If there is one conclusion to be drawn from the Orioles' minor-league results this summer, it is that the best is at the bottom.
Although Triple-A Rochester squeezed into the International League playoffs as a second-place finisher in its division, the real power of the system is at the Single-A level or lower.
Three teams, Single-A High Desert (41-29 second half) and rookie-league clubs Bluefield (42-26) and Gulf Coast (36-24), finished with a combined .601 winning percentage after June.
Even Frederick (33-36 in the second half of the Carolina League) doesn't hurt that figure much.
"This tells you something," said Syd Thrift, the Orioles' director of player development. "Things are improving."
Of the six farm clubs, Rochester, High Desert and Bluefield Appalachian League champion) made postseason play. Gulf Coast and Frederick were barely eliminated.
Only Double-A Bowie (54-88 in the Eastern League) was a bust.
Md. clubs' attendance mixed
Attendance results at the three Maryland Baseball Limited Partnership stadia varied.
The big draw was the first-year Delmarva Shorebirds, who broke the record in the 92-year-old South Atlantic League by drawing 314,963 fans for 65 home dates.
The novelty factor and a team that won its division's first-half title enabled Delmarva to average 4,846 per game.
"We were hoping for 300,000, so we're well pleased," said general manager Keith Lupton.
But the gate was down at Bowie and Frederick.
The Baysox, with a poor team, an unfavorable schedule and rainy spring and summer seasons, were off 67,890 from their first full year of 1995 with a total of 396,086 for 65 dates. That averages to 6,094 per date.
Frederick dipped to 258,427 for 63 dates, down more than 42,000 from last season. Rain or threats of it for nearly half the home schedule was a big factor.
High Desert's big numbers
High Desert's hitters posted some impressive numbers in a league known as a pitcher's nightmare (small parks, light air).
Third baseman Mike Berry led the team with a .361 batting average and 113 RBIs, and had 109 runs scored and 44 doubles.
First baseman Chris Kirgan, who batted .202 at Frederick last year, hit .297 with 35 homers, 131 RBIs and a .543 slugging percentage. He also struck out 162 times.
Outfielder Bryan Bogle had a .539 slugging percentage, .317 average, 22 homers, 92 RBIs and 32 doubles.
The most impressive Mavericks pitcher was reliever Matt Snyder (Essex Community College), who was 6-2 with a 3.75 ERA, 20 saves and 93 strikeouts in 72 innings.
Around the horn
Rochester shortstop Clay Bellinger made the International League all-star squad after batting a career-high .301 with 78 RBIs. . . . Domingo Martinez finished the regular season at .362 with 38 RBIs in 29 games and Joe Hall paced the Red Wings with 95 RBIs. . . . The staff-high seven wins by Jimmy Myers and Garrett Stephenson were the fewest at Rochester since 1984. . . . Bowie was shut out on the Eastern League all-star team and had one pitcher, Carlos Chavez, who was with the team all season. . . . Willis Otanez and Howie Clark were named co-MVPs of the Baysox. . . . Johnny Isom of Frederick led the Carolina League with 104 RBIs and made the all-star team with Rick Short (.312, 33 doubles). . . . Nerio Rodriguez (2.26 ERA) did not qualify for the league ERA title, failing by two-thirds of an inning. . . . The Keys' staff topped the league with 1,104 strikeouts. . . . Tony Tarasco batted only .229 with one homer in his nine-game Keys injury rehabilitation assignment. . . . Bluefield's big gun was first baseman Calvin Pickering (.325, 40 doubles, 18 homers, 66 RBIs in 60 games).
Pub Date: 9/04/96