Season: 71-65; Home Stand: 6-4; Home Games Remaining: 2
With this win the Durham Bulls cannot be caught. They are the Champions of the International League South Division! They play the winner of the IL West Division in a best-of-five series beginning 3 September. The Wild Card slots remains unsettled. It looks like Columbus in the West and Syracuse in the North.
This was a very satisfying win for the fans (mostly) and for the Bull (surely). We got to see the Bulls clinch the South Division title of the International League for the 7th time in 8 years. A very big deal.
In Triple-A baseball bragging rights rightfully go to the teams who win the division titles. September is a crap shoot. In September the majors can expand their roster to include all the players on their 40 man roster and those players come from their Triple-A teams. Every team takes a different approach to the call-ups. Some bring up almost all of the roster, others are very selective. That means that the team that’s in the playoffs may not be anything like the team that got them to the playoffs.
How did the Bulls get there this year? Mostly through good pitching and especially good relief pitching. Last night was textbook for 2014. Matt Andriese had a decent enough 5⅔ innings, albeit with several worrisome long outs for a pitcher who normally induces a lot of grounders. Then Steve Geltz and Josh Lueke did not allow a single base runner for the next 3⅓.
Hitting over the year, was not so much of a factor. But last night key hits by Justin Christian and Cole Figueroa and smart base-running Hak-Ju Lee got the first two runs in. In the 6th a double by Mike Fontenot and a single by Cole Figueroa put Fontenot on 3B where he scored on a Mikie Mahtook ground out. That put the Bulls ahead, although Fontenot and Figueroa set the table for another Mahtook RBI in the 8th that made things a bit more comfortable.
I was disappointed that the Bulls chose to celebrate their championship by rushing off the field, not even bothering to acknowledge the fans who were also cheering. Sure it was a small Monday crowd, but the team did the same thing last year. That annoyed me then, it annoyed me last night.
That rush from the field to me just shows how wide the gulf is between those who play baseball and those who watch the game. You will note that all the photos of recent celebrations, including yesterday’s, are taken inside the clubhouse. The 500,000 folks who came to Bulls games this year just don’t seem to count. And maybe we don’t. Nevertheless, I think that at least a modest effort to share the celebration would be appropriate.
In the meantime, let’s celebrate among ourselves.