In American Association Daily, Robert Pannier looks at the amazing job that Kansas City T-Bones Manager Joe Calfapietra has done in helping players to continue to follow their dream of reaching the Major Leagues.
Other Leagues Came Calling
One of the things that is fun to watch during the American Association season is whose contracts will be purchased. This includes by affiliate organizations, the Mexican League, or even other in leagues in other foreign countries.
It is surprising to many who follow the league that some of the stars are not signed. A Daniel Tillman, Jay Baum, Levi Scott, Eddie Medina, or Justin Vernia put up huge numbers, yet don’t seem to get a sniff from clubs looking for a potential difference maker. This does not even include the myriad of veterans who put up huge numbers year-after-year, yet are never given a chance to return to leagues where they would most assuredly excel.
Despite this, there are those players who are given the opportunity. Each year, the American Association celebrates the group who simply can’t be ignored, finding their way back the minors or to a destination in another country.
This season there have been 27 such players. Each of which has been given a new opportunity to chase their dream of making it to the Majors or, at the very least, to earn a lot more money playing the game they love elsewhere.
That is an impressive number for sure, but it is made a whole lot more impressive by the fact that one manager has helped 11 of his players land contracts elsewhere. That is the incredible job that Kansas City T-Bones Manager Joe Calfapietra has done.
A Badge of Honor
While all managers in the American Association want to win the championship, they also want to land players back in affiliate ball. It is a badge of honor that not only demonstrates a commitment to their players to help them in their careers but, to players, it is a reason why you would want to sign with a particular club. If a player knows his prospects are better to sign with one team, he is more likely to go there.
For seven seasons, many players came to Wichita to play for the Wingnuts because of the success the club was having in helping players. On average, four-plus players moved back to affiliate ball each year, and this helped to keep the Wingnuts on top in the league.
Last season, the Sioux City Explorers had a great deal of success in helping players land contracts, and they have had success this season as well, as one player had his contract purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies (Tyler Fallwell), one has gone to Mexico (Jay Austin), and one to China (Taylor Jordan).
There is no doubt that Explorers Manager Steve Montgomery has established himself as a skipper that helps get guys second and third chances, but no one is topping the job that Kansas City T-Bones skipper Joe Calfapietra is doing.
A Record of Excellence
As mentioned, since the opening day of the American Association season, 11 players from the Kansas City T-Bones have had their contract purchased. That began on opening night when Cody Martin’s contract was purchased by the New York Mets and Calfapietra was forced to adjust his starting rotation Day 1.
Eight different players have returned to affiliate ball. Three have signed to go to Mexico. Six times this season a player the T-Bones Skipper signed to replace a player whose contract was purchased, then had his contact purchased.
It has been a remarkable streak that Joe Calfapietra has put together, but no one should be surprised. Before the 2018 season got underway, Joe had four players signed, including one with the Dodgers and three to Mexico. During the 2017 season, four players had their contracts purchased by Major League organizations and three players had their contracts purchased before the 2017 season got underway.
An Award Worthy Season
In all, 21 players have returned to affiliate ball or found more lucrative opportunities since Joe Calfapietra took over the T-Bones (Scott Carroll had his contract purchased twice). That is a truly remarkable record by any standard and one that no other manager in the league can match in the last 20 months.
What has been most impressive about the feat is that despite the loss of so much talent, Joe Calfapietra has kept this team in the playoff chase. They are currently second in the South Division and, if they can maintain that spot, they will make the American Association playoffs.
That is truly remarkable and could very well land Calfapietra the Manager of the Year award. There is no doubt that the job that Steve Montgomery did in building his team and the success he has had makes him a frontrunner as well. Gary Southshore RailCats Manager Greg Tagert is also deserving of a lot of consideration as he has kept a team that many felt was a fifth or sixth place team in the running for the North Division title.
Those are remarkable achievements, but one simply cannot argue with what Joe Calfapietra has done. If he could have kept even half of those players, the T-Bones would likely be the best team in the league, at least within a few games of the Explorers.
The saddest part may be that the Wingnuts could catch the T-Bones, knocking Kansas City out of the playoffs. There will then be those who will consider the 2018 season a failure, but that would be ridiculous. After all, the prime directive of independent baseball is to help players return to affiliate ball. By that standard alone, the Kansas City T-Bones are the champions of all of independent baseball.
By Robert Pannier