The Spit Cup Finals was a little easier run. Facing long-time nemesis Barstow (Greg), Andrews won 4-0. Brown pitched a 2-hitter to win Game 1. After winning Game 2, Game 3 was the icing on the cake. Piazza hit a 3-run homer off Nen to take a 8-5 lead in the 7th. Andrews came back with 1 in the bottom, and 3 in the bottom of the 8th, and won 9-8, to take a 3-0 lead in the series. Game 4 had Andrews take an early 5-1 lead which was chipped away to 5-4, but Jose Posada hit a 2-run homer in the 8th, and Jackson and Nen go the last 3 outs for the series victory.
Once again, I had high expectations of myself going into the draft. After all, I had won 100 games the year before, and what could I do to reprise that excellent team. My first four picks went to pitching-2 starters and 2 relievers. After this I had to get some punch in my lineup, and I got Lankford, Delgado, Guerrero, and Sheffield. Those 4 set the tone for my offense. I didnít get quite as much starting pitching as I wanted, but it was a necessary trade-off. My bullpen was supplanted with Nen and Jackson, who were aided by Rocker (a 19), and Corsi (a 16, +3). Earlier I had said that I was pleased with my draft except Higginson and Easley. Well, Easley proved to be a decent pick, and Higginson turned out to be valuable as trade bait, so it all worked out. By the way, I donít subscribe to the theory that if you pick a player and no others are picked for 4 rounds, that it was a bad pick. If there are 3 shortstops better than all the rest, and 2 are gone, you have to think that you have to grab that last one now, while you can. Regardless, I was more than pleased with my combination of offense, defense, pitching, relief pitching, speed, and role players.
My second half of season starting lineup looked mostly like this:
1. Sheffield DH
2. VGuerrero RF
3. Delgado 1B
4. Lankford CF
5. EDavis LF
6. Caminiti 3B
7. Posada C
8. Easley 2B
9. Vizquel SS
Lankford started the season batting second or third, but I dropped him down when it was apparent that he was not going to produce. I traded for Davis mostly because my lineup was so weak when I had to sit Caminiti. That meant it was Higginson batting 5th, and that just would not do in this league. My 6-7-8 hitters hit barely over the Mendoza line, but had a lot of big hits when necessary, and probably slugged near .450. Sheffield was hot and cold all year, and the team seemed to fluctuate according to him, the table setter. Guerrero was hot all year, and was team MVP offensively by far. Vizquel was a pleasant surprise offensively, and finished among the league leaders in doubles. Bench players Bell, Morandini, Alfonzo, White, and Martinez, all played their role well; pinch hit, pinch run, or pinch field. Then there was Jimmy Ladd (Shane Spencer). The huge advantage that I thought I got from the trade with Ken, was numerous players more than everyone else, so my positions were filled earlier, which in turn afforded me the chance to pick Ladd, who had potential to be a one-man wrecking crew. He gave me the flexibility to not lose much offense when I sat Sheffield.
My team offense wasn't that great where I was involved in many blowouts going my way. In one situation though, I was playing Keith, and he decided to rest his bullpen. I went out and beat Gooden, 30-3. And that included leaving like 12 guys on base. Three others games come to the forefront of my mind, and they were all late inning comebacks. Twice I got 6 runs in the 9th to beat Steve (a microcosm of his season, I am sure). Another time I got 8 in the 9th to beat Graham and Mariano Rivera. I guess a final "high-point" that turned out not to be one, was Kevin Brown one-hitting Ken through 7 innings during a slowly melting e-machine. Brown did not win the game, the e-machine did, but then Ken and I did replay it on the other computer, and Brown threw a 3-hit shutout.
I first went into the playoffs thinking I had no chance. Smoltz had gotten hurt, and couldn't play, so I felt I had no chance. But then I thought some more, and worked out a formula. Brown wins games 1 and 5, and I stack my lineup vs. Hampton in games 3 and 7, to win the series. Well, Brown went out and got whipped in game 1, thus creating more pessimism. But I came back by thrashing Maddux in game 2, and winning 3 and 4, to take a 3-1 lead. And Brown was pitching game 5, so the series was over. Again Brown sucked, and then Maddux beat me in game 6 to tie it all up. Game 7 featured the unlikeliest of events. Delgado stole 2nd, then scored on a Lankford double, in the 2nd, and that turned out to be the only run of the game, as I won 1-0. Each team had 2 hits. I have to say this to Keith- I know how you feel. He had the best record in the league almost non-stop all season long, only to lose in the first round of the playoffs. The Harrison club from a year ago knows what that is like.
The Spit Cup Finals had the tone set early with Brown pitching a gem in game 1. Game 2 featured the third straight strong performance by Helling (I honestly don't think he had 3 all year), and a 3-run triple by Davis to win that one. Game 3 showed both bullpens getting beat up. Nen and Jackson gave up 4 runs in 1 inning of work, and Lopez, and Hoffman, gave up 5 runs in 4 innings, but Hoffman giving up 3 in the bottom of the 8th was the key, as I won 9-8. Game 4 showed me again jumping out to a 5-1 lead after 3 for the return of Smoltz. Greg narrowed it to 5-4, when Posada hit a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 8th, and Nen and Jackson closed out the 9th to preserve the 7-4 win. It was a great series win for my franchise, and a tough one for Greg. I know he goes out expecting to win every season, as do I, and it can be a tough pill to swallow when you don't. Was my team better than those two? Well, after 162 games, there was only a 2-game difference between the 3 of us, so we aren't much different. As it turns out, my team was better or luckier than both in the 11 games that we played. This time...