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FROM THE DESK OF THE COMMISH

November 26, 2000

BDBL 2000: The Year in Review

In last year's "Year in Review", I expressed just one wish for the 2000 season: a nice, quiet season where the focus is placed on the field instead of off.  And to my great surprise, I got exactly what I wished for.  Where the 1999 season was filled with endless controversy and turmoil, the 2000 season was filled with exciting pennant races and a thrilling post-season.  Where the 1999 season was marred by a constant revolving door of owners, the 2000 season was remarkable for its low turnover rate and high owner satisfaction.  Were it not so damned perfect, the 2000 season may have been downright boring.  Fortunately for all of us, it was about as far from boring as one could imagine.

Before I begin, I'd like to give thanks and appreciation to certain people, as I normally do this time of year.  First, I'd like to congratulate Paul Marazita for another extraordinary season.  It isn't often that you'll hear praise from me directed toward Mr. Marazita, but I have to admit, he deserves it.  I've seen Paul win back-to-back titles in a computer baseball league before, but I've NEVER seen anyone do what Paul did the other night during that unbelievable World Series.  What was once thought to be impossible has now become legendary.  Tip of the spotted cap to you, Paul.

We all know that while the glory belongs to the champion, the pride belongs to those who excelled over the long haul of a 160-game season.  And no one deserves to be prouder of his accomplishment this season than John Gill, who took his team from 101 losses a year ago to a BDBL record 106 wins this season.  To me, that feat is even more impressive than what the Zoots did against John's Black Sox in the World Series.

I'd like to thank Mark Ross (despite ruining my season by giving the Zoots another title) for providing frequent updates of our standings all year long, and for his tireless effort as Contracts Secretary.  I'd like to thank D.J. Sheppard for providing me with usage reports each chapter (although I'm sure it hasn't earned him many votes in the BDBL "Mr. Popularity" contest.)  Those reports are actually a lot more work than people realize, as our usage rules are more complex than our tax laws.

Thanks to all of you who participated in the league message board, the ill-conceived BDBL "Game of the Week" and special events like the all-star game and the playoffs.  A league is only as good as the amount of participation by its owners, and this season was exemplary in that regard.  A special thanks to Scot Zook, both for being the only person (aside from myself) to be obsessed enough to construct a team web page, and for keeping the message board alive this season with his warped views on baseball economics.  Thanks, as always, to Billy Baseball (even though he completely dissed me on his awards ballot) for continuing to be an active owner despite another disheartening season.  I'd also like to thank "Biggest Daddy", our anonymous contributor, for his always-entertaining (and often imitated, but never duplicated) interviews.

And, as always, I'd like to thank my wife, Karen, for putting up with all of this.

When last November began, the league's revolving door continued to spin.  Shortly after I completed last year's "Year in Review," Jack Buchanan of the Virginia Cavaliers turned in a surprise resignation.  That same day, Bob Bruzzone (who had only been a member for a little over a month) turned in his resignation as well.  Both owners spent a great deal of time and effort trading players for draft picks, so it came as quite a surprise to learn that neither would be able to use any of those picks.

Phil Geisel, legendary owner of the Litchfield Lightning and good friend of mine for more than 15 years, shocked the entire league around that same time when he announced his resignation over the league message board.  The reason for his sudden exit was, as with many things in the mysterious Geisel's life, somewhat murky.  But after it became apparent that he was serious, and he wasn't coming back, I began to shop his team.

Soon after, I got a response from a guy named Kevin Lowary from Akron, Ohio.  Kevin seemed like a nice guy, so I welcomed him into the league and gave him the Lightning franchise.  I moved the Lightning to the Eck League so that Lowary could play with his fellow Buckeyes D.J. Sheppard, Mike Ries and Mike Stein, and for a while the league seemed to stabilize.

Then, five days before Christmas I got a phone call from Geisel that went something like this:

Geisel: "Hey."
Me: "Hey."
Geisel: "I want back in the league."
Me: "No way, dude.  You blew your chance.  Besides that, I already gave your team away."
Geisel: "To a guy named Kevin Lowary, right?"
Me: "Yeah - how did you know?"
Geisel: "Because I'm Kevin Lowary."

It turned out, Geisel never left the league.  A day or two after he quit, he realized he'd made a mistake.  So he reapplied to the league using an alias, and hid out for nearly a month as "Kevin Lowary from Akron, Ohio."  I guess this would seem pretty strange to most people.  But if you've hung out with Geisel for as long as I have, you learn that it's pretty normal behavior.  Besides, how could I possibly be mad at someone who wants to play in this league THAT badly?

