Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More on Decker

New Defenders manager Steve Decker and I had a good chat tonight. I came away with an overwhelmingly positive reaction to what he had to say. Some, Defenders fans, may not sit well. Some of it will excite you.

The highlights:

*Decker said his main priority is player development. If the team happens to win, that's even better.

*He said all of his teams have played the game the right way. They play hard and with respect.

*He's tired of the excuses. He said whether it was from instructional league or elsewhere, all he heard from players was how they couldn't hit at Dodd Stadium. Not so, the new manager said. Decker wants the players to use Dodd as a weapon, and not a liability.

*Don't expect big power numbers out of the lineup, but do expect -- if he can get the guys he wants to do this -- a very fast, very aggressive team on the bases.

*This is a very confident man with a track record of winning in the minors. He knows this will be tough, but he thinks that most of the players he gets will have played for him in either Salem-Keizer or San Jose, so they already know what he expects. If they can make the adjustment to Double-A, which he considered the proving ground, then there might be winning baseball in Norwich.

New staff

In what I consider as big of a statement on how valuable player development is with the Defenders, the San Francisco Giants named their up-and-coming Single-A manager Steve Decker the team's new skipper.

The Giants cleaned house -- everyone is gone, including Steamer, Bob Stanley.

I've been trying to talk with Decker and should have something later today.

The new staff:
Pitching coach Ross Grimsley
Hitting coach Garey Ingram
Trainer Eric OPrtega.

Grimsley comes from the Giants' low-A team in Augusta, Ingram from the Midwest League's Great Lakes squad, and Ortega from Augusta.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Two Defenders taken in Rule 5 draft

The Oakland A's selected Ben Copeland in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft. What that means is Copeland must spend all of next season on the A's major league roster or he will be sent back to the Giants organization.

Kyle Haines was taken by the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate, Lehigh Valley. He must spend all of next season in Triple-A or his rights revert back to the Giants.

Haines will have no worries staying in Triple-A. Copeland is going to be a fourth or fifth outfielder with Oakland. His speed is why he will likely stick. This is bad news for East Lyme's Todd Donovan, who is on the A;s Double-A team. It's just another OF to climb over.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


It's November so it's a good time for y'all to drop by with some questions and I'll give some answers.

Greg asked if Steve Decker would be the Defenders' new skipper next year replacing Bien Figueroa, whose future is uncertain.

I'll tell you what I know. I asked a team official this summer about Decker and was told there was no way the Giants would bring Decker to a place they hate. Another person said Decker would be the right guy at the right time with the expectations low for the Defenders. He's be expected to do more molding than winning.

Monday, October 13, 2008

This and that

Hondo...great seeing you at the Defenders' Beer Fest Saturday. For those of you who were there, it was a nice event that seemed to make a positive impression on those in the community that attended.

To answer Greg's questions from a previous post..

The EL will help a lot to push the Defenders out. Maybe the politically correct term is to pressure Lou DiBella to sell the team to a Richmond-area owner.

As for what happens to Dodd Stadium? Probably nothing until the city determines that its better off torn down so another business can go there. That is, of course, providing the city's leaders aren't delusional and think another team is coming in (maybe...maybe an indy league team, which would be really bad).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The sad saga

The truth is that neither the Reds nor Giants wanted to be here.

A few weeks ago, a Giants official gave me the read-between-the lines message of he being too busy dealing with San Francisco media, so I should not call him and stick to getting my quotes/info from the Defenders. Call it creating distance, call it confidence that they'd be elsewhere, but the Giants were dead set against coming back here.

Defenders GM Charlie Dowd told me he felt his team was never in a position of leverage, something Carolina Mudcats GM Joe Kremer felt his team had going for him. He said that both teams "wanted" to be in Carolina. This is why the whole process took so long -- Carolina was making sure it made the choice it wanted. In essence, the Defenders had to wait until a decision was made for them, and even after that happened, they didn't know which way Carolina had decided to go until hours after it announced it had called a press conference.

Before anyone thinks about doing damage to themselves over the apparent lack of love, the Marlins wanted to be here, but never imagined the Dodgers would leave Jacksonville, Fla. That simple move changed everything. The Dodgers went to Chattanooga, the Marlins left Carolina, the Dodgers' move forced out the Reds, who as we know, decided upon Carolina.

What made Carolina so attractive?
For the Giants, it's closer to Augusta and not Norwich.
For the Reds, its the Southern League and they had been in Chattanooga 21 years, being familiar means something. Plus, both teams wanted the weather and away from the uncertainty here.

Speaking of that, the rumors are getting stronger that the team will be sold within the next year and moved to Richmond, Va. Is that a done deal? No. Would I bet against it? No.

What can be done? First people need to go to Defenders games. If ownership and the Eastern League feel this team can't grow and sustain that growth -- I'm not talking the nice bumps the last two years brought, but double that immediately -- then it's as close to a foregone conclusion. I've asked Lou DiBella several times in the past about selling the team. He's never said it wasn't an option, but he's also said it's not an option he wants to consider.

Getting back to the matter at hand, the Mudcats GM told me both teams wanted to be there. Charlie Dowd said that the Giants and Defenders never expressed a "definitive" desire to go separate ways. That's because both knew they are the red-headed stepchildren in this bi-annual dance. No one wanted the Giants and no one available wanted Norwich.

All along, the Giants were trying to, as a common phrase in politics these days goes, put lipstick on a pig in its presentation to Carolina. Carolina felt the Giants would do well there. Just not as well as the Reds. Once the Reds made their call, the final pieces fell into place.

At that point, neither had a choice.

Staying Giants

Two more years. The Defenders were the runner-up as both the Giants and Reds wanted to move to Carolina. More later.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

PDC news

According to the Yankees, the agreement between New York and Trenton was agreed upon weeks ago, but neither side was in a rush to make an announcement.

As for the Defenders, expect word by Wednesday. My guess is Giants.

Friday, September 19, 2008

What the future holds

It's either the Giants or the Reds. Or, well....I don't want to say the other optiion, which is a shot in the dark at best. A decision is expected by the end of next week, and I get a feeling that it will be the Reds here next season. But I also have the feeling after talking to some of the parties involved that comfort, for lack of better word, with the Giants may win out. I suspect either team will sign for two years (the Giants because they want out of Norwich and the Reds to get a feel for the place).

Check out Sunday's Bulletin where I will have more on the situation.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Eastern League Baseball Writers Association All-Star Team

With today the final day of the regular season, I bring you the ELBWA's year-end All-Star squad, as voted on by each team's beat writers and radio broadcasters. The utility player spot is awarded to the position player with the most votes and not receive the selection at his position.

Catcher: LOU MARSON, Reading

First baseman: RYAN ROBERSON, Erie

Second baseman: SCOTT CAMPBELL, New Hampshire

Third baseman: WES HODGES, Akron

Shortstop: JASON DONALD, Reading (17)


Utility player: DAN MURPHY, Binghamton

Starting pitchers: BRAD BERGESEN, Bowie

Relief pitcher: EDDIE KUNZ, Binghamton (8)



Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rumor, they say, rumor

This is what Eastern league President Joe McEacharn had to say about the report on

“To the best of my knowledge…no person, team, club, league official or otherwise has been granted any permission to explore any move of any club to Richmond,” McEacharn said. “There have been no discussions on any level involving any Eastern League club.

“Nobody is talking to Richmond about doing anything.”

McEacharn also had strong words for the website:

Let me summarize this as concise as possible. First, don’t believe what you read on BallparkDigest. It is nothing but a site created to report on various reports. There is no level accuracy or inside information in many of the stories; it’s all speculation."

Defenders GM Charlie Dowd also shot down the report, saying he and owner Lou DiBella have discussed the speculation.

“Our organization has not spoken to any official in either Richmond or Bowie,” Dowd said.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Moving forward

Now that there have been consecutive seasons with improved attendance combined with what should be a more favorable schedule next year, on paper the Defenders should have a more successful 2009 off the field.

Reading quotes from Lou DiBella in today's Bulletin, I'm not sure how sold the owner is on the team. Maybe I'm reading into things too much, especially since I haven't spoken to him recently, but he seems indifferent on affiliation and soured on ownership.

I know Lou would love to turn a hefty profit at Dodd, but it's not going to happen. Three hundred thousand fans a year won't happen. I do think 215,000 can. That wouldn't be worst or second worst in the Eastern League.

Could we see new ownership? It's possible. Could we see a new affiliation? I think it's all but done.

What I can tell you is Defenders fans have every reason to be excited about next season if for no other reason than the increased support. Hopefully it's a wave that continues to rise.

On a PDC note, look for the Yankees and Trenton to announce their extension sometime in the next two weeks.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


That's how many fans are needed at Sunday's game for the Defenders to reach 200,000 fans this season.

