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.