the 2069 NPBL Champion, the Louisiana Blaze

Well, as I said, the 19-year plan for world domination worked perfectly, and the lowly Louisiana Blaze became champions of the (NPBL) world this last season.

“How did you do it?” everyone wants to know. Well, I won’t go into all the details of that long and ultimately vindifying season. (Take note, brand new word there.) But there are a couple of stories that are worth telling.

First, as you all know, the Blaze finished third in their division in 2069, 11 and a half games out. This was good enough to get us into the playoffs as the wild card, and we opened the playoffs against the Wisconsin Lumberjacks.

This brings us to the number 1 reason for our championship. Blaze first baseman Thornton Swackhammer just rocked the playoffs.

Thornton Swackhammer – 2069

The Blaze edged Wisconsin in the opening series, 4 games to 3, and Mr. Swackhammer was the series MVP, hitting .379, with 2 HR, 6 rbi, and 5 runs scored.

The Blaze then tipped Kansas in 7 games, and Mr. Swackhammer was the series MVP, hitting .414, with 7 HR, 13 rbi, and 10 runs scored.

In the GEL Championship series, the Blaze rocked the New Mexico Dukes, taking the series 4 games to 1, and Mr. Swackhammer was again the MVP, hitting .313, with 4 HR, 8 rbi, and 5 runs scored.

Finally, in the National Cup series, the Blaze beat the Illinois Jethawks, 4 games to 3, and Mr. Swackhammer was NOT the series MVP. In the final series Thornton only hit .222, with 1 HR, 2 rbi, and 5 runs scored. Left fielder Jimmy Bangs was the Blaze hitting star in the Cup series, hitting .407 with 5 rbi and 3 runs scored. (He wasn’t the series MVP either.) Swackhammer was perhaps tired from all the running around the bases he’d been doing in the previous three series. Overall, Swackhammer hit .337 in the post season, with 14 HR in 26 games, 29 rbis, and an OPS of 1.295. He set new post season marks for runs (25), total bases (85), and home runs (14). Doesn’t get any better than that. Thank you Thornton Swackhammer!

The other big story of the playoffs is the Blaze closer, Babe Glumak. Babe was 35 years old when the season opened, and has been with the Blaze since we drafted him in round one in 2054, a lefty with great potential. Babe came up to the big league in 2055 for a cup of coffee, and joined the club for good in 56, going 12-12 as a starter with a 3.87 ERA. He won the Rookie of the Year title that year. He should have been on his way, but somehow he wasn’t. Something didn’t click. He had all the tools to be a top flight starter, but it never came together. He went 12-9 with a 2.88 ERA in ’57, but then 2-12 with a 7.65 ERA in ’58. 2059, 10-15. 2060, 0-3, and he was out most of the season with a sore shoulder. Sweet Mother of Mercy: was this the end of Babe Glumak? So it seemed. In 2061 he went 7-9 with a 3.66 ERA. He only started 15 games, pitched mostly in low leverage relief. In 2062 he went 9-5, only started 5 games, made 60 relief appearances and had a 4.00 ERA. In 2063 he’s 29 years old, and he only gets into 48 ball games. No starts. A 1 and 2 record. But something else happened. His knuckle-curve suddenly started to drop through the floor. His ERA dropped to 2.20.

In 2064 he’s 30 years old. His knuckle-curve becomes even more vicious, practically illegal, and his sinker bounces off opponent bats as though filled with sand. He goes 12-3, takes over the closer role, racks up 14 saves with a 1.94 ERA, while the Blaze go 71 – 91, and finish in 6th place, 28 games back. Glumak is named reliever of the year.

2065 through 2068, Glumak rules:

2065: 6-4, 45 saves, 1. 49 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, GEL Relief Pitcher of the Year
2066: 6-3, 36 saves, 1.32 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, finishes 2nd in Relief Pitcher of the Year
2067: 8-3, 40 saves, 1.29 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, GEL Relief Pitcher of the Year
2068: 6-3, 34 saves, 1.64 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, finishes 2nd in Relief Pitcher of the Year

This brings us to 2069. The Blaze have a better than expected year. Each month finds them doing a little better than the previous month, and though they finish in 3rd place, they make the playoffs easily as a wild-card, and our starting three pitchers, Boone, Lopez, and Danich, give us reason for optimism. Our hitting has been consistently good throughout the year, our defense is above average, and our bullpen is strong.

