Smokies Strike Three Deals at Deadline

Did the Knoxville Smokies need to make a deadline trade?  They’ve been well out front in the East for almost the entire season, having built a lead as large as 15 games.  They’re the overwhelming favorites to win the division and a virtual lock to make the playoffs.  However, the Smokies have slipped a bit in recent weeks and the Jacksonville Dragons have been surging, cutting Knoxville’s lead to 8 1/2 games.  So perhaps the Smokies needed to make a trade to shore up their position.

Jeremy Mills, Duke of the Deadline

On the other hand, Smokies owner/GM Jeremy Mills never needs an excuse to make a trade.  He is a well-known trading obsessive.  It’s rumored that Mills is largely interested in his team because it gives him an excuse to make trades.  He makes trades when his team is doing well, and he makes trades when they’re doing poorly.  He deals players on hot streak, and he deals players in slumps.  He makes trades to improve his team, and he makes trades just for the heck of it.  Give the man even the slightest hint of a trade offer, and he’ll pounce on it like a tiger on fresh meat.

Given Mills’ insatiable lust for dealmaking, it’s no surprise that even during a fairly quiet deadline, the Smokies made not one, not two, but three deals.  “You know how it is with trades: one’s too many and a thousand is never enough,” said the Knoxville owner.

Somewhat surprisingly, the first deal the Smokies made was with the team chasing them in the standings, the Dragons.  It was a swap of starters in need of a change of scenery, as Knoxville acquired left-hander Randy Cannon from the Dragons in exchange for southpaw Rick Tomblin.  The 25-yer-old Cannon was a solid innings-eater in Jacksonville’s rotation last season, but after getting off to a rough start with sporadic work this season, he was quickly exiled to the bullpen.  At the time of the trade, he sported an 0-3 record with a 6.69 ERA.

“We wish Randy Cannon well,” said Dragons owner Eric Stetson.  “He’s a good man and a solid pitcher.  We felt that a fresh start was the best way for Randy to get his career back on track.”

Tomblin, meanwhile, was dealt at the deadline for the second straight season; last season, the Smokies picked him up from Orlando at the end of July.  The 23-year-old started the season in Knoxville’s rotation before getting exiled after a slow start.  After spending time in the bullpen and in the minors, Smokies manager Snuff Wallace promoted Tomblin back to a starting role after rookie Jody Garrity got hurt.  He did a credible job, although he left multiple starts early due to injury.  He did pass the Dragons’ medical exam, however, and seems likely to bring his live arm into Jacksonville’s rotation.  He compiled a 1-1 record and a 4.66 ERA with Knoxville.

“Rick’s a tremendous talent, and it wasn’t easy to trade him,” said Mills.  “But Randy’s a special one, and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to acquire him.  And clearly, I can’t pass up the opportunity to acquire anyone.”

Knoxville’s second deal of the day involved the Carolina Comets.  The Smokies acquired 2B Quincy Gaytan and lefty starter Adrian Pierce from the Comets in exchange for a pair of right-handers, starter Nico Library and reliever Jose Mariata.  The trade was a bit of a head-scratcher for both sides.  The Smokies already have a second sacker in Jeremiah Campo.  Gaytan has a reputation as a quality fielder, and he got off to a hot start with the bat this season.  But he’s gone cold over the last couple months, with his average sinking to .281, with no power.  Pierce, meanwhile, is a 22-year-old rookie who has yet to play a PBL game.

In exchange, the Comets pick up a pair of intriguing but extremely raw prospects.  Mariata, whom the Smokies acquired from Salt Lake last season, has a triple-digit fastball, but he has major control issues.  On the season, the 21-year-old Mariata sports a 10.00 ERA, has allowed more than twice as many hits as innings pitched, and has walked three times as many hitters as he has struck out.  Library, meanwhile, is a marginal 24-year-old prospect who showed mysterious flashes of adequacy during a limited starting stint with the Smokies this year, going 2-2 with a 3.99 ERA.

“Who wins this trade?  Who knows?” said Mills.  “But hey, a deal’s a deal!  Trading is where it’s at!”

Finally, in the closing minutes before the deadline, Knoxville re-acquired an old friend, picking up 3B Ronnie Aceuedo from the Orlando Calrissians in exchange for left-handed reliever Spencer Einhorn.  The trade was an implicit admission of failure by the Smokies GM.  During spring training this year, the Smokies dealt Aceuedo, along with 1B Malcolm Bryant, to Orlando in exchange for 3B Curt Figueroa.  Knoxville was counting on a bounce-back year from Figueroa; instead, he has been a disappointment, hitting only .234 with 14 homers.  Meanwhile, Bryant has been a strong contributor on a much improved Orlando team.

By picking up Aceuedo, the Smokies are hoping for a return to the form he showed last year, when he surprised with a strong season at the hot corner.  This year, Aceuedo hit only .223 with 6 home runs for Orlando.  In exchange, the Calrissians picked up Einhorn, a lefty reliever who made only 6 appearance with Knoxvile, going 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA.

“Ronnie’s a guy we’ve always liked,” said Mills.  “We hated letting him go in the first place, and we’re excited to have him back.  More importantly, I got to make another trade!  A trade!  A sweet, life-affirming trade!  Whee!”

Mills is confident that the Smokies’ deadline wheeling and dealing has left his team in a better place coming down the stretch.  Perhaps more importantly, he has defended his crown as the PBL’s trading king.  “I don’t see the Sultan out here talking about his big trades, because he didn’t make any,” said Mills in a playful jab at his rival, Jackson Hammerheads owner/whiz-kid GM Steven Butler, the self-proclaimed “Sultan of Swap.”  The Hammerheads were reportedly trying to strike a trade at the deadline, but were unable to work it out.  Said the Smokies boss: “The Hammerheads are standing still, and we’re charging ahead.”

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Smokies, Calrissians Strike Season’s First Deal

Knoxville SmokiesOrlando CalrissiansIf there was one constant for the Knoxville Smokies in their debut season, apart from manager Snuff Wallace’s colorful comments, it was change.  Owner/GM Jeremy Mills was seemingly unable to resist constantly tinkering with his roster, even as his team maintained a steady division lead throughout most of the second half.  Mills couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make a trade, or try a new face from the minors.  The constant roster churn seemed not to hurt his team, as they made it all the way to the Patriot Series before falling.

As the PBL’s second season approaches, Mills has shown no signs of slowing down his high-frequency trading.  This week, the Smokies made another blockbuster deal, shipping 1B Malcolm Bryant and 3B Ronnie Aceuedo to the Orlando Calrissians for 3B Curt Figueroa and a 3rd-round draft pick.

“I love trades,” said Mills.  “Trades are a wonderful thing.  I can’t get enough of them!  I love trades more than I love life itself.”

malcolm-bryant
Malcolm Bryant

Bryant leaves Knoxville on somewhat contentious terms.  The 31-year-old had a fine season with the Smokies, hitting .287 with 34 homers and 104 RBI, along with an excellent batting eye and a solid glove.  But Bryant was bumped from his first-base job in midseason after Knoxville acquired Eddie Battin from Jackson.  Bryant accepted the change without any public grumbling and continued putting up quality numbers.

But after Bryant heard rumors that he’d been left unprotected in the expansion draft, it was the last straw.  He went to the Knoxville front office and demanded a trade.

“I got jerked around by the Knoxville organization,” said Bryant.  “All I did was do my job, hit well, and be a professional.  But they go and bring in another guy who plays my position for no good reason.  I didn’t say anything, just did my job.  And then they don’t even protect me?  That’s garbage.  When I heard that, I called Snuff and asked him what the hell was going on.  He said it wasn’t his decision.  I said, ‘It seems like someone up there in the organization hates me.’  He said, ‘It sure seems like it.’”

Bryant’s bat will be a most welcome addition in Orlando.  The Calrissians had a dismal year offensively in 2016; they finished next to last in the league in batting average, OPS, and runs scored.  Bryant figures to be Orlando’s cleanup hitter next season.

“When I heard we were getting Malcolm Bryant, I could hardly believe my good luck,” said Calrissians manager Logan Bothan.  “I got to see him up close last season, and I kept saying to myself, ‘Man, we sure could use a guy like that in our lineup.’  He gives our offense an instant boost.”

ronnie-aceuedo-orl
Ronnie Aceuedo

Aceuedo came to Knoxville in the Patriot League’s first trade, as the Smokies acquired him from Jackson for reliever Butch Turnbull.  Widely expected to be a marginal player at best, Aceuedo surprised most observers with a decent season, batting .266 with 14 homers and 58 RBI.  He found himself on Wallace’s bad side, though, when he left the final game of the regular season in the 4th inning for personal reasons.  Wallace fined Aceuedo for the truancy, and reportedly never trusted him fully afterward.  He projects to start at the hot corner for Orlando.

