Friday, January 22, 2010

Buffalo Beagles hot stove

Julio Mercedes
Age: 28B/T: R/R
Born: Rainbow City, AL
Position(s): RF/CIF/2B/OF/DH
View Hardball Dynasty Profile

BUFFALO _ After several seasons of knocking on glory's door, the Buffalo Beagles appear primed to pull out all the stops to win the franchise's first playoff series and make a move deep into the postseason.

The Beagles have been one of the league's most consistent teams in recent seasons, claiming three of the last four NL East division crowns, but that meager success hasn't translated into a berth in the NLCS. The team, despite deep investments in its starting rotation, has also failed to win more than 93 games in a season.

The offense will be led again by two-time MVP Julio Mercedes and future Hall of Fame shortstop Erick Webster. And there's plenty of support from third baseman Ed Boyd, dependable slugger John Feller and the highly-touted Maverick Payton.

But there are plenty of question marks. Payton is a man without a position, although he appears set to get time in LF, RF and 3B. It's unclear if the Beagles are committed to paying arbitration-eligible CF Tony Estrada, who is demanding more than $7 million a season. Management also needs to decide on the future of arbitration-eligible 2B Lawrence Jenkins, whose production slipped last season. They're considering turning the position over to slick-fielding Dwight Price, who got an extended look last season and provided a mid-season spark. Catcher Hong-Gu Wang hit .309 and was named to his second All-Star team, but is also demanding more than $4 million in arbitration and has competition from the team's top pick in Season 8, Walter Greene. First baseman Rico Wilfredo provides good production and is asking for less than $2 million in arbitration, but could lose at-bats to Payton and Feller.

Considering the talent at the major league level, general manager psanders84 has expressed interest in the past in dealing a package of players for a talent such as Bernie Gongora in the past, but hasn't been able to complete such a deal.

Last season's pitching was solid, but not spectacular. Randy Matthews, Adam Anderson and Jeff Brock got the big money and combined for 37 wins, but Angel Furcal was the only starter named to the All-Star team, thanks to a strong first half. They'll be joined in the rotation by Nick Charleston, who was impressive in a late-season callup last season. Veteran Bobby Patel played a valuable role last year and will work out of the bullpen in what will likely be his final year with the Beagles. Manny Sierra is a dependable closer.

The Beagles will look to make a major move by trade or free-agency this off-season in hopes of contending for the title, even if it means sacrificing some young talent. Only time will tell if they can make the right moves.

Jersey League Welcomes New Owners

Season 12 has brought some change to the Jersey League as we lost a couple long-time owners. Commissioner Feamster welcomed the following new owners into the league:

msarg, Syracuse Siege (AL). Msarg takes over edwzipper's Syracuse Comics team, and in a nice touch, keeps them in Syracuse. edwzipper ran this organization well for 11 years so msarg inherits a fairly stable situation. msarg is fairly new to HD, with just 4 seasons under his belt, but his only other team--in the BIG LEAGUE world--has an impressive .560 winning percentage.

lostpike, Oklahoma City Pikes (AL). lostpike takes over deaconsoule's Tampa Bay Crowns. This is the franchise's 3rd owner and it has also been historically successful. lostpike is a newbie, but this is his second team as he's also got a team in Buckner which just finished the regular season at 73-89, not too bad for a first team.

highandmight, Colorado Pee Wee's (AL). highandmight has a challenge here, but a fun one. This organization had a long record of success with wlarson and lefty32, but was driven into the ground by the wild spending brooklynpunx, who signed gargantuan free agent contracts while ignoring the minor leagues. highandmight is a true newbie, so he'll be learning in Jersey. The situation certainly isn't all bad for him though, he's got the #2 pick and still has some quality (but expensive) vets on the ML squad.

speed796, Rochester Orphans (AL). The third owner in three years for this franchise. Despite the turnover though, this is a solid franchise which has typically finished about .500. speed796 is a longtime HBD owner, with 18 seasons completed. He's sporting a .469 winning percentage and has made the playoffs once. Right now he just has one other franchise in the Regulars world, where he's had the same squad for 13 seasons. We're hoping for similar stability here in Jersey.

fosco45, Chicago Curse (NL). fosco45 inherits a rebuild. This franchise has fallen a long way since buffaloqb led it to the Jersey League's only 3-peat in Seasons 2, 3, and 4. Since buffalo left, the franchise has now had 5 owners, so lets hope this one sticks. fosco's got a nice shot to rebuild this team into a contender, as the team has the #1 pick for the second year in a row and the contract committments are limited. fosco45 is a fairly new owner, with just 2 completed seasons, but he's got 4 teams now. He's yet to be successful, with just a .352 winning percentage.

cougdawg3, Vancouver Totems (NL). cougdawg3 inherits a successful team from nauds3000, who unexpectedly dropped out. This has been a stable franchise and nauds had it for 3 years. cougdawg3 is fairly new to HD, but he's done well, establishing a .517 winning percentage and 2 playoff appearances in just 5 seasons.

