Year in Review
Congratulations to John Duel, our new
reigning BDBL champion. 2012 was a long, strange season, and it
was appropriately capped with a long, strange post-season. Neither
of the league's most dominant teams during the regular season played in
the World Series. The final championship series was a four game
sweep, decided by a walk-off home run. And immediately following
that series, the winning team's owner abruptly announced his resignation
from the league. That's a tough act to follow.
I'd like to thank all of you for
another year of spirited competition and good sportsmanship. It is
an encouraging sign that after 14 seasons, we are still searching for
ways to improve our league, and that the passion still exists to create
a league that is both entertaining and realistic. This league is
truly a team effort, and I feel as though all 23 of you uniquely
contribute something that is invaluable to our common cause.
I'd like to give a special thanks to
Greg Newgard, who has become the de facto Commissioner of this league,
given all that he does for us. At this point, I'm nothing more
than a figurehead. If Greg is Winston Churchill, that makes me
Queen Elizabeth. Another person this league would suffer without
is Tom DiStefano, who not only coordinates our mid-season free agent
drafts, but also keeps track of all 1,200 player salaries and contracts
in the league. And to thank him for all his efforts, I let Tom
beat me in the World Series every other season.
Another quiet, unsung hero of the BDBL
is DJ Shepard, who has been our Usage Secretary for as long as I can
remember. DJ hardly ever says a word, but we always know he's with
us. And finally, I'd like to thank those of you who attended BDBL
Weekend this year. Chicago was so much fun the first time, we
decided to do it all over again. It was great seeing Greg, Matt
and Scott again, and it's always great to visit a new ballpark with
Ryan. But it was especially nice to see a new face this year, so
thank you, John Gill, for making the long trek out to Chicago.
The 2012 season officially began on
November 23rd of last year, when the Atlanta Fire Ants capped their magical
season with a BDBL championship, defeating the Los Altos Undertakers in
six games. Just moments after the conclusion of that series,
several trades were announced. Among them was a trade involving
the Allentown Ridgebacks and the new owner of the Granite State
Lightning franchise, Ryan Glander.
All eyes were on Allentown heading into
the winter, as the Ridgebacks had spent the entire 2011 season in
rebuilding mode after winning the 2010 championship. That
rebuilding effort resulted in the acquisitions of several key players
who would be instrumental to Allentown's success in 2012, including team
MVP Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury would hit .336/.373/.583 for the
Ridgebacks, with 40 doubles, 32 homers, 110 runs scored and 125 RBI's.
In that trade with Granite State, the
Ridgebacks filled perhaps their only glaring need by acquiring ace Josh
Beckett (17-10, 3.32 ERA in 211+ IP.) He was added
to a rotation that already included two aces in Tim Lincecum (16-11,
3.35 ERA) and Jeremy Hellickson (15-5, 3.07 ERA). Offensively, the
Ridgebacks were set at every position on the diamond, including an
overflow of talent in the outfield. The question of the winter was
what GM Tom DiStefano would do with all the excess talent he had in the
outfield. In addition to having four all-star starters in Ellsbury,
Ryan Braun (.300/.375/.512, 120.9 RC), Jay Bruce (.271/.358/.489) and
Mike Stanton (.233/.323/.440), the Ridgebacks also owned the best
outfield prospect in baseball in Mike Trout. Ultimately, DiStefano
decided to leave the riddle unsolved, and simply held onto all five of
Not only did the Ridgebacks have a full
roster of all-stars by the time the winter trading season wrapped up,
but they also had the #2 draft pick in every round (thanks to their
55-105 finish in 2011) AND $22 million to spend on free agents.
DiStefano used $3.5 million of that cash to sign pinch hitter Jim Thome,
who he immediately flipped to the Mississippi Meatballs for left-handed
closer Johnny Venters. DiStefano shelled out another $5 million
for role players Rafael Furcal and Tom Gorzellany, and then used his
high draft pick to select Jesus Guzman, Jack Hannahan, Brad Ziegler and
others in the draft.
