O F F I C
I A L S I T E O F T H E B I G D A D D
Y B A S E B A L L L E A G U E
BDBL: 10 Years in the Making
Confederates in a
962 (2nd all-time) Playoff appearances: 8 Division titles: 6 League titles: 4 Championship titles: 4 100-win seasons: 3 100-loss seasons: 0 Franchise RC leader: David Ortiz Franchise wins leader: Kevin Brown
Paul Marazita was a Harvard-educated corporate attorney who
was a long-time friend of BDBL founder Mike Glander. Back in the
late 80's and early 90's, Marazita and Glander enjoyed an intense
rivalry in a fantasy sim league called the "Computer Baseball League," which
used SSI's "Computer Baseball" and Earl Weaver Baseball as its
sim engine. In his four years as owner of a franchise called the "Zoots,"
Marazita developed a reputation (fairly or unfairly) for exploiting
loopholes in the rulebook and software, violating unwritten rules of
conduct, making severely lopsided trades that benefited his team
immensely, and enjoying massive success as a result. In nine CBL seasons, Marazita
won three of the last four league championships. He would add four* more championships to that impressive resume in just five and a
half seasons in the BDBL.
Marazita's intense competitive spirit
made it a certainty that he would be looking to compete in the BDBL
immediately. When Marazita's first pick of the draft came at pick #8
overall, he didn't hesitate to select the best pitcher on the board,
regardless of his age or upside: Kevin Brown. At 34 years old,
Brown was arguably among the top three pitchers in the game of baseball
-- if not the top. And in the league's first season, Brown
was a true workhorse: 36 games, 14 complete games, 283+ innings, only 49
walks, 258 strikeouts, only 10 home runs allowed, and an ERA of 2.35.
He went 23-5 on the season and finished a very close second (just two
points) to Salem's Greg Maddux in the OL Cy Young voting.
Next, he filled the middle of his
lineup with two established veteran power hitters, Rafael Palmeiro and
Jim Edmonds. Both enjoyed outstanding seasons, Palmeiro hitting
.297/.367/.546 with 37 home runs and 120 RBIs, and Edmonds hitting
.294/.342/.497 with 27 homers and 93 RBIs. Slick-fielding Omar
Vizquel was then selected to fill the top of the lineup, and John
Wetteland was Marazita's final $5 million selection, filling the vital
role of closer.
By the time he was finished, Marazita
had built a very strong team that was top-heavy with star power at all
the key positions. In the league's first season preview, the Zoots
were picked to finish in second place behind the Antioch Angels, but
were picked to win the OL wild card:
Strengths: Kevin Brown pitching every fourth game, Palmeiro and
Edmonds providing punch from the left side along with stellar
defense, Vizquel at short, bullpen depth. Weaknesses: lack of
offensive punch beyond Palmeiro and Edmonds, questionable staff
beyond Brown (Arrojo, Rosado, Clark and no number-five.) On the
horizon: Ruben Rivera, Mike Lowell, Angel Pena, Darryl Ward, Emil
Surprisingly, however, the Zoots got
off to a very slow start, and went just 10-15 in the first chapter,
while the Angels bolted out of the gate with a record of 15-10. It
didn't take long, however, for the Zoots to turn it around. They
wrapped up the second chapter with a record of 21-9, and pulled within
two games of Antioch.
Another former member of the CBL, New Milford Blazers GM Billy Romaniello
had lost more games than any other owner in the league.
And after two chapters in the new BDBL, in which his team had gone an
astounding 14-41, it appeared that little had changed in the past eight
years. Just two chapters into a brand new season, Romaniello found
himself in the unenviable position of rebuilding for the future.
Sensing an opportunity to shore up his team's main weakness (its
starting rotation), Marazita made a bid for Romaniello's #1 draft pick,
At the time, Johnson was 34 years old,
and had just been traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks the previous year.
He had suffered through some back problems two years before, and had
endured some well-documented attitude problems prior to his trade in
1998 from Seattle, but he had enjoyed a good month of April in MLB, and
appeared to be both happy and healthy in his new home. In fact, he would enjoy perhaps
the best season of his MLB career in 1999.
In addition to his immense talent,
Johnson also carried a $10 million salary. At the time of the
trade, it was considered a bold move for Marazita to add another $10
million player to his roster, as many teams wondered how a team could
afford to carry two players earning seven-figure salaries.
In exchange for Johnson, Marazita
offered two players: Jose Rosado and Darryle Ward. Rosado was just
24 years old, and was coming off an MLB season in which he'd posted a
4.69 ERA in over 170 innings for the second straight year. At just
$3 million in salary, Rosado was $7 million cheaper than Johnson, which
was undoubtedly a major selling point in the negotiation. Ward was
also just 24 years old, and was considered to be a budding power hitter.
And at only $100,000 in salary, he was another potential building
block for the Blazers.
After making his first trade, Marazita
became the center of controversy for the first of many times throughout
his BDBL career. If the trade had involved only those three
players, it is likely there would have been no controversy at all. But
Marazita's decision to include two of New Milford's draft picks became a
sticking point for critics. At the time, the #1 draft pick was
awarded to the team with the worst record in the league; and given
New Milford's performance to that point, they were nearly guaranteed to
own that pick. It was thought that the two most valuable draft
picks, then, were New Milford's second and sixth round picks, as those
would be the first picks of the $5 million and $3 million rounds.
Marazita convinced Romaniello to throw in both picks in addition to
Johnson, and the league erupted in protest.
It would be safe to assume that the
Johnson trade changed the fate of the Zoots franchise for the next three
years. Johnson went 11-7 for Stamford down
the stretch, with an ERA of 4.42 over 169+ innings. Eventually, he
would play a major role in the playoffs. But more importantly, he
would play a major role in the next two seasons, as he would win back-to-back OL Cy Young awards in 2000 and 2001.
Making matters worse from the
standpoint of Marazita's reputation, neither of the two players received
by the Blazers in this trade ever came close to approaching Johnson's
status as an impact player. Rosado pitched
just two more seasons in the big leagues -- and one of those seasons, he
only threw 27.2 innings. And Ward never lived up to the hype, as
he totaled just 585 plate appearances over the next four seasons before
the Blazers paid a penalty of $1.6 million to release him from the final
year of his contract Meanwhile, the two controversial draft picks acquired
by Marazita were later flipped for Eric Davis (.358/.410/.618 in 134 PAs
for Stamford), Ramiro Mendoza and eventual OLCS MVP Luis Alicea.
Despite the addition of Johnson, the
Zoots stumbled once again in Chapter Three, going 12-12 to fall five
games behind Antioch at the all-star break. But in Chapter Four,
the Angels inexplicably slumped with a league-worst record of 9-18,
while the Zoots went 18-9 to capture sole possession of first place for
the first time all season.
The Angels gained two games in the
standings with a 17-7 Chapter Five, which set the stage for a dramatic
Chapter Six showdown. And as they always seemed to do, the Zoots
rose to the occasion, going 19-9 in the final chapter to clinch their
first division title. They finished with a record of 97-63 --
seven full games ahead of the Angels.
Toward the end of that season, Marazita
made the crucial mistake of exceeding the maximum-allowed playing limits
for two key players: Brown and #3 starter Rolando Arrojo (18-9, 3.69 ERA in 227 IP.) The penalty at the time was that both players would
be suspended for the Division Series. Without those two, Stamford
had no chance of advancing past the first round of the playoffs.
But Marazita's friend in the Commissioner's Office stepped in at the
last minute and
introduced an ad-hoc amendment to the league's constitution, allowing teams to
keep players on the Division Series roster by paying a penalty of
$500,000 per player.
Appropriately enough, just as they had
done eight years earlier, Marazita then
faced off against his old nemesis, Glander, in the BDBL's first playoff
series. Glander's Salem Cowtippers jumped all over the Zoots in the first game
of the Division Series, pounding Brown and the Stamford bullpen for 11 runs on 18
hits. But Stamford bounced right back in Game Two with a 4-2 win,
thanks to the pitching of Johnson, who struck out 11 batters in 5+
innings. In Game Three, it was Stamford's turn to do the pounding,
as they crushed Salem by a score of 10-2. And in a best-of-five
series, this meant they were just one win away from advancing to the
That task appeared to be much easier
when, after throwing just 24 pitches, Salem's ace, Greg Maddux, was
ushered out of the game with a stiff arm following a rain delay.
But the Salem bullpen stepped up and pitched seven innings of shutout
ball in relief, forcing a fifth and final game.
Once again, Stamford turned to Johnson.
And once again, Johnson delivered, allowing just three hits and two
walks through seven innings, with seven K's. With a 2-2 tie in the
eighth inning, Palmeiro launched a two-run blast off of a tiring Maddux,
and Wetteland then retired the final four batters of the game in order
to secure the series win.
Stamford's OLCS opponent would be the
Litchfield Lightning, who shocked the league by beating the
heavily-favored Los Altos Undertakers in the Division Series. For
the second series in a row, Marazita faced one of his long-time friends
and former rivals in the old CBL. Phil Geisel's Lightning
continued to surprise by winning the first game of the series by a score
of 5-2, as David Cone out-pitched Brown. In Game Two, however,
Arrojo combined with three other pitchers to eke out a 1-0 victory.
The two teams continued to battle
back-and-forth, with Litchfield taking Game Three by a convincing score
of 8-4, while Stamford eked out another one-run victory (2-1) in Game
Four. The two teams then traded wins over the next two games,
forcing a deciding Game Seven.
In the pantheon of unlikely heroes in
the post-season, Luis Alicea deserves to be ranked right up there with
Bucky Dent, Bill Mazeroski and Aaron Boone. Alicea, who had been
acquired in exchange for one of the Blazers' draft picks in the Johnson trade, hit
just .180 for the Zoots in just 70 plate appearances during the regular
season. But with the Lightning turning to lefty Denny Neagle in
Game Seven, Marazita made the prescient decision not only to include
Alicea in the lineup, but to bat him leadoff. Alicea responded by
hitting two solo home runs. It would be the only two runs scored
by Stamford in their 2-1 victory.
The Zoots then advanced to the league's
first World Series, where they faced the Southern Cal Slyme. The Slyme were
the heavy favorites, having dominated the Eck League throughout the '99
season. But the Zoots went right after them, winning the first
game by a score of 9-5. With the series tied at two games apiece,
the Slyme then won a 12-inning marathon in Game Five, thanks to a grand
slam by Tino Martinez.
But with the Zoots now one game away
from elimination, they once again rose to the occasion. And once
again, it was their starting pitching that stepped up their game.
Brown pitched one of the best games in BDBL post-season history in Game
Six, tossing a complete game two-hitter. He allowed just three
base runners the entire game, and struck out nine batters in a 4-1
Stamford win. Then, in Game Seven, Marazita handed the ball to his
big mid-season trade acquisition, Johnson. And Johnson once again
stepped up in the clutch, tossing seven shutout innings, and striking
out 10 batters in seven innings, as the Zoots cruised to a 3-0 victory.
The Stamford Zoots became the first league champions of the BDBL.
Having captured the first championship in BDBL history, Marazita was hungry to win another.
With Brown and Johnson returning to the starting rotation, and Palmeiro
(.310/.419/.569, 38 HR, 145.8 RC) returning to the lineup, the Zoots were favored to win their division before the winter free agent
signing period even began. According to the season preview, the
2000 season appeared to be over before it began:
Outlook: When you
get right down to it, is there really any reason why we should go
through the motions and play out this season? The fate of the 2000
season was sealed the moment Marazita shipped off Jose Rosado for
Johnson last season. The Zoots will face some stiff competition in
the Ozzie League, especially in their division, but in the end -
barring a miracle - they'll end the regular season exactly where
they were last year.
True to form, the Zoots sprinted out of
the gate with the best record in the division (15-9) in Chapter One.
And by the all-star break, they sported the second-best record in the
Ozzie League at 46-29 -- three games ahead of the Mimes in the Butler
After four chapters of laying low,
Marazita made his big move at the final trading deadline of the season.
In exchange for Mike Cameron, John Halama and a draft pick, Marazita
added a third ace to his pitching staff in John Smoltz. And for
the second year in a row, he found himself the center of yet another
controversy, as many felt that the package of players traded by Marazita
wasn't nearly enough to land an ace like Smoltz. Marazita defended his
trade by pointing out the potential future value of Cameron and Halama
in relation to only a few chapters worth of production from Smoltz.
As expected, Smoltz was dominant down
the stretch, going 7-5 with a 2.78 ERA in 107 innings over the final two
chapters. Because Smoltz missed the entire 2000 MLB season due to
injury, he would be released at the end of the season without penalty.
By adding a third ace starter to his rotation, the Zoots now appeared
As for the players traded by Marazita
in that deal, Cameron played two more years under contract, posting an
OPS of 778 in 2001 and 836 in 2002. Halama pitched four more
seasons under contract, going 14-22 with a 4.23 ERA in 384+ innings.
In addition to Smoltz, Johnson and
Brown each had a phenomenal season.
Brown went 20-12 on the season with a 3.15 ERA, but his greatest
asset was his endurance. He pitched 40 games on the season (36 as
a starter), and tossed 277.1 innings, allowing just 224 hits and 66
walks, while striking out 243. But as great as Brown was, Johnson
was far better. In 46 games (39 as a starter), Johnson went 23-9
with a 2.59 ERA. And as durable as Brown was, Johnson was even
more durable, as he threw nearly 300 innings (298.2) in 46 games (39 as
a starter.) In those 298+ innings, he allowed just 215 hits (an
average of 6.5/9) and struck out an inconceivable 433 batters.
Johnson easily walked away with his first of many BDBL Cy Young awards
(with 17 first-place votes out of 18), while Brown finished #2 in the Cy
Young race with 13 second-place votes.
Yet, as dominant as the Zoots should
have been that season, they were nearly shut out of the playoff picture
altogether. With the Litchfield Lightning and Los Altos
Undertakers each winning more than 100 games in the Griffin Division,
the wild card was already locked up when the Zoots and Fighting Mimes
met for the final series of the season with identical records. A
split series would have forced a one-game playoff, while three wins by
either team would mean the playoffs for one team and the end of the
season for the other.
To the chagrin of Madison owner
Brian Hicks, this crucial series -- like nearly every away series
throughout Marazita's tenure -- was played by Marazita against Hicks' MP.
This gave Marazita a tremendous advantage, and forced Hicks to await the
fate of his season from the sidelines.
Stamford took the first two games of the series to clinch the tie, and
then lost the third game. The Zoots took a 4-2 lead into the ninth inning of the
final game, and then
tacked on four more in the ninth. Madison rallied for four runs
off of Smoltz (pitching in relief), but fell short. Stamford
clinched their second division title in a row by just one game.
Marazita and Geisel faced each other
for the second year in a row in the Division Series, and Geisel's
Lightning shocked the world when Pete Harnisch out-pitched Randy Johnson
in Game One. But Brown then pitched a complete-game five-hit
shutout in Game Two to even the series. After exchanging blows in
the next two games, the best-of-five series came down to a deciding Game
Five, with Brown taking the mound against Harnisch.
The Lightning took a 5-2 lead in the
top of the sixth inning, thanks to a three-run homer by rookie Lance
Berkman. But Harnisch ran out of gas in the bottom half of the
inning, and reliever Rheal Cormier couldn't stop the bleeding.
Stamford scored four times (three on a two-out base hit by lefty
Palmeiro off of the lefty Cormier) and took a 5-4 lead. Marazita
then turned the game over to John Wetteland in the seventh, Yorkis Perez
(a pitcher who compiled a CERA of 6.03 during the regular season) in the
eighth, and Bobby "Shotgun" Chouinard in the ninth to close out the
Next, the Zoots faced the Los Altos
Undertakers in the OLCS. The Undertakers won 104 games
during the regular-season and outscored their opposition by 222 runs, but they were no match for Stamford in Games One and Two, as they scored
a grand total of one run against Stamford pitching. Los Altos took
the next two games to even the series, but Johnson once again stepped up
in Game Five to give Stamford the series lead.
Then, in Game Six, Marazita handed the
ball to Brown, against Los Altos ace Ismael Valdes. As in 1999, Marazita
elected to employ a three-man rotation throughout the post-season, and
for that reason, Brown was pulled
after just 5.2 innings of shutout pitching. A collection of arms that included Yorkis
Perez, Donne Wall, Chouinard, C.J. Nitkowski and John Johnstone (a
pitcher who hadn't thrown a single pitch for Stamford during the regular
season, and was acquired at the last minute in exchange for a third-round draft pick that was never used) proceeded to shut down the Los
Altos offense for the final 3 1/3 innings of the game.
In the end, Stamford pitching had held
the powerful Los Altos offense to a .232/.294/.374 average. And
the Undertakers' best hitter (and MVP candidate) Albert Belle went just
1-for-17 (.059) in the series. For the second year in a row, the
Stamford Zoots were heading to the BDBL World Series.
The Zoots' opponent in that series were the
Chicago Black Sox, who had set a new BDBL record that season by going
106-54 with an astonishing 987 runs scored. The Black Sox wasted
no time establishing their dominance by winning the first
three games of the series.
Down three games to none in a best-of-seven series,
Marazita resigned himself to the fact that it just wasn't his year.
Despite planning to play just three games that night, Marazita instead
agreed to continue playing until the series ended. Little did
anyone realize that the end wouldn't come until early the next morning.
It began with an 8-2 Stamford win in
Game Four, where Smoltz allowed just one hit on four runs through seven
innings. In Game Five, it was Brown's turn to dominate, while the
Stamford offense pounded out seven runs on ten hits against Chicago's
ace, Todd Ritchie. Then, in Game Six, it was once again Johnson's
turn to rise to the occasion in the post-season: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5
K. With a slight 3-1 lead in the fifth inning, Marazita gambled by
pinch hitting for Johnson after he'd thrown just 68 pitches. Pinch
hitter Michael Tucker grounded into a double play, and the Zoots failed
to capitalize on an opportunity to put the game away.
But once again, the Stamford bullpen
stepped up. Wall tossed two perfect innings, followed by Perez and
Johnstone, who each pitched a hitless inning as well. And just
like that, the Zoots had turned a three-games-to-none deficit into a
Game Seven showdown.
Once again pitching on three days'
rest, Smoltz took the hill against Al Leiter at nearly 3:00am Eastern
time. Stamford jumped on top with two runs in the second inning.
Meanwhile, Chicago's highly-accomplished offense failed to score a
single run against Smoltz and the Stamford bullpen. Final score:
Stamford 3, Chicago 0.
With Johnson and Brown
returning to the Stamford rotation in 2001, and Edgardo Alfonzo, Palmeiro and Ordonez
returning for the third straight year, the Zoots were favored not only
to repeat as division winners, but were predicted to win their third
BDBL championship in a row.
In addition to Johnson
(24-6, 4.39 ERA in 258+ IP, 348 K's) and Brown (16-8, 2.95 ERA in 235+
IP, 204 K's), Marazita added pitcher Rick Helling (17-11, 4.69 ERA in
226+ IP overall) in a pre-season trade with the
Gillette Swamp Rats. Gillette received Angel Pena and Chouinard in exchange for their #2
draft pick (the sixth pick of the second round, who turned out to be
Helling.) Pena was then released two weeks later on Cutdown Day,
while Chouinard (who pitched just 28 innings in 2001) was given a
one-year contract. It was just the latest in a litany of odd
trades that reinforced Marazita's reputation for making lopsided traded.
His ability to convince his fellow
GMs to make trades that didn't seem to benefit them in any way led to
speculation that Marazita
must have possessed Jedi mind trick powers. The joke stuck, and he
would eventually earn the nickname "Dark Sith" or "Darth Vader."
Stamford jumped out to an impressive 17-11
record in Chapter One, with the Bear Country Jamboree
and Madison Fighting Mimes trailing close behind. By the one-third mark of
the season, Stamford's lead in the division had grown to three games over the
Jamboree. And by the all-star break, the lead had grown to
an insurmountable 11 games, as the Zoots went 21-5 in Chapter Three.
Throughout the first half of the
season, Marazita continued to add role players to his arsenal in
preparation for the short series playoffs. Prior to Chapter Two,
Marazita added Brian Bohanon from the rebuilding Allentown Ridgebacks
organization in exchange for prospect Kip Wells. He also
upgraded the third spot in his rotation that chapter, sending Helling to
the Black Sox in exchange for Ryan Dempster. The following
chapter, he acquired lefty-masher Bubba Trammell in exchange for
Masaoka and a #2 farm pick. And Lou Pote was added from the
Atlanta Fire Ants in exchange for Alex Graman.
Bohanon, Dempster, Trammell and Pote
would all play major roles for Stamford in the 2001 post-season, while none of the
players traded by Marazita during that time would ever play useful
roles for any team. As each and every trade was announced,
howls of protest would erupt
again and again on the BDBL forum. Rival GMs complained of unfair
trading, and Marazita continued to defend himself by attacking others for making similar trades.
On June 13th, controversy erupted once
again. In a blockbuster 10-player trade with the Marlboro
Hammerheads, Marazita added several impact players, including OL
all-star starting right fielder Tim Salmon, slugger Phil Nevin, Mark
Loretta and two quality relievers (Tom Martin and Mike Fetters.) In exchange, the Zoots parted
with veterans Rusty Greer and Mike Lowell, plus prospects Matt Ginter,
Mike DeJean and Sean Lowe.
"If we win, [the deal] was good,"
stated Marazita in his typically understated fashion. "If we don't,
it was bad. What do you guys want from me?"
Salmon (.304/.426/.540, 13 HR, 42 RBIs
in 73 G), Nevin (.316/.390/.545, 12 HR, 35 RBI in 67 G), Loretta
(.269/.355/.358 in 67 AB) and Fetters (2.19 ERA in 24+ IP) each made a
significant impact on the Zoots down the stretch, adding to a team that
was already dominating the league.
Greer played just one more season
(posting a 751 OPS in 82 ABs) under contract. Lowell played two
more seasons under contract, posting OPS's of 708 and 725 over the next
two years. And Ginter, DeJean and Lowe played minor roles pitching
in middle relief over the next two seasons.
As dominant as the Zoots were
throughout the first half of the season, they were even more dominant in
the second half, going 57-23 -- a .712 winning percentage. And
they wrapped up the season in convincing fashion by going 22-6 in
Chapter Six. In the end, Stamford owned a record of 112-48,
establishing a new BDBL record for wins. They posted a record of
47-33 at home (.587 winning percentage) and a difficult-to-fathom 65-15 record
(.813) on the road.
Stamford's home/road splits were
historically lopsided, and were a focus of
a great deal of speculation.
Through the first four and a half seasons, Stamford owned a .743 winning
percentage on the road, and a .545 percentage at home -- a difference of
nearly 200 points. The other 23 teams in the BDBL went .473 at
home and .514 on the road during the same time. Because Marazita
managed nearly 100% of his away games against an MP, a slight advantage
on the road was to be expected. However, that 200-point margin was
something that would raise a lot of questions throughout his career.
Stamford carried their regular-season
momentum right into the post-season and continued to roll right over the
Litchfield Lightning and Salem Cowtippers in the OLDS and OLCS.
With a lineup that included Joe Oliver or Fernando Seguignol batting in
the cleanup spot, and filled with the likes of Chad Curtis, Brad Ausmus
and Henry Rodriguez, the Zoots simply out-slugged the Lightning in the Division Series,
hitting .306/.390/.517 as a team, and outscoring them 34-23 en
route to a convincing four-games-to-one series victory.
The Cowtippers had entered the OLCS
with one of the most dominating lineups in BDBL history -- a lineup that
included six players with .300+ batting averages, six players with .400+
OBPs and six players with .500+ slugging percentages. But the entire lineup stopped hitting all at once against Stamford pitching. Zoots pitching held the Salem lineup to a .220/.308/.311 team average,
and the Cowtippers scored just nine runs in four games, as Stamford
swept the series.
As good as the Cowtippers offense was
in 2001, the Kansas Law Dogs offense was the stuff of legend. As a
team, Kansas established several BDBL records that may never be broken:
a .321 batting average, a .398 OBP, .580 slugging, 364 home runs and 1,282
runs scored. But in the first game of the World Series, playing in
Kansas' home ballpark (modeled after legendary hitter's park Coors
Field), it was the Zoots who came out on top in an 8-5 extra-innings
In Game Two, Johnson pitched
brilliantly (5 IP, 1 R, 9 K) despite the high altitude. But
uncharacteristically, the Stamford bullpen couldn't hold the lead, as
Fetters allowed a walk-off three-run homer to Miguel Tejada with two
outs in the bottom of the ninth.
When the series shifted to Stamford,
Kansas starter Rick Reed pitched a complete-game gem to give the Law
Dogs the series lead. Stamford then flipped that 6-1 score in Game
Four, as Kevin Brown and the Stamford bullpen held the 'Dogs to just one
run on five hits.
In Game Five, Kansas pounded out five
runs in the top of the first off of Johnson, and held onto that lead to
put them one game away from winning the BDBL championship. But yet
again, the Stamford team stepped up in the clutch. Clinging to a
3-3 tie in the eighth inning of Game Six, the Zoots scored TWELVE runs
in the inning to win a laugher by the score of 15-3, and force a Game
Seven. Then, with a 6-5 lead heading into the ninth inning of Game
Seven, Stamford put the series away by scoring six runs in the top of
the inning to close out their third straight BDBL championship with a
The odds of any team winning three
championships in a row are staggering. And yet, Paul Marazita had
defied the odds. In the league's first three seasons, Marazita had
walked away with the league championship in each and every season.
For some, it felt as though this streak would never end.
And yet, after everything Marazita had
accomplished, he was far from satisfied.
Before the first pitch of the OLCS had even been thrown, Marazita had
already negotiated a trade for the 2002 season that would rock the
league once again. It was a trade that many still consider to be
the most lopsided trade in the history of the league. And
according to Marazita's account of the negotiations, it is a trade that
was initiated by Manchester Irish Rebels GM Jim Doyle.
Doyle took over the Irish Rebels
franchise prior to the 2000 season, and had suffered through two
last-place finishes (with 98 and 104 losses) prior to this trade.
At that point in his evolution, Doyle decided that his top priority
heading into the 2002 season was shedding salary. And for reasons
that will always be a mystery, he decided the best way to shed that
salary was to simply give away his best hitter, Chipper Jones. To
the chagrin of the league, he tapped the three-time champion to be the
benefactor of this kindness. At the time,
Jones was a 30-year-old perennial all-star who owned a
relatively-bargain salary of $8 million in 2002, and signed for four
additional years at $9.5M, $10M, $10M and $10M.
For the Zoots, Jones would hit
.279/.379/.516 with 123.9 runs created in 2002, and .372/.468/.539 with
147.7 runs created in 2003. And in exchange for this MVP
candidate, Marazita parted with pitcher Ryan Dempster. Not only did Dempster
perform poorly for the Irish Rebels (a 4.68 CERA in 170+ innings), but
he was a free agent following the 2002 season, and thus had no future
value to the Manchester franchise.
Once again, Marazita found himself in
the midst of yet another firestorm. The
trade was so lopsided that Marazita's defense of the trade (which he
attempted to turn into a debate over Pedro Astacio) fell short, and he
eventually gave up the battle. But the controversy didn't end there. Shortly after winning his
third straight championship, Marazita traded Nevin and prospect Wascar
Serrano to the Phoenix Predators in exchange for Trot Nixon and their #2
draft pick. He then swapped that pick, along with prospects Nick
Johnson and D'Angelo Jiminez, in exchange for reigning AL Cy Young
winner Roger Clemens, all-star center fielder Jim Edmonds and two draft
The Clemens trade was labeled "the most
ludicrous, lopsided trade ever made in fantasy baseball history" by an
hysterical Commissioner Glander; to which Marazita replied with a "no
comment" before launching into a diversionary debate over prospects that
had nothing to do with the Clemens trade. It was just one of
hundreds of similar debates/arguments typical of Marazita's tenure in the BDBL.
2001 marked the end of an era in
Stamford, as Johnson became a free agent after winning two straight OL
Cy Young awards, and Brown (now 37 years old) was reduced to part-time
status due to an injury he suffered during the 2001 MLB season.
But the addition of Clemens immediately filled one of those holes at the top of
the rotation, and the unexpected emergence of Mark Buehrle as an elite
starting pitcher gave Stamford yet another strong starting rotation.
Buehrle had been picked up during the
Chapter Five transaction period in 2000 as a farm player. At the
time, the 21-year-old lefty had compiled a 3.10 lifetime ERA in two
minor league seasons, and by the time he was acquired, he had already
logged 16 innings in the major leagues, pitching mostly in relief. Marazita was hoping Buehrle would be an inexpensive addition to his 2001
bullpen, with some upside potential to be a decent mid-rotation starter.
Instead, Buehrle soon became the ace of the Stamford pitching staff.
With Buehrle and Clemens topping the
rotation, a strong bullpen led by farm product Byun-Hyung Kim
(affectionately dubbed "Bung-Hole" by Marazita), and a
powerful lineup led by the newly-added Jones and Edmonds, the Zoots were
picked to win their division for the fourth straight year. They
wasted no time re-establishing their dominance of the division, going
17-11 in Chapter One to open the season.
After three seasons of playing in
Stamford's shadow, the Madison Fighting Mimes felt as though they were
finally in a position to overthrow the champs in 2002. And by the
end of two chapters, the two teams were tied atop the standings.
In Chapter Three, however, Stamford rolled to a league-best 19-7 record
while Madison stumbled with a 12-14 record, giving the Zoots a
seven-game lead over Madison at the all-star break.
The division race was all but over at
that point. Stamford ran away with the division, going 104-56, while
Madison was forced to settle for the wild card with a 91-69 record.
Stamford was then charged with facing the Cowtippers once again in the
first round of the playoffs. But this time, Salem GM Mike Glander
came prepared with a plan to finally end Stamford's streak of playoff
Throughout the 2000-2002 seasons, Marazita
enjoyed tremendous success by loading his roster with
hitters who excelled against either left-handed or right-handed pitching in
a small number of at-bats during the prior MLB
season. These players were dubbed "Short-Usage Superstars" (or
SUS's.) In the 2000 playoffs, Marazita fielded a lineup that
included career reserve outfielder Luis Polonia batting in the cleanup
spot. In 2001, short-usage players such as Chad Curtis, Fernando
Seguignol, Ken Caminiti, Henry Rodriguez and Joe Oliver occupied one of
the first five spots in the batting lineup for the world champions.
In an attempt to counteract this
strategy, Glander deliberately
loaded his pitching staff with players with "reverse splits"
in order to neutralize the platoon advantage. Glander's master
plan appeared to backfire in Game One, when the Zoots took a 6-4 lead in
the third inning against Salem's ace, Brad Penny. Penny would
allow seven runs in just 4 2/3 innings, but the Cowtippers fought back
with a seventh inning rally against Kim, and won the game by a score of
In Game Two, Salem took a 3-2 lead in
the fourth inning, and that lead stuck, as the Salem bullpen pitched 6
1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Stamford won the third game
behind the pitching of resurrected ace Brown, but Salem then took Game
Four as John Thomson and four Salem relievers held the Zoots offense to
just two hits through nine scoreless innings. Stamford fought back
to tie Game Five in the seventh inning, but Salem then rallied for seven
runs in the top of the ninth.
After several failed attempts in both the CBL and BDBL,
Glander finally succeeded in ousting Marazita from the playoffs picture.
For the first time in seven series, the Stamford Zoots finally lost a
Marazita wasted little time building
another contender for the 2003 season. That winter, he made what
could be considered his greatest trade, dealing
skinny right-hander Juan Cruz to the Wapakoneta Hippos in exchange for a
young catcher by the name of Joe Mauer. While Cruz would never
become the "Pedro Martinez clone" some envisioned him to be, Mauer
became a perennial all-star, and the face of the franchise for more than
The BDBL held its first-ever
free agent auction that winter, and Marazita placed himself in a good position to
spend, with $27.1 million in cash and 14 open roster spots. On the second
day of the auction, Marazita placed a $3.5 million bid on a first
baseman in order to "drive up the price" (according to Marazita.)
To his surprise, he won the bid. Although no one realized it at
that time, that 27-year-old first baseman -- David Ortiz -- would soon become
the best hitter in the league.
Marazita shelled out big bucks ($11.5
million) to re-sign Edmonds for the '03 season, and also purchased
short-usage star Alex Cora for $2.5 million. And to shore up a
starting rotation that had lost both Clemens and Brown to free agency,
Marazita negotiated two pre-season deals that netted Tim Hudson and
With Buerhle, Hudson and Finley
comprising a strong starting rotation, and an unprecedented collection of
short-usage platoon players filling the starting lineup and bullpen, the Zoots were once again picked to win the division:
Projected Lineup: Chris Woodward/Lou
Merloni, Edgardo Alfonzo/Geoff Blum, Chipper Jones, Jim
Edmonds, David Ortiz/Greg Colbrunn, Mike Lieberthal/Brian
Schneider, Jay Payton/Quinton McCracken and Alex Cora/Blum/Merloni.
See all those slashes above? After last November's shocking
defeat at the hands of the Salem Cowtippers, Stamford GM
Paul Marazita vowed to "get back to basics." In part, what
this means is a return to the old-school ways of the Zoots,
which placed heavy emphasis on part-timers, platoons and
getting the right match-ups for the right situations. All
those slashes above mean the Zoots have accomplished their
goal. Of the 19 hitters on the Zoots roster, just one - one
- collected more than 500 at-bats last season. Yet in any
given situation, you can be assured that a hitter with an
800-plus OPS will be stepping to the plate. In addition to
all those short-usage superstars, the Zoots also feature one
of the best pitching staffs in the Ozzie League, including
two lefties that should be a great asset against the
lefty-heavy lineups of the Butler Division, and a strong
bullpen filled with situational relievers.
Although the 2003 Zoots were considered
to be a contender, they did not appear to be a dominant team on paper.
The starting rotation that once included two (or three) unbeatable aces
was replaced with one that seemed to lack a dominant starter. And the lineup that once included all-star sluggers
surrounded by decent role players was now seemingly filled with bench
players. But despite appearances on paper, the Zoots jumped out to a 20-8
start in Chapter One, putting to rest any notion that this Stamford team
would fade quietly into the background.
After a mediocre 14-12 second chapter,
Stamford bounced back to go 18-8 in Chapter Three, securing a
comfortable three-game lead at the all-star break. Just prior to
the break, Marazita was able to upgrade his rotation, sacrificing
several years of Hudson's long-term contract in exchange for half a
season of Derek Lowe. Lowe went 12-4 in 21 starts over the second
half, and teamed with Buehrle (21-8, 3.59 ERA for Stamford in 2003), the
Zoots once again owned two aces for the playoffs -- a time-tested,
proven formula for success in Stamford.
But Marazita wasn't done yet. At
the final trading deadline of the season, he added all-star John Olerud
(.341/.446/.559 w/ 150.2 RC on the season) and a third ace, Kevin
Millwood (3.24 CERA in 231+ IP in BDBL '03.) And once again, both
impact players came at little expense to the franchise: Brandon
Phillips, Francis Beltran, Horacio Ramirez and Zach Day. Although
Phillips would eventually become an all-star second baseman, he did not
achieve that distinction until many years later -- after he'd been
released into the free agent pool. And neither Beltran, Ramirez
nor Day ever amounted to much in the big leagues.
What happened next remains the most
astounding extended performance by any team in BDBL history.
Through the next two chapters, the Zoots lost just SEVEN games.
Their record of 45-7 (a winning percentage of .865) represents the
single greatest winning streak by any team in baseball history -- real
or fantasy. They then relaxed a bit in Chapter Six and merely
went 18-10. The 2003 Stamford Zoots won nearly 8 out of every 10
games they played throughout the entire second half of the season -- an
absolutely astounding feat. In the end, they won 115 games, setting yet another BDBL record.
With a starting lineup that included
the likes of Alex Cora, Geoff Blum, Quinton McCracken, Jay Payton, Andy
Fox and Chris Woodward, the Zoots rolled over the Marlboro Hammerheads
in the OL Division Series, four games to one. They then took on
their division rivals, the Bear Country Jamboree, who had finished the
regular season with a respectable 99 wins -- 16 games fewer than
It took six games for Stamford to dispatch of the Jamboree, as Stamford
pitching held Bear Country hitting to a .194 average and just 22 runs.
That set the stage for perhaps the most
highly-anticipated World Series in league history. Allentown
Ridgebacks GM Tom DiStefano took over his franchise in the winter prior
to the 2001 season. After spending his first year in
rebuilding mode, DiStefano won the BDBL championship in just his second
In the process of building that team, DiStefano made
several lopsided trades that soon earned him the nickname "The Emperor."
The 2003 BDBL World Series, then, was a head-to-head duel between "Lord
Vader" and "The Emperor." And it was every ounce as dramatic as it
was hyped to be.
Like the Zoots, the Ridgebacks
franchise enjoyed great regular and post-season success with the formula
of having two or more dominant starting pitchers at the top of their
rotation. One of those aces, Curt Schilling, began the series by
tossing seven shutout innings, allowing only five Stamford batters to
reach base. Allentown then took a 2-0 series lead in Game Two when
their second ace, Roy Oswalt, held Stamford batters to just one run on
two hits through six innings.
Yet, despite Stamford's struggles at
home throughout the franchise's history, the momentum in the series
shifted when the games moved to Stamford. Facing their former Cy
Young-winning ace, Randy Johnson (who had won his fourth straight Cy
Young for Allentown that year), the Zoots pounded out seven runs on five
hits and three walks in just three innings.
needed a win in Game Four to even the series at two wins apiece.
Throughout the 1999-2001 playoffs, Marazita had used a three-man
rotation. However, since the departures of Johnson and Brown, that
strategy was no longer possible. The choice of whom to start in
Game Four appeared to boil down to two pitchers: Danny Wright (what had
gone 14-5 and led all Stamford starters with a 3.24 ERA) or Chuck Finley
(11-7, 4.52 ERA.) But Marazita made a decision to go with a third
option instead -- a decision that will forever tarnish his legacy.
The issue was put to rest.
However, it came to a head once again prior to the start of Game Four
when Marazita made it known that he intended to start Clay Condrey instead of Finley or Wright. Condrey had pitched just 26.2 innings in MLB
2002, posting a 1.69 ERA. The BDBL rulebook specifically disallowed
starting any pitcher with fewer than 75 MLB innings in the playoffs.
The purpose of that rule was to minimize the universally-accepted flaw in the DMB software that awarded unrealistic performance boosts for short-usage
players. However, due to an error in the wording of the rulebook,
a "starting" pitcher was defined as any pitcher who started more than
half his MLB appearances. Condrey started only 3 games out of 9
appearances, and was therefore technically a "reliever."
Glander expressed his objection over
starting Condrey, but Marazita refused to change his mind.
Condrey started Game Four of the World Series, and out-pitched
Schilling. In six innings, he allowed no earned runs on five hits
and two walks. He also plated what would become the deciding run
of the game with a single in the fourth inning. Stamford won by a
score of 3-2. The Zoots then won Game Five as well, again by just
With the series shifting back to
Allentown for Game Six, the Ridgebacks won by a score of 7-5, forcing a
deciding Game Seven. Allentown then carried a 3-2 lead into the
sixth inning of that game. But with Allentown going with
a three-man rotation throughout the playoffs, the workload finally
caught up to Schilling, who began to
wear down in the sixth inning. He allowed a leadoff pinch hit homer to Edgardo Alfonzo to tie the game, then watched from the bench as Jones
drove home the go-ahead run off of reliever Mark Hendrickson.
Valerio de los Santos and Kim then
closed out the final three innings of the series without allowing a
single hit, securing Marazita's fourth BDBL championship.
However, the celebration was short-lived. Shortly after the
series, Commissioner Glander announced that an asterisk would be
appended to the championship due to the violation of the "spirit of the
rulebook." A heated debate ensued, with Marazita and his
supporters insisting that he played by the rules as they were written.
However, Marazita's defense that other teams had employed similar
pitchers in the playoffs was irrelevant, and the asterisk remains today and forever.
"We have a rule that
specifically bans starting pitchers with fewer than 75 innings from
pitching in the playoffs. Every single one of us knows what the true
nature of that rule means. You decided to violate that rule. It was
an illegal victory, and it shouldn't be counted. The asterisk is a
reminder of that, and it will stay where it is for as long as I run
Shortly after the series ended,
Marazita requested to be moved to the Eck League, rationalizing that by
distancing himself from Glander, he would receive less criticism.
But instead, the Cowtippers were moved into Stamford's backyard thanks
to a radical divisional realignment proposal that had passed in
September of '03. The vote passed by a 22-2 margin, with only
Marazita and Geisel voting against it. The new Butler Division would now include
four members of the old CBL: Marazita, Glander, Geisel and Romaniello.
Marazita's first trade of the winter
was announced within minutes of the end of the 2003 World Series.
After two years of all-star contribution, Jones
was traded to the Chicago Black Sox in exchange for veterans Moises
Alou and Scott Linebrink, and youngsters Corey Patterson and Hee Seop
Then, on December 14th,
erupted yet again in Stamford. In a trade with Geisel's Litchfield
Lightning (the first trade ever made between the two old friends), the
Zoots received top prospect Jerome Williams, short-usage star Carlos
Baerga and Sean Casey. And in exchange, Marazita offloaded
Edmonds' $11.5 million salary, along with Olerud and David Aardsma.
The problem, from the league's point of
view, was that Edmonds had become an expensive and aging platoon player
on the downside of his career, and Marazita not only rid himself of that
burdensome salary, but received a pitching prospect in return who had
posted impressive numbers in his rookie debut and was considered to be
among the top 50 prospects in baseball.
Complicating matters was a side
agreement made between Glander and Marazita, where they agreed to
consult with each other before making any trade offer to Geisel, as both
acknowledged that Geisel was not the most attentive GM in the league,
and could easily be taken advantage of. Glander contended that he had held up his
end of the bargain the previous year when he called Marazita to help
broker a trade offer that was eventually refused by Geisel (a trade
that would have brought top prospect B.J. Upton to the Lightning), but
Marazita had not reciprocated, and instead negotiated "behind closed
doors," just as he had done so many years before in the CBL.
The harsh backlash from this trade
included calls for Geisel to adopt an assistant GM to help him with his
team. This notion was discussed and eventually dismissed, but the
whole episode left a bad taste in the mouths of both Marazita and Geisel,
who each felt they had made a fair trade.
After freeing so much salary with the
trades of Jones and Edmonds, Marazita had enough cash to buy his way
back into contention through free agency. At the auction, he added
starter Woody Williams ($6M), all-star second baseman Jose Vidro ($8.5M)
and MVP candidate Manny Ramirez ($12M.)
Yet, despite those acquisitions, the
Zoots were predicted to finish in third place in the newly-constituted
Butler Division, behind the Cowtippers and Lightning. This
prediction rekindled Marazita's desire to compete, and he set off to
prove a point early in the season. The Zoots sprinted out of the
gate with a 21-7 record -- five games better than the Cowtippers and
Blazers, with the Lightning far behind at 10-18.
