Mets to retain Alderson & Collins in 2015

New York Mets manager Terry Collins, left, speaks to the media alongside general manager Sandy Alderson during a news conference at Citi Field, Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, in New York. The Mets have announced a two-year extension for Collins with a club option in 2016. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

According to a report in the Daily News, the Mets are planning to retain both general manager Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins for the 2015 season.

Collins is already signed through the end of 2015, with an option for 2016, so he was going to be back anyway, unless the Mets decide to fire him and eat the money. Alderson’s contract is up at the end of this season and it appears as if he’ll get an extension, although the length of that extension is to be determined.

Collins and Alderson, who both joined the club for the 2011 season, haven’t exactly had a ton of success on the field at the major league level. The Mets are 297-339 in their tenure so far.

The Mets do have a promising farm system, as we’ve seen with the emergence of Jacob deGrom, who is a Rookie of the Year candidate in the National League. The Binghamton Mets, the team’s Double-A affiliate, won the Eastern League title a few days ago, whatever that’s worth.

I’ve been saying for some time that 2015 is going to be a make-or-break year for the Mets’ management.

Matt Harvey pledges to be back from Tommy John surgery and has already said that he plans to be on the mound – and win – the Mets’ 2015 season opener against Washington on April 6. Harvey, however, will probably be capped at 150 innings or so next year, so he might not be around in September. One would figure David Wright also returns healthy and bounces back from a down year.

Add in the mix of young pitching the Mets have in their system and perhaps a trade or two to strengthen the lineup in the offseason – Alderson has said the Mets won’t spend much in free agency this winter – and it’s not hard to see the Mets being better next year. A playoff team? That’s a little bit harder to envision, but 81 wins and a .500 record doesn’t seem like an unreasonable goal.

Alderson famously made a pledge this past offseason that the Mets should be expecting to win 90 games. That was out of the question for 2014 from the get-go, but it might not be much of a stretch for next year if everything goes right.

Collins and Alderson have had plenty of time to put the pieces in place. And to a large extent, the pieces are there. Lucas Duda is the everyday first baseman has had a solid year since Ike Davis was traded to Pittsburgh. Travis d’Arnaud has shown signs of being a regular behind the plate and being a guy that can hit for power. The outfield looks OK with Juan Lagares patrolling center and Curtis Granderson in one of the corner spots. Eric Young Jr. will still be around as well. The Mets have a bunch of Triple-A type players in Matt den Dekker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis to choose from for the other corner or as a fourth outfielder.

Add in a strong rotation headed by Harvey and an ever-improving bullpen with some of the pitchers squeezed out of the rotation picture and the Mets have the making of a solid all-around team. So there won’t be room for any more excuses for Alderson and Collins. I think 2015 will decide their fate. That doesn’t mean they won’t be back in 2016 if the Mets miss the playoffs next year, as injuries and other unforeseen circumstances could buy them some more time if things don’t work out. But when Harvey strolls out to the mound to pitch to the Nationals’ leadoff man on April 6, it’s going to be time to start judging the Mets for real. And if the team isn’t winning, a team with the talent to win, it’ll be time to start to wonder if a new field manager and general manager might change that.

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Thoughts to ponder while watching Yankees-Orioles

New York Yankees starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy throws to the Baltimore Orioles during the first inning in the first baseball game of a doubleheader, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

