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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, 2006

2006 Year in Review

The 2006 BDBL season was a time of transition.  It marked a changing of the guards, when juggernauts from the past such as the Salem Cowtippers and Allentown Ridgebacks suffered through hard times, while perennial punching bags like the Villanova Mustangs and New Milford Blazers finally enjoyed their moments in the sun.  It was also a time marked by the end of the "superteam," due perhaps in part to rule changes instituted in the previous two years.  In stark contrast to prior seasons, only one team (Villanova) finished the 2006 season with triple digits in wins, and only one team (Great Lakes Sphinx) finished with 100 losses.  And of the eight teams in the 2006 post-season, only one (Sylmar) was a repeat champion.

Congratulations to Tony Chamra of the Villanova Mustangs for his long-awaited BDBL championship.  As most of you are well aware, I'm a big fan of playing this game "the right way," and Tony played it about as well as it can be played.  He ran his franchise in an honest, realistic way, and built a championship team from within.  The Mustangs are a model example of how to build a championship-caliber franchise, and Tony deserves all the credit in the world for his well-deserved victory.

As has become tradition, I would like to take this time to thank all of you for another fun and exciting season.  In particular, I'd like to say thank you to Tom for your tireless work as Transactions and Contracts Secretary.  Many thanks to Tony Badger for your kick-ass VORP page, and to Tony Chamra for your always-timely MLB stats spreadsheet.  Thanks to DJ for your usage reporting (even though it cost me $1 million this year.)  Thanks, once again, to Matt Clemm, for setting us up with our fantasy football league.  And thanks to Johnny Bo for once again running the annual NFL pick-em contest.

Special thanks to "Einstein", "Mr. Power Rankings", "Biggest Daddy" and "Professor VORP" for contributing entertaining and insightful content to our website.  Thanks to all of you who attended this year's BDBL Weekend in Chicago.  It was, without a doubt, one of the best times I've had in recent memory.  Thanks to those of you who helped me out with the league disk earlier this year.  Thank you, Greg, for all the graphics you've contributed to the web site, and for the work you've done with the league history information.  Thanks to all of you for sticking with this league despite all the tugging and pulling from real life.  And thanks to Anthony Peburn for giving me a true villain to root against, now that Marazita is long gone, and Tom is considerably less Sith-like.

And finally, as has also become tradition, thanks to my wife, Karen, for putting up with all of this.  She never reads this page, of course, and has no idea that I've been thanking her on this page for the past eight years, but it's the thought that counts.

"I feel sorry for the poor sap who is going to shell out huge $$ for Clemens, and then sit around the computer every day to see if he signs and where."
-- Anthony Peburn (fooling nobody), 12/12/05

The biggest story of 2006 actually began in 2005, when the New Milford Blazers decided to pack it in halfway through the season, despite being in the thick of a playoffs hunt for the first time in franchise history.  New Milford's two-headed GM team of Billy Romaniello and Anthony Peburn sold off every halfway decent player on the roster, and they weren't too picky about what they received in return.  In the end, they acquired a couple of franchise players in Danny Haren and Jason Bay, and freed up a ton of salary for the 2006 off-season.

$19 million of that money then went to the #1 free agent in the 2006 auction, 44-year-old Roger Clemens.  It was a record salary for a starting pitcher, eclipsing the previous record of $15 million, set by Javier Vazquez in the 2004 auction.  For their $19 million investment, New Milford got a pitcher who went 16-11 during the regular season, with a 3.14 ERA in 232 innings.  And in the playoffs, Clemens allowed 30 hits and 16 earned runs (a 5.40 ERA) in 26+ innings.

"The fact of the matter is that this is our year...all chips are on the table this season.  We have cowered from the Baseball Gods long enough...This year, I say, 'FU Jobu and all the other Pagan Baseball Gods.'  The seven-year drought is over, even if just for a year."
-- Anthony Peburn, 12/1/05

Before spending all that money, however, New Milford began a series of dubious trades in which they sold off franchise pitcher Danny Haren and cheap, productive starter Chris Crapuano in exchange for one-year rentals Chris Carpenter and Chipper Jones (among others.)  It was just the first of many reckless trades New Milford would make in 2006 -- each one designed to decimate the franchise's future in exchange for one shot at championship glory.

