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Old 11-13-2017, 12:45 PM   #2401
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Raccoons (69-61) @ Thunder (51-78) – August 30-September 1, 2021

The Coons came in cold, but the Thunder were routinely cold this year, and had lost four games in a row. Their .395 misery consisted of scoring the fewest runs in the Continental League. Their offense was putrid enough to not even score 3.8 runs per game, and their pitching was now reason for joy either, allowing the third-most runs in the league. Despite all this, this routinely terrible team had still won four of the previous six games against the Critters this year… Unless we can sweep this ragged collection, it will be the second year in a row we lose the season series to a team racing for 100 losses.

Projected matchups:
Jonathan Toner (14-7, 3.61 ERA) vs. Jose Vigil (1-7, 4.58 ERA)
Travis Garrett (8-5, 3.95 ERA) vs. Randy Jenkins (6-10, 4.80 ERA)
Hector Santos (11-5, 4.08 ERA) vs. Bryan Hanson (9-11, 4.17 ERA)

Right-right-left; also, the Thunder had a pile of players either injured and lingering or outright on the disabled list, including SP Nick Lombardo (4-4, 3.96 ERA) and four outfielders, including three former Raccoons (DeWeese, Seeley, Bareford) and Willie Madrid, who was possibly the least atrocious of them all.

Also mind the roster expansion on Wednesday, although we may not actually call up players until the weekend. We have Thursday off, we play for nothing, and the Alley Cats are trying to make the playoffs.

Game 1
POR: LF Spencer – 2B Nomura – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – RF Graves – C Olivares – SS Bullock – CF Metts – P Toner
OCT: SS L. Rivera – 3B Marshall – RF Branch – C Pizzo – 2B Becker – 1B Starmand – CF Hollingsworth – LF L. Davis – P Vigil

Jonny’s first saw three singles and three strikeouts, which was good or bad depending on whether you were focusing on the end result (no runs) or whether how we arrived at that particular zero on the board, and the outlook was not promising after the Thunder got runners into scoring position again in the second inning after 2-out base hits by Jose Vigil (a single) and Lorenzo Rivera (a double to right center). Bobby Marshall struck out to strand those, too, but I felt more comfortable in a Toner start before. Yet the best chance to score for either team early on came in the fourth inning when Luke Davis, whom injuries had propelled from the actual depths of the depth chart into a starting role on the big league team, hit a real drive to left with the speedy Steve Hollingsworth on first base after a walk. Spencer made a flying catch in leftfield, and you wouldn’t think that you saw a middle infielder moonlighting out there.

Top 5th, the Raccoons, who so far had scattered three singles without posing much of a threat to anybody’s dinner, got a wholly undeserved scoring opportunity when Vigil offered a leadoff walk to Toner before Hollingsworth dropped Spencer’s fly to center for an error. Two on, nobody out, Yoshi flew out to left, Mendoza flew out to center (moving Toner to third), and it wasn’t until Matt Nunley came up, who had entered the game with a 10-game hitting streak yet awaiting extension, that the first run of the game came onto the board with a single that dropped in front of Ezra Branch. The struggling Graves dropped a single into center to score Spencer, and Olivares singled to load the bases, but Bullock flew out to left, keeping the score at 2-0. Once he had the lead, which would grow to 3-0 in the eighth with an Olivares double and Dwayne Metts’ RBI single, Toner was much firmer in control of the game. The Thunder did not reach base at all after the Raccoons’ initial runs until Lorenzo Rivera dropped down a bunt and dashed up the line to be called safe leading off the bottom of the eighth. Toner walked Bobby Marshall, which brought up the tying run and the sole sources of power the Thunder had available in Branch (13 HR) and Mike Pizzo (15 HR). They were also left-handers, prompting Jonny’s removal in favor of Manobu Sugano, who ran two full counts, walked Branch, but struck out Pizzo. Jeff Becker singled off him, scoring one run, while Cory Starmand struck out. Noah Bricker came in to face the right-handed Hollingsworth with the bases loaded, and killed him on strikes to end the inning, still up 3-1. It wasn’t pretty for sure, but at least the Coons held on to the lead, and extended it again in the ninth, pulling the run back with Nunley’s 2-out RBI double off Ryan Corkum. Lillis saved the game despite hitting Chris Gosnell with one out. 4-1 Coons. Mendoza 2-5; Nunley 2-5, 2B, 2 RBI; Olivares 3-4, 2B; Metts 2-3, BB, RBI; Toner 7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, W (15-7) and 0-3, BB;

Game 2
POR: LF Spencer – 2B Nomura – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – C Olivares – CF Stevenson – SS Bullock – RF Ochoa – P Garrett
OCT: SS L. Rivera – 3B B. Marshall – RF Branch – C Pizzo – CF Becker – 1B Starmand – LF Hollingsworth – 2B Paull – P Jenkins

Spencer and Mendoza hit singles in the first before Nunley’s grounder to second was thrown over Lorenzo Rivera’s glove by Eric Paull. That was an error, and it loaded the bases for an oddly hot Ezequiel Olivares, who nevertheless fouled out behind home plate. The Coons’ moved ahead 1-0 on a passed ball charged to Pizzo, taking away a future RBI from Josh Stevenson, who with two outs lined into the cavernous gap in right center for a now 2-run triple. The Critters ended up batting around in a 4-run first inning (with all runs unearned), the last run scoring on Bullock’s single to right. Danny Ochoa also singled, but Garrett struck out. The whole ordeal for Randy Jenkins lasted only 25 pitches, indicating that he was not exactly fooling the batters. Garrett was as usual not easy to watch, running into trouble as early as the third inning. After Paull’s leadoff single, Bobby Marshall hit a ball into the rightfield corner for a 2-out RBI double. Garrett walked Branch on four pitches, pulling up the dangerous Pizzo as the tying run, but the Thunder catcher popped out to Nunley to end the inning. Two were on again in the bottom 4th, but Garrett arrived at the opposing pitcher with two outs and Jenkins had no chance and was obliterated on strikes. It only got worse from there, however, with Marshall’s walk and consecutive singles by Branch and Pizzo loading the bases in the bottom 5th. Those were the tying runs – the Raccoons had not had a single base runner against Jenkins since landing five hits in the first inning. There was some intense discussion on the mound and Garrett was told to get his **** together by the pitching coach, his catcher, and even the ball boy from the third base line. Jeff Becker flew to right, no trouble for Ochoa, and Cory Starmand popped out over third base.

It was still not pretty, but still a lead at 4-2. The sixth finally saw traffic in the top of the inning as Nunley singled and Stevenson walked, but the bottom of the order couldn’t get them in. Ochoa gave a ball a ride to left with two outs, but Hollingsworth could catch up with it near the line to end the inning, then drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the inning. Garrett’s leash was shortening, but the Thunder only advanced the runner on a bunt, and Rivera’s fly to Stevenson in shallow center stranded him at second base. That was the last batter for Garrett, whose spot was up to begin the seventh inning. Zach Graves batted for him and doubled up the leftfield line, then scored on Yoshi’s 1-out single to left center, 5-2. During stretch time, Graves occupied rightfield, Ochoa moved in to first, and Jason Kaiser was put into Mendoza’s spot to get five outs from the #2 through #6 batters, which contained four left-handers and a switch-hitter. He got two as the Thunder rapped off a few hits and had runners on the corners in a 5-3 game before Seung-mo Chun replaced Kaiser to face Hollingsworth, who was swiftly hit for by the left-hander Luke Davis, but Davis flew out to Spencer to strand the runners. The Thunder had already stranded multiple runners a thousand times in the series, but they yet got another chance in the eighth. Eric Paull reached on Yoshi Nomura’s error, and Rivera’s 1-out single off Chun put the tying run on base. The Coons had the balls to request a 5-out save from Brett Lillis, who came in and threw no strikes whatsoever to Bobby Marshall, filling the bases with a 4-pitch walk. THEN he came back and struck out Branch and Pizzo, as the Thunder stranded another three runners. GODDAMNIT!! I am a human with an age-related heart condition, and you lot are NOT MAKING IT BETTER!! At least the ninth passed in 1-2-3 fashion… 5-3 Raccoons. Spencer 2-5; Graves (PH) 1-2, 2B; Lillis 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K, SV (33);

To be honest, I think my heart condition stems from taking near-mortal doses of alcohol with a variety of non-prescribed pills for whatever ailment for decades, which I blame on previous iterations on this team just like that. And the stinging usually stops after the second bottle of booze.

We did in fact add three players to the roster as we ripped August from our calendars, none of them hopeful prospects. Edwin Prieto returned as third catcher, and we also added Will West for like the fourth time this year, and activated Joel Davis from his rehab assignment. Davis had tossed 14.2 innings in 26 days for a 2.45 ERA, but with pretty low strikeouts for an elite reliever in AAA.

Game 3
POR: LF Spencer – CF Stevenson – 1B Mendoza – RF Jackson – 2B Nomura – C Parks – 3B Nunley – SS Bullock – P Santos
OCT: SS L. Rivera – 3B B. Marshall – RF Branch – C Pizzo – CF Becker – 1B Starmand – LF Hollingsworth – 2B Riley – P Hanson

Spencer, Mendoza, and Jackson all singled in the first inning, but none of them scored, with Yoshi striking out and Parks rolling one over to shortstop. The Thunder had the bases loaded even faster against Santos, who hit the first batter he faced, then allowed a single and a walk. More singles by Becker and Starmand scored a total of three runs on Santos, who was obviously on track to leave Portland on a low note at the end of the season. For the next few innings, the Raccoons would have a runner on base in almost every inning, but usually didn’t amount to more than a 1-out single, a pop, a strikeout, and lots of sad little faces. The Thunder didn’t reach base against Santos from the second through the fifth AT ALL, but at least they had already dealt their damage, and it looked like it would be well enough.

When Jalen Parks followed up Yoshi’s 1-out single in the sixth inning with a walk, it was the most substantial threat for the team since the first inning. Nunley grounded into a fielder’s choice, dropping to 0-for-3, and left runners on the corners for Bullock, which changed into a runner on second after Hanson threw a wild pitch at 1-2, scoring Yoshi for the Coons’ first run. The next pitch was no less wild, but struck Bullock, putting the tying run on base. At this point Olivares came out to bat for Santos and singled to left on a 1-2 pitch, with Nunley scoring from second base. Spencer legged out an infield single to load them up for Stevenson, and before he could do anything, Hanson threw a pitch at least six inches over the leaping Pizzo. This thoroughly wild pitch scored Bullock and tied the game before Stevenson lined out to Rivera at short.

Top 7th, Mendoza was hit by Hanson to start the inning, then was caught stealing when he actually was so thoroughly safe ahead of the throw that he overslid the back and was tagged out on the leftfield side of the bag. After that, sadly, the next three batters reached, so the Coons could have led already, but after Jackson’s single, Yoshi’s walk, and then Parks’ single off reliever Jeff Kearney the Raccoons ‘only’ had the bases loaded with one out for Nunley, who popped out. Bullock flew out to left on the first pitch. The Raccoons would waste more chances in the eighth and ninth, each time stranding the go-ahead run in scoring position. The Thunder didn’t do much at all; when the game went to extra innings tied at three, the Coons had out-hit their hosts 13-4. Bullock led off extras with a single to center, then was double-played back into the dugout by Zach Graves, who had set up his tent in leftfield by then, with Spencer moving in to second base. Will West would be in his second inning in the bottom 10th, occupying Yoshi’s spot in the order. To be fair, the Thunder also threw away a leadoff single (Luke Davis’) when Nate Brown pinch-hit for a double play, and the game continued to the 11th, and then the 12th. That inning started with Parks singling off left-hander Chris Rountree, who went on to walk Nunley (who still had not landed a hit and was about to end his 12-game hitting streak). Bullock bunted badly and failed to advance the runners when Pizzo caught his pop out of the air, and Graves and Spencer grounded out. The Coons were now with Evan Carrell pitching for as long as he could, which after the 13th inning had already been three scoreless and a groundout in the top 13th that stranded Mendoza on first. A vague threat existed in the bottom of the 15th after Davis’ 1-out double to center. Chris Evans grounded out, Rivera flew out to left, and Carrell had five scoreless on 53 pitches, then batted to lead off the top 16th against unknown right-hander Franklin Alvarado. He struck out, but with two outs Nunley singled to extend his hitting streak, yaay! Bullock singled up the middle, putting two on for Graves, who moved ahead 3-1 on Alvarado before hitting a ball to right, high, deep, long, and the ****er was outta here. I was too exhausted to celebrate. Lillis was sent into the bottom 16th for his third appearance in three days, but I was sure it would be fine. After retiring Marshall and Branch to start the bottom, Lillis drilled Pizzo with an 0-2 pitch – one strike from the finish line. Becker singled, pulling up the tying run in pinch-hitter John Elliott, whoever the **** that was. In his first appearance of the year, Elliott ripped a pitch to left and off the fence. Pizzo scored, Becker was sent, Graves fired a blast to home plate, and Parks swiped it right into Becker’s helmet – OUT THE CALL, HE IS OUT, IT’S OVER!! 6-4 Blighters!! Spencer 3-9; Parks 4-7, BB, 2B; Bullock 3-6, BB; Olivares (PH) 1-1, RBI; Metts (PH) 1-1; Graves 1-4, HR, 3 RBI; West 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K; Carrell 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K, W (5-2);

Our flight out of Oklahoma and back home that night was entirely silent. No talking. Everybody slept.

Everybody but ONE sneaky Critter. I will have to find out who it was, but he painted a moustache on my face with permanent marker. That bugger!

Raccoons (72-61) vs. Loggers (83-50) – September 3-5, 2021

Despite the bold claims by the Agitator that the Raccoons, who were 11 games back of the Loggers to start this weekend set after a much-needed off day, were still in the thick of the playoff hunt and that only terrible management could rob them of seven wins in the last seven games with the Loggers, we were actually nowhere near the playoffs, and were by no means assured even three wins against the Loggers in the next two weeks. The season series stood at 7-4 for Portland, yes, but the Loggers had shook off the funk and were now regularly drumming the opposition. They were now first in offense in the CL, a spot once occupied by the Critters, and were in the top 3 in fewest runs allowed. Their run differential of +119 was also recognizably better than the Coons’ of +99.

Projected matchups:
Dave Dyer (1-4, 4.76 ERA) vs. Chris Sinkhorn (19-7, 2.38 ERA)
Ricky Martinez (2-1, 2.37 ERA) vs. Michael Foreman (12-8, 3.11 ERA)
Jonathan Toner (15-7, 3.52 ERA) vs. Ian Prevost (11-4, 3.57 ERA)

And never mind that we’re up against their best starters, too… I have a hunch that the lefty Sinkhorn will reach 20 wins right away here. He leads the Triple Crown races in wins (by three), and ERA (by .34 runs), but trails only Jonny Toner in strikeouts, but there by a bunch: he is 46 K short of first place as we begin this series.

Despite the long game on Wednesday, thanks to the off day the bullpen was in decent shape. We might want to stay away from Lillis, if possible, and also from Carrell, who pitched five innings. Most others are quite available.

Game 1
MIL: 2B Tadlock – SS Burns – RF Gore – 3B A. Velez – LF Cooper – 1B Gershkovich – C Wool – CF Trevino - Sinkhorn
POR: LF Spencer – CF Stevenson – 1B Mendoza – RF Jackson – 2B Nomura – C Olivares – 3B Nunley – SS Bullock – P Dyer

After a calm first two innings, the Loggers had two on and nobody out in the third following Dyer’s misplay of Sinkhorn’s bunt with Willie Trevino on first base after his leadoff single. Dyer threw to second, way too late, but the Loggers couldn’t get another ball to fall in as Ron Tadlock lined out to Spencer in left, Kyle Burns grounded out, and Brad Gore flew out to right. But Dyer was not the only pitcher to misplay a bunt in the third inning; the bottom 3rd started with Matt Nunley extending his hitting streak to 14 games with a single to right center. Bullock popped out, and Dyer bunted, but Sinkhorn threw the ball wildly past Mike Gershkovich and the Coons reached scoring position by the time Gore retrieved the ball in foul ground, but couldn’t do better than Spencer’s run-scoring groundout to Burns.

Dyer threw eight balls to begin the fourth, putting on Alberto Velez and Andrew Cooper before Gershkovich hit into a double play and Josh Wool struck out. Why were they even swinging!? By the way, did you know that Chris Sinkhorn was a very good hitter, too? He was batting .246 with four homers and 14 RBI on the season and drilled a ball to deep center in the fifth inning. If it had been to either corner, it would have been out to tie the game, but in the depths of centerfield, Sinkhorn had his drive caught by Stevenson. Burns’ leadoff single in the sixth inning was only the Loggers’ second hit off Dyer, but they would bring him around with a 2-out single by Cooper, tying the score at one. Cooper stole second, Dyer walked Gershkovich, and then was removed from the game. Dew came in, but served up a 3-piece to Josh Wool, and now Sinkhorn had a 4-1 lead and the Coons had only had two hits themselves so far; though with two outs in the bottom 6th, singles by Mendoza and Jackson and then a walk drawn by Yoshi loaded the bags for Olivares, batting .312 with five homers. Show some magic, Ezequiel, even though your name is mostly unpronounceable and can hardly be yelled in encouragement. He popped out to Ron Tadlock in shallow right. The Coons were mostly doomed now, but at least the crowd could clappingly acknowledge Joel Davis’ return from the dead, winding up in the seventh inning after almost a year on the Tommy John shelf. He retired the 9-1-2 batters in order, with a closing K to Burns, which drew more polite claps.

Bottom 7th, and the bases got loaded again in some weird way. Bullock outraced an infield grounder for a 1-out single. Parks batted for Davis and got nicked by Sinkhorn, and then Spencer singled to left. Stevenson hit an RBI single up the middle before Dumbo Mendoza retardedly had to poke at a 3-0 pitch and flew out to center. It was a run across alright as Parks scampered home on the sac fly, but it also killed the Coons more or less, with Jackson grounding out to end the inning and them still 4-3 short. The Loggers stranded two in the eighth that were equally on Sugano and West, then got Olivares on base with a 1-out walk in the bottom of the inning. Nunley popped out, bringing up Bullock. I would have liked to bat Graves here, but Sinkhorn would not get out of the game. Bullock worked a full count before flying to left, and past the replacement out there, Juan Medina. 37 years old, Medina couldn’t catch up with that fly, which fell for a double and Olivares even scored with an early start! Tied game! Graves then did bat for West, but struck out. Bricker had a clean ninth, but Robby Delikat was sitting down Spencer and Stevenson to begin the bottom of the inning. Mendoza singled to right, bringing up Jackson. That would have been a good spot to bat Graves in. Oh well, maybe Eddie can to something good here. Down 1-2, Jackson knocked a pitch to left center, and that was in fact the end of the game. High, deep, gone – IT’S A WALKOFF!! 6-4 Coons. Mendoza 2-3, BB, RBI; Jackson 2-5, HR, 2 RBI; Bullock 2-4, 2B, RBI;

Four wins in four games this week, and not one of them easy on the nerves!

There was a change in the Loggers’ rotation for Saturday. Michael Foreman would not pitch the game, with Ian Prevost instead moving up a day. Prevost would pitch on regular rest here – the Loggers had been off on Thursday just like us.

Game 2
MIL: 2B Tadlock – SS Burns – RF Gore – 3B A. Velez – LF Cooper – C Stickley – 1B Gasso – CF Trevino – P Prevost
POR: LF Spencer – 2B Nomura – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – C Parks – RF Graves – SS Bullock – CF Metts – P Martinez

Both Tadlock and Spencer opened their team’s half of the first inning with a double to left, but only the Loggers got their man in. Between Yoshi, Mendoza, and Nunley, the Coons produced three sad groundouts that left Jarod stranded right at second base. Gus Gasso, a 25-year old Venezuelan that had signed with the Rebels many years ago and was on his first cup of major league coffee, hit a double in the second; Trevino singled, and Prevost hit a sac fly to grow the Loggers’ lead to 2-0, and Velez hit a sac fly in the third to get them to 3-0, plating Kyle Burns who had reached on an infield single and had stolen second base against no throw at all by Parks. While Martinez would end up being stuffed with five runs in five innings, the Coons had not much cooking at all against Prevost, who retired nine straight after the Spencer double, and when Yoshi doubled to start the bottom 4th, the 3-4-5 array left him on base again. Nothing came of Zach Graves’ leadoff walk in the fifth. The Loggers extended their lead to 6-0 in the seventh against Carrell, who loaded the bases and allowed an RBI single to Burns, and Ron Tadlock hit an RBI single in the eighth, also charged to Carrell. Not that it mattered a whole lot. Ian Prevost had the Critters in deadlock, and they amounted to next to nothing. In fact, when Yoshi Nomura hit another double with one out in the bottom 9th, it was only the Raccoons’ fourth total base runner, all of which have been thoroughly listed in this paragraph. Mendoza flew out to center, because of course he would, but Matt Nunley still had business to conduct, drove a ball into the gap in right center, and with a 2-out RBI double blew up Prevost’s shutout bid while at the same time extending his own hitting streak to 15 games, and at the last second for the second time in three games. Petracek prolonged the game with a pinch-hit single, but Graves flew out to left. 7-1 Loggers. Nomura 2-4, 2 2B; Petracek (PH) 1-1;

The magic number is now six. No, not on the Coons and the playoffs, although we don’t have to keep stats on that, anyway. Nope, Jonny needs 6 K to reach the 2,000 club. He would face former rotation mate Michael Foreman.

Game 3
MIL: C Wool – SS Burns – RF Gore – 3B A. Velez – LF Cooper – 1B Gershkovich – 2B March – CF Trevino – P Foreman
POR: LF Spencer – 2B Nomura – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – C Parks – RF Graves – CF Stevenson – SS Bullock – P Toner

Six was indeed the name of the game, although more in that the Loggers scored almost six runs in the first inning. After Wool made an easy first out, the next five batters all reached base via hit or walk, until down 2-0 and with the bags full Toner struck out Dan March. Following that, he issued another three walks with the bases loaded to Trevino, Foreman(!) and Wool, before Burns hacked out. The home crowd was devastated, and I was debating with Honeypaws whether time had come to just bite on that ****ing cyanide pill we had stored in the rear corner of Honeypaws’ sleeping box.

The second inning had Cooper walk and Gershkovich single (on a 3-1 count) with two outs. Toner was hanging in merely against March, when at 1-1 Cooper took off for third base and was thrown out by Parks, thus ending the inning. When March walked in his newest attempt in the third inning, the bullpen got up and stirring in earnest. A sad day for Portland indeed. Trevino, Foreman, and Wool struck out in succession, giving Toner five on the day, but even though he was back out for the fourth inning after bunting into a force play in the bottom 3rd to erase Stevenson, the Coons’ only proper base runner the first time through, nobody was into celebrations anymore should he wrap up another batter. In fact, he didn’t. Burns’ leadoff single and Velez’ 1-out double yanked him from the game. Sugano replaced him and surrendered a run on a sac fly before Gershkovich got walked intentionally so that Sugano could strike out March, which he did. Joel Davis had another clean inning in the fifth as we eased him back into things here, but the Raccoons didn’t make it onto the scoreboard until the seventh inning. It was Nunley again to break up a shutout bid, this time with a leadoff jack. Will West pitched decent long relief after Davis’ appearance, completing three innings while allowing one run on four hits, and that we got decent long relief and Joel Davis’ arm didn’t fall off right away again were the only good things to tell about this game. By contrast, Chun got shredded for three runs in the ninth inning. 10-1 Loggers. Nomura 2-4; Nunley 2-4, HR, RBI;

In other news

September 1 – The Canadiens’ swingman Micah Kirchberg (1-3, 6.00 ERA) is out for the season with a torn labrum. Whether the 39-year right-hander will recover from this at all will have to be seen.
September 3 – TIJ 2B/SS Howard Read (.307, 9 HR, 57 RBI) could miss the entire month with a quad strain.
September 4 – New York’s SP Dave Butler (12-13, 3.71 ERA) 3-hits the Canadiens in a 2-0 shutout.
September 5 – TIJ RF/LF Omar Larios (.257, 6 HR, 39 RBI) goes deep against Oklahoma’s Randy Jenkins for the only tally in the Condors’ 1-0 win.

Complaints and stuff

Let’s make this brief, because I feel bombed out inside after that Sunday debacle…

Jarod Spencer won Rookie of the Month honors in August, batting .331 with no homers and 11 RBI. He scored 17 times, but while I didn’t expect a pile of home runs I find it quite alarming that he only walked ONCE in the entire month of August. He also had only nine strikeouts, but that one walk does not make for a pretty OBP.

Eddie Jackson’s walkoff blast on Friday made me really happy. Poor guy signed away the last few good years of his body to play the fourth outfield fiddle on a team that never went anywhere. Now he’s a free agent, his fielding has let up, and he hasn’t shown much power either this year. No, I will not move to resign him. I *did* make an offer to Manobu Sugano however for another year.

I said above that the AAA Alley Cats were in a playoff race; they are still leading their division with 11 to play, but there’s also four teams within four games in that race, and they will play two of the three in those last not-quite-two weeks, including their closest competitors, the Denver-aligned Chula Vista New Order, in their last series of the year. In AA, the Ham Lake Panthers also have a substantial winning record, but are nine games off the pace. A-level Aumsville is the usual mess at 56-77. No hitting talent on that team whatsoever. As an example, left-hander Marco Ramirez, a former international free agent signing, is 8-15 with a decent 3.81 ERA.

Since I’m not into celebrations right now, and there technically is nothing to celebrate, no strikeout stats today.
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Old 11-15-2017, 12:30 PM   #2402
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Raccoons (73-63) vs. Titans (81-57) – September 6-8, 2021

Second in the North, and five behind the Loggers (the Loggers!!), the Titans needed to make short work of the pesky Critters, which was not something they had done in efficient manner so far this season; the season series was tied at six. Overall, the Titans’ mix was probably not good enough to begin with, with above-average pitching and a rather average offense. They were not excelling in any one category, and while they were only ninth in batting average, they failed to polish that with power or convincing speed. Right now they were also down three guys from their preferred lineup, with Chris Almanza, Stan Murphy, and Tony Casillas all on the DL.

Projected matchups:
Travis Garrett (9-5, 3.90 ERA) vs. Chris Klein (12-9, 2.81 ERA)
Hector Santos (11-5, 4.13 ERA) vs. Jose Fuentes (8-9, 3.34 ERA)
Dave Dyer (1-4, 4.76 ERA) vs. John Schneider (14-4, 3.96 ERA)

Those were three right-handers, and apparently John Schneider is getting a lot of run support in his start… well, bugger me, he starts against Dire Dave…

Game 1
BOS: LF W. Ramos – 1B Flack – 3B Esquivel – CF Reichardt – 2B M. Green – SS Kane – C McPherson – RF Amador – P Klein
POR: LF Spencer – 2B Nomura – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – C Parks – RF Graves – SS Bullock – CF Metts – P Garrett

It didn’t take long for Tragic Travis to catch some splinters in his pointy black nose, as Willie Ramos and Adam Flack opened the game with singles to left. A walk to Antonio Esquivel loaded the bases, and another one to Mike Green pushed in a run. Somehow the Titans didn’t kill him outright in the first inning, but Garrett lasted only five outs regardless, leaving the game in the second inning with a back strain. At least he didn’t get the loss; Nunley’s leadoff double in the bottom 2nd stretched his hitting streak to 17 games, and also allowed Zach Graves to plate him with a single to right, just past Green’s glove. Evan Carrell held on to the 1-1 tie through four, after which we already had to get creative. Graves’ day ended at 2-for-2 when he was double-switched out for the fifth inning, with Joel Davis and Eddie Jackson entering the contest. Jackson’s sharp grounder to short was initially bobbled by Mike Kane, but still thrown to first in time and also kept Dwayne Metts on second base after his leadoff double in the bottom 5th. Spencer flew out to center, but Yoshi Nomura came through with a single up the middle, scoring Metts for a 2-1 lead, while Davis pitched two innings and struck out four. Trouble briefly brewed in the seventh inning when Willie Ramos hit a 1-out single against Jason Kaiser, and the Titans sent a right-handed September call-up to bat for Flack, Justin Jackson. Cory Dew replaced Kaiser to match the batter, struck him out, and then saw Ramos caught stealing by Jalen Parks to end the inning.

Offense had been slow all game, and after Jackson’s leadoff single in the bottom of the inning, the top of the order came up with only two soft outs, not even advancing the runner. Hugo Mendoza shrugged off the notion – he needed no runner to be not advanced! A blast to center squeezed over the fence by inches put the Raccoons ahead 4-1, and gave him 30 home runs for the season. Chris Klein stayed in the game at that point, but would not record another out, instead offering a walk to Nunley in a full count before allowing doubles to two Raccoons catchers, Parks hitting one to left center, and Olivares pinch-hitting for Dew and lining one up the rightfield line to plate the runners. Dull Brett Dill would walk Bullock before getting out of the inning on Metts’ grounder. The Titans were beaten with the 4-spot, putting only one more runner on base against Bricker and Sugano in the last two innings, a Sugano walk to right-handed batter Eric McPherson. 6-1 Coons. Nomura 3-5, RBI; Mendoza 2-5, HR, 2 RBI; Graves 2-2, RBI; Olivares (PH) 1-1, 2B, 2 RBI; Carrell 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K; Davis 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K, W (1-0);

Not shabby for a bullpen day.

The Druid brought the unfortunate news that Garrett was not done for the season but would need a week off to rest his back, so he’s gonna miss a start. You can interpret that sentence any way you want. Since we have an off day on Thursday, we may get around bringing up a starter from AAA, where they are in their playoff drive. Would be great to have a farm team be in the playoffs for once. FOR ONCE.

Game 2
BOS: LF W. Ramos – 1B Flack – CF Reichardt – 2B M. Green – SS Kane – C McPherson – 3B J. Jackson – RF Cornejo – P J. Fuentes
POR: LF Spencer – 2B Nomura – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – RF Graves – C Olivares – SS Bullock – CF Metts – P Santos

The Titans had Willie Ramos on third base before they made an out in the middle game. Santos lost him to a walk in a full count, Ramos stole his 19th base, and then advanced on a wild pitch to Flack. Despite that early chain of misfortunes, the run didn’t score, with Santos whiffing Flack, Adrian Reichardt popping out to short, and Nunley handling Green’s grounder. The Titans would strike out six times before they got a hit off Santos, a Kane single in the fourth inning, but there were already two outs and Eric McPherson made the third with a grounder to short. The Coons’ offense was no less efficient, however, and the Titans had another thing going in the fifth. Gil Cornejo hit an infield single and stole second base on a bad throw by Olivares. Santos struck out Fuentes for the second out, but lost Ramos to another walk. Flack’s grounder to left ended up with Nunley, who got it to first base barely in time to strand the pair of Blueshirts. Santos struck out the side in the sixth, which gave him his second start with double digit strikeouts this year, but he had lost the other game, a 3-2 defeat to the Indians in May. K’ing Jackson in the seventh raised his season-high to 11, but the Raccoons still had to score, amounting only to three hits in six innings against Fuentes themselves.

Bullock drew a walk in the bottom 7th that led nowhere, and Santos squeezed himself through eight innings on 108 pitches, getting a double play turned by Bullock in the eighth after Pedro Salas’ leadoff single out of the #9 hole. In the bottom 8th the Raccoons got a free, speedy runner on second base after Mike Kane’s terrible throw sailed past Flack, hit the top of the Raccoons’ dugout railing and skipped into the stands, causing mild havoc among the patrons. That put Jarod Spencer into scoring position, from which it would only take a mild effort to bring him around, though against a left-handed pitcher in Brent Beene. Oh, leave it to Yoshi – Yoshi gets **** done. Despite fighting with two strikes quickly, Yoshi knocked a single to left center, Spencer scored, and Santos was in line for a W. That was all in that inning, and it was on Brett Lillis to hold onto that skinny 1-0 lead against the 3-4-5 batters. Reichardt singled to center right away, representing the tying run, but Mike Green’s sharp grounder went right at Bullock and was turned into a textbook double play. Lillis struck out pinch-hitter Kevin Jaeger to – no, it got away from Olivares. Jaeger looked sad for a moment before realizing Olivares’ mishap, started to run up the line late – and it cost him. Olivares recovered the ball in foul ground and beat Jaeger by nary two steps to first base to end the game. 1-0 Critters. Santos 8.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 11 K, W (12-5);

Matt Nunley was invisible in this game and ended his 17-game hitting streak without anybody noticing.

Game 3
BOS: LF W. Ramos – C McPherson – 3B Esquivel – CF Reichardt – 2B M. Green – SS Kane – 1B Amador – RF Braun – P Schneider
POR: SS Bullock – 2B Nomura – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – C Olivares – RF Graves – LF Stevenson – CF Metts – P Dyer

The Raccoons’ offense remained slow, while Dave Dyer’s presence was probably precluding a shutout from the start of the game. Roberto Amador hit a 2-run homer off him in the second inning, but apart from the cardinal sin of putting the opposing pitcher on base leading off an inning (Schneider singled in the third) Dyer got through five innings relatively well, allowing no further runs and striking out four. The Coons however amounted to almost nothing against Schneider. Maybe something could be fabricated with the leadoff walk Dwayne Metts drew in the bottom 5th? Nah, Dyer bunted into a double play. Yoshi’s leadoff double in the sixth only led to him being stranded at third base. Dyer lasted six and two thirds and was knocked out by Amador with a double to center. Chun took over, walked Adam Braun, but the Titans were ready to forego more offense in favor of keeping Schneider and his thick pillow on the Coons’ gasping little snouts. Schneider batted, flew out harmlessly to center and stranded a pair. The Raccoons would have the leadoff man on base in the seventh (a Stevenson single) and in the eighth (Yoshi getting nicked), but never got to Schneider, who completed eight innings. Ron Thrasher in the ninth would not let go of that damn pillow either. 2-0 Titans. Graves 2-4, 2B; Dyer 6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, L (1-5);

Noah Bricker pitched two thirds of an inning in the ninth and afterwards had a sore thumb, the first sign of actual injury we have seen out of this reconstruction project. Since it was nothing major, really, and we had Thursday off anyway it was probably not going to be an issue. We may want to try to stay away from him on Friday, but he claimed to be fine even before the team departed for Vancouver on Thursday night.

Raccoons (75-64) @ Canadiens (56-83) – September 10-12, 2021

Well, nothing went right this year for Portland, but at least we’re still able to look down at the window lickers across the border. Nailed into last place and with no hope for immediate improvement, the Elks were in the bottom three in both runs scored and runs allowed, and even last in the latter category. Their run differential was a ghastly -144, and the Raccoons held a 9-6 edge in the season series, although one must always be remind themselves of the countless times the Critters ventured up here only to find unspeakable horror waiting for them…

Projected matchups:
Ricky Martinez (2-2, 2.90 ERA) vs. Greg Becker (5-6, 5.31 ERA)
Jonathan Toner (15-8, 3.76 ERA) vs. Colin Peay (5-4, 3.93 ERA)
Hector Santos (12-5, 3.91 ERA) vs. Matt Rosenthal (9-11, 4.49 ERA)

Becker should be the only southpaw we will face this week, dodging their other lefty starter, Kyle Lamb. Although Lamb… didn’t he use to be good? He was three and a whopping SIXTEEN on the season, with a 5.56 ERA.

Game 1
POR: LF Spencer – CF Stevenson – 1B Mendoza – RF Jackson – 3B Nunley – C Olivares – SS Bullock – 2B Petracek – P Martinez
VAN: LF Houghtaling – RF Kim – CF Rocha – C Holliman – SS Calfee – 1B Jon. Morales – 3B C. Alexander – 2B Otis – P G. Becker

The Coons did nothing major the first time through the lineup. Spencer and Stevenson both hit 2-out singles in the third inning, but Mendoza struck out, which was indeed unhelpful. Bottom 3rd, Martinez issued a leadoff walk to Matt Otis. While Becker struck out bunting, Martinez balked the runner over, and Mendoza couldn’t get an out on a mediocre grounder by Man-su Kim. Mario Rocha doubled up the leftfield line to score the first run of the game before Spencer had to hustle in to catch a Ryan Holliman fly before it could dip in and score two, instead ending the inning. Top 4th, Nunley got hit and Bullock singled with two outs, but Petracek popped out over the infield. The Elks had the leadoff man on again in the bottom 4th after a John Calfee single to right on a 1-2 pitch. Calfee stole second base, advanced on Jonathan Morales’ groundout, but Chris Alexander bounced a ball back to the mound for the second, and very unhelpful, out. Otis was put on intentionally to get to Becker, who was erased easily to end the inning with runners on the corners. The Elks had another leadoff single in the bottom 5th, Jeremy Houghtaling going to right, and this time they would get the run across thanks to Mario Rocha’s double. A throwing error by Matt Nunley scored Rocha as well, putting the Coons down 3-0 after five.

And the Raccoons just didn’t get into the game against Becker. Martinez, however, got out of the game in the following inning after Houghtaling’s 2-out RBI single that ran the score to 4-0. Chun replaced Martinez and retired Kim to end the inning, but the points were set for yet another awful loss north of the border. The Raccoons were racing to get shut out by Becker, whatever category of normally entirely disregardable pseudo pitcher he was falling into. But in good news, the shutout was broken up in the eighth, with Spencer and Stevenson hitting back-to-back doubles up either line to start the inning. In bad news, the middle of the order failed to even get Stevenson home, let alone continue the rally, and all the Raccoons could take home from this game, really, were two shutout innings of Will West to not let the score degrade further. 4-1 Canadiens. Spencer 2-4, 2B; Stevenson 2-3, BB, 2B, RBI; Nomura (PH) 1-1; West 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K;

Blargh. But maybe I can at least remotely enjoy what will hopefully be Jonny Toner’s 2,000th career strikeout? Maybe even – let’s get wild for a moment – a win for him?

Game 2
POR: LF Spencer – 2B Nomura – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – RF Graves – C Parks – CF Stevenson – SS Bullock – P Toner
VAN: RF Kim – 1B Saenz – CF Rocha – C Holliman – SS Calfee – 3B Downing – LF Berrones – 2B Otis – P Peay

Regardless of what Jonny would do on the mound, the Raccoons already topped their offense of the last three games combined with a 4-run first inning on Peay, although three runs were unearned, but are we here to nitpick or to finally seal the season series? Spencer singled, stole, and scored on a groundout before Nunley reached on an error, the inning continuing with a Graves single and then Jalen Parks yanking one outta there for his first home run as a Raccoon. Then, Toner was 1-2 on Man-su Kim to start his day, but Kim told him ‘oh no you won’t!’ and homered to left center. Ah, one of those days? Moises Berrones also took him deep in the second inning, another solo shot, which negated the run Mendoza had driven in with a 2-out single in the top of the inning. The next batter, Matt Otis, went down on strikes, and Jonny was officially in the 2,000 club.

While Toner’s game surely started like chewing on an old boot, he got a bit better (a bit!) in the middle innings. After Holliman singled up the middle to start the bottom 4th, Toner struck out the next three. Peay’s day ended in the fifth inning, the right-hander having been fatally trampled by Jalen Parks and his second 3-run homer of the game, this one collecting Nunley and Graves and running the score to 8-2. Jonny made it five in a row with K’s to Otis and Ray Kelley, who had replaced the fallen Peay on the mound, before Kim hit a 2-out single. Omar Saenz, acquired from Tijuana recently, grounded out, ending the fifth. The only other batter that came close to hurt Jonny was John Calfee, flying out to deep left in the sixth inning. Toner lasted seven and a third, being replaced after 105 pitches and Kim’s fly out to center to start the eighth inning. Kaiser came in, put his two men on base by drilling Saenz and allowing a single to Rocha, then yielded for Joel Davis, who K’ed Holliman, then surrendered that home run that Calfee had been close to the last time around. The score was now 8-5; Davis finished the inning, and Lillis got loose, came into the ninth and walked Otis with one out, and after a strikeout to Justin Bellows allowed singles to both Man-su Kim and Omar Saenz, which in turn allowed Otis to score. Mario Rocha grounded sharply to short, and Bullock’s throw to first skipped through the dirt. Mendoza made himself useful in containing the bouncer and the game ended mercifully right there. 8-6 Critters. Nomura 2-4, BB; Nunley 2-5; Graves 2-5, 2 2B; Parks 2-4, BB, 2 HR, 6 RBI; Bullock 2-5; Toner 7.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 10 K, W (16-8);

Sunday we were down a man in the bullpen; Manobu Sugano had the flu, and it was really gross. Even sitting 200 miles away I felt a certain scratching in my throat…

Game 3
POR: LF Spencer – 2B Nomura – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – RF Graves – C Parks – CF Stevenson – SS Bullock – P Santos
VAN: RF Kim – 1B Saenz – CF Rocha – C Holliman – SS Calfee – 3B Downing – LF Bellows – 2B Otis – P Rosenthal

Straight singles loaded the bases with nobody out in the first inning, only for Nunley to bounce into a double play. One run scored there, another scored on a Graves single, but they had to settle for two. The Elks would get one run on three singles in the bottom 1st on Santos, with Calfee and Downing stranding two with a pair of deep outs in rightfield, so it was one of those games for Hector. Indeed, Matt Otis whacked one outta here in the second, tying the score at two. In fact, neither starter had even a decent outing. Zach Graves hit a 2-piece off Rosenthal in the top 3rd, collecting Mendoza, who had singled again, but in the bottom 3rd the Elks had three on and nobody out against a hopeless Santos. The Elks scored only one run in the inning on a Josh Downing sac fly, but Santos indicated that something was wrong after the inning in the dugout and had to be removed from the game.

