Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Changing faces

Since it is the offseason, the Bulletin has taken this particular blog of mine down, so it isn't active on the site. That said, I do hope people are coming back for periodic updates. Right now I am writing the UConn football blog which unfortunately has less activity than this blog.

Let me not waste any more words. The Defenders are looking for a new general manager and from all accounts, Jim Beaudoin more or less was done with the last iout of the season. What I do know is that everyone I spoke to, Lou DiBella on down, appreciated the effort Jim put forth and wishes him nothing but the best of luck in Portland, Maine. Jim's mother lives there and his fiance apparently accepted a position there. when? Where? I don't know. I do know this: Whomever DiBella and co. bring in to fill the role of GM needs to be someone savvy, someone who has seen it all in minor league baseball and someone who not is is committed to the team and stadium, but to the basebal fans if the area. This needs to be someone who can reach out to the community and offer an olive branch.

Why an olive branch? There is enough bad blood beneath the surface that it is sickening. Granted, some of it is not deserved in either direction. But I know there are things the team would like to see accomoplished (better signage, etc.) and things fans would like to see (cheaper tickets, concessions, etc.). There has to be someone -- and I emplore whomever the new GM is -- to sit down with Mayor Lathrop and state officials and find the middle ground. There has to be community involvement. Why not a town hall meeting? We can't have people so set in their ways saying "This is the way it's been here for x-number of years and that's the way it should be." These are the people who will inevitably hold us back as a city. These are the same people who probably thought cars were a bad idea because their parents or grandparents didn't have cars or that the Internet was bad because technology confuses them.

At the same time, the Defenders have to recognize the public's concerns and make a whole-hearted effort at give and take. Sorry Lou, you may not get the giant marquee in lights, but get a couple fairly large signs that can't be missed.

No, neither side will get what they want completely. Instead what we get is a city that can try to blossom with a successful minor league baseball team. Not every city can say that. We need to make sure Norwich can and that even the most hardened of critics become no worse than passive supporters.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Games of importance

The thinking in the press box Friday was that Saturday would be rained out, Sunday a doubleheader and Monday would go on as planned with the game having no meaning outside of it being the last game of the the year. Instead, Saturday's game is played and Sunday's is rained out. The only hitch is the Portland Sea Dogs. They lost Saturday at home against New Hampshire, keeping their magic number to clinch the final Eastern Division playoff spot at two. Both Binghamton, who is playing Connecticut, and Portland were rained out today. That means both teams are faced with doubleheaders Monday. If Portland wins one game, they face Trenton starting Wednesday. Same happens if Binghamton loses a game. If Binghamton wins both and Portland loses both to the Fisher Cats, we have ourselves a tie. In that event, both teams will play in one-game playoff at Portland Wednesday.

Who said the Defenders wouldn't be playing meaningful games late in the season?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Now it is time for the bad

Last week I asked for the positives. Today I want to know about the negatives of this season.

We can talk about off-field issues like the weather or schedule. What about the hot start to the season but having to deal with some seriously ugly losing streaks? How about injuries or key players being called up at bad times for the Defenders?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

This and that

I want to touch on a few points tonight and get your feedback.

First is Chris Begg. He's off to help Team Canada qualify for the Olympics. Honestly, I don't think we'll be seeing him on the field at Dodd Stadium ever again. Unless, of course, he's doing a rehab stint. He's probably been the Defenders' most consistant pitcher this year, at least that we will speak positvely about. Granted the season is all but over seeing the team can't afford to lose another game or have Portland win another game the rest of the way. But I think as we wind down the 2006 season and look back on what has really flown by, Begg will be a bright spot.

I'd like your thoughts on Begg and what else you thought went RIGHT. We will discuss the negatives later.

Next, as I reported in today's paper, the team cap will be seen regularly this season on the Gilmore Girls. Team owner Lou DiBella told me this was nothing less than a positve for the team and free exposure. Do you guys think having the logo seen, albeit, it will be small and on a hat. Will this exposure noticably help the Defenders in marketing themselves beyond the state of Connecticut?