Before the draft had ended, DiStefano
made another trade, locking down the shortstop position for the next
several years by acquiring Elvis Andrus (along with four others) in
exchange for Peter Bourjos, Mark Reynolds, Furcal and two others.
The team that took the field for Allentown on Opening Day was so dominant on paper that
it appeared the Ridgebacks would easily cruise to their record-setting
fifth BDBL title. In my pre-season preview, I picked the
Ridgebacks to win it all, and in league polling, Allentown earned more
votes to win the championship than any other team.
To the surprise of no one, the
Ridgebacks got off to a hot start, going 18-10 in Chapter One, 17-11 in
Chapter Two, and 18-6 in Chapter Three. They basically captured
first place in the first week of play and never let go. They
eventually finished the season with 107 wins (the 5th time they won 100+
games in DiStefano's 12 years at the helm), despite underperforming
their Pythagorean projection by four games. The only surprise of
the season for Allentown was that they had some competition in their
division, and barely eked out the division title by just one game.
The team chasing Allentown throughout
the season was the Kansas Law Dogs. Kansas GM Chris Luhning took a
bit of heat over the winter for appearing to dismantle a roster that
looked very competitive on paper. Two of his trades appeared to
weaken his 2012 team, though in retrospect it was simply a clever bit of
arbitrage. Luhning's first trade, announced the day the World
Series ended, was to swap Michael Young and Brett Gardner for Logan
Morrison and Coco Crisp. Not only were Morrison and Crisp much
cheaper, but the two nearly duplicated the offensive contributions of
Young and Gardner.
Next, Luhning traded a solid starting
pitcher in Tim Hudson, getting only a couple of prospects in exchange.
This opened up a hole in Kansas' starting rotation -- a hole that
Luhning filled with another trade made just prior to Opening Day.
In that deal, Anibal Sanchez and top prospect Archie Bradley were sent
to San Antonio in exchange for Doug Fister. Fister was not only a
workhorse, tossing 234 innings, but he led the team's starters in ERA
(3.04) and won 20 games. That gave the Law Dogs two 20-game
winners, with Cole Hamels (22-7, 3.24) as the other. Those two
combined with Matt Cain, giving Kansas three starting pitchers who each
tossed 225+ innings with an ERA of 3.30 or below.
Kansas got off to a 16-12 start to the
season, and managed to stay within striking distance of Allentown every
step of the way. At the all-star break, the 'Dogs trailed the
'Backs by just four games. They not only had to contend with
Allentown, but with several Eck League wild card contenders as well.
Heading into the break, Kansas was one of six Eck League teams with a
winning percentage of .575 or higher. Incredibly, at least two of
those teams would be watching the playoffs from the sidelines. At
Law Dogs owned a narrow two game lead in the EL wild card race with
several teams nipping at their heels.
In Chapter Four, Kansas led the
division with 15 wins, and after going 20-8 in Chapter Five, they had
opened up a rather comfortable five game lead over the Akron Ryche in
the wild card race, with just one chapter remaining. To their
credit, the Ryche fought hard for that spot in Chapter Six, going 17-11.
But it wasn't good enough. Kansas wrapped up their season with
their best chapter yet, going 22-6. They finished with 106 wins --
one shy of Allentown's total -- becoming the third team in BDBL history
to finish with 100+ wins and not win the division title.
Over in the Ozzie League, there was
only one team that looked as though it would dominate from beginning to
end. In their first seven seasons in the BDBL, the New Milford
Blazers failed to win 80 games even once. Ownership officially
changed hands at some point during the 2005 season when Anthony Peburn
staged an unauthorized coup. That year, Peburn made a mockery of
the league's trading rules by first stockpiling, and then dumping,
several superstars. That move paid off in 2006 when the Blazers
enjoyed their first-ever winning season, winning 90 games and capturing
the OL wild card. Two more dreadful seasons followed until finally
a master plan was implemented in 2009, resulting in the team's first
division title. The Blazers would go on to win 90+ games in each
of the next three seasons, including 2012, when they led the entire BDBL
with 111 wins.