Carrell replaced him in the game and swiftly blew the lead in the fourth inning. Otis singled, was bunted over by Rosenthal, and then scored on Kim’s single to center. Stevenson threw home in vain, allowing Kim to occupy second base, but he was then thrown out by Parks trying to steal third base. It was still all in vain, with Omar Saenz’ blast out of rightfield putting the Elks ahead, 5-4. And although he had been knocked up good quite early, Matt Rosenthal managed to stay in the game throughout the middle innings, through the seventh, and even into the eighth. He entered that facing the 4-5-6 batters with a 6-4 lead after Will West had conceded a run in the bottom of the seventh inning. After a 1-out walk to Zach Graves and a single to center by Jalen Parks, Rosenthal was still not removed despite the tying runs being on base. Jackson batted for an 0-for-3 Stevenson in that spot, waited out four balls, and thus loaded the bases. Josh Riley only now replaced Rosenthal, but it was still in time. The miserable Raccoons left the bases loaded when Bullock flew out to shallow left, and Ochoa flew out to deep center, and would not reach base at all in the ninth against John Watson. 6-4 Canadiens. Mendoza 2-5; Graves 2-3, BB, HR, 3 RBI; Parks 2-4, 2B;

In other news

September 8 – A 9-run 12th inning pushes the Aces over the edge in their game in Tijuana to claim a 12-4 victory at the end of the day. LVA OF Armando Martinez (.272, 9 HR, 51 RBI) goes 4-for-7 with one RBI to pace the offense.
September 9 – Five hits, two errors, and a wild pitch allow the Blue Sox to score six times in the top of the 11th inning to break an extra-inning tie with the Capitals and claim a 13-7 victory.
September 10 – The Titans score a 4-3 walkoff win on the Crusaders when a Joe Medina pitch gets away from makeshift catcher Carlos Martinez (.000 in 5 AB) in the ninth inning and allows Mike Kane to score. The Crusaders had earlier pinch-hit for their last catcher with Martinez.
September 12 – Buffaloes rookie SP Matt Duskin (1-3, 4.65 ERA) has his season end with a torn rotator cuff. The 22-year old right-hander had made his major league debut in July.

Complaints and stuff

We signed a $500k extension with Manobu Sugano, who had a very convincing season in my eyes. He might have a better ERA if the general misery in the pitching staff wouldn’t have forced me to use him for right-handed duty ever so often. He has already faced more right-handed batters than in all but one previous season, and as I have repeatedly stated, his splits are ridiculous. He walks 8.5 right-handers per nine innings pitched against them, and strikes out only 5.1, while against left-handers he walks 3.0 and strikes out 13.5 …

Regardless of where the team eventually goes in 2022, putting a modest sum into a strong left-handed reliever is never a wrong decision. Kaiser is also under contract for another season, so that base is well covered right now. Also, Lillis. We only have three right-handed relievers lined up in total for 2022, and that generously counts – in addition to Joel Davis and Cory Dew – also the strenuous relationship with Will West.

You know who has a streak going? Travis Garrett. Undefeated in six starts with a 1.27 ERA. He has what??

You may remember Omar Alfaro, the principal reward in the Matt Hamilton trade to Washington in July. He played for ten games in Aumsville, batting .263 with three homers, then moved to Ham Lake, batting .250 with four homers in 24 games. He was then further moved to St. Pete in late August, batted .279 with two homers in 12 games, and now tore ankle ligaments to end his season. Oh well. He turned 21 in August, and we may have something in him. But no glimpse this year, sadly.

Talking about injuries, no news on Santos as of Sunday night. Travis Garrett may or may not make a start on Tuesday. Manobu Sugano is still covered in nasal secretions. Somehow, we may live after all.

Talking about the Alley Cats, however, they went 4-2 this week, which was more or less true for most of their challengers, too. With five to play, they still lead the Chula Vista New Order by two games. Since these two will play a 3-game set to finish the regular season, the other competitors – Baton Rouge Servals four games behind, Cumming Rainstorm five games behind – are already mathematically eliminated.

ABL CAREER STRIKEOUT LEADERS
57th – Paul Miller – 2,078
58th – Chris O’Keefe – 2,060
59th – Juichi Fujita – 2,046
60th – Parker Montgomery – 2,044 – HOF
61st – Alfredo Rios – 2,015
62nd – Jonathan Toner – 2,009 – active
63rd – Fernando Cruz – 2,001 – active
64th – Manuel Hernandez – 1,997
65th – Elwood Spurrell – 1,991
[…]
82nd – Eduardo Jimenez – 1,830
83rd – Dan Moriarty – 1,828
84th – Alfredo Collazo – 1,827
85th – Dave Crawford – 1,816
86th – Samuel McMullen – 1,810 – active
87th – Hector Santos – 1,800 – active
88th – Raimundo Beato – 1,791
89th – John Collins – 1,758
90th – Ramón Jimenez – 1,743

Paul Miller honed his craft mostly in secrecy between 2003 and 2016. Although he struck out about 170 to 200 every year, and led the FL in wins twice with the Stars, he was always the other guy that team X also had, with team X being limited to the Stars and Crusaders. Despite a somewhat short career derailed by nagging ailments in his mid-30s, Miller was always where the money was and took home four rings in his 14 major league seasons, winning it all with the Stars in 2006, and with the Crusaders during their latter three-peat from 2013 through 2015. He ended up 200-122 with a 3.69 ERA.

Chris O’Keefe had his best years in the 1990s, and when I say ‘best years’ it’s relatively speaking. O’Keefe, who turns 56 this Sunday, pitched for 17 years total with the Bayhawks, Titans, and Rebels, but compiled a losing record overall (183-195) and finished his career with an unsightly 4.27 ERA. The only thing he ever led a league in was home runs allowed, and he finished a qualifying season with a sub-4 ERA only four times. His best year was probably his ’91 campaign with the Bayhawks, pitching to a 19-9 record with a 2.72 ERA and 143 strikeouts.

Juichi Fujita should still be well known to everybody in Coon City. The Japanese right-hander spent most of his 15-year career (12 years to be precise) with the Canadiens across the border and regularly mistreated the Raccoons. An elite pitcher in his 20s that led the league in wins three times, Fujita derailed in his final year in Vancouver, pitching to a 13-17 record and 4.68 ERA, his first ERA over 3.47 since his rookie year, in 2013. Signing him to a 4-yr, $7.92M deal after that would not work out for the Scorpions, who only got three years out of him and barely 300 innings at a 5.97 ERA. For his career, Fujita finished 207-135 with a 3.65 ERA, hinting at the steepness of the fall he took at the end. Had he held up for an odd few years longer, he might have made the Hall of Fame. Although he will not appear on the ballot for another two years, his case is already a very shady one.
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Old 11-18-2017, 03:25 PM   #2403
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Raccoons (76-66) @ Loggers (90-53) – September 13-16, 2021

The Raccoons’ playoff chances had probably died off by June or July at the latest, but they were not yet mathematically eliminated. The Loggers could see to that however in this 4-game, midweek series in Milwaukee, the final meeting between the two teams in 2021. Required to knock the Critters out for good would be a Milwaukee sweep, which was at the same time the only scenario that would allow the Loggers to win the season series, in which the Raccoons still held an 8-6 edge. The Loggers were first in runs scored and fourth in runs allowed in the Continental League, with their +143 run differential burying the Raccoons’ +87.

Projected matchups:
Dave Dyer (1-5, 4.50 ERA) vs. Chris Sinkhorn (20-7, 2.51 ERA)
Travis Garrett (9-5, 3.92 ERA) vs. Ian Prevost (12-5, 3.53 ERA)
Ricky Martinez (2-3, 3.06 ERA) vs. Michael Foreman (13-8, 3.01 ERA)
Jonathan Toner (16-8, 3.71 ERA) vs. Victor Arevalo (9-11, 4.31 ERA)

We start with a left-hander in Sinkhorn, maybe the second-best pitcher in the Continental League right now, and who would miss the Triple Crown because of Jonny’s strikeout totals. After that, three right-handers. Also, since the last meeting between these teams just two weeks ago, the Loggers had placed C Josh Wool on the DL. They were hoping to get everybody healthy for the playoffs, and they might just turn out lucky and get not only Wool, but also Andrew Cooper and Brad Tesch back before the end of the regular season.

The Raccoons also began the week by placing Hector Santos on the disabled list with a ruptured finger tendon. He was quite definitely out for the season and his Raccoons career was ostensibly at an end with free agency approaching for him. It was good while it lasted, as he amassed a 128-85 record and 3.11 ERA in 322 career starts and made the All Star team five times. With his demise, needing a fifth starter and not wanting to remove Jesus Chavez from the AAA rotation he was heading now, we called up…

… Damani Knight.

(shreeks)

Game 1
POR: LF Spencer – 2B Nomura – 1B Mendoza – RF Jackson – C Parks – CF Stevenson – SS Bullock – 3B Petracek – P Dyer
MIL: 2B Tadlock – SS Burns – CF Coleman – RF Gore – 3B A. Velez – 1B Gershkovich – C Denny – LF Ray – P Sinkhorn

Daniel Bullock’s soft single past Alberto Velez’ reach gave the Raccoons a lead in the second inning of the Monday opener, plating Eddie Jackson from third base; Eddie had hit a leadoff single, and Jalen Parks had walked before being forced out on Stevenson’s grounder to short. Stevenson scored on Brian Petracek’s single to center, putting Dyer 2-0 ahead. But the thing with 1-5 pitchers was that they never needed very long to get turned on their head; Dyer walked Brad Gore at the start of the bottom 2nd, and Mike Gershkovich hit a harsh 1-out single to center. Mike Denny came pretty close to a 3-piece with a drive to deep right, but Jackson was on his post and made a catch on the warning track, but Dyer still managed to surrender a run to rookie Danny Ray and his single to left. Sinkhorn ran a 3-1 count before bouncing out to Mendoza to leave two men on base. It only got worse for Dyer, who seemed to lose it somewhere between a brief rain delay in the third inning and then an infield single legged out by Ron Tadlock to start the bottom 3rd. Dyer walked Kyle Burns, and after being yelled at by the pitching coach threw a wild pitch. The tying runs in scoring position were handily driven in on Ian Coleman’s gapper in right center, a 2-run double, and the Loggers were ahead, 3-2.

While the Raccoons caught Sinkhorn on an off day and knotted the score in the top 4th on a run he more or less voluntarily surrendered with a leadoff walk to Stevenson, whom he wild-pitched into scoring position and allowed to score on another Bullock RBI single, the Raccoons then added Petracek with another single, had two outs with nobody on, yet would not get the go-ahead run across, every day was an off day for Dave Dyer. Four-pitch walk to lead off the bottom 4th, this one to Mike Denny. The Loggers’ own stupidity was the only thing keeping them from burying him outright. Ray fouled out, Sinkhorn’s bunt was terrible and got Denny forced, and Tadlock popped out to Jackson in right. And so the Raccoons took the lead back in the fifth on Jalen Parks’ single up the middle. Mendoza scored after having reached on Ian Coleman’s error and having been moved to third base by Jackson’s double to left. There was nobody out in the inning, and Sinkhorn would not get anybody out in the inning. Stevenson hit an RBI double to right, and Bullock hit a 2-run single to left, running the score to 7-3 and prompting the Loggers to bring in right-hander Ron Bartlatt instead. Unfortunately for the Loggers, Bartlatt would concede another six runs to score in the inning; first, Bullock – after the rookie stole second base and Petracek singled him to third, Dyer’s sac fly brought him in, 8-3. After that, a single and a walk loaded the bases for Mendoza, who hit a ball to deep right, but not past Gore and made the second out, while Petracek scored, 9-3. Jackson walked to fill the bags again, after which Jalen Parks was not held by the confines of the park, tattering a 99mph fastball over the right-center wall – GRAAAAAAAAAND SLAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMM!!!!

In any normal circumstance, you’d be sure that the Loggers’ elimination of the Raccoons from mathematical contention would not take place while the Raccoons were in town, but those Raccoons, even with a 13-3 lead, still had Dave Dyer pitching… but while Dyer was as far from greatness as one could be and would end up with four walks against only two strikeouts and surrendered a few more hard drives to the outfield, the Loggers would not get another run off him and only got him out of the game with two outs in the seventh inning. Tadlock was on after yet another walk, but Will West replaced Dyer and got a groundout to end the inning with Burns batting. The Raccoons would get the eighth from West and the ninth from Joel Davis while keeping the Loggers where they were, while having laid themselves to rest as well after the 10-spot in the fifth. 13-3 Raccoons. Spencer 2-6; Jackson 2-3, 2 BB, 2B; Parks 2-4, BB, HR, 5 RBI; Bullock 3-5, 4 RBI; Petracek 4-5, RBI;

Game 2
POR: LF Spencer – 2B Nomura – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – RF Graves – C Parks – CF Stevenson – SS Bullock – P Garrett
MIL: C Denny – SS Burns – CF Coleman – 3B A. Velez – 1B Gershkovich – 2B March – RF Ray – LF Trevino – P Prevost

Garrett struck out four in the first two innings with only moderate panic arising, but when Ian Prevost singled up the middle to begin the bottom 3rd I had this certain unescapable feeling of doom rising up inside of me. While Denny struck out and Burns didn’t make himself much useful, either, Ian Coleman hit a double to right. Zach Graves fired a shot to third base, ostensibly, because the ball never arrived ****ing anywhere close to a Raccoon; Coleman scored on the play that assessed Graves an error and the Loggers the first run of the game, while Garrett then filled the bases with walks. Then he walked Dan March. Then he walked Danny Ray – two terrible batters by the way, and so, in a way, was Gershkovich, batting .246 with no power. Willie Trevino’s single to left center scored two, the Loggers took a 5-0 lead, and Prevost’s liner to right was only narrowly taken by Graves to end the miserable inning. A “Tragic” inning, indeed! Garrett, the ****ing bum, walked another two in the fourth inning and conceded a run on a sac fly before getting removed before the inning was over, leaving things to Sugano, who walked the bags full against March, but struck out Ray to escape the bases-loaded jam while I was filling soap blocks into socks and put one of the treats in front of every locker in the clubhouse, minus Garrett’s.

Besides hitting singles and drawing walks (in the fifth off Evan Carrell f.e.), Prevost allowed only two base hits to the Critters in the first five innings, but would get into a pickle in the sixth inning after an error by Alberto Velez put Mendoza on base with one out. Nunley lined a drive to centerfield, slightly off to the right, and Coleman couldn’t get it. The ball’s odd bounce off the fence aided Nunley, who legged out an RBI triple, his first 3-base effort since 2019. While the Mendoza run was unearned, Nunley’s was sure earned when he came home on Graves’ single to center. Stevenson singled with two outs and Dan March missed Bullock’s grounder by inches for the fourth base hit in the inning, this one with two outs and plating another unearned run in Graves. Olivares batted for Carrell, but grounded out, but at least the 6-0 deficit had been cut in half. The Coons tagged on a run in the seventh when Mendoza doubled in Spencer, but the run was reclaimed by the Loggers off Joel Davis in the bottom of the inning. Prevost was somehow still in the game and still hitting singles, knocking one off Davis before he walked Denny and surrendered the run on a Coleman single with two outs. After a silent eighth, the tying run would come to bat against lefty closer Quinn MacCarthy in the ninth thanks to singles by Yoshi and Nunley. There were however two outs and Zach Graves was not the best matchup here. Thankfully we still had Eddie Jackson on the bench! Unfortunately, he struck out. 7-4 Loggers. Nunley 2-4, BB, 3B, RBI; Stevenson 3-4;

We walked eleven in this game, which is pretty gross. Well, Garrett is pretty gross.

And tragic, too.

Game 3
POR: LF Spencer – 2B Nomura – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – C Olivares – SS Bullock – RF Ochoa – CF Metts – P Martinez
MIL: 2B Tadlock – 3B A. Velez – CF Coleman – RF Gore – C Denny – 1B Gershkovich – SS Prince – LF Ray – P Foreman

Three singles, a walk, and a sac fly plated a pair for the Loggers off Ricky Martinez right in the first inning. Tim Prince, former Raccoon for no reason I could remember right now, and batting .190 entering the game, grounded out to Yoshi Nomura to strand a pair. Danny Ray’s leadoff single in the bottom 2nd and Ron Tadlock’s homer to right ran the score to 4-0, while Foreman sat down the Coons in order the first time through their lineup… While the Coons’ defense held Martinez in the game in the next innings, with Nunley grabbing a sharp Velez bouncer to turn it – just barely! – into the third out at first base instead of an RBI double up the line in the fourth, f.e.; Nunley was also the first Critter on base, although he reached on a Prince error at the start of the fifth inning. Olivares singled to right, putting runners on the corners before the bottom of the order made a complete dog’s dinner out of the scoring opportunity. Ochoa walked, the others just plainly failed, and Martinez struck out to strand three.

The Furballs tried to evaluate the young pitching they had ahead of the 2022 season; they could ill afford to remove their sucking rookies at the merest 5-run inconvenience, which was also why Martinez remained in the game after allowing another run in the fifth, and stuck around until he had allowed a full dozen base hits, the last two being singles by Coleman and Gore, both up the middle, both by a left-hander, and both to start the bottom 7th. Chun inherited runners on the corners with nobody down, struck out Denny, got Gershkovich to fly out softly to center where Dwayne Metts could keep the runners in check, and then faced the .167 batting embodiment of misery Tim Prince, who launched a 2-2 pitch over the fence in leftfield to completely tear out any guts I had left. By he eighth inning, even Noah Bricker was allowing leadoff singles to opposing pitchers, although Foreman would not score in the inning that was finished by Sugano in Bricker’s place. Top 9th, Yoshi hit a single to left off Foreman, which was the Coons’ third hit and the first not by Ezequiel Olivares. Of course, in an 8-0 game it hardly mattered, nonetheless because Dumbo Mendoza rumpled right into a double play to ****ing Tim Prince. Nunley grounded out and Foreman had a shutout on a 3-hitter. 8-0 Loggers. Olivares 2-3;

Well. At least we didn’t issue 11 walks…

Small steps! Rome wasn’t built in a day! WHERE ARE MY ****ING PILLS!!?!?

Game 4
POR: LF Spencer – 2B Nomura – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – RF Graves – C Parks – SS Bullock – CF Metts – P Toner
MIL: C Denny – SS Burns – CF Coleman – RF Gore – 1B Gershkovich – 2B Prince – 3B Pagan – LF Trevino – P Arevalo

It was a learning period for many on the team. While I was learning to appreciate a well-pitched loss (no, we hadn’t had one this week) as the lights were being dimmed in Portland, Jonny Toner was learning how to handle being a 2KK guy (which was noticeably different from being a KKK guy), and I was damn sure hoping Jarod Spencer would learn not to poke at 3-0 pitches when leading off an inning and TAKE THE ****ING WALK because I would otherwise break a metal rod over his ****ing skull. He grounded out to start the game, but Mike Denny, all 5’11’’ of veterancy, took the walk when Toner missed on a 3-1 pitch to begin his day. Of course this was a bad sign. How could it not be one? The next pitch drilled Kyle Burns pretty good, and after that the Loggers rapped off three straight RBI singles before Prince hit into a double play and Antonio Pagan grounded out. Nope, Jonny was going to pitch like ass for the umpteenth consecutive game. Coleman homered in the third, 4-0, and the Loggers hit another two hard base hits before Prince had another crucial strikeout to strand the runners. In contrast to that, Arevalo was perfect the first time through, and would spin the thread a bit further to retire the first 13 Raccoons that stepped into the box in the game. Zach Graves broke up the string with a soft single to left, after which Jalen Parks immediately and instinctively hit into a double play. The Raccoons were beyond hope or remedy, which included their starting pitcher. Toner lasted six innings, somehow, although they were god-awful and he issued three leadoff walks alone. Somehow he struck out nine, but apparently you can yank nine in a game and still suck catastrophically.

The Raccoons had two base runners in the seventh inning CONCURRENTLY; Yoshi drew a leadoff walk, the first walk given up by Arevalo, and Mendoza singled to right, the Critters’ second hit already in the contest. A double play couldn’t be far around the corner, and indeed, Nunley hit a sharp grounder right at Prince for two. Graves hit an RBI double, but he could shove it up beneath the base of his tail just as well… Parks continued a peak performance for a team rotten to the core with a pop out in foul ground, stranding Graves on second base. It was not Graves’ last time on second base in the game; he hit another double in the ninth inning against Arevalo, that one chasing Yoshi Nomura to third base and knocking out Arevalo with two outs. Go figure, the Raccoons’ formidable offense had been an out away from giving the opposing team consecutive complete games. Eddie Jackson batted for Will West in this spot and grounded to third, but Antonio Pagan’s error kept the game going as Yoshi scored. Bullock however had nothing better to do than to pop out behind home plate… 5-2 Loggers. Graves 3-4, 2 2B, RBI;

The Loggers had but nine hits while tearing Jonny a new asshole. All nine hits, three apiece, came out of the 3-4-5 spots, as well as all RBI’s.

Let’s get outta here, this place makes me sad.

Any place where you lot are makes me sad.

Raccoons (77-69) @ Bayhawks (68-78) – September 17-19, 2021

Why not be sad at the Bay for a weekend? Good thing was, we knew that Damani Knight would take the ball on Friday, so by default there was no hope to stop the most recent spill. As far as the Bayhawks were concerned, they were already eliminated and clonkering to some 85 losses, maybe a few more, maybe a few less. Nobody cared, and nobody would care for the Raccoons over the next few years, either. The miserable Critters had been slaughtered by San Fran in 2021, losing five of the six games so far to the team that was so average, it was really too dull to write any more words about it, except the horrendous bullpen, which had the worst ERA in the Continental League.

Projected matchups:
Damani Knight (0-0) vs. Colin Donaldson (6-4, 3.20 ERA)
Dave Dyer (2-5, 4.45 ERA) vs. Graham Wasserman (10-9, 3.17 ERA)
Travis Garrett (9-6, 4.29 ERA) vs. Joao Joo (10-10, 3.53 ERA)

Right-right-left. By the way, did you know that Damani Knight is not only 12-23 with a 5.16 ERA in the majors over his rugged career that keeps seeing him getting a check once in a while, but that he actually has losing records at every level of professional baseball there is?

Tremendous player material we have!

Game 1
POR: 2B Nomura – C Olivares – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – RF Jackson – LF Graves – SS Bullock – CF Stevenson – P Knight
SFB: LF R. Allen – 2B Claros – CF D. Garcia – 1B J. Gonzalez – RF R. Gomez – SS Sanks – 3B Light – C Frasier – P Donaldson

For a nice change, the Raccoons did not wait until the nineteenth inning to land a base hit; Olivares and Mendoza both hit singles in the first, but were of course left stranded. Without Damani Knight getting obliterated right in the first innings, which I had totally expected, and with one out in the third, the top of the order loaded the bases with one out on singles by Yoshi and Mendoza and a walk that Olivares drew. Nunley struck out in a full count for the second out, and while Eddie Jackson hit a ball to left, it was no challenge for Roger Allen and the Coons left them loaded.

Bottom 3rd, Craig Frasier hit a leadoff single off Knight, who pounced on Donaldson’s bunt and started a double play to clean up. The following inning the Bayhawks had their next leadoff single, this one by Raul Claros. Dave Garcia, for once healthy, doubled, putting runners in scoring position with nobody retired. Jon Gonzalez’ sac fly gave them the lead, and Shane Sanks’ infield single with two outs brought home Garcia. The scoring continued, because why wouldn’t it? Sean Light fooled Eddie Jackson, who ran in circles and still couldn’t prevent Light’s liner from falling in for an RBI triple. Frasier grounded out, but the Bayhawks were up 3-0.

In other words: ballgame. Yoshi hit a leadoff single in the fifth, but was swiftly doubled off on Olivares’ grounder, though in fact it had been ballgame as soon as Damani Knight stepped on a plane in St. Petersburg. We should rename him to Damani Ballgame. That would make his name more amazing, and his pitching neither more nor less awful than it already was. He hit a few batters in the middle innings, but we let him be. Nothing mattered anymore, not this season, nor any other, and if the Baybirds would decide that it was enough and would pick his eyes out we would at least be able to point fingers and call them naughty. Meanwhile, the sad Raccoons brought the tying run to the plate in both the sixth and seventh inning, the latter against the league-worst bullpen, but failed to get even one goodwill run across. Knight pitched seven and a third, drilling three, including Dave Garcia in the seventh to the mad dismay of the home crowd. He was ultimately kicked from the game on Carter Goehring’s single in the bottom 8th on his 107th pitch, but Joel Davis kept the man on base. The Raccoons managed to fake their last two innings while getting into the stadium’s trash cans a bit earlier than usual. 3-0 Bayhawks. Nomura 2-5; Mendoza 3-4;

This meant elimination despite the Loggers’ 8-7 loss in Tijuana. Oh well, we’d had it coming for three and a half months at least. I don’t even feel anything but the general burning sensation I’ve had in the liver area for three decades or so.

No, if the Bayhawks would have taken actual bats to Damani Knight’s actual head we would not have been able to collect insurance. You can’t get insurance for Damani Knight, just like you can’t get insurance for 15ft of used toilet paper.

Game 2
POR: 2B Nomura – C Olivares – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – RF Graves – LF Spencer – SS Bullock – CF Petracek – P Dyer
SFB: LF R. Allen – 2B Claros – CF D. Garcia – 1B J. Gonzalez – RF R. Gomez – SS Sanks – 3B Light – C Gerwig – P Wasserman

The Raccoons had the first threat in the game, getting Nunley and Graves on base with singles to lead off the second inning. Nunley never advanced another foot, let alone 180, with Spencer popping out, Bullock whiffing, and Petracek grounding out Raul Claros. But no, it was the other team again to score first, and score at all. Shane Sanks bombed Dave Dyer for a 430-footer in the second inning, sending San Fran up 1-0, in an instance of a terrible batter (.189) coming out on top of a terrible pitcher (4.35 ERA and rising fast again). The Birds dropped another three base hits and a run on Dyer in the third inning, while the Raccoons amounted to only three base hits in the first five innings against Wasserman. Dumbo Mendoza was not doing a lick at the plate, then also helped burying the Raccoons in the field, committing a terrible throwing error on Claros’ grounder leading off the fifth inning. That put a runner on second base with no outs, which was soon enough a runner on third base with nobody out when Dave Garcia tripled to center. Amazingly, Garcia never scored. Jon Gonzalez grounded out to Yoshi and somehow Garcia wouldn’t go, Dyer struck out Rafael Gomez, and Shane Sanks flew out to Graves in right.

Neither team managed to turn a 4-pitch leadoff walk into a run in the sixth inning, and the Critters, down 3-0, certainly could have used to get Yoshi around to score. The Birds left Sean Light on base even though Dyer fudged with Wasserman’s bunt for an error. Allen struck out, and Claros bounced out to Yoshi, which was also the last action for Dyer, who went six ****ty innings in 106 pitches. Zach Graves hit a leadoff single in the seventh, never got off first, and Dwayne Metts pinch-hit for another leadoff single in the eighth against Wasserman. That was in Evan Carrell’s place in the #9 hole, and Yoshi followed it up with a drive up the leftfield line that went past Roger Allen eventually for a double. Nobody out, the tying run in the box in a 3-0 game, SURELY THIS WAS THEIR TIME TO SCORE NOW. Olivares struck out before the Bayhawks dove into their bullpen, throwing left-hander Matt Collins at Mendoza, who bounced out to first uselessly as usual, while Matt Nunley would see a different left-hander in Francisquo Bocanegra. Nothing against Matt, but maybe this was the right time to send Eddie Jackson. So we did, Jackson doubled to center and scored a pair, after which Parks batted for Graves, also doubled to center to tie the game, but was then left on by Spencer.

Tied in the ninth, Daniel Bullock hit a leadoff single up the middle off Tony Harrell, then narrowly stole second base. Petracek struck out, but Metts doubled up the line and drove home Bullock with the go-ahead run. The Bayhawks walked Yoshi intentionally, then PH Danny Ochoa unintentionally, setting up Dumbo Mendoza for a double play. However, Harrell had lost directions by now. He walked Mendoza with the bases loaded, shoving across an insurance run, before Jackson hit into a double play. The 5-3 lead was handed to Brett Lillis after we briefly worried we had forgotten to even bring him here. We better should have; Lillis walked Allen, drilled Claros, and then allowed base hits to Garcia and Gonzalez to lose the game. 6-5 Bayhawks. Nomura 2-3, 2 BB, 2B; Jackson (PH) 1-2, 2B, 2 RBI; Graves 2-3; Parks (PH) 1-1, 2B, RBI; Metts (PH) 2-2, 2B, RBI; Dyer 6.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K;

(tries to choke an imaginary player in thin air)

(sinks onto a stool, weeping)

Game 3
POR: 2B Spencer – SS Bullock – 3B Nunley – RF Jackson – LF Graves – C Parks – CF Stevenson – 1B Petracek – P Garrett
SFB: LF R. Allen – 2B Claros – CF D. Garcia – 1B J. Gonzalez – RF R. Gomez – SS Sanks – 3B Light – C Gerwig – P Joo

Outrageously, the Raccoons scored first, even though Nunley hit into a double play after the rookies put out two singles to begin the game. Eddie Jackson’s 2-out single to left scored Spencer to spot Garrett a 1-0 lead, and while I had no doubt that Garrett could turn that into something tragic, tragedy was on the Bayhawks to begin with as with Petracek on first base in the second inning and two outs, Sean Light botched Garrett’s weak grounder for an error, after which Joo succumbed to three straight singles, a walk, and then another single to the top five in the Raccoons’ order. In total, five runs scored, all unearned, giving them a 6-0 lead.

And here came Garrett. The bottom 2nd saw him walk Jon Gonzalez to get started, and soon enough the Bayhawks had him in the wringer. Gomez flew out to right, but Sanks drew another walk. Sean Light singled, loading the bases with one out, and Zachary Gerwig’s sac fly put the Bayhawks on the board. Now, here it was 6-1 with two on and two outs and so far nothing major terrible had happened. You ARE allowed to allow a run or two once in a while even while I am watching. But you are NOT allowed to walk the ****ing opposing pitcher. The free pass to Joo loaded them up, and then Allen drew another walk to push in a run. Claros singled to score another two runs before Garcia struck out to end the inning, with the Bayhawks back in a 6-4 game, and it was only the second inning. ****ing Travis Garrett had walked four in the inning.

Garrett reached on an error for the second time in the third inning, this time with Joo as the guilty part, making a poor throw on Garrett’s bunt with Stevenson (walk) and Petracek (infield single) on base and nobody out. The bases were loaded for Spencer, who jacked a ball to Light for a 5-4-3 double play while a run scored, the sixth unearned run on Joo in the contest. Bullock struck out, leaving Petracek on third base in a 7-4 game. The Critters had another run and another double play against Edwin Silva in the fourth inning, while Garrett was bombed by Gerwig leading off the bottom 4th, 8-5. Garrett struck out the next three batters and tried to hang on, but after Jon Gonzalez hit a double, Garrett drilled Shane Sanks with two down in the fifth and the tying run was at the plate, and it was all too much to watch. Garrett, who had walked five in another dismal outing, was yanked, and Joel Davis got a pop from Light to end the inning. The sixth saw Jackson hit into a double play to erase Nunley, but in the seventh the Critters tacked on a run as Stevenson singled with two outs, stole second, and came home on Petracek’s single.

Bottom 7th, Will West got one out from four batters, allowing a leadoff single to Garcia, was lucky that Gonzalez’ drive was caught on the track by Graves, then walked Gomez and allowed an RBI double to Sanks. The tying run was in the box yet again in a 9-6 effort, but as West got yanked, Light and Gerwig got brickered to end the inning. But as Good could only exist in a vacuum and never in the real world, Tyler Gooch’s pinch-hit homer off Bricker in the eighth still got the Bayhawks ever closer, 9-7 after eight. The Raccoons were retired 1-2-3 in the ninth by Matt Collins, and lacking any better clue, the Critter Crew was back with Brett Lillis for the ninth inning, a closer with seven losses that radiated confidence, but this time the Bayhawks’ 4-5-6 batters failed to reach base at all. 9-7 Coons. Spencer 2-5, RBI; Bullock 2-5, RBI; Nunley 3-4, BB, 2 RBI; Jackson 2-4, BB, RBI; Petracek 3-4, RBI;

In other news

September 16 – The Scorpions, defending champions, wrap up the FL West with a 2-1 win over the Wolves, sealing the division with a whopping 16 games to play. This will mark their tenth playoff appearance, and the third consecutive.
September 19 – PIT RF/LF Mike Bednarski (.285, 11 HR, 70 RBI) is out for the season with a strained rib cage muscle.

Complaints and stuff

Alfred Jarry would have been proud of the Raccoons’ formidable performance of Ubu in Chains this week, although perhaps they pursued their imagination of anti-baseball with a wee bit too much grandeur, not scoring for approximatey 6,000 consecutive innings while the pitching was outright a delight – for the teams they visited. Jarry died at 34, ruining his physique by routinely drinking ether. I think I have done things wrong all this time.

The Alley Cats won their division, becoming the first Raccoons farm outlet to make their league’s playoffs in eight years. In the end they distanced Chula Vista and Cumming by four games each. They will face the Newark Whitewings in the first round of the playoffs, the Scorpions’ AAA affiliate.

We haven’t had the most amazing time in the last few years, always falling short by varying degrees of agony, but did you know that the Raccoons will continue to have the second-most playoff appearances after the Thunder with 11, and that they are actually the franchise with the fourth-most regular season wins? The Thunder and Stars are #2 and #3, but you will never guess #1.

The Warriors.

ABL CAREER STRIKEOUT LEADERS
56th – Whit Reeves – 2,081 – HOF
57th – Paul Miller – 2,078
58th – Chris O’Keefe – 2,060
59th – Juichi Fujita – 2,046
60th – Parker Montgomery – 2,044 – HOF
61st – Jonathan Toner – 2,018 – active
62nd – Alfredo Rios – 2,015
63rd – Fernando Cruz – 2,002 – active
64th – Manuel Hernandez – 1,997

Whit Reeves is a Hall of Famer that was a 5-time All Star and the 2000 Pitcher of the Year with the Scorpions of the Federal League, but would have all his lasting success with the Crusaders in the Continental League, taking part in their first three-peat from 2007 through 2009. While he technically also has a ring from the 1995 Scorpions’ championship season, he was only a rookie dangling off the rear of the bandwagon back then, but was really front and center of the Crusaders in their title years, going 48-20 in the regular season over the three seasons. He led the Federal League in ERA once. His career came to an abrupt end in 2010 after he injured his shoulder and never came back from that, retiring at 35. Overall, he ended up 209-124 with a 3.38 ERA and was elected to the Hall of Fame on his fourth ballot in 2019.

It is amazing and bewildering in equal amounts how our rotation went from Toner-Santos-Abe and whatever we could cram in the rear of them to Toner sitting sadly on my couch in full uniform with three kits climbing all over him, with one trying to get on top of his head and dangerously close to accidentally scratching Jonny’s eyes out, and another full grown coon lying cluelessly on his back on the spot next to Toner. Preserve that picture, because I don’t think it will make it onto the cover of our yearbook.

I don’t think we should even print a yearbook. It’s 2021. Books are of the past. No thought too complicated to be crammed into 140 characters is worth thinking anymore.
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Old 11-20-2017, 09:20 AM   #2404
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Raccoons (78-71) vs. Falcons (76-72) – September 20-22, 2021

Both teams were very much playing out the string, and both tried to avoid the embarrassment of dropping down to .500 this late in the season. The Coons had taken four of six from the Falcons so far, with the Charlotte team second in offense in the Continental League, but very much the subject to morbid and useless pitching. They had the second-worst rotation, and while their bullpen was good, it had a hard time containing all the damage.

Projected matchups:
Ricky Martinez (2-4, 3.67 ERA) vs. Kyle Anderson (8-1, 3.26 ERA)
Jonathan Toner (16-9, 3.78 ERA) vs. Brian Benjamin (8-12, 4.82 ERA)
Damani Knight (0-1, 3.68 ERA) vs. Denzel Durr (10-12, 3.73 ERA)

We will get to see three right-handers. Anderson is interesting; the seventh overall pick in the 2017 draft, he is a 22-year old rookie from Louisiana who started the season in the pen but moved to the rotation in the summer. His strikeouts are quite low (5.3/9), but he is not getting hurt by the long ball, pitching finely to the corners. Will be interesting to see what he does to our poor youngsters.

Game 1
CHA: 2B Good – 3B Czachor – 1B Fowlkes – CF Feldmann – RF Benson – LF M. Owen – C W. Garza – SS Tanaka – P K. Anderson
POR: 2B Nomura – LF Spencer – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – C Parks – RF Graves – SS Bullock – CF Stevenson – P Martinez

Anderson nibbled the corners for five base hits in the first inning, starting with a Yoshi double and then singles by Mendoza and Nunley, a Graves double, and finally another single by Bullock. The latter three all drove in a run each for a 3-0 lead in support of Ricky Martinez. The Critters wouldn’t get another hit until the fourth inning, but in the meantime Martinez was pitching a very neat game. The Falcons had two men on in the first, one in the second, and then were turned away for the next few innings, while a K to Willie Garza in the fourth gave Martinez 50 strikeouts for the season and four in this game. Portland tacked on a run in the bottom 5th, which also started with a double by Yoshi Nomura, just over the head of Travis Benson. After groundouts by Jarod Spencer and Dumbo Mendoza, Matt Nunley singled to right center for his second ribbie of the night. Benson would be the Falcons’ next base runner, hitting a 1-out single in the seventh inning. It was their first appearance on base since the second inning. Disappointingly, Martinez got stuck right there. After Matt Owen’s groundout, he yielded the run on 2-out singles by Garza and Ryozo Tanaka, then was removed for Joel Davis when the Falcons sent a right-handed pinch-hitter in Franklin Velasquez. Davis had him at 2-2, but then allowed an RBI single to left. Matt Good struck out, though. Bottom 7th, left-hander J.J. Rodd pitching; he allowed a leadoff single to Spencer, who stole his eighth base of the season. Mendoza was then walked intentionally and Nunley hit into a double play as Spencer moved to third. Jalen Parks got plunked, after which Eddie Jackson batted for Zach Graves for a platoon advantage, drove a ball to deep left, but couldn’t beat Matt Owen’s range and made the final out, keeping it to 4-2 Coons.

Martinez’ nice start finally became untethered in the eighth inning. With Noah Bricker unavailable, Cory Dew got the assignment for the all-right-handed 2-3-4 batters in the Falcons’ lineup. He walked Ryan Czachor to begin the inning, then got blasted by Pat Fowlkes, who hit a ball well over the fence in leftfield, thus tying the score at four. The dang bullpen was cocking it up once more. In the ninth, Jason Kaiser removed the first two batters with strikeouts before allowing a single to pinch-hitting switch-hitter Rick Farmer. Matt Good drove a ball to right for a double. Farmer was sent by the Falcons, but thrown out at home on Yoshi’s relay from Danny Ochoa. There would be a happy end to the game after this near-miss; Mendoza drew a 1-out walk in the bottom 9th, and Nunley dropped a roller near the third-base line that was not playable for either Czachor or replacement catcher Matt Vanderzee. Nunley had his third single, and it was crucial to the game. Jalen Parks turned around an 0-2 pitch by Gregg Bell for a single to right, and Mendoza scored comfortably ahead of Benson’s throw – it’s a walkoff! 5-4 Raccoons. Nomura 2-5, 2 2B; Nunley 3-5, 2 RBI; Graves 1-2, 2B, RBI; Stevenson 2-3, BB; Martinez 6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K;

It is hard to blame Cory Dew. When we traded for him, he already had 38 innings on his odometer. He’s at 67.2 now. At some point you are not sharp anymore. I think it’s safe to say that he will be an integral part of the bullpen next season and then we can gauge his real value.

There is no point in trading Dew, who is only 24 and was the one trade the Coons did in an attempt to better their fate before it call came crashing down for good. The beautiful part is that due to his young age and his convincing arsenal he is part of a rebuild at the same time.

Game 2
CHA: 2B Good – RF Benson – 1B Fowlkes – C T. Robinson – 3B Czachor – CF J. Stephenson – LF M. Clark – SS Tanaka – P Benjamin
POR: 2B Nomura – LF Spencer – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – C Parks – RF Graves – SS Bullock – CF Stevenson – P Toner

Things had been nothing but ghastly for Toner in the last few weeks, with him allowing three or more runs in five of his last seven starts. But he had alternated wins and losses for over a month, and as he had lost to the Loggers in his previous outing, he was due a win here. Also this: Jonny had not pitched for a no-decision in a game (outside the All Star Game) since *July 2*. You couldn’t say that was good for his bottom line, since he was only 7-6 in the 13 starts since then…

Toner struck out two in the first inning, but also allowed an unearned run. A terrible throw to third base by Zach Graves allowed Travis Benson, who had walked, to score on Fowlkes’ nominally trivial single to right. This was the beginning of a mess that would soon deepen, with the Falcons scoring another run in the second, this one earned, thanks to Jeremy Stephenson leading off with a double to right. Toner also issued another walk, this one with two outs to Matt Good, and was generally not very efficient. We might also want to stop measuring his value in strikeouts, because he struck out seven in three innings and still couldn’t buy a break.

Neither could the Raccoons’ offense. They had no hits against Benjamin the first time through the order, and only dropped in a single each in the third and fourth innings. Stevenson’s 1-out triple in the bottom 5th was their first serious challenge to score. When Toner walked, the tying runs were on base for Yoshi, who hit to Good for a double play. The old Jonny Toner, the one that didn’t create constant panic on the bases, never showed up. While Toner lasted for eight innings and struck out *14*, he also kept running 3-ball counts, walked three, and drilled a pair between the seventh and eighth innings. He also never got any support from the team. Their offensive effort in the last two innings amounted to an infield single, which by definition was a grounder that didn’t escape the infield, and six more grounders that didn’t escape the infield and were turned into actual outs. 2-0 Falcons. Spencer 2-4; Toner 8.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 14 K, L (16-10);

Sadness.

Game 3
CHA: 2B Good – RF Benson – 1B Fowlkes – CF Feldmann – C T. Robinson – 3B Czachor – LF Haines – SS Tanaka – P Durr
POR: 2B Nomura – C Olivares – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – RF Jackson – LF Graves – SS Bullock – CF Metts – P Knight

Damani Knight incurred a deficit right in the first on Tim Robinson’s 2-out RBI single, although maybe not drilling Ryan Feldmann with Travis Benson on first would have helped him out a wee bit there. Knight walked the pitcher in the second in front of a dismayed crowd that at best was 40% capacity, but at least the Coons tied the game in the bottom 2nd on singles by Nunley, who advanced to second on Jackson’s grounder, and Graves. A 1-1 tie however was easy to break. Knight walked Benson to start the third, then got bombed by Fowlkes to fall behind 3-1. Nunley walked in the bottom 4th and scored again, this time on a double by Daniel Bullock, shortening the deficit to 3-2. Here, the Falcons tried to be smart and walked Dwayne Metts intentionally, although there was probably not much difference in the batting prowesses of Metts and any random pitcher. Two out, two on, Knight grounded to left, Ryan Czachor botched the ball, and the bases were loaded for Yoshi. The hitter of doubles didn’t get anything to really hit, and walked on five pitches, which pushed in the tying run. The Coons took a 5-3 lead with Olivares’ single to left center, after which Czachor couldn’t play another grounder that left Mendoza with a charitable infield single, loading the bases once more. Nunley hit a ball into the gap in left center, but couldn’t beat Ryan Feldmann, who hustled over to make a strong catch, ending the inning.

