The River Bandits had all the talent that they needed this year to go all the way and win the Championship. They just never got it all together at the same time and floundered as a team for most of the season. There were bright spots, though, in individual performances. Since this is the first of a series of articles that will be posted in the next few weeks, I'll save most of the individual highlights for those articles.
Today I'll cover the individuals who were not in the Quad Cities long enough this summer to merit mention in the upcoming articles that will recognize individual starters, relievers, and position players. As we have come to expect in Class A ball, the roster had a revolving door at each end and a lot of players passed through here this summer.
Brett Lilley arrived on April 23, just a couple of weeks after the start of the season. He played a big game every time he put on the uniform. Before he was drafted last year he led all of NCAA baseball in being hit by pitches. Unlike Coach on "Cheers," he didn't take many pitches to the head because he is one of the smartest baseball players I've ever known. He added fire to every game he played, provided leadership to the rest of the team, and made the game fun to watch. He had a "hop" in his swing that added a little power and made every plate appearance something to enjoy. He has gone on to start his career in the world of finance and I wish him the best of everything.
Chuckie Fick was the first River
Bandit to earn a full-season promotion to
Brian Buck didn't have the start to the season that he wanted and he didn't last very long here. Looking through the eyes of a fan, I think I saw more potential in him than others did. Another one of the quiet ones on the team, I think he deserved more of a chance. There's another reason that I'm not part of upper management for a major league baseball team.
Chris Swauger was here for a little more than a month before his promotion on May 15. From the first time I saw him on the field, I believed that he is destined for an All-Star career. As one of the college graduates on the team, he showed a style of leadership that I wish I had had 25 years ago. He's a smart player and a true gentleman.
Travis Mitchell joined the Bandits
in the move that sent Swauger to
Casey Mulligan. That's about all I need to say. Amazing pitching skills and one of the quickest smiles on the team. He's got a future in this game. He left here on May 25th.
Aaron Luna left us wanting more—a lot more. He went on the DL just four days after the home opener and stayed there until the day he was promoted. I'm always glad to see guys get to make those steps to get closer to their goals, but I wanted to see more of Luna's game.
Blake Murphy was another one who spent more time on the DL than on the field. He's another one who could have really helped the team this summer if he had been here longer.
Jason Buursma and Niko Vasquez each made it almost to the All-Star break. Jason moved up after earning that trip with some good relief pitching. Niko went down and I hope he gets to start 2010 here again. Both are very solid players.
I'll recap the late-season additions in one group. Rich Racobaldo has power, Xavier Scruggs has control. D'Marcus Ingram has a spark that kept the team's fire from going completely out at the end of the year. Eric Fornataro has lots of potential. Ryde Rodriguez bounced between levels this summer—I want to see what he can do when he feels some stability on a team. Jermaine Curtis has more heart than anyone else I know.
There are two more who I truly
hope I'll get to see all year in 2010. Shelby Miller has already shown that he's
going to be a great investment for the Cardinals. He has a fastball that touches
98 miles per hour, a killer curve, and a developing breaker. I see strong
leadership in him even at age 18. He's the real thing and I would be saving his
name for the Pitcher of the Year recap but he only made two short appearances
for the Bandits this year. If the baseball gods smile on us in 2010 we will see
a lot more of
The other, to nobody's surprise, is Robert Stock. At age 19 he has already completed three years of college. He has a real command of the game and will make a strong captain someday soon. Dig into your archives and find some photos of Joe Mauer when he was 19. To those of us who have seen both of them play, there is an uncanny resemblance in their play and in their looks.
As a team overall this year, when the pitching was on, we couldn't get a hit to save our lives. I saw a lot of great pitching this summer that simply got no support from the batters. On the flip side, when the hitters were on, the pitchers seemed to drop the ball. If they had ever gotten into synchronous circles, this could have been an amazing team. Many times this summer I heard fans say, "The best way to get the Bandits out is to allow one of them to get to third base!" We left far too many men on base.
There were times this summer that I thought that Steve Dillard should have had a come to Jesus talk with the entire team. "Either step up now or step off!" I don't think that's his style of management, though. He IS the Quad Cities' winningest manager of all time, so he must be doing something right. It will be interesting to see if there are changes in the coaching staff next year.
Overall, it was a good year but not a great year. It was a roller coaster ride from April to September. At times I almost started to believe that I knew what it's like to be a Cubs fan.
"2009 Batavia Muckdogs Team Review" – by Brian Walton
"2009 Johnson City Cardinals Team Review" – by Shawn Kerrick
"2009 Gulf Coast League Cardinals Team Review" – by Dustin Mattison
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