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Big Daddy Baseball League

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slant.gif (102 bytes) From the Desk of the Commish


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December 1, 2003

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 again.

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.

Thank you

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 title.

"How 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 Kaminski, 11/24/02

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.)

The Auction

"Not 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 Marazita, 1/3/03

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 playoffs.

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.

"I was 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

"After a 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 bemusement.

"Even 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.

"I just 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.

"I 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 season's end.

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 scenery."

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.

Salem waves the white flagOn 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 Marlboro.

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.

"Stein owning Barry Bonds is akin to Kim Jong Il owning a nuclear weapon." - Mike Glander, 5/30/03

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 Marazita, 6/11/03

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.

Halfway There

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.

"If 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 starts.

"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. 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.

Jack Cust crawls to the plateOn 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 Division title.

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.

Sharky celebratesAfter 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 division title.

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.


BDBL World SeriesInterest 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 playoffs.

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 Colbrunn.

"A four-game 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 (Bonds/Ramirez/Walker)?

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.