Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Monster changes at RAP?

In what continues to be a busy few weeks of Seals news, lets take a look at some of the changes you might see around the old ballyard.  Some of these will happen this season, while others are part of the team's long-term plans.

First off, it must be pointed out that the city is really stepping up to the plate this year. Gone is the cloud of apprehension that plagued the Seals last year (caused partly by Victoria's last failed attempt at pro baseball, the 2005 Capitals, and party because, well, it's Victoria). After a stellar opening campaign by the Seals, the city has taken notice and is allowing some changes to further professionalize the RAP baseball experience...

Thirsty for a tasty malt beverage? Forget the lineups from last year - this year they come to you! Yes, beer (and other beverage) service in the stands, right to your seat.

Want something to eat other than a whole-wheat hot dog? Just mosey down the third base line to visit the BBQ area hosted this year by Podium Sports Grill (and open to every fan in the park) and grab a pulled-pork sandwich. Beer sales here as well, which should further eliminate the lineup issue.

A further expansion of food items is planned, giving the fans a wider selection of culinary (and perhaps even healthy) choices.

And how about some souvenirs? You will be able to outfit the whole family in their very own jerseys this year. The gang at TeamWorks is handling fan apparel for the Seals this year, so you'll start to see some Seals uni's around town.

And speaking of jerseys, watch for the on-field look to be slightly different this year as well. The traditional white home jersey will remain from last year, as likely will the road grey. The blue "third jersey" will be replaced with a new as-yet-undetermined style. Stay tuned to this blog for more info on jerseys as decisions are made...

But some big changes to RAP might be on the way in the next few years. Tentative plans are underway to construct -- you guessed it -- our own version of Fenway Park's Green Monster in left field. The left field fence at RAP last year was 317 ft from home plate, making it a fairly easy shot to clear by big-league standards. The new wall (Blue Monster, anyone?) might be around 20 feet in height and would keep the ball in the park a lot more. Here's my artsy rendition of what could be if RAP meets Fenway...

Math lesson? The current 7 ft fence means that to hit a ball over the fence, on an average home run arc, you need to hit the ball 321 ft. To put it over a 20 ft wall, you would have to hit that same ball 333 ft. Doesn't sound like much, but a lot of balls die in that 12 feet of real estate, and anything on a line would become a double at best. That would make for some exciting plays at second base...

Also in the plans, is better seating down the base lines. Seats with backs on them actually. Planning will be done this year, with a chance that they'll be ready for the 2011 season.

There should be several more improvements visible in the park in the long term. Kudos to the city for stepping up, and to the Seals ownership for putting money back into RAP to give us a better baseball experience. It will all add up to more fun at the park!

[Editor's Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly implied that certain changes would happen in time for the 2010 season.  We apologize for any misunderstandings this may have caused.]

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Grossed Out

Well, you can put away your Remlinger-2010 and your Big Unit and say "Konichiwa" to the new pitching coach for the Victoria Seals, Kip Gross. Gross is a former major league pitcher himself, who made his debut in 1991 with the Cincinnati Reds (missed the Series by one year!). In 1994 while with the LA Dodgers, Gross' contract was purchased by the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japanese Pacific League. He was quite a successful pitcher in Japan where he stayed until 1999, returning to finish out his MLB career with the BoSox and Astros. Now he brings his wealth of varied experience to a new "Pacific" league where he can begin to mould us our own set of Nasty Boys here in Victoria.

Joining Gross on the coaching staff, Josh Arhart will double up as starting catcher and player-coach. Arhart's big bat will now accompany his leadership on to the friendly confines of RAP. I wonder if he'll ever get mad at himself for missing his own sign? Stay tuned, as Spring Training is only weeks away!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Yuma beefs up; Calgary cleans house

The balance of power in the Golden Baseball League has shifted dramatically over the last few weeks. The Yuma Scorpions, last in the league in 2009 with a .380 winning percentage, suddenly look like they might be the team to beat this season. Meanwhile in Calgary, the defending GBL champions appear to be in danger of finishing well below .500 in the North Division.

Luckily for Victoria Seals fans, the Yuma Scorpions are in the South Division. On Saturday, the Scorpions pulled off a controversial trade by acquiring league MVP Nelson Castro from the Calgary Vipers for cash and "future considerations." As with many trades in the GBL, Calgary fans will probably have difficulty determining exactly what those future considerations will entail.

