Geisel was one of the most colorful characters in league history.
One of the founding fathers of the BDBL, Geisel was a longtime friend of
Mike Glander, Paul Marazita and Billy Romaniello, and was a member of
Glander's Computer Baseball League in the late 80's. Geisel
considered himself to be a huge baseball fan, and was a season ticket
holder at Yankee Stadium for several years. But while he enjoyed
following the Yankees, and kept up with the latest baseball news by
watching "Sportscenter" every night and reading USA Today's Baseball
Weekly every Monday, Geisel had little use for egghead statistics,
and little desire to follow minor league or amateur baseball. He
simply wanted to have some fun with his old friends, and compete with
people across the country. No one enjoyed playing the games more
than Geisel, and no one took the hobby less seriously.
While Geisel portrayed an apathetic
attitude toward the hobby externally, he was also a fierce competitor.
And when he began to assemble his team through the inaugural draft of
1999, he set out to build a competitive team immediately, with little
regard to how that team may perform a year or two down the road.
With his first pick of the draft -- the
18th overall selection -- Geisel selected 34-year-old all-star Barry
Bonds. It turned out to be one of the best picks of the draft --
not only for the 1999 season, but for many years to come. Bonds
hit .315/.456/.603 for Geisel's Litchfield Lightning that season, with
38 home runs, 144 walks, 31 stolen bases and 167.4 runs created.
But it was only the tip of the iceberg for Bonds, who would go on to win
five BDBL MVP awards over the next six seasons.
Thirteen picks later, when the draft
snaked back around to Litchfield, Geisel selected his favorite all-time
pitcher (a pitcher who had carried Geisel's CBL team to a division
title a decade before), David Cone. The 36-year-old Cone went 16-10 for
Litchfield, with a 2.69 ERA in 244+ innings, and 240 strikeouts. Geisel then continued to fill his starting rotation, selecting
32-year-old Pete Harnisch (7-8, 4.35 ERA in 184+ IP) and
30-year-old Denny Neagle (12-11, 3.98 ERA in 224+ IP) with his next two
picks. Geisel then closed out his $5 million picks by selecting
32-year-old closer Jeff Shaw (7-9, 37 SVs, 3.92 ERA in 78+ IP) with his
With his pitching staff off to a good
start, Geisel then turned his attention to his starting lineup, and
selected 32-year-old Scott Brosius (.321/.403/.530, 31 HR, 136.7 RC) and
32-year-old Eric Young (.268/.333/.384, 61 SB, 78.8 RC) with his next
two picks. He then made the best pick of the entire draft when he
selected 36-year-old Edgar Martinez (.306/.419/.536, 46 2B, 28 HR, 137.1
RC) in the 8th round. At the time, the other GMs in the BDBL were
reluctant to select a pure DH, but Geisel had no problem suffering
through Martinez's lapses at first base as long as he posted MVP-caliber
numbers at the plate. And Martinez did just that for the next five
In the ninth round, Geisel finally
selected his first under-30 player of the draft in 29-year-old Mark
Grudzielanek (.263/.304/.358, 63.7 RC.) On average, the first 15
players selected by Geisel in that draft were 33 years of age, and no
player was younger than 29. The Lightning were, by far, the oldest
team in the BDBL. Yet, Geisel had accomplished his goal.
Playing in the same division as high school buddy Billy Romaniello, and
in the same league as Glander and Marazita, Geisel was not only expected
to compete in 1999, but win his division.
The Lightning got off to a good start,
going 14-11 in Chapter One, but it was the surprising Los Altos
Undertakers who led at that time with a 16-9 record. By the end of
two chapters of play, Litchfield was sporting a .589 record, which would
have put them in a tie for first in the Butler Division, and would have
led the Benes Division. But in the Griffin Division, it was only
good for second place, as the Undertakers continued to shock the league
with the best record (39-17, .696) in the Ozzie League -- six games
better than Litchfield.
At the halfway point of the season, Los
Altos maintained their six-game lead as they continued to defy all
expectations thanks to manager Jeff Paulson's clever deployment of
platoon players and relief pitchers.
At the final trading deadline, Paulson
made his move, acquiring several impact players for the final stretch,
while Geisel was content to ride it out the team he had. Throughout
the season, Geisel didn't make a single transaction until the Chapter
Five deadline, when he picked up a few free agents for his reserve
With just one chapter remaining in the
season, the division race appeared to be over, as the Lightning trailed
Los Altos by eight games. But Litchfield led the OL wild card race
by a narrow one-game margin over the Antioch Angels, and Geisel was
desperate to play post-season baseball. Over the final 28 games of
the season, the Lighting stepped up their level of play, going 18-10 to
finish with a 94-66 record and win the wild card by four games over
Antioch. But there was considerable controversy over how
the Lightning accomplished this feat.
Intentionally or not,
nearly half of the players on Litchfield's active roster -- eleven in
total -- were used above and beyond their playing usage limits.
Among them were the team's ace, Cone, #2 starter Hideki Irabu (14-5,
3.38 ERA in 184+ IP), top lefty setup man Arthur Rhodes (10-5, 4.15 ERA
in 91 IP), leadoff hitter Otis Nixon (.284/.344/.377, 61 SB, 9 CS), #2
hitter Young, #5 hitter Brosius and starting right fielder Marquis
Understandably, Antioch Angels owner Steve Spoulos protested this blatant disregard of the rules,
contending that his team may have won the wild card if the rules hadn't
been violated. In the end, it was judged that Geisel had
disregarded these rules simply out of carelessness, and the Lightning
were allowed to advance to the playoffs.
At the time, BDBL rules stated that the
overused players would all be suspended for the
Division Series. However, an emergency rule change was issued by
the Commissioner's Office, and the Lightning were allowed to keep Irabu
and Rhodes on their Division Series roster in exchange for paying a $1
Despite that last-minute rule change, only 21 players on Litchfield's 40-man
roster were eligible for the post-season, which meant that the Lightning went into the
Division Series against the heavily-favored Undertakers four players short of a full
roster. Yet, despite the impossible odds against them, Litchfield
managed to win the first two games of the best-of-five series.
Just one more victory away from an impossible upset, Los Altos then
reeled off two wins in a row to even the series and force a fifth and
The score was tied at 2-2 heading into
the sixth inning of that game, when the Undertakers plated two runs in
the bottom half of the inning. Paulson then turned the game over
to his world-famous bullpen. Litchfield scored a run on a sac fly,
and Paulson handed the game over to his dominant closer, Trevor
J.T. Snow (who was starting at first
base, as Geisel was forced to play Martinez out of position at third
base due to the suspension of Brosius) then delivered a clutch single,
which brought home the tying run of the game. The game then
extended into extra innings, where a wild pitch by Hoffman plated the
go-ahead run for Litchfield in the 10th inning. Unlikely hero Eric
Plunk then closed out the bottom of the 10th for the Lightning, and
Geisel had pulled off perhaps the greatest upset in BDBL playoffs
With the suspensions of all eleven
players expiring, a reunited Lightning team advanced to the OL
Championship Series. For Geisel, it was a dream match-up, as he
was facing his old CBL nemesis, Marazita. In the first game of
that series, Cone made his first playoffs appearance by allowing just
two runs over seven innings en route to a 5-2 Litchfield win. In
the second game, Harnisch combined with newly-reactivated middle
reliever Armando Reynoso to allow just one run against the powerful
Zoots offense, but the Stamford pitching staff was even better, and shut
out Litchfield's lineup, limiting them to just four hits.
When the series shifted to Litchfield
for Game Three, the Zoots took a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning, but a
Mark Grudzielanek double put the Lightning back in the lead in the
bottom half of the inning, and they were able to hang on for an 8-4 win.
But in Game Four, Stamford once again tied the series when Omar Vizquel
tripled and scored in the seventh inning against Rhodes en route to a
2-1 Stamford win.