Knight was instantly in the mix to blow the lead in the fifth, allowing a single to Benson and a double to Fowlkes (that was close to not clang off the fence, but go over it yet again). Feldmann scored a run with a groundout, 5-4, and Robinson flew out to center. Fowlkes went, Metts fired, Fowlkes was tagged out at home plate by a whisker’s width. Inning over. The Falcons would take the lead in the sixth instead, DESPITE making two outs on the base paths. Czachor opened with a triple to left, and scored on Ryan Haines’ double. That was the curtain call for Knight, who was replaced by Evan Carrell, who allowed a single to left to Tanaka, but Haines was thrown out at the plate. Tom Thomas walked in the #9 hole, putting two on in a 5-5 game briefly before Tanaka was caught trying to nip third base. Thomas moved up, however, then scored on Matt Good’s single up the middle.

Bottom 6th, Yoshi drew a leadoff walk from right-hander Jose Menendez, who then threw away Olivares’ grounder, putting two on. Dumbo Mendoza popped out, because why not? The Coons dingled themselves out of the inning without scoring, and trailed 6-5 into the seventh. Doubles by Feldmann and Czachor lengthened the hook that Evan Carrell dangled from to 7-5. In the bottom of the inning, Menendez still pitching, Bullock and Parks hit 2-out singles, but Bullock hurt himself and had to be run for by Spencer. Stevenson walked in the #9 hole, filling the bags for Yoshi, hitter of doubles. He didn’t quite come up with a double, but at least hit an RBI single, 7-6, before Olivares popped out poorly to Good. The Falcons pulled the one run right back in the eighth with leadoff doubles by Tanaka and Farmer off Chun, but the teams weren’t quite done stumbling over one another. Graves led off the bottom 9th with a double, presenting the bottom of the order with being the tying runs and nobody out against Dusty Balzer. Spencer struck out. Prieto struck out. Stevenson struck out. 8-6 Falcons. Graves 2-5, 2B, RBI; Bullock 2-4, 2B, RBI; Parks (PH) 1-1;

At this point, the Alley Cats were up 2-0 in their best-of-five against the Whitewings, and that on the strength of 5-0 and 11-0 shutouts, Ryan Nielson and Jesus Chavez doing the honors.

The Raccoons would have to play their last ten games without .248 poker Daniel Bullock, who had broken a rib in the Wednesday game and would end the year on the DL.

Since I still didn’t want to interfere with the Alley Cats’ playoff run, no promotion from that team was made. Jarod Spencer could plug the hole at short. I am sure we can scrape by on just four-and-a-half infielders for another ten games.

Raccoons (79-73) vs. Indians (72-80) – September 24-26, 2021

The Indians had nothing to play for anymore, either. They were another team from the mold that had also born the Falcons, quite good in offense (4th in runs scored), but in the bottom three in pitching with a horror show in the bullpen in particular. They had still won eight games against the Raccoons so far, which was fitting as the season series had alternated in ownership for a while and the Raccoons would have to come up with an unlikely series sweep now to repeat their 10-8 success from last year.

Projected matchups:
Dave Dyer (2-5, 4.31 ERA) vs. Dan Lambert (13-7, 3.45 ERA)
Travis Garrett (9-6, 4.51 ERA) vs. Tristan Broun (11-10, 4.52 ERA)
Ricky Martinez (2-4, 3.59 ERA) vs. Killian Savoie (8-5, 4.16 ERA)

Another right-hander before we ostensibly finish the week against a pair of southpaws. It would not Savoie’s turn, who’s start got rained out on Tuesday, and with the off day on Thursday, they did not employ him at all in their Wednesday sweep of the double header against the Bayhawks, instead pitching Shane Baker (7-14, 4.52 ERA) and Tom Shumway (11-9, 4.07 ERA). Those two would both be on short rest on Sunday, so I expect Savoie to appear there after all.

Game 1
IND: CF D. Morales – 2B B. Reyes – RF C. Martinez – 1B M. Rucker – C J. White – LF Genge – SS Matias – 3B Rolland – P Lambert
POR: 2B Nomura – SS Spencer – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – RF Jackson – C Parks – LF Graves – CF Metts – P Dyer

Dyer walked two and struck out five the first time through the Indians’ lineup. The walks came with nobody out in the second, Mike Rucker and Jamal White reaching base. Dyer struck out Lowell Genge and Raul Matias before Jaylen Rolland’s grounder eluded Dumbo Mendoza. Rucker, slow, had to hold, though, and Lambert went down on strikes to end the inning with the bases loaded. The Raccoons started the bottom 2nd with singles by Jackson and Parks. Graves grounded into a fielder’s choice, presenting Dwayne Metts with runners on the corners. His fly to left center was readily caught by Genge, but Jackson made for home and narrowly scored with the first run of the game before Dyer struck out. Danny Morales and Bob Reyes opened the top 3rd with singles then, but the Indians played themselves out of it with a grounder to third by Cesar Martinez that Nunley took for an out to second base, keeping the double play in order that Rucker promptly hit into.

Bottom 3rd; for the fourth straight half-inning, a team got its first two batters on base. Yoshi singled through the right side of the infield, while Spencer hit a double to center. Dumbo Mendoza had one RBI in ten days and was consistently lowering his worth in prospects, but accidentally drilled a 1-2 pitch by Lambert and hit a home run to right center, upping the score to 4-0. Jamal White opened the fourth with a double, but Genge struck out, ending the weird two on, no outs streak in the game. Matias’ RBI double got the Indians on the board, but they left their shortstop on base in the inning. The Coons, however, weren’t done with the early assaults on Lambert. Bottom 4th, Graves singled, Metts doubled. Dave Dyer came to the plate and hit a liner to right center, which eluded Martinez and fell for a 2-run double! Lambert was gone in due time, and Alfredo Morua stranded Dyer on base in the 6-1 game.

But Dyer, as good as he had been (more or less) so far, couldn’t get through five innings. He allowed a walk and two 2-out hits in the fifth, and after Jamal White’s RBI single to center was completely gassed on 107 pitches. Sugano replaced him to face Genge and hung him with a K to protect a 6-2 lead. With both starters out of the game, proceedings cooled off remarkably. There was a double off Dew in the sixth, the Coons walked twice in the bottom 7th, but there was no more panic at the discotheque, much less crying. Dew, Davis, Bricker, and Chun pitched scoreless innings in order, and the Indians’ pen also held up and was not tagged with a run. 6-2 Coons. Nomura 2-5; Mendoza 2-3, BB, HR, 3 RBI; Jackson 2-3, BB; Parks 2-4;

As usual, nothing I say has any value: the Indians sent Killian Savoie into the middle game.

Game 2
IND: CF D. Morales – 2B B. Reyes – RF C. Martinez – 1B M. Rucker – C J. White – LF Genge – SS Matias – 3B Rolland – P Savoie
POR: 2B Nomura – SS Spencer – 1B Mendoza – RF Jackson – LF Graves – C Olivares – CF Stevenson – 3B Petracek – P Garrett

Mike Rucker chucked his 36th long ball of the season right in the first inning, cashing in Bob Reyes’ walk for a quick 2-0 lead on “Tragic” Garrett. The middle of the order would also slap three singles off Garrett in the fourth to plate another run, at which point the Raccoons were still hit- and clueless. Mendoza knocked a single to left with one out in the bottom 4th, after which Eddie Jackson’s 3-1 count led to a grounder to short and a quick end to the slightest shimmer of offense at the horizon. On to the sixth swiftly, where Rucker and White hit 2-out singles against Garrett, but were stranded when Lowell Genge struck out. And this paragraph actually contained ALL the base hits in an incredibly dull game from the home crowd’s perspective so far.

What was a near-decent outing by Garrett through six turned very much into a pile of poo in the seventh when he walked the #7 and #8 batters to get the inning underway. The Indians left Savoie in to bunt and would only get one run on Danny Morales’ groundout, but it still pushed Garrett to another 4-run outing, his third in a row. Jackson walked in the bottom 7th, after which Graves sent a drive to deep right, but things just could not pan out anymore. Martinez made the catch near the fence, and while a Bob Reyes error added a second runner to the bases in Olivares, Stevenson shyly grounded out to end the inning. Garrett’s outing ended with Spencer’s error putting Martinez on base to start the eighth inning. Kaiser took over, walked the two left-handers he faced (Rucker and Genge), while getting a double play grounder from White in between. Joel Davis appeared to pitch to Matias with runners on the corners, but Matias would slay the Coons once more and bombed Davis for 380 feet to left. This gave the Indians enough leeway to stick with Savoie even as he crossed 100 pitches, but he kept ticking runners off. He walked Edwin Prieto with one out in the eighth, but Yoshi reliably hit into a double play. It was the last runner against Savoie, who walked four, but allowed only a single hit in a complete game shutout. 7-0 Indians.

(unidentifiable wincing sounds)

Game 3
IND: CF D. Morales – 2B B. Reyes – C J. White – RF C. Martinez – 1B M. Rucker – SS Matias – LF Otero – 3B Rolland – P Broun
POR: LF Carmona – RF Jackson – 1B Mendoza – C Parks – 3B Nunley – SS Spencer – CF Stevenson – 2B Petracek – P R. Martinez

Fresh off the DL, Cookie hit a single in the first inning before being washed up in Jackson’s double play grounder to short. The first run of the game would still be the Coons’, Stevenson outracing Matias’ return throw after grounding to Reyes with runners on the corners and one out, allowing Jalen Parks to score in the bottom of the second inning. For the Indians, Rucker grounded into a double play in the second, Broun bunted into one in the third, but when Ricky Martinez walked his namesake Cesar in the top 4th with two outs, there was no double play to hit into anymore for Rucker, so he shrugged and belched his 37th home run of the year, in doing so flipping the score in the Arrowheads’ favor, 2-1.

The Coons were taking their turns at-bat without great excitement, neither shown nor generating it. Spencer got on in the fifth, then was swiftly caught stealing. The Indians had a chance to put the game away in the sixth inning, with Danny Morales hitting a leadoff single in a full count before Martinez lost Reyes to a walk on five pitches, but Spencer caught TWO liners by White and Martinez before Rucker popped out to him.

Bottom 8th, the Coons still down 2-1 and not really making waves at the plate for the second consecutive game. Stevenson drew a leadoff walk from Broun, which was rousing success compared to what they had done the last few innings. But neither could Stevenson get a good jump, nor could Petracek get a bunt down. At 1-2, he was to swing away, and hit a soft liner over Matias for a single. Okay, two on, no outs. Olivares had entered the #9 hole in a double switch in the previous half-inning and hit a 2-2 pitch to right center. A.J. Faulk cut it off before it could reach the gap, but it was an RBI single anyway, tying the score at two and bringing up Cookie with the go-ahead run on third base. Petracek scored on a single to left, and the Coons were on top, while Broun was gone, replaced by left-hander Mike Tharp, although Jackson was to bat now. The gamble worked, though, with Jackson hitting into another double play. Mendoza got hit, bringing up… Brett Lillis. He was the player that Olivares had entered the game with in the top of the eighth. We had the lead, we had the closer in the game. Swing away, Brett! Hit it all you can! He struck out. Well, at least he retired the Indians 1-2-3 in the ninth… 3-2 Critters. Carmona 2-4, RBI; Spencer 2-3; Olivares 1-1, RBI; Lillis 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K, W (4-7);

In other news

September 20 – The Scorpions will have to go to the playoffs without their young phenom INF Trey Rock (.312, 2 HR, 66 RBI) who will have to rehabilitate for months with torn foot tendons.
September 21 – ATL SP Leon Hernandez (19-6, 3.31 ERA) 3-hits the Titans in a 9-0 shutout.
September 22 – The league has another 20-game hitting streak, as NAS C Armando Leal (.269, 10 HR, 75 RBI) reaches the mark with an RBI double in the Blue Sox’ 3-2 loss to the Gold Sox.
Sepembers 22 – The Scorpions lose another youngster prior to the playoffs, with rookie CF Justin McAllester (.306, 3 HR, 33 RBI) suffering an oblique strain, which considerably taints their 16-8 shootout win with the Rebels in which they have four players (Dan Dalton, Doug Stross, Jason LaCombe, John Byrd) with three hits, and another 2B Ben Markel (.264, 2 HR, 27 RBI) with two hits and five RBI.
September 22 – LAP INF Nick Herman’s (.298, 6 HR, 73 RBI) season ends with a sprained ankle.
September 24 – The best team in baseball keeps falling apart. The Scorpions place LF/RF Pablo Sanchez (.409, 10 HR, 112 RBI) on the disabled list with an oblique strain. He is out for the year.
September 24 – Bayhawks and Falcons play ten scoreless innings before the Bayhawks pile up a walk and three singles in the top 11th to win 2-0.
September 25 – In the quirky performance of the year, ATL LF/RF Johnny Stuckey (.380, 5 HR, 21 RBI) knocks five hits in a 16-1 thrashing of the Condors. All of the rookie’s hits are for extra bases, and with one home run, one triple, and three doubles, he misses the cycle by the single. Stuckey drove in three with his performance.

Complaints and stuff

Poor Scorpions. That one is hard to watch…

The Alley Cats beat the Whitewings in four games by Saturday, and will play in the AAA championship series next week. They will face the Corpus Christi Whitefish in the best-of-seven set, the Knights’ AAA affiliate.

Apparently the league changed the initially unearned run in the first inning on Tuesday to an earned one, arguing that Tim Robinson’s fly out would have scored Benson anyway. Well, whatever the heck pleases you lot in New York – it’s not like Jonny was competing for a triple crown this year. This is also the first season in which he’s run up double-digit losses. His previous season-high for losses was nine, incurred in 2017 when he had a 1.94 ERA. Yes, that’s across a full season, and it was enough to win Pitcher of the Year honors.

In fact, Toner’s 18-9 campaign in 2017 saw him as the first hurler to lose at least nine games and win Pitcher of the Year in the Continental League since Tony Hamlyn went 21-9 with a 2.16 ERA a whopping 15 years earlier. Double-digit losers won the CL POTY five times in total, with an all-time high of 11 losses for a Pitcher of the Year winner. And that was a Raccoon! Who could that have been, prior to 2002 even? Can’t have been Brownie, and Kisho Saito never won the POTY award! Saito is close, but no cigar – it was Kinji Kan in 1983, a.k.a. the year of Yes, Portland Exists.

Kan went 17-11 with a 2.02 ERA that year, and his 17 wins remained a low mark for POTY winners in the CL for decades, tied only twice (including by Nick Brown in 2009) until broken by an ex-Raccoon in 2011. Oklahoma’s Antonio Donis won his third POTY with a 16-8, 2.74 ERA campaign at age 39.

Random Did You Know: … that Bobby Quinn had a 21-game hitting streak while playing for the 1992 Raccoons?
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Old 11-22-2017, 04:20 PM   #2405
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As the season enters its final week, the FL East has five teams separated by half a game. Advantage Cincy and Richmond, who both have games with the Buffaloes left, who are almost at 100 losses and the lone team not in the mix. There is a third team with a game with the Buffaloes left: the Blue Sox will play a makeup game with them on the next Monday (so after the nominal end of the regular season) that could turn out to be very meaningful.

Raccoons (81-74) @ Crusaders (73-82) – September 27-30, 2021

This was a meaningless series for everybody involved, with the Raccoons having to take on the late-surging Crusaders, who were on a 5-game winning streak. The season series stood 9-5 in the Critters’ favor, and if they won another game, this would extend a string of the season series winner alternating between the two teams to five years. The Crusaders had scored the second-fewest runs in the Continental League, while they had allowed the sixth-fewest.

Projected matchups:
Jonathan Toner (16-10, 3.72 ERA) vs. Hwa-pyung Choe (5-10, 3.66 ERA)
Damani Knight (0-1, 5.84 ERA) vs. Alejandro Mendez (16-6, 2.89 ERA)
Dave Dyer (2-5, 4.28 ERA) vs. Cody Zimmerman (12-12, 3.65 ERA)
Travis Garrett (9-7, 4.55 ERA) vs. Tim Dunn (14-10, 2.97 ERA)

Two right, two left, and probably drop a few. Toner vs. Choe is a matchup that has routinely not worked out for us in the past, which is tremendously sad. But what isn’t with this team?

Game 1
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – C Parks – RF Graves – SS Spencer – CF Stevenson – P Toner
NYC: 3B Schmit – SS D. Stephenson – 2B S. Valdez – C J. Vargas – 1B Perkins – RF Erickson – LF Peters – CF McCullough – P Choe

Jonny had a laborious first inning, with Devon Stephenson reaching on a Spencer error, but getting caught stealing, but then he walked both Sergio Valdez and Jose Vargas to create some nervousness in me. Josh Perkins grounded out to Nunley, though, and the game lacked scoring until the third inning, in which Toner drew a 1-out walk from Choe to join Spencer and his leadoff single on the bases. Cookie flew out to left in a 3-1 count, but Yoshi singled past Andy Schmit to score Spencer for the first run of the game. Choe ran a full count on Mendoza before getting bombed; Mendoza’s 32nd home run of the season upped the score to 4-0. The Crusaders didn’t reach base for a while after their three runners in the first inning. Vargas hit a deep drive in the fourth that Graves caught on the track, and they only got back on base when Chris Peters walked in the fifth, although that free pass also remained inconsequential. Jonny came up with a modest no-hit bid through six innings, but Vargas scorched a double into the right-center gap to begin the bottom 7th to break it up. Another error by Spencer put Josh Perkins on base and runners on the corners with nobody out. Of course there was no way to go but down from here. Max Erickson’s RBI single up the middle and Kevin McCullough’s sac fly scored runs, but the ultimate shame was Adam Young’s 2-out pinch-hit RBI single to left that cut the lead to 4-3 (of course the lazy Coons hadn’t done anything in the last four innings… why do you even ask!?) and knocked Toner from the game. Noah Bricker allowed a single to Schmit before getting pinch-hitter Ryan Vogel to ground out, finally. Vargas and Carlos Martinez hit doubles off Jason Kaiser in the eighth to tie the game, and Peters singled in the winning run against Seung-mo Chun. The twat Spencer singled in the ninth inning, but then was caught stealing. 5-4 Crusaders.

Six more games. Six more games. And then I don’t have to see their pathetic faces for six months. Come on. You can make it through six more games.

The Loggers wrapped up the division on Monday, beating the Titans 3-1 behind Victor Arevalo (11-12, 4.32 ERA). It’s Milwaukee’s fourth playoff season, and the second consecutive.

In the FL East, the Cyclones lost to the Buffaloes, 2-1, while the Blue Sox beat the Rebels, 7-1. With that, the 78-77 Blue Sox held a half game lead over four 78-78 teams.

Game 2
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – RF Graves – C Olivares – SS Spencer – CF Metts – P Knight
NYC: LF R. Miranda – 3B Schmit – 2B S. Valdez – 1B Perkins – RF Erickson – SS Doering – C Travis – CF McCullough – P A. Mendez

“Ant” Mendez allowed two singles to Nomura and Nunley in the first, but Zach Graves struck out so helplessly that I had to reconsider most of my life choices and in particular why he was even playing every day.Things went less swimmingly for Mendez in the second inning. Spencer got on with a 1-out single and reached second on Erickson’s error handling the single. Metts grounded out, moving up the runner, and then Damani Knight found a hole on the left side for a 2-out RBI single. Cookie walked, Yoshi singled, and with the bases loaded Mendoza hit a 2-run double to give the Critters a 3-1 lead, because of course Knight had allowed a run already. Rico Miranda and Andy Schmit had opened their day with hard singles, and Sergio Valdez had hit into a hard run-scoring double play. The score went to 3-2 quickly as well, with Erickson doubling off the wall in rightfield to begin the bottom 2nd and scoring on long fly outs to deep center by both Blake Doering and Jason Travis.

The Crusaders’ efforts in the following innings were ruined by another double play in the third, and then Valdez getting caught stealing after a leadoff single in the fourth. Knight was living on borrowed time and could use some more support, which was not coming forth. Mendoza and Olivares reached base in the top of the fifth, but were stranded when Spencer popped out. The bottom 5th saw Jason Travis hit a 1-out single, but Knight arrived at Mendez with two outs. “Ant” singled in a 2-strike count, which was so not okay it was hard to find words, and when Rico Miranda hacked himself out in a full count against Knight, I tended to blame it on the .221 batter with no particularly impressive hitting record even in the minor leagues. The Coons would not turn Dwayne Metts’ leadoff walk in the sixth into anything countable either, and so Andy Schmit’s leadoff jack tied the score in the bottom 6th. Knight walked Erickson with two outs in the inning, then got charged with the 26-year-old Doering’s first career homer, which was of the go-ahead variety and out of rightfield. Travis singled, finally ending the abysmal pitching display at least in nomine, but Schmit would hit another RBI double off Will West in the seventh inning. The Raccoons weren’t hitting anything, except maybe mental walls in their head in general, and Yoshi Nomura hit into a game-ending double play with Cookie on first in the ninth inning in particular. 6-3 Crusaders. Nomura 2-5; Mendoza 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI;

Well at least Dumbo is building some value late in the year…

The Blue Sox held on to their half game lead with a 10-1 rout of the Rebels, with Cincy (16-6 @ Topeka) and Pittsburgh (2-1 @ Washington) now their closest competitors. The Rebels and Capitals dropped to 1.5 games out.

Another win for the Blue Sox: ex-Coon SP Tadasu Abe (6-11, 4.74 ERA) strained a hamstring in the game and could hurt their chances no longer. He was done for the year, and his career was probably done as well.

In AAA news, the Alley Cats split their first two games in the championship series.

Game 3
POR: LF Carmona – 3B Nunley – RF Jackson – 1B Mendoza – C Olivares – SS Spencer – CF Stevenson – 2B Petracek – P Dyer
NYC: 3B Schmit – SS D. Stephenson – 2B S. Valdez – C J. Vargas – RF Erickson – LF Fitzgerald – 1B A. Young – CF McCullough – P Zimmerman

The Raccoons stranded another pair in the first inning, although to be fair after Nunley’s single Jackson should have hit into a double play. Schmit misfired the ball, though, putting two on to begin with. Mendoza’s pop and Olivares’ grounder to short were not helpful in exploiting the mistake. Schmit made up anyway, bombing Dyer in the Coons’ lobber’s first action of the game for a 1-0 Crusaders lead. It was 3-0 in a hurry on a single to left by Stephenson, then two doubles by Valdez and Vargas, the latter scoring both previous runners. In the second inning, Spencer and McCullough both hit leadoff doubles, and both would score on a sac fly, Petracek’s and Schmit’s respectively, to get the score to 4-1. Cookie singled, stole, and scored on two groundouts in the top 3rd, while Dyer struck Valdez to start the bottom half of the inning. Valdez was caught stealing while Vargas and Erickson struck out, and when Dyer came to bat with Spencer and Petracek on base and two outs in the fourth we should have hit for him, but didn’t. Dyer struck out, walked two in the bottom 4th and almost sunk for good on Schmit’s fly to right center, but Stevenson flew over into the gap just in time to nip the ball and end the inning.

The Crusaders stranded two more in the fifth when Mike Fitzgerald flew out to center with men on the corners, keeping the Crusaders’ lead at 4-2 through five although they should have led by half a dozen more or at least knocked Dyer from the game by now. The end for Dyer came in the sixth, and then it was his own fault, trying to throw out Kevin McCullough at second on Zimmerman’s 1-out bunt. He couldn’t, two were on, and Andy Schmit soon singled to center to plate New York’s fifth run. Dyer disappeared after walking Stephenson, leaving a bases-loaded mess to Jason Kaiser, who surrendered a 2-run single to Valdez on an 0-2 pitch, then a 2-run double to Vargas, and finally an RBI double to Erickson, which got the Crusaders into double digits. Kaiser would not retire anybody and yielded for Chun after the Erickson double, with Chun getting out of the inning, FINALLY. Through eight innings, the Raccoons had half the Crusaders’ runs in mere base hits, and basically did not take place at all anymore. Zach Graves hit a jack pinch-hitting for Stevenson with two outs in the ninth inning. Nobody cared. Zimmerman remained in the game, finishing it with a K to Danny Ochoa for a somewhat tainted 6-hitter. 10-3 Crusaders. Nunley 2-4; Spencer 2-4, 2B; Graves (PH) 1-1, HR, RBI; West 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K;

Nashville, Nashville in the East, with the Blue Sox squeezing through the Rebels, 7-6, on Wednesday to actually gain a 1.5 game lead since both of their closest challengers lost: Cincy dropped a 3-2 game to Topeka, and the Capitals put four early on the Miners’ Brian Cope and cruised to a 5-1 win. CIN, PIT, WAS are now all 1.5 games back; the Rebels are 2.5 out.

Game 4
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – RF Jackson – 1B Mendoza – C Parks – SS Spencer – CF Stevenson – 3B Petracek – P Garrett
NYC: LF R. Miranda – SS D. Stephenson – 2B S. Valdez – C J. Vargas – 1B Perkins – RF Erickson – 3B Schmit – CF McCullough – P T. Dunn

“Tragic” struck right in the first inning, allowing singles to Miranda and Stephenson, who pulled off a double steal before Garrett could finish his walk to Sergio Valdez. Three on, no outs, a livid pitching coach, and me mindlessly downing every alcoholic beverage I could get my paws on in the Raccoons’ suite with perfect view on the misery on the mound and around that mound. To my utmost surprise, the Crusaders didn’t score in the inning; Jose Vargas struck out flailing, and Perkins hit into a double play. Stuffed with a 2-0 lead after Josh Stevenson went yard with Spencer aboard in the second inning, Garrett continued to find trouble. In both the third and fourth innings, Yoshi Nomura turned double plays to end the inning with two men on base.

Top 5th, bases loaded for the Raccoons! Yoshi, Eddie, and Dumbo had hit 1-out singles in order, bringing up Parks with a full plate to indulge his masked face in. Maybe we had different concepts of indulging, though, because his grounder to third was barely enough to plate one run on the groundout, and Spencer’s grounder to short would not score anybody anymore in a 3-0 game. But with Garrett in the game, a 3-run lead was basically like being behind by two, and it usually wouldn’t take long for that state to be reached. Red alert sounded in the sixth, with Valdez’ leadoff single being followed by a clumsy walk to Vargas. The tying run came up in Perkins (16 HR), with more power behind him in Erickson (also 16 HR). Garrett struck out the former in a full count, but succumbed to the latter’s and Andy Schmit’s pair of RBI singles. Up a tender 3-2 and with runners on first and second, Joel Davis replaced him, struck out McCullough and when the Crusaders didn’t hit for Dunn, it was a mistake as he grounded out, then allowed 2-out singles to Jackson and Mendoza in the seventh, and the Crusaders still thought he had this, but Jalen Parks dished a 3-1 pitch up the leftfield line for a 2-run double to restore the Coons’ 3-run advantage. Dunn didn’t actually go away until after Spencer’s 2-out single and plating Parks with a wild pitch, 6-2, but no lead was safe for the Raccoons anymore. Joel Davis put the leadoff man Miranda on base with a single in the bottom 7th, and Sugano allowed an RBI double to Vargas to bring in the run, 6-3.

The game would not get into the books without some late panic. Bricker in the eighth did fine, but Lillis in the ninth ran into trouble once again. He walked Stephenson with one out after Miranda had opened the inning with a deep drive to left that Cookie SOMEHOW got paws on. Valdez grounded out, moving up the runner to where Vargas’ single to left center scored him. PH Carlos Martinez came up as the tying run, but like most innings in this game, Yoshi Nomura was on the end of this one, too, handling Martinez’ grounder perfectly for the final out of the game. 6-3 Coons. Nomura 2-4, BB; Jackson 2-5; Mendoza 3-4, BB; Parks 2-5, 2 2B, 3 RBI; Spencer 2-5;

The Blue Sox complete a 4-game sweep of the Rebels with a 5-1 win on Thursday, while the Cyclones and Capitals remain closest to them, 1.5 games out. Cincy drops to 2.5, Richmond to 3.5 games out.

The final weekend sees the Sox in Washington for the most important series. Cincy is in Pittsburgh. The Rebels-Buffaloes series is irrelevant. The Rebels could get to 81-81 at best, and the series between the 81-77 Sox and 80-79 Capitals will leave one team better than that at least.

In the CL South, the Knights and Condors are tied going into the final weekend. They will travel to Charlotte and Vegas, respectively, to end the season.

Raccoons (82-77) vs. Titans (90-69) – October 1-3, 2021

Three games that would be lost in the media as soon as they were completed, given the late-season mayhem in two other divisions. Well, you can always rely on the Agitator to make your life a living hell. The Coons were 8-7 against the Titans this year, and Boston was ninth in offense and second in preventing offense. Can we make this quick?

Projected matchups:
Ricky Martinez (2-4, 3.54 ERA) vs. John Schneider (16-4, 3.73 ERA)
Jonathan Toner (16-10, 3.64 ERA) vs. Alan Farrell (7-10, 3.94 ERA)
Damani Knight (0-2, 6.50 ERA) vs. Chris Klein (14-11, 2.91 ERA)

The Titans only had right-handers left in the rotation at this point.

Game 1
BOS: 2B W. Ramos – RF Braun – 3B Esquivel – C Salas – CF Reichardt – 1B Cisneros – LF Amador – SS Janes – P Schneider
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – C Parks – RF Graves – SS Spencer – CF Stevenson – P Martinez

Teams totaled one hit in the first three innings, and it was not the Coons’. Old warhorse Antonio Esquivel added a second single to the tally leading off the fourth inning, but got quickly swept off the bases on Pedro Salas’ double play grounder. The Raccoons finally also got a hit with a soft Yoshi single in the bottom 4th, and Parks would even add to the runners total by drawing a 2-out walk. Schneider threw a wild pitch to get both into scoring position, but Graves’ drive to deep right was intercepted on the fly by Adam Braun for four scoreless.

The Raccoons were in a world of trouble in the fifth inning. Javy Cisneros hit a leadoff single on an 0-2 pitch, but at least Martinez would face two left-handed batters and the pitcher now – how could it go wrong? By Roberto Amador bunting, Jalen Parks throwing that bunt away as far as he could, and Erik Janes hitting a sac fly to Cookie. Two groundouts by Schneider and Willie Ramos ended the inning, but the Titans were ahead 1-0 and the Raccoons were hibernating already since … July? Amador would rob not one, but two Raccoons of potential doubles in the bottom of the sixth, with Nunley and Parks being robbed of the chance to drive in Yoshi after his leadoff single. Nope, it was the Titans to score again in the seventh. Adrian Reichardt hit a leadoff single, Kevin Jaeger hit a pinch-hit 2-out single to plate him, and the Raccoons had obviously hit the hay a long time ago.

Martinez lasted eight before Danny Ochoa batted for him leading off the bottom 8th. The walk he drew off Schneider brought the tying run to the plate, and Cookie’s single put the tying run on base. Yoshi grounded out, advancing the runners, with right-hander Desi Bowles replacing Schneider. Mendoza unhelpfully grounded out; while that scored Cookie, they still were short and Nunley faced southpaw Brent Beene with two outs, and grounded out to Tristen Baptiste at short, and one could only assume that it would be Ron Thrasher’s pleasure to axe down the Coons 1-2-3 in the ninth, but he didn’t. Jackson walked in Graves’ spot with one out. Spencer singled. Metts had previously ended up in the #8 slot, bunted, Willie Ramos misplayed the bunt, and the bases were loaded! Ezequiel Olivares batted for Cory Dew in this crucial spot, popped out on the first pitch, but at least there was one more chance with Cookie coming up. When Cookie turned a 2-2 pitch into a liner to right center to walk off the team, the crowd – sparse as it was – almost went berzerk. 3-2 Critters. Carmona 2-5, 2 RBI; Nomura 2-4; Spencer 2-4; Metts 1-1; Martinez 8.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K;

Cookiiiiieeee!!

There is a very real chance he gets traded this winter. (tears up)

Meanwhile in the East, the Blue Sox continued their stomp through the opposition with a 7-2 win over the Capitals. The Cyclones fell late to the Miners, 10-8, which is the most perfect outcome for the Blue Sox, who are now 2.5 games up on the other three teams. Even if they lose their last two, they can still win the division on Monday.

In the South, the Knights trumped the Falcons 10-4 and regained sole grip on the top spot with the Condors’ narrow 8-7 defeat in Vegas.

Game 2
BOS: LF W. Ramos – 2B Stephens – 3B Esquivel – CF Reichardt – 1B Cornejo – C McPherson – SS Baptiste – RF Braun – P Farrell
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – 1B Mendoza – 3B Nunley – C Parks – RF Graves – SS Spencer – CF Stevenson – P Toner

Toner had a chance to finish the year with 200 more strikeouts than walks, but a leadoff walk to Willie Ramos was not helping the cause. While Ramos stole a base in the inning, two strikeouts and a pop kept the Titans from scoring, and both offenses were in fact flatlining it again through the first three innings and even beyond. Toner allowed three singles and no further walks in the first five innings, whiffing five, but that still had him only at +196 in terms of strikeouts over walks, and YES, this was all the Raccoons were playing for at this point. Maybe some blood revenge against Farrell, who almost struck Jarod Spencer in the neck in the fifth inning and ended up brushing him in the shoulder as Spencer took evasive action. Despite Stevenson singling afterwards, the Coons’ third hit in the game, the Raccoons failed to break through. After Toner moved the runners over with a groundout, Cookie’s bouncer to third was intercepted by Esquivel to end the inning. Ramos drew another walk in the sixth inning, again leading off, but again was stranded on second base. It was a stray Mendoza homer in solo fashion in the bottom 6th to finally put anything on the scoreboard, now with a 1-0 Raccoons lead.

Toner struck out the side in the seventh, getting him to +199 with 278 K against 79 bases on balls. Although he was on 103 pitches, he batted with Graves on first and two outs in the bottom 7th, flying out to center, and was back in the game in the eighth inning, facing Adam Braun, who was 1-for-2 with a K. He grounded out to third. The Titans did NOT bat for Farrell – come on, Jonny, this is yours! But he couldn’t remove that batter on strikes, Farrell instead popping one up for the second out. At 112 pitches, that was it for Jonny, with left-handers coming up at the top of the order. In fact, the Critters skipped it right to Lillis here. Ramos grounded out against the closer, ending the eighth. Farrell removed the top of the Critters’ order without issues in the bottom 8th, leaving the 2-3-4 batters for Lillis, although right-hander Pedro Salas batted for the left-handed Stephens to begin the ninth inning. Salas struck out. Esquivel grounded out to Yoshi. Reichardt flew out softly to Graves. 1-0 Raccoons! Mendoza 1-4, HR, RBI; Toner 7.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 9 K, W (17-10); Lillis 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, SV (39);

Knights-Loggers will be the CLCS – Atlanta clinched with a 9-6 win over the Falcons combined with the Condors exploding late. The Aces score three each in the seventh and eighth to grab a 7-3 win over the Condors. The Knights will be in the playoffs for the sixth time and the first time in 12 years. Their 2009 playoff appearance was in turn their first in TWENTY years. They have no championships, and they have been to the World Series only once, losing to the Blue Sox in ’86.

Speaking of the Blue Sox – their winning streak ended and the FL East race was extended to at least Sunday with a 5-1 Capitals win. The Miners eliminated the Cyclones with a 3-0 shutout. This leaves only the Blue Sox in the division, plus the Miners and Capitals 1.5 games back, with the Miners only having a chance in a 3-way tie and a multi-level tie-breaker.

Eddie Jackson would not be back with the Raccoons and would get a cleanup assignment in his last game with the team after four years of faithful and productive bench services. His 283 AB (so far) this season are a high in his Raccoons tenure, but he always got at least 273 in remarkably regular usage, and he always appeared in at least 119 games, batting .267 with 21 HR and 141 RBI.

Game 3
BOS: LF W. Ramos – SS Kane – 3B Esquivel – CF Reichardt – C McPherson – 1B Amador – 2B Frees – RF Braun – P Klein
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – 1B Mendoza – RF Jackson – 3B Nunley – C Olivares – SS Spencer – CF Metts – P Knight

Whenever a catcher triples, you know you’re doomed. Eric McPherson tripled to lead off the second inning, and a swift sac fly by Roberto Amador later the Titans were up 1-0 against the punching bag Knight. Surprisingly, this was the only run in the first five innings of the game. When I say ‘surprisingly’ I mean that the Titans didn’t make more of their six hits and two walks against Knight. The Coons had only one meager base hit, while the Titans came undone on a bad bunt by Klein once, and by a double play another time. Damani Knight rumpled into the sixth inning, never to emerge from it. It was bad enough that a McPherson double and Amador single opened the inning, but Amador actually got caught stealing. Ben Frees’ groundout scored McPherson from third base, 2-0, but maybe we could – no, you never can with Knight. Whatever it is you try to achieve, he will fail you. Adam Braun singled, and then there was still a pitcher up to feast on, but Klein singled hard to left center, the tenth and final hit off Knight in the game. Kaiser replaced him in his 78th appearance of the season and got Ramos to bounce out to Yoshi.

The Titans had two more hits in the seventh, one each off Kaiser and Carrell, while the Raccoons had two hits total at that point. It started to rain. Then it stopped. Some of the crowd went for the exits even as Ezequiel Olivares hit a solo home run in the bottom 7th to get the team on the board, now down 2-1. The following inning Klein was krumbling. After Graves hit a sharp grounder for an out, Cookie found the right-center gap for a double. He was the tying run and his rear end would be watched by Yoshi Nomura, who walked in a full count, bringing up Mendoza with the tying and go-ahead runs aboard. The embodiment of a team merely doing the mere minimum for the better part of two months, Mendoza lobbed a ball to deep center and to the base of the wall. It was an RBI double, tied the game, and left Yoshi and Mendoza in scoring position with one out for Eddie, who would face Desi Bowles. Come on, Eddie – it may be your final at-bat as a Critter! Nah, he struck out. Nunley flew out to center, and the runners were left on base.

Just as Brett Lillis started to pitch in the ninth, the rain came back. It hung around. Since the game was tied, it could not be declared early, although nobody desired to stick out the rain. The rain delay lasted an hour. It left an empty park, give or take roughly 200 guys that made a living off baseball games. Players, coaches, broadcasters, umpires, grounds crew. One guy that fell asleep under his plastic cover in section 127. Bottom 9th, Desi Bowles had only thrown seven pitches earlier and returned to face the 6-7-8 batters. When the Coons went down in order, we got to play on. Extra innings. The raw joy.

There would be another at-bat for Eddie Jackson as a Raccoon, leading off the bottom 11th against Ron Thrasher in our former southpaw’s second inning of work. Jackson turned on a 1-2 pitch and hammered it to left for a double. Come on guys, the camera crews want to go home! A wild pitch moved Jackson to third with no outs. Matt Nunley dug a trench at home plate. He was gonna be the last man to bat this year, and if he’d die trying! Thrasher fell to 2-0, 3-0, then 4-0. Nunley had to take first base. There was another batter, Olivares. He lined up the middle. Tristen Baptiste lunged, didn’t get it, and the season was finally over. 3-2 Critters. Mendoza 2-5, 2B, RBI; Olivares 2-5, HR, 2 RBI; Carrell 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K;

The Blue Sox beat the Capitals, 3-2, to end the playoff race in the East. A pinch-hit home run by Ruben Cervantes (.271, 14 HR, 55 RBI) did the honors.

In other news

September 27 – Season over for CIN CF Nando Maiello (.290, 3 HR, 37 RBI) who has suffered a broken rib.
September 29 – Nashville’s C Armando Leal (.274, 10 HR, 81 RBI) extends his hitting streak to 25 games with two hits in the team’s 7-6 win over the Rebels.
October 1 – TOP 2B Marco Hernandes (.300, 1 HR, 27 RBI) will be out of action for seven to eight months with a fractured elbow.
October 2 – The Capitals not only beat the Blue Sox 5-1 in the Saturday game that threw a wrench into the Sox’ momentum, they also ended the hitting streak of NAS C Armando Leal (.272, 11 HR, 84 RBI) at 27 games. Leal went 0-for-3.

Complaints and stuff

This was the fifth straight year we beat the Titans in the season series. It was also the slowest-motion sweep I have seen in a while.

The Alley Cats went to Corpus Christi, were shut out in Game 3, 2-0, and lost Game 4, 7-3, as well. Jesus Chavez pitched eight shutout innings in Game 5 for a 3-0 win to send the series back to St. Petersburg, where it continued on Monday with a dicey 5-4 win for the Alley Cats.

This put Ryan Nielson in Game 7 against George McCarter, who had only been promoted from AA in August and had pitched to a 5.75 ERA since then. Nielson lasted only four outs before leaving the game with shoulder inflammation, and long relief from David Kipple and Charlie Cogger was spotty as they yielded four runs in addition to the one that was charged on Nielson. However, six different wannabe-Critters drove in runs in the game – enough to sink the Whitefish.

The Alley Cats are the 2021 AAA Champions!

ABL CAREER STRIKEOUT LEADERS
54th – Jorge Gine – 2,131 – active
55th – Takeru Sato – 2,104
56th – Whit Reeves – 2,081 – HOF
57th – Paul Miller – 2,078
58th – Chris O’Keefe – 2,060
59th – Jonathan Toner – 2,048 – active
60th – Juichi Fujita – 2,046
61st – Parker Montgomery – 2,044 – HOF
62nd – Alfredo Rios – 2,015

Gine is still going; he has mostly been a Federal League pitcher, but spent a few years with the Thunder and Condors in the 2010s. He was an All Star four times, but it may be a bit late for him to build a Hall of Fame case. Right now he sits at 183-136 with a 3.42 ERA and he is already almost 38 years old.

Sato had a 19-year career that started with seven years in Washington before he started to bounce around wildly. After signing with the Bayhawks in 2002, he would bounce to another team another nine times in his last 12 years, including two stints in both San Francisco and Oklahoma City. He was an All Star only once, 1997, but holds the odd distinction of being named LCS MVP for a losing team, the 2010 Thunder, who went out against the – yeah – Raccoons.

And that table? Have we shown that for the last time?
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__________________
Portland Raccoons, 45 years of excell-.... of baseball: Furballs here!
1983 * 1989 * 1991 * 1992 * 1993 * 1995 * 1996 * 2010 * 2017 * 2018 * 2019
1 OSANAI : 2 POWELL : 8 REECE : 10 BROWN : 15 HALL : 32 WEST : 46 SAITO

Meeets!

Last edited by Westheim; 11-22-2017 at 04:26 PM.
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Old 11-23-2017, 06:01 PM   #2406
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2021 ABL PLAYOFFS

Contrary to popular belief, the 83-79 Blue Sox were not the worst-ever playoff participant in ABL history – that distinction was still held by the 2009 Knights, who had made the playoffs with just 82 wins in terrible CL South that year. This was their 11th playoff season and their first in 16 years. They had won two titles all the way back in the 80s. Taking on the best team in baseball in the FLCS would not be an easy task for a team that had finished in the bottom half (7th) in runs scored in the Federal League, even though they sported the best rotation and a very competent bullpen. There was something odd however about the Blue Sox – they did not have a single left-handed pitcher on the playoff roster, not even a reliever. An entirely right-handed staff that was headlined by Diego Mendoza jr. (12-12, 3.07 ERA), a pitcher that had not even achieved a winning record … and this was really a playoff team? … Neither speed nor power were their strong suits. They had only one guy with 20+ home runs (Tom Schorsch), only one batter over .300 (Alberto Rodriguez, and just barely), and nobody had won more than 15 games for them.

By contrast, the 106-56 Scorpions had smothered the West, distancing their closest competition by 19 games in the process. They had scored a slightly insane 924 runs, far and away the high mark in the ABL, but that had been necessary to make up for a spotty rotation that had gaping holes behind Ian Rutter (14-7, 3.82 ERA) and Ozzie Pereira (16-4, 3.40 ERA), but even Brian Simmons (5.12 ERA) still won 15 games – the offense had been THAT good. Alas, there was an issue, and those issues were injuries to three of their key batters, including Pablo Sanchez, the first-ever(!) ABL player to bat over .400 with a .4090 mark to be precise, beating a 42-year old .3944 mark by Jeremiah “Porcelain Ballerina” Carrell. Oh yeah, they were also down two mere .300 hitters in SS Trey Rock and CF Justin McAllester. At least they still had their power, including 31 HR and 118 RBI from Gil Rockwell, both marks leading the team, and three more 16+ HR hitters in Jaiden Jackson, Ray Meade, and Ricky Luna. Furthermore, they also had four left-handed batters and a switch-hitter to counter the Blue Sox’ entirely right-handed pitching staff.

Despite the injuries, the experts agreed: the Scorpions would march through the Sox, and it would be a rout.

Over in the Continental League, things were not quite as clear-cut. The 98-64 Loggers had gained homefield advantage after beating their division by eight or more games. They had been the top offensive team in the Continental League, with a puny 770 runs, or 154 less than the Scorpions had piled up. Despite the top-ranked run production in the CL, their rotation was probably their biggest asset, with the aciest ace having yet to be declared between Ian Prevost (14-7, 3.55 ERA), Chris Sinkhorn (21-9, 2.78 ERA), and Michael Foreman (14-9, 3.11 ERA between POR and MIL). Their lineup was very much balanced; while they had the CL’s batting title winner in Ian Coleman (.376, 15 HR, 99 RBI), no other players had batted .300 or had been very close to the mark, and Coleman was also second in power on the team to Alberto Velez’ 18 home runs. It was a dense lineup, though, with danger dwelling all the way down to the #7 spot, perhaps excluding second base, where they had been looking for quality the entire year and had never found it. Their only injury was part-time closer Edwin Balandran, who had pitched in only 14 games for them after mid-season acquisition from the Aces.

Like the Loggers, the 95-67 Knights had finished in the top 3 in both runs scored and runs allowed, 3rd and 2nd in their case, respectively. Their rotation was not their strong suit, however, as the starters had merely finished sixth by ERA, with not much top quality hurling behind southpaw Luis Flores (18-9, 2.93 ERA). But, oh, that bullpen. They had no less than three top level relievers, frontlined by closer Harry Merwin and his 45 saves and 1.56 ERA. Their lineup featured six double-digit home run hitters, although nobody had hit more than 15 for them (Devin Hibbard and Ruben Luna sharing the honors), and as a team they had only been tied for fifth in dingers. Worse yet, they had the second-lowest team batting average in the Continental League, a paltry .248, but had made up for that by drawing the most walks of all teams, bumping them into the top 3 in on-base percentage after all. It was an odd mix, but one that had worked well enough to make the playoffs.

There was probably a visible advantage, but not an overwhelming one, for the Loggers in this series. Loggers in six or seven was probably not an outrageous prediction.

The Scorpions (the eventual champions) and the Loggers had met in last year’s World Series. The Blue Sox hadn’t been in the Big Show since 2005, and the Knights had not been there during most of their players’ lifetime, going back to 1986. Only Jonathan Ryan (age 2) and Devin Hibbard (1) had even been born when the Knights lost in their only World Series appearance – to the Blue Sox.

+++

2021 LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Blue Sox @ Scorpions … 0-7 … (Scorpions win 1-0) … SAC Jason LaCombe 3-5, 3B, 2 RBI; SAC Ricky Luna 2-4, 2 2B; SAC Ian Rutter 9.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K, W (1-0) and 2-3, 2B, RBI;

Blue Sox @ Scorpions … 8-3 … (series tied 1-1) … NAS Ruben Cervantes (PH) 2-2, HR, 4 RBI; NAS Josh Rawlings (PH) 1-1, 2B, RBI; SAC Doug Stross 3-3, BB, 2 2B;
Knights @ Loggers … 0-1 … (Loggers lead 1-0) … MIL Ian Coleman 2-3, BB, HR, RBI; MIL Ian Prevost 8.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 11 K, W (1-0) and 1-3;

Ruben Cervantes’ pinch-hit grand slam opens the Blue Sox’ scoring in a 7-run seventh inning to come bac from an earlier deficit and pull even in the series.

The Knights amount only to a Tony Jimenez single in Game 1, and – worse! – lose their ace SP Luis Flores to shoulder inflammation before three innings are completed. Their stock has resoundingly crashed.

Knights @ Loggers … 3-6 … (Loggers lead 2-0) … MIL Ian Coleman 3-4; MIL Andrew Cooper 2-4, HR, 2 RBI; MIL Brad Tesch (PH) 1-1, 2 RBI;

In pulling the teams even, the baseball gods strike Chris Sinkhorn with an injury in the fifth inning. The W in the game goes to reliever Mike Kress, who allows a run in one and a third innings. However, in a marked deviation from the Knights’ grim fate, Sinkhorn is only diagnosed with a mild abdominal strain and could return to duty in this series.

Scorpions @ Blue Sox … 9-1 … (Scorpions lead 2-1) … SAC John Staebell 4-5, BB; SAC Ray Meade 2-4, BB, 3B, 2B, 4 RBI; SAC Jaiden Jackson 2-5, BB, 3 RBI;

Brian Simmons (the one with the 5+ ERA) pitches six shutout innings after being spotted a 5-run lead in the first inning.

Scorpions @ Blue Sox … 3-5 … (series tied 2-2) … NAS Rich Mendez 3-4; NAS Tony Fuentes 2-4, 2 2B, RBI; NAS Diego Mendoza jr. 7.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, W (1-0);
Loggers @ Knights … 3-4 … (Loggers lead 2-1) … MIL Ron Tadlock 3-5, 2 RBI;

The Knights are out-hit 11-4 in this game and blatantly steal a much-needed victory by mashing three home runs. The Loggers have ten singles in their 11 hits and leave ten men on base.

Scorpions @ Blue Sox … 2-6 … (Blue Sox lead 3-2) … NAS Tom Schorsch 2-4, HR, RBI; NAS Alberto Rodriguez 2-2, 2 BB, 2 2B, 2 RBI; NAS Armando Leal 2-4, 2 RBI;
Loggers @ Knights … 5-1 … (Loggers lead 3-1) … MIL Ian Prevost 7.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, W (2-0); ATL Marty Reyes 2-3, BB, 2B, RBI;

A stunning upset is brewing in the Federal League – the Scorpions can’t hit the ball anymore! Were the injuries too grave after all!?

Loggers @ Knights … 8-2 … (Loggers win 4-1) … MIL Ron Tadlock 3-5, 2B, RBI; MIL Alberto Velez 1-5, HR, 3 RBI; MIL Chris Sinkhorn 7.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, W (1-0);

Sinkhorn sounded his horn, and the Knights sunk. Just when they tried to clamber back into the game in the middle innings, Velez’ fifth-inning blast broke them for good, and their bullpen got piled on in the late innings.

Blue Sox @ Scorpions … 12-2 … (Blue Sox win 4-2) … NAS Saverio Piepoli 3-3, BB, HR, RBI; NAS Tom Schorsch 2-3, BB, HR, 2 RBI; NAS Tony Fuentes 2-5, HR, 2 RBI;

In a raging upset, the Blue Sox blast six home runs to shatter the Scorpions’ repeat dreams, sending them to an offseason of lamenting and blaming the baseball gods for something for which there were no words.

+++

2021 WORLD SERIES

Nobody, not even the Loggers, had quite believed they would have homefield advantage in the World Series after the Scorpions’ dominant season, but the Scorpions were eliminated, and the task at hand were the Blue Sox.

The Blue Sox still had no left-handed pitchers to turn to, but they now had the epithet of being giant-slayers and the Loggers would better be cautious. While the Blue Sox’ run differential of +48 had been barely one third of the Loggers’, they had at least already eliminated a 100-win team. One Blue Sock was gone from the roster, with infielder Rich Mendez tweaking a hamstring during the FLCS and having to be replaced. The Loggers had no further injuries, and they had enough left-handed batters (five, and one switch-hitter in Velez) to feel pretty confident at this point, but the Scorpions had also been pretty confident.

At this point it was quite clear that the devil had his hooves in the deal this time and everything was possible. Loggers in seven or Blue Sox in four? Who knows that! The only thing known for certain was that the Loggers were one of five teams to never win the World Series (the Knights had also been in that group) and could well polish up their history as one of the worst-overall ABL teams, historically speaking.

+++

Blue Sox @ Loggers … 6-9 … (Loggers lead 1-0) … NAS John Muller 3-5, HR, RBI; MIL Ian Coleman 2-3, BB, 2 HR, 3 RBI; MIL Brad Gore 2-3, 2 BB, 2B; MIL Mike Gershkovich 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI;

Blue Sox @ Loggers … 3-5 … (Loggers lead 2-0) … MIL Ron Tadlock 3-5; MIL Mike Gershkovich 2-3, BB, 2B;

The Blue Sox took the lead in the third inning and Jorge Villalobos held on to it into the seventh inning when the Loggers suddenly took him apart on four straight base hits.

Loggers @ Blue Sox … 1-0 … (Loggers lead 3-0) … MIL Michael Foreman 7.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K, W (1-0); NAS Mike Lake 8.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, L (1-2);

A walk, an error, a sac fly – that was all that undid Lake’s stellar outing and bid to keep the Blue Sox in the series. Alberto Velez’ seventh-inning sac fly puts them with their backs against the wall. Game 4 was completed in a rash 2:24 and saw only nine hits, and only NAS Armando Leal hit for more than one base.

Loggers @ Blue Sox … 4-2 … (Loggers win 4-0) … MIL Ian Coleman 2-5, 3B, RBI; MIL Andrew Cooper 2-4, 2B, RBI; MIL Ian Prevost 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, W (4-0);

The Loggers score all their runs in the first five innings, while the Blue Sox don’t wake up against Prevost until the bottom of the seventh. By then, it was too late. Quinn MacCarthy and Julio San Pedro close out the game, the latter moving from the rotation to closing duties and saving five contests in the playoffs.

The Loggers become only the fifth team ever to sweep the World Series, joining the 1977 Cyclones, 1986 Blue Sox, 1999 Bayhawks, and 2016 Pacifics.

2021 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS
MILWAUKEE LOGGERS

(1st title)
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Old 11-27-2017, 01:45 PM   #2407
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The Raccoons had been a top 3 team in budget and payroll for once, and only once, in 2021. They were not going to be one in 2022. My annual early-holiday-season gift box from Mexico included the usual severed goat head and also an allowance for only $31.5M to spend in 2022.

That was decidedly less than our $34M budget in 2021, and even less than our budget in 2020. Oh well, the reduction is less than an R.J. DeWeese contract – it could be worse. Right?

Right?

Oh, well, to be honest. We might be screwed. For $5.5M (roughly) the Raccoons would have to buy a completely new pitching staff. The list of further departures after we traded a bushel of players at the trade deadline includes six free agents (Santos, Parks, Jackson, Bricker, Carrell, Chun) and we also have three arbitration cases. [screenshot below]

Okay, nobody needs Alex Duarte. So that’s a few dimes freed up. And maybe we can get Noah Bricker to sign up for another season or two for a reasonable price? And there has got to be a way to fill the rotation without resorting to the Rookie Horror Picture Show that ran for most of ’21 again.

But hold on for a moment. Is there even a point to all of this? Can we actually build a semi-respectable team for just $5.5M and actually challenge the Loggers – the defending champions I have been told!? – in 2022 and can say that we’re gonna beat them without a silly grin on our face on Opening Day? What personnel DO we have lined up for 2022 at all?

In the rotation carousel, Jonny Toner is joined by – in decreasing excitement potential – Jesus Chavez, Ricky Martinez, Travis Garrett, Dave Dyer, and … Damani Knight. The bullpen currently only holds Lillis, Davis, Dew, Sugano, and Kaiser (who didn't do well late in the year and whose scouting report was hit by a dump truck in the latest update). Also Will West, theoretically, although he belongs more in the Damani Knight spectrum of pitchers.

We have one catcher – Olivares – and after that it’s Prieto, you know, the guy that’s here every September and has never met a ball with force. The outfield looks decent with Cookie, Stevenson, and Graves – with Mendoza translodged to first base – until you realize that your depth consists of Dwayne Metts and a 33-year old Danny Ochoa that piled up ONE base hit last year. Compared to that, there’s a slight pinch in the infield. Nunley’s on third, Yoshi’s on second, and then we have a triplet of rookies or to-be-sophomores in Jarod Spencer, Daniel Bullock, and Tim Stalker. The latter did not play in the majors in 2021, but batted .284 with seven homers and a .520 OPS for the Alley Cats after being acquired in the Margolis/Abe/Zuhlke trade in July. (And the other guy we got in the deal, CL Billy Brotman, did VERY well in AA, pitching to a 1.23 ERA after the trade)

It’s not done merely by slapping two new pitchers onto the staff and maybe find a new Eddie Jackson somewhere. We need to do a whole lot with those five million and I don’t think it will be enough that we can do…
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Old 11-30-2017, 04:41 AM   #2408
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The first actual activity in the offseason for the Raccoons was more of the basic building maintenance type as they released a handful of minor leaguers that were not even worth their meal money anymore. The most well-known of these was probably (and ‘well’ was going to be used in the broadest sense possible) left-hander Nick Lester, the 29-year old that was also known as the player that led the Loggers to the 2020 playoffs. Also released: 2016 supplemental round pick Justin Chambers, who had batted under .200 in Ham Lake for consecutive seasons, Aumsville outfielders Adam Bareford and Adrian Vandenburgh for seriously not hitting either, and a few guys the cat had dragged in and that you have never heard of.

Or that I ever heard of.

Also, chronically ineffective and permanently injured Roger Kincheloe was struck from the 40-man roster. He would still spend all winter recuperating from Tommy John surgery and then maybe we would make another attempt at Ham Lake with him – almost 26 years old.

With that done and a few dreamy bubbles popped, actual work could resume. The first new player popped up on the organization’s personnel sheet within days, although ‘new’ was again a stretch here as the Raccoons claimed Sam Armetta off waivers by the Blue Sox. The infielder’s name might still ring a well because he was our third round pick in 2014 before being dealt to the Capitals in a rather shady trade for SP Cole Pierson in 2018. The Capitals also received Danny Arguello back then. Armetta, 25, mainly has versatility going for him, covering all infield positions well, although he was less of a super utility than Brian Petracek. His major league experience was limited to 117 AB with the 2020 Stars and 2021 Blue Sox, batting only .188 with two homers.

While Armetta and Petracek are probably redundant to both have on the roster – both are kind of a 25th man type o’ guy – Petracek would still be offered a contract in arbitration (or signed for cheap for another season) because the winter is going to be long, and we still don’t know where f.e. Matt Nunley or Yoshi Nomura might wind up by Opening Day…

The infield situation remained interesting regardless of this cheap addition (Armetta was eligible for another $188k in ’22). The Raccoons had two veterans who had been to hell and back in Nunley and Nomura, plus three young hotshots in Spencer, Bullock, and Tim Stalker (in AAA) competing for three spots. Things like this usually resolve on the trade market by Christmas. I mean, you know where you’re heading by the winter meetings usually. Where were the Raccoons heading? I don’t know. Lemme see the prices on the starting pitchers in November first.

While that was going on, the Raccoons finished the arbitration topic before October was over. In the dying days of the month they signed both Josh Stevenson and Brian Petracek to extensions. Alex Duarte was not made an offer and would probably, hopefully get the hint and start packing his ****. Stevenson signed for 2-yr, $1M while Petracek received $350k for one season. Both players will be eligible for free agency for the first time at the end of these contracts, but neither are player material you are dying to keep around for that extra year…

There was also one surprise addition to the roster that nobody saw coming: Noah Bricker resigned with the Raccoons for 2022, agreeing to a very budget-friendly $550k for a 1-year deal. While this scales up well on paper compared to Joel Davis’ $900k, you also have to readily assume that you can spend $517k of that money for a guy on the DL, although Bricker remarkably survived the 2021 season more or less in one piece despite being used often and regularly and a whole lot overall…

+++

October 24 – The Raccoons claim INF Sam Armetta (.188, 2 HR, 11 RBI) off waivers by the Blue Sox.
October 25 – The Blue Sox acquire 25-yr old OF Rico Miranda (.224, 1 HR, 13 RBI) from the Crusaders for a prospect.
November 1 – The Knights pick up 31-year old RF D.J. Fullerton (.291, 123 HR, 653 RBI) from the Buffaloes in exchange for 28-yr old MR Luis Calderon (15-18, 4.72 ERA, 7 SV) and #27 prospect CL Mike Willis.
November 6 – As far as odd deals go, the Indians trade for 25-year old SP Mario Alva (19-30, 5.59 ERA), who split ’21 between the Buffaloes and Stars and racked up a 10-17 record in total, sending 23-yr old SP Alfredo Morua (0-0, 3.65 ERA) to Dallas along with a second-rate prospect.

+++

Meanwhile, no extension was signed with Hector Santos, who had been hurt and bad the last two years, and who still thought he was worth seven figures (and not just barely seven figures). The Raccoons could not agree to such a risky deal and thus had to part ways with a player that had been in the organization for 17 years and had gone 128-85 with a 3.11 ERA in his 12-year major league career with the Critters.

Santos was always second (or even third) fiddle to Brownie and/or Jonny Toner, and sometimes even to Tadasu Abe, and hardly ever was front and center of discussions. First we looked forward to Brownie’s starts, and, oh well, Santos will go the next day or two days later and we will probably be fine. Then we looked forward to Toner’s starts. Nobody ever particularly looked forward to Santos’ starts for most of his career. But let’s appreciate for one last time how good he really was for a decade-plus!

Also, this depressing bit of info: Hector Santos is one of only three players that finished the season with the Critters that was a major leaguer at the time the Raccoons were most recently in the World Series, which says more about the organization as a whole and the management’s performance in particular than about Santos. The other two players to receive major league paychecks when the Critters lost in six to the Cyclones in 2010? Yoshi Nomura and Eddie Jackson. Only the former was with the Raccoons back then; Jackson was playing for the Pacifics in 2010. Given that Yoshi might well be traded to free up an infield spot for our unexpected youth movement, we could reach zero on the count for “Raccoons that played in a World Series as such” any moment now (and don’t get confused, but that count is ‘one’ right now, because Santos was not on the playoff roster in 2010).

Since we are rummaging in the depressing annals already, here are the other remaining active players who were on the 2010 Raccoons, the most recent edition to reach the World Series:

Angel Casas, 39, missed most of ’21 on the DL and will be a free agent
Rob Howell, 36, backup infielder for the miserable Aces
Ray Kelley, 40, had an ERA over seven with the Elks and will probably retire
Ricardo Martinez, 35, last seen with the Loggers in ’20 and stashed away in AAA
Ralph Myers, 39, backup for the Capitals this year
Matt Pruitt, 38, waited in vain in the minors to be recalled by the Crusaders all year
Pat Slayton, 36, split the season between the Buffaloes and Titans with fairly decent numbers
Ron Thrasher, 34, closing for the Titans with good success apparently

Only Casas, Howell, Kelley, Pruitt, and Thrasher were on the 2010 playoff roster. Martinez (a.k.a. the guy we axed Sharpie for the first time) and Myers have not made a playoff appearance in their entire career. Slayton pitched in the 2016 playoffs for the Pacifics, for a single inning.

All but Slayton and Thrasher could literally be done tomorrow.

+++

2021 ABL AWARDS

Players of the Year: SAC RF/LF Pablo Sanchez (.409, 10 HR, 112 RBI) and MIL CF/RF Ian Coleman (.376, 15 HR, 99 RBI)
Pitchers of the Year: RIC SP Ian Van Meter (21-6, 2.78 ERA) and MIL SP Chris Sinkhorn (21-9, 2.78 ERA)
Rookies of the Year: SAL 1B Kevin Harenberg (.291, 17 HR, 81 RBI) and TIJ LF/RF Omar Larios (.263, 10 HR, 56 RBI)
Relievers of the Year: SAL CL Jorge Beltran (6-6, 1.83 ERA, 36 SV) and BOS CL Ron Thrasher (6-5, 1.62 ERA, 42 SV)
Platinum Sticks (FL): P NAS Mike Lake, C SFW Jerrod Luckert, 1B SAC Gil Rockwell, 2B TOP Chris Owen, 3B CIN Eddie Moreno, SS CIN Andrew Showalter, LF CIN Yasuhiro Kuramoto, CF PIT Justin Quinn, RF SAC Pablo Sanchez
Platinum Sticks (CL): P MIL Chris Sinkhorn, C NYC Jose Vargas, 1B IND Mike Rucker, 2B CHA Matt Good, 3B ATL Jamie Wilson, SS ATL Tony Jimenez, LF ATL Marty Reyes, CF MIL Ian Coleman, RF IND Cesar Martinez
Gold Gloves (FL): P RIC Rich Guerrero, C SFW Jerrod Luckert, 1B SAL Kevin Harenberg, 2B DEN Bobby Torres, 3B PIT Travis Bahner, SS SAC Trey Rock, LF SFW Jeff Wadley, CF SAL Abel Mora, RF SFW Ivan Flores
Gold Gloves (CL): P MIL Julio San Pedro, C VAN Ryan Holliman, 1B MIL Mike Gershkovich, 2B ATL Devin Hibbard, 3B BOS Antonio Esquivel, SS ATL Tony Jimenez, LF OCT Steve Hollingsworth, CF MIL Ian Coleman, RF VAN Man-su Kim

Not one award. Not even for “Stinkiest Show”.

When Matt Nunley found out that he was once again snubbed for a well-deserved Gold Glove in favor of a 40-year-old, he broke into a local cream factory the following weekend and gobbled up all the cream waiting for shipping on Monday morning. I am sure this will not affect his performance negatively in any way in the future once he’s over his very serious bout of diarrhea he’s having right now for totally unknown reasons.

Batting .400 (for the first time in league history) also paid off for Pablo Sanchez; the 27-year old signed a 6-yr, $28.78M contract with the Scorpions just days after the announcement of him being the Federal League Player of the Year. Sanchez will make $5.3M annually by 2025, the first player known to make in excess of $5M in league history.

Lots o’ firsts here, but I think we will have to wait a whole lot longer for the “first championship for the Raccoons since the 1990s” moniker.

Hey, one last fun fact! Who are the top 3 pitchers in games started on the Raccoons *right now*?

Jonathan Toner – 254
Noah Bricker – 177
Damani Knight – 53

Don’t forget the tune in again next week to a new episode of the new hit show, “Welcome to Our Doom”.
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Old 12-03-2017, 03:59 PM   #2409
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There were two things to do in the middle of November. First, try to find a cheap free agent to sign quickly, so the Agitator could again due vocabulary backflips while wishing me to hell. John Watson might be the perfect candidate to supply that demand. The 34-year old journeyman right-hander had been with four different teams in five years, and was usually pitching to losing records out of the bullpen. His walks were too high for a right-handed veteran, and somehow – nobody knew quite how – he had managed to lose 11 games as a closer in consecutive years (!!) for the Miners in 2018-19. He was cheap, he was quite durable, and heck, let him close if we do have to sell the entire team eventually. What else can he break by then?

Second, find that one magic trade that makes you pretend that 2021 was a bad dream and we would soon be fine and back in the World Series. That was my goal. Who knows how many more years I have left? You know, before the booze and the pills kill me. (coughs into a bloodied handkerchief) It’s nothing much. No, really. I’m fine. (a thin line of blood starts to run from the inside of the right eye)

I had made up my mind a while ago how to fix the infield dilemma. Between Yoshi Nomura and Matt Nunley, you had to trade Yoshi to make room for the promising youngsters. He was twice as expensive, and almost twice as old. He could fall off the cliff any second now. If we trade him, Jarod Spencer takes over quite seamlessly. If we trade Nunley, we are one Daniel Bullock injury away from playing Petracek for two months.

So the two-flies-with-one-swat was going to work like this: we trade Yoshi for a formidable starting pitcher, giving the rotation a #2 whose nickname is not “Tragic”, and with the rest of the money we can work from there. I have all put this together in my head! We have Spencer and Stalker up the middle, Nunley at third, Cookie, somebody, and Mendoza in the outfield, we buy us a first baseman somewhere or ****ing hell we bake us one, and we can probably find a catcher, too. Then sign about four more pitchers, and we’re set!

Then reality hit those grand schemes. Interest in Yoshi was lush at best, and from time to time somebody else came and fired a shot at me from leftfield. F.e. when I talked to the Bayhawks about a trade and we needed someone to bridge their budgetary hole, I remembered D-Alex was still alive. D-Alex, though, heartbreakingly, executed his 10/5 rights and the deal fell through.

I was then making several calls a day with Denver trying to work out a trade. The problem here was partially money, because the Sox didn’t have much of it and Yoshi’s salary was big enough that most of the time you’d trade down in terms of coins. And even when they had the money together, they wanted precious prospects…

How many prospects DO you need after all?

There was also a corner outfield spot or first base that required population. We have Cookie, we have Mendoza, we have an open spot. How about ****ting money on another high-caliber free agent to be perpetually disappointed by?

Steve Butler was 37, but had still whacked 27 dingers last season, and that for the morbidly inept Aces. His slash had been a not unattractive .275/.351/.485 and he had driven in 99 runs. There was something to be said about his ability, but there were two problems. First, he was 37 – like Yoshi f.e. – and second, he was a type A free agent. A team that didn’t know what to do in the first place could ill afford blowing its #18 pick on a guy like that.

Okay, what about prospects? We had two first basemen that had finished the year in AAA. Russ Greenwald had batted .291 with 21 homers, but he was 27. His most recent cup of coffee had come in 2019. It had not been overwhelming (.241 with two homers in 59 games). Then there was Manuel Cardona, 22, who had hit 12 home runs between Ham Lake and St. Pete. Signs weren’t that he would ever hit 30 in the majors. Then there was the sterling prospect we had picked up in July in the Matt Hamilton deal, RF/LF Omar Alfaro, whose season had ended on September 8 with torn ankle ligaments. He had hit ten homers across our three minor league teams in not quite 200 plate appearances. He was the future – maybe. He was not the present.

I *do* get fuzzy when looking at his scouting report. The power. The murder arm. The hazel eyes that look right into your soul…

(sighs)

+++

November 17 – The Raccoons trade 35-yr old MR Jason Kaiser (19-18, 2.83 ERA, 6 SV) to the Crusaders for 29-yr old LF/RF Max Erickson (.263, 66 HR, 260 RBI).
November 19 – In a major trade the Raccoons acquire 28-yr old SP Frank Kelly (68-53, 3.79 ERA) and 29-yr old OF Ricardo Romero (.291, 7 HR, 108 RBI) from the Gold Sox and part with 37-yr old 2B Ieyoshi Nomura (.306, 73 HR, 918 RBI), 24-yr old AAA C Jared Bragg, and 22-yr old AA SP Pete Molina.
November 21 – The Aces claim Raccoons SP Damani Knight (12-25, 5.20 ERA) off waivers.

November 22 – The Miners throw money into the ring and sign 35-yr old SP Josh Knupp (104-89, 3.62 ERA) for 3-yr, $5.76M as well as 33-yr old LF/RF Bill Adams (.298, 168 HR, 713 RBI) for 2-yr, $3.84M. Both players come from other FL East teams; Adams played his career with the Buffaloes so far, while Knupp split 2021 between the Rebels and Cyclones.
November 24 – The Gold Sox sign ex-RIC CL Troy Charters (37-41, 4.01 ERA, 132 SV) to a 2-yr, $2.64M contract. Charters, 29, will be with his sixth major league team.
November 25 – Ex-Knight INF Jamie Wilson (.284, 128 HR, 656 RBI) signs a 4-year contract with the Titans. The 33-year old will make $10.56M as part of the agreement.
November 29 – Ex-Crusader C Jose Vargas (.276, 95 HR, 472 RBI) comes to terms with the Stars. The 31-year old signs a 4-yr, $8.96M contract.
December 1 – Rule 5 Draft: 19 players are drafted. The Raccoons draft 22-yr old AAA MR Kevin Surginer from the Rebels.

+++

Molina was the one that hurt in the Nomura trade. He was our top pick in the 2017 draft, but even then was not the most promising prospect at Ham Lake, which would probably be Rico Gutierrez. The Gold Sox also had had an eye on him, but I was holding on tight to the left-hander. I like me my left-handers! Bragg was not particularly high on the depth chart, probably not major league material, and certainly not the best catching prospect in the system (that would be Elias Tovias).

Romero is garbage and not good for anything and we are not the only team to know that. He has just barely over 1,000 major league at-bats and will be 30 next year.

Kaiser’s fastball had died late in the season. His velocity had dropped from 90 to 87, watering down his breaking stuff in the progress, and hitters had taken note and had bamboozled him for eight runs in the last four weeks of the season. Jason was 35 years old – there was every chance that the condition was terminal, at least to his career. The Crusaders either hadn’t taken notice, or were too busy or whatever.

Now, Erickson is not really a solution to any kind of problem we have. In fact, the trade was mostly motivated by the 1:20 scale copy of Picasso’s “Guernica” that the Riddler had pinned to Kaiser’s scouting report than anything else. Erickson is a masher from the DeWeese School of Disappointments and displays atrocious defense on top of that. He is a downgrade even compared to Eddie Jackson, despite being almost a decade Eddie’s junior.

So what now? Can we scratch together enough talent to not drown in 2022? Can we actually scratch together enough to make a run? There is Indians SP Dan Lambert on the market and his numbers are pretty good, though not quite good enough for the $3M he asks for and type A compensation.

The Kelly trade gives us Toner, Kelly, and whatever we cobble together from Chavez, Martinez, Garrett, and Dyer.

And what else? Alex Duarte will be employed for two years by the Bayhawks for $484k.
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Old 12-04-2017, 02:46 PM   #2410
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The winter meetings saw a few oddly fascinating trade proposals for Jonny Toner that were too ludicrous to even present in detail. There is probably more substance in talking about a trade that I almost stumbled upon but didn’t do.

Will Newman – on the Miners – could have been the new Eddie Jackson, primarily a pinch-hitter but regular starter against right-handed pitching. You may remember him from his debut years when he played with the Condors. Corner outfielder, so-so defense, bit of pop. However, someone signed the guy to a deal worth almost $10M for six years prior to the 2020 season. Newman hasn’t been a regular starter since, and the Miners are quite desperate to clear the commitment off their books. They would have flatout traded him one-for-one for Ricardo Romero, the throw-in player in the Yoshi/Kelly trade to make the ends of the Gold Sox’ books meet. Romero is a terrible batter and a sub-par centerfielder, and while Newman isn’t perfect at all, this would be such a massive trade up for us.

… if that contract wasn’t there. He would make more than twice of what Eddie made. And Eddie had at least been a regular in any of the three previous seasons. Releasing Romero would be considerably cheaper than soldiering up the $5M+ that Newman was guaranteed through 2024 (’25 was a team option).

+++

December 1 – The Rebels sign ex-IND SP Dan Lambert (101-95, 3.83 ERA) for a 5-yr, $14.6M contract.
December 3 – The Cyclones will pay $4.88M over two years to 37-year old ex-DEN C Pat Walston (.285, 158 HR, 844 RBI).
December 4 – The Canadiens have a new pitcher in 32-yr old ex-SFB SP Kevin Woodworth (58-93, 4.45 ERA), who signs on for 2-yr, $1.87M.
December 4 – Former Aces closer Alex Silva (31-29, 4.14 ERA, 96 SV) signs a 1-yr, $1.18M contract with the Stars.
December 4 – The Loggers trade for 27-yr old LAP MR Justin Guerin (6-8, 2.74 ERA, 1 SV), sending a prospect to the Pacifics in exchange.
December 6 – The Warriors trade for the Miners’ C Jose Ramirez (.264, 25 HR, 156 RBI). The price for the 28-year old backstop is 31-yr old 2B/SS Ruben Pelles (.239, 35 HR, 195 RBI) and a second-rate prospect.
December 7 – The Gold Sox sign 30-yr old ex-POR/NAS C Danny Margolis (.265, 44 HR, 239 RBI) on a 2-yr, $2.68M deal.
December 7 – Milwaukee adds 26-year old LF/RF Jon Berntson (.261, 12 HR, 138 RBI) in a trade with the Pacifics, leaving them with two more prospects.
December 8 – The Aces acquire the Stars’ SP Sergio Aredondo (26-30, 4.75 ERA), parting with 31-yr old OF/1B Rich Arrieta (.308, 13 HR, 125 RBI) and a minor-leaguer.
December 9 – The Loggers add some veterancy to the roster, signing 36-yr old RF/1B Tom Reese (.258, 224 HR, 1,111 RBI) to a 2-yr, $3.04M contract. Reese spent the last four years with the Gold Sox.
December 11 – 37-year old ex-LVA 1B Steve Butler (.303, 312 HR, 1,324 RBI) inks a 2-yr, $4.24M contract with the Cyclones.

+++

Nope, no movement during the winter meetings for the Raccoons.

I may have misplayed my cards here, because somehow we still have $5M to spend, we just don’t have much to show for it. And what did I do? Trade for the (hideously overbudget) Buffaloes’ Todd Sanborn to add a fourth centerfielder (or fifth, counting Cookie’s nominal skill at the position) to our already complicated and dangerously bloated outfield mix. Sanborn was probably the best of the non-bakery-item centerfielders in the mix, a left-hander, and could form a platoon with Stevenson, but even then he was cheap, which normally was good, but in this case limited my options tremendously given the Buffaloes’ budget status. No trade materialized.

Oh well, one trade possibility would have been getting Sanborn for Travis Garrett and one of a selection of token pseudo-prospects. Yes, there are prospects more pseudo than “Tragic” Travis and I still didn’t dump him to make the deal.

Our pitching depth is … non-existent. For starters, assuming we switch Jesus Chavez with Dave Dyer, our rotational depth will be … Dyer. And we still can’t field a full bullpen.

Former ex-Coons landing elsewhere included Evan Carrell hooking up with the Knights for $254k … period.

Yeah, dull winter meetings. Good news is, despite the dullness of the proceedings the Hall of Fame will not be abolished yet and a new vote is called for.
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Old 12-10-2017, 10:52 AM   #2411
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Hey! Where has the week gone!??

---

In a seemingly endless offseason that had seen the Raccoons opt into competition so far by trading Yoshi not for prospects (whatever prospects that would have been) but rather for a strong #2 starting pitcher in Frank Kelly, and by keeping Toner, Mendoza, Cookie, and whoever else might be of value right now, there was little progress in the first half of December. Maybe the second half could go any better? The baseball gods sure knew I had offers out there…

+++

December 15 – 36-year old veteran and former Warriors LF Gil Gross (.273, 231 HR, 991 RBI) gets a 2-yr, $2.24M contract from the Blue Sox.
December 15 – Potential future Hall of Famer ex-SAC CL Angel Casas (52-49, 2.15 ERA, 641 SV) secures one more deal at 39, signing for $780k with the Capitals.
December 18 – The Raccoons sign ex-MIL CL Quinn MacCarthy (45-37, 3.71 ERA, 142 SV) to a $500k deal for 2022.
December 20 – The Condors pick up 30-yr old ex-NAS/DEN 2B/SS Bobby Torres (.272, 49 HR, 366 RBI). The Dominican right-hander will receive $1.57M over two years.
December 20 – Lefty closer Edwin Balandran (20-16, 3.29 ERA, 38 SV) signs a 3-year deal worth $2.75M with the Titans. Balandran, 29, spent 2011 with the Aces and Loggers.
December 23 – The Capitals pick up ex-POR/NAS SP Tadasu Abe (67-51, 3.47 ERA) on a 4-yr, $4.56M contract.
December 25 – The Rebels ink another former Raccoons starter in 33-yr old Hector Santos (128-85, 3.11 ERA), who will make $3.04M over two years.
December 25 – Meanwhile in a hard to understand deal, the Raccoons sign ex-LVA SP Bobby Guerrero (80-82, 4.07 ERA) for $375k for one year. Guerrero spent just one year in Vegas after pitching with the Raccoons for two-and-a-half years before that.
December 28 – The Raccoons sign 31-year old ex-NYC MR Logan Sloan (26-28, 3.37 ERA, 96 SV) to a 1-yr, $540k deal.

December 30 – The Gold Sox add ex-VAN OF Mario Rocha (.259, 71 HR, 376 RBI) and will pay $4.5M over three years to the 27-year old Venezuelan switch-hitter.
January 2 – The Rebels sign ex-SFW SP Fernando Cruz (188-182, 3.95 ERA) to a 2-yr, $4.32M contract.
January 3 – A 3-year deal worth $2.67M lures 33-year old CL William Kay (88-100, 3.65 ERA, 104 SV), who pitched for the Stars and Cyclones in 2021, to the Scorpions.

+++

Christmas in Portland sucked, I heard. More than one fan – both kids and adults – found a really terrible present under the tree on Christmas morning, with the Raccoons’ former 2-3 punch, Abe and Santos, just having signed elsewhere, and what did the cat drag in? ****ing Bobby Guerrero.

Contrary to popular belief (and the Agitator gives his all to further disseminate this point of view) I have not gone insane. The risk with Santos and Abe was considerable. With Guerrero, you know what you get. Maybe league-average pitching, but at 25% the cost. I see him as our #5 starter going into the season now, behind Toner and Kelly as well as Ricky Martinez and Travis Garrett. This keeps Jesus Chavez in AAA, but one wrong move by Guerrero and a decent performance with the Alley Cats and we can make an inexpensive switch. Dave Dyer is also no longer in the plans for much of anything outside of ‘catastrophic rush of injuries’ with this signing. And at that point, nothing will matter anymore anyway. Guerrero went 9-14 with a 3.51 ERA in 2021, which was not *bad*… I mean if he can somehow repeat that mid-3 ERA, he will be the least of our problems.

Fans also were up in arms when Santos’ long-time uniform number (#33) was still warm when it was reassigned to some run-of-the-mill right-hander in Logan Sloan.

MacCarthy is a very good replacement for Jason Kaiser. The almost-33-year-old southpaw has negligible splits, other than Manobu Sugano, and should be a quality guy in the seventh and eighth inning. Of course he’s not going to stink up to Brett Lillis, so the closing days are definitely over, at least unless we go on a 17-game winning streak and Lillis can’t cope anymore.

Don’t be deterred by MacCarthy’s high career ERA. He had it very rough until he was about 26 years old in this league. His last SIX seasons have all been better than his current career ERA, so, yes, he burned regularly in his first four seasons in the majors. Most of that damage was on the Gold Sox. He had also been with the Knights before joining the Loggers and taking home a ring.

God, I want another ring so bad. In my lifetime, please?

In mixed developments, the Raccoons released Danny Ochoa, 33, after a mediocre career even for a quad-A player. Ochoa appeared in 215 big-league games dating all the way back to 2015, and batted .249 with 6 HR and 51 RBI. He was a .277 batter with 77 homers in 724 AAA games.

Former Raccoons dropping elsewhere: Charlie Cogger attained minor league free agency earlier in the fall and now moved down I-5 to Salem on a rousing $188k contract; Jalen Parks went back to the Crusaders from whence he came, signing a $446k deal; Joey Mathews got $350k from the Miners; the Condors would pick up Seung-mo Chun for $466k;

With Parks going back to NY – re Danny Margolis: I would have brought him back merrily and all, but he had type A compensation attached and that was a huge red flag at that point.

But now the offseason has dragged on for months, and the Raccoons still have several million of unallocated money in their budget. I am starting to wonder if I did everything (anything?) right this offseason…

Which brings us to the early days of January and a trade proposal that fluttered in from Sacramento. They would send us the 37-year old body of Gil Rockwell, who at this point was still whacking it (31 HR an ’21), although his defense was truly Osanaian. His days were numbered; the Scorpions had signed him to a 3-year deal before 2021, and he was guaranteed $2.64M annually.

The thing is this: who can give us more power, with Dumbo Mendoza alternating spots according to our decision here, between a 37-year old Rockwell (393 career HR) and a 24-year old Zach Graves (5 career HR). This was not a fair comparison, but this was: Graves was hitting one out once every 50 at-bats. Rockwell? Less than 16 for his career, and every 19 at-bats last year.

For a team that didn’t know where to stuff its money, this was a tempting opportunity. The only issue was probably the price the Scorpions demanded. They wanted two players. The first one was Petracek. WHERE DO I SIGN?? The second one was Danny Valdez, a genuine outfield prospect, 18 years old, that would have been stuck in single-A ball for the first time this year. We signed this Dominican left-hander in the 2019 IFA period for $202k. Note that the hymns on him were mostly sung by the Riddler –

Who’s batting this late in the darkest night?
It’s Danny Valdez with all his might!
Bring in the children, bring in the pots –
If Valdez hits them he’ll turn them to klotz!

Great writer, great poet – and the best thing is, he does the rhyming for free. Anyway, OSA had hardly a word of a scouting report on Valdez, and they usually covered everybody with two arms and at least one-and-a-half legs.

That would be a tremendous way to get rid of the money, boost the lineup, and to drive Zach Graves into suicide by planting a slugging first baseman in front of his nose for the second straight year.

+++

2022 HALL OF FAME VOTING

The Hall of Fame expanded its population by another three former players with the most recent voting process, electing a closer, a third baseman, and a catcher.

