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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, 2007

2007: The Year in Review

The 2007 season will be remembered in different ways by different people.  For me, it will be remembered as just another year that I led the league in wins and had nothing to show for it.  For Chris Luhning, it will be the year he not only won the BDBL championship, but got to meet the BDBL commissioner in person (a far greater honor, IMHO.)  For Anthony Peburn and Billy Romaniello, it will be the year they spent chasing that elusive 50th win.  Bob Sylvester will remember this as the year he tried his damnedest not win, but his team won anyway.  And for Mike Stein, it will be the year he finally played some November baseball.

More than anything, the 2007 season will be remembered (or, perhaps, not remembered) for its absence of drama.  The four Ozzie League pennant races were all but set in stone by the end of May.  There were relatively few message board debates or arguments over lopsided trades, compared to past seasons.  And if the BDBL playoffs were televised, it would have earned the lowest ratings in league history.  Only two of the seven series lasted more than five games.

As is tradition, I would like to take this time to thank you all for another outstanding season.  I have now met all eleven of my Ozzie League competitors in person, and I've even managed to meet eight out of the twelve reclusive Eck Leaguers as well.  I'd like to thank my "cabinet" -- D.J., Jeff, Tom, Greg and Badger -- for another year of donating your time and effort to the cause.  This league would never run so smoothly without all your help.  Many thanks to those who attended BDBL Weekend this year, making it a memorable two-city event.  Thanks to Matt for securing one final Yahoo! BDBL football league for us before he bolted out the door.  Thanks to Tony C. and Sharky for putting together the invaluable MLB stats spreadsheet (even though Sharky's done a lousy job of it.)

Thanks to all of you for making time for the BDBL despite having so many other things going on in your lives.  And, as always, thanks to my wife, Karen, for putting up with my whining about not winning the trophy for the ninth year in a row, and pretending to care.

The 2007 season began with its usual tidal wave of trades, announced within minutes of the end of the World Series.  The Salem Cowtippers made the biggest splash, announcing seven trades in which they acquired B.J. Ryan, Scott Rolen, Jeremy Bonderman, Brandon Webb, Orlando Hudson and Mike Cameron, among others.  Coming off their first sub-.500 season in franchise history, the Cowtippers were looking for a big comeback in 2007.  They did just that, winning a league-high 110 games while outscoring their opponents by a league-best 245 runs.

After a rebuilding year of his own, Brian Potrafka of the Ravenswood Infidels was also looking to make a big comeback in '07.  Shortly after the Series ended, Potrafka announced the acquisition of ace starter Roy Halladay from the Sylmar Padawans in exchange for Brandon Phillips and Cesar Carillo.  Halladay went 14-13 with a 3.39 ERA for Ravenswood, at a bargain salary of just $6 million, and the Infidels won their division by ten full games.

In Wapakoneta, Bobby Sylvester was searching for a big bat to team with Albert Pujols in his lineup.  He found that bat in Vladimir Guerrero, whom he acquired from the Corona Confederates on December 6th, at the expense of four players with very little value.  Wapakoneta missed the playoffs by four games despite Guerrero's effort (.337/.358/.588, 48 2B, 40 HR, 118 RBI, 25 SB.)  Oddly enough, it was the poor performance of Pujols (.251/.332/.499 with 35 HR and 114 RBI) who held the team back.

Meanwhile, Sylvester's father was making some trade noise of his own when he acquired Roger Clemens from the New Milford Blazers at the deadline.  With his $19 million salary and only 124+ available innings, Clemens was considered all-but-untradeable.  But when the Blazers agreed to take $10 million in penalties, and asked for only Dioner Navarro in return, it was an offer Bob Sylvester couldn't refuse.  However, it would be just the first of many dubious decisions for Bob Sylvester, Sr. in 2007.

On December 29th, the farm draft kicked off when the Great Lakes Sphinx selected Japanese import Kei Igawa as the #1 pick overall.  The expectation at the time was that Igawa would make an instant impact on the 2008 Sphinx, providing both innings and quality left-handed pitching.  Instead, Igawa pitched just 67+ innings in MLB '07, with an ERA of 6.25.  Japanese players dominated the first few rounds of the farm draft, with Norichika Aoki and Koji Uehara chosen with the next two picks, Kazumi Saitoh and Kosuke Fukudome taken in the second round, and Hideki Okajima in Round 5.  Another dominant theme of the 2007 farm draft was the selection of several high school, college and foreign players with no professional experience whatsoever, including Angel Villalona, Yadel Marti, Yoslan Herrera, Josh Vitters, J.P. Arencibia, Rick Porcello, Justin Jackson, Matt Harvey, Jason Heyward, Andrew Brackman, Carlos Triunfel, Yuliesky Gourriel, Michael Burgess, Robert Stock and Blake Beavan.

Perhaps more than anything else, the 2007 season will be remembered as the year the entire league lost its collective mind in terms of free agent bidding.  The league's weakest draft class, combined with the league's highest amount of spending money, created a "perfect storm" of irrational spending.  On the very first day of the free agent auction, Ed McGowan of the Confederates broke the all-time BDBL record by signing Johan Santana to a $21 million salary.  That single signing -- which represented over one-third of Corona's total salary cap, and left them with just $7.6 million to spend on the rest of their team -- created a wave of panic that rippled throughout the league.

Nowhere was that sense of panic more palpable than in Marlboro, where GM Ken "The Shark" Kaminski held a league-high $48.4 million in spending cash.  After being out-bid on all five players in the first lot, Kaminski placed huge bids on four players in the next lot, and at the end of Day Two, he had won all four of those bids.  Instantly after winning those bids, however, Kaminski developed a debilitating case of buyer's remorse, which launched him into another full-scale panic attack.  He frantically put all four players on the Selling forum, and within minutes he accepted the first offer that came across his desk.  That offer, involving the trade of David Ortiz to the New Hope Badgers in exchange for three players of dubious value, would become a BDBL legend soon thereafter.

To say that Ortiz dominated the league unlike any other batter in league history would be a gross understatement.  Playing in a home ballpark that was much friendlier to left-handed power hitters than his MLB park, Ortiz shattered the all-time single-season home run record, and needed only five chapters to do so.  He finished the season with 79 home runs and 205 RBI -- both BDBL records -- and nearly single-handedly carried the Badgers to an Ozzie League wild card (and eventually an OL championship.)

On Day Three of the auction, the league's third $20 million player (and second of the auction) was born when Los Altos Undertakers GM Jeff Paulson signed ace starter Chris Carpenter to join his already impressive starting rotation.  Carpenter would lead the Ozzie League in wins (21) while posting a 3.07 ERA in 243+ innings, and after a two-year hiatus, Paulson would reclaim his place atop the Griffin Division with a 99-61 record.

Two days later, the bar of the Crazy Meter was raised several notches when Jim Doyle of the Manchester Irish Rebels made C.C. Sabathia the third $20 million player of the 2007 auction.  Sabathia enjoyed a decent season for the Rebs, going 14-11 with a 3.20 ERA in 210+ innings, but Manchester would finish with a record of just 70-90 (which begged the question of why Doyle would spend 1/3 of his team's salary on just one player.)

The next day, Nashville paid $12.5 million for a 40-year-old Greg Maddux.  New Milford then raised the bar again the following day by paying $10.5 million for a 41-year-old pitcher, Kenny Rogers.  The next day, Great Lakes continued the trend by paying $15.5 million for a 39-year-old John Smoltz.  And the Funkadelic then capped off the madness by signing mediocre starter Jason Jennings to a $15.5 million salary on the final day of the auction.

When the dust settled, the league had paid a league-record of $364.5 million for the worst draft class in history.  The eleven starting pitchers in the auction earned a combined $151 million -- an average of $13.73 million per pitcher.  And 30 out of the 50 free agents in the auction became "Type H" players with salaries of $5.5 million or higher and guaranteed one-year contracts.

Normally, the period between Cutdown Day and Opening Day is a quiet one in terms of trades.  But the 2007 season included a record number of trades announced during this time.  In addition to Ortiz, Tony Badger's favorite underwater pal also donated closer Mariano Rivera to the New Hope charity fund as well.  In 73+ innings with New Hope, Rivera compiled a microscopic ERA of just 0.98, with 34 saves and only 53 hits and 9 walks allowed.

In New Milford, GM Anthony Peburn created his own peculiar savings-and-loan industry, agreeing to spend money on behalf of other teams in the auction in exchange for second-rate prospects.  First, he purchased Chipper Jones for the Nashville Funkadelic, and received four players with four different nationalities in return -- none of whom will make much of an impact in 2008 or beyond.  And on behalf of the Cleveland Rocks, Peburn purchased Rogers, acquiring four more players of little value to the Blazers franchise in exchange.

In Manchester, Doyle's insanity continued when he traded three "Grade A" prospects (Yovani Gallardo, Adam Loewen and Jarrod Saltalamacchia) to the Chicago Black Sox in exchange for Ivan Rodriguez and Kurt Suzuki.  And in Corona, McGowan sent top prospect (and eventual NL Rookie of the Year) Ryan Braun to the Allentown Ridgebacks in exchange for "The Little Engine That Could," David Eckstein.  It didn't take long for both trades to join the ranking of worst trades in league history.

After all the madness of the winter, the 2007 season officially kicked off on January 28th, when the Cowtippers swept the Blazers in their traditional Opening Day series.  But it wouldn't be an easy ride for Salem early in the season, as the Badgers proved to be serious contenders for the division title.  New Hope began the season on fire, thanks to Ortiz, who clubbed eight home runs in his first eight games.  After a four-game sweep of the Hammerheads on February 20th, the Badgers officially captured first place in the division.  They wrapped up the chapter with a 19-9 record -- a chapter in which Ortiz hit .295/.408/.857 with 18 home runs and a mind-boggling 52 RBI.

New Hope finished the first chapter tied for first, but once again captured sole possession of first place by handing the Cowtippers their first series loss of the season on March 23rd.  The Badgers then took three of four from the Blazers in their next series, opening up a three-game lead over Salem.  But the Cowtippers then won six of their first eight games in Chapter Three to recapture a share of first.

On June 12th, Tony Badger worked his magic at the trade table once again, and convinced Matt Clemm of the Bear Country Jamboree to trade his ace starter, John Lackey, in exchange for free-agent-to-be Jake Westbrook, A-ball man-child Kyle Blanks and a couple of spare parts.  But the Cowtippers continued to pull away from the pack in Chapter Three, and went into the all-star break with a league-best record of 54-26.  All was not hopeless in New Hope, however, as they led the OL wild card race by a comfortable twelve games at the half -- all but signaling the end of the race.

Less than two weeks into the season, the Kansas Law Dogs had already played all 28 of their Chapter One games, finishing with a record of 18-10.  With little else to do through the end of the chapter, GM Chris Luhning burned up the phones looking to add to his arsenal.  He found an unlikely trading partner in SoCal Slyme GM Bob Sylvester, who was willing to trade his $19 million ace, Clemens, despite not having used him at all in Chapter One.  Not only did Luhning acquire Clemens in that trade, but he added all-star slugger Paul Konerko as well.  The two trading partners wrapped up the first chapter with identical records of 18-10.

But Luhning wasn't done yet.  On April Fool's Day, he announced the addition of $21 million ace Johan Santana -- an announcement that most believed to be a joke.  But by April 2nd, however, it was clear this was no joke.  Just nine weeks after declaring his team to be a contender, Corona GM McGowan found himself waving the white flag, and traded his high-priced hired gun (along with four others) in exchange for six players, including Aaron Harang, Zach Duke and top prospect Brandon Wood.

Rather than scare away his competition, these two trades only seemed to provoke Luhning's contenders into action.  On April 27th, the BDBL's defending champion, Tony Chamra, made a bold move with a pair of trades in which he acquired Pedro Martinez and Jason Schmidt.  Combined, Martinez and Schmidt were to earn $20 million in 2008 (though both pitchers later became eligible to be released with the Rule 18.11 escape clause.)  At the time of the trade, Chamra's Villanova Mustangs were tied with the Law Dogs atop the Higuera Division, and it was his hope that adding two ace starters to a pitching staff that already led the league in ERA would put his team over the top.

