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.