Considering it's the home finale, I think it can be done.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Last time

Alas, that day I've not looked forward to has come: My final Defenders game. As I make the jump over to UConn football season, there will still be Defenders coverage from me and others over the next week-plus.

It didn't really hit me until I stepped into the clubhouse and said my goodbyes to the guys. Between the Giants and Norwich likely ending their relationship and my hope that these guys advance, the chances of ever seeing any of them again are slim to none.

The guys who have been here the last two years or more, especially Garrett Broshuis, Simon Klink, Justin Hedrick, Brooks McNiven and Dave McKae have been a pleasure to talk to and get to know. I'm just as honored to have gotten to work with Adam Witter, Kyle Haines, Joey Martinez, Olmo Rosario, Carlos Sosa, Nate Bump, Paul Oseguera (funny dude) and Antoan Richardson to name a few more.

Seasons continue to amaze me with how quickly they fly. It makes one appreciate the times when you stop to hear the crack of the bat or the pop of the glove.

While there's more to come, I just want to thank you, the reader and the baseball fan. I get to live out my second dream (short of playing) by spending my summer at the ball park and bringing you the happenings with the Connecticut Defenders.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I had an interesting conversation today with a scout of a major league team interested in a few of the Connecticut Defenders.

The scout mentioned he had wanted to see Pablo Sandoval. He added he saw Sandoval a few years ago and was unimpressed. Having heard about the work Steve Decker did with Sandoval and the way the catcher had been hitting in recent years, Sandoval had garnered interest.

Also on the scout's radar: Joey Martinez, Daryl Maday and Ben Snyder.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Surprise, surprise

I was filling out the Defenders box score for Monday's paper when I saw a name that caused a double take: Eliezer Alfonzo. Is this the Giants' idea of making amends for railroading the team's season? If so, it sucks.

Nothing against Alfonzo, who I've had the pleasure of talking with a few times, but he isn't Pablo Sandoval or Ryan Rohlinger. BTW: Pablo is progressing nicely with an irregular spot on the bench.

On a positive, congratulations are in order for former Defender Travis Ishikawa. Travis hit his first major league dinger today to help Tim Lincecum and the Gianst best the Braves.

New GM in Trenton

Trenton will announce a new GM on Monday. Considering how bad things have been with the Defenders and his ties to the New York City area, I called Defenders GM Charlie Dowd to see if he was relocating. Relax, he told me that he's staying put.

On another note, after a few days of phone tag, Charlie gave me the impression he's none to pleased with last week's roster moves. He spoke with Giants Director of Player Personnel Bobby Evans, who I am sure couldn't have cared less.

Dowd's take was that Evans and the Giants are either clueless about what's happened here in the last month-plus or actually believe that Ryan Rohlinger and Pablo Sandoval are going to make a difference this season in San Francisco.

This latest move may have been the move that turns the Giants into an absolute worst-case option in October.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Season = over

Ryan Rohlinger and Pablo Sandoval were both promoted to the majors today, bringing to an end to a successful 1 1/2 month run for Connecticut. In that time the team went from lost to playoff contender. Now, the defenders must hope they can continue to good play for the next 2-plus weeks if it hopes to see the postseason.

Joining them is another former Defender, Travis Ishikawa.

Two other ex-Defenders, John Bowler and Steve Holm, were sent to Triple-A.

Crossing fingers

That is what the Connecticut Defenders are doing. We all know what happened the last time the team tied Binghamton for third place.

You have to give the Defenders a lot of credit. After the way the last road trip and the series with Trenton played out, no one would have been shocked if they laid down and died against Portland. Instead, they play their most inspired ball of the season and then Tuesday defeat the team with the EL"'s second-best record (Akron) on the road.

Since I had been away for the last few days, I will tell you that the general feeling in the clubhouse going into the Portland series and after the first win was one of confidence. It certainly appears to be the case.

With just over two weeks left in the season, there are three teams within two games for the final Northern Division playoff spot. Who gets it?

This is the breakdown of each team's remaining schedule.
2 vs. Altoona
3 vs. Harrisburg
3 at Altoona
3 at Harrisburg
5 vs New Britain, including a DH
4 vs. New Hampshire

2 vs. Reading
3 at Bowie
3 vs. New Hampshire
3 vs. Bowie
3 at New Hampshire
3 at New Britain

2 at Akron
3 at Erie
3 vs. Akron
3 vs. Erie
4 at Reading
3 at Trenton

Looking just at the schedule, it's not looking so good for the local team. I'd say the one-two punch of a two-game lead and the schedule should be enough for Portland to hold on. That being said, how significant was the collapse on the recent road trip to Binghamton and New Hampshire. If my memory serves me correct, Connecticut lost three games in the standing. That's how close the Defenders may have come to the playoffs. At this late juncture, it's sad if the last 18 don't count as much as eight games played over a week ago.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Filling in

I will be gone for the remainder of the series with Portland, but look forward to Matt Stout picking up the slack on Saturday and Sunday (not sure who is at Dodd Friday).

Anyway, enjoy the games as they will go a long way to determine whether the Defenders have any playoff hope left.

FYI: Ronnie Ray will start the fifth in the opener Friday and Adam Cowart will start one of the games on Saturday.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Sea Dogs series

Per request, this is what I can make out of the Defenders rotation:

Thursday: Paul Oseguera and Joey Martinez
Friday: Garrett Broshuis
Saturday: Dave McKae and Daryl Maday
Sunday: Ben Snyder

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Ben Copeland

I just spoke with former Defender outfielder Ben Copeland, who was promoted to Triple-A Fresno earlier this week.

Here is the detailed account:

Q: Where were you when you found out about the promotion to Fresno?

A: "It was after the last game in New Hampshire. [Manager Bien Figueroa] called me into his office before we were getting on the bus to leave to let me know."

Q: Players talk about how excited they were when getting the call to the majors. While this isn't the case, how would you compare your reaction to what you've heard others' promotions?

A: “I can guarantee you I wasn’t as excited as I would be if I got a major league call-up. I was happy. It caught me off guard; statistically I wasn’t having that great of a season.”

Q: What were you told your expectations are for the remainder of the season?

A: “That’s all I really try to do. As far as expectations go, with baseball you’re playing every night. You’re not going to have a good game every night; you’re not going to have a bad game every night. What I do try and do is play hard and win a baseball game.”

Q: When you think about being one step closer to the bigs and you realize that all your hard work has paid off so far, what sort of emotions do you have?

A: "I'm one step closer to the major leagues, but this step to the major leagues is the biggest step that you make, more so than Single-A to Double-A or Double-A to Triple-A. We've already seen it a couple times this year where [the Giants] called guys up from Double-A straight to the major leagues. I still feel I am in Triple-A. There's a month left, so I'm going to work hard while I am here. When it gets into the off season, I have to work just as hard as I have in the off season, maybe even harder. The closer you get to it, the more you want it."

Q: Guys talk about the adjustments they have to make when they move up a level. Even though you've played just one game with Fresno, what do you have to work on to succeed at Triple-A?

A: "I've only payed one game, but I think what's going to be tough for me is blocking out that it's Triple-A. That's a distraction. You're with new teammates, new stadiums, new opponents, and it's in the back, of your mind that all this is new. Therefore you lose focus on what you're doing at that point of time whether it's hitting, or in the outfield or running the bases. I just want to play my game and be focused, have good at bats and play solid defense."

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Lost run

The way the Defenders score runs, don't be surprised if this play looms large.

With Olmo Rosario on third and Pablo Sandoval on second and one out, Adam Witter flew out to right field. Both runners tagged up. Rosario, considerably faster, crossed the plate. Moments later, Sandoval was thrown out at third on a one-hop throw from Edwar Gonzalez. The home plate umpire ruled that Sandoval was out before Rosario scored. The play ended the inning.

Not Thunder

But Lightning that struck the scoreboard at Dodd Stadium. That's the word as to why the lower portion of the scoreboard has been inopperable of late.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Copeland gone

Defenders outfielder Ben Copeland was promoted today to Triple-A Fresno. Outfielder Mike Mooney is coming tomorrow from Single-A San Jose.

Mooney's numbers: .272, 10 HR, 25 RBIs. pitcher.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The not-so short ride home

Perhaps being dumbfounded is my fault. I suspected that the Defenders would have gone into Binghamton and done some damage, much like they have all season when visiting the Mets. I was partially correct. The damage done was to themselves.

Then, with a chance to rebound and even make up a little bit of the ground it lost in Binghamton, Connecticut is planted firmly on its face against New Hampshire.

Losing 1-run and 2-run games are tough, but knowing the defenders' track record, its a little easier to swallow. The 8-0 whipping tonight is unacceptable.

Amazingly, they are just barely within striking distance of second-place Portland.

