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

Commish

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December, 2017

2017: The Year in Review

"This has been an amazing ride these last three years and I am very thankful for my good fortune. I have been in this league for nineteen years. I can remember the times where I would come close and not win it all. All the playoff failures. I remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach when I knew I was about to lose - again - in the playoffs (despite often being the favorite in a particular series). I remember the article that Mike wrote about how my sh*t didn't work in the playoffs.

And fast forward through all these years - and here I am - still pumping my fist when I get a critical hit. Pacing back and forth next to my computer when runners are on and Jansen is trying to close it down. Jumping around the house when an unexpected and clutch homer happens.

This league is great and so much fun because of the other owners in it. We have some really talented and smart people in this league which makes winning against you all even more rewarding. So thank you and thank you Mike, for making this such a fun and worthwhile hobby!

When I think of the best of the best in this league - I think of Paul of the Zoots and Tom of Allentown. And while I am not on their level and never will be, it is an honor to have my team being next to theirs in the record book. Truly an honor."

-- Jeff Paulson, 11/19/17

Stop me if you've read this before in any recent Year in Review article: the Los Altos Undertakers have won the BDBL championship. They have, in fact, won the last three league titles in a row, placing them in the same company as the 1999-2001 Stamford Zoots -- the only other team in league history to do so. Los Altos GM Jeff Paulson has now won four BDBL trophies in total, which ties him with former Stamford GM Paul Marazita. Former Allentown/Wyoming owner Tom DiStefano won five titles during his time in the BDBL: four as both GM and manager, and one as GM only.

Paulson's three-year string of success is without question the most dominant in league history. Los Altos won 361 games in the past three seasons -- an average of 120 wins per year. They have outscored their opponents by 404, 437, and 373 runs in each of those years. All three rank among the top six highest runs differentials in history. (Note: the 2010 Undertakers own one of those other six.) In 46 postseason games over the past three years, Los Altos has gone 36-10 -- a winning percentage of .783 that is even higher than their regular-season winning percentage.

How did this happen? How did the Undertakers get to be this good for so long? Much of their success can be attributed to their farm club, which ranked among the top five in the BDBL from 2012 to 2015. Gerrit Cole, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Sanchez, Corey Seager, and Joc Pederson were all products of the Los Altos farm system.

A pair of trades made in the winter of 2014 also greatly contributed to this franchise's long run of success. In one of those deals, the Bear Country Jamboree unloaded millions in unwanted salary and sent Chris Archer to the Undertakers as compensation. In another deal (it pains me to say) the Salem Cowtippers sent Anthony Rizzo to Los Altos in exchange for hugely-useless shortstop Ian Desmond.

The Undertakers made two more integral trades in the winter of 2015, acquiring their ace, Chris Sale, from the Mississippi Meatballs in exchange for four young players, and Jose Bautista and Jonathan Lucroy from the Flagstaff Outlaws in a nine-player trade. The Sale acquisition, in particular, transformed this team from a mere contender into a dynasty. In his three seasons with Los Altos, Sale has posted a record of 65-13 with an ERA of 2.63 in 658 innings -- all at a salary of just $13.8 million for the three years combined. The money this team saved on Sale's salary, along with their annual $7.5 million bonus, allowed Los Altos to load up even further with free agents such as Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, and Michael Brantley.

Paulson claims that his winning streak has come to an end, and the Undertakers will not be nearly as dominant in 2018. But then, we have come to expect such modest proclamations from him. I'll believe it when I see it.

***

"I resign from the league effective immediately."

-- Jim Doyle, 11/29/17

The 2017 season was sandwiched between two shocking resignations from two long-time BDBL owners. Those seven words above officially ended Jim Doyle's BDBL career...temporarily. After seventeen seasons in the BDBL, Doyle resigned after a dispute with St. Louis Apostles GM Bobby Sylvester.

On November 29th, Doyle announced a trade in which he sent Chris Rusin and David Ross to the Apostles in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes and Yadier Alvarez. At 4:45 that afternoon, Sylvester revealed that his response to this offer had been sarcastic, and he had no intention of making such a trade. Seventeen minutes later, Doyle resigned from the league. No amount of begging and pleading on my part was able to convince him to return.

Then, in the middle of the postseason, the league suffered another blow when New Milford Blazers owner Anthony Peburn decided he had lost one too many OL Championship Series and resigned within minutes of his final series. (See below.) This opened the door for Doyle, who announced his desire to return to the BDBL.

