Thursday, November 29, 2007


Some meanderings while shipping out the early orders of our fourth annual book wrapping up an Independent Baseball season and packing for next week's Winter Meetings in Nashville where the rumor mill will be in full gear:

**If we had our own award, Philadelphia probably would walk away with Organization of the Year honors. The Phillies had 24 former Independent players in their system (prior to the usual free agency of six-year free agents), including major league catcher Chris Coste, when "The Independent Minor Leagues: 2007 Season in Review" went to press. They easily lead all other organizations, and many of the players came on board after Charley Kerfeld and Mal Fichman landed in Philadelphia somewhere around a year ago.

**I have not seen a breakdown of Yankees postseason shares, but if onetime Indy hurler Edwar Ramirez (Pensacola, FL, and Edinburg, TX) got even one-third his extra "gift" of $8,768 should make him smile here in the holiday season. Not bad for someone who was twice released by the Angels, forcing the changeup artist to work his way by through the Independent leagues. Several other onetime Indy players also get postseason checks, headed by J.D. Drew (St. Paul, MN), who got $308,235.75 as a member of the World Champion Red Sox, Stephen Drew (Camden, NJ), $139.459.87 with Arizona, and Joe Borowski (Newark, NJ), who earned $107,457.62 with the Indians.

**One cannot help but wonder which of these former major league stars will have the most impact in their new managerial roles in Indy baseball: Rick Miller, Nashua, NH, Can-Am League; Les Lancaster, Sioux City, IA, American Association; Von Hayes, Lancaster, PA, Atlantic League; or Butch Hobson, Southern Maryland, Atlantic.

**It is difficult even at this end of the keyboard to realize our annual book recapping the season has gotten up around 170 pages.

More soon when we visit the magnificent Opryland Hotel in Nashville.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007


What could possibly be better as we head to that big Thanksgiving dinner than a couple of Independent Baseball appetizers? And now we have them.

The New York Yankees moved smartly into the Independent player bag once more to re-sign a great big turkey (I could not resist) in the form of 6-foot-6, 230-pound Scott Patterson. And this time they gave the 28-year-old righthander, who labored his first four and a half professional seasons in Indy baseball, a major league contract. Spring training in Tampa with the big guys.

Another piece of news Wednesday came about on the Texas-Arkansas border where the Continental League announced it will have an expansion franchise next season in Texarkana, which has been without professional baseball since 1953.

Wouldn't it be something if the Yankees ended up with both Patterson and changeup artist Edwar Ramirez in their bullpen next season. Don't laugh, Ramirez, twice released by the Angels but revived during Independent stints in Pensacola, FL and Edinburg, TX, was in 21 games for New York this season, striking out 31 (but walking 14) in 21 innings.

Patterson had a dazzling first full season in the Yankees' farm system. His eye-popping stats at Class AA Trenton, NJ included 91 strikeouts and only 15 walks and 45hits in 74.1 innings. His earned run average was a miniscule 1.46, and it was even better at 1.02 for his 40 bullpen appearances. He didn't fare badly in his three early season starts, either, and finished with three innings of hitless relief in his lone outing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, PA.

This product of West Virginia State went 21-7 in his first three seasons in the Frontier League (Gateway, Sauget, IL), then really turned it on once he started closing for the Grizzlies and Lancaster, PA in the Atlantic League in 2005 and 2006.

The Continental League may have had its best day yet Wednesday when it added Texarkana for its second season in the Lone Star State. Ron Baron's league had three teams in what amounted to high school facilities and a road team in its first year. It obviously needs more power to take its place alongside the more established Independent leagues. Texarkana might be the first step.

The mayors of both Texarkana, TX, and Texarkana, AR, were among the dignataries who expressed their enthusiasm during Wednesday's media conference announcing the team, and Baron indicated more teams may be added before next season. The yet-to-be-named Texarkana team will play in George Dobson Field, which is expected to seat 1,600 fans by the time the expanded schedule starts in May.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007


The list of former Independent Baseball players we just polished up in finishing our annual book called The Independent Minor Leagues: 2007 Season in Review who have current ties to a major league organization totaled a highly-respectable 210. That group includes about 65 who became six-year free agents recently. They can shop their services, but some probably also will be left on the outside. In that case, they will need to go back to an Independent league or head off to the outside world.

It is far too early to make many judgments, but the first three players we have seen with new contracts seem to have improved themselves. And in all cases, more experience--and presumably more maturity of their baseball skills--may prove beneficial in their newest opportunities.

