Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Addendum to Seal Blubber Bits

The following tidbits were reported on Our Sports Central on December 22nd:
  • GBL rosters will remain at 22 players for the 2010 season.  However, after August 15th rosters will expand to 25 players.  This means that the trading frenzy will start a few days earlier next year as playoff-bound team will cherry pick the best players from the teams that are out of playoff contention.  However, managers will have a hard time pinch-hitting for pitchers when they are restricted to a 22-man roster.  You can expect to see decent-hitting pitchers pinch hitting for weaker-hitting pitchers when a GBL team is behind in the mid-to-late innings.
  • The league will be making further announcements about 2010 teams in January.  No surprise here.  See the previous blog post for details.  However, given the uncertainty, I'd be surprised if a regular-season schedule was published before the beginning of February.
On behalf of the three caballeros at the Victoria Seals Baseball Blog, Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Seal Blubber Bits - Winter Solstice Edition

Here are a few tidbits to nibble on as we approach the shortest day of the year:
  • GBL Commissioner Kevin Outcalt was quoted in The Sun (Yuma, AZ) as stating there was "about a 30 percent chance -- and it's always rising" that Tijuana will be in the league in 2010 as a result of the involvement of a new ownership group.
  • Outcalt also said that it was less likely that the Palm Springs team would join the GBL in 2010, but they were likely to start up in 2011. 
  • Outcalt also said that the St George team is not officially dead.  This means that there are still only 9 firm GBL teams for 2010: Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Chico, Maui, Orange County, Long Beach, Tucson and Yuma.  Other teams that could still join the league in 2010 (in estimated order of likelihood) are Ottawa, Tijuana, Palm Springs, Scottsdale, Kamloops and St. George.  There are two unsolicited bids in for a stadium lease in Ottawa, and if the Ottawa Stadium Group (OSG) is awarded a lease in the next few weeks then they will likely join the GBL.
  • Outcalt also had this to say about the signing of Eri Yoshida: "I've gotten an unbelievable amount of media calls today," Outcalt said. "CNN wants to do a feature, and about 10 different Japanese media outlets want to do a story on this. I think it's going to be a highly covered event."  As I mentioned yesterday, the Seals would be wise to sign her -- especially if she can keep her ERA under 9.00 in the Arizona Winter League.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Will the Victoria Seals Roster Include a Woman in 2010?

On Tuesday, the Arizona Winter League announced that 17-year-old Eri Yoshida would be playing in their league in January/February 2010.  Yoshida was the first female to play professional baseball in Japan last season and she held her own in the independant Kansai League.  She is only 5' 1" and 114 pounds, but she features a 51 MPH sidearm-knuckleball that is tough to hit.  In 11 appearances with the Kobe 9 Cruise, Yoshida sported a respectable 4.63 ERA and only gave up 11 hits in 11 2/3 innings.  Like all knuckleballers, control is a bit of a problem and she walked 9 batters in her 11 2/3 innings of work.

The Arizona Winter League (AWL) is associated with the Golden Baseball League and the two leagues have the same Commissioner (Kevin Outcalt).  It's not a stretch to state the the AWL exists mainly as a testing-ground for players who may end up getting signed to play for teams in the GBL and other independent leagues.  Unlike the independent leagues, players aren't paid to play -- they pay the league $3,500 USD for the opportunity to be showcased to scouts and managers.  At least two of the AWL managers also manage in the GBL (Boots Day and Tim Johnson).

Here's where the Victoria Seals come in.  It makes perfect sense for the Seals to sign Yoshida if she does anything other than stink it up in the AWL.  Think of how much the Seattle Mariners have profited from putting players like Ichiro and Kenji Johjima out on the field.  If you were to put a 17-year-old Japanese female out on the mound for the Victoria Seals, a significant percentage of the Japanese students and Japanese-Canadians in Victoria would flock to Royal Athletic Park whenever she was due to pitch.  Plus, every girl who plays softball in Victoria (and there are many) would be lining up to buy a Seals ticket. 

If she were to spend the summer in the Garden City, there would be an entourage of media (Japanese, Canadian and American) that would follow her every move.  That would do nothing but greatly increase the national and international profile of the Victoria Seals.  I also have no doubt that Yoshida would sell a lot of Victoria Seals merchandise -- and not just to the locals.  Japanese baseball fans would most likely be ordering a bunch of caps and jerseys off the internet.

Wishful thinking on my part?  Perhaps.  But signing Eri Yoshida to a Victoria Seals contract makes a lot of sense.  I mean, she couldn't be any worse than Mike Reeves or Eziequiel Ruvalcaba.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Golden League Dumps DH; Baseball Purists Rejoice

Fans of National League baseball in Victoria were given an early Christmas present this week when it was announced that the GBL has revoked the Designated Hitter rule for the 2010 season.  This intrepid blogger pointed out the silliness of using the DH in such an offensive-friendly league back on June 26th of this year (see the post Sotolongo Providing Bullpen Stability).  Not only will the rule change reduce the excessive offense, but games lasting 3 1/2 hours or more will be less common (which will be appreciated on those cool Victoria evenings in May and June).

Of course, Darrell Evans' job just got a whole lot more difficult.  In fact, every GBL manager will be faced with difficult pinch-hitting decisions in the middle and late innings.  Double-substitutions will become an important tool for the field bosses.  If the league is smart, they'll expand rosters by at least one player because there will be a lot more lineup changes during games.  Players who can play multiple positions will also be highly coveted this season.  On the flip side, teams will be hard-pressed to carry lumbering sluggers who can only play first base (see Flowers, Brett).

There are many baseball purists in attendance on any given night at Royal Athletic Park and they'll be pleased to see the return of old-school moves like the bunt, hit-and-run and the stolen base.  Somewhere, John McGraw is smiling.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Cleve's article in Tuesday's T-C indicates that the GBL is currently at 10 teams.  But it's not a done deal that the Palm Springs team will be ready to go in 2010.  The GBL Commissioner (Kevin Outcalt) was quoted in an OurSports Central article on Monday as saying "The team could play in either 2010 or 2011 depending on what they work out with the City of Palm Springs regarding the ballpark facility, or potentially in a ballpark elsewhere in the Coachella Valley."  This means that there are still only 9 firm GBL teams: Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Chico, Maui, Orange County, Long Beach, Tucson and Yuma.
  • Other cities that may be part of the GBL in 2010 include Ottawa, Kamloops, Scottsdale and Tijuana.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

2010 GBL Teams Still Unclear

We're three weeks from the end of 2009 and the teams that will comprise the 2010 Golden Baseball League are still not decided.  On Wednesday, the St. George Roadrunners announced that they will cease operations and will not return next season in spite of the fact they won the 2009 Southern Division championship.

The team stated that they failed to turn a profit during their three-year tenure in the GBL.  In 2009, the St. George team finished second-last in attendance with 1,168 fans per game.  The league average for attendance was 1,851 fans, while the Victoria Seals drew an average of 2,342 fans in their inaugural season.

The Roadrunners are owned by XnE Inc, the same company that owns the Maui team that will be joining the GBL in 2010.  When the expansion to Maui was announced in September it seemed odd that XnE would own two teams in the GBL.  Perhaps XnE had intended to eliminate the unprofitable St. George team when the expansion deal was struck.

In any event, it is unclear if there are currently 9 or 10 teams in the GBL circuit.  The Golden League's entry on Wikipedia indicates that the Tijuana team will be part of the South Division in 2010, which would leave the league with 10 teams.  However, I'm not convinced that this is a done deal just yet.

There was a chance that Kamloops would be granted an expansion team in time for the 2010 season, but so far no suitable owner has been located.

The other possibility for a 2010 GBL expansion team is Ottawa, where an interesting political game is underway.  Two rival ownership groups are attempting to secure a lease for the 10,000 seat Ottawa Stadium.  One group, lead by Can-Am League commissioner Miles Wolff, would like to bring a Can-Am League team to the nation's capital.  On the other side of the battle is the Ottawa Stadium Group (OSG), lead by David Butler and Duncan MacDonald.  If the OSG can secure the lease then they would be granted an expansion team in the GBL.

No matter how the Ottawa battle plays out, the GBL needs an even number of teams to be able to develop a reasonable schedule.  Last season's last-minute pull-out of the Tijuana franchise led to an ugly schedule and far too many stretches of three to four consecutive days off for teams.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Isaac Hess on Baseball America's Top Indy Prospects List

Isaac Hess, who pitched most of the 2009 season with the Victoria Seals, was named by Baseball America as one of the top prospects in independent baseball. Hess was ranked as the sixth best prospect in independent baseball.

Here is Baseball America's assessment of Isaac Hess:

At this point Issac Hess may be the most "known" independent league prospect out there. A member of the top 10 list last year, he's been signed by affiliated clubs twice in the past year (by the Padres and Red Sox), but both times concerns about his artificial hip (a result of a childhood condition) meant he never threw a pitch in affiliated ball.