The Zoots then took the next game, 5-3,
and Grudzielanek played hero once again with a solo home run in the
sixth, eventually giving Litchfield a 2-1 win and forcing a Game Seven.
Geisel sent Neagle to the mound to face Stamford's Cy Young
runner-up ace, Kevin Brown. In that game, Marazita made the
strange decision to bat Luis Alicea (who had hit just .180/.271/.262 in
61 at-bats during the regular season) in the leadoff spot, and that
decision paid huge dividends. Alicea clubbed an unlikely solo home
run in third inning, and then added an even more unlikely solo homer in
the fifth inning. They were the only two runs Stamford scored in
that game, but it was enough to eke by with a 2-1 victory. Just as
he had done in the CBL a decade before, Geisel had fallen victim to
Marazita's incredibly eerie post-season luck.
Throughout the course of the 1999
season, Geisel had threatened to quit several times, but he was talked
out of it each time by Glander. Then, on November 19th, Geisel
announced his resignation via the league message board, shocking several
people -- including his friends Glander and Marazita. Five days passed, and
after it appeared that Geisel's resignation should be taken seriously,
the league reluctantly moved on and accepted the application of Kevin Lowary from
Akron, Ohio, to take over the Lightning franchise.
Lowary, a 32-year-old car salesman,
applied for the league on the 24th of November, and was accepted into
the league the very next day.
Name: Kevin Lowary EMail:Lowary34 Home Town: Akron, Ohio Team nickname: I like the Lightning if I can put Akron in
front of it Age: 32 Profession: Sales (I sell cars!) Fave MLB team: Indians NetMeeting availability: Often No. of DMB leagues: 0 League names: FB Experience: I have played in Roto leagues since 1988 last
year was the first year I didn't play and I missed it big time at
the same time I wanted to try something new.I bought the Diamond
Mind program and would like to put it to use. Why we should accept: I'm a huge baseball Owner, GM, Manager
want to be. I've been married for almost 4 years now and would like
to spend the extra time I have playing some ball(Diamond Mind)
during the summer. Physically I have the body of a
softball player (though big daddy did play hardball!) and the mind
of a baseball player. I like the idea you can play over the internet
and would like to play as many if not all of my games this way. I
think I can bring some competition to your
league and I like to think I'm a good guy in General.I'm a huge
Indians fan and I grew up a big Nolan Ryan fan.I hope this makes me
Big Daddy material!
Lowary kept the Lightning name, but
moved the team to Ohio. And with that, his franchise was moved to
the Eck League, so that he could compete against fellow Buckeyes Mike
Stein, D.J. Shepard and Chris Schultheis.
Lowary made just one minor trade that
winter, sending reserve infielder Enrique Wilson to the Hudson
Hammerheads in exchange for backup catcher Scott Servais. After he
had been in the league for approximately a month, Commissioner Glander
posted a message to the league, stating that he would be checking with
Diamond Mind to ensure that each member of the league had purchased a
copy of the 1999 MLB players disk prior to the start of the BDBL's
That is when Glander received a phone
call from Geisel. And during that call, Geisel confessed that
there was no such person as "Kevin Lowary" from Akron, Ohio, and that he
(Geisel) had been posing as Lowary in order to regain entrance into the
Geisel was reinstated to the BDBL, and
his franchise was moved back into the Griffin Division. But not
before Geisel was ordered to post an apology to the league.
December 27, 1999 Geisel Issues Apology
NEW MILFORD, CT - As part of his deal with the Commissioner's Office
allowing his official re-entry into the BDBL, Litchfield Lightning
owner Phil Geisel issued an apology today following a routine caning
on the front steps of New Milford Town Hall.
Listing his reasons for resigning from the league in November,
Geisel mentioned: "Work, living at home, looking for a home of my
own, and just the every day pressures of life that we all have."
Several days after his resignation, Geisel realized he had made a
"I realized that I not only had removed myself from something I
enjoyed doing, but I also hurt a few of my friends who are like
family to me," said Geisel. "I knew (Commissioner Glander) was
probably more irate than the time I threw him out of my moving Jeep
on a cold winter night (in 1990), but I also knew I wanted back into
the BDBL. When I saw my team was available on the home page I
immediately wanted it back. Knowing Glander would probably not give
it back at the time, I decided to get it back the easy way by making
up an imaginary person - someone Glander would let into the league.
Knowing Glander's weakness for baseball freaks made it easy for me
to acquire the Lightning. Thus I became 'Kevin Lowary from Ohio.'
"I didn't do it to pull a fast one on anyone. I did it because I
wanted the team I drafted, and I wanted to be in the league. I
realized I could not go unnoticed because Glander would be turning
in the owners' names to Diamond Mind to make sure everyone had a
registered copy of the game and 'Kevin Lowary' didn't. So, I came
Despite making just one minor trade
over the winter, the 2000 Lightning looked very strong on paper.
Cone (15-12, 3.90 ERA in 210+ IP) wasn't nearly as dominant as the year
before, but was still solid. Harnisch (15-11, 4.40 ERA in 215 IP)
and Irabu (13-4, 3.74 ERA in 183+ IP) were solid as well.
Offensively, late-draft flier Brady
Anderson (.285/.399/.510, 41 2B, 25 HR, 100 BB, 69 SB, 132.7 RC) enjoyed
a tremendous rebound season, and was a vast improvement over Grissom.
Bonds (.300/.435/.772, 42 HR, 121.1 RC) enjoyed another stellar season,
and Martinez (.370/.485/.610, 27 HR, 160.9 RC) had a career year, and
would end up winning the OL MVP and Babe Ruth awards.
Litchfield was picked to win the
Griffin Division, but once again it was Los Altos who jumped out to a
surprising start to the season, going 14-10 in Chapter One while
Litchfield went just 10-14. After two chapters, Litchfield sat one
game below .500 (24-25), while the Undertakers continued to cruise with
a division-best record of 29-20.
But Litchfield turned the corner in
Chapter Three, going 18-8, and headed into the all-star break with a
42-33 record -- five games behind Los Altos. Meanwhile, Geisel
continued to sit on his team, and didn't make a single transaction
through the first four chapters. While rival GMs throughout the
league loaded up their farm clubs and reserve rosters, and negotiated
trades to give their teams a boost down the stretch, Geisel chose once
again to sit out the season and just manage the team he had. He
made just one transaction all season, trading Reynoso at the deadline in
exchange for Juan Guzman.
In Chapter Four, the Lightning were
unstoppable, and posted the best record in the league at 21-8. By
the end of Chapter Five, Litchfield had taken over the Griffin Division
lead from the Undertakers, and sported the best record (81-50, .618) in
the Ozzie League. That final chapter, however, Los Altos turned on
the booster rockets, and went a remarkable 24-5 to eke out the division
title, while Litchfield went "just" 21-8. The Lightning finished
with an astounding record of 102-58, but were forced to settle for
second-place and another wild card title.
It was a strange season for Litchfield,
in that they went just 45-35 at home (in a ballpark modeled after the
near-neutral Turner Field of Atlanta), yet went an astounding 57-23
(.713) on the road. It was the best road record in the BDBL,
surpassing even the notoriously road-friendly Stamford Zoots (55-25.)
Absurdly, Geisel didn't learn his
lesson of 1999 and overused six more players during the 2000 season.
He was once again forced to pay a $1 million penalty in order to keep
two of those players (Erubiel Durazo and Rheal Cormier) for the Division
Once again, Geisel found himself facing
Marazita in the playoffs. And once again, he got off to a good
start by defeating Stamford's legendary ace, Randy Johnson, in Game One,
by a narrow margin of 3-2. Once again, however, Stamford's
pitching shut out the Lightning in Game Two (behind Kevin Brown's
complete game shutout) to even the series.
The two teams then traded jabs in the
next two games, once again forcing a fifth and deciding game.
Geisel sent Harnisch to the hill against Brown, and both pitchers were
lit up. Litchfield took a 5-2 lead in the sixth inning on a
three-run blast by rookie Lance Berkman, but Stamford responded with
four runs in the bottom half of the inning. John Wetteland, Yorkis
Perez and Bobby Chouinard then closed out the final three innings,
shutting down the Litchfield lineup for the series victory.
For the second year in a row, Geisel
was knocked out of the playoffs by his ancient nemesis, Marazita.
After sitting tight with his roster for
two years, Geisel made a pair of trades in the winter of 2001.
Unfortunately for him, one of them was a monumental disaster.
Berkman had been Geisel's #1 pick in the inaugural farm draft of 1999, and
the 7th pick overall. In 2000, he was ranked #21 in the BDBL's
first annual Farm Report. He, Adam Piatt (#36) and Jesus Colome
(#46) were the only three Lightning players ranked among the top 60.
But in the winter of 2001, Geisel was desperate for quality starting
pitching, and when Salem Cowtippers GM Glander offered Darren Dreifort
for Berkman and Piatt, Geisel accepted.
The trade didn't stir up any
controversy at the time, as Berkman was just a 25-year-old rookie, but
he would go on to establish a Hall-of-Fame career for the Cowtippers for
the next eight seasons. Meanwhile, Dreifort went just 8-13 for the
Lightning that season, with a 5.71 ERA in 186 innings, and then departed
via free agency.
Thanks to his stellar record the
previous season, Geisel owned the 22nd pick in the draft in 2001, and
with little money to spend, he filled the remaining holes in his roster
with aging veterans like Pat Hentgen, Gerald Williams and Will Clark.
With Bonds (.350/.481/.745, 54 HR,
193.2 RC) poised to have his best season to date, and Martinez
(.333/.431/.593, 42 HR, 157.5 RC) once again providing MVP-caliber
protection for him in the lineup, the Lightning offense was considered
the best in its division. But the starting rotation of Dreifort,
Mac Suzuki, Neagle, Harnisch and Hentgen left a lot to be desired, and
with the Undertakers fielding another impressive array of platoon
players and relief specialists, the Lightning were picked to finish
second in the division. With several aging players approaching
free agency, and a farm system that ranked 17th out of 24 teams, it was
thought that this would be the last competitive season for Litchfield
for many years to come.
Outlook: Coming into
the 2001 season, Phil Geisel ranks second (tied with the esteemed
Paul Marazita) in career wins. But it looks like the Lightning
dynasty is coming to an end soon. With no Grade A prospects on the
horizon, this may be Litchfield's last chance to make the playoffs
for quite some time. The Lightning have given us many memorable
post-season moments. It will be a shame if this really is this
franchise's last hurrah.
To the surprise of many, the
Undertakers stumbled early in the season, and went just 12-16 in Chapter
One, while Litchfield went 14-14. But the most shocking
performance early in that season was from the Gillette Swamp Rats.
Predicted to finish dead-last in the division, the Swamp Rats jumped out
to a remarkable 20-8 start to the season.
In Chapter Two, the division race
seemed to correct itself, as the Undertakers went 16-10, while the Swamp
Rats went 13-13, with Litchfield stumbling to an 11-15 record. But
the Lightning then caught fire and won ten in a row to start the third
chapter. In just nine days, they made up six games in the
standings and caught the Swamp Rats atop the division standings.
Litchfield then swept two games from the Manchester Irish Rebels on the
final day of the chapter, giving them an improbable one-game lead at the
all-star break. The Lightning went 22-4 during that third chapter,
and scored a league-high 181 runs (24 more than the next-best team.)
Meanwhile, Geisel's long-time division
rival, Paulson, conceded the race on June 13th, trading one of his top
pitchers, Scott Elarton, to the Bear Country Jamboree in exchange for
prospects. And with the New Milford Blazers stumbling over
themselves as usual, the Griffin Division was now a two-team race to the
At the halfway point of the season,
Geisel made his biggest trade to date, completing a 12-player deal with
new Allentown Ridgebacks GM Tom DiStefano. In that trade, the
Lightning received all-star shortstop Derek Jeter. Jeter hit
.297/.371/.409 for his new team down the stretch, and scored 57 runs
batting in front of Bonds and Martinez.
The following chapter, Gillette
recaptured the lead on the final day, thanks to a .500 chapter by
Litchfield, and held a two-game lead after four chapters of play.
Then, during the first week of September, Litchfield and Gillette
battled head-to-head, with the Lightning walking away with a two-game
sweep to put them one game behind in the division race. And by the
end of the chapter, both teams sported identical 77-55 records.
But it wasn't just a two-team race at
that point, as the Bear Country Jamboree were also battling for the wild
card spot, just one game behind the Lightning and Swamp Rats. In
the end, one of those teams would be forced to watch the post-season
from the sidelines.
On October 10th, Litchfield lost both
games of a two-game set against the Salem Cowtippers, cutting their lead
in the wild card race to just one game, and dropping them three games
behind Gillette in the division. Then, with only one week in the
regular season remaining, the Lightning's lead in the wild card had
grown to three games. Needing three wins in their final six games
to clinch a playoffs spot, Litchfield did just that. They finished
the season with a 96-64 record -- two games ahead of Bear Country in the
wild card, and one game behind Gillette in the division.
It was yet another strange season for
Litchfield in terms of their record splits. At home, they went
just 41-39 (.513), while they went an amazing 55-25 (.688) on the road.
And they outperformed their Pythagorean record by an incredible 13 games
(two less than Gillette's difference of 15.)
Once again, Geisel headed to the
post-season, and for the third year in a row he was tasked with facing
the two-time-defending BDBL champion Zoots of Stamford. The two
teams split the first two games, and then Stamford pounded the Lightning
bullpen in a 9-4 win in Game Three. Then, it was Neagle's turn to
be pounded, as he was lit up for seven earned runs in just four-plus
innings in Game Four. But with the Division Series expanded to a
best-of-seven format, the Lightning were still alive.
Litchfield then took a 6-5 lead into
the ninth inning of Game Five. Geisel sent Shaw to the mound to
pitch his second inning of relief, and with one out and a runner on,
Stamford slugger Rafael Palmeiro connected for a two-run homer to put
Stamford ahead. Zoots reliever Mike Fetters then retired Luis
Polonia, Jeter and Martinez in order in the bottom of the ninth, leaving
Bonds standing in the on-deck circle.
For the third year in a row, Geisel had
been knocked out of the playoffs by Marazita.
Having been signed to a conservative
three-year contract, Bonds was due to become a free agent at the end of
the 2002 season. And coming off his best season ever (he would hit
.337/.519/.785 with 66 HR, 188 R, 159 RBIs, 195 BB and 231.2 RC in '02),
his trade value was immeasurable. Geisel, however, found a way to
measure it, and once again he found a willing trade partner in Allentown
GM DiStefano. In return for the greatest hitter in league history,
Geisel received just three players: Bartolo Colon, Sean Casey and Jerome
Colon (7-17, 5.05 ERA in 210+ IP, with
231 hits allowed and 98 walks) was a major drag on the Lightning team,
both in terms of performance and salary. His $8 million salary was
just $2 million less than Bonds, and he was owed a whopping $37.5
million over the next four seasons. Casey hit .316/.383/.438, with
107 runs created, in 2002. But he, too, had an enormous contract
($5 million in 2002, $21 million through 2005.) And while Williams
was considered to be one of the top pitchers in the minor leagues, he
never quite reached the lofty heights most envisioned for him.
The Bonds trade was an unmitigated
disaster. Not only did Geisel not receive anything useful in
return for the best hitter in league history, but he took on more salary
than he traded.
