Escondido Stones

Well, the season "started" with me unsure if I even wanted to participate. I was burned out. Perhaps frustrated as well, as I had gone four straight years without making the playoffs. Some people prefer the 11.5 month season, I would like a March draft, and finish the season by Labor Day. So the night of the Spit Cup Final, I had to decide, yes, or no. I succumbed, justifying this by convincing myself that I don't really spend a lot of time on the league (which may or may not be true). It is a nice hobby. There are other things that I place above it. But there are also things that should be coming ahead of it, that haven't been, necessarily. While this wasn't the "league's" problem per se, it was weighing heavily on me, and really made me think hard about whether or not I would return. And I realize I am not the only one. look at the past 5-6 years. Dave, Bob, and Steve have all taken time off. Keith and Matt that I know of, have considered taking time off. It is a challenging commitment, and looking at the last few sentences here, maybe there is something that we need to rethink league-wide in the future. But I did agree to join, and once again did not draw the ace, keeping my streak alive.

I was mostly fine with the guys I drafted. Glad I got Holliday. Rollins did not excite me, but gave me a huge steal guy that I had missed over the past few seasons, plus a potential game breaker offensively, and a solid defender. Toriiii Hunter was not great, but I felt was by far the best CF left at the time. Felt I missed out on C. Young whom I wanted to pick but didn't pull the trigger, and missed him. He turned out to do very well for Keith. Also jumped the gun on A. Gonzalez, when Kotchman was a better fit for my team (novel idea--someone who walks...). Plus the fact that B. Molina was the obvious pick for me at the time. I really goofed that up. Bottom 8-9 picks were just fillers, with B. Harris and D. Murphy being excellent fits for my team. All in all, I got a bunch of every day players, one backup infielder, one pinch runner, and a few players with very limited playing time. I felt like my starters and relievers were both below average, but I generally don't care too much about that.Even when the guys are good, they get hit, and then it just aggravates me even more.

I recall spending the whole season jumping around between 4 and 12 games over .500, which is a good thing. I jumped out to an early lead, with both Bob and Jim struggling to the free agent mark at 20-30, with me 9 games ahead. Bob quickly closed the gap, but it seemed like every time he got really close, he would play me, and would not do well. Jim also closed the gap, although it took longer, but he too was clearly in the hunt. I had a little strategy. I wasn't sure if it was going to work or not, but I finished my games with Ken and Dave early in the season, as I really can't beat those guys. Jim also had my number for most of the season, but I felt if I got far enough ahead of him, I could control losing a series or two to him later on.

The thing that turned my season around I think was firmly installing Rollins in the second spot in the lineup. I considered him to be more of a run producer, and hate putting a guy with an under .300 obp so high, but his speed became impossible to ignore, and my team seemed to play more consistently with him up there. I was also batting Cabrera more in the 4th spot, and his average seemed to drop as his power increased, which turned out to be something I could live with. Abreu was useless for the first 100 games, but picked it up after that. Gonzalez was streaky. Hunter was surprising throughout and finished with 50 doubles and 85 RBI. Not bad for a 7th hitter. Dunn was steadily below pace throughout the year, but finished with a bang, getting 10 homers in his last 25 games (unconfirmed). Utley was great when healthy, getting 84 runs in his 118 games. Holliday was a beast throughout, and finished near the top of the MVP race. My catchers existed, but that was not by my choice.

Well, we went into the final intra-divisional play with me having a 5 game lead on Bob, and a 7 game lead on Jim. We went ot Emil's on a Friday night to finish the season, and my team played well, went 9-3 to win the division and eventually the President's Cup. I probably won 8 of my last 10 series' on the season, and finished strong. That was my first P-Cup since 2000, and first playoff trip since 2003. Next came the bad news.

I drew Ken in the playoffs. Let's see. I have probably lost the season series to him 9 of the last 10 years. When we have been in the same division, I have never finished ahead of him. I have lost to him both times we have played in the post season. Not looking good. On top of that, I felt he was the team to beat. Keith had really good pitching, but I thought I had the offense to beat good pitching, and had done very well against him during the season. Greg and I had played all 15 games against each other this year in a playoff-type atmosphere, playing many close games, and many extra inning games, where we both completely used our bench and bullpen (well, his 30-0 win notwithstanding). I think he beat me for the season 8-7, but I would guess that 12 of them were 1 or 2 run games. But Wang was hurt for me, and my team was built more for a whole season than a short series, and felt I had very little chance. Well, I dominated Hamels in Game 1, then lost 2 one-run games, and 2 extra inning games, to lose the series. Included in this was Game 5 where my three best pitchers blew like a 6 run lead in the 9th to lose. I couldn't get the breaks. Check out the pitching line of my 19 reliever and Ken's 19 releiever for the series, and you will see what I mean. Disappointing, yes, but I was also just glad to be there.

Overview. While I didn't necessarily mean to do this during the draft, I drafted like 7 guys to play 150 games or more. This helped reduce my time commitment, as I didn't have to spend any time decided who was going to play against what pitcher. I also didn't scout other teams this year, which again reduced my time. I decided that the most marginal of edge that it might give me, would not be worth the time this year. If Beltran is going to homer against me, it probably doesn't matter which scrub reliever I have in there, he would homer against any of them, so what is the point? That is something I am going to continue to do in the future I think. I had what I thought would be very close to first in team HR, but finished a distant 4th. Perhaps because of my penchant for the hit and run? I had 170 steals, which was probably my most in 7 or 8 seasons (unconfirmed). Of course half of the steals were by Rollins and Damon. I was last in walks, finishing 155 behind Matt. But what does that mean? He had one more guy on base than me each game via walk. I had about 120 more extra base hits than him, or 3 every 4 games. Which would you rather have? (Not picking on you Matt). I had one of the least walking teams ever in the league (and countered that with a high amount of strikeouts), but my team was built specifically to deal with these shortcomings, and I was obviously fine with the way it turned out. Everyone drafts so well these days, it is impossible to have everything, try as you might. You have to set a course for your team, and stick with it. Jim, Bob and I had a lot of fun, spending hours and hours at Emil's, playing through snowstorms, March Madness, and annoying patrons. All the while drinking beer on Steve's tab. We had a great time, and I could not have asked for better divisional mates to help me get through the long, arduous season. I am forever in their debt. I also think the league should take note of Jim. His eagerness, enthusiasm and optimism will hopefully be contagious, and perhaps it was the shot in the arm that I (and the league??) needed. Can we continue to keep up this fervent pace for years and years? YES WE CAN!!