In American Association Daily, Robert Pannier looks at how impressive the Gary Southshore RailCats have fared since the loss of ace Daniel Minor proving, once again, that Manager Greg Tagert always seems to have a solution to any issue the team faces.
Gary Southshore RailCats Feeling No Pain After Losing Minor
It was just 13 days ago. Less than two weeks ago the shoveling of the dirt onto the graves of the Gary Southshore RailCats began. The team was 34-27, clinging to its narrow half game lead in the North Division when ace Daniel Minor signed to go and play in Mexico. It seemed that the team was doomed.
The loss of Minor was no small thing. The right-hander was not only the best pitcher on the RailCats staff – he was the best pitcher in the American Association. With an 11-2 record and a 2.50 ERA, the righty led the league in wins, complete games (2), innings pitched (97.0), and starts (15). He had allowed just 19 walks and 87 hits, struck out 77, and was the person that ensured that the RailCats never endured any kind of prolonged losing streak. Yet, he was gone.
Cue Up Mark Twain
Writer Mark Twain once quipped, “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggeration.” Twain could have been talking about the Gary Southshore RailCats after Minor departed. The team had only one star, and he was on his way south of the border. Otherwise, this was a faceless team run by a manager with the flair for the unconventional.
Minor made his last start for the team on July 25, tossing a complete game shutout in a 6-0 victory over the Sioux Falls Canaries. It was the second win in a row for Gary Southshore, but many felt that this would be the end of the road. With both the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and the St. Paul Saints breathing down their necks, there was no way that the team could stay ahead. They simply didn’t have the thoroughbreds to win this race.
Ah, how young and naïve we all were. It had seemed that we had forgotten the last time that Railcats Manager Greg Tagert had a team crushing move like this occur. It was August 10 of last year when ace Charle Rosario was traded to Winnipeg for five players including, ironically, Minor himself. “Tagert is throwing in the towel,” many quipped. “The team was done!”
All that they did over the final 24 games of the season was go 16-8. That was good enough to give them a 57-43 record and the wild card berth. Pretty good for a doomed team.
Cue Up Yogi Berra
It appears that 2018 is sizing up very much like 2017. Déjà vu all over again as Yogi Berra would say. Since Minor departed the Gary Southshore RailCats have gone 9-3 as that two game win streak they were on when the right-hander departed turned into a eight game run, including a five game sweep of the Cleburne Railroaders. The RailCats took two of three from the Wichita Wingnuts, and have split the first two with the Lincoln Saltdogs. That has helped to give them a record six games over .500 since Armageddon occurred.
Several players have stepped up since the loss of their ace, but none more so than Keaton Steele. The right-hander jumped into Minor’s spot, winning two games last week to be named as the Minor League Sports Report Pitcher of the Week. He didn’t allow a run in 11.2-innings, giving up 8-hits and 4-walks combined. How Minor-esque of him.
What is lost on the average fan, is that this is the Greg Tagert way. Few in the American Association like the way his team plays, but no one likes to play them and every one fears facing the RailCats. They simply find a way to win, and it does not matter who is lost, the Skipper finds a way to replace any piece to his masterful puzzle.
There is less than four weeks left in the season, and the Gary Southshore RailCats lead the North Division by 1.5 games. The team that was doomed less than two weeks ago has actually extended their lead.
There will be some who will quibble with their success, pointing out that they have played Cleburne, Sioux Falls, and Texas since Minor’s departure, but they will have every opportunity to prove themselves. After finishing with Lincoln, the RailCats travel to play the Saints for four, then host Winnipeg for three. They have four more against the RedHawks, two in Wichita and three against the Kansas City T-Bones. Of their remaining 27 games, 13 are against four of the six best teams in the American Association.
Some will say, “This will be the final blow. This team simply can’t continue to perform against the top teams.” You can say it, just don’t plan on buying a shovel anytime soon.
By Robert Pannier