Making matters worse, Martinez had also
been signed to a conservative two-year deal, and he, too, left for free
agency (and signed with the Ridgebacks, coincidentally enough.) In
Bonds' place in left field, Geisel inserted Mark McLemore
(.275/.404/.429, 96.7 RC) -- a good hitter, but a far cry from Bonds.
And with Casey taking over for Martinez, the Litchfield lineup was
considerably weaker than the year before, despite the presence of Jeter
(.313/.384/.474, 118.9 RC) over a full season.
Aside from the Bonds deal, Geisel made
no other trade that winter. And after taking on so much salary
with that trade, he had little money left over to spend on free agents.
Once again, he used the free agent draft to fill a few holes with aging
veterans such as Arthur Rhodes and Kevin Tapani. The outlook for
the 2002 season was not good:
Outlook: The good
times are over for the Litchfield Lightning. After cruising through
the first three seasons, winning 292 games (third-most in BDBL
history) and enjoying three playoff appearances without breaking a
sweat, the unabashed apathy of their owner has finally caught up to
them. It's rebuilding time for the Lightning, who unfortunately
have little to build upon.
Despite the record-low expectations,
the Lightning posted a respectable 15-13 record in Chapter One.
Unfortunately for Geisel, the Undertakers dominated the chapter with a
record of 23-5 -- an eight-game difference in the standings. By
the end of two chapters, Los Altos' lead had grown to a dozen games.
But with Litchfield playing just two games below .500 (26-28), they were
still in the wild card hunt (just five games behind.)
At that time, Geisel made a trade with
Glander that completely canceled out his earlier trade of Berkman.
Desperate for a middle reliever, Glander acquired Litchfield reliever
Steve Karsay. And in exchange, he parted with two top prospects:
college star Michael Aubrey and A-ball outfielder Grady Sizemore.
Five years later, Sizemore became a perennial all-star and one of the
greatest low-cost assets in the BDBL.
Once again, Geisel rested the remainder
of the season as GM, and made just one insignificant trade (Luther
Hackman for Ricardo Rodriguez) through the final three chapters.
And for the fourth year in a row, Geisel virtually ignored the free
agent system, and failed to secure any good, young players for his farm
The Lightning finished the 2002 season
with a 70-90 record -- a mind-numbing 44 games behind the Undertakers.
Yet, because of the incredible weakness of the Griffin Division, that
record was good enough for second place. Once again, Geisel's team
had outperformed their Pythagorean record by double-digits (11), as the
Lightning were outscored by nearly 200 runs.
Heading into the 2003 season, the
Lightning needed a major facelift. With the core of the 1999-2001
team gone to trade, free agency, injury and retirement, the Lightning
franchise was filled with rapidly aging veterans. The two
remaining assets to the team were Jeter (.312/.380/.435, 101.6 RC) and
Colon (17-14, 2.72 ERA in 255+ IP.) And while their bloated
contracts made them more difficult to move, it could have been done with
some small amount of effort.
Instead, Geisel did almost nothing that
winter, and made just one minor trade, acquiring prospect Aaron Heilman
from the Cowtippers in exchange for Moises Alou's $3 million penalty.
Making matters even worse, however, was Geisel's bizarre (and, most
likely, unintentional) decision to keep only eight players on Cutdown
Day. By league rules, teams were required to keep no fewer than 15
players. The penalty for breaking this rule was a $1 million fine
for every player under 15, which meant that Geisel paid a $7 million
penalty on top of the $5 million in penalty money he was already paying.
If he had simply kept seven $100K players, he would have avoided a
Geisel went into the first-ever BDBL
free agent auction with just $15.3 million to spend and a whopping 28
spots to fill on his roster. Yet, inexplicably, Geisel bid $16.5
million on the auction's top free agent, Barry Bonds. The bid was rejected
(since it was higher than Geisel's available spending money), but it merely underscored just how out of touch Geisel was at the time.
Because of his salary situation, Geisel
was shut out of both the auction and the first ten rounds of the draft.
And because he had so many spots to fill on his active roster, Geisel
could not afford to make any draft picks for the team's future, and
instead had to concentrate on filling his roster with mediocre
inning-eating pitchers and at-bat-eating hitters.
The end result wasn't pretty:
Litchfield GM Phil Geisel's bizarre decision to keep only
eight players heading into the auction - and accepting $7
million in penalties by doing so - has to rank among the
worst decisions ever made in the history of the BDBL (right
alongside some other decisions made by the leader of this
team.) The Lightning should shatter the BDBL records for
most losses in a season and fewest runs scored. I actually
fear playing this team, because if I lose even one game all
season, I won't sleep for a week. The 2003 Lightning is
what happens to a team when their owner is so apathetic he
doesn't pick up a free agent in the middle of the season for
four straight years and makes only a handful of trades. The
Lightning are basically the Minnesota Twins of the late 90's
without the good farm system.
As expected, the Lightning got off to
an atrocious start, going 7-21 in the first chapter, yet somehow they
mysteriously went 15-11 (the best record in the division) in Chapter Two
despite being outscored by 20 runs. After a 9-17 Chapter Three,
the Lightning owned a 31-49 record -- tied with the New Milford Blazers
for the worst record in the Ozzie League.
Once again, through the first three
chapters, Geisel did absolutely nothing to help his team as a general
manager. He made not one trade, nor did he sign one free agent.
Prior to the all-star break, he made his first trade of the year,
dealing Preston Wilson to the Cleveland Rocks in exchange for Kevin
Youkilis and Jorge Julio. How disconnected was Geisel to his
franchise at this point? To make room for Julio, Geisel released
Steve Bechler, who had died four months earlier.
Throughout the second chapter, Geisel
received numerous inquiries about his closer, free-agent-to-be Arthur
Rhodes. Despite receiving much better offers, Geisel elected to
send him to Akron in exchange for Fernando Cabrera, who was then
released two years later. It was the final trade made by Geisel
Incredibly, the Lightning managed to go
38-42 over the second half of the season, and once again finished in
second place in the Griffin Division with a record of 69-91. But
it stands as perhaps the most bizarre team overperformance in league history,
as the Lightning were outscored by a mind-numbing total of 215 runs that
season -- the second-highest deficit in the BDBL. Once again,
Litchfield's record was fueled by an unbelievably inconsistent home/road
split. The Lightning went just 22-58 (.275) at home, yet managed
to go 47-33 (.588) on the road. And Litchfield's Pythagorean
difference of +13 stands as the current league record as of press time.
Basically, the Lightning played worse
than the 1999 New Milford Blazers at home, and better than 2003 Benes
Division champions on the road. This unbelievable disparity led to
whispers around the league that Geisel was cheating -- an accusation
that was impossible to confirm, and (given the fact that Geisel played
most of his games head-to-head) was highly unlikely. It remains,
however, one of the league's greatest mysteries.
A year after fielding the worst team in
the league, Geisel had not made an ounce of progress toward building a
competitive team for the 2004 season. Adding to his growing
disdain toward the hobby was the fact that he got married the
previous fall, and his new bride demanded more and more of the free time
he had once devoted to the hobby. In the midst of that domestic
tug-of-war, Geisel agreed to a
trade with Marazita. It was their first trade in the BDBL, and it
would be the last trade Geisel would ever make.
In exchange for Jerome Williams, Carlos
Baerga and Sean Casey, Geisel received Jim Edmonds, John Olerud and
David Aarsdma. On its surface, the trade appeared reasonable
enough. However, controversy ensured due to the salary of Edmonds
($11.5 million), the dubious necessity for a rebuilding team to acquire
such a player, and the inclusion of Williams and Baerga in the trade. While
Edmonds enjoyed a fine season for Litchfield in 2004 (.286/.410/.627, 41
HR, 121.7 RC), he was considered to be vastly overpriced due to his
drastic platoon splits. Critics of the trade pointed out that a
similar hitter could have been purchased by Geisel in the free agent
auction at a similar price, and it wouldn't have cost him anything in
trade. As such, critics suggested that it should have been
Marazita who threw in a top prospect such as Williams, as compensation for
dumping Edmonds' salary.
