the most difficult feat to accomplish in a league such as the BDBL is to build a championship team
in the first year of the league, when all teams start with a clean slate
and draft players from scratch. When all teams start on even
footing, it is extremely difficult for any team to enjoy that much of an
advantage. The only feat that may be even more difficult is building a team that is so
horrible, so wretched, and so embarrassing, that it sets a
record for losses in a single season that stood for nine years
afterward. This impressive feat was accomplished by Billy Romaniello in
Year One of the BDBL.
Romaniello is a long-time friend of
BDBL commissioner Mike Glander, dating back to their days together on
the little league diamond. Together, they formed the Computer
Baseball League of 1987-1990, which served as the inspiration for the
Big Daddy Baseball League. In the CBL, Romaniello lost more games
than any other owner in the league, and earned a reputation for making
horrendously lopsided trades with Paul Marazita. Ten years after
the demise of the CBL, evidently little had changed.
The Blazers drew the 12th pick in the
draft -- the ideal position in a snake-style draft. With his first
pick, Romaniello selected Hall-of-Fame-bound pitcher Randy Johnson.
Two years prior, Johnson had missed most of the MLB season with back
problems, but he appeared more than healthy over the next two years, and
at age 34, there were no signs of imminent decline. It was more
than just a "solid" pick -- it was an outstanding pick, coming so late in the
"outstanding" picks ended there. When the draft snaked back around
to him in Round Two, he made the dubious decision of selecting Dante
Bichette. On the surface, Bichette's MLB numbers (.331/.357/.509)
were impressive. But given that those numbers were drastically
inflated by Coors Field (with factors of 118-104-114-146 for
right-handed hitters), Bichette's performance would likely suffer in New Milford's Nestle Field (102-110-154-94.) Despite the drastic
difference, however, Bichette hit a respectable .305/.339/.495 overall in 1999.
But at age 35,
he was far from being a building block of the future, and projected
little value in the years to come.
As dubious as the Bichette pick was,
however, Romaniello's next three picks were off the charts. In
Round Three, he selected Charles Johnson -- a catcher who had hit just
.218/.289/.381 in MLB. Johnson would have been a dubious pick in
Round 21, but Round Three? It not only was the worst pick of the
draft, but it all but sealed the Blazers' fate for the 1999 season.
Not only did Johnson perform miserably for New Milford
(.236/.314/.399), but he, too, had little upside potential going forward
-- especially with a salary of $5 million.
With his next two picks, Romaniello
made the fatal error of selecting two relief pitchers in a row.
And although they were both quality relievers (Robb Nen and Billy
Wagner), it was far too early in the draft to consider selecting players
who were eligible to pitch so few innings, and were so easily
replaceable with much cheaper pitchers.
With four of his first five picks
virtually wasted, Romaniello continued to stockpile aging veterans with
his next several picks, selecting Tony Fernandez, Chuck Finley, Livan
Hernandez, Aaron Ledesma and Hal Morris with his next five picks.
Not only did this group of players contribute little to the team in 1999
(Ledesma, in particular, came to bat just 309 times, while Morris had
just 387 PAs), but they were too old to have any future upside, and not
talented enough to have a lot of trade value for later in the year.
This nightmarish draft continued, with
Romaniello selecting aging veteran after aging veteran. Five of
his 35 draft picks were retired from baseball before Opening Day.
Twelve had retired by the start of the 2001 season. And a whopping
23 out of his 35 picks were no longer playing professional baseball
after just five years. That 1999 draft not only left the Blazers
with a franchise that would struggle to win in 1999, but for the
next several seasons thereafter.
But as awful as the Blazers looked on
paper, they played even worse. They began the season by
losing 24 of their first 28 games. By the end of only two chapters
of play, they had fallen 24 games out of first place, and were barely
winning a quarter of their games (a .255 winning percentage.)
Prior to the third chapter, Romaniello
waved the white flag for the first of many times over the ensuing years.
He began by dealing Wagner to the Bourbannais Bad Boys for five
prospects: Dave Veres, Kimera Bartee, Corey Patterson and Terrell Wade.
Unfortunately for Romaniello, none of those prospects ever panned out --
not even Patterson, who was considered to be among the top five
prospects in baseball at the time.
Romaniello's next trade was
considerably better, as he unloaded Bichette to the Massillon
Tigerstrikes, and received top young pitching prospect C.C. Sabathia in
Next, Romaniello traded Nen to the
Salem Cowtippers in exchange for Ben Davis, Robert Person and Eric
Valent. This trade was so controversial, it contributed to the
resignations of three owners and the eventual renaming of one of the
BDBL's divisions in honor of Person. (Note: although this trade was
controversial, it could have been much worse had Salem GM
Glander accepted Romaniello's proposal to throw in Randy Johnson in
exchange for Ryan Bradley and Butch Henry.)
Smelling blood in the water, Stamford GM Paul Marazita
then zeroed in on his old trading partner and
negotiated a trade that would alter the course of BDBL history for the
next three years. In exchange for 24-year-old hurler Jose Rosado,
25-year-old hitter Daryle Ward and two draft picks, New Milford traded
Johnson to the Zoots, throwing in the two most valuable picks of the
2000 draft as well.
At the time, Rosado was coming off
back-to-back MLB seasons in which he threw 174 or more innings and
posted identical 4.69 ERA's. He enjoyed a career year in MLB '99,
posting a 3.85 ERA (but a 5.02 CERA) in 208 innings, but he would pitch
just 27.2 more innings in his MLB career. And, like many of the
players drafted by Romaniello, he would be out of baseball entirely by
Opening Day, 2001. At $3 million in salary, he posted an ugly 6.27
ERA for the Blazers in 2000 before he, too, was shipped off to Royals
fan Chris Luhning of the Kansas Law Dogs.
Ward never amounted to much, either, as
he became nothing more than a pinch hitter throughout his MLB career.
His BDBL career high in at-bats was 342, set in 2003. Meanwhile,
Johnson soon became the most dominant pitcher in the BDBL, winning the
next four Cy Young awards in a row (two for Stamford, and two for
Allentown), and carried the Zoots to three straight BDBL championships.
And the two draft picks traded by Romaniello were converted by Marazita
into several more players who played key roles for Stamford down the
stretch and throughout the post-season.
With nothing of value left to trade, Romaniello
simply played out the rest of the string in 1999, going 31-73 down the
stretch to finish with a record of 46-114. Those 114 losses would
remain a BDBL single-season record until 2008.
