Home » A Busy, Record-Breaking 2014 First Half at Raley Field Ends with News of Blockbuster Trade

A Busy, Record-Breaking 2014 First Half at Raley Field Ends with News of Blockbuster Trade

July 4 is the traditional halfway point in a baseball season and for the Sacramento River Cats, it’s a time to reflect on what’s occurred and what’s ahead. This year’s Fourth of July brought a bombshell to River Cats fans, when Dan Straily‘s name surfaced as one of the players the A’s dealt to the Chicago Cubs.

Straily was part of the Sacramento River Cats family since 2011. He was considered the team’s top pitcher in 2014, and always seemed to be on the cusp of sticking with the Oakland A’s permanently, where he went 13-11 since 2012. But he never did, and his trade, which included Oakland’s top minor league prospect Addison Russel, a shortstop who had yet to reach Sacramento.

The official halfway point for the Sacramento River Cats’ 2014 season has come and gone, but it was notable for several reasons other than the blockbuster trade. There were players coming and going at a frantic pace, as is typical. Careers stalled and careers flourished, and another River Cats icon moved on. The River Cats also won an astonishing, record 11 walk-off games at Raley Field – this is out of a total of 33 wins in Sacramento. And as the Fourth of July holiday loomed, Sacramento found itself in a familiar place – first place in the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Northern Division.

Despite a lackluster June, where the River Cats stumbled to a 13-15 record, the team’s first losing month of the season, Sacramento finished up its opening July home stand solidly ahead of second-place Reno. That last home stand, against Fresno, featured several highlights. One included the San Francisco Giants’ rehabbing (broken thumb) first baseman Brandon Belt, who drew a large group of fans each of the three games he played, June 30-July 2.  Belt hit over .500 with two home runs during his rehab stint in San Jose and Sacramento, and by Friday he was back in the Giants’ starting lineup, and he hit a game-winning two-run homer against San Diego on July 5.

Fresno Grizzlies catcher Andrew Susac, a graduate of Sacramento’s Jesuit High School, seems to enjoy being in front of his hometown fans. Two of Susac’s seven home runs this season came in Sacramento, including a big blast his first at-bat of the game on June 30, which came with several friends and family members loudly cheering their appreciation. Susac was named to the Pacific Coast League’s All-Star team.

Another local product making an appearance at Raley Field was Corey Vaughn, left fielder for the Las Vegas 51s. Vaughn, who grew up in Sacramento and played at San Diego State for the late Tony Gwynn, is the son of former Major League star Greg Vaughn, who hit 355 career home runs with several teams. Finally, on July 3, Sacramento State product Mitch Lively tossed six scoreless innings to pick up the 3-0 win for Fresno. It’s been quite the summer so far at Raley Field for local products.

As the first half wore on, many long-time River Cats fans were sad to see Michael Taylor, the team’s all-time hits, runs scored and games-played leader (which aren’t really coveted statistics for players, since it meant Taylor spent way more time in one minor league city than he wanted) traded to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Jake Sanchez. At press time, Taylor, who was dealt in mid-June, was hitting .351 in 12 games for the Charlotte Knights in the Triple A International League.

A trade of another River Cats favorite turned out well. Utility man Jake Goebbert started the season in Sacramento and was traded to San Diego before making his big league debut on June 20 for the Padres.

But the comings and goings of players are what makes the minor leagues unique, and the first half featured more than one “here one day, promoted to the Big Club the next” story.  The best one involved River Cats first baseman Nate Freiman, who last played for Sacramento during a Friday, June 27 loss to Las Vegas. Freiman, who played in about half of the A’s’ games in 2013, was called up to Oakland on Saturday, and was inserted into the lineup for that Sunday game against the Miami Marlins. So what did Freiman, who batted .277 with 14 home runs and 69 RBIs in Sacramento, do with the opportunity? Oh, not much, except to hit a tie-breaking three-run home run in the A’s’ 4-3 win.

Then there was the case of the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ AAA team. Fans who attended any of their four games May 27-30 in Sacramento would have seen a total of four players who were later called up to the Dodgers right in the thick of a pennant race. One player, Jamie Romak, was called up immediately after his May 27 appearance at Raley Field. The others included Miguel Rojas, who has sparkled defensively in Los Angeles, Carlos Triunfel and Clint Robinson.

Other players who made Raley Field appearances before being called up included two Fresno players, second baseman Joe Panik, first baseman Adam Duvall, and Tyler Colvin, who plays both outfield and first base. All three made significant contributions in San Francisco once they got the chance.

Just before the holiday, it was announced that Sacramento outfielder Shane Peterson was named as an All-Star starter, due to his .309 batting average and 50 RBIs.  What can River Cats fans look for during the remaining portion of the 144-game season? You can bet you’ll watch another rehabber or two, a few more walk off wins to add to the already record total, more future major leaguers, and there’s a good chance of a few playoff games in September.

The River Cats will return home July 11 for a three-game series with second-place rival Reno, with the division lead on the line. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Photos by Steve Martarano

About the author

Steve Martarano

A resident of Sacramento since graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Nevada, Reno, Steve spent the 1980s at The Sacramento Union, working as a sports writer, music reviewer and crime reporter, among other assignments. He's spent the last 25+ years working in government public affairs for both state and federal agencies and currently is with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Bay-Delta office in Sacramento. He has shot just about every local sports team for the Sacramento Press, including local colleges, the Sacramento River Cats and Sacramento Republic FC. He resides in Curtis Park with his wife Sharon.

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