Winning! Can We Handle It?

Knappy goes yard! Photo: Cheryl Pursell

Knappy goes yard! Photo: Cheryl Pursell

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,


Categories: Bethlehem Steel FC, Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Steel Hawks

9 replies

  1. Speaking of hardware … IronRail Trophy Series 2.016 starts tonight

  2. It is the stated purpose of Bethlehem Steel FC to be the “reserve side” for the Philadelphia Union from Major League Soccer so the stream of MLS players flowing into BSFC’s line-up each and every week will NEVER dry up – it will only be a question exactly how many fringe MLS players are available and how much game time does the Union technical staff want any give player on an MLS contract to get.

    “Continuity in the team” is a HUGE thing is in soccer and that IS all there is to it. Oftentimes, it is extremely hard if not downright impossible to play good soccer without this precious element. Unfortunately, “continuity in the team” IS something that is surplus to requirements as far as the Philadelphia Union and their player development policies are concerned and that will always make BSFC’s USL life hard if not impossible.

    I am genuinely starting to think that Bethlehem Steel FC will be extremely short-lived here in the Lehigh Valley. No fancy new stadium to marvel at, no cuddly and fluffy mascot for the kids to get their pictures taken with. All Union/BSFC have to sell is “player development” and only a certain limited number of ‘hard core soccer fans’ are going to want to even begin to consider consistently buying that.

    Truth is, ‘hard core soccer fans’ do not even want to watch MLS, let alone USL — there, I just said it!!!

    So, let the standard player development beat down begin … 🙂

  3. Back in the day, the four-time Stanley Cup champion New York Islanders had a little something called “The Drive For Five” – with that in mind, an appropriate marketing slogan for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ 2016/17 AHL season ought to be something along the lines of “Eight Will Be Great!”

  4. I have great faith in the Phillies to foul everything up for us.

  5. 0-2 start in 2016 IronRail Trophy Series

    Do we lose because we expect to lose? We write articles telling the whole we we don’t know if we can handle winning. Does that mean that we subconsciously think we can’t?

    Why don’t we ever DEMAND winning – what WOULD happen?

    Lehigh Valley needs to stop compromising standards and settling for less all the time.

    • “Why don’t we ever DEMAND winning – what WOULD happen?”
      Nothing. Nothing different would happen because it turns out it’s not about us. Even if we stay away in droves, they’ll have enough to keep going until some other town promises a downtown stadium (arena) and sweet tax deal.

      So it doesn’t matter. Except to me and a few of my readers who live and die with the wins and losses. Mostly die. But wins have to come. I mean, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, right? 😉

  6. It all feels like such a hustle sometimes. Like dealing with used car salesmen. The minor league team never has a sense of responsibility to actually put on an entertaining ATHLETIC performance because they know they can always hide behind the good ole’ “player development” curtain.

    The IronPigs gave a good enough effort last night – but only they can lose on a strikeout followed by passed by.


  7. Note to Kram :

    Good, Lehigh Valley avoid sweep against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rail Monkey Trolley Frog Whatevers. Going down 0-3 would have been an extremely bad omen, much like when Phantoms lost to bottom-of-the-barrel Binghamton Senators at home in January. We don’t need no Phantoms’ stink on the ‘Pigs potentially glorious IronRail Trophy bid.


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