Prior to Chapter Two, Marazita made
another big trade, sending former top prospects Choi and Ben Petrick to
the Silicon Valley CyberSox in exchange for a pair of all-stars in Larry
Walker and Greg Myers. This trade, too, was criticized on the
message board. But in keeping with his newly-stated philosophy,
Marazita responded only with silence.
By the end of two chapters, Stamford's
lead remained at five games, but the Lightning had fallen even further
behind, and Geisel became less and less interested in his franchise.
Salem then went 19-5 in Chapter Three, and overtook first place from the Zoots at the all-star break. It was the first time in league
history the Zoots trailed any team at such a late point in the season.
After years of expressing his apathy
toward the hobby, Geisel finally resigned on June 1st. Eight days
later -- and just five days after Salem had overtaken the Zoots in the
division -- Marazita posted his resignation on the BDBL forum:
The reasons are
numerous – too numerous to go into here in any great detail – but
suffice it to say this is a decision that I did not take lightly.
For much of the past 5+ years, the BDBL has provided me with some
terrific times that had nothing to do with winning percentages or a
silly (though much sought after) laminated card on a homemade wooden
trophy. It was about competing at a high level against some very
smart, interesting people who shared a love of baseball.
...Simply put, the BDBL just started to be less and less fun for me
over time. Friendly competition turned inappropriately personal and
the thrill of winning no longer made up for the emotional
rollercoaster of doing simple things – like reading the message
board – that I used to enjoy. ...Essentially, the league, which for
years was a somewhat stressful but welcome diversion from the “real”
stress of everyday life, has become just one long chore for me –
something I do because I have to but get no sense of pleasure from.
I don’t have a lot of hobbies, but that just doesn’t seem to be a
hobby a sane person chooses to continue with.
The very next day, the league welcomed
the new owner of the legendary Stamford Zoots franchise, Andy Lurie.
Lurie was a 34-year-old PC technician from Chicago who was also a
comedian in the underground Chicago comedy circuit along with Ravenswood
Infidels owner Brian Potrafka and former owner Brian Hicks.
While Lurie was faced with the task of jumping right into
the midst of a pennant race, the Cowtippers and Zoots continued
to keep pace with each other in Chapter Four. Then, on August
12th, Lurie made his first trade as GM, and it was a blockbuster.
In exchange for Aramis Ramirez and Mike Mussina, Lurie sent Manny
Ramirez to the Chicago Black Sox. With the acquisition of Mussina,
Lurie had added the ace the starting rotation desperately needed to
reach the next level. But in swapping Ramirezes, the Stamford
offense was expected to suffer.
While the Zoots improved to 18-10 in
Chapter Five, the Cowtippers continued to dominate the division, going
20-8. Stamford then wrapped up the final chapter with a 15-13
record, while Salem went 19-9. In the end, the Cowtippers finished
with a record of 104-56, while the Zoots went 96-64 -- eight games
behind in the division race, but ten games ahead in the OL wild card
race. For the first time in franchise history, the Zoots had
failed to win the division. But for the sixth straight year,
Stamford would be going to the post-season.
And for the fourth time in playoffs
history, their opponents would be the Salem Cowtippers. The series
began with a thrilling extra-innings win by Salem, capped by a walk-off
double by Luis Gonzalez. Stamford then evened the series in Game
Two, as their lefty ace, Mark Buehrle, out-pitched Salem's lefty ace,
With the series shifting to Stamford in
Game Three, the Zoots scored three runs off of the Salem bullpen in the
eighth inning to earn a 7-6 win. But in Game Four, Williams was
pounded for 7 earned runs on 14 hits in 7+ innings, and the series was
knotted at two games apiece. Salem then recaptured the series lead
in Game Five, thanks to a pair of home runs by Trot Nixon. And the
series ended in anticlimactic fashion with an easy 4-1 Salem win in Game
Following his series defeat, Lurie
renamed the franchise the "Los Angeles Diablos."
Although the ownership of the franchise had changed, the controversy
remained. This time, however, the controversy was over the
perception that the franchise had received too
little in trade. In desperate need of pitching, Lurie was
offered the choice of two Salem left-handers: Odalis Perez or Barry Zito. In exchange, Salem GM Glander asked for two
of the team's best prospects (and two of the top prospects in baseball
at that time), Delmon Young and Ian Stewart.
Lurie agreed, sending both prospects to
Salem in exchange for Perez and prospects Abe Alvarez and Jeff Baker.
The league erupted in protest, with some calling for Glander to use Rule 9.3 to overturn the trade. Glander
responded by overturning not only his trade, but two other trades made
during the same time period that appeared equally lopsided. A
great debate ensued, and Glander eventually revoked his trade. He
then made another offer to Lurie, adding Austin
Kearns and Jose Capellan to his side of the trade, and invited all other
teams to beat the offer. When no other team did, the trade was
As Draft Day approached, Lurie became
unreachable. It was feared that he would abandon the league before
the season -- a fear shared by Lurie's good friend, Potrafka. On
December 18th, just days before Cutdown Day, the league made the
difficult decision to replace Lurie as owner of the franchise. More ugliness
ensued when Lurie protested the decision. In a twist of irony, former BDBL owner Brian Hicks was then
brought back into the league on an interim basis, to see the franchise
through the Cutdown Day process -- the same franchise that had driven
Hicks from the league in the first place.
On December 27th, Ed McGowan was
officially introduced as the new owner of the franchise -- a franchise
he renamed the Corona Confederates. McGowan was a 42-year-old
purchasing manager from Corona, California, and was a personal
recommendation to the league by Undertakers owner Jeff Paulson.
With only a few days to acquaint
himself with the BDBL's rulebook and salary structure, and with little
money to spend, McGowan leapt right into the fire by signing several
players in the free agent auction, including Scott Linebrink ($3.5M),
Julio Lugo ($3M) and Mike Cameron ($3M.)
The franchise McGowan inherited
included two strong left-handed starters in Perez (12-15, 4.04 CERA in
212 IP in BDBL '05) and Buehrle (14-15, 3.74 CERA in 250 IP.) And
by 2005, Ortiz (.309/.393/.601, 40 HR, 122 RBIs, 137.2 RC) had become a
perennial MVP candidate. But the lineup surrounding Ortiz wasn't
as strong as many past Zoots teams, and the rotation and bullpen lacked
depth as well. As such, the Confederates were picked to finish in
third place in the Butler Division race behind the Cowtippers and
After a division-worst 13-15 start to
the season, McGowan made his first trade as GM of the franchise.
And once again, it involved Aramis Ramirez and Mike Mussina swapping
places with Manny Ramirez of the Chicago Black Sox. Only this
time, the same players went in the opposite direction. Manny hit
.323/.419/.639 with 39 homers and 134.1 RC in just 132 games down the
stretch, forming a powerful one-two punch with Ortiz at the heart of
the lineup. That same chapter, McGowan traded free-agent-to-be Buehrle to the Sylmar Padawans for closer John Smoltz.
But despite those additions, the
Confederates went just 13-15 in Chapter Two, and limped into the
all-star break in last place, 15 games behind the Cowtippers.
Prior to the third chapter, McGowan began to look toward the future, and
traded Perez to the Silicon Valley CyberSox in exchange for young
starting pitcher Noah Lowry. Then, at the season's final deadline,
McGowan unloaded every remaining piece of trade bait he owned, including
Woody Williams, Juan Pierre, Dave Roberts and Barry Larkin. In
exchange, he picked up several young players for the future, including
Horacio Ramirez, Jake Woods and Chris Bootcheck (none of whom ever made
much of an impact for Corona.)
The Confederates went 34-46 in the
second half, and finished in third place with a record of 73-87.
It was the first time in franchise history the franchise had ever posted
a losing record, or had ever finished below second place. But it
would be a short rebuilding period, thanks to the acquisitions made by
McGowan in 2005.
At 38 years old, Smoltz's move to the
starting rotation during the 2005 MLB season was thought to be a risky
move at the time he was acquired by McGowan. But the risk paid
off big-time, as Smoltz (18-8, 3.17 ERA, 175 K in 241 IP) enjoyed a
tremendous season for the 2006 Confederates at a bargain salary of $6
Lowry was a relative unknown at the
time of his acquisition, but he, too, enjoyed a tremendous season for
the '06 Confederates (15-5, 3.94 ERA in 210+ IP) at a bargain-basement
salary of just $100,000. Ortiz, playing in his final season under
contract, enjoyed his best year yet for the '06 Confederates, hitting
.315/.429/.632 with 43 homers and 158.5 runs created. And three
years after he had been acquired in trade by Marazita in exchange for
Juan "Stick Boy" Cruz, Mauer (.328/.388/.462, 92.8 RC) had become a
In the winter prior to the 2006 season,
McGowan found himself once again at the trade table across from Chicago Black
Sox GM John Gill. And for the third year in a row, Manny Ramirez
was passed back across the table, along with prospect Conor Jackson.
In exchange, Corona received MVP candidate Vladimir Guerrero and young
prospect Prince Fielder. Guerrero hit .310/.392/.584 with 34
homers and 117.4 RC for the '06 Confederates, while Ramirez hit
.273/.361/.548 with 43 homers and 118.9 RC, at a salary that was $4
million less than Guerrero's. However, McGowan felt that the
acquisition of Fielder was worth the extra $4 million. And he
proved to be right.
McGowan made three more trades that
winter, acquiring top prospect Howie Kendrick in one of those trades,
and dealing away top prospect Cameron Maybin in another. In
exchange for Maybin, Corona added Dave Roberts, who hit .272/.346/.459
in the first year of a two-year deal. Maybin, however, later
blossomed into one of the top prospects in baseball, and may become a
long-term franchise player.
With little money to spend after the
acquisition of Guerrero, McGowan signed just one player in the auction
(closer Billy Wagner at $8M), and then added Brad Wilkerson and Mike
Lowell with his first two picks of the draft.
With the Cowtippers in rebuilding mode
for the first time in franchise history, the Confederates enjoyed an
open path to the playoffs in 2006, and were picked to finish first in
the Butler Division. Their only competition, it seemed, was from a
Blazers franchise hell-bent on making the playoffs at any cost.
Corona began the chapter with an 18-10
record, tied with New Milford atop the division. After two
chapters, Corona's lead in the division had grown to seven games, and they
maintained that lead through the all-star break.
While New Milford sacrificed every
young player on their team in an effort to win at all costs (adding Ken
Griffey, Jr. and Bartolo Colon along the way), McGowan stood pat.
Then, at the final trading deadline of the season, New Milford added Dan
Wheeler, Arthur Rhodes, Brian Roberts, Marlon Anderson and Sammy Sosa.
McGowan responded by adding Bruce Chen, Chad Cordero, Ray Durham, Julio
Franco, Ugueth Urbina and Bobby Abreu. But it cost him several
players with future value to the franchise, including top prospect Jay
Bruce (a mid-season free agent signing by McGowan the previous year) and
The Confederates went 45-35 (.563) over
the second half of the season, which was only good for third place over
that period (two games behind New Milford.) But they won the
division by five games, with a 95-65 record, and headed into the
post-season with the top seed in the Ozzie League.
Their opponents in the Division Series
would be the Sylmar Padawans, who had snuck into the playoffs on the
final day of the season with a record of just 81-79. This series
was a bloodbath, as Corona outscored the Padawans 24-8 and easily swept
them in four games. Corona pitching held Sylmar batters to an
average of just .167/.239/.286, while Corona hit .317/.366/.475 as a
This set the stage for an intradivision
OLCS battle against the Blazers. New Milford had won the Division
Series in six games over the heavily-favored Marlboro Hammerheads,
thanks to a powerful offensive assault that included 13 New Milford home
runs. They continued that assault in Game One of the Championship
Series by scoring 11 runs off of Smoltz and the Corona bullpen.
But the Confederates returned the favor in Game Two by pounding New
Milford ace Chris Carpenter for six runs in just three innings.
The series then shifted to New Milford,
where two home runs by Ortiz weren't enough to lift Corona over the
Blazers, as they lost, 5-3. New Milford then took at 3-1 series
lead when Lowry allowed seven runs (six earned) in just five-plus
innings in Game Four. New Milford then built a 7-2 lead heading
into the eighth inning of Game Five. Corona then scored four runs
to make it a one-run game, but Ortiz lined out to end the rally, and
Brad Thompson closed out the ninth in order to seal the New Milford
With Ortiz and Smoltz leaving via free
agency, Corona was losing its two best players heading into the 2007
season. Lowry had suffered through a terrible sophomore season in
MLB, and would post a 5.31 ERA in 127 innings for the '07 Confederates.
But Guerrero and Mauer were set to return, along with rookie Prince
Fielder (.290/.368/.513 with 26 HR and 99.8 RC for the '07
Confederates), giving Corona a powerful lineup.
That winter, McGowan made the
decision to shed some salary, and traded Guerrero to the Wapakoneta
Hippos in exchange for low-production veterans Shawn Green, Livan
Hernandez and two others. Wagner's $8M salary was also shipped off
in exchange for rookie pitcher Aaron Cook and two others.
After shedding all that salary, Corona
had $28.6 million to spend on 11 players. McGowan spent a
whopping $21 million of that total on just one player. The first player
on the block that winter was 28-year-old ace left-hander Johan Santana,
and McGowan shocked the league by paying a record amount of money to
sign the ace.
"With our dominant #1 in place," stated
McGowan, "the Corona Confederates now have their entire pitching staff
in place...Now that I have landed the guy I really wanted, I feel
confident that I will make the playoffs this year. And no one will
convince me otherwise until we are mighty near the trade deadline."
Roughly two weeks later, McGowan made a
trade that will haunt the franchise for many years to come. In
desperate need of an outfielder, and lacking the funds to purchase one
on the open market, McGowan convinced Allentown Ridgebacks GM Tom
DiStefano to allow him to use one of his draft picks in order to select
shortstop David Eckstein (thus shifting shortstop Julio Lugo to the
outfield.) When he offered top prospect Ryan Braun in exchange, it
didn't take much convincing.
While Eckstein hit just .264/.309/.313
for the '07 Confederates, Braun won the NL Rookie of the Year award by
clubbing an inconceivable 34 home runs in just 113 games. Less
than three months later, McGowan admitted regretting the deal, stating,
"I likely would not have made this trade given a do-over." By May
of 2007, McGowan characterized this deal as "the worst trade I ever
On March 8th of that year, Santana
pitched a no-hitter for Corona against the Salem Cowtippers, becoming
the tenth pitcher in league history to do so. Despite his effort,
however, Salem took the other three games of the series, and Corona fell
to 13-15 in the chapter -- six games behind Salem.
Then, on April Fool's Day, McGowan did
the unthinkable. Less than four months after acquiring him, McGowan traded Santana to
the Kansas Law Dogs in exchange for several young players, including
Aaron Harang, Zach Duke, Brandon McCarthy and Brandon Wood. In
doing so, McGowan had officially thrown in the towel.
Corona went 14-14 in Chapter Two, but
fell a dozen games behind in the division, thanks to the red-hot start
(39-17) of the Salem Cowtippers. And with the New Hope Badgers trailing
close behind at 37-19, the OL wild card was all but unreachable.
McGowan then spent the remainder of the 2007 season attempting to trade
any warm body who may have value to a contending team, including
Roberts, Mike MacDougal, Cook and Linebrink. In exchange, he received a
collection of players with dubious future value, including Shawn Hill,
Jeff Baker, Wily Taveras and Brian Barton.
Corona finished the season with a 73-87
record, tying their franchise-worst record.
Of the package of players McGowan
received in exchange for his $21 million investment in 2007, Harang
(14-15, 4.44 ERA in 247+ IP, 217 K) was by far the most valuable of the
lot. In addition to Harang, McGowan spent $8.5 million to add
Aaron Cook (15-6, 3.98 ERA in 183+ IP) and another $7.5 million to sign
Jake Westbrook (11-6, 3.95 ERA in 164+ IP) in the auction. 2005
trade acquisition Noah Lowry (13-4, 3.80 ERA in 154 IP) filled out the
front four in the Corona rotation.
Offensively, the massive void left by
the departure of Ortiz after the 2006 season was filled with the
equally-massive presence of Fielder. Fielder followed a successful
rookie season in 2007 (.290/.368/.513, 26 HR, 99.8 RC) was an even more
impressive sophomore campaign (.315/.417/.661, 52 HR, 154 RBI, 161.9
RC.) Just 24 years old, Fielder would take home both the OL MVP
and Babe Ruth awards at the end of the season.
By ridding himself of Santana's massive
contract, McGowan had a great deal of money to spend on free agents.
In addition to Cook and Westbrook, he also added Kenny Lofton
(.283/.366/.442, 73.3 RC) at $5 million, Paul Konerko at $5 million and
Chone Figgins (.338/.409/.459, 94.8 RC) at $5.5 million. As
Fielder already occupied first base, Konerko was immediately flipped to
the Marlboro Hammerheads in exchange for reliever Troy Percival (2-4,
3.46 ERA in 39 IP, 32 SVs.)
With Mauer (.299/.393/.431, 73.6 RC)
returning to the lineup, and Lowell (.325/.363/.488) bouncing back from
two awful years to enjoy a resurgent career year, the Confederates
appeared to be back in winning form after just one year of rebuliding.
