Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Scoreboard Watching

It's not often that we scoreboard watch in June (yes - everyone scoreboard watches even if they don't admit it), but I found myself glued to milb's gameday app last night.

See, June is playoff time in the minor leagues, because from AA on down the first half winner earns a playoff spot. We were thrilled when Fort Wayne, our Midwest League affiliate, clinched the first half title back on Sunday, but we're greedy.

Two weeks ago San Antonio was five games behind Midland with 14 games to play in the first half. Pulling a Rockies, the Missions went on a tear, including taking three of four from Midland over the weekend to take a one game lead for the first half title. One series remained in Corpus Christi.

After three innings in Corpus the Missions trailed 5-1, while Midland was up 4-0 in their game in Frisco after four. It was looking like we might be tied at the end of the night, but then the Missions closed the gap to 5-3 with two in the fourth before taking the lead 7-5 in the 5th on Lance Zawadzki's grand slam. The excitement was short-lived, however, as Corpus scored four of their own in the bottom of the 5th to regain the lead 9-7. With Midland in control of Frisco, San Antonio had to handle matters themselves. The Missions chipped away at Corpus with one in the 7th and one in the 8th to send the game into extras where they scored three in the top of the 10th to pull out an unlikely victory. Still up by one game.

Enter Tuesday.

Into the 7th inning stretch Midland was tied with Frisco 1-1 and San Antonio trailed Corpus 2-1. High drama. Then, in a span of about 10 minutes Midland gave up two in the bottom of the 7th to go down 3-1, and San Antonio scored one in the top of the 8th to tie it up at two. In both the 8th and the 9th Midland got runners on base, while Mitch Canham led off the San Antonio 9th with a double. Thank goodness for gameday mini.

In the end, Midland couldn't push any runs across, so Frisco held on to the 3-1 lead: San Antonio wins the first half. For good measure, though, about 30 minutes later Mitch Canham led off the 11th with a solo homer and the bullpen finished off their 5.1 hitless innings to "earn" the win and the title. All it took was 12 wins in 15 games.

The end result is that two of our three full-season affiliates who play with this format, San Antonio and Fort Wayne, won their respective first half titles. Meanwhile, the third team, Lake Elsinore, had four pitchers in the All-Star Game last night (Luebke, McBryde, Pelzer, and Oland) combine for five innings, three hits, one run and six strikeouts. Though they didn't win the first half, they do currently hold a seven game lead in the Wild Card.

All of this attention begs the question: is winning really the goal of player development? After all, the primary objective of any minor league system is to develop quality Major League players, and you don't get any points for minor league victories. However, as Vince Lombardi said:
Winning is not a sometime thing, it's an all time thing. You don't win once in a while, you don't do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.
That does not mean that we have our A-ball managers matching up left-on-left in the 6th inning or that we manipulate rosters to get wins. Skill development comes first. It does mean, however, that we want to win. We want our young players to learn how to win, and we want them to expect to win. In our minds, that is part of their development.

Congrats to both Fort Wayne and San Antonio as well as our entire player development staff.


Ewers said...

Paul -

Thanks for the in Austin, I've been fortunate to catch a few games down in SA with my son. I grew up in SD, but watching the youngsters in SA can be fun!

Quick question for you in regards to the roster...what is the status for Mark Prior? Do you ever think that he'll make it back?

Thanks again!

Phillips said...

Winning is a habit. In the NFL successful franchises draft players from winning programs, because if you're used to winning, you're not going to accept losing. You'll take it harder and push to get better. Everyone wants to win but not everybody knows how. The fact that these kids are learning to win and getting used to it now is great for the future of the big league club.

Thanks for the update Paul.

Russell said...

I'm really excited about some of the talent in Ft Wayne and Lake Elsinore, do you see some mid season promotions on the horizon for guys like James Darnell, Logan Forsythe and Corey Luebke? Also, thanks for answering my question about extended spring training yesterday.