The Blazers were the easy favorite to
win the OL title, receiving 6 out of 7 votes in pre-season league
polling. Peburn had spent the entire winter adding one left-hander
after another to his roster, taking full advantage of Diamond Mind's
ballpark factors. New Milford already owned lefty sluggers Alex
Avila, Robinson Cano and Shane Victorino heading into the winter. In
December, Peburn added slugger Adrian Gonzalez, who would enjoy a
monster season (.360/.402/.588, 42 2B, 33 HR, 146.6 RC) in New Milford's
bandbox. And in January's free agent auction, Peburn added David
Ortiz (.320/.382/.575, 50 2B, 33 HR, 117.3 RC), who was forced to play
out of position in right field all season due to the presence of
Gonzalez at first base.
The addition of Ortiz gave the Blazers
lineup five different players (all left-handed or lefty-dominant switch
hitters) with 100+ runs created on the season. On the pitching
side, Peburn's high school scouting finally paid dividends with the
emergence of Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw enjoyed one of the greatest
seasons in league history, going 25-6 with a 3.37 ERA and 275 strikeouts
-- all while pitching in a ballpark the size of an average living room.
As if that weren't enough, Peburn then added lefty ace C.J. Wilson in
the free agent auction, at a bargain price of just $8 million.
Wilson's performance (24-8, 3.09 ERA, 252 K's in 245 IP) nearly matched
Kershaw's pitch-for-pitch. And to that trio, Peburn added yet
another lefty ace, Cliff Lee (8-6, 3.57 ERA in 123+ IP for New Milford)
at the Chapter Four deadline.
The fate of the division race was
decided before a single game had been played. New Milford jumped
out to a 20-8 start to the season, and by the all-star break, they held
a 10-game lead over the Salem Cowtippers in the division. They
eventually clinched the division before the month of October.
As for the Cowtippers, returning to the
post-season was an uphill battle all the way. Salem went into the
season with several key pieces to the puzzle already in place.
Jose Reyes, Matt Kemp, Cameron Maybin and Ryan Zimmerman were
established all-stars, and the rotation was fronted by several solid
starters, including James Shields, Colby Lewis, Ubaldo Jimenez and Wandy
Rodriguez. Yadier Molina, a controversial pre-season acquisition
from the Granite State Lightning, was also added in an early pre-season
trade. After two chapters of play, the Cowtippers owned an
impressive 32-24 (.571) record. However, the Corona Confederates
proved to be an unexpectedly strong competitor in the division.
Led by a pair of MVP hitters -- both
acquired in trade that winter -- the Confederates pounded their way to
31 wins in the first two chapters, and trailed Salem by just one game in
the wild card race. Never one to shy away from an opportunity to
sacrifice the future for the present, Corona GM Ed McGowan made a pair
of bold trades in the winter, adding long-time St. Louis mainstay Albert
Pujols in one trade, and landing former New York Giant Joey Votto in
another. Combined, the two sluggers created 243.6 runs in the 2012
At the halfway point of the season, the
Cowtippers managed to expand their lead in the wild card race to three
games. Not only were the Confederates putting up a fight in that
race, but Salem also had to contend with the Ravenswood Infidels, who
spent the season floating right around the .500 mark. Later in the
season, New York Giants GM Jim Doyle decided he, too, wanted to join the
party, and traded away several players with long-term value in an effort
to boost his team's chances of finishing .500 for the first time in his
As the all-star break approached, I saw
an opportunity to strengthen my team in 2013 and beyond while
simultaneously keeping my 2012 team competitive. Gone were Matt
Kemp, Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Smoak, Jamey Carroll and James Loney.
In their place, Melky Cabrera, Paul Maholm, Dustin Pedroia, Carlos Pena
and B.J. Upton were added to the mix. The following chapter, the
starting rotation was bolstered for the final two chapters with the
acquisitions of Dan Hudson and Yovani Gallardo.
Despite upgrading at several positions,
and despite playing a
schedule filled with sub-.500 opponents, the Cowtippers went just 7-17
in Chapter Four.
That put them two games below .500. With just two chapters
remaining in the season, Salem trailed Corona by two games in the wild
card race, and also trailed Ravenswood by one game. The Los Altos
Undertakers and San Antonio Broncs were just two games behind, and the
New York Giants trailed by three.
Doyle reacted to this turn of events by
trading one of his top prospects in exchange for free-agent-to-be Adrian
Beltre. He then traded top prospect Yonder Alonso and two others
for Ted Lilly and Matt Garza (plus two others.) In Chapter Five,
the Cowtippers wiped the slate clean, put their disastrous Chapter Four
performance in the rearview, and went 19-9. They recaptured the OL
wild card lead, and opened up a three game margin over Corona, with both
Ravenswood and Corona falling six games back.
The Cowtippers wrapped up their final
chapter with a mediocre 14-14 record, but it was enough to capture the
final spot in the playoffs. Ravenswood finished on a high note,
going 18-10, but finished two games shy of the top spot. And Jim
Doyle and his New York Giants went 15-13 to finish with a record of
79-81 -- the 13th season in a row Doyle finished below .500.
Another team that finished below .500
this year (WAAAAAAY below .500) was the Granite State Lightning.
After the departure of Tony Badger in 2011 left his former franchise
decimated and neglected, my son Ryan took over just before Halloween of
that year. He was anxious to begin trading, and wasted no time
announcing several trades upon the completion of the World Series.
Ryan's rebuilding strategy was a
familiar one: trade away expensive veterans and stockpile young talent.
Because he had so much cash on hand, and because the free agent class
was so bereft of young talent, Ryan decided to use his cash to take
expensive, unwanted salary off the hands of some teams in exchange for
young players with upside. This strategy had its critics.
The most vocal among them was Tom DiStefano, who insisted that the
Lightning franchise would have been far better off if they had held onto
their stars and used their salary to sign the top free agents available,
allowing them to compete immediately.
The end result of Ryan's strategy was
predictable. The Lightning set a new BDBL record for losses, with
120. They allowed over 1,000 runs, and were outscored by nearly
500 runs (another BDBL record.) And they also amassed an
impressive collection of cheap, young talent, and are in an enviable
position to compete in 2013.
While Ryan was busy trading for bad
contracts, one GM in the BDBL recognized this strategy as an opportunity
for his own franchise. Bobby Sylvester inserted himself into the
bargaining process and served as a virtual broker in several of Granite
State's trades. Sylvester deftly found "clients" in need of
dumping bad contracts, traded for those contracts and collecting a
"transaction fee" in the form of 2012 value, and then offloaded those
contracts onto Granite State in exchange for young talent.
For example, Sylvester acquired Derek
Jeter's unwanted salary from the Mississippi Meatballs, getting two top
prospects in exchange. He then immediately flipped Jeter to
Granite State, giving the Lightning another top prospect as "payment."
Sylvester then flipped the two prospects he received from Mississippi in
exchange for Dan Haren and the #1 pick in the farm draft (which became
Sylvester spent the entire winter
negotiating deals such as these, flipping player after player in a
BDBL version of
In total, Sylvester made 14 trades in the winter of 2012, involving 57
players and countless draft picks. He then made five more trades
between Cutdown Day and Opening Day. Then, at the Chapter Four
deadline, no one was more prolific at the trading table than Sylvester.
In total, he made 10 trades that chapter, involving 46 players.
Yet, he still wasn't done. At the final trading deadline of the
season, Sylvester made three more trades, involving 17 players.
