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The F-Bombs Fly at Coca-Cola Field

Team's offensive woes continue

Always accompanying the Bisons media corps at the postgame briefings is a member of the team’s gameday staff, filming manager Ken Oberkfell’s comments, ostensibly for use on the Web site or for future highlight film possibilities. You can bet that Oberkfell’s video taken after Sunday’s game will never see the light of day.

Following yet another dismal loss, an all too familiar refrain this season at Coca Cola Field, Oberkfell let fly a healthy dose of colorful language as he once again spoke of his frustrations. It was “fucking this” or “shitty that.” You can bet that management, always mindful of promulgating Bisons Baseball as a family event, had to be cringing.

Put the expletives aside, however, and Oberkfell is spot on. Horrible. Pathetic. Embarrassing. The weather has gotten warmer, the calendar has flipped to May, yet this team is mired in an offensive funk that shows no signs of abating.

What makes this 2009 campaign even more bizarre is that the team is not playing all that badly—defensively, that is. They rank among the league leaders in fielding percentage, have only committed 19 errors as a team, and their pitching has been more than adequate, with the exception of one blown save.

Oberkfell knows that, and as he spoke to the media, he grabbed a nearby stat sheet off a table. “Wanna know why we’re six and 22? Right here, that’s why,” he said, lobbing more profanities and calling out Michel Abreu and Nick Evans for their offensive failures. “It’s depressing. Our pitchers are pitching their asses off and our offense stinks.”

No need to argue. Hot prospect Evans is batting under a buck, and veteran Mike Lamb looks positively hideous on his swings. Even Willy Mo Pena, known for his size and girth and power at the plate, has created a buzz at every at-bat but in the end has come up small. “In all my years in baseball I have never seen a team that can’t get that clutch two out hit,” Oberkfell lamented.

As of Monday night, the team has played 29 games. In 14 of those games, they have either been shut out or have scored but one run. This past weekend could have seen back-to-back shutouts, except the Bisons managed a garbage run in each of the late innings to avoid total disaster.

So what is the team doing, other than putting out the same tired lineup of has-beens, passengers, and non-performers day after day?

Apparently nothing.

“These guys are battlers. It’s frustrating right now.” Oberkfell’s production of Groundhog Day: the only thing missing is the clock radio flipping to 6am and hearing Sonny and Cher sing “I Got You Babe.”

Two weeks ago, April 24 to be exact, Oberkfell promised that there would be changes. “This is Triple-A baseball. This isn’t rookie leagues. Make adjustments. Get the job done. If you don’t, we’ll find players who can.”

So we had to ask, based on that comment, if Oberkfell has had any conversations with the honchos at the Mets, making some hard decisions as to personnel changes. “I never said that!” Oberkfell barked back. “Don’t put words in my mouth, and don’t quote me on things I never said!”

Oh, but Ken, you did say exactly that.

If we misunderstood you back on that day, then our sincere apologies, as we published your comment verbatim in our last column. Funny thing, though, that exact comment also ran in next day’s game story in the Buffalo News. Did their reporter also misquote you on that day?

Oberkfell continuously dodges any questions that pertain to his relationship with the Mets player development department or the dynamics involved in selecting players who wear the Buffalo uniform.

During Buffalo’s golden days with the Cleveland organization, the Indians director of player development John Farrell was a regular visitor to Buffalo’s ballpark, and much of the Bisons success was due to Farrell’s uncanny ability to select just the right player from the waiver wire, the free agent lists, or the independent teams to fill a need in the lineup.

On many an occasion, former Managers Marty Brown or Torey Lovullo would be late arriving at a postgame press conference, because they were on the phone with somebody from Cleveland, assessing a player’s performance or discussing the team’s fortunes.

Does anyone with the Mets even talk to Oberkfell?

The worst news of all is that Buffalo sports fans seem to be tuning this whole mess out. The ever dropping bar of diminished expectations in drawing attendance to the games has been lowered even further, as “announced” crowds now number in the 4000 range. Over the weekend the windswept stadium was almost empty.

Come Memorial Day weekend, Daryl Strawberry comes to town, bobbleheads will be given away, and the whole event should be one big circus. For beleaguered and disappointed baseball fans here in Buffalo, that should come as a welcome distraction.

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