Friday, April 1, 2005
DISCUSSION QUESTION OF THE WEEK - TWINS 2005 PREDICTIONS
Good morning! It is finally Friday, and I will start the day in Florida, but unfortunately I will be on my way back to Minnesota! Uggh! Oh well, vacations can't last forever!
Today is our final guest columnist. Josh Bucholz is the Director of Baseball Operations for the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks of the Northern League. Josh and I met playing baseball at Concordia College in Moorhead. I was impressed because he was someone who knew as much about baseball as I did. Josh today discusses life in the Northern League, in Fargo, and provides a lot of great, interesting information about putting a team together. And, he's got some other thoughts too. Thanks to Josh for doing this for me. And thanks to the other guest columnists from this week. In case you missed any of them, they are:
Monday - Rita Maloney
Wednesday - Corinne Balfour
Thursday - Cory Hepola
GUEST COLUMNIST: JOSH BUCHOLZ
Hello and thanks for checking in. I’m Josh Buchholz and I’m Seth’s guest writer today.
I’ve known Seth since our days at Concordia College. I even coached him when he was a young college baseball player, so our relationship is not unlike that of Mr. Miyagi and Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid.
Anyways, I’m excited that he’s asked me to contribute to his blog. 2005 will mark my 10th season with the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the Northern League, so I thought I would take a shot at letting Seth’s readers get a peek into what life is like in independent baseball.
Life In The Northern League…
I’ve been employed by the RedHawks since 1996, the year the club joined the Northern League as an expansion team. I started my baseball career in the clubhouse, working as the clubhouse attendant in 1996 and 1997. I was promoted to Director of Media Relations prior to the 1998 season and have seen my position evolve into that of Director of Baseball Operations. Essentially I assist our manager, Doug Simunic, with player personnel issues including contracts, salary cap administration, travel and housing. I also oversee the clubhouse staff, order all the equipment and still handle the team’s media relations.
The great thing about the Northern League (and other independent leagues) is the number one focus on the field is winning—same as MLB. There is no parent organization making sure the “bonus baby” is getting his at bats or innings. Winning is the only thing that matters, and players that are not contributing or helping the team win ballgames are released.
Working in Fargo has one advantage…winning has never been a problem. Behind Simunic and former pitcher/pitching coach and current player personnel consultant Jeff Bittiger (a former Minnesota Twin), the RedHawks have been in the post-season in eight of our first nine seasons and have twice won the Northern League Championship (1998 & 2003). Both guys have been affiliated with the Northern League since 1993, working in Rochester and Winnipeg before coming to Fargo in 1996. In addition to the two titles in Fargo, the duo also won a championship with Winnipeg in 1994.
The summer is the time of year that the fans get to see the team we assemble, but the real work in team building begins in earnest around the first of the year. We make our decisions on returning players first, and most Northern League teams will bring back 10-12 players from the previous season. Contracts are sent out to returning players and we start to get an idea of what our salary structure will be. Each Northern League team operates on a $100,000 salary cap, split up between halves over the course of the 108 day season. That breaks down to about $930 per day that we can pay our team.
To round out the roster, we scour every list possible to find free agent players. Most of these have been released by Major League organizations that do not make it out of spring training. The prime signing period for these players is the last week in March and the first two weeks of April. Spring training begins in early May and final rosters are set by mid-May. We are always looking for free agents that can make our team better, whether it’s the off-season or in the season.
One of the best marketing tools we can use to get players to come to the Northern League over other independent leagues is our success in moving players back to Major League organizations. Two former Fargo-Moorhead players were in big league spring training this year (Chris Coste with the Phillies and Jon Weber with the Dodgers) and at least a dozen other former RedHawks are in various minor league camps.
The Northern League has evolved quite a bit since 1993. Team relocation and expansion have turned the quaint six-team league in mainly smaller cites into a 12-team circuit with many metropolitan markets. Only three charter members remain: the St. Paul Saints, Sioux Falls Canaries and Sioux City Explorers. Original cites Duluth-Superior, Rochester, Minn. and Thunder Bay, Ont. have given way to three teams in the Chicago area (Gary, Joliet and Schaumburg), Fargo-Moorhead, Kansas City, Lincoln and Winnipeg.
