The Brooklyn Cyclones Make History

Someday everything ends. The law of averages dictates that for every positive outcome an adverse one is bound to eventually follow. Widespread success appears enteral for a franchise and the good times never seem to end. In a fledgling enterprise, a series of firsts are remembered in their annals of their history and fondly reflected upon. After 15 seasons of operation, the Brooklyn Cyclones, the short season minor league affiliate of the New York Mets will experience an inevitable first in the organization’s record books, their first losing season and last place finish.

Since their inception in 2001 the Brooklyn Cyclones have been one of four teams in professional baseball, including the New York Yankees to finish with a record of at least .500 or better in every season during that span. The 2015 season resembled a transition of sorts after top prospects Michael Conforto, Jhoan Urena, Marcos Molina, Amed Rosario, and Casey Meisner each spent the duration of last season in Brooklyn. For one thing, the initial roster aside from Texas Tech pitcher Corey Taylor were largely devoid of recent draft picks and top prospects. Though higher tiered picks David Thompson and Desmond Lindsay eventually made appearances in Brooklyn, their impact was minimal and failed to live up to their advanced billing in their first trip through professional baseball. The 2015 roster returned with eight players intact from the previous year, along with roughly fifteen players promoted from the Mets rookie league team in Kingsport.

Cited by many experts at the start of the season, Cyclones had an advantageous quality of established team chemistry from working together in the prior year and through extended spring training. Manager Tom Gamboa and pitching coach Dave LaRoche returned for a second season at the helm and everything appeared to be set for another run at the McNamara Division title. The Cyclones came out of the gate firing on all cylinders with a 14-5 record, pacing the New York-Penn League on July 9th. A few days earlier, catcher Brandon Brosher, a 36th round pick in 2014, set a club record with seven runs batted in against the eventual league leading Williamsport Crosscutters. The contest and quick start were the final notable benchmarks for a club relying heavily on a pitching staff leading the league in earned run average. Their proficiency masked an offense on pace to be one of the worst in professional baseball. With the exception of 16th rounder Vinny Siena and returning Cyclone Jeffrey Diehl, no hitter amassed an average above the .250 mark.

By August, Gamboa quipped about the historically poor showing at the plate and about efforts of pitchers Matt Blackham, Gaby Almonte, and Tyler Badamo experiencing the pressure of essentially having to pitch a shutout in order to record victories. Due to extensive parity in the New York-Penn League, the Cyclones remained in the race by their 50th game undaunted by their shortcomings. By that date the Cyclones had taken the first two games against the rival Staten Island Yankees, with an opportunity to sweep the series. The finale went twelve innings and after a myriad of chances, the team succumbed to defeat when reliever Jose Mesa Jr shut them down for three innings and one batter short of victory earlier in the game. With the Cyclones now at .500 and just 1.5 games out of the wild card race on August 12th, entering a three game set against the St. Louis Cardinals affiliate the State College Spikes. After dropping the opener by a 7-6 margin, the Cyclones were shut out in consecutive games and led the league with seven overall.

Closer Alex Palsha, one of the top relievers in the league allowed just one run the entire season, emerging as a reliable force, but the one blemish came against the Hudson Valley Renegades on August 16th with the club clinging to their playoff lives. Palsha came out of the bullpen seeking to record another save but without run support, the margin for error narrowed and a one run lead turned into an eleven inning defeat with the tide rapidly turning. The issues continued to mount when the club lost starting outfielders Michael Bernal and Tucker Tharp for the season, leaving them shorthanded in an outfield desperate for any semblance of production. The Mets would promote their top draft pick Desmond Lindsay to Brooklyn citing a need but batted just .211 during his first tour of duty in short season baseball.  The Cyclones went 18-26 the rest of way as of September 6th and were ensured of a last place finish and their first losing season a week earlier during a doubleheader in Connecticut.

76 games in a span of 80 days. At the price of minimum wages or less each game is an endurance test filled with up and downs with lasting memories along the way. A struggle emerges between development and winning where each manager and his coaching staff must make the most judicious decision in every situation at the request of the parent club. In manager Tom Gamboa’s case, he and his staff comprised of former big league standouts Dave LaRoche and Edgardo Alfonzo did everything possible to compete with the roster assembled. Sometimes every possible effort does not come to fruition. As stated countlessly throughout the season, the Cyclones offense was dreadful. Their .221 collective team batting average was the third worst mark in professional baseball resulting in runs coming at a premium nearly every game.

Entering play on Sunday, Brooklyn’s 635 runs scored was good for their worst total in franchise history. Home runs would come sparingly, usually in two-week increments. In addition to offensive woes, their defense which led the league in errors a year ago, committed 14 in the first six contests in September. Costly miscues and a propensity to chase pitches out of the strike zone contributed to the last place finish. As the curtain officially falls on the 2015 season this week, the Cyclones run of dominance takes a hiatus for at least one season. In the box office and off the field, the Cyclones continue to dominate leading the New York-Penn League in attendance for the fifteenth consecutive year and seeing their four millionth fan go through the turnstiles. There might not be much joy in Brooklyn to enter the fall, but in an ode to their spiritual ancestors the Brooklyn Dodgers, they will, “wait ’til next year.”


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