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Big Daddy Baseball League

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


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November, 2013

2013: The Year in Review

Many years ago, I faced a dominant team in the World Series who beat me in the 9th inning of Game 7.  I faced that very same team in the World Series three more times over the next few years, and lost all three times.  Finally, in my fourth attempt at winning a World Series, I faced a different team owned by a nice guy named Bob.  I lost that one, too.  Five in a row.  Although I dominated the league for more than 10 seasons, winning more games during the regular season than any other team in the league, the championship trophy -- that ultimate symbol of success -- eluded me.

You may think I'm talking about the Cowtippers and the BDBL.  I'm not.  I'm talking about the league that I ran prior to the BDBL, way back in the late 1980's.  One of the reasons I created the BDBL was to redeem myself and erase my reputation as a guy who wins in the regular season, but can never win the trophy.  Well, my friends, the Baseball Gods are evil sons of bitches, and the more things change, the more they stay the same.


Congratulations to Bob Sylvester and his SoCal Slyme for winning the 2013 BDBL championship.  It has also been a long time waiting for Bob.  Not only did he come close to winning the first-ever BDBL championship, but he's also been screwed by the Baseball Gods more than once in the past.  The most egregious example of that was in 2008, when the Slyme won a BDBL-record 116 games, and then were SWEPT out of the Division Series.  Bob was owed more than a little bit of good karma after that one, and his trophy this season is well-deserved.

It has become a tradition for me to use this space to hand out a few thank-you's, and this year is no exception.  First, I'd like to thank Greg Newgard for doing most of the heavy lifting in this league.  He runs our d-day draft, manages our ridiculous VORP rule, keeps track of all of our ridiculous ballpark factors, helps me out with the disk, helps out with the graphics for the web site, AND actually shows up for BDBL functions.  You da man, Hoss.

I'd also like to thank Tom DiStefano, both for all the work he does for the league (namely, managing our contracts and free agent drafts, and especially our mid-season live draft), but especially for NOT making it to the World Series this year, which gave me the unique opportunity to lose to someone beside him.  I can't thank you enough for that, actually.

Thank you, DJ Shepard, for keeping on top of our usage.  You are the IRS of the BDBL, and everyone hates you for it, but I appreciate the work that you do.  (And I especially hate it that I can make you the bad guy and take none of the blame for handing out all those penalties.)

Muchos gracias to Jim Doyle for keeping us all entertained throughout BDBL Weekend, and a special thanks to Matt Clemm and Scott Romonosky for being the only non-locals to attend this year's festivities.  (Hey, fellas, let's try a little harder to attend future events, mm-kay?)

Thanks to Ed McGowan for sticking with the league through some tough times.  Thanks to Tom for sticking with us, period.  Thanks to Johnny Bo for running the always-popular football pool.  Thanks to Scot Zook and Tony Chamra for RETURNING to the BDBL where they belong.  Thanks to Brian Potrafka for giving his best effort to be a good sport.  Thanks to Gene Patterson for finding a way to ensure that every team in this league is now managed head-to-head.  Thanks to Bobby Sylvester for providing us all with plenty of trades to endlessly dissect.  And thanks to Anthony Peburn for giving this league an evil genius to root against.


Our league champions began this season quietly.  In pre-season polling, only one person (presumably Bob Sylvester?) voted for the Slyme to win the Person Division.  Out of 14 votes, St. Louis earned 10, and the South Carolina Sea Cats earned two.  SoCal and Niagara tied for last with one.  In the Season Preview, I predicted the Slyme would finish in second place to St. Louis, but cautioned that this was predicated upon the assumption that Bob would not wave the white flag and trash this team, as he had done the year before (and once before then.)

During the winter, Sylvester announced a few headline-making deals.  He traded his best prospect (Oscar Taveras) to his son Bobby, along with Ervin Santana and three others, and got a starting catcher (Wilin Rosario) and two top prospects (Jedd Gyorko and Kevin Gausman) in return.  That same day, he announced another major trade, where he dealt $100,000 ace Yu Darvish to the Cuenca Strangegloves for superstar MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen.  In the auction, the Slyme signed Matt Holliday (at $8.5 million), giving the team yet another weapon on offense.

Southern Cal got off to a decent (17-11) start to the season, but the entire division was tight, as the last-place team (shockingly, the Apostles) trailed by just three games after one chapter.  SoCal won 16 games the following chapter, but the Apostles were nipping at their heels with 15 wins.  The Slyme also led the division in wins (18) in the third chapter, although again, they trailed the next-best team (South Carolina) by just one game that chapter.  The accumulation of all of those wins over the first three chapters, however, combined with the fact that different teams in the division were competing with them each chapter, gave the Slyme a commanding 11-game lead at the all-star break.  At the Chapter Three deadline, Sylvester made another important trade with the Great Lakes Sphinx.  In that deal, the Slyme acquired three main contributors to their post-season run: Elvis Andrus, John Jaso and Bobby Parnell.  In exchange, they parted with two top prospects (Jackie Bradley, Jr. and George Springer) and two position players (Jhonny Peralta and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.)

Southern Cal won 51 games in the first half of the season, and 49 in the second half, giving the franchise their fifth 100-win season.  That 100th win was costly, however, as the team's MVP, Andrew McCutchen, was inadvertently overused by 9 plate appearances.  Just one fewer appearance, and he would have been eligible for the Division Series.  Instead, he was suspended, leaving his team to battle without him.


The Salem Cowtippers' journey to the BDBL World Series was nothing like their Eck League opponents'.  The Cowtippers went into the season with high expectations, thanks to a starting rotation filled with above-average pitchers, the best closer in baseball, and an impressive lineup of powerful stars at every position.  They were picked to win the division on this page, but after they were unceremoniously swept in the traditional Opening Day Series against the New Milford Blazers, New Milford was picked to win the division by 10 out of the 14 voters in league polling.

The situation only became worse for Salem from that point, and they wrapped up the first chapter with an inconceivable record of 11-17, which was good for last place in the division, and 11 games behind the Blazers.  For all intents and purposes, the division crown was already out of reach.  Chapter Two got off to an equally dismal start, and by the first week of April, Salem was still in last place, and still sporting a winning percentage below .400.  On April 3rd, after losing a series against the pathetic Giants of New York, I officially threw in the towel, and placed several players on the block.  Less than a week later, I traded two stars (Jose Reyes and James Shields) for Starlin Castro and Gavin Floyd.

Of course, at that point, the Cowtippers started winning.  We won 7 of our last 8 games and finished the chapter with a respectable 17-11 record.  That prompted an immediate about-face, and we became buyers instead of sellers.  Just prior to the Chapter Three deadline, I made a huge trade, adding up NL Cy Young winner RA Dickey.  With Dickey replacing Shields, Castro replacing Reyes, and Floyd replacing Jake Arrieta in the #5 spot in the rotation, the Cowtippers managed to gain some ground in the second half.  In fact, only the Blazers (58 wins) and Allentown Ridgebacks (56) won more games than Salem in the second half of the season.


The Story of the Season took place in Kansas.  The Law Dogs won 105 games in 2012, but lost to the Chicago Black Sox in the Division Series.  They returned many of their best players in 2013, including Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Jose Bautista and Miguel Montero.  Combined with returning players Carlos Gonzalez, Adam LaRoche and Kris Medlen, it seemed as though Kansas would be well-positioned to compete once again in 2013.  But on the very first day of the 2013 season, just after the end of the World Series, Kansas GM Chris Luhning announced a major trade with the Mississippi Meatballs.  In that deal, he off-loaded Cain, Hamels and three other players, getting only a couple of farm-only prospects in return.  Although he had just traded two of his best pitchers for prospects, he also managed to shed more than $40 million in salary in just one trade.  In the end, that one trade became a free pass to the post-season.

Just minutes after announcing that trade, Luhning announced another, in which he managed to shed Bautista's $11 million salary in exchange for another prospect.  In mid-December, he did it again, sending David Robertson's $6 million salary to Cuenca in a six-player trade.  By the time all was said and done, the Kansas Law Dogs suddenly had more than $47 million to spend in the auction.