The league soon returned to normal for about two weeks before all hell broke loose once again.  As you know, planning Draft Day in this league is about as easy as planning Mother's Day at the Al Martin household.  But after several weeks of scratching and clawing, I finally found a date and time where everyone could meet for the draft.  Then, less than a week before the big day, Chuck Mosca dropped a bomb on the entire league by quitting.

Mosca came into the league with great expectations.  He was a very vocal owner in his other league, and he applied to our league twice during the year before we were finally able to match him with a team.  I was excited to have him in the league, both because he seemed like a great guy and because he lives right up the street from me in Hudson, New Hampshire.

During his short time in the league, he turned the Hammerheads into a legitimate contender through a series of shrewd deals.  Out of nowhere, however, Mosca decided he no longer had time for the league due to a new job he was taking.  With less than a week to prepare, 23 people were instantly left out in the cold.

That's when I got desperate.  So desperate, in fact, that I phoned my old buddy, The Shark.  Ken "The Shark" Kaminski is a longtime friend and former co-worker of mine who was one of the founding members of the BDBL.  Ken also decided that he no longer had time for the league, though, so he resigned in the middle of our 1999 season.  I vowed that once a person leaves the BDBL, he will never come back.  However, I made the exception for Geisel (in a roundabout way), so the door was open for Ken to return.  Since he had expressed a desire to return several weeks before then, since he'd be taking over the same franchise he left, and since I knew he'd be able to prepare for the draft on short notice, I allowed him back into the league, saving Draft Day from certain annihilation at the eleventh hour for the second year in a row.

Controversy erupted for several weeks before the draft when, while attempting to ensure that we'd have enough time to draft, I suggested that we name the rounds in which we'd all draft prior to Draft Day.  Generous helpings of outbursts followed, along with a couple of threatened resignations.  Eventually, once Cutdown Day confirmed the number of picks needed to be drafted, we determined that naming of picks wouldn't be necessary, and the issue became moot.

Cutdown Day itself caused its fair share of controversy as well.  As it was the first time any of us had ever awarded contracts to players, there was some confusion surrounding the process.  Despite my lengthy ad-nauseum explanations, mistakes were still made by various owners, causing cries of protest similar to those of Al Gore this November.  But unlike Gore, those owners were able to live with their mistakes and move on.

Oddly enough, Draft Day went off without a hitch.   Aside from the fact that Scot Zook showed up over a half an hour late and we nearly gave his team away to a "backup owner" (Bruzzone) who showed up that day to watch, everything went pretty smoothly.  Marazita, Geisel, Romaniello and new owner Jim Doyle all made the trek to Salem to join me for the big day.  We ate junk food, watched the Vikings and guzzled soda and beer.  All things considered, it was a pretty good day.

After snagging both Alex Fernandez and Matt Mantei, Billy Romaniello was considered the overwhelming "winner" of the draft.  Aside from those two, no other players were chosen in the first round.  Francisco Cordova, Bruce Chen, Paul Konerko, Pat Mahomes, Jim Edmonds, Carl Pavano, Scott Karl, Ken Caminiti, Frank Thomas, Jose Canseco, Wade Boggs, Travis Fryman and Steve Montgomery were chosen in Round Two.  (Yes, that is the order they were chosen.  And yes, Pat Mahomes and Scott Karl were actually chosen ahead of Frank Thomas.)

The steals of the draft?  Richard Hidalgo in Round #6, Gabe White in Round #7, Mac Suzuki in Round #21, Jim Mecir and Derrek Lee in Round #26, Mike Myers in Round #27 and Luis Alicea in Round #31.

In the farm draft, Luis Rivas, Dannys Baez and Andy Pratt were all taken before Barry Zito.  And AL Rookie of the Year Katz Sasaki wasn't taken until the second round.

By the time Opening Day began, the league appeared to be no different than it was the year before.  We had several defections within a span of a month and several loud and prolonged controversies that threatened to disrupt the enjoyment of the hobby.  But then, almost as if by magic, all of that bad stuff disappeared once the games began.  The focus shifted to the playing field, and it remained there for several months.