Several other trades made during the winter of 2006 raised an eyebrow or two, including the trades made by Great Lakes Sphinx GM Scott Romonosky.  Coming into the winter, the Sphinx were considered to be serious contenders for the Eck League title, thanks to their starting rotation, which included Andy Pettitte, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia and C.C. Sabathia.  But before the draft, Romonosky dealt away Garland and Derek Jeter for Tim Hudson and Jimmy Rollins.  Sabathia was then traded for Geoff Jenkins.  And Jermaine Dye was traded for Jason Marquis.  The Sphinx stumbled out of the starting blocks and never recovered.  They eventually finished with the worst record (60-100) in the BDBL, and were the only team in the league to finish with 100 losses.

Other big names switching uniforms in the winter of 2006 included Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, Carlos Delgado and Eric Chavez.  On December 10th, the Chicago Black Sox made a bold move toward contention when they traded for MVP frontrunner Derrek Lee.  Lee joined the newly-acquired Manny Ramirez in the Chicago lineup, giving Chicago a tremendously powerful one-two punch.  It was an offense-first strategy that had worked well for Chicago GM John Gill through the years.

"The bottom line is I did not have a good feeling with this team, and did not feel confident about my chances of making the playoffs, let alone doing well in the playoffs.  Sometimes you need to take a year to reload, which is the way I'm looking at it."
-- John Gill, 3/9/06

But after a slow start in Chapter One, Gill began deconstructing his team, just five weeks into the new season.  He began by trading Ramirez to the Marlboro Hammerheads, along with Ben Sheets, in exchange for Carlos Zambrano and others.  Later in the season, Lee was dumped as well, and the Black Sox finished the season with a record of 70-90 -- 27 games behind the Akron Ryche in a division they were favored to win on Opening Day.

With a record amount of spending money in the 2006 auction, and perhaps the weakest draft class in league history, inflation was at an all-time high.  Just three days into the auction, the league had seen not only a new record salary for a starting pitcher (Clemens), but a new record for a reliever (Billy Wagner at $8 million to the Corona Confederates), and a new record for a double play combo (Brian Roberts at $8.5 million and Rafael Furcal at $9.5 million -- both signed on the same day, and both going to the same team, Manchester.)

In the end, a total of $341.5 million was spent on the 50 free agents in the auction, beating the 2005 total by $23.5 million, but coming up $22 million shy of the all-time auction record set in 2004.  In addition, 37 out of those 50 free agents were signed to a salary of more than $5 million, making them "Type H" players who must be signed to a contract at the end of the 2006 season.  This number tied the all-time record, set in 2004.

Immediately following the auction, the New Hope Badgers gleefully selected Barry Bonds with the first pick of the draft.  He was the first player selected in Round One (a $10 million round) since the introduction of the auction in 2003.  Then, after twelve teams passed, the Los Altos Undertakers shattered Draft Day plans everywhere by making Jason Schmidt the second player ever selected in Round One since the introduction of the auction.

Round Two included the selections of several former superstars who had fallen from glory, including Jake Westbrook, Javier Vazquez, Scott Rolen, Matt Morris, Kerry Wood, Brad Wilkerson, Curt Schilling, Eric Gagne, Jim Thome, Magglio Ordonez and Kelvim Escobar.  Outstanding late-draft picks included Eric Byrnes (24th round), Josh Johnson (21st), Marcus Thames (30th), Brandon Phillips (34th) and Melky Cabrera (32nd.)

In the farm draft, the Bear Country Jamboree bestowed the First Pick Curse upon Matt Kemp.  He was then followed by Shane Robinson, Elvis Andrus, Fernando Martinez and David Aardsma among the top five.  A few key late-game picks included Jose Tabata (11th overall) and Akinori Iwamura (2nd round), but for the most part, this was a very shallow pool of talent.  And no pick better illustrates that statement than Ken Kaminski's selection of 15-year-old Robert Stock in the second round.

"Villanova should have no problem winning this division without much of a challenge.  With this pitching staff, it's hard to imagine this team not advancing to the World Series...I'm going to go out on a limb and predict a BDBL championship for the Mustangs in 2006."
-- Mike "Nostradamus" Glander, January

As the 2006 season began, the Blazers, Hammerheads, Padawans, Mustangs, Sea Cats and Ryche were predicted to win their respective divisions according to league polling.  The Blazers, enjoying their newfound status as contenders, won the traditional Opening Day series against the Cowtippers, winning the final game in 15 innings with an illegal pitcher on the mound.  It was New Milford's first Opening Day series victory since 2003, and it was merely a prelude to the events that would follow.

For the Cowtippers, 2006 was a season of unfamiliar transition.  After winning six division titles in the previous seven years, and falling just three games short of a seventh title in 2003, the Cowtippers found themselves ranked #24 out of 24 teams in the first Power Rankings poll of the season.  Salem lost several key free agents in the winter of '06, including Clemens, Schilling, Mark Loretta and Michael Young.  Not only that, but the team's MVP, Ivan Rodriguez, suffered through the worst season of his career, and franchise player Lance Berkman missed half the season after an off-season flag football injury.

Salem went into the off-season with a ton of spending money, but also with several gaping holes to fill.  And when they ended the draft with Nick Punto as their starting shortstop, and Chad Moeller behind the plate, expectations were at an all-time low.  But the Cowtippers posted a respectable 13-15 record in the first chapter, and after winning seven of eight to start the second chapter, Salem sported a winning percentage of .568.  Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there.  Despite adding Derek Jeter, Mike Piazza, Tom Glavine, Esteban Loaiza and others to the roster during the course of the season, the Cowtippers wilted down the stretch and finished with a record of just 71-89.

On February 5th, South Carolina slugger Andruw Jones hit six home runs in just two games against the Atlanta Fire Ants.  Jones would finish the season with a BDBL-high 61 homers and 166 RBI's.  However, he also hit just .245 and posted an on-base percentage of just .305.

Over in Southern Cal, catcher Victor Martinez (who had been acquired via trade in the off-season) began the season on a tear, hitting .450/.512/.684 at the all-star break.  He carried a .400 batting average into the final chapter of the season, and eventually finished at .383/.448/.610.  It was an offensive performance that ranks among the greatest in league history, and it helped carry the Slyme to an EL wild card.

Two weeks into the season, the Silicon Valley CyberSox found themselves in a highly unexpected place: sitting at the top of the Griffin Division standings.  After winning the wild card in 2005 (and missing the division title by a tie-breaker to the Sylmar Padawans), the CyberSox were not expected to compete in 2006.  But Silicon Valley surprised everyone by posting a 16-12 record in Chapter One, then followed that with a 15-13 record in Chapter Two.  At the all-star break, the CyberSox sported a 47-33 record -- 9 games ahead of the Padawans and Undertakers.

The Padawans came into the 2006 season with Francisco Rodriguez as their dominant closer.  But they then added two more closers in the auction, spending a total of $12.5 million on Mariano Rivera and Bobby Howry.  If not the best bullpen ever assembled in BDBL history, the Padawans bullpen was certainly among the top three.  Given the apparent weakness of their division, where the other three teams were all allegedly in rebuilding mode, the only question at that point was not whether Sylmar would win their division, but by how many games.

