2023: Year in Review
"Mike love[s] predicting a title for me! I don't know if he
believes it, tries to put extra pressure on me, or this is
some messed jinx he puts on my team, but he predicted me as
champion in 2021. And 2020. Oh, and 2019! All incorrect. So
take this prediction with a giant grain of salt!"
-- Jeff Paulson, 1/23
Let us all pause
for a moment to recognize and admire greatness. Winning a BDBL
championship is extremely difficult. Trust me. I know this
better than anyone. It took me six tries to win one, and that
one win happened only because of a statistically-impossible series
of events in the final game of that series. In order to win a BDBL
championship, you not only need to have a great team, but you
need to benefit from lucky breaks from that random number
generator. Some of the greatest teams in BDBL history failed to
win the trophy. And then there is Jeff Paulson.
What Jeff Paulson
has accomplished in this league is nothing short of miraculous.
He is now tied with Tom DiStefano as the only two people to ever
win five BDBL championships.
Since DiStefano had a partner in the year he won his last
championship, technically, Paulson is the first to win five BDBL
trophies all on his own. Let's tally up some of Paulson's other
achievements in his BDBL career:
Undertakers have won more games (2,433) in 25 seasons than
any other franchise in the BDBL -- and it isn't even close.
The Florida Mulligans now trail in that category by a whopping
59 wins. The Myrtle Beach Hitmen franchise has had three
winning seasons in 25 years. The Undertakers have averaged
-- averaged! -- 97 wins per season.
In the past 15
seasons alone, Los Altos has won 1,523 games. That is an
average of over 100 wins (101.5) per season. No other
team comes close. The next-highest win total belongs to the
Flagstaff franchise, which won 1,407 games during that span
-- 116 fewer wins.
Los Altos has
won 100+ games 12 times in 25 seasons. They won 98+ an
additional three times. Put it all together, and the
Undertakers have won 98 or more games in 60-percent of the
seasons they have played.
Undertakers have won 110+ games eight times. When they
finished the 2023 season with 110+ wins and a 300+ runs
differential, it marked only the 13th time that has ever
happened in BDBL history. Of those thirteen, Los Altos has
done it five times.
has won sixteen division titles. No other owner or franchise
has won more than eleven.
Undertakers have led the entire BDBL in wins nine times. No
other franchise has done this more than four times.
Los Altos owns
a mind-numbing .606 winning percentage in the postseason.
"I do not take wining for granted in any way. Nothing will
ever compare to winning that first one in 2009, but I still
get a great amount of joy from my luck and success. I have
been very, very fortunate in this league."
-- Jeff Paulson, 11/14
Jeff Paulson, once again. We do not call him the "GOAT" for
nothing. He has earned that title.
To the league, I'd like to
thank you all for another enjoyable season. We have introduced a
few new wrinkles into our league -- another farm expansion, a
live midseason draft, the despicable DH, and countless tweaks to
our rulebook -- but we always somehow manage to enjoy a smooth
season without any of the bickering and controversies we had in the early
stage of this league's existence. I thank you all for that.
I'd like to thank
the real Commissioner of this league, Tony Chamra, for all the
work he does throughout the year. He creates our schedule. He
manually enters thousands of pointless farm players into the
disk (with accurate birth dates!), just so they can be released
a few weeks later. He compiles an annual MLB stats disk from the
goodness of his heart. He somehow maintains a
super-complex-looking database of the contract statuses of every
player in the BDBL. It makes my head hurt just thinking about
how he does that. As if all that weren't enough, he also
volunteered to run the auction committee. I honestly don't know
if this league would survive without him. It would take a dozen
people to replace him.
irreplaceable, if it weren't for Tony Badger, we wouldn't have
an auction. He took over my primitive "d-Day" app, fed it some
steroids, and it has become an absolutely critical part of this
league's annual free agent signing process. Thank you, Tony.
(And now that your son has left the league, I can return to
referring to you as "Badger.")
