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.