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Big Daddy Baseball League

O F F I C I A L   S I T E   O F   T H E   B I G   D A D D Y   B A S E B A L L   L E A G U E
slant.gif (102 bytes) BDBL: 10 Years in the Making

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November, 2008

Franchise History: Ravenswood Infidels

Infidels in a box:

Franchise wins: 840 (8th all-time)
Playoff appearances: 5
Division titles: 4
Championship titles: 1
100-win seasons: 0
100-loss seasons: 0
Franchise RC leader: Brian Giles
Franchise wins leader: Johan Santana


A week before the BDBL's inaugural draft kicked off via e-mail, 16-year-old Canadian Neil Parker was forced to abandon his team when hockey practice got in the way of the live draft.  In stepped Brian Hicks, a 32-year-old therapist in a psychiatric hospital.  Given the insanity that was the BDBL during its inaugural season, Hicks' experience in the mental health field was almost a necessity.

Hicks drew the #2 pick in the inaugural draft, which meant he had the option of building his franchise around any player in baseball, with the exception of Alex Rodriguez.  And to Hicks, that choice was a no-brainer.  The 1998 MLB season was an instant classic, given the massive attention given to Mark McGwire's and Sammy Sosa's chase of Roger Maris' all-time single-season home run record.  McGwire eventually finished with a mind-boggling 70 home runs, 162 walks, a .470 on-base percentage and a staggering .752 slugging percentage.  No one since Babe Ruth had posted numbers like that, and even at the age of 34, McGwire still seemed to have plenty of gas left in his tank.

McGwire hit .308/.466/.698 for Hicks' Madison Fighting Mimes ballclub that season, with a league-leading 66 home runs, 168 walks, 138 runs scored and 156 RBIs.  He created nearly 200 runs (194.8) all by himself, which represented over 22% of Madison's total runs created.

By taking McGwire with his first pick, Hicks had set in stone the hitting-first philosophy of his franchise, which played its home games in a ballpark modeled after the power-lefty-friendly Busch Stadium of St. Louis.  He had no other choice, as every quality ace pitcher was gone by the time the draft snaked back around to him.  With his second pick, then, Hicks selected the next best offensive player on the board in Gary Sheffield (.309/.417/.523, 25 HR, 110.2 RC for Madison in '99.)  Two picks later, he added yet another righty slugger in Jeff Kent (.250/.302/.497, 29 HR, 70.8 RC.)  Together, McGwire, Sheffield and Kent would create nearly half (42.4%) of Madison's runs that season.

With his next two picks, Hicks continued to load up on offense, selecting Matt Stairs (.269/.344/.437, 20 HR, 83.2 RC) and Ken Caminiti (.259/.350/.519, 32 HR, 96.9 RC) with his final two $5 million picks.  In doing so, Hicks had ensured that his team would be a force to be reckoned with offensively.  But in drafting so many players on the wrong side of 34 years old, he also ensured that his plan would only work for a year or two.

Hicks didn't draft a pitcher until the 6th round, when he selected the 23-year-old Kevin Millwood (10-10, 4.65 ERA in 186 IP) to be his team's de facto ace.  He then rounded out his rotation with 23-year-old Steve Woodard (5-17, 5.56 ERA in 173+ IP) in the 8th round, 28-year-old Wilson Alvarez (9-11, 4.97 ERA in 150+ IP) in the 12th round, and 33-year-old veteran John Burkett (7-14, 4.56 ERA in 207+ IP) in Round 16.

Clearly, Hicks' strategy was to overwhelm the opposition by scoring tons of runs, while assembling a pitching staff that was good enough to keep them in games, and young enough to have some upside going forward.  And for the first chapter of the season, that strategy appeared to work well enough.  The team went 11-13 that chapter (four games behind the Antioch Angels and two ahead of the Stamford Zoots), and scored a league-best 122 runs.

While the Zoots loaded up in Chapter Two with the acquisition of Randy Johnson from the New Milford Blazers, the Fighting Mimes went just 11-17 in Chapter Two, and entered the all-star break with a 35-45 record -- 14 games behind Stamford.  They limped to the finish line with a 35-45 record in the second half, and finished their first season with a record of 70-90 -- 27 games out of first.  As designed, they scored a ton of runs (825, good for third in the OL), but they allowed even more runs (829), as every pitcher in the starting rotation finished with a higher ERA than he compiled in MLB.


Heading into the 2000 season, the Mimes appeared to be in tremendous shape.  Millwood (16-6, 3.39 ERA in 236 IP in BDBL '00) enjoyed a career year, and would be among the top pitchers in the league.  McGwire (.275/.414/.665, 68 HR, 146 RBI, 168.6 RC), Kent (.267/.326/.453, 23 HR, 84.6 RC), Sheffield (.298/.422/.538, 38 HR, 138.4 RC) and Stairs (.311/.424/.658, 41 HR, 140 RBI, 125.2 RC) each performed better than they had the previous season.  And Brian Giles, a 27-year-old flier taken by Hicks in the 9th round of the inaugural draft, blossomed into an MVP candidate (.295/.416/.581, 43 HR, 142.8 RC) literally overnight.

Determined to unseat the Zoots in the Butler Division, Hicks made no fewer than THIRTEEN trades in the winter of 2000, all in an effort to shore up his starting rotation, bullpen and bench.  A total of 28 players and nine draft picks exchanged hands in those trades.  Perhaps the most significant off-season acquisition for the Mimes was starter Tom Glavine (15-9, 4.23 ERA in 223+ IP), who came with a $10 million price tag.  Tim Crabtree (2.02 ERA in 49 IP) and Graeme Lloyd (3.48 ERA in 67+ IP) were acquired to shore up the bullpen.  Brett Saberhagen (10-2, 3.00 ERA in 126+ IP) was added to the back end of the rotation.  And Mark McLemore, Tony Graffanino, Jose Vizcaino, Ricky Gutierrez, Wade Boggs, Orlando Palmeiro and Jeff Reboulet were added to shore up the bench.

