MANCHESTER -- The New Hampshire Fisher Cats have racked up some serious frequent flyer miles this season thanks to a large transaction count.
Heading into Tuesday’s game against Richmond (the first of six consecutive home games for the Fisher Cats at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium), New Hampshire had logged 160 transactions on the season. By contrast, last season’s transactions totaled 112.
“It’s definitely more than I have ever been used to as a manager wherever I have been. It’s a lot of transactions,” said New Hampshire manager Bobby Meacham. “But it is what it is. I pass on every bit of information (to the players) I’m allowed to and that includes the good stuff and the bad stuff. When we’re told to move somebody, we move them.”
According to Meacham, dealing with the emotional part of a player’s development can be tougher than having to deal with his own issues of altering the lineup or pitching rotation when players are on the move.
“It can be tricky. I try and remind these guys over and over again or periodically every few weeks that hey, this is what you signed up for,” Meacham said. “I’m 54 years old and they’re no different. There are ups and downs. They can’t say, “Oh, that wasn’t fair,” or, “Why that guy? I’m better than him. I’ve been through it. Nobody is exempt from it. It’s just part of the job.”
The team’s roster from the start of the season until now is markedly different. Of the 28 players on the opening day roster (25 active and three on the disabled list), only 16 remain. And of those 16, several (such as Nashua’s Kevin Nolan) have been up and down between Single-A Dunedin, Triple-A Buffalo and other stops along the ladder.
Most of that turnover has been among the positional players. Seven of the 11 pitchers on the current roster started the season in New Hampshire. Of the other positions, nine of 19 were with the team back in April.
That means guys are moving around the lineup. But it’s something Meacham said he tries to make players aware of right from the start.
“You try to get them to realize that this game is crazy,” Meacham said. “Once you think you have it figured out for where you’re going to play, and think, ‘My goal is to hit .300 this year,’ those are foolish goals because you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. You don’t know what your circumstances are going to be tomorrow. It could be better than you thought, it could be worse than you thought.”
Meacham said that by now, most guys have it figured out.
“Now we’re at the point where they’re used to being moved, they’re used to things happening to them and they are getting to play and, in their minds, prove somebody wrong or to show somebody, maybe a scout from another team or whatever,” he said. “It’s a chance to play the game, and what position they play or where they bat in the order has some bearing, but if they let that dictate how good they do or how good they feel, then they’re letting things they can’t control dictate their career. I just keep trying to remind them of that.”
And Meacham lets them know that he’s been through just about everything in his 30-plus years in pro baseball.
“I give them stories as much as I can. One year I was coaching third base with the New York Yankees and the next I was the hitting coach for the Williamsport Crosscutters (of the New York-Penn League),” Meacham said. “You give them stories and a little perspective and hopefully they go out and just be the best they can be that day.”
Perhaps the toughest area to handle turnover in is at the catcher position. New Hampshire started the season with A.J. Jimenez and Aaron Munoz. Both are gone now and three new guys, Yusuf Carter, Derrick Chung and Jack Murphy, are the catchers.
“I think it’s tough for the pitchers. They can’t depend on somebody else. They have to really figure out what works best for them, what kind of pitcher they are,” Meacham said. “They can’t depend on that catcher thinking for them so much and I think it’s been a process as we’ve gotten better.”
Meacham says that the improvement the team has shown from early season struggles to closing in on a .500 record at 58-63 is due in large part to the pitching staff figuring things out on their own.
“They’ve been the foundation of us winning or losing every game. It seems like if we score first, they hold that lead. If they score first, they keep us in the game so we can come back,” Meacham said. “They’ve done a great job of making that adjustment with different catchers and really figuring out what their game is. (Pitching coach) Jim Czajkowski has done a great job of helping them do that. They’ve been able to do that all season without the comfort zone of the same catcher.”
It’s all part of the process of learning to be a pro.
“If you’re lucky enough to keep playing the game,” Meacham said. “You’ll get to wear the uniform next year.”
Staff writer Ian Clark can be reached at email@example.com.