In his defense, Marazita argued that
Edmonds' salary was offset by the future salary commitment of Casey, who
was owed $8 million in 2005. Olerud (who owned the same $7 million
salary as Casey in 2004), in contrast, was a free agent at the end of
the season. However, while Olerud would hit just .231/.322/.308
for his $7 million salary in 2004, Casey hit .292/.264/.365, and also
hit .315/.374/.432 with 99.1 runs created in 2005.
Critics loudly protested the trade, and
charged that Marazita used his 15-year friendship with Geisel to take
unfair advantage of his friend. Some suggested that Marazita do
the "honorable" thing and rescind the trade. (Note: Marazita
offered to rework the deal, but Geisel refused.) Some suggested
that Geisel be removed as GM of the Lightning, given his apathy toward
his franchise (Note: again, Geisel refused to step down.) Others
suggested that the league should name someone new to take over the
franchise as GM, but allow Geisel to continue managing (and again,
Geisel refused to consider this option as well.)
Finally, after a lengthy period of
silence, Geisel spoke to the league:
For the record, I do care about my
team. As I have told others I do not pull for Marazita, Glander or
Billy I hate to lose to any of those guys (I also include Jeff in
there). I didn't pull for Mike last year or Paul any of the other
years including this year in the world series.
This trade is the first Trade I have made with Paul in the BDBL.
I was and am very happy with the
trade though I took on more salary I didn't have to give up my top
three starters and I got rid of Casey. Outside of C. Bearga no one
wanted to make a deal with me that didn't involve one or two of the
three Loaiza, Colon or Pavano. I needed the bat and I think (don't
care what Glander or anyone else for that matter thinks) Edmonds is
going to help me this coming year, Williams is an unproven just like
well........like Lance Berkman. I believe I can compete, Maybe I'm
wrong but, that is for me to find out.
I'm sorry you feel the way you do
it's upsetting for me to see you feel that way I feel I'm a pretty
good guy and I know I care about my team.
While the issue may have died with that
pronouncement, Geisel (and Marazita) never got over the backlash to that
trade. After spending $18.5 million for Edmonds and Olerud, and
with Colon and Jeter earning $20 million combined, Geisel had little
money to spend once again that winter. Once again, he was shut out
of the auction, and spent the entire draft stockpiling aging veterans in
order to field a competitive team in 2004.
But Geisel's high opinion of his team's
ability to compete in 2004 proved delusional. The previous
year, the league adopted a "radical realignment" of all divisions in a
22-2 vote (with only Geisel and Marazita voting against it.) As
part of that realignment, the Lightning were moved from the Griffin
Division to the Butler Division, where they would now be competing
against the Zoots, Cowtippers and Blazers. It was a division
comprised solely of former members of the CBL, and high school friends
from New Milford, Connecticut. And because of the expected quality
of the Zoots and Cowtippers teams, winning the wild card was now the
longest of longshots for the Lightning.
Some pundits, however, felt that 2004
would be Stamford's first rebuilding year, due to the decline of their
starting rotation and the lack of depth in their lineup. Because
of that, the Lightning were picked to finish in second place in the
newly-aligned Butler Division.
One unexpected development for the 2004
Lightning was the out-of-nowhere performance of Esteban Loaiza (19-9,
3.03 ERA in 249+ IP, 55 BB, 222 K.) Loaiza had been acquired in
the 31st round of the 2003 draft, solely for the purpose of filling
innings for the '03 Lightning. But often, it is better to be lucky
than good, and Geisel lucked into a $100,000 ace.
After one chapter of play, the
Lightning trailed the Butler Division with a 10-18 record -- 11 games
behind the surprising Zoots. They followed that with a 15-13
record in Chapter Two -- tied for the best in the division. But
after falling to 9-15 in Chapter Three, Geisel had reached the end of
On June 1st, Geisel announced his
resignation via the BDBL forum:
It has been hard to find the time the
past month to even get on the computer. I made a point to play all
my games H2H the first two chapters and even got my first series in
chapter 3 H2H.
I feel the fun I had playing the game
was taken away this past winter but as unfortunate as that may be
this note is not to point fingers or pass blame. I'd rather take
this last post to thank everyone for a great time the past five
years and three chapters. I feel I'm taking away a few friends from
this experience and got to know some good baseball people and good
guys in general.
I was going to try and make it through the season but, When I
couldn't find the time to even sit down and look over some trade
offers or even get home on time to play a game I had scheduled I
decided it wasn't fair to you guys. It really is hard not to have
Internet access or computer access during your lunch hour or through
the day. I hope you can all understand that.
I wish you all the best of luck and will try to look in every now
and then when I can.
Geisel wrapped up his BDBL career with
a 416-432 (.491) record and three OL wild card wins -- a remarkable
achievement for someone who gave so little effort as a GM.
On June 9th (the same day Marazita
joined his friend in resigning from the league), the league welcomed
Tony Badger as the newest owner of the Litchfield franchise.
Badger, a 32-year-old computer software engineer from New Hope,
Pennsylvania, was a personal friend of Allentown GM Tom DiStefano and a
Diamond Mind rookie. But it didn't take him long at all to adjust
to the BDBL.
In his first decision as GM, Badger
released Jeter under Rule 18.13. At the time, Jeter was in the
midst of the worst MLB season of his career. He hit just
.168/.255/.232 in April, and then hit .261/.296/.420 in May. But
he would bust out in June, hitting .396/.455/.725, and would eventually
be picked up by the Kansas Law Dogs off the free agent wire.
Badger's next decision was to make a
blockbuster eight-player trade with his friend, DiStefano. In that
trade, Badger parted with Rondell White, Jody Gerut and top prospect
Michael Aubrey. In exchange, he received a package of players
(Travis Blackley, Brian Anderson, Kody Kirkland, Estee Harris and Chris
Mears) that has proven to be worthless over time.
Next, Badger traded his most valuable
trading chit, Loaiza, to the Southern Cal Slyme, getting Shea
Hillenbrand, Claudio Vargas and Jason Stokes in exchange. Again,
however, very little of value was acquired in this trade.
Hillenbrand hit .276/.321/.395 for Badger's team in 2005, in the final
year of his contract, Vargas managed a 3.74 ERA in 48+ relief innings in
'05, and Stokes never amounted to much in the big leagues.
By 2004, Colon was considered to be an
enormous risk due to his high-priced contract and a major MLB slump (in
which he finished with a 5.01 ERA), and Badger planned to release him
under Rule 18.13 as well. But just before he pulled the trigger, Glander stepped in and offered
several players (Jason Grimsley, Danny Putnam, Eddy Martinez-Esteve and
Chris Snelling) in exchange for what would be a $5 million penalty in
2005, and Badger accepted. Again, none of the players acquired
ever made much of an impact in the big leagues.
That same chapter, Badger acquired
Daniel Cabrera as a farm free agent, along with three other free agents.
These acquisitions were significant because they represented the first
mid-season free agents acquired by the Lightning franchise since the
Badger continued to add free agents
throughout the next two chapters, while the Lightning wrapped up the season
with a franchise-worst 61-99 record. And, for the first time in
franchise history, the team performed better at home (33-47) than on the
In the winter of 2005, Badger began the
arduous task of turning his long-neglected franchise into a contender.
He began by giving his franchise a new name: the New Hope Badgers.
His first trade of the winter sent prospect Youkilis to the Marlboro
Hammerheads in exchange for Mike Lowell and a prospect. He then
flipped Lowell to the Ravenswood Infidels in exchange for Eric Chavez
(.297/.415/.548, 37 HR, 120.7 RC in 2005) and Matt Ginter. And he
later flipped Ginter to the Allentown Ridgebacks for Sidney Ponson
(11-14, 6.59 ERA in 198+ IP) in another controversial trade with
That same winter, he sent closer Braden
Looper to the Silicon Valley CyberSox in exchange for Rondell White and
Jeremy Hermida. Hermida would soon become the team's top prospect,
and prime trade bait.