Amazingly enough, the cost of adding all these players was minimal.  Not one player from the powerful starting lineup was sacrificed, and none of the players traded (Jason Johnson, Gerald Williams, Buddy Groom, Bob Wickman, Ryan Dempster, Rick Croushore, Marlon Anderson, Steve Woodard, Paul Quantrill, etc.) would ever amount to much.

Despite all these improvements, however, the Stamford Zoots were still the team to beat -- not only in the division, but in the BDBL.  In the 2000 Season Preview, the Mimes were predicted to become the first BDBL wild card team to win 100 games.  Aside from the Zoots, Madison also had to contend with a much-improved Minneapolis Haymakers team, whose powerful lineup was rivaled only by Madison's, and the Hudson Hammerheads, who owned a potent lineup of their own.

The season began on a familiar note for Madison, as they posted an 11-13 record in Chapter One -- four games behind the Zoots and Hammerheads.  The Mimes improved to 15-9 in Chapter Two, but the Zoots continued their torrid pace at 17-7.  By mid-season, Madison was posting the third-best record in the Ozzie League at 43-32 (.573), but still trailed the Zoots in the division by three games.

Hicks continued to add talent to his team throughout the year, acquiring Jose Vidro (.309/.363/.481, 76.3 RC for Madison) at the Chapter Two deadline.  Not to be outdone, however, the Zoots made the biggest trade of the year at the Chapter Five deadline, adding ace pitcher John Smoltz to a rotation that already included aces Johnson and Kevin Brown.

Stamford began Chapter Six with a slim two-game lead over the Mimes.  That chapter, the Salem Cowtippers played a crucial role in deciding who would win the Butler Division.  Salem won three of four games against Stamford that chapter.  In their previous series, the Cowtippers lost the first three games of a four-game set against the Mimes.  They then trailed Madison by a score of 7-0 in the third inning of Game Four.  But the Cowtippers fought back, and scored four runs in the bottom of the third, and seven more runs in the sixth, en route to a 12-10 victory.  The importance of that one game soon became evident.

The Mimes held a one-game lead in the division with eight games remaining.  Then, in the final series of the season, the Zoots faced the Hudson Hammerheads with the fate of Madison's 2000 season on the line.  Stamford needed two wins in that series to tie for the division lead, and three wins to win the division outright.  To Hicks' chagrin, Stamford owner Paul Marazita managed all four games against the MP.  The Zoots won the first two games, clinching a tie.  After losing Game Three, Stamford then took a 4-2 lead into the ninth inning of Game Four.  They then tacked on four runs in the top of the ninth to make it an 8-2 game.  Hudson rallied for four runs off of Smoltz (pitching in relief) in the bottom of the ninth, but Bobby Chouinard saved the day when he got Sammy Sosa (who represented the tying run of the game) to ground out to end the game.

Despite finishing the season with 98 wins, the Mimes went home that November, and watched the BDBL playoffs from the sidelines once again.  The reason?  The Litchfield Lightning won 102 games that season -- two games fewer than the Los Altos Undertakers in their division.  Madison scored more runs (948) than any other team in the Ozzie League, cracked 268 home runs as a team, and sported a stellar 4.25 team ERA.  But in the end, it wasn't enough.


Despite the frustration of having achieved so much and come so close, but falling short, Hicks continued to forge ahead in an attempt to keep up with the Zoots.  Entering the final year of his contract, McGwire (now 36 years old, and one year away from retirement) logged just 266 at-bats for the Mimes in 2001, but hit .259/.431/.628 during that short time, with 32 homers and 80 RBIs.  At $10 million in salary, however, he was now a burden to his team as a part-time player.  With Kent (.283/.371/.487, 114.8 RC overall), Sheffield (.328/.423/.683, 52 HR, 169 RBI, 160.2 RC overall) and Giles (.298/.411/.533, 35 HR, 102 RBI, 134.7 RC) still hanging around, however, offense was the least of Hicks' worries.

On the mound, Millwood (17-11, 4.67 ERA in 206 IP) suffered through a miserable season.  And with Glavine gone to free agency, the Fighting Mimes found themselves in desperate need of a #1 starter.  They also desperately needed a few bullpen arms as well, and that desperation manifested itself when Hicks traded top prospect Vernon Wells to the Allentown Ridgebacks in exchange for Bob Wickman.  While Wells would become one of the biggest bargains in the BDBL over the next six years, Wickman gave his team just 66.2 innings in 2001, with a 3.78 ERA and 3 saves.  He would pitch just one more season in Madison before becoming a free agent.

Fortunately, Hicks had dipped into the Japanese market during the 2000 draft, and selected Kazuhiro Sasaki with his second round pick.  Unfortunately for Hicks, Sasaki's MLB numbers (62+ IP, 3.16 ERA) were nowhere near his BDBL performance (54 IP, 6.50 ERA.)

To fill the hole in his starting rotation, Hicks traded closer Rod Beck (and a 28th round draft pick) to the Villanova Mustangs in exchange for Villanova's #1 pick.  Then, with that pick (the fifth selection overall), Hicks selected David Wells (10-12, 4.59 ERA in 204 IP overall.)  He then filled the rest of his rotation with a collection of part-timers, including Matt Herges, Elmer Dessens, Jose Mercedes and Willie Blair.

Despite their lackluster rotation, Madison was once again predicted to finish in second place behind the Zoots.  The Mimes began the 2001 season with a 15-13 record in Chapter One, but followed that with an 11-15 second chapter.  Just one-third of the way into the season, Madison was looking up at two teams in the division, and was eight games behind the division-leading Zoots.  At this point, Hicks made the decision to go for broke, and sent three top prospects (Jerome Williams, Abraham Nunez and Andy Morales) to the Ridgebacks in exchange for lefty starter Mike Sirotka (9-11, 4.91 ERA in 205+ IP overall.)  But Madison repeated their 11-15 record in Chapter Three, and by the end of four chapters, they had fallen a whopping 22 games behind in the division, and ten games back in the wild card race.

With no hope of competing in 2001, Hicks decided to hold a white flag sale.  Every player on the roster was made available, and playoffs-bound teams began wrestling for a place in line.  Hicks made four trades at the deadline, including sending Wells to Cleveland in exchange for Terry Mulholland.  But his biggest trade was a controversial ten-player deal with the Salem Cowtippers.  Kent, Sheffield and Sirotka were all sent to Salem in exchange for Randy Velarde, Pedro Astacio, Hee Seop Choi, Benji Gil, Dewon Brazelton, Adam Johnson and Randy Keisler.  Needless to say, Stamford owner Paul Marazita was the loudest protester of them all, calling the trade a bad joke.

That trade, however, would play a major role in Madison's rebirth the following season.  By moving those three players -- all free agents at the end of the season -- Hicks was able to assemble enough firepower to reduce his rebuilding time to just one season.  That winter, Astacio and Brazelton were sent back to Salem in exchange for Jeff Bagwell (.285/.385/.551, 37 HR, 132 RBIs, 126.8 RC overall in 2002.)  Hicks then used his first pick in the draft (the 8th pick overall) to select first baseman Rafael Palmeiro (.277/.393/.565, 41 HR, 121.7 RC.)

While both hitters enjoyed an extraordinary season, both were also first basemen.  And this meant that Hicks was forced to play one of them (Bagwell) at the hot corner, with predictably disastrous defensive results.  At the final trading deadline of the '02 season, Hicks solved the problem by trading Bagwell to Los Altos in exchange for true third baseman (and gold glover) Eric Chavez.  Chavez hit .280/.322/.481 with 31.8 runs created over the final two chapters.

With Giles (.264/.386/.497, 34 HR, 114.6 RC) and Vidro (.312/.366/.492, 75.0 RC) still on board, the Madison offense continued to rank among the best in the BDBL in 2002.  On the mound, Madison was bolstered by the sudden emergence of Joe Mays.  Mays, who was a Chapter Five farm free agent pick-up way back in 1999, seemingly emerged from nowhere in MLB 2001, with a Cy Young caliber season.  Never again in Mays' career did he pitch more than 156 innings or post an ERA lower than 5.38.  Nevertheless, Mays would be the ace of the Madison rotation in 2002, going 21-4 on the season, with a 3.43 ERA.  He was the first Fighting Mimes pitcher to win 20 games, and he placed fourth in the 2002 OL Cy Young award voting.

Beyond Mays, Madison seemed to have great depth in their starting rotation, with Miguel Batista (13-7, 3.87 ERA in 149 IP), Elmer Dessens (6-2, 5.18 ERA in 111+ IP), A.J. Burnett (9-10, 5.10 ERA in 164+ IP), Kelvim Escobar (5-7, 3.71 ERA in 121+ IP) and Millwood (5-9, 4.79 ERA in 126 IP overall.)  For the first time ever, the starting rotation of the Madison Fighting Mimes appeared to be its strength.

Unfortunately for the Mimes, they still had to contend with the Stamford Zoots in their division.  Although Randy Johnson was now gone from Stamford, the team found an unlikely replacement in the form of Mark Buehrle.  They also traded for reigning AL Cy Young winner Roger Clemens in the off-season, and had half a season left from Kevin Brown as well.  They were also the beneficiaries that winter of the single most lopsided trade in BDBL history, getting MVP candidate Chipper Jones from the Manchester Irish Rebels in exchange for #6 starter Ryan Dempster.  As such, Madison was once again predicted to finish in second place behind the Zoots.

Madison fought neck-and-neck with Stamford, and the two teams were tied at the top of the division after two chapters of play.  At the Chapter Two deadline, Hicks added dominant closer Keith Foulke (6-3, 2.18 ERA in 70+ IP for Madison.)  In exchange, he sacrificed middle reliever Mike Trombley and two of the players he had acquired from Salem the previous year: Choi and Johnson.  Then, midway through the second chapter, Hicks brokered a deal for ace Greg Maddux (13-12, 3.24 ERA in 247+ IP overall), who was acquired in exchange for Vicente Padilla and Millwood.

Despite their efforts, however, the Zoots inevitably pulled away from the pack and opened up a six game lead by the all-star break.  By the end of Chapter Four, that lead had grown to a dozen games.

Despite finishing 13 games out of first, however, the Fighting Mimes would make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.  Madison finished the season with a 91-69 record -- four games ahead of the Bear Country Jamboree in the OL wild card race.

Unfortunately for Mimes fans, their playoffs experience would be an abbreviated one.  Facing a dominant Los Altos Undertakers team that won a then-BDBL-record 114 games and outscored their opponents by 246 runs, the Madison offense was held scoreless through the first 30 innings of the OLDS.  By the time Madison's offensive machine began purring, they were already down by a score of 6-0 in the fourth and final game of the series.  The Fighting Mimes scored 9 runs that game, but lost by a score of 15-9.

Although the Mimes failed to advance past the Division Series in 2002, Hicks made perhaps the most important acquisition in franchise history that season -- an acquisition that eventually led to a BDBL championship -- when he took a flier on a former MLB Rule 5 pitcher named Johan Santana.  Santana had compiled an MLB ERA of 5.90 over 129+ innings to that point in his career.  He was a 33rd-round draft pick by the Allentown Ridgebacks in the 2001 draft, but after posting a 4.74 ERA in 43+ innings in MLB '01, he was released by Allentown and dumped back into the free agent pool.  He survived 38 rounds of the 2002 draft without being selected, and then survived a free agent acquisition period in Chapter One before Hicks finally plucked him off the free agent scrap heap at the Chapter Two deadline.  Santana became a dominant middle reliever in MLB '02.  And a year later, he became one of the best starting pitchers in baseball over the next several seasons.


The following winter was eerily quiet for Hicks and the Fighting Mimes.  The GM who once made 13 trades in one winter failed to make a single trade in the winter of 2003, opting instead to use his $10.5 million to fill the few remaining holes in his roster.  In the first-ever BDBL auction, Hicks signed catcher Benito Santiago (.235/.252/.393 overall) to a conservative $5 million salary, filling the final hole in his starting lineup.  He then selected Paul Shuey, Robert Person and nine others in the draft to fill Madison's 35-man roster.