Nelson Castro isn't the only impact player to be added to the Yuma roster of late:
  • Back on February 26th, it was announced that the Venezuelan Baseball Federation signed a three-year agreement with the team owners (Golden Glove Professional Baseball, Inc.) to provide players and support personnel to the Scorpions. When the deal was announced, the implication was that the entire roster would be made up of Venezuelan players.  
  • On March 3rd, Yuma signed Salomon Manriquez, an All-Star catcher in the Atlantic League (the highest level of independent baseball).  
  • On March 18th, they acquired five Venezuelan players from the Laredo Broncos of the United League (which is below the GBL). The impact players acquired from Laredo are pitcher Miguel Pinango and outfielder Jonel Pacheco, both of whom could dominate in the GBL.
  • On March 23rd, the Scorpions signed veteran (American) pitcher Bill Pulsipher who spent six seasons in the big leagues and could be one of the top pitchers in the Golden League.
  • On March 26th, the Scorpions signed two-time Calgary Vipers MVP Carlos Duncan. Duncan's best days are behind him, but the man can still hit a baseball with authority. Duncan, like Nelson Cruz, is also Dominican.
On the flip side of the coin are the Vipers. We knew that the players "on loan" from the Seals (Wilver Perez, Sergio Pedroza and Isaac Hess) wouldn't be returning to Calgary, but the team will also be without a number of other quality players from the 2009 season. These include the aforementioned Nelson Cruz and Fehlandt Lentini, Caonabo Cosme (now with the Seals), Kit Pellow, Mac Suzuki, Rick Guarno, Reggie Rivard and Evan Greusel.

Unfortunately, the Calgary exodus has a negative impact on the Victoria Seals. In addition to Caonabo Cosme, there is apparently one more player to be sent to Victoria in return for the loan of Pedroza, Perez and Hess. This player will be selected by the Seals after the Vipers protect a pre-determined number of players on their roster. Over the past few weeks, that talent pool has become a lot more shallow.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sneak peek at the Seals roster for 2010

While an official announcement has not yet been made, an unnamed source has divulged a number of key details that gives us a pretty good idea of how the Seals’ 2010 roster will shape up.

Although the Times-Colonist reported on March 4th that Caonabo Cosme was to play third base for the Seals this year, it appears that Brian Rios will return to the team and Cosme will play in the middle infield instead.  Rios hit .319 in 2009 and was solid defensively at the hot corner. Wilver Perez will bring his hustling style of play back to RAP for another summer and will likely play shortstop, with Cosme taking Perez’s old spot at second base. Perez, one of the more exciting players in the Golden League, hit .330 for the Seals with 24 stolen bases before being traded to the Calgary Vipers on August 27th. Brett Flowers (.302 average and 49 RBIs in 291 at-bats in 2009) will also be back as the team’s first baseman and his presence can only help the Seals’ offense.

As was reported on this blog on March 9th, Josh Arhart will be back behind the plate for the Seals in 2010. Arhart, a fan favourite in the Garden City, hit .325 with 11 homers and 52 RBIs before being traded to York Revolution of the Atlantic League on August 29th. In addition to giving Seals fans an excuse to wear an eye patch to the games, this signing also ensures that the familiar chants of “Arrrrrrrhart” will be heard at RAP this summer. Backing up Arhart at catcher once again will be Matt Kavanaugh.

The outfield situation is still up in the air, but the good news is that Chris VanRossum (a.k.a. Chris VanAwesome) will be back patrolling centre field. VanRossum provided the Seals with outstanding defence last year before he was lost to a season-ending injury on July 18th.

The pitching staff remains the biggest question mark heading into the season, as Javier Garcia is perhaps the most effective pitcher to return to the squad. Garcia started 2009 as the team’s closer and was lights-out early in the season until he ran into difficulty in early July. He finished the season with a 4.63 ERA and 9 saves. Although Isaac Hess is currently playing for the Diablos Rojos del Mexico, there is a possibility is that he could re-join the Seals in time for a stretch run for the playoffs. The Mexican League season ends in late July, so there is a chance that Zack could make another few appearances at Royal Athletic.

