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Silliness in Syracuse

ChiefsgifEvery time I think about all the chatter down the Thruway these days, I have to laugh. What in the world is going on in Syracuse? Bear with me for a few minutes for a longer-than-normal entry. I've got a few things to get off my chest.

There's this odd item in today's Syracuse Post-Standard that claims stockholders of the Syracuse Chiefs are, in fact, willing to sell shares of the team to the New York Mets to try to lure the Mets to town. Um, it's probably too late, folks. Maybe you should have sent that signal out after your meeting last Friday that essentially sealed the Mets' ticket to Buffalo.

I've been on a couple radio shows in Syracuse recently and Chiefs GM John Simone even called one after I was on to rip much of what I said. On virtually every count, he was wrong. He questioned whether the News had a beat writer for the team (even though I've been in that role since 1993 and it's his own city's paper that rotates writers on the team's home games). He made the laughable claim that he saw the Bisons leave on one bus (clubs usally take two) from Syracuse for a trip to Lehigh Valley. Of course, the Herd never went from Syracuse to Lehigh Valley this season.

Bud Poliquin's column in today's Syracuse Post-Standard has Simone lamenting the fact the Chiefs aren't going to be able to use folks like Jim Boeheim to woo the Mets. Poor guys.

In this report, Simone admits he's probably been tampering with the Mets. Frankly, I'm sure the Bisons have too. Herd GM Mike Buczkowski had to issue a blanket denial Monday but do we really think Thursday is the first time the Bisons will talk to the Mets or Blue Jays? Get real. Simone admitted more tampering in this story, where he says the Mets might like the fact it snows less in Syracuse then in Buffalo. Real jokester he is. Like it snows in either place from May-September. (Hey pal, try driving on I-81 to Ottawa in hockey season and tell me where it snows more!)

Why aren't the Mets going to Syracuse when it would probably make more sense? Sorry, it's easy. Poliquin even used the word in his column. The Chiefs are considered the backwards rubes of the IL. They're stuck in the mid-70s or earlier. My trips to Alliance Bank Stadium over the years have been variety shows.

You have 80-year-old CEO Tex Simone and John (his son) running the team on behalf of 3,900-plus stockholders. The city made a laughable decision to not build a new stadium downtown so Alliance Bank opened in 1997 in the parking lot of old MacArthur Stadium, which is near nothing but the Carousel Center mall.


There's little atmosphere at Chiefs games. The scoreboard stinks. Umpires have to beg to get the lights turned on after games start. The lights go off as soon as the last out is in the glove and before the handshake line is off the field -- especially if the visitors win. Folks walk back to their cars through dimly lit parking lots. The team foolishly plays most of its Sunday games at night because the joke is ol' Tex doesn't want to get in the way of his church time. When Marty Brown was the Bisons' manager, the players howled as Tex rode around in a golf cart retrieving batting practice home runs in the brush behind the outfield fence. Brown thus made sure the players hit tons of home runs -- and also tossed any foul ball during the game into the stands to poke fun at Syracuse management.

The Simones have been a key proponent of the IL's silly playoff format, which prevents North Division teams from ever meeting in the championship series. Teams pay for their travel and they're adamant about avoiding a scenario where the Chiefs might have to play, say, Durham in one round and Louisville the next. Too many operators in his league -- and IL president Randy Mobley -- foolishly buy this argument so the North always meets the wild card. No Buffalo-Rochester final ever. No Rochester-Syracuse final ever. In our lives. Why should Simone care? His team has never hosted a single playoff game in his ballpark in its 12 seasons.

All that said, the facility is pretty nice, especially now that it has a new grass field rather than artificial turf. Visiting players like the clubhouse, which had a video game system and ping pong table many years ago before creature comforts were the norm. The first time I saw indoor pitching mounds was in Syracuse -- they had two mounds and two cages five years before the Bisons retrofitted them in during the winter of 2002.

But the Simone stories go on and on over the years from former players. Everyone in the International League knows the deal. If the Mets didn't know until now, they heard plenty during the season. The stockholders in Syracuse blew it. They should have been selling to the Mets pronto and let the Mets bring some real operators in to save baseball in Syracuse. Now that it looks like it's going to be the Marlins, Nationals or maybe the Brewers (if they can get out of Nashville), will anyone in the Salt City care about baseball anymore?

End of rant.

---Mike Harrington


Bisons | Bisons/Blue Jays | Mets | Minor leagues
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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |