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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, 2008

2008: The Year in Review

A new season with an all-too-familiar ending.  Congratulations once again to Tom DiStefano on winning his third BDBL championship -- each one coming at my expense.  At some point, I imagine this will get old for Tom and he'll let me win one, just to see the look on my face.  But I doubt it.

2008 was a memorable year for many, many reasons.  But before I get to that, I have some "thank-you's" to hand out.  Many thanks to the BDBL's "Board of Directors," Tom, D.J., Jeff, Badger and Greg.  You've made my job as commissioner so much easier than it used to be, and your time and effort is very much appreciated by everyone.  Thanks to Tony C. for saving me countless hours by entering all of the farm players on our disk (and thanks to Mike Stein for stepping in for Tony earlier this year.)  Thanks also to Tony C. for providing us with the MLB stats disk, and for creating our schedule.

Thanks to all who joined me on BDBL Weekend: Jim, Greg, Jeff, Ed and John.  As always, we all had a blast, and I look forward to BDBL Weekend more and more every year.  Many thanks to Greg for joining me in Boston during the MLB playoffs for dinner and a beer (or four.)  A special shout-out to Johnny Bo for hosting me and my son at Yankee Stadium on Old Timer's Day, and for providing me with countless beers and grilled bacon-wrapped shrimp.  That was the most relaxing, fun and enjoyable day I've had in many years.  And thank you, Jim, for hosting me and my lovely bride at a Manchester Fisher Cats game this summer.

And speaking of my lovely bride, I always close my thank-you's by thanking her for putting up with all my bitching, moaning and temper tantrums every time I lose a crucial series, even though she has never read this page.

For all intents and purposes, the 2008 season began on November 13th of 2007, when Chris Luhning of the Kansas Law Dogs was officially crowned as the BDBL champion.  Before the champagne in the Kansas locker room had dried, several trades were announced for the coming season.  By far, the busiest GM early in that trading season was Jeff Paulson, who was busy constructing a master plan to dominate the BDBL in the 2009 season.  Jeff made seven trades last winter involving several high-profile players such as J.D. Drew, Jon Rauch, Ben Sheets, Jonny Gomes and Jeremy Hermida.  And in exchange, he collected several cheap young stars for the '09 season, including Josh Hamilton, Joakim Soria and Adam Wainwright.

But by far, the busiest beaver in the BDBL was Ken "The Shark" Kaminski, who wheeled-and-dealed his way to no fewer than FIFTEEN trades.  By the time the dust settled, the Hammerheads were completely transformed (again) after a year of rebuilding in 2007.  But with increased competition within the Benes Division, Marlboro was picked to finish in third place behind the Ravenswood Infidels and Manchester Irish Rebels.  Little did anyone realize at the time, but Sharky wouldn't even be around to see how all of his winter experiments turned out.

For the most part, the month of November was relatively quiet in terms of controversial trades (the most controversial being Atlanta's trade of Jason Isringhausen in exchange for Kevin Slowey and Sean Marshall.)  But in the first week of December, the fur really started to fly when the Black Sox reacquired Vladimir Guerrero from the newly-renamed St. Louis Apostles in exchange for second base prospect Dustin Pedroia and others.

Then, on December 13th -- a day that will live in infamy -- Jim Doyle added to his legend by trading Jonathan Papelbon to the Kansas Law Dogs in exchange for his $100,000 23-year-old ace, Matt Cain.  And, just to make the deal even more legendary, he threw in a $100,000 Carlos Quentin, just to make it even.  Incredibly, however, this wouldn't even be the worst trade Doyle would make in 2008!

Four days before the new year, the New Milford Blazers kicked off the farm draft by selecting Hideki Kuroda with the #1 pick.  Then, in classic Anthony Peburn style, he immediately announced that Kuroda had been flipped to the St. Louis Apostles (along with #7 pick Kelvin DeLeon) in exchange for Troy Patton and Josh Outman.  The 2008 farm draft was populated by numerous Japanese players, high school and college players -- and even a couple of Japanese high school and college players!  More than any other year, the draft was a reflection of just how deep the BDBL's overall knowledge of minor league/amateur baseball had grown over the years.

