Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 28, 2012

Bums not changing despite reaching playoffs


TRAVERSE CITY — With just about everything locked up and a week to go, you'd think maybe the Traverse City Beach Bums would start beach bumming.

Think again.

The weather's nice and the water is fairly warm, but there will be time for that later.

For now, the focus remains on winning — now and in a week.

"We're not going to change anything," Traverse City manager Gregg Langbehn said. "We're out to play and win every single game the rest of the way out. We certainly wouldn't want to change that. I think it'd be foolish to change what has worked all year. You don't want guys to lose their edge."

Sitting at 60-30 and riding a streak in which they've won eight of their last 10 games, the Beach Bums' magic number is one.

Gateway — which leads the West Division by 2.5 games at 54-36 — needs to win out its last six games to have a shot at tying the Bums for the league's best record. The Grizzlies visit Wuerfel Park for a three-game set starting today.

Gateway would need to win all six and have Traverse City lose all six at home — including a three-game, regular-season-ending set with last-place Road Warriors (8-22) — to tie the Beach Bums.

Langbehn doesn't plan on that happening. His plan is to continue to play his starters the rest of the way.

"I'm sure they don't want to sit anyway," Langbehn said. "You can't really compare what we do to football, but in the NFL they sit guys that last week and lose their edge.

"There's going to be enough off time at the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs, so we don't want to get guys into a routine where they are sitting too much."

The Beach Bums don't want that, especially heading into their playoffs series that starts with Sept. 5-6 games at home after two off days.

And, as things have played out, they'll be pretty close to setting up their starting rotation for that series without having to tinker much.

"The way we lined it up down the stretch here, it worked out the way we wanted it to," Langbehn said. "It might affect a guy here or there, maybe backing them up a day, but the way it stands now, (Reid) Kelly, (Jacob) Clem and (Brooks) Belter are in a position where they are probably going to be pitching those first three games (of the playoffs)."

Games 3 and 4 (if neccesary) would be Sept. 8-9 at their postseason opponents' field. Game 5 would be back in Traverse City on Sept. 10.

In the meantime, the Beach Bums aim to keep up their winning ways and shoot for a few of the Frontier League season records that are within reach.

"(Sunday) was a great game and we ended up losing in 12 innings," Langbehn said. "The attitude and the effort was the exact same it has been all year."

Jose Vargas is closing in on at least two Frontier League season records set by Kalamazoo's Pete Pirman in 2005. He's four RBIs away from tying Pirman's mark, and is 24 at-bats away from that record.

He's seven off the home run record. With six games left, that's in reach, considering the streak he had earlier this year of averaging at least a homer a game for almost two weeks.

Ryan Still has 103 walks and already shattered that record, set in 1998 by Richmond's Morgan Murkhart.

And, with seven more whiffs, Jeff Flagg could take over as the league's strikeout king Flagg has gone down swinging 133 times this year, an average of 1.47 a game. Seven more would break Brandon Cohen's mark set just two years ago.

One milestone the Bums don't have a shot at this time around is the Frontier League's mark for wins in a season. The 2011 River City Rascals collected 68 victories to tie them with the 2007 Windy City squad for the most in one season.

"You can attribute our season, number one, to production from everybody," Langbehn said. "These guys that are here have produced. They all have certain roles and they've gotten the job done. Number two, we've stayed healthy. You need that. You have to have that stability. Number three is stability in the batting order, there's no doubt about it. It's stayed intact all year. Guys have identified what they need to do to help this team win, and that goes a long way with the success we've had."

Every one of Traverse City's normal starting position players has been in at least 80 of the team's 90 games this season. Only catcher Marcus Nidiffer (68 games) is an exception, as catchers usually receive more days off than other spots.

Part of that is that the team has had to make very few personnel moves this season. Only one hitter and two pitchers are gone from the team's opening-day lineup.

"It has played a significant role in our success," Langbehn said. "The camaraderie has been unbelievably good. Off the charts, to be honest. These guys care about each other, they like each other, they want to win together. We look around the league and there were a number of teams that went through a significant changes — and they're out of the playoff picture."