clearpix.gif (43 bytes)
clearpix.gif (43 bytes)
Big Daddy Baseball League

www.bigdaddybaseball.com

O F F I C I A L   S I T E   O F   T H E   B I G   D A D D Y   B A S E B A L L   L E A G U E
slant.gif (102 bytes) From the Desk of the Commish

Commish

clearpix.gif (43 bytes)

December 1, 2004

2004: The Year in Review

Although it may not have ended the way we had hoped (at least, for all but one of us), 2004 was an incredible season, filled with as much drama and excitement as any human could reasonably endure.

In 2004, we ushered in a new era by realigning divisions, and we ushered out two founding members of the BDBL.  We took part in what was perhaps the most enjoyable BDBL Weekend on record, and celebrated another mini-BDBL-Weekend in Atlanta.  We talked politics on the BDBL forum.  We celebrated the weddings of Jeff Paulson and Matt Clemm (not to each other) and the births of Nicholas Peburn and Molly Clemm.  We were honored with the presence of Beth Reuschel on the league forum.  We prayed for Bob Sylvester's safe return from overseas.  We all got a big laugh out of Steve Osborne's April Fool's prank and Jim Doyle's encounter with a crazy man in Cleveland.  We witnessed outstanding pitching performances by Eric Gagne, Pedro Martinez and Mark Prior, and three tremendous offensive seasons by Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield.  We witnessed perhaps the top three greatest upsets in BDBL post-season history.  And for the first time in our six-year history, we crowned a league champion who isn't named "Paul" or "Tom."

Thank you

As is tradition, I'd like to begin by thanking you all for another terrific, fun-filled season.  I handed out only one penalty all year for late games, and I thank you all for making my job so easy this year by getting your games played on time.

I'd like to thank Jeff Paulson for doing such a tremendous job as our Transactions Secretary during the first half of the season, and to Tom DiStefano for relieving Jeff in the second half.  Special thanks to D.J. Shepard for his usual stellar job as Usage Secretary, and to Tom for keeping track of our jumbled mess of complex contracts and salaries.  Thanks to Tony Chamra for putting together the best damned baseball stats spreadsheet in existence (and for getting it out less than two weeks after the end of the MLB season!)

Thanks to Mike Stein for hosting this year's BDBL Weekend and showing us around his fair (and unfairly maligned) city.  Thanks to Jim Doyle for providing us with a ton of laughs that weekend, and thanks to Greg Newgard, Jeff Paulson, Tony Chamra and Brian Potrafka for taking the time to attend the festivities.

Thank you, Bob Sylvester, both for your service to our country, and for going above and beyond the call of duty in terms of your devotion to this league.  Negotiating trades and finishing games on time while stationed in a desert halfway across the planet is no small feat.

Special thanks to Anthony Peburn, the unsung hero of the New Milford Blazers front office, for helping to bring a .500 ballclub to the unfortunate people of New Milford.  Thanks to Andy Lurie for sticking with the BDBL through some tough times.  Thanks to Tony Badger for agreeing to take over a franchise that was in horrendous shape.  Thanks to all of you who helped me market my mother's book.

Thank you, Beth Reuschel, for contributing to our league forum.  Your contribution is one of the highlights of my "BDBL career."  And thanks to all of you who contributed your thoughts and opinions to the forum throughout the year.  Thanks to Steve Osborne for organizing one of the most elaborate pranks in league history.  Thank you, Billy and Gene, for providing free medical advice when called upon.

Finally, as I do every year (even though she's never read this page), thanks to my wife, Karen, for putting up with all of this nonsense.  Karen often asks me, "When does the off-season begin?"  I keep trying to explain to her that there is no off-season, but she doesn't believe me.

Pre-Season

The winter of 2003 was no different than any other winter throughout the league's history.  An overabundance of trades were made, involving such high-profile players as Mark Mulder, Sammy Sosa, Carlos Zambrano, Andruw Jones, Vlad Guerrero, Josh Beckett, Vernon Wells, Kerry Wood, Roger Clemens, Jorge Posada and Brandon Webb.  No team was more active than the Salem Cowtippers, whose 16 trades were chronicled in the critically-acclaimed on-line novel, "Monkeyballs."

