Bisons miserable start has everyone searching for answers
by Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
Twenty-four times. That’s how many times Bisons Manager Ken Oberkfell said the word “frustrating” as he addressed the media after last Friday’s game against the Syracuse Chiefs, a miserable outing that the Herd lost 3-0, managing only three hits, including a double by the pitcher, and in which 20 of the last 21 Bisons batters were retired.
While the Bisons have had a couple poor squads in the modern era, this team’s 2-15 start (through Monday) already has real Bisons fans pining for those halcyon 1994 days of big Rich Aude and knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Heck, the way things are going, old-timers will fondly recall 1970, the year the Bisons went 9-29, before being declared forfeit and relocating to Winnipeg mid-season.
Is a 100-loss season unthinkable? It happened but once in the Bisons long history. In 1931 they went 61-105.
When the Buffalo Bisons lost their affiliation with Cleveland last September, they pursued the New York Mets with a vengeance. The Mets were slated to hook up with Syracuse as their new AAA affiiate, but the Bisons front office wpulled the coup and landed New York, and the new partnership was much heralded at a kickoff celebration.
During the offseason, the Bisons rebranded their team logo and uniforms, and evenrenamed the ballpark. The Mets blue and orange colors and an emblem which closely resembles that of the parent club are the new standard. As the season began, anticipation was high that this would be a great new era for Bisons baseball.
Things started going downhill right on Opening Day.
Highly touted pitching prospect Jonathon Niese lasted but two innings in a 6-4 Bisons loss, complaining after the game that his arm was working well but his fingers felt the effects of the cold temperatures. Nobody cared too much on that day; everyone was riding high, what with the nice weather (despite the cold), the jacked Opening Day crowd, the all-star lineup of politicians and VIPs on hand, and the excitement that we were now all part of the New York Mets.
Since that first game, the Bisons have been shut out at home four, count ’em, four times.
So is there any consternation within the Mets organization? Have there been conversations with Adam Wogan, the Mets Director of Minor League Operations? “If you’re asking if they’ve called me and told me to win some ball games, the answer is no,” replied an exasperated Oberkfell.
Oberkfell was particularly miffed after last Friday’s shutout loss at home, a game that ended with Nick Evans chirping at the umpire after being called out on strikes looking. “We bitch at the umpire more than we swing at pitches,” said Oberkfell.
“I’m embarrassed and they should be embarrassed. I’m embarrassed for the fans who have to watch this every night.”
While Oberkfell is counting on some offensive help in the form of Willy Mo Pena and Mike Lamb, recently signed by the Mets to minor league contracts, he is bringing the hammer down on his team right now. “I’m trying everything I can right now. I don’t like losing. This isn’t rookie leagues. Make adjustments. Get the job done. If you don’t, we’ll find players who can.”
So what is the crux of the Bisons woes this year? In a word—offense. “I’m not concerned about pitching or defense. I’m very concerned about offense right now,” said Oberkfell.
Pitcher Brandon Knight agrees that run support makes for better pitching. “But either way, your job is still to get guys out. I’ve got to believe that everyone is trying almost too hard right now, but something is going to change.”
The team is batting around .200, by far a league low. Infielders Nick Evans and Jose Coronado are batting under .100, and Oberkfell benched both following Friday night’s loss. Evan’s woeful performance is especially galling, following his stellar climb last season, when he bypassed AAA and went straight from AA Binghamton to the big club, playing in 50 games for the New York Mets and batting .257 with two home runs. “When he does hit the ball, it’s right at someone. But I’ll run him out there because I’ve seen him produce before,” said Oberkfell.
If there is one thing the Bisons have been blessed with this year it’s the weather. No cancellations or even close calls so far this season, a rarity for April baseball in Buffalo. With the team’s dismal on field performance, Bisons management will throw everything but the kitchen sink to put fannies in the seats.
Need proof? This Thursday (April 30) was “Free Food Night” at Coca Cola Field. Fans attending the game were treated to a free sandwich, popcorn, ice cream treat, and unlimited soft drinks. Look for more promotions and gimmicks like this as the season wears on.
AROUND THE BASES…
Who has the better ballpark, the New York Mets or the New York Yankees? The Ultimate Sports Road Trip recently made the journey to the new Yankee Stadium and Citifield. Venue profiles and scores are up now at www.thesportsroadtrip.com.blog comments powered by Disqus
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