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Big Daddy Baseball League

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

Commish

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December, 2005

2005 Year in Review

Another year has come and gone.  It seems like just yesterday we were all wondering who would be crazy enough to spend upwards of $20 million on a 40-year-old outfielder.  A lot has happened since then.  This is my attempt to summarize it all in one (relatively) brief article.

Before I do so, of course, I have to hand out one "congratulations" and a bunch of "thank-you's."  The congrats goes once again to Tom DiStefano for kicking my ass (once again) in the World Series and earning his second BDBL championship trophy in the past four seasons.  The Allentown Ridgebacks have become a true dynasty, and I'm sure I'll be sending a few more trophies Tom's way before that dynasty is through.

I'll start off by thanking all of you for another terrific season.  Sure, we had our ups and downs, and more than our fair share of controversy, but some say that level of passion is what makes this league so great.  Continued thanks to our Transactions AND Contracts Secretary, Tom, for helping me out a great deal this season.  Continued thanks to D.J. Shepard for keeping on top of player usage throughout the season.  Many thanks to our "Secretary of VORP" (I love that title!) Tony Badger for his work on the fantastic "VORP Central" page.

As always, thanks to Tony Chamra for providing us all with timely MLB stats (despite the fact that his priorities were completely out of whack this year, and the stats were delivered later than usual, just because he was getting married.)  Thanks to all of you who attended BDBL Weekend this season -- a record turnout.  I think the highlight of my "BDBL career" was sitting around a breakfast table surrounded by more than half the league.  That was cool beyond words.

Many thanks to Matt Clemm for giving us all free access to our BDBL fantasy football league (where I might point out the Salem Steers have clinched a playoff berth.)  Thanks to all who have contributed to the BDBL forum this season (which includes almost everyone this year.)  Thanks to Johnny Bo for running the highly popular "Las Vegas Hilton Supercontest."  And thanks to the person or people (I'm sorry I don't remember) who helped me put together the stats disk this year.

And, as is tradition, many thanks to my wife, Karen, for putting up with all this crap and listening to me whine like a baby every November after I've failed once again to win a stupid trophy that I know she wouldn't want me to display in her house anyway.  (And yes, I said her house.)

Pre-season

As with every other pre-season in BDBL history, the winter trading season began with a flurry of trades involving big-name, high-impact players and prospects.  Among the many, many names switching uniforms last winter were Roger Clemens (who was traded twice before the month of December), Brian Giles, Carlos Delgado, Mark Mulder, Miguel Tejada, Nomar Garciaparra, Bobby Crosby, Tim Hudson, Brandon Webb, Magglio Ordonez, Derek Jeter, Armando Benitez, Mark Loretta, Mike Lowell, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Dontrelle Willis.

Early in the trading season, the Sylmar Padawans placed their low-cost ace Jake Westbrook, on the trading block.  After a number of weeks of negotiations involving a number of teams, the Wapakoneta Hippos shockingly emerged as the winners.  At the time, the Hippos were considered to be anything but potential contenders in 2005, but the Westbrook trade was just the first in a series of moves by eventual EL GM of the Year Bobby Sylvester that turned his team into a true powerhouse.

"Baseball history is filled with 18-year-old phenoms who burned out long before they became useful. They call these types of trades 'high risk/high reward' for a reason. For some reason, you focus only on the 'high reward' part and ignore the 'high risk.'"

-- Mike Glander, 12/6/04

Trading season ended on December 22nd, with 37 trades made in all -- just one short of the BDBL winter record.  Of course, no BDBL off-season is complete without a major controversial trade.  Last winter, that trade was made between the Salem Cowtippers and Los Angeles Diablos.  In exchange for "#3 starter" Odalis Perez and prospects Abe Alvarez and Jeff Baker, the Cowtippers received platoon player Jose Hernandez and a pair of 18-year-old prospects.

