Baseball, like life, is a game of infinite possibilities and, as such, one never knows what action might transpire on the playing field at any given moment. Similarly, one never knows what might transpire to keep any action from happening at all.
All of this is a fancy way of saying that, in the month of April, the weather wreaked havoc on Minor League Baseball games across the land. Let us now count the ways.
Wind: April 8's contest between the Tucson Padres and hometown Colorado Springs Sky Sox was called after five innings due to winds that, at times, exceeded 50 miles an hour. Detritus of all manner swirled around the playing field as hapless fielders tried in vain to position themselves under wildly unpredictable fly balls, some of which left the park despite initially seeming like mere pop-ups. The Padres earned an easy 14-3 victory in the affair, adding to the bizarreness of it all by scoring all of their runs with two outs.
(For those who must know: since MiLB.com's 2005 inception, there has only been one other game with a wind-related delay or postponement. It took place on June 29, 2012, in Salem, Va., as that evening's contest between the Red Sox and visiting Potomac Nationals was called in the aftermath of 80 mph winds that caused the stadium lights to go out.)
Snow, Ice, etc: The wind-out in Colorado Springs was a prelude of bad times to come, as the Sky Sox had to postpone their next two games against the T-Pads due to snow, ice and temperatures that dipped below 20 degrees. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, among other teams, can relate: after losing just three games due to weather last season, the Midwest League club lost four games in a row due to a nefarious combination of cold, ice and snow. (The Rattlers' woes were indicative of the Midwest League as a whole, which lost more games in April than it had in the entirety of the 2012 season.)
Rain: Of course, that most common of ballpark deterrents, was in full effect as well. Particularly impacted were Midwest locales such as Beloit and Clinton (where fish were found swimming on the warning track), while in Buffalo, the Bisons sat through four straight rainouts from April 10-13. (Conversely, later in the month, they visited Lehigh Valley and notched four victories over the IronPigs in a span of 48 hours).
Haboob: For those whose meteorological terminology might need a little work, a "haboob" is a an intense dust storm. And, on April 8, a game in Lancaster, Calif., between the JetHawks and visiting Lake Elsinore Storm was indeed postponed due to a haboob. The JetHawks, for their part, are used to such hassles. This is a team, after all, that used to stage weekly "Tumbleweed Tuesday" promotions in which ticket prices were determined by the day's wind speed.
On April 11, Colorado Springs and Tucson eventually got around to playing a ballgame after their array of weather woes. In the first game of that evening's scheduled twinbill, the Sky Sox lineup included a pair of Wheelers (Ryan and Tim, hitting No. 5 and 6) while the Padres boasted a Decker duo (Cody and Jaff). In the end, it was the Wheelers who emerged victorious, thanks to Ryan's walk-off homer.
Perhaps even more anomalous was the Bakersfield Blaze's starting lineup in their game against Visalia on May 10. The Blaze had four -- count 'em, four -- Juans (shortstop Perez, third baseman Silverio, right fielder Duran and center fielder Silva) as well as a Yorman (designated hitter Rodriguez) and a Yovan (catcher Gonzalez).
Meanwhile, on April 17, what is believed to be the first-ever Winkler vs. Winkler pitching matchup occurred. Modesto's Daniel Winkler earned the win, while Visalia's Kyle Winkler suffered the loss.
This item, like that which preceded it, is totally Nuts. Inland Empire's Mark Sappington started against Modesto on Opening Night (April 4), and during his 4 1/3 innings of work, he faced Modesto cleanup hitter Harold Riggins three times. Why was this significant? Because Sappington hails from Peculiar, Mo., and Riggins is a native of Normal, Ill.
That's right -- this was a battle of a Peculiarite vs. a Normalian, a symbolic matchup between deviant modes of expression and that which adheres to accepted societal conventions. In the end, however, no clear winner emerged as Riggins struck out in the first and third innings before singling in the fifth.
Crooked Numbers wouldn't exist if not for the tweets, personal emails and game recaps sent to me by dedicated Minor League broadcasters across the nation. Sometimes, however, these broadcasters save their best material for blog posts that are almost as long as this column in and of itself. What follows are previews of three such posts, along with links so that they can enjoyed in full.
The Guilder Rodriguez omnibus: The Frisco RoughRiders played a 17-inning marathon against Corpus Christi on April 18, with 29-year-old RoughRiders utility man Guilder Rodriguez pitching a scoreless 16th inning en route to earning the victory. This unexpected triumph prompted broadcaster Nathan Barnett to examine every aspect of Rodriguez's long and peripatetic professional existence. Did you know, for example, that when Rodriguez entered the game, "he was playing in his 12th professional season, for his 10th different franchise, in his ninth year of Double-A baseball, in his fifth different season with the RoughRiders and after 3,325 plate appearances and 2,882 at-bats in affiliated baseball?" Even better is this: In his career, Rodriguez now has "more appearances as a pitcher (3) than home runs (2)." Tough to do!