Luhning wasted no time spending all that cash.  On the second day of the auction, he signed Hiroki Kuroda to an $8 million salary.  Two days later, he added another ace, Jered Weaver, to the rotation at a salary of $11 million.  Three days later, Zack Greinke was signed for $12.5 million.  And Chris Denorfia and J.J. Hardy were signed for $3 million each.  The league figured the Law Dogs were finished adding superstars to their roster at that point, but we were wrong.  On the first day of the draft, Luhning announced that he had also acquired Fernando Rodney -- who had set the all-time MLB record for lowest ERA that MLB season -- as the back-end of a trade made with the Akron Ryche in December.

Instantly, the Law Dogs went from rebuilders to serious contenders.  Yet, despite all the gains they made in the winter, they still weren't considered the favorites to win their division.  They received just 5 out of 14 votes in league polling, and were picked to finish in second place on this page due to the intimidating presence of the Allentown Ridgebacks.  The Ridgebacks were not only returning MVP candidates Ryan Braun, Carlos Santana and Gioncarlo Stanton, but they were also showcasing the debut of their 21-year-old MVP rookie, Mike Trout.  On the pitching side, they had just acquired lefty ace Gio Gonzalez in trade, and signed perhaps the top free agent pitcher in the class, Jake Peavy, to a relatively bargain salary of $10 million.

The Higuera Division race got off to an interesting start, as the Law Dogs went 19-9 in Chapter One, while the Ridgebacks struggled to a 15-13 record.  It didn't take long for Allentown to catch up, however, as they went 18-10 in the second chapter while Kansas struggled with a record of 13-15.  By the end of two chapters, the Ridgebacks were on top by a margin of one game.  By the all-star break, that lead grew to three games.

Kansas got off to a rocky 10-6 start to the second half of the season, but then played .700 ball the rest of the way, and by Independence Day, they managed to briefly catch the Ridgebacks in the division.  But by the end of the fourth chapter, they were still looking up at Allentown by one game.  While Luhning was forced to stand pat at the trade table down the stretch, DiStefano added shortstop Erick Aybar and pitcher Andy Pettitte.  The final two chapters were a virtual bloodbath, as Kansas won 13 fewer games than Allentown.


As dominant as the Ridgebacks were in the Eck League, they weren't nearly as dominant as the New Milford Blazers were in the Ozzie League.  On paper, the Blazers paled in comparison to Allentown, and yet they did nothing but win from the first day of the season until the very end.  After beginning the season with a convincing four-game sweep of the division-rival Cowtippers, New Milford went on to post 22 wins in Chapter One.  By the end of just two chapters, they had already run away with the division, as they held a 14-game lead over the Cowtippers.  They won a league-high 55 games in the first half of the season, and topped that with 58 wins in the second half.  Their 113 wins were a franchise record, and it gave them 224 wins in two seasons, and 321 wins over the past three seasons.  They also won 64 games at home (a ridiculous .800 winning percentage), which is an all-time BDBL record.

Clayton Kershaw (28-6, 2.59 ERA) led the league in wins and ERA, and likely nailed down his second straight OL Cy Young.  CJ Wilson ranked second in the OL in ERA at 3.36, and went 19-9.  Rookie Matt Moore went 18-7.  And Robinson Cano had yet another MVP-caliber season, batting .339/.405/.598 with a league-leading 155 runs scored and a league-leading 162.8 runs created.  First baseman Adrian Gonzalez finished third in the league with 134.4 runs created.

Another dominant Ozzie League team from beginning to end was the Ravenswood Infidels.  Blessed with a division that included three teams (Las Vegas, New York and Mississippi) that were all taking the year off, Ravenswood GM Brian Potrafka enjoyed a clear path to the post-season from Opening Day forward.

Potrafka had an unusual winter, in that he didn't make a single trade.  He reserved his biggest off-season move for the auction, when he won the bidding for Chase Headley at $14.5 million.  It was the largest sum paid to any player in the auction, and the second-highest salary (to Robinson Cano's $15 million) in the entire BDBL.  Given that distinction, Headley was a bit of a disappointment, as he hit just .270/.366/.472 on the season, with 29 homers and 98 RBI's.  But it was enough to carry the Infidels.

Ravenswood went 20-8 in the first chapter, and carried a seven-game lead after just one chapter of play.  By the end of two chapters, that lead had grown to 10 games.  And by the all-star break, the division race was effectively over.  The Giants were once again floundering with an 11-game deficit and a sub-.500 record (for the 14th year in a row), the Meatballs were somehow maintaining respectability at 31-49 despite their deal with Kansas, and the Flamingos were somehow managing to underperform their low expectations.  As a result, Ravenswood easily secured their sixth division title in the first week of the final chapter.


While the Blazers and Infidels were running away with their divisions virtually uncontested, there were other races being fought that went right down to the wire.  One of those races took place in the Hrbek Division, where all four teams were considered to be legitimate contenders in pre-season polling.

The league was split in that polling, with each team receiving at least two votes, and Chicago leading with 5.  (Akron received just 3 votes at the time.)  On this page, I predicted the Atlanta Fire Ants would win, followed by Akron and Chicago.  That early season uncertainty was reflected by the standings in the first chapter, as all four Hrbek Division teams finished with 12-14 wins.  By the end of two chapters, three teams were separated by just one win.  Shockingly, the division favorites (Chicago) found themselves seven games behind.  GM John Gill made a big trade at the end of the second chapter, acquiring both Jose Reyes and James Shields from the Cowtippers, but it wasn't enough.  By the end of April, he was looking to dump all of his star players.

In Chapter Three, the Akron Ryche made their move.  They went 15-9 on the chapter -- three games better than the next-best team in the division -- and headed into the all-star break with a 3-game lead over the Atlanta Fire Ants (and 4 over the Cleveland Rocks.)  A notorious stand-pat GM, Shepard made no trades down the stretch, and simply stuck with what he had.  And in the end, that was good enough.  The Black Sox caught fire (32-24) over the final two chapters, but it was odd timing, to say the least, as their division title dreams were long ended by then.  Akron went 33-23 (.589) over the final two chapters, and captured their 5th division title in the first week of October.


As exciting as the Hrbek Division race was, the most exciting playoffs race was taking place in the Ozzie League.  Although two of the playoff spots were secured very early in the season, the final two spots were up for grabs right up until the final day of the season.  The Flagstaff Outlaws were expected to win the Griffin Division, both in league polling (where they received 9 out of 16 votes) and on this page.  And yet, by the end of five chapters of play, the Los Altos Undertakers held a three game lead in the division, and the Outlaws stood three games behind the Cowtippers in the OL wild card race.

The Outlaws put up an incredible fight over the final chapter of the season, winning 20 games.  Incredibly, all three teams controlled their own destinies, as they all played each other that chapter.  In early October, Salem visited Flagstaff for a four game series.  The Cowtippers jumped ugly with Flagstaff ace Cliff Lee in Game One, winning 13-3.  In Game Two, dangerous Flagstaff slugger Edwin Encarnacion stepped to the plate with the tying run on base and struck out against Craig Kimbrel, giving Salem a win.  After Flagstaff won the third game, Salem took a 9-0 lead in Game 4 and nearly blew it before winning by a score of 9-8.

Two weeks later, the Cowtippers hosted the Undertakers and swept them.  Then, in the final series of the season, the Outlaws hosted a series against the Undertakers, with the final playoffs spot on the line.  The Outlaws needed a split in that series to stay alive, and they won the first game easily, by a score of 7-2.  They led Game Two by a score of 7-2 heading into the 6th, but their bullpen surrendered a run in the 6th, another in the 7th, another in the 8th, and THREE more in the 9th, to lose by a score of 8-7.

The third game of that series was do-or-die for Flagstaff.  Named as the favorites heading into the season, they were now one loss away from being out of the playoffs entirely.  They sent 21-game winner Tommy Milone to the mound to face part-time starter Brandon Beachy from Los Altos.  The Undertakers scored a pair of runs in the 3rd inning, then another in the 4th, and then FOUR more in the 5th.  By the top of the 6th, they held an 8-0 lead.  And despite a 4-run rally by Flagstaff, they managed to hold on for a 9-4 win.  Los Altos officially captured their 10th division title (a BDBL record), and Flagstaff was officially eliminated from the playoffs.


The playoff races weren't the only exciting developments this season.  The 2013 Farm Draft was interesting, in that Clint Frazier became the first high school player to be selected #1 overall since Bryce Harper in 2009.  Chase Headley's signing on Day Two of the auction made headlines because his $14.5 million salary instantly became the second-highest in the BDBL.