Immediately, loud howls of protests emerged from the teenage-boy-lovers in the league, who insisted that Salem had pulled one over on rookie GM Andy Lurie.  Things were said in the heat of the moment, and the dead carcass of Rule 9.3 was hauled out of its grave and paraded around the village square.  The initial trade was rescinded, and a challenge was issued to beat Salem's revised offer for Hernandez and the two pimply-faced prospects.  When no team stepped up with a better offer, the trade was once again consummated between Salem and Los Angeles, Rule 9.3 was put back in its coffin, and everyone lived happily ever after.

On December 18th, Lurie was given his pink slip after it became clear that he would not be able to fulfill his duties as owner.  More ugliness ensued when Lurie protested that he had not been given his day in court, but the testimony of character witnesses close to Lurie was convincing enough to make me uncomfortable, so I stuck with my decision.  A little over a week later (after an abbreviated interim management period by former BDBL member Brian Hicks), Ed McGowan was welcomed into the league.  In retrospect, although I feel badly for the way Andy left, Ed has become such an asset to the league that I couldn't be happier with my decision.

Draft Day

The free agent class of 2005 included the greatest, highest-impact player ever to become a BDBL free agent.  In fact, it would be hard for any free agent in the past or present to top Barry Bonds in terms of pure impact value.  It was the third time in his BDBL career that Bonds became a free agent, and the second time since the introduction of the d-Day auction system.  In 2003, Bonds was coming off a season in which he hit .370/.582/.799 at the MLB level.  He commanded a then-record $16.5 million salary.  In the winter of 2005, Bonds was coming off an even better season: .362/.609/.812.  In just 373 MLB at-bats, Bonds hit 45 homers and walked an astounding 232 times (an all-time MLB single-season record for both walks and OBP.)

"Wow, poor Bobby, he either bought the best one-year player in BDBL history, or is stuck with a 100 AB $22m player for next season."

-- Sharky, 5/18/05

What is the market value for such a player?  What is a hitter worth who can change a team's entire season and carry a team's entire offense all by himself?  According to the world-famous Doyle Formula, Bonds was assessed with a market value of $22.8 million -- a figure that would represent nearly 36% of a team's total salary.

Speculation was rampant, both over how much Bonds would fetch on the open market, and which team would be crazy enough to pay that price.  Bidding on Lot #1 began on New Years Day, and when it ended on the 3rd, the winning bid of $20.5 million -- a new BDBL record -- was announced.  The winner: Bobby Sylvester of the Wapakoneta Hippos.  The winning bid surpassed the Marlboro Hammerheads' highest bid by just $500,000.  Only six other teams bothered to submit a serious bid.

At the time, the Hippos were considered to be among the least-likely candidates for entry into the Bonds Sweepstakes.  But by adding Bonds to an offensive core that already included the great Albert Pujols (.331/.415/.657 in MLB '05), the Hippos immediately launched themselves out of the Eck League cellar and into serious contention.

Of course, the signing did not come without risk.  Bonds underwent knee surgery in the off-season and was still recovering slowly from the injury when he arrived at MLB spring training.  Late in March, Bonds announced that he could be sidelined for the entire 2005 season, but the speculation was that he would return by the all-star break.  Spending $20.5 million for just half a season suddenly seemed like it would be a strong possibility for the 2006 Hippos.  But instead, they lucked out big-time, and Bonds did not return to the lineup until mid-September.  He finished the MLB season with just 42 at-bats -- well short of the minimum threshold listed in Rule 18.11.  In the end, not only did the Hippos pay below market value for the greatest impact free agent in history, but they were then able to free all that money the following season.

Other big-name free agent signings included Vladimir Guerrero ($16m), Adrian Beltre ($15.5m), J.D. Drew ($13m), Freddy Garcia ($10.5m), Carlos Guillen ($9m) and Chris Carpenter ($9m), with the Silicon Valley CyberSox spending $24.5 million on two of those players (Beltre and Carpenter.)

