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Big Daddy Baseball League

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
slant.gif (102 bytes) BDBL: 10 Years in the Making

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July, 2008

Franchise History: Manchester Irish Rebels

Irish Rebels in a box:

Franchise wins: 689 (21st all-time)
Playoff appearances: 1
Division titles: 0
League titles: 0
Championship titles: 0
100-win seasons: 0
100-loss seasons: 1
Franchise RC leader: Miguel Cabrera
Franchise wins leader: Kerry Wood

On November 30, 1998, Chris Witt -- a 24-year-old recording engineer from Bourbonnais, Illinois -- became the 17th owner in the Big Daddy Baseball League.  Witt was an active member with a wry sense of humor, and he named his new franchise the "Bad Boys."  He selected Fenway Park as his team's home ballpark model, and drew the 17th pick in the inaugural draft.  Witt's franchise-building philosophy soon became clear, as he selected a pair of pitchers -- Al Leiter and Kerry Wood -- with his first two picks.

Leiter, 33 years old at the time, went 11-7 for the Bad Boys that season, with just 146 hits allowed and 202 strikeouts in 196+ innings, and a sparkling 2.43 ERA.  Wood, considered to be among the top young pitchers in baseball at age 22 (especially by Cubs fans like Witt), went 11-5 for Bourbonnais, with a 2.97 ERA in 162+ IP, and 226 K's.

With two aces locked in at the top of the rotation, Witt then began to work on his lineup, selecting Todd Helton (.305/.384/.498, 22 HR, 103.4 RC), Paul O'Neill (.290/.380/.465, 101.7 RC) and Bret Boone (.255/.318/.444, 20 HR, 69.5 RC) with his next three picks.  In Wood and the 25-year-old Helton, Bourbonnais was not only set up nicely for the 1999 season, but for many years thereafter.

Witt filled out the remainder of his rotation with the likes of Scott Erickson (14-11, 3.72 ERA in 247+ IP), Terry Mulholland (10-7, 3.53 ERA in 107 IP) and Dwight Gooden (12-7, 3.26 ERA in 138 IP.)  And his lineup was filled with defensive specialists like Royce Clayton (.285/.381/.432, 67.8 RC), Carl Everett (.299/.354/.496, 71.5 RC), Darren Lewis (.270/.334/.365, 66.4 RC), Mike Benjamin (.248/.299/.337, 33.7 RC) and Paul Bako (.287/.339/.350, 25.8 RC.)

Playing in the Eck League's Hrbek Division, the Bad Boys were considered to have a very strong team defensively (with three "Ex"-ranged players in the infield, and two "Vg"-ranged outfielders), and a solid starting rotation fronted by a pair of legitimate aces.  Although their lineup was considered to be a little weak, Bourbonnais was picked to win the EL wild card.

At the end of the first chapter, however, the Bad Boys trailed their division with a 12-13 record -- five games behind the Oakville Marauders and California Storm.  They bounced back, however, in Chapter Two, posting a 19-11 record (same as Oakville.)

At the end of that second chapter, Witt made a bold move to strengthen his team down the stretch, sending his #1 prospect, Corey Patterson, to the New Milford Blazers in exchange for closer Billy Wagner.  In retrospect, it was a great deal for Witt, as Wagner went 4-3 with a 1.34 ERA and 10 saves in 20+ innings for Bourbonnais down the stretch, while Patterson never quite materialized into the superstar many envisioned he would become.

In addition to Patterson, Witt also traded Dave Veres, who had been leading the Eck League in saves for most of the season, and 25-year-old southpaw Terrell Wade.

"Dave [Veres] has been a really big part of the team this year, and I hated to see him go. Initially, there was another guy on this team that the Blazers wanted instead, but I just wasn't willing to part with him, so Veres sort of became the X-factor."

Asked about the future, Witt added "There's no guarantees, of course. I really like Corey and Terrell, and I think they'll do fine. To be honest, I'm a little scared about what's gonna' happen to the team after this season, and there's a definite sense of urgency to win in 1999. But I think Wagner is going to be a very important part of the club down the stretch and hopefully for the next few years to come."

Other than a minor trade at the final trading deadline involving Ricky Gutierrez and a draft pick, it was Witt's only trade of the season.

The Bad Boys continued to roll, going 13-11 in the third chapter to head into the mid-season break with a record of 44-36 -- four games behind Oakville.  By the end of Chapter Four, Bourbonnais had cut that deficit in half.  And heading into the final chapter of the season, the Bad Boys and Marauders were deadlocked in a tie for first atop the division.

In the final chapter, Oakville went just 15-13, but the Bad Boys stumbled to a 13-15 record, and lost the division by two games.  This gave them a record of 86-74, which also happened to be the final record of the California Storm, resulting in a tie for the EL wild card.  And this meant that the final spot in the 1999 playoffs would be decided by a one-game playoff between these two teams.

That season, the Storm had outscored their opponents by 136 runs -- the second-highest total in the Eck League -- while Bourbonnais had outscored their opponents by just 39 runs.  But the Storm had suffered through a tumultuous season in which they had changed ownership twice during the course of the year.  Despite inheriting a team that was in the midst of an exciting pennant race, former California owner Tim Wilson had abandoned the team and disappeared without notice.  Mike Stein replaced Wilson during the final week of October, with the expectation that he wouldn't have to manage the team until 2000.  But thanks to this unexpected twist, Stein's first game as manager in the BDBL would be a one-game playoff.

Witt sent his ace, Leiter, to the hill for this crucial game, and seemed to run into some horrific luck when Leiter was forced from the game with an injury after throwing just 2 1/3 innings.  Witt called upon Wood to take Leiter's place, but he then lifted Wood for a pinch hitter in the fifth inning.

The game remained scoreless through five innings before Bourbonnais finally scored a run in the top of the sixth.  In the bottom of the eighth, California tied the score on a double by Vladimir Guerrero, and then took the lead on a fielder's choice.

Stein then handed the ball to his closer, Matt Mantei, to close out the game and send his team to the playoffs.  Instead, Mantei allowed a walk and a pair of singles to cut California's lead to one.  Bourbonnais pinch hitter Reggie Williams then plated the tying and go-ahead runs of the game with a single of his own.  And Wagner then came on in the bottom half of the inning for Bourbonnais and closed it out, sending the Bad Boys to the playoffs.

After battling against them all season in the divisional race, the Bad Boys then faced the Marauders in the Division Series.  Leiter took the hill in Game One and pitched eight shutout innings en route to a 2-0 win.  Wood pitched well in Game Two (6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 2 K), but his effort was wasted in a 2-1 Bourbonnais loss.

The Bad Boys then led by a score of 3-2 heading into the 9th inning of Game Three, but one out away from tying the series, Wagner allowed a two-run pinch hit home run to Greg Colbrunn, and the Marauders were now one win away from winning the series.

The Bad Boys fought back, however, and won yet another tightly-fought game in Game Four, winning 2-1.  And that is when this series took a strange turn.  With the fate of the entire season resting upon the fifth and deciding game of this series, both the Marauders' manager and Bourbonnais manager Witt each decided to announce his resignation at the end of the playoffs.

Rather than wait for that resignation, both Witt and Oakville manager Bob Biermann were handed their walking papers immediately.