  • Some thoughts to ponder as I watch the Yankees and Orioles play extra innings in the first game of a doubleheader on Sept. 12.
  • Who would’ve thought, even a few weeks ago, that Chris Young would have one of the Yankees’ most memorable moments of the 2014 season? Young fizzled out on a one-year contract with the Mets this year, but he was the star of the show on Thursday night. First, he broke up Alex Cobb’s no-hit bid in the eighth inning. In the bottom of the ninth, he delivered a walk-off 3-run home run in an improbable come-from-behind win for the Yankees.
  • The Yankees are a long-shot when it comes to the AL Wild Card race, but they are still alive. However, they’re going to have to rattle off something like a 10-game win streak in the coming days to keep the pace with the teams like Seattle, Oakland, Cleveland, Toronto and Detroit, all of whom are ahead of the Yankees in the standings as of the moment. Before the end of the first game of today’s doubleheader, the Yankees have 75 wins. They’ll need to get to 89 or so to be in the playoff hunt at the end of the month, so that means a 14-4 stretch over the final 18 games is a necessity.
  • With the way this team is hitting, that seems highly improbable. Right now, there is one out in the top of the 11th and the Yankees have failed to score.
  • At the same time, Baltimore is also scoreless. It’s going to be hard to believe, but the obit on the 2014 Yankees, a team that lost 80 percent of its opening day starting rotation to the disabled list for most of the season, is going to be that this team couldn’t hit despite getting great pitching.
  • Brandon McCarthy – I interrupt this message to write Chris Young just hit another home run, a go-ahead shot in the 11th. Yankees now three outs away from a big win here if they can hang on in the bottom of the 11th.
  • Anyway, back to McCarthy, who allowed four hits, struck out six and walked none over seven innings today. He pitched to one batter in the eighth. McCarthy, a free agent at season’s end, is 6-4 with a 2.54 ERA and has 70 strikeouts, 12 walks and allowed 76 hits in 78 innings in a Yankees uniform. Next year’s rotation is a bit of a toss-up at this point. CC Sabathia pledges he’ll be back and ready to go by spring training. Michael Pineda, barring any other injuries, should also be in the rotation. The rest of the rotation is up for grabs. Masahiro Tanaka may or may not need Tommy John surgery. Ivan Nova probably won’t be ready to pitch until the All-Star break, at the earliest. Hiroki Kuroda, also a free agent, may or may not be back for his age 40 season. So could the Yankees make a play for McCarthy? It seems like he’s regained his form since the trade from Arizona, so perhaps there’s something he likes about Yankees. But his recent string of success may bring some other teams into the fold as bidders for his services. McCarthy surely would plug a hole in a shaky Yankees rotation for 2015, but are the Yankees willing to commit much money and years beyond that?
  • The Yankees are also going to have an interesting offseason decision with closer David Robertson, who pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings and would be in line for the win should the Yankees hold on here. Robertson has had another solid year in the bullpen, taking over admirably for the retired Mariano Rivera. Robertson has saved 35 games, struck out 86, walked 21 and allowed 35 hits in 57 innings. With numbers like that, he’s going to get paid somewhere. The question is, do the Yankees feel the need to lock him up after the emergence of Dellin Betances in a set-up role? Betances could probably post similar numbers as a closer and he’d be doing it for less money for the next few years. Do the Yankees think they could find an adequate set-up man and save money for other problem spots? We’ll see. You can expect that to be one of the big offseason storylines in the Bronx this winter.
  • Adam Warren has just loaded the bases with two out in the bottom of the 11th. Jimmy Paredes coming in to pinch-hit. He got a hit and the Orioles win, 2-1.
  • So the Yankees’ playoffs odds shrink a little more. It’s not over yet, but do they have a miracle 14-3 run left in them? Not with this offense, is how I see it.

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Renegades season recap: 2014

The Hudson Valley Renegades’ 2014 season came to an uncharacteristic end on Friday night. A pair of errors in the bottom of the eighth inning allowed State College to pull out a 2-1 victory in the third and deciding game of a New York-Penn League semifinal series.

Still, it was a season to remember for the Renegades, who won a McNamara Division title for the fourth time in the franchise’s 21-season history.

The Times Herald-Record takes a look back at some of the superlative moments of the 2014 campaign.

Grant Kay watches the opposing pitcher from the on-deck circle. (Will Montgomery photo)

BEST SINGLE-GAME PERFORMANCE:

Grant Kay, drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays out of the University of Louisville in June, arrived to the Renegades in mid-July after taking some time to play in the Cape Cod League.

