Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hess named VSBB Player of the Month for August

The bloggers at the Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (VSBB) are pleased to announce that Isaac Hess has been named the VSBB Player of the Month for August. For this first time this season, the voting was unanimous.

Hess was both a pitching and offensive juggernaut is August. Although he was only 2-3 on the month -- proving once again that a pitcher's won-loss record is frequently misleading -- Hess posted a 3.44 ERA and 1.20 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) in six starts. Isaac also set a new Seals record for strikeouts in a game by fanning 13 in his August 16th start against the Chico Outlaws at Royal Athletic Park. In 39 2/3 innings pitched in the month, he struck out an amazing 50 batters and only walked 12.

But Hess' stellar month wasn't limited to the pitching mound --
he also hit a sizzling .353 in 17 at-bats, laid down three sacrifice bunts and tossed in three pinch hits for good measure:
  • On August 13th against St. George at RAP, he started a come-from-behind rally in the bottom of ninth with a scorching double down the right field line.
  • On August 27th versus Calgary, he doubled in a pair of runs in the 6th inning to give the Seals a 6-4 lead in a must-win game. Sadly, the Seals could not hold the lead and Victoria lost a heart-breaker 7-6.
  • On August 28th he also had a pinch-hit single in a 12-4 loss.
Jino Gonzalez and Wilver Perez, mere mortals compared to Isaac Hess in August, finished tied for second in voting. Gonzalez posted a 3-2 record with a 3.53 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. Not only did he strike out 37 batters, but he exhibited pinpoint control in the month: only 7 walks in 35 2/3 innings. That's more than 5 strikeouts for every walk.

Perez broke the all-time GBL record for stolen bases in a season by swiping his 52nd and 53rd bases at home on August 12th and his bat hasn't cooled off since being named VSBB Player of the Month in July. Wilver hit .326 and scored 26 runs in August, while swatting a pair of home runs and 14 RBIs. He also stole 15 bases to raise his season total to 64.

With one abbreviated month to go in the 2010 season, Wilver Perez has now taken over the lead for VSSB Player of the Year honours. The complete year-to-date standings are as follows:
  • Wilver Perez - 5.5 points
  • Josh Arhart - 5 points
  • Terrence McClain - 4 points
  • Isaac Hess - 3 points
  • Brian Rios - 3 points
  • Jino Gonzalez - 2.5 points
  • Brandon Villafuerte - 1 point

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Turn out the lights, the party's over...

Well fans, it's time to face the hard facts. The Victoria Seals will not be making the playoffs in 2010. I know, I know -- they're only 2 1/2 games back of Calgary with seven games to go. But with Calgary playing the last four games of the year against Tijuana, holders of a 10-68 record this season, the Vipers are virtually guaranteed four more victories. That means that for Victoria to make the playoffs, the Chico Outlaws would have to sweep their three-game series against Calgary this week and Victoria would have to defeat the solid Edmonton Capitals seven games in a row. Ain't gonna happen.
Turn out the lights....

There's no reason for anyone to hang their head in defeat. A little perspective goes a long way and overall I'd say this season still has to qualify as a successful one. After last year's team stumbled to a .390 winning percentage, the Seals took a big step forward in fielding a team that will likely finish above the .500 mark. You may remember that last year's team started selling off its best players in August and the lineup that took to the field during the last week of the season would have barely beaten the hapless Tijuana Cimarrones. What a difference a year makes. The Seals haven't sold off any of their talent and -- barring any last-minute deals -- we'll probably get to see our regular squad in action on the last weekend of the season.

Some of us may argue that this team actually underachieved in 2010 and that it was capable of winning the second-half North Division title. That may be so, but this summer was still a ton of fun at Royal Athletic Park. There are a mere four home games remaining this year, so be sure to free up your schedule and come on out to the ballpark one last time next weekend (or four more times for you super-fans).

As an added bonus, we might get to see a unique promotion at the old ballyard if the Seals are mathematically eliminated by Friday or Saturday. This promotion was pitched to the team by yours truly, so I'm particularly interested in seeing the idea take flight. It might not happen, so I won't give away much more at this point, but let's just say that it may involve a certain under-utilized player on the Seals roster.

We'll see you on Friday night!

Seal Blubber Bits
  • The Seals and Capitals kick off their three-game series in Edmonton on Tuesday night at 6 PM PST.
  • Josh Arhart hopes to return to action before the end of the series in Edmonton. The worst-case scenario is that he'll return to the lineup on Friday night at RAP.
  • Brrrr... the game-time temperature in Calgary on Sunday afternoon was seven degrees Celsius.
  • Yuma beat Maui 12-11 on Saturday night to break an 18-game losing streak.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Strange start time for Saturday's game

Today's game starts at 4 PM PST and you can listen to (and possibly even watch) the game here.

The Seals will be sending Jino Gonzalez (7-5, 3.88) to the hill to face Dusty Gober (8-1, 4.88). Jino has reeled off five good starts in a row, so let's hope he can make it six.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Second-Guessing Mr. Gross

Darth just posted an excellent re-cap of tonight's heartbreaking loss, but there is just one thing that I need to get off my chest. Indulge me if you will.

In the ninth inning of tonight's game -- the biggest game of the year -- the pitcher's spot came up with one out and nobody on base and the Vipers in front 7-6. Obviously, the Seals were in desperate need of a base-runner with the top of the order due up next. Get someone on at this point and the inning changes dramatically with Wilver Perez coming to the plate.

If you were managing the Seals and you had to decide who to send to the plate, which player would you select? Keep in mind that the pitcher due up was Chris Bodishbaugh. Here are the best options on your bench as compared to Bodi (sorted by batting average, minimum 10 at-bats):
  • Player A (Right-handed hitter) - .333 BA and .357 OBP in 27 AB
  • Player B (Left-handed hitter) - .286 BA and .324 OBP in 35 AB
  • Chris Bodisbaugh (Right-handed hitter) - .267 BA and .313 OBP in 15 AB
  • Player C (Right-handed hitter) - .191 BA and .224 OBP in 47 AB
  • Player D (Right-handed hitter) - .175 BA and .267 OBP in 40 AB
Keep in mind that a lefty was on the mound. The call is easy, right? You take Player A. Well, not if you are Kip Gross, because Kip selected Player C: the one with the lowest on-base percentage out of these five options. Even if he didn't select Player A, he would have been better off letting Bodi hit. Or Player D, who can at least draw a walk once in a while. Instead, he chose to send Player C (Jerry Madueno) to the plate and to nobody's surprise (except maybe Kip) he struck out. Looking.

In case you are wondering, Player A is Anthony Pluta, Player B is Jino Gonzalez and Player D is Charlie Strandlund.

To be fair, I credit Gross for using Isaac Hess as a pinch-hitter earlier in the game. Hess delivered one of the biggest hits of the entire year -- a clutch two-run double to put the Seals in front 6-4 in the sixth inning. But Mr. Gross' blind use of his pet player in the ninth inning was not exactly in the best interest of the Victoria Seals Baseball Club.

So close

This is the kind of drama that sports fans dream of at night even though, in an epic game, Calgary was just a sliver better than Victoria in eking out a very important 7-6 win and bumping their lead back up to two and a half games over the Seals.

Victoria jumped out to an early lead thanks to a couple of RBI’s in the second by the hot-hitting Brian Rios and the ever-clutch Colin Moro. But in what would become commonplace, the Vipers came right back with 2 of their own. Twice more Victoria took the lead, and twice more the Vipers came back to tie. Punch, counter-punch.

In what has become a quirky but reliable tactic, yet another Seals pitcher had a clutch pinch-hit. This time was Issac Hess driving in two runs in his only at bat in the sixth. Amazing. Hey Kip, I thought you told us these guys couldn’t hit?!

As the game wore on, both teams switched pitchers as often as Heather Locklear switches rocker boyfriends, but at the end of the day it was a fielding error by Brian Rios with 2 outs in the 8th inning that allowed the speedy Caonabo Cosme to score the winning run from second.

Every game is like playoff baseball now and as the number of remaining games decrease, the tension and importance increases - especially for Victoria as they are in chase mode. The Seals now need to take the final two games against the snakes to at least keep it interesting in Edmonton. It’s a big ask, but they’re right there and if they can sweep the last two and then get at least two out of three in Edmonton we will be welcoming back a team that is very much in the hunt for the playoffs.

Let's hope this was just a bump in the playoff road.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Seals club Snakes to pull within 1.5 games

The Seals destroyed the Vipers 11-4 on Thursday night to take the opener of the Battle Near the Cattle and climb to within 1 1/2 games of first place. Both teams put their ace starters on the hill, but the clutch Isaac Hess out-dueled ex-Seattle Mariner Mac Suzuki by a wide margin. Hess scattered eight hits over his six innings to raise his record to 5-3 on the year.

Victoria's offense was led by Wilver Perez, who went 3-for-5 and knocked in three runs. Second baseman Henry Calderon continued his recent hot streak by registering a pair of hits and three RBIs. Matt Kavanaugh also chipped in with three hits. Mr. Plate Discipline himself, Colin Moro, had two hits and two walks and crossed the plate three times.

Apart from a rough outing from Mike Koons, the bullpen came through with a fine effort in the biggest ballgame of the season (until tomorrow night). The reliable Aaron Easton bailed out Koons in the seventh and threw two scoreless innings to lower his ERA to an un-GBL like 2.88. The Seals really had to win this game, so manager Kip Gross brought in closer Brandon Villafuerte with an 11-4 lead in the bottom of the ninth. Let's hope the Seals starters can continue to turn over a lead to the bullpen in the seventh inning, but the team will be relying heavily on Easton and Villafuerte down the stretch. Those guys can't come into each of the last ten games of the season, so the team will need Bodisbaugh, Arreola, Bevis and Kershner to step up and provide the team with some quality innings out of the bullpen the rest of the way.

We shouldn't get too carried away, but if the Seals can take two out of the next three in Cowtown then Victoria could be headed for its first ever playoff appearance. How much fun would that be?

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Tomorrow night the Seals send Jeff Duda (3-3, 4.03) to the mound to face Reggie Rivard (4-1, 4.29). This all-Canadian match-up appropriately features a Surrey, BC boy pitching for Victoria against a Fort McMurray, AB guy throwing for Calgary.
  • Thursday's game marked the return of Mike Walker to the Seals' broadcast booth after his recent health issues. On behalf of the VSBB and all of the fans in Victoria, welcome back Mike!!
  • Walker will be doing the play-by-play for game two of the Battle Near the Cattle starting at 6 PM PST tomorrow night. However, video may also be available on this same site for games three and four of the series.
  • The Tucson Toros did the Seals a big favour on Thursday night by knocking off the Edmonton Capitals 6-5. Victoria now leads Edmonton by 2.5 games and if the Vipers were to fall apart in the next week then the division race could turn into one between the Seals and the Capitals.
  • Photographer Christian Stewart recently conducted an excellent interview with Josh Arhart and Brian Rios for the Island Sports News. This in-depth piece is well worth a read and it looks at their plans for the future once they retire at the end of this season. Ideally, Arhart and Rios would love to coach the Seals next year or split up and get a coaching job in affiliated baseball. The owners of the Seals will have to make a tough call in the off-season, because Kip Gross has his sights on returning to manage the team in 2011.
  • Yikes! Seamore has been outed. The identity of Seamore Seal was recently revealed by the left coast's best baseball writer, Tom Hawthorn. In his piece in The Tyee, we learn that Seamore is actually a third-year law student named Alex Pomerant who earns a princely sum of $60 per game for his efforts. Hmmm... maybe the Seals superfans (Jack Gamble, Helen Bennett and Tyler Kopplin) should pass the hat whenever Seamore does a particularly entertaining routine in-between innings. On second thought, Seamore makes more than some of the Victoria players during a home stand...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Eye of the tiger

Right here, right now. Seals vs Vipers. The Battle Near the Cattle (sorry, the best I could do!). Four games that will essentially decide the fate of both teams. How can you not be fired up?

Just a quick post today to credit the Seals with at least putting themselves in a position to have a meaningful series with a week to go in the season. It is easy to get lost in the minutia of the season and get wrapped up in analyzing specific player moves, in-game managerial decisions or big plays (good or bad) of an individual game.

