Owner Backs Dugan As Rumors Swirl

Johnny Dugan
Johnny Dugan

The Salt Lake Samurai have gotten off to a disastrous start to the season, posting a 5-26 record.  According to team sources, the Samurai front office is considering making major changes, including the firing of manager Johnny Dugan and the coaching staff.  According to the rumors, if Dugan were to be fired, the team would like to replace him with 1B Neal Thomas, who would take on a player-coach role with the team.

The same team sources say that the front office feels that the 35-year-old Dugan, who is in his first managerial job, is not up to the task of leading the team.  “We’re losing game after game, and he’s running around the locker room spouting happy talk like a damn cheerleader,” the source said.  “He doesn’t know what else to do.  He’s out of ideas.  Instead of running extra practices or trying a more aggressive strategy, he’s singing ‘The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow’.  No wonder the players don’t respect him.”

Neal Thomas
Neal Thomas

The source adds that the 37-year-old Thomas, who leads the team in home runs, has impressed both the front office and his teammates with his veteran poise and his willingness to mentor struggling players.  “He gives a damn, and he’s actually trying to make the team better,” said the source.  “The rest of the season would be an audition for him to get the job full time.  It’s not like anyone else would want the helm of this sinking ship.”  The source suggests that Thomas would work with the front office to identify which players should be kept for the future and which ones should be traded or released.  “No one is safe,” the source said.

Asked about the allegations, Samurai owner Sarah Buehler denied that she was planning to make a change, and stood behind Dugan.  “We are in no way looking to let Johnny Dugan go,” said Buehler.  “I have full faith in his abilities and we just need to work out the kinks.”

Buehler also denied that the team was planning wholesale roster changes.  “This season is a learning curve and I think we have all the right pieces,” she said, “but it’s taking us some time to put the picture together.”

Dugan said that no managerial switch had been discussed with him.  “I’ve never heard anything but support from Mrs. Buehler and the front office,” he said.  He also expressed gratitude for the owner’s faith in him.  “I know that it’s hard to feel secure when you’re having a season like this,” Dugan said.  “I know we’ve got to do better, and that I’ve got a lot to learn.  But I’m glad that there’s patience here, and we have a chance to work it out.”

Thomas denied being approached about taking over the team.  “No one’s talked to me about that, and if they did, I’d say no,” said the veteran first baseman.  “I’m a player, and I’m not looking to manage yet.  Someday, sure, but only after I hang it up.  Johnny’s our manager, and I hope it stays that way.”

Several Salt Lake players volunteered that they thought Thomas would make a fine manager.  “Neal is a great teacher, and he was born to lead,” said CF Lee Cosgrove.  “Everyone in the locker room looks up to him.  But we’ve got a manager, and we like him.”

PBL Transactions, 4/26/15 – 5/2/15

The following transactions occurred in the Patriot League over the last week:


Jacksonville Dragons


Jacksonville Dragons: Claimed free agent RP Michael Youngblood.  Called up SP Tony “Packo” Harris.  Demoted RP Whitney Winslow.  Waived RP Mike Manigault.


Silver City Outlaws


Silver City Outlaws: Traded RP Rick Wilkins to Salt Lake for RP Cliff Humphrey. (See story here.)


PBL Standings – 5/2/2015

West W L Pct. GB L10 Strk RS RA
Silver City Outlaws Silver City Outlaws 16 9 .640 5-5 L3 131 91
Milwaukee Bear Claws Milwaukee Bear Claws 16 10 .615 1/2 7-3 W2 137 101
California Sharks California Sharks 15 10 .600 1 6-4 W6 154 139
Salt Lake Samurai Salt Lake Samurai 4 24 .143 13 1/2 2-8 L3 100 184
East W L Pct. GB L10 Strk RS RA
Knoxville Smokies Knoxville Smokies 18 8 .692 7-3 L1 161 87
Jackson Hammerheads Jackson Hammerheads 16 11 .593 2 1/2 6-4 L2 178 157
Jacksonville Dragons Jacksonville Dragons 8 14 .364 8 2-8 W1 107 158
Orlando Calrissians Orlando Calrissians 8 15 .349 8 1/2 4-6 W3 86 137


Salt Lake, Silver City Swap Relievers

Cliff Humphrey
Cliff Humphrey
Rick Wilkins
Rick Wilkins

Relief pitchers appear to be the hottest commodity in the Patriot League this season, as virtually all the contenders are shuffling their bullpens in search of an edge.  The Silver City Outlaws, whose once-commanding Western Division lead has slipped, were the latest contender to fortify their relief corps, acquiring left-hander Cliff Humphrey from the Salt Lake Samurai in exchange for long reliever Rick Wilkins.

Humphrey, a 34-year-old knuckleballer, has excelled in fairly limited work with the Samurai this season.  He posted a 1.42 ERA in 6 2/3 innings for Salt Lake, one of the few bright spots in a generally grim picture.

Not only was Humphrey quite effective on the mound, he was also widely liked in the Samurai clubhouse.  He was well-known as a quick wit and a cross between assistant pitching coach and father confessor for the younger players on the team.  He is also a fairly accomplished electric guitarist, who occasionally played jam sessions in Salt Lake nightclubs and tours with a blues-rock band during the offseason.

“I’m really going to miss Cliff,” said Samurai manager Johnny Dugan.  “He’s a good pitcher, and even more important, he’s a really fun guy to be around.  I know a lot of us are sorry to see him go.”

Outlaws GM Hank Stroman was full of praise for his new acquisition.  “Once I set my mind to getting a player, I track that deal like a hound dog and don’t let up until I get him.  As soon as I saw Cliff Humphrey pitch, I knew I wasn’t gonna rest until I saw him in the cream-and-green.  I think he fits in great with our staff, and he has that veteran know-how I like.  We just got another notch on our belt.”

The 31-year-old Wilkins only appeared in one game for Silver City, in which he allowed 3 runs in two-thirds of an innings.  Sources with the team say he lost manager John Jarha’s trust after that, and he had grown increasingly vocal in his dissatisfaction with his role.  He has shown an amazing reputation for rubber-armed durability in his previous stops, posting a 2.82 ERA in 106 appearances last year in the Mexican League.

“Well, at least I should get to appear in all the games I want,” said Wilkins about his trade to Salt Lake.  “The record sucks, but I’ll treat it as an opportunity.”