Year in Review
The more things change, the
more they stay the same. For the fourth time in nine years, the
Allentown Ridgebacks defeated the Salem Cowtippers to win the BDBL
championship. Fortunately, the story of how this came to pass is
infinitely more interesting than the end result. From a personal
standpoint, I will always remember the 2010 season as one in which I
completely lost, and then completely regained, all interest and passion
in this hobby. This season was the perfect encapsulation of
everything I love and hate about Diamond Mind Baseball.
Before I begin recapping the madness
and elation that was the 2010 season, let me first continue my tradition
of thanking those who made this season possible. As always, the BDBL's "Board of Directors" were instrumental in ensuring a smooth and
successful season for all of us to enjoy. I hesitate to say that
their work behind the scenes goes unappreciated, because I know that
isn't true. But I often wonder if people realize just how much
time and effort these people contribute behind the scenes.
"These people" includes our
Transactions Secretary (and now four-time league champion) Tom DiStefano,
who not only coordinates and executes our transactions process each chapter (an
incredible burden in and of itself), but also keeps a running tab of
contracts and salaries for every player in the BDBL. This is truly
a year-round job, and one that I wouldn't wish upon anyone. (Not even
the bastard who has beaten me in the World Series four times in the past
Our Usage Secretary, DJ Shepard, is
always on top of his game, and other than yours truly has the
longest-running tenure of any member of the "BDBL cabinet." Jeff
Paulson, our "Rulebook Secretary," hasn't really done shit all year, but
I'll thank him anyway.
And last, but certainly not least, is
Greg Newgard, who wears so many hats in this league, he should open up
his own "Lids" chain. When he is not creating graphics for all of us to
use in our signatures, on the web site, or in our ballparks, Greg is
diligently collecting stats for historical purposes, maintaining a
database of historical ballpark information, organizing the annual
ballpark selection process and updating our teams pages. Oh, and
he also stepped up BIG-TIME this season by taking over as "VORP
Secretary" (or is it "Secretary of VORP?") and building a custom-made
spreadsheet for all of us to use throughout the season. And, if
that's not enough, he also is the official provider of information
throughout BDBL Weekend. (No small task, that.)
Aside from the "cabinet," there are
also a few people behind the scenes who help make my life easier.
Tony Chamra took over the league scheduling several years ago, and
continues to do a fantastic job year after year. Tony also
manually enters information on approximately 360 farm players so that we
have accurate information in our roster reports. And finally, he
is the creator of the world-famous MLB stats spreadsheet, from which we
And every year, someone inevitably
steps up to help me put together the player disk, ensuring that all of
the players' salaries and contracts are updated, zeroing-out the
contract and salary information for free agents, etc.. I apologize
if I thank the wrong person, but I believe it was Greg who stepped up
for me this year in that regard.
Many thanks to those of you who
attended BDBL Weekend this year. Although my trip was cut short
thanks to last-minute travelers, I had a blast in Denver. And it
was nice to introduce my oldest son to this group of guys who have
helped monopolize all of his dad's time for almost his entire life.
In keeping with tradition, I conclude
by thanking my wife (not that she has ever visited this site) for putting up with all of this. Although, to
be fair, I have mellowed a bit with age, so I'm a little easier to put
The 2009 season concluded in completely
predictable fashion, with the Los Altos Undertakers walking away with
the championship -- something that was predicted before the season had
even begun. Before the champagne had dried from Jeff
Paulson's T-shirt, the Salem Cowtippers announced the first big trade of
the off-season. In a deal with the San Antonio Broncs, the
Cowtippers added both Dan Haren and Brian Roberts at the expense of
Brian Matusz, Aaron Hicks and several others. In a separate deal,
Salem announced that they had off-loaded Josh Beckett's $17 million salary
to the Southern Cal Slyme in exchange for Trevor Hoffman.
It was just the beginning of a very
strange ride for the Cowtippers. Picked by the league as the
favorite to win the Butler Division, the Cowtippers stumbled out of the
gate, falling 15 games behind the division leaders (the surprising
Corona Confederates) by the second week of April. At the end of
two chapters, the Cowtippers owned a shocking 26-30 record, and trailed the
second-place New Milford Blazers by seven games. Reluctantly, a
Selling post soon followed on the league forum, with several key players
(Felix Hernandez, Brian Roberts, Chipper Jones) placed on the block.
Thankfully, the level of interest in
those players was next to nothing, so they all stuck with Salem. And sure enough, the Cowtippers finally began to play a
little better. They broke the .500 mark in the third chapter, and
headed into the all-star break with a 41-39 record -- five games behind
New Milford in the wild card race, and nine games back in the division.
Though Salem went 16-8 in Chapter
Three, both Corona and New Milford continued to do nothing but win,
making it impossible for the Cowtippers to pick up any ground. After four chapters of
play, we had managed to cut New Milford's wild card lead by only one
game. Then, at the final trading deadline of the season, during a wild BDBL Weekend, I sat next to Tony Chamra in the upper deck at Coors
Field, and we shook hands on a massive 14-player trade that put Zack Greinke in a
While Greinke pitched well for Salem
(4-1, 2.98 ERA in 9 starts), he had very little usage left in him over
the final two chapters, and made painfully little impact down the stretch.
And although the Cowtippers won 16 games in Chapter Five, so did the
Blazers. In their final series of the chapter, the Blazers and
'Tippers split a four game series, keeping Salem's wheels spinning in
place. To add insult to injury, Clayton "Asswipe" Kershaw combined
with five relievers to no-hit the Cowtippers in the final game of the
Meanwhile, the Confederates were
slipping enough to allow New Milford to sniff the division lead.
On August 30th, following a sweep of the Bear Country Jamboree, the
Blazers found themselves just one win away from the Confederates in the
standings. But that was as close as they would get.
In Salem's very first series of the final
chapter, Corona took three out of four. New Milford then swept the
San Antonio Broncs, putting the 'Tippers seven games behind in the wild card
race, with only a few weeks remaining in the season. In the
history of the BDBL, no team had ever overcome such a large deficit so
late in the season to win a spot in the playoffs. But from that
point on, the Cowtippers began an otherworldly run of success, taking
three of four from the Ravenswood Infidels and Kansas City Monarchs, and
sweeping the Bear Country Jamboree, Sylmar Padawans and New Hope
Badgers. After 14 wins in 16 games, Salem officially overtook the
Blazers for the wild card lead on the 20th of October.
Five days later, the unthinkable
happened. Facing the last-place New Hope Badgers, with their
season on the line, the Blazers were swept in shocking fashion, putting
them four games behind the Cowtippers heading into the final series of
the season -- a head-to-head battle against Salem. Needing just
one win to capture the division title, the Cowtippers took three out of
four, shoving New Milford right out of the playoff picture.
Meanwhile, watching all of that
commotion from above was Corona GM Ed McGowan, whose Confederates won
the Butler Division by one game over Salem, despite ominous pre-season
predictions. The Confederates leapt out to a 10-2 start to the
season, including two series victories over division rivals Salem and
New Milford. By the end of the first chapter, Corona owned a
formidable 21-7 record. Then, as if to prove it wasn't a fluke,
Corona also tied for the division lead in Chapter Two wins, going 17-11.
By the all-star break, the Confederates owned a 50-30 record (.625) and
a comfortable four game lead over the Blazers.
The secret to Corona's success was
hardly a secret at all. Joe Mauer was expected to dominate in
2010, but no one suspected just how dominant he would be. By the
end of the season, Mauer would become the first player in BDBL history
to hit .400 (.409.) He would also lead the Ozzie League in on-base
percentage (.498), slugging (.654) and runs created (184.4.)
But Mauer was hardly alone in the
Corona lineup. Teammates Shin-Soo Choo (.346/.456/.586, 157.7 RC),
Kendry Morales (.327/.368/.598, 54 2B, 37 HR, a league-leading 149 RBI,
129.6 RC) and Chone Figgins (.304/.456/.586, 136 R, 124.8 RC) also
contributed to an offense that ranked #2 in the OL in runs scored (881.)
Number one in that category were the
Los Altos Undertakers, who outscored the #2-ranked Confederates by a
whopping 88 runs. As expected, the defending champions were as
dominant in 2010 as they were in '09. In fact, by the most common
measurement of dominance (runs differential), the 2010 Undertakers were
even more dominant than that '09 team, as they led the BDBL with a
stunning differential of 378 runs.
