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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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December, 2008

Franchise History: Salem Cowtippers

Cowtippers in a box:

Franchise wins: 994 (1st all-time)
Playoff appearances: 8
Division titles: 8
League titles: 3
Championship titles: 0
100-win seasons: 6
100-loss seasons: 0
Franchise RC leader: Lance Berkman
Franchise wins leader: Greg Maddux

As the league's founding father, Salem Cowtippers GM Mike Glander felt intense pressure to build a championship team from the very beginning.

Glander had been the commissioner of a baseball sim league (using SSI's "Computer Baseball" and "Earl Weaver Baseball" software) in the late 80's -- a league that included fellow BDBL founding fathers Billy Romaniello, Paul Marazita and Phil Geisel.  In that league (named the "Computer Baseball League") Glander's teams consistently won more games than any other team in the league, yet lost year after year in the championship series.  One of Glander's underlying motives in establishing the BDBL was to vindicate himself and forever erase his reputation as the (pre-2004) Boston Red Sox of fantasy baseball.  Little did he realize that over the next ten years, that reputation would only be set in concrete and permanently bronzed.

Glander's stated philosophy in building his franchise was to create a perfect balance of hitting and defense, youth and experience.  With the #3 overall pick in the BDBL's inaugural draft, Glander determined to select the best pitcher available.  After Alex Rodriguez and Mark McGwire were selected with the first two picks of the draft, Glander could have built his franchise around any pitcher in baseball.  Ultimately, he chose Greg Maddux.

Maddux was among the most consistent starting pitchers in baseball at that time, and seemed to be the safest bet of them all.  At 32 years of age, Maddux was coming off another extraordinary MLB season in which he'd posted a 2.22 ERA in 251+ innings, with a 45/204 BB/K ratio.  He more than fulfilled his status as the team's #1 pick, winning 26 games (against only four losses), with an ERA of 2.46, and winning the Ozzie League's first Cy Young award.

The goal for Salem's #2 pick was to acquire a #3 hitter for the batting lineup -- someone who could provide both on-base ability and power.  By the time Salem's second pick snaked back around, the best hitter remaining on the board was clearly John Olerud.  A 30-year-old first baseman with above-average defense, Olerud won the Ozzie League batting title in 1999, hitting .359, with a league-leading OBP of .474.  Both numbers still represent Salem franchise records to this day.  He slugged 40 doubles and 22 home runs, scored 111 runs, knocked in 131, walked 130 times and slugged .554 without missing a single game.  And at the end of the season, he joined Maddux in the post-season awards ceremony by becoming the Ozzie League's first MVP.

Five picks later, it was Glander's turn to pick again.  Next on his shopping list was a leadoff hitter to set the table for Olerud, and 25-year-old Shannon Stewart (.293/.388/.451, 21 HR, 74 SB, 110.1 RC) seemed like the perfect fit for that role.  Not only would Stewart provide Salem with great value for the 1999 season, but it was thought that he had considerable upside potential as well.  Throughout the season, Stewart teamed with 7th-round pick Quilvio Veras (.277/.390/.369 with 119 runs scored and 45 SBs) to form an extremely effective one-two punch at the top of the Salem lineup.

With those three keys elements in place, Glander's strategy for the remainder of the draft was to simply select the best players available, mixing players with immediate benefit and future value as much as possible.  Young starters Darren Dreifort (11-9, 3.81 ERA in 191+ IP) and Matt Morris (7-3, 4.24 ERA in 123 IP) were selected in the fifth and sixth rounds, in an effort to solidify the Salem rotation for years to come.  Those future plans were spoiled, however, when Dreifort continued to disappoint and Morris underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in mid-summer and was released at the end of the season.

While building a contender for 1999, Glander attempted to also build a foundation for the future.  But most of the young players he drafted early turned out to be miserable failures, from Ben Davis (a $2 million pick in the 11th round) to Carlos Febles (a $1 million 18th-rounder) to Ryan Bradley (a $500K pick in the 21st round.)

When the dust settled, Glander had seemingly accomplished his goal of building a balanced team.  The Cowtippers featured good hitting (Olerud, Stewart, Veras, Ellis Burks and Gary Gaetti) and pitching (Maddux, Omar Daal, Dreifort and Morris), and balanced youth (Stewart, Febles, Dreifort, Morris, Bradley, Davis) with experience (Maddux, Olerud, Gaetti, Burks.)  The bullpen was strong, led by Doug Brocail (8-3, 2.07 ERA in 65+ IP, 24 SVs), Derek Lowe (14-11, 3.52 ERA in 128 IP), Tim Crabtree and Felix Heredia.  And the bench was stocked as well.  With no visible weaknesses, the Cowtippers were favored to win their division heading into Opening Day.

Salem got off to a hot start, but then lost nine in a row and twelve of their final thirteen games to close out Chapter One with an 11-13 record.  Throughout that first chapter, Glander worked day and night to find another starting pitcher for his rotation.  But no one was willing to trade at that early stage in the league's infancy.

Toward at the end of that first chapter, however, just before the deadline, Glander had a productive conversation with Jack Buchanan of the Virginia Cavaliers.  While inquiring about inning-eating starter Todd Stottlemyre, Glander learned that Buchanan was toying with the idea of trading his MVP candidate, Ray Lankford.  That conversation then led to the first-ever trade in BDBL history the following chapter.  On April 22nd, Salem acquired both Stottlemyre and Lankford in exchange for Chad Curtis and five of Salem's 2000 draft picks.

Because the trade involved so many draft picks, protests erupted over the fairness of the trade.  Immediately after the deal was announced, the Commissioner's Office was flooded with demands that the trade be nullified through Rule 9.6.  Serving as both the GM of the Cowtippers and the league's commissioner, Glander found himself in a very delicate situation.  To rectify the situation, Glander made a compromise and sent Lankford back to Virginia the following chapter.  He also sent two players -- Bradley and Butch Henry -- to Virginia, and reacquired Curtis.  So, in the end, the Cowtippers traded Bradley, Henry and five draft picks in exchange for Stottlemyre.  Stottlemyre went 8-6 with a 4.16 ERA in 147 innings for Salem, but did not pitch well enough to warrant a spot on Salem's post-season roster.

That same chapter, the New Milford Blazers decided to wave their white flag early, and put several of their best players on the block.  Glander contacted New Milford's GM (his old friend Romaniello) and offered three young players (Davis, Eric Valent and Robert Person) for closer Robb Nen.  Romaniello countered by adding two more players (Henry and Bradley, before they were sent to Virginia) on Salem's side.  And in exchange, Romaniello offered to "throw in" his ace pitcher, Randy Johnson.  Still stinging from the criticism of his previous trade, and acting in the best interest of his longtime friend, Glander declined, explaining to Romaniello that Johnson could net much more in a separate trade.  (Shortly thereafter, Romaniello traded Johnson to the Stamford Zoots in what is regarded to be among the most lopsided trades in league history, paving the way for three straight Stamford championships.)

The Blazers eventually agreed to the original offer for Nen.  This trade, too, evoked howls of protest, as many rival owners believed that Salem had not traded nearly enough for a star closer such as Nen.  Nen went 2-2 with a 2.92 ERA and 20 saves down the stretch for the Cowtippers.  While Davis and Valent never amounted to much, Person enjoyed a decent year in MLB 2000, and had a BDBL division named after him.

The Cowtippers turned things around and finished the second chapter with a 20-11 record.  As the league approached the all-star break, Glander stepped up to the trade table once again, acquiring slugger Tim Salmon from the Chicago Black Sox in exchange for young speedster Roger Cedeno.  Salmon provided a huge boost to the Salem offense in the second half, hitting .263/.383/.433 with 14 homers and 64 RBIs.

Salem went into the break with a 47-33 record -- tied with the Plattsburgh Champs atop the Benes Division.  Then, fueled by the additions of Salmon and Nen, the Cowtippers went 52-28 over the second half of the season to easily clinch the division by 13 games.  Salem tied for the best record in the league at 99-61, scored a league-high 853 runs, and ranked second in the OL with a 3.73 ERA.

Controversy marred the league's first post-season when Salem's OL Division Series opponent, the Zoots, unintentionally overused several players during the regular season.  Unfortunately for Marazita, those players included Cy Young runner-up Kevin Brown and scheduled Game Three starter Rolando Arrojo.  According to league rules, those players were automatically ineligible for the Division Series.  However, to avoid winning the series on a technicality, Glander used his power as commissioner to create an exception to the rule that allowed the Zoots to use those players during the Division Series in exchange for a small penalty.  Ten years after their last post-season match-up, Glander and Marazita then battled it out in the Division Series.  Unfortunately for Glander, it was just like old times.

Maddux outdueled Brown in Game One of the best-of-five Division Series.  Johnson then carried the Zoots to a 4-2 win in Game Two to turn it into a best-of-three series.  In Game Three, the Stamford offense pummeled Daal and Morris, putting the Cowtippers just one loss away from elimination.

Salem's streak of bad luck in the post-season appeared to hit a new low when Maddux was forced to leave Game Four with a random injury following a 54-minute rain delay, after throwing just 24 pitches.  Amazingly, however, the Cowtippers managed to win the game, scoring five runs in four innings against Stamford's ace, Brown.

With a day off before the deciding fifth game, Maddux was fully rested and ready to go in the biggest game of the year.  But, once again, luck was not on Salem's side.  In the third inning, a fielding error by Gaetti (who led all BDBL third basemen in fielding percentage that year) led to the Zoots' first run of the game.  With Stamford trailing by a run in the fifth inning, Zoots shortstop Omar Vizquel led off the inning with a base hit.  He then attempted to steal second, but was picked off by Maddux.  He managed to steal the base, regardless.  He then scored on a two-out single by Rafael Palmeiro, tying the game.

Meanwhile, the Salem offense failed to catch those lucky breaks against Johnson, and the score remained tied through seven innings.  Maddux was then sent out to the mound to start the eighth inning, and Palmeiro greeted him with a solo home run, giving the Zoots the lead.  The Stamford bullpen trio of Dan Miceli, C.J. Nitkowski and John Wetteland then blew through the top of the Salem lineup in the eighth and ninth innings to seal the victory.


After eleven straight years of steady, Cy-Young-caliber pitching, Maddux suffered through an off year (219+ IP, 258 H, 136 K, 3.57 ERA) in MLB '99.  Olerud's MLB numbers (.298/.427/.463) also dropped quite a bit as well, though they were still strong.  And with none of the team's young investments (Morris, Febles, Dreifort, Davis, etc.) paying off, the Cowtippers found themselves with little cause for optimism heading into the 2000 season.

Faced with an agonizing decision on how many years to sign Maddux, Glander chose instead to trade him in exchange for 22-year-old pitcher Javier Vazquez.  Vazquez had compiled an ERA of 5.00 in the prior MLB season, but Glander banked on his upside potential.  (And sure enough, Vazquez would post ERAs of 4.05, 3.42, 3.91 and 3.24 over the next four MLB seasons.)  For Salem in 2000, Vazquez went 10-10 with a 5.29 ERA in 170 innings.  26-year-old closer Danny Graves (5-4, 3.70 ERA in 114+ IP) also came to Salem in the trade.

The deconstruction of the 1999 pitching staff continued with the trades of Daal, Brocail and Nen (along with two others) to the Kentucky Fox.  In exchange, Salem received another up-and-coming young arm in 23-year-old Eric Milton (16-10, 3.93 ERA in 222+ IP.)  24-year-old Steve Woodard (10-7, 4.50 ERA in 190 IP) was also acquired that winter, in exchange for relievers Tim Crabtree and Graeme Lloyd.  And 28-year-old pitcher Sterling Hitchcock (14-12, 4.90 ERA in 224+ IP) was also picked up from the Hudson Hammerheads (along with several others) in exchange for a young catcher named Jason Varitek (who had been thrown into the Daal/Milton trade.)

Glander's new master plan was to build his team around the foundation of young pitchers Vazquez, Milton, Woodard, Hitchcock and Dreifort: all 28 years old or younger, all in the primes of their careers, and all considered to be up-and-coming future aces.  As would often happen within the Salem organization over the next several years, however, that plan wouldn't last long.  By the following winter, all but one of those pitchers would be traded.  And by the 2002 season, all five would be gone.

Glander hoped to add a left-handed bat in the outfield during the draft, but was shut out by the time his 22nd draft pick arrived each round.  Still desperate for that left-handed stick, Glander made one of the worst trades of his BDBL career, acquiring part-timer Armando Rios from the Minneapolis Haymakers in exchange for prospect Alfonso Soriano.  Glander had taken a flier on Soriano in the second round of the inaugural farm draft based on nothing but pure speculation, hearsay and scouting reports.  At the time of his selection, Soriano had just been purchased by the Yankees from Japan, and had yet to bat a single time as a professional in the United States.  While Rios did a fine job for Salem in 2000 (.368/.465/.607 in just 163 ABs), Soriano soon became a perennial all-star second baseman in the BDBL, and one of the biggest bargains in the league.

"We indicated that Soriano was available on two separate occasions over the past two months and received offers from only five teams," explained Salem GM Mike Glander.  "Considering that Soriano is on every top prospect list we've ever seen, we assumed he'd have more market value, but apparently he doesn't."

Moments after the trade, Soriano was dealt again to the despised Plattsburgh Champs organization in exchange for Felipe Lopez and two draft picks.

"If we had known Tim Zigmund would have ended up with him," said Glander, "there's no way we would have made that deal."  Today, it was reported that Yankees utility infielder D'Angelo Jiminez was injured in a car accident and will be out for the entire 2000 major league season.  It is speculated that Soriano will now take Jiminez's spot on the Yankees' roster.  "Frankly, we had concerns about Soriano," said Glander, "and with the recent addition of Bobby Hill, Soriano became expendable.   We took a risk that may prove to be incredibly wise or incredibly stupid.  Time will tell."

The Soriano trade, along with the Varitek trade earlier that winter, established a pattern that would become a trademark of Glander's BDBL career.  For the next several years, time and again, elite prospects were sacrificed in trade in order to fill some immediate team need.  Those prospects would then be replaced with other elite prospects through drafting, free agency or trade.  And the cycle would repeat endlessly.

Glander dubbed himself "The Johnny Appleseed of the BDBL" for his propensity to spread young talent throughout the league.  But the BDBL press mockingly called him "Johnny Crapapple," and coined the term "propaglander" to describe the practice of overhyping one's prospects on the league forum for the sake of trading them.  However, the indisputable fact remains that through the first decade of the BDBL's existence, several of the brightest young players (and most valuable commodities) in the league were acquired in trade through the Salem farm system.

With a much weaker lineup and starting rotation than the 1999 version, Glander attempted to follow the Los Altos Undertakers' blueprint by assembling a strong bullpen for the 2000 season.  Jeff Zimmerman (10-3, 21 SVs, 2.20 ERA in 94 IP) was picked up halfway through the 1999 season as a farm free agent.  Lowe (7-7, 10 SVs, 4.03 ERA in 114 IP) enjoyed another solid year out of the bullpen.  Graves gave the Cowtippers three legitimate "closers."  And lefty Pedro Borbon (6-3, 2.71 ERA in 53+ IP) was Salem's first pick of the draft in Round 6.

With the Plattsburgh Champs picked to win the division, Glander was hoping to merely make it a competitive race.  But the Champs unexpectedly stumbled to a 20-26 start, and just a week into the third chapter of the season, Champs GM Tim Zigmund abruptly announced his resignation from the league.  Meanwhile, the Cowtippers got off to an 18-8 start in the first chapter, and sported a 31-21 record one-third of the way into the season.  Leading the Benes Division by four games, Glander decided the team was for real, and began looking for ways to improve his lineup.

That search ended just prior to the Chapter Three deadline, when all-star second baseman Chuck Knoblauch joined the Cowtippers through a trade with the Boise Bastards.  In exchange, Salem parted with Xavier Nady, who had been Salem's #1 farm pick (7th overall) just a few weeks earlier.  Batting in the leadoff spot the remainder of the year, Knoblauch hit an even .300, with a .390 OBP, 15 home runs and 84 runs scored.  In the end, despite looking much weaker on paper, the Salem offense actually scored more runs in 2000 (902) than they did in 1999 (853.)

Throughout the early years of the league, one of the highlights of the season in Salem was the so-called "Davis Cup Series."  This was the name given to the 12 games played against the Litchfield Lightning, whose manager (Phil Geisel) was an old friend and rival of Glander's dating back to the CBL.  The winner of the season series was awarded a Starting Lineup action figure (Rick Reuschel for Glander, Eric Davis for Geisel.)  This series was typically filled with bizarre plays and unlikely heroes, and was typified by a May 6th game in which Salem trailed by a score of 3-2 in the eighth inning.  With no outs, the Cowtippers managed to load the bases.  Jeff Cirillo -- one of Salem's top run-producers -- then stepped to the plate and hit a line drive up the middle.  The pitcher (Rheal Cormier) snagged the liner, then wheeled to third to catch a napping John Olerud off base for out number two.  "Third baseman" Edgar Martinez (playing out of position, as was typical of Geisel's teams) then completed a rare triple-play by completing the throw to first, ending the inning.  Salem would lose that game, but not the Davis Cup Series.

By the middle of the season, the Cowtippers were enjoying a comfortable lead in the division, and Glander began looking toward the future.  Throughout Zigmund's reign with the Champs, Glander had repeatedly asked for college sensation Mark Teixeira in trade.  But Zigmund refused to trade him, time and again.  However, Zigmund's replacement, Dave Myers, was more than willing to trade an unproven college sophomore for an established top-50 pitching prospect.  So, just prior to the Chapter Four deadline, Glander swapped pitching prospect Wes Anderson for Teixeira.  Anderson never pitched in the big leagues, while Teixeira soon thereafter became the face of the Salem franchise.

Down the stretch, Glander added bench players Tom Lampkin, John Vanderwal, Harold Baines and Damian Easley in an effort to prepare his team for the playoffs against the pitching-heavy Undertakers and Zoots.  The Cowtippers clinched their second division title on October 1st, won 93 games on the year, and barely missed an opportunity to knock their hated rivals, the Zoots, out of the playoffs altogether.  In one of the final series of the season, the Cowtippers managed to beat Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown and John Smoltz.  One more win would have tied the Butler Division race.  Instead, Stamford's #4 starter, Gil Meche, won Game 4.  The Zoots won the division by one game, and then cruised to their second straight BDBL championship.

Salem's reward for winning their division was drawing the Undertakers in the Division Series.  Los Altos not only finished with an Ozzie League-best 104 wins in 2000, but they owned Salem throughout the season with 9 wins in 12 games.  (This pattern of dominance by the Undertakers over Salem would hold true throughout the first decade.)  Desperate to find a way to win an unwinnable series, Glander devised a strategy for the playoffs borrowed from MLB managerial masterminds Earl Weaver and Dick Howser: the "cover pitcher."

Basically, a cover pitcher is a starting pitcher who is used solely to throw off the other team's starting lineup.  Because Los Altos relied on so many platoons, Glander's strategy was to start a right-handed pitcher, forcing Los Altos to start their right-handed lineup.  Then, after one or two batters, switch to a left-handed starter out of the bullpen.

The strategy might have worked if Salem had owned a decent left-handed starter.  Unfortunately, all they had were Milton and Hitchcock.  Milton was lit up in relief in Game 1, allowing 6 runs (4 earned) through 4 innings.  Hitchcock was then pasted for 5 runs (4 earned) in just 4 innings in Game 2.  In Game 3, Glander decided to switch it up, and went with a lefty (Milton) to start the game, with a righty (Woodard) pitching in relief.  Woodard allowed three runs in five innings, but the Cowtippers still managed to win thanks to a two-homer game by Olerud.  But the fun ended in Game 4, when the "cover pitcher" strategy was abandoned altogether, and Dreifort was allowed to pitch the game normally.  Salem lost by a score of 5-1, and were defeated in the Division Series for the second year in a row, to the surprise of no one.


The Cowtippers went into the winter of 2001 with a foundation of players that could possibly be good enough to win the division for a third year in a row.  But Glander's goal was to win it all.  So once again, he rolled up his sleeves and went to work.  He worked...and worked...and worked.  A total of SEVENTEEN trades were made by Glander that winter, involving no fewer than 38 players and 15 draft picks.

The first order of business was to shed some salary and make room for the first significant free agent class in league history.  With a 5.85 ERA in 147+ innings, Woodard had failed to live up to expectations -- not to mention his $12 million contract.  New Allentown Ridgebacks owner Tom DiStefano was looking to rebuild by taking unwanted salary in exchange for prospects, and Glander was happy to give him prospect Bobby Kielty in order to take Woodard off his hands.

Glander then bolstered his lineup by trading prospect Dan Reichert for reliever Paul Shuey.  He then flipped Shuey for Chris Stynes, and then flipped Stynes for Travis Fryman.  Fryman would lead the Cowtippers in hitting in 2001 (.341.)  He compiled a 961 OPS, collected 211 hits, 39 doubles and 27 homers, scored 99 runs and drove home 103 runs without missing a single game.

Next, ace starter Mike Mussina (19-12, 3.52 ERA in 258+ IP, 223 K) was acquired from the Marlboro Hammerheads in exchange for Vazquez.  Bruce Chen (10-4, 2.71 ERA in 146 IP) was acquired from the Atlanta Fire Ants, and eventually led the Cowtippers in ERA, while yielding just 117 hits through 146 innings.

