Posts Tagged ‘Tony Franklin’

Game 8: Post-Game Recap

April 10, 2008

Trenton Thunder manager Tony Franklin took a lot away from the team’s seven game road trip to start the season.

He took back four wins.

He took back some confidence in his pitching staff.

But he also came back with the realization that tonight’s game might have been a sign of things to come for his ballclub.

“We’re going to be in a lot of ballgames like this,” Franklin said.

“That was pretty evident from the first seven games.  It’s kind of reminiscient of last year, where we pitched well and didn’t put a lot of runs on the board.”

However, Franklin did say that he had “some reservations” about making such a remark this early in the year.

“I think we’ve got some good hitters, I think we’re going to mount a better offensive attack than what we saw tonight,” he said.

A pitchers duel through the first five innings, it was Harrisburg’s Shairon Martis who came out on top, allowing just one run on four hits and two walks in five and one third innings of solid work.

“Today felt very good,” Martis told me.

“My first start was a little wild, but today I did a good job.  I was keeping the ball down in the strike zone.”

Even Franklin walked away impressed from the somewhat unknown Nationals pitching prospect.

“That kid who was pitching against us did a pretty nice job tonight, I’ve got to tip my hat to him,” Franklin said.

“He was changing speeds, got ahead.  He did a nice job.”

But for a while, it seemed like McCutchen was going to come out on the winning end of things, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning.  But that’s when the wheels came off, with the Yankee prospect allowing four hits and a walk to give Harrisburg a 2-0 lead.

“I think maybe even in the sixth was a little better than it had been,” McCutchen said.

“Couple hits up the middle, a comebacker…I don’t know if you could call it a comebacker, but it was a ball that I didn’t quite handle.  And you just tip your hat to the ball that guy hit to center, it just kept going.  I thought it was routine, but I saw Jackson kept going back.  I had a lot of balls early that were hit pretty good that were caught, so that’s just how it works out.  But I felt good all the way through.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Thunder Announce All 15 Year Team

April 7, 2008

C: Dioner Navarro

INF: Tony Clark, Robinson Cano, Nomar Garciaparra, Kevin Youkilis, Pork Chop Pough

OF: Kevin Thompson, Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner

P: Phil Hughes, Justin Pope, Joba Chamberlain, Scott Patterson, Chien-Ming Wang, Carl Pavano, Ron Mahay, Corey Spencer, Jeff Suppan, Joe Hudson

Manager: Tony Franklin

We will continue our breakdown of the starting pitching, relief pitching and manager ballots shortly…let’s see if the fans made the right choices.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Best of 2007: Moment #12

February 4, 2008

Moment #12 – Tony Franklin named Thunder manager
Trenton, NJ
(OK, so this technically happened in late December 2006…)

If I were to do a Top 20 countdown of the most ridiculous moments in Thunder history, Bill Masse getting fired after the 2006 season would certainly be near the top.

After all, he led the team to consecutive playoff appearances and finished with a 154-130 record during his two seasons at the helm of the Yankees Double-A affiliate.

And to replace him, they get a guy who hasn’t managed since 2000? 

“It’s great to be a Yankee,” Franklin said in a team release.

“I’ve been in baseball for 38 years and have always thought the Yankees would be an exciting organization to be a part of and I’m glad Trenton is where I’ll get that chance.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  That all sounds great.  But it was hard not to be skeptical, and it was even harder to think that anyone could produce the kind of results that Masse did.

It turns out that it was the best thing that could have happened to the Thunder.

Franklin’s 83-59 record was better than any individual season that Masse put together.

More impotantly, he did what no other manager in team history could do, leading the Thunder to their first championship after so many seasons of frustrating postseason futility.

He also brought a personality and demeanor that was somewhat the opposite of Masse.  Masse was always accomodating with reporters, he was very intense and very quotable.  He wasn’t really the kind of guy who bit his tongue, and while I think everyone respected and appreciated that, it was also what got him in trouble with the Yankees organization.

Franklin, also incredibly giving of his time with the media, comes across as very laid back and quiet.  He always gives eloquent and well-thought out answers to your questions, but also isn’t going to give you anything that’s going to show up on the back page of the paper like Masse would on occasion.

While Masse’s style could be a little grating on his players, Franklin’s approach was appreciated by all that played for him.  However, the Thunder never really had any consistent struggles last season.  If this year’s team has trouble getting out of the gate, I’ll be curious to see if Franklin’s demeanor changes and he’s forced to crack the whip a little bit.

But if everyone who’s expected to be on the roster this year actually ends up in Trenton, it’s hard to believe that the Thunder aren’t the odds on favorites to repeat in 2008.

