Monday, January 4, 2021

In With the New-ish, Prediction Predicament, Bullpen Life


 Greetings friends!

Long time no see. Hope you are well and settled into some sort of alternate-universe normal. Things are pretty good here, considering. I am glad to see that we have made it to the other side of 2020. The topics of this blog seemed particularly trivial in light of the events of the past year, but now its time to take a look ahead.

 "Do you ever write about anything besides baseball?" my good friend Michael Coleman once asked me. 

"No," I replied, "because I don't know much about anything besides baseball." 

He liked that answer and I suppose I do too, though its nearly impossible to avoid outside topics when talking baseball these days. Yet to that end, this is not a spot for politics or current events, other than how they directly impact our game experience.



This first blog the year is usually dedicated to the Biscuits opening day roster and while we will do that, before we can have opening day predictions there are some tall hurdles to clear first. There are requirements that must be addressed before suiting up and jumping the chalk line for the first game.


Like... when is opening day? What teams are in the league? IS there a league? How many games will they play?


There stands a fair chance that we could be some time before seeing a game. As much as I want to see it otherwise, I find it increasingly tough to be optimistic about the situation. I call em as I see em, and it don't look great. I wish it were different but until we get new information, this is how its going.


Commissioner Manfred has played Godfather to MiLB owners, the news came out in November that he made minor league teams an offer they couldnt refuse. Teams were assigned affiliations in a very effective smokescreen to hide back room dealings. Fans were happy to see their team survive, even if they have to change loyalties. So less public attention was paid to the paperwork actually sent out by Manfred's cabal of legal wizards.

MLB essentially told minor league team owners, such as the Biscuits Lou DiBella: "heres the deal... you tell us now if you are IN or OUT... right now... also... you agree never to discuss this deal AND not to sue MLB... if you should happen to get screwed by the details of our offer. We aren't telling you the details now. Once you tell us if your team is in and wont squeal, THEN we reveal the financial details. You will take what we give you and you will not tell anyone about it.

 Steam Community :: :: Vito Corleone

Presumably they reminded the owners about what happened to A-Rods laptop and how good they were at finding a guys kneecap when he is stepping up onto the subway and it would be a real shame if anything should happen if word got leaked to the public. We wouldn't want anything to happen, now would we?



Rumors persist that details of said offer to teams includes NO GAMES in 2021. 

No verification on that, but it bears mentioning that we are six months past the usual schedule reveal, less than four months from potential opening day. No promotions, no ticket sales. And MLB just took over the revenue from MiLB merchandising. It is truly an offer teams cannot refuse.



Regardless of rumors, the Southern League will be two teams lighter. With Jacksonville getting moved to Triple-A and the elimination of the Jackson Tn Generals, its tough to see two cities that could support teams being added. Even if there were options for locating teams, it would require two double-A franchises to relocate from elsewhere.

Chattanooga barely escaped the chopping block and fans there should be nervous. A new ballpark would be a cure for many issues but obviously those are little tricky to finance these days.



And speaking of the Southern League... is there one? 

If you have looked at the league website lately you might notice that the list of teams in the league has been replaced with a list of all 140 minor league teams. No schedule for 2021 posted and the most recent article is dated for last August. The league website is not being maintained.

Could Lori Webb be out of a job? 

With MLB in charge of all minor league business there would be a streamlining of transactions, umpire assignments, protest reviews and handing out suspensions. Why would MLB keep league offices open for smaller circuits when they have already shuttered the MiLB offices? It seems an easy answer - they won't. 

Perhaps in name only, as a nod to history as well as geography. But they days of seeing each league with its own front office and executives have likely drawn to a close.


And then there are the big boys. 

After this 2021 season the MLB and MLBPA go at it over their legal agreement. With a lengthy history of not playing nicely together, including recent squabbles boiling over, its not a stretch so see that we are likely in for a protracted work stoppage in 2022, if not before. And unlike 1994 when the minors were a haven for fans, experts warn that a strike or lockout would shutter MiLB games until a solution was worked out at the top.


So there you have it, a wide open path to at least two more seasons without Biscuits baseball on top of the one we already had.  


MLB affirms its spring training will open right on time and the regular season right behind it. Maybe they will release the Southern League schedule this week. I certainly hope they do, as I have season tickets waiting for me.

Internet sources often suggest late major league openings, with late March for MLB spring training and a separate spring training for minor league players. Minor league spring training would be much later, if at all. Ballpark Digest suggests minor league spring training for double-A and lower could take place AFTER the MLB season begins on April 1st, using the major league teams spring facilities.

Regardless of when, as the Biscuits do finally take the field next, they may look the same but will play in a much different league landscape.


