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.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Carlos Duncan Leads Caps Over Victoria

Eight days after being traded from Victoria to the Edmonton Capitals, Carlos Duncan returned to Royal Athletic Park on Tuesday night and stuck it to his old team. Duncan hit a homer and a double in five at-bats and knocked in three runs to help the Capitals trounce the Seals 11-4. Luckily for Victoria, the Calgary Vipers lost 3-2 to the Tucson Toros, so the Seals didn't fall any further back out of first place in the second-half standings. Victoria, now 5-9 since the start of the new season, remains five games back of the Vipers.

Seal Blubber Bits

  • Good news: the new scoreboard at RAP was up and running on Tuesday!!
  • Sergio Pedroza continued his red-hot hitting on Tuesday night. He hit his 11th home run of the year to put him one behind Jamar Hill for the team lead. Over his last 10 games, Pedroza is hitting .429 with 5 homers and 19 RBI. His 41 RBIs on the season puts him into a tie for the team lead with Hill. By the way, Pedroza has a better batting average (.326 vs .280) and slugging percentage (.578 vs .498) than Hill.
  • Brian Rios was able to return to action on Tuesday night. His ankle wasn't strong enough to allow him to play third base, but he DH'd and went 1-for-3 on the night. Terry Mermer played third base in Rios' place and he did not have any balls hit his way.
  • OF Billy Krause has been riding the pine since his shaky professional debut. He went 0-for-7 with 4 strikeouts in his first two games with the Seals.
  • Isaac Hess is expected to take to the mound on Wednesday night in his first RAP start since he was signed by the Red Sox and then returned to the Seals due to medical concerns about his artificial hip.
  • On Monday night, ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx had his most impressive performance since joining the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League. Bibens-Dirkx pitched the first 9-inning complete game for the Chiefs since 2006 and raised his record to 2-1 with his new team. He gave up one earned run and only allowed five hits while lowering his ERA to a sparkling 2.39. Bibens-Dirkx didn't walk a batter and struck out seven Wisconsin Timber Rattlers on the night. In spite of the fact that Peoria had 12 hits during the game, it was played in a brisk one hour and fifty-two minutes. One or two more impressive outings like this and Bibens-Dirkx will be promoted to Advanced A (Daytona Cubs) or AA (Tennessee Smokies).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Seals Salvage a Game in Tucson

The Victoria Seals did in fact bounce back from their humiliating loss on Saturday night, knocking off the Toros 5-3 on Sunday to salvage a game from their three-game series.

Terry Mermer redeemed himself after a poor game in the field on Saturday. He went 2-for-4 with a homer and 3 RBI on Sunday to help the Seals break their five-game losing streak. Mermer now has 4 homers and 11 RBIs in only 38 at-bats with the Seals. He's batting seventh for the team, but he'll be moved up in the order if he keeps hitting like he has been of late.

Eduardo Baeza (2-7) earned the victory by pitching 1 1/3 innings of perfect baseball. Dane De la Rosa picked up his first save as a Victoria Seal by pitching a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth inning. Starter Javier Garcia had a decent start, giving up only two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings of work. He gave up six hits, walked two and struck out three Toros.

The Seals return to RAP on Tuesday night with a 7:05 game against the Edmonton Capitals. Isaac Hess will be pitching on either Tuesday or Wednesday night, so be sure to come on out and cheer him on.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Seals in Free Fall

Last night's shocking 13-12 loss to the Tucson Toros, their fifth in a row, was a loss for the ages. After scoring 10 runs in the top of the second, the Seals let 10-0 and 12-2 leads go by the boards en route to their most difficult loss of the season. It's pretty difficult to see this team recovering from such a heart-breaking loss. The Seals are now 6 games back of the Calgary Vipers in the second-half standings and a whopping 8 1/2 games behind the Edmontol Capitals on the season. It's going to take a minor miracle for this team to make the playoffs.