I also need to
thank the other members of my esteemed Cabinet: our Grand Poobah
of Transactions, Jeff Paulson, our Usage Nazi, D.J. Shepard, our
God of WAR, Ian Hartner, and our Czar of Ballparks, Mike Stein.
Thanks, fellas. You all make my job as League Figurehead so much
Manny Machado was
the top offensive free agent available in the 2023 draft class.
As I wrote in the Draft Preview, it was a very weak class for
hitters, and Machado presented the lowest risk among them all.
It was considered a steal, then, when Lake Norman GM Joe Demski
won the bidding for Machado at $15 million.
(.310/.373/.557) ranked second in the EL behind only Aaron Judge
in runs created (127.3). Happ (.293/.352/.444) ranked second on
the team in runs created, with 98.1. They were joined in the
lineup by several impact players Demski acquired via trade in
2022 and the 2023 preseason: Willy Adames (the ELDS and ELCS
MVP), Brandon Drury (team leader with 35 HR), Alejandro Kirk
(starting catcher for the EL all-stars), Seiya Suzuki, and
Starling Marte. All seven players created 70+ runs in 2023.
The Monsters got
off to a hot start at 17-11, but so did their division rival
Niagara Locks, who matched that record in Chapter One. The two
teams continued to post identical records over the next two
chapters, and were tied at 45-35 (.563) heading into the
all-star break. The Monsters continued their hot pace in Chapter
Four, but the Locks stumbled at 11-13. Lake Norman then posted a
42-14 record over the final two chapters, which was the best
record in the EL over that period.
finished the regular season with 102 wins -- the most in
franchise history, and the only 100+ win season in 25 years.
"I'm glad the hardest division got harder. Seriously. I
could see 80+ wins from fourth place."
-- Brian "Skizm" Potraka, 1/23
back-to-back BDBL championships is such a difficult feat it has
only been done twice in 25 years. The Stamford Zoots notoriously
won three in a row from 1999-2001 and the Los Altos Undertakers
famously won three in a row from 2015-2017. Most normal, mortal,
teams achieve success only because they sacrifice their futures
to "go for it all" in one blinding blaze of glory. It is
extremely rare to find a team that enjoys such success two years
in a row.
Despite the odds,
the Akron Ryche seemed to have a fighting chance to make history
this year by winning back-to-back trophies. Three of the
fourteen people who voted in our preseason polls predicted the
Ryche would do just that. No other team beside the Undertakers
(with seven votes) earned more than one vote. The reason is
simple: the Ryche looked better on paper in 2023 than they did
starting rotation ranks among the best ever, but the 2023
rotation seemed even better. In 2022, Corbin Burnes won the OL
Cy Young award, and teammate Gerrit Cole placed third in the
voting. Brandon Woodruff also had a strong 2022 season. All
three returned in 2023 with equal or better MLB numbers. In addition, the rotation featured a pitcher who placed
fifth in the AL Cy Young voting in MLB, Nasty Nestor Cortes. As
if that weren't enough, GM D.J. Shepard added a fifth Cy
Young-caliber pitcher, Triston McKenzie, in a December trade
with Lake Norman.
Cortes (15-3, 2.55
ERA in 169+ IP), Woodruff (14-5, 3.33 in 164+), McKenzie (17-10,
3.73 in 207+), and Burnes (13-11, 3.35 in 217+) all fulfilled
their promises, but Cole (19-10, 4.24 in 220+) suffered
miserably during the first half of the season. He got off to a horrendous
start, going 2-4 with a 6.35 ERA in Chapter One, but picked it
up in the second half (12-2, 2.99 ERA.)
coincidentally, the Ryche struggled in the first half of the
season, barely keeping pace with the Ravenswood Infidels. At the
all-star break, the Ryche actually trailed Ravenswood by three
games. No team, however, was hotter than Akron in the second
half. They led the BDBL with a 59-21 (.738) record in the final
three chapters of the season, outpacing even the Undertakers.
contrast, fell off a cliff in the second half. They played
sub-.500 (39-41) ball over the final three chapters, lost their
lead in the division, sold off their best pitcher in a
white-flag moment of angst, lowered the white flag when the
Florida Mulligans fell into the toilet, and battled with the
Cleveland Rocks for the OL wildcard down to the final day of the
"So you're tied for first place and you send the team you're
tied with your best hitter???"
