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Playing the prediction game

nunez-cup

No Atlantic League team has signed a single player yet for the 2009 season.

Is that really a reason to hold off on predicting how the season will play out, though?

Hardly.

So here are five things that will take place in the Atlantic League this year, according to yours truly.

1) The Lancaster Barnstormers will finish ahead of the York Revolution in the final standings.

coach_hayesI know this will be sure to fire up the Revolution faithful, but in case you haven’t been paying attention, teams owned by Opening Day Partners tend to fluctuate in success from year to year. That means that ODP cannot possibly dump a third consecutive horrendous losing season on the Barnstormers’ faithful fan base, which lost the Community Cup (pictured above) to York in heart-breaking fashion this past year.

Lancaster, which now has a manager with a year of AL experience under his belt (Von Hayes; pictured right), should be much improved this season. Also, former manager Tom Herr has joined the ‘Stormers staff, so his knowledge of the league and his expertise should help tremendously.

Of course, some will say that the Hayes and Herr combination may struggle to get along (the very topic was discussed over at Barnstormin’ recently). But that shouldn’t be too large of an issue and it’s about time for Lancaster to return to the form it showed in the 2006 Championship season.

2) Chris Hoiles will finish out the year as Revolution manager.

There has been some debate in cyberspace about Hoiles’ job security, especially after the way his contract renewal was handled. But ultimately, Hoiles — entering his third years as manager — does a solid job and commands the respect of his players. That should mean something.

chris-hoilesHoiles also has to be given credit for enduring the long “road trip” to start the 2007 season (while Sovereign Bank Stadium was being finished) and he showed signs of turning into a pretty decent manager during the second half of last year. That time period obviously coincided with the arrival of Chris Ashby and Kennard Jones, among others, but Hoiles also proved more adept at handling his pitching staff and finding roles for specific players.

Lastly, only one manager has been fired midseason in Atlantic League history and that was Frank Klebe. Klebe was let go by the Barnstormers midway through 2007 before the team promoted pitching coach Rick Wise to manager. So considering that history, you have to like Hoiles to stay in York the entire year.

3) The Newark Bears will be an utter failure — on and off the field.

I’m not exactly going out on a limb with this one, but hey, pointing out the obvious is sometimes a tricky thing.

newarkbearsFor starters, Newark’s Web site still remains under construction and we’re nearly two months from the start of the season. That can’t be good for ticket sales, and we’ve already heard about the club dismissing former general manager John Brandt, thanks to Atlantic League Baseball News. So who in charge in Newark really has in idea of how to turn around this market? (Maybe no one alive knows this).

Also, Newark is bringing in a first-time Atlantic League manager, which usually means a year of growing pains (see: Von Hayes, Chris Hoiles). Tim Raines will likely be surprised by the constant state of flux his roster will incur, and he has no proven track record of cultivating talent.

At the very least, though, the Newark situation is going to be very interesting to watch this year.

4) Long Island will miss the playoffs.

Over the years the Ducks have been nearly a lock to make the playoffs with its cast of expensive former major leaguers. And even though that talent hasn’t translated to much postseason success, Long Island is still in the mix just about every year.

li_ducks_capThat could change this season, considering owner Frank Boulton has taken the Bridgeport franchise under his wing with a financial bailout. Will the Ducks really have the scratch remaining to assemble its typical roster with guys like Carl Everett and Jay Gibbons? I’m not convinced.

Also, I’ll again bring up the first-time manager quagmire. Gary Carter takes over the reigns of the Ducks this year, and even though he has former manager Dave LaPoint as his pitching coach, the first year in the Atlantic League for most managers is usually a rough go. Also, how about LaPoint and Carter getting along? This is another interesting story line.

5) Atlantic League attendance will suffer across the board.

The national economic crisis is hurting us all in one way or another, and one might think that the Atlantic League and its affordable prices will look more reasonable than ever before because of this. But I’m not buying that line of thinking.

No matter the cost, fans are going to be more conscious of spending money this year. Whether you’re talking the Atlantic League or not, my guess is that the casual fan will opt to spend money on something else — or not at all.

Of course, the die-hards will remain. And the Revolution, plus the league’s other teams, will undoubtedly come up with new, creative ways to draw more people to the ballpark.

But when the unemployment rate is closing in on eight percent nationally it’s hard to believe that baseball fans won’t be effected.

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7 Responses

  1. Let’s Rumble!

    1. Way too early to tell. Lancaster should improve under Von, but the Revs should have a nice mix of returning guys that got us to the playoffs last season, with some (hopefully) hungry new bodies. In Gladstone we trust!

    2. No doubt. We love Chris Hoiles. (He hit an ultimate grand slam once!) Anything else is just a rumor.

    3. I hope not. Tim Raines has quite a bit of coaching experience, even at the big league level. (Won a ring in ’05 with the White Sox coaching first.) Who knows how the season will go for Newark all around, but I’m not ready to write them off on the field just yet, Raines will do a good job. If the Bears do well it can only help the league.

    4. The Ducks are the Dallas Cowboys of the Atlantic League. A ton of huge personalities, but they just haven’t been able to win it all (with the exception of 2004.) They are perennial winners though, and I just can’t believe they won’t make the playoffs until it actually happens. Knowing their propensity to sign big names, maybe they’ve been in contact with Nomar Garciaparra’s agent? I can’t believe that guy is still a free agent. If he’s not too proud to start the season in the minors, wow what a name he would be for the league. Just pure speculation on my part, but I’ve always been a huge fan of Garciaparra. He’d be a great personality for the Atlantic League.