“Ronnie is a good professional hitter,” said Bothan.  “Which might sound like a backhanded compliment, but if you saw our lineup last year, you know it’s not.”

curt-figueroa
Curt Figueroa

For Knoxville, the key to the deal is Figueroa.  The 27-year-old had a mildly disappointing season for the Calrissians in ’16, batting .258 with 23 dingers and 72 RBI.  Knoxville is betting on a bounce-back season from the third sacker.  From the Smokies’ perspective, they’re dealing from a surplus of first basemen in hopes of getting an upgrade at third.

The draft pick involved originally belonged to Knoxville.  They shipped it to Orlando as part of a deadline deal to upgrade their rotation.  With this deal, the Smokies get their pick back.

The Calrissians seemingly have the most short-term upside in the deal, as they get some badly-needed thump in the heart of their order while maintaining stability at third.  But if Figueroa has a monster season, or if the draft pick turns out to be a future star, the balance could tilt toward the Smokies.

Either way, one thing you can count on is more deals from the Smokies.  “Oh, there are definitely more deals to come,” said Mills.  “It’s not enough.  It’s never enough.”

PBL Season in Review: Orlando Calrissians

Orlando CalrissiansSuffice it to say that the Orlando Calrissians were surprised and displeased with their residence in the basement of the East.  When the best news that your squad  has all year is the selection of a new team song, that’s typically a bad sign.  Although Orlando’s last-place finish was predicted by many league observers, the Calrissians front office seemed genuinely stunned to be out of the running. “Our team never showed up this year,” said Calrissians owner/GM Brian Aufmuth. “Our fans and the city deserve better than they got.”

For Aufmuth, the biggest blow was the fact that his team was out of the race from almost the beginning of the season. “We expected to compete this year,” said the owner.  “Winning the whole thing we knew would be tough, but we at least expected to compete and that didn’t happen.”

It was a weak season for Orlando on both sides of the ball.  As a team, the Calrissians batted a paltry .249 with a .717 OPS and scored only 648 runs; only Salt Lake was worse in those categories.  The batting order had multiple major holes, most notably in center field and at catcher.  And as feeble as their offense was, the pitching was even worse.

Less than a month into the season, Orlando had already banished three-fifths of its opening day starting rotation.  The bullpen was no better, with less churn but more disastrous performance.  With the team’s ERA mired north of 6.00 in mid-May, the Calrissians fired pitching coach Tyler Thornton and hired Hall of Famer John Smoltz to replace him.  Smoltz’s interventions had little apparent effect, as the Calrissians finished the year with a 5.64 team ERA, allowing 914 runs and an .824 OPS.  All of those marks put Orlando dead last in the PBL.

“Obviously, this is a work in progress,” said Smoltz after the year.  “This is a long-term project.”

When asked for the reasons his team had fallen short, the owner didn’t mince words. “The lack of effort,” Aufmuth said.  “Our team has talent, but day in and day out they just didn’t give the effort needed to win in this league.”

Despite a painful and disappointing season, Aufmuth confirmed that both Smoltz and manager Logan “Lobot” Bothan will be back next season, along with the rest of the coaching staff.  “We aren’t the Cleveland Browns,” said the owner.  “We don’t fire everyone after one bad year.”  This remark may have been a veiled shot at the cross-state Dragons, who dumped their manager at the end of the season.  Aufmuth acknowledged that Bothan and the coaches are “on a short leash” but said that he wanted to give them “a chance to turn it around.”

Orlando’s hopes for a turnaround next season may rest on the development of their young roster.  The Calrissians are perhaps the youngest team in the league, with eight pitchers and seven batters age 25 or younger.  Several of those players, such as 2B Jose Buendia and RF Bart Law, are coming off of promising seasons and are likely to thrive with another year under their belts.

The biggest question marks, though, surround the pitching staff.  Apart from ace Nathan Nunb and right-hander Nate McGowan, whose 8-16 record belied a solid 4.42 ERA, it’s likely that the rotation will feature a new set of faces next year.  And the pen is likely to see significant turnover as well.  Closer Caddington Smith rebounded from a dismal first half to post solid year-end numbers (28 saves and a 3.22 ERA), and rookie southpaw Aron Filippi had a strong debut season, but no other reliever had an ERA below the 5.40 mark.