There's little doubt about his stuff—he has an 89-91 mph fastball, a solid breaking ball and an excellent changeup. In affiliated ball he profiles more as a lefty arm out of the bullpen where his changeup would give him the ability to retire both lefties and righthanded hitters.

Hess this year managed to go three-for-three on independent league championships. After winning back-to-back Frontier League titles with Windy City, a midseason trade to Calgary helped him win his third ring in three years with a Golden League title. Along the way, he did everything he could to eliminate any concerns about his durability. He led the Golden League in strikeouts and finished second in the league in innings pitched. He also threw an inning in the Golden League all-star game on one-day's rest in an attempt to prove that his hip isn't a hindrance. That paid off in a contract with the Red Sox, but it also may have played a part in his diminished numbers over the second half of the season—he gave up five or more runs in five of his last eight starts after not giving up that many runs in any of his first 11 starts.

The full prospect list can be found here.

J.J. Cooper of Baseball America conducted an on-line chat on independent league prospects. Here is a brief exchange from that chat on the subject of Isaac Hess:

Roy (Phoenix): We can put a man on the moon but we can't figure out a way
for Isaac Hess to play Organized Baseball? That just doesn't make sense to me.
Can't you people find some do-gooder lawyer out there who can make this happen?

J.J. Cooper: It's tough. In fact there is a lawyer working pro bono to try
to help Hess out on this very topic. The concerns teams have revolve around the
possibility of Hess making a claim that his hip was injured by pitching. And
there appears to be no way that Hess can craft an air-tight waiver that
acknowledges he's aware of the risk. The best hope for now seems to be if Hess
can get an insurance policy that would cover any potential lawsuit down the road
(even if Hess doesn't plan to every sue anybody). On the mound, there's little
question that he's shown that he deserves a shot.

The full text from the on-line chat can be found here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Perez and Pedroza on Baseball America's Indy All Star Team

Baseball America has selected players for their 2009 Independent Leagues All Star Team and two former Seals are amongst those named. Both Sergio Pedroza and Wilver Perez were chosen for the second all star team. The teams were selected from the rosters of all eight independent baseball leagues in North America.

Pedroza and Perez spent the majority of the season playing for Victoria, but they were traded to the Calgary Vipers on August 17th and 27th, respectively. Along with Isaac Hess, the ex-Seals led the Vipers to the GBL championship and Pedroza was named MVP of the championship series.

Out of the eight independent leagues, the Golden League placed the third-highest number of players on the all star team. The Atlantic League, clearly the best of the independent leagues, led with six players. You may remember that four Victoria Seals were traded/sold to Atlantic League teams in 2009: Roberto Sotolongo, Josh Arhart, Jamar Hill and Travis Wade.

Here is a list of the leagues and the number of players named to the all star team:
  • Atlantic League - 6
  • Can-Am League - 5
  • Golden Baseball League - 4
  • Frontier League - 4
  • American Association - 3
  • Northern League - 3
  • United League - 2
  • Continental League - 0

Other players from the GBL named to the team include A.J. Valentine of the St. George Roadrunners and batting champion Nelson Castro of the Calgary Vipers. The complete all star team can be found here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Maui Awarded GBL Expansion Team

The Golden Baseball League announced on Wednesday that Maui has been awarded an expansion team for the 2010 season. The team will be owned by XnE Inc. The company also negotiated a Territory Operating Rights agreement for $800,000 USD which will allow it to add another three GBL teams in the state of Hawaii. According to the company's web site, "XnE’s core business is to own and operate independent Minor League Baseball franchises throughout the United States, also, to operate a ticket/sponsorship sales division, promotional division and a concession division".

XnE Inc. also owns the St. George Roadrunners in the GBL. For obvious reasons, all professional leagues that I am aware of have clauses in their constitution that prevent a person or corporation from owning more than one team. However, it appears that XnE Inc. could end up owning five teams in the GBL some day. This could lead to some very interesting trades in the future.

Other tidbits from the GBL press release included:
  • Additional expansion teams will be announced in the coming months. Hopefully, at least one of those teams will be located in British Columbia.

  • The GBL 2010 regular-season schedule will be released in early December.

  • The Maui team name and manager will be announced in the near future.

Ichiro “Iron” Maehara Memorial Stadium, new home of the Maui team.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Isaac Hess is a Newark Bear

Shortly after the Calgary Vipers wrapped up the GBL championship, Isaac Hess was signed by the playoff-bound Newark Bears of the Atlantic League. The Bears are the third independent team for Hess in 2009, after playing most of the season with the Seals and then participating in the GBL playoffs with Calgary.

Hess picked up a three-inning save in his only regular season appearance with Newark. On Friday night, he was given the start in Game 2 of the Freedom Division Championship Series after his team dropped the opener to the Somerset Patriots. Hess took to the mound in front of an Atlantic League playoff record crowd of 7,647 fans and he pitched a great game, giving up only 1 earned run and 2 hits in 6 1/3 innings. Unfortunately, Hess was given no offensive support and he took the loss in a 5-0 decision to the Patriots.

The Bears rallied from a 9-run deficit on Saturday night to avoid elimination and win 13-12. Game 4 of the best-of-5 series goes Sunday. If the Bears can come back to win the series, Hess will pitch into October in the Atlantic League's championship series.

The Newark Bears are managed by ex-Expo Tim Raines and they recently announced the hiring of Dwight Gooden as Senior VP. The Bears also feature ex-major leaguers Carl Everett and Rob Mackowiak.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Seals President Named GBL Executive of the Year

Darren Park, President of the Victoria Seals, has been named Executive of the Year by the Golden Baseball League. Congratulations, Darren!

A portion of the press release from the Victoria Seals is included below.

Victoria, BC – The Victoria Seals are proud to announce that President Darren Parker has been selected as the 2009 GBL Executive of the Year. His efforts and vision brought the joy of a full season of professional baseball back to the capital city of British Columbia after a quarter of a century of absence.

Parker was selected for this award based on his drive to successfully launch an expansion team in a great sports town that had not seen a season of professional baseball for over 25 years and for his efforts in capturing the hearts and minds of baseball fans and the community who adopted the Seals as their own from opening night.

"It is very difficult to launch an expansion professional sports team in any sport and any location," said GBL Commissioner Kevin Outcalt. "And it is extraordinary what Darren has accomplished in Victoria with the Seals and the support and excitement he has generated from the community, business partners, and fans. His success is
a blueprint for sports ownership and will undoubtedly be used as a model in the industry."

The Seals worked closely this year with the City of Victoria to renovate and improve Royal Athletic Park, were very active in the community with appearances and fundraisers, and treated fans to great baseball and a fun and friendly night out every evening the Seals played. In one season they became more ingrained in the fabric of their community than many pro teams are able to accomplish in decades of play.

"We are very proud of how the Seals quickly became such a great asset and an integral part of the wonderful city of Victoria,” said Golden Baseball League CEO David Kaval. "Given Darren's background of having grown up with and worked for years with the Calgary Cannons, owned by his family and considered one of the premier sports organizations in Canada, I am not surprised by his success and look forward to more great things from him, his team, and the fans of the Seals.”

When notified of the award last night, Parker placed all the credit on his employees and the fans and businesses supporters of Victoria, stating, “Congratulations to all our partners in the Golden Baseball League for a successful 2009 season. Thank you, this is a tremendous honour and one that I proudly accept on behalf of our
entire organization.” He added, “Our staff worked tirelessly all summer to bring
professional baseball back to Royal Athletic Park and couldn't have done it
without the tremendous support from our fans and business partners. We look forward to many more summers of providing fun, affordable family entertainment to Greater Victoria!”

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Are Jamar Hill and Josh Arhart Gone for Good?

On August 29th, the Seals traded Jamar Hill and Josh Arhart to the York Revolution of the Atlantic League. At the time, details regarding the trade were sketchy. The York Revolution web site indicated that the players were traded for future considerations and Seals fans were left to speculate as to what that really meant. The trades that sent Sergio Pedroza, Wilver Perez and Isaac Hess to the Calgary Vipers were allegedly temporary, with the three players coming back to Victoria before the start of next year (along with additional Vipers to be named later). Many fans assumed the same was true for the deal that sent crowd favourites Hill and Arhart to the Atlantic League.

Following the Revolution's last home game on Wednesday, some troubling quotes from new manager Andy Etchebarren, who was hired on August 14th, appeared in the York Daily Record. From the way Etchebarren was talking, he has every intention of bringing both Hill and Arhart back to York next season.
"Everything I'm doing is aimed at next season," Etchebarren said. "I've
been impressed with some of the guys I brought in. I liked (Aharon) Eggleston in
center and (Liu) Rodriguez at shorstop. ... I'm looking at (catcher Josh)
Arhart. It doesn't seem like he's getting a real good hold on the ball when he's
throwing, but I think I can help his catching if we put in a lot of work in
spring training. So I think we'll have a catcher who can hit 15 to 20 home runs
next year. And I'm really happy with (Jamar) Hill. He can play left and right
field, and he runs hard."

