Friday, May 29, 2015

Developing ClusterShuck

Developing ClusterShuck


Shucks, Where Do We Play?

Ah, baseball.
Don't ya just love it?

Here we have a developing issue in the league, a fluid situation indeed. And one that absolutely affects Biscuits fans. All we can do is speculate, which is one thing fans are really good at, so lets get right to it!

Last summer the Huntsville team was sold to a group from Biloxi.

The Biloxi group agreed to build a stadium. In June, they signed a deal for their new ballpark. The deal stated that it would take 12 months to build. The Biloxi owners chose the 12-month build over one that would have taken just 10 months to complete.
proposed Biloxi stadium

Since the team had its lease for the ballpark in Huntsville for all of 2o15, they used it for some games. They also held "home" games in road parks such as Jacksonville and Pearl, Miss as they prepared the new stadium in Biloxi.

However, the team ownership told everyone that they would open sooner than the 12 months. They even sold tickets. Announcements of opening in June was met with happy fans in Biloxi and road team fans looking forward to visiting a brand-new facility.

Now it turns out that the 12 month building project will ACTUALLY take 12 months! The Biloxi team won't have a park for those tickets they sold. And no refunds on those tix, they can be turned in for another game (which works if you want to watch a Brewers affiliate, but road team fans get the shaft!)
incomplete Biloxi ballpark April 2015

The city of Biloxi has declined to pony up the additional money to finish the park early. The money was taxpayer cash and there was no guarantee that the park could be done in time, even with the extra money. So basically, the city has told the Southern League and the Biloxi team owners that there won't be a "certificate of occupancy" for the ballpark until at least August.

A phone call to the Biloxi team office dropped a bit of a bombshell on me - the team intends to play baseball at the Biloxi park in June "in spite of what the mayor says".

That is a direct quote, though the Shuckers phone answer-er said the team would finalize the opening night details later.


My phone call to the box office in Mobile, supposedly the first Biloxi opponent, yielded no information. I was told early next week is when I should call back for more info.

There were quite a few "uh" and "uhms" when I quizzed the box office guy on if the series was in Biloxi or if Mobile would host.

They obviously don't know yet.

No answer to phone calls mid-afternoon.
No surprise there, as nobody shows up for games, so why would they be there in the afternoon?

Of course, If the games do get re-scheduled there, the broadcasters might have a hard time finding the booth.

John answered cordially "No comment" when I called.
No matter what question I asked on the topic of Biloxi's opening series, I got the same answer.

Asked when we might expect a comment from the league office got the same answer. Asked about the level of league office involvement, same. Timetable for resolution, same. Possibility of relocating the games, same. Preparation requirements for a possible relocated series, same.

Afterwards I found more info from league officials in news reports, including quotes directly related to my questions, so I am less than happy with the response from the office. They pretty much treated me like I was wasting their time. It was a "get nothing and like it" from the executives, who obviously don't have much invested in giving fans answers.

The only question I did get a comment on, regarding the Biloxi stadium situation? Yes, I am the only person who has called the office for information.

(To be fair, John liked my suggestion of having the SL HOF as a roving display, at the home park of the team hosting that years AllStar Game. He also provided me a contact email so I could keep pummeling him with questions.)

He suggested I contact the City of Biloxi for more information.
So I did.

The person who answered the phone at the Biloxi Mayors office had not much more info, but was really friendly about it. I was obviously not the first to inquire about this topic.
She did make me aware that it was an issue they were aware of and told me June 2nd the Biloxi City Council was scheduled to meet, discuss and likely vote on the opening of the new stadium.

Obviously I made several attempts to get info from the Biscuits, but the short notice has probably left them scrambling. Just ten days ago I had a conversation with a high-ranking front office person who told me the team had made hotel reservations in Biloxi and there had been "no internal discussion" towards a contingency plan.

Well, they better start.

The same source who talked about hotel reservation also said that it would not fly to host the Biloxi series in June. That would give the Biscuits 21 games in 30 days, including the SL AllStar Game. It was implied that the team couldn't arrange the logistics of ushers, concessions and other basic duties and still focus on the ASG.

In talking to the Biscuits box office, the expectation seems to be that the games will not be hosted at Riverwalk and the trending opinion was that Huntsville would be the location for the Biloxi Vagabonds series.

Last rites have been read over Joe Davis Stadium at least twice already, now it may be due another months worth of games. Stories about the last home game have been written and published, perhaps to be rendered in error.

The guy at the SLeague office rebuffed me when I said it looked like the City of Biloxi and the Biloxi team weren't working well together. Yet its obvious that there is a wire crossed somewhere, the team and the city simply disagree on when to open the park.

It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to sniff out a different story than the one we are hearing, this is what happens when the league office lets teams and cities handle things on their own.