Here are the problems, however: First-place Trenton comes in for three games starting Monday. Yes, Trenton lost a few players recently and pitcher George Kontos and Phil Coke, who were supposedly dealt to Pittsburgh, are now in Triple-A. All that considered, Trenton is still a good team.

Then the Defenders essentially play six games in four days with the Sea Dogs.

This from my make believe mailbag:

Q: If Connecticut sweeps all six games they will be in better position, right?
A: Yes, but they need more arms, fresher arms for that series and the team is still waiting on another middle infielder not named Dave Maroul.

The infielder becomes a lesser issue against Portland only because the need for arms trumps the need for a back up infielder. what SHOULD happen is whomever starts Wednesday would become inactive/disabled/reassigned. That player is replaced with another starter (Pucetas?) Then another pitcher needs to be added. Also, to make sure nothing else that would impede the team's chances of winning even four games, Olmo Rosario and Kyle Haines need to be at short and second, respectively.

OK, more mailbag.

This season — the last couple weeks in particular — are worse than any of the past few seasons. Why? There was the tease of hope, the faint smell of postseason play. I'd rather deal with five months of no chance in Hedes than watch the reward just dangle there and no one seem too interested in snatching it.

There are so few home dates left, and obligations have my number a little lower. If that happens to be the final season in Norwich for San Francisco, hopefully it will at least be an exciting stretch unlike that last week.

Friday, August 01, 2008

No title

This five-game series at Binghamton, which concluded last night, was supposed to be the series where the Defenders a) get into third place and b) give their postseason hopes a boost.

Well, they did get into third place. Albeit a brief, one-day tie. Then -- BOOM -- it all fell to pieces. I'm not going to say its time to kiss the season goodbye just yet. Connecticut has just over a week to make a stand. At New Hampshire for three and then home for essentially nine games between Trenton and Portland next week. Anything less than four of six against New Hampshire and Trenton, and four of six against Portland and that should seal the deal.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Little Papi named Player of the Week

That's right, Connecticut's catcher Pablo Sandoval picked up the league's top weekly honor Monday after an outstanding seven-day stretch. What's even more amazing about the numbers below is that because of rain, Sandoval only played three games.

A .421 avg., 2 HR, 2 2B, 11 RBIs, 3 R and an .842 slugging percentage.

Simply incredible. Six of the RBIs came in an 18-6 win at Portland. The other 5 were from Saturday's come-from-behind win over New Britain at Dodd Stadium when Sandoval hit a grand slam and the game-tying single in the seventh.

In just 26 games with the Defenders, Little Papi has a .345 avg., 9 2B, 6 HR, 26 RBIs, 15 R and a .591 slugging percentage.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What are the chances

that the starting pitcher for the Rock Cats today has the name Rainville? Fitting.

What isn't fitting is the tarp has come on and off the field at least three time since 11 this morning. Just cancel the game!!! All 50 fans here will live. There's a double header tomorrow at Binghamton -- a far more important series than this one -- and Defenders starter Joey Martinez can be saved for Game 1.

No, no, no. Let's play today says the team's front office. Please, for the sake of everyone (and my sanity) cancel the game. The radar at this moment is filled with blue, green, yellow and some red that is heading this way. But hey, we have all day, right?

Are the extra concession sales that important? I know things might be tight around Dodd Stadium, but that extra $200 in hot dogs means what exactly?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Answers, questions and hope

I talked to both Bien Figueroa and Dave Maroul tonight.

Bien said Maroul playing second or short is a product of two things. First, he wants better defense up the middle than what the team's been giving and hopes that maybe Maroul's athletic ability can help. To that, Maroul told me the Giants had him play the entire spring at second two years ago, so the position isn't entirely foreign. The first night he was there in Portland he said was weird, but he got used to it quickly.

Figueroa's other concern is that he has no other middle infielders and needs to be able to rest Kyle Haines and Olmo Rosario. Rosario from what I can tell is the player Figueroa is most concerned about defensively.

This is what makes no sense. Nate Bump went on the DL again today and there was no replacement. Brooks McNiven leaves Monday for Toronto to join up with Team Canada for the Olympics. By Monday there will be two open slots on the roster and no guarantee that they'll be filled or that a middle infielder will be one of the replacements when they do arrive.

As for Ben Snyder, he's been over matched but looked good for the most part tonight. He struck out five over four and then after letting two guys single to start the fifth, struck out the next two before drowning. I don't expect him to leave. What the rotation looks like right now in no particular order:


The crowd was fantastic. Announced -- and looked like -- 7,070. That's the largest I recall in a few years outside of the All-Star Game. What really impressed me was how after Pablo Sandoval (3-for-4, 5 RBI) finished talking to Matt Martinez on the field for the radio postgame, the fans behind the first base dugout cheered for him. Folks, if you don't realize we have something special in town in the form of Little Papi (trust me, don't go with Papisito -- it doesn't translate to what we think).

My worry with anyone getting their hopes up is that a vast majority of the tickets I was told by one Defenders employee on Friday was bought up by people there for the armed forces salute prior top the game (notice the camo jerseys). Charlie Dowd said that was not correct. either way, over 13,000 fans packed into Dodd Stadium the last two nights. Also, the team passed Harrisburg in league attendance.

I also want to mention the excellent hitting of Adam Witter this month. .318 and counting. He'll catch Joey tomorrow with Pablo likely to DH.

Maroul at second

I didn't ask last night, but will tonight. Why Dave Maroul is at second base is beyond me. At least he hasn't hurt the team tonight (yet). Ben Snyder has been sharp with five Ks through four and Pablo "Little Papi" Sandoval has a grand slam.

Video from the derby

Friday, July 25, 2008

HR derby

Prior to a few weeks ago I hadn't swung a bat in seven years. Back then, I stunk. After a few sessions, I was hitting better than I had before; more contact, more power. Sorry, power is a loose term as it applies to me.

I actually took some cuts today before heading to Dodd Stadium. It was a disappointing session. I should have done better. Some of it was nerves and some was just lack of skill.

Truthfully, I was looking forward to today but became nervous this morning. It wasn't the type of nerves I had when I proposed to my wife, to give a point of reference. I was nervous that I'd make a fool of myself. Reality is that everyone is supposed to look foolish. Except if you can hit one 275 feet or better. Can I hit a ball that far? Yes. Will I is a question I don't know.

My goal all along has been make contact. Then as the field filled in, it was make contact and beat Norwich Mayor Ben Lathrop. He, I've been informed by Defenders jack-of-all-trades Johnny Gill, has withdrawn, as did Kevin Nathan of NBC. That means I'm in trouble.

Lee Elci is here, so is UConn football coach Randy Edsall. Both of whom should rake. Defenders pitching coach shold be a wild card in all this. So should Ch. 8's John Pierson, who has taken cuts with the derby's pitcher, Andy Baylock, throwing to him.

Where do I fall? If I get hot and don't swing at pitches too far above my waist, I may get a couple. If I lose my nerve or become over anxious, well, it'll be a quick 10 outs.

Down goes Papi! Down goes Papi!

This is Garrett Broshuis' take on his striking out Big Papi David Ortiz this week, as seen in the latest Sporting News (click the image to enlarge).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I have been debating what I wanted to blog about: David Ortiz or what I consider the worst mangerial move this season. I'll touch both subjects, just one will come later tonight.

What's really perplexing is the decision to play Dave Maroul at shortstop. I'd like to tell you what Bien Figueroa was thinking short of injury forcing his hand, but I can't. Even if I tried my best to find non-injury logic I just couldn't rationalize my thoughts.

The answer is that Bien Figueroa is simply trying Maroul at different positions. Tonight he is at secnd with Haines at short and Olmo Rosario in left field.

Here's the "logic": It's easily the most important series of the season and the Defenders choose to play a poor defensive player on consecutive days at positions that he should be worse at than the ones he's supposed to be good at.

Decisons like these are why the team won't catch Portland -- or Binghamton. If this was a matter of needing another middle infielder after Jake Wald was promoted last week, tell the Giants you need help. Don't put square pegs into round holes when they don't fit.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A couple of notes

Former Defender Geno Espineli was called up to the majors today. Unfortunately for him, it means he will not pitch in the Olympics. No player on a major league 40-man roster is eligible.

Also, the two players the Gianst received from the Bewers in today's Ray Durham trade will probably not play for the defenders. One is a single-A outfielder hitting .230. The other is in Triple-A and a left-handed pitcher with a high ERA. He may come here to help ease some of the load on the pen. I still don't imagine it happening, however, especially if Nate Bump comes off the DL any time soon.

Friday, July 18, 2008

If you were wondering

why Kelvin Pichardo pitcher just 1/3 of an inning Thursday night, the answer isn't because he's hurt. He's fine. My guess is with the all-star break, Bien Figueroa was trying to get as many guys into the game for the sake of work.

