Author Topic: 66 Blaze: In the Zone?  (Read 800 times)

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Offline benjem

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66 Blaze: In the Zone?
« on: May 04, 2016, 03:38:07 AM »
66 Blaze Maybe Could Be Good
Pretty Fair Chance of Being Better than the Usual Blaze
Still, an Awful Lot Could Go Wrong
Time Will Tell
Familiar Cast of Characters

The Louisiana Blaze are cautiously neutral, it seems, about their chances for the coming campaign. Spring training is halfway done, and the boys are stretching out and having fun in the warm Florida sunshine under the direction of Stretching Coach Nelson Maldonado, Zen Coach Toshiro Ono, and new pitching coach Elvis Cakedy.

Little is being said about Blaze Manager Sperling Jemmerson, who left mid-season last year “to study coaching techniques and theory” in Italy. While he continues to be listed as “on sabbatical,” knowledgeable sources say that he’s now developed a keen interest in Italian Cuisine, and has opened a Pizza Hut franchise in Naples. It appears highly unlikely that he’ll be returning to the club,  and the Blaze front office has indicated that a choice will need to be made soon on a new manager.

But, no matter. The players and coaches are remarkably unaffected by the managerial vacuum. With Young Sperling gone, there’s a lot less talk about statistics and standard deviations in the dugout, says one vet, and NO situational flow charts. “Everyone is pretty damn happy about that.”

The coaches have worked out a new spring routine coordinated by long-time Zen coach Ono. It’s a system that’s a bit more focused on the inner game of baseball than the sabermetrics of the recent past. While all the usual drills are being done, yoga, concentration, mindfulness, and right behavior are getting more emphasis than in the past.

“It depends upon how you define success,” says Maldonado, of the teams coming season. “Are we growing as people? Are we doing what we can to relieve the suffering of others? Are we helping each other? Are we doing our best? Those are key areas for us to look at.”

“We’ll probably win some games,” says Coach Ono. “Given where we are, it’s very likely that we’ll win some and we’ll also lose some. Life is full of suffering, and that is the nature of the game, Two sides of one coin. Win or lose, it is all one game, and I think that this year we’ll strive to be mindful and concentrate on our breathing more.”

New system or not, new manager or not, Blaze fans have some cause for the particular Blaze brand of negative optimism. Certainly, Blaze fans are used to suffering. But last year’s club was a pleasant surprise to us all. Projected as a .500 club, the Blaze stayed healthy and consistent, and won 92 games before  falling in the GEL championship to the Colorado Rams. The club returns this year with largely the same cast of characters.

The starting pitching is anchored by Unethical Chad McCall (16-9) and Reuben Chaix (16-12). Nicholas Kemp (17-16) and Joe Koukalik (11-14) rounded out the starting four last season, and these two will need to show some improvement, with 24 year old Zoylo Babadia ready to make his move from Baton Rouge, where he was 9-7 last year, with a 3.29 ERA. Also looking for an opportunity is Jimmy Ray Big Daddy Hardwhistle (9-10, 3.37 at Baton Rouge), and Edgerton Boone (22 years old, 5-5, 3.35 at Baton Rouge). Top prospect James Tiberius Hummer will be starting the year in the rotation in Baton Rouge; they say he can bring some heat, but he’s considered a year or two away from being ready.

The bullpen will be largely the same from last year, with Ramos Award winner Babe Glumak as the closer. The Blaze have a nice mixture of youth and experience in the pen, with Smokervich pitching set-up, and Smith, Flah, Lopez, Quirk, and Littlewolf on call.

Rambo Jones and John Ellis will share catching duties again this year; the Blaze have some good fielding catchers at Baton Rouge, in Kato, Thompson, and Packer, but Jones is the only one of the lot with any potential offensive punch. Surprisingly, Jones also had the best stats for “caught-stealing” and the best catchers ERA. Perhaps the cagey veteran has finally found his groove. The Blaze have been hoping to draft a top catcher for the past few years, but have yet to find the right guy available.

