So after 175 games, it all came down to one game, game 7 versus Greg. What did that one game mean? Certainly I had proved that I had a good team so far, would a loss here detract how my team will be viewed in a historical perspective? Well regardless of what it meant, I lost, and Greg got another Spit Cup. But if I was asked the question, this Austin team certainly was the #1 or #2 team of the SL 2000. And it may have been my best team ever. Does 96 wins in the 2000 league mean a lot more than 100 wins in the 98 league? I could maybe call Rob Neyer to ask him that question, but it is not something that I could do myself. Two different teams, two different leagues, pretty much two totally different styles. And I am not even bringing up my 99 and 95C teams. No matter how they will be viewed, this team was certainly special in their own right.Draft
I was not real excited about the format for this year's draft. I prefer a month or two to study all of the players, and prepare for the draft as a whole. This year, we sort of started drafting right away the minute the draft disk came out. By the time I got to round 10, I realized that there was still a bunch of quality players out there that I hadn't even scouted yet. Hopefully this will remedy itself in the future. I was pleased with my draft as a whole, as I knew that I was going to have an exciting offense. However, I did short myself in the pitching department, as I only had one pitcher over grade 14. I tried to compensate that by having a deep rotation, and a lot of innings in the pen, and it seemed to have worked, as I finished 3rd in the league ERA race. Anyways the month long draft had some anxious times, and many times that required patience, and I hope there are some things that we can change in the future.Lineup
Here was my lineup, rotation and bullpen for most of the season:
Bonds was only available for 100 games, and Burks 120, so Casey ws traded for and inserted into the DH, with Guerrero moving to the outfield those games. Taubensee spelled IRod for those few games he had to miss, and super-sub Grebeck filled in at 2B, SS, and 3B. Drew and GVaughn (sorry Bob) were my pinch-runners, while Easley and Segui were defensive replacements. Everyone had a role, and was used accordingly.Season
For the second straight year, we got off to a fast start, and had like an 11 game lead at the 40-game mark. At that point I figured all I needed to do was play .500 ball, and I would be assured of a playoff spot. A good plan if executed. So the next 50 games I went 20-30, and Joe cut my lead to 4. I wasn't sure at this point what the problem was (see sidebar), but I had rested some guys, including my bullpen, and was all set for the final 70 game stretch run. Well, I played like .650 ball the rest of the way, and that sealed my division title. Chipper won MVP, based on his 50+ homers, and leading the league in runs and RBI (both league records). Benitez was 3rd in Cy Young due to his 44 saves (150% more than the old record). I got 2nd in Manager of the Year, but I am not real sure that I deserved that. We set all sorts of offensive records, and this team was a real pleasure to manage. If there was one series that I felt put me over the top, it was taking 7 of 10 from Ken in games 115-125. At that point, Ken was one of the top 3 teams in the league (this was probably a turning point for him too), and to win those (including 6 straight), really put me at or near the top, which I would not relinquish. If there was one game that my team was great in, it was game 68 vs. Greg (who else). We were down 7-0 early, then down 10-6 in the 9th, but got the 5 we needed to win. I played Greg pretty much even all season long, but it seemed like my wins were all come from behind, or lucky, and when he won, i t was with ease. This would continue in the post-season.Playoffs
I was really worried about playing Steve, even though I had owned him during the regular season. I felt that his team had overachieved, which sort of made him a "wild-card", in more ways than one. Well, in game 1, I had a late comeback to win, and that really brought my confidence level up. I knew at that point that my offense should be enough to get me through. We lost game 2, and won game 3. This made game 4 pretty critical in my point of view. A loss here and it was still anyone's series. A win here, and we were in good shape. Steve had Garcia on the mound, and I had dominated him all year. Garcia faced 7 batters, retiring one, and giving up a grand slam to Casey (I guess you could call it "Freddy's Nightmare"), and that pretty much did it for the series. Sure Steve won the next game to cut it to 3-2, but I felt that I had the upper hand, and put him away in game 6 for the pennant.
Greg was next in the finals, as he beat Keith in a 7-game thriller. Game 1 was all Chipper. Game 2, I beat Pedro in the bottom of the 9th. I am sure at this point Greg was experiencing deja vu, as I had now won 6 straight series games against him. He then went out and won the next 3, featuring a shutout by Reynolds, and two extra-innings victories. So I am facing elimination, and facing Pedro, not a great scenario (although it is one that Keith got through earlier in the evening). He goes up 7-4 after 6, and the end seems to be near. I improbably come back with a 4 spot in the top of the 7th, and we shut each other out the rest of the way, to tie the series. Due to injuries and bullpen restraints, I needed Colon to go a solid 4.2 in game 7. He didn't, and that was that. He gave up 7, and then Grimsley came in and promptly gave up a homer, and Greg was up 8-2 after 4 and 1/2 innings. We mounted a small comeback in the ninth (in fact I think the tying run was on deck), but it was not enough, and Greg won again. But at this point, we were not about to get down. We knew we had a great season, and there was much to be proud of, and the future most certainly looks bright.
The Legend of the Goatee
In the 99SL, I had struggled near the end of the season, including that heartbreaking loss to Keith in Game 162, which cost me my President's Cup hat trick. That was with the goatee. Keith shows up a week later to play me in the playoffs, and the first thing he says is, "Hey, no fair shaving." Yes, in order to change my luck, I had shaved the goatee. And it worked, as I won that 7 game thriller. In 2000, I started the year with a goatee, and my team played very well. For some unknown reason, I shaved it off in May, and over the next two months went on a 20-30 skid. When I realized what was going on, I promptly grew it back, and my team went on a tear the rest of the way. Is it good luck in odd-numbered years, like Bret Saberhagen in the 80's? I don't know, but maybe ask Ken how many Spit Cups he has won since he first grew his.