In his first professional game on July 14, Kay launched the first pitch he saw over the left field fence for a three-run home run. He wasn’t done yet. Kay added a double, two singles and capped off his 5-for-6 performance with a triple down the right field line, hitting for the cycle.

Kay never quite cooled down, finishing the year with a .314 batting average, 14 doubles, four triples, two home runs and 20 RBI. His versatility in the field – he played second base, third base and left field – could make Kay a valuable piece in the Tampa Bay organization in the years to come.

Hudson Valley Renegades first baseman Casey Gillaspie gets ready to field his position. (Will Montgomery photo)

FUTURE BOBBLEHEAD DAY AT THE DUTCH:

Casey Gillaspie might not be the first player from this Renegades team to reach the big leagues, but he’s got the best chance to be celebrated in miniature plastic form at Dutchess Stadium at some point in the future.

Gillaspie, Tampa Bay’s first round pick in the June draft, surely looked every bit a major leaguer in July, as he hit .330 with 10 doubles, one triple, three home runs and 25 RBI over 29 games that month. He finished the year with seven home runs and a .364 on-base percentage, so you can expect the switch-hitting first baseman to rocket through Tampa Bay’s minor league system over the next few years. Someday, Gillaspie will join the list of former Renegades in the majors, which includes Josh Hamilton, Evan Longoria, James Shields and Wade Davis, to name a few.

Renegades outfielder Hunter Lockwood signs an autograph for a fan prior to a game at Dutchess Stadium. (Will Montgomery photo)

MOST LOCKED IN:

The Renegades went 25-12 in games at Dutchess Stadium, the second-best home record in the NY-PL. Six of those games were won in walkoff fashion, including three on game-ending home runs hit by outfielder Hunter Lockwood.

Lockwood finished the year with a .266 batting average and 13 home runs, becoming just the sixth player in franchise history to hit double-digit home runs in a single season.

A round 11 pick in the 2013 draft, Lockwood showed power potential at Rookie-level Princeton (W. Va.) last year, hitting nine home runs in 64 games. He will have to cut down on his strikeouts if he hopes to keep advancing through the Tampa Bay system, as he struck out 98 times in 271 at-bats this summer.

Hudson Valley starting pitcher Enderson Franco deals during the Renegades' playoff opener against the State College Spikes. (Will Montgomery photo)

POUNDING THE ZONE:

It was a standout year for the Renegades’ pitching staff as well. Hudson Valley’s pitchers issued fewer walks than any team in the NY-PL, a big reason why the team had a league-best 1.17 WHIP at the end of the regular season.

Starting pitchers Nolan Gannon and Hunter Wood, both 20 years old, were named to the NY-PL All-Star team. Enderson Franco and Oscar Armenta tied with Wood for the team lead with 13 starts apiece. Franco, Hudson Valley’s starter in the first game of the NY-PL semifinals, finished with a 7-3 record and a 3.28 ERA in his 13 regular season starts, striking out 50 and walking eight over 68 2/3 innings. Gannon had a similar strikeout-to-walk ratio, punching out 47 and walking nine over 57 innings.

The Renegades also had some standouts in the bullpen, as Edgar Gomez pitched to a 0.92 WHIP in 48 innings of relief. He allowed 31 hits in 48 innings. Brian Miller, who pitched Vanderbilt to a National Championship in June, made just seven appearances in a Renegades uniform before being promoted mid-season. Over 13 innings, Miller allowed two hits, walked one and struck out 16. Miller might just be the first player from this Renegades team to make it to the big leagues, considering his resume and his promotion-friendly position as a reliever.

In all, the Renegades’ pitching staff walked 2.4 batters per nine innings. Add that to a defense that committed the fewest errors in the league and the baseball purists among the Hudson Valley fan base were treated to some pretty sharp play this summer.

