As the league's founding father, Salem
Mike Glander felt intense pressure to build a championship team from the
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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.)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.