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No Rose in Spanish Harlem!
Sunday, January 23, 2005
Bad News Heat
Topic: League Matters
Tanner: Hey Bandits! You can take your apologies and your second-place trophy, and shove them straight up your ass!

Lupus: And another thing, just wait til next year!

One week until the 2005 draft. This blog is going to become the archives for the website, which can be found here. I promise to try and do better updating this year!

Posted by Jack at 9:56 PM EST
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Tuesday, January 18, 2005
World Series Recap
Topic: Schedule
(this comes courtesy of Chris)

Game 1
The game started a little late because I couldn't get out of bed. With that aside, both of us seemed to benefit from the extra sleep and we were both excited to get the series started. As anticipated, Jack marched Curt Schilling out to square off against Mark Prior. Prior pitched an ok game striking out 12 and scattering 8 hits over 9 innings but this was not enough to beat Curt Schilling who scattered 10 hits over 9 and allowed only two runs. The damage should have been a lot worse than the 6-2 score indicated as Jack rolled the first 8 rolls all off of his card but somehow managed to miss everything. The game continued with the bulk of the rolls off his card but a bit of bad column selection and a 20 side that was only beginning to show how cruel it could be kept it within reach. (Heat leads the series 1-0).

Game 2
The only move that Jack made during the series that I questioned was his decision to start Mark Mulder (only 8 IP during the regular season) over Carlos Zambrano. Jack admitted afterwards that he ran the numbers and figured he would have a better shot with the lefty ..... Jason Schmidt loved it, he struck out 12 and allowed only 5 hits over 9 innings to even the series. Jack's bad luck continued but some of this was frustration as my big 3 against lefties (Vlad, Nevin, Lee)combined to go 6 for 10 with a homerun, 4 runs scored, with 3 runs batted in. Baerga got hit when he came into the game as a pinch hitter and went down for the rest of the series. Through two games, neither team had yet to roll a 2B-x or a SS-x yet. (series tied at 1-1)

Game 3
The good thing about throwing Mulder game 2 was Jack had a huge advantage in game 3 with Kim squaring off against Scot Shields. The Bandits worked on Kim's arm as much as they could and the commissioners even had to make a midgame rule clarification (the amendment will be sent to the league shortly). Kim and Co. pitched an awesome game scattering 3 walks and 4 hits over the game but the Bandits were able to send 5 runners home against a very solid squad. The Heat on the other hand had one of the worst cases of backstabbing by a 20 side I have ever seen. The game was very tight and was tied 4-4 after the 4th. Both of us went to the pens early and were clawing for anything we could get. Jack ended two innings with the bases loaded after missing ballpark singles in his park (1-17). The killer had to be a single to left where he had the option to score the tying run at the plate (1-15). Jack looked at me and didn't want to even roll because of the luck he had suffered through and I told him that if he ran, he would be thrown out. He went for it and rolled a 17. The box score of this game says it all: Bandits - 5 runs, 4 hits, 1 error ..... Heat - 4 runs, 15 hits, 0 errors. (Bandits lead the series 2-1)

Game 4
So far in the series, you couldn't make the statement that I was winning because of good luck, it was more a case of my bad luck was a lot less severe than Jack's bad luck. That changed in game 4 and I think I actually saw a smile start to appear on Jack's face ..... Misery loves company after all. Prior wanted revenge (and a 3-1 series lead) after the game one drubbing he received but lady luck was not on our side. The Heat jumped out to an early 2-0 lead (all off of Jack's cards) and I was lucky to stop the bleeding at only two runs. I came back and cut his lead in half in the top of the third and managed to tie it in the 5th but then fell behind again in the bottom of the 5th. That's where the fun stopped. Scot Posednik leads off the inning with a homerun 1-15, triple 16-20 and rolls a 16 (I did not bother to keep stats on the number of rolls over 15 or the runners left on base as it only causes you to focus on the negative). So, a runner on third with no outs and I only need one run to tie ... in comes Jason Schmidt to squeeze in the run, Jack chooses to go for the play at the plate and throws Posednik out after I rolled a 17. Damon comes in to pinch run and makes it over to third with one out. Jose Guillen comes in to squeeze him in ..... and Johnny Damon is thrown out at the plate. The very next inning, Pierzynski is on third with one out and Marcus Giles attempts to bunt him in ..... and Pierzynski is thrown out on the plate. Combine that with a missed ballpark single (Nomar) the following inning and I felt Jack and I were pretty even. Thomas knocked in a run in the bottom of the 8th and the Bandits went 1-2-3 in the 9th. Prior loses his second. (series is tied at 2-2)