In the free agent draft, Roy Halladay, Bartolo Colon, Milton Bradley, Corey Koskie and Randy Wolf were the first five picks -- all in the second round.  Some bargain picks included Jorge Cantu (11th round, Nashville), Reggie Sanders (17th round, Villanova), Chad Qualls (23rd round, Kansas), Kyle Farnsworth (26th round, Wapakoneta), Gustavo Chacin (26th round, New Milford), Bob Wickman (27th round, Kansas), Arthur Rhodes (27th round, Marlboro), Shawn Chacon (29th round, Southern Cal) and Derrick Turnbow (30th round, Atlanta.)

The first five picks in the farm draft were Brendan McCarthy, Tadahito Iguchi, Mitch Einertson, Matt Tuiasosopo and Javy Herrera.  Some good bargain picks included Francisco Liriano (10th overall, Bear Country), Chad Orvella (12th overall, New Milford), Robinson Cano (2nd round, Ravenswood), Chien-Ming Wang (2nd round, Las Vegas), Kenji Jojima (2nd round, Salem), Jonathan Papelbon (3rd round, Wapakoneta), Adam Jones (3rd round, Chicago) and Luke Hochevar (10th round, Salem.)

Opening Day

Between Cutdown Day and Opening Day, the league saw an unusually large number of trades.  Among them, the Ridgebacks were able to off-load one of their two high-paid free agent shortstop acquisitions, trading Nomar Garciaparra to the Manchester Irish Rebels in exchange for Billy Wagner.  Unfortunately for Manchester, Garciaparra would become a $7 million liability the following season.

Chicago unloaded some salary as well, dumping Chipper Jones on the Bear Country Jamboree in exchange for Jose Vidro.  And after experiencing the quickest case of buyer's remorse on record, the Jamboree unloaded the freshly-signed Brad Penny to the Cowtippers in exchange for controversial Cuban refugee Kendry Morales.  Salem then turned around and sent Penny to Ravenswood in order to reacquire the first-ever player to don a Cowtippers uniform, Greg Maddux.

For Bear Country, it was the beginning of a long, ignominious season.  Their #1 goal throughout the season was to avoid the embarrassing infamy of surpassing the 1999 Blazers record for losses in a single season.  In the end, they finished with a record of 52-108 -- six losses short of the record.

"I think Tony B. has joined Mike Stein as the most optimistic owner in the BDBL."

-- Mike Glander, 1/30/05

But the biggest trade of the off-season occurred just after to the deadline when the Los Altos Undertakers traded reigning league MVP and Cy Young Eric Gagne to the New Hope Badgers in exchange for prospect Jeremy Hermida.  At the time, the trade seemed to make little sense for either team.  With New Hope inheriting a lame-duck Litchfield Lightning roster less than six months before, they weren't expected to contend in the hotly-contested Butler Division.  And Hermida had never played higher than A-ball, and carried a minor league career slugging percentage below .400.  Yet the trade couldn't have worked out better for both sides, as Gagne nearly carried the Badgers to a wild card berth all by himself, while Hermida developed overnight into a top-ten prospect.

"Blazers fans are doing cartwheels in the streets of New Milford. Traffic was tied up for over an hour. Five arrests were made. Billy baseball spent the afternoon collecting bail money for his entire family. Go Blazers!"

-- Tony Peburn, 2/21/05

The traditional Opening Day series between the Cowtippers and Blazers took place on January 28th, resulting in a split of the four game series.  This season's series took on added importance, given the high expectations of the Blazers franchise heading into the season.  After losing more than 600 games over the previous six seasons and never winning more than 78 games in a season, New Milford was expected to not only contend, but win a spot in the BDBL post-season.  In pre-season polling, New Milford earned three votes to win the Butler Division and four votes to win the OL championship.  The Blazers then got off to a "blazing" start, going 18-10 in Chapter One while owning sole possession of first place in the division.

Meanwhile, the Manchester Irish Rebels were equally red-hot in the early going.  Manchester began the season with a 10-2 record, during which they outscored their opponents by a whopping 52 runs (an average of over four runs per game.)  The Irish Rebels offense scored an average of 8.3 runs per game during that stretch, while their pitching staff posted a team ERA of 3.76.  Like New Milford, Manchester finished the first chapter with an 18-10 record, then stumbled hard down the mountain the rest of the year.

