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Big Daddy Baseball League

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slant.gif (102 bytes) BDBL: 10 Years in the Making

Commish

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June, 2009

Franchise History: Sylmar Padawans

Padawans in a box:

Franchise wins: 733 (19th all-time)
Playoff appearances: 2
Division titles: 2
League titles: 0
Championship titles: 0
100-win seasons: 0
100-loss seasons: 1
Franchise RC leader: Carl Crawford
Franchise wins leader: Curt Schilling

On November 23, 1998, Mark Ross became the latest member of the fledgling Big Daddy Baseball League:

November 23, 1998

BOWLING GREEN, KY - Mark Ross, an accounting professor at Western Kentucky University, joined the hot and trendy Big Daddy Baseball League earlier today. Ross is a long-time fantasy baseball fanatic, with experience in dice games, "Negamco" baseball, rotisserie and Diamond Mind Baseball.

"I enjoy competing against devoted baseball people in an environment requiring knowledge of all aspects of the game," said Ross. "My mathematics / computer / accounting background is a natural fit with the most exciting part of baseball: analyzing the numbers."

In addition to his technical expertise, Ross also has served as player, coach, umpire and director over his 41 years.

"I pride myself in being proficient not only in the evaluation of MLB talent, but also in the playing strategies involved with the game itself...The most important attribute I can provide to the league is that of just being a hard-core baseball fan. Therefore, it would be expected that the Spoilers (Ross' team name) would add to the levels of competitiveness and competence desired in the BDBL."

Ross drew the 16th pick in the inaugural draft that winter, and his franchise-building strategy soon became crystal clear.  Playing in a home ballpark modeled after the pitching-friendly Dodger Stadium, Ross spent his first three picks of the draft on pitchers Curt Schilling, John Smoltz and Orlando Hernandez.  Combined, the three aces tossed 618+ innings in 1999, with an ERA of just 3.46.  The franchise's #1 pick, Schilling, went 21-11 with a 3.13 ERA and a whopping 340 strikeouts in 293+ innings.  He finished second in the EL Cy Young award voting -- a remarkable accomplishment for the 16th pick of the draft.

With the core of his starting rotation firmly in place, Ross then selected 27-year-old catcher Jorge Posada as his first hitter.  In just 392 at-bats, Posada hit .245/.322/.462 for the Bowling Green Spoilers, with 59.4 runs created.  Soon, he would develop into one of the top catchers in baseball, and a bargain at $5 million in salary.  Following the 1999 season, however, Ross signed Posada to a contract of only one year, wasting several years of below-market performance.

Ross' final $5 million selection in the draft was 35-year-old first baseman Mark Grace, who hit .303/.396/.447 for the Spoilers, with 43 doubles, 14 home runs and 110.7 runs created.  In his five-year BDBL career, Grace walked nearly twice as often (348) as he struck out (180.)  He played three years for Bowling Green, and created nearly 300 runs (299.7) during that time.

In the $3 million rounds, Ross filled his infield and outfield with glove men like Mickey Morandini, Mike Bordick and Doug Glanville.  Veterans Garrett Anderson, John Valentin, Woody Williams and Mark Gardner were also picked to fill the remaining holes in the lineup, rotation and bullpen.

Playing in the Eck League's Higuera Division alongside the Morgan Hill Panthers, Southern Cal Slyme and Virginia Cavaliers, the Spoilers were expected to face an uphill battle in their division with a strong pitching staff, but little offense.

Bowling Green Spoilers: Dominating one-two punch at the top of their rotation. Schilling can go every fourth day, followed by Smoltz and El Duque Hernandez. Last two should combine for a full season of VERY dominating pitching. Unfortunately, not as impressed with the rest of the staff: Woody Williams and Mark Gardner. Offensively, the Spoilers decided to go for defense. Jorge Posada was their first offensive player taken, and will most likely be their cleanup hitter.

Bowling Green began their first chapter with a record of 11-14 -- two games behind the division-leading Slyme.  They followed that chapter with a 14-16 Chapter Two, and by the all-star break, it was looking as though it would be a lost season for the Spoilers, as they owned a record of just 37-43 -- ten games behind in the division, and seven behind in the wild card.

Mark Ross was a quiet and unassuming person, and his ownership style was very hands-off.  As his team continued to sink in the standings, and the teams around him began to make trades and acquire free agents, Ross simply played out the string quietly.  Finally, in Chapter Five, he made his first GM decisions of the season, and picked up three farm free agents -- each of whom had been discarded by other teams earlier in the year.  Unfortunately for the franchise, the farm players he released that chapter (Brody Percell, Shea Hillenbrand and Jay Gibbons) enjoyed more productive careers than the three he acquired (Jeff Austin, Jason LaRue and Ryan Mills.)

In Chapter Six, however, Ross made a brilliant farm free agent selection, adding a young starting pitching prospect named Eric Gagne.  Gagne would pitch 107 innings for the Spoilers over the next two seasons.  Soon thereafter he became the most dominant closer in baseball.

The Spoilers picked up steam in the second half of the season, and went 44-36 to finish with an overall record of 81-79.

 

That winter, Ross made his first two trades of his BDBL career, sending Bill Simas to the Slyme for David Wells, and Jeff Reboulet to the Madison Fighting Mimes for Buddy Groom.  With his $10 million salary, Wells was a major acquisition for the Spoilers, and proved to be a workhorse.  He finished the 2000 season with a 13-12 record, and a 3.82 ERA in 252+ innings.

Returning to the 2000 starting rotation were the "Big Three" of Schilling (14-12, 3.92 ERA in 195 IP), Smoltz (13-6, 2.89 ERA in 202+ IP overall) and Hernandez (9-16, 3.79 ERA in 230+ IP.)  With Wells joining those three, the Spoilers owned arguably the best starting rotation in the league.

But once again, the problem was the team's offense, as the Spoilers were not expected to finish among the top half of the league in runs scored.  With a lineup populated mostly by veteran glove men, the 2000 Spoilers actually finished dead last in runs scored with just 664.

That winter, the league shuffled several teams around from one division to another in an effort to create some natural rivalries.  Ross graciously agreed to be switched to the Ozzie League's Butler Division in order to accommodate young Bobby Sylvester's move into the Eck League, where he would be competing directly against his father.  As a result, the Spoilers would now be competing against the Plattsburgh Champs, Salem Cowtippers and Manchester Irish Rebels for the division crown.

Bowling Green started the season with a 12-12 record in Chapter One, and followed with a 13-11 Chapter Two.  But in Chapter Three, the team slumped to 11-15, putting them six games behind in the division race at the halfway point of the season.

In Chapter Four, Bowling Green suffered through a 9-19 chapter, and it became apparent that 2000 would be another lost year for the franchise.  Making matters worse, ace starter John Smoltz missed the entire 2000 MLB season recovering from Tommy John surgery.  Signed through the 2004 season at bargain salaries, Smoltz would instead be released at the end of the season.

