|Marlon Byrd one of several Phils on the trade block|
If you know me, you know that I am a huge baseball fan. A lifelong Phillies fan, of course, and someone who played for and managed a local championship men’s softball team for over a decade and a half.
As I got a bit older, I retired the old glove and bat, and moved into the fantasy game. Fantasy baseball has been one of my biggest hobbies over the past decade, particularly with a ‘Keeper’ league of which I am a part known as the ‘Whitey Fantasy Baseball League’.
In this case, ‘Whitey’ refers to the man for whom the league is dedicated, Philly’s own Rich ‘Whitey’ Ashburn. We have 16 players in the WFBL known to each other as GM’s (general managers) of the 16 teams, which are all league-owned.
My own team, the Philadelphia Athletics, has been highly successful. My team has captured seven of the 11 pennants in our Paul Owens (East) Division, and one league championship during a history which began back in 1998.
That first summer saw the WFBL stock each of our team rosters for the first time with an original draft. Since then, players have been exchanged over the years through trading and a waiver-acquisition process. We are permitted to keep between 16-20 players every year, so you can actually build a team and keep it together if you like.
That original franchise-stocking WFBL Draft yielded me Scott Rolen and Derek Jeter as the first two picks. They became cornerstones, and I picked up later in the Draft such young studs as Billy Wagner and Andruw Jones.
We have two divisions, my Owens Division and the western Connie Mack Division, with eight teams in each. Most of the current 16 GMs have been with the league for a long time, with four of us still remaining from that first Draft day and season.
In the east there are teams representing New York, Boston, Alexandria, Carolina, Atlantic City, Middle Village (NY), Montreal and my Philly club. From the west the teams are in Portland, California, Jackson Hole, Alabama, Louisiana, St. Louis, Eugene and Spokane.
The actual GMs are from all across the country as well. There are two of us from Philly, three guys from the Bayou of Louisiana, and the rest spread from the Pacific Northwest to the Cayman Islands and everywhere in between. Our ages range from 24 to 58, with most in their 30’s and 40’s.
We utilize an even mix of offensive and pitching stats, making both sides of the game equally important, and we play a head-to-head schedule of 22 games, once each vs. the other division and twice vs. your own division rivals.
It’s now playoff time in the WFBL, and my A’s finished in 2nd place in the Owens/East. We will open this week against the 3rd place Boston Bulldogs.
My club has always been known as a pitching-first team, and this year was no exception as the A’s staff was tops in the league led by Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee (pictured), Cole Hamels and Tim Lincecum in the rotation and closer Francisco ‘KRod’ Rodriguez. My offense features Chase Utley, Jose Reyes, Mark Teixeira and Grady Sizemore.
Boston has a tough squad, one that the A’s edged out in last year’s opening round. Okay, it’s only fantasy, but in our little 16-man world of nationwide friends, it’s a big time of year. Here’s to hoping that my A’s put the stats together over the next few weeks to bring my second WFBL championship to Philadelphia.
NOTE: On Sunday September 28th, after a three-week run against the best competition in the league, my Philadelphia Athletics edged the Eugene Emeralds by a 6-5 final score to win the second championship in my history, the first since 2002.
After a long winter’s hibernation, hope once again begins to spring eternal. Today is Opening Day for most teams in Major League Baseball, including my own defending National League East Division champion Philadelphia Phillies.
When last we left the Big Leagues, the Boston Red Sox were dancing off the field having swept out the Colorado Rockies for their 2nd World Series title in four years. Terry Francona was proving to everyone that he indeed was a good manager, as most everyone in baseball outside of Philadelphia could have already told anyone willing to listen.
In a true winter of discontent, baseball was slapped around by the Mitchell Report in December, and suffered through more talk about players testing hot for performance-enhancing drugs than fans discussing the Hot Stove League.
But we weathered the storms, and the cold world is once again beginning to thaw. The past month has seen the return of Spring Training in Florida and Arizona, and now it’s time once again for the real thing. Play Ball!
This also means it’s time to go public with something that I do most every year in private – my own predictions for teams and players in the upcoming season in what I personally consider the Greatest Game that God Himself Ever Invented.
First, I am going to go through each division and predict the order of finish. Then I will give my predictions for the playoffs. Finally, I will give my call on the major post-season awards such as the MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and the Manager of the Year.
Let’s start in the most interesting place for local fans, including myself. The National League East. This is a real difficult call, because I honestly see reasons to pick any from among the Phils, New York Mets, and Atlanta Braves.
I just believe that the Phillies have too much offense, and that the other two teams have as many problems throughout their team as a whole. Call it in this order: Phillies, Mets, Braves, Nationals, Marlins.
In the NL Central, the Chicago Cubs are the consensus favorites, and a sentimental choice since it has been a full 100 years since they last won the World Series. And you thought Phillies fans had it tough! Here is the way I see it: Cubs, Reds, Brewers, Astros, Pirates, Cardinals.
In the NL West, there are four teams with legitimate claims to being the favorite. I just happen to like the young players of the Arizona Diamondbacks, as well as their 1-2 ace punch of Brandon Webb and Dan Haren. Call it: DBacks, Rockies, Dodgers, Padres, Giants.
Over in the AL, the East will see the Bosox outdo the Yankees once again in another tough race. I see it as: Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles. Look in this division for the Rays, with some of the best young talent in the big leagues, to begin to make the perennial big boys sweat.
In the AL Central we have two of the best lineups in the game in Cleveland and Detroit. The turnaround by the Tigers franchise in the past three years has been astounding, and they have a true Murderer’s Row offense, but the Tribe simply have more pitching. I think it goes: Indians, Tigers, White Sox, Twins, Royals.
The AL West has the rising star of the Seattle Mariners, and I think that this time around the slide past the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a tough race. Call this one: Mariners, Angels, Rangers, Athletics.
The Wildcard races in both leagues should be similar to last season, with many NL teams battling and just a couple of AL clubs in the hunt. In the NL, I think the Mets will end up with enough to outlast the others this time. In the AL, the Yankees should be able to hold off the Tigers and Angels.
So we are down to my final important playoff predictions. Anyone who looks at this season and tried to predict here, over six months before the Series, who is going to win it is just speculating. No educated opinion is much better than any other. So this educated baseball fan’s view is this: the Cleveland Indians will take the next step, win the AL pennant, and move on to defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks in the World Series.
In the Awards department, give the NL MVP to Chase Utley of the Phils, and the AL MVP to Tribe centerfielder Grady Sizemore. The Cy Young Award will go to Dan Haren in the NL, and in the AL the award will go to Justin Verlander of Detroit.
There are so many variable in the Rookie race, but I will go with pitcher Johnny Cueto of Cincy in the NL and Clay Buchholz of the Bosox in the AL. Cincy’s Dusty Baker keeps his team in surprise contention and takes NL top manager, while the AL vote goes to the Tribe’s Eric Wedge.
It’s going to be a year for the Cleveland Indians and their fans to remember if I get things right: a World Series crown, the AL MVP, the league’s top manager. Though many are sentimentally rooting for the Cubs to end their century-old jinx, it will actually be the team with the 2nd-longest wait, the Tribe, who have not won since 1948.