Babe Glumak

While the Blaze are improving month after month, Babe Glumak is 35 years old and not the same Babe Glumak as in the recent past. His ball doesn’t have the same zip. His control is off. But he’s a wily vet, he knows what he’s doing out there, and he finishes the season with a 4-6 mark and 44 saves, despite a 4.37 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP.

At the end of the season Glumak has a couple of terrible outings, and it’s obvious that he’s in trouble out there. Probably I should use somebody else as closer. I’ve got two or three guys that could do the job. Xavier Cerda was my AAA closer, earned 31 saves during the season. James Hummer, coming back from an injury, throws 100 mph. Shangoya maybe. Or Smith, who had a great year, with a 1.81 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.

And yet, how can you take Glumak out? He’s been THE GUY for five years. Rock solid. And now, with the playoffs here, you’re going to use someone else as closer? In what will probably be his last shot at the big deal?

Couldn’t do it. Glumak deserved his shot.

Well, Glumak hung on through the playoffs, on guts and moxie. He lost one game in the first round, I believe, but after that he… he managed. And of course it all came down to the championship, the National Cup, the seventh game, and the ninth inning.

Glumak comes in to start the inning, relieving Tim Littlewolf. The Blaze are ahead 3-1, scored an insurance run in the top of the ninth. Three outs away from the championship champagne. And old Babe Glumak is on the mound.

First guy up, An-yi Pei, right fielder, right-handed batter. He works a full count, then grounds out, an easier grounder to Kawakami at third. One down.

Pinch hitter Juan Gomez comes up, batting for the pitcher. Switch-hitter. He takes a ball, then rolls a grounder past Glumak, right to Dino Pinch at second. Easy toss to first. Two down. One out away from the title. Glumak looks deadly serious out there. The Illinois crowd is on its feet.

Centerfielder Bennett McIntyre is up, lead off batter, lefty, hit .317 on the year and he’s 2 for 4 today. He reaches down for a sinker on the first pitch and loops it just over shortstop Ernie Seppi’s outstretched glove. A single. The crowd roars. There is hope.

Second baseman Jake Young steps up to the plate. He’s a righty. Hit .363 during the season, and he’s hit .380 in the playoffs. McIntyre’s taking his lead, he’s got good speed, 13 stolen bases this year. Glumak pitches to Young. Gets a called strike, then tosses one wide, then gets another called strike, nobody like the call, the crowd roars, it looked low. Glumak throws another one wide to even the count, 2-2. Then a low one, and it’s a full count. And then another low one, ball four, runners on first and second.

Two outs, bottom of the ninth, third baseman Diego Santana is up. Another righty. Hit .276 for the year with a dozen HR. The crowd is roaring. Ball one. Ball two. A called strike, inside corner, tough pitch. Ball three, way outside. Another one comes inside, Santana swings, pops it up behind the plate, into the crowd. Full count. Glumak steps off the mound a bit, rubs the new baseball down. Climbs back up to the rubber. Takes the call from Buck behind the plate. Throws. Wide. Ball four.

Bases loaded. Ben Buck gets up from behind the plate to talk things over with Glumak.

Josh Hoffman: Dangerous

Stepping up to the plate is the clean-up hitter, a lefty, Josh Hoffman. Hit .267 on the year, with 24 HR and 96 RBI. Hitting .297 in the post-season. Buck crouches again behind the plate, and Glumak checks the runners, then peers in for the sign. First pitch, inside, Hoffman rips at it, and it shoots back to the backstop, foul ball, strike one.

Crowd on its feet. Deafening. Glumak checks the runners and gets the sign. Hoffman steps out of the box. Glumak takes the sign again. Pitches. A sinker, low and away, and Hoffman can’t lay off. He stretches for it, the ball scoots off his bat, and past Glumak’s glove. Dino Pinch glides over, scoops it up oh so carefully, and then gracefully touches second. Fielder’s choice. Three outs. Game over. The Blaze are champions, and Glumak picks up probably the last save of his career.

