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Big Daddy Baseball League

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


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August, 2019

Chapter Four Recap

Players of the Chapter

The 2018 Los Altos Undertakers won "only" 83 games during their "rebuilding year" last year. During that all-to-brief rebuilding period, many teams stepped up to help the Undertakers climb back to the top of the heap as soon as possible. One of those teams was the Bear Country Jamboree, who traded the OL Hitter of the Chapter, Jesus Aguilar, to Los Altos at the Chapter Four deadline, in exchange for yet another expensive closer, Kenley Jansen.

It would be far too cruel to mention how that deal worked out for Bear Country. Instead, we'll focus on Aguilar, who led the OL in batting (.389), slugging (.789), hits (37), home runs (10), and runs created (28.4) in Chapter Four. He hit a modest .389/.414/.789 for the chapter, and is now hitting .331/.397/.677 on the season, with 31 homers and 97 RBI's -- with two chapters still to come. Thanks, Matt.

The Eck League's Hitter of the Chapter, Manny Machado, is playing his sixth season with the Great Lakes Sphinx, and still has three years remaining. He is enjoying a career year in 2019, and is a strong candidate for EL MVP at this point. In Chapter Four, he hit .382/.423/.735 overall, and led the league in batting, slugging, RBI's (28), and runs created (30.1).

The Las Vegas Flamingos are in the middle of yet another lost season. After four chapters of play, they own a 45-59 record, which puts them on pace for 69 wins. That would give them 13 straight seasons with 59-84 wins. Yawn. Vegas fans have had very few reasons to cheer over their franchise's long history, but at least they can celebrate the fact that one of their own took home the coveted Chapter Four OL Pitcher of the Chapter Award! Mike Minor led the OL in ERA (1.53), BA (.194), and OBP (.243). He is also having a stellar MLB season. The problem is that he's a free agent at the end of this season. Which begs the question: why the hell didn't Johnny Bo make it priority #1 since last winter to TRADE Minor while he still had value to this team??

The South Carolina Sea Cats are the Las Vegas Flamingos of the Eck League. Both teams are original founding BDBL franchises. Both teams are having a subpar 2019 season. (South Carolina is currently on pace to win 77 games.) The Flamingos have had only seven .500+ seasons in their 20 years in the BDBL, while the Sea Cats have only seen three. South Carolina hasn't finished .500 since 2011, and hasn't finished above .500 since 2006, back when George W. Bush was president! Like the Flamingos, Sea Cats fans have little to celebrate lately except the Chapter Four Pitcher of the Chapter. For the second chapter in a row, that belongs to Blake Snell, who led the EL in ERA (1.57), BA (.176), and slugging (.227). Despite his dominance this year, he has gone just 10-7 on the season, which tells you all you need to know about the Sea Cats.

Top Stories of the Chapter

Story #1: BDBL Weekend, St. Louis & Kansas City

For the second time in league history (with the first taking place way back in 2007), BDBL Weekend was held in St. Louis and Kansas City. A total of eight league members, plus former member Ryan Glander, began the weekend's festivities in one of the most violent and crime-ridden cities in the US, St. Louis. There was no evidence of criminal activity for the BDBL, however, unless you count Jeff Paulson's trade with Mike Stein.

For me, the festivities began when I overheard the guy at the front desk of our hotel recommend a restaurant to another guest. My ears instantly perked when I heard the word "calzone." I can best describe the place around the corner from our hotel as Calzone Heaven. The entire menu consisted of nothing but calzones. The one I ordered, called "Meat Me in St. Louie", was filled with Italian sausage, pepperoni, garlic, ricotta, mascarpone, and something I have never heard of called provel, which is apparently a mixture of cheddar, provolone, and Swiss. I am now planning to return to St. Louis just to sample the rest of the menu.

But enough about calzones.

After meeting with Chris Luhning at the hotel bar, he, Ryan, and I went on a long quest for a certain bar located south of the ballpark. Naturally, being BDBL Weekend, we took the long way around. When we finally arrived, we were met by the rest of the St. Louis gang: Matt Clemm, Jeff Paulson, and Tony Chamra.

We arrived at the ballpark early to get our free jerseys. We then witnessed the first trade of BDBL Weekend when Jeff Paulson dealt his Jason Isringhausen jersey to a random Cards fan for a Larry Walker jersey. As always, Paulson walked away with the better part of the bargain. We then waited while Clemm exited the gate and reentered several times in an effort to get even more jerseys.

While strolling through the ballpark on the way to our seats, it quickly became obvious that there were more rainbows scattered around the park than you'd normally find. Apparently, it was "Pride Night" at the ol' ballpark. Because celebrating the sexual preferences of five-percent of the country for an entire month apparently isn't enough. We now need to stretch that celebration straight through the end of July.

