The Summer League is known in our circles as the face-to-face game of APBA, in which different guys act as owner, general manager, and manager of a specific team that they draft completely new each year. The face-to-face games take on average about 10 minutes to play, so to play 162 games, you should be able to finish your own part of the schedule in about 27 hours, or just a little over one day, right?
WRONG. The Summer League consumes your every move, every action, every thought from the time the disk comes out in January, until the time the season is over 9 or 10 months later. It starts off not so bad, as you are mainly just scouting the players, to see who is good, who is not, and basically just trying to familiarize yourself with the players, and this can be done only when you have the time to sit in front of a computer, or look at printouts you have made. Once the lottery is made to see what position you will be drafting in, your life is pretty much over.
Depending on who you are at this point you either do mock draft after mock draft, play season after season, to see how the players will perform, or just take the tedious method of rating the players, either overall, or by each position. Some lunatic managers have been known to do all of the above, and probably more. How many of these strategies work is still a mystery, but you would think Greg Nims would be the one to ask, as he has the most world titles. Has anyone ever asked him? I dare say probably not. It doesn't matter anyways, because what works for Greg most likely won't work for the next person. You just have to figure out what is the best way for you.
Now that you have already spent a good 100 hours on the league, we are about ready to start drafting!
All the preparation you have done gets thrown out the window when it is your pick. You become "on the clock," and you want the best player available while filling your needs. At this point there are only about 40 guys that fit this description! This narrowing down process here is what will probably most make or break your team in the long run. In these few minutes, or hours, you have to try and predict who will still be available the next time you are around to pick. And the next round. And so on. 27 rounds worth of this kind of mental fatigue, and guesswork. And there can be so many decisions within a decision. How does this guy fit in with the makeup of my team, and is there someone better available now. And do I need that need fulfilled right now, or can it wait. But what if the need can wait, but that particular player can not. It can get downright confusing, unless you are very familiar with who is left, and which direction your team is headed. Even now, after doing this for so many years, some of us will still make picks where even 5 minutes later we wonder what the hell we were thinking. Obviously you are trying to keep those picks to a minimum, and maximize the picks where everyone says, "Damn, I wanted that guy."
This process took all of a month last year, and will take at least that long next year. The most excrutiating part of this process is the wait between picks. You might make 2 picks in a 15-minute span, and then not make a pick again for 2 or 3 days. Is that exciting? No, but at this juncture it is a necessary evil, one of several evils in our beloved league.
The first 40 games seem to be pretty much just a test run for everyone. Trying to figure out who bats where in the lineup, and how your grade 8 starter will fare against real hitters. However, I think everyone learned the importance of getting off to a good start last year. This year it took us about 2 months to play the first 40, but I think a lot of that was due to getting familiar with Internet play and fighting schedules. The next 120 games (the "free-for-all") also took about 2 months, and really finished with a flurry of games played. But even those games weren't played fast enough. It is agonizing to be almost done, and to be waiting for the guy who is 2 games behind you in the standings to play his 40 to catch up. Again, this is just something we have to deal with. And the talk next year is to extend the season somewhat, thus slowing it down even more, to play just about 5 games a week. While that will be tough to deal with, it is probably the best thing for the league right now, and I know some people that would be very happy with the actual games being slowed down.
So the playoffs began with Keith, Greg, Joe and Chris involved. It was an easy season for Greg (if you ignore the computer glitches), as Ken and Bob never really challenged him. Joe held off a resurging Steve to win the division by 5, after holding a much bigger lead earlier. Chris seemingly clinched the Wild Card spot by game 40, and couldn't quite catch Keith in the long run for the division title. No offense to Joe, but he faced an uphill battle in the playoffs. He finished the season 14 games behind Greg, who had the third best record. Also, Keith, Greg, and Chris are the winningest franchises in history, and the only 3 with a Spit Cup title. But give him credit, he was holding Greg at bay, 2 games to 1, and seemed to be the fans choice.
What does it take to manage in the playoffs? How about some iron guts, and a lot of luck. Bob had once said that he learned to play the game from Ken, but in no way did that prepare him to face Greg, and that was just a regular season series. In the playoffs, you have to be ready to throw everything in your arsenal at the other team, while still facing the strict games, innings and steal restrictions. Talk about gut-wrenching. Chris was beating Keith 3 games to 1, yet still came very close to losing the series. Urbina, Nen and Wetteland, 25, 22, and 20 relievers, combined for an ERA of 5.79, in 14 innings of work. You just have to be prepared for anything to happen, because it will, and more.
The Summer League seems to be most like a ride at Six Flags. It has ups, downs, turns, goes super fast, yet at times crawls like a snail. It should not be played by someone with a heart condition, or an ulcer, or anything of that nature. You can see it all laid out before you in theory, yet when it actually comes, you may find that you are not ready.
But maybe the best line heard all summer came from Joe a few hours after he lost to Greg. He kind of gave a tired worn-out look, and said, "When do we draft?" That is the essence of the Summer League.