In the spring of 2002, Hicks had taken a flier on a farm free agent named Rodrigo Lopez, and that small investment paid huge dividends when Lopez (11-13, 3.85 ERA in 208+ IP) became the ace of the 2003 pitching staff.  Burnett (15-7, 3.69 ERA in 227 IP, with 234 K's) had become a solid #2 starter, and Santana (7-3, 3.77 ERA in 93 IP) gave the Fighting Mimes three aces to use in a short series.

With Vidro (.323/.388/.498, 130.9 RC), Giles (.300/.428/.665, 45 HR, 143.1 RC overall), Palmeiro (.298/.405/.615, 39 HR, 125.6 RC overall) and Chavez (.300/.366/.516, 30 HR, 107.6 RC) returning for another season, the starting lineup was as powerful as ever.

Despite a well-balanced team featuring several impact players, Madison was once again picked to finish in second-place behind the Zoots:

Outlook: Once again, the Madison Fighting Mimes find themselves with enough firepower to not only compete in this toughest-of-tough divisions, but win it outright.  They came within a game of doing so in 2000, then finished a distant second last year despite winning 91 games.  With the strongest pitching staff this franchise has ever assembled, this may finally be their year.  A key mid-year pick-up or two would put them over the top.

The Butler Division race got off to a torrid start, with the surprising Bear Country Jamboree jumping into a virtual tie for first (with the Zoots) after an eight-game winning streak early in Chapter Two.  Meanwhile, Madison trailed just two games behind.  Early in the second chapter, Hicks pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade, acquiring all-star catcher Ivan Rodriguez in exchange for top prospect Francisco Rodriguez.  Rodriguez hit .285/.314/.465 for Madison down the stretch -- a bit of a disappointment, yet far more production than what Santiago (.235/.259/.373) had been giving his team.

Heading into the all-star break, Stamford began to pull away from the pack, right on schedule.  And at the midpoint of the season, they held a three-game lead over Bear Country, and a seven-game lead over Madison.  On June 22nd, just days into the second half of the season, Hicks threw in the towel, and traded Giles and Palmeiro to the Wapakoneta Hippos in exchange for Adam Dunn and James Loney.  Four weeks later, the fire sale continued when Vidro, Burnett and Juan Acevedo were ushered out the door in exchange for Alex Cintron, Kelvim Escobar and others.  It would be the final trade of Hicks' illustrious BDBL career.

One of the founding fathers of the BDBL, Hicks announced his resignation from the league on September 17th, wrapping up his BDBL career with an impressive record of 406-394.  After nearly five seasons of playing second fiddle to the Zoots, watching helplessly as Marazita added impact player after impact player while sacrificing little in return, Hicks had had enough.  He handed over the team to a friend of his from the comedy club circuit in Chicago, Brian "Skizm" Potrafka.  Hicks had no idea that a little over a year later, Potrafka would lead his former franchise to a BDBL championship.

Madison played the final chapter with Potrafka at the helm, and finished with a record of 78-82 -- 37 games behind the Zoots, who set a BDBL record with 115 wins, including 63 wins in the second half (a .788 winning percentage.)  On the day that Potrafka took over, the BDBL passed nine new rules to be added to the league constitution.  Among them was a rule proposing radical realignment of all six divisions.  No longer would the Madison franchise (now called the "Ravenswood Infidels") have to worry about competing against the Stamford Zoots.  Instead, the Infidels were moved to the Benes Division, where they would compete against the Marlboro Hammerheads, Manchester Irish Rebels and Gillette Swamp Rats.


Potrafka began his BDBL career by cleaning house, using Rule 18.13 to his advantage by releasing several undesirable contracts and replacing them with free agents like Doug Davis, Larry Bigbie and Barry Larkin.  That winter, Potrafka made four trades in which several role players (Casey Fossum, Garrett Stephenson, Frank Catalanotto, Dan Miceli and Eduardo Perez) were acquired.  He then made a big splash by signing the #1 free agent in the 2004 draft, Carlos Delgado (.309/.431/.620, 43 HR, 133 RBIs, 162.3 RC) for $11 million.

With plenty of money left to throw around, Potrafka then signed relievers Paul Quantrill (2.24 ERA in 84+ IP) and Damaso Marte (1.54 ERA in 82 IP) for $10 million combined.  Luis Matos (.290/.357/.431, 73.2 RC) was then added on the final day of the auction.  In the draft, Potrafka continued to pad his bullpen by selecting Ray King (4.01 ERA in 56+ IP overall) in the 6th round.

By the 2003 MLB season, Santana had emerged as a dominant starting pitcher.  For the 2004 Infidels, he was merely solid, going 16-10 on the season, with a 3.83 ERA and 191 Ks in 173+ innings.  Dontrelle Willis (11-10, 5.36 ERA in 166+ IP), a rookie who was originally acquired by Hicks as a farm free agent during the fifth chapter of 2002, became the team's #2 starter.  And Jae Seo (14-5, 4.37 ERA in 200 IP), a Chapter Three pickup by Hicks the previous season, filled in as the #3 starter.

Offensively, all of the team's biggest weapons from previous years were gone: Palmeiro, Giles, McGwire, Sheffield and Kent.  In their place were newly-signed free agent Delgado, and the newly-acquired Ivan Rodriguez (.313/.397/.477, 107 RC) and Adam Dunn (.203/.343/.421, 55.6 RC.)  Chavez (.311/.389/.483, 106.3 RC) was still around as well.

Heading into the 2004 season, the Infidels were picked to win their division over a wishy-washy Marlboro Hammerheads team.  Marlboro stumbled out of the gate, going just 1-7 in their first two series, and finishing the chapter with a record of 13-15.  Meanwhile, Ravenswood jumped out to an 18-10 record, led by an offense that ranked among the top two in nearly every category.

The Infidels then went 16-12 in Chapter Two, and by the halfway mark of the season, only two games separated themselves, the Hammerheads and the Gillette Swamp Rats in the Benes Division race.  Ravenswood finished strong, going 47-33 over the second half of the season, and finished with a 92-68 record.  They captured their division by six games over the Hammerheads.  Much of that deficit could be attributed to the Hammerheads' 0-12 record against the Salem Cowtippers that season.  Ironically enough, Ravenswood would later repay the Cowtippers by thrashing them in the OL Championship Series.

The Infidels went into the playoffs with the fewest wins of any playoff team that season.   Their opponents in the OL Division Series were the Los Altos Undertakers, who won a BDBL-best 106 games.  Los Altos began the series in a way that many expected, with their dominant pitching staff shutting out the Ravenswood lineup through the first 17 innings.  But in the 18th inning, the Undertakers brought their all-world closer, Eric Gagne, out to the mound to preserve a 1-0 lead.  Gagne, who had signed with the Undertakers at the seemingly-astronomical salary of $7.5 million the previous winter, enjoyed the most dominant season of any pitcher in league history in 2004.  In 85 innings of relief, Gagne had allowed just 24 hits and 15 walks.  He saved an all-time BDBL record 62 games, struck out 132 batters, and allowed just one earned run (a 0.11 ERA) all season long.

But in Game 2 of the 2004 OLDS, Gagne finally became mortal.  He was brought into the game in the seventh inning, and after completing a 1-2-3 eighth inning, it was clear that he had tired by the ninth.  He surrendered a single and two walks to load the bases.  Ivan Rodriguez then laid down a sacrifice squeeze for out number two, scoring the tying run.  Frank Catalanotto then followed with an RBI single, scoring the go-ahead run.  Quantrill then closed it out for Ravenswood in the bottom of the ninth to tie the series at one win apiece.

Ravenswood then reeled off three wins in a row to clinch the series, sending them to their first-ever appearance in the League Championship Series.  There, they met the Salem Cowtippers, who, after finally slaying the Zoots dragon in the OLDS, seemed to be a team of destiny.  But after Salem took two out of the first three games, something strange happened with their all-ace pitching staff of Curt Schilling, Brandon Webb and Barry Zito.  In Game 4, Schilling allowed three runs in the first inning.  In Game 5, Webb allowed four first-inning runs.  And in the first inning of Game 6, the Infidels scored SIX times off of Zito.  The Cowtippers' offense wasn't able to dig out of any of those holes, and the Infidels completed their second major upset of the playoffs, giving them a date with the Chicago Black Sox in the World Series.

The Black Sox took an unusual route to the playoffs, going just 8-20 in Chapter One, and then winning 93 games the rest of the way.  The Black Sox batted .297/.365/.504 as a team, with a BDBL-best 1,041 runs scored and 244 home runs.  No other team in the BDBL scored more than 937 runs or hit more than 229 homers.

But in an All-Chicago World Series, the mighty Black Sox offense managed just 25 runs in five games.  Stranger yet, the Ravenswood offense, which had averaged 5.5 runs per game during the regular season, scored 37 runs in the World Series -- an average of 7.4 runs per game.  Quite simply, the Infidels offense caught fire in Game 3 of the OLCS and never cooled off.

And that is how Brian Potrafka, a rookie owner in the BDBL, won the most coveted prize in the league in 2004.


Rather than take a few weeks off to bask in the glory, Potrafka went right to work in the off-season.  After briefly toying with the notion of rebuilding in 2005, Potrafka decided to go for it instead.  His first challenge was be to find a way to shed Delgado's salary.  After posting his career-best numbers en route to an $11 million salary the previous winter, Delgado hit just .269/.372/.535 in 458 injury-plagued at-bats in MLB '04.  He found a taker in the Akron Ryche, who offered $4 million disappointment Richard Hidalgo and $2 million middle reliever Steve Reed (4.50 ERA in 60 IP.)

And thus began a complex game of "Hot Potato."  First, Jeremi Gonzalez's burdensome $6 million salary went to Villanova (along with two top prospects in Dontrelle Willis and Nick Swisher) in exchange for all-star catcher Michael Barrett and a now-overpriced Brian Giles.  Then, Giles went to Akron, and Delgado returned to Ravenswood.  Then, Delgado was traded once again -- this time to Los Altos -- along with two prospects (Franklin Gutierrez and Antonio Perez) in exchange for Jim Thome.  With a $7.5 million salary and outstanding MLB stats (.274/.396/.581 w/ 42 homers), Thome seemed to be a terrific replacement for Delgado.  Unfortunately, it cost the Infidels franchise two all-star-caliber young players in Willis and Swisher.

Potrafka dumped more salary that winter by unloading Chavez, getting Mike Lowell (.300/.376/.507, 27 HR, 118.6 RC) in return.  He also added salary by taking a $5 million Placido Polanco (.298/.341/.430, 67.2 RC) in a salary dump by Salem.

In the auction, Potrafka shored up the starting rotation by signing Tom Glavine (11-11, 4.58 ERA in 228+ IP) for $6 million, and Greg Maddux for $5.5 million.  He then flipped Maddux for Brad Penny (11-8, 3.04 ERA in 157 IP) prior to Opening Day.

Led once again by the league's best pitcher, Johan Santana (21-8, 2.43 ERA, 279 K in 248+ IP), the Infidels were not only picked to defend their division title in 2005, but they were picked to win the OL championship as well.  Once again, Ravenswood featured a strong lineup, with four players with OPS splits over 1.000, and a strong bench.  On paper, the Infidels appeared to be a much stronger team in 2005 than they were in their BDBL championship season of 2004.

But plans for another post-season parade were put on hold when the Infidels got off to a 12-16 start in Chapter One.  This surprisingly awful start was punctuated by Potrafka's often-hilarious ranting and raving on the league message board:

"This game can go to F****in hell are my thoughts on the matter." -- Brian "Skizm" Potrafka, 1/29/05 (Yes, his first series of the year.)

