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.
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,
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
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.)
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
Glander, January, 2019
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
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
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
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."
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
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!
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.
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!"
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!"
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
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.
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
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
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
expecting this at all. When I saw I had a private message
from Bobby I thought it was about a trade for next year."
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
"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!"
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!"
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.
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
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."
Stein, November, 2019
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.