Thus, a very interesting experiment will take place in 2018 and the coming few years. Doyle has yet to finish a season above .500. He is taking over a franchise that has won 100 or more game six seasons in a row, and is the early favorite to win their eighth straight division title in 2018. Will the owner with the league's most abysmal track record finally taste success in 2018? Or will he somehow find a way to screw it up? Either way, won't it be fun to find out?

On the other side of this equation is Doyle's former franchise, now named the Myrtle Beach Hitmen. New GM Mitch Gill inherited the worst franchise in the league and did a remarkable job adding young talent to his roster throughout the course of the year. Youngsters such as Kyle Lewis, Tyler O'Neill, Jurickson Profar, Jesse Winker, Blake Rutherford, and Alex Verdugo comprise a solid foundation upon which a future contender can be built.

Which will happen first: the Blazers' first losing season in over a decade, or the Hitmen franchise's first winning season in the 21st century? I can't wait to find out.

***

"While my underperformance in the OLCS was not the only factor in this decision, it is the final straw."

-- Anthony Peburn, 11/11/17

To say that Anthony Peburn's BDBL career was controversial would be the mother of all understatements. Unlike every other person who has ever owned a franchise in the league (beside me, of course), Peburn was never invited into the league, nor did he apply to become an owner. He simply inserted himself, gradually and insidiously, as the owner of the New Milford Blazers franchise. Like a virus.

Billy Romaniello, a lifelong friend of mine, was the original owner of that franchise, and one of the founding members of the league. Billy was an enthusiastic baseball fan, but he didn't follow the game closely enough to excel in the fantasy baseball realm. As a result, the Blazers suffered through one embarrassing season after another, right from the very beginning of the league's existence. At some point along the way, around the 2004 season, Billy recruited Peburn to help with his decision-making. By the end of the 2007 season, Peburn had managed to wrest full control of the franchise away from Romaniello.

It didn't take him long to cause controversy. The Blazers had finished with a franchise-high 78 wins in 2004, and expectations were high for the '05 season. New Milford got off to a hot start, but faded quickly. With the final trading deadline of the season approaching, Peburn announced a massive firesale. Every player had to go, regardless of the return value. A total of eighteen players were shipped to various contending teams, drastically altering the competitive balance of the league and affecting numerous pennant races. The end result was the league's adoption of a cap on midseason trading currently known as the "VORP rule."

All of that wheeling and dealing paid dividends. The Blazers managed to finally break the .500 mark the following season, and eked into the playoffs as the OL's wild card team. Incredibly, they managed to make it all the way to the World Series, where they were summarily swept by the Villanova Mustangs. Despite all of their success to come, it would be their last visit to the World Series.

More recently, Peburn prompted another rule change when he exploited our custom ballparks rule to build a home ballpark that defied the laws of physics. He averaged 63 wins (a .788 winning percentage) per year in that cartoon park before the league adopted a new rule that now compels owners to choose an actual real-life ballpark model.

New Milford averaged just 64.5 wins during the BDBL's first decade. Then, in 2009, they won 95 games. Not coincidentally, that was the same season Clayton Kershaw (a second round pick in the 2006 midseason draft) made his BDBL debut. Over the next nine seasons, the Blazers would average an astounding 104 wins, including a BDBL-record six straight seasons with 100 or more wins.

The Blazers set another BDBL record in 2017 with their seventh straight division title. They also broke the all-time record for lowest team ERA (2.54) this past season. Their 120 wins in 2017 represents a franchise record and the second-highest wins total in league history. Yet it wasn't enough to get past the Los Altos Undertakers in the OLCS. It was the SEVENTH time in nine years that the Blazers lost the OLCS, and the FIFTH time they lost to the Undertakers. In the end, that brutal string of losses was too much for Anthony Peburn to handle. After more than thirteen years of causing havoc and chaos, he took his ball and went home.

***

"These ain't the 115-game-winning Law Dogs anymore. Jake Arrieta is gone. So are Lorenzo Cain, Nelson Cruz, Carlos Carrasco, and Eric Hosmer. Keuchel is half the pitcher he was a year ago, as is Wade Davis. Still, what's left of that team should be competitive enough to play at least .500 baseball and possibly cause some stress for the division leader."