After that disastrous
first season, New Milford's prospects heading into the 2000 season were comparatively
bright. Alex Fernandez had missed the entire 1998 MLB season due
to injury, and was therefore eligible to be drafted in 2000. In
fact, he and reliever Matt Mantei (who had also missed the '98 MLB
season) were arguably the only impact players available in the 2000
draft. With the #1 overall pick, and having $25 million in
spending money after
the trades of Johnson, Bichette, Nen and Wagner, Romaniello selected
Fernandez with the first pick of the draft. He then used Akron's
#1 pick (which he had acquired through a pre-season trade) to select
Mantei as well. With Rosado, Fernandez, Chuck Finley, Kenny Rogers
and the legendary Robert Person, the Blazers' starting rotation was
considered to be among the best in the league.
Offensively, Romaniello had added Paul
O'Neill that winter in a trade with the Manchester Irish Rebels, in
which he sacrificed Charles Johnson, Steve Avery and two others.
O'Neill would hit .301/.367/.484 for New Milford in 2000, batting in the
heart of the lineup. And at the top of the lineup, Luis Castillo
(one of the few players drafted by Romaniello in 1999 who was under the
age of 30) hit a solid .307/.381/.408.
But once again, the Blazers limped out
of the starting blocks by going 7-17 in Chapter One. And by the
end of two chapters, they found themselves already 14 games behind in
the division, and once again looking toward the future.
Romaniello waited until the final
trading deadline of the year before he began his annual tag sale, and
off-loaded Finley, Rosado, Mantei and Fernandez, among others. In
exchange, he received several players, including Greg Maddux, Ramon
Martinez and top prospect Michael Cuddyer.
The Blazers wrapped up their second
season with a record of 52-107 -- just seven games better than their
record-setting 1999 team.
That winter, Romaniello made just three
trades. Two turned out to be great; the other turned out to be
disastrous. First, he traded two draft picks -- including the #1
overall farm pick -- to the Salem Cowtippers in exchange for two young
players: Danny Graves and Dee Brown. The 2001 farm draft was
legendary due to the amount of talent that came from that draft, and Romaniello traded a pick that could have been used to select any number
of future stars, including Albert Pujols, Ichiro Suzuki, Roy Oswalt and
Mark Prior. In contrast, neither Graves nor Brown ever fulfilled
Next, Romaniello swapped Kenny Rogers
#1 pick of the regular draft (also the #1 overall pick), and received young slugger Alfonso Soriano in
exchange. Soriano soon became the face of the Blazers franchise,
playing the next five and half seasons for New Milford, at salaries far
below market value. Prior to the 2003 season, Romaniello signed
his franchise player to a shocking ten-year contract.
Lastly, Romaniello traded his
16th-round pick to Salem in exchange for another top prospect, Austin
Kearns. That spring, Kearns was ranked the #18 prospect in all of
baseball in the annual BDBL Farm Report, and combined with Patterson
(#1), Sabathia (#8), Soriano (#39), Brown (#54) and Cuddyer (#59), the
Blazers were ranked as having the best farm system in the BDBL.
The addition of Maddux during the
previous season gave New Milford a quality workhorse at the top of the
rotation. Maddux pitched a career-high 267.2 innings for New
Milford in 2001, with a stellar ERA of 3.37. But beyond Maddux,
the Blazers' rotation was very thin, and their offense was even thinner.
New Milford was picked to finish in third place in the Griffin Division,
but it didn't take long for even that lackluster prediction to prove
The Blazers went 12-16 in Chapter One,
and followed with a 10-16 Chapter Two. By the all-star break, they
found themselves in a familiar position: in last place, 13 games behind
the division leader. For the third year in a row, Romaniello was
forced to endure yet another rebuilding year.
He began by participating in the
league's first three-team trade, orchestrated by Glander. In exchange for catcher Jason Kendall, Brad Penny and two
others, the Blazers received top prospect Sean Burroughs and several
others. Burroughs was ranked as the #5 prospect in baseball in the BDBL's annual farm report, giving the Blazers three of the top ten
prospects in baseball (and four of the top twenty.)
Later, at the final trading deadline of
the season, Romaniello traded three more players, including former top
prospect Dee Brown, and received David Eckstein, Doug Mientkiewicz and
two draft picks in exchange.
Aside from those two trades, however,
Romaniello was inactive as a GM, choosing to ignore the free agent
process. While other teams loaded up on free agents such as Casey
Kotchman, Shawn Chacon, Adrian Gonzalez, John VanBenschoten, Dewon
Brazelton, Bronson Arroyo and Joe Mauer, Romaniello chose to sit it out
and stick with the roster he had at hand. In fact, Eckstein -- who
cost the Blazers two players with significant trade value in Cliff Floyd
and Jeff D'Amico -- had been picked up off the free agent wire in
Chapter Three of that season, and could have been acquired at no cost
Not surprisingly, New Milford wrapped
up the 2001 season with a record of 63-97 -- their best record in
franchise history, but still good for last place in the division for the
third year in a row.
There were, however, reasons for great
optimism heading into the 2002 season. For one, Maddux would
be leading the Blazers rotation for the third year in a row, and would
finish the season with a 2.90 CERA in 247+ innings -- his best
performance since his Cy Young-winning 1999 season.
Aside from Maddux, the New Milford
rotation would be bolstered by 21-year-old rookie C.C. Sabathia (a
product of the 1999 rebuilding year), as the vaunted New Milford farm
system finally began to produce some big league players. Alfonso
Soriano (a product of the 2001 rebuilding year) had blossomed into a
productive, all-star-caliber second baseman, hitting .289/.345/.452 with
46 doubles and 104.3 runs created. Combined
with a strong supporting cast, the Blazers were picked to finish in
second place in the 2002 season preview:
After three years in which they've lost a total of 314
games, the New Milford Blazers are finally moving in the
right direction. Every franchise in the BDBL that has
finished with 100 or more losses in any given year has also
enjoyed a winning season - except the Blazers. This year,
they'll turn a corner and taste victory for the first time.
With an unprecedented youth movement on the way in the very
near future, New Milford is just a year or two away from
winning this division. If they decide to trade some of
that talent for immediate help, they could even compete this
year. But the mere thought of seeing an infield of
Mientkiewicz, Soriano, Vazquez and Burroughs, and an
outfield of Piatt, Patterson and Kearns, might be too good
to break up.
Despite the lofty predictions, New Milford's 2002 season began on an
all-too-familiar note, with a league-worst 8-20 showing in Chapter One.
They wrapped up the following chapter with just eight more wins, putting
them 22 games out of first place in the division. Once again, it
would be another rebuilding year for the New Milford Blazers. As
often would happen in the history of this franchise, the Blazers were
among the top stories of the season, as people around the league searched for an explanation
as to how this team could
continually fail to meet expectations:
How can this be? Well, as I
wrote on this page a couple of months ago, last-place teams
in the BDBL have historically turned their franchises around
quickly by taking advantage of our rulebook. The Blazers,
quite simply, haven't done so. For every trade they've
made to help the team in the future, they've made just as
many trades that have hurt the future of the franchise.
They've paid far too much money to mediocre players, giving
them too little money to spend in the draft. They've wasted
their top draft picks on players who provided little help to
the franchise either instantly or in the future. They've
wasted their top farm picks on players who will likely never
make a contribution to the Blazers franchise. And most
egregious of all, they haven't taken advantage of their high
picks in the free agent acquisition process, letting useful
players slip by them while they slept on the sidelines. Put
it all together and you've got a recipe for four straight
Prior to the Chapter Three deadline,
Romaniello traded the free-agent-to-be Maddux to the Madison Fighting
Mimes in exchange for two pitchers with promising futures: Vicente
Padilla and Kevin Millwood. In retrospect, it was a brilliant
trade, as it gave the team two quality, full-time starters in exchange
for a three-chapter rental. However, any positive affects of that
trade were annihilated by Romaniello's next trade.
For years, Mike Hampton was considered
to be a rising young left-handed pitcher who was both talented and
durable. Prior to the 2000 season, however, he was signed to a
very risky eight-year contract by new Boardwalk Vulgarians owner Steve
Babula. At the time, he was coming off a career year in which he
went 22-4 with a 2.90 ERA for the Houston Astros in MLB. But by
2001, he had signed as a free agent with the Colorado Rockies, and his
career soon took a dramatic turn for the worse. Gene Patterson, GM
of the Atlanta Fire Ants, had made the costly error of trading for
Hampton in the winter of 2001. And in the summer of 2002,
Romaniello let him off the hook by trading Mientkiewicz for Hampton,
In three and a half years as a member
of the Blazers, Hampton went 27-38, with a 4.72 ERA in 574 innings, all
at a combined salary of $26.5 million from 2003-2005. Hampton not
only performed horribly for New Milford, but he devoured several
millions in salary that could have been devoted to much better players.
Romaniello didn't make another trade
the rest of the year; nor did he acquire one free agent. Once
again, his team suffered from neglect, finishing the year with a 49-111
record. Instead of taking a step forward, as expected, the Blazers
had taken a giant leap backward.
By this time, it had become apparent to
everyone -- Romaniello included -- that the Blazers franchise needed a
little help. That winter, Romaniello made the fateful decision to
recruit co-worker Anthony Peburn as an advisor to the team. Over the
next several years, Peburn would slowly gain more and more control over
the franchise, first serving as advisor on trades and free agents, then taking
full control of the GM duties, and finally assuming the role of
full-time manager as well.
Among Peburn's first decisions as advisor was to suggest the selection of Joe Valentine in the 2003 farm
draft. Valentine, a minor league reliever, was selected with the
#2 overall pick of the draft. He never pitched a game in the BDBL.
But while Valentine proved to be a bust, the most entertaining pick of that draft was New Milford's
fifth round selection of the legendary Toe Nash.
Once again, New Milford headed into the
2003 season with reason to believe their fortunes would finally turn
toward the better. Millwood, Padilla and Sabathia gave the Blazers three
strong starting pitchers, and Soriano (.266/.310/.495 with 40 2B and 34
HR) had established himself as a star in the middle of the lineup.
That winter, Romaniello was presented
with an opportunity to become a "buyer" instead of a "seller" for the
first time in franchise history. He jumped at the chance, and
traded prospects Burroughs and Kearns back to the Cowtippers in exchange for
three established stars: Mike Mussina (3.79 ERA in 204+ IP), Todd Helton
(.287/.376/.475, 113.7 RC) and David Eckstein (.298/.346/.411, 100.6
RC.) He also added a reliever, J.C. Romero (81 IP, 2.98 CERA), in
a separate deal at
the expense of their once-promising rookie Corey Patterson.
The league held its first-ever free
agent auction that winter, but New Milford was forced to sit it out, as
they had just $6.6 million (the least in the league) to spend in the
auction. For the second year in a row, optimism over the
Blazers led to a second-place prediction in the pre-season preview.
And for the second year in a row, New Milford proved to be a major
disappointment, as they got off to a 12-16 start to the new season.
In my pre-season preview, I expressed some concern over
the Blazers' offense due to the fact that they don't get on
base a lot. When teams don't get on base, they are required
to either play small-ball or wait for the three-run homer in
order to score runs. The Blazers haven't gotten on base
(their .321 team OBP ranks 10th in the OL), they haven't
played good small-ball (29-for-49 in stolen bases) and they
haven't hit many home runs (10th-ranked with 42). As a
result, New Milford hasn't enjoyed very many big innings
(they've scored more than three runs in an inning just eight
times this season.) It's simply hard to score runs when
your hitters don't get on base.
...The bigger question when it comes to the
Blazers's pitching staff is: why are so many innings
being misallocated to inferior pitchers? Despite
his 4.72 ERA so far, J.C. Romero is by far the best
pitcher in the Blazers bullpen. He should get the
ball every time the game is on the line, no matter
what inning it is. Instead, he's been used a total
of just 13 innings. Stanton is this team's best
lefty setup man, yet he's been used just 4 innings
all season! Mike Williams had a 2.93 ERA in the big
leagues, yet he's been used just 4.2 innings. Veres
has been used for just 18 innings, though he's
available to pitch nearly 90 innings this year.
And then there's Mike Hampton. Mike Hampton
shouldn't ever be used - EVER. Yet he
ranks third on the team in innings, with 62. You
mean to tell me the Blazers couldn't find anyone
on the free agent or trade market with an ERA lower
than 6.00?? A team that hopes to contend simply
doesn't use Mike Hampton - EVER.
PERIOD. END OF STORY.
...They are currently performing four games below
their Pythagorean projection (which, along with
Salem, leads the BDBL.) And the Blazers have lost a
BDBL-high 13 one-run games. ...In time, New
Milford's luck should turn around. But is it too
The Blazers's problem isn't the software. And
their problem isn't their personnel. They have the
right personnel to win, and the software shouldn't
stand in their way of doing so. What the Blazers
need to figure out is how to squeeze the most
production out of what they have. And isn't that
pretty much true for all of us?