"All series have been postponed indefinitely. I don't want to look at this game for a few weeks." -- 1/29/05

"Finished up a third series, none of which I have won, and I must say I've hated every second of it. Pure hell. Keys could not be punched fast enough. Hated my team. Hate the other team. Like being trapped in prison. Like breathing poison gas. Wanting to cut throats." -- 1/31/05

"I really need to play on days that are already completely ruined. Days that have a chance. Because with DMB, there isn't one." -- 2/6/05

"Danny Kolb f'ing sucks...Adam Eaton f'ing sucks...Tom Glavine f'ing sucks." -- 2/6/05

"Make me an offer, cherry-pickers. Ravenswood looking to 'build for the future.' Ideally, I want a good team in the future -- kind of like the one I have now...oh, wait. That's not too good!" -- 2/9/05

"Time to go barf and shower now." -- 2/9/05

"Everything stands on its head, dicky dice roll gayness, burger king crown in the closet, an entire farm sacrificed so I can be worse than the biggest rebuilding team in the league. There are no baseball gods, but there is something more malicious behind the cause and effect besides physics. To whomever is responsible, I say kill me and F.U.." -- 3/19/05

"Losing in this game is like anal rape...what an f'ing nightmare." -- 3/19/05

"I have zero thoughts about trying to win this division. I'm just trying to break 60 wins and get a good draft spot." -- 3/23/05

But the team soon rebounded, and went 15-13 in Chapter Two, closing within a game of the Manchester Irish Rebels at the one-third mark of the season.  At that point, Potrafka pulled the trigger on a trade with the rebuilding Rocks of Cleveland.  In exchange for three pitchers -- none of whom would ever amount to much -- Potrafka added starter Kelvim Escobar (8-8, 4.33 ERA in 135+ IP) and two relievers.

Potrafka continued to add to the bullpen and bench throughout the season, adding Troy Percival, Junior Spivey, Shingo Takatsu, Bernie Williams, Ugueth Urbina and Ron Villone through trade.  Meanwhile, the Manchester Irish Rebels -- who bolted out of the gate with an 18-10 record in Chapter One -- quickly collapsed, leaving the Infidels and Marlboro Hammerheads to battle it out for the Benes Division title.

In mid-August, the Hammerheads briefly managed to pull into a tie for first-place in the division, but Ravenswood took back their lead two days later.  The third-place Las Vegas Flamingos even got into the act, winning 17 games in Chapter Five to pull within two games of the division lead.  The race went right down to the wire, and was decided during the final week of the season, in a big series between Ravenswood and Marlboro.  In the end, Marlboro collapsed, and Ravenswood captured the division by five games.

Once again, the Infidels went into the post-season as the #4-ranked team in the Ozzie League.  In the Division Series, they faced the Salem Cowtippers -- the team they had knocked out of the playoffs the year before.  Santana shut down the Cowtippers offense in Game One, while Salem ace Curt Schilling was spanked for five earned runs in six innings.  For a moment, it appeared that history was repeating itself.

But the Cowtippers bounced back with a 7-0 shutout win in Game Two, and Greg Maddux tossed his best game of the season for Salem in a 9-2 Game Three win.  Ravenswood then evened the series with an 8-7 win in Game Four, with Takatsu striking out Jose Hernandez with the tying run on second base.

But the Salem offense finally managed to get to Santana in Game Five, while Schilling gave his team eight stellar innings of work.  The Infidels then took a 3-0 lead in the first inning of Game Six, against Roger Clemens, but the Cowtippers bounced back and tagged Ravenswood starter Brad Penny for six runs in six innings.  Clemens and two relievers held the Infidels scoreless the rest of the way, and Salem walked away with a series victory and a small measure of revenge.

The 2006 Infidels were a GM's worst nightmare.  Heading into the winter of '06, the Infidels looked to be a bit weak in some areas, but not weak enough to warrant a full-scale deconstruction.  They also looked a strong in some areas, but not strong enough to warrant a full-scale drive to the pennant.  With no clear direction in which to take his team, Potrafka made just one trade -- a swap of middle relievers Ron Villone and Shigetoshi Hasegawa -- that winter.  He then signed two players (reliever Cliff Politte at $5.5 million and David Dellucci at $6 million) in the free agent auction.  What little money was left was spent filling holes with aging veterans Matt Lawton, Rick Helling, Elmer Dessens and Julio Franco in the draft.

The biggest question surrounding the Infidels that winter was: if they did fall out of the race early, would they put Johan Santana -- perhaps the biggest trade chit in league history -- on the trading block?  And if so, what on earth is fair market value for such a dominant impact starting pitcher?

That question was answered when the Infidels performed miserably early in the season, going 10-18 in Chapter One.  Potrafka hastily placed Santana on the block, and just 28 days into the season -- still well before MLB's Opening Day -- Santana was gone.  He was sent to the Allentown Ridgebacks in exchange for a package of young players including Edwin Encarnacion and Scott Olsen.

That was just the first of many white-flag trades for Potrafka that season.  Jae Seo, who was also acquired in the Santana trade, was flipped for Jamie Moyer and Fausto Carmona.  Politte was traded for prospects.  Eight more players, including Franco and Glavine, were traded at the final trading deadline in exchange for several cheap players -- the most significant of which was Brandon Phillips.


Ravenswood finished the 2006 season with a record of 66-94 -- their worst record in franchise history.  In the winter of 2007, Potrafka was eager to put his franchise's rebuilding era behind him and return to his winning ways.  That winter, he made no fewer than eight trades.  By the end of the trading season, he had completely transformed his team once again.

His first deal was a whopper.  That winter, Sylmar Padawans GM John Duel was in a real bind financially, as he owed a guaranteed $67.1 million in salary to the contracted players on his roster.  The most marketable player on the Padawans roster, by far, was ace Roy Halladay, who had three years remaining on a very reasonably-priced contract.  Duel placed Halladay on the trading block, with the hope of packaging him with a few big contracts.  And after a few days of negotiations, Potrafka emerged as the winner.  Considering the prize, the expense was very reasonable.  In exchange for Halladay and four others, the Infidels parted with only two players: Brandon Phillips and prospect Cesar Carillo.

