2003: The Year in Review
The more things
change, the more they stay the same. In 2003, the Stamford Zoots won the BDBL World
Series for the fourth time in five seasons, the New Milford Blazers lost 90+ games for the
fifth year in a row, the Cleveland Rocks sacrificed their future for another failed
attempt at reaching the post-season, Billy Romaniello made several questionable trades
with Paul Marazita, Jim Doyle tested out a new team-building philosophy, the Litchfield
Lightning finished in second place for the fifth year in a row, the Allentown Ridgebacks
pitching staff continued to dominate the post-season, Jeff Paulson continued to win with a
collection of bench players and Ken Kaminski waffled, then waffled again...and again...and
Yet for all the old news that was rehashed in 2003, there
was some fresh news to report as well. For the first time in league history, the
Salem Cowtippers did not reach the post-season. As dominant as the Allentown
Ridgebacks looked on paper, they did not win their division or the BDBL
championship. And a bold, new method of acquiring free agents was implemented with a
great deal of fanfare and success.
Before I begin to review the events of the past year, I'd
like to start by handing out some thank-you's. I'd like to thank Jeff Paulson for
his tireless efforts as Transaction Secretary, and for bringing us the innovative live
free agent transactions that have become so much fun. Thank you to all of the
playoff participants for providing the rest of the league with such great game reports,
and for being such good sports while we forum denizens analyzed every one of your
decisions to death.
I'd like to thank D.J. Shepard for providing his timely
usage reports throughout the season. Thank you, Tom DiStefano, for doing the most
thorough job of recording contracts and salaries that I've ever seen. A shout-out to
Paul Marazita for providing the occasional "legal" opinion for various rulings
throughout the year. I'd like to thank Tony Chamra for providing us with a kick-ass
spreadsheet for MLB stats. Thanks to Jeff, Tony C., Paulie, Geisel, Tom, Mike Stein
and Johnny Bo for attending this year's BDBL Weekend, and to
Jeff, Greg Newgard, Matt Clemm and the dearly-departed Brian Hicks for organizing the
first-ever Western version of that event.
I'd like to thank Bob and Bobby Sylvester for taking the
time to meet me in person during their summer vacation this year. Thank you, Tony
DeCastro, "Biggest Daddy", "The Trade Analyzer", Waldorf and Statler
for providing articles for the web site. A special thanks to "Danny37"
(whoever you are) for giving us all a huge laugh this summer, and to Kerry Clemm for
tallying more message board posts than John Duel. A big thanks to Kerry's husband,
Matt, for setting up the BDBL roto league, free of charge. Thanks to all of you that
have contributed league dues. And finally, thanks to my wife, Karen, for being such
a good sport about all of this.
The 2003 season began with a flurry of trades made during
the playoffs in November of 2002. On the first day of the official start of Trading
Season, a dozen trades were announced as the 2003 season hit the ground running.
Before the calendar had turned to December, Ichiro Suzuki had already been traded twice
and the Marlboro Hammerheads had already made enough trades to ensure their division
can you honestly say 'useless' players when you have NO IDEA how (Hanley) Ramirez &
(Drew) Hensen will turn out?" - Sharky Kaminski, 12/7/02
In a pair of trades, both involving ace pitchers,
Hammerheads GM Ken "The Shark" Kaminski somehow managed to out-bid the Salem
Cowtippers without really out-bidding them. First, Kaminski landed Roy Halladay - a
severely underpriced Cy Young candidate - at the cost of Ichiro, Drew Henson, Hanley
Ramirez and Chad Bradford. Then, Kaminski added Matt Clement to be his #2 pitcher,
at the expense of Paul Konerko and Sidney Ponson. In an instant, Marlboro became the
favorites to win the Benes Division and Kaminski became the favorite to win the OL GM of
the Year award.
Shortly after his acquisition, Ichiro was sent packing by
the Southern Cal Slyme as part of a three-team, eleven-player deal with the Los Altos
Undertakers and Nashville Funkadelic. The Allentown Ridgebacks and Villanova
Mustangs then topped that act by swapping a total of fourteen
players in one trade.
|"So far, Zoots
running away with GM of the year for 2003, getting what is arguably the 4th-5th best
catcher in the league, the best catching prospect (and one of the overall best prospects)
in the league, one of the top SPs in the league, a good young SS and a very good LHP
prospect AND save salary for the auction!!! How does he do it every year???" - Sharky
Of course, Stamford Zoots GM Paul Marazita was also in on
the action. Before Marazita had even been defeated by the Salem Cowtippers in the
2002 OLDS, he had found a way to pry Tim Hudson - another severely underpriced ace signed
to a long-term contract - from the Akron Ryche. In exchange, Marazita parted with
Magglio Ordonez - an MVP-caliber hitter, but a player in the final year of his
contract. In keeping with tradition, Marazita also managed to get a few
"throw-ins" as well, upgrading at shortstop and adding young lefty Carlos
Hernandez (who was later diagnosed with a season-ending shoulder injury.)
