I couldn’t tell you how many times it’s been rumored to be the final season for the Atlantic League’s Bridgeport Bluefish. I could tell you that it happened often enough that I stopped believing the rumors because they were always wrong.
Former New York Mets outfielder Lastings Milledge signed a contract to play for the Atlantic League’s Lancaster Barnstormers this season. While Milledge spent 115 games with New York, 171 with Pittsburgh, 145 with Washington and two with the Chicago White Sox, he played in 255 games for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball is a league of second chances.
Minor League Baseball teams are affiliated with Major League Baseball teams. New Jersey’s Trenton Thunder are a New York Yankees’ farm team, while the Lakewood Blue Claws are affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies. These major league clubs supply the players and coaches to staff the minor league teams. If you go to see them, you’ll be able to watch a handful of players the big league squads consider as prospects as well as a larger number of “organization guys” that are needed to complete the roster.
Each year, some of the “prospects” lose their shine and some of the “organization guys” get pushed out by someone younger or more talented. Independent baseball teams like the ones in the Atlantic League give these displaced players another shot to prove their worth to one of the 30 big league team. Sometimes, it works out — before signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he pitched in the playoffs in 2016, Rich Hill spent a summer with the Long Island Ducks. More often, guys just get to keep playing for an extra season or two.
The Long Island Ducks defeated the Somerset Patriots tonight, earning the 2016 Liberty Division Championship title and the right to play the Sugar Land Skeeters this week for the Atlantic League Championship.
The Ducks became just the second team in league history to rally from an 0-2 start to win a best-of-five playoff series. (The 2001 Patriots were the first to pull it off, defeating the Newark Bears.)
I’m hoping that Chavez can get back to the Major Leagues, and failing that, at least play well enough that he can feel like he’s walking away from the game on his own terms… whether that happens this year or two or three seasons from now.
And I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get my photo of The Catch signed by Chavez at some point this season.
The Milwaukee Brewers have released former New York Mets pitcher Pat Misch from a minor league contract to allow him to pursue an opportunity in Japan with the Orix Buffaloes, the team announced via Twitter.
Misch, now 34, last pitched in the majors with the Mets from 2009-2011. Since leaving the Mets, he has pitched for two area teams, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Triple-A, Philadelphia Phillies organization in 2012) and the Lancaster Barnstormers (independent, in 2015.)
Misch has also played in more exotic locales, such as Santurce in the Puerto Rican Winter League in 2014 and Lamigo in the Chinese Professional Baseball League last season.
“They asked me after the game if I could start Game Seven,” he said. “I said, ‘Absolutely.’ I couldn’t sleep that night. My body felt great; my arm felt great. I just kept thinking, there’s no way we’re losing this game. I had no thought to pace myself. I just felt so good.”
“Absolutely, it was the best game I’ve ever pitched.”
It’s going to be tough to top that, but I hope Misch continues to enjoy success in 2016.
The 2016 Somerset Patriots will have a former National League All-Star on their roster.
That former MLB All-Star is 1B/OF Bryan LaHair.
Chicago Cubs fans might remember LaHair, who earned his All-Star status with a hot start to the 2012 season, hitting .390 with five home runs and 14 RBI in April. He was one of 38 representatives on the NL squad that year.
More recently, the 33-year-old Worcester, Mass. native spent the 2013 season with the Fukoka Softbank Hawks in Japan and split the 2014 season between the Double-A Akron Ruber Ducks and the Triple-A Columbus Clippers in the Cleveland Indians organization. He did not play at all last season.
Still, it’s always interesting to see new players with notable Major League Baseball resumes turn up in the Atlantic League.