Remember when we were getting the "mega team" full of prospects last spring? It would have been great but several of the top guys may skip us now, due in part to having a split spring training. Top prospects will work out for top coaches in MLB camp and probably ship out to triple-A. That means Wander Franco bypasses Montgomery entirely unless he has a terrible spring camp.


I basically copied last years list which was a terrible idea. I struck the guys who aren't in the system or have aged way past being in double-A.Then I looked at the list of players by level to see who moved up, down or sideways. Also useless.

I rely on last years roster to make these predictions. This year, even getting accurate rosters is impossible. Durham had over thirty players on its winter roster on the MiLB website. Will they go with six catchers? Probably not but its kind of a crapshoot to pick two or three that will land in Montgomery. As of this writing, Montgomery has just over a dozen players listed on its roster, including one guy that is 28 years old.

So in the end I relied on the old standby, tea leaves and crystal ball. Here is the likely 2021 Montgomery Biscuits roster!

C Joey Roach
C Rene Pinto

1B Dillon Paulson

OF Garrett Whitley
OF Michael Smith
OF Grant Witherspoon

UT Jake Palomaki
INF Kaleo Johnson

SP Shane Baz
SP Joe Ryan
SP  Tommy Romero
SP Michael Plassmeyer - lefty

RP  Chandler Raiden
RP Simon Rosenblum-Larson - smart enough for Harvard
RP Jack Labosky - Jack brings the tiny bus to the gump
RP Ivan Pelaez
RP Trey Cumbie - lefty
RP Mike York





Friday, May 29, 2020

Flashback Friday: Biscuits & Barons at Rickwood 5.29.2019

It was just twelve months ago that the Biscuits made their true return to the oldest ballpark in the country - Birmingham's Rickwood Field. A rainout and rescheduled makeup were ventured years ago but for many fans the true re-match of the inaugural game didn't come until last year.

While going through files I found these pics and hope they impart the same good feelings that they did for me. So excuse me as I dump a whole folder of pictures on the table here and reminisce....

The players arrived early, dressed in their snazzy 1910-era throwback togs. The Rickwood ballpark doesn't offer much in the way of spacious clubhouse rooms so teams often find it easier to show up dressed and ready to play.

Locker rooms are provided but are the same open front cubbyhole that have been used for over a hundred years. Rickwood hasn't had much in the way of upgrades, offering classic amenities over modern convenience. Classic amenities like the lighting standards salvaged from old Tiger Stadium in Detroit.

The very first game at Rickwood Field pitted the Birmingham Barons against the visiting Montgomery Highlanders way back in 1910. The Montgomery lineup:

Named for the team's majority stockholder and president, Rick Woodward was feted by city officials before the first game and ejected by league officials during it. Woodward and the Barons manager were given the heave-ho by the home plate umpire in the 3-2 Birmingham victory back in 1910.

The Biscuits arrived and began warmups on the third base side of the field, the traditional dugout offered to the visiting team provides an enhanced view of the afternoon sun.

Coaching offers a link to the past, passing knowledge from one generation to the next in the form of verbal instruction and spoken lessons. Pregame discussions cover many aspects of the game and come from teammates as well as coaches.

Pitcher and catchers played long toss, infielders stretched and outfielders jogged to get loose.

 Getting a billboard in the outfield has been a standard way of putting a local business names in front of potential customers, including visiting players.

Players took in the scene with interest, playing in a ballpark older than dirt has a charm all its own. High fives were out, handshakes are the order of the day and everyone gets one.

Being seen is part of wearing the uniform representing the clubs home city, offering a professional attitude with proper game face is showing respect to the efforts of those who toiled to hone their craft over the past century in this house of base ball.

Lineups are exchanged.
Even the umpires are dressed for the occasion.

Baseball will be played at the old yard once again this day.
  A ball is thrown, a bat is swung.

The game hasn't changed much since the first orb was heaved by a Barons moundsman towards a waiting batsman from Montgomery on that August afternoon in 1910.

The sound of the bat as it strikes the ball, the collective gasp of the crowd as the leather sphere bends across the horizon, the shouts as the official signals that the ball has cleared the outfield wall remains the same, resonating across this diamond for more than a century.

 The Barons have one of the longest and most noble pedigrees of any team in baseball, rostering greats from Satchel Paige to Michael Jordan.

The game continues here.

The fabric of baseball history is woven with sights and sounds, built up, one upon another like the rings of an aged tree, repeating itself by wrapping a new layer around the old over time.

people walk, legends stride - the Barons manager is Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel

The game is polished bit by bit, hewn from rough rock into gems suited to complement a perfect diamond.

Taking in the game is as much a part of being a player as playing in the game, with special attention paid in special circumstances.

Rounding the bag without letting up is a long-standing baseball tradition and Rickwood Field has tradition down pat.

Winding down at the end of an afternoon at the park, letting the sun set on the game and enjoying the fellowship of the game is easier when your team locks up the win.