Other big names that were hurled about before Draft Day
included Carlos Delgado (to the Hammerheads, in exchange
for a slap hitter, a reliever and a $600,000 penalty), Jamie Moyer (to the Undertakers),
Ryan Klesko (to the Ridgebacks, in exchange for Wade Miller), Jeff Kent (to the Law Dogs,
in exchange for...get this...JOSH FOGG), Carlos Beltran and Bobby Abreu (traded to the
'Dogs in exchange for J.D. Drew, Jermaine Dye and John-Ford Griffin), Bernie Williams (to
Salem), Jason Giambi (to Los Altos, as part of that big three-team, eleven-player deal),
Todd Helton and Mike Mussina (to New Milford, in exchange for a couple of prospects) and
Gary Sheffield (to Nashville.)
for anything, but I'm glad NEITHER (Salem nor Marlboro) got him and even happier that
Allentown swung and missed. It's like Christmas all over again in Stamford." - Paul
Finally, after all the dust settled, the league was ready
to embark upon its first-ever free agent auction. The first block of five players
included the biggest prize of them all: Barry Bonds.
Ten different teams placed seventeen bids on Bonds, and in the end, it was Cleveland Rocks
GM Mike Stein who emerged with the winning bid - to the shock, amazement and relief of
all. Stein came into the auction with $26 million to spend on 19 free agents.
Cleveland's lineup, heading into the auction, included just Scott Hatteberg. By
Opening Day, Cleveland's lineup included just Bonds, Hatteberg and little else. Yet
the Rocks were somehow able to score runs despite having just one and a half hitters in
their lineup throughout the first three chapters.
Oddly enough, Bonds may not have been the most
significant player acquired in that first free agent lot. Without any fanfare at
all, the Wapakoneta Hippos nabbed Jon Lieber at what seemed to be a reasonable price of
$3.5 million. Little did anyone know that Lieber would become a legitimate Cy Young
contender that season, going 18-0 on the year with a 2.16 ERA, and carry the Hippos to the
The top-ranked player in the next lot, Vladimir Guerrero,
went for a salary that was just $500,000 less than Bonds. Unfortunately for the
South Carolina Sea Cats, Guerrero racked up just 394 at-bats during the '03 Major League
season. The Sea Cats went into the auction with more money to spend ($58 million)
than any other team in the league, but proved that money cannot buy a BDBL
championship. After scooping up Guerrero, Mark Kotsay ($6m), Herbert Perry ($2.5m),
Andy Pettitte ($8.5m), Darren Holmes ($4m) and Tom Glavine ($11.5m) in the auction, the
Sea Cats managed a record of just 63-97 - good for last-place in the Person Division.
Other big-bucks players included Greg Maddux ($15.5m to
Atlanta), Sammy Sosa ($14m to Marlboro), Jarrod Washburn ($12.5m to Houston), Jim Edmonds
($11.5m to Stamford), Mike Sweeney ($11m to Chicago) and Larry Walker ($11m to Allentown.)
The Free Agent and Farm Drafts
While the auction was going on, the BDBL Farm Draft was
cruising along in high gear (to the great chagrin of Billy Baseball.) The Southern
Cal Slyme snagged the top prize, Cuban refugee Jose Contreras, with the first pick of the
draft. Joe Valentine, Billy Traber, Jeff Francoeur and Jeremy Bonderman rounded out
the top five. Some interesting picks of note were Zack Greinke (2nd round, New
Milford), Toe Nash (5th round, New Milford), Josh Barfield (5th round, South Carolina) and
Edwin Jackson (9th round, Wapakoneta.) But the biggest story
of the draft was Jeff Paulson of the Undertakers grabbing four high school kids with
his first five picks, including 15-year-old sophomores Justin Upton and Matt Bush.
actually punching my couch last night after I saw (the Kris Benson) pick because I was so
frustrated. And that kind of aggression is very rare for me." - Tony Chamra, 1/14/03
With the top fifty free agents already having been
selected during the auction, the free agent draft was all but an afterthought for most
teams. Just six players were drafted in the $5 million rounds, and just 22 picks
were made in the $3m rounds. Of those picks, Southern Cal emerged with one of the
best picks of the draft: Kevin Brown at $3 million. Akron also scored big with Jason
Varitek ($5m), Mark Loretta ($3m) and Richard Hidalgo ($3m), not to mention Guillermo Mota
in the first $2m round.