But the Law Dogs began Chapter Three with a perfect 12-0 record, growing their lead in the division to six games.  By the all-star break, that lead had shrunk to three games.  And by the end of four chapters, that lead was down to just one game.  Chapter Five, however, was an unmitigated disaster for Villanova, as the team inexplicably compiled the worst record in the league at 7-21.  And that opened the door for the Law Dogs to run away with it.  On October 21st, the Law Dogs officially clinched the division, and eventually won it by an astounding 16 games.

It was yet another long season for Manchester GM Jim Doyle.  After finishing with 89+ losses in each of his first seven seasons as GM of the Irish Rebels franchise, Doyle decided 2007 was his year to "go for it."  But after spending $20 million for a #2 starter in Sabathia, and trading away three top prospects for an aging, mediocre catcher, Doyle found himself sitting with a .500 record on March 10th, still one game behind the division leaders.  On that date, he made the decision to continue trading away top prospects in his push toward a pennant, and dealt Andrew McCutchen to the Marlboro Hammerheads in exchange for Jason Giambi.  And the result?  The Irish Rebels finished with 89+ losses for the eighth year in a row.

Meanwhile, over in Southern California, Bob Sylvester, Sr. was embarking on a mission unlike any other in league history.  Despite his team's first-place standing, Sylvester traded Clemens and Konerko to the Law Dogs on March 12th before Clemens had thrown a single pitch for the Slyme.  Before the season ended, Sylvester would also trade Anibal Sanchez (before he, too, had thrown a single pitch), Raul Ibanez and Jose Contreras.  And yet, despite the fact that all of these players were acquired for "future considerations," his team just kept on winning.  And winning.  And winning.

By the end of five chapters, the Slyme still maintained their lead in the EL wild card race by two games over the Wapakoneta Hippos.  Then, on October 26th, the Slyme did the seemingly impossible, and clinched the wild card with a win over the Hippos in their final series of the season.

While the Slyme were enjoying accidental success, several other teams were struggling despite their best intentions.  One such team was the Sylmar Padawans.  After winning two division titles the previous two years, GM John Duel went into the 2007 season confident that his team would once again compete.  But as Duel's role with the team diminished, so did his team's fortunes.  The Padawans finished with a 63-97 record, which was good for last-place in the Griffin Division.  And yet, their runs differential was second-best in the league at -5, and their Pythagorean difference was a mind-blowing 17 games -- a new BDBL record.  Oddly enough, the team's undoing was its bullpen, which had been called one of the best-ever bullpens in league history just one year prior.  Sylmar went just 15-30 in one-run games, and blew 12 games when leading after seven innings.

One team that enjoyed very little success in 2007, and deserved each and every loss, was the New Milford Blazers.  The defending Ozzie League champions "went for it all" in 2006, and began to suffer the consequences for that in 2007.  They began the season with a 4-24 Chapter One -- the second-worst chapter ever in league history -- and didn't perform much better throughout the rest of the season.  They chased the elusive 50-win milestone throughout the second half, but never made it.  Instead, they finished with a record of 47-113 -- just one loss below the league record they set in 1999.

With the Ozzie League's pennant races all but decided in Chapter One, the league turned to the Eck League for drama.  The Person Division race saw all four teams capture first place at some point during the season.  The first chapter ended with the SoCal Slyme at the top of the division.  On April 14th, the South Carolina Sea Cats opened up the second chapter with a 10-2 record, giving them a three-game lead over the Hippos.  In Chapter Three, it was the Hippos' turn, as they captured a share of first place (with the Nashville Funkadelic) after a 10-2 start to the chapter.  But while the Funk kept up their pace in the second half (going 48-32 after a 49-31 first half), the Slyme, Hippos and Sea Cats each fell apart, allowing Nashville to capture the division by seven games.

Another tight race took place in the Hrbek Division, where the Rocks, Ryche and Black Sox jockeyed for position throughout the season.  On July 18th, Black Sox GM John Gill made his move, adding Roy Oswalt, Andruw Jones and Scot Shields in two separate deals.  The 'Sox were in third place at the time of the trades, but trailed the first place team by only three games.  In Chapter Five, the Ryche took a two-game lead over the Rocks after Cleveland lost six of eight games to the bottom-feeders of the Eck League (Great Lakes and Atlanta.)  But Cleveland then regained the lead by sweeping Akron in the annual "I-77 Series."  That sweep put the Black Sox five games behind in the division.

