wolves beat the Aces 7-4

Some choppy scheduling after the draft as we’ll be in Milwaukee, then host the Indians, go to Las Vegas, and then return home already again to host the Condors and Crusaders. We have lost seven of eight and are 4-9 in June.
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Old 06-17-2012, 07:54 AM   #26
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The 1978 draft pool does not contain *any* 5-star potential rated starting pitchers (yet some who might be able to be converted). This makes passing on Andres Ramirez last year all the more painful. All our top pick Daniel Hall has done in AA is batting .300 with little power and getting hurt.

There were certainly some interesting players in the pool, with a trio of relievers (two potential starters), a few infielders and there were certainly options for strong defensive *and* good offensive catchers, but none that combined both features.

Our first pick was #2, and we’d see what would remain after that. I once again was not sure whom to take as a top pick, but in contrast to last year this was not because of two WOW MUST HAVE guys, but rather because there was nobody in there without some flaws. Here are the (about) Top 10 players compiled through scouting reports:

SP John Douglas (8/14/3 – 12/19/11 – 17) – top rated starter in there
MR Richard Cunningham (11/10/5 – 20/15/17 – 16) – could be everything from starter to closer
MR Carlos Martinez (10/16/10 – 20/18/17 – 6) – screams closer, 22 yo Dominican future star, little work to be done
1B Yong-chan Cong (7/2/5 – 17/10/18) – defensively weak
MR Gary Simmons (12/8/7 – 19/9/13 – 15) – could be a top closer, but could be converted to a #1 starter
1B/2B/SS/3B Mike Grimes (9/1/6 – 17/1/17) – no power at all, best at 1B
1B/2B/SS Bobby Brewster (6/2/6 – 11/9/15)
LF/CF/RF Jeff Young (6/2/4 – 10/9/12) – big range
RF Carlos Leon (10/5/8 – 13/9/13)
1B Johnny Snow (7/2/3 – 15/13/10) – defensively a burden, but with a power bat

Even if you pick #2, it means somebody picks before you. The evil Loggers picked John “Barbwire” Douglas, my #1 ranked player. Damn youuuuu!! (shakes fist) Two of my Top 10 survived the first round and supplemental round. I took Simmons in the second round and Snow in the third, surprised he was still there. His inability to catch a ball must have contributed to that. By round 4, only relievers, catchers and some infielders with small bats from my shortlist remained. The last shortlisted player went in round 6 to the Canadiens, from there I drafted scrap outfielders, since my organization was thin with them anyway, but they ran out quickly as well.

All in all, the Raccoons drafted the following players:

Round 1: #2 MR Richard Cunningham, 18, from Moreno Valley, CA. Has some serious stuff. Listed as reliever but I plan to convert him to a starter.
Round 2: #5 MR Gary Simmons, 20, rural Oregon. Big time stuff, with movement to be developed. Listed as reliever, but another guy that could also be a starter – or even a successful closer.
Round 3: #10 1B Johnny Snow, 17, Waco, TX. Big bat, small glove, serious work to be done.
Round 4: MR Marvin Large, 21, Providence, RI. Should be a good bullpen piece somewhere down that road.
Round 5: C Eric Gregory, 22, New York City boy.
Round 6: MR Jeff Nelson, 21, from Tennessee, described as serviceable majors pen member.
Round 7: LF/RF Fernando Perez, 20, from Mexico.
Round 8: LF/RF Jose Lopez, 18, from Mexico.
Round 9: MR Andre Dupond, 22, from Canada.
Round 10: SP Gonzalo Torres, 17, from Dominica.

Simmons, Large, and Nelson go straight to AA, the rest is sent to the A level. This was not a very good draft class in my opinion.

By the way, I should have received an additional pick for Ben Green, who was a type A free agent, but didn’t. Something seemed to have gone awfully wrong here. Any hint at what I could have done wrong with him? :-(

In the aftermath I made some more moves in the minors to reduce the A roster a bit. Outfield prospect Andy Simms was moved to AA. Reliever Bill Craig went to AAA, and reliever Miguel Bojorquez moved to AA along with catcher Victor Walter.

Daniel Hall had just come back to the AA team, but had gone 0-13 at the plate since then. Worries there.
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Old 06-17-2012, 05:46 PM   #27
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Our organziation had bloated up to over 120 players; after the season, there would have some serious cutting to be done. Brett Justice had come back from a torn labrum and was sent to AAA for a rehab assignment.

Back to daily business now. We met the Loggers for three in Milwaukee. Struggles continued. Besides weak hitting, all starters seemed to have dropped into a hole on top of it. Erratic pitching led to losses in both of the first two games, 3-2 in ten innings in the first, followed by a 4-3 loss. The last game broke both Johnston’s and Sullivan’s hitting streaks, but at least the Raccoons somehow squeezed out a 2-1 win on just four hits. Hatfield got his first save opportunity in over a week and the rust showed as he loaded the bases (aided by a Johnston error though), before he was able to coax out a double play grounder to end the game.

Hatfield thus saved the 100th win in franchise history. Compare that to 130 losses *and* the recent slide from six over .500 to just under .500 in June. Ben Jenkins came off the DL and joined the Raccoons again. Robbie McNeill was waived and designated for assignment. I was sure that someone would pick him, but he was not good enough to stay on the roster. Greg Swift, Johan Dolder, and Brett Justice were all with the AAA team rehabbing after their injuries.

June 19 was a terrible day. The Indians killed the Raccoons 13-0, and there was not a single ray of hope. The team didn’t get anything done. In the eighth, with everything long lost, they loaded the bases and still didn’t get in a run. Just whack that ball somewhere. No. Pathetic outs. Romero went 2.2 with 5 ER, Vazquez 2.0 with 6 ER. Talk about a mopped up mop up guy. The Raccoons now head the worst pythagorean record in the Continental League (28-41, which was five under real), and the third worst in the majors. No offense. At times horrendous pitching. Our 220 runs through 69 games ranked last in baseball, and 39 behind the next closest teams, the Canadiens and Falcons.

Indians won the next one 7-4. Wally Gaston gave up a 3-run homer to Rodrigo Hernandez to blow an eighth inning lead. Gaston had come in with a 0.90 ERA and surrendered as many earned runs in this game in .2 innings as in 30.1 innings up until this game this season. Following this, Pedro Sánz was activated from the DL, and Greg Swift was called up to the majors again after a few days of healing out in AAA. Hector Mendez and Luis Hernandez were sent down. Sánz slotted back to #3 in the lineup (Pickett had a sore quad anyway) after Robby Davis and Ed Sullivan. Swift was in #6 (R) and #7 (L). Darryl Maloney was also healthy again. Sanderson remained on the roster for another day until Jesse Jeffries would be activated from the DL. All of this didn’t help at all, the Indians completed the sweep 6-2, the Raccoons scored only through solo home runs by Johnston and Flores.

Frustration. Massive frustration. The Warriors claimed McNeill off waivers. More massive frustration.

How could I make this team score some fricking runs!? Well, Sánz bolted a 2-run shot to go ahead in the first game against the Aces, but the Raccoons lost 9-5 as Ned Ray allowed SEVEN runs in 2.2 innings and I had enough of him. His 1.61 WHIP and inability to get K’s was annoying me a ton.

Ray was demoted to AAA immediately and I did something my scouts had urged me to do for some time now: I brought up Logan “Crazylegs” Evans, who would start the next game right away since this would have been his turn in AAA now. Evans went 6.1 innings in his first outing, giving up a homer, three runs, four walks, six hits, and fanned four. Hatfield almost blew a 3-run save in the bottom 9th, K’ing the first two, then gave up a single, followed by three walks and a pathetic groundball, that somehow made an out at second. Raccoons won 6-4. Pickett replaced Robby Davis in the lineup for game 3, Flores was batting leadoff again and Pickett was moved to #7. They lost the rubber game 6-2. Romero and Wright combined to surrender three homers. The Raccoons had gone out to lead 2-0 after the top 1st in every of the three games, yet came back with little to show. Evans’ half way solid outing was what should be remembered, at best.

BNN’s stat of the week: ABL leaders in career losses. Topeka’s Jonathan Knapp tops the list with 28, followed by Juan Berrios tied for 2nd with 26. Honestly, if he hadn’t pitched that no-hitter last year, I would have shot him a long time ago.

Next: Condors at home. Powell stepped in first and allowed four runs in the first inning, and five in total in the 5-3 loss. Berrios went up again Alex Miranda the next day. I almost snapped. Not only did Miranda pitch eight scoreless, he also batted in the winning run himself and scored a run on a wild pitch by Berrios. And the Raccoons? Down 2-0, they loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom 9th – and lost 2-1. MAD!! I am so MAD!! Go the [feep] out and score some [feep] runs!! X-((

I recalled Johan Dolder from his rehab assignment and shoved Jorge Lopez (batting .095) to AAA before game 3. Dolder didn’t get to start in CF yet. Game 3. Craig Hoyt started for the Condors and had no fun. He was bombed for eight runs by the low-offense Raccoons. So, Logan Evans got an 8-0 lead going into the third inning. That should be enough, right? No, it wasn’t. Evans surrendered four in the third, and walked the bases full in the fifth, and all runs got across eventually, and the Condors tied it in the sixth. I don’t [feep] believe it. The Raccoons scratched together two more runs late in the game and won 10-8, but not before Gaston walked the bases full as well (he got out of it, though), and Hatfield also got the tieing run to second base before closing it.

What a miserable team. That bunch of losers would next face the Crusaders, who were scoring 80% more runs than them. This could only end badly, and four times so. After that: road trip to Vancouver and Boston before the All Star break.