Some picks of note in the later rounds included Dmitri
Young (CHI) and Brad Lidge (AKR) in the $500k rounds, and Darrell May (LAU), John Vander
Wal (OAK), Matt Herges (OAK), Alex Cintron (CLE), Alex Gonzalez (CLE) and Jose Guillen
(MAN). But the success story of the 2003 draft came from the most unlikely source:
the Litchfield Lightning.
The Lightning, thanks to their clueless GM Phil Geisel
(who was apparently distracted by wedding planning), went into the draft with just $15.3
million to spend on 28 players, thanks to $12 million in penalties. Rather than
finding enough players to fill the 15-player minimum, Geisel simply took the $1 million
per player penalty and retained just seven players heading into the draft. After
skipping the farm draft (having yours truly draft for him) and the auction (where he
attempted to make a $14.5m bid on Bonds), Geisel passed during the first ten rounds of the
free agent draft before he finally selected Carl Pavano in the 11th round. For the
remainder of the draft, Geisel - with the help of Billy Baseball - attempted to find
enough at-bats and innings in the draft pool to field a team for the 2003 season. In
the course of doing so, not only did Geisel manage to field a team that was good enough to
finish in second-place (ahead of Billy's Blazers!), but he lucked into the biggest steal
in BDBL draft history - Esteban Loaiza - in the 31st round.
Another Season Begins
122-win season, the Ridgebacks sweep their way into an all-Sith World Series against the
Stamford Zoots. As the sixth out of the sixth inning in Game Six is being recorded,
the Earth's core erupts, bursting through the surface of the planet, creating a fiery rain
of sulfur upon all living things. Men, women and children suffer slow, agonizing
deaths while the Sun is extinguished by dark clouds of poisonous smoke, bringing perpetual
darkness to the land. Eventually, every living thing on the planet is destroyed -
all except Tom and Paul, who go on to play Game Seven." - Mike
"Nostradamus" Glander, "2003 Season Preview", 1/25/03
Three years ago, I made a prediction that 2003 would be
the first year in league history that we'd experience zero turnover in ownership.
Yet just ten days before the start of the 2003 season, we lost our first owner, Tak Ikeda.
In his place, we were fortunate to find John Duel, who adopted the franchise that
was once owned by long-time BDBL mainstay Mark Ross.
Before Opening Day, the Cowtippers found enough time to
pull off one last-minute deal, adding lefty Al Leiter in exchange for Rick Reed. At
the time, Salem thought they were getting a bargain. But after one chapter, it
became clear that Leiter was nothing but a Trojan Horse, planted by the Cleveland Rocks
franchise in order to cause mayhem and destruction in the Benes Division race.
Leiter went 2-2 with a 6.35 ERA in Chapter One, and was shipped away from Salem at the
very first opportunity.
The Opening Day series between Salem and the New Milford
Blazers resulted in a sweep of the 'Tippers. If not for the fact that New Milford
had also swept the Cowtippers in the 2002 opener, one might have looked at that series as
an omen of things to come. At the time, however, it was merely viewed with
if these games go poorly for Mike, I can't imagine him packing it in this early. I just
can't imagine Mike 'building for next year'. There's some fight in them Cowtippers."
- Jeff Paulson, 1/31/03
More foreshadowing occurred when the Marlboro Hammerheads
leapt out to a big lead in the Benes Division by winning four of six games against the
Cowtippers in a very early intradivisional series. Thanks to the wacky scheduler
makers of the BDBL, these two division rivals would face each other a dozen times in the
first two chapters. Salem also lost four of six to Marlboro in the second chapter,
sealing their fate as a second-place team for the first time in league history.
Over in the Eck League, the feel-good story of the first
few weeks was the surprising start by the Cleveland Rocks. After fourteen games,
Cleveland owned a record of 9-5, good for first place in the Hrbek Division. Aside
from the ever-optimistic Mike Stein, though, it's safe to say no one saw that one coming.