In the first week of September, Akron once again captured first place, but the Rocks then swept the South Carolina Sea Cats to take over the lead once again.  Finally, on October 25th, Mike Stein captured a spot in the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons, leaving the Great Lakes Sphinx as the only franchise remaining that has yet to play November baseball.

On the weekend of July 27-29, the BDBL celebrated our eighth annual BDBL Weekend by covering two cities in three days: St. Louis and Kansas City.  A total of nine league members attended, and a great time was had by all.  In addition to two ballgames in two different ballparks and a tour of the Budweiser brewery in St. Louis, the highlight of the weekend was a five-hour trade negotiation between Jim Doyle, Greg Newgard and myself that culminated in Miguel Cabrera coming to Salem.

In interleague play, the Eck League dominated the Ozzie League, going 110-82, with only the Salem Cowtippers sporting a winning record (12-4) in interleague play.  The Ozzie League won the midsummer classic however, as the OL all-stars emerged with an 8-6 win over the EL all-stars, with Salem catcher Kenji Johjima winning the game's MVP award.

It was an historic year for the Cowtippers (during the regular season, of course), as they reached the 100-win milestone for the fifth time in history, and won their sixth division title -- both BDBL records.  But those accomplishments merely set the stage for another November meltdown in the post-season.  Facing the #4-seeded Infidels, the Cowtippers won Game One in convincing fashion, by a score of 11-4.  But Salem's historic starting rotation, which including four 17-game winners, collapsed after that, and the Cowtippers lost the next four games in a row.

In the other Ozzie League Division Series, the Undertakers were swept away by the Badgers, as league MVP David Ortiz hit .455 with two home runs and seven walks in the series, and Los Altos pitching allowed 23 runs on 24 walks in 34+ innings.

Over in the Eck League, Cleveland's fairytale season came to a not-so-happily-ever-after ending when the Funkadelic pounded out four straight wins to sweep the series.  The Funk hit .327/.405/.497 as a team in that series, while Cleveland's bats never woke up.  And in the other EL Division Series, the Law Dogs needed six games to beat the SoCal Slyme, as Kansas outscored SoCal 43-24.

In the OLCS, the Infidels needed just one win over the final two games of the series to clinch a spot in the World Series.  But four different New Hope batters launched home runs in Game Six, forcing the one and only seven-game series of the 2007 post-season.  In that game, the Badgers took a 3-1 lead in the third inning on a three-run double by series MVP Barry Bonds, and then tacked on two more runs in the fifth.  Mariano Rivera then sealed the deal with a shutout inning of relief, sending the Badgers to the World Series.

The ELCS featured a match-up between Nashville and Kansas.  Pitching dominated the first two games of the series, as each team won a game thanks to its starting pitching (Johan Santana for Kansas and Jason Jennings for Nashville.)  In Game Three, the Law Dogs overcame a 4-0 deficit in the fifth inning by pounding out eleven runs over four innings -- six off of Nashville all-star closer Joe Nathan.  Kansas then enjoyed another big inning in Game 4, scoring five runs in the fifth to win by a score of 6-5.  And in Game 5, the 'Dogs mounted another five-run rally in the seventh inning to clinch the series victory.

Finally, the BDBL World Series began with three straight Kansas victories -- the third coming on a 15th-inning walk-off home run by series co-MVP Carlos Beltran.  And after a Badgers win in Game 4, Chris Luhning and the Law Dogs clinched their first BDBL championship with a 3-2 victory.

We now enter our 10th season as a league, which is an accomplishment in which we should all take pride.  I continue to believe that this is the best DMB league in existence, and I feel that this league improves year after year.  Not only has our rulebook improved over the years, but the level of competition is ten times greater today than it was when this league first began.  We've all learned so much about the game of baseball (not to mention the art of negotiating, drafting and farm prospecting) over the years, and that is something that makes this hobby worth all the time, effort and aggravation.  We've also grown closer as a group, and whereas we were nothing more than a group of disembodied names nine years ago, we now know each other personally, and can share in our personal triumphs and tragedies.

It is truly an honor to have played alongside you all these past nine years, and I look forward to many more years ahead.