Monday, March 25, 2013

A Retrospective on the Sky Sox Season 26

Holy crap, a World Series in the Erfffdog Memorial League.  After 10 seasons of distributing budgets, stressing over minor league bench coaches, setting lineups, freaking out over injuries, etc., I can now relax that I might never win this thing.  And it was a crazy season.  Props to Mal for nearly taking away the AL West division crown after I'd been up most of the year.  And congrats too to the other division winners, and to Josepaco, whose Cubs were clearly a dominant team.  To win in game 7 of the Series was nerve wracking, especially after losing one game by 1-0.  I was up hitting refresh beginning at 3:20 am this morning.

This league has so many great competitors (yes, even Boyd), and the strictures of the budget cap are so demanding, that I doubt I'll ever have another championship team.  So before this one gets disassembled (although much of it will be together another 5 seasons or more), I wanted to run through the team.  This is probably pathetic, and I apologize for the length, but I care about my HBD players more than most guys on the real-life Boston sports teams.

C:  For the fourth year in a row, a lefty-righty platoon of Lonny Rojas (28 years old) and Trenidad Nieves (26).  Not the best defensive combination in the world, but the offense is ridiculous: this season they combined for 51 HR and 151 RBI.  Both were IFAs; Rojas was traded to Texas for a spell, but -- in what will be a recurring theme -- I traded back for him in Season 23.

1B:  Robinzon Aguilera (27 y.o.)  A steady .275, 25 HR, 100 RBI kind of guy, and a switch hitter to boot.  May never be an All Star or win a Silver Slugger, but a dependable presence in the lineup.  Also an IFA.

2B:  Probably the star of the team, most likely to eventually get elected to the HOF, and the MVP runner-up this season, is Russell Lewis (26).  Traded Houston to get him and my SS in a blockbuster, offensive-prospects-for-pitching-prospects deal in Season 21.  He's been up since Season 22, and in five seasons has 4 All Star appearances and three Silver Slugger Awards.  He can be penciled in for roughly 100 runs, 20 HR, and 50 SB a year.  Love this guy. 

SS:  For one season only, then back to right field because he's a defensive liability, three-time All Star Andres Carrasquel (26).  The other part I acquired in the trade with Houston that brought Russell Lewis.    Putting aside a disastrous Season 24, he's usually good for 15 HR and 25 SB.

3B:  After Lewis, the most decorated player on the team is third baseman Robinzon Santana (25):  former rookie of the year, three-time All Star, two-time Home Run Derby champ, and earned a Gold Glove in LF.  Pencil this guy in for roughly 40 HR and 30 SB a season.  An IFA back in Season 19.

LF:  A rookie, Thomas Otanez (25), who had a solid first campaign.  Solid hitting ratings in everything but power, he'll probably be a perennial .300, 30 doubles, 10 HR kind of guy.  Not ideal for left field, but he's cheap and not bad for the 2-hole.  Acquired him in a trade for my closer, Ramon Nakajima, in Season 24 (then of course traded to get Nakajima back in Season 25).

CF:  A guy who sort of breaks my heart, Pepe Feliz (30).  I called him up my first season, Season 17, and he proceeded to place second in MVP voting twice in his first three years.  Despite injuries and playing six years in Petco, over 10 seasons he's averaged 34 HR, 35 SB, 97 runs, and 99 RBI a year; chances are he'll finish with better than 500 HR and SB each.  But he's a notorious second half player and, for whatever reason, has a hard time hitting for average, so he only has 2 All Star appearances to his name.  He's locked up for another five seasons and I intend for him to retire with the team.

RF:  Shannon Lyon (30), who was called up at the same time as Feliz.  Mostly played 3B over his career, and has three All Star appearances at that position.  Usually good for about 20 HR and 30 SB a season.  This will be his last year with the team, as he's a free agent and I had to break the bank to bring in pitchers in mid-season trades.  He will be missed.