Despite the presence of his new
advisor, Romaniello didn't make a move with the team through the first
three chapters. Prior to Chapter Four, Romaniello called upon his
favorite trading partner, Marazita, and sent two relievers to
Stamford in exchange for three prospects -- none of whom ever added any
value to the Blazers franchise. Then, prior to the final trading deadline, Romaniello made the decision to put his most valuable trading chit,
Millwood, on the block. Salem offered top prospect B.J. Upton, but
ultimately Romaniello chose to dip back into the Stamford well,
accepting Marazita's offer of Horacio Ramirez and Zach Day. Again,
neither player made any significant impact with the Blazers.
Making matters worse, Romaniello also threw in outfielder Randy Winn in
the deal. Marazita eventually won his fourth
BDBL championship (with the help of Millwood, who posted a 3.14
post-season ERA in 28+ innings), and Romaniello's Blazers finished with
a 66-94 record. But for the first time ever, the Blazers
did not finish in last place.
In 2004, the league underwent a radical
realignment that saw the Blazers moving into the same division as the
Zoots, Cowtippers and Lightning. For the first time, all four
members of the original CBL were now playing in the same division.
That winter, Romaniello stood pat on the trading front and elected not
to make a single trade. The Blazers were returning Mussina (16-10,
3.53 ERA in 232+ IP in BDBL '04) to the rotation, and Helton
(.352/.452/.557) to the lineup, but there was little else to evoke
excitement or optimism on the Blazers roster -- especially considering
the increased competition within the division.
In the free agent auction, Romaniello
spent $4.5 million to re-sign Randy Winn. A longtime favorite of
Romaniello's, Winn would perform poorly (.265/.309/.371 with 153 K's) in
his return to New Milford. In the draft, Romaniello spent $3
million to acquire another longtime Blazers mainstay, Jeff Conine
(.248/.303/.438.) With only $1.5 million left to spend, there was
little means to fill the remaining holes in the Blazers roster.
With a weak bullpen, a shallow starting
rotation and a subpar offense, the outlook for the 2004 Blazers was not
Last year on this page, I predicted that New Milford would finally
break their streak of losing 90+ games and win the OL wild card. The
year before that, on this same page, I predicted the Blazers would
finish in second place with their first winning season in franchise
history. I'm not going to make the same mistake again. The Blazers
have now lost 90 or more games five years in a row. I'll side with
history and predict they'll make it six. Last year, New Milford
traded some highly-desirable trade bait - Kevin Millwood, Randy
Winn, Wil Cordero, Shiggy Hasegawa and Mark Guthrie - without
getting one player in return that can be of help to them in 2004 or
beyond. Unless New Milford can find a way to get more in return for
their prime trade bait, this vicious cycle will continue again and
again and again.
Making matters worse, not only was the
present-day Blazers roster lackluster, but their farm system dropped in the BDBL's annual "farm report" from #1 in 2001, to #5 in 2002, to #14 in
2003, all the way to #15 in 2004. Clearly, the organization was in
desperate need of a makeover. More and more throughout the season, Romaniello ceded decision-making
power and control to Peburn.
Incredibly, the Blazers managed to
finish the first chapter of the season with a 16-12 record -- tied with
the Cowtippers for second place in the division, five games behind the
Zoots. After two chapters, New Milford had lost only two games in
the standings. Emboldened by their record of 29-27, hungry to compete for
the first time in franchise history, and with the added incentive of playing in the same division as
longtime rivals, New Milford's dual GMs made the fateful decision to "go for it."
At 23 years old, C.C. Sabathia was
considered to be one of the top young starting pitchers in baseball, and
figured to be the foundation of the Blazers rotation for years to come.
But Romaniello and Peburn were so convinced that 2004 would be the
Blazers' year, they traded Sabathia to the Marlboro Hammerheads in
exchange for Melvin Mora and Doug Davis. Mora was an
all-star-caliber impact player at the time, as he finished the 2004 BDBL
season hitting .303/.395/.472 with 72.7 runs created in only 379
at-bats. And Davis -- a free agent at year's end -- was supposed
to be a decent replacement for Sabathia's lost innings. Instead,
he posted a 6.13 ERA in 63+ innings for New Milford down the stretch.
The trade of Sabathia was a devastating
loss for the franchise, as he would prove to be extremely expensive to
replace. Sabathia had two years remaining on his contract, at a
salary of only $5.2 million combined. Mora hit .304/.394/.478 for
the Blazers down the stretch in 2004, but played just one more season at
a salary of $3 million. But perhaps the biggest blunder
surrounding Sabathia was Romaniello's decision in the winter of 2003 to sign
his budding ace to an ultra-conservative contract of only four years.
As it turned out, Sabathia became an annual Cy Young contender for many
years afterward. Sabathia would become one of the top-paid
pitchers in the BDBL, earning $20-$22 million per season from 2007-2011.
Had he been signed to a seven-year contract by Romaniello, Sabathia
would have earned just $9.1 million in 2009.
That same chapter, Romaniello and
traded two more young pitchers (Dustin Nippert and Mike MacDougal) for
Mike Timlin in an effort to shore up the weak New Milford bullpen.
But despite those new acquisitions, the Blazers posted a disappointing,
sub-.500 record (10-14) for the second chapter in a row, and found
the division-leading Cowtippers by 16 games heading into the all-star
By the time the final trading deadline
approached, it became obvious that 2004 would not be New Milford's year.
After four chapters of play, their
record was a respectable 54-50, but they trailed the division leaders by
11 games, and the wild card leaders by 9. Romaniello and Peburn
responded by trading two of the team's most marketable players --
Mussina and Timlin -- at the Chapter Five trading deadline in exchange
for Aaron Sele, Jose Acevedo and Dave Burba. Sele was later
released on Cutdown Day of that year, while Acevedo and Burba tossed
just 90 innings combined in the remainder of their BDBL careers.
The Blazers finished the 2004 season
with a record of 78-82 -- a franchise best.
That winter, the dual
GM's decided once again to sit out the trade market and coast into
Cutdown Day with the
roster they had in place. There were many reasons for optimism
heading into the 2005 season. Zack Greinke, a second-round farm
pick by Peburn in 2003, had developed into one of the most promising
young pitchers in baseball. At the tender age of 21, Greinke
posted a 3.28 ERA in 159+ innings in the BDBL in 2005. Akinori
Otsuka, New Milford's only selection in the 2004 farm draft, enjoyed a
smooth transition from the Japan to the US, and was considered to be a
minimum-wage closer. Mora followed up his surprising season by
hitting .314/.395/.532 overall in 2005, with a career-high 122.7 runs
created. Helton would hit .319/.428/.570 in 2005, with 153.5 runs
created. And Alfonso Soriano added 33 home runs for New Milford in
2005, with 70.4 runs created at only $3.1 million in salary.
