CEDAR RAPIDS — The over-under on the time of Monday’s game is two hours and 30 minutes. The smart money is on the under.
The boys likely will be swinging at everything to get the 2012 season over. The Clinton LumberKings have this week’s Midwest League playoffs to focus on, while most all of the Cedar Rapids Kernels have flights home booked for Tuesday morning.
Sunday’s penultimate game looked like so many others this frustrating season, another close-but-no-cigar, 7-5 loss in 11 innings. A two-out throwing error on shortstop Eric Stamets provided Clinton the winning runs.
“We battled, but it’s just the way it’s kind of been all year,” said Kernels Manager Jamie Burke. “I appreciate the way these guys go about their business. They play hard, they play to the end. That’s the most impressive thing about them.”
Cedar Rapids is 53-85 with one to go, a loss Monday tying the worst record in Kernels history (2000). That’s an ignominious 20-year mark.
This club definitely didn’t have the overall talent of recent years, with pitching a particular problem. The Kernels will finish last in the league by a wide margin in earned run average (4.75 going into Sunday).
It didn’t really have a lot of good fortune, either. For example, first baseman Frazier Hall was one of the team’s most productive hitters, but he left for home Sunday morning after finding out over the weekend he was the player to be named later in an early season trade the parent Los Angeles Angels made with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“I know I’m probably sounding biased, but I think we’re better than what our record shows,” said Burke. “I think we’ve had a lot of chances to win games, but things would come up, and they just wouldn’t go our way. To be a winner, you’ve got to have some luck on your side. I didn’t see a lot of that with us this year at all.”
This was the first professional managing job for Burke, the former big-league catcher. He’s planning on taking off for home in Oregon with his son, Hunter, after he finishes up game reports Monday afternoon.
It’s a 29-hour car ride, by the way. Like his players, he’s got to be excited to put this season in his rear-view mirror as soon as possible.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” Burke said. “I’ve had good kids, a good coaching staff. I learned a lot, but there’s still more room to grow. I really learned a whole lot. Different personalities of the kids, teaching a different way (from player to player). The communication was big for me. Just keeping these guys with a positive attitude. Pushing the positive side of the game.”
Here is the game boxscore: