Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hemstitching: The DAP, Sonnanstine, and Rosters

Durham Athletic Park, 1940s

  • The Herald-Sun is reporting (thanks, Fritz) that the Bulls are going to take over management of the old Durham Athletic Park. What will that mean to Bulls fans? Other than tweaking our nostalgia bones, not much. What could it mean to Durham? Possibly quite a bit. As a non-Durham guy, I think that the DAP really adds a lot to that part of town. I know that there’s not too much going on in the neighborhood, but with the DAP in good shape that part of town just looks great. As I’ve mentioned before, the renovated DAP is a not all that great a place to watch a game, but sure looks to be a great place to play a game. So if the current arrangement with NCCU can be sustained (and Duke?) seems like a good idea for all. Note: it looks like the idea of a museum for minor league baseball is not going to happen. Tricky business model for that project, I’d guess.
  • Andy Sonnanstine, who’s spent a good bit of time with the Bulls over the years (56 innings in 2011) has signed with the Cubs. Seemed to me that for all of last year the Rays couldn’t decide just what it was that they wanted Sonnanstine to be able to do. Was he a starter? A long reliever? Did the Rays need a sixth starter? Or even a long reliever? He had decent stats as a Bull, but he also added to the starting pitcher roster confusion that plagued the Bulls all year. Not his fault, though. Here’s hoping he gets a chance to bloom up there in Chicago. The Cubs AAA franchise (Iowa) is in the Pacific Coast League so we’re not likely to see Andy here again.
  • Over at Rays Prospects they are starting to build their guesses at 2012 rosters with a look at starting pitching and catching. No arguments from me so far.
DAP Restored

Sunday, December 25, 2011

What Stars Are These?

Check out the link for Alan Taylor's astute descriptions of this and all the other images he assembled.

Happy Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hemstitching: GIBBYS, Prospects, and Market Inefficiencies

  • Greatness in Baseball Yearly awards were announced a while back. Of interest to Bulls fans was the award for the “Must C Moment”, our Dan Johnson’s homer against the Yankees that set the stage for Even Longoria’s walkoff that put the Rays into the playoffs.
  • To fill up the time before Spring Training lots of folks are evaluating prospects within the Rays system. The best place to keep an eye on that is, of course, Rays Prospects. But, Baseball America has just come out with their list. We have seen several at the DBAP and are likely to see more next year.
  • And there’s always some geek stuff to look at. Over at Grantland, Ray Jazyerli thinks he has found the latest market inefficiency — overvaluing prospects. No direct effect on the Bulls unless the Rays pull off another big trade like they did last year for ... prospects. However, given the success of the players involved in the Garza trade, the Rays appear to be going against the trends identified by Jazyerli.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ode to Brasstown, North Carolina

This blog is, in general, monomaniacal regarding its subject — The Durham Bulls Baseball Club. However, on occasion there are matters of such deep and abiding concern that they cannot be ignored.

This morning’s News & Observer gave us one such instance. It would seem that the good people with PETA have taken umbrage at the annual Clay’s Corner New Year’s Eve Opossum Drop.

Well, just next door to Clay’s Corner out there in Brasstown, NC (just east of Murphy) is my favorite place in all of North Carolina, the John C. Campbell Folk School. Brasstown itself is a community of something like 200 souls and Clay’s Corner is just about the only business left. I like visiting Clay’s Corner and Brasstown whenever I’m at the Folk School.

As noted in the story, on New Year’s Eve an opossum is placed in a plexiglass box and hauled up into the air. At the stroke of midnight the 'possum is lowered to the ground and released.

Opossums of my acquaintance would consider it an honor to participate. Probably a good idea if them fellers up there in Washington, DC just leave the good folk (and 'possums) of Brasstown alone. Complaining about an opossum drop is sillier than the 'possum drop itself.

Update: Brasstown's 2012 Possum after the drop:

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Neil Solondz Departing

Talk about good news/bad news!

Neil Solondz is moving down to St. Petersburg to do pre- and post-game radio for the Rays. (Thanks for the heads up, DRR!)

Congratulations, Neil!

We Durham Bulls fans have been exceptionally fortunate to have Neil in the broadcast booth for the last several years. From time to time when the Bulls were on the road I checked in with the host team’s broadcast just to hear what they are saying about the Bulls. The contrast was startling. You’d think that you were hearing a different game. I think that it’s safe to say that Neil is the best play-by-play man in AAA baseball, certainly the best in the International League.

Neil never forgot the fundamental task of the play-by-play guy, keeping the listeners informed on just what is happening on the field and painting a picture of what that looks like. Through him we always had a very good idea of what was happening minute by minute in the game. I’m not sure if every slider he called was actually a slider, but it was in my imagination, and that’s what counted.

He also did a terrific job of keeping us informed, as best he could, on both on-field tactics and off-field strategy, the significance of roster changes and potential for further moves.

On a more personal note, whenever I managed to get way to far out on a limb here at WDBB, I could expect a kind note from Neil suggesting how I might be able to crawl back without making a complete fool of myself. Thanks, N!

So, we are going to miss Neil. We know that the Bulls aren’t going to be able to find as good a guy to replace him, but maybe they’ll find someone who can grow into the job.

In the meantime, good luck Neil. You already know almost every one of those guys you’ll be interviewing and they’ll know you. Should be fun.