Renegades manager Tim Parenton goes through the signs in the third base coaches' box during a game at Dutchess Stadium. (Will Montgomery photo)

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:

Tim Parenton spent the last 20-plus years coaching baseball at the high school and college levels but he decided he was ready for a new challenge. Parenton’s first season in professional baseball was a smashing success, as he led the Renegades to a division title and a playoff berth. It’s not an easy job, managing in the NY-PL. The clubhouse is a mixture of first round picks with multi-million signing bonuses and undrafted free agents chasing their dream. Language barriers and cultural differences make it an even more diverse place.

Under Parenton’s guidance and with his support, the Renegades had tremendous team chemistry. Prior to their pregame stretches, Hudson Valley players gathered to trade handshakes and jokes and laughs. As starting pitcher Chris Pike said before the playoffs, “You genuinely want to see your teammates do well. I think that’s one of the key aspects to help us win.”

Parenton deserves as much credit for that as he does for the Renegades’ won-loss record.

NY-PL REGULAR SEASON STATISTICAL LEADERS
1.17: team, lowest WHIP
7: Enderson Franco, tied for league lead in games won
42: Casey Gillaspie, league lead in walks drawn
47: Hunter Lockwood, tied for league lead in runs scored
106: team, league lead in stolen bases
134: Hunter Lockwood, league lead in total bases
175: team, fewest walks issued

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Say Hello to the Newburgh Newts

The East Coast Baseball League announced on Aug. 21 that it would be bringing professional baseball back to Orange County in 2015, with a team based at Delano-Hitch Stadium in Newburgh.

For more on that, click here for a blog post from last month.

Part of that announcement included a “name the team” contest.

The results are in.

The club will be known as the Newburgh Newts. Team colors and logos will be released by the end of September.

Another franchise, located in Welland, Ontario, Canada, will be known as the Niagara Wild.

“We had over 200 names sent it by the fans but the name Newts really stood out,” said Colin Cummins of NPBG. “It is definitely a different name and interesting creature. We are excited to be bringing professional baseball back to the city of Newburgh, NY. Each of the 30 home games at Delano-Hitch Stadium will be packed with exciting in-game entertainment and have a fun family atmosphere.”

The ECBL plans to announce the location of additional franchises in the near future. Newburgh will have 30 games at Delano-Hitch in 2015. Season tickets are available for purchase at eastcoastbaseballleague.com.

I’m not a herpetologist (someone who studies amphibians) so I’m not sure if there’s a specific species that adds some local flavor to the nickname. But it certainly is alliterative, offers some possibilities for logos and is sort of a neat play on Newburgh’s American Legion team, the Nuclears, commonly referred to as the Nucs (Nukes).

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Renegades ready for NY-PL playoffs

Hudson Valley Renegades outfielder Hunter Lockwood laughs with first base coach Manny Castillo after hitting a ground-rule double in the bottom of the ninth inning of a New York-Penn League game against the Tri-City ValleyCats at Dutchess Stadium on Aug. 11, 2014. (Will Montgomery photo).

The Hudson Valley Renegades begin their New York-Penn League semifinal playoff series on Wednesday with a 6:35 p.m. game against the State College Spikes at Dutchess Stadium.

I had a preview story in today’s Times Herald-Record, with some of the Renegades players talking about the special bonds they have with one another and how that has made the 2014 season one to remember. Click here to read that story.

The Renegades finished the regular season 46-30, which included a four-game losing streak to end the year. That dropped Hudson Valley from contention for the No. 1 seed, which would have meant home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Yet in the NY-PL playoffs, which feature best-of-three-game semifinals and championship series, the lower-seeded team gets the first game at home. So if the Renegades win on Wednesday night, they’d have to win one of two at State College on Thursday and Friday. It might actually be a blessing in disguise to get home field in Game 1.

Here are the pitching matchups for the series.

Game One

Wednesday

State College (Daniel Poncedelon, 3-3, 2.44 ERA) at Hudson Valley (Enderson Franco, 7-3, 3.28 ERA), 6:35 p.m.