SFB CL Ryosei Kato – 2nd – 86.3 – INDUCTED
NAS 3B Cesar Gonzalez – 2nd – 79.3 – INDUCTED
CHA C Fernando Chavez – 1st – 78.0 – INDUCTED
??? CL Johnny Smith – 1st – 72.9
??? SP Juichi Fujita – 1st – 66.2
??? SP Chris York – 4th – 57.3
MIL CF Jerry Fletcher – 5th – 40.2
TIJ SP Kelvin Yates – 3rd – 26.8
DAL SP Paul Miller – 1st – 18.9
WAS CF John Alexander – 1st – 11.6
SFB C Gabriel Ortíz – 3rd – 6.1
??? LF Mohammed Blanc – 1st – 6.1
??? CL Dan Nordahl – 1st – 3.4 – DROPPED
BOS SS Daniel Silva – 3rd – 3.0 – DROPPED
WAS LF Jose Gomez – 1st – 1.2 – DROPPED
NAS MR Francisco Rodriguez – 1st – 0.9 – DROPPED
WAS SP Randy Farley – 1st – 0.6 – DROPPED
DAL RF Yohan Bonneau – 1st – 0.6 – DROPPED
LAP LF Ken Potter – 1st – 0.3 – DROPPED

Fernando Chavez spent most of his 16-year career with the Falcons, partaking in their only World Series championship in 2005. Hailing from Nevada, the left-hander was a fifth-round pick by the Blue Sox in 1995, but was released by them later and only blossomed into a prospect at the turn of the millennium. He debuted in 2000 and would make eight All Star teams and also took home a platinum stick. Unusually for a catcher, he was mildly quick on the bases and once led the league in doubles. Overall he appeared in 1,728 games and batted .317 with 134 HR and 839 RBI.

Cesar Gonzalez’ stint with the Blue Sox only lasted six-and-a-half years, but that was by far the longest the journeyman slugger ever stuck with any one team. A 7-time All Star and 2010 champion with the Cyclones, Gonzalez was not only adept at going deep off pitchers, hitting double-digit home runs in 15 consecutive seasons with a career high of 25, but was also a steady on-base presence and led the league in walks four times. He also led the Federal League in slugging in 1997 as a Dallas Stars sophomore. Gonzalez piled up 2,261 base hits, but reached base on balls almost as often, drawing 1,788 walks in his career, giving him a .271/.398/.452 career slash line with 304 HR and 1,301 RBI.

The first Hall of Famer for the proud Bayhawks franchise (and the first non-Raccoon Hall of Famer from Japan), Ryosei Kato spent only one third of his 21-year career with the team from the Bay, pitching and ultimately closing for them from 1994 through 2000. The 2005 Reliever of the Year and 6-time All Star would go on to lead the CL in saves in 2000, and the FL in the same category in 2004 with the Buffaloes. Overall he piled up 427 saves, a 3.15 ERA, and 1,453 strikeouts while pitching to the venerable old age of 43.

---

I mentioned before that I threw in the towel on my former job in August. I then spent the next three months drifting through the day, mostly loitering on Youtube and running up cricket scores in the “hours played in last two weeks” on Steam. No, don’t send care packages. My rainy day fund hardly took a scratch these three months, besides, I have been back in employment for two weeks now. I now spend three days a week doing horrendous taxes again, two days at my accounting courses, and somehow the Raccoons have fallen to the roadside a wee bit because I still tend to just sink into Youtube for hours in the evening. This has to get better!

Well, all that, and it’s really the oddest offseason…
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Old 12-12-2017, 03:18 PM   #2412
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What do the Raccoons need Gil Rockwell for? Well, he brings power to the table, and Matt Hamilton and Danny Margolis were traded in July and still finished in the top 3 in home runs for the Critters in 2021. While the trend was downwards for him, that was no surprise with a 37-year old player. He still had whacked 31 homers last year and had led the offensive powerhouse Sacramento in RBI. Heck, he had led the Federal League in RBI with 118.

As was well known, Brian Petracek had no real value other than as a super utility. While Sam Armetta was not quite the same in terms of versatility, we also still had Mendoza to bounce between the outfield and first base and cover a few more angles, so we’d probably be fine. The only thing was that I wasn’t too keen on trading them a non-hopeless prospect in addition taking on $5.28M of salary commitments for the next two years.

Turns out, they would really take any prospect with two legs, or one leg and a state-of-the-art prosthetic. So that leaves only two problems: can we take on the salary? Yes we can. And can I do this to Zach Graves?

In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately category, Graves had batted .290 with four homers and a .739 OPS in almost 200 at-bats last year while being ages 23/24.

In 1999, the Raccoons gave 559 AB to a 23-year old outfielder that batted .256/.350/.355 with eight homers. They would stick with the guy through 2006, and he would later receive the moniker ‘Avatar of Losing’. Clyde Brady wasn’t worth the spot in the lineup – one of those great half-seasons curtailed by injury in 2001 aside – as would eventually turn out, and there wasn’t much in Graves’ stats that instilled hope that he would end up much better than Brady. In some aspects, Graves was even worse. While Brady hadn’t been a power hitter while playing a power position (and Graves was neither), he had at least drawn walks. Had he hit a wee bit more, you could have made a good #2 hitter out of him. Graves drew TEN walks in ’21. His OBP was .335.

TRADE!!

The Rockwell acquisition jumbled the roster considerably. First, we no longer have Mendoza moonlighting at first base. Cookie and Dumbo are now fixtures on the outfield corners. Center is probably still Josh Stevenson. We have four leftover outfielders now in Metts, Romero, Graves, and Erickson, and somehow had to mingle those into two backups. Romero was the worst in the bunch and the only right-handed batter.

Well, MAYBE having extra left-handed bats on the bench is a GOOD thing this time. With Rockwell, Spencer, and Stevenson we have three sure-to-likely starters. Cookie, Nunley, Dumbo bat left-handed. There was another right-handed starter still hidden in AAA: Tim Stalker, who was not on the roster in 2021, would be the Opening Day shortstop, I had decided that over the holidays. We were still in the market for a catcher and it looked like I could snipe myself a left-handed batter there, so we could get a platoon behind the dish with Olivares being right-handed.

However, left-handed outfielders don’t give us much leverage to load the lineup. The days of seven or eight left-handers and switch-hitters against a right-handed pitcher might be / are over.

We might have two switch-hitters (Armetta, Bullock) on the bench in addition to whichever catcher is not playing. I would really like myself a left-hander and a right-hander in addition to that. The problems already start between Erickson and Graves. You don’t necessarily want them both on the roster. Graves back to AAA? That would be cruel…

The thing is also that we need a backup centerfielder not named Cookie. So Dwayne Metts kinda has to be on board? Unless Romero is! But Romero can’t platoon with Stevenson…?

Help…!

(Maud comes hustling in with a fresh bag of cookies)

Nevermind, help just arrived.

+++

January 4 – The Raccoons acquire 1B Gil Rockwell (.265, 393 HR, 1,181 RBI) from the Scorpions for utility player Brian Petracek (.235, 16 HR, 108 RBI), age 31, and A INF/LF/RF Charles Newton.
January 4 – The Condors sign ex-WAS 1B Andy McNeal (.301, 82 HR, 489 RBI) to a 5-yr, $12.2M contract. The 31-year old left-handed batter had a career-high .905 OPS in 2021.
January 12 – The Raccoons sign 33-yr old ex-LVA C Danny Rice (.266, 80 HR, 446 RBI) to a 1-yr, $400k deal.
January 23 – The Cyclones sign 37-yr old ex-RIC SP Jorge Gine (183-136, 3.42 ERA). The 4-time All Star will make $1.98M in 2021.

+++

So Gil Rockwell will live out his days at first base, Osanaian defense or not. There was a fair degree of desperation involved, yearning for power and also looking in disbelief at the giant budget surplus that had still been lying around. STILL talking about more than $4M here, and thus a completely derailed offseason.

I didn’t quite imagine ourselves winding up with another slugging first baseman that will hideously disappoint us. The cavalcade of first base failures since we dumped Al Martin for Adrian Quebell reaches twice around the block.

During the month I also returned our rule 5 pick Kevin Surginer to the Rebels. It is probably too early for the kid to put up a decent performance and I knitted myself a better bullpen with seven guys, none of whom is named Will West.

More ex-Coons finding shelter: Joe Cowan signed with the Knights for $308k; Jose Gutierrez (not having been a Coon for 13 years) joined the Cyclones for $322k; “Dingus” Morales hooked up with the Loggers for another year of pinch-hitting duties at a royally compensated $720k; and dear Eddie Jackson found a job with the Rebels that would pay $402k!

It is the beginning of the preseason. We know our first opponent in 2022 – the Titans – and the days are getting noticeably longer. Baseball’s gonna come back, boys, baseball’s gonna come back!
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Old 12-14-2017, 06:43 PM   #2413
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Just when you think the offseason is over …!

It was already March 16 and thus less than three weeks from Opening Day when the Thunder approached the Raccoons with a trade proposal. They wanted to roll the dice with 28-year old permanent AAA 1B Russ Greenwald, but they also wanted to get rid of a $1.2M commitment to INF Eric Paull. Now, while I was not married to Greenwald and would prefer at-bats in AAA to go to Manuel Cardona, I also didn’t want a stake in Paull necessarily. Paull had no experience at first base, but that was not so bad, since we had just mindlessly acquired Gil Rockwell for that spot; I didn’t want Paull at third base, which was Matt Nunley’s realm; and I didn’t want him up the middle, because I was sold on the Stalker/Spencer combo, whenever that had become a winner.

Not the most fantastic player to put on the bench, giving a certain amount of ego, Paull just didn’t fit the system of trying to shake the youngsters long enough to find a winning combination. I heard, sometimes this can take up to a decade…

Nope, the deal fell through. Paull would have taken the roster spot of Sam Armetta, who had eloped AAA hell in the fall when we claimed him off the Blue Sox’ waivers, and now would have been banished to the land of meager meal money after all.

Even later than that the Wolves dallied along, desiring Cory Dew and Mike Grigsby (maybe a Nunley replacement in two years or so) for 28-year old Todd Jankowski, who was a defensive nightmare and a woeful batter. Dear Wolves, why not just release the sucker? Not on my roster!

There was still some outfield mess to sort out. Between Dwayne Metts, Ricardo Romero, Max Erickson, and Zach Graves, two had to go. Between the two centerfielders, lightning struck Metts, who was even more horrendous a batter than Romero, and also Romero had no options, although he matched Josh Stevenson in handedness. Why a guy like Romero gets a pass on not having options is something I can not go into right now.

The other conundrum was even harder to solve, as it was between two left-handed batters. Graves had a defensive edge, but then again he didn’t play centerfield or something else fancy that could save his butt. Erickson was five years older, both had options, but Erickson had homered 46 times in the last three years. Graves? 25 times. And this included home runs from Ham Lake in 2019.

It was close to breaking my heart, but for the second straight year, an oddball trade for a veteran first baseman knocked Zach Graves from the roster before the season even began.

Poor sod.

Looking at the rest of the roster though, I see quite a few holes, many makeshift arrangements, and more than just one wing and a prayer…

+++

February 1 – 33-year old former Warriors C Jerrod Luckert (.243, 120 HR, 555 RBI) joins the division rivals in Denver on a 2-yr, $2.72M contract.
February 1 – The Cyclones add pitching with 36-yr old ex-DAL SP Ernest Green (175-118, 3.65 ERA), who will make $1.48M over two years.
February 5 – The last type A compensation eligible free agent comes off the market, with the Knights signing 35-year old ex-Cyclones SP Fred Dugo (164-118, 3.58 ERA) to a 2-yr, $2.48M contract. This will be the right-handed Ohioan’s first foray into Continental League baseball.
February 10 – The Scorpions pony up a lot of money for a rather infrequent closer, signing 32-yr old ex-DAL MR Wade Davis (38-50, 4.16 ERA, 35 SV) to a 3-yr, $3.78M contract.

+++

Have we already commemorated the faithful services of Brian Petracek? Removed in the Rockwell deal, Petracek finished a 5-year stint with the Critters that began in 2017, his age 26 season. His alleged peak years saw him as the perpetual 25th man on the roster, appearing 458 games, and batting a paltry .237 in some 900 at-bats with 14 homers and 96 RBI.

Oh well, better than starvation, I guess.

Former Raccoons landing on their paws after all include Stan Murphy getting $620k from the Scorpions (no small feat at age 42!); Cole Pierson scratched $248k out of the Condors; Pat Slayton will keep the spirit of ’10 alive with the Loggers for $282k; Jason Bergquist managed to get signed for $240k by the Stars;
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Old 12-15-2017, 04:11 AM   #2414
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2022 PORTLAND RACCOONS – Opening Day Roster (first set in parenthesis shows 2021 numbers, second set career numbers; players with an * are off season acquisitions):

SP Jonathan Toner, 31, B:R, T:R (17-10, 3.51 ERA | 145-58, 2.47 ERA) – 2021 was downright the worst full season for Jonny Toner, ever. He upped his previous worst ERA by .84 runs, lost double digits for the first time, and had a WHIP (1.21) well worse than that of his partial rookie year in ’13. The bright sides were the fact that it was mostly the defense that had left him to die (.331 BABIP) and that his BB/9 and K/9 had been largely consistent with previous years, even though the walks had been creeping up for a while. In fact, his BB/9 rose for the sixth straight year. But he still led the league in both total strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings – the fifth time he wrapped up both of the stats in the same season! – and was a dominant pitcher unless he drowned in singles. His repertoire remains vicious and he throws raw filth that most of the time batters just can’t cope with. In addition to 98mph heater he also has a nasty curve and an off-the-charts circle change. If he feels like it, he throws a changeup, just for giggles. I have been calling him the best pitcher in baseball for years, and I still think he holds the crown.
SP Frank Kelly *, 28, B:R, T:R (18-11, 2.84 ERA | 68-53, 3.79 ERA, 1 SV) – acquired in the Yoshi Nomura trade during the winter, Kelly is supposed to be the new #2 behind Jonny Toner. His best pitch is a venomous slider, but he is not that much of a strikeout pitcher overall and has averaged less than seven per nine innings for his career. But his control is good and has been getting better for years, with a career-low 2.3 walks per nine in 2021.
SP Ricky Martinez, 27, B:R, T:L (2-4, 3.34 ERA | 2-4, 3.34 ERA) – Martinez’ ERA in 2021 had looked quite good for a 26-year-old rookie although no other numbers had; especially two wins in 15 starts was somewhat alarming, even though wins were probably not the best measure for a starting pitcher that was available. However, just a wee bit over 5 K/9 was also nothing to write home about, and he really lived off the defense that largely abandoned Toner in 2021. A lucky half-season merits him with the #3 slot in the rotation – a slight hint at how starved for talent the Raccoons might be in 2022.
SP Travis Garrett, 26, B:R, T:R (10-7, 4.50 ERA | 14-19, 4.79 ERA) – another year, another attempt to work with whatever “Tragic” Garrett attempted to be, and this time even moved up to the #4 slot. Between the iffy control and the countless home runs conceded, Garrett continued to be a whole lot less than the sum of all his parts in 2021 as well and just barely average more than five-and-a-half innings per start before requiring a merciful removal. Nominally he should do well with an upper-echelon curve and a good cutter, but he really, really isn’t.
SP Bobby Guerrero *, 32, B:R, T:R (9-14, 3.51 ERA | 80-82, 4.07 ERA, 2 SV) – traded to the Aces one winter ago for Matt Hamilton, who was a Coon only until July before being broken down into prospects, Guerrero was resigned on the very cheap by the Critters to spare them another Dave Dyer experience. Groundballer with fastball, cutter, and slider that has never done great, but has been doing sorta-okayish for nine years now.

MR Logan Sloan *, 31, B:R, T:R (4-1, 3.35 ERA, 2 SV | 26-28, 3.37 ERA, 96 SV) – signed as free agent after a year with the Crusaders; while Sloan has almost 100 saves, the bulk of those came with the Blue Sox in the previous decade and his success was not universally acclaimed back then. Throwing 94 in normal mode and a knuckle curve when angered, Sloan has since slid to the shallow end of the bullpen and will be counted on to eat innings in adverse conditions.
MR Manobu Sugano, 37, B:L, T:L (5-1, 2.88 ERA, 1 SV | 22-14, 2.70 ERA, 15 SV) – exclusively situational left-hander with almost ridiculous splits; Sugano signed a new 1-year deal after a successful comeback in ’21, building on his previous tenure from 2012-16.
MR Cory Dew, 25, B:R, T:R (4-3, 2.29 ERA, 2 SV | 7-8, 3.09 ERA, 4 SV) – picked up in June of 2021 from the Canadiens before we realized that we were doomed, Dew’s 92mph fastball and nasty curve has been a welcome addition to the bullpen. He struck out 7.8 per nine innings in his first full season in the majors, with the only issue being nine home runs surrendered, rather much for a reliever.
MR Quinn MacCarthy *, 33, B:L, T:L (7-6, 2.26 ERA, 21 SV | 45-37, 3.71 ERA, 142 SV) – free-agent addition that arrived with a newly-won ring, making the rest of the team rather jealous. MacCarthy was used as closer with the Loggers the last three seasons (and a bit with the Knights before that), but will be more of the main left-handed workhorse in the seventh and eighth inning for the 2022 Raccoons.
MR Joel Davis, 30, B:R, T:R (2-0, 2.63 ERA | 26-29, 3.09 ERA, 27 SV) – Joel spent most of ’21 recovering from Tommy John surgery and appeared in only 14 games towards the end of the year, but didn’t seem to have missed a beat with his devastating curveball that he showed off numerous times against the Raccoons as a member of the Indians squad before joining the Coons prior to 2020 as a free agent. He struck out 16 and walked just four in 13.2 innings, which are promising soft stats for a rather expensive reliever ($900k annually) that is still under contract for two years.
SU Noah Bricker, 33, B:R, T:R (6-1, 2.52 ERA, 4 SV | 80-67, 3.66 ERA, 22 SV) – contrary to expectations, Bricker lived through the full season in ’21 and re-established himself as a pitcher to be worried about. The former starter still has murder stuff and will try to have injury-free campaigns back-to-back for the first time since the mid-10s.
CL Brett Lillis, 33, B:L, T:L (4-7, 2.79 ERA, 39 SV | 33-50, 3.18 ERA, 214 SV) – his cutter/curve combo kills, most of the time at least. In the first year of his 4-year deal, Lillis was lights out in the first half, then often had his hair on fire in the second half, making the Raccoons secretly questioning their ability to ever find a reliable closer to succeed Angel Casas, who – mind – hasn’t been a Raccoon for seven years…

C Danny Rice *, 33, B:L, T:R (.244, 1 HR, 14 RBI | .266, 80 HR, 446 RBI) – signed to a 1-year deal like all the other free agent additions, Rice spent part of 2021 in AAA with the Aces, for whom he had been the primary catcher for the seven previous years. Occasionally was a big power threat with a career-high 17 dingers in ’15, but in recent years has more fallen into the single-slapping category. Olivares will be on his heels.
C/1B Ezequiel Olivares, 31, B:R, T:R (.291, 6 HR, 27 RBI | .285, 6 HR, 44 RBI) – in his second year with the Coons after being taken as a rule 5 pick, this plucky Panamanian sure exceeded expectations with a .791 OPS, getting much more screen time after Danny Margolis was traded in July. He is listed second here, but he will probably get a lot more at-bats than a regular backup and if Rice doesn’t click, maybe Izzy Olivares will.

1B Gil Rockwell *, 37, B:R, T:R (.254, 31 HR, 118 RBI | .265, 393 HR, 1,181 RBI) – whenever your team lost to the Knights in the 2010s, it was most likely due to Rockwell, who led the CL in home runs seven times – all consecutive – during the decade and racked up Platinum Sticks at the same time. After one year with the Scorpions, the Sacramento club wanted to restructure without this slowly rotting chunk of meat covering first base more or less badly, and the Coons picked him up in what appeared mostly as a salary dump for Brian Petracek and a non-prospect. His defense probably gives Jonny Toner nightmares already, but I sure hope he can bat cleanup for two more years before falling apart completely.
2B/LF/3B/SS Jarod Spencer, 24, B:R, T:R (.290, 0 HR, 13 RBI | .290, 0 HR, 13 RBI) – Spencer was promoted just days after being acquired from the Loggers in the Michael Foreman trade in July, and batted a respectable .290, albeit with no power whatsoever while holding down various spots vacated by their injured starters. The lack of power is not an issue for a middle infielder; his deadly allergy to walks (ONE walk in 249 PA!) however will be.
SS/2B Tim Stalker, 23, B:R, T:R (rookie) – Stalker has championship experience – with the 2021 Alley Cats. He is a very good defensive shortstop, has more than just token speed, and while he probably won’t be the reincarnation of Ronnie McKnight I am longing for, he does have a bit of power and could be good for ten home runs, too. But more importantly, I believe he can bat .310 once fully blossomed.
3B Matt Nunley, 31, B:L, T:R (.285, 11 HR, 56 RBI | .286, 84 HR, 503 RBI) – excellent defensive third baseman that has somehow yet to win a Gold Glove; after two softer offensive seasons, Nunley had a .747 OPS again in ’21 and confirmed that he is far from dead. The 2014 Rookie of the Year is the only returning infielder on the team compared to last Opening Day, and behind Cookie Carmona and Jonny Toner is now the third-longest continuously-employed Raccoon on the roster.
SS/3B/2B Daniel Bullock, 24, B:S, T:R (.248, 0 HR, 20 RBI | .248, 0 HR, 20 RBI) – excellent defensive shortstop that debuted with a splash mid-season and then slowly faded to obscurity with a prolonged slump in August and September, but sticks around as a defensive replacement around the infield.
3B/2B/SS/1B/RF Sam Armetta *, 25, B:S, T:R (.300, 2 HR, 5 RBI | .188, 2 HR, 11 RBI) – waiver claim off the Blue Sox, Armetta has yet to stick with any team and (largely unknown by the general public) almost didn’t stick to Opening Day with our mid-March flirt with the Thunder’s Eric Paull.

LF/CF/RF Ricardo Carmona, 30, B:L, T:R (.306, 0 HR, 46 RBI | .322, 19 HR, 460 RBI) – Cookie was hurt for the first time since moving out of centerfield and failed to appear in 148+ games for the first time since shifting to a corner in 2018. The first signs of age are showing with decreased speed, translating into a dismal 22/38 success rate for stolen bases in 2021, the 22 bags taken being his worst total outside of his partial rookie season in 2012, when he took 14 bags in 22 attempts. Speed aside, Cookie remains a slap hitter consistently batting over .300 (which he has never failed to do in a full season) but with no power whatsoever. He only had 15 extra-base hits in 2021 and no home runs.
RF/LF/CF/2B Josh Stevenson, 29, B:R, T:R (.249, 5 HR, 41 RBI | .262, 28 HR, 218 RBI) – his best contribution to the Raccoons in ’21 was that he removed R.J. DeWeese from the roster in the trade with the Thunder that washed him along. Other than that, he was largely unremarkable and we continue to be in the market for the next centerfielder to look forward to take his turn at-bat.
RF/LF/CF/1B Hugo Mendoza, 31, B:L, T:L (.301, 33 HR, 111 RBI | .317, 282 HR, 1,086 RBI) – very good at hiding in crucial spots with men in scoring position, Mendoza continues to drive me insane. Yeah, he whacks 30 every year – finally – and yeah, he combines the upper-echelon power with a .300 bat, but he still is never around when you rally need him.
RF/LF Max Erickson *, 29, B:L, T:L (.273, 17 HR, 74 RBI | .263, 66 HR, 260 RBI) – acquired in a trade with the Crusaders (for lefty Jason Kaiser), Erickson draws literally all his value from whacking one from time to time. His swing has holes, and he is a wholly different time of primary pinch-hitter than Eddie Jackson was in the last four years, even though their defense is comparably atrocious.
LF/CF/RF Ricardo Romero *, 29, B:R, T:R (.236, 0 HR, 6 RBI | .291, 7 HR, 108 RBI) – not a good batter, not a good hitter; the throw-in to the Rockwell/Nomura trade in November was initially disregarded as trade bait at best, but somehow managed to stick around for Opening Day, which also says a thing about the roster as a whole.

On disabled list: Nobody.

Otherwise unavailable: Nobody.

Other roster movement: None.

Opening day lineup:
Vs. RHP: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – SS Stalker – C Rice – CF Stevenson – P Toner
(Vs. LHP: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – SS Stalker – C Olivares – CF Stevenson – P Toner)

The primary lineup against right-handers alternates left- and right-handed bats throughout and is thus very versatile. There are few true platoons on this roster; it’s mostly only the catchers. The bench is balanced outside of that with a left-hander (Erickson), a right-hander (Romero!?), and two switch-hitters (Bullock, Armetta). It is a departure from the heavily left-handed lineups of previous years, but maybe it’s for the better overall?

OFF SEASON CHANGES:

For most of the last five months the Raccoons didn’t know whether they were in or out, or whether the door would catch their tail when it would slam shut. We traded or let go three further long-time regulars (Santos, Abe, Nomura) and mostly engaged in signing proven plater material to 1-year deals, well knowing that this was the last year we had even a paw in that door (more on that in a second).

Stumbling into the Gil Rockwell deal can yet turn out to be either a blessing or a curse. At least the asking price was negligible and we had the money lying around. The other main trade addition, Frank Kelly, is a genuinely good pitcher and I sure hope he can tie into the pre-2020 Tadasu Abe kind of performance from here on out.

Overall, the offseason was mixed with some of this and some of that, and no clear statement or movement of all-in or selling everything not nailed down. The latter could still happen in July. The Raccoons finished eighth in the BNN offseason WAR gain rankings with a +1.8 value.

Top 5: Condors (+11.6), Pacifics (+8.4), Rebels (+7.0), Cyclones (+5.4), Titans (+4.5)
Bottom 5: Wolves (-3.6), Aces (-4.8), Loggers (-6.1), Warriors (-8.4), Indians (-9.1)

PREDICTION TIME:

Last year I predicted the Coons to win 93 games and claim another playoff berth in the last week of the season. None of that happened.

The team was awesome for two months before everything came crashing down. Pitching gave out for good, all batters went cold at the same time, a few injuries here and there, and by July we were in a death spiral from which we never recovered, while the Loggers (!!) won the World Series.

And this time?

One thing should be clear: this is the last year of the Coons’ most recent attempt at a dynasty. We already traded one of the ‘key four’ (Yoshi) I had identified multiple times as being integral to the team’s chances at success of national magnitude. All four of these had been signed through 2023, but three with options. Toner was the only one without an option; Cookie had a team option that we would probably pick up; but Mendoza had a player option and would probably void it because he was likely to get more than $2.6M on the market with even a half-decent season.

The only other players signed to proper contracts for 2023? Lillis, Davis, Stevenson, and Jesus Chavez, who isn’t even on the roster. Everybody else is a free agent, and our commitments for 2024 (so two years from now) are a laughable $7.4M right now, including a $1.8M player option for Brett Lillis, $1M guaranteed to Chavez, and then nothing beyond that – almost like a clean dump where you don’t have to wipe.

So it is NOW or it won’t be for several seasons beyond that. There is no way we can construct an entire team between Toner, Lillis, Cookie, and Rockwell(?) for 2023, especially given the general wonkiness of all the rookies and sophomores that have just been declared ready and to be reckoned with by me. Will that be enough?

No.

Wonkiness starts as early as our #3 starter, which is pretty troubling, and most of the lineup consists of hopes and wishes. The Raccoons can give their all, but they won’t make it, because Martinez, Garrett, Stalker, Spencer, Bullock, and all the other dubious personnel can’t just make a splash and contribute heartily at the same time. It is against all mathematical probability.

The Raccoons will struggle out of the gate, barely remain above .500 if at all, and will probably shatter in July before trundling to a 74-88 finish.

I am very sorry for that.

PLAYER DEVELOPMENT:

Trading for prospects in July helped the Raccoons’ farm a wee bit and we were ranked in the middle regions of the league for the first time in about six or seven years, moving up from 20th to 15th despite the number of ranked prospects in the system dropping from seven to just six, but the top 100 prospects doubled from two to four.

Of last year’s seven ranked prospects, amazingly five dropped off the list, including three that were actually traded: #100 Ismael Pastor, #169 Pete Molina, #181 Ruben Santiago; also out of the top 200 are #143 Justin Gerace (still around) and #185 Ricky Martinez (exceeded rookie limits).

24th (+6) – AAA SP Jesus Chavez, 24 – 2020 international free agent signed by Raccoons
28th (new) – AAA CL Joe Moore, 24 – 2021 first round pick by the Raccoons
65th (new) – ML INF Tim Stalker, 23 – 2019 first round pick by the Blue Sox; acquired in trade with Billy Brotman for Danny Margolis, Tadasu Abe, Ruben Santiago, and Adam Zuhlke
83rd (new) – AAA CL Billy Brotman, 23 – 2018 second round pick by the Gold Sox; acquired from Blue Sox in trade with Tim Stalker for Danny Margolis, Tadasu Abe, Ruben Santiago, and Adam Zuhlke
127th (+19) – AAA SP Rico Gutierrez, 22 – 2015 international free agent signed by Raccoons
168th (new) – A 2B/SS Chris Golka, 20 – 2021 second round pick by the Raccoons

The franchise top 10 were completed by unranked A SP Felipe Delgado, 20 (scouting discovery), AA SS/3B Hugo Ochoa, 20 (2018 IFA), AA 3B Mike Grigsby, 20 (2020 2nd Rd.), and AAA RF/LF Omar Alfaro, 21 (trade with WAS);

The top 5 overall prospects this year are:

#1 SAL A SS Chris McGee (newly drafted in 2021)
#2 SFW AA 2B/1B Chris Tello (was unranked)
#3 SAL ML CF Ben Adams (was #8)
#4 CIN AA SP Adam Moran (was #20)
#5 SAC A SP Gilberto Castillo (was #31)

Three-time consecutive #1 pick Shane Sanks, 23-year old Bayhawks infielder, is no longer eligible after getting 338 at-bats with the Birds in 2021, batting a scarce .204 with eight homers. He starts the season in AAA. Last year’s #2 prospect, the Blue Sox’ right-hander Matt Huf, dropped to #23 but will debut with them on the Opening Day roster. The rest of last year’s top 5 are also no longer eligible after exceeding rookie limits with their teams in 2021.

Next: first pitch.
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Old 12-15-2017, 04:03 PM   #2415
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BASEBALL!!

Raccoons (0-0) vs. Titans (0-0) – April 5-7, 2022

It has been six years since the Titans won a season series from the Raccoons, beating them 10-8 in the 2016 season. Since then it had been all Portland, although most years had been closely contested. We beat them 11-7 in ’21. BNN claimed they were much improved in 2022 and would probably be at least even with the Loggers, so this could also give the Raccoons an early indicator on just how badly they were going to get stuffed this season.

Projected matchups:
Jonathan Toner (0-0) vs. Chris Klein (0-0)
Frank Kelly (0-0) vs. Jose Fuentes (0-0)
Ricky Martinez (0-0) vs. Alan Farrell (0-0)

Only right-handers from Boston as appetizer to the season; given that the Falcons, whom we will play on the weekend, don’t have a left-handed starter at all, we will not see a southpaw until next week.

Game 1
BOS: LF W. Ramos – RF Cornejo – 3B Jam. Wilson – CF Reichardt – SS Kane – 1B M. Green – 2B Casillas – C McPherson – P Klein
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – SS Stalker – C Rice – CF Stevenson – P Toner

Toner’s season started with a strikeout to Willie Ramos, Gil Cornejo rolling a grounder to first that Rockwell could handle without falling over, and then two singles and wild pitches each, alternating, allowing Jamie Wilson to score on Adrian Reichardt’s liner to shallow right center. The Raccoons managed to coax all of eight pitches from Klein in the first inning, popping up twice before Mendoza struck out, so that was going well right out of the gate. Top 3rd, Ramos drew a leadoff walk, then dashed to third base as Cornejo singled. Alas, Mendoza had some kind of arm in rightfield, and Ramos had made his calculations without that – he was thrown out at third base, and Jamie Wilson would then ground into a double play. The only Raccoons to reach base the first time through would be Nunley (walking) and Toner (singling, actually), but Cookie Carmona’s single-bounce cue shot to Tony Casillas was always going to be a double play, no matter the runners, unless it struck the second baseman in the throat. It didn’t, Casillas lived, but the inning was dead.

The Raccoons turned the score in the fourth, however, plating two runs that were both unearned, with the respective RBI’s being firsts for the batters responsible for them in some way or fashion. First Jarod Spencer reached base on a throwing error by Wilson. Mendoza struck out again, but Gil Rockwell doubled to the base of the fence to score Spencer, his 1,182nd career RBI and the first as a Furball. After Nunley flew out to left, Tim Stalker stroked a ball to left center for a single deep enough to allow Rockwell to scamper home, which not only was Stalker’s first career RBI, but also his first base hit, all in his first game. The lead didn’t hold up; not forever, and not even for long. Eric McPherson drew a 1-out walk in the fifth inning that Danny Rice managed to make worse by trying to nip him at second on Chris Klein’s predictable bunt. He very much didn’t get his counterpart, putting two men on base with one out. While Ramos whiffed, Cornejo found a hole for a 2-out RBI single, tying the score at two, and the Titans overcame Toner for good the following inning with three straight 2-out base hits by Mike Green, Tony Casillas (who doubled home the go-ahead run in the rightfield corner), and McPherson. Toner retired Klein before retiring to the showers, stuffed with four runs that his team seemed ill-inclined to make up.

Total collapse appeared to follow in the seventh inning, which was started by Manobu Sugano, who allowed singles to Ramos and Cornejo without retiring anybody. When right-hander Chris Almanza batted for Jamie Wilson, Joel Davis came out, but surrendered an RBI single and then walked Reichardt: three on, nobody out. From here, Davis managed to extricate himself reasonably well, striking out Mike Kane before allowing another run on Mike Green’s sac fly. Casillas flew out to Cookie. It’s not like we had no comeback chances, but we sure ruined them. Bottom 7th, Stalker led off with his second single of the game, then was caught stealing. Danny Rice singled, Max Erickson doubled when he hit for Davis, but with runners in scoring position and two outs, Cookie rolled out to first base. The Titans *could* hit with two outs, as Gil Cornejo demonstrated against Logan Sloan in the eighth inning, plating another run with a 2-out single. Another run here, another run there, in the end it piled up into a near-rout on Opening Day. 7-2 Titans. Stalker 2-4, RBI; Olivares (PH) 1-1; Erickson (PH) 1-1, 2B;

Rockwell, Stalker, Rice, and Erickson all had their first hits as Raccoons in the game. Ricardo Romero pinch-hit in the ninth inning, but grounded out to end the game. The only other new (hitting) arrival this year that are still waiting for their first base knock for the team is Sam Armetta, who did not enter the game.

Game 2
BOS: LF W. Ramos – RF Cornejo – 3B Jam. Wilson – CF Reichardt – SS Kane – 1B M. Green – 2B Casillas – C McPherson – P J. Fuentes
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – SS Stalker – C Rice – CF Stevenson – P Kelly

The leadoff man reached base in each of the first four half-innings – Ramos walked, Cookie doubled, Kane singled, Nunley walked – and never scored. Stalker knocked into a double play, and outside of that there were a few neat defensive plays like Spencer lunging for Cornejo’s liner in the first inning. The next base runner in the game would be Reichardt, who was knocked by Kelly with one out in the fourth, but didn’t score just like Tony Casillas after his leadoff single in the fifth, being thrown out in a stolen base attempt by Danny Rice, the first of four runners that Rice managed to cut down. A few boos would rain down on Rice anyway in the bottom of the inning (and I sure booed along) when he ruined a great scoring opportunity; he came to bat with no outs and two men on base as Nunley and Stalker had both singled to start the inning. Rice found himself in a 3-0 count, poked, and lined out to Cornejo in right. Stevenson and Kelly were no help in advancing the team’s cause, and Nunley never even reached third base. Kelly stubbornly refused to yield to the Titans, but sure could have used at least one run of support, but that never arrived. In the eighth inning, McPherson’s 1-out single to left was just the third Boston base hit off Kelly, but it also spelled the end of his day unless Fuentes would bunt into a double play, which he didn’t. Runner – as slow as he was – on second base, two outs, and left-handers ahead, Kelly was done at 98 pitches, and Quinn MacCarthy set up shop on the mound for the first time as a Critter. The Titans had a response to that, sending Almanza to bat for Ramos, but then again I sought consolation in MacCarthy’s negligible splits. Almanza hit a sharp grounder at 1-0, but he also hit it into Spencer’s fangs, and the runner was stranded.

Another hurrah for Spencer swiftly followed; Daniel Bullock had entered the game along with MacCarthy in a double switch, replacing Stalker at short, and batted with one out in the bottom 8th, knocking a single past Mike Green to become the go-ahead run. Green caught up with Cookie’s grounder in roughly the same zip code by standing one step further to the west, but Bullock advanced to second base, from whence he scored when Spencer singled uncatchably into left center. Mendoza came up with a single, and after that Erickson batted for Rockwell to force the issue; the left-hander Erickson countered Fuentes, who was only on 88 pitches. With two on and two out, the Titans didn’t budge, Fuentes remained in the game, and Erickson grounded out to leave the runners aboard. This made the ninth inning a Brett Lillis appearance, and right away it was a depressing one. PH Kevin Jaeger struck out to begin the inning, and Antonio Esquivel fouled out, but the Titans then rapped off three straight 2-out singles by Reichardt, Kane, and Green, and none of them soft. Reichardt scored, and the game was tied. Casillas struck out to leave two on there as well, the Coons did nothing against Fuentes going nine, and we went to extras. Ron Thrasher was pitching in the bottom 10th and issued a leadoff walk to Stevenson, who advanced on a wild pitch. After Bullock struck out, Cookie was given four wide ones to get to Spencer, which was going against anything you could read in The Book, except that it worked. Spencer grounded out, which advanced the runners, but it also left driving in the winning run from third base to Dumbo Mendoza, and that went as predicted with a foul pop near third base that ended the inning. The winning run was on right away in the 11th again, with Erickson walking against a Ron Thrasher at odds with his control. Nunley singled, moving Erickson to second base with no outs. The pitcher’s spot was next, and Romero batted for Cory Dew here. Both him and Rice would fly out to center, and while Thrasher moved up the runners with a wild pitch, they were stranded again thanks to Stevenson striking out. That was a lot of batting misery for the first two games of the season, but thankfully the Raccoons didn’t fall down to 0-2. After Dew’s two scoreless innings, Noah Bricker delivered two more, and the game ended in the bottom 13th on Dumbo Mendoza’s walkoff shot off Edwin Balandran. 2-1 Blighters. Mendoza 3-6, HR, RBI; Nunley 2-4, BB; Kelly 7.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K; Dew 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K; Bricker 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R; 0 BB, 2 K, W (1-0);

Sam Armetta is the only Raccoon on the roster to yet see action this year.

Game 3
BOS: SS Casillas – 3B Esquivel – CF Reichardt – LF Almanza – 2B M. Green – 1B Jaeger – C R. Anderson – RF Cornejo – P Farrell
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Stalker – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – C Olivares – SS Bullock – CF Romero – P Martinez

The Titans removed almost all their left-handed bats from the lineup and the struggle was real for Martinez, who started the game with a walk to Casillas, and slowly disintegrated after that. Antonio Esquivel’s double gave the Titans a quick lead, and they would pile three more hits on Martinez to score three runs in the inning, Almanza and Anderson contributing RBI singles before Cornejo – the only left-handed batter in the lineup – struck out to end the inning. Mike Green’s homer upped the score to 4-0 in the third inning and Martinez wasn’t going to be with us for long in his season debut. The Raccoons scored the odd run in the bottom 4th, Romero coming home on a Stalker sac fly, which also gave the rookie the team RBI lead with a rousing total of two, but after Mendoza hit another single to bring up Rockwell with two outs as the tying run, the aged slugger popped out to forfeit the opportunity and drop his batting average to .111;

Martinez was yanked as early as the fourth inning after loading the bases with one out. Alan Farrell had got the Titans going with a single, after which Casillas walked and Esquivel hit another single to center. Joel Davis replaced Martinez as we hoped for a whiff and a catch, or maybe Adrian Reichardt could hit a sharp one at Nunley? Throw to Stalker, throw to Rockwell, the inning was over on the double play, but the Coons were still down 4-1 and in their bullpen already. The middle innings however were largely uneventful with batters mostly going down silently for either team, and when offense threatened to resume, it was the right team to put up a 2-out rally in the seventh inning. Starting with a pinch-walk by Max Erickson, the Raccoons would load the bases against Farrell just at the onset of a light drizzle. Cookie singled, Stalker stalked, errr, walked, and it was Mendoza’s turn with the tying runs spread out in front of him and two done in already. Mendoza wasn’t gonna be lead in RBI’s by no rookie! Despite falling down 0-2, he turned on Farrell’s hoped-for exit pitch and fired it into the left-center gap past Reichardt. Mendoza had a bases-clearing double, the game was tied at four, and Martinez thus off the schneid. Rockwell struck out to end the inning.

Meanwhile the rain got worse. After MacCarthy got in a scoreless eighth, the game suffered a 25-minute rain delay, at the other end of which Farrell was nowhere to be seen. Lefty Mike Tharp would oppose the 5-6-7 batters at the other end of the involuntary break. All three ran full counts, none of them reached. Nunley struck out, Olivares was out at first by 90 feet thanks to arguing that his chopper was foul when it really wasn’t, and Bullock whiffed as well. Top 9th, the Titans got two hits (Esquivel, Kane) off Bricker as well as three strikeouts, leaving the team with another walkoff chance in the bottom of the ninth – or extras. Ricardo Romero ran the fourth straight full count on Tharp to begin the bottom 9th, but actually got on base with a single to left. Erickson was still in the #9 hole (with the pitcher in the cleanup slot), and was a terrible bunter, and also a left-handed batter. Oh just hit away, it will be fine. Erickson hit into a really fat double play, and Cookie’s groundout sent the game to extra innings yet again… The Raccoons were running out of pitching REALLY fast – and by the 11th inning had arrived at Saturday’s starter, Bobby Guerrero, who made himself amicable right away by allowing a leadoff single to Tharp who had already pitched three shutout innings. Casillas hit an infield single, and things were going pear-shaped in a hurry. A bunt moved over the runners, and Reichardt’s fly to deep left was caught by Cookie, but he was in no shape to prevent the relief pitcher (!!) from scoring. Kane flew out, leaving the Coons one run down against yesterday’s loser, Edwin Balandran, in the bottom 11th. The left-hander swiftly put the winning runs aboard, as Nunley landed a leadoff single and Olivares walked. Bullock bunted the runners over, but Romero’s grounder was to third base and entirely unhelpful. Esquivel nipped him, the runners stayed put, and Erickson went down on strikes. 5-4 Titans. Carmona 2-5; Mendoza 3-5, 2B, 3 RBI; Romero 2-5, 2B; Davis 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K; Sloan 1.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K;

My mantra always has been that if you lose, at least lose in regulation. This was a terrible game for many reasons, and I can’t think up a non-injury situation that could leave you worse off than these two preceding games. It’s the first week of the season, Thursday night only, and our pitching staff is already burned badly.