To the rule book! Chris Mehring of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers is the dean of Midwest League broadcasters, but even he was flummoxed by what occurred during April 22's game against the Quad Cities River Bandits. In the top of the sixth, the River Bandits' Austin Elkins was on third with one out and that, as Mehring writes in Rattler Radio, "is when the weirdness started."
[Terrell] Joyce swung at a pitch and made contact with the glove of catcher Clint Coulter. The ball trickled to the mound and Elkins broke for the plate. He beat the throw to score the run as Joyce eventually made it to first ahead of the throw.
Yes, the ultra-rare instance in which a runner scores on a catcher's interference! Or did he? Read the rest of the post to see how it all played out (spoiler: Rule 608(c) of the rule book is invoked).
A Dash of crookedness: How can we forget Winston-Salem's "Dashboard" blog, which has long been a reliable source of information for this column? Broadcaster Brian Boesch recently penned a post with the irresistible title of "Quirky Stats to Cap April," in which we learn, for instance, that "Winston-Salem was the only squad among the 120 full-season teams in Minor League Baseball that did not win multiple games when scoring six or more runs. The Dash are 1-3 in these situations." Crucial info, and there's much more where that came from!
Email of the Month
Oklahoma City RedHawks broadcaster Alex Freedman, long-time Crooked Numbers contributor, sent this email just as this column was going to "press." We're glad that he did!
"On April 25, the New Orleans Zephyrs beat the Oklahoma City RedHawks, 10-8, in 15 innings. The next day, the RedHawks won 2-0 in a rain-shortened, six-inning game. It's the first time I could find in team history (since 1998) where a game that went to extra innings was immediately followed by a scheduled nine-inning game that lasted less than nine innings."
In that rain-shortened game, New Orleans' Scott Maine made an official appearance without throwing a pitch. He had come out of the bullpen and just as he was about to begin his warmups, they halted play and put the tarp on. It's still an official appearance since he was announced, but Doug Mathis was still given credit for a complete game."
And because too much is never enough, Freedman followed that up with this delectable nugget:
"In 2012, Trevor Crowe and Jake Elmore combined to hit four home runs in 797 at-bats. They equaled that total (two each) through their first 173 combined at-bats of this season. Furthermore, they have hit home runs in the same game twice! (April 7 at Memphis and April 29 vs. Nashville)
Crooked Nuggets: Minor League on-field weirdness, in 75 words or less
Twenty-seven: April's two most impressive team offensive performances revolved around this seemingly innocuous number. During April 16's blowout win over Daytona, the Clearwater Threshers became the first Florida State League team since 1958 to record 27 hits in a nine-inning game. Two days later, the Buffalo Bisons scored 27 runs (on 29 hits), establishing a new franchise record en route to a thorough dismantling of the Syracuse Chiefs.
Twenty-nine outs: Dunedin's Casey Lawrence pitched 9 2/3 innings for Dunedin on April 18, with his team eventually eking out a 13-inning 1-0 victory over Lakeland.
Making up for lost time: Tucson right-hander Sean O'Sullivan had never batted in a professional context prior to this season, but he took to it immediately. On April 12 against Fresno, he hit a three-run double and followed that up 10 days later (again against Fresno) with a grand slam. He recorded more RBIs in those two at-bats than his batterymate Rene Rivera has on the season thus far.
Just watch: Look, it's a pitcher hitting an inside the park home run!
Shades of Robin Ventura: On April 27, Travis Harrison of the Cedar Rapids Kernels hit what seemed to be a walk-off grand slam against Great Lakes. However, the runners on first and second (Dalton Hicks and Adam Brett Walker II) got caught up in the celebration and did not attempt to score. Harrison, therefore, was only credited with a fence-clearing RBI single.
For the record: April 18's 10-inning ballgame between Bowie and Akron featured 427 total pitches (Akron with 220, Bowie with 207).
Eliminate the middle, man: One more morsel from RedHawks broadcaster Alex Freedman: In each of their 25 games in April, the RedHawks pitching staff either allowed three or fewer runs (12 times) or seven or more runs (13 times). Never did they give up four, five, or six runs in a game.
D'oh! Bowie Baysox manager Gary Kendall had a night to forget when his team played Richmond on April 29. Coaching third base, Kendall waved runners home on consecutive plays in the bottom of the ninth inning. Both times the runner the was thrown out (accounting for the first two outs of the frame), and the Baysox lost 7-6: