By Bob Wirz
With the division championships all but decided, the most important race remaining before the American Association season ends September 7 is easy to single out. Unless Wichita completely collapses, the defending champions will join powerhouses Sioux City and St. Paul in the four-team postseason. That leaves the wild card berth to be decided with Laredo leading the pack and Joplin and Kansas City also in the hunt ahead of all other hopefuls.
But do not think for a minute these last 10 games or so do not hold any other meaning because several team and individual records could end up in new hands. Here are some of the issues remaining:
–Will fast-finishing Sioux City or early favorite St. Paul break Wichita’s one-year-old record for most wins (73) and best winning percentage (.730)? The Explorers have the best chance although they play the last seven games on the road.
–Can anyone tie or break Josh Lowey’s league record for wins? He had 15 with Wichita three years ago, while Kramer Sneed (pictured) and Dustin Crenshaw of St. Paul and Sioux City’s Patrick Johnson all had 13 in ’15 when play started Wednesday.
–If Fargo left-hander Brandon Mann can maintain his hot strikeout pace he will break the record of 144 by Ben Moore of Sioux Falls in 2011. Mann averaged 10.5 strikeouts in his last four starts (prior to Wednesday) for a total of 133.
–The batting and RBI races also are very much up for grabs although no one is going to break the current records.
Many will feel the pressure down the stretch, including longtime St. Paul manager George Tsamis, who told The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently: “We’ve had a really good season (including breaking the Saints’ record for wins). We’re 10 wins away from breaking the league record for wins in a season (fewer now), which is something we’d really love to do. Going into this beautiful, brand-new stadium (CHS Field), we need to win. Anything short of winning a championship would be a disappointment.”
Adleman Among League Grads Drawing Attention
Add right-hander Tim Adleman, a reliever with El Paso and Lincoln in 2012, to the long list of former American Association players making impressions these days in the major league-affiliated minor leagues.
The 27-year-old pitcher for Pensacola, FL (Cincinnati) has gone 6-2 in his last nine starts to build a 9-8 record and leads the Class AA Southern League with a 2.12 earned run average. “I expect to go out there and give our team a chance to win every single time and pitch deep into the game,” Adleman told The Pensacola News Journal recently. He has made 25 appearances (24 starts) and has allowed only 120 hits in 140.1 innings.
American Association Roster in Majors Could Jump
Onetime Laredo hurler Chaz Roe, a solid reliever with Baltimore this season until tendinitis in his right (throwing) shoulder put him on the disabled list August 10, is expected back with the Orioles early next week, and three other former American Association hurlers also could rejoin their major league teams after injury setbacks temporarily sent them to the minor leagues.
If James Paxton (Grand Prairie) rejoins Seattle, Tanner Scheppers (St. Paul) is called back by playoff-hunting Texas and Brandon Kintzler (St. Paul, Winnipeg) returns to Milwaukee the league would have eight active players in the majors. Still others could get September calls. The schedule for Roe, according to TV carrier MASN, is to throw simulated games with the parent Orioles Friday and Sunday, then make a rehab appearance with Bowie, MD before being reactivated by Baltimore.
Previously the chief spokesman for Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site as well as writing his blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com.