From the Fictional World of The Simpsons, the Isotopes Became Part of the Rich Baseball Atmosphere of Albuquerque

  • Albuquerque Isotopes (2003–present)
  • Calgary Cannons (1985–2002)
  • Salt Lake City Gulls (1971–1984)

We conclude our overview of the teams within the Dodgers’ farm system with their AAA affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes. If you have missed one of our previous posts, we took a brief look at the histories and outlook for the Great Lakes Loons, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, Chattanooga Lookouts, Ogden Raptors, and the Arizona League Dodgers. It’s always important to learn about the past as well as the future when preparing for the present. There’s nothing more special than watching a homegrown talent work through the minor league system to eventually reach the big league level. The rare star player has to begin somewhere, and once in awhile we are lucky to watch the star in the beginning of his journey.

AAA is a unique place which can be a launching pad for readying big leaguers, a temporary home for rehabbers, or unfortunately sometimes a career tar pit for those who cannot make the leap. There’s many players who are constantly shuffled up or down between AAA and the Majors when they either lack the skills to hit big league pitching and need more seasoning, or perhaps they end up as the 26th man.

Albuquerque has a rich tradition of baseball. The first known professional baseball club in Albuquerque was started in 1880, and games were held at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds. Founder W.T. McCreight who played with the St. Louis Browns named his new team the same. In 1915 the Dukes were a part of the Class-D Rio Grande Association. In 1932 there were the Dons, and in ’37 came the Albuquerque Cardinals, an affiliate of the St. Louis Cards. There were a few Dukes teams before the Dodgers purchased the Texas League Dukes in 1963. In 1972 the Dodgers moved their Spokane franchise to Albuquerque, and they began to play in the AAA Pacific Coast League. Tommy Lasorda was the manager, and the team went on to finish with a record of 92-56 and went on to win the PCL Championship. Over the next 28 years, the team would win 7 more championships.

In March 2000, the Dukes team was sold by owner Robert Lozniak to Marshall Glickman and Mike Higgins. The team was moved to Portland, Oregon and became the Beavers. The next year a group which included Ken Young and Mike Koldyke bought the Calgary Cannons and moved the team to Albuquerque. City voters approved a $25 million renovation of Albuquerque Sports Stadium.

The Albuquerque Isotopes play in the Pacific Coast League, and they were founded in 2003.  After the Calgary Cannons moved to New Mexico, they were given the moniker of Isotopes after the fictional Springfield Isotopes of the long-running television series The Simpsons. The Albuquerque Tribune conducted an online survey to choose the team’s new name, and 67% of the voters chose Isotopes. There are even statues of Homer and Marge Simpson located at Isotopes Park. New Mexico is also home to numerous nuclear military and science facilities making the Isotopes name relevant.

The Isotopes share their stadium with the University of New Mexico Lobos. “The Lab” has a capacity of 13,279. Orbit, a silly alien, is the mascot of the Isotopes presumably in reference to the Roswell, New Mexico UFO incident in 1947.

Manager Lorenzo Bundy will return to the helm as manager of the Topes for 2012 along with his pitching coach Glenn Dishman and hitting coach John Valentin.

Last season the Isotopes finished with a disappointing 70-74 record, and were second in the Pacific Coast League American Southern division. They were well behind the first place Texas Round Rock Express. This partly can be attributed to the many injuries the Dodgers dealt with during the season causing them to call up quite a few players from AAA throughout the 2011 season. Dana Eveland pitched the most innings for the Isotopes with 154. He had a record of 12-8 and an ERA of 4.38 in 25 games started. He also pitched two complete games with one shutout, and was 8th in the league in ERA. Eveland was traded to the Baltimore Orioles this winter for two minor leaguers, left-handed pitcher Jarret Martin and outfielder Tyler Henson. John Ely pitched 144.1 innings, and finished with a 7-8 record in 25 games. He also had two complete games and a shutout, but his ERA was a very high 5.99. Ely will now be slotted in the number one spot in the Isotopes’ rotation.

The new crop of AAA guys include Tim Federowicz (FedEx) who will be the primary backstop for the Isotopes while A.J. Ellis is finally getting his shot on the Dodgers as the starting catcher since A.J. is also out of options. Josh Bard will probably catch in Albuquerque as well. Scott Van Slyke will be playing first base after being promoted from AA Chattanooga. If Jerry Sands doesn’t make the big club, he will also share time at first base with Van Slyke. Russ Mitchell was recently DFA’d, so unless he ends up back at Albuquerque, third base would have to be manned by either Justin Sellers who will likely spend time at shortstop and second base as well. There’s also Travis Denker and Pedro Baez who can play third. Ivan De Jesus, who somehow narrowly avoided the axe, will be there to play second base but the question is for how long? In the outfield we will see Jerry Sands, Alfredo Silverio, and Alex Castellanos. There’s also Trent Oeltjen and other non-roster invites like Cory Sullivan.

With Dana Eveland’s departure, John Ely will be the top of the rotation starter. Nathan Eovaldi will probably pitch in AAA this year with a chance to play with the Dodgers at some point possibly out of the bullpen. We will likely get to see some of the young hurlers get some time in AAA like Chris Withrow or Allen Webster. Rubby De La Rosa will likely see rehab work at AA or AAA once he returns from Tommy John surgery. Carlos Monasterios is also set to return from elbow surgery as well. Sometimes the Dodgers promote directly from AA Chattanooga as well, so some of the prospects may skip the AAA level altogether. For relief pitching, the Isotopes will have the likes of Ramon Troncoso, Josh Lindblom, and a slew of other veterans and invites like Wil Ledezma, Shane Lindsay, and John Grabow among others vying for spots this Spring.

You can check out the Isotopes 2012 schedule at their official website. We will be checking back on rosters once the Spring comes to a close and the Dodgers choose their 25 men for the start of the season. There are quite a few Dodger fans in Albuquerque who follow the Isotopes, and we encourage those of you who attend games to let us know your insights on the team and prospects.

Perhaps some aliens will come and drop us off a superstar hitting prospect?