BRADENTON, Fla. - Baseball will be sooooo much better this season at Blair County Ballpark, if for one reason and one reason only:
It can't possibly be any worse than it was last year.
The Curve's roster won't start taking shape until later this week. While there will not be a superstar prospect such as Pedro Alvarez, there will be a number of very good young players, such as pitcher Tim Alderson and shortstop Chase d'Arnaud.
Mirror file photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Gorkys Hernandez will be counted on to make the Curve competitive this year.
I'm a reporter, and I couldn't care less who wins or loses on a given night. Just part of the job of being unbiased.
Like many of you, however, I'm also a huge baseball fan. Love the sport - the nuances, the quirky things that pop up from time to time and the day-to-day grind of it all.
Without caring about the scores, I at least want to see good, well-played games, and Double-A players are skilled enough that they should be able to provide those a vast majority of the time.
Let's be honest: It's not much fun watching lousy baseball.
The kind the Curve played for most of last year.
The team started 0-8. It spent a good portion of the summer lugging around the worst record in all of minor league baseball. It finished 62-80, the worst mark in franchise history.
Altoona lost one game 19-2. It lost another because the defense turned a 45-foot bunt into an adventure that let the batter come all the way around to score.
Making matters worse, the weather was terrible all season. Rain washed out seven home games and threatened so many others that it kept lots of fans away. Attendance at BCB dipped 16.7 percent to a per-game average 4,312.
All of those factors created a tricky problem for us at the Mirror, with regards to how we covered the Curve.
Now, I've been in this business 17 years and understand most newspaper readers don't care how journalists go about our jobs or what we're thinking when we approach stories a certain way. Readers just want the news, plain and simple. That's the way it should be, too.
But if you're this far into this story, there's a good chance you care about the Curve, have read the Mirror's coverage for years and hopefully will continue to do so. If you've ever wondered why we cover the team a certain way, here's an explanation - using last season as an example.
This isn't Penn State football or the Steelers. Not even a high school game. Unlike covering those sporting events, the first rule of thumb in the minor leagues is to realize most readers don't care greatly about who won the game, and they certainly don't want a bunch of play by play.
The Mirror has always understood our readers are a little different. For whatever reason, Curve fans do care more about winning and losing, so we have made that more of a focus over the years than most newspapers in minor league towns.
Go somewhere else, and there's usually barely any recap of the actual game, with most papers instead spending their space on player profiles. We try to strike a balance, writing a lot about the prospects while also detailing games more extensively than other papers, especially for road coverage.
We also cover happenings within the franchise itself, such as front office issues and things that affect Blair County Ballpark. We realize the Curve franchise is a community asset, not just a baseball team.
I have held many, many discussions with bosses Neil Rudel, Buck Frank and previously Jim Lane about the best way to approach the coverage every year. We tinker here and there to keep things fresh and creative, while always sticking to our core principles.
But last year was different. Without question.
The team was terrible, so the game coverage was cut back.
Most of the players were having poor seasons, so after pointing out why in so many stories and columns, it began to feel like piling on. So we cut back.
Same for the weather and the attendance. It was same story, different day for months. So we cut back.
Aside from Alvarez, the most interesting player on the team was probably reserve infielder Ray Chang. Mirror intern Matt Fortuna, who did an excellent job last summer, built a good working rapport with Chang and wrote several stories about his interesting background.
But Chang wasn't a prospect. It's doubtful he'll ever play in the majors, and at times we filled too much space in the newspaper on him. See the dilemma? We can't focus so much on one career minor leaguer who is way off the prospect radar, even if he does have neat stories.
Thank goodness Alvarez came along and carried the team for much of the second half. The best prospect in Curve history not only lived up to his hype, he surpassed it and made the team fun to watch for a few weeks.
In turn, the coverage increased and got more interesting during that span as we had many more story lines to pursue on a daily basis.
Hopefully this season will provide good baseball, good prospects, good weather and good story lines.
The Curve will be bad on the field every now and then. That's the nature of minor league baseball. But with everything that went wrong a year ago, we're all due a much better season in 2010.
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.