Otherwise, its totally at the feet of the league president, right? Either the league handled it and screwed it up, or the league let someone else handle it and have watched it get screwed up from afar.

League Prez Lori Webb
Cause it can't be both, they will never convince me this has gone smoothly. Teams don't generally open ballparks mid-season, they certainly don't sell tickets for games they know they cant hold.

“We're trying to go with the flow and help them out as much as we can,” the league president Lori Webb said, quoted in a story on WLOX website.

That pretty much clears it up, don't it fans?

The worst part of all this is that all along we have known the stadium wouldn't be ready, only to be told it would by every team and league official.

Its incredibly frustrating to be told the sky is green when we can obviously see that it isnt. The time for back room league moves and covert team planning is over. Maybe thats how it worked in the past but baseball seems to think it can keep up the charade and fans will play along.

We don't forget these things. Honesty would have sold alot more tickets than the double-switch being pulled on us.

But what else should we expect from a casino team and a green league president?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Someone's Coming, Razorback Ryne & Winky, Suspect List

With the well deserved promotion of Richie Shaffer, the Biscuits were down a man. I guess they liked what we saw in the spray charts last week.

Roster moves were imminent.

Adding to the roster means someone is subtracted, two arms from the bullpen were scapegoated with good cause. Cooper and O'Brien were sent packing, simply released. Their dreams crushed, with any luck they will catch on elsewhere with more success. Likely they will find another gig in the Southern League and shut us down during an important series.

We now welcome Kyle Winkler and Ryne Stanek.

Winkler made his debut in the Monday afternoon series finale vs the Smokies.

Does Winkler look familiar? He was with Mobile for 20 games last year, finishing with the Baybears on the strength of his effective bullpen work with high-A Visalia.

He allows a hit an inning, on average, his Achilles heel is the walks - free pass totals have risen with each promotion. Selected in the 10th round 2011 by the Brewers, the Texas native will be 25 in June.

Ryne Stanek is to become the #4 man in the rotation. We can likely gather that sends Hagens back to the bullpen.

Razorback Ryne
The Rays 1st round draft choice (29th overall) in 2013 out of Arkansas, Stanek was dominant at Port Charlotte, plain and simple. In nine starts he won four, posted an ERA of 1.78 in 50 innings.

He isn't a strikeout pitcher, the 6'4" righthander is stingy on baserunners, specifically he doesn't like to give up hits.

He surrendered a home run in each of his first two starts of the year, both losses. However since then he has not allowed a HR or suffered a defeat. Twice he has pitched seven innings, his season high is 9 strikeouts in a game. Stanek gets alot of ground balls, and not alot of strikes looking.

When the roster move came down, it made me wonder about a few other guys who might be the subject of a transaction in the next few weeks.

LHP Jim Patterson
Jimmy Patterson - on the DL with a sore shoulder, I was told he would be weeks away from a return. But that was at the start of the homestand, we are now waiting to see when the lefty reliever feels relief. And boy do we ever need some lefty relief in the bullpen!

Marty Gantt- the Port Charlotte team has an outfielder due a promotion in Gantt, but with the StoneCrabs *only* eight games ahead in their division, can the team withstand yet another promotion?
And whats 25 yr old Marty Gantt done to be a Biscuit? Just hit .295 in 25 error-free games in the outfield, with two homers, seven doubles and three steals. Oh, he also leads the Crabs in OPS.

Mike Marjama - also 25yrs old, double-M has raked 23 hits in 18 games, crushing FSL pitching to a .365 clip. The 1b/C/DH may struggle to find a position after spending most of his time as a designated hitter in High-A. While his numbers suggest promotion, his six games in the field say he might not be ready to be a Biscuit.

Juniel Querocuto - the switch hitting Venezuelan has appeared at three infield positions this year, though mostly playing third base for the StoneCrabs. Last year as a 22 year old he earned a late season promotion from single-A BowlingGreen to High-A Port Charlotte. Juniel struggled in just under 100 plate appearances but this year has made the adjustment, hitting a solid .290 in over 150PA. Juniel has been sent to Durham, skipping the Biscuits - just how many third basemen do the Bulls need?
Belnome with Missions

Vince Belnome - the Durham infielder is struggling, hitting a buck-eighty with two strikeouts for every hit. A .300 hitter for the Bulls in 2013, facing double-A pitching might offer a confidence boost as well as a chance to work with hitting coach Ozzie Timmons. Right now, Belnome is listed on the DL. Could he be headed to Montgomery when he returns, or would we get Querocuto? 

Perhaps its Leo Reginatto, who could lose his seat on the Bulls bus with the arrival of Juniel, Shaffer and the return of Belnome.

There will be a brand new and exciting feature for the blog coming soon. Even better than the Yogi Berra Quote of the Day thats been added on the left sidebar!