At that time, rumors began heating up that the best hitter in Japan, Ichiro Suzuki, would be coming to America for the 2001 MLB season.  Although pitchers like Hideo Nomo had enjoyed great success while making the leap across the Pacific, no one knew if a hitter could ever measure up.  There were several attractive minor leaguers available in the 2001 BDBL farm draft, and Ichiro was expected to be selected #1.  With the South Carolina Sea Cats holding the #2 pick of the draft, Glander traded top catching prospect Matt LeCroy in exchange for that pick.  Fearful that Ichiro would be selected by the New Milford Blazers with the #1 overall pick, Glander then traded Graves and top prospect Dee Brown for that pick (along with New Milford's 6th round pick.)  Glander then quickly announced that Ichiro would be selected with that #1 pick.  However, by the time the farm draft began, Glander changed his mind, and selected pitching prospect Adam Johnson instead.  Given the depth of talent available in that draft class, it may have been the biggest blunder in BDBL history.

From the official Salem Cowtippers newsletter, January, 2001:

Adam simply dominated the competition last season, first for Cal State Fullerton, then for Minnesota's Fort Myers farm team.  We have no doubt that Adam will be playing in a Cowtippers uniform by 2003 if not next season.  With Sosa, Abreu, Berkman, Piatt and Rios all expected to play full time next season, we really had no need for another outfielder.   And with Snelling and Restovich on the farm, we really had no need for Suzuki other than trade bait.  We actually discussed a trade of Suzuki with several teams before the draft, and we determined that his trade value was very low.  As a result, we turned to pitching, where we considered Johnson and Mark Prior.  In the end, Johnson won.

At age 28, Dreifort still had yet to fulfill the vast potential and expectations that most people had for him as the #2 overall pick of the 1993 MLB amateur draft.  With Mussina, Chen and Milton (13-7, 3.53 ERA in 219+ IP) anchoring the starting rotation, Glander figured he could afford to trade Dreifort while his value (and expectations) remained high.  He found a taker in Geisel, who acquired Dreifort at the expense of prospect Lance Berkman.  Berkman, who'd been at the top of Glander's wish list since the beginning of the league, would become perhaps the greatest Cowtipper ever, and the face of the franchise for the next eight seasons.  In the league's first ten seasons, Berkman would hit .290/.406/.512, with 210 home runs, 776 RBIs and 934.9 runs created.

Glander continued to bolster his starting lineup by acquiring Bartolo Colon for Shannon Stewart, and then trading Colon for Bobby Abreu.  Abreu hit .309/.421/.524 for the Cowtippers that year, with 42 doubles, 10 triples, 21 homers, 127 runs scored and 111 walks.  But Glander was far from done.

Perhaps his biggest trade of the winter occurred next, when he acquired both Jeff Bagwell and Sammy Sosa from the Marlboro Hammerheads.  In exchange, it cost Salem their team captain, Olerud, plus Tim Salmon and two crucial draft picks.  One of those picks was the #2 overall farm pick acquired from South Carolina -- a pick that was used by Marlboro GM Ken Kaminski to select Ichiro.

The trade paid enormous dividends for the 2001 season.  Bagwell was the team's MVP, hitting .308/.412/.572 with 45 homers and 144 RBIs, and Sosa led the team in homers (46) and RBIs (148.)  Glander then used the 6th round pick he acquired from New Milford to select starting pitcher Frank Castillo, who went 16-2 with a 3.41 ERA.

Finally, after all the dust settled, the Cowtippers looked like an unstoppable juggernaut on paper.  Mussina, Chen, Castillo, Pedro Astacio (who'd been acquired for Dmitri Young in yet another trade that winter) and Milton formed a very strong starting rotation, with Lowe, Zimmerman and a host of capable specialists manning the bullpen.  And the starting lineup, with Bagwell, Abreu, Sosa and Fryman at its heart, was by far the best in franchise history.

To no one's surprise, the Cowtippers got off to a strong start, going 22-6 in Chapter One, including a four-game sweep of the two-time-defending-champion Zoots.  Far from being content, however, Glander continued to add to his roster throughout the season.  Prior to the start of the second chapter, Glander replaced his catching platoon of Scott Hatteberg and Keith Osik by acquiring all-star catcher Jason Kendall (.335/.426/.473 in 526 ABs for Salem) from the Blazers, parting with top prospect Sean Burroughs (Salem's first-ever farm pick) as part of the BDBL's first three-team trade.  That same week, Glander added closer Keith Foulke (9-3, 16 SVs, 1.91 ERA in 80+ IP for Salem) from the Phoenix Predators -- again, in exchange for prospects (Chin-Hui Tsao and Zimmerman.)

At that point, the Salem roster was filled with all-stars at nearly every position on the diamond.  And by the all-star break, it was apparent that this team would perform like all-stars, as they sported a BDBL-best 57-23 record, and outscored the competition by a whopping 147 runs.

But Glander still wasn't done.  He needed more assurance that his team would finally win that big trophy at the end of the season.  More than that, he needed assurance that his team would be able to defeat the Zoots in a short series.  After two straight championship seasons, Stamford was gunning for a third with a record that nearly matched Salem's.  And just prior to the final trading deadline of the season, Zoots' GM Paul Marazita made a blockbuster trade in which he acquired sluggers Tim Salmon and Phil Nevin.  Never one to be outdone, Glander made a blockbuster of his own shortly thereafter, adding all-star sluggers Jeff Kent (a disappointment at .246/.333/.428 for Salem after hitting .334/.424/.596 in MLB '00) and Gary Sheffield (.327/.447/.702 for Salem) at the expense of seven young players.

The Salem lineup was now beyond ridiculous.  Of the starting eight, SEVEN hitters sported a batting average of .310 or higher, an OBP of .392 or higher, and a slugging percentage of .516 or higher.  Three of these hitters owned a slugging percentage greater than .600.  And six of them owned an OBP higher than .400.  Salem concluded the 2001 season with a whopping 949 runs scored, and hit .285/.375/.473 as a team.  And on the mound, Salem led the Ozzie League with a 3.75 ERA.  The Cowtippers won 107 games, and outscored their competition by 279 runs -- second only to the Kansas Law Dogs.

Salem ran roughshod over the Gillette Swamp Rats in the OL Division Series, sweeping the series in four games while outscoring the Swamp Rats 34-14.  As expected, that meant another post-season match-up against the Zoots.  But once again, the Cowtippers team that looked so dominant throughout the entire regular season failed to show up for the biggest series of the year.

Despite grading higher than the Zoots in every category imaginable, the Cowtippers lost four straight in the League Championship Series, getting swept in humiliating fashion by their most intense rival.  Salem's pitching completely fell apart, allowing 43 hits and 22 walks in 34 innings, with a 5.29 team ERA.  But even more shocking was the complete collapse of their all-star starting lineup, which hit just .220/.308/.331 as a team and scored just nine runs in four games.  It was, to say the least, a devastating loss for Glander.


Preparations soon began for the 2002 season, and the Cowtippers offense was particularly well positioned, with Abreu (.289/.393/.543 in MLB '01), Sosa (.324/.443/.702, 60 HR, 188.5 RC for Salem) and Bagwell (.288/.397/.568 in MLB) returning, and second-year player Berkman (.321/.442/.566, 150.7 RC for Salem) eager to contribute to his first full BDBL season.  The starting rotation, however, was in shambles, due to the poor showings of Chen and Castillo, and the free agent defection of Mussina.  That left Eric Milton (220+ IP, 4.32 ERA in MLB '01) as the de facto ace of the staff.  The team also had no in-house solutions for the holes at catcher, second base, shortstop, third base and center field.  As such, Glander had his work cut out for him.

Prior to Salem's four-game sweep in the OLCS, Stamford GM Marazita had announced that he had just acquired all-star third baseman Chipper Jones from the Manchester Irish Rebels in exchange for #5 starter Ryan Dempster -- a trade that many consider to be the most lopsided trade in league history.  Hoping to cash in on Manchester GM Jim Doyle's temporary (or, perhaps, permanent) insanity, Glander immediately inquired about the availability of all-star first baseman Todd Helton.  After a few days of incredibly aggravating negotiation, Helton (.331/.442/.617, 41 HR, 170.6 RC in the BDBL) was traded to Salem in exchange for Milton.  That left the Cowtippers with two all-star first basemen and no starting rotation.

That, however, was rectified when the Madison Fighting Mimes agreed to take Bagwell in exchange for Astacio (11-5, 4.44 ERA in 156+ IP) and prospect Dewon Brazelton (both of whom had been traded by Salem the year before.)  Glander then traded Abreu to the Phoenix Predators in exchange for their #2 draft pick -- a pick that was guaranteed to be either Randy Johnson or Mussina.  Mussina (20-9, 3.06 ERA in 250+ IP, 241 Ks) was eventually selected with that pick, and would end the year in second place in the OL Cy Young award balloting.

Next, Steve Sparks was acquired from the Great Lakes Sphinx at the cost of prospects Aaron Rowand and Gookie Dawkins.  Sparks pitched 225 innings for the Cowtippers, going 15-7 with a 3.87 ERA -- all for only $500,000 in salary.

With a quality core of players in the starting lineup and rotation, Glander next filled the bullpen, adding David Weathers (2-4, 23 SVs, 2.80 ERA in 90 IP) and Mike Magnante (2-1, 3.45 ERA in 47 IP) to set up closer Derek Lowe (2.99 ERA in 96+ IP overall.)

To fill the hole at second base, Glander traded prospect Brandon Claussen to the Atlanta Fire Ants in exchange for their #2 draft pick, and then used that pick to select Ray Durham (.256/.337/.436, 95.9 RC.)  The third base hole was then filled with the selection of Robin Ventura (.267/.370/.459, 85.6 RC) in the second round of the draft.

With no money left to acquire a decent center fielder, Glander contacted the Arizona Heat midway through the draft and worked out a deal for Mike Cameron.  Cameron had a career year (.269/.355/.481, 26 HR, 105.9 RC) for Salem, and came at the cost of two more Salem prospects (Brazelton and Mike Restovich.)

By the end of the draft, all the holes on the roster had been filled and the Cowtippers were once again looking like championship contenders.  That notion was confirmed when the team got off to a blazing-hot 23-5 start.  The Cowtippers swept 10 out of the 14 series they played that chapter, and led the league in runs scored and fewest runs allowed.

Salem continued their winning ways in Chapter Two, winning their first eight games of the chapter, and by the one-third mark of the season, the team owned a BDBL-best 41-13 record.  Among the teams choking on Salem's dust that year were the Marlboro Hammerheads, who had been hoping to contend for a division title heading into the season.  Instead, just prior to the Chapter Three deadline, Marlboro GM Ken Kaminski threw in the towel, and traded his ace pitcher, Jamie Moyer, to his division rivals in exchange for college hurler Bobby Brownlie.  After a small firestorm erupted over that trade, Glander flipped Moyer to the Bear Country Jamboree in exchange for reliever Chad Fox before the deadline passed.  Fox went 5-4 with a 3.06 ERA in 35+ innings for Salem down the stretch, and played a pivotal role for the team in the playoffs.