Etchebarren has a philosophy. He wants flexibility on the roster,
players who can play multiple positions. And he's determined to stock his lineup
with right-handed pull hitters, the type of athletes who can take advantage of
the short dimensions in left field.

"We're going to put a winning team on this field next year,"
Etchebarren said.

This would seem to imply that there is no agreement to return the two players to Victoria for next season. This is all starting to add up. It didn't make sense to loan these two players to York for the remainder of the season (in return for cash) with that team languishing in last place unless the Revolution intended to keep them around in 2010. It looks like we may have seen the end of Jamar Hill and Josh Arhart at Royal Athletic Park, but let's hope that's not the case.

You can read the full article here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Calgary Wins Championship; Pedroza Series MVP

The Calgary Vipers won their first ever Golden Baseball League Championship on Saturday night by defeating the Tucson Toros 18-10. The Vipers took the series 3 games to 1. Not surpisingly, Sergio Pedroza was named the MVP of the series. Pedroza went 3-for-6 with 6 RBIs in the final game. In the playoffs, he hit an amazing .405 with 4 homers and 17 RBIs in only 37 at-bats.

According to an article in the Calgary Sun:

Right-fielder Sergio Pedroza had a grand slam in the sixth inning and
finished with six RBIs to lead the home side. Pedroza was named the final series
MVP for his effort, and he was saluted with chants of 'Ser-gio, Ser-gio' as the
team celebrated on the mound in front of 2,212 fans at Foothills Stadium.

Wilver Perez went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored on Saturday. He hit .333 with 2 homers and 11 RBIs in the post-season.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Calgary Sun Article on Sergio Pedroza

See here.

Perez and Pedroza Lead Vipers to 2-0 Series Lead

The Calgary Vipers are one win away from becoming GBL champions, thanks once again to the late-season pickups from the Victoria Seals. The Vipers defeated the Toros 11-4 on Thursday night to sweep both games in Tucson.

Ex-Seal Wilver Perez led the way for Calgary once again. He went 2-for-5 with a homer and 5 RBIs on the night. Perez is hitting .345 with 2 homers and 9 RBIs in six playoff games with the Vipers. Sergio Pedroza also had a good game at the dish, going 3-for-6 with a homer, 3 runs scored and 2 RBIs. Pedroza is now hitting .393 with 3 homers and 11 RBIs in the post-season.

Amongst GBL hitters, Wilver Perez is second in homers and RBIs in the playoffs. Sergio Pedroza leads the league in both of these categories, making it quite likely that one of these Ex-Seals will be named Series MVP (Isaac Hess is also 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA). In any event, the Seals organization better have been well compensated in the late-season deals for these three players. In addition to the cash that changed hands, lets hope that Über closer Mac Suzuki is in a Victoria Seals uniform in 2010.

The Vipers and Toros play game three in Calgary on Friday night. The Snakes can clinch their first ever GBL championship by winning just one game this weekend at home. If necessary, Game 4 of the Calgary-Tucson series will be played on Saturday and Game 5 will be played on Sunday if Tucson can rally to push the series to the limit. Calgary joined the GBL in 2008 and won the North Division Championship that year, only to lose to the Orange County Flyers in the fifth and deciding game of the GBL Championship Series.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Austin Bibens-Dirkx's season is over. The Peoria Chiefs were swept in two straight by the Cedar Rapids Kernels in the Western Division Semifinals in the Midwest League playoffs. On Thursday, the Chiefs were eliminated after dropping another heartbreaker -- this time a 9-8 walk-off loss in the bottom of the ninth. The Chiefs had led 8-7 going into the bottom of the final frame before blowing their first lead after 8 innings since July 2006. Bibens-Dirkx had an outstanding season with the Chiefs and will likely be moved up by the Chicago Cubs to Advanced A or AA baseball next season.
  • Jamar Hill has done well since joining the York Revolution of the Atlantic League. He's hitting .310 with 2 homers and 3 RBIs in 42 at-bats. Josh Arhart has not fared as well; he's hitting .192 with 2 homers and 9 RBIs in 26 at-bats. Hill and Arhart are batting 6th and 7th in the Revolution lineup, respectively.
  • Ex-Seal Travis Wade has been an asset to the York Revolution since joining the team. He has a 3.18 ERA in 5 2/3 innings pitched and opponents are hitting .280 against him. Another ex-Seal, Roberto Sotolongo, has not performed that well; he's 0-2 with a 5.04 ERA. It will be interesting to see if Victoria is compensated by the York Revolution with players next season in return for the four Seals. The Revolution is in last place in the "Freedom" Division of the Atlantic League, but is fourth in the league in attendance with an average of 4,085 fans per game.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Vipers Take Opener of GBL Championship Series

It wasn't pretty, but Ex-Seal and current Viper Isaac Hess picked up the win in the opening game of the Golden Baseball League Championship Series, as the Calgary Vipers defeated the Toros 9-8. Hess gave up 4 earned runs and 8 hits in 5 2/3 innings pitched. He walked four and struck out four while raising his post-season record to 2-0.

The Vipers were led offensively by Wilver Perez. Perez scored three runs and went three-for-five with a pair of RBIs. Sergio Pedroza went two-for-four with a stolen base and a run scored. Pedroza's post-season average is .364, while Perez is hitting .333.

Game two of the best-of-five series will be played Thursday night in Tucson.

Ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx took a no-decision in Game 1 of the Western Division Semifinals in the Midwest League playoffs. His Peoria Chiefs fell 6-4 to the Cedar Rapids Kernels in extra innings to drop the opener of their best-of-three series. Bibens-Dirkx left after 6 innings on the mound trailing 4-2. The Chiefs rallied to knot the game at 6-6 in the bottom of the ninth, only to lose in heartbreaking fashion in the tenth inning. Bibens-Dirkx gave up 4 earned runs in 6 innings of work. He gave up 7 hits and uncharacteristically walked more batters than he struck out (two BB's versus only one K). The Chiefs must now win the next two games in Iowa (Thursday and Friday night) to advance. If they fail to do so, Austin Bibens-Dirkx's season will come to an end.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hess and Bibens-Dirkx Start Respective Game 1's

Tonight, Ex-Seal Isaac Hess will take to the mound for the Calgary Vipers in Game 1 of the Golden Baseball League Championship Series against the Tucson Toros. Meanwhile in Peoria (Ill.), Ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx gets the start in Game 1 of the Western Division Championship Series in the Midwest League. It would have been impossible to envision such a scenario playing out at the beginning of the Victoria Seals' season.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Final Thoughts

Well, so endeth the inaugural season of the Seals. It had a bit of everything - Seals being 2nd in league attendance, installation of a nifty new scoreboard, the smashing of the 2nd inning score on said scoreboard, foul balls littering the streets, Seymour, Elvis impersonators, and the list goes on.

I learned a lot about the GBL this year. I learned they used the DH. I learned that players for non-playoff teams are effectively rented out at the end of the year to contenders in a number of leagues with the strong hope (by me!) that they will return. I learned that Major League teams are skittish about a good character guy with a bad hip but have no problem letting bad character guys wander their fields, tainting their game. I learned that a warm night at the field in Victoria means one less layer of fleece. Most importantly, I learned that baseball belongs in Victoria so for you faithful, be sure to tell 2 friends. And then they'll tell 2 friends. And so on...and so on...

All in all, a successful debut season, I'd say, and I am optimistic that Victoria will continue to embrace the team in its sophomore year. In the words of the Governator I hope you'll join me in saying "I'll be back".

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bibens-Dirkx Likely to Start Game 1 for Peoria

On Friday night, Ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx had his first bad outing since joining the Peoria Chiefs in early July. Bibens-Dirkx gave up 4 earned runs in 5 2/3 innings and took the loss against the Kane County Cougars. His ERA "rose" to 2.04 on the season, while his record fell to 7-2.

In his 70 2/3 innings since joining the Midwest League ("A" ball) team, Bibens-Dirkx has struck out 50 and only walked 9 batters. Opponents are hitting a paltry .215 against him.

Bibens-Dirkx will likely start Game 1 of the Western Division Championship Series against the Cedar Rapids Kernels on Wednesday September 9th.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Capitals Avoid Elimination in NDCS

A late rally allowed the Edmonton Capitals to avoid elimination at the hands of the Calgary Vipers on Friday night. The Capitals, who trailed 5-3 after six innings, scored 10 runs in the final three frames to defeat the Vipers 13-6. Calgary leads the best-of-five series two games to one.

Sergio Pedroza continued to hit the ball well, stroking his second homer of the series. Pedroza hit a solo shot and knocked in another run on a fielder's choice. He now has 8 RBIs in the first three games of the series and has hit .357. Wilver Perez went 1-for-4 on the evening and committed an error at third base.

The Capitals' win spoiled the night for the 4,859 fans in attendance. The mark set the all-time single-game attendance record for the Vipers franchise.

Game 4 of the series will be played in Calgary on Saturday at 3:00 PST. If a fifth game is necessary, it will be played on Sunday afternoon (also at the Snake Pit).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hess Outpitches Lima in NDCS Game 2

Forget "Lima Time" -- it was "Zack Time". For the second consecutive night, an Ex-Seal led the Calgary Vipers past the Edmonton Capitals in a North Division Championship Series game. The Vipers now have a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series after defeating the Capitals 7-3 on Wednesday night in Edmonton. Isaac Hess rebounded from a string of poor starts and only allowed five hits and one earned run in six innings pitched to pickup the win for the Vipers. He walked three and struck out seven Capitals.

Ex-major-leaguer Jose Lima did not fare as well as Hess. Lima gave up 9 hits and 4 earned runs in 7 2/3 innings. It was also the second consecutive night in which the hard-hitting Vipers defeated an ex-big-league starter for the Capitals (World Series Champion Lou Pote took the loss in game 1).

Sergio Pedroza went 1-for-4 on the night and knocked in a run, giving him a total of 6 RBIs in this short series. Wilver Perez went 1-for-5 with a pair of runs scored and a stolen base.

The series now shifts to Calgary for game three on Friday night. If necessary, games four (Saturday) and game five (Sunday) will also be played in the Snake Pit. It's highly unlikely that the Capitals will be able to sweep the powerful Vipers in Calgary. Last season, the Vipers swept the Capitals three straight in the NDCS.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sergio Pedroza Leads Vipers to Game 1 Victory

Ex-Seal Sergio Pedroza continued his hot hitting in Game 1 of the North Division Championship Series on Tuesday night, leading the Calgary Vipers to a 15-4 rout of the Edmonton Capitals at Telus Field. Pedroza, who finished the season with a .332 average, 20 homers and 81 RBIs, went 3-for-5 with 5 RBIs and was a triple away from hitting for the cycle. He homered, doubled, singled, walked and even stole a base in the game.

Wilver Perez played third base and batted fifth for the Vipers. He went 1-for-6 and scored a run.

Edmonton starter Lou Pote, who went 9-3 with a 3.98 ERA in the regular season, was tagged for eight earned runs in four innings of work and took the loss. Calgary's ace of the starting rotation, Joe Sergent, earned the victory by giving up four earned runs in seven innings.

Game two of the best-of-five series goes Wednesday night in Edmonton. The Tucson Toros and the St George Roadrunners kick off the South Division Championship Series that same night in St George.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Tucson Toros infielder Skip Adams played all nine positions in Monday night's season finale. The team clinched a playoff berth on Sunday, so nothing was at stake. Adams took to the pitcher's mound in the 9th inning and only gave up a walk in 2/3 of an inning. He also struck out Chase Leavitt of the Roadrunners -- a .310 hitter in the regular season!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Seals End Season with Fifth Straight Loss

The Victoria Seals wrapped up their inaugural season in a less than spectacular fashion, dropping a 4-3 decision to the Long Beach Armada on Monday night. The Seals were swept in four straight games by the Armada and they lost their last five games of the year.

Victoria, which went on their final road trip without six of their best players due to recent trades, finished the season with a 32-50 record. Their .390 winning percentage was second-worst in the league, only better than the .382 mark posted by the Yuma Scorpions (who were comprised entirely of Colombian players). The Seals finished a whopping 20 games behind the Calgary Vipers in the overall standings.

The team that took to the field looked nothing like the Seals squad that we all enjoyed watching earlier in the season. The starting lineup for the final game was as follows (Eduardo Baeza was on the mound):
  1. P.Montero LF
  2. M.Kavanaugh C
  3. B.Rios 3B
  4. B.Flowers 1B
  5. G.Riley RF
  6. B.LeVier SS
  7. T.Mermer DH
  8. B.Krause CF
  9. T.Miyoshi 2B

Seal Blubber Bits

  • Ex-Seal (and current Viper) Sergio Pedroza won the GBL home run title with 20 home runs. However, he hit 15 of those 20 homers in a Victoria Seals uniform. Jamar Hill finished second in the league with 19 home runs.
  • The Vipers' Nelson Castro won the GBL batting title with an impressive .410 mark. He finished 34 points ahead of teammate Colin Moro.
  • Edmonton's Darryl Brinkley won the league RBI crown with 82 runs knocked in. You may remember the RAP fans taunting Brinkley with chants of "Darrrrrrryl" this summer. Sergio Pedroza finished a close second to Brinkley with 81 RBIs.
  • The first two games of the North Division playoffs between the Vipers and Capitals are Tuesday and Wednesday nights in Edmonton.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Arhart and Hill Traded to York Revolution

On Saturday, Josh Arhart and Jamar Hill were traded to the York Revolution of the independent Atlantic League. It is unclear what they were traded for. As for the Wilver Perez trade, there was no official press release from the Victoria Seals or the York Revolution and no news reports on the web. My guess is that they were traded for cash and "future considerations". It seems likely that the players were loaned to the York Revolution in return for cash. The future considerations probably means that York won't sign the players after the season is over and they will all be eligible to re-sign with the Seals (most GBL players are only signed to one-year contracts).

This type of trade has been common in the last month. The Seals have earned a fair amount of cash and the players have been traded to teams that are headed to the playoffs, which gives them potential exposure to major-league scouts. Provided this happens late enough in the season, there isn't a huge downside to the hometown fans. However, it wasn't exactly fun to watch Sergio Pedroza pound the Victoria pitching staff on the last weekend of the season at RAP.

In the last month, the Seals have loaned Roberto Sotolongo, Josh Arhart and Jamar Hill to the York Revolution. Also, Wilver Perez, Sergio Pedroza and Isaac Hess have been loaned to the Calgary Vipers. That's six of their best players -- let's hope these guys all return to Victoria next year or impress a scout enough to be signed by a MLB organization.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • The Seals wrap up their inaugural season on Monday with a game against the Long Beach Armada at 7 PM. You can listen to the game at The team is limping to the finish line after seeing six of its best players traded away. The Seals sport a 32-49 record (.395 winning percentage) going into their final game of 2009.

  • Ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx continues to be lights-out for the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League. On Saturday night, Bibens-Dirkx raised his record to 7-1 and led the Chiefs to an 11-1 rout of the Cedar Rapids Kernels. He lowered his season ERA to 1.66 by pitching 6 2/3 innings of excellent baseball, giving up one earned run on only five hits. He struck out six and did not walk a batter in posting his sixth straight quality start. The Chiefs, who clinched a playoff berth on Sunday, will likely start Bibens-Dirkx in either game 1 or 2 of the opening round of the Midwest League playoffs.

  • The GBL would like to award an expansion franchise for 2010 to the city of Kamloops, but it is unclear if an appropriate ownership group can be located. Other potential Canadian expansion markets include Prince George, Nanaimo, Surrey, Abbotsford and Saskatoon.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Wilver Perez Traded to Calgary Vipers

Granny's not going to like this. According to, Wilver Perez was traded to the Calgary Vipers on Thursday. What he was traded for is unclear at this point. Details are very hard to come by, but my guess is that he was traded for cash and "future considerations".

Perez joins ex-Seals Isaac Hess and Sergio Pedroza on the Calgary roster. Hess and Pedroza were traded for cash and "future considerations" on August 18th. Roberto Sotolongo was also traded for "future considerations" on July 31st (he was dealt to the York Revolution of the Atlantic League).

This leaves some obvious questions. For one, what will the team receive for trading away four of its best players once it was clear that the Seals weren't playoff-bound? Also, who's next on the trading block? Seymour Seal?!?!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Who is the Victoria Seals MVP now?

Just before the "blockbuster" trade with the Calgary Vipers, I posted a poll on the blog asking who the team MVP was. The two players with the most votes were Isaac Hess and Sergio Pedroza. Now that both players are gone, it's highly unlikely either of them will be named MVP of the Seals. So who is the next best choice?

From where I sit, there are three options: Wilver Perez, Josh Arhart and Jamar Hill.

Wilver Perez has been the team's leadoff hitter for the majority of the season and he leads the team in runs scored with 74. He's third on the team in batting average (.318) and on-base percentage and he leads the team with 24 stolen bases (which ties him for 5th place in the league). His play defensively has been spectacular at times, but he's been inconsistent and has committed 14 errors. Then there are the intangibles. Wilver is always keeping his teammates loose and joking around and he looks like a fun guy to be around. His hustle is second to none -- whether it's taking the extra base or running hard when he hits a routine grounder and causing the fielder to rush his throw. He'd be a good choice as team MVP.

But then there is Jamar Hill. All he is done is lead the league with 19 home runs. Jamar is also leading the team in RBIs with 63, although Sergio Pedroza would be leading if he didn't get traded to Calgary ten days ago. Jamar is 5th on the team in batting average (.292) and second on the team in on-base percentage, thanks to 48 walks. However, he has struck out a whopping 65 times, 5th highest in the league. On the negative side, he is weak defensively and a poor base runner. But he has also thrilled the fans with some of the most memorable moments of 2009 at RAP. He's hit four homers in a game and smashed that wonderful walk-off grand slam on Father's Day. He'd also be a good choice as team MVP.

But then there is Josh Arhart. Josh has earned his spot as the Seals' cleanup hitter. He hit seventh in the Seals' inaugural game back in May, but he gradually moved up in the order until Darrell Evans put him into the four hole. Arhart leads the team in batting average (.325) and on-base percentage (.416). His on-base percentage is aided by 26 walks and an impressive 15 hit-by-pitches (which is 5th highest in the league). Talk about taking one for the team. Arhart is also excellent defensively -- he has only committed four errors on the season, which is really quite remarkable. He is outstanding at blocking pitches in the dirt, which is something he has had to do a lot for a pitching staff that sports a team ERA of 5.95. I can remember a few nights when Arhart successfully blocked 8-10 pitches in the dirt. He calls a good game behind the plate and is clearly a team leader. And then there's the "Arrrrrrhart" phenomenon. The chanting of his name, and the ensuing eye patches and pirate music, makes him the original cult figure of the Victoria Seals franchise.

After weighing the three options, it becomes pretty clear. Josh Arhart is the MVP of the Victoria Seals. He's their heart and soul and let's hope that he returns to the team in 2010.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Seal Blubber Bits for August 25th

Here are some random musings on the Seals following their final home game of 2009:
  • The Edmonton Capitals clinched a playoff spot on Sunday night without even being on the field. Yuma defeated Chico 6-4, thereby assuring that the Capitals finish with the second-best overall record in the North Division. The Calgary Vipers secured the second-half title earlier in the day with their victory over the Seals, becoming the first team to win both halves of a split schedule in Golden Baseball League history. Edmonton and Calgary will start a best-of-five series on Tuesday, September 1st in Edmonton. The Vipers swept the Capitals three straight in the opening round of the 2008 playoffs.
  • Bret LeVier was back to wearing his normal socks and long pant legs in Sunday's finale. However, the spiffy throwback Red Sox hose were sported by Wilver Perez. If you know anything about the story behind these socks, please post a comment on this blog and fill us in.
  • You are pretty much guaranteed to see something off the wall at a GBL game. During Saturday night's contest I went to washroom behind the grandstand in between innings. When I walked in, there was Vipers SS Nelson Castro pulling up his pants and adjusting his jock strap. Can you imagine going to a game in Philadelphia and seeing Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins peeing in the stall beside you?!?!
  • Since it was the last homestand of the season, I moved around to get a vantage point from a number of areas at Royal Athletic. I'm a creature of habit, so I almost always sit in section 9 along the first-base line. There was a big crowd on Saturday night, so section 9 was completely packed. I moved over to the lower reserved section right behind the Vipers' dugout and was amazed by how different the vibe was compared to section 9. There were still quite a few seats unoccupied even though the first-base side was packed and a few dozen fans were even sitting in the football grandstand in the right field area. The fans on the third base side seemed a lot more easy going as compared to the first-base side which seems to have more serious baseball fans (and more serious drinkers as well). The vibe was definitely more laid back. The Vipers were quite happy to toss a baseball to youngsters in the stands on a number of occasions, something the home team doesn't have the freedom to do. The other big difference is that since it's quieter, you can hear the third base coach, third baseman, the shortstop and any runners on third converse from time to time. If my Spanish was better, I would have picked up even more. I don't ever remember being able to hear any of the conversation around first base when sitting behind the Seals dugout. I'll definitely mix it up next year and sit more often on the visitor's side.
  • Christian Stewart has posted some great photos of the Seals' final home game of 2009 on his website.
  • I sat for a few outs in the football grandstand. It's surprisingly close to the action, but seems far away to those who are used to sitting right behind the dugout or in the baseball grandstand behind home plate. Seats an equivalent distance from the pitcher's mound in Safeco Field in Seattle go for $44 USD when purchased as a walk-up, so they are still pretty close to the action. The biggest downside is that you are pointed in the wrong direction for the ballgame and have to either sit at a 45 degree angle in your seat or get a sore neck.
  • The Seals are on a Tijuana Potros / H1N1 break until Friday. They play a four-game series in Long Beach and wrap up their season on Monday night.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thoughts on the Seals' Final Homestand

A lot has happened since the Seals opened the season at home on May 29th. Almost 94,000 fans have come out to Royal Athletic Park this summer to watch some highly entertaining baseball. It wasn't always pretty, but people almost always went home satisfied -- it is pretty clear that the fans get great value for their money at a Seals game. Spending $12 on a General Admission ticket to see the Seals is a bargain compared to having to shell out $22 for the Salmon Kings. Plus you get to sit in the sun and enjoy the great outdoors.

The atmosphere at RAP has improved significantly since the May 29th opener. The team has made a number of minor tweaks (e.g. improved sound, more up-to-date music, a screen to protect fans from line drives hit foul, etc.) and the new scoreboard is a huge benefit to fans. The crowd has also become more energetic, perhaps partly because because of by the video board. Fans have even been more aggressive at catching foul balls (it was odd watching fans run out of the way of a lazy pop-up in the early part of the season). On Saturday night I witnessed a teenager with a glove make a lovely stab of a screaming liner hit into the stands. As is typical of the great fans in Victoria, a lusty cheer was offered up for the sure-handed youngster.

Now how many days until the 2010 home opener?

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Bret LeVier won some serious style points in my books on Saturday night. The Seals shortstop hiked up his pant legs and showed off some pretty cool socks. These babies weren't the Victoria Seals standard plain blue socks either. I had to snap a photo of these beauties (see the picture on the right). My guess is that they are a holdover from his days in the Boston Red Sox organization. In any event, LeVier had one of his best games of the season on Saturday night.
  • In addition to adding names to the back of the Seals home jerseys next season, I'd be ordering a bunch of the Bret LeVier socks as well.
  • The Jamar Hill Lid Watch concluded this weekend with Jamar's "Hill" sticker still sitting on the back of his batting helmet. That cracks me up.
  • The Josh Arhart pirate jokes were taken to a new level this weekend. Since the beginning of the season, fans have been chanting "Arrrrrrrr!" when Arhart is announced and steps into the batter's box. The photo of Arhart that is displayed on the video board was recently doctored to show an eye patch over his left eye. Then on Sunday, when he stepped into the box for one of his at-bats, the entire Seals bench was seen sporting eye patches.
  • Chris VanRossum was spotted on the Seals bench this weekend still wearing a cast on his right arm. It is pretty classy for the team to keep him around, given that he was injured a month ago and won't be seeing any more action this season. Let's hope the trio of Hill, VanRossum and Pedroza is back patrolling the outfield at RAP next summer.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Seals Draw Over 10,000 Fans on Final Weekend

The Victoria Seals drew 10,045 fans in their final three home games of 2009 this weekend, capping off a fabulously successful season. The team drew an amazing 93,691 fans in their 40 home games. The Seals will likely finish the season in second place in league attendance, which is exceptional for an expansion team. Victoria will definitely be back in the Golden Baseball League next season. The fact that an expansion team sitting in last place draws its largest crowd on the final day of the season says it all. Victoria has fallen in love with the Seals.

It is likely that the city of Kamloops will be granted a GBL expansion franchise in October, possibly setting up a four-team Canadian division. On Saturday night, team President Darren Parker also announced to the fans in a pre-game speech that both manager Darrell Evans and coach Dan DiPace will be returning with the club in 2010.

The crowd of 3,633 fans on Saturday night. In Sunday's home finale, 4,228 Victorian baseball fans came out to enjoy Seals baseball for the final time in 2009.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Interesting Interview with Austin Bibens-Dirkx

Here is a good article on ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx. In the piece, Bibens-Dirkx is credited for turning around the season of the Peoria Chiefs. He is also quoted as saying:
"After some phone calls, I went to the Victoria Seals in the same league," he
said. "It was awesome because it was the first year for baseball in that league.
There were 2,000 fans there every night. They were so happy they would cheer for
both teams."
See here for the full interview.

Friday, August 21, 2009

My Granny’s in Love with Wilver Perez

This post was submitted by Victoria's Poet Laureate, Linda Rogers. We are honoured to have these lovely words grace our humble blog.

(words for a song by Victoria's poet laureate)

He’s a poem in motion; the fans are impressed,
and Granny’s heart’s jumping out of her dress.

Wilver Perez!
When she says his name you know she’s in love.
It fits on her tongue like a ball in a glove.

It happens when Gramps takes his eye off the game.
While he goes for hot dogs, she steals second base.

When Wilver slides home at the top of the seventh,
she believes she has died and gone up to heaven.

The cookies are burning ‘cause Grandma’s not there.
There are weeds in her roses, but she doesn’t care.

The gem on her finger might as well be glass.
The diamond she wants is a field of grass.

But Gramps is OK; there’s a smile on his face,
‘cause her baseball hero’s his angel of grace.