Of course, a lot can change between now and opening day on May 21st. Major-league teams are in the process of making their final cuts and putting together the rosters for their affiliated minor-league teams. A huge number of difficult decisions will have to be made and some excellent ballplayers will be released in the next few weeks. You can be sure that the Seals front-office, Bret Boone and all of Boonie’s contacts will be on the lookout for players who can still “bring it” and are worthy of a second chance. Last year, the Seattle Mariners made a foolish decision to release Austin Bibens-Dirkx and the Seals were smart enough to quickly sign him. Let’s hope our team can capitalize on these types of mistakes in the coming weeks.

Seal Blubber Bits
  • Isaac Hess raised his record to 2-0 on Thursday night for the first-place Diablos Rojos del Mexico. He now sports a 2.61 ERA in 10 1/3 innings of work, but a closer look at his numbers points to some warning signs. While Hess led the Golden League in strikeouts, he only has three K’s in his two starts and has walked four. Also, his WHIP (Walks + Hits per innings pitched) is an unimpressive 1.45. It’s too early to use these stats to predict anything, but Hess will have to improve on these numbers if he is going to see long-term success at the higher levels of professional baseball.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Darrell Evans named St George manager

Darrell Evans was named manager of the St. George Roadrunners on Friday.  The position opened up in late December when Cory Snyder left to pilot the expansion team in Maui.

The majority owner of the Roadrunners, Will Joyce, is an old friend of Evans.  Joyce was quoted on Friday as saying "I told him, if I ever bought a team down the road, I'd like to have him as our manager because of our relationship."  It is unclear if the Roadrunners approached Evans while he was employed by the Seals and Victoria has now asked the GBL to look into the possibility that St. George is guilty of tampering.

When asked about the circumstances leading to his dismissal in Victoria, Evans replied "I'll give the Mark McGwire answer. That's in the past."

St. George's only visit to Royal Athletic Park this season is a three-game set from August 11th to the 13th.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Coaching musings on an early spring day

As a Cincinnati Reds Fan, no one is as pumped as me to have Bret Boone at the helm of the Victoria Seals this year. In fact, I am secretly hoping that - with the new no-DH rule and limited rosters - he one day "accidentally" manages to exhaust all his players and in a final double substitution, inserts himself into the game at second base. Just like that famous player-manager of old - Peter Edward Rose - I'd love to to see Bret step up to the plate in any situation. I dare ya' to throw that cheese at him now, meat. Go on, I dare ya!

And as I adjust the elastic on my Chris Sabo-like glasses, I can't help but ponder who Boonie will pull in as Pitching Coach. There are rumours that it may be an ex- MLB player so my mind starts whirring. Gus speculated earlier how cool it would be if it were Randy Johnson but not sure the Big Unit would be ready yet for prime time. Reporters would just have to keep their heads up for fear of that sparkling personality shining its way through his fist (watch out Cleve!). I'm guessing though, that it would be some other guy out there who Boone played with in Seattle or Cincy.

Since I have never been hindered by the facts, let me speculate. OK, I lied earlier, I'll start with the Big Unit! What a great way to break into coaching by jumping into independent baseball. I mean, I doubt there are networks beating down his door to get him on the air and we all know he loved the game by how long he stuck around (effectively, I might add). It's unlikely though, so let's move on to Cincy. What about a guy like John "Guy" Smiley? He pitched with Boone in the mid-90's when the Reds hovered around .500 and his career was sadly ended early with a broker humerus. He's gotta' be itching to get back. Plus, he was born on St Patrick's day so what a lucky charm to have along! Or better yet, what about a guy like Mike Remlinger. He also played with Boonie on the Reds and was then part of a trade with Boone to the Braves in 1999 for Denny Neagle. I mean, you play beside and get traded with the guy, and then make it to the World Series with the Braves...could build a lifelong bond, no? Maybe they've stayed as pen-pals all these years? Well, what do you say? Anyone got any better thoughts while I am loading my Remlinger-2010?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tijuana Cimarrones to play in largest ballpark in the minors

The Tijuana Cimmarrones, one of the two new expansion franchises in the Golden Baseball League, have officially signed a lease to play the 2010 season in the 18,000 seat Estadio de Beisbol Calimax (formerly known as the Estadio Nacional de Tijuana).  Not only will this be the largest ballpark in the GBL, but it will also be the largest in the entire minor leagues.