The Griffin Division race between the Padawans and CyberSox was expected to be a tight one, so it was a bit of a surprise when Sylmar swept Silicon Valley during the first week of the season.  The CyberSox recovered from that defeat immediately, however, and fueled by a February 6th no-hitter by Nate Robertson, swept the Bear Country Jamboree to pull them into a tie for first in the division.

On March 8th, just five weeks into the BDBL season and just three weeks after pitchers and catchers reported to MLB spring training, the league was faced with yet another trade involving a high-impact player going to a heavily-favored team, which resulted in weeks upon weeks of debate over which rule changes needed to be made to prevent such a thing from ever happening again.  By this point in the league's existence, this had become a yearly tradition.

"Wait a minute...

Is this a joke?

Seriously. Is it?"

-- Mike Glander, 3/7/05

This year, "The Trade" involved top-five ace Jason Schmidt moving from the Cleveland Rocks to the Wapakoneta Hippos in exchange for Cliff Lee and two veteran relievers.  At the time, Lee was a generic 27-year-old pitcher with no proven track record of success in either the major or minor leagues.  Lee was coming off an MLB second half in which he posted a 7.91 ERA, while the two relievers (Kyle Farnsworth and Ryan Dempster) had a combined 4.53 ERA in MLB '04.

Initially, this trade seemed too lopsided to be real, and both teams involved were forced to fend off accusations that this was nothing but an early April Fool's prank.  But the trade was no joke, and the Hippos had added an ace to a roster that was already stacked with ringers.  Oddly enough, however, this acquisition seemed to have little impact on the Hippos' performance throughout the regular season.  After posting a .571 winning percentage in Chapter One, Wapakoneta's winning percentage dropped to .538 the rest of the way.  By the end of March, the Hippos had taken over the Person Division lead for good, and though they continued to perform sporadically the rest of the season, they never came close to losing that lead.

While the Irish Rebels were making a lot of noise in the Benes Division, the defending-champion Ravenswood Infidels stumbled hard out of the gate.  Ravenswood was swept in a March 16th series against the Cowtippers, giving Salem sole possession of first place in the Butler Division for the first time all season, and dropping Ravenswood to a record of 22-26 -- seven games behind the Irish Rebels.  By the end of the season, however, both Salem and Ravenswood would come face-to-face in the post-season once again.

"Hey, Im not a Star Wars geek. Will it help you follow if I use some Star Wars terminology? Here, we can pretend were characters. You be CMePOd and Ill be R2FkU. Does that help you follow my logic?"

-- Steve Osborne, 3/27

No BDBL season would be complete without a major, complex prank being pulled by one or more conspirators.  In 2005, the big prank was masterminded for the second year in a row by Nashville owner Steve Osborne.  Several weeks before April 1st, Steve and I began arguing with each other over mundane topics on the message board.  The arguments escalated a little more each week until, toward the end of March, Steve was kicked out of the league.  A day later, it was announced that Paul Marazita was rejoining the league.  Everyone in the league fell for the prank until Marazita's humble "mea culpa" post on the message board.  (Though I have a hunch a few people even believed that one.)  Finally, it was revealed that it was all a hoax, from the arguments to Steve's dismissal, to Marazita's return.  A one-year suspension of all BDBL hoaxes was then instituted, though time will tell if anyone will abide by that directive.

Prior to the Chapter Three deadline, contending teams continued to load up on pitching.  In an attempt to answer Sylmar's acquisition of Mark Buehrle the previous chapter, Silicon Valley acquired Odalis Perez.  When the Great Lakes Sphinx initiated a "Brad Lidge Sweepstakes," the New Milford Blazers (who had a bullpen that already included two sure-fire stoppers in Tom Gordon and Aki Otsuka) emerged as the surprising winners.  The Cleveland Rocks -- still in a midst of unloading every useful player on their roster -- sent ace Kelvim Escobar packing to the Infidels.  And after losing the bidding wars on Eric Gagne, John Smoltz and Brad Lidge, the Cowtippers finally landed a closer by sending #1 prospect Delmon Young to the Las Vegas Flamingos in exchange for B.J. Ryan and Brad Radke.  Radke was then sent to the Irish Rebels, who were still hanging onto first place by the slightest of threads.