"It must be nice to have close friends to dump all your unwanted trash on, but even better to pick up another young ace for $100k." -- Chris Luhning, 12/14/03

As usual, the winter did not pass without its fair share of controversy.  And as usual, at the center of the controversy was our "reigning champion," Paul Marazita.  Had Jim Edmonds been a free agent that winter, he likely would not have been signed for more than $8 million.  At $11.5 million in salary, then, Edmonds had become an expensive liability on the Zoots roster.  Though the Litchfield Lightning had little wiggle room under their salary cap, Marazita was able to convince Lightning owner (and longtime pal) Phil Geisel that Edmonds was just what the Lightning needed to put them over the top and compete in 2004.

To help ease the burden, Marazita agreed to swap John Olerud's $7 million salary for Sean Casey's $7m salary, ridding the Lightning of a $4m penalty in 2005 for Casey (or so we thought at the time.)  While adding $11.5 million to Litchfield's 2004 cap in exchange for saving them $4 million in 2005 was dubious enough, Marazita also pilfered two of Litchfield's hottest commodities in the process: promising young righthander Jerome Williams and short-usage-superstar Carlos Baerga.

That trade ignited a firestorm of controversy on the league forum, with calls for massive trade reform and/or Geisel's head on a platter.  But eventually, that storm passed.  Or so we thought.

The Auction

Delgado Signs
This would certainly prove to
be an important signing.

The 2004 free agent auction began with the Ravenswood Infidels winning the bid on the top free agent in the class, Carlos Delgado.  In the end, it would prove to be a very wise investment for the Infidels franchise.  The same day Delgado's auction ended, another very important auction ended when OL Cy Young and MVP Eric Gagne was purchased by the Los Altos Undertakers for the bargain-basement price of $7.5 million.

The Cowtippers made a splash by signing Curt Schilling on January 6th.  At the time, it seemed as though adding Schilling to a rotation that already included Kerry Wood, Brandon Webb, Barry Zito and Tomo Ohka was a real coup for Salem.  But Schilling would win just 13 games for the Cowtippers in 2004, with an ERA of 4.57.  He then posted a 6.61 ERA in the playoffs, proving to be one of the biggest disappointments in league history.

The biggest story of the auction was Mike Stein of the Cleveland Rocks paying a combined $28 million for the pitching tandem of Jason Schmidt and Javier Vazquez, which set a record for highest combined salary by two teammates.  The two pitchers combined for 33 wins and a 2.90 ERA over 499 innings, proving to be worth every penny.  However, the Rocks would once again fall short of their goal of making the playoffs. 

The Free Agent and Farm Drafts

For the second year in a row, the Southern Cal Slyme owned the #1 pick in the draft.  This season, they selected Matt Clement in the second round of the draft, adding him to what was already a very strong starting rotation that included Josh Beckett, Kevin Brown, Jose Contreras, Joel Piniero and Mark Redman.  Later in the year, the Slyme would trade Clement for Roy Halladay.

A few prescient late-round picks included Chad Cordero (21st round by Villanova), Michael Barrett (22nd round by Atlanta), Mark Bellhorn (23rd round by Wapakoneta), David Bell (28th round by Stamford) and Bronson Arroyo (27th round by Akron.)

Cuban defector Maels Rodriguez was chosen as the #1 pick in the farm draft by Southern Cal, followed by Chadd Blasko (Gillette), Jeremy Hermida (Silicon Valley), Dan Johnson (South Carolina) and Akinori Otsuka (New Milford.)  A few other notable picks include Kendry Morales (9th round, Salem), Ryan Howard (4th round, Marlboro), Abe Alvarez (3rd round, Wapakoneta) and Felix Hernandez (1st round, Allentown -- 19th overall.)

