Portland Sea Dogs Actually Get Worse
Unless you’re a hardcore baseball fan, Sunday, July 31, was probably just another day in your wretched excuse for a life. Maybe you mowed the lawn. Took the kids to the beach. Tried to help Congress solve the debt-ceiling problem.
But those of us who follow baseball with a passion – of a sort that if it were directed at any other activity, would result in our immediate arrest and our lengthy incarceration in a maximum security correctional facility – knew that particular date was of such significance that we could do nothing except wait in anticipation and/or dread until the witching hour of 4 p.m.
July 31 was the Major League trading deadline. For the uninitiated, that’s the last day teams can make trades without first having players clear waivers, a process that allows other teams to interfere with exchanges they don’t like. In other words, if your club desperately needs to fill a hole in its roster, it better get it done before the clock strikes 4.
I attended the early part of that day’s Portland Sea Dogs game, staying updated on any trade action via cell phone. There wasn’t much going on. At 3:45 p.m., my wife and I had to leave Hadlock Field for another engagement. As we drove, I flipped the radio back and forth between the Boston Red Sox game and the final inning of the Sea Dogs’ contest, hoping to discover if any deals were in the works.
Just after the deadline passed, Portland manager Kevin Boles came out of the dugout. A pitching change? There didn’t seem to be any need for one. Then, why else would he …
Boles hadn’t come out to remove the guy on the mound. He was after the player behind the plate. He lifted Tim Federowicz, our best catcher. A defensive whiz, who called a great game and threw out an impressive number of baserunners. A gritty gamer in the mold of Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis. A guy I could see assuming the mantle of Jason Varitek at Fenway Park.
There’s only one reason you pull a player like that out of a game in the top of the ninth:
Federowicz had been traded.
Details were sketchy, but it appeared the Sox had obtained pitcher Eric Bedard from the Seattle Mariners. OK, I thought, that’s not so bad. Bedard for a Double A catcher. I can live with that.
Except that wasn’t all.
Outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang, Portland’s best hitter – indeed the best hitter in the entire Eastern League – was also part of the deal. I slumped in my seat (fortunately, my wife was driving, as I could no longer see over the dashboard). We gave up an awful lot, I said to myself, but we did need starting pitching, and Bedard was the best we could hope to get. It hurts, but I can bear it.
But what’s that the announcer is saying. The Sox also shipped out some guy I’d never heard of from Single A. Fine, no problem. Who cares?
No, there’s more. To get Bedard, Boston had worked some sort of three-way trade involving the Los Angeles Dodgers. Chiang was going to the Mariners, along with a player from the Dodgers. Los Angeles was getting Federowicz and …
Stephen Fife, our best pitcher.
My wail of dismay caused other cars on I-295 to pull over into the breakdown lane, convinced that an emergency vehicle was approaching.
The ugly truth settled in. Boston had traded away the heart, soul, and guts of the Portland team. A team that was already the second-worst in the league (although at one point last weekend, the Sea Dogs had a shot at beating the Altoona Curve and moving up a notch, prompting me to rally the crowd by cheering, “We’re the third worst. We’re the third worst,” except nobody seemed excited about that possibility, and anyway, we eventually lost the game so we never achieved that lofty goal).
Now, the question became who would fill the holes in Portland’s roster created by these moves. We didn’t have to wait long to find out.
The next day, Tommy John showed up in Maine to conduct a baseball clinic in Oakland. John was a decent Major League pitcher in his day (1066 to 1249 A.D.), until he hurt his elbow. He underwent a radical new kind of surgery called ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, during which he learned to pitch with his feet. His career was saved and he went on to win many more games until he retired in 1492. Thereafter, this procedure he pioneered came to be known as Tommy John surgery, and today, numerous major leaguers pitch with their feet, and some even use their ears.
John is older than jokes about how you can’t get theah from heah, but the Dogs were desperate for pitching, so they signed him to replace Fife.
To fill Federowicz’s spot, the team needed a player who could take some knocks and bounce back, somebody who could go the extra mile, somebody with excellent endurance. Somebody like…
Sure, she’s a runner, not a baseball player, but having her catch will put butts in the seats, so she’s in. And since she’s already around promoting her Beach to Beacon footrace this weekend, her schedule coincides nicely.
That just leaves the outfielder slot to fill. Apparently, there were no suitable celebs available who could wield a bat, so the Sea Dogs decided to use a platoon. According to my understanding of the team’s latest promotion, they’ll be allowing fans who’ve only had one hit in their baseball careers to get a single at bat in every game. The theory is that these one-hit wonders are due. Overdue, probably. Combined, they’re sure to bat a thousand. I can see a major winning streak in Portland’s future. Look out Altoona.
Get ready to cheer:
“We’re the third worst. We’re the third worst.”
Al Diamon knows what it takes to be the fan of a minor-league team. It takes heavy drinking. When he recovers, he’ll respond to emails sent to email@example.com. He’ll also consider trade offers.