-- Mike Glander, Season Preview

The Kansas Law Dogs won a franchise-best 115 games in 2016. They were then upset in the Division Series by the pesky St. Louis Apostles, who managed to advance all the way to the BDBL World Series. They weren't expected to advance further in the playoffs in 2017 than they did in 2016. Out of twelve votes cast in the preseason, only one voter picked Kansas as the favorites to win their division. On this page, I predicted the Law Dogs would finish in third place. Yet, for the third time in league history, the Kansas Law Dogs represented the Eck League in the BDBL World Series.

GM Chris Luhning has made a BDBL career out of paying outrageous sums of money for a free agent each winter and then dumping all of that salary the next. He did it again last winter when he managed to find a taker for Jake Arrieta's $18 million salary. He took on a bit of unwanted salary in that trade with Chicago, but he then offloaded that salary in two separate trades. By the time all of his wheeling and dealing was finished, Luhning managed to free a whopping $43.3 million in salary -- more spending money than any other team in the league.

The next step was to spend all of that hard-earned cash. $7.5 million went to ace J.A. Happ. Another $7 million went to Wilson Ramos, the top catcher on the market. Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Markakis were signed for $8.5 million combined. Tyler Chatwood and Colby Lewis were added in the third and fourth rounds of the draft. For his $5 million salary, Chatwood outperformed every other starting pitcher on the Kansas staff. By the time the draft concluded, Luhning had purchased a team that looked as though it had a chance to contend.

Not only did the Law Dogs contend, but they outscored their opponents by more runs than every team in the Eck League aside from St. Louis. They bolted out to a first-place start in Chapter One, and led the Great Lakes Sphinx by four games. A phenomenal second chapter by the Sphinx, however, put Kansas in a two-game hole after two chapters of play. That deficit grew to three games by the all-star break.

Despite the fact that they outscored their opponents by only 40 runs all season, the Great Lakes Sphinx refused to relinquish their spot at the top of the Higuera Division. They clung to that lead throughout the second half of the season and captured the division title by seven games. Kansas was forced to settle for the EL wild card.

The Sphinx had one of the most unusual seasons in league history in 2017. They sported a Pythagorean difference of +14, which is surpassed only by the 2016 Bear Country Jamboree (+16). They posted a record of 33-5 in one-run games -- by far a BDBL record .868 winning percentage. They won 98 games despite the fact that the ace of their starting rotation (arguably) was Trevor Bauer. They succeeded because of their stellar bullpen, their solid offense, and a remarkable amount of luck in close games.

***

"For me, Opening Day means hope. Maybe this is the year. Maybe this time, all of my hard work will pay off. Maybe all that time I spent reading and pouring over numbers and spreadsheets will have actually paid dividends. Maybe the Baseball Gods will finally stop pissing all over me, and my team will perform exactly as awesomely as I expect. Maybe this year, Lucy won't yank that football away, and I'll kick it straight through the goalposts."

-- Mike Glander, 1/26/17

The Salem Cowtippers spent the entire 2016 season stockpiling young talent. Like the 2017 New York Yankees, they weren't expected to compete so quickly. Yet, after a series of offseason deals in which some of those young players were exchanged for immediate impact bats such as Miguel Cabrera and Jose Altuve, Salem fans had high hopes that the New Milford Blazers' lengthy streak of division titles could finally come to an end.

Adding to that hope was the fact that New Milford's ace, Clayton Kershaw, was limited to 164 innings due to injury. It seemed that the stage was set for the Cowtippers to finally regain their position atop the McGowan Division after ten long years. In preseason polling, the two longtime rival franchises were neck-and-neck, with New Milford earning a slim 7-6 vote as the favorite to win the division.

The first half of the season unfolded as expected, with New Milford holding a slim four-game lead over Salem in the division. For a brief moment in Chapter Three, the Cowtippers actually held sole possession of first place. Then, in Chapter Four, the wheels came off the bandwagon. New Milford went a remarkable 21-3 that chapter, while Salem posted a losing record of 11-13. In the blink of an eye, the Blazers' four game lead became fourteen games. The race was over.

One year after finishing in last place with 94 losses, the Cowtippers came within one win of reaching 100 wins for the eighth time in franchise history. For all the time, effort, and sacrifices they made throughout the year, they finished twenty-one games out of first place. New Milford won over 77-percent of their games in the second half of the season and finished with an astounding 120 wins. For the fifth time in the past six seasons, Salem was forced to settle for the OL wild card.

***

"Bobby has made the claim that his rosters are custom-built especially for the postseason. Last year, whatever secret sauce he included in his formula seemed to work. It will be interesting to see if he can repeat that trick."