November 10, 1999
Witt, Biermann Resign In Middle of Playoffs

SALEM, NH - The Commissioner's Office announced today that both Chris Witt and Bob Biermann have announced they will be resigning at the end of their playoff series. Due to league policy, both owners were immediately dismissed from the league prior to the fifth and deciding game of their ELDS playoff series against each other.

"I understand that both owners are operating under strict time constraints," explained BDBL commissioner Mike Glander. "Therefore, it seems only logical that they wouldn't have time to complete the remainder of their playoff games."

Witt announced his resignation on Tuesday, stating, "I've had a blast, but my business is getting busier and busier every week, so I have had almost no time to play my games since Chapter Five started." Witt's Bourbannais Bad Boys won the Eck League wild card this season thanks to a thrilling ninth-inning come-from-behind victory over the California Storm. Witt will be concentrating his full efforts on his team in the Flying Pickle League in 2000.

...Both Biermann and Witt expressed a desire to continue managing their teams in the playoffs. However, Commissioner Glander, after meeting with his head consultants, decided to accept both resignations immediately.

"It can't be good for the league for managers to be managing when they care so little about the outcome of the game," said Glander. "Why would anyone care whether or not he wins a championship in a league he's no longer a part of? Aside from that, it is highly detrimental to the long-term success of the league to have owners trading prospects and draft picks in exchange for immediate gain, reaping the benefits of those trades by gaining entry to the post-season, then abandoning those teams and their inevitable rebuilding processes, handing off those problems to someone else. That's not fair to anyone."

The EL Championship Series will continue with a substitute manager in place of the winner of the ELDS.

Game Five was then played with both teams managed by the MP.  Despite that fact, it was one of the most exciting playoff games in league history.  The game remained scoreless through nine innings.  In the bottom of the tenth, Wagner was brought into the game to face Ken Griffey, Jr. with one out and a runner on.  Griffey then hit a walk-off, two-run blast to end the series and send Bourbonnais home for the winter.


On November 27, 1999, the league welcomed a 41-year-old attorney from Manchester, New Hampshire, named Jim Doyle as the new owner of the Bad Boys franchise.  Doyle renamed his franchise the "Manchester Irish Rebels," and spent the next month making four trades to prep for the 2000 season.

The 2000 draft was unique in BDBL history, as no player was under contract prior to that season, and thus the only players eligible for the draft were those who were released on Cutdown Day.  Knowing this, the league recommended to Doyle that he steer clear of trading for draft picks, as their value would be negligible.  But in his first two trades in the BDBL, Doyle traded for two first-round draft picks anyway.  Neither pick was used.

In Doyle's final trade of the winter, he acquired defense-first catcher Charles Johnson from the New Milford Blazers in exchange for Paul O'Neill.  Johnson hit just .249/.338/.473 for the Irish Rebels that season, in just 241 at-bats, and at a salary of $5 million -- the same salary as O'Neill, who hit .301/.367/.484 in 601 at-bats, with 102.1 runs created for the Blazers.

Doyle justified this strange trade by explaining that he had been a catcher in little league:

January 2, 2000
Rebels Acquire a Cannon
MANCHESTER, NH - The Irish Rebels continued thier late trading binge by sending Paul O'Neill and Matt Walbeck to New Milford in exchange for Steve Avery, Lance Painter, Charles Johnson and Roberto Kelly.

The Rebels are heartbroken to lose such a professional and former Yankee with an Irish surname but the fact is Johnson has a gun for an arm and the Rebels need a quality catcher. This is especially true given Rebel owner Jim Doyle was a catcher until his last year of American legion baseball.

That winter, the Manchester franchise was moved to the Ozzie League's Benes Division, so that Doyle could compete in the same division as fellow New Hampshire resident Mike Glander.  Once again, the Irish Rebels' roster was filled with gold-glovers, including Helton (Vg range), Benjamin (Ex), Royce Clayton (Vg), Kevin Orie (Ex) and Johnson (Ex arm behind the plate) in the infield, and Everett (Vg), Darren Lewis (Vg) and Lance Johnson (Av) in the outfield.  But once again, the lineup was considered be very weak.  And the starting rotation had suffered with a season-long injury to Wood.

Wood had missed the entire 1999 MLB season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but was signed to a bold seven-year contract by Doyle at Cutdown Day.  Wood was paid $5 million in 2000 without throwing a single pitch, and then was guaranteed $54 million over the next five years.  His loss to the Rebels in 2000 was substantial, as it left the team with 16 pitchers -- ten of which had MLB ERA's over 5.15.

To the shock of many, the Irish Rebels got off to a fast start in 2000, going 14-10 in Chapter One -- just two games behind the Salem Cowtippers.  But the ride didn't last long, as the Irish Rebels landed with a thud in Chapter Two, going 6-18.  They then bounced back in Chapter Three, however, going 14-12 to finish the first half of the season with a respectable 35-40 record -- seven games behind in the division.

At that time, Doyle made his first mid-season trade, sending Leiter to the Chicago Black Sox in exchange for promising young pitcher Kelvim Escobar and infielder Donnie Sadler.  The 24-year-old Escobar went 2-9 for Manchester, with a 5.99 ERA in 87+ innings, and suffered through a miserable 2000 MLB season.  He was eventually released on Cutdown Day, and the light-hitting Sadler never quite materialized as a valuable asset.

In the sixth round of the 2000 draft, Doyle had made a brilliant decision by selecting third base prospect Hank Blalock.  But in Chapter Five of the 2000 season, Doyle negated that brilliance by releasing Blalock to make room for backup catcher Ramon Castro.

With Billy Wagner having another strong year in 2000 (9-4, 1.42 ERA in 76+ IP, with 119 K's), while suffering through a horrific MLB season (6.18 ERA in 27+ IP), and saddled with an expensive BDBL contract ($21 million over the next three seasons), unloading that contract should have been top priority once the Irish Rebels were eliminated from contention.  But as the Irish Rebels went 10-18 in Chapter Four and 8-18 in Chapter Five, Doyle sat tight.  Manchester wrapped up the season with a 62-98 record, and were outscored by more than 200 runs.


Coming off that disastrous 2000 season, the Irish Rebels were in desperate need of a facelift.  On the plus side, Wood was returning to the starting rotation.  But on the minus side, he was a trainwreck (123+ IP, 116 BB, 116 K, 7.01 ERA), and ate up $6.5 million in salary.  With Leiter now gone, the team desperately needed an ace.  Thanks to their poor performance in 2000, the Irish Rebels owned the #3 overall pick in the 2001 draft.  And with Leiter, Tom Glavine and Roger Clemens all hitting free agency at the same time, Manchester were guaranteed to add one of those three aces.

The only problem was that with Helton, Wood and Wagner all earning between $6 - $6.5 million, the Irish Rebels couldn't afford to make that $10 million pick.  So, on December 6th, Doyle traded the #3 overall pick to the South Carolina Sea Cats in exchange for their #2 and #6 picks.  Doyle then used those picks to select Moises Alou (.322/.383/.505, 87.4 RC overall) and Albie Lopez (7-6, 4.59 ERA in 143 IP overall.)

