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Things Aren't Much Better in Cleveland

Bisons' Parent Stumbling Through Woeful Season

So we are watching the Buffalo Bisons sleepwalk through May, as they try to get their arms wrapped around mediocrity.

Are you watching? Are you paying attention? If you aren’t, you are not alone. This 2007 squad has been spotty on offense and Cleveland’s pitching callups have left the starting rotation on shakier ground than last month.

Mother Nature has also not been kind to the Herd: The team has been through three homestands now and the weather has been miserable. Although cancellations have been rare, the cold temperatures and clammy conditions have kept many “crowds” in the few hundreds.

The Bisons’ performance is almost a mirror image of what’s going on with the parent club in Cleveland. While the team is deep in starting pitching, the offense has been woeful, with runs few and far between. This past week the team scored but 13 runs in six games, while going through a seven-game losing streak.

Fans in Cleveland are losing patience. Many are demanding a trade to bring in some big bats, while others are calling for manager Eric Wedge’s head on a plate. Team vice president and general manager Mark Shapiro is pleading for patience and suggesting that his players have to find it within themselves to raise their level of play, rather than expect the front office to find a short term fix. Said Shapiro to the Cleveland media, “Historically, big trades are not made in late May. With the way we’re geared here, it’s hard to talk about your young players, so there is a large gap between executing things and considering things. We will get on the phone with every team in the league, although sometimes a trade of magnitude comes down the road. We will explore everything at this point.”

Meantime, the Tribe’s bullpen is going through its own chaos. Their troubles began midway through training camp, when ace closer Joe Borowski suffered an injury to his right arm. The team kept denying he was hurt even after Borowski surrendered a walk-off grand slam home run to Tori Hunter in early April, and finally put him on the disabled list when it was clear to everyone that Borowski was not right. Borowski has since made rehab appearances at A and AA and rejoined the Tribe this past weekend.

One shining spot for Cleveland has been the starting rotation: Cliff Lee, C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Aaron Laffey, and Paul Byrd have been rock solid. Their solid performance has meant little in the standings, as the offense has provided little in terms of run support.

Throw Jeremy Sowers and Adam Miller into the starting mix, both of whom have seen plenty of action here in Buffalo this season, and Jake Westbrook coming off the disabled list, and that translates into eight bonafide starting pitchers, any one of whom could be used as trade bait.

Cleveland’s problems are manifesting themselves right here in Buffalo—good starting pitching, a shaky bullpen (with apologies to closer Rick Bauer who has been phenomenal), and anemic offense.

As the calendar turns to June, Cleveland will need to turn things around fast before the Chicago White Sox turn the AL Central race into a laugher.

Looking Back on Jimmy Griffin

Sunday’s news of Jimmy Griffin’s death is evoking a great deal of emotion and commentary in the community. Love him or hate him, everyone has their own story about Hizzoner.

For baseball fans here in Buffalo, Griffin should be revered as an icon.

In the late 1970s, he spearheaded an effort to bring baseball back to Buffalo after an eight-year absence, even investing his own money into a AA franchise for the city. When that effort struggled financially, he solicited the deep-pocketed Rich family to come to the rescue.

During the 1980s, he banged the drum attempting to lure a Major League Baseball franchise to Buffalo. He pushed heavily to shepherd the development and construction of a new ballpark downtown. In doing so, he had to overcome fierce opposition from the naysayers, preservationists, and obstructionists who threw everything they could into preventing Dunn Tire Park (nee Pilot Field) from ever being built.

Buffalo’s downtown ballpark became the marker for minor league venue design across the country, and our city earned the spotlight of national attention as millions of fans packed the new stadium in those heady first years. Dunn Tire Park will always be Griffin’s first and foremost legacy to the people of Buffalo.

Predictably, the news of Griffin’s death sent shock waves through the Bisons organization. Bisons general manager Mike Buczkowski made a guest appearance on the team’s broadcast this past Sunday, reminiscing about the mayor’s involvement with the team and all he did to make the downtown ballpark a reality.

The team will observe a moment of silence to remember Griffin prior to the start of Friday night’s game at Dunn Tire Park vs the Columbus Clippers (7:05pm).

Wherever Jimmy is, we can only surmise that he is hoisting a few brews and tossing a baseball. It would only be fitting.

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