Radical Baseball (OOTP2007)
Remember the hullabaloo over radical realignment? Well, I started thinking about alignments, about the fact that teams are separate from each other and that with the expanded playoffs, we're not able to really discern the "best teams" in baseball.
This thread made me really start to think about this idea in earnest.
So after thinking about it and doing some googling to see if other people were thinking what I'd been thinking about,
I started a fictional universe in 1969 that's four divisions in one subleague of 24 teams total.
The top eight teams from the league (4 division champs and 4 wild cards) make the playoffs each year and play in the following rounds:
Sure, it sucks that a few more teams can't claim a mythical division title and convince their fans that they're making progress and it keeps out teams that play in weak divisions.
We expanded by four teams in 1980 and again by four in 1990. There are now 32 teams. 8 teams playing in four geographic divisions with the same playoff structure as before.
We have one level of minors, that I just added for the 2000 season.
To add a twist, in 1996, we added another major league -- but that doesn't play in MLB. This major league (Continental League) has 12 teams and for the past four years, they've just played their games (with a salary cap, less media revenue and a cheaper player salary structure) and their league champion receives the Shea Cup. (Named after NY Lawyer William Shea, who founded the original Continental League and who Shea Stadium is named after)
But in 2000, we've added a twist. At the end of the season, the winner of the Shea Cup will face off against the worst team in MLB in a best-of-five game series. The loser of the series goes to the Continental League, the winner goes to MLB. (or stays, if that's the case...)
The idea is to put an entire twist on teams that just tank because they don't want to spend money to win and it gives an incentive for you to play your best the whole year, especially with the salary cap and other constraints that Continental League teams have on them.
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL ALIGNMENT (CURRENT AS OF 1991)
PAST WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS (1969-PRESENT)
SHEA CUP CHAMPIONS (1996-PRESENT)
The main reason for things being how they are is simple. I wanted to be able to have a league that would let me go crazy with adding teams to cities that otherwise would never be in the majors, but when leagues start to get past 26 or 28 teams, it gets really crowded and it's hard to follow all of the action.
I didn't have a schedule for 30 teams that allowed for a single league structure, so I went with this one for that reason. If I get one, then there might be contraction in the future, meaning two teams will get demoted to the Continental League or maybe even three.
2000 is the first season of relegation/promotion in MLB. You might wonder why we allow players who play in the CL to count their CL stats as major league. It's simple. The only way to possibly conceive this type of setup in a real world context is to imagine the conditions it would take to do something like this in real life.
So I added more big city teams and basically you promise the losers in the bottom league that they're still technically 'major league' and that they have the chance to play with the big boys and collect on the big media rights check and all that goes with major league status from year to year.
But the rub is, the longer you hang out in the big league, is the more likely you are to collect a lot more money and a shot at the big prize by going to the playoffs, etc.
The most noticable thing about this change is that in the majority of my dynasties, there are an incessent amount of team moves and expansions. In this league, you just won't see any of that.
I mean, will teams move? Sure. Will stuff happen? Of course.
But the MLB won't get any bigger and it's much more likely to get smaller.
If you read my last dynasty, you know that I ended up with the Yankees in Boston. I grew very fond of that team, because I was pretty successful during my tenure there and just because the more I fell in love with the story, the more it appealed to me.
Well, just in random passing last night...I found an article that gave me some context for the story that I never knew. (The Yankees I originally moved never played in New York, nor have the ones in this dynasty)
The article, from a book about the Yankees and the article came from ESPN back in '02 or something.
KEY RECORDHOLDERS (Records are only for MLB play, CL play has separate records, even though CL stats towards a player's final career numbers.)
WELCOME TO THE BIG LEAGUES, KID
I'm D.C. Daly, the 20-something G.M. of the Boston Yankees. The Yanks are a once proud franchise that have fallen on hard times in recent years. They've got exactly one playoff appearance since 1976 and besides that, we've just been terrible.
A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, I was an intern with the ballclub during my 2nd year of college and I came back to work for them after college was over.
Last year, the owners approached me about becoming G.M. I actually laughed and said, "do you know what you're doing?" I'm comfortable enough with them to do that.
They said yeah. That the team hadn't been getting anywhere with the old stiffs they'd been employing and that no number of retreads was going to improve things.
Well, I waited for the off-season to come and nothing happened.
I got announced G.M. on March 2nd, just three weeks before the regular season starts.
Needless to say, the cupboard is bare and morale is low. I'm not expecting to work any magic and there won't be any miracles or rabbits pulled out of a hat. But it would not be good to take my first G.M. job and end up getting relegated out of the league in my first (and possibly last) year in the gig, so...I'm going to do my best to try to cobble some parts together with what we have.
I'm using SkyDog's OOTP settings for this universe, the DH is on and the rotations are 5-man, despite my penchant for 4-man rotations. Our active roster is 27-man, September callups are for 40-players, but the reserve roster is 43-man.
I also have low injuries on.
WHAT WE HAVE
SP Mike Love, 30
(23-7, 1.98, 290 K in 1999)
We just happen to have the reigning AL Cy Young award winner in tow. We went 87-75 last year, good enough for third place and only 1 game out of a playoff spot last year.
He's got three years left on a five-year deal he signed worth $39.3 million and I'm not letting him go anywhere.
Zach Mitchell, RF, 31 (.242, 26 HR, 65 RBI)
He won a Gold Glove in 1998 and was dealt here this past off-season from the Mets. My precedessor did that deal, not me. He's a good outfielder, though.
Juan Lopez, 1B, 37
He's got 377 career homers, but needless to say, he's on the last end of those. He hit .275 last year with 8 HRs and 65 RBI for us, his third full season with us.