DH:  Jim Jenkins (31).  More than anyone, he was screwed by six seasons of playing in Petco.  In recent years has been a dependable 40 HR, 110 RBI hitter.  And cheap too:  only $4.7 million a year including a prorated bonus.  Locked up for another three seasons.  Another Season 17 call up.

Bench:  A motley collection of cheap free agents and AAAA players: lefty bat Quinn Quinn, defensive specialist (and next year's shortstop) Galahad Shaw, Dennis Thomas, and the oldest position player on the team, 3B/RF Carlton Hodges.

SP1 and SP2:  Around the All Star break, I realized my starting pitching was not good enough to win it all, so went ahead and emptied my minor league system in trades for two front line starters.  First came Jesus Candelaria (29).  I had actually traded Rocky Spencer for him way back in Season 17, then traded him to Houston in Season 21 in the deal that brought Lewis and Carrasquel.  When Detroit (who acquired him from Houston) was lagging mid-season this year, I flipped some prospects and got him back.  I then sent most of the rest of my prospects to Tampa Bay for former Cy Young winner Jim Matthews (34).  His first few starts for me were an epic disaster, but he turned it around and ended the season 4-4 with a 3.48.  Under contract for one more year, we'll see how his ratings hold up before deciding whether to resign him.

SP3:  Rookie of the Year Alex Mesa (22).  At one point this season he was 16-2 and, while he tailed off at the end, he still finished 17-6 with a 3.68.  Now age 22, he was the 22nd overall pick in the Season 22 draft.  Many look at his splits and think "he's mediocre at best," but his peripherals suggest a successful career ahead.

SP4:  Don Evert (26).  Owner of a career 3.77 ERA over 5 seasons, his 4.72 ERA this campaign was by far his career-worst.   His struggles this season are what convinced me to spring for Candelaria and Matthews.  Was the 6th overall pick in Season 18.

SP5:  Harold Adcock (28), who was in the running for a Cy Young award with a 2.68 ERA last year, but like Evert had a generally poor showing this year:  14-9 with a 4.49.  A first round pick back in Season 16.

Closer:  Season 23's Fireman of the Year, Ramon Nakajima (28).  I acquired him in a trade in Season 19, traded him to Dover in Season 24, but naturally traded back for him in Season 25 and reinstalled him at closer.  I put him in middle relief earlier this year to get more innings, but gave him the closer job again when things started getting tight late in the season.  He's got a career 3.32 ERA and 145 saves, and might now have the closer job until he retires.

Bullpen:  I love half of my pen.  Kirt Blasingame (31) could probably close on most teams; he was acquired in a deadline prospects-for-veteran trade last year specifically to shore up the pen for the playoffs, then I forgot to add him to the playoff roster so he missed them.  Didn't make that mistake this season, and he was solid during the regular season (2.91 ERA in 86 innings) and the playoff run (3.46 ERA).  Enrique Nunez (24), a sandwich round pick in Season 22, was an All Star closer last season but lost the role to Nakajima this year.  Averages nearly a strikeout an inning and has a career 3.86 ERA.  Geraldo Rios (28) was acquired when I initially traded away Lonny Rojas.  Has a career 3.13 ERA, a dominant lefty out of the pen.

Finally there were Manuel Mercedes (29), who has been in my rotation forever but lost his role to Matthews, and rookie Kip Shields (23).  Both of these guys had absurdly anomalously poor seasons (based on past performance), of the kind possible only in HBD, and were put on "rest" during the playoffs.  Presumably (hopefully) they'll both be serviceable next year.    

Only two guys will be gone from this crew next year, Shannon Lyon and Carlton Hodges.  Maybe we'll make another run for it, but most likely, the next several years will see a steady decline as guys age and my record and payroll make it difficult to replenish with draft picks and IFAs.  Probably in five or six seasons I'll blow up what's left and start rebuilding.  In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the hell out of this game.

Cheers gentlemen, and good luck in Season 27!

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