The 1998 SL was the best of both worlds for the Harrison Cheeky Monkeys. They set a league record by accumulating 100 wins, but then failed to win their 2nd Spit Cup in 3 years. So what do they look for this year as a franchise? Anything less than 100 wins would seemingly indicate a step down from the year before. But was that 100 wins an anomaly? Looking back to last year, the conditions were nearly perfect for my team. I dominated Greg (during the regular season) in a way that most likely will never be repeated. The other team in my division was Dan/Doug, the perennial cellar dweller. I don't think there is much debate that my team was much above the rest of the league in talent, and we also got our share of luck during the season too. Personally I am just chalking up last season to a down year for the league, and realizing that 100 wins is too lofty of an expectation for this coming season.
With that out of the way, I do have some goals for '99. First we want to get out of the box quickly, which I have only done in the 95B season. Secondly, we would like to win our division, which I have done only last year. Finally, we would like to win the Spit Cup again. Once you drink from that cup, you can't wait to taste it again. Here is my breakdown of what I expect, and what I wonder about for this coming season from each team.
Greg- Without a doubt he again must be the pre-season favorite. Greg's whole regular season depends on his draft. In my opinion he either didn't like his players last year, or he never really was comfortable with them, and that seemed to somewhat affect his play. Regardless, he won, so he did something right when it counted. This year we are counting on two things to happen to Greg: 1) The thin Denver air affects his managing ability in the playoffs, 2) He drinks way too much Coors before his games against me.
Keith- This guy drafts Rafael Belliard and Devon White every year, yet still gets 90 wins. If anyone is set to falter on draft day, look for it to be Keith, and refer to it as the "Keith Jr. Factor". Look for his team to be full of speed, defense and a strong bullpen, and look for Keith to win consistently as he seems to do annually.
Ken- He certainly has a number of things to prove this year. I'm going into the season trying to prove that last year wasn't a fluke, and he is going in trying to prove that it was. He also, more than anyone else, gets criticized about the way he drafts, and who knows what this year's draft has in store for Ken. He also has the distinction of being the winningest franchise to not have won the cup. I say look for Ken to return to the playoffs this year. His heart didn't really seem to be in it last year, but I think the focus is going to be back this year.
Joe- Entering his third season, I think this is the one where Joe may actually make some major steps. Once again, this will mostly be done on draft day, as Joe must decide what direction his team will be taking, rather than keep changing midstream. If you combine the offense of his 97 team with the defense of his 98 team, you would have a pretty good team. Plus I think he is showing as much interest and enthusiasm in the off-season as anyone.
Steve- I really have a hard time believing that anybody looks at the players as much as Steve does. The big question on everyone's mind is will Steve use a sacrifice bunt at all this year. Top to bottom he may have had the strongest pitching staff last year, and he certainly was quite powerful. I think we can look for a similar kind of team this year, as Steve seemed quite comfortable with that formula, and keep in mind that he was only a few innings away from being in the finals.
Bob- He did some unique things in the draft, was not a great manager, yet still managed to be in the playoff hunt most of the season. In fact, if he had managed a .500 record against me and Greg, he would have had 86 wins, and probably assured himself a playoff spot. More than anyone else, his players seemed to overachieve when they had the lead, and underachieve when they were losing. He also seems to be the most disinterested in the 99 season, and frankly I think this will come back to haunt him this year.
Doug & Graham- Both of these managers are to be considered rookies even though they have both been part time managers before. Both have shown some promise as field managers, but have taken their licks also. What Graham has going for him is that he will be drafting, managing and playing under Greg's tutelage this year, and certainly will help him in his rookie season. Doug took everyone by surprise last year when he won a bunch of games with a crappy team last year, although the talent level then panned out, and he to struggled. But this year he will have the team from the start, so we don't know where that will take him.
Again, we don't know where this season will go, but one thing is for certain, it won't be boring.