CAN’T BLAME THE MANAGER, THE PITCHERS OR THE TWINS FOR DISAPPOINTING RED WINGS
Rochester’s baseball fans have enjoyed an International League-best five consecutive winning seasons but that streak appears likely to end soon.
The Red Wings lost 4-0 in Louisville Thursday night to drop to 45-55 with 40 games remaining in the regular season. It was Rochester’s 12th shutout loss of the season and dropped the Wings to 9 1/2 games behind in the battle for the league’s one playoff berth with 40 games to play.
I can’t blame manager Joel Skinner, most of the pitching staff or the Minnesota Twins.
Why are the 2018 Red Wings so disappointing? That’s easy. The hitting has been mostly terrible.
I followed the Red Wings since I was a kid and I’ve chronicled them for decades as a reporter/columnist. I’ve seen Rochester teams with collectively less talented hitters – but those teams hit better than this team.
These Wings have been in a collective slump all season. I’ve never seen so many proven Triple-A hitters on one team fall so short of expectations.
Skinner has been a very successful Triple-A manager. The pitching staff has been top-3 in the 14-team IL all season. The Twins spent a lot of money on veteran hitters for Rochester before and during this season. Most of them are long going, going gone: Nick Buss, Chris Carter, Jermaine Curtis, Taylor Featherston, Ryan LaMarre, Taylor Motter, James Ramsey, Cameron Rupp and Brock Stassi.
Two others were expected to be Rochester stars early this season – Zack Granite and Kennys Vargas. I figured they’d tear up the IL early and be playing for Minnesota by now.
Granite was the IL All-Star center fielder for the 2017 Red Wings. He should be a sparkplug at this level but he has sputtered all this season:
2017 – 71 games; .339 batting average (96-for-284); 46 runs; 16 doubles; 4 triples; 5 HRs; 29 RBI; 15-for-21 stolen bases; .392 on-base percentage; .475 slugging percentage; .867 OPS.
2018 – 66 games; .212 batting average (50-for-236); 28 runs; 8 doubles; 0 triples; 0 HRs; 4 RBI (that’s correct); 9-for-13 stolen bases; .246/.212/.529.
Vargas is a switch-hitting 1B/DH with enormous power. He had some big moments with Minnesota in recent past seasons. But he hasn’t done much for Rochester this year: 93 games; .223 batting average (75-for-337); 12 doubles; 13 HRs; 44 RBI; 97 strikeouts; .305/.374/.679.
Granite probably will play in the majors again. He’s a left-handed hitter who can make contact, play center field and run. I won’t be surprised if Vargas returns to the majors in the future – probably not with the Twins. I’m pretty sure Minnesota no longer fears that he might be a late bloomer and the second coming of David Big Papi Ortiz for another team.
Here’s how Rochester has fared in major batting categories from 2013 through Thursday night (rank in the 14-team IL in parentheses):
Batting average -- .258 (10th); .266 (5th); .262 (2nd); .248 (12th); .261 (3rd); .228 (14th)
Runs – 669 (2nd); 618 (8th); 611 (3rd); 589 (6th); 587 (10th); 331 (14th)
Home runs – 114 (t5th); 89 (11th); 95 (t4th); 129 (t1st); 103 (11th); 65 (14th)
Total bases –1,894 (5th); 1,896 (6th); 1,831 (5th); 1,853 (5th); 1,846 (9th); 1,076 (14th)
OPS (on-base % + slugging %) -- .732 (3rd); .722 (6th); .697 (5th); .705 (5th); .719 (9th); .646 (14th).
JUSTIFY HAS RUN HIS LAST RACE
2018 Triple Crown winner Justify was retired from racing Wednesday due to a swollen left front ankle. He now gallops into the sunset...er, the breeding shed.
The game plan was for the magnificent undefeated thoroughbred to cap his brilliant career with victories in two more races: the Travers Stakes at Saratoga August 25 and the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs November 3.
But the colt needed to stay perfectly healthy. The greatest fear of his owners was a catastropic injury during a race. It was an easy and proper decision to end his running career now.
Unraced as a two-year-old, Justify ran six times this year and won every time.
