BILL SULLIVAN | Scrappers Analysis Gems found among rubble
NILES -- Students are attending school again and already report cards are being delivered.
Not traditional report cards, but this time some awards are ready for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers who just completed their seventh season in the New York-Penn League.
The following observations were gleaned after covering 14 home games -- some painful -- and interviewing several players and team administrators.
A 33-43 overall record prevented the team from defending its New York-Penn League title but some players were developed and could work their way through the system.
UMost Consistent Pitcher Award -- Joe Ness. Ness (4-2, 1.67 ERA) was in every game, such as Thursday's five-inning, four-hit, no-run affair against Jamestown.
UMost Personable Player -- Pitcher Jensen Lewis (4-2, 3.20 ERA) is an interviewer's dream. He answers questions in complete, articulate sentences and appeared in Tom Hamilton's radio booth to help with a Cleveland Indians game earlier this year.
UThe I Will Not Be Denied Award -- Outfielder Chad Longworth. On Aug. 25, with a home game against Jamestown tied 3-3 and one out in the ninth, Longworth walked. He stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error. Longworth then scored the winning run on a wild pitch that traveled less than 20 feet from the catcher.
UUgly Baseball Award (Part I) -- goes to the entire team for the Aug. 18 effort against Batavia. The Muckdogs won 18-4, scoring the most runs ever against the Scrappers.
UUgly Baseball Award (Part II) -- Just when you thought it was safe to go into the stadium again, the Muckdogs beat the Scrappers 19-6 on Aug. 21. Let's all pray the baseball gods don't ever again doom this team to such an ignominious state.
UGood Looking Draft Award -- to the team officials who appear to have a deep, quality class. A Major League Baseball team usually needs five years to accurately judge a class, but the top selections in June's amateur draft became the soul on this season's Scrappers. Overall, the Tribe signed its top 14 picks in this year's draft.
UHate To See You Go So Soon Award -- to outfielder Trevor Crowe, the top draft pick from the University of Arizona. After playing in 10 games for the Scrappers, Crowe was promoted to the next level, the Lake County Captains. With his presence in the lineup, they played like a contender; without him, the Scrappers used many different lead-off hitters and a couple of men in center field with various degree of success.
UDouble Jump Award -- to second-round pick Stephen Head. In 10 games for Mahoning Valley, he hit six home runs and tied for second place on the team. After hitting three homers in three nights and batting .432 (16-for-37), Head bypassed the Captains and was promoted to Kinston, a high-Class A team.
USend Them Back To The Bigs -- pitchers Matt Miller and Jason Stanford. Miller has appeared in 23 games for the Indians (1-0, 1.82 ERA) and Stanford (1-4) was a part of last summer's Cleveland rotation. Both appeared on rehab assignments and could not get out of the first inning of their initial starts here. Miller was down 4-0 before he got the hook.
UThe Stars Are Shining -- Five Scrappers were selected to the league's first all-star game, most of any American League franchise. Lewis and Ness could not pitch after recently throwing for the Scrappers but outfielder Jose Constanza, catcher Omar Casillas and infielder Matt Fornasiere played well.
UCircle This Date -- Although they won just one of 10 games in late July, on Aug. 17, the Scrappers were a respectable 29-27, just four games out of first place. They finished the month on a nine-game homestand -- longest in team history -- and were 2-7 in the spurt. The Scrappers were just 15-23 at home this year and lost 14 of 17 games down the stretch.
UStop Thief Award -- Jose Constanza, who led the league in stolen bases for much of the season despite playing with a broken finger. Wednesday, he was promoted to Kinston.
UWorst Promotion -- The Hot Dog Race. Minor league baseball has made a name for itself by cheesy, dumb promotions between innings but this one has no excuse. Three men in hot dog costumes race from first to third base. It's the worst I've ever seen and must go.
XBill Sullivan is a sportswriter at The Vindicator. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org