Saturday, June 24, 2006

FSL settled on the field

Good news to report from the Florida State League. The East Division's first half title was decided on the field.

Brevard County, which lost four games to rain outs, had the potential to claim the title based on its winning percentage despite winning fewer games than either St. Lucie or Palm Beach. The Manatees drew within one game of the top spot after a Monday night victory over the Mets, but couldn't draw any closer.

St. Lucie eliminated Brevard the next night, and rallied late Wednesday night to win the East by one game over Palm Beach.

The Cardinals closed the first half by winning 10 of 11, and they were one strike away from winning all 11. The Cardinals, who stood to win a tiebreaker with the Mets, were waiting in their clubhouse when they heard the Mets had claimed the crown.

The West Division also went down to the final day. Dunedin lost to Tampa, but still won the title when Fort Myers was unable to take advantage of the opening.

The FSL was lucky the titles were claimed on the field. That won't always be the case. Late summer in Florida carries rain almost every day. The league should adopt some of the fixes offered in an earlier blog. Time to stop relying on luck.

This can't be good:
Saturday night's game at Fort Myers and the scheduled Hurricane Awareness Night promotion were rained out. Yikes.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Immigration worthy of its own night

One of the benefits of sifting through all the minor league promotions is that I'm occasionally inspired to create promotions I'd like to see.

My latest creation: Illegal Immigration Night.

The way I see it, there are plenty of ways to go with the promotion. How about a free ticket for any fan that arrives at the ballpark in the trunk of a car?

The ballpark can offer amnesty to any fan who scales the outside gates to gain entrance to the ballpark, provided "immigrant" works for an inning doing a job that no one at the park wants to do (scrapping gum off the concourse walkway). Of course, the teams would have to place minute man-like centenaries armed with water pistols along the border to deter potential border crossers.

A team could offer citizenship in the means of a lifetime pass to the ballpark for any baby born at the park.

And, during the seventh inning stretch, instead of singing Take Me Out To The Ballgame fans can recite the oath of citizenship.

Now that's a promotion worthy of a green card. looks forward to covering this event.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Rain is good for Manatees

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes it rains. – Nuke LaLoosh, Bull Durham.

In the Florida State League, rainouts can be just as good as wins. With two games remaining in the first half of the season, Brevard County stands to benefit greatly from games they didn't play.

Because of rainouts, the Manatees will play four fewer games than rivals St. Lucie and Palm Beach. If the Manatees end the season in a virtual tie with Palm Beach, Brevard will be given the crown based on winning percentage.

This has Palm Beach fans a little steamed. Rightly so.

The disparity in rainouts is peculiar on several levels. The county of Brevard was so dry during the first half of the season that it was under a fire watch. The Manatees even had to move the location of their fireworks for fears that they could start a fire.

Sure, Florida received plenty of rain over the past month, thanks in large part to Tropical Storm Alberto. Brevard couldn’t play back-to-back games because of rain that came with Alberto. Palm Beach, just an hour south, managed to play three games during that same two-day span.

Did Brevard call rainouts to improve their chances of winning the division? Probably not. Had the Manatees won the four games they missed this season, they would be leading the division instead of relying on mathematicians.

But that doesn't change the fact that the title may be decided as much by games that weren't played instead of those that were.

With the amount of rain that annually hits Florida, the league should schedule at least one extra day during the All-Star break to ensure there is time to make up at least one game. In addition, the league needs to change the rule so that the team with the most wins in a half claims the crown. At least that will give teams extra incentive to play games that otherwise might not be considered financially lucrative.

The FSL is in the middle of a fantastic pennant race. It needs to take measures to make sure the title is determined on the field.
will let you know how this race ends.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Boggs excites with bid for perfect game

Palm Beach pitcher Mitchell Boggs sure knows how to impress the brass.

The Cardinals starter carried a perfect game into the ninth inning before settling for a complete-game one-hit shutout as Palm Beach defeated Jupiter 4-0 in Florida State League action.

Boggs reached near perfection infront of many top Cardinals officials, including general manager Walt Jocketty.

Boggs was in total command all night. He struck out 11 and allowed few hard hit balls.

Jupiter's J.T. Restko led off the ninth with a bloop single to center to end Boggs' bid for a perfect game. Boggs struck out the final three batters he faced to give the Cardinals the victory.

I was in the Jupiter broadcast booth for the final innings of the game and I must say it was one of the most exciting baseball nights I've witnessed. Jupiter broadcaster Jeff Grant could barely contain himself in the late innings. And as deflating as it was to see the perfect game slip away, the Palm Beach clubhouse was hopping after the game.