With $17.5 million to spend on free
agents, Romaniello and Peburn opted to sign just one player -- Orlando
Hernandez -- to a $4.5 million salary in the auction.
Inning-for-inning, Hernandez was perhaps the best pitcher available on
the market that winter. The problem was that he was only eligible
to pitch about 90 innings.
In the draft, New Milford signed
Shannon Stewart -- another short-usage player -- with their first pick
of the draft, at a salary of $5 million. They followed that pick
with the selection of Rick Ankiel in Round Six. At the time,
Ankiel was coming off an historic mental breakdown, and was still
considered to be a top pitching prospect. As Ankiel was
immediately placed on the "Selling" forum, it became clear that the
strategy in drafting Ankiel was to flip him immediately for a more
established player of immediate value.
In the 2005 season preview, New Milford
was picked to finish in second place in the Butler Division. And
true to form, the Blazers charged out of the gate with a league-best
record of 18-10. They followed that performance with a 14-14
Chapter Two. Then, one week into the third chapter, Peburn and
Romaniello made the decision to cash in several of their top trade
chits, Michael Cuddyer, in an all-out effort to "go for it" once again. In exchange for their young slugger, and
four others, the Blazers added dominant closer Brad Lidge to their
bullpen. But with Otsuka and Tom Gordon (3.44 ERA in 81+ IP, with
96 K's) already heading the 'pen, many felt it was overkill to add a third
The Blazers fell to 11-13 in Chapter
Three, giving them a record of 43-37 heading into the half -- the best
half-season record in franchise history. With the Cowtippers
running away with the division, eleven games ahead, all eyes were on the
OL wild card race, where the Blazers trailed by just one game in a
three-way battle with the Silicon Valley CyberSox and Sylmar Padawans.
Chapter Four began on a sour note for
New Milford, as they began with a record of 1-3. But Peburn
remained convinced that the Blazers would be a contending team in 2005,
and in the first week of the chapter, he managed to close a gaping hole
in New Milford's rotation by adding Woody Williams at the cost of Stewart and Horacio Ramirez.
Then, on the 4th of July, after a
four-game sweep at the hands of the CyberSox, Peburn announced on the
BDBL forum that the white flag had been raised. Just six games out
of the wild card race, Peburn and Romaniello made the joint decision to
punt another season in the hope of building a strong contender for 2006.
In doing so, they ushered in the most infamous roster purge in league
history, and one that would ignite heated debate and inspire numerous rule changes.
The firesale began two weeks later,
when New Milford traded no fewer than four impact players -- Mora, Lidge,
Juan Pierre and Duaner Sanchez -- to the Wapakoneta Hippos in exchange
for young slugger Jason Bay and reliever Justin Duchscherer. At
just 26 years old, Bay was already an established all-star-caliber
player with a minimum-wage salary. Signed through the 2010 season by
Wapakoneta GM Bobby Sylvester the prior winter, Bay was considered to
own one of the most valuable contracts in the BDBL.
Next, Peburn accomplished what many
considered to be the impossible by trading Mike Hampton's contract to
the Villanova Mustangs. By the 2005 season, Hampton's contract had
become the biggest liability in the BDBL. The oft-injured,
ineffective lefty veteran was signed through the 2007 season, at a
salary of $10 million per year. In exchange for dumping that
contract, it cost the Blazers their young franchise hurler, Greinke.
But, in a stroke of genius, Peburn received an even more talented young
hurler -- Dan Haren -- to replace him. So, at no cost whatsoever,
Peburn had managed to dump $15 million in salary.
If the purge had ended there, no one
could have ever had a problem with any decision the Blazers made up to
that point, no controversy would have ever erupted, and no rule changes
would have ever been introduced. But on July 29th, Peburn crossed
the line from simply making trades to improve his franchise to making trades
for the sake of making trades. His next trade, in which he sent
Helton, Otsuka and Hernandez to the Allentown Ridgebacks in exchange for
J.T. Snow, Chris Capuano, Gregg Zaun and John Grabow, sparked an
enormous protest. Before he was done, Peburn also managed
to trade away Gordon, Mike Lamb, Burba and Tim Harrikala, completing an
historic purge. The league soon adopted a mid-season cap --
first on salary, then on VORP -- for all teams as a direct result of
this trade, to prevent another team from dumping so many star players ever again.
Snow was released that winter, Zaun
played one more season (hitting .243/.358/.383) and Grabow pitched one
year under contract (posting an ERA of 4.15 in 52+ innings of middle
relief.) The best of the bunch, Capuano was later traded. Meanwhile, Hernandez, Otsuka and Helton carried the Ridgebacks to their second BDBL
To no one's surprise, New Milford
closed out the final two chapters with a record of 21-35, giving them an
overall record of 73-87. But Peburn had accomplished his ultimate
goal of building a surefire contender for 2006.
By the time the
bloodletting ended, New Milford was left with an impressive array
of low-cost stars for the 2006 season, including Haren (3.56 ERA in 230
IP in BDBL '06), Bay (.263/.362/.510 with 34 HR and 108.8 RC) and
Duchscherer (2.71 ERA in 86+ IP), along with returning vets such as
But perhaps most importantly, after
dumping so much salary, New
Milford also had $38.3 million to spend in the free agent auction.
The Blazers were not only set up nicely to contend in 2006, but with
young, inexpensive franchise players like Bay, Haren and Soriano, they were also set up
nicely for the next several years. Peburn, however, had a different
plan in mind.
That winter, Peburn and Romaniello
devised a plan that would bring an end to New Milford's long run as the
laughingstock of the BDBL. Rather than devise a long-range plan
for continued success, however, the two co-owners decided to put it all
on the line and build a team that could win it all in 2006.
They began putting this plan into
action by trading their young franchise pitcher, Haren, to the Silicon
Valley CyberSox in exchange for free-agent-to-be Chris Carpenter.
While Haren was a solid #2/#3 starter, Carpenter was an elite, ace
pitcher. Not only was he among the best pitchers in baseball, but
he was a workhorse who logged a total of 263.1 innings for New Milford
in 2006. He compiled a 20-11 record, with a 3.66 ERA and 271
strikeouts, and finished second place in the year-end OL Cy Young
Peburn also acquired part-time slugger
Mike Sweeney (.320/.369/.551 in 490 AB) by agreeing to pay a $5.5
million penalty to release Magglio Ordonez. Peburn then flipped
Ordonez to the Bear Country Jamboree in exchange for two more part-time
sluggers, Chipper Jones (.281/.407/.548 in 385 AB) and Jeff Cirillo
(.356/.416/.472 in 163 AB.)