By the end of the first chapter, the Salem Cowtippers and Queensboro Kings shared the best record in the league at 18-8, and the defending champion Stamford Zoots were just four games above .500.  The Boise Bastards were the talk of the league thanks to an unlikely offensive explosion.  The Bastards ended Chapter One on a pace to score over 1,100 runs this season.  The star of the team was Derek Jeter, who finished the chapter with a .515 average, a .603 OBP and an .845 slugging percentage.  Fortunately for the rest of the Eck League, the Bastards (and Jeter) cooled off from that point on.

The highlight of that chapter for me was a four-game sweep of the Litchfield Lightning.  The Lightning scored three times in the top of the 11th inning in Game Two of that series.  My Cowtippers fought back for four runs in the bottom of the 11th to win it.  Thanks to that sweep, I got to keep my coveted Eric Davis action figure for one more year.

But that wasn't the most amazing comeback of the regular season by far.  That distinction belongs to the Stamford Zoots, who foreshadowed their amazing come-from-behind World Series victory in a game against the Blazers in Chapter Three.  The Blazers scored ELEVEN runs in the first inning of that game against an overmatched Gil Meche.  But the Zoots came back to score two in the first, five in the second, seven in the fourth, and one run each in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, to win by a score of 17-12.  Considering that the Zoots won their division by one game this season, that game against a last-place Blazers team turned out to have more meaning than anyone could have imagined.

That same chapter, Shawn Estes of the Kings became the second player in BDBL history to pitch a no-hitter.  Amazingly enough, that no-no came against a Cleveland Rocks lineup that featured Roberto Alomar, Frank Thomas, Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero and Steve Finley.

Just prior to Chapter Three, the Chicago Black Sox made a trade that put them over the top for good.  John Gill's historic rebuilding effort actually began long before the season began.  The 101-loss Black Sox began the off-season by acquiring Raul Mondesi in exchange for Todd Hollandsworth (a trade that makes your neck hurt.)  Gill then sent Fred McGriff and Troy Percival to the Haymakers for superstud Carlos Delgado.  Gill then made a bold move, acquiring his second $10 million player, Scott Rolen, at the cost of Troy Glaus.

The final touch (or so we thought) was adding an unprecedented THIRD $10 million player, Nomar Garciaparra, in exchange for Miguel Tejada and Michael Barrett.   Before the off-season was over, Gill also added key players Bobby Ayala, Andy Benes and Ryan Dempster through trade.  In the end, it took just eight trades to turn 100 losses into 100 wins.

When the Black Sox acquired Garciaparra, most of us thought that was John Gill's pièce de résistance.  Then, just before the Chapter Three deadline, Gill added Manny Ramirez.  At the time, it seemed as though he paid a hefty price (Mondesi, Doug Johns, Rick Ankiel and Eric Munson.)  But considering Ankiel's Wohlers-like breakdown in the playoffs, his future now seems questionable.  And given Ramirez's MVP-caliber year, that trade now seems to have been clearly lopsided in Chicago's favor.

For nearly five blissful months, the BDBL ran as smoothly as anyone could have possibly imagined given the season's dubious beginning.  Then, on April 23rd, the league received a shocking slap in the face when Tim Zigmund - the heart and soul of the league for much of the 1999 season - abruptly resigned without explanation.  The league might have never been the same had Scot Zook not stepped in and picked up right where Zigmund left off.  Not as the Plattsburgh manager, but in the more important role as the Commissioner's main protagonist.

Probably the most enjoyable series of the year, for me, was played on May 19th.  That was a four game series against my main competitor for the Benes Division crown, the Bowling Green Spoilers.  But that series wasn't significant because of that fact.  It was significant because of one special player who had one special series: Javier Vazquez.  Vazquez out-dueled Curt Schilling in Game One of that series, allowing just four hits and one walk through nine innings of work.  He had a no-hitter for 6 2/3 innings.  He also went 3-for-4 at the plate, with a homer and a double.  Hard to top that game, right?  The next game, though, he did.

Salem trailed by the score of 4-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth.  The bases were loaded with one out when Jeff Zimmerman was scheduled to hit.  I had no hitters on my bench aside from Jay Buhner (who was horrendous against righties), so I brought in Vazquez, one of my better bunters.  I laid off the first pitch and correctly guessed a pitch-out by Mark Ross, manager of the Spoilers.  I didn't, however, guess right on the next pitch.  With the runner on third bolting home, Ross pitched-out again, and out number two was easily recorded at the plate.   With two outs now, I had no other choice but to let Vazquez swing away.  Swing away he did.  Facing Spoilers closer Rick Aguilera, Vazquez hammered the next pitch into the left field bleachers for a game-winning three-run homer.  It was probably the most exciting moment of my BDBL career (and most likely the worst moment for poor Mark.) 