Boggs, who said the closest he's ever come to a perfect game before Wednesday night was a no-hitter when he was 9, didn't give much thought to having Jocketty present for his performance. He did, however, think about his parents, who were in town from Duluth, Ga., to see the game.

Congrats to Boggs and keep an eye on Palm Beach. The Cardinals were left for dead when they fell six games back with two weeks remaining in the first half of the season. Wednesday's win and St. Lucie's loss to Vero Beach left the Cardinals two back with four games remaining in the first half. Stay tuned…

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Edmonton gets anthem right

If you attend as many minor league baseball games as I do, it's hard not to become a bit disillusioned with the presentation of our National Anthem.

It’s not a very good song to begin with. America the Beautiful is much better. But that likely won't change anytime soon. So we’re stuck with it.

Nowadays the Star Spangled Banner is most memorable when a star mangles the Banner. Think Carl Lewis and, no, he never really made it up to us. Around the minors, the moments before the game tend to turn into second-rate American Idol wannabe's trying out for stardom. Note to all of you: the song was never meant to take five minutes.

Given all that, there was a fantastic rendition of the National Anthem preformed last night in, of all places, Canada. Paul Lorieau sang our anthem – many in Edmonton join in – then started Oh Canada.

Instead of making himself the star attraction, he let the fans take over the song. The result is passionate, far more moving than any anthem I've heard over the past five years. It's worth tuning in early to a hockey telecast just to hear it. Unfortunately, there is only one more possible game in Edmonton and that won't even happen if Edmonton can't win the next game in Carolina.

I hope it happens. salutes the fans of Edmonton and hopes that minor league ballparks take Edmonton's lead and realize that simple is often the most beautiful.

If you'd like to see the performance, copy this link into your browser:

Monday, June 12, 2006

Rocket circus a little calmer

Roger Clemens made his second minor league start last night for Double-A Corpus Christi. He looked sharp, allowing just two hits in six innings of work.

Clemens treated this start like work, not the comeback party he threw for himself in Lexington. Clemens’ first start in Kentucky launched a media circus. Clemens fed the frenzy by spending so much time in Lexington.

Sure, he wanted to spend some time with his son. Can’t blame him for that. And he rewarded Lexington for putting up with the craziness by more packing the house to a tune of 150% capacity. He also furnished the club house with couches, televisions and computer games. The young Legends players probably appreciated the four days of free food the most.

There were no reports of this type of generosity coming out of Corpus Christi. Clemens undoubtedly picked up a nice post-game spread. The meal may be the only mark Clemens left in the Texas League. He spent more time between his two minor league starts in Houston with his future team than in Corpus Christi.

The next stop on the Clemens minor league tour is Round Rock. The Express, located just outside of Austin, Tex., already draw well. The ballpark should be nuts when The Rocket comes to town.

Good Bye Moe: Noted major league prankster Moe Drabowsky died Saturday. He had been sick with multiple myeloma. Drabowsky's best prank came when he gave Bowie Kuhn, at the time the commissioner of baseball, a hot foot. A master of voice imitations, Drabowsky also popularized the fake phone call to the opposing team’s bullpen. Drabowsky will be missed, but his antics will always be with us.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Biggest gamble in AC may be eating Surf food.

I was standing in the Atlantic City press box when director of media Chuck Betson noticed me and started wondering who I was and what I was doing in his press box.

I introduced myself and told him that at, we were constantly looking for interesting and bizarre stories.

He paused, smiled at me, and said, “How about a hot dog wrapped in a Twinkie?”

“You have my attention,” I said.

The Surf's crazy fare was inspired by the Krispy Krème burger in Gateway. That's cool. Could minor league baseball be on the verge of a food war?

The recent trend in major league and minor league cuisine has been the addition of regional foods at concession stands. The Surf Burger is Atlantic City's attempt to incorporate boardwalk funnel cakes into their ballpark menu.

But they are also elevating their creations to include the bizarre. If other teams follow Atlantic City and Gateway’s lead, we my need to start a weekly food column on That would be cool.

In the meantime, here are some of our suggestions.

In Bowie, a burger that uses soft shell crabs as buns. In
In New Orleans, a gumbo topped with a bratwurst, with a slice of pizza for dipping.
In Tucson, a footlong hot dog wrapped in rattlesnake meat.

That’s a good start. Let's hear some other ideas.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Minor league teams bedeviled by 666

Happy Beast Day!