The Rocks seemed to be winning thanks to just one player: Bonds. Through the
first 14 games, Bonds had more walks than at-bats, had already drawn 15 intentional free
passes and had scored 20 times. However, the Rocks were a little less fortunate
after that point, going 6-8 over their next 14 games to finish the chapter with a record
of 15-13, four games behind the high-flying Akron Ryche.
noticed that in our latest poll, two people actually believe Kansas has a shot of beating
Allentown for the division crown. Let me guess: one was Chris, the other was Tom?" -
Mike Glander, 1/30/03
In addition to the Ryche, the Allentown Ridgebacks also
owned a 19-9 record that first chapter, which only meant that the Ridgebacks lost nine
more games than most people expected heading into the season. Over in the Ozzie
League, the Bear Country Jamboree also sported a 19-9 record, though it was only good for
second-place, as the Stamford Zoots got off to a 20-8 start. Bear Country and
Stamford would later face off against each other in the OL Championship Series.
The Los Altos Undertakers led their division with a 19-9
record as well, while the Hammerheads finished at 16-12, three games ahead of the
surprising Manchester Irish Rebels (who were second in the league in runs scored!) and
four games ahead of the Cowtippers. Finally, in the Person Division, the Nashville
Funkadelic were comfortably ahead by three games over the Wapakoneta Hippos.
again state, I AM NOT THROWING IN THE TOWEL! So stop accusing me of that!!!!" -
Chris Luhning, 2/21/03
Before Chapter One ended, the first controversial trade
of the season occurred when the Kansas Law Dogs - just four games out of their division
race and tied for the wild card lead - made what appeared to be a "white flag trade." In exchange for their #2
starter, David Wells, the Law Dogs received two rookie pitchers that were of no help to
the 2003 Law Dogs. When the implication was made, however, that the Law Dogs
were throwing in the towel already, Kansas GM Chris Luhning pitched a fit, insisting that
was not the case. Indeed, Luhning's Law Dogs ended up on top of their division by
In addition to the Great Lakes Sphinx, who added Wells in
that deal, the Hammerheads also continued to bulk up, adding big-time right-handed bats Marquis Grissom and Kevin Young to their lefty-leaning
lineup. Akron and Salem also made a deal, swapping each other's hugely disappointing
relievers. Oddly enough, both relievers seemed to benefit from the "change of
The Jamboree continued to make headlines in Chapter Two,
winning eight in a row at one point to give themselves a virtual tie for first place in
their division. With the Madison Fighting Mimes just two games behind them, the
Butler Division was shaping into the best pennant race in the BDBL. Madison then
boosted their stock early in the second chapter by acquiring Ivan "I-Rod"
Rodriguez in exchange for Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez and Sean Burnett.
On March 21st, the Cowtippers lost both games of a two-game set against the
Cleveland Rocks, dropping to 2-6 on the chapter and 14-20 overall. It was the final
straw, leading to the announcement that several of Salem's best players would be going on
the block. Just days later, the Cowtippers officially waved
the white flag, sending Bernie Williams, Woody Williams, Tony Graffanino and Justin
Pope to the Akron Ryche in exchange for Rich Harden, Cliff Lee, Brad Lidge, Timo Perez and
Ben Broussard. For the moment, it seemed that Salem's streak of four straight
division titles had come to an end.
As Chapter Two came to a close, contending teams
continued to bulk up for the stretch run. The Zoots swapped their disappointing ace Tim Hudson (6-5, 4.77 ERA at that point) to the Law Dogs in
exchange for Derek Lowe, upgrading for 2003 while sacrificing one of the league's best
pitchers for 2004 and beyond. The Wapakoneta Hippos added what they thought were two
aces (Al Leiter and Orlando Hernandez) from Salem, for the price of one (Jeff
Weaver.) Both Leiter (6-9, 5.15 for Wapakoneta) and Hernandez (6-2, 5.45) continued
to pitch poorly for their new teams, while Weaver (8-5, 3.71) turned in a fine effort for
his new team. In the end, that trade turned out poorly for both sides.
Hernandez failed to make the Wapakoneta post-season roster, while Leiter pitched just one
game in the playoffs, allowing six runs through six innings. For Salem, Weaver
suffered a meltdown of Ed Whitson-like proportions at the Major League level, giving the
Cowtippers a $3.1 million headache in 2004.
By April 28th, Bonds had already drawn his 100th walk of
the season, including 41 intentional. His OBP at that point in the season was an
astounding .649. He would finish the season with an OBP of .555 and a slugging
percentage of .740, with 204 walks (53 intentional) and 208.3 runs created.
