Did I prepare myself for the '99 SL? My situation in the pre-season, during the season and throughout the post-season was like Chris's, who told me that he spends every free moment for 6 months thinking about the Summer League. If you're in the SL and you don't show this same commitment, I believe you're destined to be an also-ran.
Chose my team name from the home of the Beatles, the team I root for in the English Premier League, the Asian longhorn beetle epidemic that had killed hundreds in trees in north side neighborhoods, and the "hook 'em horns" rally call. Add them together and what do you get? Not the curse-breaker I had hoped.
Fletcher was born May 8th. I was thinking when we began the draft on March 25th that Kristin's pregnancy would only interfere with the proceedings if she went way early. She didn't, but the intermineable draft nearly did cause such issues. Thankfully, it ended about May 2nd.
Pink Floyd's The Division Bell haunted me during the draft. It seemed every time I had to make a big decision, I was in my car and my tape of The Division Bell was playing. I read Roger Waters' comments about that album a few months later, and he ripped into it big time, calling it rubbish and things worse than that. I liked the album, but I understand what Waters said in his review, that it's hard to find a point to it. Most Floyd albums (read that as Waters and Floyd) are pure genius in how they weave themes and motifs seemlessly throughout. I can see the band's point only in one song on the Division Bell, a song seemingly directed to Waters and his post-departure demeanor -- "So I open my door to my enemy/I ask could we wipe the slate clean/But they tell to please go f___ myself/You know you just can't win."
I was happy to break up the early runs on pitching by taking Walker and ARod. JuanGon was a too studly to pass up in the 7th.
The lineup was:
1. Salmon DH
2. Olerud 1B (11th in MVP voting)
3. Walker RF
4. JGonzalez LF (8th in MVP voting)
5. ARod SS (MVP runner-up)
6. AJones CF
7. Vina 2B
8. Ventura 3B
9. Fasano/Lieberthal C
Eddie Perez caught about 60 games, and usually batted 5th or 6th when he played.
With a bench of:
Salmon and Olerud probably lead-off about the same amount of times. I hated batting Andruw 6th, and if I could've found a way to justify batting Vina 2nd, maybe I would've been able to balance the lineup better. But Andruw was exactly the hitter that Mondesi was for me as a 5th hitter in '96 with Oz, so I said to hell with balance. I wish Jeff Reed would've been there for me in the 12th, or even Charles Johnson. Instead, I was stuck with an utter mess behind the plate. Granted, Eddie Perez was awesome for 61 games, but I would've appreciated not having the challenge of catching Lieberthal, Fasano, and Leyritz those other 101 games.
My staff was:
Maddux 18 Z ("Unanimous" Cy winner)
Moyer 13 Z (Cy runner-up)
Bergman 8 Z
With a pen of:
Urbina 25* W (tied for 5th in Cy voting)
Lloyd 20* Z
Acevedo 16 Z*
Mulholland 14 Z*
With Jose Jimenez (10) as a 6th starter, whom I never used.
After he contributed to my pain in '98, I couldn't believe I took Moyer again, this time in the 2nd round. But he lead the league in Wins, so it just goes to show. Oh, and I was glad to have Maddux for the first time, though I made many offers during the pre-season and early in the draft to trade him for McGwire, but Joe wouldn't hear of it.
Walker grossly underperformed, but it didn't seem like it, and during the playoffs he put up my best numbers, so I'm not about to complain. ARod won the batting title over Olerud by delivering a go-ahead two-run triple in the 9th inning of game 162, the game I rallied to beat Chris to claim the President's Cup. ARod was awesome in the first 40 games (leading the offense to 6.0 runs per game) as the bullpen was dominating, staking me to an unbelievable 30-10 record.
But there was little excitement to the rest of the season. I had another good stretch the next 40, upping my record to 58-22, but I slid mightily over the remainder of the season, dropping 10 straight to Greg at one point. It barely mattered. I knew after 40 games that I could've had Tommy manage my remaining contests and I still could've been a playoff team. I think Tommy did manage one mid-season game for me, the game Doc Gooden threw a complete game where he gave up 30 runs and had a negative 100 game score. No, not even Tommy would've done that. That was a cry for help, a sad comment on my uneven frame of mind if there ever was one.
So after months of build-up, I made the playoffs only to go down 3-1 to Chris, losing to his bullpen kinda like I did in the '96 series. I came back to force a game 7, but my pitching advantage of Hampton vs. Tapani didn't come about because his bullpen came in with the score 1-0 and held me for 5 and 1/3 or something like that. I had the bases loaded for Gonzalez at one point, but he grounded into a double play. I later had Sefcik on third try to score on a fly to Vladimir Guerrero, but he was gunned at the plate. Just like that, I was done. After dispatching Chris in our head-to-head games during the regular season without much trouble, he blitzed past me in the playoffs. No recourse. No heroes. No glory.
I thought I wanted to de-emphasize stealing and my bullpen before the season, but I didn't really stray from the tried and true methods that gave me my past moderate success. I went quite far going this way, but considering I had Maddux and pretty strong lineup, I think I would've gone far no matter what strategies I used.
Overall, the '99 SL and the Longhorns, like the Pipes, the Freaks, the Kampers, the O's, the Rhythm, the Project and even the Honeydews, left a bad taste in my mouth.
After the season, a discussion arose about the Winter Meetings being held over Thanksgiving. I noted to the people involved in the discussion that I wouldn't be around during the holiday, but that it would be unfair to hold the meeting hostage because of my schedule since I was unsure if I would be in the SL in 2000.
I still don't understand so much about this rift I supposedly caused. If I angered some by deciding that I would reconsider whether I wanted to spend every free moment for 6 months (or more) thinking about the SL, so be it. Those feelings are beyond my control.