How does he rate among other great thoroughbreds? He had awesome speed and seemed to love his work. He was bred to run and few horses did it so well.
We’ll never know how he would’ve fared against the greatest champions of previous eras, but they would’ve known he was in the race.
His first offspring figure to be running in 2022. The sport needs them.
CHEERS FOR A VINC AND A VINCE
Rochester Knighthawks star Matt Vinc this week was voted National Lacrosse League Goalie of the Year for a record sixth time. He’s 36 years old and still going very strong. His excellent performances in the playoffs probably put him over the top against the quality competition.
Vince Carter, the first high-flying first superstar for the Toronto Raptors, this week signed a one-year, $2.5-million contract with the Atlanta Hawks. He ranks second among active players in points scored without playing on a NBA championship team: Karl Malone, Dominique Wilkins, Alex English, Carmelo Anthony (25,417 points), Reggie Miller and Vince Carter (24,868).
YANKEES NOW A LONGSHOT TO BREAK THE SINGLE-SEASON HOME RUN RECORDS
The MLB single-season record for team home runs is 264 by the 1997 Seattle Mariners. The record for the New York Yankees is 245 HRs in 2012.
The Yankees have been on a record-setting pace for most of this season, but injuries to sluggers Aaron Judge (26 HRs; chip fracture of his right wrist when hit by a pitch Thursday night; out at least three weeks) and Gary Sanchez (14 HRs; right groin strain; out until late August or early September) probably means the MLB and Yankee single-season HR marks are safe.
Entering Friday night, the Yankees (163 HRs in 101 games) are on pace to hit 261 HRs this season.
UPDATING NORTH AMERICAN PRO SOCCER ATTENDANCE
There are 65 teams in North America’s top three pro soccer leagues this season. It sure seems strange that Rochester is not among them.
Here how the three top leagues have fared in attendance this season:
Major League Soccer (23 teams) – average crowd 21,576 through 230 games...Atlanta United FC 51,799 tops...Columbus Crew 11,207 at the bottom.
National Women’s Soccer League (9 teams) – average crowd 5,842 through 79 games...Portland Thorns tops at 16,194...North Carolina Courage 5th at 4,340.
United Soccer League (33 teams) – average crowd 5,022 through 320 games...Cincinnati tops at 24,899...The Pittsburgh Riverhounds are 25th (2,370). Toronto FC II is 32nd (929) and the New York Red Bulls II (740) are at the bottom.
The National League has a 112-92 advantage over the National League in this season’s interleague series. The American League has won the interleague series for each of the past 14 seasons.
The Minnesota Twins have 4 of baseball’s top 100 prospects according to MLB.com’s revised and updated rankings: SS Royce Lewis No. 10...OF Alex Kirilloff No. 31...SS/2B Nick Gordon No. 76...RHP Brusdar Graterol No. 81.
It will be interesting to see how much Syracuse’s attendance improves in the 2019 International League season if Tim Tebow is on the team. Syracuse currently ranks 13th in IL attendance (177,428; 3,943 per game). Rochester is 9th (281,978; 6,266).
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...
Friday, July 27
Jordan Spieth (25)...Ryan Tannehill (30)...Max Scherzer (34)...Alex Rodriguez (43)...Hugh Green (59)...Christopher Dean (60)...Floyd Rayford (61)...Rich Dauer (66)...Reggie McKenzie (68)...Peggy Fleming Jenkins (70)...Dennis Ralston (76)...Irv Cross (79). Dolph Ziggler (38) and Triple H (49) are invited to the birthday party.
Saturday, July 28
Evan Rodrigues (25)...Harry Kane (25)...Ali Krieger (34)...Zach Parise (34)...DeMeco Ryan (34)...Manu Ginobili (41)...Dana White (49)...Garth Snow (49)...Bruce Wilkerson (54)...Doug Collins (67)...Vida Blue (69)...Bill Bradley (75).
Sunday, July 29
Dak Prescott (25)...bowler Jason Belmonte (35)...Pepper Johnson (54)...Teddy Atlas (62)...Flo Hyman (64)...Scott Wedman (66)...Dan Driessen (67).