By the end of Chapter Two, the Ridgebacks's lead in the
Higuera Division had narrowed to just two games, thanks to a shocking 14-12 chapter by the
R-Backs and a 16-10 chapter by the 'Dogs. The Hippos captured the lead in the Person
Division, thanks to a 16-10 chapter, combined with a 12-14 chapter by the Funkadelic.
The Jamboree were just one game behind the Zoots, and the Cowtippers had fallen
eight games behind the Hammerheads in the Benes Division, thanks to a 17-9 chapter by
After three weeks of play in Chapter Three, two out of
the three division races in the Eck League were deadlocked. In the Higuera Division,
the Law Dogs moved into a virtual tie for first by winning five of their first eight games
while Allentown lost three of four to the Rocks. On May 28th, the Law Dogs finally
did the impossible, overtaking the defending champs by winning seven of eight.
Kansas would go 19-7 in Chapter Three, while Allentown went just 14-12 for the second
chapter in a row. By the end of the chapter, Kansas owned a comfortable three game
lead in the division.
In the Person Division, the Funk moved into a virtual tie
as well, thanks to a two game sweep of the Hippos by the Funk. Meanwhile, Bear
Country continued to fight against all odds in the Butler Division, tying, then untying,
then tying again for the division lead. Finally, the Zoots put an end to it all by
taking three of four against the Jamboree in a crucial mid-season head-to-head
series. Those wins put the Zoots three games ahead of Bear Country and seven ahead
of Madison. After that point, they never looked back. Stamford would go 18-8
in Chapter Three, giving themselves a comfortable three game lead at the all-star break.
owning Barry Bonds is akin to Kim Jong Il owning a nuclear weapon." - Mike Glander,
For a while, it seemed as though all of the BDBL's
efforts to stem ridiculous, unrealistic trades had paid off. Teams seemed to be
shying away from making big, blockbuster trades involving huge superstars and loads of
salary. Then, on May 28th, the trade that will be forever known as "The Trade" occurred. When Mike Stein won the
bidding war on Barry Bonds in the auction, the entire league breathed a huge sigh of
relief, knowing that Bonds would not be playing in the middle of the Ridgebacks lineup
another season. But on May 28th, that all changed in a hurry.
In a four-team, 18-player trade
that was either masterminded by Stein or DiStefano (neither of whom want to claim
responsibility), the Ridgebacks ended up with Bonds. Bonds would now sit in the
middle of the Allentown lineup, sandwiched between Larry Walker and Manny Ramirez.
For the second year in a row, Tom DiStefano seemingly acquired the firepower necessary to
ensure that the BDBL trophy would remain in Allentown.
|"Would it be
fair to call the Marlboro/Salem arms race the "Battle of the Waffle Kings?' I'm in,
I'm out. I'm in, I'm out. Keep it up boys. At the very least, is IS amusing." - Paul
On June 4th, another trade was
made that sent shock waves throughout the BDBL, changing the face of the Ozzie League
for the remainder of the regular season. Marlboro Hammerheads GM Ken Kaminski,
apparently overreacting to the slow starts of Roy Halladay
and Sammy Sosa, traded away his ace pitcher, his best hitter, another top hitter, and his
top closer. In doing so, he downgraded at each position and allowed the Salem
Cowtippers to sneak back into the pennant race picture. Salem responded shortly
thereafter by trading for Barry Zito and Tim Salmon.
Over the final four chapters of the season, Salem played five games better than the
Hammerheads, racking up a 62-44 record. Marlboro won 46 games with their original
roster and 44 with their "new and improved" roster.
On June 13th, Allentown's Randy Johnson entered the BDBL
record book - again - breaking his own record for strikeouts in a game by fanning 21
Wapakoneta Hippos. Despite striking out so many batters, Johnson needed just 96
pitches to complete the game. In addition to this record, the Big Unit also holds
the all-time BDBL records for wins in a season (26) and strikeouts in a season (433).
The third big trade that occurred at the Chapter Four
deadline was the Atlanta Fire Ants unloading their $14.5 million pitcher, Greg Maddux, to
the Bear Country Jamboree. Atlanta GM Gene Patterson not only managed to dump
Maddux, who will be among the most overpriced players in the BDBL in 2004, but received
Scott Podsednik in that deal, apparently as a transaction fee. Patterson's amazing
ability to dump big, burdensome contracts has become his trademark in the BDBL.
The Ozzie League beat up on the Eck League in the fifth annual BDBL all-star game, taking a 3-2 lead in the history
of the league. The OL stars beat up on Wapakoneta ace Jon Lieber, Akron co-ace Mark
Mulder and Kansas reliever Buddy Groom, while the OL pitchers scattered ten hits against
the EL offense.
The first big series of the second chapter occurred on
June 19th, when the Cowtippers swept the Hammerheads in their first head-to-head series
with their revamped rosters. Salem would sweep their Chapter Six series against
Marlboro as well.
On June 22nd, the Hippos beefed up their offense, adding
Brian Giles and Rafael Palmeiro from the white-flag-waving Madison Fighting Mimes.
One month later, at the final trading deadline of the season, Madison GM Brian Hicks would
make the final trade of his illustrious BDBL career, dealing Jose Vidro, A.J. Burnett and
Juan Acevedo to the Cleveland Rocks in exchange for future considerations. Hicks
announced his intention to resign from the league on September 17th. One of the
founding members of the BDBL, Hicks compiled a 406-394 record over five seasons. The
Madison franchise was officially handed over to Brian "Skism" Potrafka, an
acquaintance of Hicks who became a regular on the BDBL message board well before he was
accepted into the league on September 18th.
this keeps up, I'll be waving the white flag soon! Akron is practically unbeatable!"
- Tom DiStefano, 6/27/03
On June 27th, the Los Altos Undertakers dealt their one
and only full-time offensive star, Jason Giambi, to the Akron Ryche as part of a six
player deal. In exchange for Giambi, Jason Schmidt and Roberto Alomar, the
Undertakers received Odalis Perez, who was leading the Eck League in wins (with 14) at the
time of the trade. Los Altos missed Giambi's bat in the Division Series, scoring
just 23 runs in six games while Perez lost the only game he started. Akron added
Giambi to a lineup that already included Bernie Williams, Magglio Ordonez and Scott Rolen,
while Perez's playoff replacement, Schmidt, allowed eight earned runs in two playoff
|"I'm going to
be sick. I'm literally going to puke. The Zoots just got Kevin
Millwood...Thanks, Billy. Thanks a lot. Keep dealing with Stamford. Your success in that
regard is STELLAR, dude. Stellar. Jesus...it never ends in this league. It never freakin'
ends. History just keeps repeating itself over and over and over...Zoots and Ridgebacks in
the BDBL World Series. It's official." - Mike Glander, 7/22/03
A tidal wave of trades flooded into the BDBL front office
as the final trading deadline drew near. In addition to Vidro, Burnett and Acevedo,
the Rocks added Ismael Valdes to round out their rotation. Akron GM D.J. Shepard
continued to bulk up his bullpen, adding Billy Koch. But the biggest deadline deal
of them all once again belonged to that ever-dangerous trading duo of Paul Marazita and
Billy Romaniello. Romaniello, who practically handed three BDBL championships to
Marazita by trading Randy Johnson and two top draft picks to the Zoots back in 1999
without getting anything in return, helped out his old buddy once again by giving Stamford
a third ace, Kevin Millwood, for the stretch run.
In exchange, the Zoots sacrificed Zach Day and Horacio Ramirez. And, as per
tradition, a couple of "throw-ins", Wil Cordero and Randy Winn, went Stamford's
way as well.
The Zoots went from being a dominant team in the first
half (52-28) to an unbeatable team in the second half (63-17). Following the trade
for Millwood, along with the acquisition of John Olerud, Stamford went a mind-boggling
23-3 in Chapter Five, then followed that up with a record of 18-10 in Chapter Six.
On August 16th, the BDBL
held its annual "BDBL Weekend" at Camden Yards in
Baltimore. The highest attendance ever (eight) witnessed a classic game between the
New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, with the Yankees winning despite a botched
run-down play in the bottom of the ninth. The image of Jack Cust falling on his face
as he stumbled toward an unoccupied home plate, representing the tying run of the game,
will not soon be forgotten. Three months earlier, a mini-BDBL
Weekend was scheduled on the West Coast. Four owners - Jeff Paulson, Matt Clemm,
Brian Hicks and Greg Newgard - took in a game between the San Francisco Giants and New
York Mets at Pac Bell Park.
Some time around the middle of August, the BDBL web site
got another facelift, including a nifty new forum. It was the third major overhaul
of the site's design since the league's inception in the winter of 1998.
On August 28th, Marazita reached a remarkable milestone
by winning his 500th game as a manager. Win #500 came in dramatic fashion, as
Stamford rallied for three runs in the ninth inning against Bear Country closer Octavio
Dotel to win by a score of 3-2. Marazita currently owns a career record of 527-273,
a winning percentage of .659.
The annual BDBL rule proposal voting, held on September
18th, yielded the passage of NINE new rules, including a controversial radical realignment
of divisions. In the new alignment, the Butler Division will now consist of four
longtime friends: myself, Marazita, Geisel and Romaniello. Four California-based
teams now occupy the Griffin Division, with the Silicon Valley CyberSox (formerly the
Houston Heatwave) switching from the Eck League to the Ozzie League. Finally, father
and son Sylvester were placed in the same division, to battle it out for the Person
In addition to radical realignment, the league also
passed the controversial "Pemberton Rule", which bans extreme short-usage
players from the active roster, and the Paulson-inspired farm free agent rule, which
limits farm free agent acquisition to once per year.
Speaking of Paulson, his Undertakers set a new BDBL team
record for stolen bases on September 24th. Los Altos finished the season with 252
steals - 31 better than the old record, held by the 2000 Litchfield Lightning. The
Undertakers's top base stealer, Dave Roberts, broke the individual stolen base record,
finishing the year with 91. The same day that Los Altos broke the team stolen base
record, their ace, Jamie Moyer, tossed a no-hitter against the Houston Heatwave.
Moyer became just the third pitcher to do so in BDBL history.
After four chapters of
intense battle, the Benes Division race was all tied up on September 24th, thanks to a
shocking four game sweep by the Cleveland Rocks over the Hammerheads. But from that
point on, Salem lost five out of six, while Marlboro won five of six. Both teams
finished with a record of 16-10 in Chapter Six, with Salem falling two games short of
their fifth straight division title. Ken Kaminski, who had spent the entire season
waffling over whether or not he would return to the BDBL in '04, had just won his first
On October 27th, the Zoots added their name to the BDBL
record book yet again, breaking the BDBL single-season team wins mark with their 115th win
on the final day of the season. Two days later, the Hammerheads clinched their
first-ever division title, setting the stage for the BDBL post-season. Marlboro
would face Stamford in one OL Division Series, while long-time pals Paulson and Clemm
would face each other in the other OLDS. In the Eck League, division rivals
Allentown and Kansas would go head-to-head, while Akron would face the Wapakoneta Hippos.
Interest in the 2003 BDBL
post-season probably reached an all-time high this season, as the league followed along
with each twist and turn through the league forum. The Division Series featured four
thrilling series, but none more so than the Stamford/Marlboro series. The fact that
the Zoots won the series four games to one belies just how tight the series was.
Four of the five games were decided by one run, including a tense 11-inning Game Three.
Marlboro won the first game
4-3 on a home run by Gary Matthews in the top of the ninth. Game
Two was a 5-0 blowout, though the score was 0-0 heading into the sixth. In the Game Three nailbiter, Marlboro rallied for four runs in the
seventh to take a 6-3 lead. Stamford then rallied for three runs in the eighth to
tie it. After several close calls, the Zoots won it in the 11th on a bases-loaded
walk by Jeff Nelson. Finally, Game Five was a 6-5
Stamford win, with the tying run left stranded at third base.
Akron won their series against Wapakoneta four games to
one, though once again, three of those five games were decided by just one run.
Akron pitching was the difference in this series, as Pedro Martinez outdueled Jon Lieber
in the fifth and final game, tossing 7 1/3 shutout innings to
give Akron a 1-0 win. Lieber went 18-0 during the regular season, but lost twice in
The Bear Country Jamboree managed to overtake the
Undertakers four games to two, despite losing the first two games of the series.
Bear Country pitchers held the Los Altos offense to just ten runs on 32 hits in the final
four games of the series.
Finally, the Allentown Ridgebacks overpowered the team
they trailed during the regular season, winning four of six in the Division Series to earn
a date with the Ryche in the ELCS for the second year in a row. Allentown pitchers
held the Kansas offense to just eight runs in the three games away from The Fields of
Tombstone. The Kansas bullpen fell apart in the sixth and final games, allowing four
runs in the eighth and ninth innings of Game Six to break up
a 5-5 tie. Eric Gagne closed out the final two innings for the Ridgebacks without
allowing a hit, recording his third save of the series.
