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Thank God That Season's Over

Disappointment, turmoil mars Mets first year in Buffalo

Bisons fans began this season with a lot of hope and anticipation. After losing the Cleveland Indians as their parent club, Buffalo expected better days with the the New York Mets.

The two teams made a big splash in announcing their marriage last September, after the Bisons engaged in a lot of back-room machinations to get the Mets to Buffalo, when conventional wisdom dictated that the Mets would go to Syracuse.

By April, newly branded Bisons merchandise and apparel in their new blue and orange colors was flying off the shelves. A big crowd was on hand on opening day to watch Jonathon Niese take the loss for the Herd. It was a sign of things to come.

The Bisons went 2-17 for the month of April, and stumbled their way to a final record of 56-87, the worst in the International League. In a curious twist, the Bisons were neck and neck with the Columbus Clippers and their former organization for the league’s worst record, and close watchers of the team were hoping that the Bisons would overtake Columbus in the standings. Didn’t happen.

So what went wrong? Plenty.

The New York Mets endured numerous key injuries before they even broke camp in Port St. Lucie. Key players such as centerfielder Angel Pagan were supposed to be a mainstay of the Bisons squad. The Mets opened their new ballpark, Citifield, to horrible reviews, with many dedicated fans heaping scorn on the team for their lack of attention to the franchise’s colorful moments and great history. Meantime, their crosstown rivals, the New York Yankees, opened their own new ballpark to great adulation.

With so many injuries, and their AAA and AA teams struggling on the field, the Mets brought in free agent help. While the addition of such players as Javier Valentin and Willy Mo Pena, things improved at the plate, but in short time those players were gone.

In August, Tony Bernazard was finally fired from the Mets, and one could almost feel the collective sigh of relief at Coca Col Field. Bernazard was the Mets’ point man in charge of the minor league system, and many in the organization either feared him or loathed him, or both.

The Bisons ownership and management put a lot of faith and stock in this affiliation with the New York Mets, and clearly did not deserve the cards that were handed to them. Attendance was down by almost 60,000 tickets from the previous season, and fan interest in the Bisons wained quickly after the team’s horrible start.

Expect to see Manager Ken Oberkfell and his coaching staff back in 2010. And expact to hear all the right things from the suits in New York, who clearly want to mend the relationship with Buffalo. Watching what the Mets do to bolster this squad will be most interesting.

Those fans who were at Coca Cola Field a week ago Tuesday got to see the rarest of plays—a triple play. With Rochester runners on first and second with no outs, and on the move, batter Steven Tolleson lined a shot to a diving Arganis Reyes. Reyes calmly recovered, lobbed the ball to the second baseman for the second out; the second baseman threw to first for the third out. The play earned a berth on ESPN’s “Top 10” the following morning. It was only the second triple play recorded at the downtown ballpark, the first one happening back in 1997.

Pat Listach Award

1999 Orlando Miller
2000 Jeff Patzke
2001 Kevin Sefcik
2002 Anthony Medrano
2003 Luis Garcia
3004 Todd Dunwoody
2005 Ryan Ludwick
2006 Jake Gautreau
2007 Hector Luna
2008 Morgan Ensberg
2009 Nick Evans

Jimmy Hamilton Award

2000 Tim Drew
2001 Roy Smith
2002 Jaret Wright
2003 Carl Sadler
2004 Luther Hackman
2005 Billy Traber
2006 Jake Dittler
2007 Bubby Buzachero
2008 Jeff Weaver
2009 No winner

And The Winner Is...

Each year we designate the Pat Listach Award to the Bisons’ worst hitter, and the Jimmy Hamilton Award for the worst pitcher. These clunker awards were originally crafted by Bisons superfan Christopher Mach, and were named after two former Bisons—a former AL Rookie of the Year Pat Listach, who ended his playing career here in Buffalo, and journeyman prospect Jimmy Hamilton, whose claim to fame in Buffalo was getting thrown into the deep end of the pool in the 1997 AAA World Series, promptly surrendering back-to-back home runs, and turning the series against the Bisons.

While there was no shortage of candidates vying for the 2009 Listach, in the end the selection committee could not make any other choice but Nick “7 for 75” Evans. The highly touted Evans, who saw ample major league playing time in 2008, was a disaster for the Bisons, mostly in the cleanup spot, and could easily be named the poster child for the team’s failings.

As for the 2009 Hamilton, this year’s pitching squad yielded few clunkers. Tobi Stoner had a bead on the award, then blew his chances by winning four of his last five starts and looking positively phenomenal in the process. Therefore, the 2009 Jimmy Hamilton Award will go unclaimed.

Opening Day 2010 is Wednesday, April 14 at Coca Cola Field. See you at the ballpark.

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