The free agent class of 2008 was the weakest in auction history, as measured by VORP. It was also the oldest free agent class to date.  But that didn't stop people from wildly overspending as usual.  And our new rule extending Type H players to a guaranteed two-year contract with a no-trade clause in the first year seemed to have little influence.  On the auction's very first day, three out of the five players on the block all went "Type H," including the #1-ranked free agent, Magglio Ordonez.  Ordonez, who signed for $14 million with the Southern Cal Slyme, proved to be worth every penny in 2008.  He hit .374/.454/.618 on the season, with 48 doubles, 34 home runs, 128 RBIs and 169 runs created, and easily captured both the EL Babe Ruth and MVP awards.

The Allentown Ridgebacks went into the auction with a full starting rotation, a full lineup and a full bullpen, a league-leading 631.7 VORP points and $39.6 million to spend.  In other words, the fate of the 2008 season was sealed before it even began.  In the auction, DiStefano spent $11 million for aging catcher Jorge Posada, who rewarded him by hitting .361/.434/.611 with 58 doubles, 25 homers and 147.5 runs created.  Then, despite already fielding a loaded three-man outfield of Moises Alou, Aaron Rowand and Ken Griffey, Jr., DiStefano spent another $14 million to bring Barry Bonds (.255/.398/.538, 32 HR, 89.4 RC) back to Allentown.

Another interesting development in the auction was San Antonio's signing of John Lackey at $17 million.  The Broncs were not only expected to compete in 2008, but they were picked to win the Griffin Division in my Season Preview.  But Lackey was a bit of a disappointment, going 14-16 with a 3.98 ERA in 246+ innings, and the Broncs stumbled out of the gate.  Their biggest problem was offense.  Despite the presence of reigning NL MVP Jimmy Rollins, Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, Conor Jackson, Casey Blake and others, the Broncs scored just 565 runs in 2008 -- the lowest runs total ever in BDBL history.  Rollins' performance was particularly awful, as he hit just .239/.282/.380 for the Broncs, with just 4 home runs in 104 games.  Eventually, Broncs GM Greg Newgard became so exasperated by Rollins' awful performance, he banished the all-star shortstop to St. Louis, getting Andrew Miller and three others in return.  Incredibly, San Antonio finished with a record of just 65-95.

On the final day of the auction, the Salem Cowtippers emerged as the surprise winners of the Josh Beckett Sweepstakes, signing the young ace to a $17 million salary.  Salem went into the auction with a four-man rotation of Erik Bedard, Kelvim Escobar, Dustin McGowan and Ian Snell, and no plan nor reason to improve upon that rotation.  But when Salem's plan to sign Bonds were spoiled by DiStefano, the team was forced to go with "Plan B."  And after spending so much money on Beckett, Salem had no money remaining to fill the final two holes on their roster in the outfield and in the closer's role.  And unfortunately for me and my sleeping patterns, this led to my trades of John Danks and Jon Lester in exchange for Mike Cameron and Francisco Cordero, respectively.  By far, these were the two worst trades I have ever made, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't agonize over those two decisions.

The 2008 season officially began on January 26th, when the New Milford Blazers pulled off a seemingly miraculous upset of the Cowtippers in the traditional Opening Day Series, winning three of four games.  At the time, everyone (except New Milford GM Anthony Peburn) considered this to be just another amusing Diamond Mind quirk -- a temporary blip on an inevitable downward spiral for the Blazers.  With a lineup filled with platoon players and a laughable starting rotation headed by "ace" Micah Owings (who was a more talented hitter than he was a pitcher), the Blazers were not expected to win more than 60 games in 2008.  In fact, I was so confident New Milford would lose 100 games that I bet $100 on it.

