The Toronto Nomads are going to miss the playoffs for the 7th season in a row, and frustrated fans and front office executives are mulling decisions for 2018.
For the fans, the decision is easy: keep supporting the team by buying seasons tickets, or not?But for the team management, the long hard look at this season’s 36-52 performance so far, and the club history, including breaking the 1000-losses mark this season, the decisions are much tougher.
The club’s pitching woes of previous seasons seem to be mostly managed, with marquee pitchers like Knuckles Malone and Alex Medina heading the rotation, and talented bullpen arms like Charlie Foote, Juan Avila, and Alex Maldonado. But the lack of run support this season has been astounding; the Nomads have scored just 2.88 runs per game this season, the lowest in the Lake League.
The poor on-field performance has led to heated moments inside the clubhouse, culminating in a dugout brawl between newcomer Juan Campos and veteran Miguel Tafoya. Campos earlier in the season had a blow out argument with the manager, Mike Weiler, and near the end of June berated a fan whom he deemed unfairly critical of his season performance.
Victor Sarmiento has been involved in a few controversies, as well. At the end of July, he was called out in Toronto press for his expletive-laden tirade at a fan. Less than two weeks later, Sarmiento was heard by members of the press shouting at Weiler.
This season’s early exit from the wild card race has given Toronto management some things to consider as we inch towards the offseason. Sarmiento’s performance has been less than par this year, and he is arbitration-eligible. Rumors out of the Toronto front office are swirling that the club may non-tender him and allow him to become a free agent early.
Campos is not arbitration-eligible until the end of 2018, having signed a one-year extension for $990K in June to avoid arbitration this season. He is said to get along well with Weiler normally, but his lackluster performance this season works against him.
The good news for Nomads fans is that the farm system looks very healthy right now. While not loaded with top prospects, necessarily, the AAA-level Brampton Longhorns have once again made the Cow League playoffs, and have a very talented cluster of pitchers who will be vying for a big league job come spring. Jim Torelli, especially, looks nearly ready to throw at the top level, coming over in a trade with Anchorage back in July. He has gone 1-1 with Brampton, sporting a 3.92 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, with about 10 K/9 over 4 games.
July also saw the signing of Marco “The Beast” Almaguer, a 16-year-old out of Cuba, as an international free agent. He is said to be a very intelligent player, with a capable fastball already at 91 mph. The club may give him a try at the rookie level next season, when he will be 17. It is possible he may also see action during the winter D-league.
But for many fans, the presence of another hard throwing pitcher is the system is merely a continuation of the same mold for the club as the past three years. Meanwhile, fans patiently await a big swinging home run slugger or two to join the lineup. Calgary’s Dao-zi Ling is a name that has been mentioned, as he is in the final year of his contract, but the big-slugging catcher would come at a big cost.