The culprit last night was shoddy fielding. Victoria made eight miscues on the night, including three errors by Terry Mermer on only four chances. Mermer is normally an outfielder and first baseman, but he played third base in place of the injured Brian Rios. Backup third baseman Carlos Duncan was traded last week to the Edmonton Capitals, so Mermer has been pressed into service at third for the Tucson series. Let's hope Rios' injured ankle is improving, because the Seals are really missing his glove work. If Mermer's defensive struggles continue, I wouldn't be surprised to see Pedro Montero filling in at third until Rios is ready to return.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Newcomer Dane De la Rosa has got off to a rough start with the Seals. He gave up both walk-off hits in the bottom of the ninth inning on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • Light-hitting Billy Krause has also struggled in his first couple of games with the team. Krause is 0-for-7 with 4 strikeouts.
  • Sergio Pedroza is quietly putting together a solid season offensively for the Seals. After hitting his tenth homer of the year on Saturday night, Pedroza is now batting .330 with 38 RBIs. He also has a .440 on-base percentage and a .575 slugging percentage.
  • The team plays a rare Sunday night game to conclude the Tucson series before returning to RAP on Tuesday night to start a three-game set against the Edmonton Capitals. Isaac Hess should receive a heroe's welcome when he starts. It will also be interesting to see how Carlos Duncan plays against the Seals, roughly one week after being traded away.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Riley and Krause Bolster Seals Outfield

With the curious departure of Carlos Duncan, it appears that Sergio Pedroza may be the team's new DH. With Pedroza's right field position open and Chris VanRossum's season-ending injury, that leaves two outfield positions to be filled. Enter the new Seals, Garbriel Riley and Billy Krause.

On Friday night, Riley batted sixth and played in right field. The 25-year-old went undrafted after playing baseball for Missouri Valley College, an NAIA school. Riley has one plus seasons of independent ball under his belt, having played for the Chico Outlaws in 2008 and part of this season. He was released by the Outlaws on July 4th after batting .253 with 3 homers and 14 RBIs in 83 at-bats. In 135 at-bats last season, he hit .319 with 3 homers and 23 RBIs. In addition to a good eye at the plate, he has a bit of speed: 10 steals in his 218 at-bats with the Outlaws. He doesn't look like an impact player, but he'll likely be fun to watch play the game. He might even run down a fly ball or two in the cavernous foul territory at Royal Athletic.

Billy Krause batted eighth and played center field for the Seals on Friday night in his professional debut. He's a product of the University of Portland Pilots and a native of Seattle. Krause had a grand total of 307 at-bats in his five seasons on the Pilots, so he is not likely to set the Golden League on fire. His highest batting average was in 2007 when he hit .224. He didn't show much power, speed or plate discipline at the NCAA level, but I'm sure he's a nice fellow. My guess is that he'll show great hustle and be happy to have the opportunity to play pro ball. Then again, maybe he'll shock us all...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Four Players Added to Seals Roster

Darrell Evans must have been racking up the long distance minutes over the last few days, because the Seals added four players to their roster during the "Tijuana break". In addition to Isaac Hess, the three new Seals are outfielders Gabriel Riley and Billy Krause and pitcher Dane De la Rosa.

As was reported by our alert blog reader Terry, the Seals traded away Carlos Duncan to the Edmonton Capitals at the end of last weekend for a player to be named later. To make enough room for the new Seals, the team released the injured Chris Van Rossum (who is out for the rest of the year) and placed third-baseman Brian Rios and pitcher Phil Sobkow on the inactive list.

Let's take a quick look at the Seals' new closer: 26-year-old flame-thrower Dane De la Rosa.

De la Rosa was drafted by the Yankees in the 24th round of the 2002 draft. Back problems limited him to only 45 innings in the Yankees organization from 2002-2004 before he was released. De la Rosa did quite well when he was healthy enough to take the mound, tallying a 3.00 ERA in 2003 and a 2.75 ERA in 2004. Perhaps George Castanza had a hand in the decision to let him go.

De la Rosa struggled in independent baseball in 2005, posting a 6.45 ERA for the Yuma Scorpions. After taking the next season off, he returned to the Golden League with a vengeance in 2007 and 2008. In fact, De la Rosa was signed by the Milwaukee Brewers organization at the end of the 2007 season, but he didn't make any minor-league appearances as a result. He struck out 10.3 batters per nine innings with Long Beach in 2007 and 10.4 batters per nine with league-champion Orange County last season. He also racked up 14 saves and was coached by -- you guessed it -- Seals manager Darrell Evans.

De la Rosa played for the El Paso Diablos of the independent American Association this season but things did not go so well. He was released on July 18th after amassing a 1-4 record with an 8.07 ERA and one save. He struck out 38 in 35 2/3 innings, but control was a bit of an issue (as it has been throughout his career). De la Rosa walked over five batters per nine innings with the Diablos and opponents hit .340 against him. We'll see if a reunion with Darrell Evans will provide another spark for his pitching career. With the recent struggles of Javier Garcia, the Seals sure could use a reliable closer right now.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Seals Alumni Watch

Austin Bibens-Dirkx was roughed up in his fourth outing with the Peoria Chiefs on Wednesday night in the Class 'A' Midwest League. Making his first start in affiliated ball in 2009, Bibens-Dirkx gave up four earned runs in five innings of work. He gave up a pair of homers, including a mammoth 450-foot shot to Mike McDade of the Lansing Lugnuts. On the plus side, Bibens-Dirkx did not walk a batter and struck out four. In his four appearances, he is 1-1 with a 3.12 ERA and 0.98 WHIP.

No word yet on Isaac Hess. You would have thought that the Red Sox would have assigned him to one of their affiliates by now. Let's hope that his artificial hip is not an issue and that he has passed his physical.

UPDATE: Isaac Hess will be rejoining the Seals and will pitch on Friday. See for details.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I think that we all agree that having baseball back in Victoria is a wonderful thing. And with that privilege comes responsibility - a responsibility to be educated on the history of this noble game...or at least some inane facts that we can throw around so it at least looks like we know what we're talking about. Here are 5 quick historical snapshots that you can fold up and put in your pocket for the next time you are at the yard.

Did you know...

1) The song Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond is played before the 8th inning of every home Red Sox games (ask Issac!). As well, you'll hear it again and again at all the bars that you go to after the game...and everyone sings along. Why you ask? While there are many urban myths, the real reason is that the musical director for the Sox - Amy Tobey - started playing it between innings just because she has heard it played at some other events in the mid-late 1990's. Randomly played at first, then only if the Sox were winning after the 7th, and finally when the Sox changed ownership in 2002, the new owners asked that it be played before the 8th inning at every game. Experience it at Fenway some day, pure magic.

2) Shoeless Joe Jackson (a.ka. Joseph Jefferson Jackson) really did earn his nickname by playing in his socks (they were probably Black Sox!). In a minor league game, Joe was trying out a new pair of spikes and they gave him blisters so the next day so he ended up playing without anything but his stockings on his feet.

3) Stirrups came into being in baseball's early days, when players wore knickers and coloured stockings. In those days, textile dyes could run and a player risked blook poisoning if they got spiked and the dye made its way into the wound. In about 1910, because of this, the open-stpye stirrup took prominence and a white undersock - or "sani" was worn beneath the coloured "stirrups" and thus the classic look was started. In the '40's, the stirrup got larger and with colourfast dyes, became irrelevant. With the sani sock no longer needed, it all came down to fashion (ask Manny!).

4) The Mendoza line - usually depicting a .200 batting average - can be attributed to the Kansas City Royals Mario Mendoza. There is some debate on this though and while the popular theory is that George Brett coined the phrase in an interview saying that he didn't want to hit below the "Mendoza Line", it was actually initiated by Tom Paciorek who was a joker and played with Mario every day. But since Brett had the popularity card, when he dropped this phrase in an interview, the media leapt on it. There are some that even think it was named after Chriostobal "Minnie" Mendoza, a .300 minor league hitter in the '60's who only hit .188 with the Twins in 16 games his 1970 debut year. This has a weak premise though so we'll go with Mario who played from mid-70's to mid-80's.

5) The origin of the DH began officially on Jan 11, 1973 when the American League owners diverged from the Senior loop owners and decided to go forward with a designated pinch-hitter for the pitchers (typically the weak hitters of the team). As early as 1906, Connie Mack suggested this and it was reviewed several times throughout history and shot down every time until the AL - who trailed the NL in run production and attendance - decided their game needed a little more offense. This was the biggest rule change since 1903 when it was decided that foul balls were considered strikes. Originally a 3 year experiment, it has now been adopted by most minor league and amateur teams (like the GBL!) as well. For the record, the first DH was Ron Blomberg of the NY Yankees and he was walked by Luis Tiant.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

RAP Improvements Continue

The base and framework for the new video screen have been erected and it looks like it will be operational in the near future. I'd be surprised if it isn't ready for the July 28-30 series versus (you guessed it) the Edmonton Capitals. As you can see from the photo below, it dwarfs the old scoreboard.