In January, the league wondered aloud
how much free agent Roger Clemens would fetch in the auction. No
pitcher had ever been signed to a salary greater than $15.5 million, but
Clemens was a special case. The 43-year-old future Hall-of-Famer
was coming off another Cy Young-worthy season, and the speculation was
that it would be his final season in the big leagues. Given no
future commitment, it was speculated that Clemens might fetch as much as
$17 million on the open market.
But when the first auction lot ended,
the league was stunned to discover that Peburn and Romaniello had won
the bidding for Clemens at a whopping $19 million. The amount was
not only unprecedented, but it seemed foolishly near-sighted given
Clemens' indecision over retirement. However, given the one-year
plan devised by Peburn and Romaniello, Clemens' future was of no concern.
Clemens gave the Blazers a second dominant ace to pair with Carpenter atop the New
Milford starting rotation. Clemens filled that role by going 16-11
on the season,
with a 3.14 ERA and 206 strikeouts in 232 innings.
After spending nearly half of their
allotted salary on one player, the Blazers then spent another $7 million
to reacquire Winn for the third time in franchise history. Winn
rewarded that loyalty by hitting .317/.375/.501 with 118.5 runs created.
New Milford shared the best record in
the league with the Corona Confederates in Chapter One of the 2006
season, with a record of 18-10. By the end of two chapters,
however, Corona's lead in the division had grown to seven games, with
the surprising Cowtippers nipping at New Milford's heels just two games behind.
Perhaps out of desperation and/or
panic, Peburn and Romaniello then did the unthinkable and traded away
their last remaining franchise player, Bay. In exchange, they received Ken Griffey, Jr. (.296/.363/.539 for New Milford) and Bartolo Colon (8-9,
5.39 ERA in 157+ IP.) Not only did the Blazers lose an
inexpensive, young, long-term
player with this trade, but they inherited Colon's enormous contract,
which was scheduled to pay him $21 million over the next three seasons.
Colon was expected to become a third New Milford ace, but instead proved
to be a disappointment (8-9, 5.39 ERA in 157+ IP, with 191 hits
allowed.) And with Griffey's performance (.296/.363/.539) canceling
out Bay's (.278/.389/.597), this trade was a wash for the 2006 season.
Peburn was far from done, however.
Before the end of the season, he'd also managed to trade inexpensive
young players Freddy Sanchez,
Joe Saunders, Soriano, Duchscherer and the team's top prospect, Yovani Gallardo. In exchange,
the Blazers received several more
immediate impact players such as Dan Wheeler, Brian Roberts and Arthur
Rhodes. But the New Milford roster was now completely stripped of
any and all promising young players, both on the 35-man roster and farm.
And with the new rules in effect (rules that were created as a direct
result of Peburn's trades in 2005), there was no more room under the cap
for additional resources.
New Milford went into the all-star
break with a 43-37 record -- seven games behind in the division, and two
behind in the wild card. Then, on August 26th, the Blazers
captured the wild card lead after a 6-4 start to Chapter Five.
With the Las Vegas Flamingos serving as New Milford's only competition,
the path was clear for New Milford's first playoffs appearance.
Heading into the final chapter, New
Milford was clinging to a one-game lead over Las Vegas, with no other
team in sight. On October 8th, the Flamingos pulled into a virtual
tie with the Blazers after taking three of four from the Ravenswood
Then, late in the final chapter, New
Milford swept the New Hope Badgers, giving them a two-game lead.
However, in their next series, they lost three of four to Silicon
Valley, dropping their lead to just one game with twelve left to play.
Finally, on October 24th, the Blazers
took on the Flamingos in head-to-head competition, and won three of four
games. Their second win in that series officially clinched the
wild card. At long last, after seven seasons of painful
ineptitude, the New Milford Blazers were heading to the post-season.
They finished the 2006 regular season with a 90-70 record, and won the
wild card by three games.
Their Division Series opponents were
the Marlboro Hammerheads. The first game of that series matched
New Milford's ace, Clemens, against Marlboro's ace, Johan Santana.
Neither pitcher, however, lasted past the sixth inning, and the game was
eventually extended to 17 innings -- a BDBL post-season record.
Finally, in the bottom of the 17th, Larry Walker doubled to lead off the
inning for Marlboro. New Milford's long reliever Aaron Small then
loaded the bases with two walks. Miguel Tejada then stepped to the
plate and grounded one back to the mound, resulting in a 1-2 put-out.
Pinch hitter John Buck then popped out to short, and it appeared that
the Blazers may escape that impossible jam. But with two outs and
the bases still loaded, Peburn (who was now managing all of New
Milford's games at this point) turned to Jarrod Washburn to face the
lefty-hitting catcher, Brian Schneider. Schneider singled,
bringing home the game-winning run.
The second game was a match-up between
the OL's Cy Young winner (Marlboro's Jon Garland) and the runner-up
(Carpenter.) But once again, neither starter factored into the
decision, as the game was pushed into extra innings for the second game
in a row. This time, Brian Roberts tripled to lead off the top of
the 13th inning for New Milford, and he scored on a sac fly by Chipper
Jones. Chris Reitsma then closed out the bottom half with a 1-2-3
Game Three was an 8-1 blowout in favor
of New Milford, as Colon (8 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 9 K) redeemed himself at
a crucial moment. But the Hammerheads then tied the series in Game
Four with an 8-6 come-from-behind win. In Game Five, New Milford
jumped all over Marlboro starter Jae Seo, scoring five runs in two
innings. They then turned a 6-5 nail-biter into a 12-6 laugher by
scoring six runs in the eighth inning.
Finally, the Blazers nailed down the
series with a relentless offensive attack against Garland and NINE
different Marlboro relievers, winning the series with a 9-5 victory.
That win meant the Blazers would now
have to face the heavily-favored Corona Confederates in the OLCS.
New Milford had spent the entire season chasing Corona in the Butler
Division standings, and failed to come close to catching them.
Now, in Game One, New Milford sent Clemens to the hill to face Corona's
ace, John Smoltz. The Blazers pounded out 18 hits, and scored 11
runs, to win the game with ease. Corona tied the series in Game
Two by returning the favor, pounding Carpenter and the New Milford
bullpen for 9 runs on 13 hits.
Colon got the job done once again in
Game Three, out-pitching Brett Myers to put New Milford in the series
lead. Little David Eckstein then clubbed two home runs in Game
Four to give the Blazers an 8-5 lead and a commanding 3-1 lead in the
series. They then made short work of Corona by winning the final
game by a score of 7-6, as the Blazers bullpen managed to stave off a
late Corona rally.
Yes, the New Milford Blazers -- losers
of more than 800 games over the league's first eight seasons -- were
heading to the World Series.
Unfortunately for them, that
experience would be short-lived, as their opponents were the unstoppable
Villanova Mustangs. Like the Blazers, Villanova had spent several
years building toward the 2006 season. And after winning two tight
series to make it to the World Series, the Mustangs wanted to make short
work of the Blazers. They did just that, sweeping the series in
four games, as the Villanova pitching staff held New Milford's offense
to just 13 runs total.
The 2007 Blazers were doomed to fail
before the season even began. Carpenter, Jones and Sweeney were
gone to free agency. Soriano, Bay, Haren, Sanchez and Duchscherer
had been traded away in exchange for one failed shot at glory. Griffey (.256/.320/.471 in BDBL '07) had become a $5 million penalty.
Colon (5.46 ERA in 61 IP in BDBL '07) had become a $6 million liability.
Clemens (who threw just 121+ innings in '07) had become a very expensive part-time pitcher. And Roberts
(.295/.354/.453) was worth nowhere near his $8.5 million salary.
Peburn, who had unofficially taken over
all aspects of the franchise by this point, managed to free some salary
in the winter of 2007 by trading Winn and (incredibly) Clemens.
Heading into the draft, all that was left of the Blazers were several
aging veterans of dubious value and a barren farm system. For all
intents and purposes, the Blazers franchise was starting over again from
The one asset the team had was cash.
With $23.9 million to spend, New Milford could have used that money to
take several savvy fliers on veterans in the draft who were coming off
of disappointing seasons, or young players who had yet to reach their
peaks. Instead, Peburn had another controversial plan in place. He would
use his cash to buy high-impact free agents, and then immediately flip
them for young players with future value. This strategy, too,
created several protests that led to several new rule changes designed
to close this loophole.
First, Peburn signed Kenny Rogers to a
$10.5 million salary. He then immediately flipped him to the
Cleveland Rocks in exchange for four young players, including Kevin
Kouzmanoff. Next, he signed Chipper Jones to an $8.5 million
salary, and immediately flipped him to the Nashville Funkadelic for four
young players including Japanese import Akinori Iwamura.
Peburn continued to trade away as many
"impact" players as he could throughout the 2007 season in an effort to
stockpile as many young players as he could for his franchise's future.
In addition to Kouzmanoff and Iwamura, Peburn also acquired Renyel
Pinto, Ben Zobrist, Adam Lind, Jimmy Gobble, Brent Clevlen and Jack Cust
through trade. With the exception of Cust, however, none of those players
made much of an impact in 2008 or 2009.
The 2007 Blazers were expected to break
their own record for losses in a single season:
This is an ugly team. A really, REALLY ugly team. This team is so
ugly, it would have to tie a pork chop around its neck just to get a
dog to play with it. This team is so ugly it would make an onion
cry. This team is so ugly, a young boy in New Milford accidentally
dropped a Blazers' team photo on the street and was arrested for
littering. There has been a debate among the sabermetric community
for a number of years regarding the true meaning of the word
"replacement-level." It is generally agreed that no team could ever
be so awful that they would lose every game they played. So the
question is: if you fielded a team full of replacement-level
players, how many games would that team win? We're about to find
New Milford's uneventful 2007 season
concluded with a record of 47-113. One more loss, and they would
have tied their own BDBL record.
Following his unprecedented purge of
young talent during the 2006 season, it was predicted that the Blazers
franchise would not contend for several years to come:
"It is one thing to "go for it" by
trading a key prospect or two in exchange for immediate value, or to
sign a risky, big-money free agent. It is another thing, entirely,
to trade away several franchise players for one-year fixes, take on
several bloated, unwanted contracts, and sign the biggest, riskiest
free agent in league history to a two-year, $39 million contract.
Not only have the Blazers abandoned any goal they had of competing
in 2007, but they have effectively destroyed any chance they had of
competing in 2008, 2009 and beyond. It took the Blazers eight years
to become competitive. It may take another eight years before their
next above-.500 season."
-- From the Desk of the
Commish, May, 2006
Peburn vehemently argued against this
premise, and promised to return the Blazers to contention as early as
the 2008 season. He even went so far as to bet $100 that his team
would not lose 100 games in '08.
With his strategy of flipping expensive
free agents stripped from him, and with Jack Cust representing the only
player on his roster who even remotely resembled an all-star, Peburn's
optimism appeared misguided at best. That winter, however, Peburn
began formulating yet another plan to skirt around the edges of the
rulebook as much as possible. It was a tried-and-true formula,
taken straight out of the pages of the Los Altos Undertakers handbook: a
lineup filled with short-usage platoon superstars, a starting rotation
filled with inning-eating #4 starters, and a bullpen filled with
dominant platoon specialists. It was a formula that had worked
time and again throughout BDBL history, and it was a formula that would
That winter, Peburn made half a dozen
trades, acquiring short-usage platoon hitter Alex Gonzalez, #4 starter
Tom Glavine and dominant platoon specialist Mike Myers, among others.
He then added more platooners, #4 starters and specialists such as
Carlos Delgado, Josh Phelps, Justin Speier, Jared Burton, Damaso Marte
and Jon Lieber in the auction and draft.
In the end, the Blazers didn't look
like much of a threat on paper, with a roster filled with washed-up
veterans, pinch hitters and middle relievers. As a result, they
were picked to finish last in the division. But once again, that
tried-and-true, only-in-Diamond-Mind formula worked to perfection.
The Blazers began the season by winning three of four games against
their heavily-favored division rivals, Salem. They then won 12 of
their first 16 games, and finished the first chapter with a
mind-boggling record of 19-9.
By the middle of March, however, that
lead had inevitably vanished, as the Cowtippers captured first place for
good. But New Milford continued to hang in the race, finishing the
second chapter with a 30-26 record -- just four games behind the
division leaders, and three games behind in the OL wild card race.
The Blazers then went 14-10 in Chapter
Three, and entered the midway point of the season with a stunning 44-36
(.550) record. The Blazers offense continued to benefit from the
move to the ultra-hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park (HR factors of
121/124 from 2005-2008) in 2005, hitting .263/.331/.434 as a team to
that point. And while short-usage superstars like Phelps
(.375/.439/.694), Eric Munson (.313/.375/.406), Doug Mientkiewicz
(.306/.400/.468), Gonzalez (.302/.335/.476), Jeff Keppinger
(.301/.359/.385) and Sammy Sosa (.300/.400/.538) contributed greatly to
the offensive success, it was Cust (.298/.448/.644 with 19 HR and 55 RBI
at the break) who carried the team on his back.