In early February, the BDBL welcomed three new members to our elite Hall of Fame: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Carlos Delgado.  All three were no-brainer selections.  Johnson won FIVE Cy Young awards in his BDBL career, Martinez won four, and Delgado won an MVP award and posted impressive stats throughout his career.

On April 17th, Chris Tillman of the Niagara Locks threw a no-hitter, and a little more than a month later, Clayton Kershaw combined with Jose Quintana to throw the second combined no-hitter in New Milford history.  Although it wasn't revealed until months later, Lance Lynn of the Bear Country Jamboree also wedged in a no-hitter during the second chapter.  And in the final chapter, the New York Giants' Phil Hughes no-hit the Meatballs (the second time this season the Meatballs were held hitless.)

When John Duel took his BDBL championship trophy, tucked it under his arm, and called it a career, he left us with a godawful mess of a franchise.  On December 1st, I managed to find someone willing to take over this franchise in the form of 67-year-old Don Woodworth.  Don had written to me in the past, asking about openings in the league, and I felt that he was a very good candidate to take over this franchise.  But after he had been in the league for only a few months, he disappeared.  He stopped playing games, stopping communicating with the league, and simply vanished without saying a word.  I sent out several e-mails and PM's trying to get in touch with him, all to no avail.  By early May, I had no choice but to give up and start looking for another owner.

Thankfully, I found a great one in former BDBL owner Scot Zook.  Scott had been a member of the BDBL from 2000-2002, and won two wild cards in those three seasons, but was ultimately discouraged by baseball and decided to leave the league.  He kept in touch through the years, and I had a feeling the competitive fire within him was still burning.  That feeling was confirmed when he accepted my invite back into the league in the middle of May.

Our league has remained amazingly stable for many years now, to the point where it is shocking whenever someone leaves.  After this season ended, I received the shocking news that Gene Patterson of the Atlanta Fire Ants would be abandoning his young and talented team.  However, he will remain in the league as the new manager of the Allentown Ridgebacks.  And within days of that announcement, former Villanova Mustangs owner Tony Chamra contacted me and asked to take over the Atlanta franchise.

It is interesting to note that so many owners have left this league and returned: Phil Geisel, Ken Kaminski, Scot Zook, and now Tony Chamra.  I think that speaks volumes about this league.


We scheduled BDBL Weekend this year at a location that we felt would attract the most people, but that plan backfired.  Aside from the locals, only two attended.  Despite the low attendance, I think we all had a great time touring the city of Boston and catching a game at Fenway (and another at Jim Doyle's favorite hangout in Manchester.)

This past year, Ryan and I visited Arizona for spring training, and we had an awesome time with Greg.  Arizona is a far better spring training venue than Florida, due to the weather, the proximity of the teams and the quality of the ballparks.  For that reason, we will be revisiting Arizona once again in 2014, during the weekend of February 28th/March 1st.  We will also be taking a road trip to Toronto in the summer, so make sure you have your passports ready.


The fate of the 2013 playoffs was supposed to be set in stone.  The Ridgebacks were the most dominant Eck League team, the Blazers were the most dominant Ozzie League team, and the two seemed inevitably destined to compete for the trophy.  But a funny thing happened on the way to destiny.

In the ELDS, Allentown had difficulty beating Akron in Game One, winning by a score of just 1-0 behind the pitching of Gio Gonzalez.  The lone run came on a solo shot by Justin Morneau.  Akron tied the series in Game Two, and Allentown managed to regain the lead when the series shifted to Akron in Game Three.  In Game Four, Akron lefty Cole Hamels combined to shut out the Allentown offense to even the series.

Then, in Game Five, Allentown faced a one-run deficit entering the 9th.  A two-out RBI single by Mike Fontenot tied the score, sending the game into extra innings.  After four scoreless innings, Allentown scored on an RBI double by Shin-Soo Choo.  Now trailing by one, the Ryche then came to bat in the bottom of the 14th.

Allentown ace (and possibly the league's Cy Young winner) Jake Peavy was brought in to pitch.  And the second batter he faced -- Mark Teixeira -- launched a home run to tie the game.