The league is expanding north this year, moving into the former Triple-A markets of Calgary and Edmonton. Further expansion is planned, as the league commissioner has stated his goal is a 16-team league by 2007.
I’m not going to get overly in-depth with analysis here…Seth does plenty of this and anything I’d write would look pretty thin. I’m a fan, but haven’t been to a game since 1990—sorry Twins management. I just don’t see how anyone in the division has improved enough to catch Minnesota and I predict they will win their fourth consecutive AL Central title. I love their pitching staff, I’m excited to see Joe Mauer over a full season and am very worried about the shortstop position. We’ll see how it goes, but it would sure suck to see A.J. Pierzynski and the White Sox win this year.
Wake me when they are in the NBA Finals. Until then, I really don’t care. As long as it’s been since I’ve been to a Twins game, it’s been even longer since I’ve been to a Timberwolves game. In fact, the last Timberwolves game I was at was in the Metrodome…pre-Target Center.
I really miss the NHL. I take in a couple of Wild games a year, went to the NHL All-Star Game last year, was at the first-ever playoff game at the Xcel Energy Center and have a couple of friends who play in the league. It’s a mess and as a die-hard hockey guy I’m worried about next season. Hopefully something can be worked out so me and the 18 people who watch the NHL on ESPN will have something to look forward to. What I really miss is NHL 2Night. John Buccigross, Barry Melrose and his hair, Panger, Chicken Parm…my winter nights just weren’t the same without these guys. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for ’05-’06.
On paper their off-season signings look good, but I’m sure they will find a way to disappoint us yet again. I’ll miss Randy Moss, simply because I liked having him on my fantasy teams. At what point do we start getting to talk about curses?
A Little Pop Culture...
What’s On Heavy Rotation in My iPod
- Arcade Fire—Funeral
- Citizen Cope—The Clarence Greenwood Recordings
- Doves—Some Cities
- Franz Ferdinand—Franz Ferdinand
- Green Day—American Idiot
- Kaiser Chiefs—Employment
- The Killers—Hot Fuss
- Kings of Leon—Aha Shake Heartbreak
- The Tragically Hip—In Between Evolution
What Plants Me on the Couch
- The Daily Show (Comedy Central)—My kind of humor.
- Good Eats (Food Network)—I enjoy cooking, and I always learn something new from Alton Brown
- The Office (NBC)—I’m really looking forward to NBC’s take on this BBC classic. And it stars Steve Carell.
- Scrubs (NBC)—Best-written comedy on TV
- West Wing (NBC)—For the political junkie in me
I’ve never watched American Idol, so I won’t be able to break down this week’s action for you. Sorry.
Thanks for reading, and if you live near a Northern League ballpark check us out this summer.
Thank you again Josh for taking the time to write. I love the concept of independent baseball. I went to a bunch of Redhawks games when I was in college yet, but have only been to a couple in the last eight years. Maybe this summer I'll have to get to more. If you have any questions or comments for Josh, please e-mail me and I'll be sure to get them to him!
DISCUSSION QUESTION OF THE WEEK - 2005 Twins Predictions
OK, I am going to get home next weekend and will be really busy getting caught up. So, on Monday, I will be posting my thoughts on the 2005 Minnesota Twins season. I need your help though. I want your thoughts on what the Twins will do in 2005. So, here are some questions to consider, and again, simply e-mail me your answers to the questions or anything else you would like to write about the Twins upcoming season. Use the questions as a starting point. Here were my thoughts going into last year.
How many Wins will the Twins record this year? Where will they place in the division?
Will Johan Santana duplicated his 2004 season?
Which other pitchers will step-it-up in 2005?
Who will disappoint?
Can Joe Mauer stay healthy and, if so, what will he do this year?
What are your predictions for Justin Morneau?
Which hitter will step up?
Who will disappoint?
Who will be the Twins leader in:
Which minor leaguer will have the most impact on the Twins in 2005?
What would you say that X-Factor is for the team?
What storylines are you hoping to read?
Again, I would appreciate your help with this question and Monday's article. Here's how it works. I will post these questions the rest of the week. Please think them over and then send me an e-mail with your answers/response. Then on Monday, your thoughts will be posted on this site. Thanks for your help!
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