Leo Gomez, CF, 33
Lefty hitter, hit .301 last year with 18 HR and 70 RBI. It was his sixth season with us.
Like a few other guys, I won't deny that I'm looking at assessing what kind of value he might have and maybe pitch him off to the Continental League for prospects.
The skinny on our roster is that we're probably an injury or three away from being completely out of the race and in a different sort of race -- the race towards to the bottom of the standings.
So I think it's much more prudent to rebuild the roster from scratch, rather than try to acquire some spare parts to get to the playoffs, only to get bounced out in the first round or something.
Fans haven't seen a winner here in some time anyway, so..it's not like their expectations should be that high.
In terms of prospects, we have a few guys who might be promising down the line, but no one whose almost ready to go:
MY FIRST DEAL
With less than a few weeks before the regular season starts, I wanted to see if I couldn't pull the trigger on something to at least get the ball rolling.
I've instituted a house rule that won't allow me to make more than one trade a month after the pre-season begins. Meaning between the end of the regular season and then I can go crazy...if I want. I won't, tho.
Anyway, before I got started I'd seen a kid who was a stud in the Continental League and had yet to make his major league debut.
He's Canadian, so he opted not to enter the draft and instead signed with Portland (CL) out of high school and MLB teams actually like this loophole because it allows them to assess talent on a stage that they'll know the kids will eventually play at and if they can't hack it after a few years in the CL, then they can save themselves money invested in a kid that doesn't make it worth their while.
Anyway, M.A. Charbonneau, (Marc-Alexandre, but this isn't hockey. That name is too damn long) played four years in Portland and has hit 152 HRs, 402 RBI and hit .293 over that span. At just 24, I figure he's just the kind of player we'd like to anchor in our outfield for a while.
Do I worry if he'll have adjustment problems in MLB? I sure do. But it's worth it to me to take the risk, rather than try to find someone like him in the draft or to sign him to a big free agent deal and THEN learn he can't play.
27-year old first baseman Alfredo Longoria is a career .301 hitter in four years of Continental League play. He's also hit 98 HRs and 394 RBI.
Along with those guys, I acquired prospect SP Mauro Gonzalez (POTENTIAL: 48/68/69) and two relievers.
I sent Portland 23-year old starting pitcher Bill Tate, who went 16-12 last year with 159 K in 35 starts. His ERA was 3.52. He might be a steep price to pay if he ends up being good someday, but...I just didn't think it was worth sitting on him with his numbers being how they are. To me, last year was him playing out of his head.
Juan Lopez, I mentioned earlier. He's 37. I don't need to asy anymore than that. He needed to go sooner or later and now is as good as ever.
C Kyle King was a backup catcher who became the starter last year. He hit .232 with 16 HR and 57 RBI for us in his first full season as the starter.
Earl Hamilton is 18 years old and he might be a decent player someday, but it wasn't going to happen for a while and I preferred not to wait. (POTENTIALS: 63/45/32/48/87)
We sent two other minor leaguers and $7 million in cash to Portland in this deal.
In total, we ended up costing ourselves about $530k with the salary swaps and stuff.
Even deal, I think. And the last one before the season starts for us, as well as the first.
Interesting premise. I'm following along.
Here are the standings as of July 1, 2000.
Remember, the four teams with the best records besides the division champions make the playoffs, along with the four division champs.
(As of July 1, 2000)
(As of July 1, 2000)
We're half through year one and while the team isn't very good, we're good enough that I don't think we'll be a candidate to play in the dreadful "MLB Challenge Series" which is the name of that one series that we want nothing to do with.
We've got some recognizable faces now that I'd like to hold on to and spend some time building an actual core for the ballclub.
That said, as the deadline quickly approaches, I'm not going to be gunshy about seeing what the market will bare for Michael Love. He's 30 years old and coming off a Cy Young season. He's won 20 games twice in the past four years and I think he'd be a commodity. I'd love to keep him, don't get me wrong, but I think he's the kind of player that could help us get other guys that can do more for us this year and down the line. So I'm going to explore that as my one deal going towards the deadline..
Ok, so I'm mulling over two deals here. Which should I take?
We have a slight weakness at chater, a weakness at second base, a weakness at third base, a weakness in right fied, a slight weakness in the rotation and a weakness in the bullpen.
Our farm system is rated #3 currently and I'll profile those kids later, but among them they are a 2nd baseman, a left fielder, two pitchers and a 1st baseman are our 'top' prospects.
I'd send Michael Love (SP), Alfredo Longoria (1B) and Diego Cruz (MR) to the Mets for:
But anyway. Here is the other deal on the table. It's with San Jose.
I'd deal Love and Longoria for:
Lee and McCoy are on the major league roster already for San Jose, so the difference on paper in the two deals is that the kids from San Jose are more "ready", but I think the potential in the New York is worth pulling the trigger on.
I might see what else I can do, even possibly packaging the two in separate deals to maximize what we can get.
July 7, 2000
Okay, so I've decided for sure that we're going to pull the trigger on these deals before the end of next week. I'd just like to "beat the rush" so to speak of teams doing deals and while standing pat might get us someone who is desperate to make a deal, I'd just rather know what I'm dealing with.
The most recent offer to the Mets goes like this:
SP Michael Love, SP Eric Williams and MR Diego Cruz to New York for RF Jacob Snow (.254/2 HR/6 RBI in 71 ABs this year), Ralph Oliver (10-5, 1.66 ERA in Double-A) and 29-year old starter Tony Cruz (8-6, 2.88 ERA with 87 K in 20 starts this year)
I like the balance on this deal, because it gives us a player that can help us now (Cruz), as well as adding that prospect component that I wanted in the first place.