The net of the second half of the season is that management - we can debate if it is Darren Parker or Kip Gross - has made moves to try and make a run for the playoffs. Whether we agree with them all or not is slightly irrelevant; at least the people in charge are trying to give us a playoff team. And here we are, thanks in part to what I hope will be a total Viper collapse, with a week to go with a real chance to make something happen.

Now if I take off my "homer" glasses, it's still a tough hill to climb. The Seals MUST take at least three of these four games from the snakes to even have a sniff, and assuming they do, it's still far from a gimme. In the final series, the Seals will play the sizzling hot Edmonton Capitals while the Vipers get the weak sister in the listless Tijuana Cimarrones.

Still, who cares! It's late in the season and we're in the hunt. So let's get ready to rumble.

Ding, Ding.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Victoria Seals now only 2.5 games out of first!

The Edmonton Capitals did the Seals a big favour on Monday night by defeating the Calgary Vipers 7-3 to take their six-game series five games to one. The Capitals win moved the Seals to within 2.5 games of the Vipers with a pivotal four-game series between Calgary and Victoria set to begin on Thursday night at Foothills Stadium.

I'm guessing the Seals' intensity level will be turned up a notch this week as our boys go after their first division title. I just have one question: Can Aaron Easton get any more pumped up?!?! Bring on the Snakes...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Seals back in playoff contention

On Thursday morning, the Calgary Vipers had a commanding six-game lead on the Victoria Seals for the North Division second-half title and they appeared to be pulling away from the pack after having reeled off 11 wins in their previous 12 games. What a difference four days make. The Seals now find themselves only three games back of the division-leading Vipers after taking three games from the inexperienced St. George Roadrunners and receiving some much-needed help from the Edmonton Capitals.

Henry Calderon hit three homers this weekend
Victoria completed their series sweep over St. George by shellacking the Roadrunners 18-5 on Sunday. Henry Calderon had a pair of homers and five RBIs, while Matt Kavanaugh also went yard and knocked in five runs. The Seals outscored their over-matched opponents 30-10 this weekend at Royal Athletic Park.

Meanwhile, the Capitals have taken four of five games against the Vipers since Thursday night, including a 13-inning thriller on Sunday afternoon in the first game of a doubleheader. Calgary blew a 5-0 lead in that first game, but salvaged a split in the twin-bill by taking the nightcap 8-5.

The Seals are off until Thursday night when they start a crucial four-game set against Calgary at Foothills Stadium. Game six of the GBL's version of the Battle of Alberta goes Monday night, so Victoria will enter the Calgary series either 2.5 or 3.5 games behind the Snakes. That means that the Seals need to take at least three out of four against the Vipers to have a real shot at making the playoffs.

After the big showdown in Calgary, the Seals play three games in Edmonton and then they return home to finish the season with a four-game series against those same Capitals on September 3rd through 6th. Although the season technically ends on September 6th, the Seals really need to catch the Vipers by the end of their Alberta trip because Calgary has the luxury of playing the last four games of the season against the hapless Tijuana Cimarrones. Tijuana has a pathetic 3-25 record in the second half, so it would be a huge surprise if they managed to take even one game from the Vipers. On the plus side for the Seals, Calgary has to play the last seven games of the season on the road, including three against the tough Chico Outlaws.

This could end up to be a wild ride the rest of the way if the Seals can rise to the occasion. On Monday night, you can be sure that the Seals and their loyal legion of fans will be cheering for the Edmonton Capitals as they take on the Vipers. You can listen to the final game in the Battle of Alberta by tuning in here starting at 6 PM PST.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dare to dream

The Seals did their part to keep the playoff dream alive tonight by riding the strong pitching of Issac Hess to a 7-4 win over the new look Roadrunners. Meanwhile, the mountain snakes of Calgary are starting to get nervous after falling 7-6 to my new 2nd favourite team, the Edmonton Capitals. That leaves the Seals 3.5 games back with a crucial face to face meeting with the Vipers just around the corner. They still need to take care of business tomorrow and then get a 3 or 4 wins against Calgary, but at least it's beginning to seem possible.

In tonight's game, Issac Hess was masterful for 5 and two thirds innings, taking a no hitter into the 6th. proving he was mortal, he walked a few batters and St George got two unconvincing hits to chase him with the bases loaded. The Roadrunner hitters looked completely over-matched all night while Victoria came through with some clutch hits to keep the mountain serpents at bay. Hess also chipped in with a nice two run double in the second and then forced one of the four (costly) errors and scored on an overthrow from the outfield. Josh Arhart had three hits and Wilver was a factor all night after slamming a lead off homer and wreaking havoc on the base paths like he can.

Defensively, Jerry Madueno had at least three gems at second and turned a nice double play. He also added a couple of hits to inch above the Mendoza line and give us hope he can hold his own offensively.

The pitching for St George was mediocre and the hitting anemic but center fielder, Cody McMorris made an unbelievable diving grab at the wall to rob Colin Moro of an extra base hit. He also made a couple of other nice grabs at the wall to give a silver lining to the game for the visitors. Actually, the Roadrunners should get some credit for somehow scrapping to stay close, given how outmatched their hitters were.

After being away for a while, I also noticed a few changes in the friendly confines of the RAP. Nicer looking player profile pictures (still not updated real time though!), no endless breaking glass or Homer sound bytes and while the music still echoes of Hot Tub Time Machine, I found it an improvement - I heard no Weird Al and no one asked me to Wang Chung tonight.

Anyway...it's good to be back!

Editor's Note: I also give the thumbs up to the Saturday Night Fever and Jerry Maguire skits with Seymour in between innings. Nice bit of levity.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

St. George Roadrunners series preview - part deux

The St. George Roadrunners return to Royal Athletic Park for a three-game series against the Seals beginning on Friday night. These two teams squared off here in Victoria from August 11th to the 13th and the Seals had to scramble to take two of three from the young St. George club.

You may remember that the league took control of the Roadrunners a couple of weeks ago and the team is spending the remainder of the 2010 season as a traveling road show. To pare down expenses, the league gutted the roster and brought in 21 new players from the independent New York State League and the upstart Peach State League. To the surprise of many, the Roadrunners contain a nucleus of quality players and are definitely competitive in the GBL. However, they were swept in their recently-completed four-game set against the powerful Calgary Vipers and their Achilles heel was exposed: the St. George pitching staff gave up a total of 41 runs in the series.

