All of a sudden it’s coming up ‘wins’ all over the place. How long will this winning last? Will the “Mecca of Minor League Sports” soon become a city of champions? How will that look in the stands at the arena and at the stadiums? Will we be happy?
The IronPigs are in first place for the first time since July, 2012. They’re doing it with pitching and they’re doing it with hitting. They’re grabbing big leads and they’re coming from behind. They’ve been able to put up some really big innings. They’ve been a fun team to watch so far early in the season, and they’re difficult for any team to play against. It also seems like they’ve got some really good guys in the clubhouse.
The SteelHawks are an absolute juggernaut. The defense is a thing to behold, and they’re scoring on offense without making mistakes. They’ve got a strangle-hold on first place now with an effective 2-game lead with 3 games to go in the season. A home playoff game is now an almost certainty.
Steel FC is still gaining acceptance. Every home game thus far has been competitive, and the young patch-work lineup has been able to deal with more veteran, established teams in the past two weeks. They’re tied for sixth place in the standings, out of 14 teams.
The Reading Fightins are also in second place and own a .647 winning percentage, thanks to a lineup chock full of prospects.
Slow The Roll
Winning isn’t everything in the semi-pros. Player development, and fan entertainment are big pieces of the puzzles. We’ve talked before about ‘winning’ and its potential impact at the box office, or lack there-of. In this case I think it can be a boost for all of the above teams. Everybody likes a winner. Lehigh Valley sports fans have shown that they’ll support their teams, even when the quality of play on the field (or, ice) isn’t what it should be. But nobody likes to go to the game expecting to lose, and I think the continued winning would be good for the box office–not to mention my psyche.
I think I’ll be able to handle it, the winning. I never started writing this stuff to complain about the losing or to rip into players, coaches, or organizations. And playoff games are what I live for.
The real question is: Is it real? Is it sustainable?
Don’t Underestimate Philadelphia
Don’t underestimate Philadelphia’s ability to screw this up for us.
The IronPigs will most likely lose a starting pitcher by the weekend. As veteran outfielders are rotated in and out, will the production continue? Will the Phillies continue to pilfer outfielders, bull-pen arms and starting pitchers until the team is no longer competitive? Will the talent in Reading filter up as expected, and perform? Will Reading be able to replace their losses from Clearwater?
The Union have been providing the Steel FC side with MLS-reserve quality players on a weekly basis. What happens when/if that dries up? Will the incongruity in the lineup be more of a hindrance rather than an advantage as the season rolls on?
The Phantoms certainly haven’t been winners thus far in Allentown–not on the ice, anyway. There’s the promise of prospects to come, but prospects don’t always perform right away (or, ever). Philadelphia talks a good game, wanting to support a culture of winning in Allentown, but it hasn’t worked out that way thus far. Will they provide the next squad with enough depth to cover the inevitable injuries and call-ups? Will they keep enough talent in Reading so that they can make the playoffs again, while still supporting the Phantoms? Or, will the sweet taste of Stanley Cup Playoffs cloud the Flyers plans and cause them to sacrifice depth of talent for their minor league clubs?
Even the SteelHawks are not immune to getting screwed by the city to our south. Players dominating in Allentown can be “called up” to play for AFL teams, particularly the Philly Soul. Even though they’re not affiliated directly, we saw the kicker get snatched right before the big game this past weekend. A similar raid on players could submarine the team’s playoff dreams–and you can’t stand in the way of letting guys compete on a bigger stage for a bigger paycheck. You just can’t.
So, enjoy the ride Lehigh Valley. Hopefully we can bring some hardware to town in the next 12 months. The future looks bright, but protect your sensitive parts, because there are no promises, and the winning could be ripped away from us at any time.
See you at the park and the arena,