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Salt Lake Bees' season a bust? Not for contending L.A. Angels

Published August 26, 2014 10:22 pm

Baseball • Salt Lake has struggled in part because of its contributions to the parent club.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

You can't always judge the quality of a Triple-A baseball season by a quick check of the league standings.

Good thing for the Salt Lake Bees.

With one week left in the 2014 season, including Wednesday night's home finale against New Orleans, the Bees are certain to finish with one of the three worst records in the franchise's 20-year history.

It's a stark contrast for a team that finished over .500 in eight of the previous nine seasons and played for the Pacific Coast League championship last year.

But look closer.

After 195 player personnel moves since April 9 — 54 more than all of last season — the Bees have contributed mightily to the Los Angeles Angels' rise into contention in the American League.

Ex-Bees including 13-game winner Matt Shoemaker, outfielder Kole Calhoun, versatile Efren Navarro and invaluable utility infielder Grant Green have made significant contributions to the parent club's success. So have C.J. Cron and Brennan Boesch, who are currently back in Salt Lake.

There's more to the storyline, too.

The Bees have also provided injury rehabilitation stops for two-time MVP Josh Hamilton and former World Series MVP David Freese.

In all, 28 players have spent time with the Angels and Bees this season.

"It was nice to be in the [PCL] championship series last year," says Salt Lake general manager Marc Amicone. "But it's also really nice to see the Angels doing well with so many of our players. … That's how it's supposed to be. Our job is to help the Angels win a pennant and we're doing that pretty well right now."

Green's season epitomizes the contribution so many one-time Bees players have made for the Angels. He started the season in Salt Lake and hit .365 before being called up on May 2.

Sent down again on July 9, Green was recalled four days later. He is currently finishing an injury rehab stint with the Bees and expects another return to the big leagues on Thursday.

Green is hitting .313 with the Angels and, perhaps, has set the table for a bigger role next season.

"You want to be up there the whole year, obviously," he said. "But there were things that needed to happen for them. A couple of times they needed pitchers and I was the odd man out. I understand that."

The best part of Green's season, of course, has been contributing to the Angels' success, which has made the trips between Salt Lake and L.A. worthwhile.

"Going to the field every day is fun, especially in the big leagues," he said. "But going every day and knowing you are going to win eight or nine out of every 10 makes it a lot more fun. Everyone's happy. You get loud music playing and strobe lights going and everyone's celebrating. It makes it more fun."

While the Bees have struggled to win games and there has been major street construction around Smith's Ballpark, they have enjoyed continued support from the community.

Salt Lake has sold 6,683 tickets per game — sixth in the 16-team PCL.

"It's been a really good year for us," Amicone said. "Attendance is off a little bit, but we've actually had more people come to the ballpark. So it's been a good year that way. …

"The construction of 13th South made me very nervous. At first I thought, 'Oh no, what's going to happen when this road get torn up? But we've worked through it."

luhm@sltrib.com

Bees' 2014 season timeline

April 3 • Score an 8-3 win over Sacramento in the opener at Smith's Ballpark

April 8 • C.J. Cron's first Triple-A homer gives the Bees a 6-5 win in 12 innings over Fresno

April 9 • Outfielder J.B. Shuck becomes first call-up by the parent Los Angeles Angels

April 21 • Efren Navarro breaks franchise record for hits with a double against Albuquerque

May 17 • Former World Series MVP David Freese reports for an injury rehab assignment

May 19 • Bees and Angels announce affiliation has been extended through 2016

May 20 • Albuquerque's Alex Guerrero has part of his ear bitten off in a fight with teammate Miguel Olivo in game played in SLC

May 22 • Former MVP Josh Hamilton reports for an injury rehab assignment

June 24 • Beat Nashville, 5-1, as broadcaster Steve Klauke calls his 3,000th game.

July 17 • PCL All-Star Brennan Boesch hits three homers in a double-header against Memphis

July 22 • Get their 1,000th win as an Angels' affiliate with a 7-6 victory over Reno

Aug. 11 • Boesch sets a franchise record by reaching base 11 straight times after a single against El Paso

Aug 24 • New Orleans beats Salt Lake, 6-5, as Bees fall to 21-29 in one-run games —

No banner year

Worst records in 20-year history of Salt Lake Bees:

Year Record Pct.

2004 56-88 .389

2014 58-80 .420

2011 62-82 .431

2003 68-75 .476 —

Still going to the ballpark

The top attendance leaders in the Pacific Coast League (through Monday night):

Team Games Total Average

Round Rock Express 66 549,681 8,329

Sacramento River Cats 66 547,083 8,289

Albuquerque Isotopes 66 523,731 7,935

El Paso Chihuahuas 66 514,748 7,799

Iowa Cubs 66 454,735 6,890

Salt Lake Bees 68 454,452 6,683

Fresno Grizzlies 64 418,688 6,542

Okla. City RedHawks 69 420,423 6,093

Memphis Redbirds 65 373,260 5,742

Omaha Storm Chasers 65 365,659 5,626

Reno Aces 70 367,428 5,249

Colo. Springs Sky Sox 67 336,896 5,028

Nashville Sounds 64 308,819 4,825

New Orleans Zephyrs 66 314,103 4,759

Las Vegas 51s 69 323,525 4,689

Tacoma Rainiers 63 292,285 4,639