Another Season Begins

"While turning his roster over from top to bottom in a couple of hundred trades this offseason, it sounds like the Cowtippers have very few holes with about $28 million to spend right now. Are they the front-runner to win the World Series? Are they even the front-runner in their own division against the mighty Zoots? Or were the performances of Kearns and the bullpen from last year not a fluke?" -- Jeff Paulson, 12/17/03

Before the season had even begun, ten more trades were made, mostly involving low-profile players.  The one exception was Marlboro hurler David Wells moving to the Atlanta Fire Ants in exchange for Juan Pierre and Scott Spiezio.

The Salem Cowtippers began the 2004 season on a high note, beating the New Milford Blazers on Opening Day for the first time since 2001.   But their season would soon turn sour.  Thanks to a baffling 3-6 record in one-run games, Salem would go 16-12 in Chapter One.  They finished the first chapter tied with the New Milford Blazers, five games behind the hard-charging Stamford Zoots.  The Zoots came into the '04 season with low expectations, but finished Chapter One with a 21-7 record and the best runs differential in the BDBL.

Meanwhile, over in the Eck League, the Allentown Ridgebacks also came into the season with lowered expectations.  But they, too, sprinted out of the gate, going 20-8 in Chapter One to take a five-game lead over the Kansas Law Dogs -- whom they swept in four Chapter One games -- in the Higuera Division.   The Law Dogs, who were the pre-season favorites to win their division, got off to an 11-5 start, then went into a tailspin, losing eight of their next twelve.  For one terrifying moment, it appeared that the league was destined to see a rematch of the 2003 World Series.

The Marlboro Hammerheads were the pre-season favorites to win the OL wild card, but after a 1-7 start, they finished Chapter One two games below .500 at 13-15, five games behind the Ravenswood Infidels.  Ravenswood finished Chapter One with an 18-10 record, and their high-powered offense ranked among the top two in nearly every category.

By far, the most bizarre story of Chapter One was the 8-20 start by the Chicago Black Sox.  With a starting rotation led by Mark Prior and a lineup that included eight exceptional hitters, the Black Sox were expected to run away with their division and be in serious contention to win the whole enchilada.  But despite their high-powered offense, which included Vernon Wells, Aubrey Huff, Chipper Jones, Vlad Guerrero and Nomar Garciaparra, Chicago hit just .260/.321/.448 as a team in Chapter One, and ranked 8th in the EL in runs scored.  Their pitching was even worse, as they ranked dead-last in the EL with a 5.95 ERA.

Things got so bad in Chicago that GM John Gill was rumored to be on the verge of waving the white flag.  But he decided to stick it out for another chapter to see how it went.  And sure enough, the Black Sox turned it around.  Chicago went 20-6 in Chapter Two, and won a league-best 93 games after Chapter One.

"At this point, I'm ready to just quit the league. I've really reached the end of my rope with you guys. I'm so tired of this shit, it's not even funny anymore."
-- Mike Glander, 3/12/04

Just prior to the Chapter Two trading deadline, the Stamford Zoots added two more all-star bats to their already potent lineup, acquiring Larry Walker and Greg Myers from the Silicon Valley CyberSox in exchange for Hee Seop Choi and Ben Petrick.  Silicon Valley was the first team to wave the white flag, and they did so earlier than any other team in recent memory.  After an 8-20 start to Chapter One, Silicon Valley GM Greg Newgard not only traded Walker and Myers, but Scott Williamson as well.  Oddly enough, despite trading away every useful player on their roster, the CyberSox would finish with a significantly better record in the second half (37-43) than they owned in the first (24-56).

Throughout Chapter One, Nashville owner Steve Osborne repeatedly whined about the BDBL's random injury setting.  He was particularly miffed that his ace, Roy Halladay, had been pulled early from multiple games due to random injury.  So it came as little surprise when Halladay was placed on the block in the middle of March.

Funk'dA frantic bidding war ensued, and in the end, Paul Marazita was declared the winner.  Halladay had been added to a team that was already leading its division -- a team I was desperately trying to catch.  Needless to say, I was not a happy camper.  And judging by the silence I witnessed on the league forum, it appeared I wasn't alone.  Then, I noticed the date: April 1st.