"My deals last chapter could have (and should have, IMO) turned the season around.  It didn't happen during this chapter...Pathetic and disappointing.  But that's how this whole season has been -- and I mortgaged $74M+ in guaranteed salaries for 2007."
-- John Duel, 7/18/06

However, after getting off to a 16-12 start in Chapter One, the Padawans went just 10-18 in Chapter Two and 12-12 in Chapter Three.  Their vaunted bullpen, and their impressive starting rotation, performed just fine.  The problem was the offense, which averaged just 4.4 runs per game over the first half of the season.  But with his team nine games behind, GM John Duel made the bold decision to put it all on the line and make another run at the division title.  Prior to Chapter Four, he traded Derek Lowe and Casey Blake to the rival Undertakers (who were tied the the Padawans at the time) in exchange for Cliff Floyd, Eric Chavez and Mark Mulder, adding millions in future salary in the process.  That same chapter, he added Paul Konerko -- another high-priced slugger with a heavy future salary commitment -- in exchange for two cheap, young players.

But those additions didn't seem to make a difference, as the Padawans continued to struggle throughout Chapter Four.  Several players were then placed on the chopping block, including Rivera, who was eventually traded.  It was then assumed that the Padawans were throwing in the towel.  But just four days after that trade, Duel was back at the trading table once again, adding more millions to his 2007 salary cap by acquiring Derrek Lee from the Black Sox.

In the end, the Padawans owed $67.1 million in salary to just 16 players in 2007, and yet their offense continued to struggle.  They averaged just .238/.311/.412 as a team, and scored an average of just 4.6 runs per game over the final two chapters of the season.  Fortunately for Sylmar, the CyberSox stumbled even harder, going 8-16 in Chapter Four, 14-14 in Chapter Five, and 11-17 in Chapter Six.

Heading into the final chapter, the Padawans and CyberSox were joined in the Griffin Division race by a third team, the Los Altos Undertakers.  Having spent the past two years stockpiling rookies and farm players for the future, the Undertakers were an even less likely competitor for the division crown in 2006 than the CyberSox.  And yet, thanks to Silicon Valley's epic collapse, they found themselves in the thick of the race right up until the final week of the season.

"It's all up to Bear Country now.  They get to play spoiler in this race.  If they can win at least two games, my season is still alive.  If they win three, I will buy Matt (and his wife) dinner the next time they're in L.A.."
-- John Duel, 10/27/06

With eight games remaining in each of their seasons, the CyberSox held a two-game lead in the division over the Padawans, with the Undertakers trailing by three.  Among those eight remaining games, the CyberSox and Padawans were scheduled to play each other head-to-head.  But first, the Undertakers were scheduled for four games against Silicon Valley.  Los Altos needed to win three of the four game to earn a tie, and they did just that.  Now, we had a tie for first place, with the Padawans just one game behind.

Then, for the second year in a row, Silicon Valley and Sylmar squared off for four games to close out the season, with the division championship on the line.  The Padawans won three of four to take the division lead (tied with the Undertakers), knocking the CyberSox out of the playoffs in the process.  The fate of the division then rested on a four game series between the Undertakers and the lowly Bear Country Jamboree.  At stake for the Jamboree was the avoidance of finishing with the worst record in the BDBL for the second season in a row.  At stake for the Undertakers: their first division title since 2004.

Los Altos needed just two wins in the four game series to tie the division, and three to win.  Instead, Bear Country won three of the four games, knocking Los Altos out of the post-season on the final day of the season.

Over in that other league, the Allentown Ridgebacks came into the season determined to knock the cocky Villanova Mustangs down a peg.  They did just that in Chapter One, going 19-9 to capture first place -- four games ahead of the Mustangs.  Then, on February 28th, GM Tom DiStefano added insult to injury by acquiring the game's best starting pitcher, Johan Santana, in a trade with the rebuilding Ravenswood Infidels.

"Okay, I'm printing the New Milford/Villanova World Series tickets now.  No need to play out this season.  Let's just skip to November."
-- Mike "Nostradamus" Glander, 1/4/06

But Villanova GM Tony Chamra refused to panic.  After all his effort in rebuilding his franchise over the past several years, Chamra was determined not to trade any of his valuable young players in exchange for an immediate fix.  It didn't take long for Chamra's patience to begin paying dividends.  On April 15th, the Mustangs declared their dominance over the Ridgebacks in convincing fashion, sweeping them in four games.  That put Villanova just one game behind the Ridgebacks in the division.  They then captured the division for good in Chapter Three, while posting a league-best 18-6 record.

