Suns notes - Latest moves takes fight out of Suns

July 30, 2000

Suns notes - Latest moves takes fight out of Suns

Over the past few seasons, the Hagerstown Suns have been used to waving flags.

For the last two seasons, those banners came courtesy of winning the first half of the South Atlantic League Northern Division title.

This year, the flag isn't one of distinction. It looks like one of retreat.

It looks like the Toronto organization have the Suns all but waving the white flag of surrender after it promoted outfielder Reed Johnson and pitcher Aaron Dean - Hagerstown's most consistent players this season - to Dunedin. Suddenly Toronto's proud tradition of using Hagerstown as a proving ground has turned into an identity as a testing ground.

Hagerstown has made 34 moves in the last 55 days. At first, the moves were calculated to get the Suns in the second-half title chase after a dismal first half. Now, Hagerstown is the place to see who's ready to play and who needs work.


Last week's roadtrip to Piedmont and Hickory, two of this year's more talented teams in the division, resulted in a 3-5 record, including a couple of disturbing losses. The roadtrip was the final straw to prove if the Suns were in any championship mode.

The under-.500 record signaled the end of the line.

Only five position players and seven pitchers remain from the opening day roster, including catcher Kevin Cash and pitcher Matt Ford, who are on the disabled list.

There's an old adage about not throwing out the baby with the bathwater, but Hagerstown has had a continuous stream of talent but continue to go down the drain. It drowned in a sea of unproductiveness. No matter who plays, the same problems continue to appear.

Chances of survival are minimal without Johnson and utility man Chris Weekly along with pitchers Dean and Rob Hamann. Weekly and Hamman were both promoted earlier this month.

No matter what they do, the Suns have failed to become a threat. Consider:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Hagerstown is hitting .250 (827-for-3,313) as a team, good for 11th in the league. Weekly and Johnson combined ot hit .291 (159-for-546) to raise the average of the players who are no longer on the team to .241 (413-for-1,714). The new players who have been added since June 5 are hitting just .229 (78-for-341).

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> The Suns have 50 home runs, including 26 that were hit by the departed players. Johnson and Weekly were responsible for 15 of them. The replacements have only four long balls in the interim.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Hagerstown has 436 runs batted in, including 233 by the departed players. Johnson and Weekly were responsible for driving in 117 runs. The replacements? They have knocked in 39 to date.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> With the loss of Dean, Hagerstown loses a starter who has accounted for one-sixth of their wins (8) with an ERA that is 1.02 runs lower than the team's 4.30 standard. He was also the Suns leading strikeout pitcher with 89 until Cameron Reimers' performanace on Thursday.

Hagerstown is ranked 13th in the league in pitching ERA and last in total strikeouts.

Putting an end to the season might be premature - especially with the current make-or-break stretch with home games with Charleston (W.Va.) and Delmarva along with a road trip to Cape Fear. If the Suns can get on a long winning streak - right here, right now - all the moves might actually pay off, possibily moving Hagerstown into a third straight post-season trip.

But if the Suns fail, Thursday will be remembered the day the Hagerstown raised the flag and said "Wait 'til next year."

This day in history

July 30

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> 1990 - Pitchers Jose Mesa and Arthur Rhodes combined to help the Suns to their first four-game series sweep of the season, holding Reading to four runs on 16 hits,

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> 1991 - Stacey Burdick pitched seven no-hit innings to lead the Suns to a 5-1 win over London. Burdick raised his average to 9-2 by striking out seven while walking seven as the Suns won their sixth of 10 games on the roadtrip.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> 1998 - John Sneed shuts down a Capital City offense that had stolen 225 bases to win his 11th game of the season, 7-2. Bobby Cripps hits a two-run homer and Mike Young added a pair of RBI doubles to support Sneed.

A look ahead

The Suns schedule has a traditional look for the next week.

After finishing their series against Charleston (W.Va.) today, Hagerstown will play host to Delmarva for a four-game set before leaving for a weekend series and a final visit to Cape Fear.

Delmarva, the Baltimore affiliate, has made a rush in the second half and is challenging for the Northern Division's second-half title. The Shorebirds are led by third baseman Napaleon Calzado, who is hitting .286 with 66 RBI while outfielder Matt Riordan is hitting .282. Reliever Travis Fleming is 7-0 with six saves.

Cape Fear, the Montreal affiliate which is playing its final season in Fayetteville, N.C., is led by first baseman Rich Lane, who is batting .310.

Suns spots

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> A barometer of success is a team's record in close games. The Suns are 12-21 in one-run games, 7-4 in two-run games - making them six games under .500 in tight games and 2-9 in extra innings. The Suns were 47-55 heading into Saturday's doubleheader, only eight games below .500.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Marc Bluma has found a groove out of the bullpen. He hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 10 appearances, with only six hits, five walks and 13 strikeouts over a 16 2/3-inning span. He struck out five in two innings on Thursday.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> The Suns have only managed to score 88 of their 487 total runs via home runs. Twenty-three of the Suns' 50 homers have been of the solo variety. There have been 19 two-run shots, five for three runs and three for grand slams.

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