-- Season Preview

It was just another typical winter for the St. Louis Apostles. GM "Trader Bobby" Sylvester worked his magic once again and orchestrated eleven trades involving 53 players. By the time the dust settled, the Apostles ranked exactly where they began at the beginning of the offseason: the favorites to win the Eck League title in 2017. Among the many names acquired by St. Louis last winter were Rich Hill, Jean Segura, Jedd Gyorko, Franklin Barreto, Bradley Zimmer, Nick Franklin, Yasmani Grandal, and Cody Allen.

Sylvester had spent the better part of the past three seasons stockpiling young talent for his farm club. The Apostles' farm ranked #1 in the BDBL in each of those years, 2014-2016. It was the first time that any franchise had ever owned the #1 farm club in the league three years in a row. The St. Louis farm had already produced numerous impact players (Miguel Sano, Nick Castellanos, Jose Abreu, David Dahl, Trevor Bauer, Daniel Norris, Jose Berrios, Nomar Mazara, and Lucas Giolito), but almost all of them were traded in exchange for more young talent.

Finally, after all those years of stockpiling, the Apostles seemed poised to dominate in 2017. Dominate they did. Their 103 wins were five more than any other team in the Eck League. They also led the league by outscoring their opponents by 152 runs. They led the EL in home runs and were the only team to post an ERA below 4.00 (at 3.58.)

As if they weren't already dominant enough, "Trader Bobby" acquired the greatest trading chit in 2017 at the Chapter Four deadline when he added the late Jose Fernandez to his starting rotation. The ace went just 5-4 as an Apostle, but with a 2.85 ERA in a dozen starts. Together with Hill, Noah Syndergaard, and David Price, the Apostles owned the best rotation in the EL -- and possibly the BDBL.

The Niagara Locks managed to hold a two-game lead over St. Louis in the first chapter of the season, but it was all uphill from there for the Apostles. The very next chapter, Niagara went 12-16 while St. Louis went a remarkable 23-5. Suddenly, their two-game deficit turned into a nine-game lead. The Person Division race was effectively over.

***

"I just want to take this time to post something positive and uplifting while we are waiting. As Anthony will attest to, I was a great sport during our entire series. Nothing, NOTHING tops sportsmanship."

-- Brian Potrafka, 11/1/17

Another pennant race that was over before it began took place in the Benes Division, where the Ravenswood Infidels dominated the division from beginning to end. Ravenswood's three game lead after the first chapter turned into double-digits by the end of the second. They finished the season with 90 wins (ten fewer than their Pythagorean projection) and outscored their opponents by 188 runs.

Ravenswood GM Brian Potrafka's biggest move came on Thanksgiving weekend when he sent top prospects Dansby Swanson and Ronald Acuna to the Akron Ryche in exchange for ace Justin Verlander. Verlander justified that sacrifice with a record of 18-6 and a 3.24 ERA in 250 innings.

On the offensive side of the ball, Ravenswood paid $12 million combined for two free agent hitters who contributed immensely to the Infidels' runs total. Those two hitters, Dexter Fowler (.290/.420/.474) and Danny Valencia (.315/.379/.528) ranked first and second, respectively, in runs created for Ravenswood. The team's biggest midseason move was trading one slugging first baseman (Chris Davis) for another (Brandon Belt.) Combined, the two created over 119 runs on the season.

The Infidels seemed to fade down the stretch. Over the second half of the season, they managed just one more win (42) than the Las Vegas Flamingos. Yet, they had built such a commanding lead in the first half, it hardly mattered. They won the division by 18 games, giving Potrafka his eighth division title.

***

"The Hrbek Division is still up for grabs as well. We have major pitching usage issues this chapter and could easily go 14-14 (or worse!). It's a 2 team race for the Hrbek and a 4 team race for the Eck Wildcard."

-- Tony Chamra, 9/14/17

The most unusual pennant race of the year took place in the Hrbek Division. But then again, what else is new? In preseason polling, the Chicago Black Sox were favored to win the division, earning eleven out of thirteen votes. The Cleveland Rocks (with two votes) were the only other team in the division to receive any votes. No one seemed to give much thought to the Charlotte Mustangs.

In his fourth year as GM of the franchise, Tony Chamra was confident that his team would perform far better than their 56-104 record of 2016. I don't think that even he imagined that his team would win the division. As the season unfolded, however, that possibility seemed to become more and more realistic.

Chicago's season followed an all-too-familiar pattern. They suffered through a sub-.500 (13-15) first chapter. Chapter Two (12-16) was even more of a disaster. By mid-April, GM John Gill threw in the towel and announced that his entire team was on the chopping block. Then, Chicago began to improve. They went 14-10 in Chapter Three. The white flag was lowered. They went 14-10 again in Chapter Four, and Gill went from seller to buyer.

For the third chapter in a row, the Black Sox led the division with a 19-9 record in Chapter Five, bringing them within five games of first place with only one chapter remaining. They continued that streak by leading the division with a 16-12 record in the sixth and final chapter. But it was too little, too late.

The Cleveland Rocks were expected to contend for a spot in the postseason on the strength of their pitching alone. Instead, Corey Kluber turned in a sub-.500 record (12-14) and a mediocre ERA of 4.31. Jacob deGrom (8-12, 4.84 ERA) was even worse. Ross Stripling (2-10, 5.12) and Mike Fiers (6-12, 6.94) were sub-replacement-level. Danny Salazar (9-10, 4.31) acted like the de facto ace of the team.

Cleveland got off to a horrendous start and never recovered. Instead of contending for a spot in the playoffs, they contended for a spot near the top of the 2018 farm draft. They finished with 100 losses for the first time since 2005, and finished in last place for the fourth time in the past seven years.

Then, there were the Mustangs. Charlotte's pitching staff ranked ninth out of twelve Eck League teams in ERA (4.44.) They served up over 200 home runs and allowed a .755 OPS to opposing batters. Yet, somehow, the Mustangs finished with 92 wins and a four game lead over the Black Sox in the division.

The Charlotte offense carried the team throughout the season. They led the Eck League in runs scored (858) and slugging (.465), and ranked second in home runs (233.) Forty percent of their runs created were generated by just three players: MVP candidate Adrian Beltre (140.1 RC), Hanley Ramirez (121), and Corey Dickerson (86).

With the Mustangs still leading the division at midseason, Chamra loaded up his team for the stretch run by adding D.J. LeMahieu (113.9 RC on the season) and Carlos Gonzalez (103.6). In the end, that was more than enough firepower to wrap up the division title. For only the second time in his sixteen year BDBL career, Chamra was heading to the Tournament of Randomness.

***

"I knew we would steal more bases this season. We had more than a few EX stealing players. Around midway through the season and we had over 100 SB so I thought we had a chance and could go for it."

-- Kyle Robinson, 10/16/17

The Cleveland Rocks' 2012 stolen base record seemed as safe as any other team record on our History page. The stolen base seemed to become less and less popular with each passing season. Barring some drastic change in baseball philosophy or analytics, it didn't seem possible that any BDBL team would surpass Cleveland's total of 264 swiped bags. But then, the Saskatoon Sasquatch came along.

Led by Slidin' Billy Hamilton (87 SB, 30 CS), the Squatch surpassed Cleveland's old record by five steals. Rajai Davis (64 SB, 19 CS), Carlos Correa (39 SB, 9 CS), Jake Lamb (26 SB, 9 CS), Ryan Rua (22 SB, 15 CS), and Andrew Romine (10 SB, 5 CS) all racked up double-digit steals in 2017. Lamb (only 6 SB in MLB) and Rua (just 9 SB) were particularly surprising thieves on the basepaths.

Like the 2012 Rocks, the Sasquatch were also caught stealing more than 100 times. Saskatoon actually succeeded in their stolen base attempts at a slightly higher rate than Cleveland, 72% to 71%.

Other records set in 2017 include the lowest team ERA (2.54) and lowest OPS allowed (.600), both by New Milford. New Milford extended their league records for most consecutive division titles (7) and 100-win seasons (6), and Los Altos extended their records for most division titles (13) and 100-win seasons (9).

An important milestone in league history was reached on August 1st, when Charlotte's Adrian Beltre passed Derek Jeter on the all-time hits list. Beltre sits only 25 hits away from becoming the first player in BDBL history to join the 3,000 Hit Club. Also this season, Albert Pujols became only the second member of the 600 Home Run Club.

***

The BDBL postseason kicked off in surprising and exciting fashion when the New Milford Blazers won back-to-back 1-0 games against the Ravenswood Infidels in the first two games of the OL Division Series. In Game One, Clayton Kershaw allowed just one hit and no walks through nine shutout innings. New Milford's second win came on a walk-off home run by Jason Castro off of Fernando Salas in the eleventh inning.

The Infidels offense finally scored their first run of the series when the series shifted to Ravenswood. They managed to tie the series by taking Games Three and Four. Incredibly, the high-octane New Milford offense managed to score only one run in each of the first four games of the series. That finally changed in Game Five when New Milford won a 4-0 game in which Kershaw pitched his second shutout of the series.

Game Six was deadlocked at 1-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth. New Milford's expensive winter signing, Freddie Freeman, then stepped to the plate to lead off the inning and sent his teammates flooding onto the field when he launched a game-winning, series-ending, home run off of Tyler Thornburg.

***

That near-upset in the OLDS was mirrored by an actual upset taking place in the Eck League Division Series. The highly-favored St. Louis Apostles found themselves in a three-games-to-nothing hole against the Kansas Law Dogs. They scratched and clawed their way back into the series by winning Games Four and Five.

Game Six saw an early exit for Kansas starter Christian Friedrich, who left after just two innings. Kansas manager Chris Luhning then handed the ball to his bullpen. Joe Blanton, Wade Davis, Jeurys Familia, Will Harris, and Francisco Rodriguez nailed it down the rest of the way, sending Kansas to the EL Championship Series with a 2-1 Game Six victory.

***

The OLDS matchup between Salem and Los Altos resulted in the first-ever playoff series where the losing team lost all four games by one run each. The Cowtippers found themselves in a three-games-to-one hole after losing Games One, Three, and Four by scores of 8-7, 9-8, and 2-1, respectively. With their backs against the wall, the Cowtippers fought to push the series to its full seven games.

In Game Seven, Salem starter Steven Matz continued to allow home runs at an unprecedented pace. After allowing five in his Game Three start, Matz allowed three more in Game Seven. Despite that, the Salem offense and bullpen managed to keep the game close. Alex Dickerson's clutch two-out RBI single off of Kenley Jansen made it a 5-4 game in the eighth inning. But then Jansen did what he had done throughout the series. He retired the side in order in the ninth to notch his fourth save of the series.

In the end, Salem outscored Los Altos 38-32 in the series, but still lost. Los Altos hit an incredible 16 home runs in the seven games, including four by Nolan Arenado and three by Nelson Cruz.

***

The EL Division Series between the Great Lakes Sphinx and Charlotte Mustangs was thought to be closely-matched. The series proved to be just that, as Charlotte battled their way into two one-run victories in the first three games -- both requiring extra innings to decide.

The Sphinx managed to push the series to seven games with a 3-0 Game Six win. They then carried a 3-2 lead into the eighth inning of Game Seven. In the top of the eighth, normally-reliable reliever Kelvim Herrera ran into trouble. A pair of singles and a walk made it a tied game. Herrera then served up a grand slam home run to Jackie Bradley following an intentional walk to load the bases. Adrian Beltre then followed with another home run, giving Charlotte a six-run inning and a massive 8-3 lead.

The Sphinx weren't about to give up that easily. A clutch two-out RBI single by Matt Wieters in the bottom of the eighth was followed by an even clutchier three-run blast by pinch hitter Dioner Navarro. That cut Charlotte's lead to 8-7 with an inning left to play.

In the top of the ninth, Sphinx reliever Carlos Torres created a huge mess when he walked the first three batters he faced. Matt Belisle and Clayton Richard were able to clean up that mess, but not without allowing a crucial run to score on a ground-out.

Shane Greene then took the hill for Charlotte, looking to close out the series. He got off to a rocky start, allowing a leadoff double to John Jaso. Four batters later, Jaso scored on a single by Giancarlo Stanton. But with two outs and the tying run in scoring position, the Sphinx's season came to an end when Mike Napoli popped out to right.

***

The EL Championship Series got off to an exciting start when Charlotte's MVP, Adrian Beltre, knocked home the game-winning run in the bottom of the eleventh inning in Game One. Kansas found themselves in a 6-3 hole heading into the ninth inning of Game Two, but a stunning four-run rally (including three doubles) gave them a 7-6 victory and evened the series.

The Law Dogs continued to battle, winning Games Three and Five to force Charlotte's back against the wall. In Game Six, Yangervis Solarte's two-run blast gave Kansas a 5-1 lead. Charlotte managed to score two runs in the bottom of the seventh to make it a 5-3 game, but that would be the end of their scoring, as the Kansas bullpen's trio of Francisco Rodriguez, Scott Strickland, and Will Harris slammed the door. For the third time in franchise history, the Law Dogs were heading to the World Series.

***

The Blazers had reached the OLCS seven times in the past nine seasons and lost all seven times. Five of those times, they lost to the Los Altos Undertakers. 2017 would see a continuation of that pattern -- a pattern that ultimately ended Anthony Peburn's BDBL career.

Right off the bat, the Blazers found themselves in a daunting hole. Los Altos won the first three games of the series with relative ease. New Milford's ace, Kershaw, had thrown two complete-game shutouts in his two OLDS starts, but was awful against Los Altos in Game One. In seven innings, he allowed seven runs on nine hits and two walks. Six of those runs came in the second inning, when Kershaw allowed a double, six singles, and a run-scoring balk.

After losing the first two games of the series, New Milford carried a 4-1 lead into the ninth inning of Game Three. They handed the ball to their reliable closer, Craig Kimbrel, who walked two of the first four batters he faced. Then, one out away from winning their first game of the series, Kimbrel served up a three-run bomb to Joc Pederson. The game was forced into extra innings, where Los Altos won with a walk-off single by Anthony Rizzo in the tenth inning.

New Milford's only win came in Game Four, where Ian Kinsler smacked a pair of homers and drove in five of New Milford's seven runs en route to an easy 7-3 victory. The celebration was short-lived. In Game Five, Kershaw fared much better than he had in his first appearance of the series, allowing two runs through seven innings. Los Altos starter Aaron Sanchez, however, was better.

The Undertakers took a slim 2-1 lead into the ninth inning. Super-closer Kenley Jansen then allowed a rare run in the top of the ninth, which tied the game. New Milford called on Ryan Dull to hold that tie in the bottom of the ninth. Instead, Sean Rodriguez whacked a two-out, two-run, walk-off home run that ended the game, the series, and Peburn's career.

***

After all of the excitement and surprising developments of the Division and Championship Series, the BDBL World Series was a bit anticlimactic. It was one of only two World Series sweeps in league history, and two of those four wins by Los Altos were 10-0 and 10-1 laughers that came in the first and last games of the series.

In between, Kansas managed to put up a fight in Game Two for a brief moment. Facing a daunting 13-1 deficit, the Law Dogs scratched and clawed for eight runs over the last four innings. Normally, eight or nine runs would be enough to win most games against most teams, but the Undertakers aren't like most teams. Kansas lost by a score of 13-9.

Not only did Kansas fail to win a single game in the series, but they never even held a lead at any point during the series. In the end, they were outscored 38-13. Los Altos hit .371/.439/.603 as a team. Kansas hit .230/.316/.304. They never had a fighting chance.

***

We enjoyed BDBL Weekend so much in the spring, we decided to have another in the summer. Tony Chamra, his father, Matt Clemm, Greg Newgard, Bob Sylvester, Ryan, and myself all visited sunny Arizona in mid-March. We took in a number of ballgames and were honored to have Bob escort us on a tour of Luke Air Force Base. We played some cornhole and Matt's classic homemade trivia game, ate a lot of greasy food, and soaked up tons of sun.

In August, an even larger delegation of BDBL members past and present met in Atlanta to watch the Braves take on the Miami Marlins. Tony DeCastro made his first BDBL Weekend appearance since our inaugural 2000 event in New York. Chamra, Clemm, Ryan, and myself enjoyed our second BDBL Weekend of the year. Mike Stein and Scot Zook were also in attendance, and former owner and two-time league champion Gene Patterson made a surprise guest appearance.

That same weekend, I was able to meet with my brother and nephew. I also met my nephew's fiancÚ for the first time. We had a great time catching up, and spent an afternoon at the amazing Atlanta aquarium. It was a terrific weekend surrounded by family and friends alike.

***

As always, I'd like to thank the BDBL's true commissioner, Greg Newgard, for all the time and effort he puts into this league. I'd also like to thank Tony Chamra for the work that he does with our schedule, tracking our contracts, and updating the information for every farm player on our disk. Thanks to Peburn for his time and effort as Usage Czar, and to DJ for reclaiming that unpopular duty. Thanks to Jeff Paulson for coordinating our in-season drafts. Many thanks to those of you who attended our two BDBL Weekends, and for those who contribute to the league in other ways.

And so begins our twentieth season. Best of luck to all of you. I look forward to seeing what surprises and controversies the next year holds.