In 2004, the Portland Beavers accomplished something they had only done three other times in the 43-year history they’ve been affiliated with a major league franchise: They finished atop their respected division.
Hopes were high as the Beavers believed they had what it took to not only send talent up to the next level, but to also repeat as division champs.
Now, five long years later, Portland has compiled a 362-462 record, with its best finish being third place.
Last season, the Beavers wrapped up last place in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) Pacific North division as well as the worst record in the league.
According to the Friarhood, a group that provides in-depth coverage for the San Diego Padres as well as its farm system, the Beavers didn’t have “one good hitter on the team.” And as far as pitching was concerned, “there really wasn’t any starting pitching in AAA.”
As the 2010 season neared, Portland held a similar identity as 2009 with a few pitching prospects added to the mix.
At the plate, not much more was expected that what statistics showed the previous season. Emotions began to run wild, however, as the Beavers started to search for a new ballpark. May then, Portland would exceed those low expectations.
Ninety-five games later, however, Portland finds itself in the land of déjà vu.
With the worst record in the PCL (36-59), the Beavers rank last in the league for batting average (.253), RBIs (344), runs scored (379) and long balls (54).
These are the types of numbers one would expect when one of the team’s top hitters has a batting average more than 60 points less than the league leader (Luis Durango, .292), one has 18 less home runs than the front runner (Mike Baxter, 10) and one sits within the top 10 for most strikeouts (Craig Cooper, 78).
The pitching, which was a part of Portland’s game that needed little change, needs change.
Although Josh Geer is only one of eight pitchers in the PCL to post a shutout and leads the team in wins (7), the Beavers hold the sixth-highest ERA (4.65).
Although Ernesto Frieri has recorded the second-most saves in the league (17), Beaver pitching has ceded 422 runs, which is nearly 4.5 runs per game. With a lineup that produces less than four runs per contest, Portland management can’t expect much success.
The good through 95 games? On July 7, third baseman Craig Stansberry set the record for most games played in a Beaver uniform. Just 10 days later, Stansberry belted his 86th double as a Beaver, which is three short of the modern franchise record.
How can these numbers be true? How is it that the Beavers can’t string together wins? If the major league affiliate paralleled with a last-of-the-league record, this would make sense. But the Padres, as of July 19, hold a four-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the National League West.
Granted, the system’s top players are most likely already in Padre uniforms, but one would think that highly talented athletes would be vying for a major-league spot at the Triple-A level.