Not without obstacles: Fixes made, baseball back

20 Feb

I wonder if local fans were so finicky in 1926.

I wonder if they applauded and embraced Babe Ruth when he — in an exhibition game — hit what is proclaimed to be the longest home run in baseball history, at Artillery Park in Wilkes-Barre.

Because in the past five years, Northeast Pennsylvania has struggled to keep a minor league franchise content, let alone getting a Hall of Famer to voluntarily play in the area.

In the past half-decade, NEPA’s fussy fanbase and a never-ending saga of local politics have given the New York Yankees every reason to leave Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the rearview.

But consider yourself lucky, Wyoming Valley, for the boys of summer are back in town.

At first, the Wyoming Valley embraced its Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, setting a local attendance record in the inaugural season of 2007.

It took the Yankees just three years to win the Governor’s Cup, the grand prize of the International League. The previous NEPA home team, the Red Barons, could not capture a title in 18 years.

But how did NEPA residents reward the Yankees? They stopped going to games.

After more than 580,000 fans walked through PNC Field turnstiles in 2007, attendance dwindled to about 360,000 in the champion season (2009) and an all-time low of less than 300,000 in 2011.

Fans blame ownership’s failure to put them first, exhibited by the team having just seven giveaways days from 2007-2011. However, that is fixed.

In 2013, there are 18 giveaways, $1 beers on Thursday, $1 hot dogs on Monday and buy-one-get-one free ticket days on Wednesday, all made possible by a new regime in the front office.

New President and General Manager Rob Crain and company have gone so far as to succumb to the suspicion that locals did not like the “Yankees” brand, renaming the team the RailRiders, a name voted on by fans, and introducing a new color scheme.

All that should be more than enough to please the fans. But still, many pundits had a different reason for not supporting the team.

Critics pointed to an outdated bowl-shaped stadium that mimicked the Philadelphia Phillies’ old Veteran’s Stadium.

“The Vet” was abandoned by the Phillies one decade ago. Perhaps our ugly, archaic PNC Field should have gotten the same treatment sooner, but finally in 2013, there will be a new look.

Lackawanna County Stadium (1997)/Renovated PNC Field model

Lackawanna County Stadium (1997)/Renovated PNC Field model

Gone is the Veteran’s Stadium-build. Instead, the ballpark is a 360-degree venue — in other words, there is no such thing as a “bad” seat.

This new-age stadium was thought up years ago by former Lackawanna County Commissioner Bob Cordaro.

Say what you will about Cordaro, who was jailed last year on corruption charges, but he fought to get this team here, maybe by playing dirty. It may have even cost him his job.

In 2006, Cordaro desperately recruited a new suitor, who would eventually be the Yankees, to inhabit PNC Field after the Red Barons announced they would move to Lehigh Valley.

Bob Cordaro, left

Enter: classic NEPA “he said, she said” politics.

Cordaro warned the public in November 2007, after losing his re-election, that the county would put itself at risk of losing the team and everything that came with it (including now-defunct plans for a Yankees-themed hotel and museum).

After Cordaro lost his re-election bid, Sen. Robert Mellow told the Times Leader that he was outraged at the position Cordaro put the county in.

“He put us in a situation to have to build a stadium to keep a team,” said Mellow, who was recently sentenced to 16 months in jail for fraud, among other charges.

Shortly after Cordaro’s exit, plans for a new stadium were abandoned — only to get the $43 million facelift this past year.

There also finally appears to be peace between county officials and team ownership, as the team is expected to stay put for the next 30 years, according to The Times-Tribune.

So, will the fans once again embrace the hometown team? I sure hope so.

“I think it’s a terrific baseball city,” Dave Miley, Yankees’ AAA manager for the past seven years, told the Citizen’s Voice in December 2006.

Shortly after the announcement of relocating to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman echoed Miley’s line of thinking.

“For me, this is a marriage made in heaven,” Cashman told the Times-Tribune.

Cashman told the newspaper that there were a few things that drove the Yankees out of Columbus and into NEPA, among them Lackawanna County’s willingness to install a natural-grass surface and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre being more than 300 miles closer to the Big Apple than Columbus.

While the aforementioned long-overdue stadium renovations were made in 2012, the city and team endured a year-long separation.

The stadium and field that is going to debut on April 4 will look nothing like the structure we last saw in September 2011. More than 80 percent of the players from that team are different, and of course, the Yankees are now the Railriders.

With all the necessary changes in place, only time will tell if this “marriage made in heaven” will return to its honeymoon phase.

The Biggest Series of the Season for the SWB Yankees starts tonight and….

2 Jul

Well, it is a five-game set against the arch rival Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. To catch you up, the Iron Pigs lead the Yankees by 2.5 games in the International League North division, while the Yankees sit 0.5 games behind the Pawtucket Red Sox for the wild card spot.

The series for 2012 is tied at three a piece, with the Yankees on a three-game winning streak after the Yankees defeated the Iron Pigs three times from May 27-29. The two teams did not play each other during May, and will not play against each other again after this series until August 25.

Back to the issue at hand.

It is a very close race, for both the IL North and the wild card. You may already know that the Yankees are playing the entire 2012 season on the road this year, displaced by stadium repair. They have played at Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Pawtucket and Batavia, and unfortunately the classless Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs have hosted them as well.

With all these options for where SWB can play this series, which is designated as a three-game set @ Lehigh Valley and then a two-game set @ SWB, they should play the latter games at Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Pawtucket or Batavia, right? They can’t all be hosting games, right?

The entire five-game set will be in the devil’s house, Coca Cola Park in Lehigh Valley.

What is wrong with the schedule makers? How could the commissioner let this go? How has their not been an outcry stating how much of an injustice this is to the fairness on the playing field?

Rant over.

Go Yankees.

My 2012 International League All-Star Ballot

29 May

Just for fun I felt like filling out a AAA All-Star ballot, highlighting the class of both the International League and the Pacific Coast League. I’ve watched a few games on MILB.TV, but that’s as far as my viewing/listening goes. I read the SWB Yankees’ box scores, but that’s as far as my keeping up with statistics goes. I’m basing this off of favoritism (go Yanks), performance and just who I’d like to see. For example, if Bryce Harper was hitting .220 with 10 RBI, I’d still vote him in.

Anyways, here it is.

INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE

1B — Steve Pearce, SWB

  • .322 BA, 10 HR, 28 RBI [league-leading 57 hits]
  • Juan Miranda, one of the all-time great Scranton Wilkes-Barre players, and Russ Canzler, a local boy, were both up in this one too. Tough to choose, but Pearce has been the Yanks’ best hitter throughout the season.

2B — Pedro Ciriaco, PAW

  • .301, 2 HR, 14 RBI
  • Dude was arguably the Red Sox’ best hitter, and arguably MLB’s best hitter, during Spring Training this season. I want to see him.

SS — Jordy Mercer, IND

  • .303, 3 HR, 22 RBI
  • Thank God for Jordy, because the pool of shortstops is terrible. A handful of players batting sub-.200, including Reid Brignac. UGH [/Pusha T voice].

3B — Lonnie Chisenhall, COL

  • .324, 4 HR, 17 RBI
  • Chisenhall, one of the top prospects in baseball a few years ago, barely beats out the White Sox’ Dallas McPherson (once the No. 1 prospect in baseball).

C — Omir Santos, TOL

  • .310, 0 HR, 9 RBI
  • Former Red Baron and one of the best defensive catchers in the world, Santos barely beats out well-known baseball guys, Ryan Lavarnway and Francisco Cirivelli.

DH — Brad Eldred, TOL

  • .305, 20 HR, 56 RBI
  • Just look at the stats.

OF — Gregg Golson, CHA

  • .284, 2 HR, 17 RBI

OF — Luis Durango, GWN

  • .286, 0 HR, 21 RBI [league-leading 22 SB]

OF — Scott Podsednik, PAW

  • .234, 1 HR, 10 RBI [8 SB]
  • Anytime you have a chance to watch a World Series champion, and one of the greatest base stealers of all-time, you vote him in. He is with the Red Sox at the moment I believe, but there is a definite chance of him being sent down in the next few weeks.

SP — Dylan Axlerod, CHA

  • 4-1, 1.20 ERA
  • Easy choice. Former major leaguer, still plenty of potential left, having a great season, White Sox.

SP No. 2 — Zack Duke, SYR

  • 5-2, 4.25 ERA
  • Duke isn’t having a great season by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s always fun to watch a veteran (with one of the GOAT curveballs, may I add) take the hill against prospects.

RP — Kevin Whalen, SWB

  • 2-0, 1.54 ERA, [league-leading] 12 saves
  • Another easy choice, as Whelan’s stats tower above other IL closers.

