Any talk about my 2006 team begins with my 2005 team. 2005 was a bad SL season for me. My preparation was ill-conceived, then the draft happened during a major work-related meltdown, which simply consumed me. My top picks did next-to-nothing for me, and I felt it necessary to trade or drop half my team mid-season. The team played better in the 2nd half, giving me some hope despite earning the Miss Summer League trophy. Hope reemerged when I drew the Ace at the 2006 WM. Hope was high also because for the division draw, I found myself with SL rookie Gregg Tonkery and the enigmatic Steve Swinea. Steve had edged me in our division races the previous two seasons, but each time I thought he did despite drafting poorly, something that could easily happen yet again. 2006 had a lot of upside.
The team name is Kids In The Hall related. Felt it would appropriate, considering my official team initials have been KITH for some time now, and The Kids are up there among my all-time favorite television shows (probably behind M*A*S*H* and Seinfeld). Started watching that with Mike McLoughlin a long time ago, watched the show a good 1000 times with Greg throughout our college years, and have recently found that Chris and Steve are fans. Thirty Helens are a sketch from the show, and while Kilamanjaro has nothing to do w/ KITH, I liked the KI in the initials and the name intersects with one of Monty Python's sketches (Python probably ahead of M*A*S*H* and Seinfeld, now that I think about it).
Took Clemens instead of DLee, thinking my whole staff could be positively affected by Clemens. As Greg showed with Lee, though he somewhat underperformed power-wise, his whole lineup was positively affected by Lee. On the flip side, I was very happy with getting 1B-DH opportunity costs like 1B Tony Clark in the 4-5 swing and DH Jason Giambi in the 6-7 swing, though they provided a much different team texture than I would have had with Lee. Anyway, when Clemens was losing games because of run support, I was wishing I took Lee. When Clemens won big games, which was mostly in my division and in the semifinals, I was glad I took him.
The Street-Wagner 2-3 swing was not the right thing to do, but argued myself out of my preferred swing of Brian Roberts and Todd Helton. I was very happy to get Utley and Peralta when I did, but their production did not approach what I had envisioned. In fact, I didn't like too many of my picks after Giambi in the 7th. Those picks were a lot of stop-gap measures to attempt to fix big holes, a lot of knee-jerk reactions to Chris and Greg taking guys I wanted right before my turn, and the like. Basically I had Clemens, a good relief staff, and was at or below average in every other talent tier.
Lineup was (stats listed are for KITH only):
1. Michaels CF .227 .320 .351 2. Polanco 2B .254 .315 .352 3. Giambi DH .230 .398 .522 38 HRs, SL-leading 121 BBs, 7th in MVP 4. TClark 1B .272 .344 .628 43 HRs, SL-leading 118 RBI, 4th in MVP, had 4 HR game vs. Swinea 5. Peralta SS .235 .325 .455 earned one 10th place MVP vote 6. Burrell LF .230 .313 .486 7. Jenkins RF .195 .293 .350 mere 34 RBI in 500+ PAs 8. YMolina C .184 .238 .265 9. Figgins 3B .206 .277 .297 24-41 stealing
Freel 2B-OF .231 .342 .353 30-32 stealing, 4th on team in runs Miller C .202 .247 .307 Perez 3B-1B .200 .306 .494 14 HR in ~200 PAs Drew OF .192 .341 .447 great secondary #s, but little true impact Francoeur OF .188 .212 .328 Womack 2B-OF .161 .152 .161 36-46 stealing
Occasional Helens were:
Neifi SS .267 .353 .400 15 AB Wilkerson 1B-OF .250 .268 .425 40 AB VWells CF .236 .295 .458 144 AB Gomes OF .229 .308 .486 35 AB Shelton 1B .219 .240 .438 73 AB Chavez 3B .171 .238 .295 275 AB Utley 2B .152 .265 .264 125 AB
Starting staff was:
Clemens R 20 G 16-13, 2.98, 281.0 IP, no-hitter vs. Swinea Sheets R 11Z 7-13, 5.04, 191.0 IP Glavine L 11 G 4-15, 6.15, 136.0 IP Hudson R 11 6-10, 4.58, 173.0 IP DWells L 6Z 1-5, 5.99, 94.2 IP Halladay R 16ZH 2-0, 3.50, 18.0 IP, 2 GS
Relief staff was:
Street R 22 H 11-7, 2.20, 15 sv Wagner L 23 9-8, 2.32, 11 sv Rhodes L 18ZH 6-4, 2.49, 3 sv Witasick R 14 G 5-3, 2.82, 1 sv Spurling R 12Z 3-2, 3.50 AlReyes R 18 7-3, 4.09, 1 sv
The offense was a low average, high secondary average, slow of foot kind of offense. It was a historically low average offense, which is to say the lowest average in SL history. Defense was nothing too special, other than Chavez, VWells, and Yadier. Starting staff was Clemens and pray for a long injury. Relievers were pretty clutch, with just 11 blown all season.
