Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rumor, they say, rumor

This is what Eastern league President Joe McEacharn had to say about the report on BallparkDigest.com:

“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.

Still...no 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, OK...no 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.