Chris's SL20 Thoughts

Twenty years! That is a long time. Roughly same age as the twins, who were born halfway through our first season. Longer than both of my marriages. Combined. Times two. Half of Keith's life (ish). We have involved as managers 17 different friends and family members, and indirectly involved many many more. We survived a brief scare from an alternate league called the Federal League, or the AFL or USFL or something. Another scare when Greg moved to Colorado until we discovered NetMeeting and others. And we have endured through all of the ups and downs that go with it. I hope we go another twenty but if it ended today, I would just be thankful for what it was and the lasting friendships it created. Here are my not so brief thoughts on my favorite team.

Funny. My thought all along when I came up with this was that I was going to be doing 1999. I also thought Keith was going to pick that year. It felt like he and I were racing neck in neck all season long towards 100 wins, but being in same division, were just playing for home field advantage against the other in the playoffs. We fell short of 100, but he won the division by winning game 162 vs. me (Greg actually finished one win behind me as well). I then blew a 3-1 series lead, but squeaked out a 1-0 victory in Game 7 and never looked back, sweeping Greg for the Cup. Beating Keith in the playoffs was big, as I felt he had the best team, but beating Greg in the Finals was huge, as he had won 4 of the 6 Cups so far in this fledgling league. The 95 wins plus the Cup may have been the peak of a very good run I had in the SL. But that would change, and that is why I didn't pick that season.

It actually was a GREAT run. In the eight seasons from 96-03, I made the playoffs eight times, made the Finals five times, and won three Spit Cups (both Finals lost went 7 games). So close to five Cups in eight years. One of those years that I was one and done in the playoffs, I just happened to win 100 games.

Greg and I discussed at the time how we had to go through the other to be the champ.

1996- I beat him in first round, I was eventual champ
1997- He beat me first round and was eventual champ
1998- Same as previous year
1999- I beat Greg in Finals
2000- Greg beats me in Finals

So I had a bit of a friendly rivalry with Greg. Then Ken took over the league. In 2001 he disposed of me quickly in the first round. In 2002 Ken beat me in a Finals classic. In 2003, Ken briefly disappeared, and I rebounded and beat Steve in the Finals. Life was good.

But that run came to end. In the next seven years, I would see just one playoff appearance and in that one, was quickly cast aside in the first round by Ken who had taken over league dominance and became my personal SL Lex Luthor. Look at this and see if you see a trend:

2004- Same division. Ken first, Chris Last
2005- Same division. Ken first, Chris Last
2006- Same division. Ken first, Chris finished 1 game back
2007- Same division. Ken first, Chris Last
2008- Different divisions! I win Presidents Cup! Ken wins wildcard and easily beats me in playoffs
2009- Same division. Ken first, Chris third
2010- Different divisions. Still, Ken first, Chris Last
2011- Same division. Ken first, Chris second

I was fortunate enough to win the wildcard in 2011, which of course meant I win the right to play the President's Cup winner, which happened to be Ken. But after this long playoff drought, I was just happy to be there, and as you all know, anything can happen in a short series. Memory has very few runs scored in whole series. Checking boxes, maybe closest series ever, which is not a surprise. Four one run games. Two other games went into extras. Game 7, I got single runs in the 7th, 8th and 9th to win 3-2 and finally get the monkey off my back (as it were).

Which gets me Keith in the Finals. Last time ever on NetMeeting I think, and 2 or 3 people were "watching" across the country, with Keith and me sitting in his lower level. I was just happy to be there, while I think Keith was still dealing with demons of his own (0-3 in playoffs vs. me plus a Spit Cup drought of his own). We don't need to rehash what happened, but it was very Cubs-Marlins 2003. Keith had a 3 run lead in Game 6, in the 7th inning, looking to close out the series. I win that game, then win Game 7 in the 10th, when Barton doubles in a run, breaking an 0-25 series slump, and none other than dependable Carlos Marmol strikes out the side for the series win. Shrug. Keith will probably tell you that's how it goes for me against him, and he may be correct.

It is both sad and amusing that I picked a team that frustrated me for 90% of the season. My team and Cabrera both underachieved for a lot of the season before finishing strong the final 25 games or so. But that probably sums up the Summer League for most of us. The team that you complain about all year may turn out to be one of your favorites in retrospect. Regardless it has been something that I have treasured.