In other news:
June 20 – Craig Hoyt of the Condors shuts out the Knights on three hits in a 6-0 win.
June 21 – Jack Pennington (9-5, 3.55) will miss three weeks with shoulder inflammation, hurting the Cyclones in their playoff race with the Rebels.
June 23 – Alex Miranda tosses another shutout allowing only three hits as the Condors beat the Indians.
June 26 – The Warriors send outfielder Chris Smith (.317 last year, just .262 this year) to Atlanta for reliever Juan Carlos Gomez (0-1, 2.57).
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Old 06-19-2012, 06:26 PM   #28
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Still weak offensively, the Raccoons shut out the Crusaders 4-0 in the first of four games in the series. Our luck was that their starter Juan Torres walked four, while Jorge Romero went 7.1 innings and struck out five. He still allowed nine hits, but we got a few lucky double plays. So, this was a shutout of the highest-scoring team in the league, but for once luck had been on our side. Note that luck has been mentioned thrice in this paragraph.

The luck ended right that evening. We got news that in an A level game our prospect Juan Martinez had torn his posterior cruciate ligament. He was out for at least nine months. We had signed him right out of Mexico this winter.

We played game 2 without Ben Simon, who was a little worn out. Jeffries was in, but Simon pinch hit later in the game, grounding out. He has so far played in every Raccoons game in franchise history. The Raccoons lost 4-2 on poor offense and another shoddy performance by Christopher Powell, who gave up ten hits and all the runs in 4.2 innings. Next guy up with an inability to throw strikes as a recognized disability? Berrios. He walked four, but left a 2-2 tied game, that the Raccoons only lost through a combo of Wally Gaston walking three in the top 9th, combined with an Ed Sullivan error that cost three unearned runs. 5-2 loss. Sullivan deserved a day off along with Maloney, and both saw the Raccoons lose in ten innings, 2-1, with once again four hits. Logan Evans got a no-decision again with one run allowed in seven frames.

Now, allowing only 11 runs to the Crusaders over four games, that was certainly not that shabby. Of course, it was almost all bullpen. Berrios and Powell were in a slump, and Evans was walking them in scores. And then the team scored only nine runs themselves, losing three of four. I realize I continue to sing the same song here. But at 36-45 now, the first half of the season was over, and we were 262-329 in runs. That’s actually just over three runs scored per game. We were relying heavily on the long ball, leading the CL in home runs. Almost every other offensive category (including steals with Flores losing his timing): 11th or 12th.

Canadiens in Vancouver for four games next. Jorge Romero went six good innings allowing one run and Hoyt Cook later bashed the go ahead home run in the top 9th. Hatfield got his 23rd save in the 2-1 game with an amazing catch by Pedro Sánz to end the game, but then was in pain afterwards. He had a sore shoulder and was out for for one to two weeks. Which was terrible. One week, keep him and play Gaston as closer. Two weeks, disable him. One to two weeks? Gnarf. I thought about disabling him and calling up Brett Justice, but Justice was still struggling after a year on the DL, so I got Ned Ray to replace him in the pen. Gaston would close the next 15 days.

There was no save opportunity the next day, when the Raccoons beat the Canadiens 6-2. They only had five hits, but were walked eight times and Ben Simon got the ship righted early with a 2-run slam in the first inning. This was followed by a 7-3 win the next night. Berrios one-hit the Canadiens in five innings, then crumbled in the sixth and couldn’t get out of there. Tony Lopez actually got his first career save, pitching the last two, entering at 5-3, before Flores homered in the top 9th. Flores, Sullivan, and Simon all had three hits. Maybe things were just slightly coming around. The Raccoons finished the four games in Vancouver with a sweep, rapping Canadiens starter Vic Underwood hard for seven runs in four innings, winning it 9-2. Logan Evans: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5 K. The kid was sometimes erratic, but this was a stellar outing for him.

A warm wind was blowing through the clubhouse. Rapping the Canadiens by 24-8 runs and sweeping them in four had helped a lot to rebuild lost confidence. Sure, we had temporarily lost our closer, but the good thing was that the All Star break was up – three off days either way. Of course, it was bad for Hatfield, who, leading the ABL in saves, might have had a shot at a selection. Only the Titans left for three in Boston before the Federal League and Continental League would match up.

A few guys got a day off to start the series, with Pickett and Jeffries in for Flores and Swift. Jorge Romero went the distance in game 1 as the troubled Titans pitchers were rolled up by the Raccoons, 8-1. Everything went right out of whack again from there. Boston’s Sean Critch shut down the Raccoons, while Christopher Powell continued to throw like a girl. Six runs in two plus innings, that guy was about to get shafted. Raccoons lost 9-0. Game 3 was more of the same with a 6-1 loss. Raccoons were fanned nine times and Berrios pitched five scoreless before melting down epically in the sixth.

Ben Simon was the only Raccoon nominated for the All Star game. The Continental League won 3-0. Simon played the whole game at shortstop, but went 1-4 with 2 K’s.

Break over, back to business. At 41-47 and very erratic play this meant to try to optimize the lineup. Dolder was out, batting below .200 and not getting plays in several times against Boston. Pickett was in CF against the Canadiens, in another four game series, this time at home.

Logan Evans started the series at home and allowed two runs in the first inning. He then settled in, but the Raccoons didn’t score for him and only got moving in the bottom 8th with three runs scored by the bottom of the lineup. Gaston got his first save in place of Hatfield (second overall this season) in the 4-2 win, but walked two again – this was why he was not the normal closer for the team. Lack of control. Next game, lack of everything in a 4-1 loss. Once again only four hits, a common theme this summer.

Game 3. Powell was given a 1-0 lead, but blew it. The Raccoons trailed 3-1 in the bottom 8th, with the bottom of the lineup loading the bases, and nobody out. Flores flew out, Sullivan flew out, Sánz singled in one, Simon flew out. It was both pathetic and embarassing. They loaded the bases AGAIN in the bottom 9th with one out and didn’t score at all, Johnston was thrown out at home while trying. For crying out loud!! They put up at least one strong inning in the last game for a 4-1 win and a tied series.

In other news:
July 2 – Harry Beauman (.314, 6 HR, 34 RBI) of the Pacifics is out for six weeks with a fractured rib.
July 4 – The Indians trade Jorge Vallejo (9-8, 2.99 ERA) to Los Angeles for slugging CF Danny Latham and a prospect in outfielder Jim French.
July 4 – David Burke tosses a two-hitter as his Pacifics blank the Wolves 3-0.
July 4 – The Loggers’ Ethan Michael goes 6-6 in a 17-9 thumping of his team over the Indians. Mike Cummings also was 5-5 in the game.
July 6 – Esteban Hernandez is a triple shy of the cycle as his Indians beat Milwaukee 6-5.

By now I’m pretty confident that this will not get better this year anymore. It’s hard to make out the one critical malfunction in this lineup. Simon strikes out a lot, but he’s also leading the team in home runs. Nobody is hitting over .300, which is certainly contributing. Injuries have added their share. We also won’t get back to .500, and all this after that mega start … sigh.

While we’re at injuries, Brett Justice is back on the roster, replacing Ned Ray, and Luis Hernandez was struck from the 40-man roster to accommodate Justice. Hernandez, 35, batting .125 in the majors, was claimed by the Gold Sox and Rebels the next day.

It’s July 16, and we’re boarding a plane for Indianapolis. Oklahoma City after that. The Bayhawks and Knights will come to Portland after that, and the next road trip will start on July 31 in Las Vegas.
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Old 06-21-2012, 05:49 PM   #29
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The Indians were locked in a tight battle with the Crusaders for the division lead. And they played like it. Miguel Sanchez fanned nine Raccoons in game 1 and hit a home run off Logan Evans as the Indians won 4-1, then went on to win the next 4-3 in the tenth inning, after Romero had struggled heavily with control, walking five and didn’t get any outs on the plate. This ate up my bullpen and cost in extra innings, when no fresh arms remained. The Indians had no problem to win the last game against Powell, who again was horrible in the 5-2 loss.

Horrible play by the team. If I just could trade them all away to never see them again. How well that worked with Miranda. Elsewhere, I moved Daniel Hall to AAA after he had gotten back to his mojo after his injury.

Another poor performance all around came in game 1 in Oklahoma City with a 3-2 loss, but at least the Raccoons touched the sometimes troubled Thunder pen in a naughty spot in the second game, scoring seven late in a 10-3 win. The Raccoons scored three early in the rubber game and scored again four in a big ninth inning to win 8-1. Sánz had two RBI after four the day before. Romero went seven and won the game to get back even at 9-9.

The Bayhawks were in town, a heck of a team, although their pitching had suffered a ton with the loss of Juan Correa. Christopher Powell went out and pitched four perfect innings. Then was slaughtered in a 4-run fifth inning. The Raccoons came back to tie it in the seventh, when Powell was long gone and showering. The game was still 5-5 in the bottom 9th. Two guys on and two outs, Ben Simon singled through the gap to the right. Jose Flores made a mad dash from second back home against Alfonso Marte, who had about the best arm among rightfielders in the league. Flores just barely made it past the throw and catcher Cam Cormack and the Raccoons walked off 6-5. Simon was 2-5 with three RBI in the game.

I made a lineup change after the game. Pickett was batting .288 after a recent surge and was moved up to #2 behind Flores. Sullivan slotted past Sánz and Simon to #5, and Johnston, Swift, and the catcher’s spot each moved down one. That might improve the offense, but the starting pitching continued to make me pull all my hair out. Berrios started game 2 and allowed five runs in 3.1 innings. Hadn’t he been sucking so hard again, the Raccoons would have won it quite comfortably, but the game went to extra innings at 7-7, where the big collapse came in the top 14th. Bayhawks won 12-7. Ed Sullivan was 3-7 with five RBI. Jesse Jeffries entered as pinch hitter, went 0-4 with 3 K and left three on base. The Raccoons lost the rubber game 5-4. Pickett homered for three in the bottom 9th, but it was too late already.

