Keith's SL20 Thoughts

I have loved, to varying degrees, almost ALL of my SL teams.

My first team in '94 was my template for a completely balanced team, something I have valued in a team from the SL's outset ... fatal flaw was that relief balance can often be a sham, and it was exposed in our first Spit Cup Final.

My '95A team was loved because I had a hunch they could be awesome despite poor starting pitching ... fatal flow was that we were still in the formative years of deciding what is fair and reasonable for a one-game playoff, and that led to a poor starting pitcher losing that pivotal game for me.

My '96 team was exquisite for the offensive template I created for them, where each player has a specific job ... fatal flaw was that no one clocked in once Chris brought his relievers into each Spit Cup Final contest.

My '97 team was all about proving to naysayers that I could draft a defined need, and, whether that foresight was wrong or right, I could win my division with that team ... fatal flaw was that my talent-level was exposed not as much in the 163 SL games, but was so exposed in the best of 7 semifinals.

My '03 team was loved amid sitting back and letting a super-stud be MVP-like, while enjoying what others were contributing toward the team goal ... fatal flaw was that a team never is just a few parts come the playoffs.

My '98/'99/'00/'07/'08 teams were great, but they are not looked back as much beloved as others, probably because they were good and fun but flawed, in some cases, the flaw may have been simply they weren't exceptional teams. Similarly, my '01 and '04 teams were fun teams with rosters I enjoyed managing, but most of the season was spent trying to validate specific early picks I made, which in and of itself doesn't usually make for exceptional teams.

I do have 4 exceptional teams I want to call out. In my eyes, these 4 are ALL looked at differently than the rest, not as much about the flaws, but more what they accomplished and the internal feelings I had as I was going through the process. These are my Rushmore teams.

My 2011 team was just a joy to play. They possessed ALL aspects that I love managing -- functional offensive players including an MVP-caliber hitter, deep pitching including strong relief, some strong steal threats, super defense ... and a team that together put in a great playoff run. They reaffirmed alot of internal beliefs of how I felt I needed to put together a team as a GM, and how I needed to manage that team. It's a great feeling to have that kind of affirmation coupled with a high level of on-field success.

My 2009 team was alot like 2011, but what sets them apart was that they were probably the best team in the league, and they just excelled at the fun skill of stealing bases, and the just-as-fun skill of holding down opposing offenses. I may be overstating how good this team was, because, at a simplistic level, they truly just connected a bunch of dots together to find ways to outlast their opponents. At many times through the season, and even through their playoff run, I had a belief, but also had an understanding that the wheels could come off at any time. It was wonderful to have that belief in this group.

My 2006 team was much different than the others talked about here. This team was special, with an offensive weapon that could hit 4 HR's in one game against a division rival, while their top pitcher could throw a no-no against the same rival. Unfortunately, the team that was drafted was understood to be fatally flawed almost at the outset. This team persevered, and their GM and manager worked in such a way that it was not a lost cause, even amid dreadful stretches of play. It was basically an overturned roster, and a changed-on-the-fly philosophy on how I could succeed. Ultimately, the team was the most successful 78-win team in our history, advancing to the Spit Cup Final and even taking a series lead despite some glaring teamwide holes. I have been confident in my skills as a manager since we began the SL (or at least since July 4, 1994), but this team gave me a different kind of confidence, something about knowing what I needed to do, how to get it accomplished, and then seeing it through to the end.

My 2005 Zihuatenejo Hope team was my least talented team. While 2006 was not successful in that they won just 78 games, they at least had exceptional playoff success. My 2005 team was on the bottom of the standings all season long. But getting to the 2006 Final wouldn't have happened if I didn't figure out some things philisophically like I did in 2005. The GM job I did post-draft was the best I did, and the change in management style on the fly had this not-so-talented group with a historically bad record playing strong SL ball for the last 100 games of the season. Hyperbole aside, ALL resolve I display in the last several years can trace back to the distraught-to-achievement feelings I had from my 2005 team. There is something amazing about being at a point where you are throwing your team against a wall to see what sticks, and you realize that ALL you can truly count on is you.