Draft Day Part II

I know, I know. The draft was more than two months ago. But with the signing deadline having past last night, many of the first round picks just signed. It almost feels like Draft Part II.

Of course Stephen Strasburg – now a Washington National – made the biggest headlines, inking a record $15.1 million major league contract with a record $7.5 million signing bonus. Yipes. I guess now he can upgrade from that Schwinn now. Those kind of dollar figures are pretty mind boggling, aren’t they? And I can’t believe people are calling for him to be in the big leagues later this year. Sounds like a great way to take a $15.8 million investment and increase the odds that he flames out if you ask me.

I think a lot of people were surprised that there were only three first-rounders that didn’t sign, one of which – Aaron Crow – was not beholden to the same signing deadline in his negotiations with the Royals.

Of course, in our world, the biggest signing was that of St. Louis Cardinals’ first-rounder Shelby Miller. The St. Louis Cardinals made a bold move by picking him in the first place. Though they grabbed the flame-throwing righty at No. 19 overall, the only reason the talented high schooler dropped that far was because teams were scared off by perceived bonus demands. That marked an agressive move by an organization that had been criticized for playing it safe and electing to draft lower-risk, lower-ceiling prospects in recent drafts. I’m not sure I buy into that criticism, but that’s certainly what was flying around the papers in St. Louis.

In signing Miller for $2.875 million, the Cardinals took a high ceiling prospect with front-of-the-rotation potential. They had to go above slot to sign him, but came in well below the reported $4 million he was asking for. We’re talking about a guy that was rated by Baseball America as the 7th-rated right-handed pitcher in the entire draft. He went 10-2 as a high school senior in Brownwood, Texas, posting a 1.90 ERA while racking up 153 strikeouts in just 77 innings.

And while he likely won’t be able to pitch this season, the ace-of-the-future could very well be wearing a River Bandits uniform in 2010.

Home Sweet Home

What a wild one last night! The River Bandits ended up losing in 15 innings in Kane County, but other than the final score it was a fantastic ballgame. Five QC pitchers combined to hold the Cougars to six hits – only three of which left the infield – and four relievers put together a stretch in which 26 men in a row were retired at one point. That’s one out shy of a perfect game!!!

Unfortunately, what should have been the 27th consecutive out was instead played into a two-out error, ultimately leading to the unearned run that ended the night. Kevin Thomas will try to pitch the Bandits to a split in tonight’s road trip finale at Elfstrom Stadium.

Then, it’s back to Davenport on Saturday. And what a homestand we’ve got planned! Remember, there are only 11 home games remaining this season. Hard to believe, but it’s true. Eight of them come up this week and there are some fantastic promotions in store, so now’s the time visit the ballpark. For a full list of promotions you can click here. For Ben Chiswick’s personal favorites, read on…

The fun starts on Saturday night with the Rascal bobblehead doll giveaway. It’s the final installment of the four-part series featuring Brett Wallace, Pete Kozma, Steve Dillard and Rascal emerging from the corn field. SWEET collector’s items. But after the game, the Rockin’ Saturday concert is the best one yet – Dueling Pianos! Personally, I love Dueling Pianos. Always a good time. Somebody please make sure they don’t try to avoid playing “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel.

Sunday, we’re hosting an Xbox Madden 2010 tournament just two days after the game’s release. Awesome. Tuesday is going to be Salute to the Mustache. Sure, mustache’s can be kind of creepy, but I’ve got a feeling this will be highly entertaining.

Later in the week and into next week, a couple of other exciting things to talk about. Those of you that listen to me on the radio have likely heard me talking about BirdZerk! In fact, he was in Kane County last night (although I noticed he was conspicuously absent as the game went into the 15th). He is one of these traveling entertainment acts and is HILARIOUS. If you’ve got kids it’s a can’t-miss show, and he’ll be at Modern Woodmen Park on Thursday.

