Monthly Archives: September 2012

“You Know What They Oughta Have?…” 2012 IronPigs Suggestion Box

I started writing this in April, but put it aside for lack of material!  But, since then, I’ve had a few ideas.  And, in talking with fans about the park have learned about what the people want.  So, some of this is mine, and some of it I gathered from the collective.  Please add additional points below, in the comments section. 

1. Parking

As I noted recently, there is growing unrest in the porking lots.  Folks are more frustrated with the lack of space, but mostly, with the $3.  Rumor has it, it will  be $5 next year.  I’m not sure that’s true, but even if it’s not, folks that come often are growing weary of the $3 every single time.  Plus, just try to get a credit slip if the game is rained out. 

Suggestion:  Sell pre-paid passes to season ticket holders at a discount equal to one game for every nine.  Nine game plans get pre-paid parking for $3×8; 18-game plans for $3×16; and so on.  Pre-paid and unused parking will pay for the credits, and people who go all the time will feel like they’re not getting gouged on the parking.  Heck, you could probably even discount it $1 per game and make it up on the pre-pay.  Plus, with less cash (wait, this might not be an advantage) around, you don’t have to worry about pilfering as much.  And, if you’re really going to go to $5, let folks buy in at the old rate.

2. Batting Practice Party (season ticket holders)

It’s kinda cool, and the kids enjoy it.  Some deep-fried hors d’oeuvres and free soda to go with happy-hour draft beer.  The occasional home-run baseball.  It’s all good.  A recent improvement was the addition of a second date, which is handy in the case of rain, or if the teams don’t feel like taking BP (the party goes on, but it’s MUCH less interesting).

Suggestion:  First, make sure all the ticket holders who want to come and are qualified get invited.  For the amount of quality photographs taken, Cheryl Pursell should get to go to ALL of them next season, if she wants.   Second, I would suggest that the “party” move to a designated area behind home plate, perhaps including section 112 or so.  We’d have to be kicked out early so that the ushers could prepare the section, and there would have to be a portable bar moved in, but we’d be able to appreciate the skill and work that the players put in prior to the game.  In the outfield I can’t see well, and I’m always a little worried about getting hit with a ball. 

3. Majestic Clubhouse Store Discounts for season ticket holders

Folks who are at the park all  the time spend more money at the store on IronPigs gear.

Suggestion: The more tickets you buy, the bigger the discount.  5% for 9-game plans; 10% for 18-game plans; 15% for 36 game plans; 20% for 72 game plans.  C’mon.  I’m not going to put them out of business.  I already have all the hats…

4. More on the Bobbles

It still comes up.  Over and over again.  People are stressed about the giveaways, and that stress is creating problems for other suggestions (see below).  Yes, you can buy a giveaway package if you’re a season ticket holder, but $150 is s a lot.  And not all of us are 5-year plan holders (they get a giveaway pack free).  But if we can find a way to calm the stress, everyone will be happier.

Suggestion:  Find a way to provide some additional value-added for the sponsors so that they’ll be able to afford to provide for additional giveaways each time.  I’m not saying 10,000 of them, but it should be more reasonable for someone to walk up, buy a ticket, and know that he/she’s going to get the giveaway without standing in line from 2PM.   Oh, so you like that the giveaways are difficult to come by?  I don’t think it creates pent-up demand, just makes more work for the ushers and the parking guys and creates unhappiness with the more casual fans.  If giveaways are more available, there will be fewer people selling them on Ebay, and fewer people selling their seats for a profit on those nights.  

5. Season Ticket Holder Entrance 

In Reading, Season Ticket holders can enter 15 minutes early through a special gate, get the giveaway, something to eat, and find a nice table in the plaza to relax and eat before the game.  In Allentown, club level ticket holders can enter 15 minutes early through a special gate, get the giveaway, get a table in the club, and relax with something to eat before the game.  Sounds familiar, right?  I figure they can’t open the plaza to season ticket holders at the main entrance to the Coke because the season ticket holders would exhaust all the giveaways and the more casual fans would never have a chance. 

Suggestion:  Make a Season Ticket holder entrance at the main gate, but make sure you have enough giveaways (see above).  Let field level plan holders of whatever level (full-season?  36 games?) have at the ATT Plaza 15 minutes early.  Everybody wins!

6. Take Care of the Ticket Holders

This was to be a separate post entirely, and I think I’ll repeat it prior to next season, but elements keep coming up, so I’ll try a brief version here: 

I’m not familiar with what benefits might be available to different ticket holder plan levels, but as a four-seat 72-game club ticket holder, here’s what I get each year (these aren’t secret, right?):

Free gift when I pick up my tickets (coffee mugs this year), a coupon book, free preferred parking pass (this is only for 4-seat club), guaranteed giveaway (where appropriate, ie adult, child, etc.) through usually the sixth or seventh inning (at least), two batting practice parties (usually a Friday or a Saturday night), All Star Game ticket holder party, Yankee home games for free this past year, 222 game at the Coke for free, ability to BUY playoff or all-star or championship tickets ahead of time, ability to BUY concert tickets ahead of time, a modicum of advance Phillies or playoff Phillies ticket access, $15/seat “renewal” ballpark credit at seasons’ end.

Suggestion: Better communication with Season Ticket Holders.  Email can get lost, and when stuff’s announced (letter with the tickets when I pick them up) the items aren’t always ready yet; then I have to remember to ask for them.  The $15 ballpark credit was buried in the middle of an email about a myriad other things, then it wasn’t available the first time I asked for it.  The method for better communication is through the ticket “reps.”  These nice folks should act as a kind of “concierge” for the ticket holders.  There should be enough of them, and they should be empowered to communicate and follow-up with their stable of season ticket holders to ensure that things are going smoothly, and to address any needs or concerns that the best customers might have.  It should be their job to assure that the ticket holders are aware of the benefits, and have an opportunity to take advantage of them.  We’re not only your best customers (for tickets, food and drink, and gear), but we’re ambassadors in the community for your business.  Take care of us and we’ll take care of you.

(footnote: I know Justin left during the season, and in theory, could have been “on the way out” for a while.  No excuse.  If there were enough other reps, his group could have been picked up more seamlessly.  All due credit to Ben, who picked me up and took care of all my goofy demands.)

I enjoy all of the above benefits; I do.  Only the Phillies stuff is questionable, and that’s not necessarily something under the IronPigs’ control.  What more could they do?  Well, here’s a couple of things (hey, you’re getting a free “focus group” here, aren’t you?):

- an entrance (see above)

- a pre-season preview party or autograph session with players

- some kind of consideration with the parking (see above)

- a better discount plan for the Majestic Clubhouse Store (see above)

- a “ticket exchange” (we’ve been over this before) where tickets could be bought and sold under the control of the team

- ability to use unused ticket credits for weekend games, as well as maybe the playoff games.  If you can only get as many trades as you have per game seats, then if will have a minor impact, but increase convenience.

- a “make a wish”-type benefit.  Wanna be a Tilted-Kilt Ball Girl?  Wanna run in the Pork Race?  Wanna be in the Red Robin Hamburger Shuffle?  Wanna play third base? (just kidding) Wanna deliver the lineup card?  Wanna pretend you’re the Toyota Tyke on the Mike?  Wanna be on the radio with Matt and Jon? (OK, we have that) Wanna be a “dirt dude?”  Wanna help rake the field? (see, free labor!)  I could go on…

7. Upgrade the Panels

There will be a “new” stadium opening in Moosic in 2013.  Then, a totally new one in Charlotte in 2014.  If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind.

So here’s what we need:

- a bigger video board.  I know it’s nice.  But have you seen how bright and crisp they are at the MLB parks?  We have the most people, we need the nicest board.  Think 85% of the people aren’t watching the baseball?  I bet 100% of people watch that board.

- ribbon the whole place.  I looked at that scoreboard ribbon a bunch this season–mostly for pitching changes and substitutions.  It worked great.  There’s a space on the club balcony front fascia to put a ribbon all the way around.  It would give the park a real MLB feel. 

- better panels on the concourses.  Nicer, bigger, and brighter TVs to keep up with the game(s) when you’re not in your seat.  Especially at the bars.  Oh, and make sure there’s a clean, HD video signal in there.  There’s no excuse for blurry TVs in 2013.

8. Pregame Stuff

Well, we’ll visit this 80% entertainment / 20% baseball thing later on, but here’s something for the baseball crowd:

Suggestion: Make the TV2 pregame show available on the flat screens at the bars (Tiki, Trough, Club) WITH AUDIO.  And, for the media department, make the pre- and post-game interviews available for podcast-type download.