The other small change I noticed at the ballyard is that there are signs on the home run fence indicating the distances to left, centre and right field. According to the signs, it's only 317 feet down the left field line, a respectable 400 feet to straight-away centre and an above average 330 feet down the right field line. I always suspected that the left field fence was significantly closer than the right field one and the signs confirm it. Unfortunately for guys like Jamar Hill who hit most of their homers to left field, their home run totals don't seem quite as impressive as before.

The organization also added screens along the first and third base lines a few weeks ago. I normally sit in section 8 or 9, and the early-season games were a bit nerve-wracking when players swung late or had a check swing that rocketed a line drive into the stands. Kudos to the Seals organization for doing the little things to make the old ballyard seem as cozy as possible.

Seal Blubber Bits

  • Losing Isaac Hess and Austin Bibens-Dirkx to the big leagues was a big blow to the Seals' second-half chances. On Saturday night, the team took another hit when injuries to Chris VanRossum and Brian Rios occurred. VanRossum suffered a broken wrist and was seen sporting a cast on his right arm at the ballpark on Sunday. Rios was more fortunate and only suffered a sprained ankle. Sergio Pedroza moved over to VanRossum's centre field spot on Sunday and Terry Mermer started in right field. Mermer will see lots of playing time while VanRossum mends his broken wrist. The team will definitely miss Rios' fielding at the hot corner.
  • Brett Flowers continued his hot hitting on Sunday, going 4-for-5 with 2 homers and 5 RBIs. On Thursday night, he went 3-for-4 with a homer and 7 RBIs. Flowers is now third on the team in RBIs with 30.
  • Walter Young of the Edmonton Capitals made his debut with the team this past weekend at RAP. He DH'd for the first three games, but played first base on Sunday afternoon. Young, who played briefly with the Baltimore Orioles in 2005, is best known for being the heaviest player in Major League Baseball history. He's generously listed at 6' 5" and 290 pounds.
  • The Seals' next game is Friday night in Tucson.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Seal Blubber Bits for July 16th

Here is the first installment of Seal Blubber Bits for the second half:
  • The preparatory work at the base of the new scoreboard at RAP was completed by Daktronics during the All Star break. The new video screen should be fully installed by the end of this month. If it's not ready for the July 28-30 series versus Edmonton then it will likely be set to go for the August 7-9 series against the Chico Outlaws. The board will greatly improve the fan experience at the ol' ballyard.
  • Even though it was a sunny evening on Thursday, there was a short "rain" delay at RAP. The sprinklers went on briefly in the top of the 8th inning to everyone's surprise.
  • Josh Arhart hit in the cleanup position on Thursday night. Let's hope this change is permanent: going into the game, Arhart had a .600 slugging percentage as opposed to Jamar Hill's .540 mark. Arhart was also MVP of the final round of the Golden League playoffs last year, so he's a clutch performer.
  • The scheduled starters for the Seals on Friday and Saturday night are Roberto Sotolongo (2-1, 2.41 ERA) and Chris Bodishbaugh (2-0, 6.46 ERA), respectively. Bodishbaugh got his first start of the season last Friday in Edmonton and gave up 4 earned runs in his 5 2/3 innings.
  • Sunday's starter for Victoria has not been determined. Could it be that the best local prospect at Saturday's tryout camp will get the start? Not likely, but it's fun to speculate.
  • Austin Bibens-Dirkx had his third consecutive strong outing on Wednesday night for the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League. The ex-Seal pitched 3 innings of relief and gave up 1 earned run on 3 hits, 0 walks and 3 strikeouts. His ERA "rose" to 1.46 in his 12 1/3 innings pitched since he signed with the Chicago Cubs organization.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Breaking News -- Isaac Hess a Red Sox

As predicted in my July 4th post "Bibens-Dirkx Signed by Chicago Cubs" (and contrary to opinions expressed in the T-C), Isaac Hess was the second Seals player to be signed by an MLB team this year. Hess was signed by the Boston Red Sox during last night's Golden League All Star Game.