Glumak went 0-1 in the playoffs, with 8 saves, a 2.63 ERA, and a 1.83 WHIP.

This spring, 36 years old, he went 0-1, with 2 saves and a 5.87 ERA, and a 2.22 WHIP. He’s pitching down in AAA Baton Rouge to start the year, to see if he can work things out. So far he’s got 1 save in 6 games, 4 innings pitched, 4 earned runs, a couple of HR. I’ve got Xavier Cerda working now as my closer. Picked him up as an undrafted free agent in 2063. He keeps on surprising and improving. I’ve also got young Jon Church in Baton Rouge. Drafted him in 2065, round two. He picked up 41 saves in AA Shreveport last year, with a 2.02 ERA. I’m hoping he might learn a few things from Babe Glumak.

 

I suppose the Twins are training, now…

…and I suppose I should make some note of that.

But last season took a lot out of me. As my high expectations (i.e. World Series) were not just “dashed.”

There isn’t really a word for what they were.

Perhaps “eviscerated” comes close.

Well, anyway, these are the Twins, so they have regrouped and apparently are in Florida again, spring training, as it were, and thinking of the future, and planning for the upcoming season. They’ve got a brand-spanking new front office, new GM, new coaches, a new “pitch-framing” catcher, a new old third baseman, and everybody should still have a bad taste in their mouth from last season. (59-103, lest you could possibly forget.)

Anyway, I’ll have to touch base with the Twins soon — and forgive them — and get up to speed on the doings over there.

And I should also let all you Blaze fans know: The Louisiana Blaze, my team in the National Pastime Baseball League, are Champs! Yes! Yes!  Champions of the NPBL! We RULE.

The NPBL is a computer baseball league that uses Out of the Park Baseball simulation software, which provides an incredibly realistic baseball management experience. I assumed control over the Blaze back in 2050, and my 19-year long-range plan worked pretty much to perfection, as we win the title in 2069 (after finishing third in our division.)

I think more on this later. There were at least a couple good stories there. Suffice to say that “We rule!” and also that it’s also spring training in the NPBL, and last year is last year, we have left it behind and are thinking of the future and planning for the coming season.

Which makes me think that baseball is a zen sort of sport. There’s no yesterday, and there’s no tomorrow. There’s only NOW. And now the Blaze are working on the usual drills, enjoying an off day after winning a 5-3 spring game yesterday. And the Twins are also enjoying an off day after winning a 2-1 win spring game yesterday. And everything is good.

Now if only the Millers could win a game…

 

Blaze update…

bupdate2 fla wct 2

When last we left the Louisiana Blaze, on the 8th of August last year, the 2053 season was winding down, and the Blaze were looking towards next year. Well, time has passed. Let’s catch up.

2053

We finished the year with a 64-98 record, 5th place, 24 games back. We scored 602 runs, but we allowed 738. We hit .240 as a team, and had an ERA of 4.15, with a WHIP of 1.42. This is not a recipe for success. Masuhiro Yoshida led us in most offensive categories, while Ledford and Wright were the top starters.

In the 2054 draft I had the fifth pick, and my number one choice was a starting pitcher, Babe Glumak, the younger brother of my number 2 pick last year, Bucky. Babe’s got basically two pitches a sinker and a knuckle-curve, and he throws them hard. I’m looking for great things from young Babe.
After Babe, there didn’t seem to be a lot of stand out pitching available, so I went with four fielders: left fielder Franklin Amp, shortstop Bobby Collyard, first baseman Danton Samba, and catcher Curt Mathews. Certainly, we could use someone to hit the ball.

2054

In ’54 we improved. We went 65-97. At this rate, a 100 win season is only a matter of time. We scored 634, (+32!) but allowed 792 (+54!) – not a good trend. We finished in 5th place, 27 games out, and once again claimed a moral victory by avoiding the predicted 100 loss season. Take that!

