Thank you Pensacola.
The biggest factor at play may have come months before the season, as the Rays dealt a pair of pitchers from the projected Biscuits rotation for a benchwarmer with a career batting average of .239 (forsythe). Taking Jesse Hahn and Felipe Rivero from the top of the rotation without replacing them forced Montgomery to heighten expectations from the same guys who had trouble at the end of last year.
Also, we had a BIG announcement - we added a pig to the mascot roster. The first pig didn't make the cut though, being too big to handle and rough on the turf she was traded for a smaller and tamer pig.
Popular in concept, during the first homestand the piggie pooped and sent the Biscuit Bunch headed for the exits as Miss Gravy squealed in panic upon seeing her first Opening Day crowd.
The Biscuits surprised everyone by beating the parent Tampa Rays in an exhibition game, but overall fans found it hard to identify with individual players in part due to the cutting of the "Meet the Team" event.
Instead of offering die hard fans a chance to support the guys who would be here all year, the Biscuits planners made it impossible for kids and parents to fight through autograph-seeing paparazzi for big league signatures.
The exhibition game overwhelmed the staff at the park who were unprepared for the large crowd. It set the theme on the concourse for the entire summer as long lines and lacking preparations became expected. At the event, nobody announced that the Joe Madden QnA questions had to be pre-submitted, so we were treated to deep insights such as "What is your favorite hoody?". Pathetic.
APRIL = AND THEY'RE OFF
However the team started off like gangbusters, having a great month of April and giving fans high expectations. The weather was fine and the Biscuits were hot and fresh.
The bullpen was bulletproof, the starting pitchers were spotting strikes, the hitters were rapping out hits and stealing bases. Biscuits fans were blissed about taking four of five games in three different April series. We were ready for a summer of great baseball in Montgomery!
|We saw... this... in April|
MAY BEGAN WITH BAD MOVES
Starting catcher Curt Casali was promoted on May 5th and the team would struggle without his potent bat in the lineup. Luke Maile, and later in the summer Justin O'Connor, would handle the catching duties in fine form, but failed to offer up a match to Casali's massive .600 On Base Percentage.
Also on the 5th, Jeremy Moore arrived, bringing his strikeouts and bad attitude with him. He was terrible at home and mad about it, shooting angry glances at fans and generally sulking around the ballpark. On the road, he hit a few homers and put up enough average (.189) to keep him in the game one final season as "organizational depth".
Kevin Brandt arrived, Matt Ramsey came off the DL.
Roberto Gomez was promoted from Charlotte, made eight bad starts and went away with an ERA flirting with 6.00. He was replaced in the rotation by Grayson Garvin, who would be on a strict pitch count as he worked his way back following surgery.
MAY SLUMPS EARLY
The Biscuits annual June Swoon struck in May with the Skitz dropping six of the first ten games of the month. It could have been worse, but one game was suspended due to weather and we waited to lose it until 5/27.
The end of May wasn't any better, Biscuits losing eight of eleven games to close out the month. The fans were not thrilled.
JUNE NOT GOOD.
How not good?
3b Riccio Torrez said "The hell with this" and went home. He simply retired. Perhaps he was the smartest Biscuit player, seeing the writing on the wall earlier than the rest of us. Or at least, acting on what we were all seeing.
Losing four of five games to woeful Pensacola left a bad taste in Biscuit fans' mouths, especially when Wahoos fans were... well, they were wahoos. Its not easy to put an entire organization in a bad light in one series, but a contingent of obnoxious P'Cola fans managed to create a rivalry in the worst of ways. No worse fans in the league than the ones who follow the Wahoos on the road can be found, and the report is that the home fans are cut from the same cloth.
|In June we saw... the dugout filled with water|
Torrez retired, Hextor Guevara was the replacement.
Motter and Mortensen went to the DL, catcher Jake DePew came in for a few weeks as a backup backstop when Luke Bailey was sent to Charlotte.
Braulio Lara, who started the season in the Biscuits pen and had been promoted to Durham, was sent back.
Useful reliever Matt Ramsey was dealt to the Marlins for international draft slot money, and of course Ramsey would come back to haunt the Skitz. Matt helped anchor playoff bound Jacksonville, taking another good arm out of Montgomery.
Sam Runion was released mid month, quietly axing another useful arm.
Jeremy Moore was sent to Durham after six homers and 29 strikeouts in 120 at bats.
We got a closer in Cory Burns, the only way the Rays could get him regular work was to send him to MGM, as the Durham bullpen is logjammed.
The Biscuits had a series win against each of the teams it faced, MBraves, Pcola, Jackson and Chattanooga. Only the late month series against Jacksonville ruined the streak, as the Biscuits seemed to right the ship for the second half.
The Skitz scored five runs or more in 11 victories in July, the bats coming alive and the team putting up enough runs to support any pitching staff.
Not that the pitchers were slacking, in July they held the opponents to three runs or less in ten of the teams victories.
|In July we saw... Segovia walk off hit! Click for video|
Albert Suarez arrived, offering much needed help to the rotation. Underappreciated or simply not noticed during the scrum, Suarez pitched better than his record indicates and helped make a bad scene better with his efforts.
Jeff Malm returned from injury and added a bat to the lineup. He was used at first base but seemed to be rusty at the position and would spend more time in the outfield later in the season.
Jeremy Hellickson was sent for a rehab appearance, but it was made on the road as the Tampa Rays continued to show their dissatisfaction with the Biscuits facilities.
Parker Markel came to bolser the bullpen. We needed him. At this point the starting pitching had been working hard to fill for the Rays adding Logan Forsythe at the big league level.
All Star 2b Ryan Brett hurt his shoulder on a dive and went to the DL. Leo Reginatto was his replacement but the FSL AllStar struggled against the Southern League pitchers.
and one/thirtieth of September
The month started with existent but fading playoff hopes hope but like any Biscuit left on the plate for four months, they simply got stale.
|Dr Miraculous assists with sobriety test|
|Cracker Barrel, with road team hotel in background|
Where we all once thought Willie Argo would break the team record for stolen bases, it became apparent that wasn't in the cards. Ryan Brett also could have had a shot at the steals record, but the Biscuits seemed to stop the running game in the second half in favor of a station-to-station brand of American League ball.
|In August we saw... Taylor Motter walk off, click for vid|
Jake DePew was sent back to the StoneCrabs and Justin O'Conner promoted. O'Conner would prove to be a fabulous catcher at stopping the running game, cutting down 8 of 11 would be basestealers. He has good skills at blocking balls in the dirt but seemed to lack the ability to knock down high or wide pitches that result in passed balls.
|O'Conner homers in his first at bat with Biscuits|
Cory Burns would be sent to Durham when it was realized we couldn't get him regular work, a closer doesnt pitch if the team doesnt win.
Brett came off the DL, Segovia came back after a brief paper move sent him to High-A for a week or two.
At the end of the month Kevin Brandt returned to help the pen play out the string. Grayson Garvin went to the DL more to limit his innings than for any other reason.
DR.MIRACULOUS POSTSEASON AWARDS
Ryan Brett - .303 batting avg, 6 hr, 27 SB and outstanding range at 2b.
Yes, I know, everyone loves the Taylor Motter choice, I do too.
But the team was better when Brett was playing. Motter didn't keep us from losing games, Brett did.
Yes, I know about the walkoff home runs, but consider this - Other than HR/RBI Ryan Brett is better in every offensive stat. Brett played in a dozen fewer games than Motter.
Taylor Motter .274 batting average, 17hr, 15 SB
Andrew Bellatti/Bryce Stowell
This pair of relievers outdid any of the starting pitchers on the staff, a pair of stats sets them apart and gives them the edge over all the others.
In a combined 84 games the duo allowed fewer hits than innings pitched AND struck out more than one hitter per inning.
When these guys came in, we were more likely to see a strikeout than a hit, a rarity among 2014 Biscuits pitchers.
Bellatti 71 IP 69 hits, 80K 3.68 ERA
Stowell 49 IP, 39 hits, 54K 1.99 ERA
SO MUCH MORE
There was so much this season that I missed things that will have to be covered in the offseason - Big Mo passed out, Kes Carter came and played well, the starting pitchers soldiered on, the coaching staff had its ups and downs, the fans were loud and drunken and a few were injured on bad foul balls.
Much was learned and much to be discussed over the offseason!