The following off day was great to rest the pen that had pitched again more than it’s share of innings. Berrios and Powell both were horrible and something had to be done. Wyatt Johnston was still good at 1B, but he demanded too much for an extension of his contract that would expire after this season. Could we get a decent starter for Johnston before July was over? Turned out such a trade was impossible.

The Knights were in town next for the last series against them in ’78. The Raccoons won the first contest 4-1. Ed Sullivan was 3-4 to go to .301 – the only Raccoon over .300 in a long time. Sullivan also made a key play in the top 8th at second base (where he had moved after Greg Swift had been tossed for loudly arguing to the home plate ump over a strikeout) that ended the inning after two Knights had reached on Kieran Lawson, first on a passed ball, then on a dropped and lost third strike. Romero went eight frames, whiffing six and the only run he allowed was unearned. Hatfield got his first save in 25 days.

This left the weak part of the rotation to go. Powell surrendered 11 hits and six runs in 7.1 innings, taking the loss, 6-2. The Raccoons were no-hit over six frames in this game. Powell has not struck out a batter in his last two starts, which combined for 13 innings. In his last 12 starts he was 1-8. Berrios also lost the rubber game, 3-2, allowing two runs in 7.1 innings. Gaston surrendered a home run in the ninth, which made the last Raccoons run in the bottom 9th pointless.

In other news:
July 19 – Jeremiah Carroll of the Cyclones (.348) is out for at least a month with a shoulder injury, dealing a big blow to his team in the playoff race.
July 19 – David Burke’s 9-10 season with a 2.93 ERA is over as the Pacifics starter tore a flexor tendon in his elbow.
July 20 – Leonardo Costa of the Scorpions has hit in 20 straight games.
July 21 – Warrior George Lynch goes down with an oblique strain for a few weeks. He was .376 with 3 HR and 37 RBI this season.
July 26 – Leonard Costa’s hitting streak reaches 25 games, as he goes 1-4 in a 5-2 loss of his Scorpions to the Cyclones.
July 28 – The Buffaloes chill Costa’s streak at 26 games in a 4-1 win over the Scorpions.
July 28 – The Cyclones acquire starter Victor Jimenez (4-2, 3.25) from Oklahoma City for outfielder Dylan Milley (.311, 5 HR, 38 RBI) and a minor league pitcher.
July 30 – As the Warriors trumped the Rebels 14-6, Warriors 1B Corey Byrd hit for a natural cycle, including a grand slam, against the FL East leaders. With another base clearing triple in there, he had seven RBIs in the game. Overall he is .317 with 3 HR and 65 RBI this season. This was the fourth cycle in ABL history, and the third natural cycle!

Next: Aces on the road, then Loggers and Canadiens each for four at home to start August.
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Old 06-23-2012, 03:46 PM   #30
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The Raccoons ended July with a 5-3 loss to the Aces. My pitchers walked six, the Aces’ one. My pitchers K’ed four, the Aces’ eight. Couple that with a double play in the top 8th that killed a Raccoons rally and it was another depressing loss. More depressing was the 3-2 loss the next day. Jorge Romero had gone 7.1 scoreless innings and Hatfield got a 2-0 lead in the bottom 9th and failed epically. He left at 2-2 with two outs and runners on second and third. Bruce Wright came in and through a wild pitch that scored a runner to end the game. The sweep was completed with another 4-3 loss in the last game. Powell allowed three runs in right in the first inning after being given a 2-0 lead. His next start will be in four days to finish the Loggers series. Right now this could be very well his last start for the Raccoons.

I don’t know how to replace Powell. But I feel like a pitcher carved out of a dead rotten tree stump would make a better pitcher than him. He’s 7-15 and his ERA is continually rising towards 5.

The Loggers were up next. The Raccoons had the best total record against the Loggers, at 16-9 (.640), if excluding three interleague matchups where we stood at 2-1 (.667). To be honest, the only other CL team we had a winning record against were the Titans (17-13), followed by the Canadiens (13-16). The Loggers and Canadiens each were in Portland for four games – the prime opportunity to get this team into last place in the division (and league).

The Loggers series opened with a 1-0 win for the Raccoons. Simon doubled in Sánz in the first inning and that was it. Berrios went eight frames with one ball and four strikeouts issued. Both teams only had five hits. Bruce Wright closed the game – not because I didn’t trust Hatfield (I didn’t trust anybody on this team), but because the core of the Loggers artillery was up in the ninth and they were all lefties. Wright got through them 1-2-3. Logan Evans came up next and pitched well with one run allowed in six innings. Top 9th. Raccoons led 4-1 and Hatfield got in. Walk, single, home run – bust. Hatfield was thrown out by me and Gaston allowed the winning run in the 5-4 loss after a throwing error. In total the Raccoons made four errors in the game. Hatfield was removed of the closer’s job. This team would not have a fixed closer for now. They didn’t need one anyway, they didn’t win games anyway.

The last two games in the series. The Loggers led 2-0 going into the bottom 7th in game 3. Flores singled, Pickett walked, Sánz had an RBI double. 2-1 down, Simon walked to load the bases with nobody out. Get those [expletive] RUNS IN!!! Sullivan was scored a GIDP and Johnston rolled out to second to end the inning without another run and the suckers lost 3-1. Powell was up in the last game. This time his control was better and he allowed two runs in 7.1 innings, but got a no decision. The game 2-2 into extra innings after the Raccoons had failed to convert bases loaded situations with less than two outs twice early in the game. They again loaded the bases with one out in the bottom 11th. Rob Pickett snipped the ball through on the right side to score the winning run, 3-2. Hatfield ended up the winning pitcher with a 3-inning relief effort, K’ing two, and the only baserunner reached on an error.

Contracts were also signed with backup infielder Freddy Lopez for two years just under the arbitration estimate ($118,000; eligibility would have been two years as well) as well as with Jose Flores (two years for $166,600 a year) and Darryl Maloney (one year for $131,000). The only players without a contract for 1979 remain Wyatt Johnston, Kieran Lawson, Rob Pickett, Jesse Jeffries, and minor leaguer Luis Marin. I have no big interest in Marin, a struggling AAA pitcher with little potential for improvement, and Jeffries, who hadn’t lived up to expectations. I would go after Pickett next, who had surprised by hitting about .280 and fielding well and had won the starter’s spot in CF over Dolder (sub .200). Pickett signed a 3-year extension (last year with a vesting option for 250 PA, so it should only trigger if he still is the CF starter in ’80) the next week.

The Canadiens were on a roll recently, having done away with a sizeable deficit on the Loggers in the last two weeks. The Raccoons got to feel that immediately as they were almost no-hit in the first game, a 4-0 loss. Ed Sullivan broke the bid up in the sixth with a pinch-hit single (Freddy Lopez was making a few starts at 3B recently), and in all they were held to two hits. A 3-1 loss later the Raccoons then were down to 5th in the division, half a game ahead of Milwaukee. Couldn’t take long to get there, too. Romero was tagged for five runs in the first two innings in the 5-2 loss in game 3. Since the Loggers chewed 9-6 through the Indians, the Raccoons now hit rock bottom in the CL North for the first time this season, that they had begun so strongly. Game 4 went to the Canadiens, 2-1, with ten hits and both runs on Powell over seven plus innings. Sweep completed, woodland creatures destroyed.

Summary over the 8-game home stint: 2-6 record, dropped to last, 24 runs allowed (3.0 per game), choking 13 runs scored (1.6 per game). No wonder those suckers dropped to last. In the 11 most significant offensive categories they were 12th in the CL eight times, and 10th two times. They were 2nd in home runs, but even those had been scarce lately.

Interleague play was rapped up next with a lot of sox in the laundry. First the Gold Sox in Denver, then at home a series against the Blue Sox, the last two teams the Raccoons would face for the very first time.

Just three or four weeks ago, the Gold Sox had been the worst team in the ABL. Since then they had gone on a roll and carried a 5-game winning streak into the series against the Raccoons, who were blowing every little chance they got. They never got one in the first game of the series, where Berrios was blazed for seven runs in 3.2 innings. Sánz hit a base clearing double later, as the Raccoons were downed 7-4. Game 2 saw them take a quick 3-0 lead (although two runs were walked in), but Logan Evans gave it away again. Tied at 4-4 the game went to extra innings, where Hoyt Cook, who started for Johnston (who still came in at 3B in the sixth in a double switch), bolted a grand slam to win the game 8-5. Brett Justice got his first career save in the rubber game, as the Raccoons came back from a first inning deficit to win 2-1.

Two wins against a hot last place team – could the Raccoons be that next hot last place team? Well, they actually tied Milwaukee for 5th after this series. The Blue Sox came to Portland, and they were not yet eliminated from contention in the FL East, seven games back there. They mostly did get their W’s on pitching, being 10th in scoring in the FL, but that still meant they had almost 100 runs more than the Raccoons. The FL as a whole was a bit more hitter friendly. We had almost the same amount of runs allowed, but while this was only good for 6th in the CL for us, the Blue Sox led their league in least runs allowed.

Game 1 had Christopher Powell, who seemed to be back to half solid and allowed one run in seven innings, but got a no decision. The Raccoons only scored on a Pedro Sánz 2-run single in the bottom 8th, enough to win 2-1 with a save from Wally Gaston. Unfortunately Sánz left with an intracostal strain later in the eighth inning and went to the 15-day DL. Robby Davis moved in to start in RF, batting leadoff for his speed, and Jorge Lopez was called up from AAA despite having batted 4-42 earlier in the season in the majors.