I made the Mets add one more prospect, a throwaway kid named Dorian Genovelis (POT: 41/30/88) who hails from Greece of all places.
Anyway...with that, I accepted the deal today. We save about $2.4 million with that trade. Not bad, I don't think.
I talked to the Royals, who hadn't called me until earlier today, trying to see if they could get into the Longoria sweepstakes. They are 5 1/2 games out of the last Wild Card spot, I guess they think they can make a push.
The offer to me surpasses what Philadelphia was offering earlier today and no one else has called me tonight. So I agree to the deal and we say we'll announce it offically in the morning.
It would send Alfredo Longoria and catcher Domenic Guiney to Kansas City for four players:
I get a call on my cell phone. I'm just sitting at the table, eating a bowl of oatmeal and the other line sounds like no one is there. Just as I get ready to hang up, I hear...
"You still want to deal Longoria?"
"Who is this?"
"Dan Childs, Philadelphia Blue Jays."
"Oh, hey. You know, I didn't expect you to.."
"I know, I know. I didn't get back to you, because I had to think about your offer a bit. I know you're probably getting hit up bad. And you probably want him off your hands so your guys can --"
"Yeah, man. I'm actually considering keeping him. I don't know. The owners are kinda waffling..."
"What? No. You can't do that. Look I, think I have a deal that we can make work. We haven't been to the playoffs since '82. I'm getting slammed in the press because someone leaked a story that we failed to get a deal done and that the current club is gonna blow it down the stretch. I can't have that happen man. This deal will bail me out big if the fans think we're trying. I mean, the Phillies down in the CL are gaining ground on us. Which is fucking retarded if you ask me, all of this major/minor league bullshit."
"Alright man. Let's cut to the chase. Whose on the table?"
"Ok, I've got it here."
::reads me the list::
"Wow, you really want to pull the trigger, eh?
"Look man. If we do this now, I can hit the media up for a press conference at 2pm this afternoon. We need this to work out. What do you say?"
"You've got a deal. You've got a deal, my friend."
Needless to say, the guy in Kansas City wasn't happy with me. The last thing you want to do is back out on a handshake deal. But even he had to admit when I told him of what Philly was giving up, he said "well man, there's no way we're matching that."
And if he hadn't called me just before I'd gone to the office this morning, the deal never would've happened. But the sneak attack in this case worked out for us perfectly.
In the deal with Philadelphia that we actually did, we traded Alfredo Longoria, SS Christian Robertson, C Domenic Guiney and outfielder Leonardo Gomez to Philadelphia for:
With this done and out of the way, I can focus my attention properly on the amateur draft which takes place on the 15th of July.
2000 AMATEUR DRAFT SELECTIONS
CHALLENGE SERIES STANDINGS
Chicago White Sox
San Diego Padres
42-72 5 GA
45-68 8 GA
45-68 8 GA
With just over six weeks left in the regular season, we sit at 45-68. We're obviously not in the divisional or wild card race, but we're also seemingly safe from the Challenge Series race, too.
We currently sit 8 games ahead of Chicago for the worst record in MLB. So long as we don't run into any long slumps in August, we should be safe heading into September.
BRAVES SOLD, WILL MOVE TO RICHMOND IN 2001
The Jacksonville Braves have not announced a move yet, but all indications point to the team heading north to Richmond, Virginia for the 2001 season. The team plays in aging the Jacksonville Baseball Grounds since moving to the city in 1990 after Memphis officials condemed Rogers Field, the antiquated park the team had been playing in city moving from Milwaukee in 1980.
Braves officials say that the seemingly "every decade moving thing, has to get old" for fans of the organization, but they are "committed" to putting a winner on the field and that they will explore "every avenue in which to do that."
September 1, 2000
MLB TO BRAVES OWNERS: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball's owners met last week and issued a stern warning to the owners of the Jacksonville Braves. "We're tired of your antics."
Despite the fact that the team's current ownership have only had the team for the past four years, MLB has stated that it's tired of the perceived instability that the franchise has brought onto the league.
"Fans deserve to know where their team will play," said one owner who sought to remain anonymous.
"We've had enough of it and I don't doubt that my colleagues will stand for it much longer."
That led to rumors that MLB would banish the ballclub out of the majors for next season, either as a demotion to the Continental League or a solution never before employed by MLB in the modern era -- contraction.
"That would be a drastic step," said NBC baseball analyst Bob Costas. "But I can understand the reason they want to do it. Baseball's never had a team do something quite like this before. Four cities in less than thirty years? That's just unacceptable."
The Continental League is owned by major league baseball and so, it's not certain that MLB owners will allow the team to transfer to a new city and move to a different league, while promoting two teams from the Continental League seems not to be an option they want to employ.
"Consider that the Challenge Series itself a whole new concept for MLB. They don't want to muck it up or confuse people in the first year of it," said Costas.
No comments were available from the Braves organization or anyone from MLB, but with three weeks to go in the season, few expect this is the last we've heard of this situation.
Standings as of September 4, 2000
In the race for the eighth and final playoff spot, there are
a bevy of teams jockeying for position. The Mets are 1.5 games out,
while the Firebirds are 3 GB. Kansas City, Philadelphia and Toronto are all
3 1/2 games out and Detroit has a sliver of hope at 5 games back.
Meanwhile, in the challenge series standings, the White Sox (54-91) are gaining ground while the New York Bombers (57-88) have free fallen to
close within 3 games of the Sox for baseball's worst record.
The Padres are 4 games ahead with the season ending on the 21st of September.
2000 SHEA CUP CHAMPIONSHIP (BEST-OF-FIVE)
This year's Continental League championship carries a weight that no previous year ever has before. The winner of the Shea Cup will face off against the worst team in MLB to determine whether that team will be demoted or will remain in MLB another year. The Chicago White Sox (62-100) are the team that have that distinction, but they get rest while the two teams in the CL duke it out over five games.
The Philadelphia Phillies of the Eastern Division (77-59) will play the Salt Lake City Bees (76-60) in the 2000 edition of the Shea Cup. Neither team has ever won the title before.
MLB CHALLENGE SERIES 2000
CHICAGO (62-100) v.
SALT LAKE CITY (SHEA CUP CHAMPS)
The first Challenge Series
in MLB history is here.
The setup is like this. The teams will play a doubleheader in Salt Lake City.
Then they get an off-day.
Then they play a double-header in Chicago if necessary.
If a Game 5 is needed, it'll take place the next day in Salt Lake City.
TALE OF THE TAPE:
The White Sox have a payroll of $38.3 million, good for 25th in MLB. The two highest paid players on the White Sox roster make more money than the entire Bees roster combined.
Standout players include 26-year old rightfielder Arthur Berry (.248/29 HR/80 RBI), second baseman Ricardo Beltran (.271/21/100) and 23-year old closer Fred Barker (6-5, 32 sv)
The Salt Lake City Bees have a payroll of $14.3 million, good for 10th in the Continental League, which has a $30 million salary cap.
The 2000 Shea Cup Champions are led by 20-game winner, 27-year old Jesus DeVargas (20-9, 3.86 ERA, 104 K), 26-year old closer Ronald Fuller (3-2, 33 SV, 3.60 ERA). On the offensive side, the team's captain is 36-year old outfielder Robert Harris who hit 29 HR and 111 RBI and batted .312 in his first year with the Bees and in the CL. Rookie first baseman Dan Warren, hit .320 with 18 HR and 97 RBI and was also a key part of the team's success this year.
Having never actually seen a CL team and an MLB face off against each other, I wasn't sure how likely it would be that one could win three games against an MLB team after having already played a post-season series prior to that, when the other team had at least a week off to rest.
But I guess my theory that the teams at the CL level are indeed major league is correct. As far as stats are concerned, I manually scheduled the Challenge Series games and scheduled them as "playoff" games. I know that might seem weird for the teams in the majors who had the worst record to get credit for playoff stats when they were in a relegation fight for their lives, but..I didn't consider the games "exhibitions" and they're not regular season, so, I thought scheduling them as post-season games was the only way to go.
Besides, I can't think of too many current major leaguers who would WANT those sort of stats. I mean, that's a lot of pressure to be put into, because anything can go wrong in a short series. The reason it's just a best-of-five and scheduled the way it is, is because I'd prefer it not to take away from the other playoff games that are really going on.
2000 WORLD SERIES
The Philadelphia Blue Jays (91-71, 2nd place East) will face off against the Pittsburgh Pirates (104-58, 1st place East) for the 2000 World Series crown.
The Blue Jays knocked off the LA Dodgers in 4 games and then swept the Chicago Cubs to advance to the Fall Classic, while the Pirates knocked off San Jose in four games, only to face a tough challenge in a pesky Atlanta A's squad, that took them the distance (7 games) before finally going down.
This is the Blue Jays first playoff appearance since 1981 and they've never won a World Series. The Pirates meanwhile clinched their fourth Eastern Division title in five years this season, but won their only World Series title in 1974.
If nothing else, this format has yielded some of the most intriguing and interesting World Series matchups you could ever hope to see.
MLB OWNERS MEET AT WORLD SERIES, HAMMER OUT NEXT SEASON'S SETUP
PHILADELPHIA -- MLB owners met and officially voted 27-5 to contract the Jacksonville Braves from MLB. The Braves owners received a settlement payment and all of the players on the team will become free agents as of the official filing date. The Braves will be folded officially and the owners of the old club will sell their interest to a new club, an expansion CL club called the Richmond Braves, that will begin play next season.
They welcome the Salt Lake City Bees to the MLB fold after their win in the MLB Challenge Series against the Chicago White Sox and formally seated the White Sox with the Continental League teams for 2001.
"We're not going to take this sitting lightly. We're going to work and we'll be back next year," said White Sox GM Gene Lamont. The White Sox, the 1982 and 1991 World Series champs, will have a challenging task getting back. First, they'll need to navigate the Continental League's salary structure, where there is a salary cap of $32.5 million for 2001. The league has strict revenue sharing requirements and ticket prices are mandated to be no higher than at a certain level.
Needless to say, this could kill a franchise if it stays down too long.
"We're not going to let it kill our proud franchise or its proud history," said owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who was one of the owners who opposed the Challenge Series plan in the first place. "We'll be back at the big table soon."
The Hartford Red Sox of the Continental League folded. But will return in the form of an expansion club based in Riverside, California, near Los Angeles, called the Riverside Red Sox. The team will be owned by internet mogul Mark Cuban, who said he grew up a huge baseball fan and "can't wait to get his hands on the new team and this exciting new city."
Baseball's old boy network weren't necessarily thrilled at the sight of the young mogul at first, but money talks more than anything and he was allowed to purchase the right to the new ballclub.
Salt Lake City and Chicago swapped minor league affiliates (because the leagues are different), while Riverside will acquire Jacksonville's prospects.
PHILADELPHIA BLUE JAYS UNVEIL NEW JERSEYS
Before 1969, the Philadelphia Blue Jays were originally the Philadelphia Colonials. Former owner R.J. Bohland, was responsible for the swap and since that time, the team has operated under that name. But after Bohland died two years ago and left the team to his grandson to run, he's mulled over returning to the old name.
"I grew up as a Colonials fan. And I always asked my granddad what his logic was in changing the name and he said, "oh well I thought we needed a change." I love him and wish he were here, but I think that I've talked to enough people over the past two years that I'm going to go with my gut and return to the old name."
With that, he dispatched an artist to come up with a revived look for the team and they unveiled a retro look/feel for the 2001 season.
2000 WORLD SERIES - PITTSBURGH PIRATES V. PHILADELPHIA BLUE JAYS
Here are the Box Scores from Games 1-6 of the World Series won by....well, I guess you'll need to look? I have Game Logs saved too, but given that I wasn't sure if anyone would bother with these, I won't upload those too unless someone tells me they want to see.
The first four games were split by the two teams, with each game being decided by 1 run. Then one team came back and Games 5 and 6 to capture the entire series.
SEEKING AN EDGE, BIG CITY TEAMS START THEIR OWN MINOR LEAGUE
November 23, 2000
NEW YORK -- The relegation of the Chicago White Sox was a warning shot to the large market teams throughout baseball, that the new system is here and that it's not going anywhere.
"If nothing else, they're not going to get rid of it before the White Sox can come back anyway," said baseball writer Tim Richards of the Palm Springs Post.
MLB owners in six cities (New York, Los Angeles and Chicago) decided they needed an "edge" and started an eight-team minor league to supplement the Double-A level teams that they already have.
But the new minor league will be based somewhere other than the US of A. That's right, it's going to be based in the Dominican Republic.
"It's brilliant for them to have the foresight to look to develop and sign young players right there in the Caribbean," said Paul McCoy, a columnist for Baseball America.
The total cost of the league is estimated at $5 million, but that will be split by the six teams participating.
The Comets, Mets, Bombers, Dodgers, Angels and Cyclones have all opted to participate. The Cubs opted against it, though they were invited.
The league will feature players from age 16 to age 19 and is likely to be mimicked by other teams in the future.
"I think this is the wave of the future for sure. No doubt about it," said McCoy.
THE WORST TEAM TO EVER MAKE THE PLAYOFFS
Well, we're running an unorthodox schedule by some standards and so, I guess I wondered after my first season, what the worst teams that made the playoffs did, because I wanted to know if the single-league, eight team playoff alignment resulted on average to have "better" teams (e.g. better regular season record) winning the World Series more often than not.
So, I went back in history and took a look at the World Series champions record and to see what the worst team that make the playoff's record was.
And upon my research, I discovered that the 1975 Boston Yankees were the worst team to ever win a World Series.
Because I wasn't running the team then, I don't have a running box score account of HOW they managed to get into the playoffs.
But here's what it looked like:
St. Louis (87-76)
Kansas City (86-78)
Boston and St. Louis got in, Kansas City didn't. I'm guessing there was some sort of three way tie in which all three teams were 86-76 and so, they both beat Kansas City and earned the #7 and #8 spot in the playoffs, with KC being the odd team out (imagine how happy the fans in St. Louis were to not just make the playoffs but the keep the Royals out!)
So, the Yankees were technically the #7 seed, since Chicago had the best record (107-55) and played the Cardinals and dispatched them in three straight games.
Meanwhile, Boston won their five game series against the Eastern division champion Philadelphia Blue Jays, before facing off against the Cubs and beating them in six games. Needless to say, they were on a mission. After that, they played San Diego, who won 92 games and won the Western Division and it took seven games, but they went through all of that and became the first sub-90 win team to win a World Series.
Since then, only one team has won the World Series after a regular season of less than 90 wins and that's the 1996 Toronto Blue Sox.
But...to get into the playoffs on a whim, only to advance and have to play the top three seeds in the playoffs and to beat them all, you probably deserve it.
HONORING THE PAST
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of back-to-back World Series champion Boston Yankees teams of 1975 and 1976, I'm going to go through the register of former Yankees and induct some of them into a Yankee Hall of Fame, as well as retire their numbers.
I think it'll be a great opportunity to talk about where the ballclub has come from, because you can't know where you're going, if you don't know where you came from.
December 2, 2000
NEW ORLEANS -- MLB announced today a partnership with Guinness Brewing that would replace the Shea Cup with a new championship called the Guinness Cup Series.
"We're pretty excited about this new partnership," said Interim Commissioner Bud Selig, who will be stepping down from his post after these winter meetings to resume running his car dealership after doing his best not to wreck baseball despite a penchant for ruining everything in his sight.
"This new partnership will be just one of the many new exciting innovations coming to baseball in recent years."
"For the first time in baseball history, it will be possible for a team playing in cities across America to dream about being a major league city," said MLB owners in a statement.
YANKEE HALL OF FAME
The first player inducted into the Yankee Hall of Fame is #35 Jerry Martin
Along with him, inducted on the same day was #4 Tex Ryan.
Those are the only two inductees this season. I don't forsee anyone else getting their number retired in the near future, but my hope is we can create a successful legacy and have a bunch of guys from this era be able to replicate or surpass what the guys early in the team's history did.
It's always a challenge when your team is rebuilding, to figure out what's the best course of action to take in terms of approaching free agency.
We've got a bevy of kids that I'm extremely excited about coming up in the next 2-3 years and maybe sooner. But the bottom line is, this next season would be another one that we'll be woefully understaffed compared to our peers. The thing is, I don't want to leave the cupboard too threadbare or else, we'll be fighting it out for the right NOT to play in the Challenge Series.
I think the key component to any championship team is having solid veterans who get the job done on the field to complement your youth.
So rather than just run through another year and say, stay on the cheap and hope 'wait' for the kids to develop, I'm going to be a bit more active about trying to acquire talent that can help us perhaps slip into a playoff spot or at least, be part of a foundation that we'd like to have in place going into 2-3 years down the line.
Speaking of long-term guys, we decided to sign a few guys to long term deals.
M.A. Charbonneau hit .275 with 24 HR and 92 RBI in his first season in MLB after spending the first four years of his career in the Continental League with Portland.
At just 24-years old, he already resonates with fans and is someone that I think will have a long future with us.
We signed him a 4-year extension worth $47.7 million that will start after next season.
2001 SEASON PREVIEW
I don't really know how to put a spin on the worst season in franchise history. I suppose we can take solace from the fact that we didn't spend much last year and that I dealt off a lot of our talent for players that I thought could help us down the line.
Our farm system is restocked and while we did anything but go crazy this off-season, we did retool the roster extensively.
We're 12th in MLB in payroll at $55 million. Pittsburgh leads the majors at $88 million and the LA Angels are 32nd at $25.8 million.
With any new team, the guy coming in needs a year to assess things and then bring in 'his' people and I think my team and I have done a good job of that for this season. I think we're very young and that could be disconcerting, especially if we get a rash of injuries.
But we're in a much better place this year than we were last year.
We've retooled the rotation extensively. The ace of the staff is 28-year old righthander Brennan Atkins. He spent the past five years in Chicago with the White Sox, but being in the last year of his contract, I knew there might be a chance we could cherry pick him given he's making over $6 million this year.
He went 9-15 last year with a 3.49 ERA in 34 starts. I think he's just what the doctor ordered for us at the top of the rotation.
Mike Lewis is a 29-year old righthander who spent the first five years of his career in Orlando (now Tampa) of the Continental League and was traded during the off-season in a three-team deal that included the Detroit Tigers.
He began his career in the bullpen, but last year was his first full season in the rotation and he went 14-9 with a 3.54 ERA in 28 starts.
I think there used to be some concern among GMs that Continental League players would have adjustment issues in the majors. But I've seen no real evidence of that so far and I don't think Lewis will have any problems adjusting either.
The guy I'm most excited about on our pitching staff is 21-year old starter Luis Manuel Morales. I dealt two top prospects for him, along with two other guys, but the main difference for me was he's already ready and those guys still needed a few years of seasoning.
He came up with Milwaukee of the Continental League and has gone 23-13 in his first two major league seasons. Young, top-flight pitching is something of a premium in this league and so I felt it was in our best interest to pick him up when it seemed clear he might be available.
Ralph Oliver and Jeremy Thompson round out the rotation and were both here last year in bit roles as youngster. Their workload will increase this season and it'll be interesting to see how they handle it.
The other notable addition to the bullpen side of the house is our new closer. We signed former Jacksonville closer Francisco Ortiz to a 2-year deal worth $15.7 million this off-season. In eight years with Jacksonville, he went 31-36 with 151 saves. The hope is, if we do end up in close games, we won't blow them with him on the backend.
New additions on the offensive side include 26-year old catcher Vic Ross who was dealt from Columbus after Herman Woods -- who came over in the deal from Tampa -- requested to be dealt from Boston before the season started.
Ross hit .262 last year with 28 HRs and 83 RBI.
We made it a priority to shore up our defense and the free agent signing of three-time Gold Glove winning second baseman Sergio Moran should help that cause. The 28-year old journeyman played one season in LA for the Dodgers and hit .247 with 12 HR and 74 RBI. He last won the Gold Glove in 1999.
The most critical signing made by the team -- in that, it was most crticized by fans -- was the acquisiton of Tom Keough. The third baseman spent five years as a starter in Jacksonville and hit .288 last year with 11 HR and 77 RBI. He's also swift on the basepaths, registering 44 steals last year and an OBP of .371. But the Yankees signed him to a 4-year $40.5 million deal, making him the highest paid player on their team on a team with only five guys making $5 million dollars or more this year.
"We're going to stand by our decision and I think the fans will be pleased with the progress we'll make this year," said GM D.C. Daly about the team going into the 2001 season.
With the team talking about possibly replacing Yankee Field by 2005 with a new ballpark on the Boston Harbor, success is going to be critical component of whatever the team does between now and then.
Whether D.C. will be around to see it though, is anyone's guess.
REGULAR SEASON STANDINGS
May 1, 2001
WILD CARD LEADERS
A LOVE-FEST? EVALUATING A DEAL
May 22, 2001
When Yankees General Manager traded ace starting pitcher Michael Love along wtih reliever Diego Cruz and starter Eric Williams, no one is precisely sure if he knew what was doing giving up one of the most popular players on the team and won 20 games two years in three years and a Cy Young.
Well in a new year, taking a look at the guys from New York and see how they're doing for the first place Mets.
Michael Love (10-2, 1.02 ERA with 91 K)
Eric Williams (7-2, 3.01 ERA in 11 starts, 34 K 25 BB)
Diego Cruz (2-0, 0.00 ERA in 19 innings, 13 K 4 BB)
Meanwhile, the players that the Yankees recieved in the deal are plodding along in their own way.
Ralph Oliver (5-3, 3.48 ERA, 77 K)
Doran Genovelis (3-0, 1 SV in 9 games in Double-A)
Jacob Snow (.253, 5 RBI in 33 games this season.)
When asked about how well Love was doing in New York, D.C. Daly said that he expected him to do well.