After closing the chapter with a four-game sweep at the hands of Salem, Manchester finished Chapter Two with a 10-18 record -- a complete reversal of their Chapter One record.  Despite the poor chapter, they still stood one game in front of the Infidels and Marlboro Hammerheads in their division.  Unfortunately for Rebels fans, the acquisition of Radke made little impact, as the team went just 42-62 the rest of the season, finishing in last place.

The Chapter Three trading deadline didn't pass without controversy.  Just one minute after the 10:00pm deadline, the Hammerheads announced that they had once again traded Carlos Zambrano to the Chicago Black Sox in exchange for Ben Sheets (among others.)  It was the second time in league history that Zambrano and Sheets had been traded for each other by the same two teams.  But when the trade was not allowed to go into effect until Chapter Four, the two teams changed their minds and reversed the trade (making it the third time in league history the same two players were traded for each other by the same two teams!)

Early in Chapter Three, the Atlanta Fire Ants swept the Padawans in a four game interleague series, putting them only one game behind in the EL wild card race.  The Fire Ants had finished in last place in each of the past five seasons, and their ascension to contender status was one of the more inspirational stories of the 2005 season.  Atlanta took over a share of first place in the wild card race (and just one game behind in the division race) on June 3rd.  They briefly lost the lead to the Akron Ryche, then recaptured it for good on August 24th.

Halfway There

At the halfway point of the season, the Ozzie League was embarrassed by the Eck League in the midsummer classic by a score of 14-2.  To the surprise of no one, the two Wapakoneta teammates put on a clinic, with Pujols hitting two home runs and driving home seven runs, while Bonds knocked in four runs and hit a longball of his own.  Worst of all, the Ozzie League couldn't even blame Jim Doyle for this loss.

"Only one GM had the balls to throw away a future star to win this year. And he has had that attitude all season. Since the auction. Every other offer involving these players were an absolute joke, except for this one."

-- Tony Peburn, 7/18

During the last week of June, the Badgers slipped by the Blazers into first place in the OL wild card race.  It would be the end of the road for the hapless Blazers and the beginning of an amazing, season-long struggle for the Badgers.  Less than a week later, after a four-game sweep at the hands of the CyberSox, the New Milford front office duo threw in the towel, putting every high-impact player on the Blazers roster on the trading block.  After a two-week bidding war, the Hippos emerged once again with the winning lottery ticket.  In exchange for budding superstar Jason Bay, Wapakoneta received Melvin Mora, Lidge and Juan Pierre as part of a six-player deal.  With Pierre, Mora, Bonds and Pujols at the top of the lineup, Schmidt and Westbrook at the top of the rotation, and Lidge heading the bullpen, the Hippos were declared to be the odd-on favorites to win the BDBL championship.  Oddly enough, however, Wapakoneta's offense scored just 5.2 runs per game after the trade (compared to 5.5 before it.)

Of course, New Milford's massive rebuilding effort was just getting started.  Three days after the Hippos trade, New Milford managed to do what was once thought to be impossible and traded Mike Hampton.  Hampton's ugly contract ($20 million remaining through the next two seasons, or a $10 million buy-out at the end of the season) was thought to be immovable when the Blazers acquired him during the 2002 season, yet it was the second time that "immovable" contract was moved.

"I can't even begin to imagine how these negotiations went. How on earth do you even begin to talk to Tom about giving him Todd Helton without asking for (Felipe Lopez, Billy Butler, Edwin Encarnacion, Kelly Johnson or Jesse Foppert?)