One bright spot for the fans: Aufmuth announced that ticket prices will not increase for next season.  “How can I raise season ticket prices with a product that sucks this bad?” said the owner.

Aufmuth’s goal for the Calrissians next season was expressed with his typical blunt honesty: “Score some damn runs.”  Orlando will need to score – and prevent – a lot more runs if they’re going to make an upward move in the standings next year.

Smokies Strike Twice at Deadline

king_j11
Jeremy Mills, King of Trading

The Patriot League trading deadline was today.  Most observers predicted that the Knoxville Smokies and Jackson Hammerheads would be the most active teams at the deadline, since they’ve been by far the most prolific dealers all season long.  Unsurprisingly, they kicked off the deadline swap meet by making a trade with each other.

But then the Hammerheads struck a deal with the California Sharks, one that threatened to make Jackson owner/whiz-kid GM Steven Butler the king of the deadline.  But Smokies boss Jeremy Mills wasn’t about to let Butler steal his crown without a fight.  In the final hours before the deadline passed, Mills made a pair of deals that may or may not have made the Smokies the team to beat in the East, but definitely ensured that Mills remained the top trader.

“We’re always looking for ways to make the team better,” said Mills, still visibly twitching from the adrenaline that trading always gives him.

The first deal that Knoxville struck was with the East’s last-place team, the Orlando Calrissians.  The Smokies acquired a pair of left-handed pitchers, Rick Tomblin and Tom Trane, from Orlando in exchange for LF Titus Maben, lefty reliever Oliver Jones, and a 3rd-round draft pick.

The Smokies have the best team ERA in the league (3.47), so it might seem odd that they were looking to add pitching.  But they opened a hole in their rotation when they traded knuckleballer Todd Warrant to Jackson in their earlier deal.  In Tomblin and Trane, they get a pair of possible replacements, although both had a rough ride with the Calrissians.

Rick Tomblin
Rick Tomblin
Tom Trane
Tom Trane

Both Tomblin and Trane began the season in Orlando’s rotation, but both were bounced out after the Calrissians suffered through a disappointing April.  The 22-year-old Tomblin compiled an 0-1 record and a 15.26 ERA in three starts before being banished to the minors.  The 29-year-old Trane was sent to the bullpen after being bumped from the rotation, but he struggled in that role as well before going down with an oblique strain, then winding up in the minors on his return.  Overall, Trane compiled an 0-2 record with a 9.82 ERA in nine appearances with Orlando.

“Tom and Rick are both solid hurlers,” said Smokies manager Snuff Wallace.  “They ran out of chances with Orlando, but I’m sure they’ll both be ready to help us lift that championship trophy.  Rub a little of the Snuff magic dust on ‘em, and they’ll be good.”

According to team sources, it is likely that Trane will work out of the bullpen for Knoxville, giving the Smokies another long-relief arm to supplement Jerry Tile.  As for Tomblin, he seems destined to bump the recently-acquired Nico Library out of the rotation.  Although Knoxville insists that Library will get a start against Jackson, his unimpressive minor-league numbers suggest that he is not destined to remain with the big club for long.

Titus Maben
Titus Maben
Oliver Jones ORL
Oliver Jones

Meanwhile, the Calrissians have made no secret of their desire to rebuild around young players.  While they did make the somewhat curious decision to part with a young arm in Tomblin, the Calrissians received several promising pieces in return.  The 23-year-old Maben headlines the package coming to Orlando.  Although he scuffled in limited action with Knoxville, compiling a .125 average in 32 at-bats, Maben profiles as a quality corner outfielder and potential top-of-the-order bat.  The Calrissians have had major struggles in the outfield, and now they have another prospect to join teenage slugger Bart Law in their stable.

In the 19-year-old Jones, the Calrissians land a capable, hard-throwing young arm that might bring some stability to their wobbly bullpen.  The young southpaw began the season in Salt Lake, where his numbers suffered from overuse.  He was dealt to Knoxville in June, and was slotted into a lower-usage role that allowed him to thrive.  He compiled a 1-1 record with a 3.71 ERA in 16 appearances with the Smokies.  Like a lot of young pitchers, Jones struggles with his control – he has allowed 48 walks this season while recording only 26 strikeouts – but he is considered a highly promising prospect in an area where Orlando is sorely lacking.