"We have no doubt whatsoever that Bobby is going to have a successful big league career," said Salem GM Mike Glander.  "He is undoubtedly the best pitcher in college baseball right now, and pitchers like him usually enjoy great success in the big leagues, and they usually get there less than two years after they're drafted.  Our franchise's philosophy through the years has been, 'There is no such thing as a pitching prospect.'  But we believe Bobby is the exception."

While a spot in the playoffs was a virtual certainty at that time, Glander continued to sacrifice more pieces of his team's future to strengthen his playoff roster even more.  Prior to the Chapter Four deadline, the Kansas Law Dogs placed starting pitcher Darryl Kile on the block.  Kile was a legitimate top-10 ace, and Glander didn't hesitate to throw his hat in the ring.  The cost was high, however, in that the Law Dogs were asking for Derek Lowe in return.  After serving as Salem's closer for the past three and a half seasons, Lowe (the last remaining original Cowtipper) would finally become a starter in 2003 -- and a very good one, at that.  But feeling that his 2003 rotation was already stacked, Glander pulled the trigger.

"This was a very, very tough decision for us to make," said Glander. "In the end, our added depth in the bullpen made it possible to sacrifice Lowe this season. And next year, we've got a lot of good arms in the rotation, so we're hoping we won't miss Derek too much. It's definitely a gamble, but when we weighed all the different factors, we determined it was a gamble worth taking."

Three weeks later, Kile was found dead in his hotel room in Chicago.  Faced with paying a guaranteed $5 million to Kile in the 2003 season, Glander floated Kile's name around to see if any contending teams would be willing to take him.  Shockingly, Manchester GM Doyle came calling.  Apparently convinced that his team could contend for the wild card, Doyle offered Brad Penny in exchange for Kile, but insisted that prospects Rick Ankiel and Jeff Francis be thrown in on Salem's side to make up for Kile's 2003 salary.  Glander agreed.

The Cowtippers finished the final chapter of the season with a 22-6 record, giving them 112 wins on the year.  Unfortunately for them, they needed 113 wins to avoid having to face the Zoots in the Division Series.  That meant that Salem would be facing their arch-rivals in the post-season for the third time in four years.

This time, however, Glander had a game plan.  Throughout the year, he had deliberately loaded up on pitchers with reverse splits (right-handed pitchers with better numbers against left-handed batters, and vice-versa) in anticipation of having to face Stamford's perennially platoon-heavy lineup.  Penny, Weathers, Rolando Arrojo (a Chapter Three trade acquisition), John Thomson (a 6th-round pick in the '02 draft, selected right before Stamford would have taken him) and Corey Bailey (a Chapter Four trade acquisition) all fit that profile.

The strategy worked brilliantly, as the Cowtippers handed the Zoots their first post-season series defeat, winning four games to one, with Chad Fox earning the series MVP.  The elation of finally slaying that dragon didn't last long, however, as the Cowtippers next were forced to face the Los Altos Undertakers.  The Undertakers finished the 2002 season with a staggering 113 wins, and owned the Cowtippers franchise throughout league history.

Salem fell into a two-games-to-none hole to start the series, but then evened the series with two straight wins.  Game Five was a true nail-biter.  The Cowtippers held a 3-1 lead heading into the ninth inning, but for the third time in the series, the Salem bullpen -- which had been so brilliant throughout the Division Series -- blew the lead.  The game then went into extra innings, where lefty Ventura singled home the game-winning run against the league's toughest reliever, lefty Juan Moreno (42 IP, 10 H, 0.64 ERA for Los Altos.)

Los Altos then won Game Six to force a Game Seven, where Penny matched up against OL Cy Young winner Chan Ho Park.  The game went into the seventh inning with a scoreless tie before Sosa led off that inning with a home run.  The Cowtippers then scored six runs in the eighth inning to put the game out of reach.  Finally, after three failed attempts, the Salem Cowtippers were heading to the World Series.

Unfortunately for the Cowtippers, their opponent in that series would be the most dominant team in league history.  The 2002 Allentown Ridgebacks won 113 games on the season, and outscored their opponents by a mind-numbing 433 runs.  No other franchise in the first decade of the league's existence came close to that number.  The Ridgebacks hit .289/.380/.506 as a team, with 271 home runs and 1,082 runs scored.  And Allentown pitching led the EL with a 3.63 ERA and 1,426 strikeouts in 1,436+ innings.

Despite all of that, however, the Cowtippers shocked the BDBL universe by winning the first two games of the series, and then took a 3-1 lead into the seventh inning of Game Three.  But the wheels fell off the bandwagon at that point, as Penny served up a two-run homer to pinch hitter Tyler Houston to give Allentown their first win of the series.  The Ridgebacks then won the next two games, putting Salem just one game away from elimination.

Game Six of the 2002 World Series was an instant classic, and a game that will always be remembered by those involved in the league at the time.  The Cowtippers held a 5-3 lead in the ninth inning of that game, and were one out away from forcing a Game Seven when Salem reliever Norm Charlton hit a batter with the bases loaded to force home a run.  Paul Wilson then followed by hitting the next batter, forcing home the tying run of the game.  Allentown then called upon lefty pinch hitter Mark Kotsay, and Salem countered with lefty reliever Mike Magnante, who retired Kotsay to get out of the jam.

After Salem failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, Glander had no choice but to send Magnante back to the mound in the top of the tenth to face the heart of Allentown's lineup: Russ Johnson, Edgar Martinez and league MVP Barry Bonds.  Incredibly, Magnante retired the side in order.

But his heroics didn't end there.  In the bottom of the inning, Salem had a runner on second with two outs.  Allentown manager Tom DiStefano then intentionally walked both Durham and pinch hitter Ken Caminiti to get to Magnante.  Once again, Glander was left with no other option but to allow Magnante to hit for himself.  Facing Allentown's dominant closer, John Smoltz, Magnante -- who didn't have a single plate appearance in either MLB or the BDBL that season -- crushed a hanging curve ball over the fence in left for a game-winning, walk-off, grand slam home run.

That set the stage for a thrilling Game Seven, in which the score was tied at 1-1 heading into the ninth inning.  Charlton retired Bonds to start the inning, bringing Manny Ramirez to the plate.  Ramirez (.309/.380/.644 w/ 54 HR and 182 RBIs) had enjoyed a monster season in 2002, and Glander had no desire to face him in such a crucial situation.  Rather than simply pitch around him, however, Glander chose to intentionally walk him, putting the go-ahead run on base.  As expected, DiStefano called upon former Cowtipper Ellis Burks to pinch hit for the left-handed Robert Fick, and Glander countered with his best right-handed reliever, Weathers.  Righty-against-righty, power-against-power.  Burks won the match-up, doubling to the gap.  The slow-footed Ramirez plodded around the bases, and the throw home was not in time.

Brad Lincoln then retired the side in order in the bottom of the ninth, striking out Berkman and Craig Wilson, and then getting Durham to ground out to end the series and the 2002 season.


Throughout the first four years of the league's history, the Cowtippers never faced much opposition in their division, winning by 13, 19, 36 and 35 games.  But in 2003, the Marlboro Hammerheads emerged as the biggest threat yet to Salem's streak of division titles.  That winter, Glander and Marlboro GM Ken "The Shark" Kaminski (a former co-worker of Glander's) went head-to-head at the trading table, both in pursuit of the same pitchers: Roy Halladay and Matt Clement.  Kaminski out-bid Glander, and ended up with both players.  Glander was forced to settle for part-time pitchers Woody Williams (3.73 ERA in 106+ IP overall) and Orlando Hernandez (4.96 ERA in 127+ IP overall), plus veteran Al Leiter (5.13 ERA in 186+ IP overall) instead.

In an effort to acquire Halladay, Glander gambled that young outfielder Austin Kearns would be enough trade bait to secure the young star pitcher, so he traded Mussina, Helton and David Eckstein to the New Milford Blazers (who were looking to compete for the first time in franchise history) in exchange for Kearns and Burroughs.  But when the Halladay trade fell through, the Cowtippers found themselves without an ace pitcher and all-star first baseman.

To fill the hole in the offense created by the departure of Helton, Glander acquired all-star outfielder Bernie Williams (.316/.396/.470, 120 RC in BDBL '03) in a pure salary dump trade with the Nashville Funkadelic.

That winter, the BDBL introduced the free agent auction, but Glander was able to free just $24 million in salary.  He filled the hole at first base by signing Jeff Bagwell (.264/.379/.487, 113.4 RC) for $10 million, and then took a gamble on 39-year-old Roger Clemens (13-11, 3.93 ERA in 190+ IP), signing him to a $5.5 million that guaranteed a minimum of a one-year contract at season's end.

With an offensive core of Bagwell, Williams and Berkman (.258/.374/.470, 107.9 RC), and a patchwork pitching staff of Clemens, Leiter, Williams and Hernandez, the Cowtippers were picked to win their division once again.  However, the season began on an ominous note when Salem was swept in the Opening Day series by the lowly New Milford Blazers.  The Cowtippers finished the first chapter with a record of just 12-16 -- four games behind the Hammerheads in the division.  The main cause for Salem's failure was the starting rotation, which compiled an ERA of 5.35 that first chapter.  In particular, Hernandez (6.29 ERA) and Leiter (6.35) got off to horrendous starts.  The offense suffered from underperformance as well, as the team ranked just 8th in runs scored after one chapter of play.

Glander made a pair of trades prior to the start of Chapter Two, swapping ineffective closers (Scott Shields for Guillermo Mota) with the Akron Ryche, and picking up utility infielder Tony Graffanino in an attempt to fill the hole at short left by the traded Eckstein.  Unfortunately, as part of that trade with Akron, Glander also parted with a college junior pitcher named Justin Verlander.

After losing three of four to the Hammerheads in Chapter One, the Cowtippers began the second chapter with six games against their division rivals.  They lost four of those games.  Then, on March 19th, with Salem trailing by seven games in the division, they were swept by the Cleveland Rocks, losing the final game when .215 hitter Chris Truby drove home the game-winning run for Cleveland.  That loss put Glander over the edge.  Immediately after that game, several players were placed on the trading block.  For the first time in franchise history, the Cowtippers were waving the white flag, abandoning their goal of winning the division, and building for the future.

"There's no point in pretending anymore that we can compete this season," said Glander.  "If we can't beat (the Rocks) in three tries, and if our bullpen can't even find a way to retire someone like Chris Truby, then I give up.  It's over.  After four years of success, this franchise has officially entered rebuilding mode."

Less than a week later, Glander pulled the trigger on a deal that sent both Bernie Williams and Woody Williams to the Ryche in exchange for several top prospects: Rich Harden, Cliff Lee, Brad Lidge and Ben Broussard.  A few days later, Leiter and Hernandez were gone as well, traded for pitcher Jeff Weaver.