"I don't wish him any ill will. Sure, he's a competitor now. But I'm more than happy with what we got out of that deal. Ralph [Oliver] has been clutch for us so far this year and [Jacob Snow] the Snowman is going to for sure be a factor for us down the line. I said when we made that deal that it was about our future. And I stand by that."
Only time will tell whether that turns out to be true or not.
July 14, 2001
MLB CHALLENGE SERIES TO BE NEUTRAL SITE
In an event being billed as "The Baseball Showcase presented by Holiday Inn" MLB officials today that the MLB Challenge Series between the last place team in MLB and the winner of the newly named Guinness Cup will be played a neutral site starting this season.
"We think this is an excellent opportunity to give fans more 'bang' for their buck," said one MLB spokesman close to the deal.
Bidding will commence and it's likely to be decided that the game will be played in a warm weather city.
"We want this to be a showcase event and we felt putting it on the road was the best way to do that."
The host city for the 2001 MLB Challenge Series will be announced late this month.
YANKEES GET LATE BUY-IN IN DDL TABLE
July 16, 2001
BOSTON -- After initially not choosing to participate in the "big market" minor league called the Dominican Development League, Yankees officials made an eleventh hour call to DDL officials to see if there was any way they could get a team in the league.
They were told "yes" as long as they could convince another team to participate.
D.C. Daly called up the Chicago Cubs Vice President for Player Development J.B. Chenault, an old college friend and told him of the dilemma.
"You know, we weren't too sure about that thing. But if you guys are gonna do it. Let...Let me make a call."
After the call, Chenault said the Cubs were in and the DDL now has 8 teams.
"We're pretty happy about it. As it turns out, we had some prospects that we wanted to see play everyday and so, the one team thing wasn't working out for us as well as we'd have liked," said D.C. about the team's interest in the new minor league.
He said it doesn't deter the team's interest in aggressively pursuing foreign markets, but it was a "step in the right direction."
LORD'S CRICKET GROUND TO HOST MLB CHALLENGE SERIES
Baseball is coming back to England in grand fashion. The MLB Challenge Series will take place in England, as the famed cricket oval - Lord's - will be the host of the 2001 MLB Challenge Series between the winner of the Guinness Cup Series of the Continental League and the bottom finisher in the MLB standings.
Here are a few Q&A's about the MLB Challenge Series @ Lord's in 2001.
Q: Are you concerned that the MLB Challenge Series will be viewed as an inferior product?
"Actually, part of the reason that London actually lobbied for this event when we were considering making this event as part of our international outreach, is because English fans understand what promotion and relegation is all about. American fans are still trying to understand how their team can get demoted out of the majors. It's a huge barrier for the casual fan and yet, it's been a huge success for MLB to do this setup going into the 2nd year. We think going overseas is going to be a huge hit."
Q: Would MLB ever consider a neutral site World Series
No. It's not something that baseball could do. We believe that home-field advantage and being able to play in front of one's fans after a long season is critical. In this particular instance, we thought it wasn't as much of a factor. Some home fans are not as likely to come out to a game to watch their team possibly lose to a 'lesser' team and the fans from the city that's just won the Guinness Cup should be able to bask in the glory of that accomplishment. We thought subjecting them to the home defeat might be a bit unfair.
Plus, the setup of two doubleheaders for the challenge series with a decisive fifth game was a big complaint among the players on both sides after last year.
Q: Will the game be in London every year? Or will it rotate?
We liked the fact that in London, that we could schedule the games that would still allow everyone to watch and the games wouldn't have to be shown as really odd times. But that being said, games have been played in Japan before and people understand that it's just how it is. Getting TV time at 3 or 4 in the morning isn't exactly that difficult either, so it kinda helps us to some degree. So could we see the game being played somewhere else down the road? I'd say yes. But we're just focused on London in 2001 right now.
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
August 8, 2001
CONTINENTAL LEAGUE STANDINGS
August 8, 2001
I did some research and rough calculations to attempt to create ballpark factors for a few cricket stadiums. The sheer size of the playing field in most makes it a pretty big challenge, but...at the same time, it's a lot of fun to be able to do it and I haven't tested it out yet for a game, but I intend to later this season in my current dynasty.
The premise is, it's not like America where you'd get to descrate the pitch by putting say 20,000 more bleachers on the actual field of play to accomodate the differences between the sheer largess of a cricket pitch and the relative narrowness of a baseball field.
Foul Ground size is extra large.
Kensington Oval (28,000)
(Barbados, West Indies)
A baseball exhibition was actually played at Lord's around World War II.
I'll be doing others later, but...it was a neat idea of something different to attempt to do.
With just over a month left in the season, I can reflect on the progress we've made in just a year. We have a foundation in place now that we didn't have last year.
Brennan Atkins (12-7, 2.87) and Ralph Oliver (11-6, 3.69 ERA) have been solid.
We signed Alvaro Vega, a hard-throwing pitcher from Puerto Rico last year and he's already paying dividends for us, going 4-4 with a 1.55 ERA and 90 K since coming up this year from the minors.
Our starters ERA is 8th in the majors at 3.76, but there real problem exists in our hitters. We're just in the middle of the pack offensively in most categories -- 19th in average (.260), 18th in homers (104) and 18th in stolen bases (96). We're striking out too much, which is probably owes to the fact that we've got a lot of young guys in the lineup.
I don't anticipate any major changes going into next year, with a month left in this season. We're 8 games out of the wild card, which is too much ground to make up for a team that hasn't gone out of its way to get 'hot' all year. But that being said, we're probably just a few set pieces away from being a playoff contender next season.