As the season reached its halfway point, the BDBL lost another owner, Chris Kamler.  Kamler kept us all entertained during the draft with factoids about Boise, Idaho and potatoes.  But like most who have left, Kamler found that he didn't have the time to play in the league after investing so much time into it from the beginning.

Shawn Green of the Massillon Tigerstrikes completely dominated the second annual BDBL all-star game.  As an audience of four or five obnoxious fans tried to follow along with the delay-riddled action, Green put on a one man show, clubbing three home runs and knocking in six.  The Eck League pounded the Ozzie League by a score of 11-5, evening the all-time all-star tally to one game apiece.

As the July 31st trading deadline grew near, the league cowered in fear in anticipation of the inevitable.  Like the salmon who return against the currents to their birthplace, and the swallows who return to Capistrano each spring, the Zoots acquired an ace pitcher for the stretch without having to sacrifice much in return.  On July 25th, 2000, Paul Marazita traded two bit players and a bag of stale pretzels in exchange for the ace pitcher who would eventually win him a championship.  Like the Johnson trade of 1999 that changed the Zoots franchise and the BDBL forever, the John Smoltz trade of 2000 would have catastrophic effects on the BDBL and anyone caught within a 300 mile radius of Paul Marazita's ego. 

On July 26th, I left a message on the BDBL forum that began:

"Congratulations to the Zoots for sealing their second BDBL championship in a row."

Many probably thought I was jumping the gun.  But after witnessing the same thing happen year after year, it didn't take a psychic to predict the fate of the championship once that trade occurred.  It was only a matter of time.

During the weekend of August 5th, the BDBL held its first-ever get-together at Yankee Stadium.  Seven owners made the trek to the Bronx to take in an afternoon game between the Yanks and the Seattle Mariners: myself, Paul Marazita, Phil Geisel, Billy Romaniello, Jeff Paulson, Tony DeCastro and John Bochicchio.  DeCastro flew all the way up from South Carolina, and Paulson flew across country from California.  It was a beautiful, hot day, and a great time was had by all despite the fact that the Yanks got spanked.

The league began the month of August with an amazing 22 of the 24 owners we started with.  Then, in a span of a week and a half in the middle of that month, we lost three more owners: Eric Zigmund, Marc Welby (who was a member for only a little more than two months) and the team of Dave Myers and John Miernicki.

Myers and Miernicki took over the Plattsburgh franchise from Tim Zigmund earlier in the year.  Both seemed to be very excited to be in the league, and both seemed as though they'd be active participants and good long-term owners.  Unfortunately, Miernicki tired of managing his games and Myers did not have the time to run the team all by himself.  Four months after declaring, "We wouldn't be applying if we weren't in it for the long-haul," Myers and Miernicki both resigned.

The following month, Steve Babula became the first exiled owner in BDBL history after he failed to turn in his game results on time for the fifth chapter in a row.

Fortunately, while a few were departing, we were also picking up some very solid owners to take their place.  Dean Ashley, our first international owner, joined the league at the end of August.  And Gene Patterson and Tony Chamra both joined in September.  When the season ended, 20 of the 24 teams in the BDBL had the same ownership as they did on Opening Day.  Overall, we cut our turnover rate from 38-percent in 1999 to just 17-percent this season.  I predict that by the 2003 season, our turnover rate will be zero.

As the final chapter approached, the pennant races really began to heat up.  When Chapter Six began, half of the teams in the league were within striking distance of the playoffs.  The Lightning led the Undertakers by two games, and both teams finished with more than 100 wins, guaranteeing a spot in the playoffs for both Griffin Division teams once again.  The Zoots led the Mimes by just two games in the Butler Division.  The Mimes finished a heart-breaking one game out of first behind the evil Zoots.   When you think of all the ways that one game difference could have been erased, it breaks your heart.

For example, in early October, Salem took the first three games of a four game series against the Zoots.  Salem defeated Johnson, Brown and Smoltz in those games, but couldn't solve Gil Meche in Game Four.  Earlier in the Chapter, on September 17th, Salem lost two of the first three games against Madison.   In Game Four, Madison jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first with their ace, Kevin Millwood, on the mound.  By the third, it was a 7-0 game.  But Salem fought back for four runs in the bottom of the third, then scored seven runs in the sixth.  By the time it ended, Salem had won by a score of 12-10.  I stay awake at night wondering why I didn't just roll over and die after the first inning of that game.   If I had, the Zoots may not have even been in the playoffs.  Unfortunately, my integrity keeps getting in the way of my joy.

