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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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December, 2015

2015: The Year in Review

"Pack it up, Ozzie League. Barring another epic upset in the BDBL postseason, this one is over. The division race is over before the season begins, and the 2015 Ozzie League season is simply a matter of playing out the string to see if anyone can possibly upset [the Los Altos Undertakers] in the playoffs.

Prediction: 1st place, 115+ wins, and the BDBL championship. Any other outcome would be an historic disappointment."

-- Mike Glander, 2015 Season Preview

When it comes to predictions, this one was a slam dunk. Before the first pitch of the 2015 season was tossed, it seemed that the entire season was a pointless exercise of going through the motions toward an inevitable and unavoidable conclusion. There is a very solid case to be made that the 2015 Los Altos Undertakers were the greatest team ever assembled in the BDBL. They won 116 games, tying the all-time record. They outscored their competition by 404 runs, which is a greater margin than any other team in history aside from the 2002 Ridgebacks (who benefited from playing in an era of much higher run scoring.)

The Undertakers actually played eight games below their Pythagorean record. According to that formula, their expected wins total was 124 (which blows away the '02 Ridgebacks' record of 118.) Including their 12 wins in the postseason, Los Altos won an incredible 128 games in 2015, which bested the 2003 Stamford Zoots' previous record by one. They also shattered the all-time BDBL record for lowest team ERA in a season, with a head-exploding rate of 2.62 (38 points below the previous record!)

Was it really a no-doubt slam dunk that Los Altos would win it all in 2015? Of course not. More often than not, the best team during the regular season has lost in the BDBL postseason. Los Altos was far superior to any other team in the league. They won ten more games than any other team in the BDBL this season -- a feat that has been accomplished only three times in seventeen seasons. Yet, in two of the four times that rare feat was achieved, the team that dominated the competition so convincingly during the regular season ended up losing in the postseason. The one other time that dominant team won it all was in 2009, when Jeff Paulson won his first championship.

Give Paulson credit for his ability to close the deal. It's not as easy as it appears.

Heading into the winter, the Undertakers appeared to be locks to win their division, and the clear favorites to win the Ozzie League. They had the best pitching in the league, with a solid four of Kyle Gibson (19-4, 2.30 ERA in 195+ IP in the BDBL), Gerrit Cole (11-4, 3.36 in 134), Chris Archer (10-8, 4.62 in 157+), and Colin McHugh (11-7, 2.83 in 165+) in the starting rotation. As usual, their bullpen was overflowing with elite closers, and their starting lineup was filled with all-stars like Jason Heyward (.296/.352/.398, 77.8 RC), Anthony Rizzo (.286/.401/.505, 117.5), Scooter Gennett (.316/.354/.470, 71.0), and Nolan Arenado (.268/.304/.448, 61.9).

Far be it for any superteam to be content with merely dominating the competition. Paulson's goal was to completely embarrass the competition in 2015. With that, he pulled off a pair of trades that transformed this surefire division winner into the stuff of legend. The first trade was announced on Thanksgiving Day, mere hours after the Superteam of Tom DiStefano and Gene Patterson clinched their sixth combined championship.

In that deal, Paulson added the power bats of Jose Bautista (.279/.375/.546, 118.3 RC) and Jonathan Lucroy (.284/.361/.434, 88.1) from his division rivals, the Flagstaff Outlaws. This season, Bautista ranked among the top ten in the OL in on-base percentage, slugging, RBI's, walks, and runs created. He led the league in home runs (42) and runs scored (132). A week later, Paulson added another power-hitting outfielder in Matt Holliday (.281/.380/.474, 50.7 RC), who essentially became a platoon mate for Heyward, and one of the greatest pinch hitters in league history.

Another trade announced on Thanksgiving was the final nail in the coffin for every team in the BDBL aside from Los Altos. In exchange for four prospects of dubious pedigree, the Undertakers received ace Chris Sale from the Mississippi Meatballs. What did Sale do for the Undertakers? Oh, nothing except set a new all-time record for lowest ERA in a season (1.63), a new all-time record for lowest opponents' OBP  (.222), and a new all-time record for lowest opponents' slugging (.253). Sale went 18-2 in the regular season, with a phenomenal 30:253 walk-to-strikeouts ratio in 187+ innings.

The Flagstaff Outlaws managed to keep pace with the Undertakers for all of one chapter, as they finished Chapter One only one game behind Los Altos. That deficit grew to five games after two chapters, and eight games by the all-star break. Near the end of that third chapter, Paulson announced he had just pulled off yet another blockbuster trade. In exchange for two more players of questionable caliber, Los Altos added MVP bat Michael Brantley. Brantley hit .317/.358/.500 for Los Altos in the second half, and pushed Holliday further down the bench. The Undertakers won 62 games (!) in the second half -- a .775 winning percentage -- and captured their eleventh division title by a whopping 32 games.

"For the second chapter in a row, I had a losing chapter and I just don't think I have the horses, so my whole team is available except for Bryce Harper and Madison Bumgarner - only because they are franchised."

-- John Gill, 4/22/15

The Chicago Black Sox were projected to win the Hrbek Division, both on this page and in preseason league polling. As they often seem to do, however, the team got off to a slow start. At the end of two chapters, Chicago trailed every team in the division, and sat eleven games behind the leader with a record of just 25-31. GM John Gill threw in the towel at that point, and placed every one of his tradeable players on the block. He managed to offload only two significant players, Pablo Sandoval and Jonathan Broxton, before the trading deadline. As it turned out, that was a fortunate turn for the Black Sox.