For the first time in the three-year
history of the free agent auction, the Badgers franchise had some money
to spend, as the jettisoned salaries of Jeter, Colon and Olerud freed up $24.3 million. Badger dove into the auction by
signing Matt Lawton (.288/.373/.398, 100.8 RC) for $5 million, Cesar Izturis (.294/.342/.401, 78.3 RC) for $3.5M and Adam Kennedy
(.319/.391/.464, 88.9 RC) for $3.5M. While all three provided the
team with low-cost production in 2005, none would make much of an impact
After making another trade with
DiStefano prior to Opening Day, the Badgers took the field to low
The Badgers are a thousand times
better than they were six months ago, but let's not kid ourselves.
A thousand times zero is still zero. And this franchise began at
zero. Tony Badger has done a remarkable job with this team in his
short reign as GM, and he has this franchise finally moving in the
right direction after years of neglect. But these things take
time. Miracles don't happen overnight. And at this point, it would
be a miracle if the Badgers finished with fewer than 90 losses.
Despite those expectations, the team
got off to a respectable 15-13 start to the season. The Badgers
then reversed that record with a 13-15 Chapter Two performance, but
then, incredibly, bounced back to go 14-10 in Chapter Three and headed
into the all-star break with a remarkable 42-38 record.
Fueling New Hope's rise above
expectations was Badger's unexpected trade prior to Opening Day (which
did not become official until after Chapter One, due to the timing of
the trade) for Los Altos übercloser Eric Gagne. In the final year
of his contract, Gagne was expected to be one of the biggest trading
chits of the 2005 season. When Los Altos GM Paulson placed Gagne
on the block before the season even began, the league was stunned when
Badger emerged with the highest bid. In exchange for Gagne (who
also came with prospect Mike Pelfrey), Badger sacrificed his top
prospect, Hermida (along with two relievers.) Gagne enjoyed
another phenomenal season, going 6-2 overall, with a microscopic 0.97
ERA in 74+ innings, only 35 hits and 17 walks allowed, and 92
strikeouts. He carried the Badgers throughout the season and would
finish fourth in the OL Cy Young balloting.
At the all-star break trading deadline,
Badger added Al Leiter, who went 7-3 down the stretch, with a 5.14 ERA
in 91 innings. Incredibly, New Hope went 47-33 in the second half
of the season -- tied for the second-best record in the Ozzie League.
Just one year after Phil Geisel had left his franchise for dead, Tony
Badger had managed to build a contender from a pile of scraps. The
Badgers finished with an 89-71 record (second-place in the Butler
Badger finished second place in the OL Manager of the Year balloting,
and third place in the GM of the Year category (both of which, some
argued, he should have won.)
By the winter of 2006, Chavez had
become a liability at $10 million, so he was shipped off to Los Altos
along with Pelfrey in a pure "prospect sale" deal. Then, in
yet another highly-criticized trade with DiStefano, Badger took on $4.3 million
in salary in exchange for a pinch hitter (Bobby Kielty) and a backup
catcher (Kelly Stinnett.) Badger also acquired outfielder Michael
Cuddyer (.246/.304/.397) from the Great Lakes Sphinx that winter, in a
deal that would pay dividends in 2007.
With $46.5 million to spend on free
agents, New Hope had more available money than all but one other team in
the BDBL. Badger signed just two players in the auction: Rondell
White for $5 million and Jason Giambi for $9M. Badger had bigger
plans for the majority of his spending money. Thanks to his team's
outstanding performance in 2005, the Badgers held the #1 pick of the
draft. And since Barry Bonds was injured throughout most of the
2005 MLB season, he was available in the draft for the first time since
the dawn of the auction era. Badger used his #1 overall pick
to select Bonds. He then used the first pick of the second round
(the second overall pick) to select starter Jake Westbrook, and took a
flier on the injury-prone Kerry Wood in Round Three.
With the lineup and pitching staff
lacking the "star power" normally present on a contending team, the
Badgers were picked to finish in last place in the division in the
Season Preview. But Badger refused to believe his team was that
bad, and he once again silenced the BDBL pundits with a 15-13 showing in
But the dream of repeating the
fairytale season of 2005 faded when New Hope went 11-17 in Chapter Two,
and then followed that with a league-worst 7-17 record in Chapter Three.
From that point on, the only thing on the line was pride.
At the all-star break, Badger agreed to a
seven-player trade with the Marlboro Hammerheads in which he cashed in
his veteran assets Joe Randa and Adam Kennedy, receiving young prospects
Ronny Paulino and Shane Victorino in exchange. He also dealt four
players to the Ridgebacks, getting catcher Paul Lo Duca and reliever
Scott Proctor in exchange.
The following chapter, at the season's
final trading deadline, Badger made one more trade, getting prospect
James Loney from the Hammerheads in exchange for lefty reliever Wil
Ohman. Incredibly, New Hope rallied in the second half of the
season, and went 46-34 down the stretch -- the second-best record in the
Ozzie League. Despite dire pre-season predictions, the Badgers
nearly played .500 baseball (79-81) in 2006. Once again, Tony
Badger had managed to exceed expectations.
A lot of things fell into place heading
into the 2007 season. Now 24 years old, Sizemore (.265/.352/.523,
32 HR, 121.3 RC) enjoyed his finest season to date, in the first year of
an eight-year contract awarded by Badger that winter. With a
salary of just $100,000, Sizemore had become one of the greatest assets
in the BDBL.
In the 21st round of the 2005 draft,
Badger had taken a flier on a pitcher named Chris Young, and by 2007,
Young, too, had become one of the league's greatest assets. At a
salary of just $500,000, Young went 13-9 in 2007, with a 3.69 ERA and
181 K's in 195 innings. Badger's gamble on Westbrook (11-10, 4.71
ERA in 231+ IP overall) gave him a solid inning-eater in the starting
rotation at a reasonable salary of $5 million, and his gamble on Bonds
(.260/.405/.532, 30 HR, 97.8 RC in 538 PAs) resulted in even greater
dividends. Badger's 2006 acquisition of Cuddyer also greatly
helped his 2007 team, as Cuddyer enjoyed a career year, hitting .269/.337/.517, with
47 doubles, 32 homers and 104.7 runs created.
That winter, Badger made four trades,
acquiring role players Felipe Lopez, Aaron Miles and Braden Looper among
others. In his most significant trade, Badger sent Lo Duca and a
prospect to the South Carolina Sea Cats in exchange for Andy Pettitte
(17-6, 4.15 ERA in 232 IP.)
Badger then went into the free agent
auction with $21.8 million to spend, and only a few remaining holes to
fill. His only signing was Morgan Ensberg (.264/.391/.562, 35 HR,
99.2 RC) at $5.5 million, yet before the auction came to a close, he
would emerge with the greatest player available in that auction without spending a
dime on him.
Marlboro Hammerheads GM Ken Kaminski
was well known for his inability to make a decision, and for the
quickness with which he would panic after making a decision.
Within minutes after winning a $10.5 million bid for slugger David Ortiz
in the auction, Kaminski regretted the decision and posted Ortiz's
availability on the league's Selling forum. Less than an hour
later, Badger announced that he had acquired Ortiz in exchange for Jason
Giambi, Shane Victorino and Shaun Marcum.
Just a few weeks earlier, Badger
changed his franchise's home ballpark model from pitcher-friendly Turner
Field in Atlanta to hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park in Houston.
The greatest beneficiary of that decision was Ortiz, who would soon
embark upon perhaps the greatest offensive season in league history.