"We didn't think this day would ever come," [said Salem GM Mike Glander], "but the Salem Cowtippers are officially in rebuilding mode. It's been a terribly disappointing season for us, to say the least, and believe me, we're as surprised about our performance this season as anyone. It is clear that we will not be able to compete this year without making some tremendous sacrifices to our future, and that's just not something we are prepared to do. So instead, we're going in the opposite direction. We're sacrificing whatever longshot chance we had of competing with our present team and investing in our future."

But a funny thing happened on the way to Salem's rebuilding period.  Well, three funny things, actually:

1) The Cowtippers began playing better.  Salem went 14-12 in Chapter Three, which was the best record in the Benes Division that chapter.

2) In a bizarre twist, Kaminski became so confident in his lead that he began looking toward 2004.  In one Chapter Three trade, Kaminski dealt two of his best hitters (Sammy Sosa and Steve Finley) and one of his best starting pitchers (Clement) in exchange for Bobby Abreu, Carlos Beltran, Andy Ashby and Ryan Madson.  Both Abreu and Beltran were free agents, but Kaminski hoped to cash in on the upsides of Ashby and Madson.  He then traded Halladay and two others for Matt Morris and Javier Vazquez, exchanging his best pitcher for younger models.

3) The Houston Heatwave placed ace pitcher Barry Zito (the reigning AL Cy Young winner) on the trading block.  Glander seized the opportunity, and acquired Zito at the expense of top prospects Casey Kotchman and Kris Honel (plus Ben Broussard and Brad Penny.)  Salem also re-acquired Tim Salmon in this deal, as well as Troy Percival and Steve Karsay.

These events gave Glander a renewed sense of hope heading into the second half:

"I don't know whether our guys can take back this division or not," Glander confessed. "If you had asked me six weeks ago, I would have told you there's no way we'd still be in this race. But the way our roster is structured now, and the way the Marlboro roster looks after their blockbuster trade, I really think we have a chance to make ol' Sharky sweat it out if nothing else - and that's really our only goal in the second half: to make Sharky sweat."

Despite all the new additions, the Cowtippers' bullpen continued to blow several games in unlikely fashion, yet Salem managed to finish Chapter Four with a 16-10 record, cutting Marlboro's lead to five games.  The Cowtippers enjoyed an easy schedule in Chapter Five, with 22 of their 26 games against sub-.500 teams, but they still managed to finish with a mediocre record of 14-12.

Salem then began their first genuine winning streak of the season to start Chapter Five, winning eight games in a row.  In doing so, they pulled to within one and a half games of the first place Hammerheads.

But the wheels on the Salem bandwagon began to wobble.  The Cowtippers next dropped three in a row to the last-place Great Lakes Sphinx, managed a split against the woeful Litchfield Lightning, and then were swept by the Zoots.  Just like that, Salem's deficit in the division race had grown back to five games.

The following chapter, however, the Cowtippers managed to pull themselves into a virtual tie for first thanks to the bumbling Hammerheads.  The elation of reaching the top didn't last long, however, as Salem was swept in the very next series by the Gillette Swamp Rats -- a team that lost 98 games on the season.  The Hammerheads then came into town on October 28th looking to clinch the division.  It was the final series of the season for the Cowtippers, and they denied Marlboro the opportunity to clinch on their home field by winning both games.

Nevertheless, Marlboro's division title was now inevitable.  Salem finished the season with a record of 87-73 -- three games behind the Hammerheads and 12 games behind the wild card winners.  For the first time in franchise history, the Cowtippers would not be playing November baseball.


The winter of 2004 was a notable time in Salem history, not only because it was an exceptionally busy winter, but because that busy winter was encapsulated forever in the on-line novel, Monkeyballs.  Glander made a total of 16 trades that winter, each of which was thoroughly described in detail by ghostwriter Lewis Michaels in the virtual pages of Monkeyballs.  The Cowtippers began the winter with a somewhat mediocre roster and emerged with perhaps their most dominant all-around team by Opening Day.

With Clemens and Zito returning in 2004, and '03 trade acquisition Tomo Ohka joining them, the Cowtippers had the foundation for a quality starting rotation.  But through a series of deft maneuvers, Glander managed to upgrade that rotation even further, adding rookie Brandon Webb (20-3, 2.92 ERA in 197+ IP), Curt Schilling (13-7, 4.57 ERA in 183 IP) and Kerry Wood (13-15, 4.20 ERA in 210+ IP overall.)

Webb was acquired in trade that winter in exchange for two of the best young prospects in the game: Rich Harden and Jeremy Reed.  Just 21 years old, Harden had posted a 4.46 ERA in 74+ innings in his rookie MLB season, and was considered to be among the brightest young pitchers in baseball.  Reed was coming off a stellar Double-A season in which he hit .409/.474/.591.  He was ranked the #25 prospect in baseball by Baseball America, and ranked #1 on Baseball Prospectus' prospect list.  But while neither player would make much of an impact over the next five seasons, Webb would win 83 games over the next five seasons, with an ERA of 3.72.  And in 2004, he finished second in the OL Cy Young award balloting -- an award many felt he deserved to win.

Schilling was acquired in the auction at a salary of $11 million.  As he missed a portion of the 2003 MLB season to injury, and was approaching his 37th birthday, this signing was considered to be a bit of a risk.  But in the end, it paid huge dividends for the Salem franchise, both in 2004 and 2005.

Wood was acquired straight-up for Clemens.  14 years younger in age, with roughly the same statistics and salary, this swap looked like a no-brainer for Glander at the time.  But in retrospect, given the unlikely late-career dominance displayed by Clemens, it was one of the worst trades he ever made.

In addition to bulking up his pitching staff, Glander also added to the offense as well.  The Cowtippers came into the winter with a decent foundation, including Berkman (.268/.387/.466, 114.5 RC), Bagwell, Durham, and rookies Burroughs (.312/.375/.425, 87.4 RC) and Teixeira (.318/.414/.595, 22 HR, 84.6 RC.)

Bagwell and Durham were traded that winter, and replaced with J.T. Snow (.330/.435/.531, 85.9 RC) and free agent Michael Young (.308/.352/.439, 97.3 RC.)  Luis Gonzalez (.301/.410/.489, 81.4 RC) and Milton Bradley (.326/.454/.523, 70.3 RC) were also added through trade, and Trot Nixon (.324/.419/.669, 126.1 RC) was a $7.5 million signing in the free agent auction.

The 2004 season brought with it a radical divisional realignment that had been passed the previous September.  For the first time in league history, the Cowtippers would be facing their arch-nemeses, the Stamford Zoots, head-to-head in the division.  Needless to say, Glander's motivation for winning the division had never been higher.  Stamford wasn't expected to be nearly as competitive as in prior years.  However, after one chapter of play, the Cowtippers found themselves trailing the Zoots by five games.  Stamford won three of four from Salem in Chapter One, and mysteriously caught fire the rest of the way, finishing with a stunning record of 21-7.

Despite looking like a championship team on paper, the Cowtippers continued to struggle in Chapter Two, finishing with a 15-13 record -- one game worse than their Chapter One record.  The primary reason for Salem's early struggles was its 9-12 record in one-run games.  In an effort to erase that problem, Glander traded three top prospects -- including Cliff Lee and John Patterson -- to the Wapakoneta Hippos in exchange for reliever Eddie Guardado and utility infielder Placido Polanco.  Guardado (7-3, 5.10 ERA for Salem) was anything but effective, however, and only exacerbated the problem.

Salem finally snapped out of their collective funk in Chapter Three, going 19-5.  At the same time, the Zoots fell back to earth.  Stamford's fall was steep enough that it allowed Salem to edge into first place for the first time that season.  The Cowtippers won six out of their eight one-run games that chapter, and Salem's fortunes (and Stamford's misfortunes) appeared to be heading in the right direction.

Shortly after his Zoots were passed in the standings, Stamford owner Paul Marazita resigned from the league.  Along with him went his lifelong buddy, Litchfield owner Phil Geisel.  Tony Badger was then named as Geisel's replacement, and he immediately stated his desire to release his team from Bartolo Colon's oppressive contract.  Despite the fact that the Cowtippers really had no need for him, Glander agreed to take Colon's $10 million salary (i.e. a $5MM penalty in 2005) in exchange for several prospects.  Colon would go 6-5 with a 3.98 ERA for Salem down the stretch, and would eventually replace Kerry Wood (who was traded in Chapter Four) in the starting rotation.

"We're basically paying $5 million to rent Bartolo Colon for three chapters," explained Salem GM Mike Glander. "It's a steep price to pay, but the way our 2005 team is looking, we're thinking it might be now or never for us. Bartolo will provide us with some depth, and will allow us to rest our other starters. We think he'll fit in well here, and we look forward to seeing what he can do in a spotted cap."

Salem went just 15-9 in Chapter Four, but remained ahead of the Zoots (and their new owner, Andy Lurie) by a comfortable two games.  At the end of four chapters, the Cowtippers sported a .625 winning percentage, which was the best in the BDBL.  At the final trading deadline of the season, Salem added right-handed sluggers Brett Boone (who hit .266/.346/.537 as a Cowtipper) and Marquis Grissom (.380/.436/.606 in 71 ABs) to balance out their lineup a little better.

The Cowtippers finished with 20-8 and 19-9 records over the final two chapters, and headed into the playoffs as the hottest team in the Ozzie League.  For the fourth time in league history, the Cowtippers faced the Zoots in the playoffs -- only this time, with a new manager in the opposing dugout.  Gonzalez provided a walk-off double in extra innings in Game One, but the Zoots then won the next two as Salem's bullpen continued their season-long struggles.  Salem won the next two games, and then drove the final nail into Stamford's coffin with a remarkable effort by Barry Zito (one run allowed through eight innings) in Game Six to close out the series.

Meanwhile, in the other OL Division Series, the Ravenswood Infidels had managed to upset the heavily-favored Los Altos Undertakers, which meant that Salem would have a much easier path to the World Series.  Or so they thought.

Ravenswood ace Johan Santana shut down the Cowtippers in Game One, but Salem took the next two games easily.  Then...something completely unexpected happened over the next three games.  In three straight games, Salem's starting pitchers -- each one of them a Cy Young contender during the season -- failed to get out of the first inning without burying his team in an inescapable hole.  In Game Four, Curt Schilling allowed three runs in the first inning.  In Game Five, Brandon Webb allowed four first-inning runs.  And in Game Six, Barry Zito lasted just 1/3 of an inning -- 32 pitches -- and allowed six runs to cross the plate.

Once again, the Cowtippers headed into the post-season with the strongest team in the league on paper.  And once again, they failed to win that elusive championship trophy.  The Cowtippers had officially become the (pre-2004) Boston Red Sox of the BDBL -- Glander's worst nightmare.


On the heels of yet another shocking defeat, Glander picked himself up once again and began working on yet another master plan to win it all in 2005.  The Cowtippers were in good shape, with a starting rotation that included Schilling (23-6, 2.83 ERA in 248+ IP), Webb and Zito (17-8, 5.23 ERA in 213+ IP.)  The offense, led by Young (.313/.352/.464, 107.3 RC), Berkman (.325/.453/.560, 153 RC) and Teixeira (.280/.363/.553, 39 HR, 124.3 RC) was a strength as well.  Even the bullpen, led by Francisco Cordero (5-5, 4.32 ERA in 77 IP overall) and Guillermo Mota (6-8, 4.83 ERA in 65+ IP) appeared strong on paper.

That winter, the rebuilding Los Altos Undertakers placed several players on the Selling forum, including Mark Loretta, Odalis Perez, Craig Monroe and Jose Molina.  Glander inquired about, and eventually acquired, all four players, costing his team several top prospects: Alex Gordon, Adam Miller, Jeff Clement and Edwin Jackson.  Loretta became perhaps the greatest leadoff hitter in franchise history, hitting .340/.398/.492 overall, with 46 doubles, 19 homers, 137 runs scored and 93 RBIs.  He struck out just 43 times in 691 at-bats and collected 235 hits on the season.  Monroe (.312/.374/.513) ably filled his role as platoon outfielder as well.

"Once again, we've made an organizational commitment to win our division," said Salem GM Mike Glander. "We've sacrificed a great deal of potential in this trade, but the bottom line is that we feel this puts us in position to win. Mark, Odalis, Craig and Jose are outstanding ballplayers, and we look forward to having them in our clubhouse. We wish nothing but the best to Adam, Edwin, Jeff and Alex, and we pray they don't all come back to haunt us some day."

Although he was to be Salem's #4 starter, Perez was instead traded in a highly-controversial trade with new Los Angeles Diablos (nee Stamford Zoots) owner Andy Lurie.  Originally, the trade was Barry Zito and several prospects for Jose Hernandez and two of LA's top prospects, Delmon Young and Ian Stewart.  At the time, both Young and Stewart ranked among the top five prospects in baseball -- a fact that led many in the league to voice their outrage over the trade.  Several called for the trade to be reversed under Rule 9.3, and a few questioned Glander's integrity for making such a lopsided (in the views of many) trade.

Glander responded by invoking Rule 9.3 not only for his own trade, but for two other similarly lopsided trades announced at around that same time.  This touched off yet another wave of controversy.  Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and Glander un-invoked his invocations, canceled his trade with the Diablos, and publicly negotiated a new deal.  In his new offer, Zito was replaced with Perez, and Glander threw in 25-year-old slugger Austin Kearns.  He then challenged the other owners in the league to match or beat his offer.  When no one did, the trade was officially consummated.

Meanwhile, Glander kept tinkering with his roster in an effort to put together another division-winning ballclub.  When the Chicago Black Sox surprised the league by putting Cy Young candidate Roger Clemens on the trading block, Glander jumped all over it, and eventually traded Webb and Mota to acquire the free-agent-to-be.  That season, Clemens (17-6, 2.42 ERA, 234+ IP, 177 H, 94 BB, 207 K) teamed up with Schilling to form one of the best one-two combos in BDBL history.

At the free agent auction, the Cowtippers walked away with the biggest bargain of the draft in catcher Ivan Rodriguez.  Rodriguez then became the first Cowtipper since John Olerud (back in 1999) to win the OL batting crown, batting .358 on the season.  He also led the OL in RBIs with 130, and finished second place in the OL MVP balloting.  All for just $7 million.

Because of the unexpected signing of Rodriguez and the trade of Perez, Salem was left without a #4 starter at the end of the auction.  When Bear Country Jamboree owner Matt Clemm expressed immediate buyer's remorse over his signing of injured free agent Brad Penny, Glander acquired Penny in exchange for Cuban refugee Kendry Morales.  Penny was then flipped to the Ravenswood Infidels in exchange for old favorite Greg Maddux (15-14, 4.07 ERA in 232 IP.)

The Cowtippers finished the first chapter with a record of 17-11, yet found themselves in a highly-unusual position, looking up at the New Milford Blazers by one game in the division.  After six seasons of miserable failure, the Blazers were finally considered to be a contending team heading into the '05 season.  Yet, their Chapter One record turned out to be a mirage, and they soon fell back into their old habit of finishing at the bottom of the standings -- which prompted a roster purge of historic proportions.

Salem improved to 22-6 in Chapter Two (including a streak of 12 consecutive wins), and captured first place for good.  That chapter, Glander once again found himself trading away a top prospect for a quick fix.  This time, he traded Delmon Young -- the #1 prospect in baseball according to every publication at the time -- in a three-team deal with the Gillette Swamp Rats and Manchester Irish Rebels.  In exchange, he received closer B.J. Ryan and prospect Carlos Quentin.  Later that year, Glander traded Ryan to the Irish Rebels for Mariano Rivera.  After suffering through so many winnable games blown by inept relief pitching, the Cowtippers franchise had seemingly acquired a "sure thing" for the ninth inning.

At the all-star break, Salem sported a 54-26 record, and were looking to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  With a final record of 60-20 at home, the Cowtippers enjoyed home cooking more than any other team in the league.  At the Chapter Three deadline, Glander continued to wheel and deal, sending Zito and Mota to the Marlboro Hammerheads for Wilson Alvarez, Steve Trachsel and Steve Finley.

The Cowtippers closed out the 2005 regular season with a BDBL-best 108-52 record, and outscored their opposition by a league-best 280 runs.  Of the twelve batters on the Salem roster with more than 100 at-bats, ten of them hit .299 or better.  Three players (Rodriguez, Berkman and Teixeira) topped 100 RBIs.  Three players (Rodriguez, Loretta and Teixeira) hit more than 40 doubles.  Four players (Loretta, Berkman, Young and Teixeira) scored more than 100 runs.  And three players (Rodriguez, Loretta and Young) tallied more than 200 hits.  As a result, the Cowtippers scored a league-high 964 runs.

On the mound, Clemens, Schilling and Maddux each won more than 15 games.  Clemens took home the ERA title (2.42), and Schilling shared the league lead in wins (23.)  Juan Cruz (2.54 ERA in 78 IP) was the team's most reliable arm out of the bullpen -- even after the acquisition of Rivera (2.57 ERA for Salem.)

The playoffs began with a post-season rematch against the Infidels.  Once again, Santana dominated for Ravenswood in Game One, out-pitching Schilling.  In Game Two, Clemens cruised to an easy 7-0 win to even the series.  Salem then took the series lead with a 9-2 victory in Game Three, capped by a four-run ninth inning.  After Ravenswood evened the series with a win in Game Four, Schilling and Santana then faced off for a rematch on Ravenswood's home turf in Game Five.  Schilling prevailed, allowing just two runs through eight innings in a 5-3 Salem win.  The Cowtippers then advanced to the League Championship Series for the fourth time in six seasons with a 6-3 win in Game Six.

The LCS was expected to be a tightly-contested series against the pitching-heavy Sylmar Padawans.  Instead, the Cowtippers took the series in just five games, rather effortlessly.  Schilling tossed a complete-game shutout in Game One, and then won Game Five as well.  And series MVP Lance Berkman hit an astounding .571 in the series, reaching base over 70% of the time he stepped to the plate.

For the second time in franchise history, the Cowtippers headed to the BDBL World Series, with novelist Buzz Buzzinger capturing every agonizing detail for his on-line novel, Five Games in November.  And for the second time, their World Series opponents were the Allentown Ridgebacks.  Although the 2005 Ridgebacks didn't dominate the league nearly as much as the 2002 version, they were still a formidable opponent.  During the regular season, Allentown won 102 games, outscored their opponents by 247 runs, sported a league-best 3.88 team ERA with more than 1,200 strikeouts in 1,460 innings, and scored 926 runs (3rd-best in the EL.)  However, while Salem cruised into the playoffs with little opposition, the Ridgebacks struggled every step of the way.  They were nearly eliminated by the Atlanta Fire Ants in the first round, but won four games in a row to overcome a three-games-to-none deficit.

Game One required extra innings for Salem to win, but thanks to a dramatic pinch-hit two-run home run by fan favorite John Olerud, they did just that.  Salem's bullpen fell apart in Game Two, as the normally-reliable Cruz allowed the Ridgebacks to tie the game in the eighth, and the normally-dominant Rivera then lost the game on Brian Roberts' fifth hit of the game.  Roberts had hit just .241, with a .324 on-base percentage, during the regular season, so his performance in Game Two was just another data point demonstrating the randomness of post-season play.

With the series shifting to Allentown in Game Three, annual post-season hero Roy Oswalt took center stage and out-pitched Schilling to give the Ridgebacks the series lead.  Alvarez then took the ball for Salem in Game Four, and chose the worst possible time to suffer through his worst outing of the season.  Despite that, Salem managed to tie the game at 7-7 in the 8th inning.  But once again, Cruz and Rivera blew the game and the Cowtippers found themselves one loss away from yet another post-season series defeat.

That defeat came in Game Five, with long-time Salem nemesis Randy Johnson standing on the hill for Allentown.  The pitcher who was once offered to the Cowtippers in exchange for Butch Henry and Ryan Bradley was his usual dominant self, holding the powerful Cowtippers lineup to just six hits and two walks en route to a complete game shutout.


Once again, in the blink of an eye, Salem's unstoppable drive to the BDBL championship came to a premature end.  However, that was not the only bad news for Salem.  Departing for free agency that winter were Loretta, Young, Rivera, Schilling and Clemens -- the heart and soul of the team.  Rodriguez (.276/.290/.444 with just 11 walks in 504 MLB ABs) suffered a horrendous slump in MLB '05, and was now an expensive liability at $7 million in salary.  And Berkman managed just 468 at-bats in MLB '05 thanks to an off-season injury he suffered while playing basketball.  Without divine intervention, it appeared the 2006 season would be the first rebuilding season in Salem franchise history.

With little trade bait to offer, Glander made just five minor trades in the winter of 2006, acquiring top prospect Cameron Maybin for utility outfielder Dave Roberts, dumping Rodriguez's salary at the cost of two B-grade prospects, picking up reliever Aki Otsuka, and taking fliers on a couple of failed prospects (Dewon Brazelton and Ryan Wagner.)

The Cowtippers went into the auction with $44.9 million to spend, but far too many holes to plug.  Glander's strategy was to use that money to buy players with high trade value, which he did by signing Luis Castillo, Randy Johnson, Kevin Millwood and Todd Jones.  Jones was traded before Opening Day in exchange for Magglio Ordonez.  Johnson was traded prior to Chapter Two in exchange for Erik Bedard and two others.  And Millwood and Castillo were eventually traded prior to Chapter Three in exchange for Matt Clement, Scott Baker, Jon Lester and prospect Fernando Martinez.