Madison's entire season came down to a four game series between the Zoots and Hammerheads.  The Zoots needed to win two games to tie for the division lead, and three to win the division outright.  Stamford took the first two games, clinching a tie.  They then lost Game Three.  In Game Four, Stamford took a 4-2 lead into the ninth.  They then scored four runs in the top of the ninth to make it an 8-2 game.  Hudson rallied for four runs off reliever John Smoltz in the bottom of the ninth, but Bobby Chouinard saved the day when he got Sammy Sosa (who represented the tying run of the game) to ground out to short to end the game.

Over in the Eck League, the Kansas Law Dogs led the Southern Cal Slyme by two games in the Higuera Division.  By the end of the chapter, the Law Dogs would switch places with the Phoenix Predators, who trailed the Dogs by five games at the start of the chapter.  Four Eck League teams were within three games of each other in the wild card race.  That race eventually ended in a tie, resulting in a one-game playoff between Phoenix and the Cleveland Rocks.  Phoenix won, marking the second time in franchise history that the Rocks (formerly the Storm) lost a one-game wild card playoff.

In the Division Series, Chicago easily slipped past Phoenix, Los Altos easily defeated Salem and Kentucky manager Bobby Sylvester easily trounced his father, Bob Sylvester, in the only playoffs sweep in BDBL history.  The only exciting series of the bunch was, not surprisingly, Stamford against Litchfield.   Game Four of that five game series was a true classic.  One out away from elimination, Litchfield sent Erubiel Durazo to the plate against Stamford's lefty specialist, B.J. Ryan.  With Barry Bonds on first and Litchfield trailing by a run, Durazo smashed a drive into the gap in right that just kept on goin'.  With Marazita and Geisel both playing live over a keyboard in Salem that weekend, it was a moment I won't soon forget.  But like Carlton Fisk's dramatic homer in Game Six of the '75 Series, Durazo's homer proved to be meaningless.  Because despite trailing by a 5-2 score heading into the bottom of the sixth in Game Five, the never-say-die Zoots rallied for four runs in the bottom of the sixth, eventually winning by a score of 6-5.

The Championship Series featured more of the same domination.  Both the Zoots and Black Sox won their series in six games.   Chicago's offense proved to be too much for the Fox, and Stamford's pitching proved to be too much for the Undertakers.  That set up the match-up everyone had been waiting for all season: the league's best offense against the league's best pitching.

With a capacity crowd in attendance, the Zoots and Black Sox were scheduled to play just two games, starting at 10:00pm on the Saturday night after Thanksgiving.  Instead, after Chicago took both games in convincing fashion, the two managers decided to press on into the night to "get it over with" as Marazita put it.  As I watched the proceedings, I found myself holding back my excitement.   Somehow, I felt as though it was too early to celebrate, even as the Black Sox took Game Three.

Then, in Game Four, Marazita pulled Smoltz from the game after just seven innings and 91 pitches.  And I thought, "That bastard is saving Smoltz for Game Seven."  Sure enough, the Zoots came roaring back for the next two games to tie the series, and Smoltz took the mound for the third time in the series in Game Seven.  He tossed 6 1/3 innings of shutout ball against the best lineup this league has ever seen.  He then gave way to the baffling likes of Bobby Chouinard, Donne Wall, Yorkis Perez and John Johnstone.  Somehow, the Chicago offense that scored a BDBL record 987 runs this season, couldn't touch any of those five pitchers.   For the second year in the league's two year history, the Stamford Zoots had won the championship.

Last year at this time, I felt completely tired and beat up.  This year, I also feel completely tired and beat up (but that has more to do with my new baby than this league.)  At the end of last season, I would have welcomed any invitation to take over this league as commissioner.  This year, I have found the job to be rather enjoyable.

For the most part, this season has been nothing but fun for me.  Despite the fact that I'll have to endure another year of calling the Zoots the champions, I have enjoyed myself immensely.  It's been fun getting to know the people in this league a little better this season through the get-together and various on-line activities.  I have now met eight of the 23 other owners in this league face-to-face.   My ultimate goal is to meet each and every one of you some day.  I think we are all very lucky to be in this league with so many great people.

Despite the fact that the BDBL is just two years old, I would dare say we have the finest fantasy baseball league on the planet right now.  We should all be proud of that fact.

Thank you all for a tremendous year.  I look forward to many more.