The Raccoons won game 2 by a score of 3-1 on just five hits. Swift got in two, one with a sac fly. Wyatt Johnston also scored one runner on a sac fly. Berrios went six innings and Tony Lopez pitched a 3-inning save on just 30 pitches. But the offense was, what it was, and the Raccoons lost the final game of interleague play in 1978 by 4-1 on a leadoff walk in the top 6th that scored on Logan Evans and got him the loss, and a Dermott Watkins 2-run homer in the seventh.

Raccoons last at 53-68 in the CL North, yet there are five teams with worse records currently. Still, I don’t like this. Obviously, we need to get relief for the offense during the off season. I have an eye on Don Sullivan of the Gold Sox. He leads the FL in homers with 23 and is a free agent first baseman. With the Raccoons likely losing Wyatt Johnston, we could use Sullivan a bunch.

In other news:
August 2 – The Indians lose starter Du Tong (5-3, 2.93) for the season to shoulder inflammation.
August 6 – Slugger Frank Whitfield from the Boston Titans is hurt just one week after the Titans acquired him from San Francisco. He’ll be out for the rest of the month with a knee sprain.
August 12 – Titan Brian Adams lacks a triple for the cycle in an 11-3 win of Boston over Dallas.
August 17 – Condors reliever Josh Hill breaks his hand punching a locker in the clubhouse after a 6-2 loss of the Condors to the Warriors.

Tough road trip ahead to finish August, as we’ll play the Crusaders (3-8 this year; 10-19 overall), Indians (3-9; 13-17), Condors (2-4; 4-11), and Thunder (4-2; 6-9) in the next two weeks.

One and a half months to go, and no 1977 playoff team is currently in first place, yet all remain in contention.
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Old 06-23-2012, 11:02 PM   #31
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Ben Simon was 2-3 with a homer and four RBI to start the Crusaders series. Too bad their monster Ralph Nixon went 2-5 with a homer and five RBI and the Crusaders trumped the Raccoons 9-5. Four unearned runs came off a throwing error by Darryl Maloney in the sixth, so one had to wonder what could have been. I was growing a bit tired of Maloney’s act, too. He was batting sub .200 and was less than 20% in getting stealers out this year. Lawson would get a shot at being the #1 catcher.

Game 2. Wyatt Johnston bashed two homers for four runs in the game (plus a single and two walks), but both times the lead got blown up again by the Crusaders. The game went to extra innings at 5-5. The Raccoons didn’t score, and Bill Baker took the loss, although the Raccoons threw out Jeremy Churchill at third to get the second out, Baker walked the next batter to get a runner in scoring position. Tony Lopez came on there, with Paul Kavanagh to bat. Kavanagh already was 4-4 on the night and snipped one right through Ben Simon at short to score Ralph Nixon from second and walk the Crusaders off, 6-5. Game 3 was a clean cut 6-1 loss. The Raccoons had only one chance in the seventh, but Johnston was thrown out at home trying to score from second on a Rob Pickett single with the bases loaded and the Raccoons only got that one run from Ben Simon.

After that, the Indians were up, the division leaders. They had dropped two against the Canadiens and threw Salah Brunet against Logan Evans. Brunet had a no-hitter (in 1977) and the lowest ERA in the league. Evans had no control over his pitches. Evans won it on 7.2 innings of 1-run ball, while the Raccoons shoved three down Brunet’s throat in the 3-1 win. Hatfield got a save after being slotted back to the closer roll after some strong relief efforts.

Miguel Sanchez was up for the Indians in game 2, and he was 2nd in wins, 2nd in ERA, 4th in K’s in the Continental League. He didn’t let the Raccoons as much as breathe, shutting them out over eight innings, while Romero allowed three in the second, where he gave away a couple of costly walks. Then came the ninth, Sanchez was trying to complete the shutout, but then had to leave the game with pain in his arm. The Indians imploded. Hoyt Cook and Freddy Lopez provided big two out hits for the Raccoons that tied the game. They could not get ahead, though. Wally Gaston held the Indians at bay to send the game to extra innings, where the Raccoons won 5-3 on a 2-run double by Rob Pickett. Gaston got one, Hatfield two outs in the bottom 10th. Sanchez was diagnosed with a strained triceps. His season was over at 19-7 with a 2.06 ERA.

Powell was again terrible in game 3. He allowed nine hits and two runs in 3.2 innings and was removed with the bases loaded, where Bill Baker wiggled out. Kieran Lawson tied the game with a 2-run shot in the top 5th. Sullivan homered to make it 3-2, while Baker pitched 4.2 stellar innings and all would have been well, but the Raccoons broke apart in the bottom 9th. Lopez and Wright loaded the bases with two outs. Gaston came in (both him and Hatfield were worn out) and the Indians sent in Luis Montano to match up against Gaston. They went to a full count before Montano banged one through the right side that scored two and walked off the Indians, 4-3.

The Crusaders were still sending a thank you card for shutting down the Indians. The two teams were tied again for the lead. The Raccoons in turn agreed to a waiver trade with the Pittsburgh Miners. The Miners wanted Jorge Lopez, who was hitting .091 now and was a misfit everywhere but rightfield, which was a healthy Pedro Sánz’ realm. They offered Ángel Costa, a decent 2B/3B guy with good contact hitting. I figured that if someone claimed a player here, it would be Costa, since Lopez was just so bad. In the worst case, they’d claim Lopez and a 40-man roster spot would be freed up in time for September 1 for Daniel Hall to move up. Hall was shredding through AAA pitching and I was eager to move him up earlier than intended. If I got Costa, I had the option to take him to the 40-man roster and release the struggling Jeffries.

Game 1 in the Condors series was Berrios vs. Miranda. The latter pitched like I remembered him from last year, walking three in the first inning, and the Raccoons got two runs across. Miranda ended up tagged with six runs in less than three innings. The Raccoons won 7-1, but the win could have been much higher with ten walks and nine hits for the team. Game 2 sucked. Logan Evans left injured in the first inning. Jenkins dealt four walks, Gaston dealt four walks, and the game was tied 5-5 after nine, 6-6 after ten with a run off Wright, that Hatfield inherited and couldn’t contain, and Hatfield lost it in the 11th with two straight hits, 7-6. All that after only Hoyt Cook’s 2-run double had sent the game to extra innings in the first place, come with two outs in the top 9th. With game 2 depleting the pen, Romero had to go deep in game 3, but struggled with command, as did Baker, who was the only other pitcher not still aching from the day before. Baker lost the game to a 2-run walk off homer by Mark MacCamie. So, the Condors may be the worst team in the CL South, but the Raccoons still can’t get through them, no matter how horribly they pitch.

Kevin Hatfield signed a 3-year extension, buying out his arbitration years at slightly above the current price. Should he further improve, the next two years will be – as the Ferengi in me would call it – profit. I’m also taking another shot at a contract extension for Wyatt Johnston. I made him an offer over three years (third year a vesting option) for $375,000 a year – a healthy 14% cut in pay. He will at least think about it.

Meanwhile the waiver trade for Ángel Costa was completed with the Miners. Costa remained designated for assignment yet, though, although we had only 24 guys on the majors roster. The reason was simple. Pedro Sánz had only one more day remaining on the DL and was healthy again. He would be back for game 2 against Thunder. But it was August 28, the rosters would expand soon anyway. No reason to release Jeffries now – he would not get a new contract anyway. Costa would stay DFA for four days.

Logan Evans meanwhile had torn his triceps in the Condors game and his season was over. He went to the 60-day DL on August 29. Ned Ray was recalled for lack of other options.

Thunder was another team the Raccoons were badly struggling against. The series opened with a 3-2 ten innings loss with Brett Justice on the receiving end. Another walk off loss followed in game 2. The Raccoons led 7-5 into the bottom 9th. Freddy Lopez had pinch hit in the top half of the inning and remained in there at 3B for Sullivan for better defense. He throw away an easy ball on the first play that also threw Hatfield’s game and the Thunder scored three runs to walk off 8-7. All three bottom 9th runs were unearned because of Lopez’ error. There was some shouting in the clubhouse afterwards. Ned Ray then made his first majors start in over two months against the Thunder. He sucked a ton, allowing five runs in the first three innings, but got a no-decision thanks to a 5-run inning by the Raccoons later in the sixth. They added three more in the seventh, but got behind 9-8 in the bottom 7th on a dismal outing by Tony Lopez. Gaston couldn’t pick up his trash. The Raccoons tied it once more in the top 8th when Swift sacrificed in Sánz. Gaston stayed in there and lost the game 10-9 in the bottom 9th. Three games in Oklahoma City, three times lost in walk off fashion.

In other news:
August 18 – Salem’s Victor Garcis silences the Warriors with a 3-hit 10-0 shutout.
August 18 – In a big game in regards to the playoffs, Jose Vazquez shuts out the Rebels on four hits, as the Blue Sox win 6-0.
August 24 – The Rebels lose their closer Stanley Holman for the season with a torn labrum. Holman had been 2-2 with 23 saves and a 2.75 ERA.

Raccoons stuck in last place. The first two weeks in September will feature games against the CL North, first the Loggers and Titans at home, then the Canadiens and Loggers on the road. The Raccoons add five players to the majors roster on September 1: relievers Stanton Coleman and Jose Vazquez, catcher R.J. Sanderson, infielder Ángel Costa (acquired from the Miners), and outfield prospect Daniel Hall. I really want to see Hall, our 1977 #1 draft pick (#2 overall), perform against the big guys. He’s torn up AA and AAA pitching already this year despite missing a few weeks to injury.
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Old 06-28-2012, 04:10 PM   #32
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September 1 marked the start of Loggers series, and as well the major league debut of the Raccoons’ first ever draft pick, Daniel Hall. He came to bat in the bottom 6th, pinch hitting for an 0-3 Jose Flores, with two outs and runners on the corners and slapped a liner to right center for an RBI single. He also scored a run on a 2-run double by Pedro Sánz in the 4-run bottom 6th. Hall finished the game in leftfield, grounding into a fielder’s choice and getting a flyball. The Raccoons won 5-1. The start of a great career? Oh, we do hope so.

It was not a great series in either way. The Loggers were struggling just as much as the Raccoons to score runs, but we couldn’t chew them up. Game 2 was a 3-2 12th inning loss with no offense once again. I tried something new for game 3 and put Daniel Hall in the lineup for the struggling Flores. The latter had batted .275 early in the season, then got injured. Since then he had plummeted to .248. His defense was great, but Hall was not known for dropping pop ups either. We’ll see. For now, Hall would bat second behind Pickett. Juan Berrios pitched in the third game and left injured in the fifth. Raccoons won 5-2.

Berrios would miss the rest of the season with ulnar nerve irritation, which was another blow. No I had to find another terrible guy to start along with Ned Ray. That was a problem that could wait another few days to be solved, since the #3 spot wouldn’t come up again until after the Titans series and an off day. Maybe Tony Lopez could be an option here. There was nobody in AAA suited for this.

Next, Titans. Talking about Ned Ray, that straggler gave up back-to-back home runs to start game 1. Daniel Hall blasted his first long ball to tie it 2-2 in the bottom 3rd. In total, Ray gave up three homers, Gaston another one, and the Raccoons were downed 6-2. The Raccoons failed to mount any meaningful offense the next day and went down 2-0, followed by a 7-1 defeat for a sweep the next day. This was no surprise. Powell pitched and was his usual self.

This gave the Raccoons 81 losses at 58-81. What a nightmare after starting 7-0 into the season, and 15-9 in April. It’s been horrible. It will only get more horrible. With Berrios and Evans out for the last three weeks of the season, Tony Lopez moved to the rotation. This could not end well.

Lopez first took the mound to open a series against the Canadiens. He struggled with command going for more than two or three innings and walked four, but thanks to a few double plays only two runs got across. He got a no decision in the 6-3 Raccoons win as we scored four in the top 8th. We also lost Bill Baker to an abdominal muscle strain for one week. The Raccoons had 14 hits the next day, but were only able to score three runs of them, which was just barely enough to squeeze through the game to a 3-2 victory. There was no happy end to the season, though. The Canadiens hit three home runs (two off Romero) in a 7-0 shutout of the Raccoons. This gave us a 8-10 record for the season against Vancouver.

Wyatt Johnston signed his $1.125M contract. That money will better be converted to some runs, grandpa. He delivered instantly in the first Loggers game, shooting for two on a long ball. The Raccoons squeezed through to win 4-3. It was Powell’s first W since early July, more than two months ago!! Tony Lopez was making another start to fill up the rotation in game 2 and was rapped for a 7-2 loss.

Game 3 was one of those where you just want to kill yourself. At 1-1 the Raccoons faced elimination in the bottom 9th with runners on the corners and nobody out. Johnston and Lawson made a ground ball into an out at the plate and the Raccoons wiggled out of it. The Loggers loaded the bases in the 10th and couldn’t score with one out. Daniel Hall launched one to make it 3-1, then Hatfield blew the 2-run save. 3-3, on to the 12th. There, Alberto Madrid came up for his first majors at bat and singled in the winning run for the Loggers off Hatfield. I hate this team… Romero had a shutout going but made it explode big time in the last Loggers game of the year. The Raccoons won 8-3.

The last series on this road trip was against the Bayhawks, one of the Raccoons’ biggest nemesis. Back 13 games in the CL South, the pennant winners from last year weren’t eliminated mathematically, but realistically they were. The Raccoons were still trying to finish out of last place, currently 1 ½ games behind Milwaukee.

Game 1 saw Wally Gaston as the hero. Powell started, surrendered four runs in two innings, then wiggled through to the sixth. The Raccoons had tied it by then, but the game went to extra innings. Gaston pitched from the 10th inning on and had the Bayhawks in deadlock, but the Raccoons didn’t score. Then came the 13th innings and Gaston led off with a blooper to right, his first hit of the season (only Hatfield remained in the pen by then). A walk to Maloney and a single by Hall loaded the bags. Sánz struck out with one out. Then Costa was walked and a run forced in. Sullivan turned up and grand slammed the bases empty. Gaston pitched a fourth inning in the 9-4 win. They continued the next day with a 4-3 win, but the grief was more about Hatfield, who failed to close it. Coming in with a 2-run lead, he surrendered a lead off homer, then ended up with runners on first and second and two outs. With a lefty coming up, I didn’t trust him and sent in Bill Baker, who was just back from his injury. Baker struck out Michael Bolton to earn the save. Tony Lopez had gone eight innings to give the aching bullpen a bit of rest. The Raccoons failed to complete the sweep with a 4-3 loss in the last game. Sullivan was responsible for two unearned runs in the seventh, but he provided the only offense as well with a 3-run homer.

In other news:
September 7 – A shoulder injury will sideline Cincinnati’s Jeremiah Carrell for three weeks, possibly already spelling doom to the defending champions in regards to the playoff race in the FL East, where they trail the Rebels by six.
September 13 – Should the Falcons make the playoffs, they will go there without their ace Joe Ellis (23-9 in 1978), who hurt his shoulder and would take at least two months to heal.
September 16 – Warriors RF Mitsuharu Yamada lacks only a triple for the cycle in a 10-3 win over the Miners.

Two weeks remaining, Warriors almost through. The Raccoons have four series left against the Falcons and Indians at home, then a trip to New York, and then the finale at home against the Titans. That makes nine games against teams trying to make the playoffs. I can’t help but feel sure that we’ll be last on October 2.
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Old 06-29-2012, 03:56 PM   #33
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The Falcons were clawing and hacking hard for a playoff spot, and they clawed and hacked through Jorge Romero in the first game for five runs in 4.2 innings. The Raccoons staged a late rally with a rare homer for three runs by Rob Pickett, but for nought, the game was lost 7-5.

Pete Hall issued two walks to the Raccoons, who paired them with two errors in the bottom 1st to take a 2-run lead in game 2. But Powell was pitching for us and gave it right back again. I removed Powell in the fourth for pinch hitter Hoyt Cook. The score was 2-2 and we had runners in scoring position with two outs. Cook worked a walk, but Pickett grounded out. Jose Flores provided a 2-run double in the bottom 7th to win the game for the Raccoons, 4-3. Hatfield saved this one after I toyed with the thought of keeping Gaston it, who had gotten the final out in the top 8th. The series ended with an 8-0 Falcons win, six runs off makeshift starter Tony Lopez and two more off Brett Justice. The Raccoons settled for three hits in that game.

Playoff races at September 21: Crusaders and Indians tied, Knights three ahead of the Falcons, Warriors nine ahead of the Scorpions (M# is 2 here), and in the FL East the Cyclones couldn’t rally and had even fallen to third behind the Blue Sox. Rebels led those two teams by six and six and a half, respectively. So, of the four playoff teams from 1977, only the Crusaders still have a realistic chance to make it. The Bayhawks were already eliminated. The Raccoons were last in their division, still 1 ½ games back of the Loggers.

With series against our playoff contenders Indians and Crusaders back-to-back now, I had few hope for an improvement in the standings.

Going against the Indians’ Salah Brunet was a futile undertaking. He held the Raccoons down and the Indians won game 1 with a score of 4-1. The next day in the third inning Jorge Romero threw two wild pitches and Sánz added an error for a 3-run inning out of thin air. We also lost Rob Pickett to a strained oblique in the first inning, his season was over. Hatfield was put into the game in the top 9th. Down 3-1, he wasn’t going to get any safe opportunities anyway the next few days against that opposition. He was shelled for three runs and I let him take the damage and succumb out there. He had been a terrible choice as closer in the first place. I didn’t have any closer at hand, that much was true. Raccoons lost 6-1. But they stole at least one from the Indians with a tight 3-2 win to close the series. Christopher Powell had actually left with a lead, but Jenkins blew it. Bill Baker earned the win with 1.2 innings of scoreless ball. Gaston successfully saved the game on one hit allowed.

With the Crusaders sweeping the Loggers, they were now 1.0 ahead of the Indians. The Cyclones had collapsed for good and the Rebels led the Blue Sox by six in the the FL East (M# 2), and the Knights had also added one on the Falcons, leading by four now.

Tony Lopez was roughed up once more. He was just a terrible miscast as a starter, giving up seven runs this time around. Crusaders won 8-5. Lopez’ spot would come up once more, then we’d play Bruce Wright. But first, there were still three more games against the Crusaders. Game 2, Ray held a 3-1 lead in the sixth, then plunked two Crusaders to create a bags full-no outs mess that Hatfield blew to allow two runs. Crusaders won 4-3, while outhit by the weak Raccoons. Game 3 was scoreless through ten. Hatfield lost it on two walks and a hit in the 11th. Wright came in to salvage it, but surrendered a hit to score the winning run in the 1-0 loss. This was Jose Gonzales’ maiden majors hit. A 5-0 loss later the pain was over, at least for this short road stint.

The Raccoons were 66-93 now. That’s still one win less than in 1977. I see it coming, we’ll be swept by the Titans and end up WORSE than last year after that stellar beginning. From May to September, the Raccoons have played at 51-84.