In 2007, Ortiz would shatter the single-season league record for home
runs (79) and RBIs (205.) He hit .291/.420/.760 overall, with 141
runs scored, 134 walks and 190.5 runs created en route to winning both
the OL MVP and Babe Ruth awards.
But Badger and Kaminski weren't through
dealing with each other. With Ortiz gone, Kaminski's most valuable
trading chit remaining was closer Mariano Rivera, and Kaminski was in a
rush to dump that asset as quickly as possible. A week and a
half after trading the would-be MVP to the Badgers, Kaminski then traded
the league's greatest closer to New Hope, getting the dubious package of
Daniel Cabrera, Loney and Chad Paronto in exchange. Rivera would
enjoy one of the greatest seasons ever by a relief pitcher in the BDBL,
posting a miniscule 0.98 ERA in 73+ innings, with just 53 hits and 9
walks allowed. In total, Badger had managed to secure his team's
two most valuable players at very little cost to the team's present or
For the second year in a row, Badger
saved his money in the auction in order to take a gamble on an injured
former superstar in the draft. With the sixth overall pick of the
draft, Badger selected multi-time BDBL Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez.
Martinez went just 1-5 with a 6.75 ERA in 40 innings for New Hope, and
was later traded to the Villanova Mustangs in exchange for low-cost
hurler Joe Blanton (8-13, 5.77 ERA in 162+ IP.)
Just eight games into the new season,
Ortiz had already smacked eight home runs and knocked in 21 runs.
By the end of February, Ortiz was slugging .857, with 18 homers and 52
RBIs in just 28 games. Thanks to his incredible performance, the
Badgers finished the first chapter with a division-best record of 19-9.
Early in the second chapter, New Hope
handed their division rivals, the Cowtippers, their first series loss of
the season, capturing sole possession of first place in the process.
They then took three of four in their next series to increase their lead
in the division to three games. And after two chapters of play,
the Badgers remained on top of the Butler Division with a 39-17 record
-- two games in front of Salem.
But the Cowtippers caught fire in
Chapter Three, winning six of their first eight games to recapture a
share of the lead. On June 12th, Badger continued his assault on
the division title by adding ace pitcher John Lackey (9-5, 3.05 ERA in
124 IP for New Hope) in a trade with the Bear Country Jamboree.
Once again, the price paid by Badger to add this impact player to his
roster was minimal: Westbrook (a free agent at the end of the season),
Travis Blackley (who was later released), middle reliever Michael Wuertz
and A-ball prospect Kyle Blanks.
The Badgers fell to 12-12 in Chapter
Three, allowing the Cowtippers to take a three-game lead heading into
the all-star break. By the first of July, Salem's lead had grown
to six games, leaving Badger to concentrate all of his efforts on
winning the OL wild card. New Hope went 44-36 in the second half
to finish with a record of 95-65, easily winning the wild card by 14
games in a year of very weak competition within the Ozzie League.
In the OL Division Series against the
Los Altos Undertakers, Bonds cracked a two-run blast in the eighth
inning of Game One to give New Hope a 3-2 win. Game Two then went
into the ninth inning with a 2-2 tie, but a three-run, two-out base hit
by Ronnie Paulino untied the score, giving New Hope a 2-0 series
In Game Three, New Hope received some
unlikely power hitting from Pettitte, who blasted a three-run homer in
the second inning and went 3-for-4 with four ribbies on the day.
The Badgers won by a score of 8-5, paving the way for a four-game sweep,
capped by a walk-off, series-ending home run by Ensberg.
With the Ravenswood Infidels
unexpectedly knocking off the heavily-favored Cowtippers in the other
OLDS, the Badgers then capitalized on that good fortune by pounding
Ravenswood pitching for 10 runs in Game One and 13 runs in Game Three.
But the Infidels proved to be very tough opponents, and took a 3-2
series lead in Game Five, requiring New Hope to rally for back-to-back
wins at home. They did just that, winning Game Six by a score of
10-5, and then capturing the OL crown with a 5-2 win in Game Seven.
New Hope's opponents in the World
Series were the Kansas Law Dogs, whose GM (Chris Luhning) had spent the
season assembling a daunting array of talent, including the trade
acquisitions of Johan Santana and Roger Clemens. Kansas took Game
One after rallying for six runs in the eighth inning off of reliever
Proctor. They then took a 2-0 series lead with an 8-5 win in Game
Two, fueled by a pair of Jermaine Dye homers and a solo shot by Kansas
starting pitcher Mike Mussina.
The Law Dogs then took Game Three when
Carlos Beltran whacked a three-run walk-off home run off of Matt Kinney
in the bottom of the 15th inning. It was essentially over for New
Hope at that point, although they managed to fight back with a win in
Game Four, beating Santana at home. But the Law Dogs capped off an
inevitable championship victory in Game Five, capped by a solo home run
by David Wright in the seventh inning off of Lackey.
After three years of exceeding
expectations, Badger had his work cut out for him heading into the 2008
season. Ortiz (.305/.415/.620, 42 HR, 155.8 RC) returned for
another monster season, though any performance judged in relation to
Ortiz's 2007 performance paled in comparison. Sizemore
(.254/.375/.441, 22 HR, 108.7 RC) also suffered a bit of a decline, and
because Badger had signed him to only one year, Bonds departed to free
On the mound, Young (13-8, 3.36 ERA in
171+ IP, 184 K) enjoyed another quality season, but Pettitte and Lackey
also left for free agency, leaving Blanton (12-15, 4.30 ERA in 230+ IP) as
the team's #2 starter. And in the bullpen, Rivera also became a
free agent, leaving an irreplaceable void.
With Cuddyer (.285/.339/.435, 53.5 RC
in 407 PAs) also experiencing a decline in the final year of his
contract, Badger shipped him off to Great Lakes that winter, getting Ty
Wigginton (.252/.303/.430, 47.3 RC) and Greg Dobbs (.291/.345/.503, 52.6
RC in 342 PAs) in exchange. Young outfielder Melky Cabrera was
then shipped to St. Louis, with Miguel Tejada (.266/.319/.396, 65.1 RC)
and reliever Chad Cordero (4-1, 6.50 ERA in 65+ IP) going to New Hope.
At $8 million in salary, and contracted through the 2009 season, Tejada
was considered to be a bit of a risk at the time, but Badger was
convinced that his team would once again contend in the Butler Division.
Lastly, Badger filled the void left by
Rivera by acquiring closer Jason Isringhausen (4-3, 3.12 ERA in 69+ IP
overall) at the expense of soft-tossing youngsters Kevin Slowey and Sean
In the auction, Badger resigned
Pettitte (13-18, 5.44 ERA in 233+ IP, with 307 hits allowed) to an
expensive $9 million salary (with a guaranteed minimum two-year contract
at season's end.) Badger continued to plug holes
in his rotation by handing out another "Type H" contract to Doug Davis
(6-18, 7.47 ERA in 207+ IP, with 276 hits and 120 walks allowed) at $5.5
million. Together, Pettitte and Davis compiled an ugly 6.39 ERA in
441 innings while eating $14.5 million in salary in both 2008 and 2009,
and $16.5 million in 2010.
New Hope began the season with a
respectable 14-14 record, and then followed that with an incredible
16-12 showing in Chapter Two. At the all-star break, the Badgers
sported a 43-37 (.538) record. Once again, Tony Badger had somehow
managed to defy all expectations. Unfortunately for him, that
impressive record was only the fourth-best record in the division, as
the Cowtippers, Corona Confederates and Blazers were all well above .500
at the time.
At the break, Badger made his big move
toward contention, acquiring ace starter John Smoltz from the Great
Lakes Sphinx (along with Cuddyer and Justin Germano) in exchange for
Blanton and three soft-tossing young pitchers (John Lannan, Tyler
Robertson and J.A. Happ.) There had been a fierce bidding war for
Smoltz, and the league was surprised to learn not only which team
emerged as the winners of that war, given the last-place standing of the
Badgers at the time.
