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

Commish

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December, 2019

2019: The Year in Review

Did that seriously happen? Four days have passed and I still don't believe it actually happened. I would say it was like a dream, but even my dreams aren't that preposterous. It was more like a really cheesy movie with a completely implausible ending that I secretly enjoyed a little too much.

Game Seven. Bottom of the 10th inning. Down by three runs. Bases loaded. Two outs. Two strikes.

Even a child playing wiffleball in his back yard wouldn't dream of a scenario that outrageous. (And I should know, having dreamed of many such scenarios in my back yard as a kid.) How the hell did we even get to that place? Well, it's an incredible story, actually -- one that I will never, ever, forget.

Before I get to that story, let me start by thanking the usual suspects, beginning with my longtime friend, advisor, confidant, sidekick, and mental health therapist, Greg Newgard. As I have repeated time and again, Greg has been the real BDBL Commissioner for many years. I am merely a figurehead. He's the one who did all the heavy-lifting behind the scenes. I cannot thank you enough for that, my friend. You will be greatly missed.

Many thanks, also, to our Transactions Secretary, Jeff Paulson. Not only does he keep on top of all of our transactions throughout the year, but he goes the extra mile at the Chapter Five deadline by allowing us to draft live. Speaking of drafts, I'd like to thank Tony Badger, in advance, for the work that he is doing to build a new d-Day application for us. Hopefully we will have it up and running by our next auction. If not, we may need to pay Greg a consulting fee for his services. (League dues to be increased tenfold soon.)

Thank you, D.J. Shepard, for doing the thankless job of managing our usage rules. Thanks to Tony Chamra for tracking all of our contracts data, and for giving us the annual MLB spreadsheet. Oh, and for creating our schedule. Oh, and for adding all 6,792 farm guys to our disk twice a year. Now that I think of it, Chamra has become the new "real Commish of the BDBL!"

Thanks to Mike Stein for stepping up to take over as Ballparks Czar in Greg's absence. And big thanks to the new guy, Ian Hartner, for volunteering for the onerous duty of managing our in-season VORP cap.

Lastly, thanks to all who attended BDBL Weekend. I look forward to seeing you all again next summer (or spring.)

"If the Cowtippers should make it as far as the World Series, a matchup against the Apostles is practically inevitable. The script writes itself, folks. See, first I lose my first four World Series to Tom DiStefano. Then, I lose my next two to the Sylvester family. It's poetic. It's all part of the wonderful symmetry of humiliation and disappointment that is the BDBL."

-- Mike Glander, January, 2019

In preseason polling, the Salem Cowtippers were picked to win both the OL championship and the BDBL championship (by a slim 6-5-5 margin.) Yet, their path to that championship was anything but guaranteed. First, they had to win the McGowan Division -- something they hadn't done since 2008. The Cowtippers began the season on the right foot, winning 19 games in Chapter One. Their division rivals and defending OL champions, the Joplin Miners, kept pace with 17 wins. By the all-star break, Salem had managed to expand their lead in the division to five games over Joplin.

Meanwhile, the Los Altos Undertakers emerged from their one-year "rebuilding" phase as dominant as ever. They led the entire BDBL with 58 wins at the halfway mark, with no sign of slowing down. As the second half played out, the question in Salem wasn't whether or not they could win the division, but whether they could finish with the best record in the OL. Whoever captured that #1 seed would face the winner of the first-ever (and only) OL Wildcard Game. Presumably, that would give the #1 seed the advantage of not having to face the wildcard winner's ace.

Before the season even began, the league knew that two free-agents-to-be, Christian Yelich and Max Scherzer, would become available in trade at some point during the season. They were arguably the best hitter and pitcher in baseball, respectively, so if/when either were traded, it would potentially make a significant impact on the pennant races. The Salem offense inexplicably struggled throughout the first half, especially against right-handers, so I went hard after Yelich. I initially offered Rafael Devers before retracting that offer a day later. I made another strong offer the following day and waited along with the rest of the league to see if I'd won the sweepstakes. I didn't. Yelich went to the Charlotte Mustangs instead.