After a 1-2-3 start to the 15th inning, Akron came to the plate once again.  And with Peavy still on the mound and one out, Elliot Johnson launched an improbable walk-off solo homer.

Allentown went on to win the next game, 6-5 to even the series.  Akron then headed into Game 7 down by a score of 4-1 heading into the 9th.  Todd Helton grounded out.  The Ryche were two outs away from losing this series when David Ross doubled.  Then this happened:

Jon Jay: RBI single
Mark Teixeira: single
Max Venable: 2-run triple off of Koji Uehara
David Freese: IW
Elliot Johnson: run-scoring ground-out

Four runs scored in the inning, making it 5-4, Akron.  And that's how it would end.  The Ridgebacks -- who were picked on this page to win it all -- were eliminated.


In the Ozzie League, the other "team of destiny", New Milford, managed to eke out a victory in Game One of their Division Series against Ravenswood when Robinson Cano was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the 9th with the score tied.  He advanced to second on a passed ball, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and then -- with two outs -- scored on yet another wild pitch.  It was a loss that would have sent any of us into a fit of rage, but was especially rough for Brian Potrafka, who is prone to fits of rage.

An RBI double by pitcher Jason Motte off of Blazers' closer Jason Grilli in the top of the 9th in Game Two gave Ravenswood the win, and evened the series at one apiece.  When the series shifted to Ravenswood in Game Three, New Milford rookie Matt Moore brought his "A" game, and held the Infidels to just one run in 4+ innings as the Blazers cruised to a 6-2 win.  New Milford then took a 3-1 series lead when they pounded Jason Vargas for 7 runs in 6 innings in Game Four.

The Infidels managed to beat Clayton Kershaw in Game Five to stay alive in the series.  The series then shifted back to New Milford, where the Blazers won 80% of their games this season.  One again, the New Milford lineup pounded Ravenswood's starting pitcher.  This time it was Wei Yin Chen, who surrendered 6 runs on 13 hits in just 5 innings.  New Milford cruised to an easy 6-2 win behind the pitching of CJ Wilson, sending the Blazers to the OLCS for the third year in a row.


Although the SoCal Slyme won five more games than the Kansas Law Dogs during the regular season, they were at a disadvantage in the Division Series, as they were without their best player, Andrew McCutchen, due to his suspension.  But in Game One, the Slyme hardly missed their superstar, as they scored 9 runs en route to an easy 9-1 win.  Kansas starter Zack Greinke had a huge game in Game Two, and shut out the Slyme for 8 innings.  Closer Fernando Rodney then preserved the shutout in the 9th inning, and the series was tied at 1-1.

In Game Three, SoCal starter Kyle Lohse held the powerful Kansas offense to just one run in 7 innings.  Slyme all-star Alex Gordon got on base three times and scored two runs, and catcher John Jaso went 3-for-3, and SoCal picked up another win by a score of 3-1.  With the score tied at 1-1 in the top of the 9th inning in Game Four, SoCal drew a pair of walks with one out.  Willie Bloomquist then came through with a clutch RBI single, allowing Matt Holliday to score from second.  That gave the Slyme three wins in the series.

Kansas managed to stay alive in Game Five, thanks to the stellar pitching of Doug Fister.  Game Six was then tied at a score of 3-3 after 9 innings of play, forcing extra innings.  Kansas got a leadoff double in the top of the 10th, but that runner failed to score.  In the 11th, Kansas once again put a runner at second with just one out, but once again he was left stranded there.  In the 15th inning, SoCal put a runner at second with NO outs, but once again, the inning ended without a run being scored.

Finally, in the bottom of the 16th inning, Alex Gordon stepped to the plate for the Slyme and hit a walk-off home run off of Aaron Crow.  The SoCal Slyme were advancing to the ELCS for a showdown with the Akron Ryche.


Although the Los Altos Undertakers have owned the Salem Cowtippers during the regular season throughout league history, Los Altos has struggled at times against Salem in the playoffs.  When Salem jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first inning of Game One, it appeared those struggles would continue.  But Los Altos fought back, and ended up scoring 9 runs in the game.  It wouldn't be enough, however, as the Cowtippers scored 14 off of a suddenly ineffective Undertakers pitching staff.

