New season brings ‘Wolves new hopes

In any competition, whether it’s as small as playing a simple game of UNO with your friends or as big as playing in the Super Bowl, the goal is to win.

In minor league baseball, however, it’s a little bit different.

The battle for any minor league baseball team is to provide a winning product on the field for its fan base while developing players to become productive major leaguers.

The Erie SeaWolves, the current class AA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, are not immune to this problem.

The SeaWolves have had many successful major leaguers come through the doors in 19 seasons at Jerry Uht Park. Count Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander, a five-time All-Star and 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner among them.

The SeaWolves have also had winning teams that made postseason appearances. Most recently, the 2007 team went 81-59 and won the Eastern League Southern Division Title.

Erie has also had its share of struggles. Since 2007, the SeaWolves have only registered one winning record.

So why is it so hard to maintain success in the minor leagues?

The goal for players and coaches who are in the minor leagues is to earn their way to the major leagues. SeaWolves players who sustain success in the Eastern League may be moved up to the Tigers’ class AAA affiliate Toledo long before the season is over.

Players could have a great first few months of the season and could be moved up by June or July. It’s difficult to maintain any success as a team when the roster is more fluid than water. Another reason is that players who have success are often traded to other teams in packages with other successful minor leaguers, referred to prospects at the time, to acquire major league talent.

The Tigers are known for doing this in recent years. Last season, the Tigers traded away SeaWolves starting catcher Rob Brantly to the Marlins as a package for Major Leaguers Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante at the MLB trade deadline at the end of July, which helped propel the Tigers all the way to the World Series.

These factors make it difficult for the SeaWolves to have winning seasons.

The 2013 version of the Erie SeaWolves looks to be promising, however.

There’s a good mix of veteran players with young, talented prospects. Fan favorites such as outfielder Jamie Johnson and second baseman Brandon Douglas return to the club. Some of the highly touted prospects that join them include catcher James McCann who was the Tigers’ No. 1 draft pick in 2011, Daniel Fields, the No. 7 prospect in the Tigers Organization according to MLB.com, and Tyler Collins who is the No. 6 Prospect in the Tigers organization according to Baseball America.

Only time will tell whether this team will have the opportunity to gel together and build the chemistry needed to win games or if it will be ripped apart by the powers that be.

Seawolves Manager Chris Cron stated it best.

“Managing in the minor leagues is about the development of players more so than winning.”

 

ZACK BORLAND

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