Many of you have asked about Chris Begg, he was released from San Jose this week. This seems to have more to do with Begg being part of Canada's Olympic team. His participation was an issue in the past, so it probably was again. In light of Begg's recent efforts to battle back from injury, the Giants probably insisted he stay with San Jose through August.

Also, no roster move yet to fill the last spot just yet.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Because it's more fun

to have to face rehabbing big leaguers, the Defenders get some more over the next week. They've already faced Chris Duffy and Moises Alou, now they go up against Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, one of my favorites, and then next week Big Papi David Ortiz.

I got a feeling Little Papi Pablo Sandoval is going to rough up El Duque.

All-Star standouts

First I want to thank my friend Dan Hickling for covering the EL All-Star Game for the Bulletin. He did a great job.

Also, check out my team report card in Thursday's papers.

Getting back to the all-star game, Joey Martinez earned the win with two scoreless innings. He was also named Pitcher of the Game. Justin Hedrick pitched a shutout inning, Olmo Rosario had two hits, including a double, and scored a run, and Kyle Haines helped turn two impressive double plays. Congrats to those four Defenders.

On another topic, I don't know how many of you have seen the Bulletin's new design. With it comes a daily segment where fans speak out. Normally, we will take comments from comments in our blogs. Don't worry, we don't use your real names, just your alias. If you want to see your screen name in print, be sure to leave comments (keep it clean and on topic).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Red, White and Geno

Former Defenders pitcher Geno Espinelli was named to the United States' Olympic squad set to compete in Beijing next month. Congrats to Geno!!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bye-bye Waldo

Jake Wald has returned to Triple-A Fresno and Pitcher Paul Oseguera was activated from the DL. For Jake's sake, I hope he doesn't come back unless its for a Stache and Hawk concert.

Since Fresno needed a shortstop and the Defenders do not, my guess is Travis Denker will return to the Defenders on Thursday.

Why the long faces?

The night the lights went out in Norwich

Just when you thought it was safe to come back to the ballpark, the lighting bacnks in left and center fields, as well as one of the banks over teh first base seats.

You might recall there were lighting issues earlier in the season. Toss in one working computer at the box office and unfinished bathrooms, and Dodd Stadium is starting to resemble a money pit. Now if the seats only fell apart when sat in and the fun would really begin.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stepping up

While people stay away from Dodd Stadium in droves, the Connecticut Defenders continue to step up for the community.

Today the team welcomed a group of roughly 20 blind fans, upgraded them to a suite and set up a computer so that the fans can listen to the internet broadcast as there is no radio for today's game.

No Alou

Moises Alou is not playing for the Binghamton Mets today, nor is he present at Dodd Stadium. Alou left last night's game early due to a strained left hamstring and is expected to undergo an MRI exam in New York today.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Everything is going right

Winning 11 of 13 games seemed as much fairy tale as wishful thinking a month ago. Even the most die-hard Defenders fan would have likely said that sort of success is a stretch. Here we are, however, July 9 and that is exactly what the Defenders have done.

Not to junx them, but with another game versus the Mets tomorrow morning and four with the woeful New Hampshire squad starting Friday, Connecticut could be 16 of 18 going into the all-star hiatus.

What's more is the lineup looks dangerous. There's some power and there are some guys who are great for contact or situations. Let's not forget the ability to run bases.

Of course, the pitching is still what makes this team click. Adam Cowart, who has been up and down, was clearly up Wednesday. I came away impressed with his make up as he got a dangerous Moises Alou to ground out weakly with the bases loaded in the fifth inning.

Ronnie Ray and Josh Sharpless did their parts in relief.

What really caught my attention came after the game. Manager Bien Figueroa said he has his eyes on a four-game set at Portland 12 days from now. That takes some brass when you are 2-8 against the Sea Dogs. But he has every reason to be confident. No longer are the Defenders two hot hitters three or four spots apart in the lineup. Right now, names like Haines, Sandoval, Rohlinger, Wald, Martinez-Esteve, Witter and Richardson are doing damage.

There may actually be postseason play at Dodd this season and based on the sparse crowds the past two nights, no one cares.

FYI: Nate Bump will miss his scheduled start tomorrow because of a sore right shoulder. He will likely not be pushed back a day, but start his next time through, which would be the first game back from the break. A little rest should do him good.

After the split

Following up on a recent comment about last night's doubleheader...

I understand the logic of playing Witter at catcher in Game 2 and Sandoval at first, but I agree with Hondo in saying I don't like it. Not because Witter shouldn't hit. In fact, why not play Witter at first, but because Sandoval has demonstrated a better arm. The other part of the equation -- which I don't know -- is maybe Brooks McNiven and Sandoval haven't gotten on the same page yet. I need to go back and see if Sandoval has caught McNiven since he arrived here two weeks ago.

What I do agree with is Sandoval getting to rest his knees here and there. If the Defenders truly climb back into the playoff race, then down the stretch Sandoval will be behind the plate every game. It's really not the unusual, no matter the situation, for two different catchers to start doubleheaders. At the end of the day, I can't take exception to the move. Yes, Witter's throwing error proved costly as it let the game's only run to get to third base, but the lineup also failed to produce and is as much at fault as Witter's throw.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Alou playing for Mets

Two weeks ago Felipe Alou was here for the Giants, today his son, Moises, is in the lineup on a rehab start for the Mets. Don't expect too much from him: The Mets' Nick Evans was called up to New York and I expect Alou to join him there after the opener.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Goings as of late

Yes, it's true that Andy Pappas recently left the Defenders. Andy was well-liked by all. And even if Andy made someone upset, they couldn't stay upset with him more than a second. He is truly one of the nicest, most genuine people you could find.

The story I was told was Andy decided to move on, that minor league baseball wasn't for him. I am sure there is more to it than that, and when I find out more, I'll let you know. I also know that there was a recent event at a game that may have soured Andy on working for the Defenders.

Whether or not the team is now looking for another box office manager to replace Justine, who replaced Tony, I cannot confirm. Again, I'll let you know what I find.

Let's also keep this in proper context. Two resignations, firings, defections or whatever the situations may, within roughly a week doesn't mean the sky is falling. The Defenders were here before Justine and Andy and they will be for the near future. There could have been policy changes, career opportunities, family obligations or simple burn out (life in minor league baseball has never been glamorous).

I also want to address something that was being spread on another blog. That is the Defenders are assured or nearly assured of remaining a Giants affiliate beyond this season.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, two Eastern League teams have had their PDC's extended, but there are several teams that have not: Milwaukee, Florida, Minnesota, N.Y. Yankees, Cincinnati, L.A. Dodgers, Arizona, Seattle, L.A. Angels, San Diego and Kansas City.

Unless relationships fall apart between now and October, the Yankees and Twins will extend with Trenton and New Britain, respectively. The Yankees historically do not like to handle PDCs in-season. Based on the proximity of affiliates and location of the major league team, don't expect The Dodgers, Angels, Diamondbacks, Mariners, angels or Padres to come into Dodd Stadium next season. That leaves The Reds (highly unlikely), Kansas City (also highly unlikely), Milwaukee, Florida or the return of the Giants.

The situation is more complicated if the Atlanta Braves' new Triple-A stadium is ready for next season. The move opens up the Richmond, Va., market, which both the Eastern and Southern Leagues want. Detroit would love to move its Erie team to Richmond. If that happens, could the Defenders move to Erie? Possibly, but I doubt it. But what if the Giants moved their affiliate to Richmond, which draws it significantly closer to Single-A Augusta? Maybe Detroit pops down into Norwich. This whole situation is speculative at best.

My point, which I began getting away from, is that the Giants are not guaranteed to return here. I have heard the Giants want out and that they also admitted internally the poor shape of their farm system makes them an unattractive option for other markets. That said, they may re-sign with Norwich out of need for a Double-A home. I have also heard that both Milwaukee and Florida have interest in coming here.

Keep this in mind: Exclude teams who don't negotiate in-season, and the teams that have yet to extended PDCs are the teams that aren't completely sold on where they are. Part of this is negotiating -- teams use one city against the other as leverage. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Bump earns nod

Defenders starter Nate Bump was named the Eastern League's Pitcher of the Week today. Bump was untouched over 12 1/3 innings last week, earning a 2-0 mark. It has been a season of regular improvement for Bump, who spent the past two seasons out of baseball. He is 4-3 with a 3.06 ERA. Bump's success is a big reason Connecticut has pulled itself to a .500 record (won 8 of last 9 games).

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Music mates

If you want to know what former Defender Derin McMains has been up to or to learn more about his and Jake Wald's musical exploits as Stache and Hawk, check out today's Norwich Bulletin.