The Victoria Seals will make their only visit to Tijuana for a three-game set between July 30th and August 1st.  Did I hear anyone say "roadtrip"?!?

Bret Boone quotes of interest

It's pretty clear that Bret Boone will be the most colourful sports figure in Victoria this year -- if not in the city's entire sports history.  Adjectives like "brash", "opinionated" and "outspoken" fail to adequately describe him.  To get a better idea of just how much fun it will be to have Boonie holding court at Royal Athletic Park this summer, check out the following quotes.

All of these quotes were uttered by "The Boone" himself:
  • “I don't know where my brain was. Somewhere it never was before. Well, I'm back from outer space.”
  • “Everybody is playing like [doo doo].”
  • “I'm not like Ichiro. I don't polish my glove every day.”
  • “Usually when I don't talk to him too much, it's a good thing.”
  • “I played this game too long and did a lot of good things to go out like that. I played my way out and I didn't want to go out that way. I wanted to go out on my own terms.”
  • “He's still playing, and I'm not?”
Obviously he's quite a character... but don't take my word for it.  Consider the quotes from those who know him well:
  • “I don’t know if it’s a good memory or a bad one,” Ichiro Suzuki said. “But when I first came over to play in the United States, I had had a few teammates from the U.S. who had played on my team in Japan. So I had somewhat of an idea of what American players would be like.  But when I met him, he was kind of a human being that you would never meet in Japan. So, whenever I was around him, I almost felt like I was witnessing a creature, not a human being. It was fun for me to watch him.” - Ichiro, speaking about his recollections of Bret Boone.
  • “I thought (Bret Boone) was the all-time greatest, but (Pedroia) tops him by far. I’ve never, ever seen anyone talk as much (crap) as he does.” - Mike Cameron on the best trash talker of all-time, Dustin Pedroia.
  • "Bret Boone is either the most likeable cocky guy I've ever met, or the cockiest likeable guy." - Jim Caple, ESPN.
  • "What I do know is that few players have ever spoken as lovingly and intelligently about baseball as Boonie. You could sit next to his locker forever talking ball (as well as about how great a player Boone considered himself)." - Jim Caple, ESPN
By the way, there are only 57 days until the Seals' home opener.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Isaac Hess wins regular-season AAA debut in Mexico

Former Victoria Seals pitcher Isaac Hess won his AAA debut on Friday night by leading the Diablos Rojos del Mexico to a 10-6 win over the Acereros del Norte in the Mexican League. Hess made the "Red Devils"starting rotation out of spring training and was granted the team's third start of the young season. He gave up two earned runs and only four hits in his five innings of work, while walking two and striking out only one batter.

Hess breezed through the first four innings before surrendering two runs on a walk, single and triple in the fifth. Even though the Diablos were leading 10-2 after five innings, Hess was pulled after throwing only 72 pitches (43 of which were strikes).

After drawing a total of over 31,000 fans in their first two home games of the year, the Diablos "only" had 5,197 fans in attendance on Friday night. Even if he never appears in the big leagues, Mr. Hess has come a long way from his 2009 summer in Royal Athletic Park.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bret Boone's impact on ticket sales

It's pretty obvious that Bret Boone will have a positive impact on ticket sales for the Victoria Seals. But here's an angle that may not have been readily apparent: Boonie (aka "The Boone") is so popular in the Pacific Northwest that we might just see a few more American visitors kicking around Royal Athletic Park this summer. Check out the post in the Mariners Blog on the Everett (Wa.) Herald web site:
Brace yourself Victoria, Boonie's coming back to the Northwest
By Kirby Arnold 
The Victoria Seals of the Golden Baseball League made an announcement today that brought a smile to my face.
It also brought back memories of a guy who was never afraid to poke as much fun at himself as he would teammates or, gulp, reporters. A guy who more than once ran through the clubhouse wearing nothing but a pair of chaps. A guy who played with as much passion as anyone I've run across in the game. A guy who couldn't corral his emotions on the day the Mariners let him go, when the end of his playing career became painfully apparant despite his intense desire to keep it alive.
Bret Boone, the guy who cried the day he left the Northwest when the Mariners released him, is coming back as manager of the Seals, the independent team in Victoria, B.C.
The Seals' season runs from May 21-Oct. 6, and I have a feeling this will be a perfect summer to take a ferry ride to Victoria.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bret Boone brings baseball history to RAP