Game 5
See the game 2 summary as to why Jack shouldn't have started Mulder against me. The big 3 went 5 for 11, 3 homeruns, and 7 runs batted in en route to a 8-3 final. Schmidt pitched great giving up only seven hits and Jack hit three solo homeruns to provide all his scoring. (Bandits lead series 3-2)

Game 6
Kim owned me during the regular season and that was the Kim that showed up in game 6. Kim and Co. scattered only 6 hits over 9 innings. This coupled with some bad rolls on the base paths (two runners caught stealing, one thrown out at the plate on a 15) and two huge injuries (Drew and Pierzynski), and the Bandits were done. My bullpen shut the Heat down over the last 4 innings but the 3 runs Jack scored in the 3rd was too much to overcome. (Heat wins 3-1 and ties the series at 3-3).

Game 7
Somehow we all knew this series was destined to go 7 ..... I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. The drama in the room was so thick you could smell it. Schilling had beaten Prior in both of his previous starts in the series and Schilling had never lost to the Bandits in the regular season. The Bandits were also down 3 starters in their lineup and needed to step it up in order to win. The first few innings went quietly until Giles and Mueller put together a pair of singles and Gonzalez walking up to the plate. Jack called for time and I was sure either an intentional walk or a new pitcher was coming. Jack shook off the time after a moment or two and I proceeded to roll a homerun 1-7, flyball-B 8-20. With some of the patented Old School Brothers backspin, Luis went yard when he rolled a 5 and 3 runs crossed the plate. The Heat struggled to score against Prior and an improved defense (as a result of the injuries) but managed to hit one deep in the seventh. The Heat had two runners on with two outs in the ninth when he rolled a single 1-6 to keep the game alive. He appropriately rolled an 18 to end the game and the series. Prior scattered 5 hits over 7 innings and finally got the elusive win against Schilling.

I don't have anything else to add, really. It really was a great series and I have to say, there's something about knowing you're good enough to win it all that helps with the pain. I think it hurts more to know you're clearly inferior to some team than to be the victim of bad luck. Since I honestly believe we had equally talented squads, I can appreciate the fact that two great temas played a great series together.

It's still bitter though. It will be bitter for at least the next 12 months.

Posted by Jack at 4:35 PM EST
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Monday, January 17, 2005
Topic: Schedule
Congratulations to Chris, who won a thrilling seven-game series to take home his second straight league championship this afternoon. Luis Gonzalez hit a three-run home run off Curt Schilling on an HR 1-7 OUT 8-20 to provide all his scoring in a 3-1 win in the deciding game. I rolled 15 or higher 34 times in the 7 games. Chris will give you the rest of the recap; I'm going to go jump off of a bridge.

Posted by Jack at 9:42 PM EST
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Wednesday, January 12, 2005
The Heat Have One More Hill To Climb Baby, and it's Mount New Jersey!
Topic: Schedule
Update: Spanish Harlem finished the regular season 41-31 and last night defeated the Crackheads 4-3 in a wild seven-game series that neither team deserved to win. The Heat will now advance to the finals against the heavily-favored Bandits, a series that is tentatively scheduled for Saturday morning. A fuller recap tomorrow - maybe.

Happy Birthday to me!

Every time I see Dylan's picture, I can't help smiling.

Posted by Jack at 3:27 PM EST
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Monday, January 3, 2005
Now Playing: Godspell
Topic: Dylan

"If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons." - James Thurber

Posted by Jack at 12:20 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 3:29 PM EST
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Thursday, November 11, 2004
BREAKING NEWS in Spanish Harlem
Now Playing: Vertigo by U2
Topic: Transactions
The Spanish Harlem Heat completed three trades in just over two hours this morning.

Alex Rodriguez has arrived in Spanish Harlem, along with Livan Hernandez, Vernon Wells and Rich Harden, in exchange for Melvin Mora, Kerry Wood, Edgar Renteria and Jack Cressend. Rodriguez brings offense (52/52) and defense (1e8) to the shortstop position and will combine with Bret Boone (1e8 at 2B) to provide air-tight defense up the middle. Carlos Beltran (52/44, 1e6) will take over in center field for the departed Mora, with Wells (50/44, 2e4) seeing some time against right-handers. Hernandez (30/22) replaces Wood (23/20) in the rotation; the downgrade means we'll likely be seeing more from Guillermo Mota (19/18) and Damaso Marte (10/17) out of the bullpen. Through 57 games this season, neither man has pitched 20 innings yet. Harden will vie for a back of the rotation spot next season but has all the makings of a future star.

