St. Paddy’s Day has come and gone. While planet Earth celebrated the day, planet New Orleans obviously turned it into a four-day celebration that culminated in the Irish Channel Parade. With the beautiful weather, it’s as if the parade officially kicked off spring in New Orleans and with spring comes baseball.
As you know, I love Tulane baseball, which had a brutal week, but this isn’t about the Green Wave or the up and coming New Orleans Privateers. No, this is about the pro team in town known as the New Orleans Baby Cakes.
Much like trying to figure out why an Irish parade throws top ramen, I’m still baffled by the New Orleans Baby Cakes. They’re a team that seemingly has no impact on the town’s mindset or maybe it’s just me. So, take a homerun trot with me around the bases and let’s see if I can figure this organization out.
One thing that has to change is obvious. This club needs to start winning some ballgames. Nothing keeps the crowds away like finishing 55-83, dead last in the entire Pacific Coast League last year. A fan just doesn’t get motivated to go out to the old ballpark to watch a team that is 34 games out of first place.
The organization hasn’t had a winning season since 2012 when the New Orleans Zephyrs finished 73-67, which was the only winning season the organization has posted in the last decade. That’s a lot of losing baseball.
Obviously, as with every minor league team, the roster will always experience turnover with players being assigned to the team or, if your prospect is tearing it up, having players called up to the big leagues. But every team has to deal with that matter of uncertainty and clubs in Round Rock, Sacramento and Omaha have all built consistent winners.
Of course, there are some things that are completely out of the Baby Cakes’ hands that also affect the team’s success and one is their affiliation with the Miami Marlins, a team that hasn’t had much success through the years. The Marlins last winning season was 2009 and don’t seem to be trending upward anytime soon.
Another problem that’s beyond their control is the minor-league schedule. I know it’s due to economics, but there is nothing less exciting than a five-game series. Oh, Mark, you mean the playoffs? No, I’m talking about the season opening series. Five game series scream boredom. There’s nothing quite like watching a game on Friday night and wondering how the series will end next week.
So, yeah, the team has a lot going against it but that doesn’t mean they can’t be loved, because at the heart of every successful minor league club is a town that loves the organization itself. Minor league teams don’t have the luxury of having star power to fill the seats because, like I said, when a guy becomes a star he heads to The Show.
This is where I believe the New Orleans Baby Cakes have issues as well.
First, let’s beat this dead horse for the last time — the name change. The name doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. The name has absolutely no connection to the city and the last thing the team should’ve done was roll out a name that made the city go, “What?”
Yes, yes, I know, it was a contest but when the organization saw where the contest was leading them they should’ve entered their own winner instead of a name that is just slightly worse than Teamy McTeamface. They can report that there merchandise sales went up all they want but that would have happened no matter what.
The name change could be indicative of an organization without an identity. What feelings do you get when you think of the New Orleans Baby Cakes? Anything at all?
The organization can’t rely on fans showing up just because they want to watch baseball. The Baby Cakes are contending with Tulane in town and one of the most beloved teams in college baseball up the road at LSU. That’s real competition.
So, what should they do? Everything possible.
If you’re a losing ball club at least be a lovable losing ball club. Embrace it. Sell it. Anything is better than the massive amount of ho-hum coming out of the Shrine on Airline.
Update the Shrine as well. Paint it head to toe in team colors and plant 20 flags down Airline Drive waving that freaky baby head at passersby. Let the world know who you are and maybe intimidate an opponent or two.
Once inside the stadium, the team should rollout that blend of minor-league wackiness that is almost cliché at this point. This is New Orleans; make it fun. Get the crowds to participate. Have the players throw beads into the crowd between innings. Shoot poor boys out of a cannon. Let one of the 610 Stompers pitch an inning or two. Have a crawfish boil out in right field during the game. OK, that might be taking it too far but I just want these guys to succeed or at least to get the Party Shack popping on a nightly basis.
So, here’s to an improvement across the board this year and I want to be there and you should too. I want to watch an exciting club compete for a division title and make the town proud. If they can’t compete for a title, I at least want to catch some poor boys flying through the New Orleans’ night.
The Baby Cakes kick off their season April 5 with a five-game death match versus the Nashville Sounds.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Great Raft Brewing’s “Reasonably Corrupt” Black Lager
Playlist Recommendation: Cults – “Go Outside”
Around the Way
It’s edge of your seat time the rest of the way for the New Orleans Pelicans. After dropping four of five games and falling down the charts, the Pelicans got back on track with a 108-89 win over the playoff-bound Boston Celtics. The Pelicans are 40-30 on the year and sit in sixth place in the Western Conference.
They play the Dallas Mavericks tonight in a game they should and have to win. Eight of the last ten games feature games versus teams that are either in or contending for the playoffs.