-- Mike Glander, 7/28

Eight days later, New Milford capped off their wild and reckless dumping spree by trading supernova first baseman Todd Helton (with closer Aki Otsuka and ace Orlando Hernandez throw in, just to make it even) to the Allentown Ridgebacks.  In the end, the Blazers finished with a record of 73-87, narrowly avoiding an additional $1 million penalty.  Heading forward, however, New Milford has just $11.9 million in committed 2006 salary, and a foundation of cheap, productive players that includes Bay, Alfonso Soriano, Danny Haren and others.  Once again, New Milford is considered to be a lock to compete in that ever-elusive "next year."

And once again, the league spent several weeks afterward debating new rule changes to prevent such a thing from ever happening again.  Eventually, the league decided to toss out the old in-season salary cap rule and adopt an in-season trading rule based on VORP.  Only time will tell whether or not this experiment will finally do the trick.

On July 24th, the VIth annual BDBL Weekend was held in the City of Brotherly Love.  More than half the league attended the festivities, including every member of the Ozzie League, save Matt Clemm.  The fun-filled weekend included a trip to Citizen's Bank Park and a game between the Padres and home-town Phillies, lunch at world-famous Pat's Cheesesteaks and a night at Dave & Buster's.

The league barely had time to recover from its collective hangover before the Kansas Law Dogs announced that they, too, were throwing in the towel.  Once again, the Chicago Black Sox -- who were already ranked among the top run-scoring teams in the Eck League -- loaded up even more on offense.  Chicago added big-time sluggers Gary Sheffield and Victor Martinez to a lineup that already included Vlad Guerrero, Vernon Wells, Aramis Ramirez, Jose Vidro, Aubrey Huff and Khalil Greene.  Chicago easily walked away with the Hrbek Division title, winning 102 games, but once again fell short in the playoffs.

On July 30th, the Salem Cowtippers surpassed the Corona Confederates franchise on the all-time wins list.  Later in the year, the Cowtippers won their 100th game for the fourth time in franchise history (a BDBL record), won their 700th game in franchise history (the only team to do so) and captured their sixth division title (the only team to do so.)  And yet, somehow, no one attended Salem's gala celebration party.

A number of exciting pennant races filled the front page throughout the months of August, September and October.  In the Benes Division race, the Hammerheads briefly managed to pull into a tie for first place with the Infidels in mid-August.  Ravenswood took back the lead two days later, however, while the Las Vegas Flamingos inserted themselves into the act in early September, winning 17 games in Chapter Five to pull to within two games of the division lead.  The Benes Division race went down to the wire, and was not decided until the final week of the season, in a series between Ravenswood and Marlboro.  Ravenswood eventually won the division by five games.

In the Eck League wild card race, Akron trailed Atlanta by just one game heading into Chapter Six.  That race, too, was not decided until the final week of the season.  The Fire Ants emerged victorious, winning the wild card by three games over Akron. 

The OL wild card race was perhaps the most thrilling race of all.  On September 27th, the Badgers took three of four from the Confederates, pulling them into a three-way tie with the CyberSox and Padawans at the top of the OL wild card standings.  The Badgers wrapped up their season on October 12th, finishing with a split of a four-game series against the Undertakers.  They were then forced to wait it out through the remaining two weeks of the season.

"Congratulations, Greg and John, on a wonderful season. Fitting that with both of you neck and neck all year you would split the final series, have the same record for the year, and (probably) face each other in the first round. At least I made a valiant attempt to crash the playoff party."

-- Tony Badger, 10/24

Meanwhile, both Sylmar and Silicon Valley were fighting throughout the month of October for not only the division title, but a spot in the post-season.  A four-game sweep of the Jamboree on October 12th gave the Padawans a two-game lead in both the division and wild card races.  A week later, the CyberSox dropped three of four in a stunning upset by the Undertakers.  But four days later, they recovered in a major way, winning seven of eight games against the Jamboree and Blazers to put them back into a tie with the Padawans atop the division.

Then, on October 24th, the Padawans and CyberSox played their final series of the season, head-to-head.  One win by either team ensured a spot in the playoffs.  Two wins by Sylmar ensured the division title, thanks to a tie-breaker.  In the end, it was the Padawans who emerged victorious, claiming the division title after four straight last-place finishes.

