Seattle Lightning Lead AL West

The Seattle Lightning are leading the AL West with a 4 game lead over the Honolulu Coconuts. Seattle's starting rotation has been one of the most stable in the major leagues, compiling a 24-12 record while maintaining a regular rotation where no single pitcher has missed a start. Woody Mullin (3-3, 3.65 ERA in 14 starts), has long been management's golden boy and the team's ace over the last five seasons, but the quartet of Pasqual Roque (6-2, 4.11 ERA), Benito Manzanillo (5-3, 3.81 ERA), Yanick Brooks (5-3, 3.77 ERA) and youngster Ivan Henriquez (5-1, 3.81 ERA) has been surprisingly consistent and reliable. Sophomore reliever Andres Melo has anchored the bullpen, saving 12 of 14 opportunities. New Seattle pitching coach Frank Gibson has been very pleased with the success of his staff, and Melo in particular. In an interview with the Seattle Times, Gibson said: "Andres has built up the mental toughness and arm strength to come into the tight games, shut them down and stay long enough to get the save opportunities, and the numbers show it. I am very proud of this kid."

In the same story reported by the Seattle Times, new bench coach Kevin Gonzalez said "The season is still young, but we are thrilled with how things are going. I mean, we can definitely improve - .500 is an average team, but we realize that we hold the best record in the AL West, and we have no intention of looking back. This used to be a really tough division, and in a way I feel bad for the other teams in the AL West with us. It's pretty bad if an average .500 record is enough to lead the division with a four game lead. I just feel sorry for the other teams in this division".

Honolulu's temperamental outfielder
Clarence Holridge responded to Gonzalez' statement: "Sorry? He feels sorry? Is this a joke? We are just warming up. We'll see who feels sorry when we catch up with them. I will not feel sorry for them when the dust settles and we come out on top".

New York and Charlotte complete blockbuster deal

New York - The New York Transformers and the Charlotte Wolfpack completed a 6 player deal that sent ss Tanyon Owen, 2B James Banks, pitcher Bud Lankford and cash to the Wolfpack. In return, New York landed three minor league prospects: 19 yr old AA RF Matt Gates, 20 yr old High A pitcher (and former 1s tround pick) Shaggy Spencer, and 20 yr old High A 3B Stone Fogg. In the deal, New York shed salary in exchange for solid prospects, while Charlotte solidified their chances as they retain a stronghold on first place of the AL SOUTH. A day after the trade was completed, New York traded Spencer and Gates to the Vancouver Titans.

Owen transitioned to shortstop despite playing the majorityof his career as a 3B, and was the Transformers' highest profile off-season acquisition. A New York spokesperson explained: "We signed Tanyon to a big deal hoping to win it all, but it quickly became obvious that our franchise had to move towards rebuilding for the future. Tanyon Owen is the ultimate professional, working hard to transition to our team's needs, and this trade allows him to play for a championship team right away. His resume speaks for itself - Tanyon has a list of awards longer than most people's list of friends".

The 30 yr old Banks, an all star 2B last season, had been the face of the New York franchise. He is a .314 career hitter and is 1 homerun shy of 200 career HRs. Veteran Bud Lanford has been primarily a starter throughout his career, but projects to be working out of the Charlotte bullpen.

Top Free Agent Signs:

Top 5 Free Agent Signs:

With 1/3 of the season underway, here is a look at the top 5 offseason signs.

D'Angelo Gil , New Britain Bombers, CF - Gil has been amongst the top 10 in batting average and OBP in the American League, while playing adequate defense as a first year centerfielder.

Sean Donovan , New Britain Bombers, SP - The 36yr old right hander and future Hall of Famer was signed to a 37.5 million over three years. After 12 starts into the season, Donovan has shown why he is the World leader in numerous pitching categories. Donovan has also provided some maturity and stability to the Bomber's pitching corps.

Tanyon Owen , New York Transformers, SS - Owen has played 60 games as New York's regular shortstop, despite being primarily a 3B or CF throughout most of his major league career.

Benito Manzanillo, Seattle Lightning, SP - Manzanillo's signing came and went without much fanfare. The Seattle Lightning signed the 35 yr old to a 3 yr contract for $5.6 million a year. Manzanillo's signing addressed a pitching shortage that had seen Seattle struggle for several years in a row. Although Manzanillo has not put lights-out numbers (nobody expected him to), he has given Seattle 13 opportunities to win, logging 13 starts and a respectable 4.22 ERA.

Anthony Dickerson, St. Louis Kamikazes, P - Anthony Dickerson, whose previous contract with Las Vegas earned him the nickname "Big" Dickerson, was a bargain sign by St. Louis. The 35 yr old Dickerson agreed to a 1 yr, $3.4 million contract, and has been a valuable swing man for the Kamikazes - 4 starts in 17 appearances with a career best 2.88 ERA. Dickerson provides some pitching depth to the Kamikazes.

Season 12: Early Surprises

With roughly one third of the season underway, there are some early season surprises and some disappointments. Here is a look at the top 10 surprises...

1. Richmond Riot leading the NL South - Richmond's franchise has lost 318 games in the last 3 seasons. While last season showed some improvements and signs of hope, their 105 loss season did not indicate that they would be tied for the lead in the NL South. Despite a pitching staff that is average at best, Richmond dominates in 1-Run games and their offense is amongst the best three in the National League. Miguel Reynoso is having a breakthrough season in a full-time role, hitting .322 while providing stellar defense.
Vic Blank has been an offensive force at a .434 pace; the same Blank that Richmond designated for assignment, waived and demoted but found no takers for early in the offseason.

2. Iowa City leads the AL East and has the best record in the majors- The Iowa City Bison have the oldest starting lineup in the National League, and the pitching staff is not much younger. The Bison did very little in the offseason, losing team wins leader Ruben Amaro (14-4, 2.88 ERA) as a free agent to the Cincinnati Redlegs Revenge, trading closer
Stan Pierre to Anaheim and refusing to extend the contracts of 1B/LF Lyle Pritchett and Carlos Rincon. But somehow, the aged Bison hold a 6 game lead over the Buffalo Blizzard. A pitching staff anchored by Cookie Ramirez and Ismael Alvarado has excelled, but the staff has shown signs of fatigue despite carrying 13 arms.

3. Cincinnati in the cellar of the AL East - The Redlegs were many critics' favorites to lead the division. Unfortunately, the young Redlegs have struggled on the road, and are only 2 games over .500 while at home. The season is still young, but the Redlegs' early struggles have been a major disappointment, and they will have to improve against their own division, in one run games and in extra inning games to make up for lost ground.

Jin Chi Dong is having a breakthrough season and leading the Seattle Lightning in a serious push for claiming the AL West. The 25 yr old Dong, a Japanese import, has been very good since making his debut 3 seasons ago, but he is finally hitting at the MVP pace that landed him a large signing bonus as an international free agent. Dong is hitting .319 with 20 HRs, and if he continues this pace, he will surpass the 50 HR mark for the first time in his career.

Courtney Raitliff leads crop of rookies. The 25 yr old Pittsburgh Pirates' centerfielder leads all major league rookies in hitting and onbase percentage. Raitliff has made a great early season impression despite only 21 at bats above AA prior to this season. Raitliff is the early favorite for Rookie of the Year, but his defense has room for improvement.

6. Oakland's
Felipe Colon leads the major leagues in saves despite 7.94 ERA. Colon is a very good reliever, and has shown that he can close games with exceptional skill. His early season struggles are an aberration, and Colon will likely rebound and finish the season with comparable statistics to what he has put up before.

Giomar Diaz is unbeaten in 11 starts, 8-0 record. The veteran starter has not won as many games as he did between seasons 6 and 8. In season 9 the former staff ace was released by his former team due to disagreements with management. Diaz has been perfect this season, showing the credentials to regain staff ace status.

8. Cookie Ramirez is not Iowa City's best pitcher.
Ismael Alvarado has matched Ramirez in every pitching category... but Alvarado still has a ways to go in terms of durability and innings pitched before he can challenge Ramirez for staff ace status.

Evan Spencer is perfect in stolen bases. El Paso's speedy CF has shown he can steal bases - he swiped 50 bases last season - but as of today's play, he has stolen 28 consecutive bases and not been thrown out yet.

Ricardo Alomar is hitting .426. Alomar, a DH turned catcher for the New Orleans franchise, has shown some early season offensive dominance second to none.