-- Tony Chamra, 7/27
The stage was all
set for the Higuera Division race to become an historic
battle between brothers. Younger brother J.D. Luhning was
considered to be the favorite to win the division, picked to win
by myself in the Preseason Preview and also by the league in a
slim 7-5 vote. Older brother Chris was considered to be the dark
horse candidate despite his role as the division's defending
The race got off
to an epic start. J.D.'s South Philly Gritty took the Chapter
One lead by one game over Chris' Kansas Law Dogs, leading the
division with a 17-11 record. The Gritty held onto that lead
through the first half of the season, leading the division by
two games over the 'Dogs as the league headed into the all-star
break. The Gritty then collapsed in Chapter Four, going just
10-14, which allowed the Law Dogs to eke ahead with a 12-12
record. That resulted in a tie for the division lead with only
two chapters left to play.
then...well...and then J.D. decided to give up the battle. In
one of the most bizarre trades in league history, a team traded
their best hitter to a team they were tied with for the division
lead...with only two chapters remaining in the season. South
Philly traded Nolan Arenado to Kansas for future considerations.
Arenado was the
Kansas MVP over the last two chapters of the season. He led the
team with 38.5 runs created and hit .332/.402/.537. Kansas went
31-25 (.554) over that stretch, led by Arenado. Oddly enough,
South Philly posted the same exact record despite the loss of
Arenado. For the first time in league history, four teams
finished the regular season tied for a playoffs spot.
"While I was hoping to get two contention years with Trout,
he had other plans and got injured for year two limiting his
PAs to 160. My thesis was solid, if you can locate the 100K
-- Lee Scholtz, 10/28
In 2018, Lee
Scholtz took over a franchise that had been battered worse than
a KFC chicken wing. Way back in 2012, my son Ryan took over the
franchise from Tony Badger. That franchise was coming off
back-to-back 100-loss seasons at the time. Ryan led that team to
a then-record 120 losses in 2012, but then somehow miraculously
turned that around in only one year, winning 91 games in 2013.
That effort, however, depleted the team's future, leading to
five straight losing seasons.
a franchise that included little except a young Cuban refugee by
the name of Yordan F'ing Alvarez, who had been acquired by Mike Ries
during the month of two that he was in charge of the franchise.
The rebuilding process for the Darien Blue Wave was painful, but
productive. The Blue Wave suffered through four losing seasons,
including three 100+ loss seasons, before finally capturing the
division title this year. Incredibly enough, it is the first
division title in this franchise's 25-year history.
When Scholtz made
the decision to sign Mike Trout to a league-record $26.5 million
salary in 2021, it was considered to be an extremely risky
decision. The only way a team can afford to spend 42% of their
total salary on one player would be to own a lot of players
performing at high levels with bare-minimum salaries. Fortunately
for Scholtz, he had amassed enough of those players to make it
The Blue Wave
faced an early challenge from the Florida Mulligans. The
Mulligans, loaded with MVP-caliber hitters (Rafael Devers,
Shohei Ohtani, Trea Turner, Mark Canha, Adley Rutschman) and Cy
Young-caliber pitchers (Ohtani, Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia)
dominated Chapter Two with a league-best 21 wins. They leap-frogged
the Blue Wave in the division and took a three-game lead after
I still cannot understand...the wheels on the Mulligans bus
completely detached and rolled down the street, never to be
found. Florida went just 12-12 in Chapter Three, allowing
the Blue Wave to take the lead in the division. Chapter Four was
a 10-14 disaster, but that was nothing compared to the 7-21
Chapter Five dumpster fire. It was the same exact team, with the
same exact players, that went 21-7 in Chapter Two. It remains as
one of the most inexplicable collapses in BDBL history.