After another mediocre Chapter Three, Chicago limped into the all-star break with a 38-42 record, in last place by a dozen games. Despite that, Gill made the bold decision to throw caution to the wind and sacrifice a bit of his team's future in order to strengthen his team down the stretch. He did so by claiming the season's top prize: Miguel Cabrera.

"We are hoping Cabrera will be the missing piece that will get this ship sailing in the right direction," Gill announced. "My team should be primed for a very good second half, and hopefully get us into the playoffs. But it won't be easy."

Cabrera hit a respectable .292/.355/.498 with his new club in the second half, with 11 homers and 50.6 runs created. Despite his presence, however, the Black Sox muddled through another mediocre (13-11) chapter to start the second half. Finally, in Chapter Five, something seemed to click. Chicago went 18-10, and cut their deficit in the wild card race to just four games.

In a crucial Chapter Six series against the wild card-leading Charlotte Mustangs at home, the Black Sox needed just one win to clinch a spot in the playoffs. They dropped the first game by a score of 8-2. Madison Bumgarner righted the ship with a shutout win in the second game, sending Chicago to a postseason date with the imposing Southern Cal Slyme. Although the matchup appeared to favor the Slyme, Chicago had momentum in their favor. No Eck League team was hotter in the second half of the season than the Black Sox, who nearly played .700 ball.

"There is no way to sugarcoat this: the Rocks have the worst offense in the Eck League. Period. ...The outfield is an absolute wasteland. ...I honestly don't know what Stein was thinking when he constructed this team over the winter. Knowing that he had a killer pitching staff and no offense, he traded two of the only decent bats he had...for another starting pitcher. With $13 million to spend on free agents, he added [Joe] Mauer and [Miguel] Montero for $6.5 million, combined. He then added [Brandon] Phillips in the draft. Sorry, but that's not enough offense for any team to consider themselves a contender. ...we're left with a team that could potentially allow as few as 550 runs this season...and would be lucky to score as many. Prediction: 4th place."

-- Mike Glander, 2015 Season Preview

In this "Season of the Pitcher," few teams in the BDBL could match the Cleveland Rocks' dominant pitching staff in 2015. Corey Kluber (21-6, 2.26 ERA, 280 K's in 250+ IP) pitched well enough to win a Cy Young award in most years. Jacob deGrom (11-5, 2.50 in 137+) was a fantastic #2 starter in limited usage. Jake Arrieta (11-5, 3.05 in 153+), Hiroki Kuroda (10-16, 4.25 in 197) and Tim Hudson (9-11, 3.82 in 167+) rounded out an extremely formidable starting rotation. In the bullpen, Mark Melancon (5-1, 1.08 in 74+) led the league in saves, with 48, and Zack Britton posted a miniscule 1.69 ERA in 80 innings.

The problem -- or so it seemed in the preseason -- was that the Rocks had no offense. The lineup was filled with singles-hitting speedsters like Ben Revere (.322/.353/.363, 40 SB), Jose Reyes (.308/.359/.438, 25 SB), Jordan Schafer (.294/.338/.335, 19 SB), and Emilio Bonifacio (.271/.323/.348, 20 SB). GM Mike Stein added another singles hitter, Joe Mauer (.259/.338/.356) as a free agent. Another free agent signing, Miguel Montero (.236/.313/.367), ended up leading this team in home runs, with just 14. It was offense custom-built for the Dead Ball Era.

A deal announced just prior to the Chapter Two deadline brought some much-needed power to the lineup in the form of Torii Hunter. Over the next five chapters, Hunter led the Rocks in nearly every offensive category. For his new team, he contributed a .303/.339/.496 batting line, 40 doubles, 12 homers, and 73.3 runs created. Cleveland's offense benefited from several BDBL performances that far exceeded the MLB numbers. Revere hit 16 points higher than his MLB batting average, and his OBP was 28 points higher in the BDBL. Reyes saw a 21-point increase in his batting average, and a 71-point jump in OPS. Brandon Phillips hit 37 points higher in the BDBL, and his OPS was nearly 100 points higher than his MLB figure.

Put it all together, and Cleveland scored 662 runs -- far exceeding their preseason expectations. Instead of finishing the season near the bottom of the league in runs scored, they ranked fifth. The end result was a 97 win season for the Cleveland Rocks, which bested their previous wins record by five games (which happened fifteen years ago), and the franchise's second division title.

"Two steps forward, three steps back. Story of the season. Watching Peabrain's pitchers pummel my pitching with two outs -- twice in the same game -- was fun. If not for that, we'd have had a split. And if it weren't for my sub-2.00 bullpen vomiting all over the field in Game 4, we could have taken the series -- on the road. Always so much fun playing New Milford. Can't wait until next chapter."

-- Mike Glander, 8/31/15

After four consecutive division titles, this was supposed to be the year that the New Milford Blazers finally stumbled. After winning three consecutive wild cards, 2015 was supposed to be the year the Salem Cowtippers finally recaptured a division title for the first time since 2008. But the Baseball Gods have a funny habit of ruining "supposed to's."

The Cowtippers came into the winter firing on all cylinders. Max Scherzer (20-11, 3.28 ERA in 236 IP in the BDBL) and Stephen Strasburg (12-13, 4.00 in 229+) looked like twin Cy Young candidates on paper. They were backed in the rotation by a pair of solid lefties, Scott Kazmir (16-10, 3.48 in 206+) and Francisco Liriano (11-8, 4.21 in 164+ overall.) Even Matt Shoemaker, who was picked up off of the free agent scrap heap late in 2014, contributed a 10-8 record and a 3.58 ERA over 148+ innings.

Offensively, Salem was stacked with all-star-caliber hitters, including the surprising Josh Harrison (.330/.360/.534, 56 doubles, 107.7 RC), Hunter Pence (.287/.317/.433, 82 RC), and Ian Desmond (a dismal .236/.313/.387 performance.) I padded that foundation by acquiring Alex Gordon (.299/.373/.509, 108.8), Luis Valbuena (.277/.370/.475, 69.4), and Chris Coghlan (.293/.360/.431, 62.3) through trades.

On December 16th, I announced a trade with the South Carolina Sea Cats that I believed would seal the fate of the 2015 season and reclaim that elusive division title once and for all. Despite the familiar inner voice warning me that it was pointless to trade away my franchise's future, given the utter dominance of the Undertakers, I ignored the voice and went all-in. Young phenom Julio Urias was placed on the sacrificial altar. In exchange, Salem received MVP-caliber bat Buster Posey (.313/.363/.484, 95.6) and all-star Freddie Freeman (a monumentally disappointing .275/.379/.387, with just 8 HR and 90.9 RC.)

The cries of the BDBL Peanut Gallery were unanimous: Salem "won" this trade, and the division title was now theirs to lose. In preseason polling, Salem was the overwhelming favorite, collecting fourteen of the sixteen votes to win the division. The Cowtippers collected four of the thirteen votes to win the OL Championship, and tied with the Undertakers and Slyme to win the entire enchilada.

While the Cowtippers were bulking up over the winter, it appeared that the Blazers were downsizing. They traded their long-time MVP, Robinson Cano, to the SoCal Slyme in exchange for a pitcher (Masahiro Tanaka) with limited usage in 2015 and more future value than present. GM Anthony Peburn made a $13 million investment in another part-time player with more future than present value when he signed Troy Tulowitzki as a free agent. Other free agent signings, such as Drew Stubbs, Kyle Lohse, and Matt Wieters, appeared to be nothing more than warm bodies designed to fill usage.

The Blazers went into Opening Day with a pitching staff led by perennial Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw (20-5, 2.39 ERA in 218 IP in the BDBL), a part-time dominant starter in Tanaka (13-5, 2.95 in 149+), and a lineup filled with part-time platoon hitters like Mookie Betts (.307/.391/.492 in 179 AB), Tulowitzki (.320/.422/.582 in 347), David Peralta (.350/.370/.570 in 351), and Rickie Weeks (.285/.370/.418 in 239). These weren't the Blazers of 2011-2014, and they no longer had their cartoon ballpark to distort their performances and provide an artificial advantage. The stars appeared to be aligned. However, there was one more trade that Peburn made just before the deadline that changed his team dramatically.

During the negotiation with South Carolina GM Tony DeCastro, he asked me to "throw in" an impact platoon bat in first baseman Adam LaRoche. Since I no longer had any use for LaRoche, given the acquisition of Freeman, I benevolently included him in the offer. That decision would result in unexpected dire consequences. Mere hours after I announced my trade with the Sea Cats, DeCastro turned around and flipped LaRoche to the Blazers. LaRoche practically carried the Blazers on his back during the first half, leading the Ozzie League in home runs, and ranking #2 in runs created, and slugging.

It didn't take long for the "supposed to's" to unravel. In the very first series of the season, a traditional matchup between these two ancient rivals, New Milford won three out of four. The series was punctuated by unlikely acts of randomness and bad luck. New Milford won the first game by one run thanks to a pinch hit, two-out, two-run homer by backup infielder Derek Dietrich off of Max Scherzer. In the second game, Salem lost starters Strasburg and Pence in the third inning after an on-field brawl. They ended up losing -- again by one run -- in extra innings. These types of fluky events epitomized the 2015 season for both teams, and became the running theme throughout the year.

By the time the first chapter ended, the Blazers found themselves only one game out of the division lead despite being outscored by their competition. At the time, I wrote off their success as a result of the fact that they had played nine extra inning games at that point, and had won seven of those games. No team could possibly rely on that type of random luck for an extended period of time, I confidently surmised.

Then came the disastrous Chapter Two. New Milford finished with a respectable 17-11 record, matching their Chapter One performance. Salem, on the other hand, stumbled badly, finishing the chapter with a 12-16 record, which included three more losses to New Milford. Scherzer finished the chapter with a 1-5 record and a 4.81 ERA, and Strasburg went 1-4 with a 6.81 ERA, and allowed eleven home runs (nearly half of his 2014 MLB total.)

The Cowtippers fell four games behind the Blazers, despite outscoring New Milford offensively and allowing fewer runs defensively. After another mediocre Chapter Three, Salem limped into the all-star break still trailing New Milford by four games, despite a runs differential of nearly fifty runs greater than the Blazers. At the midway point of the season, New Milford inexplicably carried a winning percentage of .613; however, they faced numerous usage issues thanks to all their extra-inning games and their reliance upon part-time players. Salem fans were confident that the second half would be a complete reversal of the first half.

Then came that meddling D.J. Shepard.