The date is August 19th 1992. Stepping onto the infield dirt of Baltimore’s Camden Yard, Bret Boone became part of Major League Baseball history. The Boone’s became the first three-generation family of baseball that day - Bret, his father Bob Boone, and his Grandfather Ray Boone had all started a game in the bigs. Only two other families can boast this amazing feat of genetics – the Bell’s (Gus, Buddy, David) did it three years later, and the Hairston’s (Sammy, Jerry, and Jerry Jr.) did it in 2000. As a footnote to the accomplishment, all three of the third generation boys have younger siblings who also made it to MLB - Bret’s brother Aaron, David Bell’s brother Mike, and Jerry Jr’s brother Scott.

Bret is best known around these parts however, from his time with the Seattle Mariners. Many Victoria baseball fans consider the Mariners their “home team”, and spend more than a couple weekends each year riding the ferries back and forth to Seattle to bask in the glory that is now Safeco field, and before that - the monstrosity that was the Kingdome.

Bret patrolled second base for the Mariners twice in his career, staring with the M’s in 1992 and playing in 109 games before being traded to the Reds for C Dan Wilson and P Bobby Ayala to start the 1994 campaign.

In 2001, Bret re-signed with the Mariners as a free agent. Already a Gold Glove winner and All-Star while with the Reds in 1998, Bret shone over his next 5 years as the Mariner’s second baseman winning 3 more gold gloves, and 2 American League Silver Slugger awards – a Solid Silver Louisville Slugger bat - an award given to the most productive player at each position based on batting average, RBI, and home runs. He played in 2 more All-Star games as a Mariner in 2001 and 2003. An extremely durable player, Bret would play 694 games for the M’s over the next 4 seasons, pounding out 770 hits with 127 home runs. He is currently ranked as one of the top 400 hitters of all time.

Baseball stats aside, while with the M’s Bret was also famous for showing off his collection of T-Shirts to the press based on the popular “Chicks dig the long ball” slogan. In fact he had many “Chicks dig” shirts in his collection, seemingly one for every occasion. One day after a game while proudly showing one off, Bret told the throng of reporters “I've got them (t-shirts) for every occasion. If I'm not playing, it says, ‘Chicks love the bench’”.

Personally I’m excited to have Bret on the field for 2010, and am looking forward to watching him grow as a manager. I’m also thinking it won't be long before a new item is added at the Seal’s souvenir stand this season – you better order your ‘Chicks Dig the Manager’ shirts before they sell out!

For a full look at Bret’s career stats, I’d suggest checking out his page at Baseball Almanac:

Reaction to the Bret Boone signing

He leaned into the microphone and announced "Hockey season is over!!" And so began the stream of colourful quotes that is sure to become a trademark of the Bret Boone era as manager of the Victoria Seals.

Reaction to the announcement amongst the assembled media was unanimously positive. The three caballeros at the Victoria Seals Baseball Blog were also thrilled to learn that Bret Boone will be gracing the confines of Royal Athletic Park this summer. Not only are his baseball credentials impeccable (we'll publish a separate blog post summarizing his playing career), but we expect him to be a great ambassador for the game of baseball in this community.

After chatting with Boone for a few minutes, you can't help but get caught up in his enthusiasm for the game. He has been officially retired for less than two years and it's clear that he is looking for another challenge. As he said earlier today, "There is only so much golf you can play." Boone is using this season as a test run to see if managing has the potential to become a second career for him. As he himself mentioned, the Golden Baseball League season is only 3 1/2 months long, so the time commitment is much less than if he were to manage an affiliated minor-league team.

Boone suggested a couple of times this afternoon that he'll be an easy manager to play for. As a player, he was a rugged second-baseman who played the game with a lot of intensity. While I don't doubt that he'll be a "player's manager", I pity the poor guy who lolligags it to first base on a routine grounder. Ol' Boonie is likely to tear a strip off of him pretty good.

Boone has played for some pretty good skippers over the years, such as managing greats Davey Johnson, Bobby Cox and Lou Piniella. He expects that his managing style will take a little bit from each of those guys. Based on my observations this afternoon, I would expect him forge an identity all his own. Boone is a true maverick and he's not afraid to express his opinion. In a sports world full of athletes and managers who spout out meaningless clichés to reporters, he's a breath of fresh air. The sports writers in this city are going to have a lot of fun this summer during post-game interviews, because Boone is not afraid to speak his mind. So much so, that I wouldn't be shocked to see him run into trouble with the suits in the GBL office. Strap on your seat belts Victoria -- we're in for quite a ride!