This is a big blow to the team's chances in the second half. With their top two starters now signed by big-league organizations, Roberto Sotolongo is the only reliable starter currently on the Seals roster. Who knows, maybe Saturday's tryout camp in Victoria will unearth some local pitching talent.

James Garcia Joins Seals Rotation

The Seals signed 29-year-old righty James Garcia last Thursday and have added him to their starting rotation in place of the struggling Eduardo Baeza. The signing gives the Seals two J. Garcia's on their pitching staff -- the other of course being closer Javier Garcia.

James Garcia is a strikeout pitcher who has played the last couple of seasons in independent ball after spending parts of three seasons at the 'AAA' level. He put up some impressive strikeout numbers early in his career, especially at lower levels of affiliated baseball. Garcia has struggled in independent ball, posting a 6.55 ERA with two teams in the Atlantic and Northern Leagues in 2007. Last year with the Yuma Scorpions, he had a 6.14 ERA and 12 saves as a closer.

The problem for James Garcia throughout his career (aside from giving up too many hits) has been walks. Last year with Yuma he struck out 10.2 batters per nine innings, but gave up 4.9 walks per nine innings. In his first start with the Seals on Thursday, Garcia gave up three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out three and only walked one.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bibens-Dirkx Continues to Roll for Peoria

Austin Bibens-Dirkx had a second consecutive strong outing for the Class 'A' Peoria Chiefs on Friday night. The ex-Seals pitched 5 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball and only gave up three hits. He walked none and struck out two to lower his ERA to 0.96 in his two relief outings.

If Bibens-Dirkx keeps this up, he'll be in 'AA' ball by the beginning of August at the latest. He is old for the Midwest League, but the Cubs were smart to put him at a level where he would have initial success to allow him to build confidence in affiliated professional baseball. In an interview before he left Victoria to join the Chiefs, Bibens-Dirkx noted that he was trying to get out of 'A' ball as quickly as possible. That just might happen.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Thirsty Thursday - Tacoma Style

Well we survived Tacoma's version of Thirsty Thursday: $2 beers, $1 hot dogs and about 8 Hooters girls on the party deck. Needless to say, it was an interesting evening. Victoria sure could use a little excitement like this on those warm Thursday summer evenings...

DJ enjoys a damn fine beer

The party deck at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma

Thursday, July 9, 2009

On Hiatus

The four musketeers will be attending Baseball Extravaganza XIII this weekend, so you will most likely not see any blog posts relating to the Victoria Seals until Monday.

BBE XIII will be held in Seattle (for the first time) from Friday to Sunday and we'll squeeze in a side trip to see the Tacoma Rainiers on Thursday for a Thirsty Thursday promotion ($2 beers!!). Believe it or not, that's not the cheapest beer for a Thirsty Thursday. The Asheville Tourists (Asheville, NC) offer $1 drafts on Thirsty Thursdays. With the possible exception of Fireworks Night, Thirsty Thursday is the most popular promotion in minor-league baseball. Too bad the members of the temperance movement at Victoria City Hall will most likely never allow a Thirsty Thursday in our fair city.

(Right) An advertisement for Binghamton New York's Thirsty Thursday promotion. (Below) Thirsty Thursday at PGE Park in Portland. Nobody is watching the game, but they are all having a great time!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Did You Know...

  • Carlos Duncan is tied for 5th in the league in errors with 11?
  • Bret LeVier is tied for 2nd in the league in hitting into double plays with 8?
  • Wilver Perez is tied for 4th in the league in doubles with 14?
  • Wilver Perez is 7th in the league in stolen bases with 12?
  • Wilver Perez is tied for 8th in the league in hits with 52?
  • Jamar Hill and Sergio Pedroza are 2nd and 3rd in the league in walks with 30 and 27, respectively?
  • Jamar Hill is tied for 3rd in the league in striking out with 39?
  • Jamar Hill is 6th in the league in RBIs with 36?
  • Jamar Hill is 7th in the league in runs scored with 35?
  • Eduardo Baeza leads the league in earned runs with 46, a full 7 runs ahead of the pitcher who has surrendered the 2nd most?
  • Eduardo Baeza leads the league in giving up home runs with 12 -- 33% more than the pitcher who has served up the 2nd most?
  • Eduardo Baeza is 6th in the league in giving up hits with 63?
  • Austin Bibens-Dirkx was the only Seal to pitch a complete game in the first half of the season?
  • Isaac Hess is third in the league in innings pitched with 56 1/3 innings?
  • Rain-outs cause bloggers to look up rather mundane statistics?