Raccoons (1-2) vs. Falcons (2-2) – April 8-10, 2022

There was no time for recuperation before the Falcons flocked into town, having split their opening 4-set with the Thunder. They had surrendered 18 runs, the most in the league so far, but then again they had also played more games. Both teams had a distinctly negative run differential after the first set of the season, with the Coons at -5 and the Falcons at -6. This was another opponent whom the Raccoons had beaten for several consecutive years, with the 5-4 season series win in ’21 the fourth straight for Portland.

Projected matchups:
Travis Garrett (0-0) vs. Denzel Durr (0-0)
Bobby Guerrero (0-1, 9.00 ERA) vs. Brian Benjamin (0-1, 21.00 ERA)
Jonathan Toner (0-1, 6.00 ERA) vs. Justin Fleming (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

As said before, no southpaws to be found in their rotation.

Guerrero threw only 13 pitches in losing the Thursday affair so we suspect him to be able to start on Saturday. The more critical point is that we are counting on Garrett to pitch deep into the series opener to give the pen at least a little breather.

And no ****ing extra innings, thanks.

Game 1
CHA: 3B Czachor – C T. Robinson – 2B Good – 1B Fowlkes – CF LeMoine – RF Benson – LF Feldmann – SS J. Estrada – P Durr
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – SS Stalker – C Rice – CF Stevenson – P Garrett

Counting on Garrett to save the team was like inviting cannibals for dinner and a sleepover – there were hardly gonna be any winners, except the visitors. Ryan Czachor’s leadoff single and stolen base put him in a hole immediately, and Pat Fowlkes’ RBI single actually made the run appear visibly on the board. The Raccoons would load the bases in the bottom 1st when Denzel Durr, one of the more whimsy pitchers that kept finding employment year after year, walked the entire middle of the order with two outs only to strike out the rookie that we asked to protect them. Speaking of walks, Garrett was surely not immune to them. He issued free passes to Travis Benson and Ryan Feldmann in the second inning, then served up a bad idea that Juan Estrada hit about 390 feet for a 3-run homer.

While I was agonizing over the Tragedy of it all, the Raccoons stranded another two in the third inning when Nunley’s fly could not beat Chris LeMoine’s range, but then actually scored two off Durr, who was just as terrible as Garrett, in the bottom of the fourth. Danny Rice reached base and advanced on a wild pitch, being scored on Stevenson’s single being played into a double by Benson in shallow right when the Falcon missed an uncatchable ball in his headlong nosedive, a fact that gave the Raccoons an extra run since Stevenson scored from second on Cookie’s 2-out single to left. That brought the team back into actual contention, now down only 4-2. Tragic Travis saw his loss in danger and immediately upped the suckage, but after walking two he had his evil scheme foiled by Jarod Spencer who turned an inning-ending double play on Matt Good behind him. In fact, both starters would make it through five despite walking as many and being in danger all the ****ing time. Durr loaded the bases once more in the bottom 5th, but Nunley, Stalker, and Rice were stranded when Stevenson bounced back to the pitcher. Chris LeMoine’s 2-shot in the sixth inning followed a Nunley error and was thus only half on Garrett’s ledger, but in the Coons pen the first guys were taking off their oxygen masks because their service would be needed soon enough. Ryan Feldmann’s homer carved up Garrett for a seventh run, and Estrada singled and Durr grounded out before Cory Dew entered the fray that was soon to turn into a full-blown rout. Former Titan Tim Robinson would clobber home runs in consecutive innings here, first a solo shot off Dew in the seventh, then a 2-piece off Joel Davis in the eighth. The latter was unearned, courtesy of a Rockwell error earlier in the inning with Sugano pitching. The Raccoons never got a chance to do much against the horrendous Durr or his replacement Blake Parr in the late innings. 10-2 Falcons. Spencer 3-5, 3B;

The good news is, Bobby Guerrero has just enough energy and confidence to give us five innings, four runs, which is not so bad a cut looking at what the rest of the crew has done so far. With 23 runs conceded in four games, we are now last in the Continental League. Toner’s 6.00 ERA from the season opener has him a healthy second by ERA among our starters.

Game 2
CHA: 3B Czachor – LF M. Owen – 2B Good – 1B Fowlkes – CF LeMoine – RF Benson – C T. Robinson – SS Tanaka – P Benjamin
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – 3B Nunley – 1B Mendoza – RF Erickson – C Olivares – SS Stalker – CF Stevenson – P Guerrero

Matts Owen and Good both singled off Guerrero in the first, indicating early that there would not be mercy from higher up in this game either. While the Falcons were content with one run on Fowlkes’ sac fly, last night’s drubbing had also started with a solo run in the first inning… While Guerrero was helped out by the defense in the next few innings, the Raccoons made a habit of getting a man on and then grounding to a middle infielder, but breaking up the double play. They did that three times in the first two innings, which had the nice effect of changing faces at first base, but no real advancement other than towards the cellar of the division. Guerrero knocked a leadoff single to right in the bottom 3rd, and then Cookie was guilty of grounding to a middle infielder. Ryozo Tanaka, however, only got the lead runner, Cookie remained on first, then stole second base, his first theft of the year. Spencer grounded out, but Nunley cashed in the tying run with a 2-out single to center, his first RBI of the season, but then again, nobody had many on this team. Mendoza hit a double, with Nunley having to hold on third base, before Max Erickson raked a Benjamin fastball for a long drive to right center, and outta here! The 3-piece gave Guerrero a 4-1 lead, but it almost became more than that. Olivares singled, and Stalker hit a drive that was short of the wall in left by only ten or fifteen feet and was caught to end the inning.

Guerrero hit another single in the fourth inning and scored on a Spencer double to run the score to 5-1, and Spencer was also Guerrero’s best friend in all other regards, turning two double plays for him in the third and fourth. Nobody hit the ball to Spencer after the Falcons put their first two men on in the fifth inning, with Robinson doubling into Cookie’s corner, and Tanaka working a walk, but PH Rick Farmer and Czachor both flew out on the grassy verges of the park and Matt Owen grounded out to short to keep the runners stranded. Guerrero ran out of luck in the sixth, however. Good’s leadoff single was followed by Fowlkes bombing a ball out of leftfield, cutting the lead down to 5-3. Guerrero managed to get four more outs before running out of puff, and the first batter the pen faced, Estrada pinch-hitting in the #9 hole, hit another home run off Sugano to cut the Coons back to a single run’s advantage. Maybe restart the run machine? When Erickson and Olivares were on base with one out in the bottom 7th, urgency took over and Gil Rockwell batted for Tim Stalker against right-hander Blake Parr. Rockwell struck out, and so did Rice, batting for Stevenson.

It was the first week of the season, and yet we were already extremely desperate. MacCarthy had pitched in three straight games and was unavailable, so Brett Lillis was drafted to face the mostly left-handed core of the Falcons lineup in the eighth inning. Maybe Dew could save the game in the ninth, if there was anything savable left. There almost wasn’t – Lillis surrendered 2-out singles to LeMoine and Feldmann, which was how Wednesday had gone wrong, before Tim Robinson’s sharp grounder was collected and turned into the third out by Daniel Bullock. The Coons would strand two as well in the bottom 8th, 2-out singles on top of that. Mendoza grounded out against Gregg Bell with Spencer and Nunley aboard. Dew retired the side in order in the ninth to stave off a 1-4 start. 5-4 Critters. Carmona 2-5; Spencer 2-5, 2B, RBI; Nunley 2-5, RBI; Erickson 3-4, HR, 3 RBI; Olivares 2-3, BB;

Game 3
CHA: 3B Czachor – LF M. Owen – 2B Good – 1B Fowlkes – CF LeMoine – RF Benson – C T. Robinson – SS Tanaka – P Fleming
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – C Rice – SS Bullock – 3B Armetta – CF Romero – P Toner

Jonny opposed Justin Fleming, who had pitched eight shutout innings in his first outing of the year, but had lost 17 games between the Stars and Falcons in 2021, and was mixing a mediocre cutter with a great changeup and some terrible junk to earn his $432k paycheck. So of course he retired the Critters in order the first time through their lineup. The other team didn’t score in the first, which was already some kind of improvement for the team, but they sure scored in the second, Toner getting bopped by LeMoine for his second homer of the season. Toner was much better in control of things in this second outing of the year, and in fact surrendered only three hits in the first five innings – two to LeMoine, who was normally mere victim against Toner (batting .130 with only one home run against him before this game), and a bloop that dropped between defenders by Robinson.

Fleming’s fatal enchantment on the Critters lasted 13 batters until Danny Rice drew a walk in the bottom 5th and the spell seemed broken. Bullock and Armetta chipped singles to load the bases. Romero hit a sac fly to Benson to tie the game, while Toner grounded out to Czachor, who then showed Toner a little trick called the Slovakian Slug by drumming a double to left leading off the sixth inning. The run would not score; Owen struck out, and the next two batters grounded out to the left side of the infield, first Good to Bullock, and then Fowlkes to Armetta. Toner also staved off a Benson double in the seventh, striking out pinch-hitter Ryan Feldmann to end the inning and leave Benson on second base. Bottom 7th, the backup infielders put up a threat after Danny Rice had struck out to strand a pair in the previous inning. Bullock singled, Armetta walked, and there was nobody out for … Matt Nunley, who batted for Romero. His fly to right center narrowly eluded Benson and the Raccoons squeaked into the lead on the RBI double. Toner batted – he had a few more outs in him and we were already ahead – and struck out, with Cookie getting bypassed to load the bases for Spencer, who struck out as a few drops fell from the skies. That pulled up Mendoza, and Hugo came through here, hitting his second bases-clearing double of the week, giving the Coons a strong 5-1 lead. Gil Rockwell lined out to Good, ending the inning. Toner entered the eighth on 96 pitches, but we had nary a living man in the pen and going well beyond 110 was not alien to Toner, so I felt comfortable enough to ask him at least for the eighth. And maybe that rain could come to aid? Rick Farmer grounded out to start the inning, after which Czachor singled to right as the rain got worse and worse. With the Falcons’ third baseman holding at first, the chief of the umpiring crew immediately raised his arms and waved for the tarp, so Toner’s day was now surely done – but so was the rest of the teams’. Steady rain lasted into the night, and the game was called about 90 minutes after it entered the delay. 5-1 Raccoons. Mendoza 2-4, 2B, 3 RBI; Bullock 2-3; Armetta 1-2, BB; Nunley (PH) 1-1, 2B, RBI; Toner 7.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, W (1-1);

That is what I like to call timely hitting!

In other news

April 5 – The Buffaloes raze the Cyclones for eight runs in the first inning and seven more in the third en route to a 17-6 rout. TOP RF/LF/1B Dave Pimentel (.625, 0 HR, 2 RBI) goes 4-for-4 with two walks and drives in one run.
April 6 – Early injury woes for the Scorpions, who place 23-year old SS Trey Rock (.357, 0 HR, 1 RBI) on the DL with a strained medial collateral ligament.
April 8 – A mad game sees the Scorpions lead the Buffaloes 10-9 after three(!) innings, thanks to an 8-run outburst in the second inning. Sacramento prevails, 15-11, with C Jaiden Jackson (.500, 4 HR, 12 RBI) plating a game-high four runners on three hits, including two home runs.
April 8 – SAL RF/LF Nate Ellis (.200, 2 HR, 3 RBI) walks off his team in the 16th inning with a first-pitch home run off Nashville’s Matt Goga. The Wolves, who rallied from a 3-run deficit in the ninth inning, win the game, 5-4.
April 9 – SFB SP Brad Smith (1-0, 2.25 ERA) locks up his 250th career win in a 4-2 triumph over the Loggers in Milwaukee. The 6-time Federal League Pitcher of the Year has started a total of 555 ABL games, going 250-141 with a 3.11 ERA and piling up 3,380 strikeouts – most among active pitchers and the fourth-most in league history behind Tony Hamlyn (3,952), Martin Garcia (3,783), and Rod Taylor (3,473).
April 10 – SAC C Jaiden “Banshee” Jackson (.565, 5 HR, 15 RBI) is on a hot streak right out of the gate and pumps five hits in a 9-7 win over the Buffaloes on Sunday. Jackson misses the cycle by the triple and drives in three runs. He also draws a complimentary walk.

Complaints and stuff

The Indians, who officially lost the offseason according to BNN, are the only team undefeated in the league and lead the North by two full games, while the defending champions Loggers are 0-4 with a rainout. Which is GREAT because it gives the talking bobbleheads on the sports radio some distraction from the general misery around the Willamette. Rainouts were frequent in the first week after an unusually wet winter that turned into an unusually wet spring. Climate change was gonna get us eventually, and for now there were three teams in the league with as few as four games played during the first week.

Mendoza’s 7 RBI paled compared to Jaiden Jackson’s FIFTEEN in the Federal League, but Mendoza was still tying for the CL lead anyway, sharing the top spot with Vegas’ Dan Brown, with the Aces at the same time lingering in last place.

Jonny Toner’s career strikeouts totals this year are totally easy to calculate. Whenever he’s pitching, his season total will be on the board, and the only thing left to add is the crooked number he entered the season with, a number that you will never remember. This year it is trivial, though, since his entry total is 2,048 – which is recognizably a power of 2 and the only one for miles around.

I do sound like a numbers nerd at times.

ABL CAREER STRIKEOUT LEADERS
53rd – Joe Ellis – 2,135
54th – Jorge Gine – 2,132 – active
55th – Takeru Sato – 2,104
56th – Whit Reeves – 2,081 – HOF
57th – Paul Miller – 2,078
58th – Jonathan Toner – 2,065 – active
59th – Chris O’Keefe – 2,060
60th – Juichi Fujita – 2,046
61st – Parker Montgomery – 2,044 – HOF

Red-haired with a shy moustache, Joe “Hunter” Ellis was a veteran of the ABL’s first season in 1977 and pitched until 1992, spending all but two of those years with the Falcons. A four-time All Star, he also won the 1980 CL Pitcher of the Year award, leading the league in wins (21), starts (36), innings pitched (277), and strikeouts (222). This was also the second consecutive year in which he won two triple crown categories but no the third, after lacking the wins required in 1979. A consistent mid-2 ERA pitcher until ’87, Ellis faded afterwards and piled up 18 losses by ’89. He got some initial consideration when Hall of Fame voting replaced the Secret Ninja Committee in 2004, but was not actually elected. Overall, he ended up with 188 wins, 145 losses, and a 2.82 ERA in addition to his 2,135 strikeouts. He never appeared in a World Series; the Falcons made the playoffs only twice during his career, and never made it out of the CLCS, losing to the Crusaders in ’78 and the Canadiens in ’82.

I moved funds to the scouting and youth departments just before the end of the preseason, buffing both budgets considerably over the league average. The Raccoons are still having money left over, however, with roughly $1.17M in actual budget room, plus whatever spare change we could pick from the couch cushions. That was something that could give you a really good player at the deadline.

Or more likely enough really fine booze to really gloriously expire yourself.

But hey, bright sides. There is a real chance that they will be bad enough to actually be funny. Speaking of funny…

Fun fact of the week (and I will try to close every week with a fun fact this year!): The Canadiens have made the playoffs just once in the last 30 years.

Great, now I evoked Ray Gilbert’s demons.
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Meeets!

Last edited by Westheim; 12-16-2017 at 02:12 AM.
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Old 12-16-2017, 01:34 PM   #2416
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Raccoons (3-3) vs. Aces (2-4) – April 11-13, 2022

After three straight division titles and two championships, the Aces had finished fourth with an 80-82 record in 2021 with an especially dismal first half of the season. Well, they were in last place after a week’s worth of games, but the Raccoons should better be warned. While the Aces had not set the world on fire in ’21, they sure had taken six of nine games from the Raccoons… So far they ranked second in runs scored and dead-last in runs allowed, so maybe our overly sleepy offense could wake up for the occasion.

Projected matchups:
Frank Kelly (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Juan Valdevez (0-0, 1.29 ERA)
Ricky Martinez (0-0, 10.80 ERA) vs. Sergio Aredondo (0-0, 15.00 ERA)
Travis Garrett (0-1, 9.53 ERA) vs. Chris Wickham (0-0, 1.50 ERA)

The 23-year old sophomore Wickham would be the Raccoons’ first left-handed opponent this year. He had made 16 starts and four relief appearances in 2021, finishing a decent 6-1 with a 3.08 ERA.

Game 1
LVA: CF A. Martinez – LF J. Baker – RF D. Brown – SS Medina – 1B Serrano – C T. Perez – 3B Ingraham – 2B Hebberd – P Valdevez
POR: SS Stalker – 2B Spencer – LF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – RF Erickson – 3B Nunley – C Rice – CF Stevenson – P Kelly

The Aces’ path to victory led most likely along a ****ty roller by Bill Hebberd on the infield that not even Matt Nunley could turn into anything useful. The Aces had a leadoff single to the third inning, thus, and after the inevitable bunt by Valdevez, Armando Martinez’ clanked a ball off the fence in right-center for an RBI triple before scoring himself on Josh Baker’s sac fly. That put the Aces up 2-0, while the Raccoons had but one base runner the first time through, Tim Stalker. He singled to lead off the bottom 1st, stole second base, but between Spencer, Mendoza, and Rockwell the Raccoons harvested a foul pop and two strikeouts. The game appeared over indeed for a while, but the Coons would manage to equalize in the fifth inning; following Danny Rice’s clean single to center, Josh Stevenson ran into a real meatball thrown by Valdevez and belched it over the leftfield boundary to tie the score at two, and this was also a great way to liven up that .077 batting average. The Critters would again show a modicum of life – spring sprung eternal after all – in the bottom of the sixth inning, with (very) soft singles by Mendoza and Rockwell putting a pair on base for Erickson, who struck out, and Nunley, who saw his own shadow, squeaked, and popped out before dashing back to the comfort of the dugout shadows.

Kelly got through eight this time (which he hadn’t in his debut), but once again was locked in a draw. The Raccoons had initially taken a lead in the bottom 8th in his previous start, so maybe the top of the order could unlock a win for him, because he sure deserved one. The Aces sent left-hander Alex Morin into the bottom 8th either out of spite or to prevent me from hitting Cookie for either of the two right-handed youngsters atop the lineup. Both Stalker and Spencer hit line drives to left, and Josh Baker only caught the latter; Stalker’s fell for a double. That brought up the big boys in the middle of the order again, with a run really required here. Mendoza grounded out to Bill Hebberd, Rockwell struck out. Kelly shrugged, finished nine, but the Raccoons would not get through Morin in the bottom 9th, either, which meant overtime for the third time in seven games. At least the game extension was as brief as possible this time around. Tony Perez hit a leadoff jack off Joel Davis to begin the 10th inning, and Davis drilling pinch-hitter Donovan May aside this was the last meaningful base runner in the game. 3-2 Aces. Stalker 2-5, 2B; Rockwell 2-4; Kelly 9.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K;

Oh my, oh my.

Game 2
LVA: 1B Serrano – 2B Moroyoqui – CF A. Martinez – RF D. Brown – 3B J. Navarro – C T. Perez – SS Ingraham – LF J. Baker – P Aredondo
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Stalker – 3B Nunley – RF Erickson – C Olivares – SS Bullock – 1B Armetta – CF Stevenson – P R. Martinez

Again an infield single (by the difficult to pronounce Jesus Moroyoqui) and then an Armando Martinez triple gave the Aces their first lead, but this time it was right in the first inning. After Dan Brown’s pop out to Bullock it looked like Ricky Martinez could keep them to one run, maybe, but nah, Jose Navarro’s double to right center, uncatchable, put two on the board anyway. Ricky Martinez was not above issuing leadoff walks and had to be held together by the defense, which sometimes worked in spectacular fashion. The Aces had Zach Ingraham and Josh Baker at the corners with one out in the fourth inning. Martinez slid into a 3-1 count to the opposing pitcher (…!), who then lined to the right side. Sam Armetta made a lunging catch and managed to recollect himself in time to tag the returning Baker for an inning-ending double play.

Matt Nunley hit a solo shot in the bottom of the fourth inning, getting the Coons back to within a run, but when play resumed in the fifth, Martinez was no longer on the mound despite the manageable score and having thrown less than 60 pitches. Logan Sloan had taken over, and the reason for that was a casual remark by Martinez to the Druid in the dugout that his arm felt un poquito muerto. Sloan would be charged with three runs in 1.2 innings, of which one was unearned after an Armetta error in the fifth, one came on Tony Perez’ homer in the sixth, and the last one scored on Moroyoqui’s 2-out RBI double off Cory Dew in the same inning. Tim Stalker’s maiden home run, a solo shot off Aredondo in the bottom 6th, was hardly any consolation, especially since it was more or less immediately followed by Dan Brown rocking Dew with a 2-piece in the top 7th. Suddenly down by five, the game had drifted out of reach, and the sorry run the Raccoons scored in the bottom 8th wouldn’t help them with bouncing back too much; Josh Stevenson had knocked a leadoff double, but only scored on groundouts by Mendoza and Cookie. Rockwell hit a pinch-hit double in the bottom 9th, but that merely served to knock out Aredondo before he could log a complete game effort. 7-3 Aces. Stevenson 2-3, 2B;

The Druid thinks that Martinez can keep the arm, and he might be able to pitch by Sunday or Monday or so.

So, is that in the good news category, or …?

That night, there was only one team in the entire league with more losses than the Critters, the 2-7 Stars.

Game 3
LVA: CF A. Martinez – LF J. Baker – RF D. Brown – SS Medina – 1B Serrano – C T. Perez – 3B J. Navarro – 2B Moroyoqui – P Wickham
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – SS Stalker – C Olivares – CF Stevenson – P Garrett

Garrett struck out two in a clean and quick first inning, which was almost elating, even though the Raccoons soon enough threw a first wrench into the gears. Cookie opened the bottom 1st with a 4-pitch walk, and Mendoza would even find a single somewhere in his fur, but none of the other guys managed to meet ball with bat convincingly and the runners were stranded. Top 2nd, the nightmare began with Andres Medina’s soft single to left. Within five more pitches, the bases were loaded, Garrett drilling Danny Serrano before walking Perez on four pitches. There was really no point in stopping now, right? Another four wide ones allowed the Aces to slow-motion-trot around the bases to score their first run on a walk to Navarro, and Moroyoqui dished a 3-1 pitch to Mendoza for an out, but deep enough to score a run. Wickham bunted, Martinez singled in two, and Garrett still managed to make it worse with a walk to Baker before Cookie got paws on a Dan Brown drive. Four runs scored in the inning, and I was looking intensely into Honeypaws’ eyes for any flicker of hope, but they were entirely black and dead.

Garrett didn’t allow another run in the next three innings, although this was down to defense to some degree. Nunley made a nifty play, but foremost credit had to go to Mendoza, who threw out a runner at home plate in the third inning. The Raccoons nibbled, but didn’t bite until the fifth inning when they had Cookie and Spencer on base with singles, and Mendoza would hit a 2-run double to get some life back into the crowd. Rockwell’s liner to right ended up with Dan Brown, but Nunley hit a double to center to close the gap to 4-3 before Stalker grounded out to end the frame. But wait, what did you say? Garrett was still pitching? Oh dear. Indeed: the Aces had runners on the corners with no outs in the sixth quicker than you could wish upon a proper pitcher, and Quinn MacCarthy staved off the worst, but couldn’t keep the Aces from scoring Navarro at least on Donovan May’s pinch-hit sac fly. In fact, Stevenson made three difficult catches in center, so maybe HE should get credit for the score not (yet?) blossoming into something ghastly! Joel Davis had two clean innings after that, but we were still not seeing much in terms of a comeback attempt. Maybe something as innocent as Nunley’s leadoff single of the infield variety in the bottom 8th could be the spark? The single came of former Coons nightmare Nem Jones, who was swiftly replaced with Colin Peay, who got Stalker to ground into a force at second base. In fact, every batter now faced a new pitcher. Danny Rice singled off Enrique Guzman, who was replaced with Danny Lobato for Stevenson, who flew out to Brown. Lobato, a right-hander, remained in the game when Erickson pinch-hit for Davis and lost him to a full-count walk, bringing up Cookie with the bags full and two outs in the 5-3 game. Cookie struck the first pitch he got cleanly to left for a single, Rice turned on the afterburners and scored close behind Stalker to tie the game! Yet, Spencer grounded out to short.

A clean ninth by Lillis was followed by the Raccoons stranding Gil Rockwell at second base, thus leading to their fourth extra-inning affair in just nine attempts this year. I was already starting to hate the season… One more scoreless inning from Brett Lillis was not enough to bring about a decision, but maybe we could still turn this into something other than a terrible, terrible defeat and a sweep? Nah. You kiddin’? Mike Cook, whom you may or may not remember as part of the Cookie-including package we received ten years earlier for “Dingus” Morales and then flicked on for Mike Bednarski (SUCH A GOOD TRADE) hit a double past Cookie in the 11th against Bricker, who then got a grounder to short from Armando Martinez at least, except that Stalker threw the ball away for a colossal 2-base, run-scoring error. Ingraham’s RBI single would give the Aces an extra run to work with, in particular left-hander Tim Dunkin, who was assigned to retire the top of the Coons’ order in the bottom 11th. The tying runs would be in scoring position with nobody out! Cookie singled hard to right, and then Spencer followed that up with a double to center! Bring on Mendoza, and OF COURSE he nah’d the Raccoons out of a quick win, bouncing back to Dunkin for a completely useless out at first. OH YOU ****ING ASSHOLE!! That moved the line on to Gil Rockwell, batting all of .192, but at least four of his five hits for the Coons had come in this series, even though that was one strike, two strikes, and a pitch that would have merited strike three, right off the bottom corner of the zone. The next one was swung at and driven to right, past Ingraham and in for a 2-run double, game tied! Rockwell was now the winning run at second base for Nunley, who grounded out, and Stalker came up with two outs and nursing an 0-for-5. However, a soft single chipped to right center was all that needed, because once Rockwell’s mass was set in motion, there was no denying him the winning run and he raced straight across home plate, into the dugout, down the tunnel, through the clubhouse, and down to the parking lot to get to some proper fast food place after almost starving surrounded by nothing but peanut bags for 11 innings. 8-7 Furballs! Carmona 3-5, BB, 2 RBI; Spencer 3-6, 2 2B; Mendoza 2-6, 2B, 2 RBI; Rockwell 2-6, 2B, 2 RBI; Nunley 3-6, 2B, RBI; Rice (PH) 1-2; Bullock (PH) 1-1; Davis 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K; Lillis 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K;

(can’t stop laughing) Garrett, that ****ing ass. (laughs) I hate him so hard. (keeps laughing) I hate him so ****ing hard …! (giggles)

This, kids, is madness.

Also, our first pitcher to two wins is … Noah Bricker. “Bloody” Bricker is also in the top 3 in strikeouts on the team, his seven trailing Toner (17) and … Logan Sloan (8).

Geez.

Raccoons (4-5) @ Canadiens (6-3) – April 15-17, 2022

I knew 700 reasons for why this series would end in a sweep, and none why it wouldn’t. The Elks were surprisingly good coming out of the gate, ranking sixth in runs scored and fourth in runs allowed with a modest +5 run differential (Coons: -12). The Raccoons had squeezed out a 10-8 win in the season series last year, but had won it only twice in the last eight years.

Projected matchups:
Bobby Guerrero (1-1, 4.91 ERA) vs. Randy Jenkins (1-0, 1.50 ERA)
Jonathan Toner (1-1, 3.38 ERA) vs. Rich Hood (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Frank Kelly (0-0, 1.08 ERA) vs. Kevin Woodworth (2-0, 1.13 ERA)

The Elks’ stock should drop sharply the second you spotted a 35-year old Rich Hood in their rotation or anywhere near it. So far Hood had only appeared in relief for them and had avoided damage; why they were even penciling him in was a real mystery. The southpaw Hood, who had made 55 starts for the Critters in 2012 and 2013 with a 17-20 record and no farewell gift after smuggling him into the Cyclones’ organization in the trade for Ron Sakellaris after that, had made his first big league appearances since *2017* with this year’s Elks. His most recent start was even longer ago, in 2015. Sometimes, resiliency would pay off eventually.

Should they come to their senses, they could still skip him in favor of Matt Rosenthal (1-1, 6.17 ERA) without starting anybody on short rest. The Elks were also hampered by injuries, having placed one-and-a-half starters from their lineup on the DL already in infielder John Calfee and foremost outfielder Man-su Kim.

Game 1
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – SS Stalker – C Rice – CF Romero – P Guerrero
VAN: LF A. Torres – SS Folk – C Holliman – RF Berrones – 3B Roundtree – 2B Otis – 1B Rickard – CF Coca – P R. Jenkins

Scoring had ended Wednesday in Portland with Rockwell turning into a human snow plough, and it would start thusly in the Friday contest in the City of Elks. Cookie led off with a single but was doubled up with Spencer on a the latter’s grounder to short. Mendoza hit a 2-out single to right, stole second base, but would have scored anyway on Rockwell’s triple into the right-center gap that saw the Vancouver outfield in flames ablaze, and a proper defensive play could probably have held him to two bases only. As things were, Rockwell had three, then scored on Nunley’s single for a quick 2-0 lead. The Elks would get a run back immediately, though, thanks to Guerrero’s leadoff walk to Alex Torres, who came around to score on a Ryan Holliman single after Brody Folk’s groundout that moved him to second base. The Raccoons’ reply to that was rough and hard; aided by a Moises Berrones error they first put two men on before Spencer’s 2-out triple bumped the score to 4-1, followed by Mendoza’s homer that got Portland to a 6-1 lead.

Danny Rice, who still had no RBI as a Raccoon, narrowly missed a homer in the third inning, then came to bat with the bases loaded in the fourth against Bob Taney; Randy Jenkins had just been removed from the game after Nunley had hit a sac fly with the bases loaded. Taney walked Stalker to refill the bags, and Rice grounded to the left side, where Folk had to move away from second base and thus was denied a double play. With one out, a run scored, 8-1, and Rice had a Critter RBI. At this point I was mostly worried about Guerrero’s ill control and bad pitch economy, but the Elks were actually not quite dead yet. The bottom of the fifth inning saw Matt Otis lead off with a single, and Guerrero walked Bobby Rickard right away afterwards. Tony Coca rapped a single to right, with Otis being sent from second base, only for Mendoza to collect his second home plate trophy of the week, throwing Otis out by ten feet. The remaining runners moved up into scoring position with one out and ex-Condor Omar Saenz batting, but Guerrero assured the pitching coach that he had it all under control. For some, control probably did actually mean allowing two runs on a slap single to right, but eh, different folks, different mental illnesses. A nifty play by Nunley on Alex Torres’ sharp bouncer helped keep the Elks in check in this inning afterwards, with an 8-3 lead carried over to the sixth, where the Coons scratched Zach Hughes for two runs. Mendoza and Nunley had hit singles before Stalker banged a ball off the fence in centerfield (kid’s got power!) for an RBI double. Rice would hit a sac fly afterwards.

Guerrero’s day ended on Steve Roundtree’s 2-piecce in the bottom 6th, 10-5, and his replacement, Sloan, in a hurry put on two batters with a 4-pitch walk to Otis and a Rickard single. Tony Coca and Jeremy Houghtaling struck out to negate the threat. After a scoreless seventh, right-hander Juan Mendoza (a former Raccoon, to spare you the headaches) walked the bases loaded in the eighth inning with Romero drawing up and one out on the board. The count here ran full before Tony Coca cashed in Romero’s pop to shallow center, holding all runners. Erickson batted for Cory Dew and did draw a 2-out walk, pushing home a run, and then Cookie scored two with a hard single to right center. Weird **** was well known to happen in even the most lopsided games in Vancouver, but the Elks would not stink their way back into this one – the 8-run lead held up. 13-5 Raccoons! Carmona 3-6, 2 RBI; Spencer 2-6, 3B, 2 RBI; Mendoza 4-6, HR, 2 RBI; Nunley 3-4, 2 RBI; Bullock 1-1; Rice 2-3, BB, 2B, 2 RBI; Erickson (PH) 0-0, BB, RBI; Davis 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K;

This rousing success will probably be followed by two drubbings, so despite 13 runs piled on the pink pricks, I still couldn’t sleep easily back home in Portland.

Game 2
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – SS Stalker – C Olivares – CF Stevenson – P Toner
VAN: LF A. Torres – SS Folk – 1B Saenz – C Holliman – RF Berrones – 3B Roundtree – 2B Otis – CF Coca – P Hood

And there was Hood, in his first start in seven years. Cookie hit a single off him in the first that led nowhere, but Stevenson’s leadoff single in the third eventually netted a run… somehow. Toner’s bad bunt forced the runner, but Spencer’s 2-out single got the Coons into scoring position after all. Mendoza dropped a ball near the leftfield line that Torres only cut off near the corner, Toner scoring on the RBI double. Rockwell could have driven in two, but Berrones made a good run and catch for his fly in right center to end the inning. Hood would also fail to bunt in the bottom 3rd, and in this case the Elks probably lost the tying run. Otis had hit a leadoff single of the infield kind that Stalker only managed to control near the edge of the infield – no chance for an out. Toner struck out Coca, and then Hood bunted foul on a 2-2, receiving the next strikeout call. After that, Torres actually singled, and with Otis at *second* rather than first base this could have been actual trouble, but as things were Brody Folk rolled one over to Spencer for the third out and the Elks stranded two.

While the Raccoons weren’t exactly smothering Hood, Toner at least tended to his 1-0 lead responsibly. Through five innings, he spilled three singles and struck out seven while also registering five pop outs. Spencer hit a leadoff single in the sixth, only to be doubled up by Mendoza, but the seventh saw Tim Stalker with a leadoff double. The team continued to fool around, though. Olivares popped out, Stevenson whiffed. That brought up Toner, who surely wasn’t gonna be hit for as long as he held on to a shutout of any kind, and HE had to get **** done, singling to right to allow Stalker to finally dance home, 2-0. We’d get a single from Cookie, a looper into right center, but Spencer flew out to Torres in left to strand the odd couple on base. Toner whiffed the side in the bottom 7th, Holliman, Berrones, and Roundtree, with Berrones being his 10th K in the game.

But the Raccoons let Hood off the hook, and they were going to pay for it. All the little things would pile up in the bottom of the eighth, and maybe a big thing was also in the mix when the Elks came roaring back from the dead. Otis led off the inning with a single to left, which was something that would happen from time to time. Coca grounded sharply to third base, where Bullock was positioned after batting for a perplexed Nunley in the previous half-inning. Bullock was on the ball, but only got the lead runner, and a man remained on first, which made Chris Tanzillo’s grounder to short a perfect double play chance – unless Stalker would bobble it between his paws and his glove and never get a throw off to anybody. The error put the tying run on, and Torres’ hissing liner into the leftfield corner would score both runners. Toner’s lead was shattered, but he got out of the inning in a 2-2 tie at least, even though Torres retired himself with an odd attempt to steal third base. Folk popped out. The Raccoons would face one of theirs, formerly, in the ninth inning, Jeff Boynton doing the rounds after his release last year. Stalker grounded to first to get going, but now Saenz made the error that could cost the game. Olivares bunted the go-ahead run to second base before we saw through the left-handers that we could throw at Boynton in the vain hope one would stick. Erickson batted for Stevenson and struck out, which by definition was not sticking. Rice batted for Jonny Toner, who got the obligatory oh-well-maybe-next-time pat on the back as Rice fell to 0-1, then 0-2, but before he singled to left center. Stalker was frantically waved around third base and scored sliding across home plate ahead of Holliman’s tag – safe by more than a whisker, but less than a paw’s width. Brett Lillis had no cushion in the bottom 9th, facing the 3-4-5 batters, with left-handed bats bookending that part of the lineup, and he still lacked a save this season – but that would change. The most difficult play was the first, a slow roller by Saenz on which Spencer had to hustle in and make a bare-hand throw to first base, where Armetta had replaced the mostly defenseless Rockwell and made a great swipe to log the first out. Holliman grounded out to Bullock at third, and PH Bobby Rickard struck out. 3-2 Coons! Carmona 2-5; Spencer 2-4; Rice (PH) 1-1, RBI; Toner 8.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 K, W (2-1) and 1-3, RBI;

Game 3
POR: LF Carmona – SS Stalker – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – 2B Spencer – C Rice – CF Romero – P Kelly
VAN: LF A. Torres – SS Folk – 1B Saenz – C Holliman – RF Berrones – 3B Roundtree – 2B Otis – CF Coca – P Woodworth

Kelly’s control was missing from the start, and he never found it. Worse, the Elks would have the leadoff man on base basically every inning. These two things conspired for a leadoff walk to Torres in the first, and Torres stole second and scored on Saenz’ single to give the Condors an early 1-0 lead. Twice the leadoff man on base was erased on a double play, with Holliman hitting into one in the third, and Roundtree finding another one in the fourth inning, but Kelly just walked Otis to resupply the obligatory base runner. Cookie made a daring dash and leaping grab on Tony Coca’s drive to left center, keeping the 1-1 tie in place the Raccoons had clawed themselves into in the top of the fourth after Woodworth had faced the minimum through three innings. Stalker had gotten on base with a single and had made it to third when Mendoza also hit a single. Rockwell grounded out, but at least Stalker managed to race for home with the Critters’ first run of the game.

The Elks’ string of leadoff men on base finally broke in the fifth when Woodworth grounded out to Nunley as the first man up. Saenz in the sixth didn’t reach base either, but Holliman surely did, absolutely murdering pitch #106 from a struggling Kelly for a never-seen-again home run and a 2-1 Elks lead. Kelly, who had almost casually pitched nine innings in under 100 pitches on Monday, was clearly done and removed from the game, one batter too late. Sugano and Dew ended the inning, and the top 7th saw Mendoza reach base leading off before being caught stealing. Rockwell then promptly doubled to center, but Nunley’s single to right center allowed him to score anyway, tying the game again, and assuring Kelly’s record would stay zip-zip with the Raccoons. Woodworth meanwhile also looked done despite sitting in the 70s with his pitch count. Singles by Spencer and Rice loaded the bases, and with that, Erickson batted for the .125 sensation Romero. At 1-2, he singled up the middle, the SIXTH straight base hit for the Coons, and this one scored two and gave Dew a claim for the W. Given the 4-2 lead and the 1-out state, Dew was retained to bunt here so we wouldn’t need yet another reliever in the bottom 7th. The bunt worked well, and Cookie drove home another pair with a clean single to center, the final nail in Woodworth’s coffin. Zach Hughes got Stalker to fly out to right. Up by four, the Coons got five outs across three innings from Dew, and Quinn MacCarthy ended the eighth, but allowed a leadoff single to Berrones in the ninth. The Raccoons had suffered Daniel Bullock being thrown out at home plate to end the ninth inning and were still up by “just” four runs, so for now Noah Bricker would be the fireman on duty rather than Lillis. The closer never had to get into the game. Roundtree flew out to Erickson in right, and he was the last Elk to even meet the ball. Otis and Coca whiffed, ending the series with a sweep. 6-2 Coons! Mendoza 3-4; Spencer 3-4; Erickson (PH) 1-2, 2 RBI; Bullock 1-1; Dew 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K, W (1-0);

In other news

April 11 – Routinely injured SFB OF Dave Garcia (1-for-8, 0 HR, 0 RBI) makes this year no exception and hits the DL in early April with a strained back muscle. The 27-year-old would be out for three to four weeks.
April 11 – IND SP Shane Baker (0-0, 0.87 ERA) is out for the season with a torn rotator cuff.
April 11 – A 10-run fourth inning helps the Miners beat the Gold Sox in a fairly competitive 12-7 game. PIT C/1B J.J. Henley (.100, 1 HR, 4 RBI) has only one hit in the game, but makes that a grand slam off Tom Weise to really get the scoring going.
April 12 – The Titans walk off in regulation against the Knights, 6-5, on R.J. Lloyd’s (0-2, 5.40 ERA) wild pitch with Adam Flack on third base in the bottom of the ninth.
April 13 – New York’s SP Mike Rutkowski (2-0, 0.55 ERA) shines with a 2-hit shutout in the Crusaders’ 4-0 win over the Condors.
April 13 – SFB CL Mike Stank (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 SV) hurts himself on the team’s bowling night and will miss two weeks with a back strain.
April 13 – No holds barred: Loggers and Thunder engage in a blinding bombfest, slugging away at another for 31 runs, 37 hits, and 14 extra-base hits. The Loggers prevail, 17-14, with last year’s Player of the Year and World Series MVP Ian Coleman (.460, 3 HR, 13 RBI) landing three hits and five RBI, including the 3-run walkoff home run off sophomore Manny Gomez (0-1, 6.00 ERA).
April 13 – The Titans score in every of their eight batting innings in a 10-3 win over the Knights.
April 14 – PIT SP Josh Knupp (0-1, 4.91 ERA) would most likely miss three to four months with shoulder inflammation.
April 16 – LVA SP Juan Valdevez (1-0, 4.19 ERA) claims victory in a 12-6 bruising of the Bayhawks in San Francisco. It is the 200th win of the 36-year old’s career that he has spent entirely with the Las Vegas franchise. Debuting at 20 years old in 2006, Valdevez has been continuously employed since and is the league’s foremost corner nibbler, throwing with utmost precision. 200-162 with a 3.85 ERA overall, Valdevez has led the league in the least walks per nine innings *12* times, including eight years in a row and counting!
April 17 – Five home runs, two players with five RBI (Nate Ellis (.273, 5 HR, 12 RBI) and Alfredo Quintana (.350, 4 HR, 15 RBI)), and a 7-run seventh inning lead the Wolves to a 14-1 crushing of the Warriors.
April 17 – RIC SP Ismael Gutierrez (0-0, 0.00 ERA) is headed for Tommy John surgery. The 24-year old right-hander has been diagnosed with a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament and will be out for the next year.