Recapping the Top 20 so far…

#12 – Tony Franklin named Thunder manager
#13 – Matt DeSalvo’s MLB debut
#14 – Phil Hughes rehab appearance
#15 – Tyler Clippard’s MLB debut
#16 – Brett Smith’s no-hitter
#17 – Chase Wright’s MLB debut
#18 – Chase Wright’s opening night start
#19 – Paul Lo Duca and Endy Chavez rehab in Trenton
#20 – Jeff Karstens rehab appearance

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Best of 2007: Moment #15

January 24, 2008

Tyler Clippard / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

Moment #15 – Tyler Clippard’s MLB Debut
May 20, 2007
Flushing, NY

This probably could have been a little higher on the list, but I think a lot of people had expectations that Clippard would make his debut at some point during the 2007 season.

But wow, what a debut it was.

Good news, kid…you’re going to the big leagues.  The bad news?  We’re going to throw you right into the Subway Series against the Mets at Shea, and oh by the way…the game is on national TV.  Good luck.

That was pretty much the scenario for Clippard, where he faced the potent New York Mets on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball on May 20th.

A second inning home run by David Wright was essentially the only blemish on Clippard’s slate, but he retaliated with a long double of his own in the sixth. 

“It’s been a while since I’ve swung it, so that was definitely a bonus,” Clippard joked.

As for the pitching line, it was pretty impressive: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB and 6 K.

“It was fun, it was a pretty good experience,” Clippard said in July.

“It was good to experience (the big leagues) and get that under my belt so I’m prepared for the next time that happens.”

Clippard spent the entire 2006 season with the Thunder, and did quite a bit to catapult himself — at the very least — into the discussion about the Yankees top pitching prospects.  His funky motion always stood out in Trenton, but his numbers always made his strongest statement, specifically his strikeout total.

The Yankee Clippard rebounded from a so-so first half to post a 12-10 record and 3.35 ERA in 28 starts for the Thunder, including a no-hitter that earned him his own bobblehead during the 2007 season.  His 175 strikeouts were not only a career high, but also led the Eastern League.

Things were looking good for Clippard going into the 2007 season, and his dreams were quickly realized after the quick call-up to the Yankees.  But after getting sent back down, Clippard was victimized by a numbers game — namely that Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain needed to go up a level — and he eventually went all the way back down to Trenton.

“It’s not something I wanted to happen, I definitely didn’t see this coming at all,” Clippard told me upon his return.

“I don’t have any control over these things, so I just have to make the best of it.”

When pressed for a reason for being sent down, he wasn’t entirely sure.

“I wasn’t throwing like I know I can, but I didn’t feel like I was doing terribly,” he said.

“It’s tough for me to say that I was going through a rough patch, but I wasn’t pitching to what I was capable of, I guess is the best way to put it. So now I’m here.”

Clippard certainly made the most of his time in Trenton, although the numbers might not show it.  He couldn’t quite regain his consistency, and after getting the nod for Game 2 in the 2006 Eastern League Division Series, he was skipped entirely in the first round of the playoffs in 2007.

But manager Tony Franklin had the confidence to give him the ball for the first game of the Championship Series.

“Everyone was asking why Clippard is going in this game,” said Franklin after the game.

“Our feeling was that whoever we sent out there was going to do a good job, and it was his turn to pitch. Was he consistent out there throwing strikes? No, he wasn’t. Did he have his best stuff tonight? No, he didn’t. But sometimes, what it takes is just sheer determination to just pitch the game when you don’t have your best stuff, and he did that tonight.”

With his Major League debut happening at the beginning of the season, and winning an Eastern League championship happening towards the end, things weren’t so bad after all for Tyler Clippard.

Again the victim of a numbers game, Clippard was shipped to the Nationals this off-season for reliever Jonathan Albaladejo, who has an outside chance to start the season in Waterfront Park himself.

Recapping the Top 20 so far…

#15 – Tyler Clippard’s MLB debut
#16 – Brett Smith’s no-hitter
#17 – Chase Wright’s MLB debut
#18 – Chase Wright’s opening night start
#19 – Paul Lo Duca and Endy Chavez rehab in Trenton
#20 – Jeff Karstens rehab appearance

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Speaking of Managers…

January 11, 2008

Bill Masse / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2007)

In case you’re wondering about the whereabouts of former Thunder manager Bill Masse, never fear…

Billy has signed on to become the manager of the San Antonio Missions, the Double-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. 

Masse spent two very successful seasons as the Thunder manager in 2005 and 2006, and was ridiculously fired in part due to controversial comments about uber-prospect at the time Phil Hughes in one of the local papers.

“The funny thing with Phil and all that stupid stuff that got blown out of proportion was all I ever wanted to do was do what’s best for Phil,” Masse told me last season.

“My only point that I made, back when I made it, was that if you’re going to bring Phil Hughes to the big leagues, you better build him up to know what it’s like to pitch in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.”

It was hard not to think of Masse when Hughes, pitching into the seventh inning for the first time since a June 18, 2006 start for the Thunder, pulled his hamstring after 6.1 no-hit innings in just his second Major League game early in the 2007 season.