In a deal that still makes my head involuntarily swivel back and forth, the Blazers added two full-time hitters with 800+ OPS splits against both lefties and righties, AND a closer, in exchange for five prospects who failed to reach the top 100 in the annual BDBL Farm Report. From that point forward, the Blazers caught fire. They went 56-24 (.700) in the second half, and outscored their opponents by 154 runs. One of the two hitters they acquired in that trade with Akron, Steven Pearce, hit a Bondsian .342/.406/.695 in the second half, with 14 homers in 190 at-bats, and 55.9 runs created. The other, Jayson Werth, contributed a relatively meager .261/.337/.431 batting line and 47 runs created.

The Cowtippers righted the ship in the second half, winning 51 games (six games more than their first half total), yet could not catch up with the Blazers. Salem managed to briefly tie for the division lead, but instantly handed it back to New Milford during a crucial head-to-head series in Chapter Five -- a series nearly single-handedly won by Pearce. In the end, New Milford easily won the division by nine games. Their five consecutive division titles tied the Stamford Zoots' BDBL record.

"The Slyme have now won 100 or more games two years in a row, and there appears to be a very good chance that they will make it three in a row this year. Only three other teams have ever achieved that feat: the 2012-2014 Ridgebacks, the 2009-2011 Undertakers and the 2001-2003 Zoots. That, in itself, would be impressive. Winning two BDBL championships in three seasons would be equally impressive. ...The Slyme are clearly the best team in the Eck League, once again. ...Barring another upset, Southern Cal will represent the Eck League in the BDBL World Series."

-- Mike Glander, 2015 Season Preview

As demoralizing as the Undertakers' inevitable dominance was to the rest of the Ozzie League this season, the Southern Cal Slyme appeared equally as dominant in the Eck League. Coming on the heels of a 106-win season and back-to-back 100-win seasons, the Slyme appeared to be even stronger heading into the winter of 2015. On the pitching side, Felix Hernandez (17-7, 2.65 ERA in 251+ IP, with 281 K's) returned to Southern California for the fifth year in a row. He was joined in the rotation by Lance Lynn (10-11, 3.87 in 207.)

On the offensive side, EL MVP runner-up Andrew McCutchen (.265/.359/.455, 41 doubles, 100.9 RC) returned, and was joined by rookie Kyle Seager (.300/.373/.503, 29 HR, 109.9 RC). On top of that foundation, three-time GM of the Year Bob Sylvester added slugger Jose Abreu (.339/.396/.634, 42 HR, 143 RBI, 148.3 RC), who led the Eck League in slugging, RBI's, and OPS. That same day, Sylvester announced that he had also acquired Robinson Cano (.356/.405/.522, 129 RC) from the Blazers, along with back-end starter Tanner Roark (18-7, 3.94 in 196+). Cano led the EL in batting, on-base, and hits, and even (oh so quietly) assembled a 48-game hit streak (in scheduled order.)

Three days after announcing the acquisitions of both Abreu and Cano, Sylvester then announced the crowning achievement of his (likely) fourth GM of the Year award-winning season. In a salary-dump trade with the Mississippi Meatballs, the Slyme added Cy Young award favorite Adam Wainwright. All Wainwright did in 2015 was go a league-leading 26-3 with a league-leading 2.14 ERA in 248 innings. He ranked #3 in lowest opponents batting average, #4 in OBP, and #1 in slugging.

Not content to merely dominate, Sylvester next set his sights on building an unstoppable bullpen. At the Chapter Four deadline, he added Greg Holland (0.71 ERA for SoCal in 38 IP, with 22 saves) and Fernando Abad (1.59 ERA in 22+ IP.) Then, at the final deadline, he added Dellin Betances (1.50 ERA in 30 IP, with 9 saves.) By the time he was finished wheeling and dealing, the Slyme appeared destined to appear in their fourth BDBL World Series.

Needless to say, they faced little resistance en route to their eighth division title. After their 21-7 showing in the first chapter, their lead in the division was already in double digits. By the all-star break, a hard-charging Niagara Locks squad had cut that lead to "only" nine games. In the end, the Slyme matched their 2014 wins total with 106, and won the division by a fairly comfortable 26 game margin.

"Owner Jim Doyle decided to go all in once he picked up Jon Lester in a trade for Alex Gordon and Henry Owens. This caused great distress to the front office, particularly GM Theo Epstein. Epstein did a great job filling the Giants' roster with names like Brad Holt, Yasmany Tomas, Travis D.Arnaud, Henry Owens, Jackie Bradley Jr., Noah Syndergaard Yadler Alvarez, and Luis Severino. Those are the names you can build a good team around, but they were sacrificed on the altar of expediency for a chance to make it to the playoffs. Defenders of ownership would argue there was a window of opportunity to win the division, and given the tragic history of the franchise there was no choice but to take the risk and trade away the future for the present. Whether the window is now closed or Doyle realizes what the long term consequences of going for broke will have on the franchise in the 2016 BDBL season, Epstein has won the war of ideas and the long term approach will govern the franchise on a go forward basis."

-- From the Official New York Giants blog, 10/21/15

Sixteen years. Jim Doyle has owned the New York Giants franchise for sixteen years, and has never finished a season above .500. That is an astounding, almost unbelievable, record. 2015 was supposed to be the year that Doyle finally achieved that elusive winning record and played November baseball. The Giants didn't exactly look strong on paper, but with so little competition in the Benes Division, they appeared to be the frontrunners. On this page, and in league polling, the Giants were favored to win the division.

With that historic achievement within reach, Doyle abandoned his long-term strategy of building his franchise through young pitching and went all-in. In one mid-winter trade, he jettisoned young ace Noah Syndergaard (as well as Jackie Bradley, Jr.) in exchange for speedster Billy Hamilton, a middle reliever (Anthony Varvaro), two part-time utility players (Jedd Gyorko and Travis Snider), and some salary cap relief. Hamilton hit just .258/.300/.322 in full-time play, and went 13-for-26 in stolen base attempts.

