Team’s turnaround brings back some respectability
As far as turnarounds are concerned, this is not a complete 180. But at least it’s something.
The Buffalo Bisons were hopelessly mired in a funk which made them the laughing stock of AAA baseball and relegated them to their 12th straight season of no playoff berth. At one point in June, it got so bad that the team almost set a modern era record for most consecutive losses.
But that was then. The team wasn’t losing horribly. They were losing ugly. “Not finishing. Not doing the little things,” said an exasperated Bobby Meacham. Little things like chipping out clutch base hits to push across a run or two. Like stealing that extra base. Like watching your relief pitcher hunker down and get those key outs late in the game.
This past Sunday, the Bisons and Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs went ten scoreless innings until Buffalo drove in the game winning run for a 1-0 victory. It was catcher Mike Ohlman who sent a line drive base hit to medium left, and Bobby Meacham had the go sign all the way for Teoscar Hernandez to take it all the way from second to home plate.
What happened next was the new look Bisons, showing emotion that was way too lacking during that horrific run of losses a month ago. Not only did the team pour out of the dugout, but one of the players actually brought out the water cooler to try and douse Ohlman with an ice water salute (Ohlman had it all the way and evaded the dousing).
“Wow. Five in a row,” said an ecstatic Meacham in his postgame comments, and it seems like he is enjoying this run of success as well as anyone playing on the field. For many a night, Meacham has had to face the music with the media after every loss, and now, for just now, he’s savoring every bit of his team’s success.
Newly arrived players such as catcher Danny Jansen and outfielder Teoscar Hernandez have contributed mightily to the new look Bisons, but Meacham dismissed any notion that these two players have been the main reason for the teams’ better play. “Everyone has contributed. It’s been a group effort. It’s tough to keep the team thought process going with all the callups but the guys replacing them have been great. It’s why the Blue Jays have a bright future because a lot guys work hard and work well together. We keep adding and keep replacing the guys who are already working well.
Catcher Mike Ohlman agrees that things seem to be different in the clubhouse as the calendar turns to the dog days of August. “We just said let’s have fun. Let’s finish this thing strong. What’s in the past just happened, so lets just rally together.”
While any chance for the playoffs is all but a mathematical impossibility, the team has a chance to play spoilers in a big way for just who will sit atop the IL North Division once the season concludes in early September. By beating division leading Scranton Wilkes Barre, twice, then sweeping the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs at home, the team is at least now playing for some dignity and not going away quietly.
The one positive statistic which jumps off the score sheet are stolen bases. The Bisons actually lead the league with them, currently at 114 and on pace to snatch 140 this season, which would be the team’s biggest total since 1999. A big part of that success is the speed of center fielder Roemon Fields, who leads the league in that category and is just one of six Bisons in the modern era to record 34 or more steals in a season. Fields keeps his technique simple. “Once I see the (pitchers) leg go up a little slow I’m out,” said Fields. HE admits that he’s given little thought to chasing former Bison Dave Roberts record of 39 stolen bases.
As to his spot in the batting order, Meacham has him placed 9th on many a night. “Every time we put him on top (of the order), he thinks too much like a leadoff hitter, and he’s best suited being on the nine hole, down that way. He drives in a lot of runs. Sometimes leadoff hitters have a tendency to take too many pitches and find themselves in a hole. So I think he’s better down there.”
There are but two homestands left this season with the team returning home this coming Tuesday to Coca Cola Field, and the home schedule concluding on Fan Appreciation Night, Thursday, August 31.
AROUND THE BASES.
Major League Baseball has announced that 13 series of regular season games will be played in international host venues from 2018 through 2021. Next season Cleveland and Minnesota will play a pair of games in Puerto Rico, with annual series in Mexico City, and games in London and possibly the Dominican Republic. Road trip, anyone?