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Big Daddy Baseball League

O F F I C I A L   S I T E   O F   T H E   B I G   D A D D Y   B A S E B A L L   L E A G U E
slant.gif (102 bytes) From the Desk of the Commish


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December, 2009

2009: The Year in Review

In 2009, we celebrated our tenth anniversary in grand style with a new section of the web site devoted to franchise histories, retrospective interviews and fun facts and articles about the league's first ten seasons.  A league is only as good as its ownership, and the BDBL's longevity is a testament to the dedication and character of our 24 owners.

If there is one thing we all have learned after a decade of playing in this league, it is this: it is a true rarity when the outcome of a season actually matches our pre-season expectations.  This season, the Los Altos Undertakers were expected to dominate the league and easily capture the BDBL trophy, and they did just that.  Congratulations to Jeff Paulson for not only building one of the most dominant teams in league history, but for actually closing the deal and winning that godforsaken trophy in his very first attempt.  After enduring so many bitter disappointments over the past ten seasons, this victory was truly well-deserved and long overdue.  (And with that said, one is enough, Jeff.  It's time for someone new to win in 2010.  Okay?)

As I do every year at this time, I would like to thank everyone in the BDBL for your dedication and enthusiasm for the league, for getting your games in on time, and for making this hobby so enjoyable.  A special thank-you to Tom DiStefano and Tony Badger for running our free agent drafts each chapter -- the most thankless of all the thankless jobs in this league.  And speaking of thankless jobs, thanks to DJ Shepard for another year of managing and reporting our usage (a role that we hope he won't need to fill much longer.)  Thank you, Tony Badger, for maintaining the VORP site.  They say you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone, and that was never more true than when the VORP site went down earlier this year.

Thank you, Greg Newgard, for maintaining our ballparks history page, for running our auction this year, for your dual roles as Secretary of Graphics and Secretary of League History, and for your visits to Boston (during one of which you refereed a philosophical debate between me and Doyle -- no small task.)

Thank you, Matt Clemm, for all your hard work this year putting together the "Biggest Daddy" interviews for our tenth anniversary page.  (I guess the cat is out of the bag now, eh?)

A big, BIG thank-you to Tony Chamra for not only creating our schedule this year, but manually entering all 360 farm players (plus those acquired mid-season!) onto our league disk, and also providing all of us with a nifty spreadsheet of MLB stats within days of the end of the MLB season.

Muchas gracias to Jeff Paulson and Matt Clemm, our hosts for this year's BDBL Weekend.  Not only did they hook us up with tickets, but they showed us around San Fran and Oakland, provided us with beer and snacks for tailgating (which they didn't even get to enjoy, as they were busy standing in line waiting for their Rickey Henderson jerseys), AND compiled a kick-ass BDBL trivia game (which, I might add, I won.)  A big thanks to all of you who attended this year's festivities.

Also, a shout-out to Big Jim Doyle, who not only provided me with some tasty leftover barbeque this year (with a side order of a catcher with an awesome .305 OBP), but also hosted me and my boys at a Fisher Cats game, where we were able to see Pedro Alvarez lace a couple of base hits and even steal a base.

And finally, as I always do, I end this "thank-you" section by thanking my loving wife of 17 years, who continues to put up with my endless whining about how stupid and ridiculous this game is, and what a waste of time this whole hobby has been.  I wouldn't trade her for Hanley Ramirez (even though I could really use a shortstop.)

The 2009 season began the moment the 2008 Tournament of Randomness ended (with Tom winning the BDBL trophy at my expense for the third goddamned time.)  The final pitch of the 2008 season had barely left Heath Bell's hand before the flurry of 2009 trade announcements had begun.  And the very first trade announcement of the winter involved the team that had just lost that series -- your humble Cowtippers of Salem.  In yet another mega-blockbuster trade with the Chicago Black Sox, Miguel Cabrera and Cameron Maybin were sent to Chicago in exchange for Mark Teixeira and two others.  That same day, the Undertakers announced their acquisition of closers Scott Downs and Billy Wagner, plus the eventual OLCS MVP Mike Napoli.  And Los Altos' division rival San Antonio also announced a big trade, whereby they managed to dump Austin Kearns' $13 million penalty in exchange for Jeremy Guthrie.