Bibens-Dirkx Wins Debut for Peoria Chiefs

Seals alumnus Austin Bibens-Dirkx was the winning pitcher on Monday night in his debut for the Peoria Chiefs, the class "A" affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. He pitched in relief and threw four innings in which he gave up one earned run, four hits, one walk and one strikeout.

The biggest stat that jumps out at you is the one strikeout -- quite low for a pitcher who was leading the Golden League in K's. Bibens-Dirkx is the oldest player on the Peoria team, so he will have to step it up if he is to advance to "AA" in 2009. Given the blur that his life has been in the last four days, it's reasonable to expect that he'll have a more dominant showing his next time out on the mound for the Chiefs. On behalf of all Victoria baseball fans: Go Austin!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Newest Seal: Terry Mermer

On Sunday, the Seals released Trevor Davidson and signed outfielder and first baseman Terry Mermer. Davidson had been locked in a fight for playing time in center field with Chris VanRossum, but Davidson's release means that VanRossum's job is safe for now.

Mermer is a 25-year-old slugger who was released by the Calgary Vipers on June 8th. He was hitting .256 with 1 homer and 8 RBIs in 10 games. He also struck out 13 times in 39 at-bats. Mermer is in his second year of professional baseball after having played for Orange County last season. He hit .235 with 5 homers and 15 RBIs in only 51 at-bats. Projected out onto a full season, his 21 strikeouts in those 51 at-bats would even make Rob Deer blush.

Mermer played baseball for the Cal State San Bernardino Coyotes, a Division II team (Trevor Davidson played Division III baseball). He obviously has a lot of power when he does make contact and it appears that he may share playing time in RF with Sergio Pedroza or act as a pinch hitter in key late-game situations. Mermer got his first start of the season on Monday afternoon and he went 1-for-4 with a two-run homer.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Josh Arhart, Javier Garcia, Isaac Hess, Jamar Hill and Wilver Perez will represent the Seals at the Golden Baseball League All Star Game on July 14th in St George, Utah. Details are here.
  • Carlos Duncan was replaced by Pedro Montero at 3B on Monday after Duncan committed his 10th and 11th errors of the season on Sunday. Montero went 2-for-4 with a run scored and raised his average to .140.
  • The first half of the season officially ended on Monday. The Calgary Vipers and St George Roadrunners clinched playoff spots by winning their respective divisions.
  • The Seals finished the first half with a 17-24 record, finishing 9 games back of the Vipers, 6 games back of the Edmonton Capitals and 4 games back of the Chico Outlaws. If the Vipers win the second half, then the team with the best combined record in the North Division will face them in the first round of the playoffs.
  • If you take away the disastrous 1-7 road trip to start the season, Victoria was 16-17 the rest of the way.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Seals Thumped 17-9; Baeza Lit Up Again

Victoria was hammered 17-9 on Sunday by the Edmonton Capitals at Royal Athletic Park. Both shoddy pitching and erratic defense were the culprit, as the Seals made three errors that resulted in six unearned runs. The Victoria starter, Eduardo Baeza, was lit up in a major way in his third consecutive outing. Over his last three starts, Baeza has given up 23 earned runs in 8 1/3 innings. His record is now 1-7 with a 9.20 ERA. You have to wonder how much longer manager Darrell Evans will keep trotting Baeza out there.

Both Wilver Perez and Brian Rios had 4 RBIs in the game. Perez hit a pair of homers and Rios also clubbed a round-tripper. Matt Kavanaugh had a rough go of it behind the plate as the Capitals ran on him at will and stole a whopping 8 bases in 8 attempts. Kavanaugh also had a passed ball that led to an unearned run in the second inning.

Carlos Duncan struggled once again at third base as he committed a pair of errors. Brian Rios, whose groin injury must not be fully healed, was the DH on Sunday. Hopefully Rios will be healthy enough to play third base in the near future.