The Blue Wave took
full advantage of Florida's historic collapse and ran away with
the division the rest of the way, easily capturing the division
title by 20 games, and becoming the first team in the BDBL to
clinch their division in 2023.
"Combine Charlotte's bullpen with a very productive top half
of the lineup, and this team might be one of those surprise
contenders. Since I'm on record here, I will predict that
will not happen. This team will finish above .500, but not
-- Mike Glander, 1/23
For two-thirds of
the 2023 regular season, the Charlotte Mustangs owned a starting
rotation comprised of Patrick Sandoval, Jose Berrios, Kyle
Hendricks, Lance McCullers, Ryan Feltner, David Peterson, and
Chris Flexen. The fact that I just had to double-click on most
of those names to learn their first names should tell you
that this is not a division-winning-caliber starting rotation.
The Diamond Mind
software, evidently, doesn't care. Quality starting pitching
doesn't seem to factor at all into the inner-workings of the DMB
brain. The Mustangs owned a 61-43 record through four
chapters of play despite their horrendous rotation. They not only led
the Hrbek Division by five games, but they owned the best record
in the entire Eck League!
At the Chapter
Five trading deadline, GM Tony Chamra added two actual decent starting
pitchers in Alek Manoah and Julio Urias. The Mustangs went 34-22
(.607) over those final two chapters to easily capture the
division title by six games. They finished with 95 wins, which
was good for the number two seed in the playoffs.
to the division title should not have been so easy. The Myrtle
Beach Hitmen were heavily-favored to win the division, with
eleven of the thirteen votes in preseason polling going their
way. The Hitmen were also the favorites to win the Eck League,
and even received one vote to win it all.
years of bumbling ineptitude by Jim Doyle, the Gill brothers
took over this historically-failed franchise in 2017. The Gill brothers added
five more losing seasons to an uninterrupted streak of seventeen
losing seasons during their painful rebuilding process. They finally
managed to break that streak in 2022, finishing with 86 wins. 2023 was supposed to be their year, finally, to win a
division title and participate in the Tournament of Randomness.
Beach struggled almost from the beginning. They went a
respectable 16-12 in Chapter One, and 17-11 in Chapter Two, but
then stunk up the joint with a 9-15 performance in Chapter
Three. They headed into the all-star break trailing the Mustangs
by five games in the division, with the Chicago Black Sox
nipping at their heels in third place.
They bounced back
with a 15-9 Chapter Four, but then stumbled again (14-14) in
Chapter Five. With one final chapter left to play, the division
title was a lost cause, with Charlotte seven games ahead and
riding a hot streak thanks to their two new aces. That left the
wildcard, where the Hitmen trailed the Niagara Locks by one
"This may be because I'm actually still in the hunt for the
championship, thus paying closer attention, but I feel this
season the wildcard races are great! Don't recall this many
teams vying this close to the end."
-- Lee Scholtz, 10/19
Niagara was a bit
of a surprise contender. They featured one of the league's
strongest lineups, which included Xander Bogaerts, Vladimir Guerrero,
Jr., and Byron Buxton, but their pitching staff ranked among the
bottom half of the league in runs allowed. Nevertheless, they
found themselves in the thick of the wildcard race until the
With only one week
remaining in the season, the Hitmen and Locks were tied for the
EL wildcard lead. The Hitmen lost three of four to the Monsters,
but the Locks were swept by the Gritty. Myrtle Beach then faced
South Philly with both the EL wildcard and the Higuera Division
title on the line. Myrtle Beach won three out of four. Kansas
then won three of four over the Locks, which effectively
eliminated the Locks from the wildcard while also setting up a
tie for the Higuera Division.
In the final days
of the season, the Gritty lost three of four to the Beamers,
which meant that the Higuera Division had come down to the very last series of the season: a
head-to-head contest between the Law Dogs and Gritty. The Gritty
took two of those first three games before losing the final game
of the season, resulting in identical 84-76 records for both
was an equally-intense battle happening for the final spot in
the OL playoffs. At the start of the final chapter, the Bear
Country Jamboree and Ravenswood Infidels were tied atop the
wildcard standings, with the Cleveland Rocks and Las Vegas
Flamingos only two games behind. By the end of the first week of
October, the Rocks had taken a one-game lead over Ravenswood.
Vegas and Florida trailed three games behind, and the Jamboree
had dropped out of contention. The Akron Ryche then took three
of four from Vegas to knock them out of contention as well.
wrapped up their season with 83 wins, which made the OL wildcard
a two-team chase between Cleveland and Ravenswood. Cleveland was
swept by the Darien Blue Wave to wrap up their season at 87
wins. The Infidels then swept the South Carolina Sea Cats, which
meant that they only needed to win four of their remaining eight
games to force a tie for the wildcard, and five to win it
On October 24th,
Cleveland manager Mike Stein wrote on the forum: "Congrats to
the Infidels. They will win five for sure." In response, the
very next day, the Infidels swept the Philly Fightin's, which
meant they needed only one win to fulfill Stein's prophecy. The
next day, however, the Akron Ryche swept the Infidels, resulting
in a tie for the OL wildcard.
For the first time
in league history, two one-game playoffs were needed to decide
the final two places in the BDBL postseason!
hyper-stressing for 160 games during the regular season, and
then getting swept in his final series of the season to force a
one-game playoff, the last thing Brian Potrafka needed was for
that one-game showdown to be stressful. A nice 10-0 shellacking in
either direction would have sufficed. Instead, he got the exact
The Infidels clung
to a slim 2-1 lead heading into the ninth. Just three outs away
from a ticket to the postseason. Pinch hitter Edwin Rios led off
with a double for Cleveland. Two batters later, Cody Bellinger
doubled him home. Tied game. The score remained tied through
nine and continued for
two more innings. Finally, mercifully, Ravenswood's Yonathan Daza delivered
the walk-off double off of Clayton Kershaw in the bottom of the
11th, sending the Infidels to the postseason.
The EL one-game
playoff between the Brothers Luhning was decidedly less
dramatic. Kansas took a 3-0 lead in the very first inning and,
thanks to the pitching of Adrian Sampson and three relievers,
coasted to an easy 5-1 win.
for winning the wildcard was facing the unstoppable Los Altos
juggernaut in the Division Series. The Infidels never had a
prayer. Los Altos pitching shut them out in both of the first
two games. After 23 straight shutout innings, Ravenswood finally
scored their first run of the series in the sixth inning of Game
Three. But they lost that game, anyway, and went on to lose the
series in five quick games.
Chris Luhning's fate was
virtually the same. Facing a red-hot Lake Norman team, the Law
Dogs lost two close games to start the Division Series, lost an
11-6 laugher in Game Three, and then lost the final game in
extra innings. Series MVP Willy Adames delivered the crushing
blow with a solo shot in the top of the tenth inning of Game
Series battle between Darien and Akron was expected to be epic,
and it mostly fulfilled expectations. Akron's pitchers held
Darien's powerful offense at bay in the first two games,
limiting them to just four runs in two games. Darien took a 3-1
lead in the top of the 12th inning of the second game, only to
blow that lead, and the game, in the bottom half of the inning.