Update: Stacy Long had a great comment over on his blog:
(One wonders if they had Durham manager Charlie Montoyo give him the news or at least called him into the manager's office for it.)

Hemstitching: Torra Signs, Picks All-Stars

  • MLB Trade Rumors is reporting that RHP Matt Torra has signed with the Rays. With no further information, we’ll just go ahead and speculate that it is a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. We like Torra. He showed up in Durham last year in July and put in quite a few innings (61⅓), 11 games started, 5-1, ERA of 3.67. Pretty good. At 27 you have to think that he’s a long shot with the Rays, but as we noted at the end of the season, we’d be happy to see him back in a Bulls uniform.
  • is reporting a “Rays Organization All-Star” list. Quite a few 2011 Bulls on the list including Steven Vogt, Russ Canzler, and Brandon Guyer whom we might see next year, along with a couple we’re very unlikely to see, Dan Johnson and Desmond Jennings, and several that we might see. Worth looking at for the comments of Rays minor league exec Mitch Lukevics.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hemstitiching: More on Mangini, Hayhurst Opines, and Dress Codes

In the weaver’s world the word hemstitching is used for two purposes: to tie up loose ends (literally, because an “end” is a thread in a warp) and for decoration.
  • As mentioned earlier, we think there’s a good chance Bulls fans will get to see Matt Mangini play for the Durham Bulls next year. Sure would be fun to see two local lads (Matt is from Holly Springs, RHP Chris Archer is from Clayton) on the field together. Certainly the Bulls front office would like to see that happen. Why is he available? That is not entirely clear. He was the Tacoma Rainiers’ (the Seattle AAA team) MVP in 2010, with very solid numbers. But looks like 2011 was a bit of a nightmare for Matt with quad injuries that must not have healed properly and then a concussion in July. As to why the Mariners released him, someone who knows the team better than I would have to guess at that. I’d speculate that they were happy with their 1B/3B situation and needed to make room on their 40-man. Played for Apex High School, NC State, and Oklahoma State before being drafted by the Mariners. Interesting mid-2010 interview here. I wish Matt well at Spring Training, but it sure would be nice for the Bulls to have a solid player at 3B for a change. For that matter, with Dan Johnson gone and (in my modest opinion) Leslie Anderson not working out, 1B would be interesting.
  • Former Bull Dirk Hayhurst is providing an insider’s view of the Ryan Braun situation and the Pujols and Matt Moore deals while he waits for his new book to hit the street and obsesses about the greyhound he rescued.
  • And then there’s the dress codes that have been established for baseball's sports writers. Who knew? Who cared? But it is interesting to learn that there’s not supposed to be any cheering in the press box.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Three More Potential Durham Bulls Signed

Image from Hubble Advent Calendar, Day 7

The Rays announced that they’ve signed four players to minor league contracts “with invitations to Spring Training.” They are infielder Matt Mangini, first baseman Juan Miranda, and pitchers Jhonny Nunez and Ricky Orta.

Given the Rays’ concerns about first base, it’s probably fair to say that these guys will get some playing time in Spring Training, but end up with the Bulls. What we don’t know, and won’t for a long time, is who among these has an opt-out contract and could disappear mid-season. 

Mangini has a good bit of time in AAA, but only played in 68 games in 2011, 10 with Seattle (injured?). Almost all of his time has been at 3B, and the Bulls usually need a third baseman. Will have to dig and see what problem was in 2011.

Juan Miranda has plenty of time at 1B in  the majors and in AAA with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for most of 2008-2010. He got a fair amount of playing time with the Diamondbacks last year, but he’s about to age out (28). Major League stats, minor league stats.

Depending on their contracts, seems to me that J.J. Furmaniak and Leslie Anderson have the most to worry about with these two signings.

We’ve looked at Jhonny Nunez.

Ricky Orta is recovering from surgery in early 2010. Bet we see him in a Bulls uniform later in 2012 ... if the surgery worked.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hemstitching: Durham Bulls get a RHRP, and More

  • Reports are out there that the Rays have signed right-hander Jhonny Nunez to a minor league contract. We saw Nunez a couple of times last year when he was pitching for the Charlotte Knights. To be honest, can't say that I remember much about him other than the odd spelling of his name. He's 26 years old, has been in professional ball for a while, but only a few outings in the majors back in 2009. Stats Commentary. In all likelihood Nunez will spend spring training with the Rays and then become a reliever in waiting with the Durham Bulls.
  • For some insights into how the Rays approach minor league operations, check out the three-part interview with the boss, Chaim Bloom, over on Rays Prospects. Part I, Part II, Part III.
  • The Rays trade of former Bull catcher John Jaso for Seattle Mariners pitcher Josh Lueke has stirred quite a bit of controversy and philosophizing. See items here, here, and here. I suppose it's possible that Leuke to show up in Durham. We'll see.
  • Update on the Collective Bargaining Agreement. I left out the part where major league teams can have 26, instead of 25, man rosters for double-header days. That will lead to a startling outbreak of honesty in the majors. Typically a bench position player gets "hurt" and goes on the DL to make room for one of Durham's starters, when a) the Bulls have a pitcher the Rays want to look at and/or 2) they don't want to screw up their rotation. The impact on the Bulls? Not much or, said another way, it won't screw around with the Bulls rotation any more than it usually does.
  • What about that Hubble photo up top? Nothing to do with baseball, I just thought it was pretty. Here's a link to a very cool Hubble Advent Calendar. New photo every day.