When you sum it all up, Sylvester made a total of 32 trades involving
138 players changing hands. That is, without a doubt, a BDBL
Perhaps the most controversial trade
made by Sylvester in 2012 was his Chapter Four deal with his father,
SoCal Slyme GM Bob Sylvester. Taken out of context, the trade
itself was rather ordinary. The Apostles acquired several star
veterans (Paul Konerko, Josh Johnson, Daniel Bard and others) in
exchange for several cheap, young players with upside potential (Jarrod Parker,
Chris Carter, Archie Bradley and others.) What made this trade so
controversial was the fact that the Slyme were tied atop the division
with the Apostles at the time this trade was made. Both the Slyme
and Apostles owned a .567 winning percentage with just two chapters
remaining, and yet one of the teams tied atop the division had just
loaded up their main competitor for the stretch run. If ever there
were a trade that violated the "best interests of the game" clause of
the BDBL rulebook, this was it. Yet, the trade was allowed to
stand, and that decision had consequences.
Sylmar Padawans GM John Duel spent years
and years campaigning against the league's bonus and penalty rule, and
explained (ad nauseum) his strategy for counteracting this rule.
This strategy was specifically
designed to avoid penalties by strictly adhering to a budget that
minimized expensive long-term commitments.
Duel temporarily broke from this strategy by signing Alex Rodriguez to an ill-fated
$14 million salary in 2010, but not only did Bear Country GM Matt Clemm
allow Duel to escape from that contract by trading for A-Rod in the
winter of 2011, he also gifted Sylmar with a $100,000 Madison Bumgarner as
well. Bumgarner would be a major contributor to the 2012 Padawans,
winning 20 games and sporting a 3.08 ERA in 224+ innings.
Thanks in part to that A-Rod trade, the Padawns
had more money to spend ($33.7 million) in the 2012 free agent auction
than any other team in the BDBL. Duel signed the top hitter
available in the auction, Lance Berkman, at a salary of $8.5 million,
driving the first nail into the coffin of his strategy. Berkman
would hit .290/.381/.530 for the Padawans, with 31 homers and a
team-high 111.9 runs created.
Another $3.5 million of Sylmar's budget was
spent on a mediocre starting pitcher named Jason Hammel, who proved to
be one of the greatest overachievers in league history. Hammel won
19 games and led the Ozzie League with a 2.59 ERA (more than two full
runs below his MLB ERA) in 187+ innings.
He teamed with another one of Duel's $3.5 million free agent purchases,
Carl Pavano, who went a respectable 13-10 with a 4.18 ERA.
Those three served as Sylmar's #1
through #3 starters until the Chapter Four trading deadline, when Mike
Ranney of the Niagara Locks bestowed another gift upon the Sylmar
franchise in the form of ace pitcher Roy Halladay. Halladay, who
went 9-4 with a 2.29 ERA in 121 innings as a Padawan, instantly became
the ace of the Sylmar rotation, and arguably the league's best pitcher,
pushing every other pitcher in the Padawans rotation down a slot.
In exchange for Halladay, Duel was only asked to part with three players
of questionable value: #4 outfielder Peter Bourjos, declining veteran
shortstop Rafael Furcal, and erratic young pitcher Juan Nicasio.
Duel officially scrapped his "fiscal conservative" plan with this trade,
as he also took on Ryan Howard's expensive, long-term contract in the
deal. That same chapter, Duel also traded Neil Walker's
inexpensive contract for Rickie Weeks' more burdensome contract.
At the final trading deadline, Duel acquired yet another ace, Chris
Carpenter, which pushed former #3 starter Carl Pavano down to the #5
spot and off the playoffs roster altogether.
The Padawans finished the season with
95 wins (a franchise record), and easily captured the Griffin Division
title by 20 games.
Mississippi Meatballs came into the season with most pundits anticipating a tight
battle with the Ravenswood Infidels for the division title. The
two teams finished within two wins of each other (with Mississippi
holding a two-game advantage) after the first chapter of play. The
Meatballs then went 16-12 in Chapter Two, while the wheels fell off the
Infidels' bus. Ravenswood went just 10-18 that chapter, including
four losses to the Meatballs. By the all-star break, the Benes
Division race was all but over, as Mississippi held a 10-game lead, and
the Infidels were sporting a record four games below .500.
