Somewhat similar to last seasonís fast start, Chris Kleinís 2000 SL entry, the Austin T-Birds have jumped the gun to the early lead in the Molsen division. You may hear things about some theory about how this team is playing way over itís head or whatever, but regardless of how they got there, they are there now. Just like last year, the fast start seems to have put them in an early position of a playoff run. While it is much too early to be talking playoffs, the fact is that if the T-Birds only play .500 ball the rest of the way, that would give them about 90 wins, which would seem to be more than enough to make the playoffs. Now they just have to bear down and do it. I obviously donít expect to play .700 ball the rest of the way. I think my team is good, but not great. And there is way too much parity in the league to expect more than 90 wins.
Lets discuss the pre-season events. There were some minor rule changes, none of which I was strongly for or against. The only thing I felt strongly about was having my division named the Molsen division. After I spent 96SL in the Brother Jim division, I have been in the Molsen ever since. I drew the 5th spot in the draft, which I was less than thrilled about, but looking back, it was probably better than 8 or 9. Ken tried to warn me about the evils of the middle spot, but I really didnít have much choice. I was pretty pleased with my draft as I think I got a couple of guys that the people behind me wanted, and I got a few steals too. I seemed to have sacrificed some pitching for some power, but it is much more fun with a team that scores runs, and considering the length of the season (we are on pace for an October finish right now), there is a lot to be said for enjoying your team. This time last year I was bemoaning the fact that I sometimes had to bat Higginson 5th. Well he would be lucky to bat 8th on this team. My bullpen is nothing like last yearís, but weíll talk about that later.
Obviously right now I am sporting strong candidates for MVP (Chipper), and Cy Young (Benitez). Benitez seems to be very unlikely to continue his dominating closing, but still seems to be a strong bet to break the save mark. Chipper probably wonít keep up his torrid pace, but seems pretty likely to put up some big numbers for the whole season. Otherwise my team seems to be on pretty good pace. Some guys are playing a little over their heads, but just as many are playing under their heads, and the same with the pitchers, so I am pretty confident about the rest of the season.
About Benitez: I had played a few games before the season to get myself acclimated with my team, and others in the league, and I was using Benitez in a setup role, as I figured he would be the one keeping the games close. Right before we started to actually play the games, I decided he had to close, as my other scrub relievers were just blowing saves left and right, and I would just have to take my chances with the other guys as setup men, and hope I would score as many runs as the other team to keep it close enough to get to Benitez. That one tinker seems to have made a difference early on. The one other tinker I made happened before the draft. After reviewing last yearís stats, I decided I had to cut down on my strikeouts, and avoid drafting players like Lankford (190 whiffs in 99SL). I donít mind the whiffs so much, but those guys seem to never advance the runners, whereas the non-whiff guys give you a chance to move him along. So far it is working, as I am at the bottom of offensive strikeouts.
At times it seems like there is a lot of enthusiasm for the Summer League, which is awesome, but there seems to also be a lot of times that are dead periods too. I havenít played any games for about 5 weeks, and I am agonizing over the computer checking stats and stuff all the time, just waiting to play games. Some people may think this is sick, others think it is cool, but 3 people went on the website on Christmas Day (presumably to check the draft board). That is the kind of enthusiasm we in the SL are looking for.
Written in May 2000 by Chris Klein