Jeff Nettles stayed with Kansas City, however, climbing an important notch from Class AA to AAA. Paul Abraham did the same within the San Diego organization, and Bobby Brownlie moved from a postseason and strong Cleveland organization to Washington while also inking at the Triple-A level (Columbus).

This may make Brownlie the biggest winner of the trio since the Nationals certainly need pitching.

Nettles, now 29, signed with the Royals in the middle of last season after four and a half years with the Somerset (NJ) Patriots in the Atlantic League. Clearly, the right-handed hitting son of former major league standout Graig Nettles improved his power stroke a great deal since the last time he was in Triple-A at the age of 24 in 2002. He showed that while hitting 14 doubles and eight homers in only 58 games at Wichita, where he also drove in 41 runs. One problem for him with KC is that Alex Gordon is ahead of him at the hot corner.

Abraham, 27, will get his first Triple-A opportunity at Portland, OR, four years after his brief stint at Quebec, where he did not give up a single run in seven apperances. The righthander had an impressive 2.39 earned run average in 47 games for San Antonio in 2007. He allowed only 39 hits in 52.2 innings and struck out 53 while posting a 1-3 record with eight saves.

Brownlie, a onetime first rounder with the Cubs (2002), was in the Atlantic League the first part of this summer, even starting on the mound in the All-Star Game. When the Indians came calling, he went to Double-A Akron, OH where he had a 2.98 ERA in eight starts (3.17 in nine games overall). Only 27, Brownlie may be in a prime spot to work his way to the new stadium in Washington, DC, and the level forecast for him when he came out of Rutgers.

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Monday, November 12, 2007


We may not even been halfway through November, but the list of topics I cannot wait to get answers to about Independent Baseball is growing.

WHERE IS MATT MILLER GOING TO END UP? This sidearmer, who got his walking papers from Cleveland a few days ago, surely is going to give some major league bullpen another good arm. Miller, who almost certainly would not have had any professional baseball career if not for the old Big South and Texas-Louisiana leagues, told me last month he was confident his elbow problems were behind him and knew he could continue getting major league hitters--especially righthanders--out. He was pretty certain his days with the Tribe were numbered, but who wouldn't want to take a look at this reliever who had a 2.72 earned run average for 100 big league appearances.

WHO WILL GET THE UPPER HAND IN THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION? Now that Kash Beauchamp has joined the established managerial ranks with the new Wichita Wingnuts, who will reign supreme? Beauchamp had the itch to get back into the dugout fulltime, and has already moved to the Kansas City, but this proven warrior still must content with the likes of onetime major league managers Tim Johnson (Lincoln) Terry Bevington (Shreveport) and successful Independent Baseball managers such as George Tsamis (St. Paul) and Chad Tredaway (Fort Worth). Sioux City is expected to name its replacement for Ed Nottle soon.

WHO WILL BASEBALL AMERICA CHOOSE NEXT? After honoring St. Paul (American Association) last fall and recently Long Island (Atlantic League) as Independent Franchise of the Year, who will be next? The publication will have plenty of choices to consider as some of the operations get better and better.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007


The Golden League received considerable attention when Edmonton and Calgary joined the league this fall, with one bonus being that now with eight teams the league could justify going to two divisions.

An added benefit came along recently when Darryl Brinkley, who hit .400 for Calgary and was named Northern League Player of the Year last season, signed to play another year. At 38, there had seemed to be some doubt. Now, the returning Golden League cities (Long Beach, Chico and Orange County in California, Yuma, AZ, St. George, UT and Reno, NV) will get to see the man Vipers Manager Mike Busch calls "the most mentally prepared player I've ever worked with" up close.

Good stuff for all concerned.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007


It will not be announced until Thursday, but the fourth attractive managerial hiring in the American Association of this offseason is about to take place. The respected Chad Tredaway, who built powerhouses at Edinburg, TX, has taken over at Fort Worth and onetime major league power king Pete Incaviglia has the reigns at Grand Prairie, one of the new entries for the league. This sets the stage for a major battle for supremacy in the Metroplex.

Down in Louisiana, former major league skipper Terry Bevington is starting his second stint in Shreveport, replacing the competent but lesser known Bob Flori.

The Thursday news will bring another solid Independent Baseball manager back onto the field fulltime.

The competition figures to get mighty stiff in the American Association, with George Tsamis always in the hunt for a title at St. Paul, MN. Onetime Toronto field boss Tim Johnson has had great clubs at Lincoln, NE, too, although he has not been able to get the Saltdogs to championship heaven.

What battles seem to lie ahead.

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