That was the margin by which the Batavia Muckdogs missed the playoffs by in 2012.
The team entered the final week of the regular season in the midst of a tremendous stretch. Winners of 19 of 21 games, they still trailed Auburn (Nationals) in the Pinckney Division and Brooklyn (Mets) in the Wild Card by a single game. But the Muckdogs dropped games at the worst time, losing three in a row to close out the season to leave them without a playoff spot. Batavia (44-32) entered the final game of the season needing a sweep in a doubleheader at Jamestown (Marlins) and a Brooklyn loss; but they came up short by a score of 1-0 and then 3-2 in the two seven-inning contests.
It was a disappointing end to the 2012 season for a team that played short of its talent. They lost many one-run games and often made mental mistakes that cost them victories. With high draft picks and strengths in both hitting (third in the New York-Penn League in average, second in slugging, fourth in runs and first in doubles) and pitching (fourth in earned-run average, first in fewest walks allowed), the Muckdogs lost too many close games to competitive teams in the NYPL. The fact that Batavia still trailed Brooklyn and Auburn despite its epic winning pace shows how strong the teams they were competing against were – and that a few of those one-run games resulting the other way would have been advantageous for a team so close to earning a trip to the postseason.
Earlier in the season, the Muckdogs certainly put the New York-Penn League All-Star break to use because following the two days off Monday and Tuesday of Week 9, the team went 3-0. Coming into the break with a subpar 27-26 record, they stood 3.0 games back in the division and 4.0 behind in the wild card. With 20 games left in the season, that seemed a manageable margin to overcome.
The four Muckdogs selected to the NYPL All-Star game contributed to the National League-affiliated teams' 8-1 victory: second baseman Breyvic Valera led-off for the N.L. All-Stars and went 0-for-2 with an RBI. Third baseman Patrick Wisdom went 1-for-2 at the plate with a run, and pitchers Tyler Melling and Lee Stoppelman combined for two scoreless innings with three strikeouts.
Ultimately, the season came down to the last month; and despite the amazing stretch of wins, the one-run losses came back to haunt. Even though they did not make the playoffs, this tremendous stretch of games to take themselves down to the wire for a playoff spot showed how well the Muckdogs fared against strong competition earlier in the season.
After taking care of business against lesser opponents Mahoning Valley and Williamsport for over half of the month of August, it is easy to see now how Batavia fared against the NYPL's strongest competition amidst its many one-run losses and similarly close games. They were able to maintain second place all season long in the Pinckney Division while playing all the top teams. Unfortunately for Batavia, Auburn and Brooklyn also continued to win during this stretch, as one would think such a dominant stretch of winning would have propelled them through the standings at a greater rate.
In an unfortunate event midway through the season, 2012 4th-round pick Alex Mejia's first professional season ended after just 23 games with a torn ACL. He suffered the injury as a base runner while trying to avoid a collision after an errant throw to first base on a grounder to the infield. He ended the season at .250/.265/.333/.599 with a home run and seven RBI.
As of Friday, the Muckdogs also do not have a parent club. The Cardinals left for the State College Spikes (formerly of the Pirates) and their fantastic facilities. The Muckdogs – who have been operated by the Rochester Red Wings since 2008 and been for sale since 2010 – are guaranteed to have an affiliation next season. Could it be the Marlins – who are no longer affiliated with Jamestown after the latter signed with Pittsburgh? Management is mum for now. In their six years together, the Muckdogs went 203-170 with the Cardinals, including the 2008 NYPL championship.
Link to master article with all 2012 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series.
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