In the first 40, I had some terrible series. Beat Matt 4-1, Tonk and Steve 3-2, lost 4-1 to Ken, Dave, Greg, and Chris, and lost to Graham 3-2 to end up 16-24. Neifi played too much, but didn't play enough for Peralta and his mandatory 21 sits, Wilkerson played too often (but not often enough at 1B for Clark and his 32 sits), Chavez and Jenkins regularly hit 6th and 7th and gave me nothing. Utley hit cleanup more than half the time, and managed just 9 RBI, 2 HR, and a .152 batting average. Vernon Wells was hitting above my expectations, but my expectation was that if he played everyday as my CF, he would soon bottom out. In trying to spark the offense, Drew played more than half the time, despite only being alloted 70 SL games. Clark was great, Giambi was great, but the offense was in serious trouble.
I went through a series of personnel moves at this point, trying to get a better "whole" as opposed to a strong core. Whether I achieved that or not is debateable. I traded Utley, Wilkerson and oft-injured Jonny Gomes for Alou, Michaels and Counsell, exchanging injuries, problems and enigmas with Steve, who probably got the better of the deal in light of how well Gomes did. Alou and Counsell were shipped to Graham before playing a game for the Thirty Helens, in return for Burrell and Polanco. Then I dropped Neifi in favor of Chris Shelton.
One reason I thought Utley was expendable at the 40 game mark was that I was playing Freel a significant amount already in left field, so why not get a similar player in Alou, move Freel to second, and improve my CF play in Michaels. Before even playing this out, I decided Alou and his SA3 was going to be too much of a problem, and the reality hit me that Counsell was probably a better secondbase option than Freel, which was no option for me. I knew Graham was also searching for a different offensive identity, and was able to get underperformers Burrell and Polanco from him. Burrell did well for me in the 40 games following the deal, Polanco didn't do much in that same span except fill in too often at shortstop for Peralta. My other pickups, Shelton and Michaels, started well then fizzled.
The team hit slightly better this second 40, but the results of this different group of players was a 20-20 record, no games made up on division leader Swinea. Donald Rumsfeld famously said you go to war with the army you have, not with the army you wish you had. I knew I still had a chance to change my personnel, and I did then at the 80 game mark, exchanging Chavez, Shelton and Vernon Wells with Dave for Figgins, Eduardo Perez and Francouer. It was not ideal, but this was an army that I felt I could go to war with.
I finished the 80 game mark on a 1-6 run, then started with this new team on a 2-14 skid, all said, an abysmal 3-20 stretch to drop to 38-58. My rallying cry became the Rick Nelson song Garden Party, the 50s pop idol's song about how he did the same songs that he did for 10 years for his fans, but given that his look had changed with the times in the late 60s, those same fans booed him off the stage during a Madison Square Garden benefit concert. It was an event that empowered him to continue toward creating songs more toward what he had become as a songwriter, not what he had been as a "Hello, Mary Lou" singer. Despite outside whispers that I built a dreadfully lesser team, I felt I needed to change with the times of this team to set some things right, and that the final 80 games would be my Garden Party. As Rick said, you can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself. I felt that it was this team that could catch Swinea, and certainly that he would falter despite his mid-season .500 record. I felt Gregg could pose a challenge in the division, but that I could definitely find a way to get back in the weak Cubs Division.