Four days later, St. Louis Apostles GM Bobby Sylvester grabbed the spotlight by announcing three major trades in which he'd acquired Alex Rodriguez, Kyle Lohse, Adam Wainwright, J.J. Hardy and Hunter Pence (among others) at the expense of several young stars, including Joba Chamberlain, Julio Teheran, Hiroki Kuroda and Desmond Jennings.  For Rodriguez, it was the first of many new hats he would wear throughout the 2009 season.  After spending each of his first ten BDBL seasons with the same franchise (the only player in league history to remain with one franchise for so long), A-Rod was later shipped to the Marlboro Hammerheads a month later, in exchange for Aubrey Huff, Chris Ianetta and others.  He would eventually end up with the San Antonio Broncs, where he became the foundation of the lineup and a legitimate MVP candidate.

On December 31st, Gene Patterson set a new BDBL record by selecting Bryce Harper with the #1 pick of the 2009 farm draft.  At 16 years and 76 days old, Harper became the youngest US-born player ever selected to a BDBL roster, beating Justin Upton's record by 53 days.  Patterson had wrapped up the 2008 season with the worst record in BDBL history, eclipsing the 1999 New Milford Blazers with a record of 42-118.  Yet, just one year later, Patterson's Atlanta Fire Ants would win the Hrbek Division and advance to the Eck League Championship Series.

On the very first day of the free agent auction, Jeff Paulson set a new BDBL record by paying $22 million for C.C. Sabathia.  And Sabathia proved to be worth every penny, as he went 29-3 for the Undertakers (a new BDBL record for wins), with a 3.20 ERA in 273 innings, and 264 strikeouts.  Sabathia combined with Matt Garza (20-9, 3.38 ERA), Jon Lester (14-8, 3.88 ERA) and mid-season acquisition Justin Duchscherer (7-3, 2.84 ERA) to form one of the greatest starting rotations in BDBL history.

The day after Sabathia was signed, Great Lakes GM Scott Romonosky signed free agent starter Johan Santana to a $20.5 million salary.  Despite the effort, the Sphinx wrapped up the 2009 season with a woeful 61-99 record -- the 11th season in a row the Sphinx failed to reach the post-season.

Four days later, Chicago Black Sox GM John Gill signed ace Brandon Webb to a relatively bargain salary of $18 million.  Webb also earned every penny of his salary, going 20-11 with a 3.70 ERA in 241 innings.  But he proved to be a much more valuable commodity when he injured himself early in the 2009 MLB season, and missed most of the 2009 MLB season, allowing Chicago to release him without penalty.

On February 4th, Tom DiStefano made the surprising announcement that he was turning over the responsibility of managing his team to a 21-year-old college student, Kyle Mayes.  By mid-April, the Ridgebacks trailed the rest of the Higuera Division in last place.  And soon thereafter, Mayes was shown the door.  Although DiStefano continued to fight for the division title throughout the year (even going so far as to actually manage some of his own games), and refused to wave the white flag until the final trading deadline of the season, the team finished with a 78-82 record.

In the midst of his surprisingly disappointing season, DiStefano made a bold trade on May 25th, sending highly-coveted young ace Yovani Gallardo to the New Milford Blazers in exchange for Single-A prospect Mike Stanton and a collection of aging pinch hitters.  It was just one of many dump trades made by the owner who has railed against dump trading throughout his BDBL career.

In the opening weeks of the season, no team was hotter than the San Antonio Broncs.  Although no team was expected to compete with the Undertakers in 2009, the Broncs gave Los Altos a run for their money throughout the first half of the season.  San Antonio began the year with a 15-5 record, but were then swept by Los Altos in their first series of the year.  The Broncs finished the chapter with a league-best 19-9 record, and GM Greg Newgard upped the ante by acquiring Alex Rodriguez at the Chapter One deadline.  Rodriguez hit .309/.425/.593 with 34 home runs the rest of the way, and carried the San Antonio offense nearly single-handedly.

San Antonio continued to defy pre-season expectations, and headed into the all-star break with the best record (56-24, .700) in the BDBL -- four games ahead of Los Altos in the Griffin Division.  But just one month into the second half of the season, the Undertakers captured sole possession of first place in the division, and never looked back.  While Los Altos went a remarkable 61-19 (.762) after the all-star break, San Antonio went 46-34 (.575) over that same timeframe.  They finished with an impressive 102-58 record, but it was only good for second place -- 11 games behind Los Altos.

Despite trading A-Rod, the Marlboro Hammerheads captured first place in the Benes Division after a 12-4 start to Chapter Two.  The Benes Division "race" featured four sub-.500 teams from start to finish, and Marlboro and the Las Vegas Flamingos switched places at the top of the division several times.  When the music ended, Vegas found themselves atop the division despite a record of just 79-81.  In doing so, they became the first team in BDBL history to win a division with a sub-.500 record.