Game Two

Thursday

Hudson Valley (Nolan Gannon, 6-2, 2.84 ERA) at State College (Will Anderson, 6-2, 2.43 ERA), 7:05 p.m.

Game Three (if necessary)

Friday

Hudson Valley (Hunter Wood, 3-4, 3.08 ERA) at State College (Fernando Baez, 2-2, 3.94 ERA), 7:05 p.m.

In the other semifinal, Tri-City plays Connecticut. Connecticut, which was tied with Brooklyn for the Wild Card spot on the final day of the season, clinched its berth with a 9-8 win over Lowell on Monday night.

Semifinal series winners will meet in a best-of-three championship series beginning either Saturday or Sunday, depending on how long the semifinal series last. If both series wrap up on Thursday after two games, the finals will start on Saturday, with the lowest remaining seed hosting Game 1.

One thing I know about this series is that the Renegades won’t approach the games any differently than they do their regular season contests. The starters will still be on their strict pitch counts/innings limits, but there may be some more flexibility in who comes out of the bullpen, how long they’re used and in what kind of situations. I would imagine there will be more matchup moves made for relief pitchers than there are during the regular season. Even if Franco is cruising through five or six innings, that’ll be all for him. So the bullpen will surely be tested one way or another in this series.

Season series: Hudson Valley and State College, the No. 2 seed, played just three games during the regular season. The Renegades made it a three-game sweep in the Keystone State from Aug. 2-4. Franco and Gannon pitched the first two games of that series and both earned wins. Oscar Armenta was the winner in the series finale. Hudson Valley allowed four runs in the three games, including a 2-0 win in Gannon’s start in the middle game.

Ones to watch:

State College

Danny Diekroeger, third base: A 10th round pick out of Stanford in June, Diekroeger is hitting .286 with 13 doubles, five home runs and 35 RBI. He has made 16 errors in 49 games at third this season.

Robelys Reyes, shortstop: A native of Valverde, Dominican Republic, Reyes is in his fifth season in the Cardinals’ minor league system. He’s a career .300 – on the nose – hitter in his minor league career. This season, he’s hitting .284, has 31 RBI and has scored 36 runs. He’s stolen 16 bases and has a .936 fielding percentage.

Alex De Leon, first base: A 23rd round pick from the University of Kansas in 2013, De Leon is in his second season in the NY-PL. It’s been a breakout year for a player who hit .197 in 38 games as a catcher with the Spikes last summer. This season, after shifting to first, De Leon has 17 doubles, nine home runs and 29 RBI on top of a .268 batting average.

Nick Thompson, left field: An eight round pick out of William & Mary in June, Thompson has had quite the eye at the plate. He’s hitting .282 and has also drawn 39 walks in 65 walks, pushing his on-base percentage to .396. He’s also got 12 doubles, five homers and 42 RBI.

Hudson Valley

Hunter Lockwood, left field: Lockwood has been one of the team’s leading hitters all season, as he carries a .266 average, 13 doubles, five triples, 13 homers and 46 RBI into the postseason. He’s scored a team-high 47 runs. Lockwood has also hit three walkoff homers at Dutchess Stadium this season, including one on opening night. Does he have any heroics left over for the playoffs?

Coty Blanchard, super utility: Blanchard has spent time at second, third, short and the outfield this year, giving Renegades manager Tim Parenton plenty of flexibility when it comes to putting a lineup together. Blanchard is hitting .298 with 15 doubles, five triples, two homers and 30 RBI. He also led the NY-PL with 22 stolen bases this season.

Alec Sole, shortstop: Sole played in 63 of the Renegades’ 76 games, thanks in large part to his excellent skills defensively. He made just nine errors all year. However, Sole finished the season with a .199 batting average. Will he come up with a clutch hit in a key spot this series or will he make any dazzling plays in the field?