Allentown captured their third division title on October 1st -- the same day their lefty ace Glendon Rusch became the eighth pitcher in BDBL history to pitch a no-hitter.

Post-season

The 2005 post-season kicked off with a rematch between the Cowtippers and Infidels in the OLDS.  The last time the two teams met in the playoffs, Ravenswood shocked the BDBL establishment by taking the final three games of the OLCS, pummeling Salem's three-headed ace in the first inning of each game.  This time, Salem got their revenge, taking the series in six hard-fought games.

In the other Ozzie League Division Series, Sylmar and Silicon Valley carried over their season-long battle into the playoffs.  To the surprise of no one, it was a closely-matched series featuring two extra-inning games and four games decided by two or fewer runs.  In the end, a two-out RBI single by Juan Uribe off Trevor Hoffman in the 8th inning of Game Seven ended Silicon Valley's season.  Francisco Rodriguez and series MVP Orber Moreno closed it out in the top of the ninth, leaving the tying run stranded at second base.

Over in the Eck League, the 102-game-winning Black Sox took on the disappointing Hippos in the Division Series.  Hippos starter Jason Schmidt threw just 70 pitches in Game One, as he was rocked for seven runs in just 2 2/3 innings.  He then came back on just one game's rest and pitched seven shutout innings in Game Three, allowing just one run.  Meanwhile, #2 starter Westbrook pitched Game Two, then returned just three games later to shut out the Black Sox for seven innings in Game Five.  Remarkably, Wapakoneta made short work of Chicago, beating them in just five games, while outscoring them 34-22.

But the biggest shock of all was happening in the Division Series between Allentown and Atlanta.  Behind stellar pitching and timely offense, the underdog Fire Ants won Games One, Two and Three.  Then, with just one win needed in the next four games, Atlanta's Cinderella season came to a shocking conclusion.

Orlando Hernandez shut down the Atlanta offense in Game Four, limiting them to just two runs.  Randy Johnson then dominated Atlanta in Game Five.  In Game Six, Atlanta loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth inning, down by a score of 3-2, but failed to score a single run.  They lost, 6-3, forcing a Game Seven.  By then, the conclusion was inevitable.  6 2/3 shutout innings from Roy Oswalt later, the Ridgebacks had achieved the impossible, winning four in a row to come from behind.

In the OL Championship Series, the Cowtippers pitching stepped up big-time against the Padawans offense.  The Padawans scored one run or less in three games in the series, while the Salem offense had a field day against Sylmar pitching, scoring 11 runs in Game Two and 17 runs in Game Four.  Salem cruised to a five-game series victory, setting the stage for yet another World Series letdown.

Allentown also won their League Championship Series in five games, though it was a bit closer in nature, as four of the five games were decided by two runs or fewer.  The Hippos dynamic duo of Bonds and Pujols were nearly invisible in the series, as Pujols hit just .222 with 0 RBI's and Bonds hit just .071 with 2 RBI's.

Finally, in the final series of the season, the Cowtippers came from behind in dramatic fashion to win Game One of the World Series against the Ridgebacks, but it was all downhill from there.  Juan Cruz and Mariano Rivera blew a two-run lead in Game Two, leading to an extra-innings loss (the second consecutive extra-innings game of the series.)  Oswalt completely out-matched Curt Schilling in Game Three, and held the vaunted Salem offense to just one run on four hits and no walks through eight innings.  Cruz then blew another save in Game Four, costing Salem another game.  And Randy Johnson (who else?) then drove the final nail into Salem's coffin in Game Five, twirling an effortless complete game six-hit shutout to clinch Allentown's second BDBL championship.

Conclusion

Again, I'd like to thank you all for a thrilling and...well, sometimes...fun season.  I get extremely aggravated with this hobby sometimes, to the point where I wonder why I continue to put myself through this every year.  But in the end, I do it because it is something I enjoy, and I am thankful for the opportunity to share this hobby with all of you.

At BDBL Weekend, I made a promise that I would continue to operate this league for as long as I am alive and semi-coherent, and I will stick to that promise, no matter how many times Tom beats me in the World Series.