I can't offer up any details yet, but I am confident it will be a smooth and comfortable improvement resulting in an uptick in coverage and information about the Biscuits and all things Montgomery baseball.

I have been told that the Biscuits team baseball card set should be in stock for the first homestand in June at the Biscuit Basket team store. We can look for something new in the store every week from now thru the AllStar Game.


The Biscuits have been tight-lipped about the festivities, but there are a couple items floating about.

The Home Run Derby takes place an hour before the start of the game. Not much time for hitting bombs! I was told game time would be around 7:30, with the HR Derby scheduled for 6:00.


I was told that there are issues getting any of the Southern League Hall of Famers to agree to show up, but I am sure we can expect some interesting dignitaries.

 Last year the only SLHOF inductee to show up for the presentation was a team owner. And hey, it was the least he could do since it was his ballpark. For me, this shows that the Southern League Hall of Fame isn't thought of very highly around the game. Maybe they should require the elected persons to show up?

The Skitz hit the road for a confusing ten game road trip, facing similarly-named Jackson and Jacksonville.

The league punching-bag Jackson Generals beat up on the Biscuits at the end of April but now Brady's boys are back for revenge, buoyed by their series win over the Smokies. The Biscuits tend to play at the level of their competition, playing badly against bad teams, so this could be an interesting series.

Somehow, this is the second trip to Jacksonville for the Montgomery Grays without us hosting them in the first half. But we took three of the five games then and hopefully have similar success on the return trip.

This road trip will be a good barometer on how well the roster moves have affected the composition of the team. Seeing how the Biscuits produce runs without Richie Shaffer's bat in the lineup and how well the bullpen handles late inning pressure will be big indicators on what to expect when the team comes home for June.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Grape Jelly Series 2015, What to Look For, Stat Madness

The weary Biscuits return to the oven just in time for a holiday homestand. Thirsty Thursday, three fireworks nights and a Memorial Day Monday Noontime contest make for a busy five game series. Its also one of those series with four different start times, which makes it harder for teams to get into a rhythm.

Its been a tough stretch for the Montgomery nine as it faces the two fiercest Southern League squads in back to back series - Chattanooga and the Tennessee Smokies. It wouldn't be so tough if the Biscuits liked home cooking, but so far they have shown no more love for the Gump than the road.

The Chicago affiliate Smokies are often loaded with prospects, and this roster is no different. Topped by pitcher Carl Edwards and catcher Kyle Schwarber, there is an array of top talent on the Smokies team.


The home team will score runs, but Montgomery is among the league worst in allowing runners to tour the pillows. Ten times in the last two weeks the Biscuits have allowed five runs or more, winning just once when the opposition scores often.

Look for the Biscuits to test their new bullpen arms and shuffle their starting pitchers as Brady Williams searches for the right combination.

Look for Smokies swagger. The Cubs affiliate has been teaching its players to win every pitch at every level and it shows in their attitude.

Also, be sure to look for the Smokies flow. Perhaps the best team in the minors in terms of locks, the Smokies have manly tresses that give them strength along the lines of Samson or viking invaders.

On the topic of hair, look for Mustache May to be in full effect for both teams.

We should look for the Biscuits to open a can of whupass at some point, plating seven runs or more in at least one game in each series this month.

Look for the Smokies to keep pace with run scoring, on paper the two teams have comparable slugging and power stats. This series will rest on the pitching staff strength, especially the bullpens.

STAT MADNESS - Richie Shaffer
hits vs rhp
Keep an eye on Richie Shaffer, if he figures out how to hit the ball to right field, he will be a truly dangerous hitter. A first round pick, Shaffer is having a good season in his second tour with the Biscuits, and we look at his stats and splits for more info on the Montgomery third sacker.

For the most part he is wearing out the left side of the field against right handed pitchers, as seen in his spray chart above. Most of his success is against right handed pitchers, batting a solid .272 against them.

Against lefties Shaffer only has four hits in 18 at bats, but two of his hits vs LHP are home runs.

He has fallen off a little after a strong start to the season, but Shaffer is one of the few Biscuits who don't flake out at home. His home/road batting averages show that he loves Riverwalk, hitting over .300 at home.

Shaffer is yet to hit a home run anywhere else this year, all his bombs coming while wearing Biscuit home whites.

Shaffer has not been caught stealing, with his three attempts all coming in the month of May.

Shaffer has just six no-strikeout games this year, but Thursday has a chance to be Richie's first three-game streak with no K's this season, if he can avoid the whiffs.


I'm not sure dudes arm should have a lump like that.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Contenders/Pretenders, Our Favorite Biscuit, Sulphur Dell


When a team makes a habit of losing series, its tough to prop up pennant hopes.