GM Nic Weiss built the Meatballs around
the league's best bullpen. At the Chapter Three deadline, he added
a power bat in Nelson Cruz, trading four prospects to the Great Lakes
Sphinx to acquire him. At the Chapter Four deadline, Weiss added
starter Jaime Garcia. And at the final trading deadline, he added
Erik Bedard to the rotation. In the end, the Meatballs finished
with a franchise record of 100 wins. They ranked #2 in the OL in
runs scored, and #3 in ERA (3.83).
Mississippi was just one of FIVE teams
that finished with 100+ wins in 2012. The most unlikely of those
five 100-game winners was the Chicago Black Sox. It isn't because
the Black Sox weren't an incredibly talented team (they were), but
because the team got off to such a horrible start to the season.
One chapter into the season, Chicago sported a record of just 11-17.
This was incredibly shocking for a team that was stacked with talent,
including Miguel Cabrera, Evan Longoria, Justin Upton, Jered Weaver,
Rickie Weeks, Matt Wieters and Starlin Castro.
Amazingly, Chicago didn't own
Longoria, Upton or Weaver when the free agent auction began. All
three players were acquired via trade during the draft. In years
past, Chicago GM John Gill was quick to pull the trigger and dismantle
his team after such a slow start. But this year, he stuck with his
team, and they rewarded his patience by going 23-5 in Chapter Two.
In fact, from Game #29 to the end of the season, the Black Sox owned the
best record in the BDBL at 91-41 (tied with New Milford.)
As the season progressed, Gill
continued adding to his stockpile of talent, as the Black Sox continued
to chase the Akron Ryche in the standings. At the Chapter Three
deadline, Gill added Melky Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez and Ryan Madson.
And at the Chapter Four deadline, he made his big trade with the
Cowtippers, adding MVP candidate Matt Kemp, along with Ubaldo Jimenez.
Meanwhile, DJ Sheppard broke away from his traditional policy of
standing pat at the trade table, and made a few moves of his own.
The biggest trades came at the final trading deadline, when he added
both Hiroki Kuroda and Zack Greinke to the Akron rotation.
The Black Sox and Ryche faced off
head-to-head in Chapter Five, with Akron holding a three game lead over
their long-time rivals. The first game of that series was a
genuine barn-burner. In the 15th inning of that game, trailing by a
run, Chicago sent Carlos Zambrano to the plate as a pinch hitter.
He was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, tying the game once again.
Akron eventually won the game in the 16th inning. Game Two also
went into extra innings, and was eventually won by Chicago on a walk-off
single by Kemp. Chicago then used that momentum to capture the
next two games, cutting Akron's lead to two games in the division.
The Black Sox won 9 of their first 12
games in Chapter Five, capturing a share of first place. They
finished the chapter with a 21-7 record, while Akron went just 12-16.
With just one chapter remaining, Chicago held a commanding six game lead
in the division. They would eventually capture their fifth
division title on October 25th. And despite winning 96 games this
season, the Ryche were left out in the cold, as the Kansas Law Dogs won
the EL wild card by 10 games.
Several new records were set in 2012.
In addition to Granite State's record for losses, the Cleveland Rocks
also shattered the old record for stolen bases by a team. They
swiped 264 bases in a whopping 371 attempts. The Ridgebacks also
set a new record for team ERA (3.00), easily besting the old mark of
3.10. And on March 6th, Cleveland's Ted Lilly tossed what is
considered to be the "Worst No-Hitter in BDBL History." Lilly
threw 133 pitches in the game, walked 8 batters, and won by a final
score of 5-2.
2012 was also an unusual year in terms
of league turnover. On April 29th, Tony Chamra
resigned after 11 seasons as owner of the Villanova Mustangs franchise.