The Cowtippers feasted off of left-handed pitching all season, but mysteriously they weren't able to solve lefty Matt Harrison in Game Two, and were held to no runs on just two hits as Los Altos evened the series at 1-1.  In Game Three, Salem went into the 9th inning down by three runs, and loaded the bases with no outs against Ryan Cook.  Pinch hitter Cameron Maybin then tried to bunt home a run on a safety squeeze, but that run was cut down at the plate.  Dustin Pedroia followed with a strikeout, and the Cowtippers were now looking at two outs and the bases still loaded.  Ryan Ludwick delivered a hit in the clutch, scoring one run.  And Melky Cabrera followed with a ground ball to short that was booted, allowing another run to score.  Then, with the tying run standing 90 feet away, Salem's MVP, Yadier Molina, struck out to end the game.

Down two games to one in the series, Salem fought back to tie the series in Game Four when relievers Jerry Blevins and Craig Kimbrel managed to hold the Undertakers scoreless for three innings, preserving a 5-4 victory.  In Game Five, Salem sent Yovani Gallardo to the mound to face Brandon Beachy, in what was assumed to be a gross mismatch.  Instead, Gallardo held the Undertakers scoreless for six innings while Beachy coughed up four runs in six innings of work.

Salem was one win away from advancing to the OLCS, but to get there, they would have to face Harrison in Game Six.  And once again, the lefty held the Cowtippers to just one run on three hits, and Los Altos cruised to a 7-1 win.  That set the stage for a classic Game Seven matchup between RA Dickey and Matt Cain.

With the game tied at 1-1 in the 8th, Los Altos put a runner in scoring position with two outs, and Salem called upon their dominant closer, Craig Kimbrel.  He managed to get out of that jam, and stayed in to pitch the bottom of the 9th, where he retired all three batters he faced, sending the game into extra innings.  It was the first extra-innings Game 7 in league history.

After throwing 33 pitches, Kimbrel was done with two outs in the 10th.  Salem handed the ball to Blevins to get the final out.  They then came to the plate in the top of the 11th, and Cabrera doubled off of new reliever Miguel Gonzalez.  Cabrera advanced to third on a ground ball, and then with two outs, Paulson called for an intentional walk of the next two batters in a row, which loaded the bases for Jesus Guzman.  On a 1-0 count, Gonzalez threw a wild pitch, and the go-ahead run scored from third.  He then walked Guzman on four pitches, but the damage had already been done.

The drama was not over, however.  Salem handed the ball to ace starter Stephen Strasburg to close out the bottom of the 11th, hoping that he would make short work of the Undertakers.  Instead, he walked the first two batters he faced.  Both Raul Ibanez and Jason Heyward then stepped to the plate with an opportunity to be the hero by knocking in the tying run from scoring position.  Instead, they both struck out.  Down to their final out, the Undertakers' best power hitter, Ike Davis, was due to bat.  After painful deliberation, Salem opted to call upon Tyler Clippard to face Davis instead of Strasburg.  On a 3-1 count, Davis grounded one to short, where the slick-fielding Starlin Castro scooped it up and fired to first for the out.


The stage was set for an epic OLCS battle between two arch-rivals.  The Salem Cowtippers were heavy underdogs, given that they finished 20 games behind the New Milford Blazers during the regular season.  Strasburg took the hill for Salem in Game One, facing an all-lefty lineup.  He managed to hold that lineup to just two runs through four innings.  Then, in the 5th, Robinson Cano led off with a home run, giving the Blazers a 3-2 lead.  From that point on, a procession of New Milford relievers -- five in all -- emerged from the New Milford bullpen and held the score to the end.

In Game Two, the Cowtippers tagged New Milford starter Matt Moore early, scoring four runs in the second inning.  Gallardo was surprisingly effective for Salem, and gave way to a bullpen that was equally effective.  Salem emerged with a true rarity: a win against the Blazers at their home in New Milford.

The series shifted to Salem, and the Cowtippers found themselves trailing by a score of 6-5 heading into the bottom of the 8th inning.  Adam Kennedy began that inning by reaching base on an error, and Starlin Castro followed with a shocking two-run home run. New Milford managed to push a runner to second against Kimbrel in the top of the 9th, but Justin Maxwell then struck out, and Salem suddenly found themselves with an improbable 2-1 series lead.