Darien's bats finally woke up in Game Three, beating Akron by a
score of 14-3. Akron starter Gerrit Cole, who was red-hot in the
second half, reverted to his first-half self throughout the
Behind the stellar
pitching of Tony Gonsolin, the Blue Wave managed to tie the
series by shutting out the Ryche in Game Four. The Darien
bullpen then imploded again in Game Five, blowing a 4-3 lead by
allowing two runs in the top of the ninth. That bullpen then
repeated the feat in the final game of the series, blowing
a 7-5 lead by allowing Akron to score three runs in the bottom
of the ninth. Joey Meneses delivered the crushing blow with a
pinch hit two-run blast and Jesse Winker finished them off with
a walk-off RBI single.
story of the 2023 Myrtle Beach Hitmen came to an end with the
Hitmen turning back into pumpkins. The Charlotte Mustangs swept
the Hitmen right out of the playoffs with little effort, winning
the first two games by two runs each, and the second two by five
The sucky version of Gerrit Cole reared his ugly head once again in the OLCS. He
allowed six runs (five earned) in his Game One loss, and then
did it again (six runs, all earned) in Game Five. Meanwhile, his
opponent, series MVP Shane Bieber, tossed 13+ innings in the
series and allowed just one run. Akron managed to win Game Two
thanks to the pitching of Corbin Burnes, but were shut out in
Games One and Four. The Undertakers easily coasted to their
sixth World Series.
In the ELCS, the
top-seeded team won yet again, as the Monsters cruised past the
Mustangs. For the second playoff series in a row, Willy Adames
emerged as the MVP of the series, clubbing three homers in five
games. Charlotte won the third game of the series thanks to the
pitching of Sandoval, but it was the only game of the series
where the Monsters scored fewer than four runs. Joe Demski, in
only his third BDBL season, then headed to the World Series.
The Kid versus The
GOAT. It was the match-up that was destined to be. Incredibly
enough, it was the Kid who landed the first punch. Jose Quintana
and three Monsters relievers somehow managed to keep the
league's second-most potent offense off the board in Game One
with a 3-0 shutout. Sadly, it would be the last moment of joy
worth cheering for Monsters fans.
Los Altos flipped
the script in Game Two, shutting out the Monsters by a score of
4-0 behind the pitching of their winter auction acquisition, Max
Scherzer. Los Altos then took the series lead with a resounding
10-6 win in Game Three.
Game Four was an
instant classic. With Lake Norman's bullpen running on fumes,
they needed their starter, Joe Ryan, to go far in the game.
However, after a series of back-and-forth punches were landed by
both teams, Ryan was sent to the showers in the fifth. Los Altos
pinch hitter Sam Haggarty tied the game with his eighth inning
home run. Eventually, the game was forced into extra innings.
closer, Daniel Bard, was forced to throw more than three innings
and 62 pitches due to the strained bullpen situation, and yet he
got the job done, allowing no runs. Because of his efforts, the
game extended all the way into the 14th inning, where Kyle
Tucker came through with a two-run single at the top of the
inning. The drama wasn't over, however. Los Altos closer
Emmanuel Clase allowed a run to score and then loaded the bases
before enticing star free agent Manny Machado to ground out to
end the game.
As if that game
hadn't provided enough excitement and drama, Game Five then went
into extra innings as well. A pair of singles and a sac fly in
the bottom of the ninth tied the game and forced extras. With
the bullpen still depleted, Lake Norman then handed the ball to
starter Merrill Kelly in the top of the tenth. After a walk,
series MVP Kyle Tucker delivered a two-run homer to put Los
Altos in the lead. Matt Moore then closed it out with a
three-up, three-down bottom of the tenth.
"Get a life!"
-- Billy Baseball
I hate to end this
year's review on such a down note, but I would be remiss if I
wrote a summary of all that has happened this year without
mentioning the passing of my lifelong friend,
Billy "Baseball" Romaniello.
Without Billy, it's quite possible the BDBL wouldn't exist. I
can't quite remember which one of us came up with the idea, way
back in 1982, to form a baseball league based on a computer
simulation, but I'll give him credit since I'm not that
imaginative. And if I hadn't formed that league, who knows if it
would have ever occurred to me to form another.
Thanksgiving Day, when it's your turn to tell everyone around
the dinner table what you are thankful for, in addition to
expressing gratitude for the BDBL as you would normally do, say
a word of thanks to Billy as well.
I miss you, buddy.
Rest in peace.