After a tough Sunday at the ballyard, the Seals can take solace in the fact that they will be tied for first place on Tuesday morning. The first half of the season ends on Monday, so all teams will have their records reset at 0-0. After closing out the first half on Monday against the Capitals, the Seals will open the second half with a three-game set against the Yuma Scorpions at RAP.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Seals Beat Caps in Extras

After blowing 4-0 and 6-4 leads, the Victoria Seals hung on and won in 10 innings on Saturday night with a 7-6 victory over the Edmonton Capitals. Trevor Davidson, who pinch-ran for Josh Arhart, scored the winning run on an infield grounder by Chris VanRossum. Arhart started the inning by getting hit by a pitch, the 8th time he has done so this season. Talk about taking one for the team...

Roberto Sotolongo pitched another great game for the Seals, giving up only three hits with no walks in six scoreless innings. He lowered his ERA to a team-best 1.99. Sotolongo left with a 4-0 lead, but it disappeared five batters later. Travis Wade came in and gave up a single, two walks and then a grand slam to tie the game. He walked another batter before he was pulled by Darrell Evans. Wade did not retire a batter on the night.

Jamar Hill hit his league-leading 12th home run and extended his hitting streak to 15 games. Jammer's power surge of late has raised his slugging percentage to an impressive .605 mark.

Javier Garcia got the win after blowing his first save attempt of the season. He gave up a two-run homer with two outs in the top of the ninth to send the game into extra innings.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Bibens-Dirkx Signed by Chicago Cubs

Seals starter Austin Bibens-Dirkx was signed by the Chicago Cubs on Friday and will be assigned to their Peoria (Ill.) Chiefs farm team in the Class A Midwest League. He'll be a teammate of major leaguers Aramis Ramirez and Reed Johnson in a matter of hours, as both Cubs will be on a rehab assignment in Peoria this weekend. Bibens-Dirkx had only 8 appearances with the Seals, but he caught the eye of more than one major-league scout. He was 2-2 with a 3.70 ERA and was leading the Golden League in strikeouts with 54 in 48 2/3 innings.

Our post on June 3rd ("M's May Have Given Up Too Early on Bibens-Dirkx") was perhaps right on the mark. The Seals will definitely miss Bibens-Dirkx, but it's great to see him get another shot at making the big leagues. Best of luck, Austin!

Taking Bibens-Dirkx's roster spot was Eziequiel Ruvalcaba, who was re-signed after being released on June 20th. Ruvalcaba was 0-1 with a 12.60 ERA in 9 relief appearances. Apparently, he has been working on his mechanics and his velocity is back up into the low 90's.

The other most likely Seal to get signed by a major-league organization would be Isaac Hess, but a big-league team's legal and medical departments will have to sign off on that one before it can happen. Hess was signed by the Padres for a few hours this spring until the medical report on his artificial hip was delivered to the team. Hess has plenty of talent to get signed and hopefully it will happen for him. Until that time, be sure to get out and see him pitch while we are lucky enough to have him take to the hill at Royal Athletic Park.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Pure Magic at RAP

Jamar Hill had a great week at the plate on Thursday night: 4/5 with 4 consecutive homers and 8 RBIs. He had a shot at smacking his fifth in a row in the eighth inning, but he hit into a fielder's choice in his final at-bat of the night.

It was truly something to behold on this warm Victoria evening. Personally, I found his third homer to be the most impressive even though it was not the longest. He didn't seem to even take a full cut at the Lorenzo Barcelo offering; he just flicked his wrists and the ball sailed effortlessly over the fence. None of his homers were wind-aided either; it was an unusually still evening at Royal Athletic Park.

Unfortunately, there were only 1,205 fans in attendance to witness Hill's amazing feat. After he thrilled the crowd with his fourth consecutive round-tripper, someone in the Seals dugout passed a batting helmet to Darrell Evans' wife and she revived an old baseball tradition by passing the hat for "money for Jamar's homers".

Passing the hat for Jamar

This tradition dates back to the 19th century -- I even found a reference to a 13-year-old "Shoeless" Joe Jackson receiving money for his homers in this manner when he played for a local team in South Carolina (this would have been in 1901). At the height of minor-league baseball's popularity in the 1940's and 1950's passing the hat for a player's home run was apparently a regular occurrence.