Thornton Swackhammer had a good season last year, (.288 - 26-97 in 116 games,) and the Blaze are hoping he can stay healthy this year. Franzwah Thibideaux (.275 - 5- 27) filled in capably for Swackhammer, but his only real position is firstbase, so he’ll probably be at Baton Rouge till needed.

Dino Pinch (.293-1-47) will start at second again this year, though Danny Ptak (.254) played well and would love to have the job. Slick-fielding Effin Dunn (.310-4-48)  will be at shortstop, while the club will watch for signs of Ernie Seppi (.189-3-12) coming out of last year’s season-long slump. Jonathan Darby will likely hold down third base. He’s a capable fielder, draws a lot of walks, and stole 33 bases last year. The Blaze have few options at third base; 36 year old Jesus Rosales is not the player he once was, but he may make the club to back up Darby. Toshiro Kawakami rounds out the infielders. He hit .263 last year playing second and short as needed.

The Blaze finally have an outfield that they are fairly happy with. Danny Chisholm was the big surprise of last year - the 20 year old played in 154 games in left field, hitting .280 with 31 doubles and 30 stolen bases. Many thought he had a shot at Rookie of the Year honors, but it was an unusually strong year for rookies in ‘65. Jimmy Bangs plays center, and hit his usual .298. In his five seasons with the Blaze, Bangs has hit .296, .278, .299, .297, and .298. Bangs stole 36 bases last season, and drove in a career high 76. Jimmy is 28 this season, entering his prime, and he’s a favorite with the fans. In right field Booker Cardoe saw the most action last year, and he was also a pleasant surprise, hitting .299 in 414 at bats, while driving in 54. Veteran Franklin Amp also saw significant action in the outfield, and hit .302 in just under 200 at bats. Waiting in the wings is Tru Walker, who hit .305 at Baton Rouge last year, Danton Samba (.336 at Baton Rouge) and young prospects Barabas Holt (.258 at Baton Rouge) and Danny Sinner (.386 in Baton Rouge).

The Blaze thought the draft was remarkably strong in pitching this year, and were quite satisfied with their top three picks from the lowly 19 spot.  Number one pick Fabian Danich is a 20 year old righty from Chicago State, He’s known as a control pitcher with four pitches. Number two was 18 year old Solomon Getty, a high school pitcher, from Bergenfield NJ, and number three pick, pitcher BJ Hawley, is 20 years old and graduating from Arizona State. Number four pick was 20 year old shortstop Jack Straw out of Georgia, Number five pick was high schooler Boss Kitts, an outfielder from Stonegate Christian in Irving Texas. Their final pick was catcher Maurice Beliveau, from St. John’s college. Will he be the catcher the Blaze have been searching for?

Meanwhile, the boys are getting ready down in Post Hole, Florida. “We’re having a good spring,” Unethical Chad McCall said. “The morning yoga poses are hard, but it’s one of those things that feels good later on. It’s kind of tough on some of the younger guys who maybe are staying up a bit later. The meditation mound drills are hard. It feels odd to be sitting out there on the mound. But you can feel the benefits. We are all very focused. It’s really very simple too. Breath in, breath out, And always keep the ball down in the zone. That’s where we all need to be. Down in the zone. Down in the zone. Like a rock tumbling to the bottom of a pond.”

Offline benjem

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Re: 66 Blaze: In the Zone?
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2016, 03:09:46 AM »
Poe "Development" Completed.
System-wide Fail?

The Blaze are pleased to announce that the "development" of 2062 first round pick Geronimo "Phenom" Poe is now complete.
Drafted as a five-star prospect with the 11th overall pick of the 2062 Draft, the 20 year old Poe was recently reassessed by the OSA as a 1/2 star prospect.
"I don't believe there's ever been a no-star prospect," said former Blaze scout Kurt Kafka, who was found sitting alone in a local watering hole, "but there is a first time for everything."

The Blaze front office had no comment on Poe or the general system-wide demotion in the ratings of all Blaze players, other than to say it's a pretty subjective system and that their own internal assessments are - (surprise) - much more positive.

The Blaze front office also said that the same goes for not having a single damn player listed on the most recent top 100 damn prospects list.

« Last Edit: May 05, 2016, 03:34:25 AM by benjem »