Thursday, September 16, 2021

Bring Back the International League


International League Governors' Cup

Let's talk about what should be happening right now, right here in Durham, North Carolina. We should be having a Governors' Cup playoffs (or at least getting ready for them). Remember the International League? It lasted for 136 years until Major League Baseball murdered it. If you won the championship, you got your name on the cup. The Durham Bulls won the cup six times.

Given the current standings, the Durham Bulls would now be in a best-of-five series with either the Triple-A Northeast winner, the Buffalo Bisons; the Triple-A Midwest, the Toledo Mud Hens; or the wild card team, either the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders or the Gwinnett Stripers. 

Now wouldn't that be fun? Of course, it would be. Would it have taken a lot of thought to set up? Of course not. One problem would be finding the Governors' Cup. Does anyone know where it is? Do the Columbus Clippers still have it?

What we are stuck with is, to his credit, broadcaster Patrick Kinas promoting an entirely artificial "Triple-A East Championship". Spoiler alert: The Durham Bulls have a 2½ game lead over Buffalo. Well, better than nothing. But think about what could have been.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

How About Them Blue Jays?

 As 2021 began, Charlie Montoyo's Blue Jays were doing OK, even though they had not played at "home" for a year and a half. Now, take a look at where they are! Essentially in a three-way tie for the American League, the Blue Jays just got back to Toronto a few weeks ago. And look where they are now! Shabash! Now, don't push the Rays away, but no love here for the Yankees or Red Sox. So keep at it ... after the Rays leave town.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Four Wins in Charlotte; Off to Jacksonville

 The Bulls won 4 of 6 against the Charlotte Knights last week and are off to Jacksonville, Florida for a six-game set against Miami's franchise, the Jumbo Shrimp. This is a simply spectacular season for the Bulls. They are 7½ games ahead of tied second-place teams — Jacksonville and Gwinnett. I do have to note the impressive run of the Strippers, though. They went from 8 games below .500 to 16 above over the last few weeks before falling off the last couple of days.

Meanwhile, the Bulls' parent club, the Tampa Bay Rays, is having a spectacular season of their own. The Yankees made a 20-win run to get close, but fell off recently. The Rays are going home to face Boston with their clutch of Durham Bulls pitchers in train.

And it isn't as if they are in an easy division. The wild card leaders include 3 teams from the AL East

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Solid Homestand; Off to Lawrenceburg

 The Durham Bulls played six games against the Memphis Redbirds last week and did very well. They won 4 out of the 6 games and improved to 27 games over .500, by far the best in all of Triple-A baseball. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Yankees franchise is next best in the Triple-A East at 19 games over ,500, but the Bulls will not play them this year.

Other Bulls' stats are equally impressive. The team OPS of .825 is the best in the Triple-A East as is their ERA (3.49), WHIP (1.14), and Opponents Batting Average (.217).

They are off to Lawrenceburg, Georgia to play the Gwinnett Strippers, the Braves franchise. In the old days, this was a very hot competition. Not so much this year where they only met for one homestand (the Bulls took 5 of 6) and this away series. 

Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rays have pushed into the lead of the American League East. They have won 8 of their last 10 and are now in Boston for a 3-game series that could be a very big deal.

The American League Wild Card race is full of AL East teams. In my view, the team to watch is Charlie Montoyo's Blue Jays. They've been on quite a run lately.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Tough Road Trip

The Bulls played 7 games in Harbor Park last week. It did not go very well. They lost 5. Not badly. Most by 1 or 2 runs. But still, they lost. They left town 28 games above .500 and came home 25 games above .500.

On the other hand, they remain 7 games ahead of the Nashville Sounds and have the best record in the Triple-A East. Standings.

Reflecting (causing?) the team performance, all the measures of team pitching ticked slightly upwards — not a good thing. ERA from 3.40 to 3.49; WHIP from 1.13 to 1.15; and Opponent's Batting Average from .214 to .215. Those are trivial changes and the numbers remain very, very good. 

The Bulls come home to play the Memphis Redbirds for the second and last time this season. Memphis is the Cardinals Triple-A team and has been doing fairly well. But had a tough week against Gwinnett.

Meanwhile, down at the bandbox by the bay, the Rays swept the Red Sox and moved into first place in the AL East. 

Our old friend Charlie Montoyo and his Toronto Blue Jays are playing in Toronto for the first time since 2019! Good for them. And the team is doing pretty well. 

That means the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons will finally come home from their exile away from their namesake town. They've been having a pretty good year as well. Too bad we won't be seeing them in Durham.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Bulls at Mid-Season

 The Bulls are roughly halfway through their season (a bunch of games has been tacked on in September). They are doing very, very well. They lead their division by 4½ games and have the best record in the Triple-A East. For that matter, the best record in Triple-A baseball. Their hitting (OPS) is the best in the league, as is their pitching (ERA, WHIP, and OBA). So there's a lot to like. And I do, I do.

I just don't much like the Triple-A East and its schedule. So far the Bulls have only played 5 teams in a 20-team league. I get that there are only 7 teams in their division. But what's the point if the Bulls never play one of them (the Nashville Sounds, who are in second place)? And another they only play one home and one away set (Memphis, 12 games)? 

The Bulls have played 6 games against Memphis, 24 against Jacksonville, 12 against Charlotte, 16 against Norfolk, and 6 against Gwinnett. These 6-game stands (and the limited number of opponents) mean that the same guys match up over the year—a lot. I don't think I like that. 

I'll restate my old objection, what are these teams playing for? I guess that we geeks can make charts like this to show won/loss differences, but unlike the majors, the mask is off Triple-A, the players are going for individual glory, not for the team. Except that's not true either, if their behavior at a win is any indication. These guys do care about winning as a team. But Major League Baseball has conspired to make their efforts somewhat pointless.

Meanwhile, the Bulls' parent club is doing very well. They are only 1 1/2 games behind the Red Sox. Not that folks down there are noticing. Some nights the Bulls have drawn more fans than the Rays (who only drew 9,900 last night). 

But at least they have decent coverage. So we can go to the St Pete Times to read about the two Durham Bulls who will be pitching in the Olympics, Shane Baz and Joe Ryan. We wish them well.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Durham Bulls Back in Town

 The Durham Bulls came home last night and we got to see them play some good baseball against the Gwinnett Strippers, Atlanta's Triple-A team. Lots of power (6 doubles, 2 home runs) and terrific pitching by Joe Ryan and an 8-3 win. Box.

Meanwhile ...

Ballpark Experience — Areas to work on

  • You'd think that with two weeks to prepare that the DBAP's video board would be working. Half of it was. But you could not see the lineup. Which might be ok if ...
  • We had a program, but we don't have programs. Gotta say that if I was paying to advertise in the Bulls online program, I'd want my money back. Who's reading it? Get your program!
  • The radar gun wasn't working at first, but came on later.
  • The lights on the manual scoreboard (ball, strikes, outs) were not working at the start of the game.
  • The LED board below the fan clubhouse wasn't working, but I don't know if it's been working at all this year.

Ballpark Experience — Attaboys

  • Wool E Bull had his gokart running. Not all around the field, but still ...
  • Some between-inning stuff back near first and third base stands.

By the way, the Bulls are hanging on to first place.