On July 17th, the Mustangs won the Mariano Rivera Sweepstakes, as Chamra finally pried loose a few of his more disposable young players.  At long last, on October 16th, the Mustangs clinched the Higuera Division flag, marking their first playoff appearance in franchise history.  Villanova finished the regular season with a record of 101-59 -- the only team in the BDBL to finish with triple digits in wins.

Meanwhile, after four years of oppressive dominance, the Ridgebacks found themselves struggling to keep pace down the stretch.  On July 25th, Santana was packaged in a blockbuster, nine-player trade with the Marlboro Hammerheads that netted Barry Zito, Todd Walker and Moises Alou, among others.  But in the end, it wasn't enough.  On October 22nd, the Ridgebacks were officially eliminated from the Eck League wild card race, marking the first time since 2001 that the playoffs would not include the Allentown Ridgebacks.

"When I joined this league, I circled 2006 and built everything to win this year.  I thought I had a team that could win 90 games, and one that had a shot, with some luck, at 100.  Boy was I wrong.  Nothing I did all year worked."
-- John Duel, 11/1/06

The 2006 post-season was unique in that only one of the eight teams -- Sylmar -- had participated in the playoffs the previous season.  The Padawans faced the Corona Confederates -- owners of the best record in the OL -- in the Division Series.  And after struggling to score runs all season long, the Sylmar offense continued to struggle in the playoffs.  In four games, Sylmar scored just eight runs.  And after all the sacrifices made during the season, the Padawans were ousted in just four short games.

The Blazers were matched up against the heavily-favored Marlboro Hammerheads in their Division Series.  But two extra-inning games in the first two games (including a 17-inning Game One) taxed both teams' bullpens early in the series.  After splitting the first two games, the two teams then split the next two as well.  Game Five was then tied at 5-5 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning.  But an overtaxed Marlboro bullpen then coughed up seven runs, giving New Milford a 12-6 win.

"This is not franchise suicide.  This is next year suicide, and we are okay with that.  Take a deep breath, everyone.  Worry about your own shitty franchises, and we'll worry about this shitty one."
-- Anthony Peburn, 4/28/06

Finally, in Game Six, the Blazers offense pounded Marlboro starter Jon Garland, who was a prime candidate for the OL Cy Young award.  With Marlboro leading by a score of 3-2 heading into the fifth, an uncharacteristic error by third baseman Placido Polanco allowed three runs to score for New Milford.  The Blazers bullpen then held on the rest of the way to win by a score of 9-5.  The Blazers -- who had decimated their franchise's future for one shot at the title -- were heading to the OLCS.

Over in the other league, the Mustangs and Southern Cal Slyme traded win for win through the first six games of the series, forcing a Game Seven.  With the score tied at 1-1 heading into the sixth, Villanova slugger Travis Hafner connected for a home run off of Jose Contreras to lead off the inning.  Villanova's stifling bullpen of Neal Cotts, Rudy Seanez and Mariano Rivera then took over from there and held on for the 2-1 win, sending the Mustangs to the ELCS.

Extra innings were the theme of the other Division Series between the Akron Ryche and South Carolina Sea Cats.  Three of the six games went into extra innings, and all three were won by the Sea Cats.  In the final game, Gary Sheffield led off the top of the 10th inning with a base hit, stole second base, then scored on a base hit by Ramon Hernandez.  Sea Cats reliever Solomon Torres then closed out the bottom of the 10th while facing the first four hitters in the Akron lineup.

The OL Championship Series began with New Milford's $19 million investment out-dueling Corona ace John Smoltz in Game One.  New Milford jumped out to an 8-0 lead after seven innings, and held on for an 11-6 win.  The Confederates won Game Two to tie the series, but when the series shifted to New Milford's home turf, the Blazers' bats came alive, scoring 20 runs in three games to complete the five-game series win.  After an entire season of endless bragging and self-congratulation, the Blazers were just four wins away from the ultimate prize.

In the ELCS, the Mustangs won three straight over the Sea Cats after dropping the home opener.  But one loss away from elimination, South Carolina fought for their lives, forcing yet another extra inning game in Game Five.  With one out, and runners on the corners, Villanova reliever Neal Cotts allowed a sacrifice fly to Tony Graffanino, which scored the game-ending run.  South Carolina then played their fifth extra-innings game of the post-season in Game Six, taking a 1-1 tie into the tenth.  With one out and runners at first and second, Sea Cats reliever Juan Rincon uncorked a wild pitch, placing the series-winning run 90 feet away.  With the infield in, Casey Kotchman hit a slow roller to the shortstop.  The runner at third bolted for home, and slid into the plate just before the tag.  After years and years of rebuilding, the Villanova Mustangs were heading to the World Series.

"Peburn, best of luck with your ridiculous, self-destructive strategy.  I'm willing to place a $500 wager right now that you will not win the 2006 championship.  In which case, everything you have done -- from destroying the 2005 pennant races (and robbing me of a trophy) to destroying your own franchise's future -- will have been for nothing."
-- Mike "Nostradamus" Glander, 4/28/06

Roger Clemens, New Milford's $19 million winter investment, who would be playing half a season in 2007 at the age of 44, took the hill for the Blazers.  On the opposing mound was Rich Harden, 20 years younger than Clemens and acquired through trade two seasons before.  In the bottom of the first, Clemens struck out Aaron Hill to start the game, then allowed back-to-back singles to Jim Edmonds and Johnny Estrada.  Travis Hafner, another product of the Mustangs farm system, then connected for a three-run blast.  Clemens eventually allowed two more runs, giving him five earned runs on nine hits in just 5 1/3 innings.  He was pulled from the game in the middle of the sixth, after throwing just 93 pitches.  It would be his final appearance of the 2006 season.  The Mustangs jumped on top in the Series by a score of 5-3.

In Game Two, New Milford's second ace, Chris Carpenter, took the hill.  Like Clemens, Carpenter was acquired at great expense.  And like Clemens, Carpenter failed to get the job done in the biggest series of the year: 5.1 IP, 11 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 9 K.  Villanova cruised to their second straight win, by a score of 7-4.

In Game Three, it was Bartolo Colon's turn to get spanked: 5 IP, 10 H, 8 ER, 0 BB, 2 K.  Colon was also acquired at great expense, both in terms of talent sacrificed (Bay), and in future salary commitments ($21 million over the next three years for Colon, $10 million in 2007 for Griffey.)  But he, too, failed, and the Blazers found themselves down three games to none, after 'Nova easily won Game Three by a score of 8-3.

Finally, with their season at the brink, New Milford handed the ball not to Jarrod Washburn, their 14-game winner, but to journeyman Aaron Small.  With the game tied 1-1 in the third, Villanova once again began to play home run derby.  Back-to-back homers by Jermaine Dye and Reggie Sanders put the Mustangs in the lead.  They then carried a 5-1 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.  Villanova closer Mariano Rivera gave his team a little scare when he allowed a two-run blast to Mike Sweeney with one out in the ninth.  But he then got Chipper Jones to ground out for out number two.  That brought Griffey to the plate.  And Griffey -- who cost the Blazers Jason Bay, who had been named the Most Valuable Commodity in the BDBL earlier in the year -- struck out.

And thus, the eighth season of the Big Daddy Baseball League came to an end.  Again, I thank all of you for another successful season.  I have now met eighteen of you in person, and I hope to someday meet all of you.  This hobby continues to bring me a tremendous amount of entertainment and joy, and I hope it does for you as well.  Of course, it also gives me a tremendous amount of aggravation and pain.  But I wouldn't trade it for the world.