Los Altos finished the season with 113
wins -- a laughable 41 games ahead of the second-place Sylmar Padawans
-- and wrapped up the division title by the second week of September.
As if his team needed any tweaking, GM Jeff Paulson pulled off a blockbuster trade
with the St. Louis Apostles during BDBL Weekend,
adding Evan Longoria at the expense of Justin Upton (among many others
involved.) Then, in his first series of the final chapter, Paulson watched as
Jon Lester combined with four relievers to toss a no-hitter. It
was the Undertakers' second no-hitter of the 2010 season. (The
first was thrown by C.C. Sabathia in Chapter Four.)
The Undertakers' pitching staff
featured no fewer than three 20-game winners: Lester (22-5), Sabathia
(21-10) and Matt Garza (20-9.) (A first in BDBL history.) Yet, Los Altos ranked just #2 in
the OL in ERA. The #1 ranking in 2010 (and in any year) belonged
to the Ravenswood Infidels, who broke the team ERA record previously
held by the 2002 Undertakers. Like Los Altos, the Infidels'
starting rotation also included three 20-game winners: Wandy Rodriguez
(23-7), Javier Vazquez (22-6) and Mark Buehrle (21-8.) And like
Los Altos, Ravenswood dominated their division with a 110-50 record --
20 games ahead of the second place Mississippi Meatballs.
Over in that other league, the
Allentown Ridgebacks went into the winter as the favorites to win the
Eck League title before GM Tom DiStefano had made a single transaction.
After taking a short one-year hiatus following his third BDBL
championship, DiStefano managed to build yet another unbeatable team thanks to
a few key trades and the ascension of several unlikely superstars.
Ben Zobrist -- a career .222/.279/.370 hitter in his 145-game MLB career
-- suddenly blossomed into an MVP candidate at age 28, batting an
astounding .302/.401/.569 with 35 homers and 130 runs created while
playing nearly every position on the diamond. Jonny Gomes, a
28-year-old fourth outfielder for most of his career, also burst into
flames in 2010, posting a .676 slugging percentage, with 18 homer in
just 185 at-bats. And Jorge Posada defied Father Time, batting
.289/.410/.510 as a 38-year-old catcher.
Ryan Braun, famously acquired in
exchange for David Eckstein a few years prior, hit .324/.400/.537 with
131.3 runs created. Tim Lincecum, famously acquired in exchange
for Frank Thomas in 2007, was unstoppable, going 28-4 on the season (one
win short of the BDBL single-season wins record), with a 2.88 ERA in
246+ innings, and 300 strikeouts.
As if that weren't enough, the
Ridgebacks had over $14 million to spend on free agents, with no
pressing needs to fill. Just for the hell of it, though, Tom
$7 million on Jason Bartlett, who hit .319/.393/.495 with 111 runs
created while flashing Vg range at shortstop. And he spent another
$6 million on platoon monster Garrett Jones, who smacked 17 homers in
just 286 at-bats.
The end result was quite predictable.
Allentown finished with 109 wins (34 more than the second place Mustangs
in the Higuera Division), outscored their opponents by 316 runs (second
only to Los Altos), scored 949 runs (also second only to Los Altos) and
hit 250 homers (tops in the BDBL.)
The big story in the Eck League this
past winter, however, was all the noise being made by St. Louis Apostles
GM Bobby Sylvester at the trade table. With a lineup already
stacked with sluggers, and an infield already brimming with "Ex"-ranged
glove men, Sylvester managed to nab the biggest fish of the 2010 trading
pond when he added Evan Longoria in a last-minute deal with the Chicago
Black Sox just prior to the winter deadline. Not only was Longoria
an MVP-caliber bat, and not only did he give the Apostles an
unprecedented THREE Ex-ranged gloves in their infield, but Longoria was
still only 24 years old, and was as yet unsigned to a contract.
In exchange for this incredibly
valuable commodity, Sylvester sacrificed only prospects, leaving his
2010 active roster intact. With bold predictions of
division dominance lighting the way, the Apostles went 18-10 in the
first chapter, but were unexpectedly trailed closely by the Southern Cal Slyme, who
jumped out to a 17-11 record. By the middle of April, the elder Sylvester
had managed to overtake his son in the Person Division, thanks to an
incredible 20-8 showing in Chapter Two.
