Pawsox: Playoffs trump development this time around
Monday, September 05, 2011
Ask anyone who works for, or roots for a minor league baseball team about winning – and the answer usually comes out with something like “well, we’re here to support the big club.”
It’s true. Minor league teams support the parent organization with player development, instruction and overall growth of the individual, with the hope that someday he might be able to contribute to the major league team.
Winning? It’s great if you can win, but a lot of the time – it’s just not a primary concern.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Now, combine the two – development with winning – and you’ve got something. This season, the Pawtucket Red Sox have done just that. The Pawsox have clinched their first division pennant (the International League North division) in eight seasons, doing so with a Saturday win over the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. It’s also the first playoff berth overall for the Pawsox since 2008, and the post-season will get underway on the road this Wednesday.
"These guys have done a really good job of grinding," Arnie Beyeler, the Pawsox first year manager said. "Our approach every night is to go out and play hard, and whatever happens, happens. This is why they're at where they're at. They show up and play hard every day and do a great job.
"There's an expectation here that winning is a part of development," Beyeler added. "I've always emphasized development and playing the game right and guys playing hard and doing the right things, and I believe that because of that, you're going to win some games."
Pitching and defense have been the strong suit for Pawtucket this season, with a team earned run average of 3.58 ranking second best in the IL. Defensively, they’ve been strong overall – third best in the league with a .984 fielding percentage. If the Pawsox can maintain that level, it would set a club record for best fielding percentage…and they also top the IL in most double-plays turned, with a franchise-record 150 "twin-killings" turned on the season.
"Pitching and defense beats good hitting, most of the time," Beyeler said. "The guys play defense and pitch. And when we do that, we usually have a chance. We've got a lot of big league experience out there, so we better get some guys out. These guys are good pitchers. We've signed older guys in the organization for a reason, probably to back up the big league staff and add depth. They're professional enough that when they come down here, they put themselves in position to go back up - they don't come down here and complain. They're great guys, they work hard every day to put themselves in position to go back (up to Boston)."
Perhaps even more impressively, the Pawsox have managed to win despite missing a few of their top prospects for much of the season – OF Ryan Kalish is out for the year with a neck injury, for instance – and they have had 63 different players coming and going on the roster overall. However, there have also been 16 different players promoted to Boston – and that doesn’t include the injury rehab assignments that another nine Red Sox players have made in Pawtucket.
This year, the revolving locker room door hasn’t come off the hinges.
"They're playing the game right," Beyeler explained. "When you play the game right, you're going to win games. The guys play hard, they run when they're supposed to run, they move runners, they play the game. We can control guys going out there and playing hard and giving you an effort and playing the game right every day, and I believe when you do that, you're going to win some games.
"We pitch and play defense," Beyeler pointed out. "That gives us a chance. The character of these guys - they come down here and get after it, they don't come down here and pout, they try to put themselves in a position to go back up and work hard every day."
Developing players, and helping the Red Sox win has always been the priority in Pawtucket. But this year, like the big club in Boston, the Pawsox are headed to the post-season. Winning, it seems, has finally traveled down I-95 and found a home again at McCoy Stadium.
The Pawsox will face whichever team (Lehigh Valley or Scranton/WB) wins the IL wild card spot in the upcoming Governors' Cup semi finals. As the North Division champs, Pawtucket will play Game 1 and 2 on the road Wednesday and Thursday, then return to McCoy Stadium for Game Three Friday night September 9th at 7:05 pm. Games 4 and 5, if necessary, will also be played at McCoy on Saturday and Sunday, September 10th and 11th...catcher Ryan Lavarnway was recalled to Boston prior to Sunday night's 4-3 win over Rochester...Lavarnway's first trip to the majors August 18-26 saw him hit .304 with two doubles and 3 RBI in seven games played for the Red Sox...between Pawtucket and Portland this season, Lavarnway hit 32 home runs and drove in 93 runs in 116 games... also added to Boston are right-handed pitcher Kyle Weiland (who is already on the 40-man roster with Lavarnway and had been optioned back down to the PawSox earlier this year) and utility man Nate Spears. In order to clear a roster spot for Spears, Drew Sutton will be designated for assignment...