Although Smoltz did a fine job for New
Hope down the stretch (6-6, 3.94 ERA in 114+ IP, 119 H, 26 BB, 118 K),
it wasn't nearly the dominant performance Badger needed to push his team
over the three other teams ahead of him in the Butler Division.
After an 11-13 record in Chapter Four, the wheels fell off the Badgers
bandwagon, and the team suffered through an abysmal 8-20 chapter.
At the final trading deadline, Badger
offloaded free-agent-to-be Isringhausen to the Kansas Law Dogs, getting
slap-hitting shortstop Brendan Harris in exchange. He also made a
stunning seven-player deal with the Manchester Irish Rebels, giving up
Tejada, Young and two others in exchange for Alfonso Soriano and top
prospect Austin Jackson. With a high-priced salary that stretches
through the 2012 season, Soriano possesses one of the most expensive
contracts in the league, but Badger felt he was worth the risk:
I look at it as getting
value for Tejada and Young. I can plug Soriano in at LF and get production. Otherwise, I pay $4.5M to
waive Tejada, get some scrub to replace the PA's, and be left with
considerably less production, and still a hole if LF. I've used
Young heavily so far and his innings are dwindling. Next year will
be a wasted year, so I'm only giving up one potential good year from
The future years I'll worry about in future years. It's not like
we're talking about a guy who is without skills. In one of those
years he may have a great year and be worth more than the $10M I've
already allocated for him. And if he sucks? Well, you run that risk
whenever you commit any significant salary on any player. I'll deal
with it when it happens. Risk/reward.
Plus, I get Austin Jackson. Holy hell, my team has a true top
After a promising start, New Hope
finished the season with a last-place record of 73-87.
Phil Geisel was undoubtedly one of the
most colorful characters in league history. But while he kept the
league entertained with his quick wit and creative pranks, he discovered
very early in his BDBL career that the competition level in the league
required far more of his time than he was willing to devote to the
Geisel was endlessly amused at the
seriousness with which others took the hobby, and the time that people
devoted to studying various sources of information looking for an edge
in the competition. He was determined to show that he could be
just as competitive as the rest of the league while exerting less than a
fraction of the effort.
Toward that end, Geisel drafted a team
in 1999 that would contend immediately, with no thought whatsoever to
the future of his franchise. Given that he spent most of the 1999
season hinting of an early retirement from the league, it is more than
likely that Geisel had predetermined that 1999 would be his only season
in the BDBL, and he planned to go out on a high note.
Although the original Lightning team
consisted of only a small handful of players under the age of 30, a few
of the older players on the roster enjoyed unprecedented success in
their late-30's and early-40's. In particular, Bonds was not only
a better player after the age of 35 than he had been before then, but he
enjoyed several seasons in his late 30's that had never been witnessed
in MLB history, and may never be duplicated again.
Geisel's inaugural draft was so strong,
it was able to sustain his franchise for three years. Without the
benefit of trading, free agency or a top-notch farm system, Geisel
managed to reach the playoffs in each of his first three seasons.
Two of those three playoff appearances, however, came with a fair bit of
controversy. In the first season, Geisel won the wild card by just
four games while overusing eleven players. Had he played by the
rules, there is some question as to whether he would have won that wild
card. And in his third playoffs appearance in 2001, the Lightning
sported a Pythagorean record of just 83-77 en route to winning the OL
wild card by just two games over the Bear Country Jamboree (whose
Pythagorean record was 92-68.)
Geisel's Pythagorean differences and
his bizarre home/road splits remain as two of the biggest mysteries in
league history. Like his longtime friend Marazita, Geisel was
plagued by whispers about his home/road splits throughout his time in
the BDBL. During the early years of the league, when several teams
played by MP, it was not uncommon for teams to play better on the road
than at home. But Marazita and Geisel's home/road splits were SO
far outside the norm that questions were inevitably raised as to the
legitimacy of their records.
In 2001, for example, Litchfield went
just 41-39 at home, and 55-25 on the road -- a 175-point difference in
winning percentage. In that same season, the league as a whole
averaged a .483 winning percentage at home, and .517 on the road -- a
difference of just 33 points. And if you remove the Lightning and
Zoots from the equation, the home/road split difference for the other 22
teams in the BDBL was just 18 points (.478 vs. .495.)
In 2001, Litchfield (playing in a
mostly neutral park modeled after Atlanta's Turner Field) hit much
better on the road (.292/.369/.474, 124 HR, 500 RBI) that season than
they did at home (.270/.349/.437, 98 HR, 382 RBI.) Oddly enough,
Litchfield's pitchers also performed far better away from home.
Lightning starters posted a 5.24 ERA at home vs. 4.77 on the road, and
the relievers sported a 4.70 ERA at home and 4.12 on the road.
Litchfield's unusual Pythagorean
difference implies that the Lightning won most of their close games
while losing most of their blowouts. And sure enough, Litchfield
went a BDBL-best 30-16 in one-run games in 2001, going 16-9 at home and
14-7 on the road. And in those blow-outs (games decided by more
than five runs), Litchfield went 14-18 on the season. However, the
home/road split here is 4-11 at home and an incredible 10-7 on the road!
In games where Lightning pitchers allowed five or more runs, the
Lightning were just 9-28 at home, and 19-13 on the road!
But as incredible as their 2001 season
was, it was hardly a fluke. In 2002, the Lightning went 29-51 at
home and 41-39 away -- a 150-point difference in winning percentage.
They won 11 more games than their Pythagorean expectation, and went
31-21 in one-run games. In games decided by more than five runs,
they went just 7-23 on the season. So, once again, when the game
was close, Litchfield won. And when it was a blow-out, Litchfield
Litchfield's 2003 performance continued
that trend, only magnified by another degree. By the Pythagorean
formula, the Lightning should have been a 56-104 team based on the
difference between runs scored and allowed. Yet, they performed
thirteen games better to finish with a 69-91 record despite being
outscored by 215 runs that season. Once again, Litchfield won a
lot of close games (a BDBL-best 32-19 record in one-run games) and lost
a lot of blow-outs (5-27.)
No explanation has ever been uncovered
as to why the Lightning (and Zoots, for that matter) performed so much
better on the road than they did at home. Numerous analyses
designed to uncover differences in bullpen or pinch hitting usage that
would uncover hidden advantages in the managing styles of Geisel and
Marazita vs. the Diamond Mind MP have proven nothing. To date, it
remains one of the BDBL's biggest mysteries.
By 2002, the magic of Geisel's
inaugural draft had worn out. And if it hadn't been for the
remarkable home/road and close/blow-out numbers mentioned above, the
Litchfield franchise would have spent 2002-2004 toiling away at the
bottom of the standings. Because Geisel has spent so many years
virtually ignoring his franchise as a GM, making only a handful of
trades (and not very beneficial trades at that), filling his farm club
with second-rate prospects, bowing out of nearly every free agent
pick-up period, and saddling his team with so much salary and so many
penalties that drafting or signing top free agents was not an option,
the Lightning franchise was in horrendous shape by the time he finally
resigned from the league.
It is probably every GM's fantasy
scenario to take over a struggling franchise and turn it into a
contender in a short amount of time, and that's exactly what Tony Badger
did when he took over the Lightning in 2004. Badger provided the
perfect antidote to Geisel's apathetic managing style, and went to work
immediately to transform the franchise into his own.
Badger defied all expectations in his
first two full seasons at the helm of the franchise. Then, in his
third full season, with a little help from some surprising performances
(and a lot of help from "Sharky" Kaminski), he was able to elevate this
franchise to a place it had never been under the leadership of Geisel:
all the way to the World Series.
From the bumbling (yet strangely
effective) Geisel Era to the efficient new Badger Era, the New Hope
Badgers franchise has consistently played an interesting role in the