Welcome to Jersey!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Iowa Takes First World Series in Classic 7-game Battle

Jersey League Season 11 World Series MVP
Spike Chase

Iowa City--Across the State of Iowa last night, the normally staid fans of the Iowa City Independence celebrated until deep into the night (nearly 11pm!) after their hometown boys won an epic 7 game series over the NL Champion Tacoma Sasquatches. Iowans then rose early this morning for the team's parade, which started at 7am (right after cow milking). The parade passed through several quiet single-family neighborhoods as well as corn fields, barns, and the co-op before reaching the climactic "Canyon of Heroes" cluster of grain silos. Fans were quiet and polite, and in deep contrast to previous championship celebrations in Las Vegas and Helena, no unruly behavior was observed and no arrests made. The county sherrif did report that after several incidents of weight issues aboard floats and one unfortunate stage collapse, parade organizers requested that no more than 4 of the local high school's cheerleaders climb aboard any parade floats or stages at one time. Players were also requested by team officials to cease throwing Twinkies off the float, after several local women stormed a float, nearly toppling it. Local merchants reported that the new "World Champs" hats sponsored by the local seed company are flying off the shelves.

Iowa, of the tough AL West, battled to make the playoffs, starting the season a cold 3-8, enduring a miserable 8-game losing streak in May, and fought back to earn a wild card. In the first round of the playoffs the New York Mutuals took Iowa to 5 games, which forced Spike Chase to return and seal the victory as the game 5 starter. In round 2, Iowa defeated the Las Vegas Dealers, to end their quest for a 4th straight AL title, largely by holding AL MVP and Rookie of the Year Quilvio Castro to only 1 extra-base hit in 5 games. After that, it was anti-climatic when Iowa City blew out Syracuse Comics in 4 games to reach their first Fall Classic.

In the NL, Tacoma also had to battle in the NL's toughest division--the West--to earn a #5 seed. In the playoffs Tacoma first swept the Santa Fe Lobos before taking the #1 seeded Tucson Hohokams down in 5 games. In the NLCS, underdog Tacoma faced the #2 seed and defending World Series champion Helena Vigilantes and co-NL MVP Sam McCallum. Tacoma won the series in just 5 games, with the clincher behind a masterful 3-hit complete game shut out by Jorge Renteria, which sent Tacoma to the World Series for the second time in three years.

As for the World Series, it all hinged on if Spike Chase was on the mound or not and if the bullpen could hold a lead when Chase headed in for his traditional early shower. The brilliant young Chase is virtually unhittable but due to a rare muscle condition stemming from a venereal disease Chase picked up in cheap hotel in the the low minors back in season 6, he typically runs out of gas at 75 or 80 pitches. In the World Series Chase started games 1, 4, and 7 and went 3-0, allowing an incredible zero runs in 17 innings and just 8 hits, while striking out 21 and walking just 3, making him a unanimous World Series MVP. Iowa won just 1 game without Chase, a crucial 5-4 win in game 2, behind a strong pitching effort by Hipolito Padilla and a HR from Ricardo Valdes. Valdes was key all post-season, with 4 HRs and a .780 OPS. For Tacoma, the key pitching performance came from Roger Washington who made his only World Series appearance in game 6, when his 8 innings of 1-run ball forced game 7. Props also go to big 1B Earl Bradley, who put up a 1.102 playoff OPS and filled the DH spot nicely in the World Series.

Congrats carlspenard and Iowa City! Everyone else--better luck next year!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Open Franchises--Season 12

The Jersey League is now beginning recruiting for Season 12 and the following franchises are expected to be open:

Syracuse Comics (91-71, AL North): The odd disappearance of edwipper opens up one of the Jersey League's marquee franchises. edwizziper was an original owner that led the team through its first 10 1/2 years, then disappeared off the face of the WiS earth during season 11. Simmy still led the team to its 5th division crown, only to fall in the playoffs. All 5 minor league teams finished above .550. The team has $45M in salary committed for next year, none to players who will be older than 32. There are some nice prospects in the minors, pre-roll there is one projected with an 80+ OVR and 11 in the 70s. No rebuilding necessary here folks, take this team and inherit an instant contender.