In addition to owning a BDBL championship trophy, Chamra was also a
frequent participant at our annual BDBL Weekend festivities, and was an
active and popular owner. His position was initially filled by
24-year-old Matt Decrevel, a friend of Bobby Sylvester. Decrevel
took over during Chapter Three, and made a few bold moves. He
picked up Dan Straily and Lucas Harrell off the free agent wire, and
traded Yovani Gallardo and Dan Hudson in exchange for Colby Lewis,
Carlos Correa and others. But on July 28th, Decrevel announced on
the league forum that he was resigning due to the "fast pace" of the
league and the "mass(ive) time commitment" required by the league.
A week later, Kevin Nichols was
welcomed to the league as the third owner of the Villanova franchise
Nichols, a 47-year-old medical center supervisor, assured the league
that he would have plenty of time to devote to the task of running his
franchise, and that he was committed to the league long-term. His
first decision was to release Lewis, who underwent Tommy John surgery
just days after he was acquired by Decrevel. Nichols then spent
his first few weeks in the league seeking advice from all the owners,
and appeared to be adjusting well to the league.
However, by mid-October, Nichols simply
disappeared. He stopped checking the message board, and he stopped
answering e-mails. And on October 23rd, the league welcomed the
fourth owner of the year to the Villanova franchise, Michael Quinn.
Let's hope he's the last owner of that franchise!
Arguably the greatest rivalry in the
BDBL took center stage in the post-season when the New Milford Blazers
faced the Salem Cowtippers in the OL Division Series. The Blazers
were heavily favored, and the Cowtippers woefully outnumbered, and yet
Salem managed to put up something of a fight. After four games,
the series was tied at two wins apiece. The two teams were then
tied at 3-3 heading into the 7th inning of Game Five when the wheels
officially fell off the Salem bandwagon. New Milford's relentless
offensive attack scored a pair of runs in the 7th to take the lead, and
then scored four more off of Salem's horrible bullpen in the 8th to put
the game away. In Game Six, the game was once again tied heading
into the 7th inning. And once again, the Salem bullpen blew it.
The Blazers scored a pair of runs in the 7th, and another pair in the
8th, to win the series, to the shock of no one.
In the other Division Series, the
Sylmar Padawans were presented with yet another gift from the Baseball
Gods. Despite leading his division by several games in Chapter
Six, Nic Weiss overused several players -- including team MVP Troy
Tulowitzki and all-stars Victor Martinez and Nelson Cruz -- making them
ineligible for the Division Series. It was the second year in a
row Weiss made such a grievous mistake. The result was
predictable. Sylmar took the series in five games, with
Mississippi only winning Game Four against a strangely ineffective Jason
Hammel. True to form for Sylmar, three of their wins were decided
by two runs or less.
Over in the Eck League, the Ridgebacks
faced off against the Apostles. Despite the series' lopsided
appearance on paper, Ridgebacks manager Tom DiStefano insisted that the
outcome was a coin flip. His opinion proved prescient when the
series was tied after four games. In Game Five, lefty closer
Johnny Venters allowed a sac fly and a solo home run in the final two
innings to give St. Louis a three games to two advantage. Then, in
Game Six, the game was forced into extra innings. In the top of
the 11th inning, DiStefano hesitantly brought Venters into the game to
start the inning. He allowed back-to-back singles to open the
inning, and after inducing a double play, yielded a two-out RBI single
to a left-handed batter, Andre Ethier. St. Louis then held onto
that lead to secure the upset victory.
The other EL Division Series posted two
100-win teams against each other. The Black Sox took a commanding
3-0 series lead over the Law Dogs, but Kansas then fought back with a
defiant 10-0 win in Game Five. Kansas MVP candidate Jose Bautista
then launched two home runs in Game Six, but Chicago catcher Matt
Wieters matched his total, and the Black Sox cruised to a 9-4 win to
seal the series victory.