Later that winter, Doyle traded valuable platoon catcher Joe Oliver to the Stamford Zoots in exchange for Gookie Dawkins.  Needless to say, that deal was a bust.  And then, in the final days before Cutdown Day, Doyle made a significant trade with the new owner of the Allentown Ridgebacks.  In that deal, Doyle received star third baseman Chipper Jones (.308/.402/.530, 31 HR, 134.8 RC) and a third-round farm pick.  In exchange, it cost him just four relatively insignificant players (Mike Sirotka, Brian Bohanon, Castro and Elpidio Guzman) and a farm pick.  But in retrospect, that farm pick -- which Allentown GM Tom DiStefano used to select Roy Oswalt with the #3 overall pick of the 2001 farm draft -- turned out to be far more valuable than any player involved in that deal.

With his own second-round draft pick, Doyle selected lefty slugger David Justice (.284/.391/.577, 40 HR, 122 RBIs, 126.5 RC), giving the Manchester lineup four legitimate all-stars in Justice, Jones, Helton (.340/.423/.581, 145.5 RC) and Everett (.339/.416/.654, 39 HR, 143.1 RC overall.)  After placing 11th out of 12 teams in their league in runs scored in the prior two seasons, the Irish Rebels were looking like an offensive powerhouse heading into 2001.

But with Lopez filling the de facto role of "ace," and Wood's and Wagner's performances severely declining, the Irish Rebels were expected to give up far more runs than they scored, and were picked to finish in last place in the division.

And after a horrendous 5-23 start to the season, in which they allowed a BDBL-high 208 runs, that prediction looked accurate.  This time, Doyle wasted no time in waving the white flag.  Prior to the second chapter, he offloaded several role players, including pinch hitter Greg Colbrunn, starter Cory Lidle and catcher Johnson.  The most significant of those trades was Johnson, who was dealt back to the Blazers in return for 23-year-old pitcher Brad Penny.  Penny, under contract through the 2004 season, soon became a hugely-valuable asset.

At the all-star break, with the Irish Rebels sporting a last-place record of 27-53, Doyle made his second big trade, dealing Everett, Lopez and Cal Eldred to the Kansas Law Dogs in exchange for left-handed phenom Rick Ankiel.  At the time, Ankiel was the best -- yet most enigmatic -- young pitcher in baseball.  Just 21 years old, he had pitched 175 innings during the 2000 MLB season, and posted a 3.50 ERA, with only 137 hits allowed and 194 strikeouts.  But during the 2000 post-season, he famously lost all control of himself (both physically and mentally), and walked 11 batters through four innings of work.  At the time of this trade in 2001, Ankiel was still a work-in-progress mentally, and he had thrown just 24 innings (allowing 25 walks.)  But Doyle saw this as a buy-low opportunity, and predicted that Ankiel would enjoy a Sandy Koufax-like career:

The Rebels now have the opportunity to have the best 1-2 punch in the BDBL for the next 5 years in Kerry Wood and Rick Ankiel. No one can doubt Kerry Wood and Rick Ankiel have the greatest potential of any pitchers in the BDBL. Rebel owner Jim Doyle is willing to be patient with Ankiel's psychological problems in the same way the team invested in Kerry Wood despite Wood's physical problems.

"I think Wood and Ankiel can be the reincarnation of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. Wood is already getting back to normal. Ankiel has overcome unbelievable odds in making it to the big leagues in the first place and the latest scouting reports indicate he is on his way back to the big time."

Despite the high expectations and lofty predictions, however, Doyle flipped Ankiel to the Chicago Black Sox just one chapter later (along with Alou), getting slugger Manny Ramirez, pitcher Carlos Perez and top prospect Ruben Mateo in exchange.  Ramirez (.343/.460/.627 in 134 AB for Manchester) gave the Irish Rebels yet another big bat to add to their collection.  It also gave them another player making $6 million that season.

The Irish Rebels pitching staff continued to allow runs at an alarming rate through the remainder of the season.  Manchester finished the second half with a record of 29-51, and finished the 2001 season with 104 losses -- another new all-time low for the franchise.


Before the 2001 post-season had ended -- in fact, before it had even begun -- Doyle reached out to the reigning two-time champion of the BDBL to make him an offer that no sane person could ever refuse.  This trade offer was so incredible, so astounding, so nonsensical, and so illogical that it continues to be debated, discussed and dissected today.

Apparently overwhelmed by the notion of carrying so much salary heading into the 2002 season, Doyle set out that winter to cut salary at any cost.  And naturally, his first impulse was to give the two-time reigning BDBL champion a once-in-a-lifetime exclusive offer.  Doyle's offer was to trade his 30-year-old perennial MVP candidate, Chipper Jones, to the Stamford Zoots in exchange for pitcher Ryan Dempster.  Jones would hit .279/.379/.516, with 35 home runs, 124 RBIs and 123.9 runs created for Stamford that season, at a salary of $8 million, with five years remaining on his contract.  Dempster would pitch just one season for Manchester (8-12, 4.28 ERA in 170+ IP), at $2.5 million in salary.  He then became a free agent at the end of the season.

If the inexplicable cost-cutting had stopped there, perhaps the future of the Manchester franchise could have been spared.  But Doyle continued to slash and burn his roster to adhere to a new secret strategy he had devised earlier that year.  Next, he traded Helton to the Salem Cowtippers in exchange for young lefty Eric Milton.  The 27-year-old Helton would enjoy a career year in 2002, hitting .331/.442/.617, with 46 doubles, 41 homers, 152 runs scored, 124 RBIs, 120 walks and 170.6 runs created.  Like Jones, he, too, earned every penny of his $8 million salary, and had five years remaining on his contract.  Unlike Dempster, Milton (9-16, 3.51 ERA in 218+ IP) was young (26) and had two years remaining on his below-market contract.

Then, on December 16th, Doyle traded the last of his "Big Three" hitters, Ramirez, to the Black Sox in exchange for slugger Vladimir Guerrero (.269/.323/.473, 86.4 RC.)  But Doyle's reason for making this deal wasn't to improve his offense (Ramirez created 54.4 runs more than Guerrero in 2002), nor was it to save money (Guerrero was $3 million more expensive), nor was it to lock in additional years for the future (as Guerrero was a free agent at the end of 2002, while Ramirez had one year remaining at just $8 million.)  Doyle's reason for making this trade?  Defense.

December 16, 2001
Ramirez on the Move...AGAIN!
MANCHESTER, NH - The Irish Rebels announced they have traded Manny Ramirez to the Allentown Ridgebacks in exchange for the Vldamir Guerrero.

"With our emphasis on quality pitching, it is necessary to upgrade our defense in any way possible. Vldamir gives us excellent defense, more plate appearances and comparable offensive firepower. Manny is a great talent but he has been injury prone the last two years and we thought it would be best to free up the funds set aside for the last year of his contract," Bart Giamatti commented.

The Irish continue to look for a quality centerfielder as the trading deadline approaches.

Doyle's defense-first strategy of 2002 quickly became the stuff of legend.  After freeing up all that salary, Doyle now had enough money to make a pick in the first round of the draft.  He used that pick to select gold glover Bret Boone (.287/.354/.473, 99.3 RC) with the #3 pick overall, at a salary of $10 million.  With his second pick, he selected gold glove first baseman Darin Erstad (.264/.351/.364, 71.8 RC) at a salary of $5 million.  And with his third pick (in the 6th round), he selected gold glove catcher Brad Ausmus (.203/.233/.260) at a salary of $3 million.  By Opening Day, every position on the diamond had been filled with a gold glover with either a "Vg" or "Ex" range rating.  The bench, too, was filled with Vg's and Ex's.  At first base alone, the Irish Rebels roster included three Vg's and one Ex.

The only problem was, with the exceptions of Boone and Guerrero, none of these gold glovers could actually hit.  Erstad had the lowest MLB OPS (691) of any player ever drafted in the second round, and third baseman Cal Ripken (637), Ausmus (625) and shortstop Rey Ordonez (635) were among the worst hitters at their positions in all of baseball.  Exacerbating this problem was the fact that Doyle had changed his home ballpark model to the ultra-pitcher-friendly Safeco Field in Seattle prior to the 2002 season.

Not surprisingly, the Irish Rebels were picked to finish in last place once again:

Outlook: We've seen many strange theories and strategies employed throughout the three year history of this league, and this one ranks right up there among the strangest. It's hard to believe that this is the same team that came into the winter off-season with a 3-4-5 lineup of Manny Ramirez, Chipper Jones and Todd Helton. The Manchester pitching staff is not the best in the league, but because of their home ballpark and defense, they may very well lead the league in ERA. The problem is that they'll have a ton of trouble trying to scrape together 500 runs scored. And it's tough to win without scoring any runs - well, at least it is in the 21st century. Jim Doyle has publicly stated that he is trying to emulate the success of the 2001 Mariners, but what he seems to have forgotten is that the M's led the American League in runs scored last year. The Rebels will be hard-pressed to score half the runs of the league leader.

The result of Doyle's all-defense experiment were predictably disastrous.  The Irish Rebels finished the season with a 65-95 record, and scored just 577 runs -- the second-lowest total in BDBL history, as of this writing.  In the span of just one season, Manchester managed to score 256 runs less than they did the year before.


Despite the resounding failure of the all-defense strategy in 2002, Doyle tried it again in 2003 -- with one exception.  That winter, Doyle made just one trade, acquiring Frank Thomas (.251/.354/.431, 21 HR, 96.8 RC) from the Los Altos Undertakers in exchange for Tom Goodwin.  Thomas, a full-time designated hitter in MLB, played first base throughout the season despite a "Pr" range rating and an error rate three times above average.  The rest of the Manchester infield, however, included an "Ex"-ranged second baseman, an "Av" third baseman and shortstop, a "Vg" left fielder, "Ex" center fielder and "Ex" right fielder.

During the first-ever BDBL free agent auction, Doyle made yet another unusual decision when he signed second baseman Adam Kennedy (.296/.348/.417, 68.5 RC) for $5.5 million to take over for Boone, who was released on Cutdown Day.  Then, on the final day of the auction, Doyle bid $6.5 million to re-acquire Boone (.272/.329/.439.)  This decision was highly unusual because Boone was also a second baseman.  The Irish Rebels, then, went into Opening Day with two second basemen making a combined $11.5 million.  Doyle solved this problem by fielding Boone out of position all year.  Boone played third base throughout the season, and committed 14 errors on the year -- a .955 fielding percentage.

Just one year after employing an "all-defense" strategy to the detriment of his offense, Doyle's strategy was almost completely reversed in 2003, as the Irish Rebels' infield included two players who were not rated to play their positions.

On the mound, Wood (10-13, 4.05 ERA in 220+ IP) finally returned to both good health and good production, in the fourth year of his seven-year contract.  He was joined in the rotation by lefties Kenny Rogers (11-11, 3.46 ERA in 190+ IP) -- a 26th-round flier taken by Doyle in the 2002 draft -- and Milton (8-13, 4.94 ERA in 173+ IP), who was now in the final year of his contract.  And closer Wagner (3-6, 3.30 ERA, 29 SVs in 79 IP) was also in the final year of his contract as well.

Despite the addition of two offense-first players added to the lineup, each playing out of position, there was some speculation that the 2003 Irish Rebels may break their own BDBL record for fewest runs scored.

Outlook: It's tough - I dare say impossible - for a team to win without scoring any runs.  If the Irish Rebels had the greatest pitching staff in the league, I might give them the benefit of the doubt and predict a .500 record.  But sadly, Manchester doesn't have the best pitching staff in the league.  Unfortunately, aside from Wagner and possibly Milton and Wood, the Irish Rebels don't have a lot of trade bait, either.  So they'll have to rely upon their GM being alert and stealing players off the free agent wire with the second-best slot (or best, if you assume that Geisel will be asleep at the wheel once again) throughout the summer.  And a long summer it will be in Manchester.

Despite the low expectations, however, the Irish Rebels began the 2003 season on fire.  They won nine of their first thirteen games and hit an astounding .301/.370/.468 as a team during that time.  Darin Erstad (who was re-drafted by Doyle at $5 million in the second round) led the OL in RBIs at that point, and he and Boone shared the league lead in home runs.  Unfortunately for Doyle, that would be the high point of the season for the Irish Rebels.  They wrapped up the chapter with a 13-15 record, and then went 11-15 in Chapter Two.

At the all-star break, Manchester was still hanging tough with a respectable 37-43 record, and they were even scoring a respectable number of runs (351, 8th in the OL.)  But the Irish Rebels went into a freefall after that, and went just 31-49 in the second half, while scoring just 284 runs.  And while his team continued to slide, Doyle rested.  He didn't make one trade, allowing his free agents to depart without any benefit, and signed only a handful of veteran free agents.  Manchester finished  the season with a 68-92 record -- their fourth consecutive season with more than 90 losses.  They scored 635 runs -- an improvement of 58 runs from 2002, but still only the second-lowest total in the OL.


Heading into the 2004 season, Doyle declared that he had adopted yet another new top-secret strategy, and confidently assured the tittering BDBL press corps that this new strategy was guaranteed to turn the franchise around.  That winter, he made three trades.  In the first deal, he parted with Wood and received Roger Clemens in exchange.  At the time, Wood had three years and $30 million remaining on his contract, while the 41-year-old Clemens was earning just $5.5 million and had no contract.  Little did anyone realize at that time that Clemens still had plenty of gas left in the tank, and that he would soon become the highest-paid player in BDBL history.

Later that winter, Doyle flipped Clemens to the Marlboro Hammerheads, along with Melvin Mora and Mateo.  In exchange, he received Jorge Posada (.299/.426/.564, 35 HR, 123.1 RC), Carl Everett (.295/.378/.509, 93.5 RC overall) and Luis Ayala (5-3, 4.14 ERA in 74 IP), filling three holes on his roster for the price of one.

Doyle also traded closer Francisco Cordero that winter, getting Marquis Grissom (.297/.346/.491, 46.2 RC in 269 AB) in return from the Cowtippers.  He then entered into the free agent auction with $27.9 million to spend, and he used that money to sign Erubiel Durazo (.244/.363/.452, 92.7 RC) for $5.5 million, re-sign Billy Wagner (5-4, 8 Svs, 3.15 ERA in 80+ IP) for $7 million, and add a second closer in Mariano Rivera (3-2, 26 SVs, 2.04 ERA in 66+ IP) at $5.5 million.  The decision to pay so much money for Wagner was dubious, given his role on the roster as a middle reliever.

That winter, the league adopted a "radical realignment" proposal that shifted several teams around within the Ozzie League.  The Irish Rebels remained in the Benes Division, but they would now be competing against the Ravenswood Infidels, Gillette Swamp Rats and Marlboro Hammerheads for the division title.

With Boone (.283/.355/.538, 42 HR, 112 RC) returning to all-star form, and surrounded by the likes of Posada, Durazo and Everett, the Irish Rebels offense appeared to be significantly improved over the "all-defense" lineups of 2002 and 2003.  Another significant addition to the lineup in 2004 was the debut of 21-year-old rookie Miguel Cabrera.  Cabrera was the #1 selection by Doyle in the 2002 farm draft, and the third overall selection in that draft.  At the time, it was a bold selection, as the 18-year-old Cabrera had just completed a full season at the Low-A level of the minor leagues where he had hit just .268/.327/.382, with only 7 home runs and 76 strikeouts in 422 at-bats.  But by the 2005 BDBL season, Cabrera had become a perennial MVP candidate and one of the top young hitters in the entire league.

With Rivera and Wagner on hand, the Irish Rebels also owned one of the best (and certainly most expensive) bullpens in the league.  But with so much money being spent on the bullpen and lineup, something had to suffer.  And that "something" was the starting rotation.  The de facto "ace" of the staff appeared to be Brian Anderson (5-11, 5.40 ERA in 180+ IP), who would have been a #5 starter for most teams in the league.  Victor Zambrano (6-12, 5.61 ERA in 146 IP), Rogers (8-12, 5.49 ERA in 172+ IP), Rodrigo Lopez (9-7, 4.63 ERA in 97+ IP) and Elmer Dessens (6-7, 4.97 ERA in 134 IP) filled out a lackluster Manchester rotation.

The Irish Rebels were picked to finish in third place, and went 12-16 in Chapter One to meet those expectations.  By the end of two chapters, they were looking at a 23-33 record and an 11-game deficit in the division.  Once again, it looked like a rebuilding year in Manchester.

It wasn't until the Chapter Four deadline, however, that Doyle made his first move toward the future.  In a deal with the Marlboro Hammerheads, Doyle traded Everett, Grissom and reliever Julian Tavarez in exchange for Matt Morris, Matt Riley and Bobby Hill.  The trade was a bit of a disaster, as Morris pitched just one season for Manchester (and not very effectively), while Riley and Hill never made any impact in the big leagues.

But perhaps more disastrous than that trade was Doyle's decision to select veteran role players Rickey Henderson, Dave McCarty and Orlando Merced at that chapter's free agent signing period.  While other teams loaded up their farm clubs with the best young talent available (such as Mark Teahen, Homer Bailey, Rich Hill, Ian Kinsler, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Matt Holliday and Howie Kendrick), Doyle had used the #3 overall pick in that "mid-season draft" to add veteran role players to a losing cause.  (Note: he did, however, manage to squeeze out every ounce of Henderson's productivity at BDBL Weekend that summer.)

At the final trading deadline, Doyle went back to the trading table with Cowtippers GM Mike Glander and re-acquired Wood at the expense of Boone and Reggie Sanders.  The Irish Rebels continued their freefall in the second half, going 35-45 to finish with a last-place record of 65-95.


After another injury-shortened MLB season, Wood (9-6, 4.30 ERA) was limited to just 136 innings in the 2005 BDBL season.  He was joined in the rotation by 2004 21st-round draft flier Brett Tomko (10-10, 5.10 ERA in 178+ IP), Manchester mainstay Rodrigo Lopez (12-11, 3.90 ERA in 159+ IP) and Morris (9-9, 4.75 ERA in 163 IP.)

Offensively, Cabrera (.290/.374/.489, 31 HR, 103.4 RC) enjoyed his first big season in the BDBL, and Posada (.272/.380/.458, 83 RC) returned for his final year under contract.  Durazo (.347/.413/.557, 115.5 RC) also returned, and enjoyed the best year of his career.

That winter, Doyle sat on his roster and made just one insignificant trade.  He then went into the auction with a little more than $10 million to spend.  Inexplicably, he spent 80% of his budget to acquire another first baseman in Sean Casey (.315/.374/.432, 99.1 RC.)  This meant that yet again, Doyle would be forced to play at least one player in his lineup out of position.  That player was Casey, who played 56 games at third base that season with predictably disastrous results, committing 11 errors (a .906 fielding percentage.)

Because so much money had been spent on Casey, Doyle couldn't afford to patch the glaring hole left by the departure of both of his second basemen from 2004, Boone and Kennedy.  Incredibly, Doyle filled that hole by trading Billy Wagner to the Allentown Ridgebacks in exchange for Nomar Garciaparra (.332/.366/.534 in 283 AB.)  But the problems with Garciaparra were numerous.  For starters, he was a ("Pr"-rated) natural shortstop -- not a second baseman.  As such, he posted a .955 fielding percentage for the Irish Rebels that season while also playing out of position.  Secondly, due to an injury-plagued MLB season, Garciaparra was only able to bat 306 times in 2005.  And lastly, Garciaparra carried a burdensome $7 million salary that guaranteed a minimum one-year contract at the end of the season.  And in exchange for that $7 million, Manchester got just 210 plate appearances out of him in 2006.

Once again, the Irish Rebels -- who, just two years earlier had stripped away every decent hitter in their lineup to field an all-gold-glove team -- headed into the season with two players playing out of position.  And oddly enough, this nonsensical strategy seemed to be working, as the Irish Rebels went 18-10 in Chapter One -- four games ahead of the second-place Marlboro Hammerheads -- and outscored their opponents by a league-best 64 runs.

But once again, that hot start was a mirage.  By the second week of May, the party was over:

May 11, 2005
Manchester Irish Collapse
MANCHESTER, NH -- The Manchester Irish Rebels came into this chapter leading their division by one game despite a 10-18 Chapter Two.  Now, after a 1-7 start to Chapter Three, the Irish Rebels now find themselves sitting a full SIX GAMES behind the division-leading Ravenswood Infidels.

The defending champs are currently 12-4 on the chapter, taking three of four from the Nashville Funkadelic and Southern Cal Slyme, and sweeping the Silicon Valley CyberSox, despite averaging just 3.4 runs per game this chapter.  The Ravenswood pitching staff has compiled a 2.00 ERA for the chapter, led by ace Johan Santana (4-0, 1.52), Brad Penny (1-1, 1.54) and the newly-acquired Kelvim Escobar (0-1, 2.00.) On the flip side, Manchester pitchers have posted a 6.04 ERA this chapter, with 97 hits and 12 homers allowed in 76 innings.

By the all-star break, the Irish Rebels were looking up at the rest of their division once again, with a 35-45 record -- nine games behind the division leaders.

Doyle did his best to save his sinking ship, sending top prospect Carlos Quentin to the Cowtippers for ace pitcher Brad Radke.  While Radke performed admirably for his new team (6-7, 2.70 ERA in 140+ IP), he wasn't enough to turn the season around.

After four chapters of play, it became obvious that it would be yet another lost season for the Irish Rebels.  Manchester remained in last place in their division, but only eight games behind the division-leading Ravenswood Infidels.  But where most observers saw a sinking ship, Doyle saw an opportunity.  At the final trading deadline, he made several deals designed to push his team past the three teams ahead of him in the division.

First, he swapped prospect Taylor Teagarden in exchange for starting pitcher Cory Lidle (5-6, 5.15 ERA in 68+ IP for Manchester.)  Next, he traded closer Mariano Rivera in exchange for another closer, B.J. Ryan.  And finally, he traded Durazo and Tomko in exchange for true third baseman Vinny Castilla (.177/.233/.407 for Manchester) and John Thomson (1-4, 4.50 ERA in 46 IP.)

But all these moves seemed to hurt more than they helped, as the Irish Rebels went just 22-34 (.393) over the final two chapters to finish the season with a record of 70-90 -- an unprecedented SIXTH year in a row with 90+ losses since Doyle took over the franchise.


Doyle headed into the winter of 2006 with $23 million to spend on 20 free agents.  Despite the glaring need to fix the franchise's problems, Doyle didn't make a single trade that winter, and headed into the auction with roughly the same roster that had lost 90 games the year before.

On the third day of the auction, Doyle shelled out $18 million to sign two middle infielders -- a new BDBL record -- in an effort to shore up both his lineup and his defense.  Second baseman Brian Roberts (.318/.387/.531, 125.4 RC overall) was signed to a salary of $8.5 million, and shortstop Rafael Furcal (.269/.341/.414, 90.7 RC) was signed to a $9.5 million salary.

With Cabrera (.326/.402/.555, 36 HR, 132 RC) returning to the lineup, Manchester owned perhaps the best one-through-three hitters in the league.  The problem was that there was a steep drop in talent after Cabrera.

On the mound, Radke (10-14, 3.79 ERA in 223 IP) and Lopez (14-14, 3.87 ERA in 209+ IP) returned to the starting rotation.  They were joined by left-handed rookies Scott Kazmir (11-10, 5.36 ERA in 188 IP) and Jeff Francis (11-10, 5.97 ERA in 161+ IP.)  Francis had been acquired as part of a 2002 trade with the Salem Cowtippers, where Doyle sent Brad Penny to Salem in exchange for Darryl Kile, Shane Reynolds, Rick Ankiel and Francis.  That same year, Doyle adopted a strategy for selecting farm players that would prove to be wildly effective.  Following the 2002 MLB amateur draft, Doyle simply selected the first player available from the MLB first-round selections.  At the Chapter Four deadline that year, the first two players available from the draft just happened to be Kazmir and another lefty high school pitcher, Adam Loewen.

After spending so much money on his middle infield, Doyle had no money remaining to fill his bullpen.  So he went into Opening Day with just two relievers with 20+ MLB innings and a sub-4.70 CERA: Mike Timlin and Luis Ayala.  It was just another dubious Doyle experiment with predictably disastrous results.  The Irish Rebels owned a 4.82 team ERA in 2006, in large part due to their bullpen.

Once again, the Irish Rebels jumped out to an unexpected lead in their division after one chapter of play, going 17-11 -- three games better than the next-best team in the division.  But once again, they fell just as quickly as they rose, going 11-17 in the next chapter.  And by the all-star break, Manchester was sporting a 38-42 record, and had fallen 14 games out of the division race.

At the Chapter Four deadline, Doyle elected not to pick up any farm free agents, eschewing the farm strategy that had worked so well for him in the past.  Instead, he made just one insignificant trade (acquiring Dustin Hermanson and J.T. Snow in exchange for Sean Casey), and added two veteran role players (Buddy Groom and Bubba Crosby) with his only two free agent signings.

At the final trading deadline, Doyle made four trades in an effort to build for the 2007 season.  In one of those deals, he sent Radke, Francis and Lopez to Salem in exchange for top prospect Carlos Quentin and three others.  He then traded Roberts to the New Milford Blazers in exchange for Alfonso Soriano, Justin Duchscherer and Yovani Gallardo.  Both Quentin and Gallardo would soon become two of the top prospects in baseball.


Manchester wrapped up the 2006 season with a record of 71-89 -- their best record in the Jim Doyle Era -- and for the first time since 1999, there were several reasons for optimism heading into the 2007 season.

At the age of 23, Kazmir (10-8, 3.61 ERA in 157+ IP, 39 BB, 195 K) had developed into one of the top young pitchers in baseball.  He was joined by 22-year-old righty Matt Cain (10-11, 4.93 ERA, 197+ IP, 190 K) and 23-year-old lefty Cole Hamels (9-8, 4.05 ERA in 140+ IP, 143 K) -- both of whom were acquired during the 2003 farm draft.

That farm draft was one of the best ever for any GM in league history, as Doyle used his patented farm strategy to select Jeremy Hermida in Round #2, Joe Saunders in Round #3, Hamels in Round #4 and Cain in Round #5.  Together, Kazmir, Cain and Hamels earned just $300,000 combined in 2007, with a combined market value of around $45 million.  No other franchise in the BDBL owned three such highly-coveted and highly-valuable commodities, and this gave Manchester a huge leg up on the competition.

Returning to the lineup was the 24-year-old Cabrera (.334/.421/.572, 143.2 RC), who enjoyed a career year in 2007 at a salary of just $1.6 million.  Soriano, acquired during the prior year, gave the lineup another power bat, as he contributed 38 home runs and 91.6 runs created.  And Furcal returned to hit .269/.327/.418 with 90.2 runs created.

As if that weren't reason enough for optimism, the Irish Rebels also had $35.9 million to spend on free agents (the fourth-highest total in the league.)  And with only a few holes to fill, Doyle was expected to be a major player in the auction.  Of course, given his unpredictable track record, no one was prepared to discover just how much of a player he would be.

The 2007 auction was truly unique, as the league seemed to set a new record every day of the auction.  With a record amount of money available to spend, and a considerably weak draft pool upon which to spend it, several teams overextended themselves and spent far more money than anyone imagined.  The Irish Rebels were just one of those teams.

Once the $20 million threshold had been surpassed during the prior year's auction, this seemed to establish a new level of acceptability in the minds of BDBL GM's.  And when Johan Santana went for a new-record of $21 million on the first day of the auction, panic consumed several owners who were counting on signing an ace starting pitcher for a reasonable salary.

Despite the fact that he already had a quality four-man starting rotation in place before the auction, Doyle was among those who lost the bidding for Santana, having submitted a $20 million bid.  On the third day of the auction, Doyle submitted another $20 million bid for Chris Carpenter, and lost that bid as well.  When C.C. Sabathia's auction day arrived, no one outside of the Doyle home imagined that Sabathia would get anywhere near that amount.  Coming off a 2006 MLB season in which he had posted a 3.22 ERA in 192+ innings, with 182 hits allowed, 44 walks and 172 strikeouts, Sabathia was a solid and consistent performer, but he was considered to be in a class below Santana and Carpenter.

Nevertheless, Doyle submitted another $20 million bid for Sabathia, and this time the bid stuck.

January 7, 2007
Sabathia = $20 million = Fiscal Insanity
SALEM, NH - The fiscal insanity that is the 2007 BDBL free agent auction grew exponentially when the Manchester Irish Rebels spent a whopping $20 million on #2 starter C.C. Sabathia.  Sabathia joins a Manchester rotation that includes right-hander Matt Cain and four other lefties: Scott Kazmir, Cole Hamels, Mark Hendrickson and Adam Loewen.

