Steve Shirley the scout had a very good week, which made life much tougher for Steve Shirley the manager.
The Sioux City Explorers (Northern) sold a pair of righthanders,
Tony Evans and Mitch Wylie, to affiliated clubs in the span of four
days. Evans signed with the Athletics, who sent him to Class A Kane
County, while the Giants signed Mitch Wylie and sent him to Triple-A
It’s a testament to Shirley’s eye for talent, as he helped a pair of
pitchers he signed get back to affiliated ball and fulfilled a promise
he made when he signed Wylie. At the time of his sale, Evans was 3-1,
2.42, seventh in the league in ERA. Plagued by bad luck and poor run
support, Wylie was 1-0, 3.00.
But Shirley, a first-year manager, was left trying to figure out how to fill a rotation that just lost its top two starters.
“I’ve made a few phone calls, but how do you anticipate having two
pitchers sold on one trip through the rotation?” Shirley said.
Shirley’s predicament is one that managers throughout independent
ball face during the season. Put together a good team, and you’ll win
games. Do very well and you’re likely to see some of your best players
sign with affiliated clubs. When that happens, having a list of
contacts ready to point you in the direction of available talent
In Shirley’s case, a scout he knew tipped him off to Travis
Dressler, a righthander who had just graduated from the University of
Mary-South Dakota, an NAIA school. A couple of calls later, Shirley had
a replacement, even if he’d never seen him throw a pitch. The scouting
report says that Dressler throws an 88-91 mph fastball and a good
curveball with solid command.
“I’m a first-year guy,” Shirley said. ” I know some people, but I
don’t have the network that George (Tsamis) or Doug (Simunic) or Hal
(Lanier) has. I don’t have an organization that is watching the
transactions for me and looking up stats. In Sioux City, that’s all me.
I’m trying to establish a network. Managers come and go pretty quick,
but yet, I’m realizing as a manager, it’s probably a couple of years
before you can establish the ties that you need to have.”
Few independent league managers have a better Rolodex than Tsamis,
the St. Paul manager. Because of injuries, he also was forced to troll
for replacements early in the season. But with the pressure of the
salary cap looming (teams must be under the cap at the end of the first
half of the season), his network enabled him to take a gamble.
Left with two outfielders because of a rash of injuries, Tsamis
signed outfielder Marcus Nettles, a former Brewers farmhand. Nettles
was a solid contributor, hitting .286-0-7 for the Saints in 42 at-bats,
but he was forced to play right field, while his speed–Tsamis calls
him the “fastest player I’ve seen in the league”–was better suited to
center field. With a salary crunch looming, Tsamis sent Nettles and
catcher Tim Marks, who was hitting .394, to the Schaumburg Flyers for
the rights to three players who are currently unavailable, and a player
to be named.
Why deal two useful players for potentially nothing? Tsamis had
heard that righthander Hank Woodman, who led the Northern League in
strikeouts the past two seasons as a Flyer, could end up being released
by Taiwan’s Brother Elephants. If he came back to the U.S., he would
give the Saints a potential ace. The Saints picked up the rights to
him, righthander Brad Zeigler and first baseman Mario Delgado. Both
Zeigler and Delgado were playing affiliated ball.
“We have to be under the end of the salary cap at the end of first
half,” Tsamis said. “I have heard from two reliable sources that
Woodman is on the bubble. He was the best pitcher in this league last
year. You take chances. People may look at the trade and say, ‘What the
heck are they doing trading a guy hitting .390 for a ghost.’ “
Tsamis pulled the trigger after he lined up catcher Travis Brown, an
undrafted college senior at nearby Viterbo who had shown solid
receiving skills and a potent bat at a Saints open tryout before the
season. The Saints signed a couple of players and almost as
importantly, Tsamis added names of potential signees during the season
if holes opened up. It’s another part of creating backup plans, and
another part of the job of an independent league manager.
“This is almost a 24-hour a day situation,” Shirley said. “I’m the
manager, I’m responsible for my team in the hotel, on the field, and
I’m also the scouting and procurement department. I’m the travel
secretary. You have to wear a lot of hats.”
• The Northern League suspended seven players for a bench-clearing
brawl between Edmonton and Winnipeg. The brawl began when Edmonton’s Trevor Marcotte hit Winnipeg’s Russ Jacobson in
the head with a pitch. Both benches cleared. Marcotte was released by
the Cracker-Cats after the game, but if he returns to the league, he
will be facing a 10-game suspension. Winnipeg pitcher Carlos Torres was suspended for four games for kicking an Edmonton player, Edmonton pitcher Reggie Rivard was suspended for two games, and four players were suspended for one game.
• San Angelo second baseman Jorge Alvarez destroyed Central
League pitching during the first month of the season. Alvarez, 37, was
leading the league in batting (.391), hits (52) and slugging percentage
(.714). He was also second in the league in on-base percentage (.433)
and RBIs (39).