Trendsetters Stumble

Updated: December 7, 2013

by Scott Plack

If you are a New Orleans fan the past month and a half have been a hard pill to swallow. The team has dropped 30 of its last 42 games sporting the double whammy of the worst pitching and offense performance in the Imperial league. While the offense was promising early on in the season, the pitching has always been troublesome, though in both cases there have been bright spots.

Jack Cobb, Owner

Jack Cobb, Owner

Dropping Like a House of Cards

Despite posting back to back 79 win years, New Orleans seems to have hit its upper limit. Almost to .500 was simply as good as it was going to get. Those gaudy win totals (for recent New Orleans at least) were most likely over achievements which led to false hope more brittle than false gold. If your peak level of play is just below .500 – then there needs to be a reevaluation. The front office spent most of the off season chasing a pipe dream and navel gazing and now faced with this tremendously difficult stretch of play are declaring a full reverse. The rumor mill is spinning with the news that the team’s top players are available, and that a full scale rebuild is in the future of the Trendsetter franchise.

But who didn’t see that coming? When the PEBA started, pitching was king, and not much has changed. In fact, the Trendsetters boasted one of the best starting pitching rotations in the early years and went on to win the Rodriguez cup and fall just short of that prestigious accomplishment in back to back years. During those good years the average team earned run average was just 3.50. Over the next decade the best team earned run average was 4.39 and that is dwarfed by the number of years that it was way, way worse.

On top of that Tanner and Cobb seemed to have no issues with trading away draft picks in search of talent which has led to a dearth of talent and ineptitude in the minor leagues. The organization seemed to think that it would be able to acquire the right talent at the right time through trades or free agency. All indication has been that this was a fairly false assumption. Case in point, this years most vaunted starting pitcher, Darryl Lewis, was highly sought after by the organization. Interesting fact on Lewis, he was involved in the trade with Tempe for Conan McCullough and was thought to be the starter of the future. But he never panned out for the team and so was traded to Arlington for Danny Hendricks and Joe Wolfe amongst others. Hendricks was then later traded for current Trendsetter ace Glenn Dixon. While you might balk at the idea of Dixon as an ace, his recent success while the whole team has crashed around him begs to differ (Dixon has a 1.48 ERA, 22 strike outs, and two complete games through his first three games in June). But back to Lewis, who was one of the big winners in free agency this past year. Lewis attempted to turn a single great season in Colorado into his big pay check, asking for 20 million plus a year for multiple years. Despite being desperate for starting pitchers the Trendsetters wisely passed and Lewis left for the orient (where he is currently struggling).

Lesson learned? Faulty premise? The economy of players right now revolves around the scarcity of good pitching. The teams that have it, win, plain and simple. But few teams have so much pitching that they can afford to give any of it away. Those that do have built it through the draft and have held protectively on their best and brightest. But there aren’t many of those teams around.

Going full Yuman?

Some might warn, “Never go full Yuman”, but Yuma has parlayed years of “cellar dwelling” into one of the best and brightest young pitching staffs. Time will tell if they are able to make the right moves and leap into the PEBA elite, but a team could do worse. New Orleans certainly has. Head scratching odd, New Orleans has refused to implement the long play, instead grasping desperately at straws in an attempt to stay afloat in mediocrity. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting different results. Is it time for Cobb and Tanner to exit the insanity ward (though to be fair, Yuma has done quite well from there as well)?

There is a cycle in nature that eases the pain of death. Fruit or grains must die before they give life to new birth, and so maybe the Trendsetters to feel the pain that will create new growth in the organization. The season has seen plenty of crashing and burning, so it can’t get much worse. Will the ashes of this season fuel new life – or will it continue to be the slow smoldering of mediocrity?