Earlier, Spanish Harlem acquired Wilson Alvarez from Lindenhurst in exchange for Felix Heredia and a protected third-round pick (which becomes a fifth-rounder if the Old School Brothers are contracted and their players are declared free agents). Alvarez (22/21) will step into the rotation for the rest of the regular season and will pitch out of the bullpen in the playoffs. He will likely be in Spanish Harlem's rotation next season (projected 33/20).

Finally, the Heat picked up Marlon Byrd from the Crackheads in exchange for Mark Ellis (who had been quietly acquired from Midville several weeks ago for a 15th-round pick). Byrd (45/45) will be a pinch-hitter off the bench for Spanish Harlem down the stretch and will vie for a spot on the postseason roster.

Having traded two relievers in the same day, Spanish Harlem is still in the market for an average right-handed reliever to replenish the current corps. Several players are available, including Mike Cameron, Juan Gonzalez and Mark Mulder.

Posted by Jack at 1:39 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, November 11, 2004 2:43 PM EST
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Thursday, October 14, 2004
Matters of Debate
Now Playing: A Beatles Block on Q104.3
Topic: MLB Musings
Christine got a job as a counselor at St. John's Prep in Astoria last month, and one of her extracurricular duties is to serve as the moderator for the Speech and Debate Club. At Molloy, the Speech and Debate team actually had varsity jackets that looked just like the ones athletes wore, except it said "MOLLOY SPEECH AND DEBATE" on the back. I bet those kids got their asses kicked on a fairly regular basis.

Anyway, the first competitions are popping up at the end of the month and she sent me a list of potential questions that may be used at one. One of them jumped off the page at me:

3. Should the New York Mets hire Willie Randolph as their next manager?

The short answer, of course, is no. However, I told her I'd actually prepare an answer for her and she said that - if it's good - she might use it as a sample answer for her team. Since it's also relevant for the website (and Forster is STILL bitching I don't update enough), I figured I'd add it here.

The New York Mets have a number of serious problems right now. The team hasn't had a winning record since 2001, the front office has become the laughingstock of baseball and they are without manager since Art Howe was let go early last month.

The Mets are currently in the hunt for a new field general and several leading candidates have already emerged. One of them is Willie Randolph, the former New York Yankee second baseman who played for the Mets at the tail end of his 18-year career. Randolph is currently the bench coach for Yankees manager Joe Torre, after spending several seasons as the team's third-base coach.

Willie Randolph is not the answer for the New York Mets. If the Mets' front office has grown tired of losing seasons and being mocked in knowledgeable baseball circles, they will not hire Randolph to lead them in 2005. They will turn the sights toward brilliant tacticians like Bobby Valentine or fiery motivators like Wally Backman to lead them.

There are several reasons why Randolph and the Mets are not a good fit, perhaps not the least of which is experience. Randolph has never held a managerial position, even in the minor leagues, and there are questions as to his ability to handle both in-game strategy and the dynamics of the Mets' clubhouse.

Baseball is a thinking man's game on the field, where experience is invaluable for a manager contemplating double switches, pitching changes and lineup maneuvers. Off the field, the dynamics of leading a baseball team have changed considerably since Randolph retired in 1992. The Yankee team that Randolph works for now is often hailed as a model clubhouse chock full of quiet professionals, but most other teams - especially the Mets - have considerably more dysfunctional rosters.

Randolph has no tactical or supervisory experience, a combination that could spell disaster for any team that may hire him. Even Howe, who was routinely lambasted for his lack of in-game acumen and his inability to control his team, had managed previously in both Houston and Oakland. Randolph's steadfast refusal to manage at the minor-league level, despite several offers to do so in the last five years, have served only to make him a less attractive candidate to major league teams seeking new managers. Perhaps that's why Randolph is still looking for his first managerial job despite having already interviewed with over 10 teams for vacant positions since joining the Yankee coaching staff in 1994.

To be fair, Randolph's shortcomings are not the only reason he is not a good fit for the Mets. New York is a veteran-laden club with a win-now mentality that is simply not consistent with the level of talent on the field. Baseball insiders claim that the Mets are drowning in a sea of opinions, with everyone from select team veterans to the owner's son having too much of a say in personnel decisions. It is a franchise without direction. The first step toward a return to prominence is installing a competent manager who will not allow himself to be influenced by backstabbing players or meddling dilettantes who have only their last name to thank for their lofty status in the organization.

Randolph is renowned for his professionalism and quiet dignity, but a rookie manager with such characteristics has no place leading the Mets. He will be out-managed on the field and marginalized off of it. In many ways, Willie Randolph is simply Art Howe without the experience, and we've all seen how well the Howe era has gone at Shea.

