Manager Dave Turgeon said the season was one of "peaks and valleys."
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- Winning became commonplace for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
Until this season.
The Scrappers, the Pinckney-Stedler Division champions the first two seasons in the Mahoning Valley, sunk to the bottom of the division in 2001, finishing with a 26-49 record.
"I wish we could have mixed in some more wins for these fans," Scrappers first-year manager Dave Turgeon said. "I know they like a winner."
Boos: Although many fans came to Cafaro Field to enjoy the minor league baseball experience, there were more boos heard throughout the season.
"I know the fans were struggling with the idea of player development versus winning and the balance of those things," Turgeon said.
Turgeon was aware of the success former Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak had in the 1999 and 2000 seasons, taking the team to the New York-Penn League championship series twice.
"But that doesn't change what my philosophy is and what the organization's philosophy is," said Turgeon, who previously served as manager of Rookie League Burlington. "They gave me a job to do, and I do it."
Turgeon labeled the season as one of "peaks and valleys.
"In terms of guys coming in and having a lot thrown at them," he explained. "Initially, when you have a lot thrown at you, you're going to go backwards. You just can't process everything and apply it."
Slow start: The Scrappers began the season in Utica, N.Y., losing three of four games to the Blue Sox. It didn't get much better as they won six of their first 25 games.
"We just didn't have a good club here this year," pitching coach Ken Rowe said. "We had a lot of things that went wrong, so to speak. Mostly, it's just been inconsistency; we just weren't consistent in any phase of our game.
"We had some good games and we had some tough losses, too," Rowe said. "We had a lot of one-run ball games that we lost. When you get off to a bad start, it's hard to catch up."
Especially in a short season.
"It's not as easy when you're not winning," third baseman Chad Peshke said. "When you're winning, it's a lot more fun and there's a lot more joking around.
"It is player development, so that's their main focus," he added. "Otherwise, they'd be more consistent with the lineup."
Turgeon said, "If you harp on a win-loss record, it doesn't serve a purpose because I don't think anything but negativity can come out of that.
"These guys should be proud of what they accomplished," he said. "They have a better idea of what it takes to be a professional baseball player and a professional in this organization."
Mixed faces: The Scrappers' class of 2001 was filled with first-year talent and familiar faces of the past.
First baseman Curtis Gay, catcher Angel Bastardo, third baseman Francis Finnerty, outfielder Dennis Malave and pitchers Luke Field and Victor Kleine were the most notable players who spent time previously at Mahoning Valley.
"This year I had more fun," said Bastardo, who will play winter ball in Venezuela. "I knew everybody and they wanted to cheer for me all the time. So it was a lot easier."
The highest 2001 draft pick at Mahoning Valley was right-handed pitcher Nick Moran, a third-rounder who went 5-2 with a 3.40 earned-run average.
The Scrappers also had ninth-rounder Luke Scott, an outfielder whose season was cut short by injury.
First baseman Rickie Morton's 12 home runs broke the team's single-season record held previously by Ryan Church (10). Turgeon called Morton "a good clubhouse guy."
Miguel Quintana was a mainstay in the outfield and showed his power at the plate, leading the team in doubles (17) and triples (four).
"Other than his batting average [.222], he had a solid offensive year," Turgeon said. "He learned so much about how to play this game."
One of Quintana's outfield mates, Jonathan Van Every, got off to a hot start, at the plate and in the field, but his season also was cut short, due to a shoulder injury.
"He had pop in his bat that he never showed at home," Turgeon said. "He had two bombs in Jamestown one night, two in Williamsport another night."
All 5 foot, 6 inches of Bryce Uegawachi was impressive at shortstop.
"He made every routine play from opening day until today," Turgeon said. "The kid can flat out pick it. He has an unbelievable pair of hands."
Consistent hitter: The player who took advantage of his opportunity late in the season was Peshke, a 33rd-round pick from the University of California-Santa Barbara, who batted .250 in 52 games.
"He was our most consistent hitter the last three weeks," Turgeon said. "He got a chance and he ran with it."
As for Turgeon, he will return home to Norwich, Conn., to visit family, and he may later pursue a coaching opportunity in Mexico, he said.
Whether he will be the Scrappers' manager in 2002 is for the Cleveland Indians to decide in the off-season.
"I like Dave a lot," Morton said. "A lot of coaches I've been around have a hard time speaking with you, but he's a really good communicator."
Turgeon said, "I'll go wherever they want me. I enjoy working with these guys. They have given me all they have. They played hard up until [the last day]. I have to respect that."