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slant.gif (102 bytes) From the Desk of the Commish

Commish

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November, 2012

2012: The 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 them.

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 mid-season, the 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 season.

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 13-year career.

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 Yoenis Cespedes.)

Sylvester spent the entire winter negotiating deals such as these, flipping player after player in a BDBL version of "Red Paperclip".  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 record.

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.

***

The 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 this season.  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 World Series.

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 easily replaced.

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.