I have noted numerous times before my history of minor league basketball. Not only did I spend just shy of 20 years as a scorekeeper for the Rockford Lightning, my dad was a season-ticket holder. On occasion, he would share with me a rue of his from that night's game. Let's imagine the Bolts got out to a nice 10-point lead midway into the first quarter. Everyone in his section is jovial. The other team gets forced into burning a time-out, and huzzah. However, at some point, the opposition turns things around. And the home fans, like clockwork, would turn on the team. When they are needed the most, fans could be at their worst.
This week, I was reminded again why I enjoy minor-league games so much. Occasionally, It helps to get a reminder, and over the course of a few days, it came through. One day last week, I was really tired, and slept through much of the minor league action. I awoke to see my MiLB scoreboard in about perfect form. All three night games were going well. Solid pitching, timely hitting, and nothing significantly wrong on defense. Three good wins, and I got to hear all three of them get closed out.
The next night, however, was the other side of life. The opposing pitchers were, at least for a night, better than most of the Cubs hitters. This happens sometimes. And, in the assessing of things (mostly in my own mind and on the minor league commentary on-line), a really funny thing happened.
Nobody called for the minor-league players who made outs in key situations to be released. People were not saying that a pitcher that gave up a key hit ought to be turned into soylent green. When a defender botched a chance, nobody had a screed about how he was a wasted draft selection.
It would be nice to win every single minor-league game. It isn't going to happen. Sometimes, the other guy has a better outing than you do. Even if you are better than he is longterm. Like at the basketball games in the past, it seems best to cheer for your team, not wish ill on the opposition, or dehumanize the game's arbiters. Sometimes, lessons are learned from a game. Sometimes, not so much.
I can listen to a minor-league game, expecting the tempo in the game will be a bit quicker than at the big-league level. I can learn things I otherwise wouldn't, and I can share such learned information with others. I don't have to endure the venom of others when things don't go my way. And, more often that with the parent club, the game I'm listening to will have a positive ending.
Also, the way things are positioned now, I often have an escape hatch. I do the homework, and decide which game makes the most sense for the day. Then, I enjoy the guys I look forward to, and endure any players that aren't doing so well. If the other team is making the game unlistenable (and it happens), I simply turn the channel to a different game.
Tennessee, Myrtle Beach, and South Bend all have plenty of redeeming qualities, from player talent to announcers. In most cases, I can flip to oppo radio, and the other side's announcers like calling Cubs games. Even if they don't like the reason that they like calling them. Hearing the opposition call an inning with Albert Almora, Dan Vogelbach, and Kyle Schwarber can be fun. Those are the types of hitters they got into minor league announcing to watch and cover. Yeah, that can be fun, also.
It sure beats monitoring people (and this isn't a BCB swipe, in any fashion) eating their young. People in all sports do it. It makes the game less enjoyable for me. With minor-league games, that feature is less of a problem.
Before I get to my main feature, I have two MiLB asides. In a Midwest League game on Sunday, a lefty-hitter flared one down the left-field line. The outfielder made a full-out dive for it, and came up lacking. The umpire called "Foul ball." Then changed his mind, and called it fair. As the defense relaxed on the first call, the second call found them unable to respond in time to stop the in-the-park homer. In case you're curious, yes. The manager for the defensive team was tossed like a salad.
I like listening to oppo radio on occasion. I figure the other side's announcer will fill you in on things that 'our guys' wouldn't. Sunday, I struck gold in that pursuit. The Winston-Salem Dash announcer noted that all of their opening day hitters had played before for the Dash. Every. Single. One. Some guys will repeat a level. This could be for many reasons, some of which are out of the player's hands. However, to have every hitter repeating the Advanced-A level is not what you would want.
Three Up- Three Down
South Bend reliever Francisco Carillo has pitched 7⅓ innings. His WHIP is 1.77. He has plunked two more hitters. He was a solid closer at the level last year. He has an 8.59 ERA, and has been used as a closer so far, with no saves completed. He is 0-4. Ouch.
RISP: In a recent game against the Dash, Myrtle Beach went 0-for-15 with runners in scoring position. No offense, but I'm glad that tilt didn't have a game thread.
Tennessee Smokies reliever Andres Santiago has pitched in five games, throwing 5.1 innings in them. He's surrendered eight hits and five walks.
Iowa pitcher Yoanner Negrin has a WHIP of 0.92 in four appearances, two being starts. He has fanned 12 in 13 innings.
Tennessee has a ridiculously good offense. Birmingham is second in the Southern League with a .264 mark. The Smokies are at .297, using pitchers in the line-up on occasion. They are also drawing walks at a better-than-one-a-game clip than second-place Biloxi. Their OPS is .808. As a team. Second place belongs to Chattanooga at .720. If I ever give a "Code ASV," that means Almora, Schwarber, and Vogelbach are scheduled in the inning about to start.
Smokies starters Felix Pena and Frank Batista have both pitched 17⅔ innings. They have combined to surrender only 19 hits and nine walks, fanning 32.
Myrtle Beach's Jake Hannemann is on a mini-roll. In his current four-game hitting streak, he is 9-for-15. He is currently hitting .328 for the season.
I doubt many Prospectniks were saying, before the season started, the following. "I'm really looking forward to watching Ryan Williams, Jeremy Null, and Zack Hedges this season for South Bend." I know I wasn't. Hedges, in 15 innings, has a 1.0 WHIP. Williams (19⅔ IP, 0.61) and Null (17 IP, 0.71) have combined to fan 31 and walk two. Yeah, really. The Cubs are getting quite a bit from the middle of their 2014 draft already. Look for this to continue.
In his last five games, 18-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Gleyber Torres is 8-for-16. He also has four walks and four steals over the span. I'm thinking he's adjusting well to full season ball.