Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Welcome back

to Billy Sadler, who was sent to the Defenders today from Triple-A. Taylor Wilding was sent to San Jose.

From San Francisco Chronicle

This is a portion of an article on the SF Chronicle website. It reiterates point I brought up last week in a blog entry regarding Giants outfielders:

In an interview last week, Sabean said he and manager Bruce Bochy hope to give more starts to younger players such as Lewis and Kevin Frandsen over the final two months of the season. If Sabean can clear more roster space by trading older position players, either today or during the August waiver trading season, he plans to promote more prospects so the team can evaluate them for 2008.

Dan Ortmeier, Clay Timpner and Nate Schierholtz, three outfielders at Triple-A Fresno, are swinging the bat well, with the latter two batting over .300, possibly earning them a look.

"I really believe we'll need to play some of our young people to evaluate them," Sabean said. "I have talked to Boch about that."

Sabean also offered more details on the Giants' reconstruction plan. For the first time, he acknowledged he might have to trade some of the young pitching the organization holds dear to acquire talented young position players who can complement the team's aging veterans as the Giants transit to a new era.

"We're going to be in a position where we have an opportunity to study and identify which positions we need to focus on, and we may have to cross that bridge in the winter," he said.

At the same time, Sabean acknowledged that young impact hitters are difficult to acquire, and he has a Plan B. If the team cannot engineer such deals, he is prepared to rip a page from the San Diego Padres' playbook: Have the Giants do the best they can offensively with the talent in hand and bolster the pitching.

"We will build around the pitching we have," he said. "If we have to make it stronger, we'll strengthen it. We've all learned from San Diego what pitching can do in this division. We're halfway there with what we have in hand without any moves we have to make to acquire position players.

"That's the road we might have to take if we're going to have a different lineup that is challenged on the power side or on the run-scoring side. Why not make our strength even stronger?"

That comment might dishearten fans hoping for a quick fix that could turn the Giants into a young, exciting, speedy, powerful team. But as any rebuilding team can attest, there are no quick fixes without spending a gazillion dollars on free agents - a path the Giants swear they plan to abandon.

Patience might be in order as the Giants see whether such minor-league outfielders as Ortmeier, Schierholtz and Timpner can cut it in the majors. Behind them is right fielder John Bowker, who is posting impressive numbers for Double-A Connecticut.

Bowker is batting .296 with 17 homers and 70 RBIs playing in a pitcher's park and a pitcher's league. On the other hand, he has 81 strikeouts in 395 at-bats.

Behind Bowker are Class A shortstop Brian Bocock and 17-year-old third baseman Angel Villalona, both appearing in distant dreams.

Ahead of them all is Lewis, the next best hope for the Giants to break their long drought of home-grown position players.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Coming back home

The Defenders are back home starting Tuesday with a pair of three-game series against Southern Division teams. Both Akron and Erie are tough and have gotten decent pitching performances. Off the top of my head, I'm not sure if Erie's Dallas Trahern, an all star, will pitch this weekend.

Connecticut has gotten itself out of last place -- again -- and I'm interested to see how the offense functions after playing football in Portland. The season seems to be more about being competitive than it does trying to make the playoffs. Reality is, the odds are slim to nothing against the Defenders. Could they catch New Britain? Yeah. I think if they continue to play the way they have in the past two weeks they can. But catching New Hampshire and Portland is a tall task.

John Bowker is out of the slump he entered after the all-star game and is on a tear. Eugenio Velez is on the Giants' 40-man roster and Randy Ruiz joins his fourth EL team in two seasons. The last month should be interesting.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Ruiz was signed as a free agent after he was released Tuesday by the Triple-A Ottawa Lynx. No word as to what roster move was made to accommodate the addition.

Defenders add Ruiz

More to follow on the addition of one of the more dangerous hitters in recent EL history.

Trading places

With the trade deadline less than a week away, it's always interesting to see the names that come up in rumors and speculation. I learned earlier this week that a lot of what you read in papers covering major league teams are more about guessing than it is about reliable information.

That aside, I still find myself biting when there's something about my Yankees. As for the Giants and Defenders, the only name I'm hearing much of is San Francisco pitcher Matt Morris.

There haven't been as many scouts following the Defenders recently, but two teams which have been fairly present at home and away are the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners. Scouts from other teams have popped up here and there and have spoken with me regarding some of the Defenders.

Two players that came up in conversation most often were Alex Hinshaw and Eugenio Velez.

It wouldn't surprise me if Velez was dealt. Considering the number of outfielders in the Giants' system, the team can reduce the backlog and possibly acquire infielders, which are the greatest need.