Tale of the Tape

Victoria 16-14 (2nd place), 38-37 .507 (overall), .279 team BA (9th), 4.83 team ERA (6th)
St. George 7-16 (5th place), 22-46 .324 (overall), .289 team BA (6th), 6.37 team ERA (9th)

St. George - Who's Hot 

Third baseman Mike Castellano is hitting .474 since joining the team. First baseman Matt Huggins has a .379 average with 7 RBIs in his first 7 professional games and he has also chipped in with some outstanding defense. I wouldn't be upset to see the Seals sign him in the off-season. Shortstop Jason Cramer is also hitting .333. Todd McGee (0-1, 3.38 ERA) is the sole pitcher on the Roadrunners staff with an ERA under 6.00. His only start was on August 13th at RAP and it's likely that he'll start this Friday or Saturday night against the Seals.

St George - Who's Not 

Right fielder Chris Brown is hitting .063 in his first six games with the team. Other than Todd McGee, every other pitcher on St. George is struggling. In fact, seven of their pitchers have an ERA over 10.00.

Victoria - Who's Hot 

Isaac Hess has been dominant in his last three starts, recording a 2.04 ERA while striking out a whopping 31 batters and only walking five. He set the franchise record for strikeouts in a game (13) in his last start and he finally looks like the same pitcher who tore up the GBL in the first half of 2009. Chris Bodishbaugh has only allowed one earned run in his last 20 1/3 innings pitched, while Aaron Easton hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 11 appearances spanning 11 2/3 innings. Terrence McClain is hitting .377 with 1 homer and 10 RBIs in his last 13 games and Wilver Perez has a .385 batting average with 9 steals in his previous 9 games.

Victoria - Who's Not 

Andrew Arreola has been in a serious funk of late. In his last 5 starts, he has a 10.80 ERA and he has given up 30 hits in 16 2/3 innings pitched. In his last 18 games (47 at-bats), Matt Edgecombe is hitting a paltry .149 with 0 homers and 2 RBIs and the light-hitting Jerry Madueno has an .077 batting average in his last 9 games. Second baseman Henry Calderon is only hitting .217 since joining the Seals on August 11th, but he hit .308 in 61 games with St. George earlier in the year.

Keys to the Series

Can the 9th-best hitting team (Seals) score enough runs against the 9th-best pitching staff (Roadrunners)? If some of the slumping Victoria hitters can start producing, I like Victoria's chances in this series. However, Victoria has to start playing better fundamental baseball. They can't afford to give their opponents an extra two or three (or five!) outs per game by not making the routine plays in the field. In addition, the team needs to do a better job running the base-paths. Perez, T-Mac and Arhart have been running into too many unnecessary outs of late. And for Pete's sake, can we have a moratorium on suicide squeezes?!?!


This is going to be a close series, but I'll predict that the Seals will take two out of three from St. George.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • ESPN's Jim Caple has published an excellent article on the Victoria Seals. Included in the piece are a few of the outstanding photos taken by team photographer Jonathan Howe. Caple also made some general comments on independent baseball and the GBL.
  • Desperation Time: If the Vipers go 9-8 in their remaining 17 games, the Seals will have to be victorious in all 14 of their final games to win the North Division second-half title. The Seals desperately need to sweep the Snakes in their four-game series in Calgary August 26-29.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Weird and weirder

The bottom of the ninth in last night's 7-6 Seals win was the most bizarre half-inning you are likely ever to see.

You can watch it below. The bottom of the ninth starts at about the 2:39 mark.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Seal Blubber Bits - Heat wave edition

We offer up these tasty Seal blubber bits to gnaw on while you sip a cold beverage and stay out of the heat:
The newest Seal, Joe Sergent
  • How unlikely was today's thrilling come-from-behind 4-3 victory by the Seals? The Chico Outlaws brought in ace reliever Justin Segal to pitch the bottom of the ninth inning and try to protect their 3-2 lead. Coming into the game, Segal had only allowed 3 earned runs all season, spanning 32 appearances and 41 2/3 innings pitched. Of course, Segal gave up two earned runs on another clutch hit by Brian Rios and the Seals pulled victory from the jaws of defeat.
  • Reality Bites: If the Vipers play .500 baseball for the rest of the season, the Seals will have to go 13-3 in their last 16 games to tie the Snakes and force a one-game playoff or 14-2 to win the North Division second-half title outright. Put another way, if the Vipers go 13-5 in their final 18 games, the Seals won't be able to catch them even if they win all 16 of their remaining games. The  two teams face each other four times in Calgary August 26-29, so the Seals will have to win at least three out of those four games.
  • Victoria has acquired pitcher Joe Sergent from the Calgary Vipers. Sergent helped lead the Vipers to the GBL Championship last season, posting a 7-3 record and a 3.88 ERA. However, he has struggled this season and he only has a 3-2 record with an 8.47 ERA. Sergent is normally a starter, but his arm is not 100% healthy, so he has been mainly limited to relief duties in 2010. He threw on the side today and says he is ready for game action in the near future. The Seals do not have to release a player to activate Sergent, since rosters can expand from 22 to 25 men on August 15th.
  • Ex-Seal Austin Bibens-Dirkx is getting closer to completing his journey from Royal Athletic Park to Wrigley Field based on his performance since his promotion to the AAA Iowa Cubs on July 8th. Although he was shifted to the bullpen after his first AAA appearance with Iowa, he was moved back into the starting rotation on August 2nd and has won his last three starts. Bibens-Dirkx now has a 5-0 record with a sparkling 1.97 ERA and 1.09 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) in AAA. It's starting to look likely that he will become the first Victoria Seal to go on to make the big leagues -- perhaps as early as September 1st when major-league rosters expand. Bibens-Dirkx could help Chicago right now, especially since current Cubs reliever Andrew Cashner has a 5.68 ERA and 1.71 WHIP.
  • The Vancouver Canadians honoured recent Hall of Fame inductee Andre Dawson at Nat Bailey Stadium last week. This was a classy move by the Canadians and apparently there were a great many Expos fans in attendance.
  • ESPN senior writer Jim Caple was in Victoria this weekend to do research for a piece on the Victoria Seals. Unfortunately he witnessed the ugliest game of the season on Saturday night, so let's hope the article portrays the GBL and the Seals in a positive light. Look for the piece to appear on the ESPN web site in the near future.
  • Tom Hawthorn wrote a fascinating article recently in The Tyee on the history of women in professional baseball with a focus on British Columbia. I found the story of Mamie Johnson, a woman who pitched in the Negro Leagues for three seasons and posted a 33-8 record, to be particularly noteworthy. I also took great joy in reading about one of my favourite pint-sized ballplayers of all time, Casey Candaele of the Montreal Expos. Candaele's mother and aunt both played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and both are originally from Vancouver.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Chico Outlaws - series preview 2.0