There are two candidates mentioned earlier who would be a much better fit as Mets manager. Bobby Valentine has managed previously in New York, as well as in Texas and Japan. He is known around baseball for a brilliant baseball mind and an irritating personality that tends to grate on self-satisfied veterans over time. In fact, the Mets fired Valentine after the 2002 season in the wake of a near-player revolt that saw several veterans quit on the season and their manager. Many of those same veterans are despised by the team's fan base but still with the Mets today, despite displaying the on-field ineptitude and off-field indifference that led to Howe's recent dismissal. Valentine's return to Shea would not only give the Mets one of the five best tactical managers in baseball, but it would also send a powerful message to the team - your past shenanigans will no longer be tolerated.

Backman would bring less experience but more fire to the position. Wally is one of the hottest managerial prospects in baseball today, having led a series of minor-league teams to fine finishes in the past few years, and brings a hard-working, take-no-prisoners attitude to the game. He also brings Mets pedigree to the position, having been the team's starting second baseman for much of the 1980s, including the team's last championship season in 1986. His competitive zeal belies his diminutive stature; Backman demands all-out effort from his players and that never-say-die attitude has brought him success at the minor-league level. Backman would be the perfect fit for a team that desperately needs to rid itself of veteran influence and start over with younger and hungrier players.

Valentine and Backman are better options then Willie Randolph and the New York Mets would be smart to hire one of them and to eschew the former Yankee second baseman. Whether or not the Mets still have the ability to do the "smart" thing is a debate for another day!

Posted by Jack at 12:04 PM EDT
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Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Dissent in Spanish Harlem?
Topic: League Matters
by Chris Forster
SPANISH HARLEM - According to sources close to the team in Spanish Harlem all the "championship caliber" comments by owner Jack Flynn are putting a little too much pressure on the players there. Rumor has it that several players within the organization have contacted other teams since they do not intend to re-sign as free agents due to the overwhelming pressure to win and the arrogance of the team owner.

A former player, who asked not to be identified, added these comments: "Jack's a good guy, but he has all this pent-up frustration. He takes it out on all the players and that's why I asked to be traded."

Former Heat superstar Albert Pujols noticed the hostilities that Jack created between players and management, "I told the coach, 'Jefe, I want to play first base all year this year.' Jack yelled at me because of a recent bad game, screaming something about a two-column and then traded me away because his girlfriend thought I was cute. It's really not a good clubhouse."

Posted by Jack at 12:36 PM EDT
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Monday, September 13, 2004
Nearing the End of an Era
Topic: Franchise History
I was taking a look at the MLB statistics today, and I realized something that made me happy, in a bittersweet kind of way. I've reached the end of my "five-year plan" and this team is the finished product, the team that I've built with the intentions of winning a championship. It's a great team, certainly the best I've ever built in a seriously competitive league, and there's a lot of satisfaction that comes with knowing I built it from the ground up. Next year, things will be different, and despite some of my difficulties this season I have to admit I'm a little proud of what I've accomplished.

Before you start laughing at my arrogance and narcissism, hear me out. We went to the keeper league system after the 2000 season, when I went 54-29 and lost the finals in five games to Chris - for all intents and purposes, it was this league's first championship. We made the decision to make it a keeper league in the off-season - the best decision we ever made in this league, for all my bitching about being "screwed." The truth is, of course, I wasn't screwed at all - some people just were luckier than others that we made the decision to go to a keeper league when we did.

That season, I had a team full of talent that featured a significant number of older players and one-year wonders, not younger, more established players. (I'd like to do an update on that team in the near future - what they did after that season and where they are today.) Not knowing we were going to a keeper league during the draft, I simply tried to take the best talent available at each position - the exact same theory everyone else used when building their team - and it just so happened I got a bunch of players who had career seasons in 1999. Other guys in the league filled their rosters with players who, as it turned out, were going to be consistent Strat performers year after year. Luck of the draw, as they say - or perhaps more appropriately, a roll of the dice.

When that season came to a close and I was forced to figure out what the hell I was going to do with the rag-tag group that remained, I had two choices. I could tear things down right away and go into full rebuilding mode, or I could do what I can with what I had and supplement where I could through trades. In retrospect, perhaps the more prudent choice would've been to rebuild right away, but I just hated the idea of waiting through an entire terrible season with my eyes constantly on the future.