But after one chapter of play, that amusing little quirk had grown into a very unfunny joke.  The Blazers sported an OL-best 19-9 record, scored an OL-best 150 runs, and outscored their opponents by an OL-best 41 runs.  The following chapter, the world seemed to have corrected itself, as the Blazers fell to 11-17 and scored just 131 runs.  But those annoying little gnats from New Milford just refused to die like they were supposed to.  In Chapter Three, New Milford went 14-10 despite being outscored by four runs.  They then went 32-48 in the second half to finish with a 76-84 record -- three games ahead of the New Hope Badgers in the division, and 16 games better than I ever imagined they would be.  And yes, I did pay off that $100 bet.

Over in that "other" league, the SoCal Slyme were well on their way to making BDBL history.  The Slyme began the season with the best record (24-4) of any team in league history, and they never slowed down.  Over the next four chapters, they went 19-9, 13-11, 18-6 and 19-9.  Then, with the all-time single-season wins record within reach, the Slyme wrapped up the season with an incredible 23-5 final chapter.  SoCal smashed the old record held by the 2003 Stamford Zoots with 116 wins.  They scored a BDBL-best 954 runs and outscored their opponents by a BDBL-best 344 runs -- tied with the 2002 Salem Cowtippers for the second-highest runs differential in BDBL history.

While the Slyme were dominating as expected, the defending-champion Kansas Law Dogs were busy exceeding expectations in the Higuera Division.  Decimated by free agency and weighed down by expensive contracts, the Law Dogs were expected to have great difficulty defending their title -- especially with the heavily-favored Ridgebacks in their division.  But Kansas bolted out to a 20-8 start to the season, while the Ridgebacks unexpectedly lagged four games behind.  The following chapter, Allentown surged to a 19-9 record, but Kansas proved they were no flukes by keeping pace with their own 19-9 record.  And at the all-star break, the Law Dogs maintained their four-game lead.

Despite all odds, Kansas was able to hold onto their lead until August 23rd.  At that point in the season, DiStefano decided to begin managing his own games instead of trusting the MP to do it for him.  Allentown surged to a 10-2 start to the chapter and never looked back.  The Ridgebacks finished with a 100-60 record -- four games ahead of the Law Dogs -- while Kansas wrapped up the season with a 96-64 record, losing the wild card race by just two games.

On March 21st, the Manchester Irish Rebels moved into a tie atop the Benes Division standings after a 7-1 start to the second chapter.  The Irish Rebels were expected to be very competitive in 2008, and were picked to win their division in league polling.  But the Infidels caught fire from that point on, and opened up an insurmountable 13-game lead by the middle of May.  Manchester fell to 7-17 in Chapter Three, and then went 39-41 over the second half to finish the season with a second-place record of 75-85 -- 24 games behind the Infidels.  It was Jim Doyle's best record since he took over the franchise in 2000.

On April 5th, San Antonio hurler Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez became the 11th pitcher in league history to throw a no-hitter, blanking the rival Sylmar Padawans.  Hernandez extended his hitless streak to 16 innings in his following game.  Then, on June 28th, Allentown's Jake Peavy tossed no-hitter #12 with the encouragement of his manager, who read about it in the box score afterwards.  If not for a fifth inning walk to Akron shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, Peavy would have tossed the league's only perfect game.  Instead, he had to settle for the Eck League Cy Young, as he finished the season with a 24-8 record and a 3.12 ERA in 245 innings, with 277 strikeouts.

On April 15th, Ken "The Shark" Kaminski announced his resignation.  Incredibly, it was the first resignation in the BDBL since 2004.  Known for his frenetic trading style, his waffle-like decision-making and his obsession with steroids, Kaminski was one of the greatest characters in league history, and one of the league's 24 founding members.  Although his presence in the league as a GM and manager has been sorely missed, he has maintained a presence on the league forum, where he continues to entertain us with his views on trades, MLB and politics.  And given that this was his second resignation from the league, there is always a possibility that we haven't seen the last of Kaminski as a GM in the BDBL.