After a Rascal wind-up doll giveaway on Friday, Saturday the 21st is going to be Jimmy Buffett Night. You gotta love the Parrot Heads. What a laid-back bunch of dudes. I wish I had a Hawaiian shirt, then maybe they would let me into the club. The River Bandits will be wearing sweet Jimmy Buffett-style jerseys that will be auctioned off in support of Genesis Health System charities – a great cause.

If I haven’t given you good enough reasons to visit Modern Woodmen Park this week, then you should really stop trying to steal Christmas every year. Nobody likes a downer.

Bandits are back on Saturday and charging hard for the playoffs. See you at the ballpark, and wish us luck tonight in Kane County!

Gearing up

When the River Bandits returned to the team hotel after Tuesday night’s 4-2 win in Kane County, manager Steve Dillard found a new present waiting outside.

Meet Scott Schneider, a right-handed pitcher from California who was just called up from Batavia. Schneider was a 20th-round pick out of St. Mary’s College in June and blazed through the New York-Penn League, going 2-0 with a sparkling 0.92 ERA and a rediculous 47-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 39.1 innings of work with the Muckdogs. He will be plugged into the starting rotation to make his River Bandits debut on Thursday, and Miguel Tapia – after starting tonight in Kane County – will return to the bullpen.

Although I’ll probably regret saying it, this move likely represents the final piece of the puzzle as the River Bandits continue their charge towards the playoffs. Of course, now that I did say it, expect another 14-transaction day any time now. The series of transactions on August 3 revamped the offense, and now the additions of Schneider and Eric Fornataro have solidified the rotation. Combine that with a bullpen that has steadily improved with the likes of Ramon Delgado and Dave Carpenter, and suddenly this team has emerged as one to be reckoned with around the Midwest League.

Did you know that the starting rotation has combined to post a 2.64 ERA while issuing just 13 walks over the last 13 games? That the offense has averaged more than six runs per game since August 3? That closer Dave Carpenter has gone more than two months without blowing a save and has a 1.42 ERA over his last 16 appearances?

Twenty-five games left in the season, and Quad Cities is currenlty tied with Clinton for the Western Division’s second-half wild card spot. Game on.

HUGE homestand coming up at Modern Woodmen Park starting Saturday. In addition to eight key games against the teams the River Bandits are currently battling with for a playoff spot, there is also a ton going on promotionally. I’ll blog about the highlights in the coming days, but can anybody say “dueling pianos”? I love that stuff!


Four homers, 16 runs batted in and a 1.185 slugging percentage. Really? In his first seven games in the Midwest League?

On Monday, Xavier Scruggs – the River Bandits new first baseman – was named the Midwest League Player of the Week. In his first week. After missing the first two months of the season with a left bicep injury and playing just a handful of games with short-season Batavia.

All he did was lead the league in hits (15), home runs, RBI, slugging and extra-base hits (8). That’s all. Oh, and he also hit .556.

Not only has Scruggs been dominant in his first week of Midwest League action, but he has also stayed humble. You don’t here him barking about how well he is playing or admiring one of his four long home runs. He told me today that, while he has always beleived in his abilities, even he was a bit surprised at the gaudy numbers he has put up already.

A lot of guys would be trying to make up for lost time after being sidelined for two months to start the year. But Scruggs – who likely would have started the 2009 season with Quad Cities had it not been for an injury incurred while swinging a bat during spring training – is not afraid to go the other way with an outside pitch or stay patient and draw a walk despite potential RBI opportunities standing on the basepaths.

Take a listen to the conversation I had with Xavier after batting practice this afternoon, which will air on my pre-game show tonight: 081009 – Xavier Scruggs.WMA. On WYEC 93.9 FM or streaming through www.RiverBandits.com for those of you keeping track.