But on July 26th, Stamford Zoots GM Paul Marazita came calling, and offered several players to Ross in exchange for the ailing ace.  Ross agreed, setting the stage for Marazita's second straight BDBL championship.

July 26, 2000
Marazita Does It Again
STAMFORD, CT - In a surprising move, the Bowling Green Spoilers and Stamford Zoots consummated a deadline beating deal of some magnitude earlier today. Faced with the prospect of dropping John Smoltz at the end of the season, Spoilers GM Mark Ross finally made the move that had been expected for weeks. He traded his injured workhorse for a package of players/picks. The deal has Smoltz and utility outfielder Chad Curtis going to the Zoots for the super-athletic Mike Cameron, John Halama and the Zoots 11th round pick (first $2M pick) in the upcoming free agent draft.

Zoots GM Paul Marazita, who was not immediately available to the press, issued the following brief press release:

"Needless to say, we are thrilled to pick up John for our stretch run. It is rare that you get the opportunity to trade for a player of this magnitude. While it hurts to give up a player of Mike Cameron's caliber and a consistently developing LHP (and tremendously affordable by today's standards at $100K) in John Halama, both of whom may make the Zoots regret this stop-gap move for years to come, our people saw the opportunity to make a bold move and we did so. No looking back. I applaud my financial people who gave me the wiggle room to maneuver around the salary cap and my assistants who have been working phones over the last week or so coming up with creative ways to help our team. Who knows whether it will work out, but I feel I have helped my team compete and that makes me feel very good."

Ross, who decided to take the afternoon off to play golf at an undisclosed place and time, promised further comments upon his return.

Cameron was a serviceable player for Bowling Green, providing the team with power, speed and defense at a reasonable salary.  And Halama ably filled innings, also at a reasonable salary.  But the trade was heavily criticized at the time, as many believed Ross hadn't received enough in return for an ace pitcher like Smoltz.  The fact that this ace went to a team that already owned three ace pitchers, as well as a BDBL trophy, didn't help matters.

It was Ross' first and last trade of the season.  The Spoilers played out the string with a 38-47 record in the second half of the season, and finished with a 74-86 record -- second place in the Benes Division, but 19 games behind the first-place Cowtippers.

 

In the winter of 2001, Ross made three trades, designed mostly to beef up his pitching staff and fill the void left by Smoltz.  In a seven-player deal with the Los Altos Undertakers, Ross sent Williams, infielder Ramon Martinez, Carlos Reyes and a draft pick to Los Altos in exchange for Trevor Hoffman, John Rocker, two other players and two picks.  He then flipped Hoffman to the Kansas Law Dogs for Chuck Finley and Antonio Alfonseca.  And in a deal with Salem, Ross acquired reliever Paul Shuey at the expense of infielder Chris Stynes.

Finley was a disappointment in 2001, going just 11-13 with a 5.47 ERA in 202+ innings, while Rocker (4-5, 4.22 ERA in 49 IP), Alfonseca (4-3, 5.44 ERA in 71+ IP) and Shuey (4-3, 3.14 ERA in 63 IP) helped to fill the middle innings.

The biggest change to the Bowling Green franchise happened off the field, as the Spoilers were once again moved into a new division that winter.  In an effort to create a rivalry between ex co-workers Mike Glander and Ken Kaminski, Kaminski's Hammerheads were moved into the Benes Division, switching places with the Spoilers.  Bowling Green would now be competing against the Zoots, Madison Fighting Mimes and Bear Country Jamboree in the Butler Division.

With Schilling (9-13, 3.75 ERA in 187+ IP) and Hernandez (7-11, 4.83 ERA in 173+ IP) returning, and joined by Finley and Halama (7-12, 4.32 ERA in 154+ IP), the Spoilers once again owned a formidable starting rotation.  And with Shuey, Rocker, Alfonseca and Rick Aguilera, Bowling Green owned a very deep bullpen as well.  And once again, the team's defense included a fielder with above-average range at nearly every position on the diamond.  Also for the third year in a row, the team's offense was severely lacking.  The 2001 Spoilers scored just 641 runs -- 72 fewer runs than any other team in the Ozzie League.

Because of their anemic lineup, the outlook for the 2001 season wasn't good:

Outlook: I'm afraid that until Mark Ross concedes that hitting is a necessary evil of the 21st century, the Spoilers franchise is doomed to finish in the second division.  The Spoilers have played in three different divisions for the past three years.  Unfortunately, the competition gets tougher and tougher with each move.

True to the prediction, the Spoilers got off to a slow start, going just 10-18 in Chapter One.  And by the all-star break, with his Spoilers sporting the worst record in the league at 25-55, Ross once again looked to sell whatever he could for future considerations.

At the break, he traded Finley to the Gillette Swamp Rats, getting reliever Chris Reitsma in exchange.  But that would be his final trade of the season, as once again, Ross chose to simply play out the string.  Bowling Green improved in the second half, going 36-44 to finish with a record of 61-99 -- good for last place in the division.

 

On December 7th, Ross abruptly resigned from the league.

December 7, 2001
Ross Resigns
BOWLING GREEN, KY - Mark Ross, owner of the Bowling Green Spoilers and one of the founding members of the BDBL, resigned from the league Friday night.  No explanation was given.

In three BDBL seasons, the Spoilers compiled a record of 216-260, finishing in second place in 1999 and 2000 and fourth place this past season.   Only six members of the BDBL have more seniority in the league than Ross, who joined the league on November 23, 1998 - just seventeen days after the league was formed.   His departure leaves just ten original owners, plus Bob Sylvester, who joined the league midway through the Inaugural Draft.

"I am extremely shocked and saddened by this news," said BDBL commissioner Mike Glander.  "Usually, I can feel some indication that a resignation is coming, but this one blindsided me.  I only hope that Mark is okay.  He was a terrific owner, and he is a terrific person.  He's a quiet guy who always got his games in on time, enjoyed playing head-to-head no matter where he was in the standings, and did everything he could to help out the league in any way.  We will miss him greatly.  We all wish him the best of luck."

The following day, the league welcomed 53-year-old educational administrator Mike Leuck to the league.  Leuck renamed the franchise the Arizona Heat, and for the first time in franchise history the team was not relocated to a new division that winter.  Leuck's first decision as GM was to take advantage of the Rule 18.11 out clause and release Rocker without penalty.

With less than two weeks remaining until the winter trading deadline, Leuck made his first trade, sending Hernandez, Bordick and a draft pick to the Cleveland Rocks in exchange for Javy Lopez and prospect Billy Traber.  Lopez was not only a major dud on the field (hitting just .256/.306/.387), but he carried with him a $7 million salary, and was owed $8 million for the 2003 season.

Thanks to Bowling Green's miserable 2001 season, Leuck's Arizona Heat owned the fifth overall pick of the 2002 draft.  With several star-caliber free agents available, this guaranteed that the Heat would be able to add a major impact player to the roster.  Leuck's selection, Gary Sheffield, hit .271/.377/.490 that season, and became valuable trade bait the following winter.

In Round Two, Leuck re-acquired Woody Williams (8-13, 5.01 ERA in 196 IP in '02.)  And with his sixth-round pick, he re-acquired another member of the old Bowling Green franchise in Grace (.291/.377/.445, 83.2 RC.)

During the draft, Leuck negotiated a trade with the Cowtippers, sending Cameron to Salem in exchange for top prospects Dewon Brazelton and Mike Restovich.  Unfortunately for the Arizona franchise, neither prospect panned out.

Heading into the 2002 season, the Heat were predicted to finish in last place in the division, due to the lack of depth in their starting rotation and lineup.  While the team featured two bona-fide superstars in Schilling (who was predicted to win the OL Cy Young award) and Sheffield, the roster seemingly included little else to generate excitement.

Outlook: The Heat franchise has always featured excellent pitching and little offense.  With youngsters like Dewon Brazelton, Jon Garland, Eric Gagne, Jason Jennings, Joe Kennedy, Jeff Austin and Billy Traber on the horizon, pitching will continue to be the foundation of this franchise.   Sheffield is a nice start on offense, but there are no good hitting prospects in the Arizona system other than Mike Restovich, and the lineup is dominated by old-timers like Grace, Williams, Jordan and Sanders.  Playing in the same division as the three time champs, Arizona would be best served by punting this season and building an offense for 2003 and beyond.

The season was barely a month old when Leuck decided to take the advice given in the Season Preview.  In an effort to stamp his own mark on his franchise, Leuck dealt the team's most marketable commodity.  Signed to another season, with an annual salary of $10 million, Schilling enjoyed a phenomenal year in 2002, going 20-7 overall, with a 4.02 ERA and 292 strikeouts in 262+ innings.  On March 6th, he was traded to the Allentown Ridgebacks in exchange for four players of dubious merit: Russ Ortiz, Jimmy Anderson, Ronnie Belliard and Erubiel Durazo.

"We hate to see Curt go," said Leuck, "but it was clear we need to do something to strengthen the team.  In Ortiz and Anderson, we get two young arms in the rotation. Our lack of a left handed bat on the bench is solved with the addition of Durazo."

Durazo, 28, may be more than just a "left handed bat" on the bench. The highly-touted power hitter may fill in for Mark Grace and may eventually earn a starting spot next year.

It is clear that Arizona had to do something. "At 11-17, and Curt off to a slow start (3-3, 5+ ERA, and 13 HR's) and the fact he is moving along in age, the trade may be a good one in the long run," stated Leuck. "Both Ortiz and Anderson are young. Ortiz is solid and Anderson -- a lefty -- hopefully will improve with a change of scenery. They both have the ability to give the Heat innings and should become a productive part of the rotation in the coming years. Durazo brings potential and initially, the ability to provide some power off the bench. Belliard will do nicely at second and strengthen the offense and defense."

The trade sparked an eruption of controversy and debate in the "BDBL press."  For the second time in three years, the Heat franchise had traded a dominant pitcher to a team that already included multiple aces and was already favored to win the championship.  And once again, it appeared the team had not received nearly enough compensation for such an impact player.

Making matters worse, Allentown GM Tom DiStefano also convinced Leuck to throw in Eric Gagne.  (And in a running gag that likely originated with this deal, the phrase "just to make things even" was born.)  On the league's message board, DiStefano was given the nickname "The Emperor," as it appeared as though he had used Jedi mind tricks to fool Leuck into making such an absurdly lopsided trade.

In the end, the critics were proven correct.  Ortiz was under contract at the seemingly expensive salaries of $5.5 million in 2003 and $7 million in 2004.  He was traded following the 2002 season, and posted a 5.25 ERA in 2003 (going 23-9 despite the high ERA) and 4.54 ERA in 2004, while pitching in the tough pitching environment of Kansas.  Durazo was under contract for just one more season, and managed just 194 at-bats in 2003.  And Belliard soon became an expensive burden as well, and was released at the end of the season at a penalty of $1.5 million.

Meanwhile, Schilling enjoyed a terrific season for his new team, and teamed with Randy Johnson to lead the Ridgebacks to a World Series victory over the Salem Cowtippers in 2003.  And Gagne soon became the most dominant closer in league history.

That same chapter, Leuck traded Reggie Sanders and Scott Eyre for Rusty Greer and Scott Spiezio.  But perhaps as a result of his disastrous trade with Allentown, Leuck didn't make another trade the rest of the year.  The Heat finished the 2002 season with a 77-83 record -- in last place, 27 games behind the Zoots.

 

On November 4th, roughly 11 months after Leuck declared he was "loyal and dedicated to the league in which I play," he announced his resignation, citing time constraints.  The league requested nominations to fill the vacant position, and Bear Country owner Matt Clemm recommended co-worker Tak Ikeda.

"We knew we had the right guy," said BDBL commissioner Mike Glander, "when I asked Tak whether trading a $10 million Curt Schilling was an even swap for a $5 million Russ Ortiz, and his response was 'Never!'"

Ikeda wasted no time making his mark on his new franchise, which he named the "Oakland Homicide."  In the winter of 2003, Ikeda made five trades involving 19 players.  Gone were several franchise mainstays, including Williams, Sheffield, Ortiz, Durazo and Reitsma.  In their place, the team added prospects Todd Linden and Juan Rivera, Troy Glaus (.275/.381/.523, 114.3 RC overall), Paul Lo Duca and Marcus Giles.  Ikeda then flipped Lo Duca and Giles to Allentown to re-acquire former franchise ace-turned-closer Smoltz (2.00 ERA in 72+ IP.)  He also took full advantage of the 18.13 out-clause by releasing several expensive players without penalty, including Belliard, Grace, Greer and Lopez.

In the first-ever BDBL free agent auction, Ikeda re-acquired Cameron (.216/.310/.410, 71.1 RC) at a salary of $5.5 million, and signed Rich Aurilia (.268/.322/.432, 73.4 RC) at $3M, Ivan Rodriguez (.289/.317/.454, 72.2 RC) at $10.5M and John Olerud (.341/.446/.559, 150.2 RC) at $7M as well.  For the first time in franchise history, Oakland featured a lineup filled with legitimate run-producers.

And yet, ironically enough, the team's biggest weakness heading into the 2003 season was its starting rotation.  With Schilling, Smoltz, Hernandez and Williams gone via trade, and all of the team's free agent money spent on hitting, the starting rotation included four below-average pitchers who performed at an average level in 2003, thanks in part to Oakland's pitcher-friendly home ballpark: Damian Moss (11-10, 4.14 ERA in 189 IP), Jason Jennings (13-13, 4.05 ERA in 213+ IP), Joe Kennedy (10-14, 4.40 ERA in 182 IP) and Jon Garland (10-18, 3.85 ERA in 208 IP.)  It was a complete 180-degree turnaround from the philosophy of the franchise's founder, Ross.

As the draft was wrapping up, and Opening Day was just days away, the franchise received another shocking jolt when Ikeda unexpectedly resigned before his team had played a single game.  The league scrambled to quickly find a new owner to take his place, and Los Altos Undertakers owner Jeff Paulson recommended a friend from another Diamond Mind league, John Duel.  On January 20, 2003, Duel was introduced as the newest member of the BDBL.

January 20, 2003
A Duel Identity in Oakland
BURBANK, CA - The BDBL welcomed a new owner to the fold today when 42 year old high school English teacher John Duel accepted the reins of the Oakland Homicide franchise.  Duel is a veteran of APBA, Pursue the Pennant and Stratomatic, though he is somewhat new to Diamond Mind Baseball.

"John comes with the recommendation of Jeff Paulson," said BDBL commissioner Mike Glander, "so if he doesn't stick with the league, we know who to blame.  Or is it 'whom' to blame?  Thankfully, with John in the league, we'll have the answer to that question."

"Jeff Paulson has talked about this league for the past two years," said Duel, "and it sounds quite intriguing. He mentioned the Oakland Homicide (last year's Arizona Heat) was available and I would like the opportunity to turn that team around...I am dependable about playing head-to-head, and would intend to be in it for the long haul."

The good news for Duel is that he has inherited a good, competitive team (thanks in part to a wild spending spree in the auction earlier this month by former Oakland GM Tak Ikeda.)  The bad news is that he'll soon discover just how tough it is to win a division title when you play in the same division as the three-time champion Stamford Zoots.

The Homicide opened the 2003 season with a 13-15 record in Chapter One, while the Zoots (20-8) were once again running away with the division.  Duel wasted no time putting his stamp on his new franchise.  His first trade was minor, as he sent part-time utility infielder Tony Graffanino to the Salem Cowtippers in exchange for catching prospect Miguel Olivo.  But Duel's second trade, announced on March 14th, was a blockbuster.

In that six-player trade with the Madison Fighting Mimes, Duel sent Ivan Rodriguez, Brian Jordan and prospect Ben Fritz to Madison in exchange for pitching prospects Francisco Rodriguez and Sean Burnett, and fill-in catcher Benito Santiago.

“I think it’s a win-win,” said John Duel, the new Oakland owner and GM, who admitted that winning this season might become much more difficult...When we first took over the franchise, we noticed only $9.8 million was being spent on pitching while $53.8 million was being spent on hitting,” said Duel. “In fact, we were paying I-Rod more than our entire pitching staff. Not that he wasn’t worth more than our entire pitching staff, but we knew we needed pitching help if one of our players was worth more than the entire pitching staff.”

...The opportunity came in an unexpected way. Madison had contacted Oakland regarding interest in Jordan. Burnett’s name came up, as did K-Rod’s. “We wanted both,” Duel stated emphatically, “so we looked for where we could best impact Madison’s chances to win now. We really were in no hurry to trade I-Rod, but we quickly realized he could upgrade Madison, defensively and offensively. Plus, what GM could resist putting a deal on the table that included I-Rod for K-Rod?”

Certainly not the Oakland (soon-to-be Burbank) GM. And apparently the Madison GM found the offer too good to resist as well.

“For us, only time will tell if it’s a good deal, but right now we are very satisfied with it,” Duel said. “We just hope the new Rod lives up to his nickname and produces lots of Ks.”

At the time of the trade, Francisco Rodriguez was ranked the #10 prospect in baseball by Baseball America.  He soon became one of the top young closers in the game, and received a six-year contract at the end of the 2005 season.

The Homicide continued to sink with a 12-14 Chapter Two, and by the all-star break, their deficit in the division had grown to 15 games.  Meanwhile, Duel continued to deal.  At the Chapter Three deadline, he sent Placido Polanco to the Marlboro Hammerheads in exchange for Casey Blake and pitching prospect Macay McBride.  And at the final deadline of the year, he made two controversial trades with the Stamford Zoots and Cleveland Rocks.

First, he dealt Olerud and Travis Harper to Stamford, getting prospects Brandon Phillips and Francis Beltran in exchange.  At the time, Olerud was an MVP candidate, and this trade sparked several howls of protest, as many felt that Phillips was no longer the top prospect he once was.  He did eventually become an all-star second baseman, but only after he was released at the end of the 2004 season.  Beltran never pitched an inning in the BDBL.

Next, Duel took part in a three-team trade with the Rocks and Allentown Ridgebacks, facilitating the trade of Barry Bonds to the Ridgebacks.  In that deal, Duel traded Glaus and Gary Burnham to Cleveland, and received Vince Perkins, Jeff Cirillo and Tony Alvarez in exchange.  Sacrificing Glaus was no big loss, as he was a free agent at the end of the season.  But again, the Homicide franchise received very little value in return, as Cirillo was released at the end of the season, and Perkins and Alvarez never played an inning in the BDBL.

Duel wrapped up his first season at the helm of the franchise with a 72-88 record -- good for last place in the Butler Division by 43 games.  At the conclusion of the season, he officially moved the team to California and renamed the franchise the "Sylmar Padawans."

"The Sylmar Padawans have a lot to learn about competing in the Big Daddy Baseball League," said Duel, "and the name reflects that. It would have been presumptuous on our part to call ourselves Jedi's."

 

Along with the name change came yet another division move, as the league passed a radical realignment for the 2004 season.  The Padawans would now be playing in an "all-California" Griffin Division against the Los Altos Undertakers, Bear Country Jamboree and Silicon Valley CyberSox.

"We'll take our chances with those teams,” Duel said. “We're just thrilled to be out of the Zoots' zone." Oakland was 2-14 versus Stamford, and a more respectable 12-16 versus Bear Country and Los Altos. “Plus, we have a three-year rivalry with Jeff (Paulson) from our other league,” Duel added.

As if all of those changes weren't enough, the Padawan franchise also moved into a new ballpark, modeled after the Anaheim Angels' home park.  Their new park was a much friendlier park for hitters, subtly changing the franchise's team-building philosophy.