Nic Weiss, a longtime friend of Bobby Sylvester's, was then announced as the new owner of the Hammerheads franchise.  Weiss' first trade was announced on April 26th, sparking a ridiculous new wave of controversy.  In that trade, Weiss sent a platoon outfielder against lefties (Randy Winn), a backup catcher (Jamie Burke) and a low-usage middle reliever (Mike Timlin) to the Salem Cowtippers in exchange for Fred Lewis, Gerritt Cole, Bill Bray and Edwar Ramirez.  Both at the time and in retrospect it was a very good deal for the Hammerheads.  But the league immediately erupted into howls of protest over how I had screwed over the new guy.  Then, a few days later, it was discovered that this trade didn't fit under the mid-season VORP cap rules, and it was nullified.  Just another Glander trade controversy that eventually proved to be much ado over nothing.

Toward the end of the second chapter, the Chicago Black Sox broke from the Hrbek Division pack by posting a 17-11 record to capture first place.  By the end of May, however, the Cleveland Rocks had become the hottest team in the BDBL, winning 13 of their first 16 games to pull into a tie with Chicago atop the division.  The division remained tied after four chapters of play.  But in Chapter Five, that delicate equilibrium collapsed.  Cleveland plunged to an 8-20 record, while Chicago surged to 20-8.  Chicago officially captured the division on October 25th, giving John Gill his fourth division title.

As the all-star break approached, a couple of high-profile trades were made, both involving Butler Division teams.  First, the Corona Confederates added all-star shortstop Edgar Renteria from the Atlanta Fire Ants in exchange for Max Scherzer.  Corona would eventually capture the OL wild card by a comfortable 15-game margin, with a record of 98-62.

Next, the Great Lakes Sphinx began their annual firesale by trading perhaps the biggest trading chit of 2008, John Smoltz, to the New Hope Badgers in exchange for Joe Blanton and three others.  The move didn't help the Badgers very much, as they finished the season in last place with a record of 73-87.

In the Griffin Division, the Los Altos Undertakers held a four-game lead over the Bear Country Jamboree after two chapters of play.  But after going just 7-13 in Chapter Three, that lead disappeared, and Paulson soon began prepping for the 2009 season.  The Jamboree opened up a three-game lead in the division during the first week of July when they outscored the Badgers 55-16 during a four-game series.  Included in that series was an astonishing 27-5 win in Game Two, which tied the BDBL record for runs in a single game.  Matt Clemm clinched his first-ever division title -- and just his second playoffs appearance -- on October 25th.

As the final trading deadline approached, a pair of last-minute deals sent shockwaves throughout the league.  First, on July 28th, Jim Doyle accomplished the seemingly impossible by making a trade that was actually worse than the deal he made at the beginning of the season.  In a deal with new Marlboro GM Weiss, Doyle sent two of the league's most valuable commodities, twin lefty aces Scott Kazmir and Cole Hamels, to the Hammerheads in exchange for a package of injured and/or unproven prospects, including Phil Hughes, Gio Gonzalez, Franklin Morales and Carlos Gomez.  The trade became an instant BDBL classic, rivaled only by Doyle's 2002 trade of Chipper Jones for Ryan Dempster.

The following day, just minutes before the deadline, another trade was announced that once again shocked the BDBL establishment.  In a trade between two of the unlikeliest trading partners ever, the Salem Cowtippers sent Ian Snell and two of the top prospects in baseball (Jay Bruce and Rick Porcello) to the Allentown Ridgebacks for Felix Hernandez.  And every day since then, I have wondered why I ever did such a thing.

Doyle's trade provided plenty of comic material when the league gathered for the ninth annual BDBL Weekend festivities on the weekend of August 18th.  Six Ozzie League owners gathered in Los Angeles to catch a game at Dodgers Stadium, and then fought the traffic to San Diego the next morning to see a Padres game on Sunday.  The highlight of the weekend was hanging out in downtown San Diego, shooting pool, drinking lots of beer, ragging on Doyle, eating lots of good food, drinking some Jamba Juice and ragging on Doyle.

