Another season

It has been a long, long time since I posted here. Since I didn’t have anything to say, I didn’t force it – even though that is contrary to most of the bloggers in the universe.

The AirHogs are in the next phase of “let’s destroy the team” – the owners have decided to co-locate the team between Grand Prairie and Amarillo. So, now they are the Texas AirHogs.


This is quite possibly the stupidest move in the history of organized sports, other than just giving up and having a traveling (no-home) team. A team with two home fields that are 354 miles apart. WTF?

Reminder to the owners and league: Texas is not New Jersey. You can’t just drive across it in an hour. If Southwest flies between the cities, only crazy people are going to drive it. 

We gave up our season tickets last year, because we just didn’t have the time any longer. I was back in the office across town, and by the time I got home, I just couldn’t face another half-hour on the highways to get to the game.

Now, I’m back home-officed, and half the time they’re playing away games, and half of the home games are in Amarillo. I thought driving to Grand Prairie was bad. I wonder if this year’s season tickets package includes a hotel room in the other city. Maybe you can just ride on the team bus.

Why not just kill the team and get it over with?

To fill the gap in home games, the Great Southwest Collegiate League was invented. It’s a wooden-bat, college-level league for college players around the State. Their games are played in whatever stadium the AirHogs are not in that day.

I may go to a couple of their games. They seem to have two games per day, since they don’t have access to the stadium for a full season.

The AirHogs have done almost everything they can to kill fan support. I guess having someone show up in Grand Prairie with a sign “Tonight’s Home Game is in Amarillo” is the final step in the plan.

Lead-Off Hitters

Looking at Retrosheet data for the 2000s, the lead-off hitter on the visitor’s team was the center fielder 32% of the time. For the home team, the center fielder led off 31.9% of the time.  Yes, I will check my numbers and data, but that seemed very interesting to me. (Second place for lead-off was the short-stop.) 

For the statistics-minded, I looked at the position field for the first batter of the visitor’s team and the home team, and took the mode. I think that’s how it’s done, but I haven’t done real statistics since I had a slide rule. 

Moral Victories

Moral victories don’t count in the statistics, which is unfortunate, but they are a beautiful moment in time when they happen. 

Last night, the AirHogs lost to the Larado Lemurs 12-11 in twelve innings. However, they were left for dead by the end of the seventh – mainly due to the constantly moving strike zone of an incompetent home plate umpire. (Both managers complained – ours got ejected, which means his complaints were better.) 

So, in the bottom of the ninth, with an eight-run lead, Laredo sent their third baseman to the mound to pitch. 

Yes, the third baseman.

Now, this may seem like cockiness, but I don’t think so. You have two teams that had played a double-header the night before, they had used three pitchers already, there was another game the next day and the home plate umpire wouldn’t know a strike or a ball, so you’re going to have to rely on your defense. You’ve got an eight-run lead, what could possibly go wrong? 

You might come up against a team that finally decided it was time to play baseball. 

Ryan Pineda hits a single on a 2-1 pitch. Let’s not get excited, but at least somebody is on base. 

Angel Flores hits a 1-2 pitch and gets on. Men at first and second. 

Fraizer Hall walks on four straight pitches. Bases loaded. At this point, I began wondering how many runs Laredo would give up before a real pitcher came in. My guess was five. 

Kenny Held hits a sac-fly to score Pineda. One run in, long way to go. One out. The “play defense” strategy may be working. One grounder and it’s probably over. 

Keanon Simon singles on an 0-1 pitch. Flores scores. Two runs. One out. Hmm. 

Brandon Pickney doubles on an 0-2 pitch. So much for the pitcher getting ahead in the count. Another run scores. Interesting. 

Brian Myrow walks on six pitches. Bases loaded. Why look! Laredo has found a pitcher just sitting around. So, my five-run estimate was low, although there are four runs potentially on base. 

Andres Rodriguez gets hit by a pitch. Ouch. Another run crosses the plate. Not a good start for a reliever. Still, we need four to tie, five to win and there is one away.

Juan Richardson strikes out on seven pitches. Damn. Double damn. Two outs. 

Ryan Pineda (Hey! Didn’t we see him earlier in the inning?) looks at ball one and puts the next pitch over the left-field wall. Grand Freakin’ Slam. Tie Freakin’ game. This was the first curse of joy of the evening. This one hit may be why Laredo doesn’t have the manager of the year. 

Flores struck out to end the inning, but a message had been sent. We can beat you, in spite of the umpires. We can torch your pitchers, given a chance.

So, we lost the game in the twelfth, 12-11. We lost the game, but I think we won the battle. If you can get eight runs in the bottom of the ninth on the team leading your division, you can beat them. A message has been sent. I don’t think we’ll see any more fielders pitching unless the bullpen is dry. 

Tonight should be interesting. 



Time to think

Attendance seems lower at the AirHogs games this year – not a lot, but noticeable. Part of the issue is their schedule sucks – the season started with a three-game home stand and then they left town for ten days. Not exactly a momentum builder. 

Perhaps the reason baseball is being touted as “going away” or “fading” is that in order to enjoy a game, you have to think. This is contrary to football (big guys hitting each other), basketball (tall guys in shorts running around) and hockey (figure skaters with sticks.) 