Complaints and stuff

4-game winning streak, woot, woot! Yeah sure, they had to drop to a half game from the bottom of the division before they reeled off four in a row, but we swept the Elks in Vancouver, which means the wins count DOUBLE. It’s a SEVEN-GAME WINNING STREAK in my book.

In my book, we’re in first place. The league thinks otherwise, but I call this a case of alternative stats.

As I mentioned him during the week when Mike Cook crawled by, Mike Bednarski was the FL Player of the Week, batting .476 with 4 HR and 13 RBI. FOUR homers in ONE week!? The sucker wouldn’t hit four homers in a month in Portland!!

We will have Monday off, a travel day to New York, where we’ll play three before heading home to meet the Knights, who are the worst team in the Continental League right now after winning the South last year.

Fun fact: the most recent team to go first-to-worst, winning their division and finishing at the bottom the following year were the 2016-17 Condors, and the feat has only been achieved four times in ABL history; the 1983 Pacifics, 1987 Canadiens, and 1993 Wolves also collapsed completely after winning their division the year before.

But even going first-to-fifth is really, really rare. The most recent Continental League team to go first-to-fifth? Why, the 1997 Raccoons!

Uah, I can still hear O-Mo’s constant bickering about how **** the team was, 25 years later. (presses hands against his ears) Maaaaud, heeeeelp!!
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Old 12-16-2017, 03:24 PM   #2417
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Old 12-17-2017, 02:13 PM   #2418
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Raccoons (7-5) @ Crusaders (6-7) – April 19-21, 2022

Offense had so far eluded the Crusaders, who had scored not even 3.5 runs per game in the first two weeks of the season. They were in the bottom three in both batting average and on-base percentage, and seven home runs had not been enough to pull them out of the morass. Their rotation ranked second by ERA, and their bullpen was also second – albeit from the bottom. Overall they were fourth in runs allowed. The season series had ended in 10-8 scores each of the last four years, with winners alternating neatly. The Raccoons had come out on top in 2021.

Projected matchups:
Ricky Martinez (0-1, 7.36 ERA) vs. Mike Rutkowski (2-0, 0.55 ERA)
Travis Garrett (0-1, 9.28 ERA) vs. Tim Dunn (0-2, 6.28 ERA)
Bobby Guerrero (2-1, 6.39 ERA) vs. Alejandro Mendez (0-1, 3.00 ERA)

Looking at those ERA’s, I am left to hope for better times, I think. Dunn was one of their two southpaws, the other being Cody Zimmerman (1-2, 1.64 ERA) whom we’d miss, but not exactly miss.

New York had LF/RF Jake Williams on the DL with an oblique strain. The 25-year-old rule 5 pick was technically a rookie after getting only some 50 at-bats with the Bayhawks before. He also had batted .444 with 4 homers (more than half the team’s total) and 9 RBI before getting hurt on the weekend.

Game 1
POR: LF Carmona – SS Stalker – 3B Nunley – 1B Mendoza – RF Erickson – 2B Spencer – C Rice – CF Stevenson – P Martinez
NYC: SS R. Avila – 3B Schmit – C A. Gonzales – 2B S. Valdez – LF Loya – 1B Perkins – RF Skinner – CF McCullough – P Rutkowski

After two dismal starts, Ricky Martinez came in with a WHIP that was well over two and should no longer be elaborated on and it was really about modest goals for him (and Garrett…) for now, you know, like, get through five without getting bludgeoned? Maybe defense could help with this endeavor! Max Erickson, returning to his previous place of employment, made a strong run and grab on a Brian Skinner drive in the second inning, ending the inning and keeping Sergio Valdez stranded on second base. Skinner, 29, had begun the year in AAA and had been promoted after the Williams injury. Martinez soon enough had not only to fight the opposing team and a raucous crowd that demanded blood and their team to finally compete again, but in the third inning rain also set in, making things the harder on the sophomore southpaw. Kevin McCullough’s leadoff single in the bottom 3rd occurred before a 55-minute rain delay, while Andy Schmit’s 2-out RBI single occurred afterwards. This was the first run in the game; the Raccoons had gone down in order the first time through.

The Coons would have a Cookie single in the fourth, a Spencer single in the fifth, neither reaching even second base, but at least Martinez ticked the box next to “pitch five alive”, making it through the theoretical minimum workload for a W that was not on the table currently, allowing one more run on Valdez’ solo home run in the fourth inning. But instead of quickly wrapping Ricky in protective plastic foil (does this suffocate? – never mind, keep wrapping!) and hiding him in the bus, the Raccoons sent him back out for the sixth, and this quickly ended in the bases loaded and nobody out after a walk to Alfonso Gonzales and then two singles by Valdez and Ricky Loya. Josh Perkins’ sac fly to Cookie brought home the Crusaders’ third run, and Joel Davis replaced Martinez only NOW. Brian Skinner singled to load the bases, but McCullough struck out and the Crusaders did not bat for Rutkowski, who flew out softly … almost too softly, but Josh Stevenson got to the ball after all.

When Tim Stalker hit a double opening the seventh inning, it was by far the most noise the Coons had made so far in the game. The left-handed middle of the order did precious little to Rutkowski, with Nunley popping out and Erickson whiffing; Mendoza excused himself from responsibility with a 4-pitch walk during which he didn’t move much at all. In a desperate move, Gil Rockwell would bat for Spencer with two on and two out, and the move worked somewhat as Rockwell knocked a single to center that allowed Stalker to score. Danny Rice, however, grounded out easily to Valdez to end the inning. Logan Sloan and Manobu Sugano would prevent the Crusaders from extending their lead again in the next two innings, but the Critters only reached base again when they were down to their last out against Steve Casey, who allowed a 2-out triple to Mendoza in the ninth. Erickson came up as the tying run, grounded quite hard up the middle, but Valdez with an excellent play managed to intercept the ball and retire Erickson at first in a bang-bang play. 3-1 Crusaders. Rockwell (PH) 1-1, RBI;

Wednesday would NOT bring the expect left-hander. The Crusaders used their off day to shuffle the rotation and skipped over Tim Dunn. “Ant” Mendez would move up into the middle game.

Game 2
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Stalker – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – C Olivares – SS Bullock – CF Stevenson – P Garrett
NYC: SS R. Avila – 3B Schmit – 2B S. Valdez – 1B Perkins – C A. Gonzales – LF Loya – CF Witt – RF Skinner – P A. Mendez

A wild pitch by Mendez allowed the Raccoons to take a 1-0 lead in the first inning, with Tim Stalker scampering home from third base while Gonzales chased down the errantly thrown ball. Stalker had doubled, then advanced on Mendoza’s groundout to Valdez. Rockwell would eventually strike out. Meanwhile “Tragic” Travis was the second starter in a row we sent into battle with a WHIP easily exceeding two, and the only excuse was “oh it’s still early”, the battle cry of teams that will be 15 games out in July. It would not take long for Garrett to be stuck in quicksand. He had gotten around Ricky Avila’s leadoff single in the first, but in the second had Ricky Loya on after a walk. Loya stole second; with two outs, Skinner was walked intentionally to get the pitcher up, which should be a fair matchup for Garrett – a guy who can’t ****ing pitch pitching to a batter who can’t ****ing bat. In the gloomy edition of the multiverse that I kept being stuck in, Garrett resolved this conundrum by nicking Mendez, thus loading the bases and angering the crowd greatly. Oh don’t you worry – of course it got worse. First, a wild pitch on 2-1 to Avila tied the game, and then Garrett was at 3-1 anyway, so why not walk him to load the bases again? That was the perfect spot for a bases-loaded walk to Andy Schmit, and just like that the Crusaders were up 2-1. Valdez mercifully poked at a ball and grounded out to Stalker to end the inning from hell.

Mendez had his own problems, including a welt forming on his ass where Garrett had bopped him, and then the bases being loaded with nobody out in the fourth inning. Soft singles by Mendoza and Rockwell and a 4-pitch walk to Matt Nunley had created this mess, but the part of the lineup that was supposed to cash in was kinda unsuited for the task in Olivares, Bullock, and Stevenson, although the Brazilian shortstop was batting .381 in limited action. When Daniel Bullock came to the plate, however, the Coons were already up 3-2. Izzy Olivares had bashed a 3-2 pitch into right center and had split Steve Witt and Brian Skinner for a double, scoring a pair. Bullock flew out to Skinner, Nunley twitched, but didn’t go from third, and the Crusaders walked Stevenson intentionally. Now what? Garrett remained in the game, if only because most guys in the pen had just regained their naturally rosy face color (seriously, you saw the team photo? If not for Cookie, we could be mistaken for a Klan chapter that ran out of clean bed sheets) and I wasn’t in the mood to have them pitch six innings. Garrett batted, struck out, and Cookie flew out to Witt, stranding three. To my utter amazement, Garrett held on to the 3-2 for not one, but two innings, and technically still led 3-2 when he was yanked in the bottom 6th after a 2-out walk to Witt and Skinner’s single that sent Witt to third. Yes, I was not trusting Garrett with pitching to the pitcher once more. Cory Dew took care of Mendez.

Bottom 7th, the Crusaders had the tying run on right away with a blooper by Avila. Schmit popped out, after which Sugano replaced Dew. The Crusaders countered with switch-hitter McCullough for Valdez (odd choice…), but McCullough grounded to Stalker, who tried to turn two. This didn’t happen mainly due to a forceful collision between shortstops at second base. Avila got the worst of it and remained on the ground before having to be helped off the field. Bullock was a wee bit sore, but could continue; Chris Peters replaced Avila. Meanwhile Sugano failed to clear the last left-hander in sight, Perkins, hitting him instead. Noah Bricker then inherited two on and two out and Gonzales in the box, surrendered a sharp grounder to left on a 2-0 pitch, but Bullock zoomed over and got a throw off to beat Perkins at second base to end the inning. The Coons were ill positioned to score an add-on run, dropping like flies to Mendez, who struck out 11, but trailed until his removal in the eighth inning. But maybe the ninth against Jeremy Waite could see them successful? Sam Armetta grounded out pinch-hitting to begin the inning, but then Cookie singled to left. He stole second base before Stalker was hit, and out of spite both took off after that and secured a double steal against Gonzales. The Crusaders responded by bypassing Mendoza, pulling up – Erickson! Left-hand power! Except, Erickson grounded to short, Peters fired home, Cookie was out, and Nunley whiffed. Lillis came in still with a 3-2 lead and had to face the top of the order, retired two without issue, but then walked McCullough. Lillis and two outs had been a horror story in the early days of the season, and here Perkins flew to left – but not in a way that could challenge Cookie or the ballpark confines in the slightest. The out was made, and the series tied. 3-2 Coons. Olivares 3-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Bullock 2-4;

Garrett walked six and struck out five in whatever kind of W that was. Meanwhile, Mendez’ 11 K moved him past Jonny Toner in the CL strikeout table (34 to 28), but he’s 0-2 anyway.

We would see Cody Zimmerman in the rubber game, so there was our lefty after all.

Game 3
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – SS Stalker – C Olivares – CF Romero – P Guerrero
NYC: LF Loya – 3B Schmit – 2B S. Valdez – 1B Perkins – C A. Gonzales – CF McCullough – RF Skinner – SS Doering – P Zimmerman

The Coons tallied a single base hit the first time through the order, while the Crusaders evoked Bobby Guerrero’s sad onion face right in the first inning after Schmit singled and Valdez sent one soaring over the rightfield fence for a quick 2-0 lead. The Coons would challenge however in the fourth inning. Spencer singled, Mendoza doubled, nobody out and two in scoring position. When would Rockwell send one soaring? The jury remained out on that, but at least the Raccoons got the tying runs in. Rockwell hit a sac fly, Nunley singled, and Mendoza came then home from third base on Stalker’s groundout, levelling the count on the scoreboard at two. - …briefly. Guerrero’s struggles with Valdez were real, and he walked him to start the bottom 4th. Josh Perkins’ double allowed Valdez to score, 3-2, and McCullough’s blooper fell into shallow left because Cookie at first hustled in, and then pulled up well short of the ball. Looks like a hamstring! OH THE JOY!! Mena! MENA!! Quick! I CAN’T BREATHE!!

Stevenson replaced Cookie after the latter’s very slow walk to the dugout, while McCullough was credited with an RBI single, but was on second base in the 4-2 contest. After an error by Stalker put Skinner on base and Blake Doering’s RBI single, the team was probably saved by Zimmerman bunting foul often enough to be punched out, and Stevenson getting paws on Loya’s drive in left center. Regardless, after four it was a 5-2 game, and the Coons were down their favorite Cookie. Despite the widening score, both starting pitchers would suffer replacement at the same point down the road, in the bottom of the 6th inning. Guerrero’s walk to Blake Doering loaded the bases with one out, and the Crusaders were not too happy anymore with Zimmerman and sent Chris Peters to pinch-hit. Mendoza’s 2-run homer in the top of the inning probably had something to do with that. Davis replaced Guerrero and retired both Peters and Loya on pops over the infield, ending the inning and keeping the Coons in contention, but the Crusaders scored anyway the following inning against MacCarthy, who allowed a leadoff single to Schmit, and then Logan Sloan and the 2-out single he served up to Gonzales, 6-4. Sloan would load the bases in the next inning without much contribution by the Crusaders themselves. Doering singled again before Sloan drilled Adam Young (…!) and walked Loya on four pitches. Bricker replaced him, struck out Schmit, and got Valdez on a foul pop, as the Crusaders stranded three yet again. If only the Raccoons could have taken advantage of this! They wouldn’t, Nunley, Rice, and Erickson going down in order against Steve Casey in the ninth. 6-4 Crusaders. Spencer 2-4; Mendoza 2-4, HR, 2B, 2 RBI; Nunley 2-4;

Now for the good news: the Druid considered Cookie’s hamstring tweak completely non-serious. He prescribed two days of rest and that should put things right.

Oh, if only…!

Raccoons (8-7) vs. Knights (6-9) – April 22-24, 2022

The Knights had swept the Thunder during the week and had enjoyed an off day on Thursday, so were expected to be well rested. They had also left the red lantern to the Bayhawks, who would come in after the Knights next week. The Knights were suffering from no runs at all, scoring only 44 in their first 15 games, which was right near the bottom of the Continental League, and they had the outright worst bullpen. If you ignored no offense and a pen ablaze, they were a halfway decent team…? The Raccoons had lost the season series three out of the last four years, including 3-6 in 2021.

Projected matchups:
Jonathan Toner (2-1, 2.53 ERA) vs. Chris Chatfield (0-2, 3.46 ERA)
Frank Kelly (0-0, 1.64 ERA) vs. Leon Hernandez (0-1, 4.26 ERA)
Ricky Martinez (0-2, 6.39 ERA) vs. Danny Martin (0-0, 3.44 ERA)

Only one Knights starter had even won a game yet this year, Luis Flores (2-1, 2.05 ERA), who was one of their left-handers along with Martin. Their probable starters had to be taken with two grains of salt, because they not only had enjoyed Thursday off, but had also played a double-header on Sunday, in which both Chatfield and Hernandez had spun the ball. Not that I would want to skip Hernandez…

You wanna trade Hernandez for Garrett? No? Why!?

The Knights were also missing an outfielder, with Marty Reyes (.375, 0 HR, 1 RBI) having gone down to an intercostal strain during the first week of the season.

Game 1
ATL: LF Stuckey – SS T. Jimenez – C Luna – 3B Avalos – 1B Herlihy – RF Fullerton – 2B Hibbard – CF Lyle – P Chatfield
POR: SS Stalker – LF Spencer – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – C Rice – CF Stevenson – 2B Armetta – P Toner

The Knights carted up six left-handed batters and Jonny Toner didn’t cope that well. He walked two the first time through the order and K’ed as many, including the right-handed pitcher Chatfield to end the second inning with two men aboard, and in the third inning allowed a single to Ruben Luna before getting blasted to right center by Tony Avalos’ second bomb of the season. This erased the 2-0 lead the Coons had created in the bottom 2nd, with Rockwell singling, Nunley doubling, and both scoring on the groundouts by the following batters, Rice and Stevenson. Well maybe we could make the other guy struggle even more? The Coons loaded them up in the bottom 3rd, courtesy of Mendoza and Rockwell singles, then Nunley getting on when Trent Herlihy hopelessly bungled his grounder. Rice came up with one out, flew out to shallow left, and Stevenson mailed one to Jonathan Lyle in center to end the inning.

Toner struck out Chatfield to open the top 5th, giving him seven strikeouts on the day and reclaiming the league lead from “Ant” Mendez, but then hit #1 batter Johnny Stuckey. Tony Jimenez struck out, but Toner lost Ruben Luna after a lengthy battle to a walk, and ran another exhausting full count on Avalos – who would strike out, but Toner’s pitch count had soared over 90 in just five innings. A leadoff walk to Herlihy in the sixth didn’t further his cause, and with two outs Lyle hit an infield single to put men on the corners. However, the Knights didn’t bat for the pitcher. Chatfield got carved up by Toner for the third and final time, Jonny’s 10th K overall, but that was also definitely the end of the road for him in this game that was still tied at two. How about a posthumous W, boys? You know, score a run, move… move one across? No, they were- … they weren’t doing it.

Sugano took over on the mound in the seventh, drilled Stuckey (déjà vu?) and then walked the right-handed Jimenez, but got out of the inning with a K to Luna and a double play. Him and Dew did the eighth, but what was the offense doing after all? Precious little, it turned out. Chatfield was still pitching in the eighth and maintaining the ancient 2-2 tie, at least until Gil Rockwell’s fourth time at-bat drew up. Rockwell had yet to homer in 49 at-bats as a Raccoon, and of course he had etched his Hall of Fame plate (were there any doubts?) as a Knight. 11 years, 362 dingers, too many accolades to list right now. I knew that, Chatfield knew that, and after Rockwell belched a 2-out solo homer out of left centerfield for his 394th career bomb, the poor ball knew it too. That was the game – Lillis struck out two in the ninth, including weird-ass ex-Coon Joe Cowan, before Stuckey panically snipped a grounder to short before he could get whooped a third time. 3-2 Coons! Rockwell 3-4, HR, RBI; Toner 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 10 K;

Game 2
ATL: LF Stuckey – SS T. Jimenez – C Luna – 3B Avalos – 1B Herlihy – RF Fullerton – 2B Hibbard – CF Lyle – P L. Hernandez
POR: SS Bullock – 3B Nunley – LF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – RF Erickson – C Rice – 2B Spencer – CF Stevenson – P Kelly

Hernandez’ first pitch to him was rocked well by Rockwell for his second home run in as many games, giving the Raccoons a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Nunley’s 2-out RBI single that cashed in Stevenson in the third made it 2-0 in support of Kelly, who had yet to win a game as Portlander. He also had struck out only nine in 22 innings in his first three starts, but whiffed five in the first three innings in this start, despite him also facing the left-handed array of doom. He would not be nearly as dominant in the middle innings, however. He struck out nobody in the fourth or fifth, and Lyle came close to extra bases with a long drive to left center that Stevenson SOMEHOW made a play on. The Knights were coming, and they got on the board in the sixth inning when Jimenez (so, not a lefty batter) hit a solo homer to left center, cutting the lead to 2-1.

There was some reaction from the home team, after all, and they tried to restart the run machine in the bottom of the sixth. Bullock led off with a single to right after striking out twice earlier in the game. Nunley got hold of a ball and hit it deep into the gap. Bullock stumbled around second base and briefly fell down, which cost Nunley an RBI and brought up Mendoza with runners in scoring position and no outs. The Knights liked to roll the dice here, walked Mendoza intentionally and would try their luck with Rockwell again, and Rockwell ALMOST split them wide open, driving a ball to deeeeep left, but Stuckey caught it leaping at the fence before crumbling into a heap on the track. The catch was ruled valid, but a run scored anyway on the sac fly. Erickson’s liner to Hibbard, who also played Rice’s grounder, led to a swift end of the inning, 3-1.

Kelly made it through seven before Olivares batted for him in the bottom of the seventh. Spencer was on second base after a leadoff single and Stevenson’s bunt, and Kelly had been just over 100 pitches anyway. The Knights kept making weird moves and walked Olivares intentionally, bringing up Bullock when I thought those two had equal amounts of no pedigree at all. The gamble almost worked. Bullock flew out to Stuckey, who made a sliding catch in left center, and Nunley was down 1-2 before Hernandez drilled him. Nunley winced, but eventually dragged himself to first base with assistance from the Druid, who gave him a consoling fudge bar and wiped off the tears. Mendoza got to bat with the bases loaded and ran a full count before Hernandez threw a 3-2 in the dirt. Ball four, spinning went the carousel, and Jarod Spencer scored. Rockwell hit an 0-2 pitch to center, but couldn’t get past Lyle, so a 4-1 lead went into the paws of the pen. Joel Davis retired the 1-2 batters before we signaled for Lillis. Get four, Brett! Four he got, even if not quite in order, but a D.J. Fullerton single with two outs in the ninth would not serve the Knights for a comeback. 4-1 Raccoons! Nunley 3-3, 2B, RBI; Kelly 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, W (1-0); Lillis 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, SV (4);

Eighth team to 10 wins, and second in the North, after the Titans, who lead the division by 1 1/2 games. At the end of play on Saturday, five CL North teams had a winning record, including the Crusaders and Canadiens tying for fourth with 9-8 records. The only losing team in the division? Oh, just the defending champions, the Loggers, at a dismal 5-11.

Game 3
ATL: LF Stuckey – 2B Hibbard – C Luna – SS T. Jimenez – 1B Herlihy – 3B Avalos – RF Lyle – CF J. Harris – P D. Martin
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – SS Stalker – C Olivares – CF Romero – P Martinez

Ricky Martinez would still face six left-handed batters, including the opposing pitcher, so this was a bit of a do-or-die game for him. Perhaps he was an adherent to dying with his boots on however, because the Knights had the bases loaded right in the first inning, and Martinez nervously was wiping streams of sweat from his forehead with Tony Avalos in the box and two outs. Some encouragement from the pitching coach later, Avalos grounded out to Rockwell, and there was a zero on the board, hooray! The Knights would still score first, and was it a surprise? Devin Hibbard rammed a double off the wall to start the third inning, advanced on a groundout, and then scored on a wild pitch. It was the first run in the game, but not the last in the inning. Jimenez walked, Herlihy singled, and another single by Jonathan Lyle drove home a second run before Romero made a flying catch on John Harris in deep center to end the inning with runners on the corners.

We were very tempted to bat for Martinez in the bottom 4th. Three singles by Rockwell, Nunley, and Stalker had created the Coons’ first run, and the Knights had walked Ricardo Romero on the open base to bring up Martinez with two outs. The trigger was not pulled, Martinez flew out, but at least pitched two shutout innings after that before ending his outing after 107 mostly mediocre pitches. Both pitchers in fact ended their outings simultaneously. Martinez’ spot in the bottom 6th came up just after 1-out singles by Olivares and Romero (who was giving the .100 mark a real battle), with right-hander Freddy Heredia replacing Martin. This brought in Erickson for Martinez, with the ex-Crusaders batting all of .172 at this point. He struck out, but Cookie ran a ball past Avalos into leftfield. Olivares at first turned third base, then was whistled back by the third base coach as Johnny Stuckey’s throw was already approaching – except that it was off the mark and into foul ground. Avalos hustled after it, with the ball deadening in front of the good seats after glancing off the tarp, and Olivares was now frantically sent in the other direction to score with the tying run. The pair of Ricardos reached scoring position, but was left on base after Spencer grounded out to short.

The Coons stranded a pair in the bottom 7th again, and Quinn MacCarthy found trouble in the eighth. After getting the last two outs in the seventh, he was tasked with three more, but walked Jimenez leading off, then struck Herlihy in the hip. In the weirdest thing you’d see on your preferred medium for sports replays, slo-mo showed Herlihy knocking himself in the helmet with his own bat while taking futile evasive action. He gave himself a mild concussion and was replaced by Ron Arens on the bases, where there were two Knights and no red lights on the board. After Avalos hit into a double play, switch-hitter Chris Ramirez came out to bat for Lyle, but he was a natural right-hander, and should probably stick to that. Jimenez on third, MacCarthy remained in the game, but lost him to a walk. Noah Bricker was called from the pen, with the Knights sending Cowan to counter him, but Cowan flew out easily to Cookie. Bottom 8th, Cookie had a big double off Heredia with one out. It chased Bullock, who had walked in Bricker’s place, to third base and now they only required knocking in by Spencer or Mendoza. Or **** it, a wild pitch helps as well. Heredia’s 1-2 sailed over the hastily ducking Spencer’s head and to the netting, and Bullock warped home at incredible speed, giving the Critters a 3-2 lead. RBI singles by Mendoza and Nunley stretched that tally, and after R.J. Lloyd walked Stalker the bases were loaded for Danny Rice, who plated two with a single to right, followed by Romero’s RBI double. The Knights just could not get the third out; Lloyd walked Bullock, the plucky guy’s second walk in the inning, and then Cookie drew ANOTHER walk to push home Rice. Spencer’s groundout to short ended the inning FINALLY, after the Coons had smeared the Knights’ relievers’ intestines all over the field for seven runs! 9-2 Furballs!! Carmona 3-5, BB, 2B, 2 RBI; Rockwell 2-4, BB; Nunley 2-4, BB, RBI; Stalker 2-4, BB, RBI; Rice (PH) 1-2, 2 RBI; Romero 2-4, BB, 2B, RBI; Bullock (PH) 0-0, 2 BB;

In other news

April 19 – The Knights’ and Thunder’s game remains scoreless in regulation. The Knights squeeze out a 1-0 win in ten innings thanks to consecutive doubles by RF/LF Ron Arens and LF/RF Johnny Stuckey (.220, 0 HR, 6 RBI) in the tenth inning.
April 20 – In an early trade, the Titans send INF Mike Green (.239, 2 HR, 9 RBI), age 28, to the Wolves to receive 25-year old C Keith Leonard (7-for-14, 0 HR, 1 RBI).
April 22 – MIL OF Ian Coleman (.431, 3 HR, 13 RBI), who won more or less everything last year, now has a 20-game hitting streak going that started in the final days of the 2021 season. Coleman landed a first inning single in a 6-1 loss of the Loggers to the Condors to reach two-zip.
April 23 – DAL LF/1B/RF Jose Avila (.325, 1 HR, 11 RBI) blasts the Buffaloes for five hits, including two doubles, but drives in nobody in his team’s 12-3 victory.
April 24 – The Condors end MIL OF Ian Coleman’s (.392, 3 HR, 13 RBI) hitting streak at 21 games, and also take another game from Milwaukee, 6-1.

Complaints and stuff

Both Ricky Martinez and Ricardo Romero had halfway decent outings on Sunday and eloped deletion from the roster for another week. I sure don’t like the look of either one. Or Garrett. Oh, Garrett might be the worst.

I wonder what the last young starting pitcher was that I had a morbid attraction to despite all signs always being all the time that he just couldn’t pitch and never would be able to pitch? It was not really Damani Knight, because we ALWAYS knew that Knight was a sucker, and that he kept creeping up from the alligator-infested AAA team of ours had usually to do with injuries. Or blind despair.

Garrett will make his 50th start for the Critters on Monday. His career ERA is 4.93. There are (only?) 36 pitchers so far that have made 50 or more starts in the brown shirt. Unless Garrett pitches 22 2/3 shutout innings against the Bayhawks, he will be the second-worst pitcher by ERA in the 50+ GS group. The worst? Damani Knight. Here are the bottom 10:

PORTLAND RACCOONS WORST STARTERS BY ERA (min. 50 GS)
1st – Damani Knight – 5.20
2nd – Felipe Garcia – 4.55
3rd – Jerry Ackerman – 4.38
4th – Steven Berry – 4.34
5th – Juan Berrios – 4.23
6th – Edgar Amador – 4.21
7th – Ned Ray – 4.13
8th – Gary Simmons – 4.08
9th – Rich Hood – 4.01
10th – Carlos Gonzalez – 4.01

Okay, maybe going back to Damani Knight again and again and again was indeed inexcusable. Who is excused from the list? Juan Berrios pitched the ABL’s first no-hitter. Also, him, Ray, and Simmons pitched entirely in our dire first years. We had our fun with “Fat Cat” Amador, even though it rarely lasted long. Ackerman is maybe excused because he was not much of a starter and we started him anyway. Carlos Gonzalez is a sad story because he was supposed to be The Thing in the 80s, but got wrecked by injuries.

Steven Berry was a rule 5 pick three times in his career, firstly by the Coons in ’89. He had a good season, then two horrid ones before we ridded ourselves of him on waivers in ’91. No, the only real Garrett/Knight case still in this list is probably Garcia, who spent his entire career for the Dark Ages Raccoons from 2001 through 2006, but only once lasted a full season. He evaded a 4+ ERA only once, and a 4.50+ ERA only twice. He ended up 26-43. He couldn’t strike out a glass of water. We still went back to him again and again.

Going back to pitchers we actually like to talk about, Toner’s ten on Friday moved him up another two spots in the career strikeouts board.

ABL CAREER STRIKEOUT LEADERS
51th – Manuel Paredes – 2,144
52nd – Jorge Gine – 2,141 – active
53rd – Bob King – 2,137 – active, free agent
54th – Joe Ellis – 2,135
55th – Takeru Sato – 2,104
56th – Jonathan Toner – 2,086 – active
57th – Whit Reeves – 2,081 – HOF
58th – Paul Miller – 2,078
59th – Chris O’Keefe – 2,060

Bob King’s storied career saw him clinch a Pitcher of the Year award in 2012 with the Thunder in his first season in Oklahoma. The right-hander from New Jersey was an All Star five times, but that was the only time he led the league in ERA and WHIP. He also only allowed SIX home runs in 248.1 innings that year, going 20-6 with a 2.14 ERA. Most of his career was actually spent with the Indians from 2003 through 2011, and in Oklahoma his fortunes would rapidly worsen as he entered his mid-30s. Within four years he turned that 20-6 record into a 6-20 record and then clung to the Crusaders bandwagon for two years. Most recently he has pitched in relief for the Bayhawks and Cyclones, but is currently unemployed at age 38 after piling up a 9.90 ERA in ten ugly innings with Cincy. Overall hs ia 222-181 with a 3.57 ERA and should receive some mild HoF consideration eventually, but not get in.

Nagging injuries ate up great talent Manuel Paredes, who led his league in strikeouts five times in a career that lasted only 11 seasons from 1986 through 1998. He also led the league in walks twice, but the strikeouts, regularly around 240, were largely unheard of in the late 80s and early 90s when he was at his peak. The Warriors got the best of him, although he was an All Star only once, with the 1994 Buffaloes. By the following year he posted 20 losses and a 5.01 ERA, and his career wound down after a dismal 4-17, 5.92 ERA outing with the ’97 Pacifics. He appeared in only two games the following year, crippled by chronic pain in his throwing arm.

Fun fact: Manuel Paredes made his major league debut as a Raccoon in 1986!

Well, it lasted only three starts and he piled up a 13.50 ERA, but he probably wasn’t ready. The mid-80s Raccoons often didn’t really know what to do, and the best pitching story from that year was “Old Chris” Powell’s final game and shutout anyway.

We acquired Paredes from the Falcons in November of 1985 in a trade for Victor Castillo, a no-good infielder that last appeared in the major leagues in ’86 at the age of 24. Paredes lingered in the minors after his NOT SUCCESSFUL debut and was eventually traded on to the Warriors – along with Odwin Garza – in a trade for two prospects that became mainstays on the team throughout the 1990s. One was Miguel Lopez, the constantly injured Cuban left-hander that pitched kinda well most of the time when he wasn’t hurt, but retired at 34 with his body completely eaten up and finished his career with a short 92-85 record and 3.99 ERA.

The other? Oh, what was the name of that mercurial catcher that blasted onto the scene in his first full season in 1990 and batted .279 with 21 homers and a .912 OPS? You know, the one that would end all our catching woes forever? Yeah, the sucker never came close again to any of those marks…

(in dire need for a warm cuddle, races for his stuffed toy raccoon) Honeypaws, I thought of David Vinson again …!! Hold meeeee …!!
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Last edited by Westheim; 12-17-2017 at 02:29 PM.
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Old 12-18-2017, 05:01 PM   #2419
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Raccoons (11-7) vs. Bayhawks (5-13) – April 25-27, 2022

Worst team in the Continental League, the Bayhawks had already piled up a -29 run differential after only three weeks. They were in the bottom 3 in runs scored, and merely tied for 8th in runs allowed, and both their starters and relievers had racked up ERA’s just short of five. Now, the Critters were not exactly shining idols on a pillar with their decisive averageness and only a slim +9 run differential, but maybe we could stave off a record correction for a wee bit longer before facing the Titans on the weekend? Would be great to play for first place, even if it’s still only April and doesn’t count for crap… We lost the season series, decisively, in 2021, winning only two of our nine games against San Fran.

Projected matchups:
Travis Garrett (1-1, 7.16 ERA) vs. Mark Roberts (0-3, 5.06 ERA)
Bobby Guerrero (2-2, 7.00 ERA) vs. Graham Wasserman (0-4, 7.30 ERA)
Jonathan Toner (2-1, 2.63 ERA) vs. Brad Smith (2-1, 2.31 ERA)

Three pitchers with 7+ ERA’s that would like to point out that technically it’s early in the season. Then there was Roberts, who was supposed to be the challenger for Toner’s thrown as best pitcher in the game, but so far had been shackled. Brad Smith had suffered through a sad, mediocre season in his first year in San Francisco, but early on was pointing in the other direction. At 37, there was usually only one direction, down into the abyss. Roberts would be the only southpaw in the series.

The Bayhawks had some injury woes, missing Dave Garcia (although we should just rather kindly point out whenever he can actually play instead…) and Mike Stank, their anointed closer.

Game 1
SFB: 3B F. Guzman – 1B Light – 2B Claros – LF R. Gomez – C W. Jones – SS Sanks – CF Duarte – RF Sarabia – P M. Roberts
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – C Olivares – SS Stalker – 3B Bullock – CF Stevenson – P Garrett

The Raccoons were retired in order in the first three innings, which was not something you could say about the Bayhawks, but with runners on the corners in the first inning William Jones softly grounded out, and in the second Victor Sarabia hit a hard single to left, but was thrown out trying to make it a double – he wasn’t even close against Cookie’s throw in. The Bayhawks started to hit the ball better though in the fourth inning, with Raul Claros and Rafael Gomez hitting a pair of sharp singles to lead off the inning. William Jones grounded to short, Stalker started a 6-4-3, but the first run of the game scored from third base. That was the end for Garrett as well, who signaled for the trainer and then left the game with the Druid. Back pains were soon relayed from the trainer’s room, and the Raccoons had another bullpen day. The raw joy.

The loss wouldn’t stick to Garrett, with Logan Sloan retiring Shane Sanks to end the inning, and the Coons scored a wild-pitch-aided run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Cookie led off with a single to center, moved over on the wild pitch and then scored on Mendoza’s double into the leftfield corner. Mendoza drove in Cookie again in their next turns at wielding a stick. Cookie led off the bottom 6th with a scorched liner into the gap in right center, and neither Duarte nor Sarabia managed to cut off the ball before it reached the fence. Cookie had a triple, Spencer popped out, but Mendoza hit a ball to deep center that Duarte caught, but that was always going to be deep enough to allow Cookie to score with the go-ahead run. Gil Rockwell upped the tally by one right afterwards, chopping a solo homer to left center, 3-1. Sanks hit a triple off Sloan (his fourth – partial or whole – inning), bringing up the tying run with one out, but Alex Duarte was always prone to a whiff, and then we moved to Manobu Sugano to get out of the inning against the left-hander Sarabia. The Bayhawks would bring the tying run up three more times. The leadoff man reached in both the eighth (against Davis) and ninth (against Lillis). Twice they hit into a double play. Lillis then walked Sanks with a clean infield, bringing up the tying run the final time. Oh well, it’s just Duarte. What can even happen? At 2-2, Duarte drove a ball high and deep to center that dropped my jaw for sure. Yet, it was too high, and not far enough. Stevenson had to race back, but made the catch in front of the track, well short of the fence. 3-1 Raccoons. Carmona 3-4, 3B; Sloan 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K, W (1-0);

Garrett’s back issues were termed mild by the Druid and he would not miss a start. Now, is that good news or …?

Matt Nunley did not appear in this game. This leaves only two Critters to have featured in every contest of the season, Mendoza and Rockwell, but every position player has appeared in at least 12 games, and only the catchers, Armetta, and Romero failed to appear in 16 of 19.

Game 2
SFB: 3B F. Guzman – 1B Light – 2B G. Gonzalez – LF R. Gomez – C W. Jones – SS Sanks – CF Duarte – RF Booker – P Wasserman
POR: LF Carmona – SS Stalker – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – C Rice – 2B Spencer – CF Stevenson – P Guerrero

The Critters’ middle infielders turned Bobby Guerrero three double plays in the first five innings, but even that could not prevent a Gerardo Gonzalez solo home run for a first inning deficit. That was the only earned run in the game in five innings, with the Raccoons’ lone tally in the fifth inning unearned. Jarod Spencer had reached second base leading off on Frank Guzman’s throwing error and had somehow wobbled around the bases, scoring on Guerrero’s sac fly. Their best earned chance had been a Cookie double right in the bottom 1st, but the middle of the order had completely not woken up yet at that point. Bottom 6th, the Raccoons would give three balls a good ride, but Mendoza, Rockwell, and Rice all flew out to an outfielder, twice to Duarte. Only Matt Nunley reached base on a soft single. Oh baseball, thou art the cruelest game!

Roger Allen’s pinch-hit single to lead off the seventh was reason for alarm because it was the first hard-hit ball the sleepy Baybirds had knocked off Guerrero in a while after some totally dozy middle innings. Guerrero walkd Duarte in the eighth with one out, then got Jaden Booker to bounce a ball back to the mound, but was a bit too slow and could only get the lead runner. That brought up another ex-Coon to the plate, Dylan Alexander pinch-hitting for Wasserman (technically also an ex-Coon), and he was of course a left-hander and still had teeth, so we sent for Quinn MacCarthy to appear ASAP. D-Alex grounded out to the shortstop and the 1-1 tie was preserved, presumably to last for the rest of time. Or maybe not. Bottom 8th, the Bayhawks sent left-hander Mike Homa, who had a ghastly 22.85 ERA after some early season sexual harassment done to him by opposing batters. Cookie grounded out to lead off, but Stalker singled, stole second, and Mendoza walked. Rockwell was a right-handed power bat and I had great hopes here, and he did hit a drive to center, but couldn’t get it past Alex Duarte. Nunley, however, singled to shallow right center, out of everybody’s reach, and that scored Stalker, who had moved up to third base on the Rockwell fly out. That was the go-ahead run, and that made the ninth a save situation in a 2-1 game, and it went to Bricker, who would face the top of the order. Brett Lillis had been out three times in four days, no outing quick and easy, and there was only one lefty bat visible right now. Bricker walked Guzman on four pitches, because nothing can be easy, ever. Allen struck out, but Gonzalez singled to right. Guzman held at second base, and Tyler Gooch struck out. Jones ran a 3-1 count before mashing a liner to center. Oh dear paws in heaven …!! Stevenson in, in, in, in, in …….. made the catch! 2-1 Blighters. Nunley 3-4, RBI; Guerrero 7.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K and 1-2, RBI;

Whee, another squeeze game. At some point we’ll lose six of those in a row and then the whining will start…

My whining, foremost.

Game 3
SFB: 3B F. Guzman – 1B Light – 2B G. Gonzalez – C W. Jones – SS Sanks – CF Duarte – LF R. Allen – RF Booker – P B. Smith
POR: LF Carmona – SS Stalker – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – C Rice – 2B Spencer – CF Stevenson – P Toner

In more baseball cruelty, the Raccoons couldn’t cash in Cookie, when he hit a leadoff double in the first inning to run a hitting streak to 12 games, but then nobody Shane Sanks homered off Toner in the second inning to give the Baybirds a 1-0 lead. San Fran would add a run in the fourth on a Gonzalez double to center and then William Jones dropping a single into no man’s land, while Toner struck out eight in five innings. The Raccoons and their batting prowess? Between the Cookie double leading off the first and a Rice double leading off the fifth they pretty much had nothing cooking it all. Spencer singled over the leaping Sanks to place runners on the corners for Stevenson and his .125 clip. Ugh. Max Erickson batted for him in a swift move, but only managed a sac fly and the Raccoons remained 2-1 behind after five. He would wind up with a dozen strikeouts eventually, tallied up in seven innings, but would also end up on a much larger hook. Walking Sanks was bad enough in the seventh inning, but then Victor Sarabia pinch-hit for Duarte (good move!) and walloped one over the wall to get the Bayhawks to 4-1. Looking at the outright pathetic offense the team had displayed the entire series, there was no reason to doube that Jonny was a loser for this one. No way they make up three runs in three innings. Or ten.

Well, the tying run was up at least in the bottom 7th. Brad Smith, who had struck out only two batters in the game, walked Ricardo Romero in the #8 spot, then allowed a single to Olivares, who batted for Toner. Cookie came up as the tying run and was reasonably warm right now. His liner over Sean Light fell for a single, cut off by Sarabia, allowing Romero to score. That was all, though. Stalker grounded into a fielder’s choice, Mendoza walked to not have to do anything, and Rockwell flew out to Booker in centerfield to strand a full set of runners. Bottom 8th, Smith still in the game, Matt Nunley led off by crushing a homer to right. Maybe THIS was the exact point where the Bayhawks should consider sending a replacement. They didn’t. Spencer’s 1-out double was the point where they threw a reliever over the wall, finally, and then it was Mike Homa, who had already lost last night’s game. Ricardo Romero was a ****ty batter, but snipped a single past the infielders that allowed Spencer to score – tied ballgame! But again, the Coons stopped right there, and did not press the issue; Bullock batted for Dew and hit into a double play. Bricker had another *interesting* ninth inning, placing Sanks and Allen on the corners with one out before getting a pop from Rafael Gomez and Cookie to catch Gooch’s howling liner to left to strand them. The Raccoons were then vexed by Francisquo Bocanegra for two innings (spilling into overtime) before Joel Davis was overcome by Jones, Sarabia, and Allen for three base hits that scored two runs in the 11th inning. Right-hander Tony Harrell would face the bottom of the order in the bottom of the 11th, meaning we were dead anyway. 6-4 Bayhawks. Carmona 3-6, 2B, RBI; Spencer 2-5, 2B; Romero 1-2, BB, RBI; Olivares (PH) 1-1; Armetta (PH) 1-1, 3B;

Raccoons (13-8) @ Titans (14-8) – April 29-May 1, 2022

Losing on Wednesday cost us a shot at the division lead going into the 1-2 tilt here in Boston, but oh well, we just gotta win two, right? The Titans had the best batting average in the league at .283, but were only scoring the third-most runs due to an acute lack of power. Their eight home runs had them tied for the bottom in the league. They were sixth in runs allowed, with a pen much better (2.35 ERA) than the rotation (3.85 ERA). They held a 2-1 edge in the season series, attained in the first games of the season.