The Crusaders clinched the division with their 4-game sweep of my tiny fur balls, after the Indians dropped three of four to the Canadiens. The Blue Sox had swept the Rebels in four to get from six back to two back with one series remaining, and the Knights also led the Falcons by two. The latter two would get head to head now, and the Falcons needed a sweep to get through.

Bruce Wright made a scratch start and was hit for a few runs. The Raccoons were down 4-0 down after the top 6th, then twisted it around to lead 6-4 heading into the top 9th with Gaston on the mound. He blew it, Daniel hall dropped a ball that scored the winning run and the Raccoons lost 7-6, then followed this up with a 6-run bashing in the top 9th in game two to lose that one 8-2. Lopez, Justice, and Vazquez had been the culprits there.

Romero went 8.2 innings in the season finale, holding the Titans scoreless, but couldn’t make it through the ninth. Gaston got the final out as the Raccoons won 4-0, all scored in the sixth on homers by Flores (solo) and Johnston (for three). The Raccoons thus finished 67-95 – just like last year, but this time in last place (not fifth ahead of the terrible Loggers like in ’77).

In other news:
September 22 – Sergio Salazar pitches a 2-hit shutout as his Falcons beat the Bayhawks 1-0.
September 23 – 1B Irwin Webster, one of the Rebels’ key pieces, is injured in a base collision and will be out for two weeks.
September 23 – The Warriors beat the Stars 2-1 and clinch the FL West when the Pacifics turn around their game against the Scorpions to win it 3-2.
September 30 – The Rebels clinch the FL East with a 3-0 win over the Buffaloes in a game that was scoreless through nine.
October 1 – The Falcons bash through the Knights 8-0 to complete the sweep and break past the Knights to win the CL South.

Note to pictures: look at that kid Daniel Hall. If he is that good at 23, how good will he be at 24? Well, at least he was the best slugger on a terrible team – the Raccoons ranked last in almost every offensive category but homers and walks. Also note that the numbers on Angel Costa are inflated. He played most games for the Miners. His Raccoons sample size only encompasses 17 games, so his .426 average for us could be misleading just a tad.

Next: playoffs.
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Old 06-29-2012, 05:25 PM   #34
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Playoffs

Rebels @ Warriors … 3-9 … (Warriors lead 1-0) … SFW Mitsuharu Yamada 4-5, 2 2B, 3 RBI; SFW George Lynch 3-3, 6 TB, 3 RBI
Falcons @ Crusaders … 5-4 … (Falcons lead 1-0) … Tom Cox loses on a single earned run

Rebels @ Warriors … 1-8 … (Warriors lead 2-0) … Warriors led 4-0 after the first and built from there
Falcons @ Crusaders … 3-4 … (series tied 1-1) … Crusaders led 4-0 after the first and almost blew it

Warriors @ Rebels … 2-8 … (Warriors lead 2-1) … RIC Victor Macias 8.0 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
Crusaders @ Falcons … 3-11 … (Falcons lead 2-1)

Warriors @ Rebels … 10-7 … (Warriors lead 3-1) … SFW George Lynch 5-6; SFW Jorge Figueroa 4-5
Crusaders @ Falcons … 6-2 … (series tied 2-2)

Warriors @ Rebels … 9-3 … (Warriors win 4-1)
Crusaders @ Falcons … 11-2 … (Crusaders lead 3-2) … NYC Pedro De Jesus 4 RBI; NYC Miguel Fuentes 6 RBI

Falcons @ Crusaders … 3-4 (13) … (Crusaders win 4-2) … NYC Ralph Nixon ends it with a lead off walk off homer in the bottom 13th

The Warriors were glowing red hot, while the Crusaders were also piling up runs, but they had lost 3B Pedro Hermundo and relief ace Chuck Hursted during the CLCS.

Crusaders @ Warriors … 11-12 … (Warriors lead 1-0) … Crusaders led 10-1 after five innings; Ralph Nixon was injured in this game and will not come back in this series

Crusaders @ Warriors … 9-3 … (series tied 1-1) … NYC Mark Lee 7.1 IP, 8 H, 2 ER

Warriors @ Crusaders … 7-5 … (Warriors lead 2-1) … NYC Robinson Borquez 1.0 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 2 ER – normally an automatic closer, Borquez blew this one big time

Warriors @ Crusaders … 12-3 … (Warriors lead 3-1)

Warriors @ Crusaders … 1-4 … (Warriors lead 3-2) … NYC Kyle Owens 6.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 1 K

Crusaders @ Warriors … 5-6 … (Warriors win 4-2) … Four down after six, the Crusaders rallied, but fell short. Julio Lujan flew out to end the season.

The World Series is thus won by one of the smallest market teams over big bucks New York. The Crusaders were the only team to repeat going to the post season, and while they did grab the pennant this year, they were outwitted by the Warriors in a mild upset. The series was a scorefest, with the Warriors beating the Crusaders 41-37.
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Old 06-30-2012, 05:21 AM   #35
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Jesse Jeffries retired after the season. The Raccoons had not offered him a new contract, he had just not fulfilled expectations, at all. The only other certain player to leave was minor league pitcher Luis Marin, who was not made for AAA play, and I wasn’t willing to keep a 29 year old slacker around in AA. We would take Angel Costa to arbitration.

October 25 – The Canadiens deal starter Marcos Ramos (15-14, 3.92) to Topeka for two prospects, including 2B Melvin Greene.
October 31 – Gold Glove awards are dished out, and the Raccoons take home three! P Christopher Powell, 1B Wyatt Johnston, and 2B Ben Simon are the recipients. For Johnston it is the second award, and for Powell … well, a pitcher that can’t pitch but can at least field is not as terrible to have as a pitcher that can’t pitch AND can’t drive a riding lawn mower.
November 1 – The Titans trade 3B Lino Zagallo to Las Vegas for 2B Brandon Patterson. Both have good contact, but little power.
November 3 – Scorpion Juan Correa (20-11, 2.61) and Falcon Sergio Salazar (23-8, 2.20) are the outstanding pitchers of the year.
November 4 – Rebel Juan Medine (.366, 25 HR, 107 RBI) and Crusader Ralph Nixon (.340, 21 HR, 136 RBI) are MVPs for the leagues. Nixon missed the triple crown by a single home run.
November 10 – The Raccoons trade SS Greg Swift, who batted .245 and was beriddled with injuries in 1978, and a minor leaguer to the Pittsburgh Miners getting outfield wizard Gustavo Zuniga (.277, 4 HR, 30 RBI in 155 AB in 1978) and a minor league pitcher in return.

Swift was a solid shortstop despite a low rating, which always surprised me. The signing of Jesse Jeffries prior to last season did not move him out of the lineup due to Jeffries’ poor hitting. But with Angel Costa it is different. Costa played most of the games in September and while his .426 hitting there will certainly go down, he seems to be more usable and could start the season at 2B, moving Simon over to SS again.

November 11 saw the arbitration hearings, where the Raccoons got an 0-1 record. We had offered Angel Costa $70,000 but he was awarded $88,500.

November 12 – The Pacifics send Ethan Gittens, who batted .351 in 154 AB, to the Falcons for reliever Javier Martinez.
November 14 – Eligible players file for free agency.

Don Sullivan had become a free agent after hitting 31 homers for the Gold Sox in ’78. He was a corner infielder or could play in rightfield. We entered negotiations, but it was hard to make him smile. He demanded a contract worth over $5M over seven years. Some choking there. Our budget for ’79 is $6.4M, so it’s hard to squeeze him in there, although I may have found some retard to take on Tim Anderson.

I also made a move towards Félix Aguilar. He had caught for the Rebels the last two years and combined a great arm with remarkable power (for a catcher), but he also was demanding more than his fair share. We could not come to terms.

The deal I had lined up in regard to Anderson with the Indians for starter Jose Perez fell through – not because they didn’t want to take Anderson, but because the Indians couldn’t squeeze him into their budget. Back to the drawing board – I’m not gonna pay that guy’s contract, which will be in his last year anyway.

I also cleaned up the 40-man roster for the upcoming rule 5 draft.

November 30 – Don Sullivan joins the reigning champions Sioux Falls Warriors for $3.35M over five years. Talk about some seriously heavy artillery assembled there.
November 30 – The Titans land former Cyclones slugger 3B Jorge Velazquez, whose 33 career homers should get Boston’s offense ahead just a wee bit.
December 1 – Rule 5 draft: two players are drafted, the Raccoons not being involved. We had taken a long look at 1B Ed Peters from the Cyclones system, but he was another Hoyt Cook and one Hoyt Cook was enough. The Pacifics eventually picked him.
December 4 – The Cyclones sign LF slugger Juan Diaz, formerly with the Thunder, to shore up their outfield.
December 7 – The Raccoons send outfielder Tim Anderson, a lifetime .224 hitter, to Cincinnati for pitching prospect Orlando Gomez.
December 8 – And then the Raccoons make winter meetings end with a bang for themselves, acquiring Titans starter Jerry Morris (11-15, 3.47) and outfield power prospect Ben Cox for 21 year old reliever Bruce Wright.


The Titans deal seems to be bad for the Raccoons at first glance, although BNN gives it as a 2.3 WAR gain, however both OSA and my scouts give Wright not a very promising outlook for future development. Cox has a huge glove and an even bigger bat and could be ready for the majors by ’81. Morris finally gives me a fifth starter worthy of the designation. When Berrios and Evans will be back healthy I will have a choice to bench either Powell or Morris going into the season. Ray will go down to AAA again, if he wants to or not. The deal also trades away one of my three lefties from the pen, which were just a tad too much. Nobody wanted Justice after a year on the DL, although his comeback was quite good, and I see a lot in Bill Baker, although he’s botched his share of games last year.