You probably remember the last time the Outlaws came to town - it was all about Eri Yoshida and her first Canadian start, and the series itself took a back seat. Chico took two of three, including a wild 19-16 opening game, and a shutdown 8-5 win in game three. The Seals only victory was the Eri game, a 12-6 romp thanks in part to Charlie Strandlund's grand slam off the princess.
Fondly remembering the Strandlund Grand Slam off Eri Yoshida

This time there will be no Eri on the mound, it's just two teams struggling to keep pace in a tough race for the Northern division second-half title. Coming into this series, Chico trails Victoria by a half-game, the Seals trail red-hot Calgary by a full four games. Neither team can afford losses at this point in the season, and no doubt manager Kip Gross has made that point clear. Lose these games, and we're likely out of the hunt.

The Outlaws have proven to be a very streaky team this year. After they left Victoria at the end of July, they went into Calgary and swept them - Calgary's first visiting team sweep in franchise history. They then returned to Chico off that high and were promptly swept at home by the same Calgary squad. This week, they were in Edmonton where they won the first 3 games before Edmonton finally bested them in game 4 last night.

Lets hope the team biorhythm stays on a low this series, and the Seals can make some distance on them in the standings.

Tale of the Tape

Victoria 14-12 (2nd place), .281 team BA (8th), 4.82 team ERA (6th)
Chico 12-11 (3rd place), .315 team BA (1st), 3.83 team ERA (2nd)

Shown the numbers (Chico leads the North division in both hitting and ERA), you would assume they would have a better record than they do. The issue however, has been inconsistent pitching. The second half has seen some lapses in quality pitching, giving up more than ten runs six times. Their ERA doesn't suffer because they turn around the next game and shut down a team.

The Seals are 3-3 against the Outlaws this year.

Who's Hot - Chico

Chico picked up a cleanup hitter in the Yuma yard sale a couple weeks ago in first baseman Mark Samuelson. He's been on fire as an Outlaw, hitting .442 with 17 RBI in his first 13 games with the team. Another relative newcomer to the Outlaws is shortstop Anthony Manuel (who's Dad is NY Mets manager Jerry Manuel). Anthony has had a good roadtrip, going 8-18 in Alberta. Outfielder JJ Sherrill lead the team in HRs, but has only hit 2 in his last 15 games. He is still third in the GBL, tied with T-Mac and Arhart with 14.

Chico is home to three of the top pitchers in the GBL right now. Demetrius Banks, Garret Holleran, and Kris Honel are in the top 6 in all pitching categories. Banks went last night in Edmonton, but we will likely see Holleran and Honel this weekend, along with ex-Astro Mark McLemore and probably the newly acquired (and ex St. George) Reed Dickert.

Who's Hot - Seals

Lets hope everyone. The team has had a real lack-luster feel to them these past couple of weeks that started around the time Strandlund was inactivated, Jerry Madueno was installed at second, and Dale Swinford was benched. Rumors abound of clubhouse unhappiness, questioning of on-field moves, players not buying in. Even watching the team take the field these days it's easy to see this is not the same Seals team that came together back in early June to turn the first half around. Hopefully the distraction of Wilver's stolen base record is behind the team and the task at hand of putting some wins together to make the playoffs becomes the focus.

Has the releases of Swinford and Van Rossum, the addition of Henry Calderon, and the reactivation of Strandlund done anything for team chemistry? That will be seen this weekend.

And how about pinch-hitter extraordinaire Isaac Hess. Finally a bat off the bench for the late innings! Tim Rodriguez looks like he's hit his stride as a Seal as well, going 6 for 18 this past week with 4 home runs. The Seals really need the return of Josh Arhart though, and he's going to miss at least a couple games is my guess...

Series Prediction

Tough one. Typically when the best pitching team take on a team with the lowest hitting numbers it's not a good sign for the latter. Given that the Seals will see possibly three top pitchers this weekend, I think expecting more than a split would be optimistic. I'm going to call a 2-2 split (sorry Tyler).

As important as this series is, is how the new Roadrunner team fares in Calgary this weekend. A split will leave the Seals and Outlaws exactly where they are in the standings, but St. George needs to help out by giving the Vipers a hard time. If Calgary sweeps the four game series, it won't matter much what happens here in Victoria.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wilver swipes 52 and 53 as Seals club Roadrunners

In a game more like what we expected to see before the series began, the Seals were able to string enough hits together at key times to post 10 runs against the upstart St. George Roadrunners. Helped by some suspect defense on the part of Roadrunner shortstop Jason Cramer, the Seals scored a hit-trick of 3-run innings to erase an early 4-0 deficit and tie the series at one game apiece.

The biggest event of the game however occurred in the sixth inning when the crowd was brought to their feet by Wilver Perez stealing his 52nd base of the season, setting a new GBL record. Wilver acknowledged the crowd with a Sammy Sosa-like slap of the chest while Seals staff removed the base from the field to commemorate the achievement. Terrance McClain then promptly produced a clutch two-out double to drive him home, giving the Seals a two run lead. Perez also stole a base in the bottom of the eighth inning as well, giving him 53 on the year.

Seals starter Jeff Duda had a terrible start, giving up all five St. George runs in the first 2.1 innings before being pulled. From there Victoria got stellar relief pitching from Bodishbaugh, Bevis, Koons, and Villafuerte. Bodi was especially impressive, striking out 4 in 2.1 innings to register the win.