I'd been Funk'd.

On April 11th, the Bear Country Jamboree captured the hotly-contested Griffin Division lead after sweeping the pitiful Salem Cowtippers in four straight.  The Jamboree led the Los Altos Undertakers by just one game at that time, despite being out-scored overall by their competition.  In fact, all four teams in the Griffin Division had been out-scored by their competition at that point in the season.

But Bear Country's reign at the top of the division lasted just three days, as the Undertakers reclaimed the lead by sweeping the Manchester Irish Rebels in four straight.  Los Altos finished the second chapter with a record of 21-7 and never looked back.  From Chapter Three through the end of the season, the Undertakers played .663 baseball, and won 22 games more than Bear Country.  Los Altos eventually finished with 106 wins -- the most in the BDBL.  Bear Country would finish ten games under .500 at 75-85.

On May 26th, Osborne put Halladay on the trading block once again -- only for real this time.  Less than a week later, the Halladay Sweepstakes was won by South Carolina GM Tony DeCastro, who won the bid with a package of prospects including Jose Reyes, Justin Duchscherer and Jung Bong.  The Sea Cats also agreed to take Ramon Ortiz's $7 million 2005 salary.  Unfortunately, the move failed to pay off for the Sea Cats, who played below .500 (39-41) in the second half, and finished 30 games out of the division title and 20 games out of the wild card.  Less than six weeks after he was acquired, the Halladay Sweepstakes began anew, with Bob Sylvester holding the winning ticket.

On May 30th, the BDBL was treated with its fourth no-hitter in league history.  Pedro Martinez shut down the Great Lakes Sphinx offense, allowing four walks and striking out nine while throwing 119 pitches.   Martinez enjoyed a dominant season in 2004, breaking his own single-season record for ERA at 1.81.  In 204+ innings, Martinez allowed just 127 hits (an average of 5.6 per nine) and six home runs.  He struck out 223 and walked only 49, while posting a 17-4 record.

"Even though he wasn't the most active owner, he was a great competitor and a great guy. I'm sad to see him go."
-- Jeff Paulson, 6/2/04

Throughout his BDBL career, Litchfield Lightning owner Phil Geisel provided the league with a lot of laughs, but contributed little in the way of competitive decision-making.  Despite finishing in second place five seasons in a row, the Lightning were known more for their blunders (such as over-usage that led to several key playoff suspensions in 1999, and enormous penalties resulting from the protection of fewer than 15 players on Cutdown Day in 2003) than their successes.  Geisel's lackadaisical attitude toward his team, and his apathy when it came to drafting, trading and free agent acquisition, caused many to question why he bothered to participate in this hobby at all.  Several times through the years, Geisel promised to turn a new leaf and put more of an effort into the hobby.  But those promises fell flat time and again.  Thus, it came as little surprise when he finally called it quits on June 1st.

"...in many ways, this is a great league and I hope it continues for a long, long time without me –- perhaps even improves now that the source of so much apparent controversy over the years has moved on." -- Paul Marazita, 6/9/04

Not coincidentally, just eight days later (and -- coincidentally? -- just five days after Salem had wrested the Butler Division lead from the Zoots), Paul Marazita threw in the towel as well.  Marazita lived and died by the slogan, "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing."  He consistently proved that he would do anything and everything to win at all costs, unapologetically pushing every boundary to its outermost limits.  Yet in the end, Marazita could not live with the criticism that came as a result of his Machiavellian tactics.  He wanted free reign to make decisions and trades with full immunity from criticism by the "BDBL press."  Unfortunately for him, that's not the way this league operates.  Every one of us is held accountable for our actions -- good or bad.

No one could ever question Marazita's desire to win, and no one could ever take away the four trophies he won in five seasons.  If this league endures for another 50 years, his is a remarkable accomplishment that we may never witness again.   But in the end, Marazita proved winning isn't the only thing after all.  Perhaps Marazita should have adopted another time-honored slogan instead: "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game."