Seal Blubber Bits
  • The good news for Seals fans continues to mount.  Josh Arhart will be returning to Victoria for the 2010 season as a player-coach.  We'll be grunting "Arrrrrrrrrrhart" this summer after all!
  • The remainder of the Victoria Seals coaching staff will be announced shortly. Boone suggested that he had a couple of old teammates in mind, but that nothing was official. Rumours were circulating this afternoon that the Seals new pitching coach was a well-known lefty who used to play with Boone in the majors. Randy Johnson played with him in Seattle in 1992 and 1993, but perhaps that's just wishful thinking on my part. Last season the Seals didn't even have a full-time pitching coach, so the team would be better off with any of Boone's old teammates.
  • Boone will be using some of his baseball connections to help uncover talent for the Seals. His father, ex-major league catcher Bob Boone, is Assistant GM and VP of Player Development for the Washington Nationals.  John McLaren, the current bench coach in Washington and former manager of the Mariners, is another good baseball man who might be of assistance in helping Bret identify talent.
  • I'd like to congratulate Darren and Russ Parker for engineering a signing of this magnitude -- especially in such a short period of time after the firing of Darrell Evans.  The Parkers know Boone from his playing days with the (now defunct) Calgary Cannons of the Pacific Coast League.  Boone played in Calgary for portions of 1992 and 1993 before getting called up by the Seattle Mariners.

The new Seals manager is... Bret Boone!

The Victoria Seals have just announced that former Seattle Mariner Bret Boone has been hired as the team's new manager. The announcement came less than a week after the team fired Darrell Evans.

Additional details to follow shortly...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Who will manage the Victoria Seals?

Now that the position of field manager of the Victoria Seals is vacant, I can't help but speculate on the name of Darrell Evans' replacement. A number of possibilities come to mind.

Teams in the GBL have a knack for selecting ex-big leaguers as managers. Not only does it help in recruiting players for an independent league team, but it provides the organization with instant credibility to baseball fans in the community. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues when the Seals select their new leader.

Perhaps it's just wishful thinking on my part, but the selection of a well-known ex-Expo or Blue Jay would create an instant buzz in Victoria. I'd be thrilled if someone like Gary Carter was selected. He has experience in the GBL, having led the Orange County Flyers to the 2008 GBL Championship. Unfortunately, he accepted the head coaching job at Palm Beach Atlantic University last fall.

Another ex-Expo that immediately comes to mind is Larry Walker. He hails from Maple Ridge BC and has even greater name recognition than Gary "Kid" Carter. Walker was the hitting coach for Team Canada at the 2009 World Baseball Classic, so it's not a stretch to imagine him managing a professional club. However, I find it unlikely that someone who has earned over $110M in his career would trade his retirement lifestyle to ride the buses (and planes) with an independent baseball team.

Another ex-big leaguer with Canadian connections is Ernie Whitt. He spent 12 seasons with the Jays and has significant managing experience, which includes piloting Team Canada in the 2004 Athens Olympics and in both World Baseball Classics. Whitt, an original Blue Jay, also served as a coach on that team from 2006-2008. He managed the Clearwater Threshers in the Florida State League (Advanced A) in 2009, but he's not returning to the club in 2010 and to the best of my knowledge is currently without a job in baseball. Whitt also has Canadian citizenship, so the Seals wouldn't have any visa worries if they were to select him.

Of course, the manager will likely be none of these men. Who knows who the successful candidate will be. We should find out very soon.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Isaac Hess playing in Mexican League

Ex-Seal Isaac Hess is currently participating in spring training for the Diablos Rojos del Mexico in the Mexican League.  This league is roughly AAA caliber and it's the highest level of professional baseball in North America that is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. Needless to say, it's a big step from the Golden Baseball League to the Mexican League. If anyone can make that jump in a single season, it's Isaac Hess.

It appears that Hess will start the season in the bullpen -- a fact that does not surprise this scribe in the least. He projects as a lefty out of the pen at higher levels of professional baseball and (provided a major-league team's legal department takes a chance on his artificial hip) it's a role he could eventually fill in the "show".