In Game Four, down by one run in the 4th inning, the Cowtippers rallied for five runs off of lefty Travis Blackley.  Salem used the famed "cover pitcher" strategy against New Milford in this game, starting right-hander Gavin Floyd, and then bringing in lefty Paul Maholm after two innings, but that strategy wasn't very effective, as the Blazers scored 6 runs off of this pair.  Luckily, the Salem bullpen (without Kimbrel, who was resting) managed to hold the lead, and their lead in the Cowtippers found themselves just one win away from the World Series.

To get there, Salem would need to find a way to beat New Milford's reigning (and likely back-to-back) Cy Young winner, Kershaw.  Salem turned to Strasburg, and the two pitchers posted nearly identical numbers, each allowing one run through seven innings.  The score was still tied at 1-1 heading into the bottom of the 9th, when Cabrera led off the inning with a single.  He advanced to second on a single by Mike McKenry, and both runners then moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Gallardo.  The Blazers handed the ball to lefty reliever Michael Kirkman, who would face Salem's underperforming disappointment of a third baseman, Ryan Zimmerman.  Due to his penchant for failure in the clutch, the Salem press had dubbed him "Captain Useless."  However, on this occasion, he erased that nickname from history by driving a base hit back through the box, scoring the winning run from third.  For the fifth time in franchise history, the Cowtippers were heading to the World Series.


In the ELCS matchup between the SoCal Slyme and Akron Ryche, the one advantage that many felt that Akron possessed was the ability to start their ace, Justin Verlander, three times in the series.  But in Game One of that series, their ace was smacked around for 10 runs (9 earned) in only 4 innings.  SoCal went on to win in a laugher by a score of 12-3.

The Slyme got another fantastic post-season effort from Kyle Lohse in Game Two, as he allowed just one run on two hits through seven innings.  SoCal won by a score of 3-1, and the series headed to Akron.  The Ryche held a 2-0 lead heading into the 9th inning of Game Three, but relievers Joe Smith and Troy Patton blew it, allowing two runs to score, which tied the game.  Then, with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, Jon Jay singled home a runner from third, and Akron walked off with their first win of the series.

In Game Four, it was SoCal ace Felix Hernandez's turn to shine.  Although Verlander pitched much better the second time around (allowing just two runs through seven innings), Hernandez and four relievers combined to hold Akron to no runs and only six hits.  The Slyme won by a score of 2-0, which gave them three wins in the series.

It was Lohse's turn once again to step up in Game Six, and he did just that, pitching a complete game, and earning the series MVP award with his second win, allowing just two runs on five hits.


Salem's BJ Upton hit an improbable home run off of Felix Hernandez in the first game of the World Series, which gave the Cowtippers a 5-1 lead.  The Slyme fought back with a pair of runs in the 8th, but it wasn't enough, and Salem emerged with a 5-3 win.  Strasburg then took the mound for Salem in Game Two with great expectations, but he was pounded for 6 runs in just 5 2/3 innings.  SoCal won by a score of 6-2 to even the series.

In Game Three, the Slyme scored four runs in the second inning off of Yovani Gallardo, and then added three more runs in the seventh inning to put it away.  They then crushed RA Dickey and Jerry Blevins in Game Four, scoring TEN runs off of the pair.  That 10-3 win put Southern Cal just one win away from the championship.

With the game tied at 2-2 heading into the bottom of the 9th inning of Game Five, the Cowtippers loaded the bases against Jonathan Papelbon.  Pinch hitter Mike McKenry then unloaded them with a walk-off grand slam homer.  That forced the series to move back to Southern Cal, where Salem turned over their last hope to Strasburg.  Once again, he disappointed, allowing seven runs on nine hits in just five innings.  A two-run blast by Upton in the 8th inning made it a 7-4 game, giving Salem fans some hope.  But that rally ended there, and in the 9th, SoCal closer Grant Balfour made short work of the top of the Salem lineup.  Anthony Rizzo ended the game with a fly ball to left, and the Slyme celebrated on the field while -- for the fifth time in franchise history -- the Cowtippers were forced to play the role of the dejected losers watching the celebration from the dugout.