9. Tailgate Friendly

Oh, I know there are some problems with this suggestion.  Liability, expense, and all, but:

Suggestion: Take some of the grassy areas around the parking lots, and create more of a park-like setting.  Perhaps a small pavilion, some fire pits, maybe some horseshoe pits, hibachis? 

I know, I know.  There are so many problems with this suggestion.  But, it’s what I want.  They could restrict charcoal to the fire pits and hibachis, and I would be more willing to bring a group to the park, and….oh, they’d rather not have the expense and liability, plus they’d like me in the park spending money.  Got it.

OK, I’ve only got 9.  Who else has one? 

;-)

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Filed under Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Lehigh Valley IronPigs

My Least Favorite Things About the 2012 IronPigs Season

There were some things that frustrated me this season, of course.  Nothing’s ever perfect, and that’s OK.  This isn’t meant to be a critical post of the IronPigs’ Management per se–I’ve got a “suggestion box” post in the pipeline for that.  This is merely the flip side of the previous post about all  the good stuff…

10. The Phillies

The Phils’ woes impacted the IronPigs in many ways.  I’m not a Phillies fan first, as many are, but I do cheer for them to do well as it probably means that the former ‘Pigs on the roster are doing well.  We’ll get to the roster part of it in a moment, but it always felt like the Phillies’ poor showing was casting a shadow over any chance the IronPigs had to have on-field success this season.

9. Haters

The season began with my piece about not hating on Domonic Brown.  It turned into a treatise on booing, which I didn’t initially intend–only that hating on Dom wouldn’t really help anyone, including him.  Nevertheless, there were many  haters about this season:  Those that hated their seats, Those that hated loud noise (like, yelling and clapping–although Reading wasn’t really happy with the bells, either, but that’s another story,) Those that hated the press box, Those that hated ballpark etiquette, Those that hated on the ushers, Those that hated Dom Brown.  Golly.  Enough already.  This is supposed to be fun.

8. Parking

Parking seemed to be more of a problem this year.  Some of the parking attendants were occasionally more cranky than they needed to be.  Parking was tighter than in years past (the extra 100 tickets?  Yeah, probably: DiPro brought it up preseason.)  Other fans are getting cranky about the parking as well, which will come up again in the “suggestion box.”

7. Hector Luna

OK, he’s just a guy.  I don’t know him.  Maybe there’s other factors.  I never liked him with the PawSox, though.  And part of me thinks it’s funny to pick on a player–but probably it’s not.  But… if that player doesn’t seem to be trying his best.  Or, if he always waits until the last-minute to report after being sent down.  Or if he immediately bolts the organization the first chance he gets, well… maybe I’m not as supportive as I am with some of the other guys.

6. Press Box Whiners (Twitter)

I mentioned this on Twitter, and others echoed my frustration.  I follow some of the Phillies’ beat writers mostly in order to hear about the possibility of pending roster moves which would impact the IronPigs.  My frustration is with the following issues:

-complaining about the length of the games,

-complaining about the fans,

-complaining about a rain delay when you’re in a temperature-controlled press box sitting on a padded chair while the fans are stuck on a concourse,

-making mistakes in reporting and not owning them,

-complaining about the free food,

-complaining about the park when you don’t have to pay for parking or walk up the ramps or suffer any other of the indignities or inconveniences fans do to attend the games…then insulting the fans and referring to them as “you people,” 

So they all get un-followed save one–and I only barely tolerate him.  Some of this crept into the IronPigs press box as well, but hasn’t seemed to totally carry over, which is good.

5. Advertising

It’s a fact of life, and it’s a major revenue stream for minor league baseball (and sports in general).  I know this.  It just feels like it’s getting to be too much.  Advertising in the urinals?  Big giant musical instruments in center field?  A sponsor for eight or ten different things that might happen during a game?  Advertising on the magical bathroom mirrors?  It’s just getting to be overloaded and junky.  It’s noticeably distracting from the quality of the game-day experience.

4. Season Ticket Holder Apathy

This goes two ways.  I think ticket holders could do a better job showing up for games–or giving or selling their tickets.  And, I think there are a few examples of how the IronPigs could be doing more for their most-loyal customers.  Not just because we buy a ton of tickets, but because of the gobs and gobs of cash we spend at the park every night.  As I mentioned, we’ll make a blog-post suggestion box coming up.