Throughout the second half of the season, all eyes were upon two hallowed BDBL records that most considered to be unbreakable heading into the season.  The first was Southern Cal's pursuit of the all-time single-season wins record.  The second was the Atlanta Fire Ants' pursuit of the all-time single-season losses record.  It was thought that no team would ever approach the New Milford Blazers' 1999 record of 114 losses, but throughout the season Atlanta maintained a steady pace to shatter that record.  Then, on October 28th, the Fire Ants officially cemented a place in BDBL infamy when they lost game #116 on the final day of the season.  They would eventually finish with 118 losses.

The final three days of the season were somewhat anticlimactic, as all four spots in the Ozzie League had been sealed for several weeks, while in the Eck League, no one seemed to care about the two remaining spots in the post-season.  With just three days of the season remaining, just one game separated the Law Dogs in both the division and wild card races.  But at that point, Kansas had only played four games in the entire chapter, while the division-leading Ridgebacks had played just eight.

With just ten hours remaining in the season, those two spots were still wide open.  In the Higuera Division race, Allentown needed to win just one of their final four games (all against Kansas) to capture the division.  In the EL wild card race, the St. Louis Apostles had eight games remaining, and owned a magic number of four.  In the end, the Apostles won the division by two games, Allentown won their division by four, and the Law Dogs were left out in the cold.

In the Ozzie League playoffs, the Cowtippers managed to slip by the Jamboree in the OLDS, while the Infidels defeated the Confederates in five games to clinch their third OLCS appearance in five years.  That set the stage for an OLCS rematch between Salem and Ravenswood.  In three prior post-season match-ups, Ravenswood had defeated Salem twice -- and both were considered to be upsets.  This time, however, Salem prevailed, defeating the Infidels in five games and leading to Brian Potrafka's temporary resignation.

Over in the MP League, the Black Sox managed to pull off one of the biggest upsets in league history by defeating the heavily-favored SoCal Slyme.  Incredibly, the Slyme didn't manage to win a single game in the series, as they were outscored 34-10 by the relentless Chicago offense.  After dominating the league throughout the regular season, the SoCal lineup hit just .225 in the series and managed just one home run.

In the other EL Division Series, the younger Sylvester's Apostles were constructing an upset of their own, as they took a 3-0 series lead over the Ridgebacks.  But for the second time in league history, Tom DiStefano accomplished the seemingly impossible and won four games in a row to capture the series.  The Ridgebacks then ran over the Black Sox in the ELCS, setting the stage for yet another World Series match-up against the Cowtippers.

For the third time in seven year, the Cowtippers and Ridgebacks met in the BDBL World Series.  And for the third time in seven years, the Ridgebacks won.  The Cowtippers pitching staff had come within .001 of setting a new BDBL team record for ERA, but in the World Series, Salem's pitchers posted a 5.71 ERA, with 67 hits and 11 home runs allowed in 52 innings.  In three games, Salem's Cy Young duo of Escobar and McGowan allowed 17 runs in 7.1 innings combined, and Salem's all-star closer, Cordero, allowed six runs on six hits (including three home runs) in just a little more than two innings.

Despite the insistence from throughout the league that this was "Salem's year," it turned out to be just another predictable ending to a predictable season.

In prepping for our league's tenth anniversary, I've had a lot of time to reflect upon all that has happened over the past decade.  Through the process of writing so many articles about our league's history, I've come to gain a new appreciation for the evolution of this league from a somewhat unremarkable group of fellow hobbyists to a true brotherhood of sympathetic and enthusiastic fanatics.  I have come to know most of you on a personal level, and I truly value the friendships I have formed with you all.

In reading through my collection of archived documents, I've enjoyed more than a few laughs at my own expense, and at those who insisted that this league would never last.  I never had any doubt that we would be celebrating our league's tenth anniversary this November.  And a decade from now, I'm extremely confident that we'll be celebrating our 20th anniversary, bickering over unfair trades, bitching about the randomness of the Diamond Mind software, engaging in long, drawn-out political debates over Mitt Romney's two-term presidency and sharing a laugh at my expense as I lose to Tom in the World Series for the sixth time in league history.

I thank you all for another fun and exciting season, and I know we're well on our way to another one.