Ordonez enjoyed a resurgent year in MLB '06 and was eventually traded the following winter in a trade for Brandon Webb.  At 27 years old, Bedard enjoyed a breakthrough season in MLB '06, and became the Cowtippers' ace over the next two seasons, winning the OL Cy Young award in both 2007 and 2008.  And both Lester and Danks proved to be valuable, low-cost, young aces in the years to come (although neither would pitch in a Salem uniform.)

The Cowtippers ended the draft that year by filling the final two holes in their starting lineup with Chad Moeller and Nick Punto -- two sub-replacement-level hitters.  Moeller and Punto soon became the butt of many jokes throughout the league, as teams who had spent the past seven years looking up at the Cowtippers in the standings stood in line to poke fun at Salem's misfortune.  In the very first "Power Rankings" of the season, Salem ranked dead-last.  It was the ultimate insult for the franchise that had taken such pride in its winning tradition for so many years.

Salem lost the Opening Day series against the Blazers, fueling speculation that the Cowtippers were en route to a disastrous season.  However, the team's fortunes then took a turn for the better, and they managed to finish the first chapter with a respectable 13-15 record.

Glander carried through with his pre-season strategy by trading Johnson at the end of the first chapter.  Yet, at the same time, he also made moves to improve his 2006 team, acquiring Mike Piazza to fill the void behind the plate, and Rich Aurilia as an upgrade to Punto at short.  Those upgrades helped lift the team to a 15-13 record in Chapter Two, which meant the Salem Cowtippers -- the last-ranked team in the pre-season Power Rankings -- were a .500 team one-third of the way through the season.

After Millwood was traded prior to the Chapter Three deadline, the Cowtippers posted an 11-13 record in the third chapter.  One game in particular captured the essence of the entire season for Salem.  In a series against the Southern Cal Slyme, the Cowtippers lost the first two games of the series in heart-wrenching fashion, but found themselves up by a score of 11-0 in the third inning of the third game.  SoCal then scored five runs in the fifth...then four runs in the sixth...then three more in the eighth to take the lead, 12-11.  Salem blew the 11-run lead and were eventually swept in four games.

As the second half of the season approached, the Atlanta Fire Ants posted the availability of several high-impact players on the "Selling" forum, including Bobby Abreu, Miguel Tejada, Ray Durham and Coco Crisp.  With the Cowtippers still miraculously within striking distance of the OL wild card, Glander negotiated a blockbuster trade in which he acquired Tejada, Durham, Chad Cordero and Brandon Claussen.  In exchange, he parted with one of the team's top prospects, Ian Stewart, and several others.

Tejada was immediately flipped to the Marlboro Hammerheads for Derek Jeter, who finally filled the void at shortstop the team had been trying to fill since the inception of the league.  Jeter, whose contract ran through the 2009 season, hit .327/.420/.455 for the Cowtippers down the stretch -- a vast improvement over Punto's performance.

In just half a season, Glander had managed to upgrade from Punto to Jeter at shortstop, from Moeller to Piazza at catcher, and from Castillo to Durham at second base.  The starting rotation was less top-heavy, but more balanced, with Jon Lieber, Clement and Bedard pitching in place of the departed Johnson and Millwood.  Heading into the second half, Glander was confident that his team was poised to make another run at the post-season, despite all the naysayers and obstacles he faced throughout the winter.

But despite all those upgrades, the Cowtippers posted their worst performance of the season in Chapter Four, with an embarrassing 8-16 record.  Seemingly overnight, they fell a dozen games behind in the wild card race.  Now, the focus for Glander wasn't on making the post-season, but winning enough games to avoid a penalty.

With that goal in mind, Glander went back to the trading table and dumped several players who no longer had value to the 2007 team, including Maddux and Bruce Chen.  In exchange for Chen (and Chad Cordero), the Cowtippers received young hurler Ian Snell and re-acquired Austin Kearns.  For Maddux, Salem re-acquired reliever Aki Otsuka (who had been traded as part of the Johnson/Bedard deal.)  And for Durham (and prospect Max Scherzer), Glander received a young outfielder by the name of Jay Bruce.  Snell and Otsuka would later play a major role in the reconstruction of the Salem franchise, while Bruce would soon become the game's top prospect.

With those moves out of the way, Glander began to make minor upgrades to his 2006 team, with the goal of avoiding that penalty.  Brad Radke, Tom Glavine and Esteban Loaiza were all added to the starting rotation, giving the Cowtippers their strongest rotation of the season.  Yet, somehow, it still wasn't enough.  The team continued to struggle despite all of the new additions, and went 11-17 in Chapter Five.

The Cowtippers headed into their final series of the season with a record of 68-88.  They needed just two wins in their final four games against the last-place Bear Country Jamboree in order to avoid any penalty.  They secured those two wins in the first two games of the series, and then added one more for good measure.


With the painful process of rebuilding out of the way, Glander eagerly awaited the start of the 2007 season and the return to prominence of the Salem franchise.  Several of the moves made by Glander in 2006 had already begun to pay dividends.  As hoped, Bedard (17-5, 1.99 ERA in 213 IP, 204 K) had blossomed into an ace, and would carry home the OL Cy Young award at season's end.  Snell (10-9, 5.34 ERA in 180+ IP) also enjoyed a breakthrough MLB season (although his BDBL number didn't reflect it.)  Glander's second-round gamble from the year before, Escobar (17-8, 4.43 ERA in 203+ IP), also proved to be a valuable asset.  And Jeter (.331/.399/.439, 48 2B, 119.5 RC) enjoyed another phenomenal year at the plate, and would give Salem their best leadoff hitter since Loretta.

Fully recovered from his basketball-related injury, Berkman (.304/.389/.569, 43 HR, 133 RC) also returned to full health and productivity, and enjoyed his finest season since 2005.  Kenji Johjima, a second-round farm pick in 2005, had a phenomenal rookie season, hitting .331/.367/.563 with 29 home runs and 101.7 runs created.  And with the additions of Bruce and Maybin in 2006, the Salem farm club was bursting with highly-rated prospects.

Jeff Francis was originally drafted as a college pitcher by Glander before he was traded to the Manchester Irish Rebels as part of the Brad Penny trade of 2002.  He was then re-acquired by Glander in 2006 in the Radke/Quentin trade.  In the winter of 2007, Glander changed model ballparks for the second time in franchise history, opting for a park modeled after Atlanta's Turner Field.  Because the new configuration of Salem's Sam Adams Stadium now favored right-handed power hitters, the left-handed Francis was not considered to be a good fit, so he was traded to Chicago in exchange for young right-hander Jeremy Bonderman (20-7, 4.24 ERA in 229 IP, 236 K.)

During that trade discussion with Chicago GM John Gill, Glander toyed with the notion of re-acquiring ace Brandon Webb.  The price, however, was steep, as Gill insisted that Teixeira be a part of the deal.  Eventually, the two GM's agreed to a blockbuster eight-player trade, where Teixeira, Ordonez and prospect Fernando Martinez went to Chicago in exchange for Webb, Paul Konerko, Conor Jackson and Scott Rolen.  Webb (18-8, 2.76 ERA in 254+ IP) immediately became the ace of the Salem rotation, at a salary of just $2.1 million.  Jackson (.325/.394/.446 in 282 PAs) ably filled Teixeira's shoes at first base on a part-time basis.  Rolen (.293/.348/.498, 99.9 RC overall) provided both offensive and defensive production.  And Konerko was later flipped that winter in exchange for top closer B.J. Ryan (6-2, 1.96 ERA, 20 SVs in 78+ IP.)

By the time the auction began, Salem had no remaining holes to fill.  Which was a good thing for Glander, since he had little money to spend.  He observed an unprecedented spending spree in the auction from a safe distance, and then picked up a few key players in the draft.

Salem began the 2007 season with an impressive record of 19-9, but that record was matched by the New Hope Badgers, who had spent the winter fleecing the Marlboro Hammerheads for impact players David Ortiz and Mariano Rivera.  New Hope then went 20-8 in Chapter Two to take a two-game lead at the one-third mark of the season.  But on May 8th, Salem won six of their first eight games to pull into a virtual tie atop the Butler Division.  And by July 1st, that lead had grown to six games, as the Cowtippers sported the best record in the BDBL at 63-29.

Meanwhile, Glander was unusually inactive on the trading front, making only a few minor trades through the first four chapters.  At the final trading deadline of the season, he made four trades in which he added key impact bats Nick Johnson, Marlon Anderson and Juan Rivera.  Then, on July 28th, during a five-hour road trip from St. Louis to Kansas City during BDBL Weekend, Glander, Manchester GM Jim Doyle and San Antonio Broncs GM Greg Newgard orchestrated a three-team trade after several agonizing hours of negotiation.  In that deal, Glander agreed to send his franchise player, B.J. Upton, to the Irish Rebels in exchange for Doyle's franchise player, Miguel Cabrera.

Through the final two chapters, Cabrera hit .335/.410/.571, Johnson hit .283/.397/.503, Anderson hit .323/.362/.521, and Rivera hit .296/.341/.478.  The Cowtippers went an incredible 41-15 (.732) over those final two chapters to finish with a record of 110-50 -- 15 games ahead of the Badgers.  No other team in the BDBL won more than 99 games that season.  And Salem's runs differential of 245 was 67 runs greater than the next-best team.

Heading into the post-season, the Cowtippers were heavily favored to win it all.  No other team had dominated the 2008 season like Salem, nor had any team even come close to doing so.  Many were convinced that, at long last, this was Salem's year.

The OL Division Series got off to a promising start for Salem with an 11-4 win over the Ravenswood Infidels.  But Escobar then allowed three first-inning runs in Game Two en route to a 4-3 Salem loss, evoking painful memories of the 2004 OLCS.  Salem then lost another one-run game in Game Three, when Bobby Abreu hit a two-out RBI double in the eighth inning with Ryan inexplicably warming up in the bullpen.

In Game Four, Bonderman found himself with a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth.  Yet, almost as if the game were nothing but an elaborate practical joke, the Infidels then scored ten runs that inning, highlighted by Cabrera tripping over the pitcher's mound to drop what should have been the second out of the inning.  At that point, the fate of the series was all but ensured.  And sure enough, in Game Five, Ravenswood ace Roy Halladay out-pitched Salem's Cy Young-winning ace Erik Bedard to give the Infidels the upset victory.  Once again -- for the seventh time in nine post-seasons -- the Salem Cowtippers had proven to be miserable, wretched failures.


After taking a while to collect his thoughts and reconsider why it is he participates in this hobby, Glander once again picked himself up and began to formulate yet another foolproof plan to construct yet another dominant team that would ultimately disappoint him with yet another post-season defeat.

His first decision in the winter of 2008 was to offload Bonderman's salary, getting Alex Rios (.277/.326/.472, 24 HR, 89.5 RC) in exchange.  Bonderman had begun the 2007 MLB season on fire, and was making Glander's decision to trade Jeff Francis for him look like pure genius.  But he then began a second-half fade that could only be attributed to injury and/or voodoo curse, throwing his prospects for the future into doubt.

Fortunately for Glander, Bonderman appeared to be unneeded excess, as the 2008 Salem starting rotation looked stronger than ever.  Bedard (20-7, 2.84 ERA in 200 IP, 243 K) enjoyed another outstanding season, and would win his second straight OL Cy Young award, at a salary of only $2.1 million.  Escobar (18-7, 3.01 ERA in 215 IP, 192 K) would finish third in OL Cy Young voting.  Dustin McGowan (17-8, 3.46 ERA in 182+ IP), who had been acquired in trade by Glander in 2007 in exchange for reliever Santiago Casilla, would rank among the top two in ERA in the entire BDBL throughout the first five chapters before he mysteriously deteriorated in the final chapter.  And Ian Snell (16-12, 4.23 ERA in 215+ IP overall) once again enjoyed a strong MLB season despite poor BDBL numbers.

In addition to those four aces, the Cowtippers also owned Webb, who would finish fourth in the OL Cy Young award balloting.  Webb would have been the ace of the Salem rotation, but with four other "aces," it seemed like unnecessary excess to hold onto him.  And with Webb in the final year of his contract (at a bargain salary of $3.1 million), Glander chose to find out just how much his ace was worth on the open market.  Eventually, he traded Webb to the Bear Country Jamboree in exchange for promising, low-cost, young players Josh Willingham, John Danks and Matt Kemp, and catcher Jason Varitek.  Glander then flipped Varitek to the Ravenswood Infidels for promising young starter Jon Lester.

With Bedard, Escobar, McGowan, Snell, Danks and Lester all under contract through the 2009 season and beyond, and all at far below market value, the Cowtippers appeared to be in phenomenal position to compete for the next several years.  No one could have ever guessed at the time that all six pitchers would be gone from the Salem roster by the end of the next winter.

Offensively, the Salem lineup returned Berkman (.266/.372/.457, 101.3 RC), Jeter (.322/.392/.444, 110.8 RC), Cabrera (.300/.360/.585, 46 HR, 130.1 RC) and Johjima (.320/.373/.462, 82.5 RC.), and with the additions of Willingham (.280/.364/.498, 74.8 RC) and Kemp (.318/.344/.485, 37.3 RC in 233 AB), the Cowtippers lineup was expected to score some runs.

Glander's main objective heading into the auction was to bolster his lineup by signing Barry Bonds.  But those plans were obliterated when Allentown GM Tom DiStefano placed a $14 million bid on the aging slugger, outbidding Glander by $500,000.  With no other impact bat remaining on the free agent market, Glander decided to load up his starting rotation by adding 28-year-old ace Josh Beckett (13-13, 3.15 ERA in 220+ IP, 38 BB, 222 K), giving Salem an unprecedented five-ace rotation.

The cost for Beckett was extraordinarily high in more ways than one.  For starters, Beckett's salary was $17 million.  By recent standards, it was actually a bargain for a dominant ace pitcher.  But because it represented such a huge chunk of the team's total salary, Glander was left with no money to sign a closer and a third outfielder, as planned.  Desperation often leads to panic, and panic often leads to poor decisions.  Glander panicked, and the decision he made next would haunt him for months afterward.

In anticipation of the Beckett signing, Glander contacted Atlanta Fire Ants GM Gene Patterson and asked him to place a $5 million bid on Mike Cameron in exchange for John Danks and a draft pick.  Cameron hit .321/.404/.522 for the Cowtippers, but in just 224 at-bats, while Danks immediately developed into one of the top young pitchers in baseball.

Then, just before the free agent draft began, Glander contacted Jeff Paulson of the Los Altos Undertakers and agreed to trade Lester to Los Altos in exchange for closer Francisco Cordero.  While Cordero enjoyed a phenomenal season for Salem that year (6-2, 22 SVs, 1.58 ERA in 68+ IP), Lester's dominance at the MLB level, at a minimum-wage salary of $100,000 far surpassed Cordero's one-year-rental performance.

With Beckett, Bedard, Snell, Escobar and McGowan all signed through the 2009 season, Glander calculated that Lester and Danks were unnecessary luxuries.  But it would prove to be a painful miscalculation.

The Cowtippers got off to a good start to the season, going 17-11 in Chapter One.  But in a twist of Diamond-Mind-fueled hilarity, the lowly New Milford Blazers (expected to lose 100+ games in 2008) beat the Cowtippers in three out of four games on Opening Day, and then rode that wave of momentum throughout the first chapter, finishing with a division-best 19-9 record.  It wouldn't last.

Inevitably, the Cowtippers soon took possession of first place in the division and never looked back.  Still in need of a left-handed slugger after being shut out on Bonds, Glander added free agent-to-be Hideki Matsui (.256/.352/.431 for Salem) at the Chapter Two deadline, costing the Cowtippers two top prospects (Luke Hochevar and Yonder Alonso.)

Then, just minutes before the final trading deadline, Glander made a dubious blockbuster trade with the Ridgebacks, sending Snell and top prospects Jay Bruce and Rick Porcello to Allentown in exchange for franchise pitcher Felix Hernandez.  It is a trade that will either prove to be genius or disastrous, with no middle ground in between.

Throughout the 2008 season, Glander stated that his top goal for the season was to win 1,000 career games before the end of the year.  But as Salem struggled through the final chapter, going just 13-15, it became apparent that it was just another unfulfilled goal to add to Glander's list.  Glander then focused on the goal of breaking the BDBL's single-season team record for ERA.  And heading into the final series of the season, that goal appeared to be a certainty.  Yet, in that final series against the New Hope Badgers, Salem's dual closers Cordero and Manny Corpas allowed a pair of unlikely home runs to Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris, and the Cowtippers fell short of the ERA record by .001.

With the Cowtippers stumbling through the final chapter, and Glander failing to reach goal after goal, the fate of the 2008 playoffs appeared to be a given.  Yet, many in the league continued to chant the assertion that 2008 was "Salem's year."  After soaring past the Bear Country Jamboree in six relatively easy games, and dominating the Ravenswood Infidels in the OLCS in five games, a small part of Glander began to buy into the notion that perhaps the era of long suffering was finally over.

Appropriately enough, Salem's opponents in the 2008 Series were the Allentown Ridgebacks.  For the third time in seven years, the same two teams met in the final series of the season, and the previous two times resulted in the same outcome.  It would have seemed like poetic justice if Salem had finally defeated the Ridgebacks on their third try.  It would have seemed a fitting end to the league's first decade if the league's founding father had finally managed to break the curse that had shackled him for more than 20 years.  But random dice rolls have no interest in words like "poetic justice" or "fitting."

Beckett earned his $17 million salary in the first game of the series, going the distance while allowing just two runs on seven hits.  But the Salem offense didn't show up, and the team managed just one run on five hits against Tim Lincecum and a parade of five Allentown relievers.  Salem took Games Two and Three, and appeared to have gained some momentum in the series.  But the Ridgebacks then put together an ungodly seven-run rally in the fourth inning in Game Four, destroying McGowan to even the series.

The Cowtippers took a commanding 5-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning of Game Five, but it was now time for the inevitable Salem bullpen collapse.  Manny Corpas, who had consistently dominated throughout the regular season, began the collapse by allowing a walk, a double and a three-run homer to rookie Ryan Braun.  Cordero then took over in the eighth inning and completed the collapse by allowing a two-run homer to pinch hitter Ken Griffey, Jr. and a two-run double to Braun to give Allentown an 8-5 win.

The Ridgebacks then left no doubt in Game Six, winning a laugher by a score of 12-3.  Tom DiStefano walked away with his third BDBL trophy -- each one coming at the expense of Glander.  So much for poetic justice.

Through the first decade of BDBL history, the Salem Cowtippers won eight division titles and averaged 99 wins per season.  With 994 wins over ten years, the Cowtippers won 32 games more than any other franchise in the BDBL.  There are many ways for a baseball franchise to sustain this level of success for such a long period of time.  For Salem, a large part of their success emanated from the farm system.

In the annual BDBL Farm Report, the Cowtippers' farm system ranked among the top ten in the BDBL in all nine years.  Yet, incredibly, very rarely did the same farm prospects appear on the Cowtippers' roster in back-to-back years.  This is because, with very few exceptions, Glander traded away his top prospects each and every year.  And each time he did so, he was able to replace those lost assets with a new wave of prospects that rated just as highly as the ones he lost.

Prospects have tremendous trade value in the BDBL due to the league's salary cap system.  Prospects who develop into all-stars early in their careers while earning minimum wage (or close to it) are the greatest assets a team can have, because they free up salary to purchase other high-impact players.  Quite simply, the teams that squeeze the most production out of their allotted $63.5 million total salary are the ones that succeed.

But while these prospects are tremendous assets to the team that owns them, they also possess tremendous trade value for that very same reason.  And it is that trade value that Glander capitalized upon for so many years.  Rather than wait for his top prospects to develop and become high-valued assets, Glander chose instead to trade them in for immediate reward.  And that is what has sustained the Salem franchise more than anything else.

To be sure, not every prospect traded by Glander has reached the lofty heights that were expected of him in the minor leagues -- a fact that has led to much criticism of Glander over the years.  But former Salem prospects such as Grady Sizemore, Alfonso Soriano, Casey Kotchman, Alex Gordon, Delmon Young, Ian Stewart, B.J. Upton, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis, Jeff Francis, Lastings Milledge, Justin Verlander, Jeff Clement, Joel Zumaya, Jacoby Ellsbury, Max Scherzer, Edwin Jackson, Chase Headley, Carlos Quentin, Jon Lester, Jay Bruce and Cameron Maybin are currently considered to be important foundational building blocks for their respective franchises.  And unlike some GMs, Glander never hesitated to trade even the very best players on his farm club if it meant improving his current team.

In the beginning of the BDBL's evolution, stockpiling young talent through the farm was relatively easy compared to today.  Prior to 2004, farm free agents could be acquired at any point during the season.  Often, only a handful of teams participated in these mid-season free agent "drafts," and most of those teams tended to focus on "carded" players from the disk.  Few GMs paid any attention to college or high school players, and virtually no one cared about the Japanese or other foreign leagues.  Today, nearly every GM in the league is well-versed on all minor league and amateur talent, and with only one farm draft during the season, competition is now extremely fierce.

As the level of knowledge and competition for top young talent increases, it has become exponentially more difficult to replenish lost prospect talent.  Eventually, Glander may be forced to find other ways to build a winning team.  But through the league's first decade, the Salem Cowtippers were without a doubt the most successful franchise in the BDBL...during the regular season.