Halladay effectively replaced Santana in the Ravenswood rotation, winning 14 games in 2007 (14-13), with a 3.39 ERA in 239 innings -- at a salary of only $6 million.  That same winter, Potrafka added Frank Thomas (.271/.411/.526, 37 HR, 111.3 RC), Randy Winn (.284/.334/.424, 74.9 RC overall) and three others in a trade with the Allentown Ridgebacks.  The cost for these players was substantially greater than Halladay, however, as the Infidels sacrificed top prospect Tim Lincecum in this deal.  Soon thereafter, Lincecum became the most valuable player in the BDBL.

Next, Potrafka acquired Kenny Lofton (.254/.297/.326, 44.1 RC) in a trade with the Hammerheads.  Dunn was jettisoned to the San Antonio Broncs in a salary purge.  And BDBL legend Randy Johnson (11-16, 5.90 ERA in 212 IP) was added in another deal with Marlboro, in which top prospects Eric Hurley and Joey Votto were sacrificed.

In the wild-and-wacky, inflation-driven free agent auction of 2007, Potrafka remained on the sideline due to a lack of funds.  He then went into Opening Day with a team that was expected to finish in second place behind the Irish Rebels.

After a 15-13 start to the season, the Infidels went an astounding 22-6 in Chapter Two.  Meanwhile, Manchester was playing .500 baseball.  Once again, it appeared as though the Infidels were running away with the division.  But an 8-16 Chapter Three closed the gap a bit, prompting Potrafka to head back to the trading table.

Just prior to the all-star break, he traded a pair of middle relievers (Casey Janssen and Ron Flores) and a "B"-grade prospect (Chris Carter) to the San Antonio Broncs in exchange for dominant closer J.J. Putz.  Putz went 5-0 for the Infidels down the stretch, with a 4.79 ERA and 22 saves in 43+ innings.

Next, he flipped Winn, Freddie Lewis and Damian Easley to the rebuilding Marlboro Hammerheads in exchange for expensive all-star outfielder Bobby Abreu (.297/.440/.510, 73 RC in 290 AB as an Infidel.)  While the two players added $14.5 million to Ravenswood's 2008 payroll, they also gave the Infidels two major impact players at the cost of next-to-nothing.

The following chapter, Potrafka repeated the trick, adding free-agent-to-be Jake Westbrook (3-4, 5.36 ERA in 62+ IP for Ravenswood) in exchange for three players with zero future value (Mike Stanton, Angel Pagan and Curtis Thigpen.)

Meanwhile, the Infidels continued to rack up wins, going 46-34 in the second half to outpace the Las Vegas Flamingos (44-36 over that same stretch) in the division.  Ravenswood finished the season with a 91-69 record -- 10 games in front of Las Vegas.

Once again, Potrafka entered the post-season with the #4 seed in the Ozzie League.  And once again, this meant a date with the Salem Cowtippers in the OLDS.  Salem had finished the regular season with a 110-50 record -- 11 wins more than any other team in the BDBL -- and outscored their opponents by 245 runs (67 more than the next-best team in the BDBL.)  Needless to say, the Infidels were considered to be the underdogs in this series.  But once again, the Baseball Gods played a practical joke at Salem's expense.

The Cowtippers took Game One of the series in convincing fashion, winning 11-4 over Halladay.  In Game Two, Ravenswood jumped all over Salem starter Kelvim Escobar in the first inning with an RBI double by Robinson Cano and a two-run homer by Eric Hinske.  A pair of doubles by Cano and Thomas gave the Infidels another run in the third, and Salem wasn't able to overcome that deficit.  Putz ended the game by striking out three batters in the ninth, leaving the tying run stranded at third base.

In Game Three, the Infidels managed to score four runs against Salem ace Brandon Webb to tie the game in the fifth inning.  In the eighth, a two-out double by Abreu gave Ravenswood the lead.  And once again, Putz struck out three batters in the ninth inning, leaving the tying run stranded in scoring position.

Game Four appeared to be a nail-biter, as Salem held a 2-1 lead through four and a half innings.  But in the bottom of the fifth, circus clowns invaded the field, and Ravenswood scored TEN runs on an endless series of hilarious bloopers, including a pop-up to the middle of the diamond that was dropped by Salem third baseman Miguel Cabrera when he tripped over the pitcher's mound.

The series then concluded with a 4-2 Ravenswood win, as Halladay (8 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 3 K) outpitched Erik Bedard (6 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 4 K.)  For the second time in four years, the Infidels had beaten the Cowtippers in a post-season series in which Salem was heavily favored to win.

The Infidels then advanced to the OLCS, where they faced the New Hope Badgers and their ridiculously productive first baseman David Ortiz.  Ortiz had shattered the single-season BDBL home run record that season by clubbing 79.  And in Game One of that series, Ortiz's inevitable homer came in the sixth inning, cutting Ravenswood's lead to 4-2.  The Badgers then scored four more runs that inning to take the lead, and New Hope walked away with a 10-4 laugher.

In Game Two, Johnson took the mound for Ravenswood, and managed to shut down the high-powered Badgers offense, allowing just one run through five innings.  The bullpen committee of Cla Meredith, Fabio Castro, Scott Olsen and Jason Frasor then shut it down the rest of the way, as the Infidels cruised to an easy 6-1 victory.

But in the very next game, the Badgers' offense kicked it into high gear once again, and scored eight runs in the second inning en route to a 13-5 win.  But once again, Ravenswood's pitching stepped up and shut down New Hope in Game Four, as Tim Hudson held them to just two runs in seven innings to even the series as two wins apiece.

The Infidels then took the series lead in Game Five, when shortstop Jose Valentin clubbed a three-run home run off of Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning.  Putz then struck out three batters in the ninth for the save.  But in Game Six, New Hope's offense once again rose to the occasion, as they scored five first-inning runs en route to a 10-5 win.

That forced a seventh and deciding game, and a match-up of New Hope's Andy Pettitte against Ravenswood's Brad Penny.  With the Infidels leading 1-0 in the third, New Hope slugger Barry Bonds connected for a three-run double, giving the Badgers the lead.  Grady Sizemore then added a two-run blast for the Badgers in the fifth inning to extend that lead.  And after a leadoff homer in the ninth by Frank Thomas, the Infidels managed to put two runners in scoring position with two outs against Rivera.  But pinch hitter Chris Coste then grounded out to second to end the game, the series and the season.