In ’54 Masahiro Yoshida had some knee problems, missed about five weeks of the season, and faltered a bit. Young third baseman Jesus Rosales took over the batting lead in most categories, finishing with a .303 average and 20 home runs in his second full season. Only 24 years old. I love this kid!

The pitching was terrible in ’54 – a 4.50 ERA. The most pleasant pitching surprise of the year was Pedro Cardenas, who, at 35, was brought up from the minors in sheer desperation, and who managed to start off by going 4-0, or something like that, before finishing up at 7-7 with a 4.70 ERA. One of my other starters was Michael Gore, who went 6-15 with a 6.03 ERA. I kept on thinking he couldn’t be that bad, but he was. Meanwhile, it was Wright’s turn to have a decent season (14-11, 3.62) and Ledford’s turn to disappoint (10-16, 3.42). Ledford was always just good enough to lose. Ben Stewart had a decent season as a closer, with 36 saves and a 3.39 ERA. Not that I needed a closer, but his trade value is minimal, I think, as he’s 35 year’s old. Still, make me an offer.

In the ’55 draft I would have gone with pitching if there would have been someone there for me in the three spot. But there wasn’t, so I took a college kid, rightfielder Ty Pharoh, as my number one, number 3 overall. Looks to be a good hitter with some power and speed, and I’m hoping he comes up soon. My outfield is a shambles. My other picks, in order, pitcher Barlow Quirk, first baseman Franzwah Thibidaux, pitcher Johnny Dark, pitcher L.C. Crow, and pitcher Sam Gunsolly. Yes, I could use some pitching.

2055

Another season where 100 losses were predicted. Another season where we beat the odds. We finished at 73 and 89, 4th place, 29 games back, and just short of a wild card spot in the playoffs. General Manager of the year? Not likely. What’s the secret of our success, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. We scored 596 runs, -38 from last year (!), and gave up 647, which is -145 from last year! Yes, almost 150 less runs were scored against us. Unethical Chad McCall came up this year, and – genius that I am – I pitched him in middle relief almost all season. He went 6-1, with a 1.70 ERA in 100 innings of work. I finally put him in the rotation at season’s end, and, his second start, he throws a no-hitter.
I think he’ll be starting next year.

chadwick_mccall_2055_

I will probably need him, as one of my other top starters is now 37 years old, and perhaps will retire? Carlos Ibarra went 12-11 with a 3.35 ERA, at 37, the best I’ve seen from him. Perhaps he’s working on the knuckleball? Wright and Ledford both posted 8-14 marks, Ledford with a 3.06 ERA. I also brought up former first round pick Dale Smokervich, but he has had some injury troubles and is fading a bit. He went just 7-10 with a 4.57 ERA; I’m hoping he will improve next season, though he might find himself in the bullpen.

If we could have scored a few runs last year, we might have made the playoffs! But we didn’t. Jesus Rosales again led our “offense” in most categories, hitting .297 with 77 rbis. Yoshida led the club in HR with… 13. Yes. Thirteen. John White would probably have led the club in home runs, but he got hurt after 40 some games, so he only ended up with 9. Our outfield was terrible. We used first baseman Clint Cotton in left and right field, and he hit more than we thought he would, going .247-10-42, but Robert Riley (another first baseman playing left) only hit .227-9-47. Centerfielder Carlos Lopez rebounded from some disappointing years to hit .299, but let’s see if he can do that again, because I’m doubtful. Olimpio Molnes was brought up from Baton Rouge, and he did okay for a rookie, at .242-9-41; plus he can actually play outfield! Run, catch, and throw! I don’t know if he can hit so much next year, but we plan on having him out there to catch the ball.

One thing for sure in 2056 – both our pitching and our outfield should be better than in ’55. Babe Glumak should be in the rotation, and Ty Pharoh will be in right.

Currently the playoffs begin tomorrow; they’ll take awhile. And then comes the ’56 draft. I’ll be picking 8 or 9, I think, somewhere in there. Pitching? Hitting? Well, we’ll have to see what’s available.

blazeball 2 copy

the pawns of summer

We were standing in the coffee line at Dunn Brothers, early this summer, and I was telling Ghost about that article I read, about baseball losing its audience.