    5. I don’t think so. Well people aren’t shelling out right now, they still want to be entertained. A Revolution game is still one of, if not thee cheapest thing for leisure in town. Obviously it’s more cost effective than an Oriole or Phillie game, and the movies. People just love baseball, and hopefully they still will through the tough economic times. Having a couple big name former MLB guys in the league would certainly help offset any attendance struggles, and the way MLB organizations are gearing themselves toward youth these days instead of veterans, I think a potentially high number of recognizeable names age 32 and above could have stints in the Atlantic League this year. It’s just a shift in philosophy for organizations, everyone seems to be getting younger. Ultimately, this can only benefit the level of play in the Atlantic League, as some older, but not “old” guys may find their way here while they are still playing at a high level, as the prove they still belong with an organization.

  2. I’d like to add to the list:

    6) Chris Hoiles pulls a Von Hayes and lists himself on the active roster for one game during a player shortage crisis.

    I’m frankly surprised that this happened yet, since the team typically only carries two catchers.

    7) The Revs have fewer returning players than we imagine.

    Thurman and Aspito seem like sure bets, since they’ve been around some in the offseason. Taveras and Olsen are York lifers. Wayne Franklin, perhaps.

    I think that might be it, though, between affiliation signings, retirements, and general roster improvements.

    8) Gladstone goes with the Somerset Patriots move of signing a bunch of star pitchers from inferior independent leagues for September and the playoffs.

    With only eight teams, opponents see each other too often by the time September comes around for guys who have been around all season to be really effective.

    9) The opening day roster has a little more emphasis on defensive-oriented position players than did last year’s opening day roster.

    With AL pitchers struggling to work into shape in April and May, the guys behind them need to get the easy outs, and last year’s team had a hard time doing this in the early going.

    10) The Community Cup stays in York.

  3. Nice, back to the Rumblings board. Good to see you back at the helm Jeff, now please allow me to stare into my crystal ball and make a few predictions….

    1. Von Hayes is gone 2 months into the season. Bringing in local icon and former manager Tom Herr is the handwriting on the wall for Von. But, if you talk to people in the know in Lancaster the Barnies won their championship in spite of Tom Herr, not because of him.
    2. This is Chris Hoiles last year as the Revs manager. I have always been a critic of his, but he proved me wrong last year. He could be an effective manager for an affiliated club, so don’t be suprised if the Ohio clubs(Reds,Indians) offer some kind of gig in their system.
    3. I’ve been to Newark, and quite frankly the Atlantic League is not a good fit for the city. It still feels a bit dangerous to walk around there(and I live in Brooklyn), and there is too much in the metropolitian area to compete with. Just look how the NJ Devils are drawing since they moved to downtown Newark. So, that franchise will die off after this year.
    4. I agree with Paul that will see several MLB players in the AL this year. Pitchers and catchers report this week and there are numerous players still unsigned. I want to take it a step further, you will see Kevin Millar, Jay Payton, and Ray Durham will be wearing AL uniforms this year.
    5. A brawl will happen between York and Lancaster this year. Familiarity breeds contempt, I just hope I’m lucky enough to see it.
    6. Jeff will move on to bigger things, as the beat writer of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. In a cruel twist of fate, they hire Shea Hillenbrand as their manager who has a long memory of the unkind articles about him in York.
    7. Revs-championship. Book it, take it to the bank, Feb.11th 2009.

  4. Haha. I was quite entertained by No. 6 on Josh’s post.

    But let’s all hope that the next job brings me a little further up the ladder than Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs writer (despite my love for minor league baseball).

  5. Hayes wont be gone.

  6. Despite the presence of tom Herr.

  7. I take exception to a notion expressed here that the Newark Bears are going to be a “total failure on and off the field.”

    That franchise has had its commercial troubles, given to poor management and lame promotion, but, it has played competitive ball in the league and served as a stopping point for a few players who actually made it to The Show, or got back up.

    It’s known that a new investment/management group has assumed the debt of the franchise and extended a $1 million line of credit to the league to get on the 2009 schedule. They’ve brought in a GM who might actually have a handle on running at minor league property, and added Raines, Torrez and Karkovice, who lend not only their expertise, but also their former major league profiles and name recognition to a team that’s been under the radar for years.

    The Star-Ledger, which did nothing for the team since the start in terms of promoting it, lined up quickly to be paid as a creditor. Great that the biggest daily newspaper in Jersey has made such a yeoman’s effort for the Home Town team!!! Really chokes me up. Maybe the turds over there can be made aware that they have a minor league team in their city and be persuaded to get behind it, rather than kowtow to the Somerset operation this season…

    The franchise has to figure out a means to tie in the noted restaurants of Down Neck, or what you outsiders call “The Ironbound.” Those places get plenty of deep suburbanites as customers. Why not the ballpark?

    Because the public is not aware that the stadium is very accessible and not in a high crime area. In fact, that part of Newark is fairly sleepy.

    And, I’m sure the new ownership/management realizes that it has to find a way to draw local residents to the park. That’s one issue the previous regimes couldn’t figure out.

    Let’s see how the new people perform before making gross, unsupported blanket statements.

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