Counting up the collection

Jamar settles in for his 5th plate appearance

On this night, the appreciative crowd chipped in close to $300 for Jamar's efforts. Jamar, you earned every penny and then some. Congratulations!

Post-game interview with the A Channel

In case you are wondering, the major-league record for home runs in a game is four. In the entire history of the major leagues, only 15 players have done it:

  • Bobby Lowe, Boston, 05/30/1894
  • Ed Delahanty, Philadelphia, 07/13/1896
  • Lou Gehrig, New York, 06/03/1932
  • Chuck Klein, Philadelphia, 07/10/1936
  • Pat Seerey, Chicago, 07/18/1948
  • Gil Hodgers, Brooklyn, 08/31/1950
  • Joe Adcock, Milwaukee, 07/31/1954
  • Rocky Colavito, Cleveland, 06/10/1959
  • Willie Mays, San Francisco, 04/30/1961
  • Mike Schmidt, Philadelphia, 04/17/1976
  • Bob Horner, Atlanta, 07/06/1986
  • Mark Whiten, St. Louis, 09/07/1993
  • Mike Cameron, Seattle, 05/02/2002
  • Shawn Green, Los Angeles, 05/23/2002
  • Carlos Delgado, Toronto, 09/25/2003

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Victoria's Game: Baseball or Soccer?

Everyone knows that soccer is more popular than baseball in Victoria, right? That's the conventional wisdom, but it may not be entirely accurate. Let's look at some objective numbers to shed some light on the subject.

Victoria's pro soccer team, the Victoria Highlanders, has played 5 of their 8 regular-season home games this season (as of July 1, 2009) in their brand-new state-of-the-art facility ("City Center Stadium"). In those five home dates, they have averaged 1,622 fans per game. In total, their attendance for 63% of their entire home schedule is 8,110 fans. That's right, a total of 8,110 fans.

By comparison, the Victoria Seals have played 14 of their 41 home games this summer in a quaint ballyard that hasn't been described as state-of-the-art since the 1950's. In those 14 games they have averaged 2,229 fans per game. In total, their attendance for only 34% of their entire home schedule is 31,212 fans.

If we extrapolate these numbers, the Highlanders will draw a total of approximately 12,976 fans in 2009, while the Seals will draw an impressive total of roughly 91,407 fans. For every fan who attends a pro soccer game in Victoria this summer, another seven will have gone to see a professional baseball game. So the next time somebody asks what the most popular summer sport is in Victoria, you'll be able to accurately answer: BASEBALL!!

Chris VanRossum lays down a perfect bunt single in the seventh inning on Canada Day. He eventually scored Victoria's only run in a 2-1 loss before 3,521 rabid baseball fans.

Probable pitchers for the remainder of the Tucson series at Royal Athletic Park:

  • Thursday @ 7:05 PM: Isaac Hess (5-0, 2.46 ERA) vs. Lorenzo Barcelo (4-3, 3.33 ERA)
  • Friday @ 7:05 PM: Eduardo Baeza (1-6, 8.37 ERA) vs Dan Knox (2-0, 4.11 ERA)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Second Consecutive Walk-off Win at RAP

To put it mildly, the Victoria Seals sure have a flair for the dramatic. On Tuesday night they scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to win 5-4 over the Tucson Toros, thanks to a Brett LeVier 3-run homer. LeVier, currently batting .181, hit his first round-tripper of the season to knot the score at 4-4 with none out in the final frame. The winning run scored later in the inning on a throwing error by Tucson second baseman Skip "Patch" Adams.

Victorian Graham Campbell (1-1, 6.26 ERA) got the win after pitching a perfect top of the ninth. Starter Roberto Sotolongo was handed a no-decision after pitching a gem of a game. He held the Toros to one run and one hit in six innings of work. He struck out four and did not walk a batter to lower lower his ERA to an impressive 2.70. Only Isaac Hess has a lower ERA on the team (2.46)

Seal Blubber Bits:
  • Josh Arhart returned to action last night after missing five games with an injury. He walked three times in his four at-bats.
  • Travis Wade has lost his spot in the rotation to Roberto Sotolongo. Wade pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings of relief on Tuesday night.
  • Jamar Hill hit his sixth homer of the season to tie Carlos Duncan for the team lead.