By the way, how about a special mention for new third baseman Jermaine Curtis? Had it not been for Scruggs’s monster week, Curtis may very well have been named the league’s best position player. His six doubles, four stolen bases and nine runs scored led the league, and he also was among the league leaders with seven extra-base hits (T-2), a .606 on-base percentage (3), an .833 slugging percentage (3) and a .458 batting average (5). Not bad. Curtis was a fifth-round pick out of UCLA in the 2008 draft.

No wonder the River Bandits have won five of their last eight games.

New-look Bandits

A pitchers’ duel went againt the Bandits last night, but we’re back in Burlington for a Sunday afternoon game.

Quad Cities is a whole new team since Monday’s roster overhaul. Xavier Scruggs and Jermaine Curtis are leading a new-look lineup that has averaged 6.2 runs and eight extra-base hits per game since the roster shakeup. Suddenly, this lineup packs a pretty good punch.

The other big thing is that the pitching was already starting to come around. River Bandits starters are 5-3 with a 2.04 ERA and just 10 walks over their last 10 games. The bullpen has been nearly as good. If you haven’t seen Jonathan Gonzalez pitch out of the bullpen yet, he’s shown the ability to throw three pitches for strikes and he hasn’t allowed a hit in six innings since joining the River Bandits.

And remember, Quad Cities is just one game out of a playoff spot with 28 to play. This team figures to play some exciting baseball down the stretch.

Quick injury update: Kevin Thomas had to leave Saturday night’s start in the second inning after getting struck by a line drive. Though he’s got a pretty good bruise to show for it, he will more than likely be able to make his next start on Thursday in Kane County.

I’ve gotta run. Daytime baseball – heat index is 100 degrees in Burlington today – awaits.

Who are these guys?

Monday was a day unlike any other that I have seen since I began working in baseball. Which, by the way, is one of the reasons I love this business. Whether its on the field or off it, you never know what the next day will hold. Every day brings new challenges and keeps you on your toes.

Yesterday, there were 14 transactions made affecting the River Bandits roster. After I sent out the official moves, I had about 10 responses from my peers around the league, all of which featured some sort of sarcastic yet witty comment. Seven new players officially joined the team, while seven others left town.

And from the first pitch fired off by Kevin Thomas last night, you could feel the new-look River Bandits getting a burst of adrenaline. Not only did Thomas throw seven dominant innings, but Quad Cities exploded for six runs in the first and led by as much as 9-0 in a blowout win. New first baseman Xavier Scruggs made the biggest splash of all, clubbing a pair of two-run homers to the delight of the excited crowd.

There are just 33 games left, and the Bandits are right in the thick of the playoff race.

But in addition to the tremendous boost provided by the seven new River Bandits, the flurry of roster moves also gave me a moment to reflect about the human side of the game. It is easy for fans to forget, after all, that the players between the white lines are real people, just like you and me. For them, baseball is more than a game – it is their livelihood, their future, their hopes and dreams.

For a player, there is nothing more rewarding than earning a promotion. Matt Carpenter, Arquimedes Nieto, Osvaldo Morales and Jose Garcia all moved up to Palm Beach. Conversely, a demotion can be pretty demoralizing for the guys. Jon Edwards, Travis Mitchell and Kyle Conley were all sent down to Batavia. What is sometimes difficult for players to realize, however, is that there is a difference between a promotion and a setback.

For example, one of the players that joined the River Bandits yesterday was Jermaine Curtis, a third baseman that was sent down from Palm Beach. But you have to remember that Curtis was just drafted last summer, and he skipped the Quad Cities in the first place when he started the season with Palm Beach. A shortstop named Tyler Greene immediately comes to mind. After initially skipping this level, Greene was struggling at Palm Beach and was sent down to the Quad Cities midway through the 2006 season. He went on to hit 15 homers and drive in 47 runs in 59 games in the Midwest League, and broke spring training the next year at Double-A – staying right on track. As many of you likely already know, Greene made his big league debut earlier this season and has played 41 games for the Cardinals.

