Category Archives: Lehigh Valley IronPigs

2014 IronPigs Season Postmortem, Vol. 1: “A Season of Change”

smells

As I start to reflect on the 2014 IronPigs season, the theme that comes to mind is “change.”  It all started in February with the organization’s “Smell the Change” campaign.  As we know now, it was all about some new uniform designs.  We kinda knew it was coming, going back to November of 2013 when some of the old, traditional on-field merchandise started getting deep discounts at the Majestic Clubhouse Store.  New Era Hats don’t expire.  The only reason to discount that on-field stuff is because new designs were going to be coming out.  Little did we know how far they would go.

In addition to the new Saturday cap, new away cap and new Sunday cap, we also got a new Friday uniform set (pants too!), and a complete new Saturday set with a bacon theme.  The team did a great job with the design choices, and it was indeed time to freshen up the on-field appearance a bit.  I wasn’t high on the bacon stuff–too goofy.  Boy, was I wrong!  I’m sure the team is still filling orders and counting money, as that bacon design is now available in multiple formats:  several New Era fitted designs, and multiple fashion designs.  I even relented and bought the powder blue version.  We’ll see if further change is to come.  It seems like the team could mix and match sets a little better if they could figure out something to do with those black pants.  Plus, the black pants look silly with red shoes, and are generally disliked by the players and coaches–we have asked them.

But the change that occurred this season wasn’t limited to off-the-field:  The extreme number of transactions that impacted this team ultimately resulted in a sub-par showing on the field.  This could be felt quite obviously at home, where the IronPigs reached only a 31-41 record, among the worst in AAA.  In fact, the road record was among the best in AAA for much of the season.

For the 2014 season, the IronPigs were subject to 166 roster transactions!  That’s more than one transaction per game, home and away!  In 2013, the ‘Pigs had a then-high 128 transactions.  Players often would arrive and leave from the team while at home, given the proximity to Reading and Philadelphia.  Injuries and the need for support in Philly are always going to result in change on the AAA roster.  However, this year’s rate was unprecedented, and with much of it happening at home, it’s no surprise that the product on the field was often searching for an identity.  It doesn’t mean the players couldn’t play or that the coaches couldn’t coach–just that they were often trying to find their way with the lineup and defense constantly changing.  On the road, they were able to settle into a routine a little more, and the record shows it.

I never felt that the team gave up, or stopped playing hard.  Certainly part of the turnover had to do with an MLB team looking for answers.  That created opportunity for players to get to the big leagues, and I’m certain all of them played with that goal in mind.  Here’s hoping that next year, some youth and perhaps some veteran leaders, can settle in and create a more stable core.  A left-handed power bat might be nice, too.

While I’m at it, a look back at previous themes:

2008:  The inaugural season:  everything was shiny and new, and the organization was still feeling it’s way along.  A horrific start on the field and some roster turnover overshadowed a rather competitive team at times.  Meanwhile, Philadelphia was on their way to the World Series, and many couldn’t worry about AAA records.

2009:  Losing vol. 2, but the team did have a winning record at home!  Three players changed dugouts that summer as the Indians’ affiliate Columbus was in town during the first Cliff Lee trade.

2010:  The team that quit.  July and August were horrible as the team didn’t seem to be playing hard or correctly.  The manager expressed open disdain for his roster.  It wasn’t pretty.

2011:  The golden era begins:  winning under Hall of Fame manager Ryne Sandberg also resulted in a team who played hard and did the little things.  For the first time, a winning record in 1-run games!  And, an occasional pitching change in the middle of an inning.  To think!  And the first (and to date, only) playoff appearance by the “lovable losers.”

2012:  The bonus year.  No one thought we’d have Mr. Sandberg for a second year.  Ultimately, we didn’t have the players down the stretch to make the playoff run, but it was again a fun team to watch.

2013:  The start of the Brundage era continued with a team in first-place for a good portion of the early season.  However, a struggling team in Philly and a then-high number of transactions led to a team that again faltered down the stretch.  Starting pitching was inconsistent as well.

Stay tuned for vol. 2:  Kram’s Memories of the 2014 Season.

@Kram209

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A Few Words About Maikel Franco

Franco with an RBI, from the final home stand.  Photo: Cheryl Pursell

Franco with an RBI, from the final home stand. Photo: Cheryl Pursell

 

Word leaked out, as the ‘Pigs close out the 2014 season in Moosic, that Maikel Franco will indeed get the call to the Phillies after the game today.  In fact, rumor has it, he’ll start tomorrow for the Phillies in Atlanta.  It’s been debated for weeks, and I’m happy it’s finally official.

I’ve been a strong supporter of the call:  I think it will get the young man some experience that he can use to challenge for a spot in Spring Training.  It’s not that I think he’s been ready during the season–too much inconsistency and some flaws in his game.  However, the naysayers think I’m wrong.  Let me address the concerns:

  1. He won’t get any playing time.   I don’t care.  He won’t get any in Allentown, either (the season’s over).  He won’t get any at home sitting on his couch.  Winter ball (It’s been reported that he’ll play, although not where) doesn’t start for a while.  He just played an entire season of AAA baseball.  Why not let him get some exposure to the Phillies big team, and let the coaches there see him now that he has a season of AAA under his belt. They haven’t seen him since March in Clearwater.
  2. He’ll develop bad habits.   How can he develop bad habits if he’s not getting regular playing time?  The first two concerns cancel each other out.  It’s September.  The Phillies are out of it.  It should be a nice relaxed atmosphere for him to learn what he needs to do to take the next step.
  3. It will ruin him.  Just like they did to Dom Brown.   Nope.  First, Maikel is a different guy.  I know neither of them well–I’m just saying that the personalities and psyches might be different.  Secondly, Dom was called, demoted, called again, and sat the bench for a team challenging for the pennant.  This is a different team.  With a different manager and a different outlook on the future.  Plus, this is happening AFTER the season.  The routine of AAA is over.  Whatever development and experience Maikel was to receive at AAA has been completed–at least for this year.  It’s not interrupting his season or taking away experience he could receive by playing every day, because that is over.

It’s a bonus and it’s a reward.  I think everyone knows that Maikel is not the savior of the Phillies.  It just makes sense.

Part of making room for the call-ups is making room on the 40-man.  To that end, the Phillies yesterday traded with the Blue Jays:  John Mayberry Jr for an A-AA 3B.  This concludes JMJ’s time in the Phillies organization.  I think he’s spent time with the IronPigs over more different seasons than any other player.  And, as I said yesterday at the RailRiders game:  I’ve seen enough.  I mean no disparagement, but I’ve seen what he can do at AAA and in the Majors, and I’ve had it.  Time for a fresh start elsewhere, Junior.  It’s been real.  It’s been nice.  It hasn’t been real nice.

And as I finished typing, the season has officially ended.  Tyler Henson strikes out with men on first and third and two outs, and the IronPigs lose to the RailRiders 4-1.  They lost the continuation of yesterday’s game in a 2-1 walk-off, as well.  They’ll finish in last place.

More to come on the 2014 IronPigs as we empty out the “drafts” file:

  1. Scranton is a Trip:  A look back at our time in Moosic in 2013-2014.
  2. 2014 IronPigs Postmortem vol. 1:  “A Season of Change”
  3. 2014 IronPigs Postmortem vol. 2:  “Memories of a Season Gone By, Quickly”
  4. 2014 IronPigs Postmortem vol. 3:  “The Season in Pictures”
  5. 2014 IronPIgs Postmortem vol. 4:  “A Look Ahead:  Players and Rosters for 2015″

See you at the arena, I guess,

@Kram209

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Close This Thing Down: IronRail, Pigs Finale, Tailgate, Trough

The IronPigs 2014 home season comes to a close tonight, following an exciting 6-5 win versus the RailRiders last night.  The win secured the 2014 IronRail Trophy for the IronPigs–our first of many I assume.  Tonight, we put the season to bed the best way we know how:  relax and have fun!

From Right: Kurt: "Here it is! We won!" Brundy: "Cool.  It's kinda heavy." Uncle Ray:  "Groovy" Sal: "Would you guys put that away, there are three more games to play." The Mick: "I can't believe we have to wear black pants."

From Right:
Kurt: “Here it is! We won!”
Brundy: “Cool. It’s kinda heavy.”
Uncle Ray: “Groovy”
Sal: “Would you guys put that away, there are three more games to play.”
The Mick: “I can’t believe we have to wear black pants.”

Tailgate!

We’ll be at the LSI spot today 3:30 or so setting up.  Menu: Thai Shrimp, Sausage Sandwiches, Hot Dogs, sodas.  Look for the flag(s).

Trough!

Assuming there will be an “after party” tonight, we’ll be hanging out in the trough until they make us leave.

Tomorrow!

A couple of us are making the trip up to Moosic tomorrow.  See you up there, maybe.  Most likely will sit out Monday, though.

Stay Tuned!

I’ve got a couple baseball posts still in the works, and we’ll do some season retrospective.  I’ve got a couple Arena things going, too, as well as some hockey preview.

 

See you at the park, one more time,

@Kram209

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2015 IronPigs Schedule Released: Good, Bad and Ugly

2015_IronPigs_Schedule_k0ljic2o

THE GOOD

  1. Opening Day at Coca Cola Park
  2. Closing Day at Coca Cola Park
  3. Plenty of Weekend games
  4. No home stand longer than 8 games
  5. A nice, busy June
  6. 12 games in 14 days at the end of July/beginning of August
  7. Plenty of April Games
  8. Shorter road trips for the players
  9. Fewer 2-game sets–Mr. Brundage should approve.
  10. A couple good candidates for vacation weeks in August, and one in July–for the fans.
  11. 222 game at Coca Cola Park April 7.
  12. With all 1:35 games on Sundays, plenty of chance to continue the post-game tailgate tradition–and plenty of chance to get over to the SteelHawks games if they’re smart and go for evening kickoff on Sundays when the ‘Pigs are home.
  13. Not listing the playoffs on the schedule is probably a good idea.  We’ll figure that out later….
  14. The late start to the season should ease conflicts with SteelHawks (somewhat) and Phantoms, and the late end to the season should flow into pre-season hockey quite nicely.

THE BAD

  1. Season doesn’t start until April 9!  We’re going to be champing at the bit, I’m telling you.
  2. With the season extending to a late Labor Day, September 7–could be a week without the best players as they could be called up September 1.
  3. New, uneven schedule has 18 games with Scranton–10 in Moosic, 8 in Allentown!
  4. Fewer games with Western and Southern opponents–some only in town for 3 days instead of 4.
  5. The busy April is good for baseball fans like myself, but tough on the attendance race.
  6. No 5:35 games on Sundays in the summer.

THE UGLY

  1. Only 8 games in August!  Unbalanced!
  2. The RailRiders get home field advantage in the race for the IronRail!

But, I’ll be there,

@Kram209

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Swuuunngg On and there it gooooeessss – “Fronconstein” FTW – ‘Pigs Fly

Haven’t posted one of these in a while – hasn’t been one to post in a while…

BUT

as a follow-up to the Cheryl/Kram/Jr. walk-off prediction and the come-from-behind (walk-off error) victory by Philadelphia’s Taney Dragons in the Williamsport LLWS here is the Voice of the IronPigs Matt Provence with a classic, emphatic walk-off homerun call courtesy of “Young Fronconstein” (TM M. Provence).

If you witness enough baseball at Lehigh Valley’s Coca-Cola Park, you know by the sound of the bat when a ball is jacked and Maikel (don’t call him Michael) Franco’s shot to left field was certainly a ‘no-doubter’!

Before we get to the Voice one final tidbit.

Phillippe Aumont with the win!

YES – that’s what it says!

Aumont pitched 2 PERFECT, stellar innings with 3 K’s and ZERO free passes.

Hold on a sec though – he threw 17 pitches – 15 of ‘em for strikes!

YES – that’s what it says!

So we’ll take Phillippe’s best outings of his recently improving year and transition to one of the best Provence calls – ever!

Walk-Off Dishing

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“I Called It” The Story of a Walk-Off

Except I didn’t.

Franco, following the obligatory pie in the face.  Photo courtesy @AngelsforMark

Franco, following the obligatory pie in the face. Photo courtesy @AngelsforMark

But let me step back a minute.

Junior calls all kinds of stuff.  He called a walk-off last night when we were down 5-0.  He’ll call anything, knowing that eventually he’ll be right in some kind of way.  Tonight, he called “three straight strike outs–because we’re horrible.”  I figured it would be something more crazy–like a line-drive double play to get Spears off second.