Oscar Armenta and Chris Pike, starting pitchers: The other two fifths of the Renegades’ starting rotation this season, will Armenta and Pike be needed in relief in this series? If so, how do they adapt to the role change? Should the Renegades advance out of the semifinal round, expect Armenta and/or Pike to be called upon to start the opening games of the championship series.

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Tigers walk off Yankees in Detroit

Detroit Tigers' Ian Kinsler steals second base as New York Yankees second baseman Martin Prado can't reach the throw from catcher Brian McCann during the eighth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Yankees lost to the Tigers this afternoon, falling 3-2 on Alex Avila’s walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The loss drops the Yankees to 69-63, now three games behind Seattle and Detroit, who are tied for the final Wild Card spot entering the games of this evening. New York is six and a half games behind Baltimore in the AL East.

In the AL West, the Angels have the junior circuit’s best record at 79-53. The Oakland A’s, in possession of the first wild card spot, at 78-54. I think it’s safe to say both of those teams are all but locks to make the postseason.

AL Central leader Kansas City, 74-58, is just two games ahead of Detroit, so the Royals position is shaky heading into the final month. Baltimore, 75-56, should be safe unless the Yankees make a big run to steal away the division title.

Let’s take a look at the Yankees’ remaining schedule.

The Yankees play eight games against Baltimore (4 home, 4 away), seven against Toronto (3 away, 4 home), six each against Boston and Tampa Bay (3 road, 3 home ea.) and a three-game set at home against Kansas City.

Between now and the next time the Yankees play the Orioles, New York plays 12 games. So the O’s current 6.5 game lead could be bigger, smaller or the same in two weeks. Still, those eight games might be the Yankees’ best shot of making the playoffs. A clean sweep seems like a near impossibility, but yet somehow more probable than keeping up with Detroit, Seattle and Kansas City for two playoff spots.

As for the other games, let’s take a realistic approach to what may happen.

  • Toronto has slid down to .500 and Tampa Bay has rallied to near the .500 mark. So let’s say the Yankees win seven of those 13 games.
  • Boston will likely play some prospects to play out a dismal 2014, so we’ll say the Yankees take four of those six.
  • Kansas City? One or two wins.

That would put the Yankees at 81.5 wins (as I’m hedging on the KC series).

With 88 or 89 wins a likely necessity for the final wild card spot, those Baltimore games are really going to loom huge either way. Or the Yankees are going to have to sweep the Red Sox, win at least 10 of the Blue Jays-Rays games and take at least two from Kansas City.

The road to 89 wins means going 20-10 down the stretch. That’s certainly not impossible, but probably unlikely for a Yankees team that has been decimated by starting pitching injuries and hampered by a punchless offseason for most of the season.

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Kelley, Yankees horsin’ around

New York Yankees pitcher Shawn Kelley came out to stretch with a horse head mask on before a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Pretty great read on wacky Yankees’ relief pitcher Shawn Kelley by Jeff Passan on Yahoo! this morning. Here’s the link.

Seriously, the Yankees enter a now-or-never series tonight in Detroit. The Yankees are 5-0 in their last five games, including a huge 8-1 win over a red-hot Kansas City team last night. Michael Pineda has been terrific since coming off the DL and with CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova out for the season and Masahiro Tanaka’s return still questionable at this point, Pineda has given the Yankees’ playoff hopes a boost.

The Yankees trail the Mariners by 2 1/2 games for the final Wild Card spot with Detroit just one half game behind Seattle. Needing to leapfrog Detroit to get back in the playoff hunt anyway, the Yankees have a huge opportunity over the next three days.

Pitching probables

Tuesday

Brandon McCarthy vs. Rick Porcello

Wednesday

Shane Greene vs. David Price

Thursday

Hiroki Kuroda vs. TBA (likely Kyle Lobstein)

It’s tough to call any August games those of the “must-win” variety. Still, with Seattle and Detroit both ahead of the Yankees and New York not playing Seattle again this season, it’s one of the last chances the Yankees have to take matters into their own hands. Anything less than a 3-game sweep here means the Yankees are going to have to win 24-25 games over the final five week of the season and they’ll also have to hope that Detroit and Seattle hit a skid and fall off the pace. That’s a lot of finger-crossing and hoping, which isn’t a great situation to be in come September.