The opening game of the ELCS
was marred by rain delays, forcing early exits for both starters, as Allentown ended up on
top, 8-5. In Game Two, Allentown manager DiStefano
intentionally loaded the bases with Eric Gagne on the mound and Bernie Williams at the
plate, in a 2-2 game in the bottom of the ninth. Gagne walked home the game-winning
run, evening the series at one game apiece. Akron broke a 1-1 tie in the eighth
inning of Game Three by scoring six runs off of the Allentown
bullpen. In Game Four, Allentown overcame a 1-0 deficit
in the eighth when D.J. Shepard pulled a Grady Little and left Pedro Martinez in the game
one inning too long. Allentown emerged with a 3-1 victory thanks to a three-run
blast by Barry Bonds off of reliever Arthur Rhodes. History then repeated itself
immediately when Rhodes served up another game-winning homer to Bonds in Game Five, with Akron leading 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth.
Allentown finally put Akron away in Game Six, thanks to
eight shutout innings from Roy "Mr. November" Oswalt.
In the OLCS, Bear Country jumped out to a lead in Game One thanks to a five-run seventh inning. Stamford
evened the series in Game Two on the strength of Derek Lowe,
who tossed six innings of one run ball in a 7-1 Zoots win. In Game Three, Brian Buchanan broke a 2-2 tie in the fourth with a
two run homer off of Chuck Finley. The Bear Country bullpen then held on for a 4-2
win. A six-run sixth by the Zoots in Game Four, all
against Bear Country starter Tim Wakefield, evened the series once again at two games
each. Stamford eked out a 4-3 win in Game Five to take
the lead, with the help of a two-run blast by Chris Woodward, then won the series in Game Six thanks to a pinch hit grand slam home run by Greg
sweep cannot constitute the 'greatest series ever' under any circumstances. If BDBL
history has taught us nothing else, it is that the best pitching staff wins the World
Series. Four straight times and counting. This staff match-up is just not close...This is
Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the mountain. He never gets there.
"I know, I know...people will say
it's the same old story, but I would like for someone to explain to me how you beat
Schilling/Oswalt/Johnson with Lowe/Millwood/Buehrle in a short series. How are my guys --
all decent, but not super superstars going to get out the middle of his lineup
Can anyone do that without mentioning meaningless regular season records or 'baseball
gods?'" - Paul Marazita, 11/21/03
That set the stage for the BDBL World Series match-up we
had all dreamed about: Paul "Darth" Marazita against Tom "The Emperor"
DiStefano. Hollywood couldn't have written a better script, nor a more appropriate
ending. The Ridgebacks jumped out to a two games to none lead in the series thanks
to the stifling pitching of Schilling in Game One and Oswalt in Game Two. Stamford bats were held to just one run on eight
hits combined through those first two games. The Zoots turned the tables in the third game, as Lowe and the Stamford bullpen held the Ridgebacks
offense to just one run on seven hits.
That is when Marazita made the fateful decision to start Clay Condrey in Game Four.
Condrey, who pitched just 26.2 innings during the Major League season, held the Ridgebacks
to one unearned run on five hits through six innings. Stamford's 3-2 victory evened
the series at two games apiece. The momentum continued to shift toward Stamford when
Kevin Millwood out-pitched Oswalt in Game Five, as the Zoots
broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth on a two-out RBI double by Alex Cora off of Gagne. The
Ridgebacks then fell into a 4-0 hole in the very first inning of Game
Six, but forced a Game Seven by rallying for three runs in the fifth and four runs in
the seventh while the bullpen held the Zoots to just one run over the final eight innings.
Finally, in Game Seven,
Allentown broke a 2-2 tie in the fourth on an RBI double by Schilling. Stamford then
tied the game in the sixth on a pinch hit homer by Edgardo Alfonzo off of Schilling, then
took the lead on a fielder's choice. The Stamford bullpen trio of Mark Guthrie,
Valerio de los Santos and Bung-Hole Kim then held that lead through the final three
innings, giving the Stamford Zoots their fourth BDBL championship in five seasons.
It was the fifth time in five BDBL seasons that the World
Series required the full seven games.
Wrapping it Up
We've seen a lot of changes in the BDBL through the
years, but with each change comes an improvement. Our bold decision to introduce a
brand new way of selecting free agents each winter has added an exciting, fun and
challenging new element to our league. Our adoption of several new rules, including
the Paulson Rule and all of the various usage rules, has kept our league realistic.
And we will soon see how our decision to radically realign our divisions changes our
league for better or worse.
It is a pleasure to play in a league with so many people
that are so passionate, and care so much, about this hobby. A league is only as good
as its members, and our membership could not be stronger or more dedicated to the common
goal of creating the best fantasy baseball league on the planet.
I have now personally met thirteen current BDBL owners in
person, and my goal is to meet each and every one of you eventually. I thank you all
for another tremendous season and I look forward to many, many more.