RP No. 2 — Deolis Guerra, ROC

  • 1-2, 1.93 ERA, 0 saves
  • I think Guerra is going to be a monster in an MLB bullpen sometime soon, might as well catch him in AAA while you can.

There it is. Watch the game or something.

You can fill out your own ballot here.

Two Players With (Semi) Local Roots Sign With Braves

11 Jan

The Atlanta Braves have been one of the quietest teams this offseason in terms of transactions, aside from tire-kicking whether the would deal pitcher Jair Jurrjens to the Detroit Tigers.  They made two under-the-radar signings today to greatly benefit their minor league system, and possibly impact the Braves’ future.

The Braves claimed former top prospect and shortstop Jeff Bianchi, a native of Lancaster, off waivers from the Chicago Cubs.  They also picked up former Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankee and outfielder Jordan Parraz.

Jon Morosi was the first to report the story.

Parraz played parts of 2009 in AAA and also the full 2010 and 2011 seasons in the AAA system, where he posted a .279 BA, 20 home runs and accumulated 257 hits in 220 games.  Parraz is a former 3rd round pick and still considered a prospect, as he is still just 27 years old.

Bianchi was en route to being the Royals’ shortstop of the future until he was sidelined for all of 2010 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.  Bianchi was a 2nd round pick in 2005 and is still just 24 years old, with tons of potential, which he showcased in 2009 at A/AA (.308/9/70/22 in 128 games).

Gucci Mane-Freestyle Collection [1/8/12 — One Zip File]

8 Jan

Gucci Mane let loose a few freestyles over popular beats over  the past few days, much like Young Jeezy has been doing.  I took the liberty to zip them all up in one file for download.  Enjoy.

Freestyles included: House Party, Ass, House, The Motto, Party, Rack City, Riot, Same Damn Time

Download here

Yo Gotti “Live from the Kitchen” (Tracklist x Artwork x Release Date)

26 Dec

Since Yo Gotti’s last album, “Back 2 Da Basics” (2006), Gotti has been on a constant grind — releasing nearly a dozen mixtapes, doing countless features, touring to over one different spots, enlisting Nicki Minaj, J. Cole, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne for features.  Despite his all-time high hype in 2010 when “Women Lie Men Lie (feat. Lil Wayne)” and “5 Star Remix (feat. Gucci Mane, Nicki Minaj and Trina) were tearing up radio, his label decided to shelf his LP until further notice.

Well, that further notice is now, and here is the tracklist behind the January 10th release of “Live from the Kitchen”.

1. Testimony
2. Harder feat. Rick Ross
3. Killa
4. Red, White & Blue feat. Jadakiss
5. Single
6. Second Chance
7. Cases feat. 2 Chainz
8. Letter
9. Go Girl feat. Big KRIT, Big Sean, Wale, Wiz Khalifa
10. We Can Get It On
11. 5 Star Remix feat. Gucci Mane, Trina, Nicki Minaj

Gotti has stated his displeasure in the timing of this album, and the placement of “5 Star Remix” being on here, but regardless, the album should be fire.  It will be available on iTunes and Amazon, and at retailers including Best Buy and Wal-Mart.

Noticeable songs not on here:

– The long-rumored track featuring T.I.

– “Teenage Numbers (feat. Rick Ross)”

– “Mirror Remix (feat. Wale, Wiz Khalifa, J. Cole)”

– “Touchdown”

Yu Darvish Baseball Card Prices Skyrocket

9 Dec

Much like Kei Igawa and Daisuke Matsuzaka, with all the hype comes a very active baseball card market.  Igawa’s autographs can be had for next to nothing now, and Dice-K’s autographs and rookies still fetch a few dollars, however much cheaper than back in 2007/08 and most buyers are probably Japanese (my guess).

Last night, a Darvish Bowman Chrome rookie sold for $14

Just two weeks ago, the same Darvish Bowman Chrome rookie fetched $14.12….but wait, THAT auction was for a lot of two Chrome rookies.

Just a little observation that I wanted to point out, and I’m sure this is just the beginning of the madness.  Oh, and Darvish’s signature is very hard to come by — but when he does sign, it demands “go big or go home” prices.  Albert Pujols signed baseballs usually fetch just a few dollars more than that Jarvish ball (the only Jarvish autograph listed on eBay).