What was thought to be a temporary
setback for the Apostles turned into a serious problem, as the Slyme
followed that incredible run with a 19-5 record in the third chapter
(including a shocking four-game sweep of the mighty Undertakers), while
St. Louis went just 12-12. By the all-star break, the Apostles
were looking at a NINE-GAME deficit in their division. Making
matters worse, they led in the EL wild card race by only two games over
the Akron Ryche and Atlanta Fire Ants.
The tables finally turned in Chapter
Four, when St. Louis led the division with a 16-8 record, while the
Slyme slipped to 11-13, cutting the division lead down to just four
games. Sensing a golden opportunity to catch up to his father,
Junior Sylvester went back to the trading table once again. In a
shocking last-minute trade during BDBL Weekend, Sylvester sent Longoria
and four other players to the Undertakers in exchange for Justin Upton,
Kevin Youkilis and four others. As with most hitters who make the
transition to St. Louis, both Upton (.366/.444/.704 with 19 HR in 213
AB) and Youkilis (.302/.402/.566, 12 HR in 189 AB) excelled. And
over the final two chapters, the Apostles went an astounding 35-21
Unfortunately for them, however, the
SoCal Slyme were even better. Despite making only a few minor
tweaks at the final trading deadline, Sylvester, Sr. guided his team to
a 36-20 record over the final two chapters -- a .643 winning percentage.
Southern Cal finished the season with an impressive 103-57 record --
five games better than the Apostles, who easily captured the EL wild
card by 15 games over the Cleveland Rocks.
In the Griffin Division, the Chicago
Black Sox went into the free agent auction with a whopping $52.1 million
to spend, and GM John Gill loaded up by signing highly-coveted free
agents Ryan Dempster, Cliff Lee, Paul Maholm, Victor Martinez, Carlos
Zambrano and Jose Reyes (among others.) Yet, after all that
spending, the Black Sox managed a record of only 9-19 after one chapter
Meanwhile, the Akron Ryche were off to
another blazing start, with a record of 19-9. And the Cleveland
Rocks shocked the establishment with an 18-10 showing in the first
chapter. Meanwhile, the division favorite, Atlanta, stumbled out of
the gate with a 13-15 chapter.
Cleveland GM Mike Stein attempted to
cash in on his team's early success by pulling off a whirlwind of
trades, acquiring Manny Ramirez, Phil Coke, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Lowell,
Leo Nunez and Mark Lowe in a series of four trades in late April.
But while those deals were being made, the Rocks were falling like...errr...an
anvil, with a record of just 12-16 in Chapter Two. The Ryche
stumbled as well, with the same record, while the Fire Ants awoke from
their coma to post a 17-11 record -- enough to pull within one game of
first place. By the end of two chapters, only one game separated
all three teams in the Hrbek Division.
While Cleveland continued to flounder
in Chapter Three (8-16), the Ryche managed to bounce back with a 14-10
record, while Atlanta went 15-9 on the chapter, pulling even for the
division lead heading into the all-star break. Apparently
convinced that things would work out naturally on their own, both
Atlanta GM Gene Patterson and Akron GM DJ Shepard opted to stick with
the status quo at the Chapter Four deadline. And evidently, so did
every team in the division, as all four teams in the Hrbek Division won
between 11-14 games in the fourth chapter. Atlanta owned the best
record of the lot at 14-10, and took over first place by default.
At the final trading deadline of the
season, Patterson made one trade, adding Juan Uribe, Jeremy Affeldt and
Jonathan Papelbon in a deal with the Kansas City Monarchs, while DJ
"Stand Pat" Shepard did what he has done throughout his BDBL career:
stood pat. The Ryche continued to fall from that point on, going a
division-worst 20-36 over the final two chapters, and eventually settled
in last place. Incredibly, the Black Sox posted a 34-22 (.607)
record over the final two chapters (the same record as Atlanta), while
the Rocks went 33-23 (.589) down the stretch. After a hard-fought
battle throughout the first half of the season, Atlanta ended up winning
the division handily, with a 93-67 record -- 10 games ahead of
Cleveland. After eight last-place finishes in nine seasons, the
Fire Ants had captured their second straight division title.
