June 1 thru 4
- Silver Hawks 3 games, Lugnuts 1 game
- Lugnuts are 26-32 (.448)
- Fifth (last) place, seven games behind the Whitecaps, one behind the fourth-place Hawks.
- Pitcher Kevin Hodges has been assigned to the Lugnuts.
- Beltran, Blosser, and Schafer (again) are on the DL. Beltran is working back into condition.
- Lugnut All-Stars:
- Jose Cepeda, 3B
- Mark Melito, SS
- Juan Rocha, DH
- Mark Quinn, OF
- Todd Thorn, P
- Blaine Mull, P
Kevin Hodges pitched for Wilmington (the next team “up” from Lansing) last summer, but I can’t find that he’s pitched for any Royals team this season. I expect there’s some physical reason for the absence, but don’t know it. By this team’s standards this nearly 23-year-old is an old man.
This series was better, although the results still are pretty poor. Except for one inning, the Saturday game was well-played. Sunday’s was awful, but no one really thinks the team’s that bad. Monday’s win and Tuesday’s loss were excellent games, without serious reservation. In general, the Hawks just outplayed the Nuts; that’s bound to happen sometimes. (I could get to like watching Mario Valdez; that’s real talent.)
I’ve been blaming the Nuts’ play on the players, lately. I’m not going to retract the criticisms, but let’s admit to some other real explanations:
- For most of the team, this is their first long season.
- There have been lots of injuries, illnesses, and the like.
- The weather’s been awful.
- This team is real young.
All are true, but…
The amateur draft is going on. Our team’s future is being decided.
I was a South Bend fan first. I’ve been attending games at the Cove [Coveleski Stadium] since it was new, and my sister Debbie and I still split a package there every summer even though we now root for other MWL teams. Joan and I took in Saturday’s game until the rain stopped it, and had a good time. Although there were other Lansing fans in the park, we were scattered and I felt sometimes like I was encouraging our guys against a tide of Hawks fans.
When we all retreated to shelter, I had a short chat with another fan in a LugHat; turned out to be Jeff Wallace’s brother, in to watch the team. Evidently there were several members of Jeff’s family there (probably half of Paris, Ohio).
Our hotel, the Downtown Holiday Inn, is within walking distance of the park. Except in a heavy downpour; we got soaked returning to our room.
Let’s talk about the pitchers.
My first Iris are opening this afternoon, and almost everything is planted.
I plan to post the Pitcher page later today.
I stand by my Mario Valdez comment–I’ve never seen a better looking hitter in the Midwest League. Though his major league career was short and unremarkable, he signed with the Mexican League in 2004 and is still hitting well at age 38.
Since every Midwest League team gets fully rebuilt every spring there’s very little year-to-year continuity. It’s hard enough to figure out who’s playing on your team; learning the League’s other teams requires dedication. By late May, though, the players have accumulated enough playing time that you can begin to understand the year’s talent by inspecting the stats. This is when the League passes out All-Star ballots to the managers (who, by the way, have actually seen most of the teams by June 1, though mostly in very small samples).
And so we have the original Luggie All-Stars: Cepeda was an obvious choice; so was Blaine Mull, though we’ve not yet discussed him here. Rocha, Quinn, and Thorn had reasonable cases. Melito was the surprise, apparently selected for his (quite real) defensive abilities.
1996 was South Bend’s last summer as a White Sox affiliate, and the team was just terrible. They’d switch to Arizona’s expansion farm system the next season and the teams would get worse–the ’98 team was probably the MWL’s weakest squad ever–which darned near destroyed minor league baseball in SB. In the early 2000s the team was losing money and missing rent payments on the stadium.
Things have since righted themselves–thanks mostly to Joe Kernan, and to the D’Backs developing a proper farm system. Current owner Andrew Berlin’s put effort and money into improving the ballpark experience. And to Mark Haley, who’s become a local institution in his adopted community. All of these took time.
In the event you’ve just stumbled onto this entry, here’s an explanation of what I’m up to.