The Honolulu Coconuts have seen a resurgence since the team hit a season low 29-39 record, including a stretch that saw them losing 12 of 14 games and left them trailing Seattle by 5 whole games in the division. Could it be that this veteran team was enjoying the move to Honolulu (from KC) too much? Could it be that they finally realized that the season had begun and it was time to get off the beach, or did this team just have a slow start? It is no surprise that Honolulu has risen to the top of the division - after all, they DID win the division in the last two seasons - and the reason for their early woes will never be known, but to fiery rightfielder Clarence Holdridge, the reason for the change of pace is obvious: "Seattle lit a fire that got us going by talking smack - feeling sorry for us and what not... that was a challenge for our guys to step it up and play like a team - we got veterans, we got rookies, we got stars and what others considered rejects - but we got a team that is not going to give in when people say they feel sorry for us."
In their latest run, the Honolulu Coconuts have won 16 of 23, while Seattle has only won 10 of 23, leaving the Coconuts with a 1 game lead in the AL West. The Coconuts have been 12-4 at home and 4-1 on the road, taking 2 of 3 from Vancouver, 4 of 7 from Baltimore, 3 of 3 from both New York and Toronto, 3 of 4 from Trenton, before losing 2 out of 3 in the last series with Charlotte. During this stretch, the Coconuts lost slugging 3B Howard Coco to a groin injury, but gained strength by adding pitching depth with the acquisition of veteran pitchers Walt Falk and Freddie Romero, 3B/RF Dennis Chang and 2B Brian Myers. In the last 21 games, the Coconuts have pitched their way with a 3.29 ERA.
The pitching staff has been led by All-Star starter and ace Terry Murphy, who has pitched 34 innings, 2 CGs and 41 Ks in his last 4 startes for a 4-0 record and 2.91 ERA. Veteran starter Ahmad Griffey has a 3-1 record in this period, and journeyman starter Louie Guzman has a 3.27 ERA, and pitched well enough for his team to carry a 3-1 record in his starts. The bullpen has been led by newcomer Walt Falk (2-0, 1.42 ERA and .182 OBA in 3 app.), Chris Cormier (9 games, 1.68 ERA and 14 Ks in 16 innings), and closer Dan Guerrero (7 saves during this period). The offense has been averaging about 5.5 runs per game behind 1B Bonk Daugherty (.460 OBA, 5 HR, 16 RBI & 17 R and solid defense)but the rest of the team has come together nicely. The offensive roles played by 2B Skip Kennedy (scored 10 runs), RF Clarence Holdridge (12 R, 14 RBI), DH Robinson Dixon (.384 OBA) and newcomer OF Dennis Chang (.369 OBA, 15 RBIs, 12 R) should not be ignored. The defense of catchers Tony Hawkins (7-1 record when he starts) and Carl Rivera (9-4 when starting) goes unnoticed, while 22 yr old phenom Howie Martin has shown steady improvement while showing offensive and defensive consistency at SS.
Team management announced some impending moves to be made during the All Star break. Slugger Howard Coco will be activated off of the DL, and will play the outfield (where he has played the bulk of his career) to minimize the impact on his groin. Dennis Chang, who has filled admirably in the OF while getting experience in the hot corner, will be seeing increased playing time at third base. Second baseman Skip Kennedy will be taking his glove to CF to make room for the recently acquired Brian Myers. Speculation also exists regarding a possible move of Walt Falk into the starting rotation, as he has been slowly regaining strength since coming off of the disabled list and has been seen building stamina by throwing extra pitches in the bullpen after appearing in games.
With Honolulu pitchers Murphy and Guerrero named to the AL All Star Team, the Coconuts are hoping to carry some momentum beyond the all-star break, and continue their recent winning ways. If so, they expect that the division they have won in the last 2 seasons will be theirs again. With the veteran depth they have added, they are expecting a playoff run that will hopefully take them to a World Series title.