The Infidels were in good shape heading into the 2008 season.  Halladay (14-11, 3.46 ERA in 244+ IP) returned to the starting rotation, Putz (7-5, 27 SV, 2.41 ERA in 71 IP) returned to the bullpen, and Cano (.292/.327/.498, 21 HR, 102 RC) and Abreu (.280/.360/.456, 92.2 RC) returned to the starting lineup.  Edwin Encarnacion (.306/.365/.419, 67.4 RC), who was acquired in the Johan Santana trade of 2006, also returned for his sophomore season in the BDBL.  And Fausto Carmona -- who was considered to be an afterthought in the Jae Seo trade of 2006 -- unexpectedly emerged as the ace of the staff, going 17-11 with a 3.92 ERA in 236+ innings.

Potrafka also had a bit more money to spend on free agents, and he used that money to sign Mark Buehrle (12-10, 4.20 ERA in 216+ IP), Orlando Cabrera (.286/.341/.370, 55.2 RC), Bobby Howry (9-1, 6 SV, 2.71 ERA in 83 IP) and Jamie Moyer (7-8, 5.32 ERA in 94+ IP) in the auction.  Prior to the auction, Potrafka added Derrek Lee (.333/.411/.472, 121.9 RC) in exchange for Thomas, and Jason Varitek (.253/.359/.420, 74.7 RC) in exchange for Jon Lester.  Then, during the draft, Potrafka added Rodrigo Lopez (9-4, 2.60 ERA in 86+ IP) in exchange for prospect Jarrod Parker.

Ravenswood began Opening Day as the favorites to win a typically weak Benes Division, with only the Manchester Irish Rebels looking like competition.  The season began as expected, with Ravenswood leading the division with a 16-12 record, followed by the .500 Irish Rebels and two horrific teams at the bottom of the division (Marlboro at 9-19 and Las Vegas at 6-22.)

The trend continued throughout the rest of the season, with the Rebels slowing fading (once again) from a .500 team to a bottom-dweller.  Meanwhile, Potrafka continued the trend he began in 2007 by adding tons of mid-season talent in exchange for next-to-nothing.  At the Chapter Four deadline, he added Greg Maddux (8-4, 4.30 ERA in 96+ IP) and Daryle Ward (.341/.400/.610 in 41 AB) in exchange for Kerry Wood and three spare parts (Darrell Rasner, Chris Denorfia and Rick Vandenhurk.)  That same chapter, he added Matt Stairs (.302/.370/.544 in 215 AB) in exchange for three more spare parts (Jose Bautista, Jaime Garcia and Eduardo Morlan.)

The Infidels went 49-31 over the second half of the season, and easily captured their fourth division title in five seasons.  They finished with a record of 99-61, and faced the Corona Confederates in the Division Series.

In the first game of that series, Halladay was pounded for seven runs on 14 hits through six innings, and the Infidels trailed by two runs heading into the bottom of the ninth.  But with one out, Ravenswood strung together a double and three straight singles to tie the game at seven apiece.  After Putz shut down the Corona offense in the 10th and 11th innings, Potrafka had no choice but to pull him out of the game and insert Bobby Howry.  Howry served up a double to the first batter he faced (Joe Mauer), and then gave up a two-run blast to Edgar Renteria.  Ravenswood failed to score in the bottom of the 12th, and Corona walked away with the win.

The momentum of the series shifted in Game Two, however, as Carmona pitched a four-hit shutout to even the series.  Ravenswood then took a 7-1 lead after five and a half innings of play in Game Three.  Corona scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth to make it a one-run game, but the Infidels were able to score two more the next inning and held on for the victory.

In Game Four, Ravenswood busted open a 2-0 game by scoring six runs in the fifth inning on a pair of two-run blasts by Abreu and Cano (his second of the game) en route to a 10-2 laugher.  The Infidels then carried a two-run lead into the eighth inning of Game Five, but once again Corona fought back to tie the score and force the game into extra innings.  This time, Ravenswood struck first with an RBI double by Luke Scott in the top of the 10th.  Howry then held on in the bottom of the inning to close it out, and the Infidels were headed back to the OLCS for the third time in five years.

As as press time, Ravenswood is set to face the Salem Cowtippers in the OLCS -- the same team Ravenswood defeated twice in three post-season meetings over the past five years.

Ravenswood Infidels wins by season

The story of the Ravenswood Infidels franchise can be told in two acts.  In Act One, the Infidels (then known as the Madison Fighting Mimes) spent the majority of their days fighting a losing battle, trying to win a division against a team with a Machiavellian owner who would stop at nothing to win.  Act Two takes place in a new division, with a new owner, where winning is made considerably easier due mainly to the absence of that fierce competition.

The Infidels franchise has consistently fielded a competitive team year after year.  Perhaps the only difference between their "successful" and "non-successful" seasons was this change in competition.

Of course, this does not mean that Potrafka hasn't played a major role in his team's success as well.  He has consistently fielded a winning team by holding off on making any big trades until mid-season, when the market value for free agents is significantly less.  He's used every dollar of his team's salary to its utmost advantage, and he has also used his farm system to maximum benefit by providing both low-cost impact players for his own team (like Robinson Cano) and trade bait (like Tim Lincecum.)

Beyond his skill and knowledge as a GM, of course, Potrafka has also added immensely to the league in terms of the personality and passion he brings to the game.  Potrafka's well-documented passion for the game is the result of a perfectionist's mindset.  And the man he replaced was equally skillful as a GM, and contributed a great amount to the league -- both in terms of his knowledge of baseball and his personality -- in those early, formative days.

As of this writing, only four different franchises in the history of the BDBL have won a championship, and the Infidels are among that lucky minority.  Branch Rickey once said that luck is the residue of design, and that saying certainly applies to the Ravenswood Infidels franchise.