Meanwhile, in the Butler Division, the Salem Cowtippers suffered through a bizarre season in which they got off to a slow start and never recovered.  Although they were predicted to win the division, it was the New Milford Blazers, with their collection of spare parts, pinch hitters and relief specialists, who held the lead in the division throughout the season.  By the end of April, the Blazers had built an inconceivable seven game lead.  And on April 28th, they put the final nail in Salem's coffin by acquiring Roy Halladay from the Ravenswood Infidels in exchange for Adam Lind and others.  Halladay went 15-4 with a 2.46 ERA for New Milford, and served as the team's one and only decent starting pitcher.  But with Salem struggling all season long, one was enough.  In the end, New Milford won the division by 19 games over the 76-84 Cowtippers.

By May 20th, the Cowtippers had fallen nine games behind in the division, and I realized the writing was on the wall.  I placed several players on the Selling forum, and Jim Doyle of the Manchester Irish Rebels was the first to respond, offering Kurt Suzuki and some delicious barbeque in exchange for Ryan Dempster.  (The barbeque was not a disappointment.)  The season-long white-flag sale in Salem had officially begun.

That same day, the league said good-bye to long-time owner Steve Osborne of the Nashville Funkadelic.  Known for his practical jokes and his love of Ty Cobb, Osborne had compiled a record of 556-566 (.496) in his eight-year career.  Ryan Melosi, a college roommate of Bobby Sylvester's, was announced as Osborne's successor.  But less than a month later, Melosi stepped down, and veteran Diamond Mind player Mike Ranney was announced as the latest owner of the Funkadelic franchise.

After the signings of Brandon Webb and Vladimir Guerrero in the free agent auction, many felt the Chicago Black Sox would win the Hrbek Division.  In pre-season polling, Chicago led the way with eight out of fifteen votes (with Akron placing second with four votes, followed by Atlanta with two.)  But throughout the season, the Fire Ants proved to be much tougher adversaries than anyone had imagined.  Despite their pedestrian lineup, the Fire Ants finished the first half of the season with a one game lead over Chicago in the division, thanks to a stellar 3.19 team ERA -- the lowest in the BDBL.

On June 3rd, Chicago GM John Gill made his big moves, adding Ichiro Suzuki, Geovanni Soto and Jimmy Rollins in two separate deals with the Sylmar Padawans and Hammerheads.  By the second week of July, the Black Sox had caught the Fire Ants, thanks in part to Suzuki and Soto, who went a combined 18-for-28 (.643) in a four-game series with the Great Lakes Sphinx.

On July 27th, Atlanta GM Gene Patterson countered Gill's big moves by making one of his own.  With DiStefano finally waving the white flag, Patterson capitalized by acquiring Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez and three others from the Ridgebacks in exchange for recently-injured starter Kevin Slowey, Gary Sheffield and others.  At the end of four chapters of play, the Fire Ants and Black Sox were tied atop the division.  They remained tied through five chapters.

With just one week remaining in the season, Atlanta found themselves trailing Chicago by one game, with a dozen games remaining on Chicago's schedule, and sixteen remaining for Atlanta.  Over their next eight games, Atlanta managed to pull into a virtual tie once again.  Then, with eight games remaining for each team, the two teams went head-to-head, with Atlanta taking three of the four games to capture sole possession of first place.  And over the final four games of the season, the Fire Ants managed to cling to that one game lead, winning the division for the first time since 1999.  After finishing in last place seven times in eight years since taking over the franchise, and just one year after setting a new BDBL record with 118 losses, Gene Patterson was heading to the playoffs.

Another team record was shattered in 2008 when the Southern Cal Slyme established a new BDBL record with 116 wins.  Despite that remarkable accomplishment, the Slyme were swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the Chicago Black Sox.  In 2009, Bob Sylvester got his revenge.  The Slyme busted out of the gate with an Eck League-best 20-8 record in Chapter One, and then battled his son Bobby's St. Louis Apostles squad throughout the season for first place in the Person Division.

On July 28th, the senior Sylvester made his big move, acquiring Jake Peavy and Carlos Marmol from the Ridgebacks in exchange for top prospect Carlos Santana.  Incredibly, however, Peavy (3-1, 5.34 ERA in 28+ IP) wasn't much of a factor for the Slyme, and with just seven weeks remaining in the season, the Apostles had caught up to the Slyme in the division race.  The teams were still tied with identical 93-55 records with one season left to play.  But with the loser of that race already guaranteed to be the EL wild card winner, the only thing at stake in that race was pride.  In their final series of the season, the Apostles swept the South Carolina Sea Cats, giving them a 103-57 record -- four games better than Southern Cal.