What I guess I’m trying to say is that it is important not to lose sight of the bigger picture. Today’s setback may simply be a short-lived one, and in the grand scheme of things may even turn out to be a positive. Just ask Tyler Greene.


By the way… T-minus two days, 11 hours and 57 minutes until the Professional Pillow Fight League rolls in on Thursday! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Welcome to August!

Hard to believe, but here we are. We’ve played over 100 games and nearly four months. The River Bandits have traveled all over the Midwest. We’ve seen wins and losses, 14-inning games and rain-shortened seven-inning affairs, blowouts, suspended games, and a host of other twists and turns that inevitably pop up over the course of a full season. That’s why you’ve gotta love this game.

I am writing this post from Grand Chute, Wisconsin, a suburb of Appleton about 30 miles southwest of Green Bay. For a born-and-raised Chicago Bears fan like me, this is as close as I get to enemy territory. I can practically feel the green and yellow Kryptonite pushing me away.

But not so fast! We’ve got two games left to play against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers at Fox Cities Stadium. The River Bandits blew out the Rattlers last night, 7-0, thanks in large part to another great starting performance by Arquimedes Nieto. You gotta love this guy. He’s 20 years old, listed at 175 pounds, and no way he  touches six feet tall – but he’s got a wicked changeup and when his control is on he’s dangerous. Most guys, especially ones with a slight build like his, wear down as the season goes on. But not “Arqy.” He finished July with a 2.72 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 36.1 innings, making it easily his best month of the season.

After this trip we’ve got another loaded homestand coming up Monday-Thursday at Modern Woodmen Park. We’ve come a long way, haven’t we? It wasn’t more than two years ago that our homestands were plain, boring and as run-of-the-mill as you could get. Now, even a four-day, middle-of-the-week homestand is loaded with promotions. 

Tuesday and Wednesday will be two huge crowds thanks to the annual events held at the ballpark by the Quad Cities Homebuilders & Remodelers Association and the Optimists International. If you like candy – and the huge success of last week’s candy drop makes me thing that more than a few of you do – we’ve also got Halloween in August coming on Wednesday. I might even try to sneak away from the radio booth to see if I can knock on some suite doors and go trick-or-treating!

But the most unique thing going on this week is on Thursday. Never mind the $2 drink specials on a Thirst-day Thursday. Never mind a special Thursday night fireworks show after the game. DID YOU KNOW THERE WAS A PROFESSIONAL PILLOW FIGHTING LEAGUE?!?!?!

Yup, it’s for real. I’m dead series. Click here for proof. They’ve even got instructions on how to try out. Now look, I’m a married man. Happily married in fact. Wendy, if you’re reading this, I love you more than anything in the world.

But the day a bunch of cute, young and energetic women pillowfighting in front of a beer-infused crowd doesn’t sound like fun is the day I need to be checked into a nursing home.

Welcome to Bandits Banter!

Welcome to Bandits Banter, the new blog for the Quad Cities River Bandits!


I’ll be your blog host, Ben Chiswick. For those of you who aren’t already loyal listeners on WYEC 93.9 FM, I am the River Bandits’ play-by-play broadcaster on the radio. I also do a number of other things for the team, including involvement with our website (www.RiverBandits.com) and the Play Ball publications that you can pick up at the ballpark at every game.


Now, I am also you’re resident blogger! I’ll be popping in to bring you River Bandits updates about everything related to the team. If you have any particular questions that you would like answered, feel free to email me at BenC@RiverBandits.com and I am happy to respond on my next entry.


This blog comes to you from the luxurious Quality Inn in South Bend, Indiana, where the River Bandits are in town playing the South Bend Silver Hawks. Last night, we were dominated by a Diamondbacks lefty named Wade Miley, who threw five perfect innings before being pulled because of an innings limit!


But still, the biggest thing going on right now in River Bandits nation is still the reaction to the Mega-Candy Drop last Sunday at Modern Woodmen Park. WOW! In five years here, I never thought I would see anything like that. In case you missed it… check out this video: