Wild About Things

Best season ever?

Stewart Ijames
The Frontier League is different things for different people.

For those who play in the Frontier League, it could be a second chance, a way to get back to affiliated ball. Or it can be a way for a player, such as former Wild Things outfielder Stewart Ijames, who slipped through the cracks and went undrafted as a college senior to make a better impression and get his first shot in the affiliated ranks. Or it could simply be a way for a player to keep playing the game he loves and maybe move to a better-paying job in another independent league.

Or in the case of Windy City pitcher Josh Spence, it could be a way to get back to the major leagues.

The primary on-field purpose of the Frontier League is move players to some major-league team's minor-league affiliate. And this year, the league is having players sold to major league organizations at a record pace.

When Normal pitcher Ethan Elias had his contract purchased Wednesday by the Miami Marlins, he became the 29th player since the start of spring training to be moved to affiliated ball. That's a record  for this point in the season.

According to Frontier League deputy commissioner Steve Tahsler, there were 12 players who had their contracts purchased at this point last year, 10 in 2012, 12 in 2011 and only 5 in 2010.

Of the 29 players who have been picked up this year, 13 have been right-handed pitchers, six have been infielders, three have been outfielders, three have been catchers and there were three left-handed pitchers.

The team that has lost the most players is River City, which has moved six, including catcher Josh Ludy, who was picked up this week by Oakland. Ludy is leading the league in batting average and home runs (one more than Ijames). That the Rascals are only a half-game out of first place in the West Division at the time I write this is a credit to the work of manager Steve Brook, who does a solid job every season.

Every Frontier League team except two (Lake Erie and Traverse City) has had at least one player sold to the affiliated ranks.Read full post: Best season ever?

Too many managers?

Phil Wrigley and his "College of Coaches."
One last post about managers, and it has nothing to do with t he Wild Things.

I received an email from a reader of the Observer-Reporter this week who read my column in the Sunday edition. The reader wrote that he was surprised that I didn't mention the Chicago Cubs' "College of Coaches" that was used in the 1961 and '62 seasons.

I didn't mention it because it wasn't exactly the same as the Wild Things' co-coaches or coaches-by-committee approach. The Cubs always had a manager. The problem was it was changing, first every month, then every week, then every series.

Confused? if you're too young to remember or never heard of the Cubs' "College of Coaches," then here a few links.




If you don't want to read three stories, I'll give you the Reader's Digest version. The Cubs had a string of 14 consecutive finishes in the bottom half of the National League entering the 1961 season, when owner Phil Wrigley decided to do something unique and hired eight coaches who would rotate through the organization from the minors to the majors, changing managerial jobs along the way. Some guys actually managed a rookie league team and the Cubs in the same season.

The Cubs started with a plan to divide the 1961 season into thirds and change managers at that point. It ended up that four managers were used, often rotating from week to week. Three managers were used in 1962.

The results were about what you would expect. The Cubs went 64-90 in 1961 and 59-103 in 1962.Read full post: Too many managers?

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