This was a much needed win for the Seals, keeping pace with Calgary who beat Tucson 3-2. The Seals remain five games back of the Vipers, who haven't lost a game in over a week.

Injuries are taking a toll on the Seals this week:

  • Josh Arhart missed his fourth consecutive game and word in the clubhouse is that he's out until at least until Monday.
  • Brian Rios left the game after being thrown out at first base in the third inning.
  • Newcomer Henry Calderon came up lame scoring from first on a T-Mac double in the fifth. Calderon remained in the game, but was noticeably tender running to first in his next at-bat.

New recruits upset Seals

Based on the absolute fire sale conducted on the St. George roster, I was curious to see what kind of talent the Roadrunners would trot out on Wednesday evening at Royal Athletic Park. I immediately went over to the white-board behind home plate to see if I recognized any names in the St. George starting lineup. Aside from starting pitcher Chuck Tiffany, not a single one of the St. George starting eight was on their roster the last time the team took to the field (July 31st). I assumed that Victoria would blow out their less experienced opponents. Boy was I wrong.

As it turns out, a significant chunk of the St. George roster is now made up of players who either played in the relatively obscure New York State League or participated in the inaugural season of the Peach State League. The New York State League is a small four-team independent circuit that started in 2007 and plays games in the metropolitan New York area. The Peach State League is made up solely of players who went undrafted in this June's MLB First-Year Player Draft. As you might expect, the Peach State League just wrapped up its first season, so it wasn't difficult to convince some of the eager 23-year-olds to sign up as a band of traveling professional baseball players. Especially since the Peach State League doesn't pay its players and all four teams play out of the same stadium in Macon, Georgia to reduce travel costs.

On Wednesday night, the Seals got beat 4-3 by a team of younger, less experienced players who just wanted it more. I don't mean to say that there weren't any talented ballplayers on "Roadrunners 2.0", because there definitely were a bunch of them. I was especially impressed by first baseman Matt Huggins, who hit a triple, knocked in a run and scored a run himself. His defensive work was simply outstanding and he ended the game on a nice running catch in foul territory. I doubt anyone else in the GBL would have run down that particular pop-up. Huggins hit .302 for three teams in the Peach State League (Robins Aviators, Albany Quails and Milledgeville Capitals) and I’m guessing the calibre of this league and the New York State League is pretty high.

On the positive side, Henry Calderon looked impressive in his Seals debut. He went 3-for-5 and hit a homer in his first at-bat as a Seal. He looks perfectly suited for the second-spot in the lineup and Kip Gross penciled him in there and moved Terrence McClain down into the three hole. Calderon played second base, but he didn't have a busy night in the field.

The Seals better put forth a better effort in the next couple of days or youthful exuberance will continue to get the better of the more-experienced Victoria squad.

Editor's Note: 

This post was originally published late last night and it incorrectly stated that the Roadrunners' roster was now comprised almost entirely of players from the Peach State League. As an alert (and anonymous) reader pointed out, there are slightly more players on the roster from the New York State League than from the Georgian circuit. We apologize for the error and thank the reader for notifying us of our mistake. We do make errors from time to time and we always appreciate reader comments, especially when it improves the quality of the blog. Keep in mind that we write this blog in our spare time and we receive no monetary compensation for our work. Things like work, family, vacations and volunteering sometimes get in the way of our blogging. We thank you for your patience when errors do occur.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Seals sign Calderon and release Swinford

Henry Calderon
The Victoria Seals got in on the St. George fire sale on Wednesday by acquiring veteran infielder Henry Calderon. Apparently, the Seals released Dale Swinford earlier in the week. Swinford had a .283 batting average with no homers and 16 RBIs and a modest .344 on-base percentage.

Calderon was hitting .308 with 4 homers and 25 RBIs this season for the Roadrunners. He also has 12 steals and a .369 on-base percentage. The 36-year-old has played five seasons at shortstop, so it's likely that he'll join Wilver Perez in the middle infield and Jerry Madueno and Charlie Strandlund will serve as a backups.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

St. George Roadrunners series preview

The  St. George (Utah) Roadrunners are aptly named, since they'll spend the remainder of the 2010 season on the road after their owner (Will Joyce) walked away from his financial obligations and the league stepped in to run the team. They bring their travelling road show into Royal Athletic Park for a three-game series starting on Wednesday night and then they return for another three games on August 20-22. The GBL office had to do some scrambling to rearrange the league schedule and the results weren't pretty -- the Roadrunners haven't played since their final game of the year at Bruce Hurst Stadium on July 31st.

This series was to provide Victoria fans with their first chance to come out and see ex-manager Darrel Evans since he was relieved of his duties as manager of the Seals. However, the league terminated the contracts of Evans and his coaching staff on August 3rd after taking control of the team. Also let go was assistant coach Dan DiPace and pitching coach Travis Wade.

Fans will still have a chance to see Wilver Perez set the GBL record for stolen bases in a season. He tied the record on Sunday with his 51st steal and he is very likely to break the record against the Roadrunners on Wednesday night.

Tale of the Tape

Victoria 12-11 (2nd place), 34-34 .500 (overall), .280 team BA (8th), 4.88 team ERA (6th)
St. George 6-10 (5th place), 21-40 .344 (overall), .293 team BA (5th), 6.08 team ERA (9th)

St. George – Who’s Hot / Who’s Not

Who's Hot? It's more like Who's Left. The GBL seems to have conducted a fire sale of the St. George roster since taking control of the team -- likely to help pay for their travel costs for the rest of the year. The best hitter on St. George, Jermy Acey, was shipped off to Maui on August 3rd. One of their other top hitters, Yosvany Almario (.357 average), opted to retire on August 4th -- which might mean that he refused a move to another team. Meanwhile, ex-Seal Brett Flowers (.270 6 HR 34 RBI) was sent across the continent to an Atlantic League team.

The Roadrunners also sent pitcher Raymar Diaz (3.49 ERA) and outfielder Victor Butler (.353 average) to a Northern League team. Starting pitcher Reed Dickert (6th in the GBL in strikeouts) was sent to the Chico Outlaws, while relievers Monte Mansfield (3.21 ERA) and Robert Naegele (3.31 ERA) were moved to the Calgary Vipers.

