Practicing in the shadows of Gotham's skyscrapers on a Sunday afternoon the day before Labor Day and the opening of the Pullman-Manhattan playoff series, the Porters prepare for their best of seven game series against the Project in their colors; maroon and olive. Having left Pullman Friday night and arriving in Manhattan late Saturday afternoon, the Porters arrived at Grand Central Station in nostalgic Pullman comfort; by train. GM Swinea said, "This really gave the team a chance to relax and unwind before this monumental series". Monumental? "Well, considering for the first time in Summer League history one of the four founding Summer League Father's franchise won't be competing for the Spit Cup, yeah monumental." explained Swinea.
It's sad and true. An end of an era? Swinea's Pullman Porters knocked out his chum and rival GM Ken Klein's Gurnee GiAnts ballclub by winning their division. "The GiAnts really turned up the heat on us and climbed back into the division race." Swinea remembered. "They were what, 17 games out with 62 to play? And they closed to 6 and a half at one point! Yeah, I just didn't feel the footsteps, they were jumping on top of our dugout!"
While Klein's GiAnts were surging, the Porters were faltering. At one time the ballclub checked in with a 57-43 record. They would struggle in their final 62 games, going 29-33 and finishing 86-76. "Hardly impressive," said Swinea "but it is what it is and it is the third best regular season Summer League for 1998, so we'll take it proudly. Hopefully we'll improve upon it during the post season."
The Porters have an uphill battle facing disgruntled GM Keith Klein's Manhattan Project. The Project finished Summer League 1998 with an 90-72 record. They won their division and finished behind the Harrison Cheeky Monkeys with the second best record and 4 games better than the Porters. "Few if anyone is giving us a chance to beat the Project." said Swinea. "I'm giving us a chance. And I'm letting our ballplayers know they just don't have a chance but that I expect them to win this series."
That might be an impossible task for the Porters based on their most recent play and performance. Many fans blame GM Swinea for the ballclub's late season failures as he attempted to trade slugging first baseman Tino Martinez to any club willing during the regular season. Martinez was confused as he was assured by Pullman upper management that he was a Porter for life but the papers had him rumored going everywhere. Martinez's fragile demeanor was noticeably shaken for the rest of the season and so was the ballclub. The locker room was always nerve wracked, never knowing when an imminent announcement of Tino's departure, the heart and soul of the Porters, would be announced.
"That's one of the reasons for the train trip." stated GM Swinea. "It gave Tino and me a chance to talk and discuss what has been bothering him and any other questions and concerns he had. The trade talk upset him greatly and unhinged his focus and concentration. I assured Tino that at no time did we ever mention his name in trade talks." a sheepish Swinea said as he looked down at the floor and avoided eye contact with the media for what seemed like an eternity before he peaked back up and yelled "And tell Klein I'll get a restraining order against him from going anywhere near Chad Curtis!"
Swinea is referring to Project GM Klein's continuous lambasting of Chad Curtis needing to ineligibly appear at third base during a Manhattan-Pullman contest earlier in the regular season that still has Klein seeing red. "You think he would focus on the bottomline that we beat his ballclub head-to-head during the regular season and formulating a game plan. But noooooo; he'd rather vent on one of the sweetest, classiest individuals in Summer League. And would someone please remind him that he won that stinkin' game anyhow! I'd let Mondesi play shortstop against me every game if I won!"
Before the Porters started their practice, manager Swinea had Dan Wilson stand at home plate and asked Jason Giambi to walk with the other end of the tape measure to first base. "The ballplayers were in awe standing in the center of this sprawling metropolis. I just wanted to remind my team that they play the game the same way we do back in the Pullman Depot. The bases are still 90 feet apart from one another."
"I'm looking for Tino to have a big series for us" said Swinea. "Especially now that he is once again relaxed and at ease. Burks and Gonzalez also need to also step it up for us to have a legitimate chance at advancing. If everyone else plays the way they did during the regular season, we should be able to advance."