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Pro baseball returning to Newburgh in 2015

Newburgh’s Delano-Hitch Stadium will play host to a new East Coast Baseball League franchise in 2015, the ECBL announced Thursday.

Welland, Ontario, Canada will also receive a franchise and the league plans to name other sites in the coming months.

A contest to name the team is underway. Fans are encouraged to send their nickname, team colors and logo ideas to info@eastcoastbaseballleague.com.

Season tickets will go on sale on Sept. 1.

“We are excited to announce the first two franchises of the East Coast Baseball League,” said Commissioner Shawn Whiteley. “We have worked hard over the last few months with both the City of Newburgh and Welland, Ontario to form an agreement to bring independent professional baseball back to both cities.”

Delano-Hitch Stadium last played host to professional baseball in 1998, the one and only season of the Newburgh Black Diamonds of the Atlantic League. The Newburgh Nighthawks played at the stadium in 1995 and 1996 as members of the Northeast League.

A pair of professional baseball franchises already operate not far from Newburgh. The Hudson Valley Renegades, a short-season affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, play across the Hudson River in Fishkill. The Rockland Boulders, an independent member of the Can-Am League, play at the recently-constructed Provident Bank Park in Pomona, Rockland County.

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Renegades OF Jackson making adjustments in pro ball

Hudson Valley Renegades OF Bralin Jackson hugs a fan prior to a game at Dutchess Stadium earlier this season. (Will Montgomery photo/Times Herald-Record)

Hudson Valley Renegades outfielder Bralin Jackson is in the midst of a breakout season. He had a pair of lackluster pro campaigns after signing as a 5th round draft pick out of a Missouri High School in 2012.

I caught up with Jackson for a story that appeared in today’s paper. Follow the link for the full story.

You can check out the rest of the Renegades coverage from this season by clicking on the HV Pro Sports tab on www.recordonline.com.

As for the Renegades, Monday is a rare day off. Tuesday, the team’s coaching staff and seven All-Star players head to Brooklyn’s MCU Park to compete in the annual New York-Penn League All-Star game.

The regular season starts again with a 7:05 p.m. road game at Aberdeen. Hudson Valley plays last-place Aberdeen seven times over its final 13 games. The Renegades hold a six-game lead over Brooklyn in the McNamara Division, so a playoff spot looks quite likely for Hudson Valley.

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Manfred elected MLB comissioner

Major League Baseball Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred speaks to reporters after team owners elected him as the next commissioner of Major League Baseball during an owners quarterly meeting in Baltimore, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

It was a story pulled from the pages of a book about the old, smoke-filled rooms of political conventions in years gone by. As the Major League Baseball owners convened to vote again and again, finally, ultimately, Rob Manfred’s name came out on top.

Manfred, 55, has been a full-time employee of MLB since 1998. With a background in law, Manfred, a Harvard Law grad, was in many ways Bud Selig’s right-hand man through many of the negotiations with the Player’s Association over the last 16 years.

The New York Times has some background info on Manfred here.

It’s a move that certainly won’t rock the boat in baseball. With so many teams thriving financially, and with Atlanta the latest club to announce a new stadium deal, the sport seems to be doing quite well economically. As the only major American sport without a salary cap, the players are also pretty happy, it’s fair to say. Since 1994, baseball is the only major sport in the U.S. that hasn’t endured a work stoppage of some sort.

Let’s take a quick look at the other two candidates for the job.

Tom Werner, a part owner of the Boston Red Sox, has a background as a television executive. His main selling point was his expertise in entertainment and how he would have continued to push MLB’s distribution of content online and through mobile devices, spreading the game further around the world. Although he has a strong resume for his work in Boston, Werner was part owner of the Padres in the early ’90s and oversaw a firesale in which San Diego traded away Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield and others. That probably didn’t help his cause with the other owners who were voting for commissioner.