3. Departures, volume 1: The Players

As I mentioned in my last column, I’m happy for the players when they get to move on to further their careers.  They play baseball for a living, so anything they can do to increase their earning power or move ahead is something that we ourselves would do in the same situation.  It was sad to see Rich Thompson go, but GREAT that he got back to the bigs.  I liked Dave Bush, but he had the opportunity to make more money in Korea or Japan, so God bless him.  The excessive player turnover did hurt the team, though, and probably cost us a playoff spot.  The poor road record could be attributed to this as well, probably.  It’s the way it goes, though, and I’ll hope for better next year for us, and celebrate the success of the Thompsons, the Frandsens, the Kratz’s, the Browns…

2. Departures, volume 2: Staff

This didn’t impact the season too much–and I don’t think it’s a reflection on “poor working conditions” as others have opined–but it is noticeable.  Just as with the players, I wish continued success to the IronPigs employees who move on to bigger and better things, including Justin Scariato, Scott Hodge, and Brandon Greene–as well as others of the game-day or permanent staff who may not be with us in 2013.  We’ll miss them.

1. Departures, volume 3: Fans

I’m not calling anyone out here.  Baseball is, at its core, entertainment.  Sometimes real life gets in the way and other things need to be moved up on the priority list ahead of entertainment.  It get it.  It’s not something easily fixed, perhaps, and as with players and staff, others will step up.  But missing some of the folks I got to know around the park is indeed one of my least favorite things about 2012.

oinK!

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Filed under Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Lehigh Valley IronPigs

A Quick Look Back: My Favorite Things About the 2012 IronPigs

Here are my top ten favorite things about the 2012 IronPigs season, in no particular order.  Likely, I’ve forgotten something.  Please add yours below in the comments. (Coming soon: Least Favorite Things About the 2012 IronPigs.  I try to be a good guy, but I’m not a company shill.  We’ll keep this one positive, though.)

10. The Coffee Mugs

As I sit here typing, I’m drinking coffee from one of my many IronPigs coffee mugs.  As excited and happy as I am to pick up my tickets each year, a little free swag is the icing on the cake.  Thanks IronPigs! 

(note: coffee mugs were the ticket holder gift this season.  Look for my upcoming post “What the IronPigs do for Us” followed quickly by “Suggestions for the 2013 IronPigs”)

9. Autograph Day

There were several “magical” days at the park this year, and mine were probably different from yours.  This is one that I’ll remember, though.  The kids always love it, and we missed it in 2011.  Player turnover rendered the baseball card set near useless, so the kids bought baseballs to have signed by all the players.  They managed to get all of them–and the coaches.  The game was good, and, close.  We stayed into extras despite the school night, as we had the club level to ourselves in the rain.  We watched the raindrops dripping from the railings as we awaited a walk-off.  And so it was.

8. Technology

There were two technological improvements to the IronPigs experience this year that I enjoyed very much:  For the first time, I got involved with the jersey auctions because of the phone bidding.  I know it wasn’t without its glitches, but it had to be better than the clipboard blocking and the pen stealing (you know who you are!) of years past.  We even got a couple of them (Mitchell, Hudson).  I bet IronPigs Charities made more money, too, although I’ve heard nothing official. 

The other technology improvement I enjoyed and appreciated was the Bypass in-seat delivery for the club level (along with the “deal of the day”).  And, no, contrary to the comments from some of the corporate seats behind me–the same people who complained that their seats were too far from the field–it’s not because I’m too lazy to get up and get my food and drink.  It’s because I come to the park chiefly to watch and cheer for baseball, not to stand in line.  Kudos here.  Glitches were minor, and very infrequent.  As far as I could tell, there was no extra charge for the delivery on my bill; however, I did certainly tip the delivery person.

7. Tailgating

I thought we did a pretty good job with our tailgating this year, and I hope to improve on it next year.  Most were small affairs with a few friends and family enjoying a sandwich and a soda pop, but it really added to the experience when we did it.  I’d love it if more folks would stop by, though, even if it’s just to say hello.  Hopefully we can make that happen in 2013.

6. The Day-Night Doubleheader

It was hot, but we sucked the marrow out of that one, didn’t we?  It was probably the pinnacle of the season as far as the team and winning.  We started the day at the park at 10AM with sausage and egg sandwiches on the grill, coffee, and tomato juice (say, Ed).  We “survived” the first game by hiding out in the club to avoid the heat.  Then came the between-game festivities featuring pre-smoked ribs by Dan and pre-pulled pork by Mark.  Some bean bags and some beverages, with many friends and family stopping by.  Then, more baseball!  What a day!

5. Crab Fries

How did it take me three-quarters of the season to find these?  Goodness, I’m slipping.  But I like them, and the food and drink options at the park continue to evolve and multiply.  Good stuff at the PigStop all  season long by Jan.  I hope they continue to add choices and quality.

4. The Tiki Terrace

I didn’t venture out there very often, but all the reviews from about the park were good.  Folks loved the food and drink, and the little tables.  The addition of another hospitality area was a success as well, I learned.  Finally, the fact that they started staying open after the games with music and beverages, created a new “scene” for the park.  It’s one that I didn’t frequent, but reviews from fans, off-duty staff, and even the occasional player, were good.

3. Opening Night

Opening night is always special, but I’ll really remember this one.  My older son and I arrived late as he had a catchers’ camp.  We entered through the main gates, and stopped by the trough to say hello to Dan.  We knew the score from the radio, but of course didn’t hear the most important part because it was never mentioned.  The first thing Dan said was, “Look carefully at the scoreboard and DON’T SAY ANYTHING.”  That’s right, Tyler Cloyd, the last-minute fill-in from AA for scheduled but suspended starter Dave Bush, had a no-hitter going.  With the early season game, of course, he didn’t finish it, and we remember the winning one-hit result.  But it was another one of those great nights, you know?

2. The Players

While the extensive player turnover this season was one of my least favorite things, I do enjoy the variety.  It’s cool to get some new players to watch periodically, even if it does mean saying good-bye to old “friends” like Rich Thompson, Kevin Frandsen, and Erik Kratz.  I enjoyed watching them while they were here, and I feel happy for them having the opportunity to advance their careers in the Major Leagues.  Meeting Kyle Hudson shortly after he joined the team, welcoming him to town and hearing his genuine appreciation for the park and the fans let me know that we’re doing our part to make the IronPigs what they are today.  And it’s probably why the home record was as good as it was this year, as well. 

1. Ryne Sandberg

Years from now, I know we’ll look back on 2011 and 2012 as the “Sandberg Years” and it will be with great fondness.  The brand of baseball we witnessed these past two years was really super.  I loved knowing that we had a chance to win each game.  I loved knowing that we had the chance to come back in a game where we were down.  I loved knowing that his players had his back, and he theirs.  He’d never have it, but I’d be putting a statue out front of the park if it were up to me.  Heck, Emily might even stop by periodically for a picture.  :-)

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Filed under Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Lehigh Valley IronPigs

What We “Might” See in 2013

Always one to look back while keeping my eyes on what lies ahead,  I’m seeing what could be the youngest Lehigh Valley Ironpigs team we’ve ever had for the 2013 season.   We’ve had a taste of the baby aces courtesy of Jonathan Pettibone and he showed that he was more than up to the task of moving up a level.  Now it’s time for the rest of them to join him.

The Phillies will always have their share of veteran free agents at the AAA level to serve as a short term insurance policy if and when someone on their 25 man roster gets hurt and it’s impossible to guess who those players might be.   The 2012 season saw more of these guys than ever move up to the Phillies from the Ironpigs.   In fact,  Erik Kratz and Kevin Frandsen have quite possibly played their way onto the Phillies 2013 roster thanks to their superb play after being promoted.  We also saw veterans such as Mike Fontenot, Jason Pridie, Hector Luna, Brian Sanches, Jeremy Horst, and Raul Valdes move up plus quite a few youngsters who saw big league action for the first time.   Then there is Pete Orr who always seems to make the Phillies out of spring training but by midseason comes back to the Lehigh Valley for a month or two.   With the exception of Kratz and Frandsen, it’s questionable whether or not any of the other veterans will earn a spot on the Phillies’ 40 man roster but I’m hoping the Phillies offer most of them a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.

As for the 2013 Lehigh Valley Ironpigs, as I already said, it’s impossible to predict who the Phillies will sign to minor league deals or who might be acquired by trade, but based on what is currently available this is what I would expect.