Gramps is still hoping that he’ll score a kiss,
‘cause Granny’s on fire thanks to Wilver Perez.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Seals Poised for Sweep of Orange County

The Victoria Seals won their second consecutive game against the Orange County Flyers on Wednesday night, with a walk-off 4-3 win in the bottom of the ninth. The win is the team's second consecutive victory against the Flyers after they thumped OC by an 8-0 score on Tuesday night. The Seals will attempt to sweep the series on Thursday at RAP, which would be sweet considering the Flyers have three ex-major-leaguers in their starting lineup (Robert Fick, Damian Jackson and Scott Spiezio). Victoria then wraps up the season on the weekend with a three-game set against Sergio Pedroza, Isaac Hess and the rest of the Calgary Vipers.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • The Seals are neck-and-neck with the Chico Outlaws for second in league attendance. Going into Wednesday's action, Victoria was averaging 2,243 fans per game as compared to Chico's 2,203.
  • Isaac Hess took a no-decision in his debut with the Calgary Vipers on Wednesday night. He gave up 6 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings pitched as his struggles continue since being signed and unsigned by the Boston Red Sox at the All Star break. There is a chance that Hess could pitch on Sunday at RAP against the Seals.
  • Sergio Pedroza has gone 3-for-6 with 3 RBIs in his first two games with the Vipers. There will be no joy in watching him pound the Seals pitching staff on the weekend.
  • Ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx continues to roll for the Peoria Chiefs. On Monday night he raised his record to 5-1 and lowered his ERA to 1.93 since he was signed by the Cubs. Bibens-Dirkx gave up no earned runs and only 3 hits in his 6 innings of work. The Midwest League is now hitting a paltry .212 against him. When he was with the Seals, the GBL hit .260 against him. Peoria has a 3 1/2 game lead in the second-half standings so Bibens-Dirkx will likely see some action in the playoffs.
  • Josh Arhart now has the highest batting average on the Seals, with a .329 mark. Arhart batted .325 for Orange County last season.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pedroza and Hess Sold to Calgary

The Victoria Seals have traded their best pitcher and hitter, Isaac Hess and Sergio Pedroza, to the Calgary Vipers for cash and "future considerations". In Cleve Dheensaw's column in the T-C on Tuesday, the deal is portrayed as a "blockbuster trade" where "the Seals have their eyes pointed to next season." Something doesn't quite add up here.

According to Cleve's column, the Seals are due to receive four players in return. But if GBL players are typically only signed to one-year contracts, these "future considerations" are meaningless. Basically, everyone is a free-agent in the GBL off-season.

I realize that the Victoria Seals are a business and that they are entitled to make a profit for all of their hard work. But let's call a spade a spade. This "trade" was nothing but a cash sale. To portray it as a deal that helps the team in the long run is simply disingenuous. The biggest thing going for the Seals is the fact that Victoria is a great city to play pro baseball in. That in itself will attract free agents in the off-season and be much more beneficial to the team that this latest transaction.

The deal follows on the heels of the "trade" of the team's hottest pitcher, Roberto Sotolongo, to the York Revolution of the Atlantic League approximately three weeks ago. Sotolongo was traded for "future considerations" as well. We're still waiting on those.

In any event, don't let the standings or these latest transactions get you down. Baseball is a great game and get out and enjoy it before the home schedule ends on Sunday. It will be a long and rainy winter.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bibens-Dirkx Saves Ted Lilly

Seals alumnus Austin Bibens-Dirkx picked up a four-inning save on Wednesday night, preserving the win for Ted Lilly who was making a rehab start for the Peoria Chiefs. Bibens-Dirkx held the Burlington Bees to one earned run and four hits in his four innings on the mound. He walked one and struck out four, while his ERA remained a sparkling 2.18 in class "A" ball.

Since leaving Victoria in early July, Bibens-Dirkx has been keeping some pretty impressive company. In addition to Lilly, Bibens Dirkx has been sharing the Peoria clubhouse with Aramis Ramirez and Reed Johnson of the Chicago Cubs. Both Ramirez and Johnson were rehabbing injuries shortly after Bibens-Dirkx's arrival in the Midwest League.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • The Seals will not be making the playoffs in their inaugural season. Their second-half record is 10-18, leaving them 7 1/2 games behind the Calgary after being swept at home by the Vipers.

  • Has Isaac Hess checked out? Since having his heart broken for the second time this year, Hess has really struggled on the mound. In the spring, he was signed by the San Diego Padres until the team doctor raised medical concerns regarding his artificial hip. He was then signed by the Boston Red Sox after the Golden League All Star Game in July, only to suffer the same fate. At the All Star break, Hess was 8-0 with a 2.47 ERA. Since returning to the Seals, he has posted a 7.22 ERA in 28 2/3 innings, raising his season ERA to 3.86. Most alarming is his loss of control: Hess has uncharacteristically walked 17 batters in those 28 2/3 innings. My guess is that Hess is just playing out the string and will hang 'em up for good after the season. It has been a sad story to watch play out...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Interesting Dodger Stadium Photo

The next time you think beer prices are too high at RAP, have a gander at this photo for a reality check. Here are the prices at Dodger Stadium:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Are the Seals Done?

The current second-half standings show the Seals tied with the Chico Outlaws for third/last place, 4 1/2 games back of the first-place Calgary Vipers. The Seals have only 15 games remaining, 9 of which are against the Vipers. The two teams square off in a three-game series starting tonight at RAP and then they'll head back to the Snake Pit for another three games. The last three meetings between Victoria and Calgary are scheduled for August 21-23 at RAP.

Realistically, Victoria needs to go 7-2 in their remaining 9 games against the Vipers. That would vault them ahead of Calgary, assuming Victoria at least does as well against Orange County (August 18-20) as the Vipers do against Edmonton (August 17-19). On top of that, the Seals will have to gain 4 games on the Edmonton Capitals and one game on the Chico Outlaws before the season ends.

All of this seem possible, but it's quite unlikely. To have a realistic shot at it, they need to start with a three-game sweep of Calgary over the next three days -- and that won't be easy. The Vipers currently have a .649 winning percentage on the season (37-20).

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Free Baseball at RAP... With No Happy Ending

Another odd one at RAP tonight, with Chico coming out on top of the Seals 7-6 in a game that featured some of the most bizarre scoring lines of the year...

  • Starting the bottom of the sixth inning, Isaac Hess was pitching a 3-Hitter, but trailing 5-0. He wasn't helping himself this time, committing 2 errors that led directly to Outlaw runs.
  • Also starting the bottom of the sixth, Chico pitcher Wayne Franklin was throwing a no-hitter. No pitcher has thrown a no-hitter in GBL league play since June of 2005 (interestingly, also a Chico pitcher).
  • The Seals broke the no-hitter in the sixth, and scored 2 runs on a single hit. So after six, the score was 5-2 on only 4 total hits.
  • Heading to the ninth inning, the Seals were stuck on a single hit. Again, thoughts of a 1-hitter surfaced, but the GBL has also seen only a single 1-hitter in it's history. Note that by this time, Franklin was out, and Ryan Tack was on in relief. No idea if there have been more "team 1-hitters".

The ninth inning saw some rally-caps in the crowd, and they actually payed off, as Jamar Hill pushed a 3-run shot over the wall to tie the game at 6, and remove the loss from Isaac Hess's record at the same time.

The Seals were in trouble in both the 10th and 11th as relief pitcher Anthony Pluta struggled with control walking the bases loaded in the 10th, and throwing away a bunt to start the 11th that ended up with a runner on 3B with none away. Another 3 walks loaded the bases, and then forced in the winning run.

Rally-caps in the bottom of the 11th provided no spark, and the crowd left in silence as a light misting of rain fell on the field to end the game. Oh yeah, and it was a freakin-cold 15c by game's end. So much for those California-like nights of baseball!

New RAP Scoreboard Fully Operational

For those of you who haven't been out to the ballpark recently, here are a couple of pictures of the new scoreboard. As you can see from the second shot, the lights that normally would show the Seals runs in the bottom of the second inning are out -- thanks to a batting practice homer by Terry Mermer.

Seal Blubber Bits

  • Jamar Hill returned from injury on Saturday night and made his presence immediately felt. Hill hit a thrilling three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to send the game into extra innings. The home run was his 15th of the season and put him into the league lead in that category.
  • With Wilver Perez being given the night off, Bret LeVier batted leadoff on Saturday. LeVier has been much improved offensively of late and has raised his average above the Mendoza Line (.226 going into Saturday's action).
  • Ethan Katz has settled down nicely after his disastrous outing on Monday. He has pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings over the last two evenings.
  • Anthony Pluta has started his Seals career as expected. He has shown signs of dominance, but has walked 8 batters in his first 4 innings on the mound. The most costly walk forced in the winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning on Saturday night.
  • Saturday's game was the longest in Seals history. It took 4 hours and 19 minutes to play and wrapped up with Jamar Hill popping out with the tieing run at third at 11:27 PM. The game featured a grand total of 19 walks.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sergio Pedroza's Monster Season Continues

Seals rightfielder Sergio Pedroza continues to post monster offensive numbers this season. On Friday night, Pedroza went two-for-three with a three-run homer and a run-scoring double to lead Victoria to a 10-2 victory over the Chico Outlaws at RAP.