Kansas Law Dogs GM Chris Luhning spent the better part of the first three chapters waffling over whether or not he wanted to go for it all in 2004 or build for the future.  On June 4th, Luhning hopped off the fence and got in the game.  With the Law Dogs three games behind in the wild card race, Luhning acquired Triple Crown candidate Gary Sheffield from the Nashville Funkadelic in exchange for Pat Burrell and Kaz Tadano.  At the time of the trade, Sheffield ranked either #1 or #2 in the Eck League in hitting, OBP, slugging, RBI's, homers and runs created.  He would hit .358/.424/.642 with 23 homers and 67 RBI's in 80 games for Kansas, but it wasn't enough to push Kansas over the top.  The 'Dogs would finish with a record of 80-80, 15 games behind the Ridgebacks in the Higuera Division and 16 games behind in the wild card race.

Halfway There

The Eck League all-stars scored seven runs in the second inning to even up the midsummer classic at three wins apiece.  The Ozzie League's bumbling manager, Jim Doyle, brought batting practice pitcher John Halama into the game in the second inning, and the Eck League responded with two three-run homers.  Barry Bonds, whose three-run blast in the second made it a 7-1 game, was named the all-star MVP to the chagrin of the hometown Cleveland fans, whose team had traded him away the year before.

As the season reached its halfway mark, the eventual division champions were settling into place.  In the Butler Division, the Cowtippers had overcome two dreadful chapters to gain sole possession of first place.  It was a lead they would never relinquish.  In the Benes Division, just two games separated the division-leading Infidels, the Marlboro Hammerheads and the Gillette Swamp Rats.  In the Hrbek Division, the Black Sox had crawled all the way back from their 8-20 start to overtake the division lead.  And the Akron Ryche were sitting at the top of the EL wild card race, just one game ahead of the Rocks.

Geisel's and Marazita's departures opened the window of opportunity for Tony Badger and Andy Lurie.  Badger began his tenure by cleaning house, releasing Derek Jeter from his 10-year, $100 million contract.  (Surprisingly, Luhning stepped in the next chapter and picked up that contract.)  Badger also made more trades in his first two weeks on the job than Geisel had made over his five and a half year career.  Gone were Esteban Loaiza, Bartolo Colon, Joe Borowski, Rondell White, Jody Gerut, Michael Aubrey and Keith Osik.  In their place, the Lightning added several prospects, including Travis Blackley, Brian Anderson, Jason Stokes, Danny Putnam, Eddy Martinez-Esteve, Chris Snelling, Termel Sledge and Brad Nelson.

"Trading frenzy has me much less enthused.  Build your team and hope you get the lion's share of all the talent given away at the end of Chapter Three doesn't thrill me."
-- Brian Potrafka, 6/9/04

Badger wasn't the only GM burning up the phone lines prior to Chapter Three.  In a stunning frenzy of activity, 18 trades were made during that week, involving several major impact players.  The Ridgebacks added Sammy Sosa, Rod Beck, Sterling Hitchcock, Rondell White and Jody Gerut, bolstering an offense that ranked second in the EL in runs scored.  In addition to Sheffield, the Law Dogs added Ben Weber and Jay Payton.  The Sea Cats added Halladay.  The Southern Cal Slyme added Jeff Bagwell, Loaiza, Mike Cameron, Jacque Jones and Michael Tucker.  The always-mysterious Hammerheads replaced Matt Morris with Kevin Millwood and Miguel Tejada with Bobby Kielty, Carl Everett and Marquis Grissom.  The Cowtippers took a gamble on Bartolo Colon, and added Placido Polanco and Eddie Guardado to the mix.  And in addition to Mussina and Ramirez, the Zoots also added Steve Finley, Carlos Guillen and pitcher Javier Lopez.

