As I’ve previously noted, I’m busy this year on a political project that eats up a lot of my free time. That’s the main reason you haven’t seen more posts on this blog in recent weeks.
Given the skyrocketing cost of gas, the political diversion is probably a good thing because I’d be travelling a lot more. At this point, I think it would cost me about $16 or so just to make one round trip to Rancho Cucamonga.
The cost of flying is going up too, while service continues to decline. My wife got stranded on a short hop today returning from Colorado because of a problem with the plane. (U.S. Airways, in case you’re interested …) So although I miss my friends in Cedar Rapids and North Little Rock, I’m kinda glad I’m not making those trips this year because of all the aforementioned reasons.
I did finalize plans to visit Orem June 27-30. Unlike their brethren up the I-15 in Salt Lake, I’m assured that I will be welcome to shoot photos and video in the ballpark.
It should be an interesting trip. Friday night June 27 is a road game at Ogden, on the north side of Salt Lake City. The Raptors fans are a fun, rowdy bunch. A Friday night crowd in particular should be quite entertaining once they get a couple beers down …
The June 28-30 games are against the Casper Ghosts, formerly known as the Casper Rockies. Their caps supposedly glow in the dark under certain conditions. Casper owner Kevin Haughian was once the GM of the Lake Elsinore Storm when they were the Angels’ California League affiliate in the 1990s. Whenever Orem plays Casper, I always shoot photos of the Casper players to help out Kevin. Salt Lake aside, that’s what the minor leagues are all about — everyone helps out everyone else.
It’s reasonable to assume that at least half of the Orem squad right now is in high school or college. Unlike the other affiliates, where you have a good educational guess who will be there come Opening Night, it’s kinda hard to hype the team when you have no idea who will be on your roster.
I’m hoping Korean prospect Young-Il Jung might rejoin the Owlz after missing most of 2007 with an elbow injury. If not, maybe I’ll see him pitch at Tempe sometime in July or August.
The crummy economy struck my wife’s employer on Friday while she was out of town. Massive layoffs were announced; she was offered an early retirement buyout. If she declines, she could walk the plank too.
As you’ve heard probably one too many times, we’re heading for Florida in less than four years. We were hoping to survive our employers, but she might not make it. Should she lose her income, that will definitely impact my travel schedule since we’ll have to watch our pennies.
Speaking of Florida … my future home team, the Brevard County Manatees, set a first-pitch record today. They should be up to almost 7,000 by now. Minor league teams always look for wacky promotions; this is one I haven’t heard of before, but it’s a good idea.
The Arkansas Travelers have certainly turned it around. They won their seventh straight tonight, 6-0 over rival Northwest Arkansas, to move within two games of the first place Naturals. Ben Johnson hit his 9th homer tonight, which should put him on a pace to hit about 30 HR or so this year. Fernie Rodriguez, who came in with a 6.85 ERA, threw a complete-game shutout, striking out eight while scattering five hits and walking just one.
One big factor in the turnaround was importing independent league players, some of whom are experienced minor leaguers released by other organizations. Travs COO Bill Valentine has been quite vocal expressing his opinion that the Angels should help him put a competitive product on the field by signing veteran players from the independent leagues, instead of using younger players from down the ladder who’ve been promoted ahead of their talent curve. Adam Morrissey, Corey Smith, Jordan Czarniecki, Adam Greenberg, and Dan Denham all came from outside the organization to make significant contributions.
At the other end of the scale, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes so far have been a big disappointment. Sure, they’ve been crippled by the loss of critical position players — Hank Conger, Matt Sweeney, and Ryan Mount — but it’s a mystery why the pitching staff hasn’t lived up to expectations. They’re better than a 4.94 team ERA. Their team AVG/OBP/SLG of .257/.315/.390 are all subpar numbers for their talent.
One bright exception is center fielder Peter Bourjos, who in my opinion is the early leader for the Angels’ minor league player of the year award. Pete’s line is .340/.373/.480 with 24 SB in 26 attempts. He fits into the Angels’ Contactball philosophy, with only 26 strikeouts in 150 AB. The only tool yet to manifest itself is significant power, but that usually seems to come last with many players.
Anyway, time to get back to muckraking …