Projected matchups:
Frank Kelly (1-0, 1.55 ERA) vs. Alan Farrell (1-1, 4.28 ERA)
Ricky Martinez (0-2, 5.30 ERA) vs. Brian Cope (1-1, 4.21 ERA)
Travis Garrett (1-1, 6.30 ERA) vs. Chris Klein (3-2, 2.68 ERA)

Three right-handers!

The Titans had just buried INF Jamie Wilson (.321, 0 HR, 11 RBI) for the next month due to a quad strain suffering while running the bases. They just threw him onto the pile that also contained Willie Ramos (hip strain) and Antonio Esquivel, who was day-to-day with a sore ankle. Give the man a break – he’s 41. At that age, you are all sore, every day!

Game 1
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – SS Bullock – C Rice – CF Stevenson – P Kelly
BOS: CF Reichardt – C Leonard – RF Cornejo – 1B J. Duran – 3B Kane – 2B Casillas – LF Flack – SS Baptiste – P Farrell

A season win away from potentially occupying first place, the Coons had Frank Kelly implode right in the first inning. Straight singles by Keith Leonard, Gil Cornejo, and Jose Duran loaded the bases with one out, before Kelly walked Mike Kane to push in a run. Another run scored on Tony Casillas’ groundout, and Adam Flack plated two with yet another single. Down 4-0 after one, the game was more or less over. In good news – a term that was increasingly used very loosely around this team – Kelly would make it through five innings without causing any further harm, which on paper gave the Raccoons a comeback chance. Through five, they scored a grand total of one run against Farrell, however, and that run was tallied up by Kelly crossing home plate. Him and Cookie hit back-to-back doubles in the third inning. In the sixth, singles by Nunley and Bullock and then a disputed walk drawn by Danny Rice loaded the bases with one out for … Stevenson, batting a grand total of .140, up from .122 his last time around thanks to outracing the defense for an infield single. Is that what actual doom looks like? It was only the sixth, but we sent Olivares to bat for him, with Erickson going to bat for Kelly, if Olivares could keep the line mov-

Bottom 6th, Kelly put another zero on the board; while Tony Casillas reached base, he also got caught stealing, so there was that. Kelly would last six and two thirds before being replaced with Sugano in the bottom 7th, and just when you didn’t think they could twitch their whiskers once more with feeling, the Raccoons brought the tying run to the plate against Farrell in the eighth. Mendoza hit a leadoff single, and then, well, it took two outs until Bullock singled, but here was the tying run: Danny Rice, batting all of .200! No home runs. He grounded out to the pitcher. The Titans scorched Sugano and Sloan for four singles in the eighth, three of those with two outs, to extend their lead unnecessarily. 6-1 Titans. Carmona 2-5, 2B, RBI; Bullock 2-4;

Game 2
POR: LF Carmona – C Olivares – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – SS Stalker – 2B Armetta – CF Romero – P Martinez
BOS: 3B Baptiste – 1B A. Esquivel – CF Reichardt – LF Almanza – 2B Casillas – C McPherson – RF Cisneros – SS Kane – P Cope

Olivares walked, Mendoza singled, and then the first inning when the course of all things human on earth and died, Rockwell hitting one hard to Casillas for a double play. While Martinez wasn’t rocked for four in the opening inning, the Titans sure got good whack on him, and his complete lack of control was not helping either. Leading off the second inning, Casillas singled, Eric McPherson walked, and then Javy Cisneros sent one up the line and into the leftfield corner for a 2-out double. Kane was retired on a good play by Mendoza before the pitcher and Tristen Baptiste struck out, leaving Cisneros stranded in scoring position. The next inning began with singles by Esquivel and Adrian Reichardt before Martinez threw a wild pitch. Mendoza caught Chris Almanza’s drive, but that was still going to be a sac fly, 3-0, and McPherson drove in another run with a single to make it 4-0. Cisneros also singled, but Kane struck out to end the inning and strand a pair.

After five innings, there were five runs and 11 hits in the game. All the runs were the Titans’. Almost all the hits were – the Raccoons hadn’t landed a base knock since Mendoza’s useless single in the first inning. Martinez was yanked to begin the sixth inning, with Erickson batting for him. Slugging at a strong .161 clip, Erickson got lucky enough to be hit by a pitch coming out of Brian Cope’s hand. That was at least a base runner! Cope then also drilled Cookie. Okay, calm down now. I do appreciate the motion, but we need those bones! Even with two gift runners on base, the Coons’ performance was still incredible, blinding bad. Olivares and Nunley would both pop out over the infield. Mendoza hit an RBI double to score at least one run, but Rockwell grounded to third base with runners in scoring position, and the Raccoons remained behind 5-1. On to the eighth, still behind by the same score, where Olivares singled after Cookie reached on an error by Casillas. That was two on, no outs, Mendoza up, and Mendoza grounded one right into Kane’s mitten for a double play before Rockwell flailed himself out. The team was held to three hits overall and moribundly crawled towards their third straight loss. 5-1 Titans. Mendoza 2-4, 2B, RBI;

Cookie ended a 13-game hitting streak, seamlessly blending in with the rest of the suckers.

I built a lot of hopes on Tim Stalker. He is batting .192 by now.

Game 3
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – 3B Nunley – 1B Mendoza – C Rice – SS Stalker – RF Erickson – CF Stevenson – P Garrett
BOS: CF Reichardt – C Leonard – RF Cornejo – 1B J. Duran – 3B Kane – 2B Casillas – LF Flack – SS Stephens – P Klein

The bottom five in the Coons’ lineup were all batting under .200, and I wasn’t quite sure how this collection of ice pickles was supposed to stem the tide here, much less with “Tragic” Travis on the mound. Casillas sent a ball soaring in the second inning that just managed to squeeze over the fence in leftfield, giving the Titans a 1-0 lead. That Garrett drilled Flack right afterwards did not lead to a brawl probably only because everybody knew how **** a pitcher he was… Bottom 3rd, Chris Klein led off with a double, which was not something you were used to see from a common pitcher, but eh, the Garrett Factor was probably… The game swiftly became ugly with a single by Reichardt, who stole second base, a 2-run single by Keith Leonard, and then Gil Cornejo getting stuffed in the ribs. A Jose Duran single loaded the bases, Kane grounded to Spencer, but the Critters only got one, while another run scored, and then Garrett drilled Casillas – his third hit batsman in less than three innings. Flack’s sac fly ran the score to 5-0 before Stephens grounded out mercifully.

The Raccoons would – oddly – show some reaction to a deficit. Starting with Spencer, they reeled off four straight singles to lead off the fourth inning, at least until Tim Stalker killed the inning with a double play; two runs scored. Klein got revenge, leading off the bottom 4th with a hard single to right, but Reichardt knocked the ball to Spencer. Unable to bat, the middle infield kits were now also unable to field. Stalker bobbled the feed and the Coons only got one out on the play. On two pitches to Keith Leonard, Reichardt would steal two bases and also score, thanks to Rice’s mailing his throw well over Nunley’s head on the second attempt. That made it a … 6-2 game, I believe. Scoring was sorta frantic in some of the half-innings. I must admit, the rest of the game I barely noticed. I was busy plundering the bar in our suite and the next two suites over and senselessly drowned my sorrow in alcohol. Garrett, six runs, five earned, was banished after four innings – Leonard almost homered to make it seven – and the pen had another long outing to contend with. The Titans made errors in the fifth and sixth innings that the Coons failed to exploit. Stalker hit into another stupid out in the sixth with Mendoza and Rice on base. I was still barely aware of my surroundings when Cookie doubled home Stevenson with one out in the seventh, but of course Spencer and Nunley both got caught up in Casillas’ glove and left him stranded. I was already comatose in the ninth inning, however, when the Coons were still down 6-3 after some good relief by Dew, MacCarthy, and Lillis (those were dire times!) and singles by Stevenson and Olivares (who hit for Lillis, as an aside) pulled up Cookie as the tying run with one out. But Cookie grounded into a force at second base, and Ron Thrasher had Spencer for breakfast. 6-3 Titans. Mendoza 2-4; Rice 2-4; Stevenson 2-4; Olivares (PH) 1-1; Dew 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K;


In other news

April 26 – CHA SP Brian Benjamin (3-2, 3.82 ERA) sheds only one hit in a 4-0 shutout against the Canadiens. Vancouver’s Alex Torres knocks a single to lead off the game, but it is the Canadiens’ last base knock. Benjamin further issues a walk in the ninth inning to Chris Tanzillo. There has not been a no-hitter in the ABL since 2020.
April 26 – The Crusaders’ SP Cody Zimmerman (3-2, 1.95 ERA) spins a 3-hit shutout in a 2-0 win over the Knights.
April 27 – CIN CF Nando Maiello (.325, 2 HR, 11 RBI) will miss three weeks with a quad strain.
April 27 – The Canadiens trade utility player Brody Folk (.269, 2 HR, 12 RBI) to the Knights for 1B Mike Rivera, whom the Knights had parked in AAA.
April 27 – The Loggers acquire BOS 1B Kevin Jaeeger (.333, 0 HR, 3 RBI) and a prospect in a trade for SP/MR Julio San Pedro (0-1, 3.86 ERA, 1 SV).
April 27 – The Indians manage only two hits to the Canadiens’ eight, but still beat them 1-0.
April 29 – CIN SP/MR Chris Munroe (3-0, 2.86 ERA) might miss the rest of the season with shoulder inflammation. The 29-year old right-hander was off to a very good start after a so far mixed career.
April 30 – While the Blue Sox beat the Rebels, 11-10 in ten innings, both teams score in only three innings each. Both tally a run in the first, before the Rebels score six in the fifth and three in the sixth inning. The Blue Sox rout them for nine runs in the eighth and then walk off in the tenth. RIC LF/RF/1B Jon Correa (.247, 3 HR, 21 RBI) has two hits and plates five runs, including a grand slam.
May 1 – SAC 3B Jason LaCombe (.298, 0 HR, 13 RBI) not only knocks five hits in a 17-7 Scorpions rout over the Pacifics, but also walks twice in the ninth inning in order to reach base safely seven times in the game.
May 1 – Season over for TIJ MR Cole Pierson (0-0, 8.44 ERA); the 32-year old left-hander has been diagnosed with a torn flexor tendon.

Complaints and stuff

(sits next to Chad in full costume on the brown couch and looks very despaired)

Gee if I had known that the Loggers want to trade San Pedro that badly…

Jesus Chavez has a 4.03 ERA in AAA, but I think we need to make a switch urgently. Now, the question is just whether he will replace one of our current starters, or whether he can start three games in a row and we dump all of the ****s. Also keeping an eye on lefty Rico Gutierrez in AAA, who is 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA. Five walks per nine, but who doesn’t have five walks per nine at age 22 in AAA?

Going back to last week, say, who are the Raccoons starters with at least 50 games started by the lowest ERA?

PORTLAND RACCOONS BEST STARTERS BY ERA (min. 50 GS)
1st – Jonathan Toner – 2.47
2nd – Kinji Kan – 2.78
3rd – Nick Brown – 2.89
4th – Jose Rivera – 3.05
5th – Jong-hoo Umberger – 3.10
6th – Hector Santos – 3.11
7th – Kelvin Yates – 3.13
8th – Jorge Romero – 3.19
9th – Logan Evans – 3.22
10th – Kisho Saito – 3.30

Now, now, there are some surprises on this list! Master Kisho *barely* even makes the list! The reason is for a trio of long-forgotten pitchers that you would not remember if pressed to do so and that mostly played on losing teams and/or despite their noble efforts wound up with raging losing records. Talking about Jorge Romero here foremost, who went 40-60 (!!!) with his 3.19 ERA for the horrendous no-offense-ever Raccoons from 1979 through 1982. Jose Rivera mostly pitched for us during the first half of the Dark Ages that started in ’97, but Kinji Kan was a big signing prior to 1983, you know, the first Raccoons team that actually made the playoffs. He makes the list just barely as well despite ranking second since he only started 53 games for Portland. The losing-again ’84 Coons realigned him to Oklahoma for catcher Sam Dadswell, which is a story for a later time.

Logan Evans also mostly pitched during the early-day Raccoons and never got love, nor support. That he walked triple digits three times in his career had totally nothing to do with it. He did lead the league in wins with 18 however in 1983, so he was there when you really needed him, and for most of the early 1980s the Raccoons had “Old Chris” Powell, Evans, and then soup of the day for three long days before Master Kisho finally adjusted to the climate and forged himself a Hall of Fame plaque.

Kel Yates also only barely made the list with 60 starts in 2007 and 2008 and was also the reason for the only time I attended a baseball game in a woman’s dress.

Do we need to lose many words about Nick Brown? Brownie’s just the best, and will probably always be. (whispers) Jonny still hasn’t eclipsed him in my heart!

Honorable mentions for a few more near-misses to a quartet of 3.3x ERA pitchers. This includes “Old Chris”, who has his number retired for a reason, as well as Jason Turner, who was part of our 1990s dynasty as well as Raimundo “Pooky” Beato (if briefly, for 86 starts), and finally Tadasu Abe, wherever he may be right now. Last honorable mention to Scott Wade, who has the third-most *starts* in team history (421, behind Saito and Brownie – and Wade spent some late years as reliever, so he appeared in more *games* than those two), and would probably have made the list if he had retired two years earlier rather than bothering with the 2000-ish Raccoons any further.

You know which list Scott Wade also moonlights on?

PORTLAND RACCOONS ALL TIME SAVE LEADERS
1st – Grant West – 522
2nd – Angel Casas – 446
3rd – Alex Ramirez – 100
4th – Wally Gaston – 94
5th – Dan Nordahl – 92
6th – Ron Thrasher – 76
7th – Marcos Bruno – 68
8th – Daniel Miller – 56
9th – Scott Wade – 53
10th – Kevin Hatfield – 50

Brett Lillis should break into the list and displace Hatfield, our second-ever closer (after the quickly-ousted Ben Green), rather soon. Lillis moved past Jackie Lagarde (45 SV) into 11th place already.

Fun fact: like Hatfield, Wally Gaston was also a veteran of the inaugural Raccoons, and saved 18+ games three times in his career, first in 1979.

You know, 1979, the only time the Raccoons lost 100 or more games.

Until now …!! Excuse me, tears rushing forth again …! (presses face in agony against the mascot shoulder and is gently patted by Chad with the giant right paw, while sulking)
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Old 12-20-2017, 03:22 PM   #2420
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Raccoons (13-11) @ Loggers (8-15) – May 2-4, 2022

Something with the Loggers was very, very wrong, and early signs pointed at their pitching, which was nowhere to be seen, since most of the guys were still stuck in the wheelhouse of a Roadrunner electric bus to Delaware. They had surrendered the most runs outright in the Continental League, almost SIX per game, with their rotation the worst in the land and the pen soaring to reach second place from the bottom in the CL. There was probably more to it than just pitching, because they were also fiendishly terrible in defense, and this was also something you wouldn’t expect from this rather young (most fielders under 30, although the corpse of Tom Reese was lying around somewhere) and energetic bunch. All signs pointed at just one terrible month and that they still had a comeback from eight games down in them. The Raccoons had not lost the season series in eight years, but the 2021 edition of this pairing had ended in a draw, 9-9.

Projected matchups:
Bobby Guerrero (2-2, 5.26 ERA) vs. Ian Prevost (1-1, 4.45 ERA)
Jonathan Toner (2-1, 3.15 ERA) vs. Victor Arevalo (1-3, 6.39 ERA)
Frank Kelly (1-1, 2.27 ERA) vs. TBD

Two right-handers, and then who knows? The Loggers played a double-header on Saturday, winning both ends of it against the Indians, but had to either send a spot starter into the Wednesday game or pick between Chris Sinkhorn (0-2, 3.65 ERA), last year’s Pitcher of the Year, or Michael Foreman (2-3, 4.50 ERA), who was a Raccoon last year around this time, to go on short rest.

Game 1
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – C Olivares – SS Stalker – CF Romero – P Guerrero
MIL: SS Tadlock – C Wool – CF Coleman – RF Gore – 3B A. Velez – LF Munn – 1B Reese – 2B March – P Prevost

Early signs of trouble included Dumbo Mendoza striking out with Cookie and Spencer in scoring position right in the first inning. Prevost kindly put home the first run of the game with a balk, and Spencer was collected on Gil Rockwell’s sac fly, giving Guerrero a 2-0 lead to start with anyway, only for him to get ripped to shreds within the inning. Ron Tadlock reached on an infield single, but the Loggers soon started to swipe away properly. Ian Coleman hit a single, Brad Gore an RBI double, and Alberto Velez plated two with another single to center. Misery continued with Mendoza hitting into a double play to kill the third with Cookie and Spencer on base again, and Guerrero surrendering a triple to Coleman and after Danny Munn’s sac fly another run in the bottom of that frame, 4-2. Guerrero wouldn’t make it through five innings, continuously sucking until two hits and two walks in the bottom 5th saw the Loggers up 5-2 and the bases loaded with one out. Another run scored on Dan March’s grounder to first that he hit off Quinn MacCarthy before Prevost grounded out, thus putting the Raccoons down by a slam (slam? What’s a slam?) after five innings and racing for their fifth straight loss.

And the nightmare was not likely to stop any time soon. The bottom 6th began with Tadlock reaching on another infield single – the Loggers’ third today – before Josh Wool singled hard right through Rockwell. Runners on the corners, Coleman bounced back to the mound, with MacCarthy bouncing a terrible throw to second base that almost struck Stalker in the groin on the bounce and sure enough got away for an error, a run scoring, and still nobody out. Velez’ RBI double ran the score to 8-2 and recycled MacCarthy, finally, bringing in Cory Dew, who struck out Munn and then had Nunley leap to grab Tom Reese’s line drive, ending the inning with runners in scoring position. Not that it mattered greatly. The Raccoons hadn’t really put up an offensive threat that Mendoza could soil for a three innings, but in all fairness, he was not the only sucker in the lineup. Cookie on second base and two outs, Mendoza hit a single in the seventh, but it was to left and not even Cookie could score on this one. Rockwell came up and struck out in a real hurry. The bottom 7th saw the Loggers’ fourth infield single in the game, and the third to start an inning. Dan March legged out a roller near the third base line that died after some 30 feet, and sure enough came around against Sloan and Sugano, who drilled Wool before surrendering an RBI single with two outs to Coleman. Double digits would only be reached in the eighth inning, however, with Velez scoring on a terrible throwing error by Matt Nunley. You couldn’t help that the forecast terrible season hadn’t actually begun until now, especially with how the game would finally, mercifully end. Cookie and Spencer once more reached base in the ninth inning with a pair of 2-out singles off ex-Coon Pat Slayton. Mendoza up again – ****ty fly to left, Munn ending the game. 10-2 Loggers. Carmona 4-4, BB, 2B; Spencer 3-5;

(sings loudly and falsely) Freeee faaaaalliiiin’ …!! –

What is it, Honeypaws? You seem to squeal in terror, you know, on the inside? Better get used to it. 137 more games to come.

The real conundrum is whom Jesus Chavez should replace of the suckers at the bottom of the rotation…

Game 2
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – C Rice – SS Bullock – CF Stevenson – P Toner
MIL: SS Tadlock – C Wool – CF Coleman – RF Gore – 3B A. Velez – LF Munn – 1B Reese – 2B March – P Arevalo

Toner struck out only two against the mostly left-handed lineup the first time through, and only did so against the bottom two in the order, following Tom Reese’s leadoff double up the leftfield line. Whiffing Arevalo put him at 2,100 K for his career, but the minor joy over the minor milestone being reached was immediately killed off by Ron Tadlock’s RBI single to right center, putting the Loggers 1-0 ahead. Truth be told, the Raccoons had approached home plate first, but Danny Rice had been thrown out in a collision at home plate to end the second inning; Toner had batted with one out and runners on the corners, had flown out to Coleman, and Rice seemed to arrive at the plate ahead of the ball by a split second, but collided with Wool and replay showed he never actually touched the plate and the call was correct.

Top 4th, bases loaded, no outs. Arevalo had been spilling runners right from the start, but now was in … trouble, maybe? Nunley’s leadoff walk, Rice getting drilled, and a single to right by Bullock had stuffed the bags for the raging .164 batter Stevenson, but at least we could still get Toner to the plate even after a double play! That was some pep talk, looking forward to get the pitcher to the plate… Stevenson chopped his first pitch right back to Arevalo, with Nunley totally dead at home. Stevenson was safe at first, giving Toner the chance for a slam (chuckles). But slap my ass and call me Judy – Toner cracked a single to left, narrowly past Al Velez’ glove, and we had speed at second base in Bullock, who scored along with Rice to flip the score! JONNY THE MAN!! Cookie’s run-scoring groundout ran the score to 3-1 before Spencer flew out to center.

Alas, the lead was short-lived, because name one pretty thing that was made to endure in this cold, cruel world… Rockwell had another simple grounder elude himself in the bottom 4th, Coleman reaching, and Danny Munn bucked a lazy fastball by Toner for a game-tying 2-piece to right. Rice’s sac fly gave the Coons a 4-3 lead in the fifth, and Dan March romped a leadoff jack off Toner in the bottom 5th to erase that as well. Top 6th, Cookie singled, stole second, scored on Spencer’s double to left, 5-4. Well, before I throw up my hands again I will curiously await Toner’s return in the bottom of the inning to consider whether I should not rather cover my eyes with them. For starters, Mendoza’s RBI triple ended Arevalo’s existence in the 6-4 game, but Jonny was right away in trouble again. Ian Coleman hit a leadoff single, and he had hardly been retired at all in this series so far. With two outs, Toner walked Munn and the bullpen got stirring, but Reese struck out before it could get ugly for the third time. Toner struck out two in a clean seventh, but that was all for him, his spot leading off the eighth inning. Ezequiel Olivares hit for him against southpaw Beau Barnaby, but grounded out. Spencer’s 2-out triple brought up Mendoza in the inning, but the overrated slugger flew out to the omnipresent Coleman. Given the many, many left-handed batters the Loggers were throwing at the Coons, Brett Lillis was kicked from the pen for a 2-inning save, a bold move for sure. He retired the first five batters he faced before walking Tom Reese with two outs in the ninth, and here the Loggers came up with a right-handed pinch-hitter we knew all too well, Mike Denny appearing in Dan March’s spot, but the right-hander popped out to Spencer rather than do harm, and the losing streak was snapped. 6-4 Coons. Spencer 3-5, 3B, 2B, RBI; Rice 3-3, RBI; Bullock 2-5; Lillis 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K, SV (6);

Game 3
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – RF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – 3B Nunley – C Olivares – SS Stalker – CF Stevenson – P Kelly
MIL: SS Tadlock – C Wool – CF Coleman – RF Gore – 3B A. Velez – LF Munn – 1B Reese – 2B March – P Sinkhorn

The southpaw Sinkhorn was greeted rudely by a Mendoza single and Rockwell home run in the first inning. Nunley and Olivares would also reach base, but Sinkhorn struck out Stalker, who was probably on his way back to AAA rather soon… The Loggers soon enough had an answer, with Coleman getting clipped by Kelly and swiftly getting doubled in by Brad Gore, who hit a ball off the fence in rightfield. Velez singled to left, Gore tried to score to tie the game, but Cookie threw him out at home to end the first inning. But it sure looked like short rest wasn’t doing Sinkhorn any good; Kelly (!) and Cookie hit singles in the second inning, and then Mendoza let one soar away to right, a 3-piece to give Kelly a 5-1 lead. Sinkhorn continued to wobble, with runners on base in the next two innings as well, but he always found a strikeout in time to prevent more runs on his ledger, while Kelly wasn’t spotless either, but had another runner thrown out at home to end the fourth inning. Velez was on first base and tried to score on Tom Reese’s double into Cookie’s corner, but Cookie said no for the second time and Velez was thrown out on Stalker’s relay. Stalker in turn bailed out Sinkhorn in the fifth by hitting into a fat double play, but Sinkhorn was hit for anyway in the bottom of the 5th. Kevin Jaeger singled in his spot, Tadlock also singled, but now Stalker saved Kelly’s bacon by intercepting Wool’s sharp grounder and turning a double play himself. Double plays continued; Kelly hit a double in the sixth inning. With one out, Cookie was walked intentionally, with Spencer flying out to center – except that Kelly hadn’t gotten the news and had made for third base, easily getting doubled off by Coleman and Tadlock, ending the inning. The inevitable Coleman knocked a leadoff single in the bottom 6th, and when Gore also singled to the other side, it was time for some quality time with a left-handed pitcher. MacCarthy replaced Kelly, only to be turned inside out wholly and fully. After K’ing Velez, he walked two – so a run already scored – and he would get ripped apart for three more singles that plated four runs before being beaten with sticks on his way to the dugout. The 5-run inning put the Loggers ahead, 6-5, and against Slayton in the seventh Mendoza would draw a leadoff walk, only to get doubled off on Rockwell’s pathetic grounder to short, while Manobu Sugano got turned inside out by left-handers in the bottom of the inning. Tom Reese’s 2-run homer bumped the Loggers’ lead to 8-5, but the Raccoons weren’t going to dent Slayton or Justin Guerin, who finished the game, anyway. 8-5 Loggers. Carmona 2-4, BB; Mendoza 3-3, BB, HR, 3 RBI; Nunley 2-4;

These pains… they can’t be healed by booze and pills alone. Maybe I should mix in a bit of rat poison…

Raccoons (14-13) @ Stars (12-16) – May 6-8, 2022

The Stars had started horrendously but had recently gone into recovery mode, so the Raccoons would likely continue to get beaten badly. Dallas was second in runs scored in the Federal League with 5.4 runs per game, but they were also bleeding almost as many, which held them back. But their run differential was a positive +1, while the Raccoons’ was -11 and they were pointing towards the cellar in general.

These teams had most recently faced another in 2018, with the Stars taking two out of three from the Coons. The most recent Raccoons series win, a sweep, dated from 2014.

Projected matchups:
Ricky Martinez (0-3, 6.08 ERA) vs. David Saccoccio (3-2, 3.62 ERA)
Bobby Guerrero (2-3, 6.30 ERA) vs. Mo Robinson (1-2, 4.99 ERA)
Jonathan Toner (3-1, 3.48 ERA) vs. Alex Contreras (1-4, 5.67 ERA)

We are skipping “Tragic” Travis here, but it’s really a free-for-all, honestly. Dallas sends three right-handed pitchers into the fray, including the rookie Saccoccio on Friday. We will miss their second rookie, 24-year old John Waker. The left-hander’s name might ring a bell. He was the Raccoons’ first-round pick in the 2016 draft and had been part of the deal for Dumbo Mendoza in 2017. Well, the other two prospects they had received had since largely entered the realm of shattered dreams, so “Icon” Waker was all they had now. He was pitching to a 5.11 ERA in ten games (three starts) this year.

Game 1
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – 3B Nunley – 1B Mendoza – C Rice – RF Erickson – SS Stalker – CF Stevenson – P Martinez
DAL: SS Ferrer – 3B C. Padilla – RF Dally – C J. Vargas – LF J. Avila – CF Marable – 1B Fellows – 2B McAteer – P Saccoccio

The youngster Saccoccio started the game by allowing a hard-cracked double to right center to Cookie Carmona, and melted at frantic pace from there. The first four Coons all reached base, with Nunley singling home Cookie for the first run of the game. Rice and Erickson had run-scoring outs, which put the lead at 3-0 and the Stars were close to getting out of a mess until Saccoccio drilled Tim Stalker, and then the bottom two in the order laced doubles to drive home three more runs, allowing Ricky Martinez to take the ball with a 6-0 lead. A shutdown inning would have been amazing, but wasn’t in the cards; Martinez put runners on the corners with one out and allowed a run on a Jose Avila sac fly in the bottom 1st, and Avila had another RBI in the third inning, knocking a 2-out single through the hole on the left to inch the score closer to 6-2. Longtime Logger Justin Dally, who had entered with a whopping 35 RBI and a 12-game hitting streak, had hit a triple into left center just ahead of Avila. You know, the bar was not particularly high for Martinez – being a 5.00 ERA pitcher would be enough for today. His actual ERA was over six at that point.

Saccoccio pitched another three innings after the 6-run first, all scoreless. The Coons had runners in scoring position with one out in the third, but Cookie’s soft fly to shallow left was caught by a hustling Avila, and Spencer grounded out as the team missed to deal him the death knell. Saccoccio was hit for in the bottom 4th, after Martinez had just issued 1-out walks to both Mike Fellows and Bryan McAteer. Kyle Mims batted for the unlucky pitcher and rocked an RBI single to right. Erickson threw home, poorly, allowing the runners to reach scoring position. Martinez was now properly yelled at by the pitching coach, which didn’t help either. Manny Ferrer hit a grounder to Spencer to score a run, 6-4, and Carlos Padilla doubled, 6-5. Dally grounded out to Spencer, finally ending the ****ing inning.

However, buckling right-handed Arturo Arellano for five hits and three runs helped greatly in the fifth inning, getting the lead back to 9-5. Stalker had led off with a double, scored on Stevenson’s base hit to right, and Martinez drove in Stevenson. Maybe Martinez should bat cleanup instead of ****ing Gil Rockwell. Rockwell can pitch instead. Everybody wins. Well, except for Martinez. Even NINE runs of support weren’t enough to drag the ****er through five innings. He drilled Jose Vargas leading off the bottom 5th, and after Avila flew out to center, issued a walk to Brian Marable. Cory Dew replaced him, walked the bases full, but with two outs Jason Bergquist batted for Arellano. I laughed out loud – no way the Stars were going to score! Bergquist flew out to Cookie, and the Stars left three on base. Dew singled home a run with two outs in the sixth inning against Pat Glover, because a team that gets only four innings from its starters can’t be picky with its relievers batting… Sugano loaded two onto the bags to start the bottom 7th and was dug out successfully by Joel Davis. Sloan put two on to start the bottom 8th and had to get his **** in order himself. The Stars scored in neither of the two innings. No, it turned out, that the final run in this game was driven in by a relief pitcher in the sixth inning, and that madness was limited to the first six frames overall, mostly. 10-5 Raccoons. Nunley 2-5, 2 RBI; Bullock (PH) 1-1, 2B; Rice 2-5, BB, RBI; Stalker 2-4, 2B; Stevenson 4-5, 2 2B, 3 RBI; Dew 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K, W (3-0) and 1-1, RBI; Sloan 2.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K;

I think, if I were the GM of the team that plays in this ball pit 81 times a year, I would have taken the vows decades ago. Is every game like this down here!?

Also, the heat in the summer. Nah, thanks, I stay with our yearlong moistness in Oregon…

Game 2
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Spencer – RF Mendoza – 3B Nunley – 1B Rockwell – C Rice – SS Bullock – CF Stevenson – P Guerrero
DAL: SS Ferrer – CF Marable – RF Dally – C Harry – LF J. Avila – 3B C. Padilla – 1B Bergquist – 2B Bowman – P M. Robinson

Bobby Guerrero for a nice change retired the side in order once. Well, he would have, if Matt Nunley hadn’t thrown away Sean Bowman’s grounder. But Guerrero retired everybody on his own terms and the Stars didn’t score in the first three innings, with Robinson and Ferrer striking out with Bowman in scoring position. The other side of the medal showed no run success for Portland either, with Cookie’s leadoff triple in the third inning scandalously wasted by Spencer AND Mendoza popping out over the infield; Nunley walking, and then finally Rockwell grounding out shallowly. Nope, after the circus was in town on Friday, the tent was closed on Saturday, and runs were extremely hard to come by. The game was still scoreless (and the Stars still hitless) when Mendoza led off the sixth inning with a single to left, the Coons’ fifth base knock against Mo Robinson. Nunley walked, putting two on for Rockwell, who struck out. Rice popped out. Bullock struck out.

Fittingly, Sean Bowman led off the bottom of the inning with a single, sniped into shallow left on an 0-2 pitch that hung rather than dipping off the corner. Bowman stole second base with the pitcher at the plate, Rice threw wildly into centerfield, and Bowman was now at third with no outs. After Robinson struck out, Ferrer popped out in foul ground, but Guerrero lost Brian Marable on balls, putting them on the corners for Dally, who was the first of three left-handed batters in the middle of the order. Given our success with left-handed pitching so far this year, going to Sugano was not a guaranteed win state either. And never mind that we can’t pull a run from beneath our striped tails, either. Guerrero remained in the game and faced Dally after a stern lecture from the pitching coach about how to throw a ****ing baseball so it didn’t get murdered. The gamble worked, somehow, even though Dally grounded sharply at the aged, overpaid, open sore at first base; Rockwell handled the ball for the third out of the inning. Guerrero threw one additional pitch in the game, on which Matt Harry grounded out, then complained about a sore heel of all things and left the game. MacCarthy replaced him, with the Stars sending right-hander Mike Fellows to bat for Avila. MacCarthy never threw a strike; Vargas batted for Padilla, with Bricker replacing MacCarthy, only to serve up a real bomb to center that became the first two runs of the game. At this point, I was totally checked out. Que será, será. Robinson pitched eight shutout innings, staving off runners in scoring position in the last of those eight innings by striking out Daniel Bullock, his ninth victim in the game, and in the ninth Alex Silva easily retired Sam Armetta on a grounder, Max Erickson on strikes, and Cookie grounded to Bowman for … a throwing error. The tying run came up, with Spencer singling to right, sending runners to the corners, and bringing up Mendoza, and Dumbo gloriously struck out to end the game after all. 2-0 Stars. Carmona 2-5, 3B, 2B; Spencer 2-5; Mendoza 2-5; Nunley 1-2, 2 BB; Guerrero 6.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K;

Game 3
POR: 2B Spencer – 3B Nunley – LF Mendoza – 1B Rockwell – C Rice – RF Erickson – SS Stalker – CF Romero – P Toner
DAL: SS Ferrer – CF Marable – RF Dally – C Harry – LF J. Avila – 1B Fellows – 3B C. Padilla – 2B Bowman – P Contreras

The Stars had the bases loaded in the first, causing me to seek comfort behind the counter of the bar, which certainly annoyed the previously brightly grinning Latin bartender a lot, but after hitting Marable, walking Dally, and allowing a single to Harry, Toner actually struck out a pair to escape the inning. The Coons went down in order for two innings, but then the bottom of the order filled the bases in the third inning. Single, single, walk, and … and Cookie had a day off. Jarod Spencer was next in line – and the kid came through! His single to left whizzed past the lunging Ferrer and plated two runs, and Nunley hit an RBI double. Mendoza walked, which filled the bases, at least until Gil Rockwell hit into a double play, which scored a run at least, putting the Coons ahead 4-0.

Jonny meanwhile struggled with control. After a hit batter and a walk in the first, he issued another walk in the second, and a leadoff walk to Padilla in the fourth. The Stars never scored, but Toner also threw another gruesome pitch in the dirt that was unfairly charged to Danny Rice as a passed ball when it allowed Padilla to reach third base with two outs. Ferrer grounded out to short to leave him on. Marable drew a leadoff walk in the fifth inning, but Dally grounded into a double play. He had yet to nail an RBI after entering the series as RBI leader in the entire sport. Toner eloped a run again, but his pitch count was now over 90 and he was extremely unlikely to make it past six innings, if that. In the event, he retired nobody in the sixth inning. Fellows singled. Padilla singled. Bowman doubled. Erik Janes singled. That made two runs, the tying runs on the corners, me crying furiously, and Joel Davis replacing him. He struck out Ferrer, but Marable hit an RBI single, 4-3. MacCarthy replaced Davis, and Dally, consistently unlucky, grounded into an inning-ending double play. The Stars stranded two more against MacCarthy and Sloan in the seventh inning. Bottom 8th, ****ing ass Sloan allowed a leadoff single to relief pitcher Edwin Covarrubias (never heard of her), then walked Ferrer. How do they even find their bed at night, seriously? Sugano entered the game after Marable’s bunt moved the runners into scoring position, in other words we were pretty much grilled. Dally – denied all weekend long – ripped Sugano’s first pitch to left center for a score-flipping 2-run single, and Jose Avila would bolt an RBI triple. The Raccoons chose to disappear into the night without a trace after that… 6-4 Stars. Carmona (PH) 1-1; Stalker 2-4; Romero 2-3;

(hggs!) W-waidd. Whadd habbened-d? (hck!)

In other news

May 2 – Canadiens and Titans play 14 innings; both teams score in the ninth, 12th, and 13th innings to put fans through the wringer before INF Jonathan Stephens’ (.368, 0 HR, 3 RBI) double in the bottom 14th allows the Titans to walk off, 7-6.
May 3 – DEN OF Mario Rocha (.378, 3 HR, 21 RBI) strafes the Stars for six hits, all of them singles except for one RBI double. This is not only the 58th 6-hit appearance in league history, but also the seventh in a losing effort, as the Stars prevail over the Gold Sox, 11-9.
May 3 – CIN SP Jorge Gine (1-3, 6.32 ERA) has probably reached the end of the road. The 38-year old veteran has to end his season with a damaged elbow ligament, and is not expected to throw for at least a year.
May 4 – The Scorpions might be without their 23-year old star C Jaiden Jackson (.366, 8 HR, 28 RBI) for the rest of the season after Jackson has torn tendons in his foot.
May 5 – After scoring four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and scoring two more in the 14th to equal the Canadiens’ tally in the top of the 14th inning, the Titans finally walk off in the 17th inning after a triple and three walks off VAN MR Bob Taney (0-2, 3.07 ERA), notching a 9-8 victory.
May 6 – Buffaloes rookie LF/RF/1B Amari Cade (.221, 2 HR, 13 RBI) smothers a walkoff grand slam to beat the Loggers, 5-1 in ten innings.
May 6 – The Wolves will shelf their rookie SP Andy Wright (1-0, 2.45 ERA) for the next four months due to general shoulder soreness.
May 8 – An abdominal strain is expected to put BOS CF/LF Adrian Reichardt (.259, 1 HR, 19 RBI) out of action for a month.

Complaints and stuff

There are a few pressing issues with this roster and the situation in general, but the first thing I need to find out is whether, after that Latin bartender carried me to the bus after the Sunday game, I actually kissed them and told him that I loved him, and apparently, according to the nine messages on my phone thing here, it looks like I did.

You have to qualify such things. Yes, I love him … MORE than about two thirds of my roster. Maybe three quarter. Four fifths. At least.

Alex Duarte was Player of the Wek in the Continental League. (checks list thoroughly) … (takes a pencil and carefully crosses out an item on the list) … Yep! (throws list into waste basket) Now I’ve seen it all!

You might ask yourself why Jesus Chavez has not come up to replace any sucker when they are all sucking so hard. Well – whoops! – he got injured in AAA. He has been put on the shelf with a tender elbow and will need to rest for two months. There goes the depth! Also the hope. I am hesitant to even name a next-best selection from the AAA corps of pitchers, because Dave Dyer, Rico Gutierrez, and Ryan Nielson are all horrendous, and while Reese Kenny has a 2.74 ERA, he also has more walks than strikeouts.

Yeah, well, we’re ****ed anyway.

For now, Zach Graves is batting decently but not exactly great in AAA. And I don’t care much for Max Erickson’s feelings, but I think he could use a change of scenery. Whether he arrives in St. Pete is not that important. Important is that he gets the **** out of Portland.

Also, stathead corner:

ABL CAREER STRIKEOUT LEADERS
50th – Antonio Donis – 2,164 – HOF
t-51st – Manuel Paredes – 2,144
t-51st – Jorge Gine – 2,144 – active, on DL
53rd – Bob King – 2,137 – active, free agent
54th – Joe Ellis – 2,135
55th – Jonathan Toner – 2,112 – active
56th – Takeru Sato – 2,104
57th – Whit Reeves – 2,081 – HOF
58th – Paul Miller – 2,078

Although he made his debut 27 years ago, I think the Antonio Donis drama is still on Raccoons fans’ minds. We never knew what to do with him. He didn’t cut it as a starter, often not even making it through five innings, despite leading the league with 9.9 K/9 in his rookie season in ’96. That he only amounted to 170.2 innings while doing that already hints at some base problems. Donis lingered in relief for years, but also was not a good closer, and eventually was shipped off to Dencer, where it took him until his age 33 season in 2005 to get back into the rotation permanently. Suddenly, he was one of the best pitchers in the league. He would lead the his subleague in WHIP five times at age 33 or later, and also posted the top mark in BB/9 after walking six per nine easily during his time with the Raccoons. All the wiser with age, he also won two ERA titles with Denver in 2007 and Oklahoma in 2010, and won three Pitcher of the Year titles at ages 34, 38, and 39. His entire Hall of Fame plaque was forged after he turned 33, and you have to wonder what kind of career numbers he could have put up if he had found his groove and foremost his control earlier in his career.

Eh, the Hall’s the Hall. And then there’s Daniel Hall, but that is a story for another time, because we’ve arrived that the fun section now.

Fun fact: Among the six previous ABL hitters to knock six hits in a losing effort was a pretty famous Raccoon, although he did the deed before his stint in Portland. On June 11, 1989, David Brewer socked six base knocks in an interleague game against the Blue Sox that the Canadiens lost 13-11.

The Coons signed Brewer as big free agent before the 1995 season for a then-outrageous six years, nine million bucks. Of course his tenure did not see him take home a ring, and he would not become a champion until 2004 with the Titans. The Raccoons were knocked out of the CLCS in ’95, lost the 1996 World Series to the Rebels, and then 1997 happened. Brewer was traded to Tijuana the following winter for a trio of prospects to surely set the Coons back into win mode: Randy Farley, Clyde Brady (the Avatar of Losing when we were wiser to the fact), and Chris Parker…

Hey, you know who else dropped from the dying dynasty in 1997 and later won a ring with the Titans?

Vern Kinnear.

I have not unseen the photo of him from behind, thumping first base, fist erect, with a yellow #16 on a blue shirt.

I will never unsee it.

Oh, Steve from Accounting poked his head in to check in. – No, it’s alright. – Just a few tears. – What blood? Did I bite my lip again?
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Portland Raccoons, 45 years of excell-.... of baseball: Furballs here!
1983 * 1989 * 1991 * 1992 * 1993 * 1995 * 1996 * 2010 * 2017 * 2018 * 2019
1 OSANAI : 2 POWELL : 8 REECE : 10 BROWN : 15 HALL : 32 WEST : 46 SAITO

Meeets!
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