But you know, walk-offs are among my favorite things to see at the park.  A no-hitter?  A perfect game?  Never saw them.  Not yet.  A cycle?  I remember Michael Taylor’s night like it was yesterday.  And walk-offs?  Love ‘em.  Hanzawa had one earlier this year.  Castro’s had a few over the past two years.  Franco had one before, on a single to right. The home run variety are the best.  I’ve seen them from Blanco and Castro over the past couple years.

I thought about calling for the HR with Galvis at the plate.  It would tie the game and energize the crowd.  It would probably knock the closer out of the game.  But I just didn’t feel it…

However, with one run in (Galvis singled to right, scoring Spears) and Franco strolling to the plate, I felt it.  I turned to Junior and said, “I’m calling it.  Walk-off home run.”

He replied, “Baahh.”

But Franco was having a good at-bat by now.  He stayed away from some garbage pitches and crushed a foul pull-side.  The four adults in front of me were still enjoying their 32-oz beers and chatting about who-knows-what.  One of the women in the group answered her cell phone–which she had stored in her cleavage.

I’m not kidding.

I wondered if they knew what was coming.  A nice crowd was still on hand for an early-evening Sunday game.  The Kiddos got duffel bags.  A buddy had the IronPigs Suite.  (BTW, they should do more 5:35 games in the summer.  And, the IronPigs Suite has been re-done:  nice hardwood floors and brick wall facing.  Classy.  But I digress.)

The long drive off Maikel Franco’s bat wasn’t a surprise to me.  I knew it was coming.  Heck, I called it.  But, I did worry that it might hang up too long and get caught at the warning track in Left Field–where all manner of bad things have happened this season (injuries, phantom balls, etc.).

But it didn’t.  It went into the bull-pens, and the place erupted.  As it should.  Congratulations and high-fives all around.  Junior screaming, “YOU CALLED IT!”  I looked up, and Franco was only at second!  Powder-blue jerseys flooded the field.  How many players do we have?  25?  Seemed like 50 of them on the field waiting for Franco.  And I called it.

Except.

I didn’t.

Not first.

A whole inning earlier I received the following text from Cheryl Pursell:

“I left..  There will be a walk off now.  Let’s hope.”

Yup.

Cheryl called it.

 

See you at the park,

@Kram209

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Winding Down: Podcast, Roster and IronRail

We're "This Close" to contending... Photo: Cheryl Pursell

We’re “This Close” to contending…
Photo: Cheryl Pursell

While things are winding down over at Coca Cola Park, I’m still paying attention.  Here are some things you should know about as the 2014 season comes to a close:

  1. ICYMI, I had the opportunity to be a guest on the APhilliated Podcast, hosted by IronPigs Radio Producer Mark Perlman-Price.  It came out good, I think, and he certainly has access to better recording equipment.  You can listen to it here if you like.
  2. Tony Gwynn, Jr. is with the IronPigs now.  He’s starting in CF again tonight.  He’s a lot of fun to watch, and leading off this evening.  He’s hitting .474 for the ‘Pigs so far–over only a short time, I know–but worth catching.
  3. If you’re a season ticket holder, don’t forget to renew your seats or at least collect on your renewal award:  Some “loaded value” is available for the last home stand starting next weekend, but you have to ask for it.  Contact your ticket rep!
  4. I know it’s way too early to start thinking about next season, but that never stopped me before.  Of course, some free agent signings will impact the opening day roster.  But here I go anyway.  Here are some names to remember for 2015–even if they don’t start the season in Allentown:  Pitchers:  Adam Morgan, Jon Pettibone, Aaron Nola, Jesse Biddle, Severino Gonzalez, Hoby Milner, Nefi Ogando, Adam Loewen.  Catchers Tommy Joseph and Sebastian Valle.  INF Carlos Alonso, Brock Stassi, KC Serna, JP Crawford.  OF: Cameron Perkins, Aaron Altherr, Kelly Dugan.  Player/Coach Jake Fox.
  5. IronRail:  There are four games remaining with Scranton–two here and two up north.  The ‘Pigs lead the season series 8-4.  The evil RailRiders must win all four games to retain the coveted IronRail trophy via the totally arbitrary tiebreaker.  It’s our only chance to take home some hardware for this season, so…

See you at the park,

@Kram209

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