At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Red Sox on a Roll – On Cape, Anyway!

Couldn’t let another day go by without applauding the streaking Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod Baseball League … these Sox have won nine games in a row, and they’ve now stormed their way into first place in the league’s Eastern Division. They’ve won slugfests (11-8 against Falmouth on Friday) and pitching gems (a no-hitter tossed by Boston College’s Terry Doyle against Chatham on Sunday), and they show no sign of slowing down. Manager Scott Pickler was working the phones for pitching two weeks ago, and it seems he’s found what he was looking for – now the question is whether they can fend off the Brewster Whitecaps and Orleans Cardinals, who trail them by just two and three points respectively.

Was at the Y-D game in Hyannis over the weekend and noticed that the foul ball given to my toddler by a kind-hearted teenager seemed smaller than regulation … Y-D Sox general manager Jim Martin said he noticed the same thing when he opened a new box of balls before the season even started, whereupon he decided to weigh and measure each one. According to Martin, all the balls were within spec, but they did vary noticeably in weight and diameter. Could this be another reason home runs seem to be more common this summer than in summers past?

Seems like a good time to let you know that the Cape League’s All Star Game is in Yarmouth next Saturday (July 29) … the gates open at 11am and the game begins at 4pm, following two autograph sessions and a home run derby. It’s a grand event that features much fun, food, and more scouts than you can shake a stick at (two years ago, I counted more than 70, a large number that takes on even more meaning when you consider there are only 30 major league teams). If you go, stop by and say hello, as I’m scheduled to be there signing books. I’m also slated to speak at the Marstons Mills Public Library this Sunday at 3pm, so perhaps I’ll see you there as well!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Cape League at Midseason: When Indications Become Trends

The 44-game Cape Cod Baseball League season is now half played, and it’s now safe to turn early indications into fully-fledged trends.

At this juncture, it appears the teams to beat in the East are Orleans and Brewster, who are separated by a single point in the standings. However, a recent surge by Yarmouth-Dennis (7-3 over the last 10 games) has put the Red Sox just three points behind the Whitecaps and second place – and since the top two teams in each division qualify for the playoffs, this promises to be an interesting chase to watch.

In the West, streaking Cotuit (also 7-3 in the last 10 games) currently enjoys a five-point advantage over Wareham, which has struggled lately and stands just one point ahead of Falmouth. In turn, the Commodores are only one point ahead of Hyannis, so a real scramble for second place – and that coveted post-season slot – appears to be brewing here.

Between the lines, the general sense is that the pitchers haven’t been as a far ahead of the hitters as is usual for the early going, and the daily game accounts seem to contain more references to home runs being hit than is typical. Remember, this is a wood bat league, and most players take at least this long to make the adjustment from using aluminum. Y-D manager Scott Pickler speculated two weeks ago that the apparent uptick in long balls could have been due to an unusual number of temporary pitchers in the league to that point. Since then, most of the contracted players have arrived on Cape, the temps have gone home, and some spectacular pitching performances have been recorded. So there is evidence to suggest that Pickler’s theory may well have been on target, and that pitching will be more dominant in the season’s second half.

Finally, on another note entirely, Boston Red Sox fans may be interested to know that Matt LaPorta, the club’s 14th round pick (out of Florida) in last month’s draft, has returned to the Cape League with Brewster as a draft-and-follow. The word is that he’s been told he’d be compensated as a higher-round pick if he has a solid summer with the Whitecaps, and so far he’s responded well by hitting .316 (tied for 6th in the league), 4 home runs (tied for second), and 15 RBI (tied for second). LaPorta was a member of the 2004 Cape League champion Y-D Red Sox and the 2005 edition of Team USA, and the way things are going, he could finish this summer as a Lowell Spinner. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Days of 'Wonder'

Back from vacation, and I can’t help but wonder …

… why MLB All Stars wear their league uniforms when participating in the home run derby, which is a contest among individuals, and their individual team uniforms when playing in the actual Game, which is a contest between the leagues.

… why MLB Commissioner Bud Selig thinks it’s a good idea for All Star pitchers to be held out of games so they can be fresh for the interleague matchup. Can he really believe this exhibition is more important than a regular-season contest?

… why Red Sox fans were deprived years ago of a new ballpark along the waterfront a la those in San Francisco and Pittsburgh – and thus the opportunity to watch Big Papi hit balls into Boston Harbor!

… why baseballs on a trajectory to clear the outfield fence in indoor stadiums (viz. the Metrodome, Tropicana Field) but striking overhead speakers and catwalks before doing so aren’t counted as home runs – and why the rules ever would be any different for balls hitting such obstructions in fair territory vs. foul.

… why so many home runs are being hit so early in the Cape League season, when hitters usually struggle to adjust to using a wood bat.