I still needed offense more than pitching, so I switched my focus to two players: Travis Shaw and Brandon Nimmo. Shaw would be a burden on my 2020 payroll, but I knew he wouldn't cost much in trade. Nimmo would not only help my 2019 team, but he would also block Scherzer from being traded, as his VORP was just high enough to make Scherzer un-tradeable. I pulled the trigger on both deals. I also added Oliver Perez to the bullpen -- a key acquisition, it turned out -- and paid a hefty price (catcher Will Smith) for him.

In retrospect, both Yelich and Scherzer were as integral to the 2019 pennant races (and the ultimate outcome of the season) as we all suspected. Yelich carried the Mustangs all the way to Game Seven of the World Series. Scherzer's non-trade was as important as if he'd been traded. If he had landed in Los Altos or Akron or Chicago, the outcome of the season may have been entirely different.

The race for the #1 seed in the OL went down to the wire. Heading into the final chapter, Los Altos had 94 wins. Salem trailed with 91. They finished with 112 and 111, respectively. Just prior to that final chapter, the teams played their final head-to-head series of the regular season. As it turned out, the very last game in that series determined the final playoffs seeding.

Salem held a 5-1 lead heading into the ninth inning. They handed the game to Perez, their newly-acquired, sure-thing, lights-out, closer. Perez allowed three singles to the bottom half of the Los Altos lineup. Then, on a 1-2 pitch, Shin-Soo Choo leaned into a Perez curveball and took it off the shoulder. That brought home a run. Matt Carpenter then hit the fourth single of the inning off of Perez to plate two more runs. Ryan Brasier entered the game to put out the fire, but he walked a batter before surrendering a game-tying sac fly.

Onto extra innings we went. For the next ELEVEN INNINGS, Salem and Los Altos hung goose-eggs on the scoreboard. Mike Montgomery -- the very last pitcher available in the Salem bullpen -- heroically tossed six innings of shutout baseball in relief. But by the time he headed back to the hill for the 21st inning, he had thrown over 110 pitches and was completely spent. He faced twelve batters and allowed six walks (two with the bases loaded), four singles, and a sac fly. After eleven scoreless innings in a row, Los Altos scored seven runs in the top of the 21st inning en route to a 12-6 laugher. In the end, that one game made the Undertakers the #1 seed in the Ozzie League.

"Itís been a joy to be part of this for the last 17 seasons and I hope for nothing but the best for it over the next 17 and beyond. Iíve made some lifelong friends here and me leaving doesnít change that. I wish everyone good luck moving forward and want to once again thank Mike for taking the chance on me. This is the Greatest. Baseball. League. On. Earth."

-- Greg Newgard, September, 2019

We had a few personnel changes during the 2019 season. Back in August of 2018, we welcomed Shane Setnor to the league. He agreed to take over the late Rodney Wilkie's old Western Kansas Buffalos franchise. Unfortunately, he lasted only two months in the league before announcing his resignation in October. David Goddard then took over the franchise...and lasted about two more months.

Despite my imploring the league to raze that entire franchise to the ground and start all over again, the league insisted we simply find a new owner. That owner, Ian Hartner, turned out to be a pretty decent one. (So far.) In fact, he has already tied D.J. Shepard's attendance record at BDBL Weekends!

Most resignations I see coming a mile away. The one I never saw happened on that fateful day in mid-September when my good friend, Hoss Newgard, texted me out of the blue. The text read something like "we have to talk." Which, if you've ever been married, you know is never a good way to start a conversation. Sure enough, that was not a pleasant conversation at all. However, I understand why Greg had to leave the league, and I fully support his decision and wish him the best of luck in everything he does. I am also comforted in knowing that it is not the last we'll see of him. He may never return to the BDBL as a GM, but he will always be a welcome member of this league. A BDBL brother for life.

Greg's departure opened the door for another BDBL reunion of sorts. Chuck Mosca last owned a franchise in the BDBL way back in 2000, but was prompted to resign soon thereafter due to a career change. As a New Hampshire resident playing in the Ozzie League, we can only hope he doesn't become another Jim Doyle.

 

We returned to St. Louis and Kansas City for our annual BDBL Weekend festivities this year. We had a good turnout this year: eight league members, plus former member (and my son) Ryan. We had a great time catching up with each other's lives outside of the league, discussing important league matters, and consuming large amounts of unhealthy food and beer.