Knock it off. Today's date has nothing to do with Satan. It has nothing to do with religion. It will, however, cause crazy people to do nutty things. That should be celebrated.

No, the world isn't going to end today. I defy any doomsayer to prove me wrong. (They can’t – if they’re right, we’ll all be dead.)

That being said, I'm a little disappointed with the way minor league teams are underplaying 6-6-06. Potomac is conducting a salute to the No. 6, which was almost good enough to earn’s Promotion of the Day award.

Fort Myers
earned the award by hosting a Halloween celebration – and even those masters of promotion had to tone down the celebration. The Miracle were asked by a few area churches not to celebrate the calendar anomaly. They complied.

That's a shame, because this really has nothing to do with religion. At best, it's about horror – the made up kind. The kind that causes teenagers to jump into each others arms to protect themselves from Freddy Kruger. And stupid people. Face it, those who believe the world will end are basically hoping there is no tomorrow. If only…

6-6-06 was begging for promotions such as:

The first pitch being thrown out by four guys on horseback.
Free admission for anyone who can make their neck rotate 360 degrees.
Free admission for anyone 666 years old.
A projectile vomiting contest between innings.
Iron Maiden singing the National Anthem.

That's just a few quick thoughts. Remember 6-6-6, it's not just a number, it's the area code of the beast. Which, by the way, makes 6-06-06 the full house of the beast.

More tomorrow – if we last that long.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Goelz trades bats for hoses

A few people have asked recently why we include independent leagues on To those who continue to wonder, I give you Jimmy Goelz.

The Long Island shortstop decided to play one more year in the Atlantic League, in part, so that he could be on a team with younger brother Bryan. That itself is a good story – see Roger and Koby Clemens.

Jimmy Goelz's season ended Sunday afternoon. He walked away from baseball to become a fireman. Four years ago, Goelz applied to become one of New York City's Bravest. He was accepted last week and reports this week.

Goelz went out in style this past weekend. He drove in the Ducks lone run on Saturday and picked up what will likely be the final RBI of his career on Sunday.

The Atlantic League, Northern League, Can-Am League and the American Associations are full of players like Jimmy Goelz who are looking for one more summer with the game they love. These leagues, even more than the affiliated leagues, contain players who simply want to play baseball.

That is a big reason why these leagues continue to flourish. It doesn't matter to the fans that the players may not be on the fast track to the major leagues. They just appreciate the game being played with verve.

We will continue to cover the Atlantic League. In fact, we will revel in it.

So, good luck to Jimmy Goelz. And, by the way, Goelz spot on the roster will be filled by Juan Gonzalez. Yep, that Juan Gonzalez. More on that later.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Minor league umpires settle strike, but questions remain.

I've been trying to figure out which side "won" the minor league umpires' strike and I have to admit I'm still a bit perplexed.

The umpires settled the strike earlier this week, agreeing to an extra $100 per month across all levels and what amounts to about an extra $90 per month in their meal money. The per diem will increase in each of the contract's five years.

The numbers don't sound like a lot, but then again, the umpires really weren't asking for much. The top minor league umpires barely make $15,000 and rookie league guys are down in the $5,000 range.

So the extra hundred is at least statistically significant. But the extra salary barely covers the increase in their health care deductible – a point the umpires were eager to make during the strike.

It looks like the sides were arguing over a small sum, which begs the question, why was there even an argument? Minor league baseball is making more money than ever. And even if it wasn't, it was certainly in Major League Baseball's best interest to have the professionals behind the plate.

Look no further than the game in Birmingham last month where the Barons pulled their team off the field because they felt the umpires had lost control of the game as an example of what could happen with inexperienced umps. Major league clubs have too much invested in their players to let something like that happen.

In addition, I've had several managers and scouts tell me the strike zone inconsistencies made it difficult to evaluate how well their players were progressing – especially pitchers.

From the management side, it just seems more cost effective to have paid the minor league umpires to be there at the start of the season.

They say all good deals leave both sides a little upset. That's probably the case here. It's just hard to image this deal took so long.

Minor league umpires will return to the field no later than June 12. Each individual league sets the date. Florida State League commissioner Chuck Murphy doesn't expect them back before the 12th because the league needs the time to work out administrative and travel difficulties.

Those of us who revel in some of the craziness caused by the replacement umpires have a few games left with the high schoolers calling balls and strikes. If lucky, we may get one more performance like the confusion in Jupiter on Wednesday.

Come the 12th, however, I think everyone will be pleased the men in blue will be back to normal