Duel made just one minor deal that winter, sending J.T. Snow to Salem for reliever Erasmo Ramirez and utility man Scott Spiezio.  Duel then did his best to beef up the Sylmar pitching staff by adding Tim Wakefield (15-6, 2.89 ERA in 218 IP overall) for $6 million and Jeremi Gonzalez (13-6, 4.71 ERA in 166+ IP) at $5.5 million in the auction.  He also signed Aaron Boone (.268/.343/.414, 76 RC) at $5 million.

The Sylmar bullpen was very strong, with Smoltz (3.41 ERA in 50+ IP) returning as closer, and Rodriguez (2.80 ERA in 93+ IP) pitching his first full season in the BDBL.  But once again, the Padawans' rotation lacked a true "ace" at the top of the rotation, and lacked depth as well.  And the Sylmar lineup was filled with unexciting veterans like Cameron, John Vander Wal, Doug Mientkiewicz, Jacque Jones, Aurilia and Boone.

Playing in what was considered to be a watered-down division, the Padawans were picked to finish the 2004 season in second place.

Outlook: The Padawans are in a tough spot this year.  They're probably not good enough to win this division, yet there isn't a lot of desirable trade bait on this roster to make the sacrifice of a $2 million penalty worthwhile.   Sylmar's best bet is to be as competitive as possible in 2004, while keeping a sharp eye out for potential '05 bargains.

They began the season with a 12-16 record in Chapter One, and after a 10-18 showing in Chapter Two, it became clear that 2004 would be another building year for Duel and the Padawans.  Although Duel had little trade bait to offer, he worked with what he had.  At the all-star break, he traded Santiago to Cleveland for Jake Westbrook, and Jones and Cameron to Southern Cal for Raul Ibanez, Danys Baez and Craig Biggio.  Signed to only one more season at only $1.5 million in salary, Westbrook was a major bargain in 2005, and proved to be valuable trade bait.  Ibanez, Baez and Biggio also played major roles for the 2005 ballclub.

At the final trading deadline, Duel continued to add valuable pieces to the 2005 puzzle, including Lyle Overbay (.280/.373/.428 in 2005), Orber Moreno (32.2 IP, 1.10 ERA), Dustan Mohr (.288/.425/.482) and Ray King (2.82 ERA in 51 IP.)  All four were acquired in four separate trades in which Wakefield, Vander Wal, Mientkiewicz, Gonzalez, Boone and other veteran role players were sacrificed.

With most of their full-time veterans leaving through trade, the Padawans stumbled to a 25-55 record in the second half, and finished with a record of 60-100.  It was the worst record in franchise history, but a necessary step in order to compete in the future.  And heading into the 2005 season, the future looked very bright.

 

In the sixth round of the 2004 draft, Duel had taken a $3 million gamble that A.J. Burnett would return to health.  That gamble paid off in 2005, as Burnett went 12-2 with a 2.64 ERA in 126+ innings.  In the '05 draft, Duel took a similar gamble, spending $5 million to sign Roy Halladay.  Halladay went 9-7 for the '05 Padawans, with a 4.05 ERA in 140 innings, and soon would become one of the top pitchers in baseball.

Several of Duel's 2004 trades also worked out well for the '05 club.  In addition to Overbay, Moreno, Mohr and King, '04 trade acquisitions Ibanez (.315/.382/.459, 78 RC), Baez (5-3, 4.49 ERA in 70+ IP) and Biggio (.311/.354/.482, 84.3 RC) also made big contributions to the 2005 club.

In the winter of 2005, Duel made three more trades designed to add more talented youth to his roster.  In the most important of those trades, he dealt his team's top starting pitcher, Westbrook, to the Wapakoneta Hippos, along with four others.  In exchange, he received young outfielder Carl Crawford, shortstop Juan Uribe and pitcher Kris Benson.  The 22-year-old Crawford became the foundation of the Padawans franchise for several years to come, through he hit just .241/.289/.334 for the Pads in 2005.  Uribe hit .280/.321/.464 with 74.9 runs created, and Benson ably filled Westbrook's lost innings by going 17-15 on the season, with a 3.90 ERA in 217 innings.

During the first week of the season, the Padawans faced the CyberSox in their first head-to-head battle of the year.  The CyberSox had been picked to finish first in the division, but it was considered a toss-up between them and the Padawans.  In this crucial first match-up, Sylmar made a bold statement by sweeping Silicon Valley in four games.  That gave Sylmar a 10-6 record compared to Silicon Valley's 6-10 start.  But it would be only the beginning of a season-long back-and-forth, toe-to-toe battle between these two teams.

Silicon Valley went 10-2 the rest of the chapter, and finished a game ahead of Sylmar at the end of Chapter One.  In their second match-up in Chapter Two, the two teams split.  And while Sylmar finished the chapter with a 19-9 record, Silicon Valley repeated their Chapter One performance at 16-10, putting them two games behind in the division race after two chapters of play.

Prior to Chapter Two, Duel made a gutsy trade with the Corona Confederates, sending his closer, Smoltz, to Corona along with prospect Dewon Brazelton.  At the time, it was announced that Smoltz would be making the transition back to the starting rotation in MLB, and thus was considered a potential bargain in 2006 at only $6 million in salary.  But in exchange, Duel added ace free-agent-to-be Mark Buehrle to his rotation.  Buehrle immediately jumped to the head of the Sylmar rotation, and went 11-12 down the stretch, with a 3.66 ERA in 204+ innings.

In Chapter Three, Silicon Valley GM Greg Newgard responded to Duel's trade by adding a lefty ace of his own from Corona in Odalis Perez.  And despite Perez's poor performance (8-9, 4.63 ERA in 130+ IP), the CyberSox recaptured a share of first place on May 23rd.  Sylmar stumbled that chapter, losing 13 out of 16 games at one point.  The two teams then headed into the all-star break with identical 44-36 records atop the Griffin Division.

In Chapter Four, it appeared as though neither team wanted to win the division.  Sylmar was merely mediocre at 12-12, while Silicon Valley was two games below mediocre at 11-13.  At the final trading deadline, the two GMs made their final moves of the year.  Duel added backup shortstop Barry Larkin, while Newgard added role players Kevin Mench and Kent Mercker.

The CyberSox surged in Chapter Five, winning 18 of 20 games at one point, and beginning the chapter with a 14-2 record.  But Sylmar kept pace, going 12-4, to trail just one game behind in the division race.  Silicon Valley finished Chapter Five with a 20-8 record, while Sylmar went 19-9.  With only one chapter remaining, the two teams remained tied with identical records atop the division.

As if the division race weren't nerve-wracking enough, the OL wild card race was equally tight.  On September 27th, the New Hope Badgers won three of four from the Corona Confederates, moving them into a three-way tie with the CyberSox and Padawans in the wild card race.  Suddenly, a division title wasn't the only prize on the line in the CyberSox/Padawans battle, and the fight for that title took on a whole new level of urgency.

The Badgers wrapped up their season on October 12th with a record of 89-71.  At 81-63, the CyberSox needed to go 8-8 over their final 16 games to tie that record, while Sylmar needed four wins in their final eight games to tie.  Later that night, Sylmar swept the Bear Country Jamboree, giving them sole possession of first place in the Griffin Division for the first time since July 13th.

Later that week, Silicon Valley lost three of four to the Undertakers, putting their playoff hopes in jeopardy.  But they then won seven out of eight games against the Jamboree and the New Milford Blazers to edge themselves back into a tie atop the Griffin Division.

Appropriately enough, the final series of the season was a head-to-head match-up between the CyberSox and Padawans.  Both teams needed just one win to guarantee a spot in the playoffs.  Due to tie-breaking rules, however, the CyberSox needed to win three of the four games in order to win the division.  A four-game sweep by either team would mean a one-game playoff against the Badgers for the final spot in the playoffs.

On the final day of the season, October 24th, Sylmar officially clinched the division by splitting the series against Silicon Valley.  Both teams finished with identical 91-69 records.  And appropriately enough, the two teams would then have to face each other in the OL Division Series.

In Game One of the series, Halladay got the call for Sylmar against Silicon Valley ace Chris Carpenter.  With the game tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the fifth, Uribe untied it with a home run to lead off the inning.  Halladay and the Sylmar bullpen then ensured that lead would hold, and Sylmar won by a score of 3-1.

In Game Two, the CyberSox held a 6-5 lead in the ninth inning.  But with one out, the Padawans once again benefited from a heroic home run -- this time by pinch hitter Bobby Crosby.  That pushed the game into extra innings.  Silicon Valley closer Trevor Hoffman walked Brandon Inge to lead off the bottom of the 11th.  Crawford followed with a base hit, pushing the game-winning runner to second.  And two batters later, Overbay plated Inge with a base hit.  Sylmar now owned a 2-0 series lead as the series shifted to Silicon Valley.

Behind the stellar pitching of Carlos Silva (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K), the Padawans were blanked in Game Three, giving the CyberSox a 2-0 win.  Silicon Valley then tied the series in Game Four, when Carpenter limited Sylmar hitters to just five hits and no runs over seven innings.

Game Five was also pushed into extra innings.  But this time, a dramatic walk-off two-run homer by pinch hitter Lou Merloni gave Silicon Valley the win -- and a 3-2 series lead.  Just one more game, and the Padawans would be eliminated from the playoffs.

But when the series shifted back to Sylmar, so did the momentum.  Buehrle stepped up in Game Six and hurled a complete game six-hitter, allowing just one run en route to a 7-1 Sylmar laugher.

What better way to wrap up such a tightly-fought season but with a winner-take-all Game Seven showdown?

The Game Seven match-up featured Sylmar's Kris Benson against Silicon Valley's dominant ace Carpenter.  A 3-3 tie was carried into the eighth inning.  The entire season now boiled down to just two more innings.  With two runners on and two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Newgard turned to Hoffman to put out the fire.  But instead, Hoffman allowed an RBI single to Uribe, pushing across the go-ahead run.  Rodriguez and Moreno then closed out the top of the ninth, leaving the tying run stranded at second base.  The Padawans were heading to the OL Championship Series.

Sylmar's OLCS opponent that year was the Salem Cowtippers, who had led the entire BDBL in wins (108), runs scored (964) and runs differential (280.)  Salem ace Curt Schilling established Salem's dominance of the series early by pitching a complete-game three-hit shutout in Game One.  Greg Maddux followed by tossing another complete game for Salem in Game Two, allowing just one run on two hits.

Sylmar eked out a one-run win in Game Three by a score of 3-2.  But Salem's relentless offensive attack took center stage in Game Four, as they scored 17 runs on 18 hits against Sylmar starter Zach Day.  Salem then ended Sylmar's season with a 6-1 victory in Game Five, as Salem broke a 1-1 tie by scoring five runs over the final two innings against the Sylmar bullpen.

 

Duel's selections of Halladay and Burnett in the previous two drafts paid off in 2006.  Halladay went 14-7 with a sparkling 2.32 ERA in 155+ innings in '06, while Burnett went 11-14 with a 3.48 ERA in 225+ innings.  Together, the two provided Sylmar with a rare dominant one-two punch atop the rotation at a combined salary of just $9 million.  Benson (11-11, 4.60 ERA, 3.79 CERA in 188 IP) also returned to the rotation.  And in the auction, Duel added Derek Lowe (20-12, 4.54 ERA in 244 IP), giving the Padawans four quality starting pitchers.  It was a formula for success that hadn't been seen in this franchise since the days of Mark Ross.

Offensively, the team returned nearly the entire lineup from the previous season, including Crawford (.311/.340/.489, 97.6 RC), Biggio (.208/.278/.361, 52.8 RC), Overbay (.250/.358/.366, 72.7 RC) and Inge (.254/.340/.468, 72.1 RC), but they still lacked a middle-of-the-order slugger.  Duel hoped that his $5 million free agent acquisition, Emil Brown (.237/.291/.362), would fill that void, but he was instead a major disappointment.

Though they lacked on offense, Duel hoped to make up for that deficiency by beefing up the bullpen.  By 2006, Rodriguez (2.60 ERA in 69+ IP, 106 Ks) had become a fixture in the Sylmar bullpen.  In the free agent auction, Duel spent $12.5 million to beef up Rodriguez's support staff, adding Bobby Howry (1.50 ERA in 72+ IP) and the great Mariano Rivera (1.59 ERA in 68+ IP overall) as setup men.  The debate then began as to whether the Padawans now owned the greatest bullpen in BDBL history.

That winter, Duel traded top prospect Howie Kendrick, along with two others, to the Corona Confederates in exchange for Javier Valentin, Mike Cameron and Jake Woods, in an effort to beef up the bench a little.  Valentin hit .256/.341/.573 in 234 at-bats in '06, while Cameron hit .258/.317/.487 in 267 at-bats -- a dubious return on investment.

With perhaps the strongest pitching staff in the league, the Padawans were picked to win what was considered to be a weak division.

Outlook: The Padawans are in prime position to defend their division title.  Only this time, they won't be winning via tie-breaker.  The Griffin Division is by far the weakest division in the BDBL.  A team could win 70 games and still win this division.  This division is so weak, it makes Lindsay Lohan look like Lucy Lawless.  This division is so pathetic, it makes Billy Baseball look like...well, you get the idea.

The 2006 season got off to an all-too-familiar start, as both the Padawans and CyberSox owned 16-12 records after one chapter of play.  Chapter Two took an unexpected turn when the Padawans slipped to a 10-18 record, while the CyberSox continued to excel at 15-13.  Though they weren't expected to compete in 2006, Silicon Valley found themselves three games ahead in first place at the end of two chapters, while the favored Padawans trailed by five games in third place (behind the surprising Los Altos Undertakers.)

In Chapter Three, Silicon Valley continued to win at an alarming rate, going 16-8, while Sylmar treaded water at 12-12.  At the all-star break, the Padawans and Undertakers were tied in second place -- NINE games behind the shocking CyberSox.

At the break, Duel made his first big trades of the year.  First, he dealt Lowe and Casey Blake to the Undertakers in exchange for Mark Mulder and two big hitters, Cliff Floyd and Eric Chavez.  With the Padawan offense struggling (hitting just .249/.312/.406 as a team), it was hoped that Floyd and Chavez would inject instant production.  Instead, Floyd hit just .215/.317/.348 for the Padawans, while Chavez hit just .233/.272/.438.  And while Mulder (4-5, 3.54 ERA in 104+ IP) ably filled Lowe's shoes for the '06 season, the team sacrificed a valuable '07 commodity in Lowe.

Next, Duel traded two of his team's top prospects -- Brandon McCarthy and Neil Walker -- along with Overbay, getting Paul Konerko and three others from the Kansas Law Dogs.  Konerko, too, was a major disappointment, hitting just .235/.356/.435 for Sylmar.

Despite (or because of) their new acquisitions, the Padawans had another .500 chapter in Chapter Four, going 12-12.  But fortunately for them, the CyberSox crashed to earth with a disastrous 8-16 chapter.  By merely keeping pace, Sylmar had picked up four games in the standings.

On July 17th, Duel made what seemed to be a white-flag decision, trading the most dominant of his three closers, Rivera, to the Villanova Mustangs in exchange for young players Garrett Atkins, Jason Bartlett and Chris Iannetta.  Although the trade was termed a "firesale" by the BDBL press, Duel insisted that wasn't the case, and that the trade was made simply to pare payroll by shedding unnecessary excess.

Four days later, Duel's motivation for making the trade became crystal clear.  He had cleared enough salary cap space to acquire MVP-caliber slugger Derrick Lee from the Chicago Black Sox.  Lee was added along with reliever Francisco Cordero in exchange for the underperforming Konerko and two others.  At that point in the season, Lee was enjoying an MVP season in Chicago, hitting .338/.424/.725 with 38 home runs in just 397 at-bats.  Yet again, for whatever reason, he stopped hitting as soon as he put on the Padawans uniform.  Over the final two chapters, he hit just .225/.351/.415, with just 7 homers in 200 at-bats.

On August 15th, Sylmar closed out Chapter Five with a 16-12 record to pull within two games of the Griffin Division lead.  They then sat back and watched as Silicon Valley finished the chapter with a 14-14 record, pushing their lead back to three games heading into the final chapter of the season.

On September 24th, the Badgers swept the CyberSox to cut Silicon Valley's lead to just one game in the division.  And with the Badgers hanging in the OL wild card race, 2006 looked like a carbon copy of the 2005 season, as talk of a three-way tie heated up the message board.

With just two weeks remaining in the season, Silicon Valley increased their lead in the division to two games by winning three of four from the New Milford Blazers.  The Undertakers were also hanging tough in the race, and needed just two wins in their final series of the season against the worst team in the Ozzie League to force a one-game playoff to decide the Griffin Division championship.  Three wins would have made the Undertakers the outright winners of the race.  But instead, Los Altos dropped three of four to the Bear Country Jamboree, and Sylmar snuck into the playoffs with an 81-79 record -- one game ahead of the CyberSox and Undertakers.

Sylmar had played just 43-37 (.538) baseball over the second half of the season, but managed to sneak into the playoffs thanks to the collapse of the CyberSox (33-47.)  It doesn't matter how you get to the playoffs, however.  And Duel had much to look forward to, as he was ticketed to face his old friend, Corona Confederates GM Ed McGowan, in the OLDS.

In the first game of the series, Corona tagged Halladay for three runs in the third inning, and held on for a 6-2 win.  In Game Two, Corona broke a 2-2 tie when Sylmar's vaunted bullpen collapsed.  A two-run home run by Vladimir Guerrero off of Howry in the eighth inning gave Corona a 2-0 series lead.

Game Three turned into a bloodbath when Sylmar's bullpen imploded again, turning a 2-0 Corona lead into a 10-1 victory.  The Confederates then completed the sweep with a 4-3 win in Game Four, capped by a Vladimir Guerrero RBI double off of Sylmar reliever Jeff Fassero.  In total, Sylmar's vaunted bullpen duo of Rodriguez and Howry pitched just three innings the entire series.  Sylmar hit just .167 in the four games.

 

While most of the team returned for 2007, Lee lost half the '06 MLB season to injury, and Burnett also missed much of the season, and was limited to just 148+ innings in the '07 BDBL season (5.16 ERA, with 171 hits allowed.)

But the major issue facing Duel in the winter of '07 was a payroll that had spiraled out of control due to all the big-money players he had acquired during the 2006 campaign.  At the end of the '06 season, the Padawans had $67.1 million in guaranteed salary -- $3.6 million above the BDBL's per-team salary cap (before penalties and bonuses.)  And all of that salary paid for just 16 players, and did not count players in their option years who would have to either be signed to a contract, released or traded before Cutdown Day.

Desperate to unload some of his big contracts, Duel placed his team's most valuable commodity, Halladay, on the trading block.  And on November 30th, Duel announced that Halladay had been traded to the Ravenswood Infidels, along with five others, in exchange for Brandon Phillips and prospect Cesar Carillo.  For the second time in franchise history, Duel had traded a major impact player in exchange for Phillips.  Over the next two seasons, Phillips would hit .278/.316/.428 in 2007 and .229/.275/.343 in 2008.

Duel made five other deals that winter, all in an effort to shed salary and acquire cheap players to fill the holes in the roster.  Cameron, Inge, Brown and Cordero were also sent packing, as they were exchanged for Chone Figgins, Ryan Langerhans, Cesar Izturis and prospect Dexter Fowler.  In the end, Duel managed to free $21.6 million in cap room, with just 11 roster spots left to fill.

With money to spend now in the auction, Duel signed young hurler Jon Garland (13-16, 3.70 ERA in 226+ IP) at $6.5 million.  He then made a bold move, spending $13 million of his remaining $15.1 million to sign slugger Manny Ramirez.  Ramirez responded with his best season ever in his BDBL career at age 35: .333/.449/.620, 42 HR, 130 RBI, 165.3 RC.

Before the draft had ended, Duel made another gutsy trade, sending two top young prospects -- Chris Iannetta and Jonathan Sanchez -- to the Marlboro Hammerheads in exchange for journeyman starters Jon Lieber (8-10, 3.38 ERA in 181+ IP) and Tomo Ohka (1-8, 4.82 ERA in 82+ IP.)