Inevitably, the party came to an end.
New Milford's short-usage hitters ran out of usage, their bullpen began
to blow leads for the first time all season, and the starting pitchers
let games slip away early. As a result, the Blazers went 10-14 in
Chapter Four and 9-19 in Chapter Five.
Peburn traded away as many spare parts
as he could, dealing Keppinger for Troy Glaus, Marte and Okajima for
Jason Marquis and David Bush, and Burton for Jamie Moyer before the
final trading deadline. New Milford went 13-15 during the final
chapter to finish the season with a 76-84 record -- 16 games better than
expected, and enough to win $100 toward Peburn's favorite charity.
That chart above tells you everything
you need to know about the Blazers franchise. The first several
years of this franchise's history were doomed before the very first
pitch in BDBL history was thrown. The 1999 draft was an epic
disaster, resulting in years of futility in which there was no chance of
success. Although some GM's in league history have made it look
easy, rebuilding is a difficult process, requiring a great deal of
patience, analytic ability and pure luck. Romaniello had plenty of
patience, but history suggests he lacked those other qualities.
The Blazers rosters of the early years
were filled with aging veterans who offered little value to the team,
and little value on the trade market. Making matters worse, those
players were often ill-employed, placed in positions where the odds of
success were low. As a result, the Blazers wallowed around the
bottom of the division cellar, consistently failing to meet expectations
while Romaniello blamed the software and implored the other GM's who
spent too much time fretting about league issues to "get a life."
Year after year, Romaniello would kick
off another rebuilding project by selling off as many players as
possible, while getting young prospects in return. As a result,
the Blazers farm system ranked among the best in the league from
2000-2002. Unfortunately, many of New Milford's top prospects
(Corey Patterson, Austin Kearns, Dee Brown, Mike Cuddyer, Ed Yarnell,
Peter Bergeron and Sean Burroughs, to name but a few) failed to deliver.
And the two that did deliver (Brad Penny and C.C. Sabathia) were shipped
off in ill-conceived bids for contention. When New Milford's farm
class of 2002 graduated, there were no top prospects waiting in the wing
to take their place.
The consistent problem with the Blazers
franchise throughout the early years was wasted opportunity:
New Milford held the #1 farm pick
in 2000, 2001, the #2 overall pick in 2003, and the #8 overall pick
in 2002. Romaniello used three of those picks to select Luis
Rivas, Joe Valentine and Mike Gosling, and traded the #1 overall
pick in 2001 (the greatest farm draft class in BDBL history) for
Danny Graves and Dee Brown.
Randy Johnson and the two most
valuable picks of the 2000 draft were traded in exchange for Jose
Rosado and Daryle Ward.
Another highly-valuable ace, Kevin
Millwood, was traded for Horacio Ramirez and Zach Day, after
Romaniello rejected a trade offer that would have netted B.J. Upton.
The team's #3 pick in 1999 was
wasted on a player (Charles Johnson) who probably could have been
chosen in the 21st round, effectively throwing away a valuable draft
Romaniello hung onto failed
prospects such as Patterson, Brown and Cuddyer long after their
trade values had disappeared.
Romaniello virtually ignored the
free agent process each season, failing to capitalize on his early
pick to acquire -- for nothing in return -- players who would have
had enormous value, either to the team or through trade.
These were just some of the mistakes
made by Romaniello in the early years of the franchise's history.
Another big mistake was his decision to acquire Hampton in 2002.
This decision forced the team to compete with a payroll that was
effectively lower than several other teams in the league.
There is no clear line delineating the
Romaniello Era from the Peburn Era, though a clear change in franchise
philosophy became evident by the 2004 season. That year, the team
decided to "go for it" by trading a 23-year-old C.C. Sabathia for a
32-year-old third baseman coming off an anomalous career year. It
was just the first in a series of decisions designed to win now at any
and all cost to the franchise's future. Whether Romaniello saw the
end of his BDBL journey drawing nearer and wanted to go out on a high
note, or whether Peburn convinced Romaniello to pursue instant
gratification due to the uncertainty of the future, is unclear.
What is clear is that this strategy
culminated in the 2006 OL championship, which remains as this
franchise's one and only .500 season. And the cost of that one
season, which ended with an inglorious sweep in the BDBL World Series,
was steep. Inexpensive, young franchise players like Dan Haren and
Jason Bay make it possible for teams to fill other spots on the roster
with expensive impact players, and the Blazers sacrificed the
opportunity to build a long-term dynasty by trading both players in
That 43-win drop-off between 2006 and
2007 ranks as the second-largest decline in league history (behind the
2001-2002 Gillette Swamp Rats, who dropped 44 games.) It's
difficult to believe that such a decline could be the product of design,
yet that's exactly what it was.
Beginning in 2005, the Blazers became
the center of attention in the league -- but never in a positive way.
That year, Anthony Peburn began searching for ways to "beat the system."
He began by dumping more talent in 2005 than any other team in league
history. And the only way to accomplish such a feat with the
in-season trading cap rules that existed at that time, was to first add
a ton of talent in trade, and then unload double that amount later in
the year. In the process, he nearly single-handedly changed the
fate of several pennant races -- and perhaps the BDBL championship.
The following year, Peburn shattered
the concept of BDBL GMs acting in a way that is in the best long-term
interests of their franchise. No MLB GM would ever have made the
decisions made by Peburn in 2006. But then, the BDBL is not Major
League Baseball, and the only consequence Peburn faced for those
decisions was that he had to endure a few more losing seasons --
something he had grown used to.
In 2007, Peburn stretched the
boundaries of the league's rulebook once again by acting as a loan
officer for several teams during the free agent auction. Teams
that did not have enough available money to spend on high-impact free
agents themselves simply contacted Peburn, who agreed to spend that
money in exchange for young players of dubious value. Again, this
arrangement altered pennant races in profound ways, inciting more rule
changes and more admonitions from Romaniello for various league members
to "get a life."
Finally, in 2008, Peburn took advantage
of an age-old BDBL strategy designed to exploit the flaws in the Diamond
Mind software -- a strategy that has been both hailed and despised for
From the very beginning, the New
Milford Blazers served as representatives for everything that is wrong
with the hobby of fantasy baseball: gross mismanagement, apathy, poor
preparation, lazy scouting, lopsided trades that destroy the integrity
of pennant races, and exploitation of software flaws and loopholes in
the rulebook that lead to controversy, arguments, rule changes and ill
feelings of contempt.
Other than that, they've been the model