At the moment I’m thinking Romero – Berrios – Evans – Morris for the rotation, but that could change. The bullpen currently holds Powell, Gaston, Hatfield, Baker, Justice, and Lopez for sure. The other spot is open to consideration with Vazquez and Jenkins going against each other. Coleman also pitched for us in September, but I’m not fond of him, and never have been. Ray also doesn’t have a spot on the roster.

December 18 – 2B Alfredo Soriano, a .308 hitter and regarded as “clubhouse cancer”, joins the Pacifics.
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Old 06-30-2012, 05:03 PM   #36
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January 10 – The Buffaloes sign free agent Harry Beauman, who is slated to make $3.2M over four years. Beauman is .322 with 19 HR and 113 RBI over his career, but was handicapped with injuries here and there and only played in 235 games.
January 27 – The Falcons sign starter William Williams, formerly with the Knights, who is 29-24 with an 3.49 ERA for his career. Williams comes at $3.41M over five years for the Falcons.
February 4 – The Rebels ink starter Sergio Esparraguera for seven years at a $540k rate. That’s a ton of bucks for a guy who went 17-29 with an 3.64 ERA over his career with the Canadiens.
February 19 – Obviously the Rebels have surplus money to spend, signing 1B Craig Snow, age 41, to a $250k contract. Snow batted .323 in his career but he could become a defensive liability.

I was still looking for another starter, catcher, or infielder, but the few free agents that could really advance the team, were cost-prohibitive, and it was just not possible to work out a deal with another team.

With how things were, with some progress in building the team, but not the really big shot that was necessary I couldn’t help but look forward to another season around 90 losses. I was already giving in to that. Maybe the 80s would be more kind to the Raccoons? I was already over contracting the roster. Three position players had to go down, and Sanderson and Dolder were two of them. The third would have to be another outfielder, but I wasn’t sure whom to pick. It really came down to three: Robby Davis (seemingly an obvious choice), Daniel Hall, or Jose Flores? I was not sure whether Hall was fully matured, although he certainly had put up a claim to play LF this season, batting almost .286 with five dingers and 15 RBI in his September call up stint. That had come from batting #2 most of the time. In the #4 or #5 spot he would possibly do even more damage. On the other hand, the Raccoons scouting department had actually lowered his potential significantly (OSA hadn’t in their January 1 update). Davis was the fastest guy we had and the only reasonable choice for a pinch runner. He was solid in all other aspects. Flores had batted leadoff for most of the first two seasons, but his production was way down in ’78 compared to ’77. Aaaah, choices to make …!

February 22 – The Wolves come to terms with closer Stan Curtis, who has 68 career saves.

March was entirely uneventful. There were a few trade proposals, but nothing worth considering, really. This will be the first season, where I am sure the team will not play .500 ball. They will play between .410 and .440 – once again.

(I also made a mistake again with the schedule and did not remove the original file from the folder, now the game sees two that fit the league (the original and my manipulated one) and switches back to the first – so another few hours of back breaking manual number flipping for me. I’m an idiot …)

Roster and season opener to follow. At some point in the future.
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Old 06-30-2012, 05:29 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by Westheim View Post
Roster and season opener to follow. At some point in the future.

We'll be waiting patiently. Good luck this year!
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Old 07-01-2012, 11:14 AM   #38
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Thanks for the kind words. ;-)

Did some screaming during modifying and importing the schedule since yesterday evening. To get some variation I set out and switched four pairs of teams, one pair in each division. Imported with four errors initially but should be good to go now.

Next is the opening day roster for the Raccoons, who will again not play on actual opening day. We will open with two games in Milwaukee (which is strange since I though there weren't any 2-game series in the schedule, but I don't mind it), then go home immediately for a 13-game home stint against the Thunder, Condors, Indians, and Titans.

The Raccoons also have improved their team for 3.5 WAR in the off season, 6th overall in the ABL, behind the Wolves (7.3), Buffaloes (5.9), Falcons (4.6), Condors (4.5), and Rebels (4.3). The biggest losers are the Cyclones (-3.3), Capitals (-5.0), Knights (-5.1), Bayhawks (-6.1), and Canadiens (-8.0).

Here is our roster (first set of numbers indicate 1978 performance, second set overall on the majors level):

SP Jorge Romero (14-16, 2.89 | 29-29, 2.93) – performed not as well last year as with the Condors, but he should be a 20-game winner with a potent offense (which we do have not)
SP Juan Berrios (10-15, 3.82 | 21-33, 3.66) – a year removed from his no-hitter, the sparkle has come off, although he should post better W-L numbers if the offense kicks in (notice the common theme here)
SP Logan Evans (4-4, 3.57 | 4-4, 3.57) – joined the majors mid-season and made some impressive starts before getting injured, only lefty in the rotation
SP Jerry Morris (11-15, 3.47 | 27-29, 4.00) – joins us from the Titans, where he wasn’t even exclusively used as starter in 1978, his season could go either way

MU Christopher Powell (8-18, 3.97 | 22-30, 3.56) – came close to being shot last season, has to prove himself again
MR Bill Baker (2-4, 2.75 | 6-7, 3.25) – one of the two lefties in the pen, mostly solid
MR Ben Jenkins (4-3, 4.31 | 10-6, 4.54) – one of the guys you have to be concerned about, he needs to get his ERA down
MR Tony Lopez (2-7, 4.00 | 2-7, 4.00) – was horrible as a starter replacing Berrios in September, but was good as a reliever, can eat innings as well, covered the most innings out of the pen
SU Brett Justice (0-2, 1.52 | 3-2, 2.37) – spent a year on the DL, returend strong, but with command issues, is the second lefty in there
SU Kevin Hatfield (3-6, 4.35, 29 SV | 4-8, 3.36, 48 SV) – closer for most of last year, he lost his touch after an injury and his ERA rocketed skywards
CL Wally Gaston (6-7, 2.25, 7 SV | 12-15, 2.54, 10 SV) – used only in high leverage situations, he strikes out almost nine over nine innings, but his number of walks are of concern

C Darryl Maloney (.188, 4 HR, 28 RBI | .215, 11 HR, 87 RBI) – was way worse than in ’77, both at the plate and with his arm, has to rebound
C Kieran Lawson (.203, 3 HR, 14 RBI | .202, 5 HR, 31 RBI) – was #1 catcher late in the season, but will be backup again

1B Hoyt Cook (.220, 2 HR, 13 RBI | .224, 3 HR, 24 RBI) – backup, can produce clutch hits, but inconsistent overall
1B Wyatt Johnston (.236, 18 HR, 64 RBI | .262, 33 HR, 156 RBI) – remains a force, but his average suffered, which was one contributor to the Raccoons’ lame offense last year
2B/3B Angel Costa (.320, 1 HR, 27 RBI | .320, 1 HR, 27 RBI) – started the season with the Miners and will take over in the infield for the traded Greg Swift
1B/3B/2B/SS/LF Ed Sullivan (.286, 9 HR, 57 RBI | .285, 29 HR, 118 RBI) – has one of the most reliable bats on the team, but was very error-prone last year
3B Freddy Lopez (.209, 3 HR, 13 RBI | .218, 3 HR, 33 RBI) – backup, could be replaced by one or two AAA talents this season
SS/2B/1B/3B Ben Simon (.244, 12 HR, 80 RBI | .248, 33 HR, 171 RBI) – fielding wizard, but K-prone and often shows nerves at the plate

LF/RF/CF Jose Flores (.251, 7 HR, 35 RBI | .265, 13 HR, 73 RBI) – started most of two seasons, but will only start against RHP to begin 1979
LF/RF Daniel Hall (.286, 5 HR, 15 RBI | .286, 5 HR, 15 RBI) – has all the talent one needs and if he can convert his strong September to a strong season, we should have a solid contributor here
LF/CF/RF Rob Pickett (.270, 2 HR, 39 RBI | .273, 3 HR, 71 RBI) – signed as free agent when our outfield was hospitalized in May and June and impressed enough to stay
LF/CF/RF Gustavo Zuniga (.277, 4 HR, 30 RBI | .277, 4 HR, 30 RBI) – came from the Miners in the off season and should shore up CF
LF/RF/CF/1B Johan Dolder (.189, 0 HR, 6 RBI | .205, 4 HR, 37 RBI) – you can’t ask for more defensively, but his offense was a desaster last year
RF/LF Pedro Sánz (.289, 12 HR, 59 RBI | .299, 29 HR, 129 RBI) – I love him dearly, but he is injured very often, keeping his numbers down

Opening day lineup (equals RHP): 2B Costa – 3B Sullivan – RF Sánz – LF Hall – 1B Johnston – SS Simon – CF Zuniga – C Maloney – P

Lineup vs. LHP: LF Flores – 2B Costa – RF Sánz – 3B Sullivan – SS Simon – 1B Cook – CF Zuniga – C Maloney – P

We also cleaned house and released nine minor leaguers who weren’t fitting anywhere and/or were taking play time away from our good prospects.
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Old 07-01-2012, 05:57 PM   #39
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Prospect watch before the games begin: the Raccoons had three players in the Top 10 ranked prospects before last season. Logan Evans jumped to the majors and is no longer eligible, Hall also jumped, but is still ranked #3 with only 31 days of experience. Juan Martinez, a centerfielder was ranked #10, but is down to #19. He should still make a splash at some point – if doctors can put his knee back together.

Four more players in or around the Top 100: #34 AAA 3B Cameron Green, #97 AA CL Gary Simmons, #100 AAA 1B Matt Workman, and #103 A SP Richard Cunningham. Green was already with the team at it’s inception, Workman is a ’77 draftee, and the other two were drafted last year.