Rochester Desparados (45-117, NL East): The league will be thrilled to be rid of bosh4mvp, who couldn't be bothered to sign enough players for his rosters. But, bosh leaves an absolutely fantastic rebuilding opportunity, and the NUMBER ONE DRAFT PICK. The holdover contracts aren't too bad, with $39M committed to 8 players, so the new owner can pour money into scouting, coaching, and training. The minors already have multiple very high-end prospects including the season 11 #1 overall pick Carlos Urbina who projects to the mid-90s. The franchise had a history of success--won the division title in 6 of the first 7 seasons--and now its ripe for a turnaround, and any HD owner worth his salt can return Rochester to its former glory.

Cleveland Indians (83-79, AL North): Sad to see ajb_101 go, who ran a solid teamm but he leaves a nice franchise for the next guy. The team just missed the playoffs due to an unexplainable final week swoon and was led by 3 all-stars including #1 starter Albert Vargas, 2B Miguel Diaz, and SS Bo Branson. Salary committments for next year are reasonable, 9 players (including Branson) for $44M. There are a couple high-end prospects in the minors, including an 80+ projected SS drafted #17 overall this year, and the #12 pick from year 10, a slugging catcher (78 OVR projection) who played at HiA this year. The organization is deep in the lower minors and reached the playoffs at Rookie, LowA, and HiA, and took the RL World Series title.

Tampa Bay Crowns (82-80, AL South): The Crowns are turning over after a nice 3-year run by deaconsoule. This is a historically well-run team, making the playoffs in 8 of 11 years and finishing under .500 just once. The foundation of this squad is Blaine Prince, an outstanding #1 starter who is under contract for a very reasonable $7.5M for three more years. There is some younger talent too, including 2B Robert Buchanan. Salary for next year already committed is 9 players (including Price) for $40M, and the other big contract is for slugging 1B/LF type Brett Barnes. Tampa probably doesn't have the deepest prospects, but I really like this year's first rounder SP Chance Ross.

Vancouver Asteroids (53-109, AL West): Grab the #2 overall draft pick here. The last owner built a powerful ML team full of veteran talent but then didn't follow up during the season and ended up without any money or healthy pitchers for the second half. The ML squad has far more talent than the win total suggests and probably was a playoff team with better management. There are some big contracts here, including 12 players signed for next year at $82M. The big one is Perry Ruth, still a very good pitcher but not worth the $18.6M he's owed the next two years. Chip Huson, an outstanding 3B is owed $14.9M the next 3 years. The new owner will have a choice to try to build on the veterans to make a run at a playoff spot or to trade off players and rebuild with that big draft pick.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Season 11 World Series Preview

Season 11 wraps the season up with the Iowa City Independence taking on the Tacoma Sasquatches. This matchup features two owners (carlspenard and mjmage) who are no strangers to post-season play, but neither has been able to hoist the trophy. If you are a fan of high-powered offenses, then this matchup is NOT for you.

Iowa City finished as a Wild Card (again!), but that is just fine for carlspenard. As long as you have a ticket to the dance, then that's all you need. Their trip to the WS started against the New York Mutuals, who was the hottest team to finish the season, winning their last 11 games in a row to capture their first division crown. The series was stretched to the limit, but in the end Iowa City's pitching was too much for New York and were able to advance to the 2nd round. Things didn't get any easier for GM carlspenard's bunch, as they next faced the juggernaut of the AL Las Vegas Dealers. While most of us celebrated the New Year's in style, these two teams battled in classic baseball style to set up one of the best series I have witnessed in a while. Only 1 of the five games saw more than 6 runs scored, and again the pitching prevailed for Iowa City in the end. The NLCS was rather anti-climatic, as the Independence swept the Syracuse Comics to advance. The only note on the NLCS was that the Comics scored a combined 4 runs throughout the 4 games, getting shut out twice.

Similar to Iowa City, Tacoma came into the playoffs as the 1st Wild Card team, though they finished with the 3rd best record in the NL. After sweeping the Santa Fe Lobos, they too had a rematch with their division rival Tucson Hohokams in the NLDS. They fought off a 2-1 deficit to win the series in 5 games, thanks in large part to good starting pitching and the hitting of Troy Powell, who batted .529 in the series with a double, triple, HR, drove in 8 runs and scored 5 times. This brought them to the NLCS against the reigning WS champs, Helena Vigilantes. Tacoma's pitching was too much, as the Helena bats never really got going in the series.

This series will present the two best pitching staffs throughout the season. I believe this game will come down to late inning play-calling, as 4 of the potential 7 games are at Tacoma, which means the pitcher will be batting. If I had to call it, I would pick Tacoma in 6. This could very easily go the full tilt, but I do believe that Tacoma will build enough momentum to close it out in 6. Either way, it should be a fun, competitive series between 2 coaches who deserve the chance to hoist the trophy at season's end. Playing in the same division as jceffali and plague the last few seasons has definitely hidden these guys' talents. Good luck to both teams.