“We really wanted a look at a young outfielder, and we liked Maben,” said Calrissians owner Brian Aufmuth.  “But it was the draft pick that pushed us over the edge.  This gives us a real shot to build for the future.”

After completing the deal with Orlando, Mills turned around and struck a bargain with the California Sharks, acquiring LF Rucky Virella in exchange for 3B Max Ortiz.

Rucky Virella
Rucky Virella

The Smokies were looking to add a young player after dealing away several prospects in recent deals, and Virella fits the bill.  The 24-year-old is a versatile young player with decent pop.  After a brief stint with California at the start of the season, he has spent most of the year with the minors, where he compiled a .234 average with 6 homers.  He is capable of playing all three outfield positions and first base, although he does not have a reputation as a good fielder.

Max Ortiz
Max Ortiz

Meanwhile, the Sharks were looking to strengthen their infield, and Ortiz provides what they were looking for.  The veteran can play either corner infield position, and he is known for a solid power bat.  He was relegated to pinch-hit duty with the Smokies, putting up a .208 average in 48 at bats, but he should get much more opportunity with California.  The team plans to start him out in a platoon with Johnie Oller at first, and if he thrives, he may also split time with struggling 3B Karl Mote.

“I am delighted to have Max on our team,” said Sharks manager Eduardo Aponte, who was teammates with Ortiz in the Mexican League several years ago.  “He is a delightful storyteller, a dangerous bat, and he will be a good mentor for our younger players.”

With the deadline now past, Mills and the Smokies are officially done dealing for the season.  Now they’ll just have to wait and see if these tweaks were what the team needed to stay on top, or if the revolving clubhouse door will wind up dooming them.

PBL Transactions, 6/1/15 – 6/7/15

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

California Sharks

 

California Sharks: Signed free agents 1B Jamal Gerke, SS Grant Knepper, CF Conrad Mojica, SP Kerry Lopez, and RPs Osvaldo Barret and Jason Richter.

 

Jackson Hammerheads

Jackson Hammerheads: Signed free agents C Carlos Asperzol, 3B Elmo Milliner, LF Monty Walcott, DH Dexter Jester, SP Nico Library, and RF Cortez Petrik.  Waived 1B Coy Tighe. Activated 1B Pete Ciancarulo from the 15-day disabled list.  Placed DH Alex Jaramillo on the 15-day disabled list.  Called up LF Monty Walcott.

 

Jacksonville Dragons

Jacksonville Dragons: Signed free agents 1B Neal B. Thomas, CF Rondei Isua, DH Isaias Miguel, SP Juan Pascos, and RPs Lauren Gilpatrick and Jamel Janke.

 

 

Knoxville Smokies

Knoxville Smokies: Signed free agents 2B Danny Kurland, CF Arnold Carranza, DH Jerome Arch, and RPs Rodolfo Darville, Oscar Madison, and Norman Sater. Claimed 1B Coy Tighe off waivers. Called up CF Arnold Carranza. Demoted SS Lorenzo Arias and RP Edgar Provenza.

 

Milwaukee Bear Claws

Milwaukee Bear Claws: Signed free agents 2B Quirico Rodriguez, RF Bruce Rew, DH Hans Coghill, and RPs Rodolfo Elmonte, Mike Manigault, and Antonio Schieber.

 

 

Orlando Calrissians

Orlando Calrissians: Signed free agents 2B Jeffrey Matter, LF Sang LeLeux, DH Casey Helmers, SP Ali Godari, and RPs Shab Mickolas and Courtney Vanepps.  Activated CF Glen Madden from the 15-day disabled list.

 

Salt Lake Samurai

Salt Lake Samurai: Signed free agents 1B Lawrence Briski, 2B Gabriel Montalvo, SS Dario Rickard, DH Lazaro Matherne, and RPs Jose Mariata and Bryce Sereno.  Traded RPs Rick Wilkins, Oliver Jones, and Jose Mariata to Knoxville for SP Grant Fore, DH Matthew Weigel, and RP Norman Sater.  (See story here.)  Placed C DeAndre Turnbull on the 15-day disabled list.  Called up RPs Jimmy Okamura and Norman Sater.

 

Silver City Outlaws

Silver City Outlaws: Signed free agents 3B Narciso Rodriguez, CF Sebastian Melora, DH Charley Ingraham, and RPs Irving Godlewski, Duke Newlin, and Ron Wall.