I got back in the division in a flash. I won the last three of my series with Ken to go to 41-58. After dropping 2 of 3 against Greg, the team squeaked out a 3-2 win over Dave, then won a bunch of close games against Steve in beating him 4 games to 1. At this point, I was 49-63, while Steve went 3-11 on the night as his lead slipped. I followed this by clawing out a 3-2 series win over Matt, then started with two losses against Ken, before rallying for 8 straight wins over Ken, Matt and Graham. 60-69 was not all that good, but I was within a few games of the division, and it was a far cry from 20 games under and from 10 games out of the division race. The quick ascension up the division ladder was complete when I started the night of September 22nd by chicoing Gregg and earning first place amid Swinea's descent.
I was improving by winning the one-run games I didn't win earlier in the season, by playing the National League style ball with Figgins (gave me time in CF, at 2B, and SS when not capably replacing underachiever Chavez at 3B), Michaels, Womack (barely played in the 1st half, able to make use of his flexibility more in the 2nd half), Yadier (split time w/ Miller in the 1st half, but then committed to Molina as he caught 3/4 of the games in the 2nd half), Freel, and Polanco (Freel and Polanco alternated playing secondbase and getting injured, and when each was hurt, the other seemed to come up with big stretches or big hits), while still getting that high runs created styled that had been in this team's DNA from lumberers like Giambi, Clark, Burrell, important sub Eduardo Perez (I claimed in an email that Perez hit a season-saving home run against Ken, a hit that spearheaded that 8 game win streak), and to a lesser extent from Jenkins and Drew, who played a fair amount during my successful 27-11 run after barely playing during the second 40 of the season. 27-11 stretches are rare in the SL, and I don't remember them happening to teams thinking as much about Miss Summer League as they are the Spit Cup during the second half of the season. It was a remarkable comeback, but now my focus became holding onto to the slim division lead amid mounting injuries and player usage issues.
I struggled to hold the league, going 7-11 while sitting Giambi, Clark, Peralta and others as I tried to get my team healthy and available for the final 10 Cubs Division games. Going into the final night, I stood at 72-80, 1 game up on Steve and 7 up on Gregg. Below is a recap I emailed to the league regarding the final 10 games of Cubs Division play:
I showed up about 45 minutes later than Steve. He bides his time by watching SpongeBob with Justin and Fletcher. I was able to get word to Gregg that I'd be late, but he still arrives before I do. Gregg doesn't get a chance to eat at home before coming over, so Kristin shares some of her Tortilla Stack, which is a big hit with Gregg.
Steve and I alternate games against Gregg, which is a way for us to try to keep things more fair, but I think it works out for me playing after Steve, seeing how Steve does ... at least with Steve losing like he did against Gregg, I got that impression. Gregg very aggressive with his bullpen against both of us. After Perez ties 2-2 it in the middle innings, Jenkins a walk off single in game 2 (Gregg's game 4) for a 3-2 Kilamanjaro win, eliminating Gregg and holding serve over Steve after Freddy Garcia had just beaten Chacin to get to 1/2 game back. Willis dominates David Wells and my lineup in game 3. Clemens strands 10 and holds on to a 2-1 lead to win game 4, supported by a Clark 2-run homer. Come from being down 6-1 in game 5 (Gregg's game 162) to within 1 entering the top of the 9th, but Abreu (maybe it was him) can't score on a fly hit to leftfielder Tony Womack, and the lead is just one entering the 9th. Someone gets on, Womack hits and runs him to third, Perez ties the score with a hit and run single off Timlin, who then gets ejected for hitting Jenkins, and Yadier hits a walk off 1-out squeeze to score Womack. The lead is 3 over Steve entering our final 5.
