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