BDBL Weekend VOn June 27th, seven members of the BDBL gathered in Cleveland for the fifth annual BDBL Weekend.  Highlights included a visit to beautiful Jacobs Field, a thrilling extra-inning game between the Indians and the Colorado Rockies, a side trip to Akron to catch a game between the Double-A Aeros and Bowie Baysox, a hilarious encounter with the president of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce and hearing Jim Doyle "say hello to his little friend" again and again.

By the middle of Chapter Three, the story of the season in the Ozzie League was quickly becoming the mind-boggling, dominating performance of Los Altos closer Eric Gagne.  Gagne recorded 39 saves in a row to start the season and eventually obliterated the old BDBL single-season saves record.  Through 85 innings, Gagne allowed just 24 hits, no homers, 2 runs (1 earned) and 15 walks, while striking out 132.  He owned a record of 1-0 and saved 62 games -- 11 more than the previous record, which he surpassed on August 25th.

"I'd be willing to bet $1,000 that one of those three teams (Chicago, Southern Cal or Allentown) will win the BDBL championship. All of the other 21 teams in the BDBL are irrelevant right now."
-- Mike Glander, 6/29/04

At the Chapter Four trading deadline, another frenzy captured the attention (and aggravation) of the league.  The Slyme continued to add to their already-impressive stockpile of pitching with the acquisition of Halladay.  The Hammerheads acquired Orlando Cabrera and Reggie Sanders.  The Zoots sent Manny Ramirez to Chicago in exchange for Mike Mussina and Aramis Ramirez.  And the Cowtippers added Brett Boone and Marquis Grissom.  But by far, the biggest winner at the Chapter Four deadline was Chicago GM John Gill.  Not only did Gill add Manny Ramirez to his lineup, but he also added Tim Hudson to his starting rotation.

In 2003, the Cowtippers and Hammerheads staged a season-long battle at the top of the Benes Division.  In the end, Marlboro prevailed, denying Salem a fifth straight division title and knocking them out of the playoffs for the first time ever.  In 2004, the Cowtippers got their revenge.  Marlboro finished six games out of first place in the division, and ten games back in the wild card race, in large part thanks to their complete and utter domination by the Cowtippers.  On August 9th, Salem and Marlboro wrapped up their 12-game season schedule against each other, with the Cowtippers winning all twelve games.  Salem's Chapter Five sweep of the Hammerheads put them ten games behind the Infidels, effectively ending their season.  Yes, revenge is indeed sweet.

"No offense to anyone, you take what you can get, but the fun has officially ended for me this year. All the trades I've been frantically going over -- forget it. Not worth the time or effort.  I won't neglect my team this year. I'll see it through to the end of the year, at least."
-- Brian Potrafka, 7/29/04,
after the Kerry Wood trade

During the winter of 2003, after a series of long and agonizing negotiations, the Cowtippers acquired Kerry Wood from the Manchester Irish Rebels in exchange for Roger Clemens.  After posting a 4.86 ERA for the Cowtippers, Wood was unceremoniously traded back to Manchester prior to the Chapter Four deadline in exchange for Brett Boone and Reggie Sanders.  After failing so miserably for Salem, however, Manchester's pitching coach completely turned him around.  Wood posted a 2.66 ERA through 64+ innings for the Irish Rebels, with just 40 hits and 17 walks allowed.  On August 19th, Wood added insult to injury by becoming the second pitcher of the year to throw a no-hitter.  Against the decimated Litchfield Lightning offense, Wood allowed just two walks and struck out ten.

The September balloting for 2005 rule change proposals resulted in several dramatic changes for the 2005 season.  After years of debate over an in-season salary cap to deter lopsided trades, the league compromised by adopting a luxury tax instead.  And to remove all motivation for failure, the league agreed to change the order of the draft and overhaul the Rule 7.16 bonuses and penalties for performance.

Shortly after the start of Chapter Six, both the Slyme and Undertakers captured their respective division titles.  It was the third division title for Southern Cal, and title #5 for Los Altos.  Less than three weeks later, Stamford clinched a spot in the playoffs by winning the OL wild card -- the sixth time in six seasons Stamford gained a spot in the final eight.