Doyle sacrificed two top prospects (James Paxton and J.P. Crawford) to acquire Alex Gordon. He later flipped Gordon, along with another young hurler, Henry Owens, in exchange for ace Jon Lester. Lester led the team in wins (16-12), and contributed a solid 3.08 ERA in 239+ innings (with 234 strikeouts). Although it was a strong performance, it came at the cost of three top prospects.

Another Giants slugger, Adam LaRoche, was traded to Salem in exchange for Roenis Elias, who was later flipped for James Loney. Loney led the Giants in several categories, and hit .344/.385/.415 overall, but his 85.2 runs created paled in comparison to the 113.6 runs that LaRoche created for the Blazers.

Yan Gomes, an inexpensive catcher who hit .281/.321/.466 with 24 homers and 72.5 runs created in the BDBL this season, was traded by Doyle in exchange for Tim Hudson. Hudson was then flipped to the Cleveland Rocks for Evan Longoria (.213/.281/.336, 46.6 RC.) In the end, that flip-flop cost the Giants about 25 runs (or about 2.5 wins.)

After the trades of Gomes, LaRoche, and Gordon, the Giants were left with an offense that was primarily built around speedy little singles hitters like Hamilton, Jarrod Dyson (.251/.304/.282, 12 SB), and perennial Doyle favorite Ben Zobrist (.287/.365/.437, 101 RC.) Making matters worse, after the acquisitions of Lester ($9.1MM) and Longoria ($7.6 MM), the Giants were left with little money to spend on free agents, leaving the team frozen out of the auction.

New York got off to a 13-15 start in Chapter One, yet they sat only a game out of first place. The problem, as expected, was an offense that ranked near the bottom of the league in runs scored. Doyle wasted no time trying to correct that problem by trading away his closer, Junichi Tazawa, and three young players (Luis Severino, Braden Shipley, and Travis d'Arnaud) in exchange for Derek Norris (.281/.365/.496 as a Giant) and closer Craig Kimbrel (5-2, 1.76 ERA in 56+ IP, with 18 SV.)

By the end of Chapter Two, New York was still playing sub-.500 ball, and the lead of the first place Ravenswood Infidels grew to four games. Once again, Doyle reacted by trading for more offense in the form of second baseman Neil Walker. Walker was a spectacular (and inexpensive) addition for the Giants, as he hit .292/.361/.484 down the stretch, and led the team in runs created over the final four chapters. Still, however, it wasn't enough.

At the halfway point of the season, Ravenswood still led the division by one game over New York, and the Las Vegas Flamingos trailed in third place with a 33-47 record, six games behind the leader. All of that changed in the second half. In Chapter Four, the Flamingos went 14-10, while the Giants went 10-14. The Infidels suffered through a disastrous 8-16 chapter, giving New York a temporary division lead by one game, while the Flamingos leapfrogged into second place.

Vegas GM John Bochicchio went into "go for it" mode, and acquired Ryan Braun and Jhonny Peralta for the stretch run. Doyle responded by dealing an inexpensive and productive shortstop (Jose Iglesias) and yet another quality young arm (Yadier Alvarez) to the Undertakers in exchange for pitcher Zach Wheeler. Wheeler, who will miss all of the 2016 BDBL season, went just 4-4 for the Giants over the last two chapters, with a 4.54 ERA in 69+ innings.

The Giants finally had a winning chapter in Chapter Five, going 15-13, but the Flamingos one-upped them by winning seventeen games and capturing the division lead. Heading into the final chapter, New York sat just one game away from that elusive division title despite a record of 63-69. The chapter began with a head-to-head matchup between the two teams, resulting in a split. The Giants went 9-3 against Kansas City, Mississippi, and Ravenswood. A 1-3 series against Salem put them at 12-8 on the chapter before a sweep by Los Altos brought them back to .500. New York then closed out the season with a devastating series loss against the lowly Granite State Lightning. That put their final record for the season at 76-84: yet another losing season.

Meanwhile, the Vegas Flamingos continued their hot streak to the end. After splitting with New York, Vegas went 15-9 the rest of the chapter to finish two games above .500. The division crown was the third for Bochicchio, one of the few remaining original owners in the BDBL.

"Whether the Ridgebacks are trying to compete in 2015, or whether they have already thrown in the towel, it seems like a half-hearted effort either way. My guess is that the Superfriends plan to see how the early part of the season unfolds, and then adjust accordingly. It would be a shame to see a team waste the prime years of two of baseball's greatest young talents to rebuild, just a year after winning the trophy. This team, as presently constituted, sure doesn't look like a contender on paper."

-- Mike Glander, 2015 Season Preview

After winning their sixth (combined) BDBL championship in November of 2014, the Superfriends Alliance of Tom DiStefano and Gene Patterson seemed to take the winter off. DiStefano made five trades during the winter, and two more before Opening Day, yet none of the trades involved players who would make a major impact, and none addressed the pressing needs of the team. Wyoming's auction induced more head-scratching, as they signed only a pair of second-rate catchers (Chris Ianetta and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.) They then filled the remaining eighteen spots on their roster in the draft, filling spaces with warm bodies like Kyle Lobstein, Randy Choate, and Colby Lewis.

Meanwhile, their division rivals were loading up at the trade table. The Kansas Law Dogs added Zack Greinke and Greg Holland through trades, unloaded a bunch of salary, and picked up Nelson Cruz and Howie Kendrick in the auction. Kansas went into the season as the favorite to win the division on this page. Perhaps by reputation alone, Wyoming tied Kansas in preseason league polling.

After one chapter of play, however, it was neither Kansas nor Wyoming who occupied first place in the division. It was the Great Lakes Sphinx, who wrapped up the chapter with a surprising 17-11 record, three games better than Wyoming. Oddly enough, Kansas finished last that chapter with a record of 10-18.

"It appears that Scott Romonosky has discovered a hidden trick with this game that has eluded everyone else that plays Diamond Mind Baseball," I wrote in my Chapter One Review. "Throughout the entire season last year, I insisted on this page that the Great Lakes Sphinx were a temporary fluke that would fade into the background at any point. It never happened. The Sphinx finished the season with 99 wins and an EL wild card. I still have no idea how they did it."

As it turned out, the Riddle of the Sphinx was quickly solved when the team reversed its fortunes in Chapter Two, going 10-18 to settle in at .500. The Law Dogs reversed their fortune as well -- in a big way. They wrapped up the chapter with the best record in the division at 23-5, catapulting from last place to first by a margin of five games.

Wyoming spent the rest of the season trying to catch up, to no avail. Prior to Chapter Three, Kansas GM Chris Luhning added more firepower to his roster by acquiring Andrew Cashner (4-4, 3.54 ERA in 76+ IP for Kansas), Matt Garza (7-8, 3.80 in 116), and Pablo Sandoval (.343/.386/.518, 72.2 RC in 359 AB.) Despite those additions, the Ridgebacks managed to knock a couple of games off of Kansas' lead the following chapter, and went into the all-star break with a deficit of just three games.

DiStefano made five trades at the deadline that chapter, involving eighteen players. Like his winter trades, however, none involved a player that would make an significant impact on the second half of the season. Unfortunately for the Dynamic Duo, that three game deficit at the break was as close to the division lead as they would get. The Law Dogs' lead grew to six games the following chapter, and thirteen games by the end of five chapters.

In the end, Kansas finished with a 93-67 record, and captured their seventh division title by a comfortable nine game margin.

"As with last year, the Black Sox face an uphill battle against the Slyme. Chicago went just 3-9 against SoCal during the regular season. They do have four good lefty bats (Calhoun, Ortiz, Ellsbury, and Bryce Harper) to throw against SoCal's all-righty rotation, but that doesn't seem to be much of an advantage. It will take another miracle for Chicago to pull off this magic trick two years in a row. At this point, nothing would surprise me."

-- Mike Glander, Playoffs Preview

The Chicago Black Sox pulled off the Miracle of the Decade in 2014 when they defeated the heavily-favored number one seed in the Eck League, the SoCal Slyme, in the Division Series. It seemed impossible to believe that lightning would strike two years in a row. Yet, that is exactly what happened.

Chicago ace Jordan Zimmerman baffled SoCal hitters for 8 1/3 innings in Game One of the series. He held the powerful Slyme lineup to just three hits and a walk, struck out ten, and allowed only two runs. Cy Young candidate Adam Wainwright held Chicago to the same two runs over six innings. Then, in the seventh inning, Southern Cal's bullpen betrayed them. With two left-handed hitters coming to the plate, Bob Sylvester called on lefty-killer Fernando Abad. Both lefties singled to load the bases. With two outs, another lefty, Bryce Harper, also singled, plating the go-ahead (and eventually winning) run.

In Game Two, it was Madison Bumgarner's turn to dominate SoCal's lineup. Through six innings, MadBum struck out ten and allowed just two runs. His counterpart, Felix Hernandez, also allowed two earned runs, but a costly error by catcher Wilin Rosario added a third unearned run. Thanks to the fantastic bullpen work of Juan Gutierrez, Tom Wilhelmsen, and Roman Mendez -- who each threw a shutout inning of relief -- that 3-2 score would last to the end.

Game Three was one of the longest games in BDBL playoffs history. It took seventeen innings for Southern Cal to gain their first win of the series, on a home run by Mike McKenry and an RBI single by Andrew McCutchen. With a chance to even the series, Sylvester tapped his ace, Adam Wainwright, to start Game Four on short rest. Wainwright was brilliant, allowing no earned runs in eight innings. Unfortunately for the Slyme, an unearned run scored after an error by the gold glove second baseman Robinson Cano. Incredibly, that was the only run that scored the entire game, as Chicago's Gio Gonzalez and a team of relievers held the Slyme's slumbering bats in check once again.

Game Five was all about Zimmerman. The series MVP brought his "A" game once again, and combined with two relievers to shut out the Slyme once again. Incredibly, the Chicago Black Sox were able to pull off a major upset in the Division Series against the same opponent in back-to-back seasons.

In the Ozzie League's Division Series, the (extremely) underdog Las Vegas Flamingos were hoping for a Chicago-style upset against the (extremely) heavily-favored Los Altos Undertakers. There would be no joy in Vegas, however, as the Undertakers easily took the series in four games. Las Vegas only managed to score four runs in the series, as the Los Altos pitching staff continued their season-long dominance into the postseason.

With their trio of Cy Young candidates, the Cleveland Rocks were hoping to see the same results as Los Altos in their Division Series against Kansas. In a matchup of two Cy Young candidates, Cleveland's Corey Kluber out-dueled Dallas Keuchel in a 4-2 Rocks win in Game One. Cleveland then took the next two games, putting Kansas' backs against the wall. The 'Dogs managed to eke out a one-run win in Game Four to keep hope alive, but Danny Salazar and the Rocks bullpen crushed those hopes with a heart-breaking 2-1 win in Game Five to clinch the series.

After meeting four times in the postseason, resulting in two wins each, bitter rivals New Milford and Salem met for a fifth time in a postseason rubber match. New Milford easily took the first game by a score of 6-1. Circus clowns then shit all over the field in Game Two, continuing a season-long theme for both teams. After coming from behind to take a 7-5 lead in the sixth inning, the Cowtippers' bullpen coughed up seven runs -- five with two outs -- in the seventh inning, blowing the game wide open.

Stephen Strasburg was the least likely person to deliver a key performance in the postseason, given his season-long struggles. Yet, that is exactly what he did in Game Three, giving Salem their first win of the series. More circus-related nonsense infested the fifth game of the series, as Salem's bats collectively died after the third inning. Salem's lineup managed just one hit over eleven innings (a two-out single by the legendary Tuffy Gosewich.) Fittingly, the winning run scored in the 14th inning off the bat of Steven Pearce. In the bottom of the 14th, after the Gosewich single, Josh Harrison launched what appeared to be a game-winning, series-tying homer. Instead, it was caught at the track.

Game Five was tied at 2-2 heading into the ninth inning. Then, Mike Fiers -- acquired solely for the playoffs -- took the hill for Salem and proceeded to cough up five runs in the most hilarious fashion imaginable. New Milford won the rubber match, and a date with the Undertakers in the OLCS.

"The Blazers are definitely the favorite to come out of the Ozzie," wrote Paulson, in his classic jinx-busting style. "I think my team was built for the regular season, and the Blazers are built for the postseason. When they have their full lineup, they just crush. They didn't win more games because of usage. But in a short series, they are definitely the team to beat. I think this is their year."

His prediction looked almost prophetic when the Blazers narrowly won Game One, as both team's aces (Kershaw and Chris Sale) were pummeled. Los Altos quickly righted the ship, however, with an easy 10-0 win in the second game. When the series shifted to the unfriendly confines of New Milford, the Undertakers' bats exploded. The heart of the Los Altos lineup -- Anthony Rizzo (3-for-4, HR), Jose Bautista (2-for-5, 2 R), Michael Brantley (4-for-5, HR, 4 RBI), and Jonathan Lucroy (3-for-5, 2 RBI) -- enjoyed a monster day at the plate against Kyle Lohse and the New Milford bullpen.

Game Four was another matchup between Sale and Kershaw. This time, the history-making Sale showed up. Through five-plus innings, he allowed just one run, despite four walks. Kershaw, once again, was beat up by the relentless Undertakers offense, resulting in a 5-1 Los Altos win. Michael Pineda then sealed the deal for the Undertakers in Game Five, tossing six shutout innings. The bullpen trio of Ken Giles, Sean Doolittle, and Aaron Sanchez then made short work of New Milford, sending the Undertakers to the BDBL World Series for the third time.

Jordan Zimmerman continued to carry the Black Sox on his back, winning Game One of the ELCS with seven strong innings of work. A two-out RBI double by David Ortiz in the eighth inning was the deciding blow in that 4-3 Chicago win. Cleveland's Jake Arrieta outdueled Bumgarner in Game Two, tossing six innings in a combined shutout.

The Black Sox fell behind early in Game Three, by a score of 4-0, but battled back to make it a 4-3 game heading into the bottom of the ninthlf. John Gill's mid-summer acquisition, Miguel Cabrera, then stepped to the plate with two outs and two runners on base and hit a walk-off two-run double.

After nine innings of play in Game Four, the score was tied at 2-2. Chicago's closer, Tom Wilhelmsen, went to the hill for the second inning in a row, and was greeted with a leadoff home run by Grady Sizemore. That lead held, as Mark Melancon retired the side in order in the bottom of the tenth, tying the series at two games apiece.

Game Five presented yet another opportunity for Zimmerman to shine, and he didn't disappoint. He allowed just two runs in eight innings to earn his second win of the series, and fourth of the postseason, while a grand slam by Yasmani Grandal gave him all the run support he would need. Chicago jumped all over spot starter Alfredo Despaigne in Game Six, scoring three in the first inning and three more in the third en route to a convincing 9-4 win. For the third time in history, the Black Sox were heading to the World Series.

For Chicago, the World Series began just as the Division Series and League Championship Series began: with a Jordan Zimmerman win. Zimmerman's fifth win of the postseason was earned through seven innings, in which he allowed just one run to the potent Los Altos offense. The Undertakers bounced back in Game Two with a 5-0 shutout, thanks to the pitching of Colin McHugh and the relentless Los Altos bullpen.

Bumgarner and four different Chicago relievers held Los Altos to just two runs in Game Three, and the Black Sox took the improbable series lead once again. They then took a 4-0 lead in Game Four, and held on to a 4-3 lead heading into the eighth inning, before the wheels fell off the bus. Two walks, a single, an RBI double by Scooter Gennett, and a three-run blast by pinch hitter Kennys Vargas, gave Los Altos the lead, and eventually the win.

Zimmerman turned in yet another strong performance in Game Five, but was matched by Los Altos starter Michael Pineda. The score remained tied after nine, forcing extra innings. The Undertakers plated a run in the top of the tenth on back-to-back singles by Jose Bautista and Michael Brantley. Ken Giles then slammed the door by retiring the side in order in his second inning of work.

Game Six was do-or-die time for Chicago. With the score knotted at 1-1 in the top of the ninth, Chicago scored the go-ahead run on a clutch two-out RBI single by David Ortiz. Starter Jeff Samardzija was sent back to the mound to close out the complete game in the bottom of the frame. After striking out the leadoff hitter, little Adam Rosales stepped to the plate and cracked an improbable game-tying home run. That sent the game into extra innings -- only the second time in league history a BDBL World Series included more than one extra-innings game.

After a scoreless tenth inning, series MVP Ken Giles got the job done for the second game in a row, retiring the top of Chicago's lineup -- Jacoby Ellsbury, Kole Calhoun, and Miguel Cabrera -- in order. Black Sox reliever Blaine Hardy then retired the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the eleventh. Bautista and Brantley reached base on a walk and a single, and Lucroy then stepped to the plate with the chance to be the hero. He did just that, serving up a walk-off single to plate Bautista from second base.

For the second time in league history, the Los Altos Undertakers were crowned league champions.


I want to thank you all for another entertaining and thrilling season. I especially want to thank this league's real commissioner, Greg Newgard, for all of the time-consuming and tedious work he does for this league every year, from running our auction to tracking our VORP to organizing our ballparks. Many thanks to Tom DiStefano for running our mid-season drafts and keeping track of all of our contracts, Anthony Peburn for policing our usage, and Tony Chamra for creating our schedule. And, as usual, I'd like to thank Jim Doyle for providing comic relief through his trading and managing.

As I was vacationing in Mexico, I received the word from Wyoming that both Tom DiStefano AND Gene Patterson were resigning from the league. Needless to say, this is a significant loss to the league in many ways. Both Tom and Gene have been knowledgeable and (needless to say) competitive owners since coming into the league. They have not only been reliable in terms of meeting every deadline, but both have helped me a great deal over the years from an administrative standpoint. I cannot thank you both enough for everything you have contributed to this league, and I wish you the best of luck. Although I'm disappointed that I will never get my revenge on Tom for four World Series losses, I am elated that I will never have to worry about facing either one of them in the postseason ever again.

I would be remiss if I ended this review without mentioning Ed McGowan. This season began under a tragic and completely unexpected black cloud, and it is still difficult to process the fact that Ed is really gone. It happened so quickly that none of us had the chance to say good-bye and thank him for everything he meant to us as a competitor and (more importantly) as a friend. I recently came across an old post that Ed wrote on our forum back in 2005. He titled it, "When Life Was Simple." I'll close out this year's review with Ed's own words:

I remember a day when I used to get up in the morning at about 4:30am, go downstairs, grab a shower and a light breakfast, head out the door by 5:15, get to work by 6:15, run all the company reports, and analyze what I and my staff were going to do for the day. I had meetings and conducted various work functions religiously up till about 4pm, whereupon I hit the road, arrived home about 6:00, got to spend an hour and a half with the wife and four boys over dinner before working on getting the kids to bed, doing the dishes and sitting down for an hour or so with the wife, and mixing in maybe fifteen minutes of SportsCenter (trying to listen with one ear on the scores and one on what the wife was saying about what one of the kid's teachers was telling her today) before going to bed at about 10pm.

Of course, that all began to change on December 27, 2004. That was the day that I got the call - I was being called up to 'the show'. Life was about to become different.

Now my typical day still starts at about 4:30am, but then has dramatic changes. Now I head straight to the computer (trying not to wake anyone up) to make sure I did not miss something on the sports newswire that would be vitally important to me. I then run through the shower, skip breakfast entirely and run out the door by 5:45, face more traffic, and maybe get into the office by 7:00am or later. I then rush through the morning reports so I can do some more checking on things related to the Confederate franchise before the office people come in at 8:30.

I then sprinkle in various work elements throughout the day and try to find stuff for people to do that look to me for guidance around my checking the BDBL boards and baseball news for relevant news. I usually don't leave the office until about 4:30pm (unless I am playing someone, then I leave early) and get home at about 6:30. The kids have usually eaten already and I cram some food down so I can talk with the kids for a few minutes before getting them to bed. Two nights a week now, I have agreed to do stuff with the wife for an hour or so, but on the other nights I head straight to the computer to work on the franchise until the wife has reached a decibel level at least double that of her first "Go to bed" announcement, and usually crawl into bed by 11:00pm.

I used to think about purchasing attack plans for certain vendor meetings and now I am freaking out about Smoltz's horrid start. I used to spend time working on developing key employees by listening to their personal life stories and now I look at the them dumbly because I did not hear what they just said because I was wondering for the eighth time today why I make that stupid trade for Manny when he is already 0-for-8 with four strikeouts and Aramis is torching the ball. I used to take the time to fix the owner's computer when he went to the wrong web site again (and downloaded the latest driveby malware, spyware and idiotuserware bandwidth-choking thing that only he can find) and now I flip him the old "just restart it and it should be fine" remark because I am trying to figure out what I am going to do next year if Roberts comes back badly from his injury, Mauer's luck holds and he is injured for life when his lower legs simply fall off at the knees as he tries to beat out a routine grounder to the pitcher, and a myriad of other concerns.

But of course last night was Opening Day for the Angels and my wife had a meeting with one of her groups. Long story short, she came in at 8:45 and as I was updating her on the how great Vlad and Colon were looking, she discovered that the kids were still playing upstairs an hour past their bedtime and well...lets just say I lost valuable research time in the ensuing onslaught.