Third baseman Henry Calderon (.308) and catcher Scott Clement (.301) are the only two remaining batters with averages over the .300 mark (unless they too were sold off and we just haven't heard). Reliever Jose Obispo is the sole pitcher left on the staff with a decent ERA (3.38). Expect to see a number of freshly-recruited players wearing the St. George jersey. Heck, we might even see Chris Van Rossum or Phil Ortez in a Roadrunners uniform.

Victoria – Who’s Hot / Who’s Not

The Seals have only scored 13 runs in their last five games, but Terrence McClain and Colin Moro have been more than pulling their own weight offensively. T-Mac has hits in 18 of his last 21 games and has a .378 average with 7 homers and 23 RBIs in that span. C-Mo is currently on a five-game hitting streak and he's hitting .348 over the last week. Aaron Easton hasn't allowed an earned run in his last seven games, but the hottest pitcher right now is probably Jeff Duda. Duda has a 2.64 ERA in his last 13 appearances (30 2/3 innings pitched). Jino Gonzalez has also been very good of late, but he is unlikely to take to the mound in the series.

Two of the Seals starters have really fallen on hard times of late. Andrew Arreola has a 10.13 ERA in his last four starts, while Anthony Pluta has a 7.58 ERA in his last five games. Mike Koons has struggled mightily since his acquisition from Orange County and he has been tagged for a 15.45 ERA in three relief appearances. On the hitting side, Jerry Madueno is hitting a paltry .160 in his first seven games with the Seals and Matt Edgecombe is only hitting .217 in his last ten games.

Keys to the Series

This series will all come down to how much talent takes to the field for St. George. Their roster has been gutted, so it will be interesting to see who the league has signed to replace the quality players that have been shipped out. 


It's not easy to predict the outcome when you don't know much about the opponents, but I'm guessing that the Roadrunners will feature a bunch of players who are eager to play professional baseball and will play for a low salary (by GBL standards). The pressure is on for me to keep up with Bubba, who correctly predicted a split between Tucson and Victoria in his preview of their four-game series. I'll go out on a limb and predict a series sweep for the Seals over the Roadrunners.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Seals step back from the abyss

The Victoria Seals came close to letting the season slip away this afternoon at RAP, but a hard-fought double-header sweep has them back in the race for the second-half crown.

Rios' big hit in Sunday's first game may
be the turning point of the second half
The Seals took the first game of the double-header 4-3, thanks to a clutch Brian Rios single in the bottom of the ninth inning. The hit scored Wilver Perez from second base after Perez swiped his 51st base of the year to tie the GBL record for stolen bases in a season. Tim Rodriguez hit a pair of solo homers and Terrence McClain also hit a solo shot in the first game.

Victoria took the second game by a 5-3 score, in large part due to another stellar effort by starter Jino Gonzalez. Gonzalez pitched a 7-inning complete game and struck out 10 batters to collect his sixth consecutive win of the season. After being on the losing end of his first four decisions of the season, Gonzalez now has a 6-4 record and a 3.92 ERA.

But the biggest news of the day was that the Seals have released Chris Van Rossum and activated Charlie Strandlund. The decision was at least partially motivated by the short-term injury to Josh Arhart. With Arhart sitting out Sunday's game, the Seals were without a catcher to backup Matt Kavanaugh.

Personally, I think it was a bit of a surprise that Van Rossum lasted so long into the 2010 season with the Seals. Although he has always played stellar defensively, he hit only .184 and had a horrible .233 on-base percentage in 51 games with the team. Van Rossum also struck out 37 times in only 136 at-bats. Strandlund has the versatility to play all nine positions, which is quite valuable with the small 22-man rosters in the GBL.

With Van Rossum no longer on the team, the Seals are without an obvious fourth outfielder. If I were running the club, I'd be on the lookout for a good-hitting backup outfielder (Mike Mooney, perhaps?). I'd also like to see Dale Swinford back out there as the starting second baseman. After seven games with the Seals, Jerry Madueno has a .160 batting average, a .160 on-base percentage and a .160 slugging percentage. His defense is good, but it's not good enough to justify the playing time he has received in the last week.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

GBL attendance drops in spite of RAP faithful

I did a quick comparison of attendance figures for the GBL teams over the last couple of years and the numbers are very interesting. Although the Seals have seen a 14.5% increase in attendance this year, the eight teams that have played in the last two seasons have still seen a drop of over 4%. It's not a catastrophic figure, but there are obviously some problem areas in the league.

Here are the GBL attendance numbers:

2010 Average
2009 Average
% Change
Tucson Toros
Victoria Seals
Chico Outlaws
Edmonton Capitals
Tijuana Cimarrones
Calgary Vipers
Maui Na Koa Ikaika
Orange County Flyers
Yuma Scorpions
St. George Roadrunners

The figures for Victoria are quite startling considering how poor the weather was in May and June. The Seals have done a much better job of getting youth baseball players out to the ballpark this year and they have also appear to be doing quite well with the corporate BBQ's. Add in a better ball club and a maturing fan base and the result is a lot more fannies in the seats at Royal Athletic Park.

Edmonton and Calgary have seen attendance increases of close to 13%, so the Canadian franchises are in great shape right now. Hopefully a potential owner in Kamloops will step forward in the off-season and the GBL can finally feature a Canadian division.

Chico has seen an 11.5% increase in fans, much of which can probably be chalked up to the Yoshida factor. However, the Orange County and St. George franchise have some serious issues to deal with and they have taken big attendance hits. The St. George situation is well documented, but it's unclear if Orange County is a viable franchise for 2011 and they may be suffering from sports overload in Southern California. Fullerton is less than 10 miles from Anaheim Stadium and not quite 30 miles from Dodger Stadium. In addition, there are a variety of affiliated minor-league teams in the area. Last week Orange County threw open the gates and didn't charge admission to see the Flyers take on the Seals in a bid to attract new fans. Their recent signing of ex-major leaguer Mark Prior sure can't hurt.

However, the team with the biggest drop-off in attendance is also the team that leads the Golden Baseball League: the Tucson Toros. Although they are still averaging 2,753 fans per game, that's a huge drop of nearly 25% over last year's numbers. That's very troubling considering the Toros only joined the league in 2009 and a big reduction in year two could be a sign that the fan's aren't impressed. Tucson has long been a AAA town and there are rumours that the Portland Beavers could make the move to Tucson in 2011. In any event, we are surely in for some big changes in the GBL during the off-season.