Tim Brosnan, like Manfred, has been a long-time MLB employee. Brosnan has played a key, under-the-radar role in securing large contracts for baseball broadcasts. He also was a major player behind the creation of the World Baseball Classic, which filled a void when baseball was dropped from the Olympics.

Manfred, however, won just enough support over a series of votes to earn the 23 of 30 he needed to earn the job. The final vote was 30-0, a sign of unity from owners whose candidates failed to win enough support.

One fun note…all four major sports commissioners in the U.S. are New York natives: Manfred (Rome), Roger Goodell (NFL, Jamestown), Adam Silver (NBA, Rye) and Gary Bettman (NHL, Queens).

So, what’ll be Manfred’s biggest tasks during his tenure as commissioner?

  • I think the first issue is still PEDs. To a certain extent, the old issues, the Biogenesis case and the rest are water under the bridge for Manfred. Still, MLB has to show that its policy works and is being enforced. Baseball will never be able to take back what happened in the ’90s and early 2000s, but it can make a stand that PEDs are not going to play a role in the game moving forward. Really solidifying that would be a fine first step for Manfred’s legacy.
  • Length of games. This is something that I’m not really personally concerned about, but many people do care. And if it’s something that’s determining television ratings and popularity of the sport among the next generation of fans, then it’s something that must be fixed. How? Well, that’ll be up to Manfred and his people to figure out. A pitch clock might be one idea, better enforcement by umpires is another. It seems like a pretty easy problem, if not to solve, at least to alleviate a little bit.
  • Lack of offense/rise of pitching injuries. I’m going to combine these two factors, even if they really aren’t related. The last few seasons in baseball have seen two trends arise. One, offense has dipped pretty consistently across the board. Strikeouts are up and home runs are down. I, however, wonder if this is somehow tied to the second trend, the flood of major arm injuries to pitchers. Are pitchers throwing too hard or going to breaking balls too often? Is this how they’re racking up giant strikeout totals? Is it also why they’re ending up on the disabled list and the operating table so often? It’s impossible and unrealistic for baseball to limit what kind of pitches and how many pitches its pitchers can throw. Baseball’s top office, however, certainly can start to work with the lower levels of baseball, Little League, school ball and the NCAA, to ensure that pitchers who find themselves in pro ball have the physical strength and the mental know-how to avoid injury, as best as we can figure it out.
  • Stadiums. Nearly every team in baseball is playing in a brand-new ballpark or a neat retro stadium with historic value (Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Dodger Stadium). The two teams that stand out on this list are Tampa Bay and Oakland. Are there viable new stadium options for the A’s and Rays? Could they possibly be relocated to another market entirely? Or will they have to endure playing in brutal ballparks that undoubtedly cut into their revenue streams? The Giants certainly wouldn’t be happy if the A’s got a brand-new stadium in San Jose, but it would be a big plus for the A’s. What if Tampa Bay relocates a few miles to the east to bring in the Orlando market as well? Or are these teams destined to be linked to Montreal, Charlotte, Portland and Las Vegas rumors for years to come?
  • Multimedia. The MLB At-Bat app and MLB.TV allow fans to watch every game around the world on a nightly basis. It’s been a huge boost to the league’s popularity, as has MLB’s expanding presence on social media. Will this continue? What’s the next step? How can baseball stay one step ahead of the NBA, the NFL and the growth of soccer, both MLS and top European leagues, here in the U.S.? Can efforts here keep young fans interested in the game?
It’s a short list, but that’s likely what’s on Manfred’s plate as he gets set to start his new job.

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    Will Montgomery

    Will Montgomery covers boys' soccer, girls' basketball, boys' and girls' swimming and diving, boys' lacrosse and baseball (including the Hudson Valley Renegades) for Varsity845.com and the Times Herald-Record. Prior to joining the TH-R in November ... Read Full
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