The St. Louis game stands out for me for the amount of time and effort that took place before the game watching Matt and Jeff exit and re-enter the park multiple times for free jerseys, and then trade those jerseys with other fans entering the park. I can also recall the vivid rainbow colors all over the park in honor of "Pride Night." And, of course, who can forget the outstanding pitching performance that night by the Houston pitcher, Whatshisname.

The following day was all about the long road trip to Kansas City, followed by a visit to a barbeque joint where we eventually met up with Doyle and his new wife. From there, we visited a pretty decent craft beer place before heading to the game. Although several trades were negotiated at that brewery, I believe only one minor trade was actually made.

What stands out most about that weekend was how unlike every other BDBL Weekend it turned out to be. Not much in the way of aimless wandering. No Matt Clemm Stupid Human Tricks. No Newgard. No Skizm. No Doyle antics worth mentioning. No heated debates over rule changes. No late-night bowling. Only one minor trade made. Still, every BDBL Weekend is way better than your average weekend.

"Kyle Gibson had the highest winning percentage in BDBL history a few years ago! What have you people done to him!"

-- Jeff Paulson, October, 2019

2019 was not notable for any record-breaking. In fact, the only record that was broken or matched, as far as I can tell, belongs to Kyle Gibson of the Niagara Locks, who tied the record for single-season losses with 23. Congratulations?

Manny Machado of the Great Lakes Sphinx became the first player in league history to win the Triple Crown (.352 average, 55 home runs, 136 RBI's.) He also led the league in slugging (.673), runs scored (135), hits (242), and runs created (166.8).

The Los Altos Undertakers added to their BDBL record by capturing their 14th division title. They also own the BDBL record for most 100-win seasons (9) and most seasons (7) in which they won more games than any other team in the league (or tied for the lead.) On the flip side, the Darien Blue Wave added to their BDBL record for most 100-loss seasons (7).

A few notable rule changes were approved in 2019. We (finally!?) voted to get rid of all penalties and bonuses for winning or losing games. We also voted to dump the one-game Wildcard Game after only one season. We also voted to end the rule that forces us to carry our top-five pitchers and top-ten hitters on our active roster throughout each series.

"On the bright side - this is the first time the New Milford/Joplin franchise has ever beaten me in the postseason - and it took Jim running the team to do it. Nicely done, Jim!"

-- Jeff Paulson, October, 2019

As it turned out, after all the hand-wringing over that #1 seed in the Ozzie League, it didn't matter in the end. When Joplin faced Ravenswood in the OL Wildcard Game, Joplin skipper Jim Doyle decided not to use his ace, Chris Sale. Instead, he went with Hyun-Jin Ryu. It turned out to be a wise decision, as Ryu limited Ravenswood to just three hits and one walk through seven shutout innings. Ravenswood starter Walker Buehler was nearly as good as Ryu, but one critical mistake was made.

With the score knotted at 0-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Joplin mounted a one-out rally. Two singles and a stolen base put two runners in scoring position with Franchy Cordero stepping to the plate. We may never know if Ravenswood manager Brian Potrafka brought the infield in or not. This crucial detail was omitted from their game summary. Whichever the case may have been, Cordero grounded to third. The runner at third sprinted home, and the throw went to first base. As it turned out, that would be the only run of the game.

Sale tossed the final two innings of the game, perfectly, and threw only 23 pitches. This ensured that he would be available to start Game One of the OLCS after all. The fact that Sale was even a member of the Joplin Miners was, in itself, a continuation of Doyle's head-scratching career as a GM in the BDBL. The Miners went into the auction with $21.4 million to spend and a boatload of holes to fill in their starting lineup and rotation. Joplin only had two pitchers on their roster that threw more than 100 innings in MLB. Yet, when Sale came up for auction, Doyle threw a whopping $16 million at him -- roughly three-quarters of his total spending money. That forced Doyle to fill fifteen spots on his roster with $100,000 draft picks.

As it often does, Doyle's unconventional strategy paid off. Sale was used as a hybrid starter/reliever throughout the season. He started 22 of 42 games, and racked up five wins and seven saves in relief. Joplin went on to win 95 games -- their ninth season in a row with 95+ wins. Their OL Division Series against Los Altos was supposed to be an epic mismatch, and yet the series was tied after four games, turning it into a best-of-three, with Sale scheduled to start Game Five.

For the second time in the series, the Undertakers beat Sale. Now, just one win away from advancing to the OL Championship Series, the Division Series shifted to Los Altos. Joplin starter Charlie Morton pitched the game of his life in Game Six, allowing just one run on three hits and a walk, through eight innings, carrying Joplin to Game Seven on his back.

The Undertakers jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning of Game Seven, but then Joplin starter Masahiro Tanaka settled down -- in a big way. He didn't allow another run to cross the plate the rest of the game. In fact, only one Undertakers batter managed to reach second base.

Meanwhile, Joplin tied the game on an RBI double in the fourth inning. Tanaka's sacrifice fly in the fifth inning put Joplin ahead. He later added a two-out RBI double that was nothing but salt in the wound at that point. He finished the game by retiring Nolan Arenado, Matt Carpenter, and likely OL MVP Jesus Aguilar in order.

It was a disappointing ending to the season for Jeff Paulson and the Undertakers, to put it mildly. Los Altos won a league-best 112 games during the regular season. It was the tenth time in franchise history they topped 100+ wins, the seventh time they won 110+, and the fourth time in the past five seasons they topped 110 wins. Los Altos also led the BDBL in runs differential for the third time in the past five years. They scored 49 more runs than any other team in the league, and allowed the fourth-fewest runs. To say they dominated in 2019 would be an understatement. The 2019 OLDS ranks among the most shocking upsets in league history.

"I wasn't expecting this at all. When I saw I had a private message from Bobby I thought it was about a trade for next year."

-- Scott Romonosky, October, 2019

The Eck League was hardly without its share of postseason upsets as well. The EL wildcard game featured a match-up between the St. Louis Apostles and Charlotte Mustangs. The fact that St. Louis was playing the Wildcard Game was, in itself, an upset. The Apostles were the unanimous favorites to win their division in preseason polling. They were the overwhelming favorites (by a vote of 8-3-2-1-1) to win the Eck League championship. They also received five out of the seventeen votes to win it all, which would have given them back-to-back BDBL titles.

Instead of winning their division, St. Louis barely made it to the Wildcard Game. They finished the regular season with an abysmal 9-19 record in Chapter Six. To the shock of everyone involved, that put them in a tie with the Great Lakes Sphinx for the second wildcard spot. This forced a rare Game #161 to determine which team would advance to the Wildcard Game. St. Louis didn't waste any time. They jumped all over Great Lakes starter Trevor Bauer and scored four runs in the first inning.

With Jacob deGrom on the hill for the Apostles, it should have been smooth sailing from there. The Sphinx, however, were determined to go down swinging. Facing a 5-0 deficit in the third inning, Brandon Belt and Matt Adams plated three runs to pull within two. When the game headed to the bottom of the ninth and Great Lakes' final shot, St. Louis clung to a lead of 8-4. A clutch three-run blast by Giancarlo Stanton made it an 8-7 game. With two outs, St. Louis manager Bobby Sylvester handed the game over to Arodys Vizcaino. Matt Weiters hit a long fly ball to center field, which nestled into the glove of Tommy Pham for the final out of the game.

Sylvester opted to go with Noah Syndergaard in the Wildcard Game instead of his ace, deGrom. That decision instantly backfired when Charlotte scored seven runs in the first two innings. The relentless Mustangs offense continued to pound away for the remainder of the game and finished with an 11-3 laugher win.

That game was pretty much a continuation of the last half of the season for Charlotte. Picked by the league to win their division, the Mustangs instead stumbled out of the gate. They went just 15-13 in the first chapter (the same as the Chicago Black Sox), and posted the same mediocre record the following chapter. By the time the all-star break rolled around, the Mustangs were looking up at the Black Sox by four games, with the Cleveland Rocks nipping at their heels.

Charlotte GM Tony Chamra was desperate to give his team a boost in the second half. Way back on April 27th, Chamra and Kansas City Boulevards GM Scot Zook agreed to a deal that would have sent Christian Yelich to Charlotte, along with two others, in exchange for Scott Kingery, Sixto Sanchez, and M.J. Melendez. Unfortunately, neither party checked the VORP involved in this deal, and it was declared illegal two days later -- after the chapter's deadline had passed. A few days later, a revised deal was announced, but it would not take effect until the start of Chapter Four.