 

 

 

Orlando Selects New Team Song

Orlando CalrissiansOrlando Calrissians owner Brian Aufmuth felt like his team needed something, other than more wins.  “I felt like our team needed a theme song,” Aufmuth said.  Therefore, during Orlando’s last homestand, the owner put the choice up to the fans. He offered them the choice of three different Star Wars-themed songs.  The fans cast their votes via text.  Over 75,000 votes were cast during the six-game homestand.

And the runaway winner, receiving over 60% of the votes, was the song “Oh, Lando” by Recess Monkey.

“I’m happy, because that was my favorite too,” said Aufmuth.  “Frankly, I wasn’t expecting it to win.  But we will give the people what they want!”

Recess Monkey is a Seattle-based trio of current and former elementary school teachers who have made music for kids and families since their debut album Welcome to Monkey Town in 2005.  They have released 12 family-oriented albums over their career.  “Oh, Lando” is a track from their most recent album, 2015’s Hot Air.

The runner-up choice, Meco’s 1977 hit “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band”, received just under 28% of the votes.  The third-place finisher, LittleHorse’s “Lando Explains,” received less than 10%.

According to Aufmuth, the team will now play “Oh, Lando” during the seventh-inning stretch at every home game.  The owner is reportedly trying to get Recess Monkey to perform a live postgame concert at Bespin later in the season.

PBL Transactions, 5/18/15 – 5/24/15

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

 

Jackson Hammerheads

 

Jackson Hammerheads: Activated SP Luke Danton from the 15-day disabled list.

 

Jacksonville Dragons


Jacksonville Dragons:
Placed SP Kyle Palmer on the 15-day disabled list.  Demoted 3B Lautaro Perez and RP John Longroofan.  Called up SS Alexis Popejoy and RPs Emilio Abbas and Elias Rosado.

 

Orlando Calrissians


Orlando Calrissians:
 Activated SP Tom Trane from the 15-day disabled list and demoted him to the minor leagues.

 

Silver City Outlaws

 

Silver City Outlaws: Called up RP Zeke Foster.  Demoted RP Trip Hawkins.

 

 

PBL Transactions, 5/10/15 – 5/16/15

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

 

Jackson Hammerheads

 

Jackson Hammerheads: Called up DH Armando Behrens and CF James Johnson.  Demoted RPs Hal Gilreath and Brett Pollan.

 

Orlando Calrissians

 

Orlando Calrissians: Placed CF Glen Madden on the 15-day disabled list. Called up RP Erik Geis.

 

 

 

 

Orlando Fires Pitching Coach; Manager Next?

John Smoltz
John Smoltz

The Orlando Calrissians have made a major shakeup to their coaching staff, and may be on the verge of an even bigger one.  The team fired pitching coach Tyler Thornton and hired Hall of Famer John Smoltz to replace him.  And according to team sources, manager Logan “Lobot” Bothan has been put on notice that if the team’s level of play doesn’t improve soon, he too may find himself on the unemployment line.

The Calrissians have been a major disappointment this season, posting a 10-21 record and remaining firmly in the Eastern Division basement for virtually the entire season.  While the team has been weak on both sides of the ball, the front office chose to address the pitching performance first.  Under Thornton, Orlando has posted a team ERA of 6.08, which is sixth in the league.  Three-fifths of the team’s original starting rotation has either been demoted to the minors or exiled to the bullpen.

When asked for the reason behind the change, Calrissians owner Brian Aufmuth was blunt.  “At this point, our pitchers couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn from 10 feet away,” said Aufmuth.  “Their mechanics suck and they clearly lack confidence.”

Aufmuth made it clear that he hopes Thornton’s firing will send a message to the rest of the team. “It was time for a change,” said the owner, “and to show the whole team they better start playing like they are being paid.”

Smoltz is a pitching legend, having won over 200 games in the major leagues while compiling a 3.33 career ERA over 22 seasons.   He excelled as both a starter and reliever, collecting over 150 career saves.  It was Smoltz’s success and versatility that made him appealing to the Calrissians, despite his lack of coaching experience.

“Smoltz is a proven winner as a starter and in the bullpen,” said Aufmuth.  “He is someone everyone on the pitching staff can respect and learn from.”

For his part, Smoltz is excited for the opportunity.  “I’d always considered coaching as a possible career path,” said Smoltz.  “To get in on the ground floor with a young organization… that’s a dream come true.  We’ve got a young staff with a lot of potential.  I see great things in their future.”