After spending more than half of his available cash (and one-third of his team's total salary) on one player, Doyle had little money to fill the remaining holes in his lineup.  In an attempt to fill one of those holes, he shelled out $6 million to utility infielder Rich Aurilia (.272/.315/.412, 46.5 RC), locking in another costly "Type H" player.

Once again, Doyle hadn't made a single trade to fill his roster during the winter, and when the auction ended he still had a glaring hole behind the plate.  And once again, Doyle's solution for patching that hole drew gasps and guffaws from the BDBL community.  In an ill-fated deal with the Chicago Black Sox, Doyle traded three of the top young players in baseball (Gallardo, Loewen and Jarred Saltalamachhia) in exchange for aging veteran catcher Ivan Rodriguez (.303/.356/.460, 77.6 RC) and minor league catcher Kurt Suzuki.  It was an extremely steep price to pay for a 35-year-old catcher with a $5.5 million salary and a guaranteed contract for 2008.

However, by the time the dust settled, the Irish Rebels were looking like a contender.  For the first time ever, they were picked to win their division in the 2007 Season Preview (though it wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement):

Outlook: Jim "Stand Pat" Doyle's mind-boggling decision to spend $20 million on C.C. Sabathia has left this team several players short of a championship-caliber roster. Already, this decision has cost the franchise three great young players, who were sacrificed to fill the gaping hole behind the plate. Several more prospects may need to be sacrificed to fill the rest of those holes. "Stand Pat" was one of only two GM's (Steve Osborne being the other) who didn't make a single trade this winter. Instead, he chose to save all his money for the big free agent class of 2007. The Irish Rebels came into this winter with a solid four-man rotation and several gaping holes in the lineup. With more than $35 million to spend, those holes could have been filled very nicely. For example, Carlos Delgado, Ray Durham and Ivan Rodriguez cost just $18.5 million TOTAL in the auction. Yet Doyle spent $1.5 million more than that on just one player without filling any of those holes. As a result, Manchester heads into the 2007 season with a much weaker team than anticipated. Despite that, this team is still strong enough to win this division.

After one chapter of play, the Irish Rebels (14-14) were in the middle of a tight battle with the Ravenswood Infidels (15-13) and Las Vegas Flamingos (13-15.)  Less than two weeks into the season, Doyle made his first trade of the year, trading another top young prospect (Andrew McCutchen) to the Marlboro Hammerheads in exchange for slugger Jason Giambi.  McCutchen (like Gallardo, Loewen and Saltalamacchia) was considered to be among the top 40 prospects in baseball at the time, at at #13 was the Irish Rebels' top farm prospect.  Giambi would hit just .226 for the Irish Rebels over the final five chapters, but would hit 29 home runs, draw 91 walks and drive in 118 runs.

In Chapter Two, the Infidels bolted out of the gate with a 13-3 record, opening up a six-game lead over Manchester in the division.  They finished the chapter with an astounding 22-6 record, while the Irish Rebels merely held their ground at 14-14.  By the all-star break, Manchester had fallen to third place -- nine games behind the Infidels in the division -- with a record of 36-44.

After another .500 chapter to start the second half, it became clear that this, too, would not be Manchester's year.  At the end of July, Doyle attended BDBL Weekend in St. Louis and Kansas City.  And during the five-hour drive from one city to the other, Doyle and Salem GM Mike Glander hammered out an exhausting three-way trade with Greg Newgard of the San Antonio Broncs.  In that deal, Doyle sent Cabrera to Salem, getting young five-tool phenom B.J. Upton in return.

Manchester then wrapped up the season quietly, finishing with a record of 70-90 -- 21 games behind the division-leading Infidels, and 11 games behind the surprising Flamingos.


Expectations were again high heading into the 2008 season.  Sabathia (21-13, 3.33 ERA in 254+ IP, 44 BB, 214 K), Kazmir (11-14, 4.54 ERA in 204+ IP) and Hamels (8-15, 3.80 ERA in 194+ IP, 188 K) all returned to the starting rotation, better than ever, and still dirt-cheap.  But inexplicably, despite the increasing demand (and salaries) of good, young starting pitching, Doyle traded Cain that winter to the Kansas Law Dogs in exchange for reliever Jonathan Papelbon (1-4, 1.91 ERA, 30 SVs in 61+ IP.)  Making this decision even more illogical, Doyle also threw in Quentin, who then went on to have a career year in MLB that year.

December 13, 2007
Doyle Does It Again
MANCHESTER, NH - Manchester Irish Rebels GM Jim Doyle made another bone-headed trade on Thursday, sending $100,000 ace Matt Cain (along with "throw-in" Carlos Quentin) to the Kansas Law Dogs in exchange for Jonathan Papelbon and Eric Bruntlett.

With Cain gone, the #4 spot in the rotation went to Jorge Sosa (4-1, 5.04 ERA in 98+ IP) and Steve Trachsel (3-11, 5.40 ERA in 95 IP.)  Needless to say, neither pitcher approached Cain's performance (15-11, 3.66 ERA in 218+ IP) for Kansas.  For the second year in a row, an early-season Doyle trade had the entire league shaking its collective head in disbelief and incredulity.  But by the end of the season, the Cain trade would only be the second-worst trade made by Doyle that season.

With Sabathia still eating up a third of the team's total salary, Doyle had very little money going into the auction.  He resigned Roberts (.285/.364/.398, 97.3 RC) to a $6.5 million salary, and then picked up middle relievers Brian Fuentes and Lee Gardner for $5 million each in the draft.

With Cabrera now gone, Upton (.294/.366/.525, 28 HR, 89.6 RC) filled his spot in the lineup at a fraction of the salary (the league-minimum $100,000.)  Soriano (.249/.280/.415, 70.9 RC) also returned to the lineup, and hit for a little power, but nothing else.  But the biggest improvement to the lineup was at first base, where Carlos Pena (.286/.414/.654, 56 HR, 139 RBIs, 149.9 RC) enjoyed a monster season, topping the Ozzie League in home runs, and finishing among the top ten in on-base percentage, slugging, runs scored, runs batted in and runs created.  Pena was acquired in 2007 in the 38th round of the free agent draft -- the third-to-last selection in that draft.  And in the span of just one year, he went from being the 837th best player in the BDBL to an MVP candidate.

The Irish Rebels were picked to finish second to the Infidels, due mostly to the fact that they had yet to find a quality starter to replace Cain in the rotation.  It was thought that the Benes Division race would be a tightly-fought battle throughout the season.  And after the first chapter of play, that prediction seemed accurate, as the Infidels and Irish Rebels were separated by just two games in the standings.

Manchester got off to a hot start in Chapter Two, going 7-1 to pull into a tie atop the division.  But they then went 8-12 the rest of the way, and fell another two games behind Ravenswood.  By May 16th, the division race was all but over.  Ravenswood was the hottest team in the BDBL at that point, going 15-5 to start the chapter.  Their lead in the division grew to 13 games, and Doyle was forced to begin looking at the OL wild card race instead.

But the Irish Rebels went just 7-17 in Chapter Three, and their deficit in the wild card race grew to double digits.  By the end of four chapters, that deficit had grown to 15 games, and inevitably 2008 had become yet another lost cause.

