Friday, February 26, 2010

Sentinal Sitdown - Omaha Bluffs

Longtime owner in Hometown worion1 led this franchise to a very respectable 8 seasons. None better than season 8 in which his franchise won the World Series. Stevelippo took over the reigns of the franchise last season and relocated the team to Omaha. Clearly the nightlife scene must be far better in Omaha than Cheyenne. Anyways last season he inherited a team that had won 3 division titles in a row and was one year removed from a World Series Victory. To say he had a tough act to follow would be an understatement. Omaha didn't settle for anything less than their best last season with an impressive division title from the NL West last year. Sometimes a team has trouble finding success immediately with a new owner but in Omaha this just wasn't the case. Not to mention the new owner was a rookie. It didn't seem to phase anyone. Indecision often plagues new owners but again this wasn't the case. Do you see the theme here? He immediately locked up franchise cornerstones like Irv Rooney and Carlos Fernandez to long term deals. He was able to realize the amount of talent he had an immediately made a statement to the fanbase as well as the league that this team would stay intact. He made only one trade all of last year and it turned out to pay an immediate return. Omaha added Nicky Phelps a RP/SP who can eat alot innings for a team and thats exactly what he did. Phelps went 9-2 with 6 saves and ERA of 2.02 in 105 innings pitched. Pretty impressive for the former supplemental pick. If Steve can continue to make these sorts of trades Omaha has a bright future ahead of itself, however there are two very good teams standing in the way. Arizon and Tuscon are no pushovers, this division has arguably been the closest and best in over the 11 seasons in Hometown and both teams will be looking to improve upon their wild card finish from a season ago. Omaha knows that this season will not be a cakewalk but the players seem focused on a postseason return. One player that needs to have another big season is OF Cliff Millwood. Entering the last year of his contract Millwood could receive huge money in the offseason. The 29 year old former first round pick has a career total of 295 Homeruns. Whether or not Millwood returns to Omaha next season he will need to have a contract year to keep Arizona and Tuscon at bay. If they were to finish first it would be the franchise's fifth division title in a row. Somebody once said all good things must come to an end, I know that Omaha management and fans are hoping that saying doesnt apply.

Q. What is the most important thing that Omaha has to do to succeed this season?
A. I know this is going to sound crazy coming off a 96 win season, but I really think the Bluffs have a lot of room to grow. Cornerstones Irv Rooney (CF) and Carlos Fernandez (SS) both had very subpar seasons and I’m expecting a lot more out of both. The sophomore slump took its toll on catcher Fred Houston as his offensive numbers dipped as well. Those three guys are the focus for season 11—if they can return to form, expect big things.

Q. Are you looking to improve the team through the trade market or are you really happy with the group that has been assembled?
A. I’m thrilled with the collection of major league talent I inherited from Cheyenne, but I’m always looking to improve the overall organization through the trade market. My first trade went about as well as I could have hoped, getting the NL Rookie of the Year Nicky Phelps. Obviously I can’t expect results like that on a consistent basis, but I do hope to be a more active participant in the trade market as the seasons roll on and my advance scouting budget increases.
Q. I personally think your best moves were locking up Rooney and Fernandez to long term deals. How good do you think they can be?
A. I guess I should have read all the questions before I started answering (see question 1), but to elaborate a little bit more, I really do believe they will be the cornerstones of the franchise for many seasons to come. Ideally, I would eventually like to have Fernandez-Kojima-Rooney in the 2-3-4 spot…I don’t really see Fernandez as an ideal leadoff hitter, but it will have to do for now. Kojima is on tap for a long-term deal in the off-season. Rooney had a TERRIBLE offensive season 10, but I’m expecting a big rebound in season 11. Hopefully the engine tweak will be beneficial. Expect to see him in the 3 hole in front of Cliff Millwood.

Q. How important is it to either A. Resign Cliff Millwood, B. Trade him or C. Let him test the market? What do you with that situation?
A. To be honest, I haven’t decided what I will do yet. I do think it’s very important to get value, whether it be a sign-and-trade or just signing him to an extension. I have actually been considering the extension all off-season as he currently will take a pay cut to stick around for 3 more years. One thing it for sure—he’s not leaving for nothing. I’d rather sign him to an extension and try to deal him, and if I can’t, I still have a great player for 3 more seasons.

Q. How scary do Arizona and Tuscon look?
A. On a scale of 1-10, I’d put both at a 9. Arizona is run by my best friend Pknock, so I will always be worried about him…he knows his stuff. I can attest to this because he taught me everything I know about this game. And obviously Tuscon is the defending World Series champions. What’s not to be scared of!?! But I’m also confident. I won 96 games last season resting my starters for the last 2 weeks of the season. Obviously I was very disappointed in the playoff sweep (surprised too, considering I was 7-3 vs. Arizona in the regular season), but it was a great learning experience. I ran into 3 good righties who shut down my offense. It happens, I guess. I really wish I could have had a shot against Tuscon…

Q. Last question your team was swept out of the playoffs last year which is always frustrating, do you think the team has enough to make a serious push this season?
A. Barring a few minor changes, I have a very similar team returning. Kent Pride is gone after a quick stop (must not have liked Omaha), but I have a promising 3B in Travis Brown that is ready to make his full-time major league debut. He was solid in part-time work last season. Hopefully he’ll perform to expectations. And as I said above, I captured a division championship with 3-4 guys vastly underperforming last season. With that in mind, I expect very big things in season 11. I don't want to be the Braves of the 90's...division titles are nice, but I'm here for championships.

Q. Whats your name - Steve
Q How Old are you - 27
Q. Fav Team - Chicago Cubs
Q. Fav Player - Current Ryan Dempster - All Time Mark Grace
Q. Do you have a franchise model - Win:)