I know some of you heard their first album, Cabin Fever, when it was released last year. The new album, Down on the Farm, is even better and certainly worth a listen. You can hear 30 second sound bites on iTunes, where you can also purchase the entire album or just individual songs.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sandoval honored

Defenders catcher Pablo Sandoval was added to the Futures Game, part of All-Star Weekend in New York. He will compete on the World team.

Your all-stars are...

pitchers Joey Martinez and Justin Hedrick, along with infielders Olmo Rosario and Kyle Haines.

The Eastern League rosters are very balanced. Unlike in past years where there were some inordinate numbers from some teams, no team has more than five at present and none fewer than three.

It's worth mentioning that former Norwich Navigator Jeff Nettles -- now with Bowie -- made the Southern Division squad.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Sayanora, Matos

It came a week later than I expected, but Defenders closer Osiris Matos was called up to the big leagues Tuesday. Congratulations and good luck!

No word on who will fill his roster spot.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Manny madness

Reading about the altercation between Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez and the team's traveling secretary made me think to the Shawn Chacon incident in Houston.

Yes, what Chacon did was wrong, but Ramirez wasn't exactly an angel. Where Chacon was released, Ramirez didn't so much as get a slap on the wrist. Why is this? Because Chacon is expendable and Ramirez isn't and no matter how wrong he was the secretary would be shown the door much quicker.

Sometimes I've encountered players home or away that carry that same degree of invincibility. Why? Because they played in the majors or received a nice bonus?

This is one of, if not my biggest, concern with minor league baseball players.

Maybe this is just Manny being Manny and assaulting a team staff member is cleared in the team handbook.

It's just annoying.

Another team extends

The Cleveland Indians and Akron Aeros extended their Player Devlopment Contract, or PDC, through 2012. That makes the second team this month to do so, joining the Philadelphia Phillies and Reading Phillies.

Both of those extensions are really no-brainers. These are just examples of teams and markets that will be off limts to the Giants should they leave Norwich or the Defnders should they decide to move after next season.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


I'll be MIA until late Sunday, so enjoy listening -- or attending this weekend's games if you are so fortunate.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sergio Romo...

made his major leagued debut for the Giants Thursday, pitching an inning and striking out two batters. Congrats! He is the ninth Giant to make his ML debut this season, joining the likes of recent Defenders John Bowker, Brian Horwitz, Alex Hinshaw and Travis Denker.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Futures Game

San Jose's Kevin Pucetas and former Defender Nate Schierholtz were named today to the U.S. Futures team as part of All-Star Weekend in New York next month. Angel Villalona was named to the World team.

Ben Snyder interview

Pablo Sandoval interview

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Funny business

In what ranks as one of the funniest things I've seen this team do, the Defenders asked that for the first at-bat of every one in the starting lineup, the Outfield's song "Your Love" be played with the batter introduction.

At one point, half the team was on the top step in the dugout laughing.

That's what I call team building


Sandoval and Snyder are in; Nestor Rojas is gone and Joey Martinez is on the DL.

Sandoval falls short

Pablo Sandoval, in one of his last acts as a San Jose Giant, finished second in the home run derby prior to the California League-Carolina League All-Star Game in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Sandoval's two dingers in the final round -- both from the left side -- were one short of Ernesto Meija of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

Random thoughts as the witching hour closes

I really liked Dave Maroul at first base. Speaking with Bien Figueroa following the game, he said that San Jose skipper Steve Decker told him in a conversation Tuesday that Maroul is such a good athlete that he can play anywhere. I think we saw that Tuesday as Maroul looked smooth at first.

Could ultra utility player be Dave's calling? He shifted from third to short a couple years ago to accommodate new teammate Pablo Sandoval's attempt to play third. Now we see Maroul moving across the diamond.

This likely spells the end of Simon Klink's stint here, which is sad. He's one of the best guys to talk to. He's honest, funny and a stand up guy.

I also saw a more relaxed Ryan Rohlinger at the plate. His homer was well hit and he looked like he has the type of swing that works well at Dodd Stadium.

Here's another thought: Going back two series to when Connecticut went to New Hampshire, every game between now and into the second week of August is against Northern Division foes. Significance you ask? If the Defenders are going to make a push for the post season, it will be decided then. In all probability, we'll know by July 15-20. One win so far against Portland doesn't help matters.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Roster thoughts

I earlier said I doubted Brian Bocock was en route to Norwich. I have to step away from that claim. Fresno placed Bocock in "extended spring training," which means he's either back with the Grizzlies or here by Friday.

This opens a slew of other moves. First, Jake Wald or Olmo Rosario are leaving here. If you want to count Rosario as an OF, than it's Wald who's on his way out of town. The problem then becomes five OFs, three spots and one of them (Eddy Martinez-Esteve) has to become you're every day DH. That also means that between Rosario, Ben Copeland, Antoan Richardson and Carlos Sosa, one is gone. Rosario may go up, but I think that's counter productive to everything the Giants seem to be doing.

Matthew Downs isn't coming, he was just added to Fresno's roster. If he was coming to Connecticut, he would have been added directly.

Romo to the Giants

No, this isn't a bad NFL trade. Sergio Romo, the Defenders closer has been promoted to San Francisco and has joined the Giants in Cleveland. To make rom for Romo, Vinnie Chulk has been designated for assignment.

Romo leaves Connecticut with a 1-3 mark and a 4.00 ERA. He had 11 saves in 24 appearances.

The absence of Romo creates one open space on the roster. The question now is who leaves with the arrival of Pablo Sandoval and Ben Snyder tomnorrow? Just one player or more?

All-Star voting

It's time for me to turn in my ballot. This is how it works: one player for each position, a DH, four pitchers, the two best pitchers on the Defenders and the team's three best position players.

1B: Nick Evans, Binghamton
2B: Steven Tolleson, New Britain
3B: Wes Hodges, Akron
SS: Jason Donald, Reading
C: Lou Marson, Reading
OF: Lou Montanez, Bowie
OF: Jeff Corsaletti, Portland
OF: Roger Bernadina, Harrisburg
DH: Mike Carp, Binghamton
P: Michael Bowden, Portland
P: Jason Jones, Trenton
P: Chris Tillman, Bowie
P: Randy Newsom, Akron
Defenders pitchers: Joey Martinez and Osiris Matos
Defenders position players: Olmo Rosario, Kyle Haines and Ben Copeland.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The newest Defenders is...

Third baseman Ryan Rohlinger. He joined the team today from San Jose. He hit .280 with 7 Homers and 46 RBIs.

What does this mean for Dave Maroul and Simon Klink? I think this means Maroul will be going to San Jose on Wednesday, since Klink can play first.

Sandoval is coming

Giants Director of Player Personnel Bobby Evans confirmed to me a few minutes ago that Pablo Sandoval will be in Norwich in a few days. There was some concern he would skip the California-Carolina League All-Star Game. But he will have the chance to play in the game first.

Martinez honored

Defenders RHP Joey Martinez was named the Eastern League's Pitcher of the Week today. Martinez blanked New Hampshire 9-0 last week with seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits and a walk over seven innings with four strikeouts.

Martinez is 4-5 with a 1.73 ERA this season. He's pitched 19 scoreless innings and hasn’t allowed an earned run since May 26.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A funny video

Jake Wald showed this to me today and I thought you would love to see this:


Change is-a coming to the Defenders, so says manager Bien Figueroa. His words were that by this time next week it will be a different team.

Maybe these are idle threats. Maybe the Giants are taking the lack of success here seriously.

What I can tell you is the first of any change comes Monday when Travis Ishikawa's roster spot is filled.

What I can also tell you is that a certain hot-hitting prospect appears to be coming this way by week's end. That's right, Pablo Sandoval, the catcher/first baseman will join the team. This is a major coup because originally the Giants had no desire to send him here.

There may be ball

The rain has stopped and the grounds crew is hard at work trying to get the field ready. The umnpires and managers walked through the field and seems no sign of a postponment.

I'll keep you updated.

Does this count as a sweep?

While today's game hasn't officially been ppd., there's no doubt in my mind it will be. With the Defenders having won the first two games against the Rock Cats, I guess we can call it a sweep.

The teams are sitting tight because there is some light breaking through and the radar images show a clearing. The problem is the warning track resembles a dirt pool.

It's too bad the weather isn't better; today was suposed to be cowbell day!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Goodbye Ishi!

Travis Ishikawa, the Defenders first baseman for most of the past three years was promoted to Triple-A Fresno. He is in transit, but I hope to speak with him before the weekend is out.

He hit .291 with 8 homers, 48 RBIs, 34 runs and 10 steals this season.

Good luck and congratulations to Travis.

Also, today is the last day with the Defenders for head grounds keeper Mike Cannistra. He is off to serve as the No. 2 groundsman with the New York Mets.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

This and that

An update on Carlos Sosa: He was hit in left hand in Trenton and sustained a bruise, which has kept him out of action since then. He is considered day-to-day and may play this weekend against New Britain.