After sneaking into the post-season
during the closing days of the season, the Salem Cowtippers were simply
happy to be playing November baseball. With the onerous task of
facing the Los Altos Undertakers in the Division Series, many expected
it to be a quick series. And it was. Only, instead of the
Undertakers dominating Salem as expected, the red-hot Cowtippers pulled
off one of the biggest upsets in BDBL history. With a three-man
rotation of Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez and Dan Haren, the Cowtippers
held the powerful Los Altos offense to just ten runs and shocked the
BDBL establishment by sweeping the Undertakers in four games straight.
In the other OL Division Series, the
Infidels dispatched of the Confederates despite a remarkable performance
by Corona first baseman Kendry Morales, who went 10-for-20 in the series, with two doubles
and three homers. The record-setting Ravenswood pitching staff
held Corona to just 14 runs in the series, allowing only 5 walks in 44.2
innings, with 42 strikeouts.
Over in the Eck League, Allentown swept
Atlanta in four close games -- the final two decided by one run each.
And the junior Sylvester defeated his father in seven games, with Chris
Carpenter tossing a complete-game, 93-pitch, four-hit shutout in Game
Seven to clinch the series victory for the Apostles.
St. Louis then took a two-games-to-one
lead against Allentown in the EL Championship Series. Then,
trailing by a score of 6-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game
Four, St. Louis rallied for four runs (three on a home run by Albert
Pujols) to tie the game and force extra innings. In the top of the
11th inning, Jason Bartlett tripled home the go-ahead run. St.
Louis then put two men on with back-to-back singles in the bottom of the
11th. With the tying run at second, and the winning run at first,
Pujols then stepped to the plate, poised to play the role of franchise
hero and give the Apostles a three-games-to-one lead in the series.
Instead, Pujols lined into a triple
It was, perhaps, the biggest defensive
play in the history of the BDBL post-season. And once again, it
went Allentown's way. The Baseball Gods continue to shine upon Tom
DiStefano and the Allentown Ridgebacks. After that heart-breaker,
the rest of the series was predictably inevitable. Allentown
crushed St. Louis by a score of 14-5 in Game Five to take the series
lead. And in Game Six, Scott Baker out-pitched Chris Carpenter
(yes, the Baseball Gods are indeed Ridgebacks fans) to clinch Tom DiStefano's fifth Eck League championship.
Meanwhile, in the Ozzie League
Championship Series, the Cowtippers staged a come-from-behind victory in
Game One to win by a score of 6-5. But the Infidels stormed back
with two wins in a row, as their high-powered offense rolled over Felix
Hernandez and Dan Haren, scoring 14 runs in the two games combined.
In Game Four, Zack Greinke got Salem
back on track to even the series at two games apiece. But in Game
Five, Hernandez stumbled early, allowing four runs in the third inning,
and the Infidels cruised to a 9-3 victory, putting them just one win
away from their second Ozzie League title. Ravenswood then jumped
all over Haren once again in Game Six, scoring four runs in the first
inning. Salem quickly went to their bullpen, however, and were
able to hold the Infidels to just one run the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, the Salem offense pecked away at Ravenswood's lead,
eventually overtaking that lead with a four-run sixth inning, en route
to an 8-5 win.
That set the stage for an epic Game
Seven battle, with Greinke taking the hill for the third time in the
series, facing Mark Buehrle. Once again, Ravenswood jumped out to
an early lead, scoring two runs in the first inning. And once
again, Salem chipped away at that lead, scoring a run in the fourth.
In the eighth, the Cowtippers tied the score on an error, a single and
an unfortunately-timed wild pitch by Brandon League. But with the
bases loaded and two outs, Ravenswood reliever Bobby Howry managed to
get pinch hitter Reid Brignac to pop out, ending the threat.
In the ninth, Salem's first two batters
were retired quickly. Brian Roberts then singled, bringing Ramon
Troncoso out of the pen for the Infidels. Ravenswood manager Brian
"Skizm" Potrafka, hopped up on numerous medications and alcohol,
intended to keep Roberts close at first, but hit the wrong key.
Roberts swiped second base, and then scored on a base hit by Omar
Infante, giving Salem the lead. Joe Nathan then retired the side
in order in the bottom of the ninth, sewing up Salem's fourth Ozzie
League title (and sending Potrafka into a profanity-laced tirade on the
Of course, all of this set the stage
for the inevitable World Series confrontation between the Ridgebacks and
Cowtippers. It would be the fourth time in nine years that these
two teams would meet in the BDBL World Series, and all three previous
meetings had resulted in a Ridgebacks victory. Although the
Ridgebacks should have been heavily favored, given their dominance
during the regular season and their past history of winning championship
trophies, the Cowtippers were actually the favored team in pre-series
polling by a margin of two-to-one. (And if you clap your hands
really loud and yell "I do believe in fairies!", Tinkerbell will come
back to life!)
In the first game of the series,
Allentown sent their Cy Young winning ace, Tim Lincecum, to the hill to
face discarded former Ridgebacks phenom Felix Hernandez. And at
the end of nine innings of play, the score remained tied at 1-1.
In the bottom of the tenth inning, Salem sent their closer, Joe Nathan,
back out to the mound. Nathan had been lights-out throughout the
playoffs, but on this day the random roll of the Baseball Gods' dice
resulted in a two-run walk-off blast by Jorge Posada, which gave the
Ridgebacks a crucial lead in the series.
Dan Haren then took the hill for the
Cowtippers in Game Two, and just as he had all season long, ran into
trouble with the longball. Three of the seven hits allowed by
Haren in his seven innings of work went over the wall. Meanwhile,
Randy Wells and three Allentown relievers managed to hold the Cowtippers
to just four hits in nine shutout innings. Just like that,
Allentown was looking at a two-games-to-none lead as the series moved to
Although Salem's new ace, Zack Greinke,
got the ball in the third game, it was the Salem bullpen that made all
the difference in the game. A total of five Salem relievers
combined to shut out the Ridgebacks over the final three innings to
preserve a one-run win for the Cowtippers.
But a crucial mistake was made in Game
One when Hernandez was allowed to throw 113 pitches. Evidently,
that was too much for the Vg-rated Hernandez to handle, as he was still
listed as "tired" for Game Four. With no other option, Salem
turned to lefty Jorge de la Rosa to tie the series. It was a
match-up straight from Hell. Not only did Allentown murder
left-handed pitching all season, but de la Rosa would have to face
Lincecum, who was not tired at all after throwing 107 pitches in Game
One. Predictably, the game was a bloodbath. de la Rosa
allowed 13 hits (including FIVE home runs) and 12 runs in just four
innings. Allentown was now just one win away from clinching their
fourth BDBL trophy.
Now fully rested, Hernandez pitched a
gem in Game Five, and the Cowtippers cruised to an easy 8-2 win.
But with the series heading back to Allentown for Game Six, and Lincecum
still scheduled to pitch another game in this series, things were not
looking good for the boys in the spotted caps.
With the score tied at 3-3 in the sixth
inning of Game Six, Allentown tacked two runs on the board against Dan
Haren. With three innings remaining, Salem hoped to do some damage
against the Allentown bullpen and force a Game Seven, with a
fully-rested Greinke scheduled to face Lincecum in an epic battle.
But the Baseball Gods were determined
to award their favorite son with yet another trophy (while punishing
their least favorite son in the process -- a win/win for everyone.)
Through the final three innings, the Cowtippers offense simply rolled
over and died at the hands of a couple of mediocre relievers named
Ronald Belisario and Claudio Vargas. Belisario retired Brian
Roberts, Reid Brignac and Matt Holliday in order in the seventh.
Vargas then retired Mark Teixeira, Josh Willingham and Chipper Jones in
order in the eighth. He then came back to pitch the ninth, and
retired three of the four batters he faced, giving the Ridgebacks their
fourth BDBL championship -- each one at the expense of the Cowtippers.
Sometimes, you just can't make this
stuff up. While it may seem like a boring, anticlimactic ending to
what had been an exciting season, the Baseball Gods aren't in the
business of providing exciting and noble endings that wrap everything up
in a bow. This isn't Hollywood. It is a fact of which I am
reminded each and every year.