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Why Are the Bisons Struggling?

Team trying to maintain footing as All Star break nears

There are flashes of brilliance.

The team went on a pretty good run in the final homestand in June, barreling through the Rochester Red Wings and then taking 4 of 5 games against the Columbus Clippers, to take the team over the .500 mark and place them in the thick of things in the very competitive International League north division.

Then the swoon happened once again, and the Herd is having a hard time finding any consistency. Two dreary losses in a doubleheader in Rochester this past Sunday just put an exclamation point on a team that is trying to find its way and just be in a competitive pennant chase by the time August comes around.

Place the explanation, or the blame if you will, completely on the parent club the Toronto Blue Jays. As has been the script in past seasons, the team is going through a spate of devastating and horrific injuries this year.

Just look at the three members of their team who were named this past weekend to the American League All Star squad. Edwin Encarnacion is now injured, and won’t be able to play in the game. Jose Batista has been forced to play in a different position due to necessary player shifts. And pitcher Mark Buerhle hasn’t had a win to his credit in almost two months. The Jays are on the west coast, and were swept by league leading Oakland, outscored 14-4 in the series, and generally played horribly, with adequate pitching unable to make up for the total collapse of offensive juice. “We’re not playing very well right now,” admitted Jays Manager John Gibbons.

All this affects Buffalo because the injury bug in Toronto means more call ups and depletions from the Bisons’ lineup, and the player transaction wire has been more robust and active than almost any season in memory. Want to know where outfielders Kevin Pillar and Anthony Gose are playing on any given night? Check the lineup cards because these two players have been shuttled back and forth between the two teams countless times already this year.

In order to bring some stability to the outfield roster, the Jays signed two players off of waivers this past weekend. Cole Gillespie was claimed off of waivers from the Seattle Mariners and joined the team in Oakland this past weekend. Then earlier this week the team picked up outfielder Nolan Reimold from the Baltimore Orioles. Reimold has been dealing with his own on and off injuries the past two seasons. On the flip side, the organization lost outfielder Kenny Wilson this week when he failed to clear waivers when sent back to Buffalo. He was picked up by the Oakland A’s.

Manager Gary Allenson says all the right things when it comes to the constant upheaval happening to his squad, and having managed the AA team in New Hampshire last season, know a lot about the replacements being called up. “Our job is to develop players and prepare them for the big leagues,” Allenson has said repeatedly. But this All Star break could probably not come at a better time for an organization beleaguered by injury, inconsistency and performances ranging from the brilliant to the hapless.

If the Blue Jays try to make a big splash for a marquee player before the trade deadline (nobody here is thinking Tampa’s David Price, are they?), look for yet more chaos and depletion to the Buffalo roster come August.

A 9th straight year of no playoff baseball in Buffalo? Could happen.

Around the Bases

• Congratulations to Bisons first baseman Dan Johnson, and pitchers Liam Hendricks and Bobby Korecky, all voted to the International League All Star team. The AAA All Star game takes place this year from Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Game date is Wednesday, July 16.

• Picked 9th overall in the first round of the MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays was pitcher Jeff Hoffman, a native of Latham, NY. Hoffman made an appearance on the floor of the New York State Senate last month and was greeted and introduced by our own Senator Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo) during his visit.

• 16,505 was the paid attendance at Coca Cola Field for the annual Bisons/Philharmonic Independence Eve bash on July 3. Good crowd but not a sellout despite aggressive promotion by the front office and availability of four packs and other incentives. The event this year was really, really great. The fireworks were probably the best ever. Conductor Paul Ferington and the game day producers need to blow up the script and come up with something new, perhaps less emphasis on war and the military, and more high tech, show stopping skits like they do on Star Wars night. As good as the program is, when it’s the same stuff year after year maybe things get a bit stale.

• Strange stat: The Bisons have appeared in 14 extra inning games so far this season, the highest in the league. They are 8-6 in those contests.

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