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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.