With Nate Schierholtz, Dan Ortmeier, Fred Lewis, Brian Horwitz, Clay Timpner, John Bowker and Velez there are plenty of outfielders at the Triple- and Double-A levels.

Figure with the current Giants' OF of Barry Bonds, Dave Roberts and Randy Winn not having many years left (Bonds and Roberts are likely gone after this season), there's a need for players. Lewis likely moves into the lineup with Schierholtz next season.

My guess is that Bowker is the most likely to stick in the bigs out of the remaining cast. Logic, plus the need to move players up in the system, makes it seem likely that an outfielder will be moved either via trade or during the offseason.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Might I say...

It dawned on me that I took over this beat about a year ago. What a year it has been!

This season has been better than last in so many ways. Mostly because coming in mid season is tough. But I think my writing is better, which hopefully makes those 1-0 defeats easier to stomach the next day.

Covering the Defenders is fun. Whether it is getting to know the guys as more than baseball players or being around baseball nearly every day for five months, you can't beat it.

Being as competitive as I am, I would like to see better media coverage of the team. I know some outlets are only interested in the Defenders fans' dollars but don't want to return the interest in the team with coverage. I'm also a little fed up with disingenuous responses to why the Defenders don't deserve this or that. Maybe it's that the team knows there are some who view them as second-class citizens. I don't want the Norwich Bulletin to be a follower in the "Who Gave up on the Defenders first" race. It's much nicer making the case for why they shouldn't be ignored; never mind they are a newsworthy element in the community.

That's part of what hurts them. We have plenty of media outlets from Hartford to New Haven on East who ignore them. I understand the TV stations can't get out here regularly. Maybe twice a month would be nice.

The point is that if the media doesn't feel the team deserves coverage, than why should those who watch/listen/read from those outlets believe the Defenders are worth their while.

I had a peer recently ask me why the Bulletin and I continue to cover the Defenders because they are "bad." I would simply say: why bother ever showing up if your not going to make a consistent effort?

There are two other papers within a short distance of Dodd Stadium besides the Bulletin. One shows up every full moon and the other hasn't been down once.

I'll cut one paper some slack, they are very small and don't have a particularly large staff. The other? They're bigger than the Bulletin and just turn a blind eye.

It's time the local media wakes up and realize they have a role in how the Defenders' future plays out.


Brooks McNiven was named the Eastern league's Pitcher of the Week today.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mac story

Norwich Bulletin

NORWICH -- Sitting in what had been his office for nearly three seasons, Dave Machemer sat at the desk one last time, looking equal parts tired and relieved.
Three years can seem like an eternity, especially for a minor league baseball manager. Machemer, who has never managed a team for as long as he has the Connecticut Defenders, stepped down Sunday. He was replaced by Shane Turner, who managed the team the two seasons prior to Machemer‘s arrival.
“Sure I’m disappointed in the way the club played this year,” Machemer said. “As a manager, I always tell the guys, it’s the captain of the ship is the guy that’s going to go down with the ship.”
Bobby Evans, the San Francisco Giants Director of Player Personnel, offered Machemer the option of being reassigned as a major league scout or be released. Machemer said he didn’t sleep much Saturday night but after much deliberation, decided to remain employed.
“After some reservations at first, because it is a change,” Machemer said of the new post. “It’s something I had never done. Once I heard what it curtailed and the chance that it guaranteed me another year on my contract, I felt a new chapter in my life needed to begin.”
The move itself wasn’t unexpected. The timing, however, was. With the Defenders mired in last place and 10 ½ games out of a playoff spot, it would seem that the postseason serve as a likely time to change directions. But the Giants thought otherwise.
It had been a difficult week for Machemer and the Defenders. The Giants general manager and vice president of player personnel were present for two games in New Britain where the Defenders gave up 24 runs in two games, including the series finale in which the Defenders allowed 12 runs in the seventh and eighth innings, costing the team a win.
It appears that it was the team’s play over those two days that sealed Machemer’s fate.
After the game, Machemer held a team meeting that Turner was present for.
“I think all of us involved, we’re all a part of this no matter how big or small,” said Turner, who will manage the team through the final month plus of the season, “I felt responsible. I’ve been here enough. I felt like we can get more out of these kids.”
With the Defenders on pace for their worst winning percentage in franchise history, Machemer’s 176-206 record with the team became too much to bear.
“Any time the club struggles, you always look at what your options are to improve the club or help the situation. It’s a difficult situation because we have a lot of confidence in Machemer. Sometimes making change is what’s best for the club.”
Earlier this season Machemer became the team’s all-time leader in wins for a manager and was the fifth among active minor league managers with 1,233 wins over 18 years as a manager.
The players were surprised that the move came when it did and are unsure of how the managerial change will affect the team, especially this late in the season. With the exception of May, when the team was 11 games under .500, the Defenders’ performance had not been horrible, per se, as they have been six games under even in April, June and July combined.
“I feel like I let him down,” shortstop Jake Wald said. “In the end, he’s the head of this team, he’s the leader of this team and the Giants felt a switch would help us. … I do feel a little bad.”
Many of the Defenders are familiar with Turner, who managed Triple-A Fresno and most recently served as a roving outfield/base running instructor within the Giants organization.
“We had no idea,” catcher Steve Holm said. “This is my seventh year playing and I’ve never been involved in anything like this. I guess it’s going to be a learn on the fly thing. We know Shane, so it’s not like they’re bringing in someone you don’t know.”
On his way out, Machemer had few regrets, if any.
“I can still say I came to work with a positive attitude every day and I thought on that given night, we came to play hard and we came to win,” he said. “I think I have given the players an honest shake every night. I really do.”
Reach Joe Perez at 425-4257 or jperez@norwichbulletin.com

The explaination

Bobby Evans, the Giants Director of Player Personnel, spoke with Machemer last night and made him the offer of accepting a reassignment as a major league scout for the team or be fired. The Giants obviously value Mac's ability to evaluate talent, so that's the reason they kept him on board. They also gave Mac a guaranteed contract through next season, something he did not have as manager of the Defenders.

Machemer out

Shane Turner is new (old) manager. More later.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tony Scott on ESPN2

The Defenders box office manager Tony Scott just completed a four-minute segment on ESPN2's "First Take" to discuss tonight's Harry Potter promotion.

I think a few minutes were cut from the originally planned segment because of "breaking news" regarding Michael Vick.

This looks like a good promotion tonight and Scott said he anticipates close to a full house.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tidbits with Sabean

On the Giants' draft philosophy:
"First and foremost, most of the time we have driven our draft with pitching. The last couple years, we've gotten more diverse and I think we've seen that we've been successful in developing those pitchers, not only for our own purposes but in trade for position players. Now the game has changed where position players are getting so expensive to go out and trade for or moreso sign on the free-agent market that we've got to have a better balance and we realize that now."

"Unfortunately for us, our pipeline's been pitching, for some reason, whether it's a young fan or anybody that follows the club from year to year, they get excited about following the position players that come through whatever organization or whatever affiliate and it's one of those years that we get guys like Velez, who's going to play in the big leagues, Bowker's going to play in the big leagues, I'm impressed with Holm's development, he's a kid that's come a long way, so I think it's just proof in the pudding that you need a better balance and we're striving for that."

On moving the field this offseason:
"I don't know. I know it was one of our requests at the beginning of the year and I know it was caught up in some red tape with the ballclub or the franchise or the city, I'm not sure, but it was on our wish list."

On the lack of rehab appearances:
"It's geography, more than anything. It's very difficult with any major league player when you have Triple A in Fresno, San Jose right down the street from us, 30 minutes, and then of course we've got our own complex and spring training situated year-round in Arizona. So with those three opportunities, you're able to stair-step guys. Unless the team was actually on the East Coast working their way west, it really doesn't make sense."

On the MLB all-star game:
"The All-Star Game was very exciting. At this time of the year, us in the front office, quite frankly, unless you're going out to see a minor league team, you want to try to take a step back and evaluate things. But with all the family and friends in town and seeing how the city put on such a great reception for these guys, it was very exciting. I think it's good for the organization to showcase the ballpark and the city. That was a big first step. Of course, the next one is hopefully to get Barry [Bonds] over the hump with this home run record as soon as possible. That part has been a distraction for everybody."

On fan support of Barry Bonds:
"He's never had a problem at home. The San Francisco community, given that he grew up with his dad playing there and the great things he's done for the organization, that's really his bastion. I'm not surprised. I'm smart enough to realize that there's a way online you can stuff the ballot box, so to speak. They paid him all due respect, so to speak. I think it's fitting he started in left field for the National League."

On whether he worries if Bonds passes Aaron on the road:
"I worry right now more about scoring four runs at home, like we did last night. No matter who's in the lineup, we get a chance to win. What's frustrating for us is that he's not swinging the bat well at all, whether it's him trying to hit a home run or getting a home run in the game or moreso him to drive in runs as a fourth hitter. He has to go back to being more relaxed and putting the ball in play more, and when he's on, which is good in the pinch-hit appearance last night when he drove the ball to left field, to left-center, it means he's staying on ball better and he's not pull-hooking it, trying to hit the ball nine miles to right field."