From that point forward, Charlotte posted a record of 47-33 (.587). Over the final two chapters, their 38-18 (.679) record was among the best in the BDBL (tied with Salem, Kansas, and Chicago, and trailing Los Altos.) The Mustangs carried their late momentum into the EL Division Series, where they faced their division rivals, the Black Sox.

Chicago's regular season success seemed to catch a lot of folks by surprise. Charlotte was the league's odds-on favorite to win the division by a healthy margin, but the Black Sox got off to a hot start (a rarity in franchise history) and simply kept winning. Rather than make a blockbuster trade to counteract the Yelich acquisition, Chicago GM John Gill simply stood pat and trusted his team to get the job done. Which they did. The Black Sox finished with 98 wins, eight games over Charlotte. They scored nearly 900 runs (the highest total in the EL) and owned the EL's second-greatest runs differential.

The Black Sox scored double-digit runs three times in the seven-game ELDS. At last, the series came down to a Game Seven match-up between Charlotte ace Kyle Hendricks and one of Chicago's many left-handed starters, Madison Bumgarner. Both pitchers were stellar. Bumgarner himself gave Chicago an early lead by hitting a solo homer off of Hendricks in the bottom of the third inning.

The score remained 1-0 until the top of the seventh, when Alex Bregman doubled home the tying run of the game for Charlotte. Two batters later, Ryan Hanigan doubled home Bregman. Charlotte then tacked on another run in the top of the ninth inning on a sac fly. Blake Treinen then closed out the game in the bottom of the ninth by striking out both Bryce Harper and Javier Baez.

"Cinderella Slyme!"

-- Mike Stein, November, 2019

The Kansas Law Dogs were, without question, the most dominant team in the Eck League in 2019. They led the league in wins (105), runs differential (234), and fewest runs allowed (640). All of that is true, and yet they weren't supposed to win their division according to league preseason polling. Kansas owned the best record in the BDBL in Chapter One (tied with Los Altos) and continued that hot streak through the end of the season. Their lead in the Higuera Division was never fewer than four games. That lead grew to eight games by the all-star break. By then, their eighth division title was a done deal.

Their ELDS opponents, the Southern Cal Slyme, were also not supposed to win their division. Yet, after the historic collapse of the St. Louis Apostles, that is exactly what happened. The Slyme lost 100 games in 2018, and yet managed to completely reverse course, winning 90 games in 2019. They did this by pounding the ball on offense and getting just enough from their pitching staff to hold the score. In fact, the Slyme played more extra-innings games during the regular season than any other team in the BDBL, and went 18-6 in those games.

Kansas and Southern Cal exchanged punches throughout the first four games of the ELDS, resulting in a tied series of two games to two heading into Game Five. That turned out to be the pivotal game of the series. Southern Cal held a slim 4-3 lead heading into the eighth inning. Their reliever, Santiago Casilla, then walked the first two batters he faced to start that inning. Yoshihisha Hirano took over for SoCal, and seemed to get out of the jam with a double play ball, but he then allowed a base hit to Cody Bellinger to tie the game. The game was pushed into extra innings. In the bottom of the tenth, SoCal slugger Jose Abreu then crushed a pitch by Tony Watson to give the Slyme a walk-off win.

But the thrills didn't end there. SoCal fought back in the top of the third inning of Game Six to tie the score and drive Kansas ace Luis Severino out of the game. Kansas then scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to seemingly put the game away. But then, in the top of the fifth, circus clowns invaded The Fields of Tombstone. Southern Cal hung eight runs on the board to take a commanding 11-7 lead.

But it wasn't over yet. Kansas scored again in the bottom of the sixth, and two more in the seventh, to make it an 11-10 game. SoCal manager Bob Sylvester pinned all of his hope on lefty Adam Conley to hold that 11-10 lead in the bottom of the ninth. Things got off to a rocky start when SoCal's gold-glove center fielder Lorenzo Cain began the inning with an error, putting the leadoff runner (and tying run of the game) on base. Kansas' MVP Whit Merrifield grounded out for out number one. After a walk, Conley managed to strike out lefty-killer Ben Zobrist for out number two. Cody Bellinger, another MVP candidate, then popped out to right to end the game and send the Southern Cal Slyme the EL Championship Series.

"As of now, outside of Mike and his immediate family, I'm the biggest Salem fan. It's time for the curse to end. Go 'Tippers!"

-- D.J. Shepard, November, 2019

For the first time since the 2004 season, the BDBL voted for realignment in 2018. Only two teams were moved. The Myrtle Beach Hitmen moved from the OL's Benes Division to the EL's Hrbek, and the Akron Ryche moved in the opposite direction. For Akron GM D.J. Shepard, it was a return to the league where he began, way back in 1999. One of the seven remaining original founding members of the BDBL, Shepard returned to the Ozzie League with an impressive resume that included five division titles, one wildcard, and 1,672 wins in his 20-year career (an average of 84 wins per season.) However, he hadn't won a division title since 2013, and had only one winning season out of the past five.

The Benes Division has traditionally been the weakest of all six BDBL divisions. Prior to this season, the last time a Benes Division winner won more than 90 games was way back in 2012. In fact, they remain the only division in the league that featured a sub-.500 division winner (the Las Vegas Flamingos in 2009.) Needless to say, Shepard was more than happy to switch leagues once again. Akron went 19-9 in the first chapter and opened up a five-game lead. That would be their smallest lead of the season. In the end, the Ryche finished with 101 wins. It was their first 100-win season since 2003.

Salem and Akron played each other tough all season long, so it was little surprise when all four of the first four games of their OLDS were decided by three or fewer runs. The Cowtippers held a commanding three-games-to-one lead heading into Game Five. For the third time in the series, a big inning by the Salem offense made all the difference in the game. Salem scored five runs in the top of the fourth off of reliever Corbin Burnes and took a 6-0 lead. A two-run shot by Jose Ramirez made it 8-1 in the top of the seventh. Akron fought back with three runs in the bottom of the ninth, but it was too little, too late. The Cowtippers were advancing to the next round.

"No offense to Charma, who I like quite a bit, but this will be the only time I'll ever root for the OL in the World Series. The time has come for Glander to win one. What a great series!"

-- Bobby Sylvester, November, 2019

Salem won 11 out of the 16 games they played against Joplin during the regular season. That hardly matters in the Tournament of Randomness, however, where everyone's slate is wiped clean and the season-within-a-season starts fresh from scratch. The hype surrounding this series received a boost when Doyle decided he needed to double-check my usage numbers and falsely accused me of coming up short. This gave the Salem clubhouse plenty of bulletin board material, as if there were a need for more.

This OL Championship Series began on a stressful note and continued at that level from the first pitch to the last. Sale got the nod for Game One, naturally, and pitched as brilliantly as anyone can pitch. He allowed just one run on three hits and a walk through eight innings. His counterpart, Stephen Strasburg, was almost as brilliant, but made a mistake pitch to Carlos Santana in the very first inning and paid the price. The game went into extra innings. Mookie Betts led off the 10th with a walk, stole second, and reached third on an unfortunately-timed wild pitch. Then, with one out, David Peralta hit a ground ball to short...and I had made the crucial mistake of forgetting to bring the infield in. The run scored. Joplin won. That is how this stressful series began.

Game Two was yet another nail-biter. Clinging to a one-run lead in the ninth inning, we gave the ball to Taylor Rogers, who allowed a Mookie Betts single. Betts proceeded to steal second base, and then scored the tying run of the game on a base hit. Ramon Laureano then stepped to the plate with two outs in the ninth to face Joplin's lights-out closer, Craig Kimbrel. His RBI double gave Salem a walk-off win. It would not be their last walk-off of the postseason.

After four games, the series was tied at two games apiece. All four games were decided by just one run. The stress level was through the roof. So, naturally, Game Five was also decided by one run as well. Justin Turner's three-run blast off of Sale in the fourth inning gave the Cowtippers a 3-2 lead. Their bullpen then held that lead for the next five innings.

Compared to the previous five games, Game Six was a walk in the park. Salem broke a 3-3 tie in the third inning thanks to an RBI triple by Andrew Benintendi and an RBI double by Enrique "Kike" Hernandez. A three-run blast by Jose Ramirez off of John Brebbia in the fifth inning gave Salem a comfortable 10-5 lead. The bullpen managed to hold that lead. Salem advanced to the World Series for the sixth time in league history.

"Mustangs are this year's Team of Destiny."

-- Mike Stein, November, 2019

Charlotte's offense terrorized the league throughout the second half of the regular season and postseason. Christian Yelich (.361/.449/.670 overall, with 41 HR), Alex Bregman (.283/.371/.518, 45 2B, 30 HR), and Juan Soto (.282/.395/.490, 21 HR in only 429 AB) comprised the heart of their lineup. Jose Altuve (.325/.388/.489) and Corey Dickerson (.317/.354/.499) manned the top of the lineup. Just when you thought you made it safely through the heart of their lineup, up would come Mitch Haniger (.289/.370/.514), Adrian Beltre (.276/.328/.451), and the disappointing, but still dangerous, Anthony Rizzo (.263/.342/.425).

Charlotte continued to pound the ball in the ELCS, and won the first two games before dropping Game Three in epic fashion by a score of 11-5. Charlotte trailed 4-0 and 5-3 at different points in Game Four, and it appeared as though the Slyme would even the series. SoCal clung to a 5-4 lead heading into the ninth inning when Keone Kela served up a game-tying home run to pinch hitter Albert Almora after recording two quick outs. Sean Manaea came into the game and poured lighter fluid on that fire, allowing two singles and two doubles to the four batters he faced. Charlotte walked away with a 7-5 win.

The team with the most extra-inning wins during the regular season played into extra innings for the second time this postseason in Game Six of the ELCS. With the score tied at 4-4 in the top of the eleventh inning, Carl Edwards recorded two quick outs to start the inning before he imploded. A walk and an RBI double by Martin Maldonado put Charlotte in the lead. Jose Alvarado then took the ball for Charlotte to close it out. He retired all three batters he faced in order.

For the second time in history, and first since 2006 BDBL championship (which he won with a different franchise) Tony Chamra was heading to the BDBL World Series.

The Buffalo Bills are the most famous losers in professional sports, having failed to win a Super Bowl in four tries. The Salem Cowtippers exceeded Buffalo's famous rate of failure in 2013 by losing their fifth World Series. Employ whichever metaphor you like here. Maybe it's the monkey on the back? Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown? That guy with the fishing pole in the Geiko commercial? Take your pick. They all applied to the Cowtippers heading into this final series of the 2019 season.

When Adrian Beltre whacked a solo shot off of Strasburg in the sixth inning of Game One (the second allowed by Strasburg in that game), it wasn't exactly a surprise, but it was a deflating moment. More disappointing, however, was that Salem's bats went to sleep the rest of the game. Game One ended with Charlotte supercloser Blake Treinen setting down all six batters he faced in a row. Just like that, Salem lost Game One with a whimper, at home in front of an already-dejected Salem crowd.

As if that weren't enough of a kick in the nuts, Game Two then began with a 7-0 Charlotte lead after only two innings. That game turned into a 13-6 laugher. The Mustangs then took a two-games-to-none lead in this best-of-seven series and headed home to Charlotte.

What could possibly be more brutal than losing two games -- at home -- to start a best-of-seven series? How about being no-hit in Game Three? Charlotte ace Kyle Hendricks walked five batters to start Game Three, yet he pitched deep into the eighth inning without having allowed a single hit. With two outs, and a pitch count of 103, he was pulled from the game in favor of Xavier Cedeno. No one was happier to see him leave than I was.

Cedeno walked Jose Ramirez to start his day. Lefty Travis Shaw stepped to the plate, so I pinch hit with Christian Villanueva. Villanueva enjoyed one of the most epic seasons in league history in 2019. He stepped to the plate 154 times against left-handed pitchers and smashed 22 home runs and posted a Ruthian .882 slugging percentage against southpaws. No one was more surprised than I when that traffic light turned green. I hit the "1" key as quickly as I could and watched with absolute incredulity as Villanueva did it yet again. His three-run blast broke the game wide open and changed the course of the series.

Salem went on to win that one, and the next one as well, beating up Nick Pivetta in Game Four to tie the series at two games apiece. We then overcame a 5-0 deficit after two innings in Game Five, and scratched and clawed our way to a 7-5 win thanks to our outstanding bullpen. We went from being at the lowest of the low points of the season to being one win away from winning the motherhumping BDBL championship! And we were heading back home to Salem to boot.