In the ELCS, the heavily-favored Black
Sox took a 6-2 lead into the 7th inning of Game One, but the plucky
Apostles scored two runs in the 7th, and SIX runs in the 8th, to escape
with an unlikely 10-7 win. The Black Sox then took the next two
games easily, taking the series lead. In Game Four, the Apostles
tied the series by pounding Chicago's rookie starter Zach Britton.
St. Louis then took the series lead in Game Five by scoring 7 runs off
of Chicago's ace (and Cy Young candidate) Jered Weaver. After
dominating throughout the post-season, Chicago's Game Six starter,
Carlos Zambrano, finally broke down at the worst possible time. In
5+ innings, he allowed four runs, en route to an eventual 7-2 St. Louis
win. For the first time in franchise history, the Apostles were
heading to the BDBL World Series.
Meanwhile, the Padawans were getting a
first-hand look at the dominance of the Blazers in the OLCS. New
Milford took the lead in the series with a commanding 7-3 win in Game
One behind the pitching of Clayton Kershaw. In Game Two, Sylmar
took a 3-2 lead in the 2nd inning on a fluke three-run homer by Mark
Reynolds, and incredibly the score remained 3-2 until the end.
Against all odds, Sylmar then took the series lead in Game Three, as the
team continued to win the close games. In the bottom of the 12th
inning, Sylmar's Matt Holliday came through with a clutch two-out
double, scoring Emilio Bonifacio on a walk-off. Game Four also
extended into extra innings. This time, it was pinch hitter Jason
Donald's time to play hero, as he tripled home the game-winning run in
walk-off fashion. New Milford managed to win Game Five, forcing
another game. Madison Bumgarner (Sylmar's gift from Matt Clemm)
then faced C.J. Wilson (New Milford's gift from the league) in Game Six.
Bumgarner (5+ IP, 0 R) was outstanding; Wilson (4+ IP, 5 ER)...not so
much. The Padawans emerged with the win, sending them to the BDBL
Although the Padawans and Apostles
appeared to be evenly matched on paper, the actual series was
anticlimactic. Sylmar jumped out to an early lead in the series,
winning Game One by a score of 8-6. The crushing blow in that game
was a three-run home run by Lance Berkman in the 7th inning that turned
a 4-4 game into a blowout. In Game Two, Sylmar trailed by a score
of 3-2 heading into the 8th inning. But once again, the Baseball
Gods shined down upon John Duel, and the random dice rolls resulted in
back-to-back-to-back homers by Berkman, Ryan Howard and Hunter Pence.
That made it a 6-3 game, which stood. Game Three was extended to
extra innings, and once again Sylmar emerged on top when St. Louis
reliever Mark Rzepczynski walked home the game-winning run in the bottom
of the 11th. As if one walk-off victory in the series weren't
enough, Sylmar then won another (the first walk-off World Series victory
in BDBL history) in Game Four, when Mark Reynolds connected for his
second home run of the game in the bottom of the 9th inning.
In the midst of his incredible playoff
run, I was notified by John Duel that it would be his last series as a
member of the BDBL. John has been a valued member of the league
since 2003, so it was with bitter reluctance that I accepted his
resignation. He will be missed not only for his competitive
spirit, but for his engaging personality. He was truly one of the
greatest characters in the league's history, and that is something not
The 2012 season will be remembered as
unusual for many reasons. Given the rule changes we've recently
passed, 2012 may also come to be remembered as the last season played in
an era where trading was prolific and teams generally fell into two
categories: super teams and rebuilders. I tend to be a pessimist
in most areas, but I'm an eternal optimist when it comes to the BDBL.
And I truly believe that these rule changes will usher in a new era of
competition unlike anything we've ever seen. I remain hopeful that
our league will emulate the challenges of Major League Baseball as
closely as possible, and that the team that most resembles a Major
League champion will be rewarded with the BDBL trophy.
Once again, I thank you all for an
enjoyable season. And now, on to season #15.