Despite a predicted third-place finish, Duel had high hopes for the Padawans in 2007.  But those hopes were temporarily dashed when the team got out to an 11-17 start to the season.  A 12-16 showing in Chapter Two seemed to confirm the team's status as an also-ran.  And a 12-12 Chapter Three hardly inspired cause for celebration.

With his team showing no signs of life, and events in his personal life pulling him away from the game, Duel simply rode out the string the rest of the way.  He made just two trades, swapping a few low-usage role players for future considerations.  The Padawans finished the second half of the season with a 28-52 record, giving them an overall record of 63-97 -- good for last place.

 

After trading Burnett in the winter of 2008 in a six-player deal that netted veteran Tom Glavine in return, the Sylmar rotation was filled with aging, mid-rotation starters such as Garland (14-7, 3.26 ERA in 229 IP), Paul Byrd (7-17, 5.13 ERA overall), Glavine (11-13, 4.25 ERA in 220+ IP) and Woody Williams (5-19, 5.64 ERA in 185+ IP.)

Duel made another big trade that winter, sending Ramirez to the Nashville Funkadelic in exchange for Byrd and Ichiro Suzuki (.343/.375/.414, 107.8 RC.)  The trade saved Sylmar $5.4 million in salary in 2008, and another $3.9 million in 2009.  But the void created by the trade of Ramirez proved difficult to fill, and left the Padawans with a lineup that lacked that middle-of-the-order thumper.

The prediction in the 2008 Season Preview was dire:

Outlook: Last year, the Padawans performed far below their expected performance and finished with 97 losses on the season. This year, they could very easily lose another 97 games. The difference is that it won't be a surprise this time. When a team is this bad, you have to look at what they have to offer in trade, in order to improve relatively quickly. Unfortunately, Sylmar has little to offer contending teams. Rodriguez is probably the best trade bait on the roster in terms of talent, but at salaries of $6.1M and $7.6M over the next two seasons, few teams would likely be willing to take him. Crawford and Suzuki are in the same boat. It may be a while before we see the Pads back on top.

Prediction: 4th place, with triple-digit losses.

The Padawans got off to a 12-16 start, while Duel seethed over that prediction.  Determined to prove his team was far better than a 60-win team, Duel continued to steer his team to a respectable performance, going 13-15 in Chapter Two and 11-13 in the third chapter.

With off-the-field issues continuing to pull Duel in various directions, he spent most of the 2008 season struggling to remain active as manager and GM.  He made just two trades that season, sending valuable 2009 starter Ryan Dempster to the division-rival Undertakers in exchange for Jonathan Sanchez, Aquilino Lopez and Mike Moustakas, and Byrd to the Cleveland Rocks in exchange for Alex Hinshaw.

Meanwhile, the Padawans slumped to a 9-15 record in Chapter Four, but bounced back with a 16-12 Chapter Five performance before wrapping up the season with a 12-16 effort in Chapter Six.  Sylmar finished the season with a 73-87 record -- good for third place in the division, and 13 wins better than their dire prediction.

As you can see from the chart above, the Padawans franchise spent the majority of its first decade below the red line.  Under the guidance of Mark Ross, the problem with the franchise was a lack of offense.  While the team finished in the middle of the pack in runs scored in 1999 (resulting in a middle-of-the-pack record), they scored just 664 runs in 2000, and 641 runs in 2001.  This came at a time when runs in the BDBL were being scored in bunches.  To put this into perspective, the 2000-2001 Spoilers scored just 23 more runs in two seasons combined than the Kansas Law Dogs scored in just one season (2001.)

Mike Leuck and Tak Ikeda each did as much as they could to build an offense, but the team scored just 667 runs in 2003 while the once-dominant pitching staff was decimated.  When Duel took over full-time in 2004, the team scored just 662 runs -- the lowest total in the BDBL.

Even during Sylmar's two division-winning seasons, the the Pads scored just 746 runs (ranked 21 out of 24 teams) in 2005, and just 686 runs (ranked 23rd) in 2006.  Incredibly, the Padawans managed to win a division title in 2006 despite hitting .238/.306/.405 as a team!

It wasn't until 2007 that Sylmar finally reached the 800 runs scored mark as a team for the first time (with 801.)  But in 2008, they fell dropped back down to 684 runs scored (ranked 20th in the BDBL.)

Why on earth has this franchise had such difficulty scoring runs?  Certainly, ballpark factors have played a role, as neither Dodger Stadium, Anaheim, nor Sylmar's custom-designed stadium (adopted in 2008) were considered hitter's parks.  But the bigger (not to mention more obvious) reason for Sylmar's annual underperformance at the plate is that they just haven't owned very many great hitters.  In ten seasons, only ten Sylmar hitters managed to create more than 100 runs in a single season.  And only two hitters (Manny Ramirez in 2007 and Carl Crawford in 2008) created more than 120 runs.

The Sylmar franchise has traditionally not spent a lot of money on hitters.  In the franchise's first ten years, only four hitters (Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Eric Chavez) have earned salaries of $10 million or more.  And only six others have earned salaries of more than $6 million.  Typically, great hitters earn large salaries.

The exceptions, of course, are those great hitters who are developed through the farm system.  Unfortunately, the Padawans franchise has owned the fourth-worst farm system in the BDBL (according to the annual Farm Report), with an average ranking of 16.8.  The Sylmar farm has owned an average ranking between #13 and #22 in every year of the BDBL Farm report with the exception of 2003, when the team ranked #4.

The greatest hitting prospect drafted into the Sylmar farm system (according to career WARP3) is Jason LaRue, who owns a career triple-slash line of .232/.303/.404 in the BDBL.  The next best hitter to emerge from the Sylmar farm?  Jay Gibbons (.272/.332/.444 career.)

Quite simply, it is difficult to score runs when you don't pay a lot for your hitters, and the best hitters you develop on your farm are Jason LaRue and Jay Gibbons.

Despite the lack of offense throughout the franchise's history, Duel managed to steer this team to back-to-back division titles.  One major factor that can't be ignored, however, is the weakness of the Griffin Division in both 2005 and 2006.  In 2005, the Padawans went 34-14 (.708) against the Griffin Division, and just 57-55 (.509) against the rest of the league.  In 2006, Sylmar went 29-19 (.604) against the Griffin Division, and 52-60 (.464) against the rest of the league.  Sylmar outscored their opponents by just 33 runs in '05 and 26 runs in '06.

The good news is that with Lars Anderson, Elvis Andrus, Jeremy Hermida, Cameron Maybin and Mike Moustakas currently filling the Sylmar farm, there are more quality young hitters in Sylmar than perhaps any other time in franchise history.  If one or two of those hitters fulfills his potential, the Padawans franchise could finally begin posting some crooked numbers on the board.