After we all collected our rainbow lanyards, rainbow hats, rainbow banners, and rainbow beer mugs, we settled into our seats to take in the game between the hometown Cardinals and visiting Houston Astros. Naturally, all eyes were on the wunderkind phenom known as Jose Urquidy, who was a sixth-round pick by Paulson in the midseason farm draft. Naturally, Urquidy didn't disappoint. In six innings of effortless work, he allowed just one run on four hits and a pair of walks, with six strikeouts.

A two-run blast by Michael Brantley broke the scoreless tie in the fourth inning, giving the visiting 'Stros the lead. The Cards scratched out a run in the fourth and Matt Wieters then tied it up with a solo blast to right. Houston grabbed the lead once again in the eighth inning, but then hometown hero (and Flagstaff Outlaws legend) Paul Goldschmidt then changed the entire game with one swing of his mighty lumber. His three-run blast off of his fellow Outlaws teammate Ryan Pressly gave St. Louis a 5-3 lead, which they would carry through the end of the game.

Saturday morning, after enjoying some coffee and some amazing donuts provided by Tony Chamra, we gathered up Mike Stein at the airport (who literally jumped into our moving vehicle) and began our three and half-hour-long journey to Kansas City. With Jim Doyle demanding minute-by-minute updates on our arrival time, every minute counted as we inched toward our destination: a fantastic barbeque place in Kansas City named Q39.

The place was jam-packed by the time we arrived, with a line out the door at nearly 1:00pm. Thankfully, our hero, Scot Zook, was kind enough to have booked a table for our party of ten ahead of time. We sat down just before 1:00...and then waited patiently for Doyle to arrive with his wife, Anne. Finally, roughly fifteen minutes later, there he was, as big as life itself: the man, the myth, the legend!

We spent the next hour or so shoveling food into our faces: brisket, pulled pork, ribs, poutine, onion strings, beans, chicken wings, cole name it. By the time we departed, I was ready for a nap. But there was still more drinking to do, so a little while later we arrived at the Boulevard Brewing Company, which was apparently named after Zook's franchise.

While we chugged down several very tasty craft beers, the trade talk began in desperation, with only a few hours remaining until the final deadline of the season. Doyle conspired with Luhning and Stein. Paulson slyly worked his Jedi magic. I tried to get someone to take my only Royals prospect. In the end, only a couple of barely-worth-mentioning names switched hands.

We arrived at the next venue early, once again, to claim yet more free jerseys. Instead of "Pride Night", the KC club held a "Family Values" night. It was also apparently Nebraska Huskers night as well, as it seemed half the ballpark were filled with former alumni. After roaming around the park for a while, we eventually made our way up to our seats. It was then discovered that we had lost a fallen comrade along the way. Jim Doyle had been removed from the game with a random injury. He expressed his regrets for having to leave so early and return to his hotel. Get well soon, big guy.

As we settled into our seats, trade talk continued with even more urgency, and it resulted in a small deal between Luhning and Stein in which the night's starting pitcher for Kansas City, Glenn Sparkman, was dealt to Luhning. Within seconds of that handshake, Sparkman served up a grand slam home run to Jason Kipnis. Thus was born the world's quickest case of buyer's remorse.

At some point during this blowout game, which was eventually won by a score of 9-1 by Cleveland, Jeff Paulson turned to me and asked for my honest opinion. I should have said no, but I like to think I'm a nice guy, so I went along with it. He then asked what I thought about a straight-up trade of Jason Castro for Ken Giles. And because I value honesty above all else, I gave him my honest opinion. Seconds later, I watched in horror as Mike Stein actually agreed to this lopsided deal with a handshake.

It was an atypical BDBL Weekend. Other than the circuitous route we took to the bar, there was little aimless wandering. Paulson managed to visit two ballparks filled with statues, but didn't pose in front of any of them. We were in bed by midnight. BDBL Weekend mainstay Greg Newgard was sadly missed. No blockbuster trades were made. There were no heated discussions over rule changes. We didn't even ask Matt Clemm to perform his amazing memory trick.

All of that, and yet it was still a blast. Many thanks to all who attended. I look forward to next year, as long as it's anywhere but Houston.

Story #2: Salem Shifts Into High Gear

The Salem Cowtippers played good baseball over the first half of the season, but they really turned it up a notch in Chapter Four. Heading into the all-star break, the Cowtippers were tied with the second-best record in the league, five games behind the world-beating Los Altos Undertakers. Their +97 runs differential ranked behind the Kansas Law Dogs, Undertakers, and Akron Ryche.

Following their league-best 20-4 performance in Chapter Four, Salem now ranks #1 in the BDBL in wins (tied with Los Altos), runs differential (+181), and fewest runs allowed (370.) Salem pitching posted a league-best 2.48 ERA in Chapter Four, and the Salem offense, which had been asleep at the wheel for most of the year, led the entire BDBL in runs scored in Chapter Four, and hit .260/.357/.475 as a team.