Bonds' future with the team:
"Everybody's going to be evaluated on the year as a whole. The one thing of concern would be the age factor as well as what we're seeing in the past week or so. It's tough to get him there in the day after a night game and he's going to need a couple of days off here and there. It's not so much him and his talent, but as you build a lineup or team for the future, you want your everyday three, four and five hitters out there as much as possible. We'll keep an open mind, but he's got a hill to climb."

With having an aging MLB team, what is the significance of this season of player development:
"The position players are going to be given more of an opportunity. Fortunately, we've got guys right now like [Kevin] Frandsen, who's going to play a little bit more. Even [Fred] Lewis. We brought up [Dan] Ortmeier and [Nate] Schierholtz, who I think are going to crack the situation before the end of the year. Fortunately, for the organization itself, on the big league team we've got a young pitching staff that we'll be able to build upon and around. But the game – with everybody's concern being the budgets that we all have or moreso just the rigors of the schedule, it seems to be getting younger and younger every year, and we all have – we'll follow through as much as the rest of the decision has."

On the trade deadline:
"We'll see. I think we said all along, and this is before we knew what kind of fortunes we were going to have. Right now, we're obviously in last place and way below .500, but we want to get involved in transactions that help us present and future. We're not going to rent players and we have to be really smart in who we give up. It would be safe to say that we will not want to give up any shining lights, especially in the pitching department and moreso with position players that will impact us next year."

More in the paper tomorrow

Special guests

Giants GM Brian Sabean and minor league director Dick Todrow are with the Defenders. More on my conversation with Sabean later.

Monday, July 16, 2007

New poll

Vote and leave comments with your thoughts.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tough loss

This is a frustrating team. They have as much young (read not career-minor league) talent as anyone not named Trenton and with it comes mistakes of inexperienced. Part of me is convinced that the majority of the team probably should be in Single-A or hey need to bring in some serious experienced help to give them a boost.

The let downs of Ishikawa and EME (who I doubt will be in the organization after this season, hurt early on. But now it seems many of the offensive players are in a funk. And after the All-Star break, that shouldn't be.

I think the poll this coming week will be about what you, the fan, wants to see. Keep an eye out for it during the NB series.

The winner is...

2,423. That's what is announced.

Let's make a deal

My eye count says there are 500-800 people. The Defenders will announce 2,000, or at least I think they will. Let's see what's closer my eye count or my guess at what will be announced.

It looks like a spring training game here -- minus palm trees.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

No dice

Tonight the Defenders had planned on giving away Daisuke Matsuzaka bobble heads, but because of Major League Baseball's trademark and licensing agreement, the promotion had to be scrapped. In its place, the giveaway was a camouflage San Francisco Giants cap.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I've gotten a few votes on the poll to the right, now let's hear what you guys thought beyond one word votes.

It's been some time

Since the Defenders were more than just percentage points out of last place. After the 2-1 over Binghamton Thursday, the Defenders are a game ahead of Binghamton, which also marks the first time in roughly two months since they have been out of the basement.

New look

I've changed the appearance of the blog and added a poll. Keep your eyes open for a new poll question every week.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fire! Not really.

The fire alarm went off at Dodd Stadium and caused a 15-minute delay in the home run derby. It was comical because every time the PA announcer tried to speak, the alarm would go back on.

Star gazing

I'm up at Dodd and there weren't too many people here. There was a couple dozen autograph seekers outside the gate. Sales have picked up, with nearly 6,000 sold and additional premium seats made available.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Tyler Von Schell was named the Eastern League's Player of the Week after batting over .400 with three homers and 10 RBI.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Amazing first half

With two RBI already against Binghamton today, John Bowker has passed Nate Schierholtz's team-best RBI total from last season.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

All-Star changes

Alex Hinshaw is out and Brian Anderson and Osiris Matos are in.

The team felt with Hinshaw recently coming off the DL, it wasn't worth the risk of him getting hurt in an exhibition game. He is replaced by Anderson. Matos joins the team as a replacement for Portland's Clay Buchholz, who is pitching in the future's game in San Francisco.

Klink streak snapped

Simon Klink's 21-game streak of reaching base safely came to an end Wednesday. Something tells me another streak isn't far off. He's seeing the ball well and hasn't looked bad in most of his at-bats over the past month.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Fearsome Five

The Connecticut Defenders posted five players to the Eastern league All-Star team for the game held at Dodd Stadium July 11.

The players are: Pitchers Geno Espineli and Alex Hinshaw, catcher Steve Holm, second baseman Eugenio Velez and outfielder John Bowker.

Manager Dave Machemer will guide the Northern Division team as Norwich is the host city.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Getting a read

The scouts are out on droves today. As the trade deadline in less than a month away, teams are taking a long look at prospects.

Worth noting is the interest of an American League East team in today's starter, Dave McKae.