Focus: Montreal Metros

If one team is in the midst of a dynasty in the Bull League right now, it is the Montreal Metros. Since 2006, they have not missed a single playoffs, nor finished lower than 2nd in their division, and they are looking at their 11th straight playoff year in 2016.

During their incredible run, they have won three Bull Cup Championships, produced the Lake League MVP three times, and the LL Sandy Koufax Award winner an impressive six times.

For 2016, they look no less dominating. Already holding the best record in the Bull League at 52-18 (.743), they are 11 games ahead of the next-best LL team, Boston (41-29, .586) – who are themselves having a stellar year, and would be leading the division with their record in most other years.

At the root of Montreal’s decade of dominance is their incredibly strong minor system. Their Cow League (AAA) team, the Vaughan Peppers, have also won two Cow League Cups in the 2006-2015 period, with four total playoff appearances, more than any other team in that league for that time frame.

The Cedar Defenders, in the Heifer League (AA), won that league’s championship in the inaugural year, 2013. That league does not have a wild card entry, but the Defenders are looking to have a respectable second place finish in their division this year. Likewise, the Calf League (Single A) Winnipeg Gophers have had impressive finishes, making five playoff appearances since 2006, including a championship in 2009. In the five years they missed the playoffs, they finished 2nd place in their division in four of those years.

Finally, the rookie Milk League farm team Surrey Rage has finished 2nd in their division in all three years of the league’s existence, and will have another 2nd place finish in 2016.

The management and coaching staff for the Metros organization has at its head the legendary Fernando Banda, a baseball phenom from Venezuela who got his start as a soccer star for the Venezuelan national under 19 team, in his youth. He switched to baseball after an exhibition trip to Cuba, and became the national Olympic team coach in the 1980s. In 1995, he joined the Bull League’s Montreal Metros as general manager, and never looked back.

He built a staff that includes manager Marco Suarez, a sabermetric number-cruncher who joined the organization in 2015, and in two years has built a record of 101-51 while managing the Metros. Two of the best coaches in baseball lead the batting and pitching development for the Metros. Matt Shank, the pitching coach for the team since 1995, has an easygoing demeanor that helps him develop the young prospects and turn them into gems. And neutral-focused Adam Chalmers has been the batting coach since 1995, another coach who gets along well with the younger players.

The Metros clearly have it figured out and look to continue their domination for years to come. Sensational slugging 3B-man Alan Isimo is their top paid player at $21.2 million, and his contract runs out this year. But they have an amazing replacement, Hoshi Mizuguchi, who has been filling the DH role and will likely replace Isimo if he fails to agree to terms. They have first class pitchers like 2010 Sandy Koufax winner Bill Henson and 2011 Woodchuck Trophy winning reliever Danny Tirado signed through through to next year and beyond, and many other top players holding contracts expiring well beyond the current season.

Look for big things from the Metros lineup and pitching rotation as the final run to the playoffs gets into full swing.

 

 

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