Once again, we were forced to pitch a "bullpen game" when our starter, Trevor Cahill, struggled yet again to start Game Six. He allowed three runs to score before we could pull him from the game. We scored two runs in the fifth inning, but wasted one scoring opportunity after another. Then Treinen jogged in from the bullpen, and that was the end of that. Charlotte won by a score of 4-2. On to Game Seven we went.

Both sides traded punches for six innings in Game Seven. Salem scored two in the second inning. Charlotte responded with two in the fourth. Another two for Salem in the fifth. Another two for Charlotte in the sixth. For the first time in BDBL history, Game Seven went into extra innings. The problem for both teams was that we had exhausted our bullpens.

Jon Gray had a remarkable season for us in 2019, but it was mostly a smokescreen resulting from having faced only the worst teams in the league. Despite my reservations, I had little choice but to let him start the tenth inning. With one out, Christian Yelich came through with a double. With first base open, I intentionally walked Bregman to set up the double play. Pinch hitter Albert Almora singled, and Yelich was held at third. Thank god that preserved the double play, I thought.

What happened next never even crossed my mind. I brought our infield in, sacrificing the double play possibility. Too risky. At the plate stood future BDBL Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre, batting for the final time in his illustrious BDBL career. At 40 years old, his best days were far behind him. Yet, somehow, the old man had hit three home runs in the first six games of this series -- one-fifth the total he hit in all of MLB 2018. It never occurred to me that he would hit a home run in that situation. Not in my ballpark. Not off Jon Gray. Yet, that's just what happened.

A grand slam home run. Talk about a slap across the face. If the Baseball Gods had conspired to dream up a scenario that would finally prompt me to quit this game, that was it. I congratulated Tony on his second BDBL championship. I then slouched in my chair with my head in my hands and blindly tapped the "1" key over and over.

It really didn't matter who Charlotte threw on the hill for the bottom of the 10th. Any pitcher in the game of baseball -- at any level -- can hold a team to four or fewer runs in one inning. Out number one came right away on a ground ball to short. Andrew Benintendi followed with a single. Then a walk. Then another single to load the bases.

"Cute," I thought to myself. "Very cute, Baseball Gods." I could envision them holding that football, daring me to come run up to it and kick it through the goalpost. But I refused to fall for it again.

Gray was due to bat. I only had one player left on my bench, so I went with him. Evan Gattis. Gattis somehow walked, forcing home one run. Brandon Nimmo then stepped to the plate, and for a brief moment I thought he might actually tie the game with a double to the gap. I glanced at Gattis' running ratings, thinking I may need to make a decision on whether or not to send him. Imagine that: the entire season boiling down to making a baserunning decision. What better way for the Baseball Gods to torture me than to have me make the decision that costs me the Series yet again?

But Nimmo didn't hit a double. He didn't even draw a walk -- which I thought was also a strong possibility. Instead, the guy with the .900+ OPS against righties popped out to right field against a tired right-handed pitcher in the biggest situation of his life. (It's no wonder I traded him, eh?)

Up stepped Enrique "Kike" Hernandez. I like Kike a lot, but he never did much for us all season. He hit just .214 overall, and struck out a ton of times. When I saw the count at 1-2, I looked away from the screen for a moment. I didn't want to read the outcome line-by-line. When I looked back up again, it took me a moment to register what had just happened.

Then I hit the floor.

My friends, many of you know this already, but I assume some of you do not. I lost my father about a month ago. It was very unexpected and shocking and sad. Dad introduced me to the game of baseball. He gave me this incredible gift for appreciating this game that I have loved so much for as long as I can remember. He was my coach throughout Little League. He taught me "the right way to play the game." He inspired me to become a coach myself. I did my best to pass his wisdom down to my sons and the kids I coached for many years. We shared that bond right to the end. We watched one last ballgame together when the Yankees and Astros played in the Championship Series.

This league would likely not exist had my father not passed his passion for the game down to me. For this reason, I'd like to dedicate the 2019 season to my dad, Carl. He didn't care much about fantasy baseball, so we didn't talk much about the BDBL, but I think he'd appreciate the gesture. Finally winning that elusive trophy has extra significance for me this year. This one's for you, Dad.