Pedroza is now batting .335 on the season. His 410-foot home run to straight-away centre in the third inning was his 14th of the season, moving him into a tie for the league lead with teammate Jamar Hill and AJ Valentine of the St. George Roadrunners. Pedroza has also moved into fourth place in the league for RBIs, with 58.

Sergio has been solid at the plate all year long. Earlier in the season, he was drawing a ton of walks and scoring lots of runs, but his power output has ramped up of late. In his last 19 games, Pedroza is hitting .408 with 8 homers and a jaw-dropping 36 RBIs.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Wilver Perez's hustle electrified the crowd a number of times on Friday night. He stole a pair of bases and scored a run on a delayed tag-up from third base on a fly ball into shallow right-centre field. The run was made possible by a beautiful hook slide at the plate that eluded the tag from the Chico catcher. Perez also made a highlight-reel play in the field, diving to his left to scoop up a ground ball and throw out the runner at first. Wilver also won the award for having the dirtiest uniform on either squad.
  • Jonny Ash of the Chico Outlaws fouled a ball off the ground and back up into his face on Friday night. The game was delayed for close to 10 minutes so the Seals trainer could attend to Ash. He remained in the game and received a nice round of applause from the classy fans at RAP when he continued his at-bat.
  • The new scoreboard has received rave reviews from fans at the ballpark. The scoreboard operator is still getting used to the setup, but it's great for the atmosphere at RAP. Hopefully the team will start posting some of the information on the board that we're use to seeing at other ballparks. For example, showing home run, RBI and stolen base totals instead of just the player's batting average. An indication of what the player has done at the plate in previous at-bats that game would also be of interest.
  • Ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx pitched another great game for the class "A" Peoria Chiefs on Thursday night. He gave up only one run in seven innings of work. Bibens-Dirkx also struck out eight and walked only one batter while raising his record to 4-1.

    He has been pitching better in affiliated ball than he did in independent baseball this season, backing up the notion that the Golden League has "AA" hitters but only "A" ball pitchers. Bibens-Dirkx had a 3.70 ERA with Victoria, but he now holds a miserly 2.18 ERA with Peoria. Also, opponents hit .260 against him in Golden League, but they're only hitting .218 against him in the Midwest League.

    There are just over four weeks left in the (affiliated) baseball season, so time is running out for a 2009 Bibens-Dirkx promotion to a higher level. However, Peoria is currently tied for first place in the second-half standings with Cedar Rapids, so there is a chance that he could see some playoff action.
  • Today is the 21st anniversary of the first night game ever at Wrigley Field. Incidentally, Wayne Gretzky was also traded by the Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings on the same day.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Revolving Door of Seals Roster Swings Again

The Victoria Seals continue to turnover their roster as quickly as a last-place CFL team. On Wednesday they signed 26-year-old right-hander Anthony Pluta to a contract. The 6'2" right-handed flame-thrower will join the team's bullpen. He pitched two hitless innings on Wednesday in relief of James Garcia, but was pulled by manager Darrell Evans after walking a pair of hitters in the 8th inning.

Pluta was at one time one of the top prospects in baseball. He was selected in the third round of the 2000 draft by the Houston Astros right out of a Las Vegas high school. As a teenager, Pluta hit 99 MPH on the radar gun and in 2002 he was ranked as the sixth-best prospect in the Astros organization. Unfortunately, that promise has not as yet been fulfilled.

Pluta was released this past Monday by the El Paso Diablos of the independent American Association with a 3-5 record and a 6.28 ERA. He struck out 35 hitters in 38 2/3 innings with the Diablos, but he also walked 22 batters. Pluta was a teammate of Seals closer Dane De la Rosa in El Paso this summer. In fact, the two of them were released by the Diablos within two weeks of one another.

Walks have been an issue throughout Pluta's amateur and professional career; he has averaged a stunning 7 walks per 9 innings in his previous 7 minor-league seasons. In 2007 with Bakersfield of the California League (Advanced "A"), Pluta looked like Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh in the movie "Bull Durham" (or perhaps Rick Ankiel?!?) and walked an unbelievable 30 batters in 18 innings. His career minor-league ERA is 6.19, so fans should temper their expectations. If he can learn to throw strikes with some consistency, Pluta will be lights out though.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Sergio Pedroza has been upgraded from red-hot to white-hot at the plate. He went 3-for-5 with another 3 RBIs on Wednesday night to raise his season average to .330. In his last 18 games, Pedroza is 29-for-73 (.397) with 7 homers and an amazing 32 RBIs. If you were to extrapolate his last 18 games into a 600 at-bat season (i.e. the typical number of at-bats in a season for a healthy regular in the majors), he'd be on pace to hit 57 homers and 263 RBIs!
  • The Seals return home on Friday night to start a 6-game homestand. Victoria will host the Chico Outlaws this weekend at RAP for the first time ever (what, no Edmonton Capitals?!?). The Outlaws are in third place in the second-half standings, one game ahead of the Seals. Remember to bring the fleece along, because those cool Victoria summer evenings are back.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New Seals Off to a Slow Start

In the last dozen days, the Seals have added four players to their roster. Let's take a look at how each has fared so far.

On Tuesday night, Aaron Trolia got rocked in an epic fashion. He gave up 11 (yes, 11) earned runs on 11 hits and 5 walks in his 4 2/3 innings of work. And work he did. Manager Darrell Evans left him in long enough to throw 107 pitches in those 4 2/3 innings. Trolia's record is 0-1 with a 14.00 ERA after his first two starts with Victoria.

Dane De la Rosa has bounced back after giving up a pair of walk-off hits in his first two appearances. He has an 0-1 record with one save and a 2.70 ERA in his 3 1/3 innings of relief. He struck out a pair of Roadrunners in his one inning on Tuesday night, so he appears headed in the right direction with his new club. If all goes well, De la Rosa will be the Seals' closer for the rest of the way.

The two recent additions to the outfield, Gabriel Riley and Billy Krause have not fared so well at the plate, to say the least. In fact, their performance has pushed shortstop Bret LeVier out of his customary ninth spot in the batter order and up into the seven hole. Riley is batting .171 in his 35 at-bats with 1 homer and 3 RBIs. Krause, on the other hand, has been a total bust offensively. He's batting (and slugging!) a paltry .154 in 26 at-bats. He has zero homers and one RBI. Most alarming is the fact that he has struck out in 10 of his 26 at-bats.

Based on Victoria's 7-14 record in the second half and the direction this team seems to be heading, August could be a very long month for the Seals. They also have 9 games remaining against Calgary, the team with the best overall record in the league (37-20, or a .638 winning percentage). Let's hope the team rallies and ends the season on a high note.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • St. George beat Victoria on Monday and Tuesday by identical 15-9 scores. Scoring 18 runs in two consecutive losses must be a tough pill to swallow for the team's hitters. Unfortunately, this kind of thing isn't out of place in the Golden League.
  • This tells you how much better the Golden League hitters are as compared to the pitchers: Carlos Arroyo of the Yuma Scorpions is batting .357 on the season. Amazingly, that's not a high enough batting average to get him into the league's top ten!! On the other hand, only 10 pitchers in the league (min. 0.8 innings per team-games) have an ERA under 4.38.
  • After being second-last in the league in home runs in early June, the Seals have been hitting taters at an amazing clip. They now lead the league in homers with a whopping 69 round-trippers. Jamar Hill is tied for the league lead with 14 and Sergio Pedroza is tied for third in the league with 13 homers.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Turning Point for Ethan Katz in 2009

Ethan Katz continued his struggles on the mound on Monday night in St. George Utah. After the Seals rallied from a 12-1 deficit to close the gap to 12-9, Ethan Katz entered the bottom of the eighth hoping to keep his team close and help sustain their momentum. Unfortunately, Katz gave up three runs on five hits in his inning of work and Victoria fell by a 15-9 score to the Roadrunners. The three runs raised his ERA to 8.01 on the season.

Katz, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2007, was released last year by the Colorado Rockies organization after pitching decently for the Asheville Tourists. Like everyone in independent baseball, he hoped that 2009 would be a comeback season for him. All started well, as Katz had a 3.18 ERA for the Seals going into a fateful game against the Edmonton Capitals on June 19th at Royal Athletic Park. On that cool and windy evening, Katz took to the mound in the top of the ninth inning with the Seals out front 7-5. Closer Javier Garcia would normally have taken to the hill in search of the save, but he was unavailable that night after appearing in the previous three games. Katz couldn't keep the Capitals at bay and they rallied for a pair of runs in the ninth to knot the score at 7-7. The Seals would eventually suffer a heartbreaking 10-7 loss in 11 innings. It seems that Ethan Katz has still not recovered from that blown save.