Lastly, what are your thoughts on the series ESPN will be filming in town. This may delay the resodding of the field and the moving of the infield until next offseason. Is the trouble of hosting a production in Dodd not worth the inability to make changes? Is the increased business and any attention the city may get as a result far greater?

Friday, August 25, 2006

All-Star announcement

It looks as if Norwich and the Defenders will be host to next year's Eastern League All-Star Game.

This is great! I don't see how this is a negative in any way, shape or form. OK, so traffic in and out of the industrial park will be unkind unless the city does something to make it possible for traffic to flow in and out much more smoothly. Do I think they do? Probably not.

But regardless of the location/traffic concerns, this is a win-win for Norwich. Let's hope the game is something the city and all of the residents get behind!


As you will read in today's Norwich Bulletin, the Eastern league All-Star team was announced. Sadly, there were no Defenders on the squad. OK, let's be frank here, based on the team's play there wasn't anyone deserving. But I felt there was at least one who was: Billy Sadler.

Sadler was 4-3, 2.56 ERA with 20 saves. He pitched 42.3 innings, allowing 23 hits and 13 earned runs. He struck out 67 and batters hit .145 against him.

I'm not saying that Henry Owens, the closer for Binghamton is not as good, because he is. He might be better. The numbers suggest that, too. But I think when you look at Sadler, especially considering the team he plays for, its hard to not imagine how much better his numbers would be if he were, say, in Akron.

Thursday, August 24, 2006



That's the best word to describe last night's 14-4 loss at New Britain. Let's be honest, if anyone expected Garrett Broshuis to match the results Jesse Floyd and Chris Begg, it was unrealistic. That's not to say Broshuis couldn't do it, because he can. But after two straight gems, a third is highly unlikely.

Both Broshuis and Jason Waddell hurt themselves in the sixth inning by not making pitches. Broshuis put the first two batters on with a walk and hit batter. Then he gave up three straight hits. Waddell came in and didn't do much better. You can't let the first batter on base and if you do, you have to make good pitches.

Dave Machemer said an issue was these guys hadn't pitched in a few days. I say, so what? These guys are professionals and they need to be prepared.

Anyhow, the team comes home tonight to face Reading.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Goodbye No-No

Brian Horwitz singled in the top of the seventh inning, ending the Rock Cats' Glen Perkins' bid at a no-hitter.

Also, the Defenders set a franchise record tonight. Any guess as to which record they broke?

What's so different

Tonight marks my third or fourth visit to New Britain Stadium. It amazes me, that outside of drawing from the largest pocket of people in the state and essentially serving as Hartford's minor league team, New Britain draws much better than the Defenders. OK, so the Defenders play in the middle of a semi-developed business park. OK, but the atmosphere is more festive here.

What I want to know, as a recent transplant to Norwich, is why?

Does a hidden ballpark really keep you from games?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Never easy

That's the best way to describe road games. Even against a team that appears to be a lesser club than your own.

After today's 1-0 loss at Erie, I think it is safe to say the Defenders are playing more for pride and in the name of competition than trying to make a play for the postseason. That's just not in the cards.

James Garcia and R.D. Spiehs pitched very well. This was Garcia's best outting of the season. And for Spiehs to go out there and eat up three hard innings, says something about him. He's a fighter and isn't about to give up on the season or his teammates.

Not giving up on teammates has been a sentiment echoed frequently in the Connecticut clubhouse. To a man, they feel they are playing for themselves and each other. Maybe a bad season makes you wonder if your career is in jeopardy, but any professional ball player should know to play hard every at-bat.

Tomorrow, the team comes home -- sort of. They are back in the state but over in New Britain for a three-game set against the Rock Cats. This would be a great opportunity for Defenders fans from across the state to come out and try to negate ausually string crowd in New Britain.