Part of that offensive explosion can be attributed to the acquisitions of Travis Shaw (.288/.449/.678 last chapter) and Brandon Nimmo (.204/.359/.347), who replaced the anemic Mitch Moreland (.195/.304/.324) and Odubel Herrera (.223/.285/.332) in the lineup. Jose Ramirez (.267/.402/.633 on the chapter) and Justin Turner (.323/.421/.462) also broke out of their season-long slumbers.

Of course, the highlight of the chapter was Salem's sweep of the Undertakers -- in Los Altos -- which culminated with an 18-3 drubbing. If the season ended today, thanks to head-to-head record, Salem would get the #1 seed, but that could easily change when the two teams meet for a rematch in Salem in Chapter Five.

Despite the fact that Salem now leads the McGowan Division by nine games, and Los Altos leads their division by a ridiculous 22 games, the rest of this season has great meaning for both teams, as the playoffs seeding is more important than usual in 2019.

Story #3: The Whacky Eck League Wildcard Race

Two of the five playoff spots in the Eck League are wide open as we head into the final two chapters of the season. The Southern Cal Slyme currently own the top wildcard spot with a record of 58-46 (.558). They are closely followed by Great Lakes (55-49), Buckingham (54-50), Cleveland (52-52), and Charlotte (52-52).

Of those five teams, only the Buckingham Sovereigns made any meaningful progress in Chapter Four. In fact, no EL team really stood out last chapter. The Sovereigns led the Eck League in wins, with just 15. Southern Cal (13-11) and Cleveland (13-11) barely finished above .500 for the chapter. Great Lakes went a paltry 10-14. And the Charlotte Mustangs (9-15) completely collapsed, despite the addition of Christian Yelich!

Charlotte's miserable chapter puts them at just 52-52 for the season, which is the same record as the Rocks. Both teams trail the Chicago Black Sox in the Hrbek Division by eight games. Reminder: Charlotte was the overwhelming favorite (by a vote of 10-4) to win that division in preseason polling.

Charlotte and Cleveland own the same record despite the fact that Charlotte owns a runs differential of +47 and Cleveland's differential is an abysmal -27. The main cause for that discrepancy is their records in one-run games. Cleveland is 16-16 and Charlotte is just 16-20. It's no wonder that Charlotte GM Tony Chamra was looking to trade Yelich this past chapter!

Story #4: The OL's Second Wildcard

Barring a collapse of historical proportions, the Joplin Miners seem to be a lock to win the first OL wildcard. They currently stand 12 games ahead of the next-best team, and nine games behind the Cowtippers in the McGowan Division. The second wildcard race appears to be a two-team contest between the Ravenswood Infidels (52-52) and Bear Country Jamboree (51-53).

The Infidels are clearly the superior team, as they out-rank the Jamboree in nearly every category. Ravenswood owns a runs differential of +59, which is fifth-best in the league, while Bear Country has been outscored by 52 runs.

Oddly enough, Ravenswood's biggest issue this season is winning at home. Of all the teams in the OL with a winning record, Ravenswood is the only team with a sub-.500 record (23-29) at home. They also lead the entire BDBL with the greatest Pythagorian differential (-7). Much of that can be attributed to their abysmal record (13-19) in one-run games.

Whoever wins that second wildcard spot will likely have to face the Miners in the one-game playoff. You might logically assume that the Miners would start Chris Sale in that game, but rumblings out of Joplin hint otherwise. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

Story #5: All Quiet on the Trading Front

What a difference a few years have made. The BDBL's final trading deadline came and went with barely a whisper. Only six trades were made all chapter, and none involved any big-name impact player. Instead, the only players that switched uniforms had names like Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Glenn Sparkman, Cedric Mullins, and Ryne Harper.

The biggest trade of the chapter involved players who only have value in 2020: Los Altos' acquisition of Ken Giles in exchange for Jason Castro.

Several factors have led to the dearth of trading in recent years:

1. The introduction and rising popularity of franchise players has taken 44 of the best players in the game out of the trading picture.

2. The midseason VORP rule has drastically limited the number of trades a team can make, and the quality of the players that can be traded. Even after expanding the VORP limit last season, many teams reached the maximum limit early in the season, and were unable to make any further trades. South Carolina's inability to move Max Scherzer is the most famous example.

3. Teams seem to be more and more reluctant to trade top prospects in recent years. Of the current top 20 prospects, as compiled by Baseball America, only four of them have ever been traded in the BDBL (two of whom were traded by Salem, of course.)

The question is whether this trend away from big-name trades is good for the league or not. There was some discussion during BDBL Weekend of getting rid of the VORP rule altogether, which seemed to be a popular opinion. We shall see what the future has in store for us.