In a division that had become strangely
competitive, the Confederates managed a record of just 14-14 in the
first chapter, which tied with the Badgers in third place -- five games
behind the surprising Blazers. By the end of two chapters, Corona
sported a 33-23 record that represented the second-best record in the
Ozzie League, yet it was only good for second place, as the Cowtippers
led the OL with a 34-22 record.
Shortly after the end of the second
chapter, McGowan made his big move. Capitalizing on the hot start
of pitching prospect Max Scherzer, McGowan added all-star shortstop
Edgar Renteria from the Atlanta Fire Ants. Unfortunately for
McGowan, Renteria (.316/.383/.393 in 206 AB) wasn't much of an
improvement over Eckstein (.300/.362/.399) at short.
The Cowtippers pulled away from the
pack in Chapter Three, going 18-6 to Corona's 13-11 record, to open up a
six-game lead at the all-star break. This left McGowan in the
position of having to look toward the OL wild card as his ticket into
Corona went a league-best 17-7 in
Chapter Four, and McGowan decided not to sacrifice any more of his
future, electing to stand pat the rest of the way. Heading into
the final chapter, the Confederates held a comfortable 15-game lead in
the wild card, and there was no need to take on any more risk.
McGowan clinched his second playoffs
appearance in three years on October 5th, setting the stage for an OLDS
match-up against the Ravenswood Infidels. Back-to-back RBI singles
off of Corona reliever Peter Moylan tied the game in the bottom of the
ninth inning of Game One, forcing extra innings. Renteria then
connected for a two-run blast in the top of the 12th, giving Corona the
McGowan sent his ace, Harang, out to
the mound to start Game Two, but Ravenswood ace Fausto Carmona tossed
the game of his life, pitching a complete-game four-hit shutout to even
the series. In Game Three, Corona overcame a 4-0 deficit in the
first inning to tie the game, but Ravenswood would end up on top by a
score of 9-8, as Corona ended the game with the tying run stranded at
Westbrook was pummeled for eight runs
in four-plus innings in Game Four, giving the Confederates no chance of
competing. The series then ended in Game Five, when Corona
reliever Shawn Hill allowed an RBI double to Luke Scott in the top of
the tenth inning.
Beyond any doubt, hesitation or debate,
the Corona Confederates franchise was both the most successful and the
most controversial franchise in the first decade of BDBL history.
As one of the league's founding fathers, Paul Marazita's
win-at-all-costs philosophy turned him into the league's most polarizing
figure. Members of
the league either admired him for his success and unabashed drive toward
the ultimate goal or blamed him for everything that was wrong with the
hobby. And although Marazita was rigidly unapologetic in terms of his
stated philosophy, he was also highly sensitive to criticism, and
internalized every attack against his tactics as a GM into a personal
attack against his integrity. In the end, this led to bitter
feelings on all sides and the end of a friendship that had lasted more
than 20 years.
From the very beginning -- dating all
the way back to the CBL -- Marazita excelled in discovering and
exploiting loopholes, both in the rulebook and in the software. He
was a firm believer in gaining as much of an advantage over the "enemy"
as possible, using any means available. But he was also a firm believer in playing by the
rules. And in his mind, as long as those loopholes exist for
everyone, then they are fair game.
From a very early point in his BDBL
career, Marazita understood the flaw in the DMB software that overstates the impact
of players with outstanding platoon stats in a small sample size, and he
took every measure possible to exploit this flaw in order to gain the
maximum advantage. While most GM's were busy signing and trading
for full-time players with expensive salaries, Marazita collected a
group of players who, together, would outperform a full-time player at a
fraction of the salary. To some, this strategy appeared to be a
legitimate extension of the "Moneyball" philosophy of identifying and
exploiting market inefficiencies. To others, this strategy was
considered to be an illegitimate exploitation of the software that had
nothing to do with baseball.
Year after year, the Zoots lineup was
filled with hitters who compiled fewer than 400 at-bats for Stamford
during the regular season. In Marazita's five and a half seasons
as GM, none of his teams ever included more than five hitters who
compiled 400 or more at-bats during the regular season. And his
final team in 2004 included just three of these full-time hitters.
The Stamford bullpen was typically filled with a collection of
30-to-50-inning middle relievers with excellent stats against either
left- or right-handed hitters.
And yet, year after year, Stamford
ranked among the top teams in the league in runs scored, and his bullpen
enjoyed tremendous success in both the regular and post season, underscoring
the success of this strategy. Each November, the Stamford lineup
that would inevitably win the championship would look almost
comical, igniting debates over the
validity of this strategy and calls for changing the rulebook. And inevitably, this would lead to Marazita internalizing these
debates as a personal assault on his
character. Rather than debate the question at hand, Marazita would often
resort to attacking the person who raised the question, accusing that
person of rank hypocrisy, and diverting the debate to other issues that
had nothing to do with the original issue.
Despite Marazita's success in employing
this strategy, rival GMs were hesitant to adopt the same strategy. Because
of this, these short-usage superstars were often undervalued, and were
thus far less expensive to acquire in trade. As a result, Marazita
was often able to upgrade his roster with players who would have immense
value in a short series while giving up next to nothing in return.
And, by far, the most controversial aspect of Marazita's strategy -- the
one that earned him the most criticism -- was this
exploitation of the trading market.
As he often stated, Marazita believed
that when two consenting adults arrive at an agreement while acting in
the best interests of their teams, this was, by definition, a "fair
trade." However, history shows that nearly every trade made by Marazita
during his time as GM benefited his franchise far greater than his
trading partner. To some observers, this was the definition of an
Certainly, one of the measures of a good GM is to
make trades that benefit your team as greatly as possible, and Marazita
was hardly the only GM in the league to benefit from such lopsided trades.
However, the fact that he was able to benefit from these trades so
often had a deleterious effect on the league as a whole.
With each and every lopsided trade in which Marazita greatly
improved his team at little or no expense, the resentment within the
league grew. Teams gave up hope of competing and began to rebuild,
owners called for additional regulation to prevent similar lopsided
trades, and suggestions were made for Marazita's
trading partners to be replaced.
In defending himself, Marazita often
attacked his critics rather than argue the merits of
his trades, creating more animosity. And with each trade, the criticism became
more heated, and the attacks became more personal. After five and
a half years of fighting these battles over nearly every trade he made, it's no
wonder that he finally reached his breaking point.
The question is whether all of this
could have been avoided by either addressing the issue directly,
ignoring his critics completely or
simply making trades that were not so blatantly one-sided in his favor. But
then, if it hadn't been for all of those trades, there is little doubt
that Marazita would never have enjoyed so much success. Although
winning the trophy year after year seemed to justify all the criticism
he absorbed throughout the year, in the end, it wasn't enough.
In general, Marazita was not a believer
in "unwritten rules." To his way of thinking, if the rulebook
clearly stated that a manager could field a lineup filled with
short-usage platoon players in a short series, then there was nothing
wrong with doing so. If there were no rule against repeatedly
preying on the weakest GM's in the league to gain an unfair advantage at
the trading table, then you'd be a fool not to exploit those weaknesses.
And if there were a loophole in the rulebook caused by clumsy wording, then it
was fair game to exploit that loophole until the league voted to close
He was greatly offended by
discussions about "integrity," "honor" and "sportsmanship," because to
his way of thinking, these highly-subjective concepts were irrelevant
within the realm of competition, where the only thing that mattered was
winning that trophy. And for five and a half years, no one in the
BDBL was better at winning that trophy.
Marazita's forum signature was a motto
by which he lived and died: "Winning isn't everything; it's the only
thing." History will be the ultimate judge of his legacy.
In the post-Marazita era, Ed McGowan
has done a tremendous job keeping his team competitive, reaching the
playoffs twice in his three years as owner of the franchise. But
this success has come at a tremendous cost to the future of his
franchise, as he has sacrificed three significant franchise players in
Jay Bruce, Cameron Maybin and Ryan Braun.
Thanks in part to the presence of
low-cost all-star hitters Mauer and Fielder, the Confederates have
ranked atop the Ozzie League in runs scored in two of McGowan's three
years as owner. But finding a Johnson/Brown combo has proven more
difficult, and even spending one-third of his team's total payroll on
one pitcher failed to solve that particular problem.
Both Mauer and Fielder are signed
through the 2015 season (Mauer, through 2016), but as their salaries
escalate, they will become less and less of an asset. They will
soon need to be replaced with younger, cheaper hitters, but as of this
writing those hitters simply don't exist in the Corona farm system.
In fact, the Corona farm may become the
downfall of this franchise over the next ten years. The
Confederates ranked among the top ten in the annual BDBL Farm Report
each year from 2000-2006. But after the trades of Bruce, Maybin
and Braun, Corona's farm was ranked as the worst in the BDBL in 2007,
and ranked just #11 in 2008. In 2009, it's quite likely Corona
will once again occupy a spot in the bottom three.