Baseball does not have a time limit. You play nine innings, no matter how long it takes, unless it rains. You can’t run out the clock. 

There actually is strategy in baseball, even though at first glance, it’s just a guy swinging a bat at a ball. You can change pitchers. You can change hitters. You can change runners. You can try to steal. You can bunt or swing away. You have to think about it. If you can’t think, the manager or coach will tell you what to do. 

Baseball is a statistician’s dream because everything is a number. How many pitches have been thrown? What’s the pitcher’s ERA? What’s the batter’s batting average? slugging average? 

I’m surprised baseball isn’t more popular just because there are so many items you can wager on. 

The AirHogs played two seven-inning games in less than five hours last night. The Super Bowl can take longer than that. 

I’ve never seen the point of basketball – it was invented to have something to do on a rainy day, and it shows. The winner is the team that shoots the best because you basically just tramp up and down the court, trading shots. 

Hockey would probably be more enticing if we had ice around here. Since I never skated, I never saw the point. 

I was rattling off statistics to a guy next to me last night, and he asked if I had played baseball growing up. I think he was surprised I didn’t (I played soccer – which is great exercise, but is also tramping up and down the field, shooting and missing. I played soccer for eight years, but I don’t really like watching it.) 

You can get into baseball without having played it. You can progress from watching to scoring to keeping statistics and doing predictive modeling in less than a 100-game season. 

There’s just one problem with baseball – you have to think. Strategy, statistics and math require the use of your brain. 

That may be baseball’s problem. Perhaps it’s really our problem. 

Sports Marketing

I don’t understand sports marketing, specifically the AirHogs. They changed mascots this year, from Ace Bacon (a fighter pilot pig) to Scout, a blob that’s supposed to be a fighter pilot pig. Apparently, a realistic fighter pilot pig scared children. WTF?

Scout looks like Dodger, the Ft Worth Cats old mascot. Allegedly, it’s the same person inside. He is an asshole. He seems to think people come to the game just to see him. While this is probably a requirement if your job is to look like an idiot in a blob suit, it is contrary to reality.

Sports should not need additional attractions – it is the attraction. I understand baseball is a lengthy game, and there are many details, but that’s what baseball fans expect. If your kids get bored, there should be attractions for them away from the action. Out of sight, out of mind.

Scout is for the children. He needs to take the children Pied-Piper style out of the way. However, since Scout’s human inside thinks he is the center of the universe, he leads the children by running up and down the home dugout with a t-shirt. All the children are screaming for the t-shirt. Scout is the center of attention. His life is fulfilled.

There’s only one problem. It’s the bottom of the ninth, and the home team is behind. This is when the fans want to watch the game. The most expensive seats? Just behind the home dugout. The seats where you can’t see or hear? Just behind the home dugout.

This is obviously a disconnect. The front office is trying to get people to the game, and then prevents them from actually enjoying it.

If you think a blob chasing children is required to sell tickets to a baseball game, you either spent too much time in marketing classes, or you have no faith in your product. Either can be deadly. It’s why Shreveport has had so many teams fail.

The Metroplex has the Texas Rangers, the Frisco RoughRiders, the Grand Prairie AirHogs, the Ft Worth Cats and probably more smaller teams.

How do you sell minor-league, unaffiliated baseball in a town that has a pro team that’s been to the World Series twice lately?

Here’s my thoughts:

Can you meet Rangers manager Ron Washington after the game? Probably not. The AirHogs manager will be in the bar by left field after the game. He lives baseball. Ask him what you want to know.

Want to meet the players? Frisco players sign autographs at given times. AirHogs players (and many opponents) eat dinner in the bar after games. They’re very gracious with their time. Buy them a drink.

Can you sit in a front-row seat for less than $15? You can in Grand Prairie. Try that in any pro sports in the area.

Grand Prairie has affordable, accessible professional baseball. Nobody else (except the Cats) has all three.

Why isn’t that the marketing plan? Why aren’t baseball games being marketed to baseball fans?

I never went to major league games with any regularity because it was too expensive to get good seats, and getting in and out of Arlington is painful. We went to a RoughRiders game and it was fun, but the traffic was horrific. In Grand Prairie, we found a team that was accessible both personally and geographically.

The whole point of playing unaffiliated ball is to get moved to affiliated, then to the majors. So, they actually play ball. There are more triples than in any other level of baseball because its all out.

So, accessible, affordable, professional baseball played by people with something to prove.

Why again do I need a blob to excite me?

Season Tickets … At last

Things not to do ever again:

  • Never leave town for two weeks vacation just before the start of baseball season.
  • Never have multiple deaths in the family at the beginning of a year (or anytime, really.)
  • Never change managers at work just as you’re trying to figure out if you made the right career choice in 1982.

If you do, you may suddenly realize the day after the Meet & Greet that you haven’t actually paid for your season tickets yet. Oops.

That’s done,  now. We thank the team for their patience.

We’re paid up. We’re ready. Season opener is May 17th – as in, a week from tomorrow. That was closer than usual.

50 home games again this year. Same seats, same manager, mainly different team. It should be interesting. It always is.