For three years, my team played to slightly better than average records with incremental gains each year - first 43-41 in 2001 and then 44-40 in 2002 before last year's 44-38 mark. In that time, every other team in the league suffered through at least one bad or terrible season, with records significantly below .500. The only team that didn't was the Hitmen - JB took his boys to three straight league championships and won a league title, an extremely impressive feat. JB was the luckiest one of all of us - he had a great core of players after that 2000 season to build around - but his accomplishments with that team are nonetheless very noteworthy.

JB and I are the only two owners who've never had to go through a "rebuilding" season and who have never finished under .500 - and obviously the Hitmen's streak is coming to an end this year. I'm not going to finish with a losing record, but this team has clearly peaked. I would argue it's the best team anyone's had in the last five years, and anything less than a championship will be considered a failure, especially after the trades to import Bret Boone and Brian Giles. Any ribbing I take if I don't win it all with this team will be well deserved.

Next year, however, the outlook isn't so rosy. My pitching will probably be mediocre or slightly better and while I will still have a pretty potent lineup, it is one that will be weak defensively. I think I can still bring the Heat home with a winning record, but it's become clear to me that it's almost time to start tearing it down and building it up again. It's almost time to build another plan, hopefully one that will take less than five years to come to fruition and will offer a little more staying power than this team will.

I'm looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead, which is the true genius of the keeper system. I will never tear it down to the extent that I would put myself through an awful campaign - it's still very important to me to keep that streak of non-losing seasons alive. But starting first in the Winter Draft and continuing through the next one or two seasons, the direction of the Spanish Harlem Heat is going to change a bit. The current emphasis on winning now is going to change slightly, with more of an eye toward the future.

Let's see how quickly I can bring a team to this level again.

Posted by Jack at 7:14 PM EDT
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Friday, September 10, 2004
Topic: Transactions
It's now or never.

Bret Boone and Brian Giles have been acquired for Spanish Harlem's championship run, completing a true Murderer's Row lineup that will be attempting to bludgeon their way to a league title, in exchange for super prospect Johan Santana, Mark Grudzielanek and Geoff Jenkins. My already dangerous lineup is now vastly improved, with eight guys over 50 against righties (six of whom have at least 6 ballpark HRs). But trading the dynamic Santana could come back to haunt me for years to come.

In the short-term, this deal is a big winner for the Heat. Boone (46/51) and Giles (52/56) replace Placido Polanco (48/41) and the departed Jenkins (34/48) in my lineup. I also improve my defense at second base with Boone's 1e8, although I do lose a step in left field with Giles' 3e5 replacing Jenkins' 2e0. This is my lineup against right-handers now:

Koskie - 58
Mora - 56
Giles - 56
Sheffield - 56
Nixon - 58
Posada - 54
Boone - 51
Stairs - 52
Renteria - 43

Back up the fences! The lefty lineup will be impacted somewhat by the loss of Grudzielanek, but I'll still take my chances against southpaws. Take a look:

Renteria - 68
Mora - 62
Sheffield - 63
Thomas - 62
Posada - 52
Giles - 52
Beltran - 52
Boone - 46
M. Cabrera - 44

No, hitting the ball shouldn't be a problem for Spanish Harlem. Even my cursed dice will find it difficult to keep me from scoring runs from here on out! The loss of Santana (20/24), who will be a bonafide ace next season, is negligible right now. He was the fourth reliever in my bullpen and only seeing time in mop-up appearances. He will be ably replaced by Felix Heredia (21/21) - thereby proving once again that Strat can sometimes be very different that Major League Baseball. In what parallel universe could Felix Heredia ever be the equal or even the superior of Johan Santana!?

I do not know how this trade will turn out, but I know in my heart that it's a trade that had to be made. This team is officially championship caliber, plain and simple. I had to reach for the stars while I still had the chance and that's exactly what I've done. The trading is not done, by the way. I still have a few hooks in the water, and I'm hoping to pull out a few more fish before the trading deadline.

I think it might be interesting to look at the domino effect the Albert Pujols deal has had on the overall look of my roster, both now and in the future. There are times where I regret having made the Pujols deal, since we are looking the formative years of what may possibly be the best pure hitter of this generation, but I still wonder if my team is actually better off for having done so.

Traded Away:
Albert Pujols
Johan Santana
Andruw Jones
Mike Sweeney
Mark Grudzielanek
Geoff Jenkins

Gary Sheffield
Mark Teixeira
Mike Cameron
Bret Boone
Brian Giles

Yikes. My team is definitely better for this season, but I shudder to think what the future will hold. I may spend many sleepless nights wondering how the hell I could've traded away Albert Pujols and Johan Santana. Scary stuff. But if I win it all this year, I know it will be worth it.

Posted by Jack at 10:20 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, September 10, 2004 10:32 PM EDT
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