The 2004 season featured several outstanding pitching performances, and near the top of that list is the season enjoyed by Chicago ace Mark Prior.  Prior won his first 20 decisions to start the season, and finished the year with a record of 24-1.  In 226+ innings, Prior struck out 270 batters and posted a 3.46 ERA.

On the offensive side of the ledger, no one enjoyed a better season than Wapakoneta slugger Albert Pujols.  Pujols flirted with .400 up until the final week of the season, and finished the year with an average of .396 (a BDBL single-season record.)  Pujols led the league in hitting, slugging (.733), hits (234), runs scored (147) and runs created (211.7), and he placed second in OBP (.481) and home runs (48.)

Allentown's Barry Bonds also enjoyed his usual dominating season, batting .332/.495/.717 overall, with 44 homers, 123 RBI's, 136 walks (only 27 intentional) and 164.1 runs created.  Kansas' Gary Sheffield completed the Eck League Holy Trinity by batting .366/.445/.685 overall, with a league-leading 50 homers and 144 runs batted in.

The Undertakers won their 100th game on October 22nd -- the third time in franchise history they reached that milestone.  That same day, Allentown clinched their second Higuera Division title in three years, earning their third straight trip to the post-season party.   And Salem captured their first Butler Division title, halting a five-year streak by the Zoots.

The final spot in the playoffs was sewn up on October 27th, when the Ryche officially clinched the wild card.  Akron went 19-9 down the stretch, while the Rocks faded with a record of 9-13.

Post-Season

Infidels celebrate
From left to right: John Kerry, Eric Chavez, Carlos Delgado, Brian Potrafka, Johan Santana
and Ivan Rodriguez.

They say that anything can happen in a short series.  They say that timely hitting and pitching wins playoff games.  They say that on any given day, any team can win.  Never before have those age-old adages been proven to be so accurate.

The 2004 playoffs featured perhaps the three greatest upsets in league history.  It began with the Ridgebacks beating a Southern Cal team whose pitching staff was loaded beyond belief.  Their rotation was so deep, Josh Beckett, Jose Contreras and Mark Redman were used throughout the playoffs in relief.  Another one of those age-old adages is that pitching and defense wins in a short series.  But in this case, that adage proved tragically wrong for the SoCal Slyme.  In five games, the SoCal pitching staff was clobbered by the Allentown offense.  In 43 innings, SoCal pitchers allowed a whopping 39 runs (all earned) on 58 hits (including 14 home runs) and 26 walks.

Series MVP Barry Bonds went 9-for-12 in the series, with 4 homers, 8 runs scored, 10 RBI's and 13 walks (7 intentional.)  Craig Wilson hit .526 in the series, with 3 homers.  J.D. Drew hit .455 with 4 homers.  Meanwhile, Southern Cal hit just .224/.277/.400 as a team.  The Slyme were out-scored 39-20 in the series and managed just one win in the series (a 5-4 victory where Allentown nearly came from behind to win.)

In the other EL Division Series, the heavily-favored Chicago Black Sox needed six games to beat the Akron Ryche.  They won in convincing fashion, however, winning Game Six by a score of 10-0.

Over in the Ozzie League, the Cowtippers and Zoots locked horns in the post-season for the fourth time in league history.  Salem fell behind two games to one to start the series, then finished up strong, winning three in a row on the strength of the pitching by Bartolo Colon, Brandon Webb and Barry Zito.

The Undertakers won a BDBL-best 106 games in 2004 -- 14 wins more than their Division Series rivals, the Ravenswood Infidels.  But regular season records are tossed out the window once the calendar turns to November.  The last time these two teams met in the post-season, Los Altos held Ravenswood (then the Madison Fighting Mimes) scoreless through the first 29 innings of the series.  This year, the Undertakers shut out the Infidels offense through the first 17 innings.  But in that 18th inning, Ravenswood did the unthinkable, scoring two runs against Eric Gagne to win by a score of 2-1.  That seemed to turn the series (and the post-season) around for the Infidels, who reeled off three more wins in a row to knock the Undertakers out of the post-season picture.