The season opened on April 3 for the Raccoons, facing the Loggers. We lost the game 3-2, and not a single run in the game was earned, as an error by Angel Costa scored led to three unearned runs in the bottom 2nd. Costa also generated the only offense in the top 8th. But it wasn’t enough and Jorge Romero once again got a loss that wasn’t his fault. Game 2 was an all around shameful showing by the Raccoons, going down 7-1 for an early sweep. And that against one of the two teams that we could possibly finish ahead of.

So, after this early blow, we went home, heads down already.

They had enough reason to keep them heads down against Oklahoma City, starting with a 3-1 10-inning loss. Hatfield blew a 1-0 lead, but had kind help from Hall, who committed an error to allow the tying run to score. Ben Jenkins lost it in the tenth, while the middle of my lineup was batting around .125 at the moment. With another 3-1 loss the next game, the Raccoons had scored impressive five runs in their first four games. Combined, of course. The heartache. You can’t imagine the heartache I’m having.

Game 3 got the Raccoons 4-0 ahead early, but defensive miscues erased the lead by the third. The game went to 5-5 and into extra innings, where no scoring was done into the 16th inning. The Thunder pressed one across, and the Raccoons loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning, but Kieran Lawson struck out to end the game for the 6-5 loss.

While this made the Thunder a perfect 6-0, the Raccoons were a dismal 0-5. And I was out of medication for my heartache. Romero was 0-1 with an 1.29 ERA – yet eight runs had gotten across against him, but only two had been earned. The Raccoons had yet to play a game without committing at least one error. Four of the runs in the latest loss had been unearned. They also had not homered yet.

Next up were the Condors, who had started 1-6. We would be well advised to win that series. At least we started with a 3-1 win. Juan Berrios’ pitching was erratic and walky, but somehow the Raccoons squeezed through, and even without an error. Game 2 was a 6-4 come from behind win, where a 4-run seventh was the key to the game. Worrisome still was Gaston’s top 9th, where he walked two and barely got through. Rain chased the starters early and the win went to Brett Justice.

Alex Miranda waited in game 3 against his old team, the Raccoons, who sent in Jerry Morris. Both ended up raped for seven runs, Miranda in 1.2 innings, Morris over 4+. The Raccoons led 7-3 after that second inning, but then gave it away again to a 7-7 score that carried into the eighth. There, another sudden outburst of offense plated four for the Raccoons and Tony Lopez pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to complete the sweep with an 11-7 win. Daniel Hall was only 1-5 and has a .167 average, but he cleared the bases with his only hit, a double, and stole the first base for the Raccoons this season. Yes, we are that bad.

We lost Gustavo Zuniga for a so far undisclose injury in the last Condors game, which was double bad, since I just wanted to try him in leadoff for the struggling Costa. Zuniga’s speed and .348 / .370 / .391 stat line would have made for interesting opportunities. Now, Johan Dolder was in the lineup, batting eighth, he was a whopping 0-6 this season.

Raccoons last, but the bottom is dense in the CL North so far. Indians shot out of the gate and are next on this home stint for four games, followed by the Titans, before we will travel to Las Vegas and Charlotte.

Three of four playoff teams from last year struggling out of the gate, only the champions Warriors going strong.
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Old 07-04-2012, 03:43 PM   #40
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Zuniga had a groin injury and was out for the month, which made me work with either Dolder or Pickett in CF. That was a choice between weak offense or below average defense. Pickett was better on the sides of the outfield. Zuniga went to the DL and Robby Davis was recalled from AAA.

Jorge Romero and Miguel Sanchez engaged in a pitchers’ duel in the first game of the Indians series. Romero got a no decision, leaving after six after allowing only an unearned run. He is 0-1 now with a 0.90 ERA. Tells volumes about the Raccoons offense. Sullivan homered in the eighth for a 2-1 lead, but Gaston blew the lead, yet the Raccoons walked off against the Indians pen when four straight batters reached base in the bottom 9th. Hoyt Cook singled to score Ben Simon from third.

Berrios was slapped for six runs over 5.1 innings in game 2. The Raccoons lost 7-2, and never were even remotely close to a threat. The runs were solo shots by Sullivan and Simon, so at least the home run drought seemed to be over. This was proven again in game 3, where Simon grand slammed the Raccoons to a 5-1 win. Evans pitched eight plus frames and the Indians didn’t score until the ninth, when our young lefty ran out of steam. Brett Justice got the final outs. Game 4 was another beating, as Jerry Morris was thrown around by the Indians in a 6-2 defeat. Bill Baker was also uncharacteristically bad in his outing in game 4.

There were two issues with batting early on. One was Dolder at .167 – nothing I hadn’t seen coming. We’d try Pickett or Flores in CF in the next few games. The other was my only ray of hope from last season: Daniel Hall. He was batting a terrible .118! He had been slotted down to #6 in the batting order already. He was drawing a normal number of walks, but he couldn’t get a hit down. I would look at this for another week or so and if he couldn’t get around in the next two or three series, then I would have to send him down to AAA, with a seriously zig-zagged crack in my heart.

Against the Titans, Romero faced Bruce Wright, but rain chased them early and the duel never materialized. The Raccoons lost 5-2, failing to land hits against the troubled Boston pitching. But they had seen all they had needed to see and stomped over the Titans 11-2 the next day. Sánz was 4-5, Pickett 3-5, and Costa 3-6. Johnston plated four, and he, Sánz and Sullivan homered. Hall was only 1-5.

There was the rubber game left. Logan Evans pitched well and held a 1-0 lead in the fifth when he left with a not yet diagnosed injury. The pen bobbled the lead and the game went to extra innings at 2-2. There the Raccoons dropped several chances to walk off. The Titans scored a run off Powell in the top 14th. The Raccoons pen was emptied with Baker thrown in there, but he had to be removed for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the inning with runners on the corners and two down. Freddy Lopez squeezed a single to center that tied the game, but Johnston flew out and the martyr continued. The pen was empty now. Jenkins and Lopez were the only relievers left and they had already pitched in this series and weren’t rested. I turned to Lopez, who allowed a run across in the top 16th, but this was preceeded by a dropped ball from Flores in centerfield. In the bottom, Raccoons were again on the corners with two outs and the pitcher up. He was lifted for Darryl Maloney, who flew out to centerfield. I [garbled]ING HATE you guys …!!!

Off day. Mood low. Aggression high.

Next up were the Aces, who had pulled off a 4-11 start. They were batting .201 and scored a meager 47 runs. Jerry Morris was first tasked with getting through them, but he left 3-1 behind after six. Rain came in the seventh and in the eighth Daniel Hall hit a 2-run double to tie the game. The Raccoons scored the winning run in the same inning, as Bill Baker closed the game over two innings – Baker had been the pitcher used the least in the 16-inning loss to the Titans.

Bad news followed immediately. A back injury would sideline Logan Evans for four months. That was just about all of the season. That guy had opened the season with a 0.82 ERA! God, bloody hell, why can’t I get a break here??

Roman Ocasio was brought up from AAA to replace Evans, mainly because I was tired of Ned Ray. Ocasio was 24, Venezolan, and had command issues. We had to fear the worst here. Meanwhile the Raccoons lost 9-6 in game 2 and 11-3 in game 3. Pitching was unbelievably horrible, it was painful to watch. Baker, Romero, Berrios, Lopez, Justice were all awful, walking raw numbers of Aces.

We went against the Falcons and Roman Ocasio made his very first major league start. It was rather ugly as he allowed seven hits and walked six over six innings and allowed all runs in the 5-1 loss. The Falcons won 5-3 the next day against Morris, but mostly Baker, who was tasked with getting out two lefties in the bottom 8th and failed miserably. His ERA rocketed to 8.22 in this game with two runs in a third of an inning allowed. Another sad point was Daniel Hall. He walked three times in the game, but his average was mired at .121. With April almost over, decisions would soon be made on some guys.

Game 3 remained. More frustration, as Jorge Romero went up against Santiago Salazar in a pitchers duel, but got a no decision and was led off the field with an injury in the seventh. The Raccoons trailed 2-1 in the top 9th, but with the bases loaded and down to the last strike, Pedro Sánz was nicked by the pitch and the game continued. We lost Brett Justice to a stiff neck in the tenth after he had struck out the side in the bottom 9th. Powell lost it in the 12th as the Falcons completed the sweep with a 3-2 walkoff win.

Off day following, we were to face the easier part of our division at home the next week, the Loggers and Canadiens. Two starting pitchers were injured, and Romero was not yet diagnosed. Offense struggling as usual and if Romero’s injury was to be serious, we were toast.

In other news:
April 10 – The Indians’ Garry Evans goes 5-5 in a 9-3 win over the Aces, lacking only a home run for the cycle.
April 14 – Jeremiah Carrell of the Cyclones has a hit streak built to 20 games.
April 17 – Sergio Salazar shuts out the the Aces on three hits as the Falcons win 5-0.
April 17 – Carrell’s streak ends at 21 against the Capitals, and the Cyclones are shut out 3-0.
April 18 – The Warriors beat the Pacifics 4-3 in eleven frames and Chris Lynch goes 6-6 in the game.
April 19 – Dave Peterson copies Lynch’s feat in a 16-5 win of the Scorpions over the Stars, going 6-6, lacking a homer for a cycle.
April 20 – Former Raccoon Ben Green (now with the Pacifics) is out for the season with a torn rotator cuff.
April 22 – Blue Sox’ Guillermo Heredia is out for the season with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Heredia, 37, was 25-18 for his career.

After the Loggers and Canadiens there will be interleague play at the Buffaloes and against the Warriors. If we were to lose Romero for long, Powell would be back in the rotation. That can only mean ugly things. He's got a 1.26 ERA now, but that came from pitching mopup or extra innings, and how well he was pitching the latter we had just seen.

Trouble ahead.
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