Seal Blubber Bits

  • Wilver Perez's drive for the GBL stolen-base record has stalled at 50. Wilver hasn't stolen a base in the last four games and he's hitting .214 in that span. Still, he's only one shy of tying Jonny Kaplan's record of 51 steals in a season, so he's still sure to break the record on this home stand.
  • In an interview a few weeks ago, GBL commissioner Kevin Outcalt stated that the salary cap for each team in the GBL is $90,000 USD. That part wasn't really news, but he went on to say that teams could exceed the cap and pay a salary tax, similar to what is done in Major League Baseball.
  • If you haven't been out to RAP yet this week, you have to see Cristobal Santana of the Toros play first base -- and your last chance is on Sunday afternoon. He's hands-down the best defensive first baseman in the league and he has been putting on a clinic around the bag at first. Given his flexibility and ability to stretch to reach baseballs thrown in his general direction, his nickname should be Rubber Man. And by the way, he's hitting .376 (3rd best in the league).

Friday, August 6, 2010

Kip Gross hits his stride

The most notable observations from last night's game came in the top of the eighth inning and it shows just how far Kip Gross' managing has come this year.

Gross after getting tossed from a game on July 25th
In a tight 2-1 ballgame, Gross brought in newcomer Mike Koons to relieve Isaac Hess. Unfortunately, Koon's RAP debut didn't go as planned and in no time at all he loaded the bases with only one out. Out of the dugout sprang Gross and Koons was yanked in favour of Aaron "Handyman" Easton. The 6' 10" righty threw one pitch and retired Cristobal Santana on a pop-up for the second out. With the left-handed Wally Backman Jr. due up next, Gross again went to the mound, this time to bring in the southpaw Jason Kershner. With the left-lefty advantage favouring the Seals, Kershner struck out Backman to end the threat and keep it a one-run game.

Gross obviously wanted Thursday night's game badly and he managed the eighth inning brilliantly -- as one would expect a playoff game to be managed. Part of it is that he finally has an 11-man pitching staff that he has confidence in, but Gross has definitely hit his stride as manager of the Seals. No longer content to sit by himself all game on the home plate side of the dugout, Gross now regularly walks through the dugout to relay instructions to his troops and provide encouragement. I'm also pretty sure I saw Kip smile as he took the long trek from the clubhouse to the home dugout last night. That's good to see, because Gross has done a wonderful job this season and he deserves to savour the moment.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tucson Toros - Series Preview

The Tucson Toros touch down in Victoria this week for their only visit to our lovely city this year. Believe me, they will be happy to enjoy the cold snap we have been experiencing. Seriously, playing baseball in Tucson in the summer is like playing in an oven. Routinely temperatures exceed 100F at game time making life on the field, and in the stands tough. Still, the GBL is alive and well in Tucson, and the Toros draw fans on a par with Victoria, trailing the Seals in average attendance by only a handful of fans per game.

The Toros are one of baseball's most historic franchises. They have been around since 1969 in one incarnation or another, serving as Triple-A affiliates for the White Sox, A's, Rangers, Astros, Brewers, and Diamondbacks. The Toros played for years in the PCL alongside the Vancouver Canadians and Calgary Cannons, winning the title in 1991 thanks in no small part to having the speedy Kenny Lofton in center field.

When the Diamondbacks sponsored the team from 1997 to 2008, they were renamed the Sidewinders to keep
with the snake theme, but in 2009, the Diamondbacks pulled out, and the Toros were back, joining the GBL.

Last season, the Toros won the second-half title in the South, and beat St. George in the southern final in dramatic game-5-walkoff fashion before falling to Calgary in the championship round.

This year the Toros struggled through the first half to a 20-25 record, finishing 7 games back of Maui. They currently sit 2.5 games behind Maui in third place in the South.

Tale of the Tape

Victoria: 10-9 (4th place, 1.5 games back) .280 BA (8th), 4.97 ERA (6th)

Tucson: 8-9 (3rd place, 2.5 games back) .279 BA (9th), 4.54 ERA (4th)

Who's Hot: Tucson

The Toros are led by first baseman Cristobal Santana who leads the team with a .371 AVG who is usually good for a couple hits a game. Not a team with a lot of power, shortstop Ryan Priddy leads the team with only 6 home runs. Speedy outfielder Lino Garcia is chasing Wilver Perez for the steals crown, trailing him by only 33 (giving him 17 on the year).

Pitching has been so-so for the Toros over the second half, but they have been regularly getting quality starts from their rotation and boast a solid 2.38 ERA over their last four games. Watch for good starts by John Bannister, James Garcia, and Albie Lopez this series.

Who's Hot: Victoria

Josh Arrrrhart continues to have a fabulous season at the plate, and hit .400 last week. Terrance McClain is also seeing the ball again, hitting .391 while only striking out 3 times in 23 at bats. Newcomer Tim Rodriguez has come around a bit, hitting .269 on the recent trip, although his strikeout totals are only eclipsed by his hand-spring numbers from the Yoshida game.

Jino Gonzales continues to be one of Victoria's most consistent starters along with Anthony Pluta. Both Kershner and Hess were rocked big-time last week and need a rebound game at home.

What to Watch For

City workers selling beer and fixing the mound? Yeah good luck with that. Instead of kids baseball buddies, the Seals should have local landscapers come out for the games to help with field duties. The 5th inning mound-fix brought to you by Jim's Mowing! But I digress...

This HAS to be the series Wilver Perez sets the GBL stolen base record. He's at 50, needs 51, should be a no-brainer.

Check out the new guys... Watch for newcomers Mike Koons to work out of the pen, and Jerry Madueno to get a start or two at 2B.

Series Predication

After my sweep call against Yuma went horribly wrong on the Saturday, and recent terrible starts by half the Seals staff, I'm a little gun-shy. I'm going to call for the Seals to go 2-2 against the Toros this week. Both clubs want to win these games to keep pace in their respective divisions, and both teams have starters capable of shutting down an offence.

Games go Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:05, as well as Sunday at 1:30. See you at the park (in line for a beer, most likely).