The other bit of info for you is that Eliezer Alfonzo is expected to remain with the Defenders through Saturday's game. From here he will head to Fresno on Sunday.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Catching up

Just got in a little bit a ago from the Padres-Yankees game in the Bronx. Nice of my boys to win when I'm in the stands. The last two times I've gone there, A-Rod homered, including No. 500 last August.

Anyhow, the big news today, or yesterday as it would be, is Eliezer Alfonzo rehabbing with the Defenders. Pardon the pun, considering the guy is serving a suspension for using an illegal substance earlier this year.

This is either a very funny way of Brian Sabean and the Giants throwing Norwich a bone (watch Alfonzo not be with the team this weekend) or a weak attempt to pacify the fan base, which would like to see in the event of injury, someone along the lines of Aaron Rowand.

According to my trusty Defenders media guide, this is the first Giant to "rehab" (again, sorry) with the Defenders.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Check out my feature on Defenders first baseman Travis Ishikawa in today's paper. He discusses how faith helped him find himself on and off the field.

This counts as one of those interviews where there was so much I wanted to squeeze into the story, but there simply wasn't enough space. Ishikawa is a good guy and worth rooting for. He's really turned things around from his previous two years with the team.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Giant record

The San Jose Giants, a Single-A affilliate of the San Francisco Giants, clinched its fourth-straight division title Saturday when it captured the California League's first-half championship. The four consecutive titles is the most in league history.

Rehab assignment

There's a player on minor league rehab assignment participating in today's game. Sorry folks, it's not for the Defenders. The Pittsburgh Pirates have sent outfielder Chris Duffy to the Altoona Curve. Duffy is leading off and playing centerfield.

Friday, June 13, 2008

"Celebrity" HR contest

On July 25, the Defenders will host their first anual "Connecticut Celebrity Homerun Derby" at 6:15 p.m.

Since Dodd Stadium is soooooo impossible to hit in, there will be temporary fences set up with points being awarded for non-home runs. There will be 10 contestants.

Among those expected to compete are:
Rich Cappola
Kevin Nathan
UConn football coach Randy Edsall

Don't laugh. Actually, go ahead, laugh.

An Eastern League first

Tomorrow's game between Connecticut and Altoona will feature a first by any Eastern League team, although it is one given little fanfare or publicity.

As part of its promotional events, the Defenders are celebrating Pride Night, welcoming the areas gay and lesbian community. I was a little surprised to learn after calling around to the league's other 11 teams that no one had done this before.

Team GM Charlie Dowd told me tonight that some or all advertising fails to reflect this promotion, hwever, a mistake on his part. But there is also no mention of Pride Night in tonight's in-game announcements.

"We're not social pioneers; we're just trying to market better," Dowd said.

It would have been nice if there had been greater plugging of the event, which oddly enough, is paired with the Army's birthday celebration at Dodd Stadium.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Some affiliation chatter has been brought to my attention by highly reliable sources. I am told that with Atlanta leaving AAA Richmond after this season, that Detroit would move its Eastern League affiliate to Richmond (which would be free to join any league) and San Francisco would move to Erie.

My take on this: How about the Giants moving to Richmond to be closer to Augusta and out of Norwich, and the Tigers jump from Erie to Norwich.


Leave comments here and vote in the poll on the right.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I'm baaaack!

Hello everyone! I hope the last week was as good for you as it was me.

While the Defenders are on the road today, they start a series with Trenton toting along the current Eastern League Player of the Week, Travis Ishikawa.

Last week he posted a .455 average with 3 homers, 5 doubles, 9 RBIs, 5 runs, 3 steals, 4 walks and an outrageous 1.091 slugging percentage. Those numbers have boosted his season totals into a very respectable, even all-star worthy, performance.

Ishikawa is batting .299 with 7 homers 14 doubles and 42 RBIs. Add to that 29 runs, 10 steals, 32 walks and a solid .471 slugging percentage.

because he's such a strong defender (no pun intended) and plays a position that is particularly weak in the Giants organization, it should only be a matter of time before he is promoted. In his third season with the Defenders, it looks as if Ishikawa is finally clicking.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

One last note

Head grounds keeper Mike Cannistra will be leaving the team as soon as he can find a replacement. He is joining the New York Mets as their No. 2 grounds keeper. It has beena trying season for Mike. He put in the new playing surface, had his apartment burned down and now is leaving for the majors.



I won't be on here for a week, as it is vacation time. It's a use it or lose deadline with the Mrs., so this was the only clear chance to get away. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me as I may have a chance to respond.

See you all soon!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Much deserved credit

With the rain delays Saturday, I want to applaud the hard work of the Defenders staff, including play-by-play man Brian Irizary, who was soaked and dirty while still having to perform his radio duties.

What I want to know is, where was his partner Matt Martinez?

Just kidding, Matt. I know you do a great job.

Just a few things

First, if you stuck around for the second game Saturday and saw the heated exchange between Bien Figueroa and the home plate umpire, I'll let you know what that was about.

Figueroa said that the umpires knew when they lifted the tarp from the first delay that there was more rain 10 minutes away. He was upset that the tarp wasn't kept on until that patch of rain passed. As a result of the stop and start, Dave McKae couldn't come back out.

Second, I want to not that despite his struggles in the opener, I tip my cap to Simon Klink for willingly and openly talking about his base running errors. Its guys like Klink who don't hide that make me appreciate how much skill baseball requires. He's also a funny dude.

Lastly, I want to thank everyone who e-mailed me about my column earlier in the week. What I think some people read into my words were to not support the Defenders. That's not it. I hope every game is a sellout. These guys do play hard. Yes, there are some who complain, which we all do. But because they are public figures in our community they are scrutinized more. That's OK. But don't let any dislike for how the Giants have handled their relationship here keep you from supporting this team.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tough game for Klink

In the fifth inning, Simon Klink led off with a double, but failed to tag up on a fly ball to the left-center wall. The next batter, Nestor Rojas, flew out to shallow center, but Klink took off around the bases and was doubled up to end the inning.

Then in the seventh, starter Joey Martinez allowed three unearned runs. Back-to-back errors by Dave Maroul at third and Klink at first, followed by a Josh Petersen RBI single put the Mets on the board.

Making Klink's game worse, he was called out on strikes to end the game.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Just a couple of quick answers to recent questions:

Derin McMains is not with the Dodgers, but is a coach within the Giants organization. His injuries became too much to overcome, but he is doing something that I think he always felt he would do.

Dave Machemer agreement when he was fired as Defenders manager was to be reassigned as a scout and have another year, this year, added on to his contract.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Stache and Hawk

Jake Wald and Derin McMains will be XM Satellite Radio's baseball channel tonight discussing their latest album.

I've heard half of the new CD and it's better than the first.

New role

After Sunday's game, Defenders skipper Bien Figueroa said that Dave McKae, who had normall served as a starter for the team over the past year, will primarily see action as a long reliever. Figueroa went on to say that McKae will still start on occassion, which includes one of the two games of a scheduled double header with Binghamton next Saturday.

Also check out Tuesday's Norwich Bulletin for my column on the state of the Defenders-Giants in Norwich.

Cutter's Birthday

Between Cutter, Tater, and the mascots from Bridgeport and New Britain being here at Dodd Stadium, Mascots outnumber fans.

I kid, but it's a sad state of affairs here when it's 72 and sunny.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lineup changes

After tonight's game, a smiling Bien Figueroa said he will rest Travis Ishikawa after TI's four strikeout performance. He said Ishikawa was pressing and as a result, swinging at bad pitches.

Figueroa also wants to get more at bats for Kyle Haines and Olmo Rosario. He said it's tough to play both and hot-hitting Jake Wald because they are all middle infielders.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bad reaction

I'm quickly becoming disillusioned with what's been happening at Dodd Stadium. Usually, my biggest beef isn't so much with the Defenders, but its parent club, the San Francisco Giants. Today, however, my gripe comes with something that doesn't originate outside of Dodd Stadium.

In the top of the seventh inning, a foul ball lined into the stands just beyond the visitors dugout and hit one of the visiting school kids. The crowd of 4,495 -- the largest of the season -- was almost all kids visiting as part of DARE Day.

So what happens? It takes minutes, not seconds for an usher or a medic to get down to the child. Thankfully, the child only needed some ice packs, but what if this was a more serious injury? How can the Defenders justify such a delayed reaction? And to make matters worse, when you are struggling to get people into the stands and something like this happens, it has to leave a bad taste in the mouths of some people.

It has with mine.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Movin' on up

I don't mean to sound critical, and this is meant more as a statement about the Giants organization than anything, but how does Travis Denker, who hit .184 with the Defenders, and .314 with Fresno in eight fewer games, get called up to the majors?

You know why? Because the Giants -- and the players in the organization discard what happens in Norwich. It's the biggest cop out ever. If it's so hard to hit at Dodd Stadium, how were the Navigators able to win an Eastern league championship?

It's this sort of reckless mentality that leads the Giants to skipping over Norwich with the few prospects they have.

I wish the best for Denker; he's a good guy. I just wish the Giants would leave town with their shallow logic.

This is nonsense

How can the Connecticut Defenders expect fans to want to come out to the ball game when they don't play "Take me out to the ball game" during the seventh inning stretch?

In all of my years of watching, listening and attending baseball games, this is the first time I have ever been at a game where the staple sing of ballparks across this country wasn't played. Why? To advertise future promotions. Guess what? You have 30 people here for Wednesday's game. Instead of trying the hard sell, how about trying to make the experience as enjoyable as possible.

I'll tell you what? The next time you go to the dentist, make sure your local DDS promotes his great root canal services during a cleaning.

Not playing "Take me out to the Ball game" is not avant garde. It's not even funny or someting no one will miss. It's as baseball as Cracker Jack, the pop of the ball hitting a glove and the crack of a bat.

Now, I fully expect that tomorrow's 10:30 a.m. game will be filled with kids and thus the song will be played. Let's just hope tonight is the last time we don't hear the song during the seventh inning stretch at Dodd Stadium.

Baseball memories

For the better part of the past two days, I have been cleaning out my closet in an effort to create more space around the house. Needless to say, my wife is excited about this. First, I cleared out a decade's worth of media guides -- mostly NBA. But I also took the time to edit my baseball card collection. I had done this once before, back in 2001. That was no fun. I was moving back to New York from Charlotte, N.C., and there simply was not enough room for everything.

I started collecting when I was 10. My father told me all the stories of how his mother threw away his cards, which he claimed would have been a small fortune back in 1985. I'm pretty certain that had something to do with why I never wanted to give up any card. Maybe I saw value in everything, but that's too much like watching where you walk so you don't accidentally step on an ant.

Anyhow, I would say I am well on my way to cutting my collection to half. And yes, there were times I had to stop and remind myself certain cards needed to be let go.

Before you ask, no, I'm not trashing the cards. Anything of actual (not my perceived) value either is or will be on eBay in the coming days. Whatever doesn't sell I will likely donate to someone.

At any rate, sifting through the thousands of cards made me think of so many baseball memories from my life. You know what I'm talking about. Did you ever have a card that brought back a game you watched or heard? Maybe a chance meeting with a player?

Since this is a Defenders blog, I need to tie things together...

I grabbed a handful of cards, which all turned out to be 50 or so rookie/prospect cards. Not one of them played a full season in the majors. I thought about all of the hype, yet coming up short of the Big League dream. I'm sure as baseball fans there are more than a few names and faces that come to mind when you think of what could have been, what might have been and where are they now.

Sure, for the Defenders playing baseball is a job. It is also childhood. That's what makes the game so great. It's not like computers in that five years later they are outdated. Baseball is baseball.

Enjoy watching these guys play. You don't know where they will be in five years or even tomorrow. One day you'll sit around and ask yourself, "What ever happened to ...?"

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Another Defender in the Bigs

That would be pitcher Alex Hinshaw., who got the call today. I'm very happy for Alex. He's one of fhe guys I got to know well last season. He's funny and honest, which makes it tough to dislike the fella. This is probably going to be just a quick tatse unless he sparkles in the opportunities given to him. Either way, he's a deserving and I am sure everyone who saw him play here last season -- he was an All-Star -- before arm woes sidelined him for most of the second half, will agree.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It's been too long

Sorry I've been away for much of the past two weeks. What's worse is I haven't been given the opportunity to see the Defenders when they are at home. The one game I was assigned to last weekend was rained out. Even when they return don't be surprised if I'm not there for half that home stand. It's not my choice, just the way the cookie crumbles in these parts.

That being said, I am looking forward to the team returning home next week. An 8-3 mark in the month of May is certainly cause for optimism. The team brought its batting average up to .233, which is encouraging. I don't have the April-May split, but I promise you May must be in the .260 ball park. If you hit .260 all year and pitch the way the Defenders do, you have a chance to see postseason play. No, I'm not calling them contenders yet. Ask me at the All-Star break.

Kyle Haines is over .300, albeit in half the at-bats as Eddy Martinez-Esteve, who is also over .300. Honestly, I never thought I would say that, but I have to give the guy props. He's worked hard this season.

Despite not having the best judgment of the strikezone and the desire to hit a homer every time up, Carlos Sosa has had a few big games to really pick up his teammates. As has Travis Ishikawa, who is more interested in playing his way to triple-A than being unhappy that he's here again. The thing with Ishikawa is that if he continues to play the way he is, he'll get to the majors because his hitting has been OK, but his glove has been spectacular.

Dave Maroul is coming around, too. He's still hot and cold, but when he's been hot, he's as tough an out as there is in the Eastern League.

The pitching staff is still hands-down the best in the league. But because the Defenders are only two games over .500, no one will give them as much credit.

I challenge anyone to find a better bullpen than the Defenders. Even with Sergio Romo hurt right now (he's been the best closer in the league) the relievers haven't missed a beat. Osiris Matos, Jason Waddell and Steve Palazzollo have shined.

The rotation lost Brooks McNiven to Triple-A, but Joey Martinez has looked downright unhittable at times. Adam Cowart has been equally impressive. He's a crafty and resilient pitcher who does exactly that, pitch.

If these guys can keep it together on both sides (maybe with a bit of a boost to the offense), maybe this will turn out to be the best season Dodd Stadium has hosted in a quite some time.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Can the rain stop the Defenders?

Your Connecticut Defenders are back home after a successful road trip. While they were away, the team's bats came to life (GASP!) and everyone seemed to be getting in on the act. Whenever this team has gotten hot at the plate I've wanted to urge caution -- even last season with John Bowker, Tyler Von Schell, Randy Ruiz and Eugenio Velez -- the bottom finds a way to drop out in these parts.

This time, I look at two points: the team the Defenders most recently beat up on and how they were scoring runs.

Skipping over Binghamton, who will be in town this weekend because they are not that good, Connecticut took 3-of-4 from Harrisburg, which entered the series with the best record in the Eastern League. They now have the second-best record.

The Defenders have been scoring runs in every fashion, on every type of hit, or with sac flies, bases-loaded walks, etc. They are also not scoring just two runs a game. After plating 33 runs in the last two games against the B-Mets, I am sure the last team Binghamton wants to see right now is the Defenders.

All of that said, I wouldn't be shocked if tonight's game gets the ppd. slapped on it. That also means because if the forecast of showers today, don't expect more than 100 people max with an announced attendance of 2,138 for Fireworks Night.

Monday, May 05, 2008

First Defender honored in '08

Ben Copeland brought home the Eastern league's Player of the Week award, it was announced today.

Copeland hit .480 for the week, with three doubles, two homers and a triple. He drove in six, scored 11 runs, stole a base and walked twice. His slugging percentage was .920.

Over the six games played last week, Copeland raised his average 77 points to .253.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Welcome back, Wald

Jake Wald is back with the Defenders. He wasn't having the best of luck with Fresno, but it was a much-deserved opportunity at Triple-A. I don't expect Jake to be the happiest guy in the world to be back here, but he will get regular at-bats and provide a sure-handed defender in the middle of the infield.

Just as important is that Jake is a good guy and will be able to help the much younger guys learn a thing or two about how to carry yourself.

Also, if you haven't heard of Hawk and Stache, the musical duo comprised of Wald and Derrin McMains, do so ASAP.

What was that?

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the Defenders won, 19-5, over the B-Mets. I joked it was the sum total of runs scored in the last month, but truth is they scored 19 runs in a game!

Where has this been? Was it because of bad pitching or great hitting? Either way, if the Defenders can score a third of those runs on a nightly basis, they will win their division. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Baby steps, my friends.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Inside the numbers

How bad has the Defenders' hitting been this season?

Here is a list of the worst batting averages in minor league baseball and the teams' records:

Burlington (Midwest League, Low A) .211, 11-14.
Great Lakes (Miderst League, Low A) .214, 11-15.
Connecticut (Eastern League, Double A) .215, 12-14.
Lehigh Valley (International League, Triple A) .216, 4-24.
Mississippi (Southern League, Double A) .218, 7-20.

Fundraising update

The Defenders and their fans stepped up in a big way last night raising a total of $2,909.78 to benefit the residents of the Peachtree Apartments, which were burned down in a fire last weekend.
“We are grateful to Lou DiBella and the entire Defenders ownership group for allowing us to do this event. Their focus on the community enables our staff to reach out when our community is in need,” Defenders General Manager Charlie Dowd said in a a statement. “Even more so, we are grateful to our fans as they showed up in force to help. We are overwhelmed with the amount of support that they have shown.”