It was at that point that Doyle -- once again -- did something completely illogical and inexplicable, causing the people around the league to question his sanity.

July 28, 2008
WTF!? Doyle Does It Again
MANCHESTER, NH - Manchester GM Jim Doyle has made a career out of making hugely insane, mind-numbing trades. This week he added to his impressive resume by trading away two of the top young commodities in the entire league in exchange for a package of dubious prospects.

Gone are Cole Hamels (recently ranked as the 10th most valuable commodity in the BDBL) and Scott Kazmir (#13) -- two power-pitching 24-year-old left-handed aces. In return, Doyle received injury-plagued former prospect Phil Hughes, former prospect Franklin Morales, former prospect Carlos Gomez and assorted spare parts.

Doyle explained his reasoning behind the trade by stating that he had heard former KC Royals second baseman Frank White proclaim on a recent Royals broadcast that Kazmir was injured, and that his fastball was down to 87 miles per hour.  Doyle claimed that he was making a "Billy Beane" type of trade, in that he was selling off Kazmir and Hamels at their peak value in exchange for a number of young players that would eventually surpass those two pitchers in value.

Our scouting reports indicate that Scott Kazmir has a serious arm problem that he will not recover from in the near future and we wanted to make a quick trade before the extent of that injury hit the mainstream market and affected his trade value. Frank White, one of the KC Royal announcers, spent a few minutes during a recent KC-TB game lamenting the fact that Kazmir's velocity had fallen from 94 to 87 on the radar gun. Further, this reduced velocity had not led to increased accuracy. In our most recent reviews of Scott's pitching performance, his Whip rate last week was 1.66 and he was unable to pitch more than 4 innings in his last outing. Finally, Kazmir has failed to learn how to keep his number of pitches down and this increases the chances of arm injuries and increases the wear and tear on a bullpen. You take that all together and we needed to make a move.

Getting rid of Hamels was an emotional reaction to the fact that Cole had only won 5 games this year. We were very disappointed with Cole's productivity and actually disgusted that he did not seem too concerned about winning now. In retrospect, we should have split them up but we were attracted to the package of players offered in return for Kazmir and Hamels.

I think BDBL owners have short memories and overestimate the effect of injuries on MLB players. Phil Hughes, Franklin Morales and Gio Gonzalez are all capable of anchoring a pitching staff. Hughes was a higher ranked prospect than Joba until Hughes broke his rib...I think Hughes will be the ace of the Rebel staff starting with the 2010 BDBL season. Franklin Morales has had success in the majors and is still very young. Gio Gonzalez leads the minors in Ks and along with Scott Elbert we expect to have a strong pitching rotation in the 2010 BDBL season.

But the league wasn't buying it.

That same chapter, Doyle made another trade with the New Hope Badgers, sending Soriano and the team's top prospect, Austin Jackson, to the Badgers in exchange for Miguel Tejada, pitcher Chris Young and Aaron Cunningham.  The move was primarily a salary dump, as Soriano was owed more than $39 million over the next four years.

In the wake of heavy criticism over the Kazmir/Hamels deal, Doyle announced on August 13th that he was adding an assistant GM to the Irish Rebels front office.

The Irish Rebels are happy to announce that Todd Bliss, a 35 year old Financial Services Professional from Hooksett NH has agreed to become the assistant GM for the Rebel franchise. Bliss is a season ticket holder with the Class AA Toronto affiliate known as the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. He sits right behind Jim Doyle at every minor league game Doyle attends. Doyle had the following comments:

"Our franchise is 23rd out of 24 BDBL teams in terms of all franchise wins. Todd has joined our organization so we can change that fact. I have been impressed with Todd's love of the game, his ability to analyze minor league talent and his impressive financial background. We are hopeful Todd will help us make effective investment decisions in next year's BDBL auction as well as the free agent and minor league drafts. Todd obviously fits the bill for what we need to take our franchise to the next level. On a practical level, that means Todd will have veto power over any trade proposals. While Todd ultimately desires to run his own BDBL franchise, we intend to use his expertise until his own opportunity for ownership becomes a reality."

Manchester finished the 2008 season with a 75-85 record -- their best record since Doyle took over the franchise, but still ten games below .500.

There is one thing no one could ever say about the Manchester franchise: that it is uninteresting.  One could formulate a very good argument that Manchester has been the most interesting franchise in league history (or, at least, the most interesting sub-.500 franchise.)

This franchise's history began with its owner resigning from the league on the eve of the deciding game of the EL Division Series.  Yet, remarkably, that event wouldn't rank among the top ten most stunning events in franchise history.

In a recent article written for the league's tenth anniversary, three of the top four worst trades in league history all involved Doyle on the losing end.  Doyle also owns #7 on that list, giving him an incredible 40% share of the league's ten worst trades.

Among the many trades made by Doyle that hurt the Manchester franchise farm more than it helped:

  • Paul O'Neill for Charles Johnson.
  • Al Leiter for Kelvim Escobar (who was later cut)
  • Chipper Jones for Ryan Dempster (#1 on that aforementioned list)
  • Todd Helton for Eric Milton
  • Billy Wagner for Nomar Garciaparra
  • Yovani Gallardo, Jarred Saltalamacchia and Adam Loewen for Ivan Rodriguez.
  • Andrew McCutchen for Jason Giambi
  • Matt Cain and Carlos Quentin for Jonathan Papelbon
  • Scott Kazmir and Cole Hamels for a package of former prospects

The list goes on and on.  Unlike most trades, where the eventual "winner" of a trade isn't known until several months (or years) afterward, all of the trades above were universally panned by BDBL critics immediately after the trades were announced, and have since proven to be even more disastrous than they appeared at the time.

Part of the explanation for so many awful trades lies with Doyle's propensity to adopt new strategies from year-to-year.  While correctly recognizing that whatever strategy he had been employing in the past was unsuccessful, Doyle often latched onto whatever outlandish strategy he happened to be reading about that particular winter, and leapt in with both feet.  Among the more memorable Doyle strategies of the past:

  • The "all-defense" strategy of 2002-2003
  • The "spending big bucks for defensive catchers with sub-700 OPS's" strategy (employed multiple times throughout Doyle's career)
  • Fielding a lineup with multiple players playing out of position
  • Committing $20M ($40 million over two seasons) to a #2 or #3 starting pitcher, despite the presence of four quality starters already in the rotation
  • Not spending any money on starting pitching whatsoever, and going with a five-man rotation filled with #5 starters
  • Breaking up his promising and highly-coveted young trio of all-star starters, exchanging known value for unrealized potential
  • The "no bullpen" strategy of 2006
  • The salary purge strategy of 2002 that resulted in the Chipper/Dempster trade

When you consider the sheer volume of impact players that have come through the Manchester farm system over the past decade (Miguel Cabrera, Scott Kazmir, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Carlos Quentin, Jeff Francis, Nick Markakis, Jeremy Hermida, Joe Saunders, Hank Blalock), it's difficult to fathom how this franchise could rank 21st out of 24 teams in wins.

If nothing else, Doyle has certainly kept things interesting in the BDBL -- both on and off the field -- and has been a tremendous asset to the BDBL in pure entertainment value alone.