"I was very surprised Mike came out for Game Six. I know he was frustrated with the way the last two games went, but I'd have pulled the plug and tried again another night. He just ran into a buzzsaw."
-- Greg Newgard, 11/15/04

That set the stage for the next playoffs upset, when Ravenswood defeated the heavily-favored Cowtippers.  The OL Championship Series began normally enough, with Ravenswood winning two out of three close games.  Then, the wheels fell off the Salem bandwagon.  In Game Four, Curt Schilling surrendered three runs in the first inning, and Ravenswood rolled to a 7-1 win.  In Game Five, Brandon Webb allowed five first-inning runs en route to an 8-3 Infidels victory.  And in Game Six, Barry Zito managed to record just one out while allowing SIX runs in the very first inning, and Ravenswood wrapped up the series win with a 10-4 laugher.  In the beginning of the season, the league wondered whether or not the Cowtippers had assembled the best starting rotation in league history.  In the end, that question was decisively answered.

When the Ridgebacks began the EL Championship Series with a 14-8 win over the heavily-favored Black Sox, the league began to wonder whether we were witnessing the third big upset of the post-season.  But Chicago came back to win Game Two by a score of 3-2, then won a 20-4 laugher in Game Three.  The Ridgebacks made it interesting, however, by taking a 9-8 lead in the top of the 11th inning of Game Six.  But in the bottom of the 11th, leadoff hitter Jason Kendall reached on an error, and Chipper Jones advanced the tying run to third with a double.  Manny Ramirez, the former Ridgeback whose embarrassing failure in the 2003 World Series arouses the ire of Allentown fans to this day, then slapped his former team across the mug with a walk-off two-run double.

"The thing I kept thinking about when I heard he won is this...it's just his first year in the league. I was thinking who he beat. First, the Los Altos Undertakers. Five post-season series and yet to make it to the World Series. Then he beats the Salem Cowtippers: five post season series, just making the World Series once. And loses in Game 7. The he beats the Chicago Black Sox...who have made the World Series twice. Three teams with poor luck in so many post season appearances...and Brain wins on the first try. Its just not fair." -- Jeff Paulson, 11/23/04

The Infidels entered the World Series as the eighth seed in an eight team field.  They were facing a team that won 102 games during the regular season -- 94 of which came in the final five chapters of the season.  The Black Sox lost 20 games in the first chapter, then lost just 38 games the rest of the way.  Their lineup included an all-star hitter from one-to-eight and their starting rotation was headed by Tim Hudson and the 24-1 Mark Prior.  To say the Infidels were the underdog would be a drastic understatement.

Yet, after rolling over the Cowtippers in four straight games to close out the OLCS, the Ravenswood Infidels just kept on rolling.  The Infidels offense averaged 5.4 runs per game during the regular season -- the fourth-best average in the Ozzie League.  But they averaged 7 runs per game in the OLCS and 7.4 runs per game in the World Series.  Quite simply, Ravenswood's hitters caught fire and never cooled down.

The Infidels rolled over Prior in Game One, winning 7-2.  They then scored 10 runs in 3 1/3 innings off of Ben Sheets in Game Two.  In Game Three, they tallied 8 hits and 3 runs in 6+ innings off of Tim Hudson, then scored three more against the Chicago bullpen.  And in Game Five, Johan Santana out-dueled Prior, handing him his second loss of the series.

And thus, the Ravenswood Infidels, led by rookie manager Brian Potrafka, were crowned league champions.

Wrapping it Up

We've come a long way as a league from our humble 20th century beginning.  We've grown much stronger as a league, and the level of knowledge and competitiveness we enjoy today is ten times greater than it was when we began.  I gain great pleasure from this hobby, and I can't imagine sharing this hobby with a better group of people.  Once again, I thank you all for your contributions and dedication to making this the greatest fantasy baseball league on the planet.