Looking back

Last night's defensive display made look to see what was the team record for errors in a game. It happened nearly three years to the day, as the Norwich Navigators committed six errors in a 12-11 win in 10 innings at Trenton on April 28, 2005.

The Navigators needed six runs in the eighth inning to pull even. Jeremy Accardo picked up the win and Billy Sadler notched his first save of the season.

Trenton's Melky Cabrera was 5-for-6 with three runs scored. Fred Lewis and Tyler Von Schell both went 3-for-5 with three runs for Norwich. Anthony Labarbera had two hits and five RBIs, including a bases-load walk in the final frame to force in the winning run.

As a side note, the Defenders have more wins (2) against Trenton this season than all of last season (1).

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Helping out

Please come out to tomorrow's Defenders game. All but $2 of every ticket sold will be donated to the Norwich Red Cross Family Fund to help those displaced by the fire at the Peachtree Apartments early Saturday morning.

I know three people who lost their homes, including Defenders groundskeeper Mike Cannistra. Come out and be part of the community effort to help the 160-plus people in need.


Brooks McNiven and Dayton Buller were called up to Triple-A Fresno today. The Grizzlies are in dire need of arms after injuries and Barry Zito's awful pitching has created a trickle down need for arms.

Buller's call-up was needed after former Defender Eliezer Alfonzo was suspended 50-games for using a performance-enhancing substance. Alfonzo is on San Francisco's 40-man roster and there is no word as to who will be the backup catcher here.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Olmo Rosario

I was recently asked about Rosario, and what role he plays in the Giants organization. Truth is, I don't think they know for sure. This is a kid who came over from the Indy leagues and they like what he can do with the stick but expect a lot of bumps along the way. He's flashed some nice leather but has gotten a bit crossed on the routine plays. If I had to guess, they'll move him around a little between both middle infield spots and in the outfield to utilize his speed.

That's something he has plenty of, speed. He's no Eugenio Velez, but the guy could steal 20 bases if he gets on regularly.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Maybe I'm missing something...

But with Adam Witter being intentionally walked in the bottom of the ninth, how much sense did it make to pinch run for the trail runner AND potentially lose your best power bat/catcher if the game went into extra innings?

Of course, it doesn't matter now because Bien Figueroa looks like a genius since he pinch hit Olmo Rosario for Carlos Sosa and it worked out perfectly.

Rotating door

Guess who's back from extended spring training? Justin Hedrick and Trey Webb. Guess who's gone -- for now? Daryl Maday and yesterday's starter Garrett Broshuis. Broshuis will be back this weekend when the teams heads to New Hampshire.

Also, a couple names worth noting: One is Jeff Nettles, as Greg mentioned in a previous post, and th eother is former Mariners and White Sox catcher Ben Davis. Also, Michael Garciaparra, the younger brother of "Nomah," is with Bowie but on the DL.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


No, that's not some tribute to a former Defender/Navigator. That's how long the game was delayed because of lighting malfunctions, most notably the towers in the right-center and left-center field areas.

Everything is up and running, so hopefully it stays that way and there are no further delays tonight forward.

Throwback unis

If you attended tonight's game or had the chance to see some photos, be sure to check out Reading's uniforms. They are straight out of the 1970s and 1980s Philadelphia Phillies uniforms. I'm waiting for Mike Schmidt and Lara Bowa to take the field.

Roster move

It looks like Trey Webb is heading to extended spring training. Whether this is due to injury or just a case of the team needing to make a move to get another pitcher after last night's marathon remains to be seen.

My Opening Day

Granted, I am about two weeks behind schedule, but for all intents and purposes, today is my Opening Day. From the last day of the 2007 season, I began looking forward to the first game at Dodd Stadium in 2008. Prior commitments kept me away until today, and I am giddy to be back at the stadium.

The weather is nice and the team has been competitive thus far. The slew of one-run losses tells you the Defenders are close to putting everything together. This is the minors, so they get the luxury of working on things.

It was good getting back into the swing of things, chatting with GM Charlie Dowd or catching with the gang in the pressbox or shooting the breeze with Simon Klink and Trey Webb.

Hopefully you, the fan, will have as much fun this season as I have covering this team.

New addition

A minor league season is always filled with its fair share of comings and goings, and today is no different. The Defenders added pitcher Daryl Maday from Augusta. The righty reliever was 1-1 with a 2.13 in five games (12.2 innings) at Single-A Augusta.

No word just yet as to who he is replacing. I'll have that for you by first pitch.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Way to go, John

John Bowker, who had an all-star season a year ago with the Defenders, has been called up to San Francisco. The guy is one of the nicest guys I have come across in my time covering the team, he is a great teammate by all accounts and is a heck of a ball player. Bowker is one of the few outfielders in the organization who has power. I don't suspect he will be a 30 home run kind of guy in the Bigs, but he could one day be a .300 hitter because he hits to all fields and may clobber 20-25. That's not to say he won't do better, but I think .300 and 20 homers a year wouldn't bother the guy too much.

I suspect the Giants won't waste time getting him into the middle of the lineup, probably in the six spot to start.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

New addition

The Defenders have added infielder Kyle Haines from extended Spring Training. Haines was a first-round pick in 2004. Last season with San Jose, he hit .250 in 60 games with three homers, 17 RBIs and six steals.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

2008 roster announced

It's make or break of TI and EME. Here is the team's release:

The Connecticut Defenders released their Opening Day roster today, which features a mix of young prospects and savvy veterans. The roster includes several big league camp invitees and a myriad of players with promising potential.

Osiris Matos re-joins the Defenders’ bullpen for the 2008 season after posting an impressive 5-0 record in Connecticut coupled with a stingy 2.89 ERA in 35 appearances. Kelvin Pichardo also comes back to Connecticut in 2008 after putting together a remarkable 2007 season, splitting his time between High-A San Jose and Connecticut. Pichardo struck out 87 in just 67 innings of work in 2007.

Making his 2008 debut in Connecticut is newly acquired second baseman Travis Denker who spent his 2007 in the California League first with the Inland Empire 66ers (Dodgers), then with the San Jose Giants. Denker’s .400 (10-for-25) average in seven games with the High-A Giants earned him a spot with the big league camp in 2008. Denker’s teammate in San Jose, outfielder Ben Copeland comes to Connecticut for the first time in his career in 2008. Copeland’s plate discipline and patience was well recorded in 2007 as he walked a team-high 70 times.

Fourteen 2008 Defenders’ spent time on the 2007 roster and will return to Norwich to improve their skills. They include utility infielder Mark Minicozzi, hot corner glove Simon Klink, backstopper Dayton Buller, middle infielder Trey Webb, outfield gunners Eddy Martinez-Esteve and Carlos Sosa and first base slugger Travis Ishikawa who made his Major League debut in 2006 where he hit .292 (7-for-24) in twelve games of action in San Francisco.

Also returning to the “Rose of New England” are right handed starter Dave McKae, spot starter and bullpen specialist Ryan Sadowski, wiry Canadian Brooks McNiven, composed starter Garret Broshuis and April 2007 Giants Player of the Month Justin Hedrick whose 2.14 ERA was among the best in the Eastern League in 2007.

Newcomers to Connecticut include power hitting catcher Adam Witter, Antoan Richardson who is regarded as the best outfield arm in the system, Olmo Rosario who spent 2007 winning a batting title in the Canadian-American Independent League, 2005 College World Series standout third baseman Dave Maroul, and slick-fielding catcher Barry Gunther who spanned from the Rookie Arizona League all the way to Triple-A Fresno in 2007.

New pitchers coming to Connecticut include left-handed veteran Jason Waddell, Augusta GreenJacket ace Adam Cowart who put together a 14-7 record in 2007, right-handed starter Joey Martinez, Missouri-native Ronnie Ray, Sergio Romo, whose 1.36 ERA anchored San Jose’s bullpen and the massive 6’10” righty Steve Palazzolo.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Non-roster invitees announced.

Former Defenders Steve Holm and Brian Horwitz, as well as former Binghamton Met Bret Harper, have been invited to Spring Training.

Good luck to them.

I do want to comment on Harper. His addition to the organization seems to be a continuation of the the Giants signing players who have been more of the career-minor league type (see Randy Ruiz). It wouldn't shock me if Harper is one of the Defenders outfielders this season.

Speaking of Ruiz, he is going to be in Twins camp.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New skipper

If you haven't read it on yet, be sure to check out the story of the Defenders' new manager.

The team announced Thursday that Bien Figueroa will be the 10th manager in franchise history. He comes to the Defenders and their parent organization, the San Francisco Giants, after serving as the bench coach for the Bowie BaySox in 2007.

Figueroa will be joined by pitching coach Bob Stanley, hitting coach Victor Torres and trainer Dustin Luepker.