Logan Bothan
Logan Bothan

Some observers wondered why hitting coach Bobby Brunson was not let go, as the Calrissians offense has arguably been worse than the pitching.  The team’s .235 batting average is worst in the league, and their .363 slugging percentage is ahead of only the Salt Lake Samurai.  The scuttlebutt around the clubhouse is that Aufmuth has another big name in mind for that position: all-time hits leader and former manager Pete Rose.  However, the league office is reportedly hesitant to allow the Calrissians to hire Rose, given his lifetime ban from Major League Baseball.

The team’s poor overall performance has severely dented Aufmuth’s confidence in Bothan.  According to team sources, the manager has been stripped of his say in personnel decisions, and is reportedly on “a very short leash” to demonstrate improvement before his continued employment is in jeopardy.

Aufmuth declined to state how long Bothan would be given to turn things around.  “I’ve told him I’ve altered our deal,” said Aufmuth, “and he should pray I don’t alter it any further.”

Calrissians Trade For Crofoot, Sign McNally

The Orlando Calrissians, mired in a season-long slump and stuck at the bottom of the Eastern Division, shook up their roster with two big moves today.  First, they acquired DH Erasmo Crofoot from the Jackson Hammerheads to bolster their feeble-hitting lineup.  Next, they signed veteran starter Charles McNally to add experience to their rotation.

“It was time for us to make a change on both sides of the ball,” said Calrissians owner/GM Brian Aufmuth.  “The way we’ve been playing this year is not acceptable.”

Erasmo Crofoot ORL
Erasmo Crofoot

The 30-year-old Crofoot has been a pleasant surprise for the Hammerheads.  Claimed off the waiver wire during spring training, Crofoot slugged his way near the top of the league leaderboard with 14 home runs.  He also became a fan favorite in Jackson for his all-or-nothing swing and the lifelong globetrotting journey that brought him to the league.  But the Hammerheads’ team concept de-emphasizes raw power, and the front office was reportedly concerned that the slugger was too one-dimensional a player to succeed in the long term.  Crofoot batted a mere .220 for Jackson, he has had no doubles or triples, and he had more strikeouts (35) than hits (29).

But for the Calrissians, who have hit only 28 home runs as a team, Crofoot’s power would be a blessing.  He is expected to play second base, his natural position, in Orlando.

“Well, I’m used to moving around, so what’s one more stop?” said Crofoot.  “It’s good to know that there’s somebody that wants me enough to trade for me.  I want to thank the Hammerheads organization for giving me a shot to chase my dream.”

Hilton Sircy
Hilton Sircy

The Calrissians did not acquire Crofoot cheaply, giving up relief pitcher Hilton Sircy in exchange.  The 23-year-old Sircy, who came to Orlando via the Polynesian League, was the Calrissians’ most effective pitcher by far, posting an 0.96 ERA.  He appeared in only 5 games for the Calrissians, however, and some scouts have raised questions about his durability.

“While we appreciate everything Erasmo Crofoot has done for this team, we felt we had to make this deal,” said Hammerheads owner/GM Steven Butler.  “A reliever of Sircy’s caliber is hard to find, and we could really use another lockdown arm in our bullpen.”

Charles McNally ORL
Charles McNally

Shortly after striking the deal to acquire Crofoot, the Calrissians claimed McNally off the waiver wire.  The 37-year-old is best known in Patriot League circles for the locker-destroying tirade he went on after being released by the Jacksonville Dragons in spring training.  The Calrissians hope that he can bring some veteran experience to a rotation that is long on potential but short on results.  McNally replaces Steve Gardner, a 21-year-old right-hander who has shown flashes of great promise along with serious inconsistency.  Gardner compiled a 2-4 record and a 6.30 ERA with the Calrissians.  In his last start before being sent down, he allowed 10 runs to California, including 8 in the first inning.

“I’ve been sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring,” said McNally, who reportedly turned down coaching offers.  “I know I’ve still got some gas left in the tank, and I’m gonna show the rest of the league that they were wrong to pass me over.  Especially Jacksonville.  I can’t wait to pitch against them.”

In an unrelated move, the Calrissians placed left-hander Tom Trane on the disabled list with a strained oblique.  Trane injured himself during Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee.  Orlando called up 21-year-old lefty Aron Filippi to replace Trane.