CATCHER:  Sebastian Valle will begin the year with the Ironpigs.  That much is certain.   Tommy Joseph, the catcher who was acquired from the Giants in the Hunter Pence deal is already listed as the #4 prospect in the Phillies organization and is highly regarded for his power potential and his defensive ability.  He threw out 41% of all would be basestealers in 2012.    I would anticipate Joseph beginning the season in Reading and then moving up much the same way Valle did in 2012.   The Phillies will always have a major league ready catcher at AAA to be ready to move up quickly should Ruiz or Kratz get hurt.   Right now I would guess that Steve Lerud would be that catcher.  He is 28, bats left and got his feet wet in the majors this September with the Phillies.  Another option is Northampton H.S. grad Brian Schneider.   The soon to be 36 year old catcher will be a free agent at the end of the season and if no other big league team shows interest in him,  what better place for him to play than for a AAA team 15 minutes from where he went to high school and with an organization where all the pitchers are familiar with him?  It would be a nice gesture by the Phillies to keep him in the organization and close to his hometown where friends and family can watch him play.  Finally, it always seems like John Suomi is lurking somewhere in the shadows and it would be a surprise to no one if he is still somewhere in the Phillies organization in 2013.

FIRST BASE:  The most likely picture here is a familiar one.   There’s no room for Cody Overbeck with the Phillies and he didn’t do enough in 2012 to attract interest from other teams so unless the Phillies sign a veteran free agent to play first base, it looks like Overbeck will see the bulk of the action at first again in the upcoming season.   That could change if the Darin Ruf left field experiment is a bust but for now my guess is that the Phillies will want Ruf to see more time in the outfield.  There isn’t much else in the organization so a minor league free agent signing is always a possiblity, maybe someone who hits from the left side.

SECOND BASE:  Cesar Hernandez showed enough in 2012 to deserve a fulltime position at second base for the Ironpigs next year.   He has always hit at other levels so I would expect his average to be much improved in 2013, hopefully well enough to hit at or near the top of the order.  There were a few defensive lapses last year but that should improve as he matures.  He doesn’t turn 23 until May, 2013.

THIRD BASE:   The hot corner always seems to be a headache for the Ironpigs.  From King, to Tiffee, to Ransom, to Belliard, to Luna, if I had to pick the best third baseman in the 5 year history of the Ironpigs I think I’d choose Kevin Frandsen followed by Pete Orr.  If I had my choice of who to play at third base for the 2013 Ironpigs I think I’d go with Cody Asche (pronounced ASH-ee).  Cody played at the University of Nebraska and is just 22.  The left-handed hitter batted .349 in 255 at bats at Clearwater this past season before being promoted to Reading where he hit .300 with 10 HR in 263 at bats.  His overall average in 2012 was .324.   Unfortunately, I have a feeling the Phillies don’t want to rush him to the next level, especially with just 68 AA games under his belt.  My guess is Cody begins 2013 in Reading and stays there at least until the all-star break.   Opening the season at the hot corner for the Ironpigs is anyone’s guess.  It could be a free agent signee, someone acquired in a trade, or Kevin Frandsen or Pete Orr, whichever of the two don’t make the Phillies 25 man roster.

SHORTSTOP:   My gut tells me it will be Freddy Galvis.  That’s who I said last year so why change now?  There’s talk in Philadelphia of trying Chase Utley at third base to make room for Galvis at second base.   But how does that help their offense?   If they want to begin the season with Utley and Galvis in the infield why not keep Utley at second and move Galvis to third?  Frankly, neither of those moves makes much sense to me.   The Phillies need to go out and get a quality third baseman and keep Utley at second.  Galvis needs to play everyday, but he needs to do it in the minors.   Sorry Freddy, you may have a big league glove but your bat is still firmly entrenched in the minors.  I also liked Andres Blanco at shortstop and would love to have him back.   Not only did he do a good job defensively at shortstop, but he also served as a good mentor to Cesar Hernandez.   It was like having a coach on the field for the young second baseman.  Although Blanco played almost exclusively at shortstop in 2012, Andres has played 116 major league games at second base, 11 more than he played at shortstop.  His veteran presence and versatility would be a big benefit to the Ironpigs in 2013.  If Blanco doesn’t return, Troy Hanzawa has proven to be a reliable shortstop at Reading and Miguel Abreu played all over the place for Reading in 2012 while hitting .280.

OUTFIELD:   I would love to have Jason Pridie back with the Ironpigs in 2013.  How many people remember that he had 3 hits on Jimmy Rollins bobblehead night way back in April, 2008 on the night Rochester shut out the Ironpigs 10-0?  Shane Victorino hit leadoff for the Ironpigs in that game.  Pridie provides a quality bat with some power and has enough big league experience to contribute to the Phillies should he be needed.   If all goes well with the winter league experiment I would expect Darin Ruf to open the season in left field for the Ironpigs.  There will still likely be a large learning curve for him in the outfield so fans will have to be patient with him.  What’s most important is the power he brings to a team that was lacking in that department in 2012.  Darin Ruf hit more homeruns in August than the entire Ironpigs team hit that month.   I believe the Ironpigs’ homerun record for a right handed hitter is still held by Jon Knott at 19, and I would think given the opportunity to play regularly, Ruf could easily break that record.  I only hope that his errors don’t exceed his homeruns.  After 2 years of limited playing time due to injuries, it’s also time for the third player acquired from Seattle for Cliff Lee to get an opportunity at AAA.  Tyson Gillies played a solid centerfield at Reading in 2012, hitting .304.  His batting average against right handed pitchers was .326.  Another young outfield bat of interest would be Leandro Castro.  He hit .287 with 10 HR at Reading last year and also had 35 doubles.  The right handed right fielder hit .326 vs. lefties in 2012 but also had 11 errors in the outfield while also garnering 11 assists.  Still a bit of an enigma is Jiwan James.   A highly regarded prospect in the system, he still hasn’t fulfilled his potential.  The switch hitting outfielder is only 23 but hit just .249 with 6 homeruns at Reading after hitting .268 at Clearwater in 2011.   Derrick Mitchell had his 2012 season interrupted by injury and I would expect him to get another chance to prove his worth in 2013.   Still in the picture are 2012 carryovers Kyle Hudson, Steve Susdorf, and veteran Mike Spidale.    Hudson was hitting .291 when he was acquired from the Rays in exchange for Rich Thompson but hit just .253 after joining the Ironpigs.   He will be 26 next year and is a solid center fielder but lacks the strong arm that was provided by Thompson.  Susdorf hit .282 with the Ironpigs and had just 1 homerun but proved himself to be a quality defensive outfielder.   Mike Spidale hit .268 after he was promoted from Reading but didn’t provide much offense with runners in scoring position, driving in just 8 runners in 228 at bats.  At age 31,  I would expect him to begin 2013 back in Reading if he is still in the Phillies organization.

PITCHERS:  Bring on the baby aces.   First, if Tyler Cloyd does not begin the season with the Phillies, then he will without a doubt be the opening day starter for the Ironpigs.   He could follow the same type of path as Vance Worley in 2011.  It all depends on the needs of the Phillies.  If none of their pitchers are dealt in the offseason, then they will likely begin 2013 with Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Worley and Kendrick.  At best, Cloyd would be a long reliever.   Jonathan Pettibone has also earned a spot in the starting rotation in 2013 based on his 4-1 2.55 record in 2012.  In 42.1 innings with the Ironpigs, he did not allow a single homerun and allowed more than 3 runs in just 1 of his 7 starts.  Austin Hyatt began the 2012 season with the Ironpigs but finished at Reading.  I would expect him to be given an opportunity to be in the Lehigh Valley starting rotation again in 2013.   The pitchers who join them will be interesting.  Trevor May is the #1 prospect in the Phillies organization but he struggled at times while pitching at Reading.  He finished with a 10-13 record and a rather high 4.87 ERA but still managed to strike out better than 1 batter per inning.  His big problem was with his control, walking 78 batters in 149.2 innings.   If he doesn’t begin 2013 with the Ironpigs, it won’t take him long to get here.  Julio Rodriguez is the other baby ace who spent 2012 with Reading.  He began the year strong but faltered late in the year causing some to believe his stuff is not good enough to get out hitters at a higher level.  Still, he struck out 136 in 134 innings so he should be given a chance.   One of the more interesting pitchers at Reading is Ethan Martin.  The Phillies acquired him from the Dodgers in the Shane Victorino deal and all he did was go 5-0 3.18 in 7 starts with Reading.  He had been 8-6 in AA in the Dodgers organization so overall he was 13-6 3.48 in AA.  He’s just 23.   Also of interest in lefty Adam Morgan.  Morgan was just 4-10 3.29 at Clearwater but had 140 strikeouts in 123 innings pitched.   He was promoted to Reading and started 6 games for the little Phils, going 4-1 3.53.  He turns 23 in February.   One thing all these pitchers have in common is youth.  From past experience we know that there will a few free agent signings with veterans in camp fighting for a spot.  With guys like Elarton, Misch, and Cochran on the staff last year, don’t be surprised to see a few veterans again in the Ironpigs’ starting rotation in 2013.

