Year in Review
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
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
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."
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
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
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
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.