Hess is pictured below working out with the Diablos Rojos.  His new teammates include ex-big leaguers Duaner Sánchez, Héctor Carrasco, Yhency Brazobán, Oscar Robles and Manny Aybar.  Go get 'em, Zack!!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Seals to play two exhibition games in Kamloops

The Victoria Seals open the regular season on May 21st at Royal Athletic Park against the expansion Na Ikaika Koa Maui, but it won't be their first game of 2010 on Canadian soil. According to the Kamloops Daily News, the Seals will take on the Calgary Vipers at NorBrock Stadium in Kamloops in a pair of pre-season games on May 12th and 13th.

It's fairly well known that the Golden Baseball League would love to put an expansion team in Kamloops, since it's perfectly situated geographically as a stop-over between Victoria and Calgary/Edmonton. Having a team in Kamloops would bring the league one step closer to having a Canadian Division. If the exhibition games in Kamloops are well attended and a suitable owner can be found then it's likely that an expansion team will be granted to the city in time for the 2011 season. If it happens, the team will be the first professional baseball squad in the city's history.

Baseball Digest carries our podcast

Our Planet Hardball interview has been picked up by Baseball Digest. Check it out!

For a kid who had a stack of Baseball Digests in his bedroom growing up, this is a big deal.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The first Victoria Seal of 2010: Caonabo Cosme

On the same day the Victoria Seals announced that they were parting ways with manager Darrell Evans (and coach Dan DiPace), the team also announced that they had signed their first player for the 2010 season. That player is a 31-year-old Dominican, Caonabo Cosme.

Cosme started out in the Oakland A's organization back in 1997 as an 18-year-old shortstop. He has bounced around the minors, having spent time with the minor-league affiliates of the Cardinals, Yankees, Reds and Tigers. He has moved to third base late in his career, but he has also played a significant amount at second. 

Cosme suited up for his first season of independent baseball last year. He began 2009 on the roster of the Schaumburg Flyers of the Northern League, but was released on June 15th. He was immediately picked up by Calgary, but lost his job when the Vipers acquired Wilver Perez in an August 27th trade with the Victoria Seals.  The Golden Baseball League web site claims that Cosme was lost due to a season-ending injury, but given that Calgary only had three games remaining in their season, it's more likely that they were simply upgrading defensively at third base in preparation for the playoffs.

In 124 at-bats with the Vipers, Cosme hit an impressive .387 with 7 homers and 28 RBI and he posted a gaudy .621 slugging percentage. Although Cosme did not have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting race, his average and slugging percentage ranked second in the GBL, behind only league MVP Nelson Castro.

However, as his career .917 fielding percentage as a minor-league third baseman attests, he's no Brian Rios at the hot corner. If the Golden League hadn't dumped the Designated Hitter rule for 2010, he'd be a perfect candidate to fill that role. Given that the speed of his youth has long since departed (he hasn't stolen a base since 2007), he'll only be used sporadically in the middle infield and third base will have to be his regular position.

Now how many days until opening day?

[Update on March 27th: It now appears that Brian Rios will in fact return to the Seals for the 2010 season and Cosme will be used as a middle infielder]

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Seals fire manager Darrell Evans

The Victoria Seals have fired manager Darrell Evans. Details are sketchy at this point, but the release of Evans is apparently as a result of him attempting to find employment with another team while drawing a salary from the Seals. At first blush, this seems pretty normal -- lots of people look into the possibility of finding another job while working for another employer. Methinks there are some (highly relevant) additional details that we don't know about right now.

In retrospect, the announcement isn't a total shock. I remember making the following observations about the Arizona and California Winter Leagues (AWL/CWL):
  • Why are Darrell Evans and Dan DiPace involved in the fledgling California Winter League instead of participating in the Golden Baseball League's instructional league (the AWL)?
  • Why is Darrell Evans always pictured on the CWL web site wearing the garb of the Long Beach Armada and he's never pictured wearing Victoria Seals gear? Check out the photo above (taken on February 26th following the Coachella Valley Snowbird's championship win) for an example.
  • Why haven't the Seals signed any players out of the AWL? The two leagues are within driving distance of each other (165 miles separate Yuma AZ from Palm Springs CA).
Additional details can be found in the Times Colonist article written by Cleve Dheenshaw.