BULLPEN:  With the expected return of Mike Stutes, David Herndon and maybe even Jose Contreras (team option), the Phillies have a wealth of relief pitchers and will likely add a veteran to the list during the offseason.  Guys like Justin De Fratus, Phillippe Aumont, Michael Schwimer,  B.J. Rosenberg, Jake Diekman, Joe Savery, Jeremy Horst, and Raul Valdes will all be battling for middle relief positions with the Phillies with the ones who don’t make the cut comprising a solid bullpen with the Ironpigs.  Add to that list names like Tyson Brummett, J.C. Ramirez, Michael Cisco, Justin Friend, Colby Shreve, and a handful of others and it looks like the bullpen will once again be a strength for the 2013 Ironpigs.

Get used to all the new names.  You should be hearing them often once the 2013 season begins.
I’m already counting down the days to April 4, 2013.  I can’t wait.

See you at the ballpark!

Decal

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Hanging by a Thread

“It’s not over until WE SAY IT IS!….”  – Animal House

Well, we didn’t do anything to help ourselves last night, but the soon-to-be Trolley Frogs managed to come from behind and hold on against the PawSox to keep us in it.  We need perfection now, both at home and from SWB at McCoy.  You never know, and it’s why they play the games.  (Except Hector Luna.  He doesn’t play in the games.  He goes home.  But I digress.)

So today, we party!  DiPro and I will be grilling up some Brats in the LSI lot.  I’ve invited a number of people personally from about the park, but if you’re reading this in time, please come join us 4:00PM or so.  Have a sandwich and a Diet Coke on me (and DiPro).  I invited the Phanatic via Twitter, but I’m not hopeful.  It would be funny, though.

How will you find us?  Look for the flag!  The young one took out my other flag pole with the van door at the last tailgate, so I got a new, taller one!  It looks like this:

look for this flag, and maybe the NoiseNation one as well, flying in the LSI lot

Oh, yeah.  Baseball.  If all goes well, we’ll make it to the game after the party.  Pettibone on the mound tonight against Zach Wheeler scheduled for the Bison.  I’ve really liked the way Pettibone’s been pitching.  He had a little difficulty the last time out, but he’s young, and fun to watch.  I’m guessing we’ll get to see some of him next season as well.  Wheeler is the top prospect in the Mets’ system, or so I’m told.  If my memory serves, he came over from San Francisco in the Beltran deal last summer.  He’s done well since advancing to AAA in August, but we roughed him up pretty good when we saw him up in Buffalo last month. 

Also, these three games might be the last time to see the Mets’ affiliate for a while, as word has it the Blue Jays will take over as the Major League parent club for Buffalo next year, possibly sending the Mets to Las Vegas.  I put Mets’ fans third behind the Red Sox and Yankees on the obnoxious scale:  you understand it’s not the REAL Red Sox, right?  Perhaps the rise of the Trolley Frogs (still a Yankees affiliate, but easier to differentiate minor league fans from MLB fans) and the Las Vegas Mets will leave me with only Red Sox fans to hate on next season.  But at any rate, if you like the Baby Mets, c’mon out and cheer them on. 

See you in the parking lot,

@Kram209

PS: I don’t know what Dan and DiPro have planned, but it could get a little quiet around here once we’re eliminated.  I’ve got a post-season retrospective planned, as well as a look ahead to what could be an exiting 2013 IronPigs’ roster.  Also, an IronPigs “Suggestion Box” column, and the story about what I decided to do about Phantoms’ tickets.  It’s just a matter of finding the time and motivation to get it all written up.

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Filed under Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Lehigh Valley IronPigs