Since Katz took to the hill on that chilly June evening, he sports a woeful 9.64 ERA. Perhaps most surprising is his loss of command: he's given up 13 walks in the 18 2/3 innings he has since pitched. This is very surprising from a guy who has only walked 2.1 batters per nine innings in his minor-league career. He's also given up 27 hits in those 18 2/3 innings. Let's hope that Katz hit bottom on Monday night and that he bounces back real soon.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bibens-Dirkx a Step Closer to a Promotion

Ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx continued to make his case that he doesn't belong in "A" ball on Saturday night by dominating the South Bend Silver Hawks in a 3-2 victory. Bibens-Dirkx (3-1) allowed four hits and two earned runs in eight innings of work. He struck out five and walked one Silver Hawks batter. After allowing a two-run homer to Isaias Asencio with two outs in the fifth inning, Bibens-Dirkx retired the last 10 batters that he faced on the night. He now sports a nifty 2.36 ERA for the Peoria Chiefs.

Bibens-Dirkx is the oldest player on the Chiefs roster and has been dominating the less experienced hitters in the Midwest League (opponents are hitting .207 in his 34 1/3 innings pitched). It's time for the Cubs to challenge him by promoting him to Advanced "A" or "AA" ball.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Aaron Trolia In; Roberto Sotolongo Out

Aaron Trolia made a surprise start for the Victoria Seals on Thursday afternoon. My first response was: Who is Aaron Trolia? Here is what I have uncovered.

The 28-year-old righty was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 27th round of the 2004 draft. Prior to signing professionally, he played for both Clemson and Washington State Universities. He has experience as both a starter and reliever, but has had more success as a starter in his career. That's the role he'll be asked to perform with the Seals. In Thursday's start, Trolia gave up five hits and three earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out five Edmonton Capitals.

Trolia didn't see a ton of success initially in his pro career and was released in 2007 after posting a 6.91 ERA with the Mariners' AA affiliate. He's had some success in independent baseball, posting a 1.64 ERA in 22 innings with El Paso in 2007 and a 3.97 ERA with the Joliet (Illinois) Jackhammers of the Northern League last season. He's a strikeout pitcher who has struggled at times with his control. In 2008, Trolia struck out 10.1 batters per nine innings, but he also walked 4.3 per nine. He was also named the Northern League Pitcher of the Week for the week ending July 28, 2008.

Trolia returned to the Jackhammers this season, but was placed on the inactive list on June 19th. He last pitched two days earlier and he finished up his 2009 season in Joliet with a 6.11 ERA. Trolia was traded to Victoria on July 15th, but to the best of my knowledge the trade was not announced by the Seals or the Golden League at the time.

To make room on the Seals' roster, Roberto Sotolongo was traded to a team in the Atlantic League for future considerations. Sotolongo was leading the Seals in ERA with a 2.68 mark and had become possibly their best pitcher over the last month or so. It appears that the team might be worse off in what is effectively a Sotolongo for Trolia swap right now. Perhaps the Seals will receive future considerations from Sotolongo's new team and that will change this equation, but we'll have to wait and see how it plays out.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • The recently-traded Carlos Duncan made the Seals pay again on Thursday. The Capitals' new third baseman hit a pair of solo homers on the day and went 5-for-13 with 3 homers and 5 RBIs in the three-game series. He also committed one error in the field in his eight chances.
  • Phil Sobkow pitched two scoreless innings for Victoria to lower his ERA to a respectable 4.61.
  • Jamar Hill and Terry Mermer both homered on Thursday. Mermer now has 5 homers in only 49 at-bats and leads the team with a .633 slugging percentage.
  • Thursday's game marked the 24th and final game between Victoria and Edmonton in 2009.
  • Only 12 more home games remain this season, split across a pair of 6-game homestands. The team will host Calgary six more times and the Chico Outlaws and Orange County Flyers three games apiece.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Wacky Wednesday at RAP

Baseball is one of those games you can watch for years and years - and yet regularly, see something you have never seen happen before in a game. Wednesday night at RAP with the Seals hosting the Edmonton Capitals was just one of those occasions.

With the Seals batting in the bottom of the first inning, Jamar Hill was announced as the 3rd hitter of the night. Before he gets to the plate, Darrell Evans walks down from third and engages home plate umpire Azeem Jessa in a heated discussion that brings the rest of the field crew over. Hill takes a seat on the bench, and Capitals starting pitcher Kris Honel is left to keep throwing warm-up pitches for the next 8 minutes while the discussion rages.

Eventually, the argument subsides and the game returns - but not before Evans returns to the Seals bench, and then storms back toward Jessa for some last comments. At this point I'm thinking he's been tossed, but he continues past the umpire crew to his spot at third base, and Hill takes the plate for his AB. A couple innings later, an announcement is made that the Seals are playing this game under protest. If that isn't odd enough, leading off the second inning for the Seals is the pitcher, Issac Hess. Again, I'm thinking are we that hard-up for a DH that we're letting Isaac bat for himself? And in the 6 spot no less...

Sitting behind the Seals dugout, word begins to filter out as to what has happened. It seems that the lineup card submitted by the Seals inadvertently contained two Right Fielders and no DH. New Seal Gabriel Riley was supposed to start in RF, with Pedroza acting as the DH - but both were listed as right fielders. Once Pedroza batted in the first, the Capitals brought the error to the attention of the umpire, and the Seals could do nothing but remove Riley from the game, and use the pitcher to bat in his place.

Confused? Yeah try figuring it out while it's happeneing right in front of you. And who says nothing interesting happens in baseball! It could have been a critical error however, as twice the Seals had bases loaded, 1 out, and the pitcher up. Both times they struck out, and no runs scored in the inning.

Some other interesting observations from the game (and there were plenty to choose from):
  • When I was parking, my car said it was 32c. When I got back to it, it was still 28c. That's a warm night at the park! Not a breeze to speak of either, but the heat made considerably better by the Vitamin Water samples that were being given away throughout the night. Great day for that promotion!
  • The scoreboard looks great - except that it was hammered in the pre-game warmup, and the second inning score lights were out. Perhaps if you're going to mount a $400k scoreboard in the power alley, a protective screen might be a good investment...?
  • Mini doughnuts rock!
  • Isaac Hess, in his second at bat, had all of the Capital infielders right on the front edge of the dirt, the same way the fielders come in close when a girl is up in slow-pitch. Hess laced a ground ball to where the 2B man SHOULD have been, and drove in 2 runs. He went 1-4 on the day with 3 K's, but it was great to see his reaction standing on first after the hit.
  • Good fun in the bottom of the 8th when pitcher Ethan Katz was at the dish. He fouled a liner into the Seals dugout that rattled around and got everyone off the bench. As the next pitch came in, the whole team including the entire coaching staff was ducking for cover behind the dugout fence - including on-deck hitter Wilver Perez.
  • For once, I have no issues with Carlos Duncan making an error at third. I liked the guy a lot, but I don't miss the E's at 3B.
  • Man, Walter Young (Capitals DH) is huge. After getting plonked for the second time in the game, he took the inside route to first, and was walked along by the ump, as well as by catcher Matt Kavanaugh. Had Young snapped, it would have been a scene out of "When Animals Attack", with Kavanaugh caught between a momma bear and her cubs.

In all, a great game. Awesome to have Hess back at the park. He was in command most of the night, only giving up earned runs thanks to 3 opposite field hits by the capitals. Timely hitting, beautiful weather, and a good crowd on hand (just over 2400).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Victoria Highlanders vs Seals Attendance

Finding exact attendance figures for the Victoria Highlanders of the USL Premier Development League (PDL) is not exactly straight forward. In an earlier post I noted that through their first five home games, the Highlanders drew a total of 8,110 fans or 1,622 fans per game. I scoured the web and noted that their attendance for their last three home games this year was:
  • July 5, 2009 - 1,637 (source: Victoria Highlanders web site)
  • July 16, 2009 - "close to 2,000" (source: Victoria Times-Colonist)
  • July 19, 2009 - 2,205 (source: Victoria Times-Colonist)

For argument's sake, let's assume that attendance on July 16th was 1,900 (it may have been lower). That brings the Highlanders' total attendance for 2009 to 13,852 or 1,732 per game.

By contrast, the Victoria Seals have drawn 58,239 fans through their first 26 home games. That translates to an average of 2,239 fans per game -- second best in the entire Golden Baseball League. If we extrapolate these numbers, the Seals are on pace to draw 91,838 fans.

So there you have it: 13,852 Victorians went out to a state-of-the-art facility to watch a fairly decent team play pro soccer in the summer of 2009 (the Highlanders had a 6-6-2 record). Meanwhile, close to 92,000 fans went out to a 1950's style stadium to watch a last-place team play pro baseball (the Seals had a 22-33 record going into Wednesday's action). Put another way, for every fan who went to watch pro soccer, close to 7 others attended a Victoria Seals game. That bodes well for the Seals in 2010.