Perhaps the highlight of the year (for those of us who watched the playoffs from the sideline) was BDBL Weekend, held in Oakland and San Francisco.  A total of nine owners visited two MLB ballparks, discussed (and agreed to) countless trades, engaged in a thrilling BDBL trivia contest (did I mention I won?), shared a ton of laughs (mostly at Jim Doyle's expense) and enjoyed some great food, drinks and company.

During the final week of the season, three individual milestones were reached, beginning with Los Altos starter Jon Lester tossing a no-hitter against the rival San Antonio Broncs on October 25th.  In doing so, he became the 13th pitcher in league history to achieve that feat, and the only pitcher in 2009 to do so.  In that same series, San Antonio closer Cory Wade broke the single-season saves record (previously held by legendary Los Altos closer Eric Gagne) with his 63rd of the season.  This record was broken just a day after Los Altos ace C.C. Sabathia broke the single-season wins record with his 27th victory of the season.  He eventually finished with 29 wins, establishing a new BDBL record that will be very difficult to break.

With the stage set for the BDBL post-season, all eyes were on the Undertakers, who were expected to dominate the playoffs just as they had dominated the regular season.  They didn't disappoint, as they swept the Las Vegas Flamingos in four straight.  In the other OL Division Series, the Broncs were expected to make short work of the New Milford Blazers, setting the stage for a highly-anticipated Griffin Division grudge match in the OLCS.  But instead, the Blazers spoiled those plans by defeating the Broncs in seven games, capped by a 10-2 drubbing of Broncs ace Dan Haren in Game Seven.

Over in the Eck League, the league's best offense squared off against the league's best pitching staff in one of the EL Division Series.  The St. Louis Apostles scored more than 1,000 runs in 2009, becoming the first team since the 2004 Chicago Black Sox to do so.  And the Atlanta Fire Ants posted the Eck League's best ERA at 3.60 thanks to the league's best starting rotation and a deep bullpen.  That stellar pitching staff managed to hold St. Louis to just 17 runs in five games, as the Apostles hit just .207/.272/.348 as a team.  Atlanta won the series in surprisingly easy fashion, in just five games.

The Slyme made similar short work of the Kansas Law Dogs in the other ELDS, as their pitching staff held Kansas to a .229/.299/.318 batting line, with just 13 runs scored in five games.  That set up an EL Championship match-up between the Slyme and Fire Ants -- two very evenly-matched teams on the mound.  Unfortunately for Atlanta, their ace, Ervin Santana, failed to show up for the series.  In two starts, Santana allowed 11 runs on 17 hits in 9+ innings.  Those two performances proved devastating to the Fire Ants, who were never given a chance to compete.  SoCal won the series in five easy games, giving Bob Sylvester a ticket to the BDBL World Series for the second time in his career (and the first since the league's inaugural 1999 season.)

Meanwhile, over in the Ozzie League, the Undertakers ran into some surprising trouble against the Blazers, as they eked out an extra-innings win in Game One only to lose the next two.  But the vaunted Los Altos pitching staff then took over from there, and the Undertakers managed to win the next two games with Sabathia and Joba Chamberlain on the hill, allowing just two runs in each of those games.  They then took the series lead back to Los Altos, but fell behind early by a 4-0 deficit.  That score remained until the bottom of the eighth inning, when the Undertakers scored a pair of runs to cut New Milford's lead in half.  Then, in the bottom of the ninth, with one out and the bases loaded, Paulson sent Ryan Shealy into the game to pinch hit for the pitcher.  And Shealy responded with the "Shot Heard 'Round the Ozzie," winning the OLCS with a walk-off grand slam home run.

After ten long seasons, Jeff Paulson was finally heading to the BDBL World Series.  His team got off to a great start, holding the Slyme to a three-hit shutout in Game One.  Chamberlain then helped the team to a 9-2 victory in Game Two.  But when the series shifted to Southern Cal, so did the momentum, as the Slyme took two out of the three games.  Back in Los Altos, however, the Undertakers regained control, and captured the BDBL trophy with an easy 5-2 win.

And that is how we wrapped up our 11th season in the Big Daddy Baseball League.  And now, onto season #12.