Glum Headlines lately
Such is the case in Montgomery, where the arrival of Jimmy Paterson and Bryce Stowell likely comes just a little too late to help the Biscuits win the first half.

Don't get me wrong, we love Patterson and Stowell, the bullpen will surely be better with them. Also its good to see the parent club send reinforcements.

However, as we have seen too often in the past, the cavalry doesn't always arrive in time to save the settlers. The Biscuits are seven games out of first and would need to vault the Smokies and Barons before challenging the division leading Lookouts.

Barring a twenty game win streak we can probably stick a fork in our Biscuits.

Where would we be if there hadn't been a division change? Right where we are in the current standings. The team that loses more than it wins doesn't move up, no matter what the teams around it are.

A tough month of May for the Biscuits so far, losing games no matter what the score. In the games the Biscuits scored four runs or more this month, they are 5 wins and 6 losses.

When you score four runs or more, you expect to win those. You have to win those. For the Biscuits, its been the difference between contending and pretending.

For the first half of the season, we may be done, but things looks good for the second half. If the recent changes keep the bullpen from leaking so many runs there is much room for optimism. It's always better to finish well than to peak in May.

I noticed the team website had a poll for readers. My favorite all-time Biscuit? Of course this list has some great names, but the list is kind of short. Many folks that come to Biscuits games now have no idea that these guys ever played here, there aren't many recent appearances.

Other than a rehab stint by Longoria in 2011, we haven't seen any of these guys in the past five years. Evan did play in 131 games from August 2006 to July 2007.

Alabama native Desmond Jennings in 2009 was second on this poll list in time served, appearing in exactly 100 games for Montgomery. His 37 steals is still a Biscuits franchise mark.

Outgoing David Price is often listed among Skitz greats, his dominant month of service consisted of nine games in 2008. His infectious smile is long remembered by loyal fans from eight seasons ago, which is one more year than wins David had as a Biscuit (7).

Matty Moore, who I have hopes of seeing in Montgomery for a couple rehab starts in June, is also listed. A great guy with a boyish face and smoking fastball, he was a Skit in 2011 through mid-July. He logged 18 starts, including the first Biscuit no-hitter, winning 8 games.


But where are the REALLY great Biscuits for this list?
Where is franchise stalwart Gabby Martinez? Where is Championship Series MVP Chris Nowak?

Where are the great catchers, John Jaso & Stephen Vogt? Where is Win-A-Date stud Henry Wrigley? Powerhitting 1b Matt Fields?

Where are the pitchers we loved - guys like postseason hero Mitch Talbot? Popular lefty Mike Prochaska? Quick pitching, hair dyeing Chris Mason?

What about pitchers James Shields, Wade Davis, Chris Archer? 

And what of our MLB success stories - Outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, reliever Gene Machi, catcher Jose Lobaton and pitcher Jeremy Hellickson?

So many candidates left off this list, feel free to let me know if your favorite Biscuit isn't listed on the "official" poll.

I will have to think about this one, we have had so many great players!

The Joe will see the sun set soon, having given up its team to Biloxi.

The fans there could have gone to see the homeless Shuckers, but they simply stayed away in droves.

With attendance totals like 302 and 148 during the "homestand", Huntsville showed its disappointment in the ownership's lackluster promotions and losing records over the past seasons.

Attendance 148? And we thought the Biscuits over-estimated the crowd!


May 18, 1979 
Southern League: Frank L. MacCormack of the Montgomery Rebels had 4 wild pitches in the second inning v the Memphis Chicks.
 No word on how the chicks felt about his tuxedo, but I am told they really go crazy for a sharp dressed man.

MAY 18 1920 
Grays star Sam Streeter
"Montgomery Negro Team Tops League - Grey Sox Meet New Orleans Again Today; Jacksonville is Runner Up

The Montgomery Gray Sox, now hold first place in the Negro Southern League with Jacksonville, a close second. The Gray Sox, however, have a hard schedule before them for the next ten days, which schedule includes a series of games with Jacksonville and Nashville. The Greys are confident that their ascendency will be maintained, and are counting upon adding even further to their winning average during the present week.

This afternoon, the Grays will meet the New Orleans aggregation at South Side park, leaving this evening for Jacksonville for a series of three games returning here Sunday for a game with Nashville Monday. The Sox will go to Atlanta for another series of three games.

Sunday's game will be called promptly at 3 p.m. The seating capacity is being greatly enlarged to accommodate white persons, it is announced."

site of South Side Park, home of the Gray Sox

I came across a few pics of Nashville's great old ballpark, and while I don't have a story to go with it, I couldn't help but share a few of the fantastic images of this lost gem.
View of the front of the park shows exhibition game Vols vs Dodgers

Awesome view from centerfield shows grandstand
262 down the line and lots of hill in the outfield!