“It’s baseball, guys are going to get hurt,” he said. “It probably could have happened to Phil earlier in the game, who knows. Did Phil Hughes get hurt because he’d never gone seven innings in his professional career? Probably not. But why take that chance?”

Although hindsight is 20-20, it’s hard to argue with his point.

Anyway, he then spent one season as the manager of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, nearly leading them to a playoff berth last year before ultimately being fired for the second time in two years, this time by the Toronto Blue Jays organization.

His return to Trenton was greatly anticipated by fans and especially the media, but he offered little in the way of inflammatory comments regarding the Thunder.

“Trenton was definitely a place I was looking forward to coming back to,” Masse said. “The situation with me and the Yankees had nothing to do with Trenton.”

Having had a year to look back on everything, he downplayed the Yankee firing.

“It’s minor league baseball, so some people made a big deal about it,” he said.

“I was only here for two years, it’s not like I was Joe Torre and I spent eleven years somewhere.”

I liked Masse a lot, and greatly enjoyed his competitive spirit and brutal honesty.  On a personal note, he always had time for me, and gave me a break if I’d missed his group sessions with the media before the game.  Considering it was my first year of covering the team, that was always much appreciated. 

I think that he can go far in the right organization, but was probably a little too abrasive for the Yankees organization more than anything else.

If I were to pick an All-Thunder team for the 15th anniversary, and that sounds like a blog post if there ever was one, it would be hard not to make either DeMarlo Hale or Ken Macha my choice as manager.  But certainly, Masse and Tony Franklin would receive some consideration as well.  My pick?  Sounds like you’ll have to stay tuned for that…

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

In the meantime…

January 3, 2008

As a reporter, but especially in my many years as a fan, you tend to notice that there are some things that some teams do better than others.  For example, the Thunder have consistently had the best giveaways in the area, and this season will be no different.  A steady supply of bobbleheads, player-themed giveaways, and of course the ever popular fireworks nights (a nightmare for the press for a variety of reasons, by the way) litter the Trenton schedule this season.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights…

April 10th: Fireworks and Desktop Championship Ring Replicas (First 2,000 fans)

April 14th: All 15 Year Team Card Pack, Volume One (First 1,500 fans)

April 25th: Thunder Championship Hats (First 1,500 fans)

April 26th: Joba Chamberlain Youth Jersey Night (First 1,000 fans, ages 5-15)

May 27th: Robinson Cano Bobbleheads (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

May 28th: Shelley Duncan Bobbleheads (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

June 10th: Yankee T-Shirt Night (First 1,000 fans)

June 11th: Bobblehead (to be determined) (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

June 12th: Camouflage Jersey Auction and Fireworks

June 20th: Thunder Card Set Giveaway (First 1,500 fans)

June 23rd: All 15 Year Team Card Pack, Volume Two (First 1,500 fans)

June 25th: Chien-Ming Wang Bobblehead (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

June 30th: All 15 Year Team Card Pack, Volume Three (First 1,500 fans)

July 3rd: American Flag Jersey Auction

July 8th: 15th Season Collectors Yearbook Night (First 1,500 fans, ages 18+)

July 9th: Phil Hughes Bobblehead (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

July 25th: Thunder Championship Banners (First 2,000 fans)

July 27th: Melky Cabrera Thunder Youth Jersey Night (First 1,500 fans, ages 5-15)

July 28th: All 15 Year Team Card Pack, Volume Four (First 1,500 fans)

July 30th: Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy Dual Bobblehead (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

August 8th: Tony Franklin Eastern League Champion Bronze Statue (First 2,000 fans)

August 13th: Ian Kennedy Bobblehead (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

August 20th: Bobblehead (to be determined) (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

August 31st: Fan Appreciation/Joba Chamberlain Player Statue (First 2,000 fans)

As you can see, there are quite a few neat items that the team is giving away this year, and there were a lot more that I didn’t mention.  Logo baseballs, other kids-themed giveaways and so on.  There are a bunch more fireworks nights as well, but again, fireworks are to my job are what someone like Lumberg from Office Space would be to yours.

Yeeeeeeeeeah, I’m gonna hafta go ahead and try to talk to you while loud explosions are going off in every direction, mmmmkay?  And then, if you could go ahead and make me listen to the audio of the conversation with the fireworks making loud popping noises in my ears so that it’s impossible to understand what you’re saying, that would be greeeeeeeeeat.

Anyway, my personal favorite of the bunch would have to be the Kennedy & Chamberlain dual bobblehead, that’s a pretty neat idea that’s been used by other teams in the minor leagues.

I do try to get as many items as I can — and to be clear, I get them by purchasing tickets like everybody else…the Thunder do not provide their giveaway items to the media as many teams do, the Yankees included — and if I get any extras, I might be able to give them away in some sort of contest depending on the popularity of this blog…so stay tuned for that.

For the complete schedule, check out the Thunder’s website.

Check back tomorrow for #20 in my countdown to the best moment for the Thunder in 2007.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com