How are they doing?

With the season set to conclude in roughly two weeks, this would be a great time to check how those who have played with the Defenders this season are doing in other levels of the organization.

San Francisco Giants:
Eliezer Alfonzo .283 10 HR, 29 RBI

AAA Fresno:
Pat Misch 2-1, 4.29
Johnathan Palmer 5-2, 3.30
Billy Sadler (one perfect inning since called up)
Jonathan Sanchez 1-2, 4.32
Justin Knoedler .263, 4 HR, 27 RBI
Clay Timpner .273, 2 HR, 14 RBI

A San Jose:
John Armitage .152, 1 HR 4 RBI
Alex Requena .321, 0 HR 12 RBI

It's too early to really predict what these numbers translate into because in many cases, the player hasn't been at his current level for a half season. I do think, however, that the pitchers in AAA aren't too far from making appearances in the majors. Mostly because of the age of the pitching staff in San Francisco. I suspect Sanchez, who's already been to the bigs, will be a September call-up. As should Palmer. Misch and Sadler are likely a year - year and a half away.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Walter update

Anyone in attendance knew something was up based on the loud cheers Randy Walter received each time he stepped to the plate. In case you didn't know, Walter has decided to retire from baseball.

He told me that he didn't have anything planned except to go home and spend time with his family. He also said this was something he had been thinking about for some time.

Call me crazy, but if you have been thinking about walking away from baseball -- something he's known nearly his whole life -- wouldn't you have something more solid planned? Also, why now? Why not wait until the season is over. That's three more weeks. Could moving on with your life not wait three weeks?

No. Not when the real reason behind the departure has more to do with playing time than it does with seeing the writing on the wall or not having fun playing a game.

When I asked manager Dave Machemer to elaborate on the how's, when's and why's of the situation, he became defensive and wanted to keep things private. I spoke with Walter and he, too, wanted to not discuss the details other than that he made up his mind and was looking forward.

There's also the numbers game. You have five outfielders (Horwitz, Ortmeier, Walter, Schierholtz, Foster) for three spots, plus two first basemen (Ishikawa and Von Schell) for one spot. One of the extra guys gets the DH spot. When you don't have the DH, three guys luck out.

I have little doubt that the driving force behind Walter's decision is playing time. It's part of the business. If you don't play, you can't develop. If you don't develop, you can't move towards the Majors. It's a vicious cycle, but it is also par for the course.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Tonight marked the last game for Randy Walter with the Defenders. More on this later tonight and in Wednesday's Bulletin.

Missed opportunity

Too bad for the Defenders. A great opportunity to put pressure on Binghamton and Portland went right out the window. Instead of sweeping the twinbill this evening against Altoona, the Defenders dropped both. With a pair of wins, Connecticut would have been 3 1/2 games out of the playoff picture. Instead, they are 5 1/2 games out.

Of course, the game of baseball isn't about what ifs. You have to execute on the field. Besides, as easy as it is to point at tonight's setback, there are 63 other games we can say 'what if".

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Injury update

Firstbaseman Travis Ishikawa hasn't be in the lineup for the past few games. The reason? Ishikawa has a sore wrist for which he will undergo a MRI later this week. While the prospect is not on the disabled list, don't expect to see him in a game until after the MRI results are in. Ishikawa is on the San Francisco Giants' 40-man roster so don't expect the Defenders to take any chances with the player's health.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Awards time

The voting has begun for the Eastern League's postseason All-Star team.
I have already filled in my ballot. What I'd like to know is who you guys would pick.
The positions:
RH starter
LH starter

Defenders duo honored

Baseball America named Defenders 1B Travis Ishikawa and 3B Brian Buscher the best defensive players at their position in the Eastern League.

This is a great honor because the voting is done by managers throughout the league.