Steve wins our game 1. Pedro pitches well, but Steve's offense, which wasn't very strong in his Gregg series, can only manage 1 run against Hudson, Rhodes and Street in game 2 (Burrell might have homered in that game). Garcia gives up a Polanco double, intentionally walks Clark, then yields a Peralta 3-run homer in the first inning of game 3. Steve can't get his mojo working, and Reyes closes out a 6-2 division clincher. Maddux pitches game 161, Prior game 162. Maddux goes 9, gives up just 1 run for the win. Prior takes the loss, giving up 2 earned over 8, striking out 15 Boil Ups.
Steve and I finish at about midnight and head to SideOuts to rehash the night, the season, the league, etc,, but the doors are locked when we get there. We drive to Wauconda to Duke's, but that too is closed. We drive into downtown Wauconda and find a place that's open, as I miss taking the SL tour by one street (tour includes Wauconda Middle School where Bob works, the Bultinck house where Joe lives, and the beach where Chris and I saw Dan Casper and his family in the Summer of 2005). We close the bar. I go home and look at stats.
The highlight of the season was the post-season win over Ken. Clark did not come through, but a great many others did.
It's difficult to eloquate my thoughts about the WS. I thought I matched up well with Dave, which seems wrong considering his 14-5 record against me during the regular season ... but I felt the offenses that could beat me were the high on-base teams, of which Dave had the opposite type of offense, and I felt Dave's G/H no Z staff was counterintuitive to my high number of 14s and 5s. I felt we waited too long to play it, but I did enjoy the fact that it was at a time where so much of the league could be there to watch. When Clemens could not hold onto the big lead in game 2, I blew a great chance to take a commanding 2-0 lead, and I knew I blew my best chance to win the series. Dave didn't look back from that point on, getting his talent to deliever exactly what he needed to take the series 4-1. Congratulations on the win and the great season, counselor.
Greg swept my awards ballot. DLee was the league MVP and he got my top vote, Greg earned my MOY vote and well as that of the league, and Jason Isringhausen was my Cy. No one else voted for him that high, and, in fact, ERA leader Chris Carpenter earned all of the other top votes (Dave voted for Clemens as Carpenter was ineligible for his ballot).
In my mind, Carpenter's ERA was tremendous, but it only told part of the story, as Carpenter 1) gave up 20 unearned runs, 2) he only managed to win 13 games in spite of a seemingly dominant ERA, and 3) he didn't make much of an impression on me in our head-to-head contests, compared to other Miracles like Loiaza, Burnett and even Lowry leaving the impression of having great success against me. Carpenter left the same impression on me that John Thomsen had in leading the league in ERA in 2005, leaving me with the notion that Carpenter alone was not the one responsible for the honor, but instead it should be shared with the strong Festus pen who must have done an excellent job in managing his ERA. Isringhausen, I got the impression, was the one pitcher of Greg's who drove his total team pitching success. His miniscule ERA, fantastic win total, high hold total, and historic save-and-hold to blown ratio impressed me to no end. Ok, maybe Carpenter had the same relatively low ERA, but in the games I faced Greg, while the John Garland's were struggling along to hold onto 5-4 leads, it was Isringhausen that left the deep impression on me that he was responsible for Greg's win in the end. There was a reason people considered John Garland for the Cy, and the best reason I can think of is that Isringhausen had his back. I think another reason Isringhausen got my vote is because I have a solid appreciation for lights out relief pitching, which is why I usually invest so highly in those types of relievers. 15-3, 1.32, 16 sv, 12 holds, 20% IRSP, and just 3 blown is our best ever example of a lights out reliever.
It'll be great to have Bob back. And the rest of you fine Summer Leaguers. Peace!