Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sugar Creek Looks Ahead

It's great to be able to look back at the long history of BRASS and see how franchises have fared through the years. Unfortunately, management of Sugar Creek (a franchise that has gone through seven other reincarnations during its 17 season BRASS tenure) has little fondness for the past. Only a pair of wild card berths, the last one in 2001, are the extent of post season experience for the team. This recently completed campaign was the sixth straight losing record.

New Name, Same Result: GM Sean Crawford took over the Washington Senators in early 2007 and renamed the team. He relocated to an area in central Illinois known as Sugar Creek, site of an early pioneer settlement. He chose the name Settlers because, like those who came before to the region, he also faced long odds and few resources. The team was low on cash yet also lacked a lot of big impact players. Previous ownership had done a good job scouting, with players like Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Phillip Hughes and Cameron Maybin. Crawford decided it would be best to keep the young nucleus and weather the financial storm, signing cheaper veteran help.

Going Forward: Some of the free agent signees (Shawn Green, So Taguchi, Mike Timlin, Kyle Lohse and others) should do more than fill the roster when the 2008 season gets underway. At this point, only one player, Mark Buerhle, is signed beyond the upcoming year. That should allow for more flexibility as the team moves along. Buerhle, Aaron Cook, Derek Lowe, Phillip Hughes, Kyle Lohse and Jon Lester figure in the rotation as of now. Matt Belisle and Steve Trachsel could also make an appearance. An improved bullpen led by Scott Downs and Matt Guerrier should also put up better numbers.
On offense, Carlos Delgado is in the final year of his deal and while he still provides some pop, it remains to be seen if his best days are behind him. With a hefty contract and lackluster numbers, it's likely he'll remain a Settler in the coming year. Cano will handle 2b, Iwamura 3b and Alex Gonzalez at SS, although he's a free agent. Esteban German will also get some playing time on the infield.
Outfielders are set with Mike Cameron in CF, Melky Cabrera in LF and Shawn Green in RF. So Taguchi and Cliff Floyd will also see action.
The backstops are Gerald Laird and Bengie Molina. Laird is stronger on defense, but Molina adds more at the plate.

Outlook: In a strong division led by perennial power Diamond, Sugar Creek won't contend for the title. But it's possible with some solid moves in the draft, free agency and a trade or two that the Settlers could hang around the race for a wild card. The goal of course, keep moving in a positive direction and give long suffering fans of this franchise something to cheer about!

1 Swings of the bat:

Vaughn said...

Good luck Sean! I always root for folks who join our league and inherit a less than ideal squad, but are working to bring it up to the status of contender. It can happen quickly with the right moves and a little luck. Folks like Sean who wind up turning other people's messes into good squads, like Green Bay, East Lyme, Great Kills, Phoenix, Southtown and Duluth-Superior who took over poor squads and climbed into this year's post-season, are the lifeblood of BRASS.

Good luck to Sugar Creek!