Defense can easily be overlooked, but it wins games. When I spoke with Giants Director of Player Personnel Bobby Evans earlier this week, the first name out of his mouth as far as prospects within the organization, was Ishikawa.

The Giants are very happy with the progress Ishikawa has made, and if he continues on that path, whomever is playing first base in San Francisco next season will only be keeping the bag warm until the team decides Ishikawa is ready to stay in the bigs for good.

What a trip!

After an exciting win at Altoona Wednesday night, Connecticut returns home Friday to face Erie. The Defenders have just completed possibly their most successful road trip of the year, going 6-3, taking two games from all three opponents including two of the Eastern League's best teams (Binghamton and Altoona).

While the team may not be close to a postseason berth, let's hope this trip is a sign of exciting, winning baseball for the last three weeks of the season.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Road weary

The Defenders dropped another tough road loss Monday night against the Altoona Curve. This has been a positive road trip, albeit, it comes too late to make a difference in the end result of the year. There has been a lot of positives to take from a 4-3 trip so far. The bane of the Defenders' season has been the inconsistant offense. Yet, the bats have been producing more it seems over the past seven games than they might have for any other comparable stretch.

Let's not twist matters. The year has been less than expected and even a late push towards .500 does nothing more than put a silver lining on things. Consolation prizes are not what fans of the team want to see.

I spoke to Manager Dave Machemer while the team was in Binghamton. He sounded tired from being on the road. And really, who can blame him? A few of the guys had expressed to me their dislike of the road especially having played so many games over the past month away from home.

Don't worry Defenders, two more games...two more games.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Big win

The Defenders got back on track with a solid win at Binghamton. The B-Mets, it seems, never lose. But tonight was a different story than the host team had been used to. Behind another solid outing from Chris Begg, who earned his 10th win of the season,and a four-run sixth inning, the Defenders got the win.

Dan Ortmeier and Nate Schierholtz had two hits each. Billy Sadler worked two scoreless innings to pick up his 16th save. He struck out four.

An interesting note regarding the game is it marks the first time all season the Defenders gave up the first run of the game on the road and won. They were 0-25 heading into play Saturday.

Losing steam

It is hard enough to win on the road. It is much harder to win on the road against a team like the Binghamton Mets. It's ridiculous how well the B-Mets have been playing. The B-Mets have won 27 of 34 games. Any wonder they are in first place?

The Defenders put up a good fight Friday. You really have to put a game like this into proper context. The reality is Connecticut wasn't going to make the postseason. It is very easy for the players to sit back and let each game slip by one by one until the season is complete. Instead, the Defenders are playing for respect and they are playing for the role of spoilers.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A tough loss

Thanks to a three-run sixth inning, Bowie managed to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Defenders, 4-2, Thursday. Now Connecticut moves on to face two very good teams, Altoona and Binghamton.

When you consider the offensive explosion the Defenders had the previous two games, it's hard to expect such production to continue. You have to give them credit. There appears no signs of quitting on the team despite a very outside chance at the postseason.

Going for the sweep

Break out the Defenders!

Nate Schierholtz homered in his second straight game and Connecticut's bats are full of life. Following Tuesday's 8-5 win and Wednesday's 12-4 triumph, The Defenders hope to ride the hot hitting as they have an early game time Thursday -- 11:05 a.m.

Sure, Bowie isn't the best of teams but you can only play teh team on the schedule.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

On the road again...

Unlike Willie Nelson, the Defenders can't wait to get on the road again. That is where the team finds itself today as it starts a nine-game trip.

The Defenders do, however, find themselves leaving home on a high note. Putting together a late-inning rally, the Defenders batters came through for starter Chris Begg.

Begg, who had another great start, may be getting a call up to Triple-A before the ends of the season.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Another update

What was I thinking?

Since I started writing the previous post, the Defenders committed two errors.

I retract speaking of fundamentals and will say that Chris Begg is pitching a fine game.

Three-inning update

Maybe I am reaching. Maybe I am looking for something positive to build upon, but the Defenders have gone three innings today aganist Altoona and have managed to stay in the game. It seems trivial, but watching this game, you see the Defenders doing little things the right way. Does it mean playing fundamental baseball equates to winning the game? No. But if you play fundamental baseball you are going to give yourself a chance to win more often than not. With the exception of an error by shortstop Jake Wald (the runner was picked off), the team has done little things to keep itself in the game. That's a lot more than they've been able to say for sometime.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Rain, Rain Go Away

That's it! I'm officially a jinx. OK, not really. It just seems that the majority of the time when I head to Dodd Stadium, it rains. Team officials know it, I know it, and now you know it. It really is a sad state of affairs.

In all seriousness, this rain is just another bump in the road for the Defenders. They lose 11 games in a row and when they finally win one, any momentum they might have been able to build upon, is shot because of the rain.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Almost there ...

Brilliantly-pitched game by the Defenders' Geno Espinelli today in Connecticut's 1-0 loss to Bowie. The only run scored came from Espinelli's throwing error, but the pitcher went 7 2/3 innings and allowed only five hits. It's something to build on ... and hopefully it's not too late for the Defenders to make the season respectable.

Mike Trocchi

VP's contribution

I was struck by what Defenders corporate sales director Johnny Gill relayed to Bulletin correspondent Marc Allard when Marc talked to him about the departure of former vice president Keith Hallal, who was a big driving force in the Defenders successful brand transition from being the Navigators.
When asked why he moved on, Gill said one of Hallal’s kids one night asked him why he was here (home), that he didn’t leave here, meaning Hallal was neglecting his kids and family.
It just goes to show how tough these kinds of baseball jobs are. They’re not glamorous, just a lot of long days and nights over a long summer.
A long summer is what it continues to be for the Defenders, who dropped their 10th in a row Tuesday night. The team still isn’t hitting and I think that puts the pitchers behind the 8-ball from the start. Mentally, it gives the pitchers the idea they have to be perfect or else and that frame of mind is never good.

Mike Trocchi

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Woes continue

It just keeps getting worse for the Defenders, who showed signs of life right after the All-Star break, but have now hit their worst stretch of the season. East Lyme's Todd Donovan of Bowie was the latest to tag Connecticut's pitching early and often. That makes me think that Defenders manager Dave Machemer should maybe try the old Lou Pinella trick in Tampa a few years ago when Pinella put his relievers in early and his starters in after the sixth.
Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Mike Trocchi (filling in for Joe Perez while he's on vacation).

Friday, July 21, 2006

Hot and cold

Hey folks!

The Defenders are still on the road and are in serious need of some home cooking. The road trip started off well, but the team has seemingly fallen back into a slump offensively. It is this same slump that has plagued what could have been a promising season.
How frustrating must this year been for the pitching staff?
It seems the starting pitchers give the team a fighting chance almost nightly. That's not to say the hitters haven't had their moments, because they have.
After seeing the way the Defenders played heading into the All-Star break, I think this is just a matter of a team cooling off after a hot streak.

What do you think?

A good deal?

The team has extended its Player Development Contract with the San Francisco Giants through 2008. While I have no doubt this is a good move for the Defenders, I want to know what the fans think. Would you rather see the team affiliated with a different team. When the Navigators were linked to the New York Yankees, did the proximity of the parent club make you more interested?

Monday, July 17, 2006

New start

Hey Defenders fans!

I’m Joe Perez, the new Defenders beat writer for the Norwich Bulletin. There is a lot of potential for the team in the second half of the season. I will do my best to deliver all the ups and downs as the Defenders make a push for the Eastern League playoffs.

By reading my blog, I hope to bring you an inside – and candid – look at the team. We can have some great discussions about the Defenders or baseball in general. Most importantly, this blog will provide you, the fan, a great opportunity to communicate with me and other Defenders fans.

Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to hearing from you!