It looks like Cleveland is running away with the last place title in MLB with just 40 wins. They might get hot, in which case Washington, San Jose and Colorado would have to watch out, if they'd prefer not to be in the Challenge Series.
Salt Lake City has been pretty solid considering coming out from scratch this year to make sure that they won't be making a return trip to the Continental League after a year in the majors.
Meanwhile, Chicago is 10 games out in the CL West and it seems less and less likely that they'll even get a chance to avenge their demotion to the upstart circuit. There are rumors the team might sell its rights to a promoted team owner for the right price. So it would effectively be a 'franchise swap' where the team moving up would assume the Chicago White Sox name and market and the team staying in the CL would move elsewhere. A crazy idea, but it doesn't seem likely if the standings stay the same and Baltimore and Monterrey hold their leads. Monterrey is vying to become the first Mexican franchise to enter the MLB and Baltimore hasn't had a team since the original Orioles moved to San Jose in 1990. The irony that would ensue if the two teams met in the MLB Challenge Series would be downright hilarious and yet, interesting at the same time.
ROSS RETURNS, ENERGIZES YANKEES INTO PLAYOFF RACE
September 1, 2001
C Vic Ross got injured on June 10th and was out 7-8 weeks with a fractured jaw after being hit by a pitch. He was leading the team in home runs before he left and upon his return in early August, it was his leadership that led the team to an 18-8 record in August and now it seems that the faithful in Boston are using the 'p' word as in playoffs.
The team's only playoff appearance since 1976 when they last won the World Series came in 1995, when the team suffered a crushing defeat in the World Series against San Antonio in six games.
So it would be no small feat to return even to the playoffs.
As of September 1st, the team remains 3 games out of the final spot held by San Francisco with Texas just 2 back, St. Louis is just 3 1/2.
"We'll see how it goes. It's great for the confidence of a young team to be in the thick of a playoff race," said Yankees GM D.C. Daly. "But we're not counting our chickens. The boys are playing extremely well right now though and so, if they can manage to keep it up, I do like our chances against anybody."
HERE'S OUR SCHEDULE FOR SEPTEMBER 2001
I looked at the schedule and there are no games scheduled in NYC for 9/11/01. As a result, I've decided to keep the schedule as it is, imagining a time and a better world than the one we live in..and that such a heinous act never would have occurred.
The American Division leading Comets come to town for three, followed by six home games against Columbus (6th place, American) and Philadelphia (7th place, East) before we play a decisive set of three games against 2nd place Brooklyn who already have 93 wins and the dominant Mets who with 99 wins are within striking distance of the all-time regular season wins record, set by the Atlanta A's in 1998 at 109. Of course, Mets fans will remind you that no matter who had the best record that year, it was the 92-win Mets who ended up winning the World Series in a sweep over Pittsburgh, while the 109-win A's were upset by the Giants in 4 games in the WS Quarter-finals.
"Winning the division is a big deal for us, but winning the World Series is an even bigger one," said Mets manager Eugene Allen.
Our regular season ends with a four game set against Pittsburgh, who are currently just ahead of us in 3rd in the east.
So, our schedule is pretty tough, because the only way we make the playoffs is knocking off teams that are ahead of us at every turn.
Doable? Sure it is. Likely? Well, you have to have hope I think.
After taking 2 of 3 from Chicago over Labor Day Weekend, we still sit 3 1/2 games out of the Giants (81-64) who own the last playoff spot at the moment. St. Louis and Texas are just above us 3 games out.
If we can beat Brooklyn in that series and gain ground on Pittsburgh, it'll help us keep pace, but in theory...if the teams above us keep winning and we win, it won't do us a whole lot of good.
But one thing is certain: We don't want to lose.
We dropped 2 of 3 to Columbus, but then took 3 of 4 from Philadelphia.
We lost yesterday to Brooklyn 5-2, putting us four games out with 9 games to go. It's increasingly evident that we'll need some help if we want to get into the playoffs.
It's funny, I know in some leagues it's actually better NOT to make the playoffs and just figure that it's better to work on building your team for the next year and try again.
I'd much rather -- for the experience of it and more importantly, just the chance to see what we can do -- make the playoffs. But I can see the key weaknesses in our ballclub, especially at the bottom of the lineup. We need more power and we need it now.
The thing is, I can't say that I look at our club and see us as a definitive playoff team next year. I think we should have a good chance if things go right, but the sorts of changes we'll need to make will be slightly more decisive than I think I'll be willing to make this off-season, as we're not going to be taking on any significant increase in salary this year.
INDIANS HOLD ON TO BOTTOM SPOT, MATADORS ALREADY CLINCH
With less than two weeks in the season, the Cleveland Indians (55-98) are holding on to the last spot in the majors, making them the team to 'beat' en route to the MLB Challenge Series against the Guinness Cup winner of the Continental League.
This year's tourney will be played at Lord's, known as the birthplace of cricket in England.
In the Continental League, Monterrey has already clinched the CL West, assuring them the opportunity to face off against the Baltimore Orioles whose magic number is 2, with 12 games left in the CL regular season.
Not surprisingly those two cities are leading the league in overall attendance (Monterrey: 832,628, Baltimore: 818,000) and on the tail end are the Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies, the latter proving that even with an underachieving major league team in town, there is no guarantee that fans will show up unless you win. Both teams might be moving at the end of the year.
If you're reading this and it's at all interested, let me know. I'm curious (especially on these boards where I don't write as many sustainable dynasties) what people are interested in knowing about the league, the team or whatever.
FINAL 2001 MLB STANDINGS
Wild Card qualifiers in Green, Challenge Series qualifier in red.
2001 FINAL STANDINGS, CONTINENTAL LEAGUE
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