“Boring?” he said, “How can people think that?”

“Exactly!” I replied. “It’s not boring at all!”

“No!”

“Far from it!” I said.

“Are you kidding me? It’s like a chess match out there!”

“Yes! A chess match!”

baseball chess b

my career as o/gm/m/cbw of the Louisiana Blaze

My tenure as CBW of the Louisiana Blaze has not been marked, shall we say, by great success.

office

About a month ago I wrote about the Out of the Park baseball simulation game, and about taking over a club in one of the online leagues. Well, here’s a quick rundown of recent Blaze history.

2050

My first season. I assumed control of the club on about the 20th of June, with the team in first place, and five games over .500. Knowing better than to mess with a good thing, I put her in auto-pilot, pretty much, and we finished in second place, 87-75, and in the playoffs, where we were ignominiously knocked out in the first round. All plaudits for that fine season rightfully belong to previous ownership.

An immediate glaring weakness was at catcher, manned by the aging veteran Hector Silva. Silva was 34 years old, and, while still capable defensively, his bat was anemic and his legs failing. His backup was Jose Coreto, a younger version of Silva. So in the post-season amateur draft I used my first pick on a young high school catcher, a young lad by the name of Rambo Jones, middling defensively, but with a lot of home run potential. As my pitching staff seemed to be capably anchored by Ledford, Wright, Bradley, and Stewart,  I sought bats in the draft. Outfielder Dusty Thompson in round two. First baseman Baltahzar Quinn in the third. I could not resist relief pitcher Wesley Starks in the fourth round, but then concluded the draft with shortstop Rick Henricks in the fifth. All of these future stars were packed off to the low minors.

2051

We went into ’51 looking forward to another successful year. We moved out of the crumbling, financially unsustainable BlazeDome, and into a new (actually refurbished) outdoor field, Pelican Park, in New Orleans. Real grass and Louisiana sun. However, despite the fresh air and the sunshine, the ’51 season was an unmitigated disaster. The bottom dropped out of the barrel,  the pitching collapsed, the hitting was anemic. We finished in 6th place, 63-99, 30 games out of first. On offense, we went from 638 runs scored in ’50 to 574 in ’51; our team ERA jumped from 3.31 to 4.35. The grass at Pelican Park came down with some sort of slime mold, which disgusted everyone, and the “plumbing” in the clubhouse is an issue with the city health inspector. It ‘s no wonder we lost. More importantly, who to blame? Probably the new owner. And how to fix it?

Pitching was the obvious place to start, and in the subsequent draft I selected starting pitcher Dale Smokervich in the first round, starter Jeff Maddox in the second, closer Elvis Cakedy in the third, and starter Leonardo Merrill in the fifth. In the fourth round I snuck in a young shortstop, Moses Good. I’m finding that the high quality talent disappears pretty quickly in the draft. In the early first round you can get an impact player. After that, you are hoping for good fortune to smile upon you.

2052

For the ’52 season, I only tweaked the lineup a bit. Surely the pitching wasn’t, couldn’t possibly be as bad as it had been in ’51? Sometimes that happens. A year gone wrong. A bump in the road. Minor adjustments were called for, but certainly not wholesale changes. Juan Valentin, my light hitting shortstop who contributed 30+ errors in ’51, found a spot on the bench. Nelson Maldonado, who had been playing third base, moved over to short, and Kel Blackwell started at third. Not much of a fielder, but some pop in his bat. Masuhiro Yoshida starts the season at first base, after being called up from AAA in the second half of ’51, and hitting .312. The once threatening Cheol-han Kim (.274, 36, 135 back in 2048) also found space on the bench, after another disappointing season (.221, 13, 50). In his place, young Jose Moreno, often injured, but somehow healthy to start ’52.

Well, ’52 was an improvement, though critics say we played over our heads. We were picked to finish last, but instead climbed up to the heady heights of fifth place, going 73 – 89, and indeed staying in contention till about halfway through the season, thanks largely to young Yoshida, who improved upon his ’51 effort, hitting .332, with 18 HR and 98 rbi. He carried the club in ’52, but one player can only do so much, and, the pitching being unreliable, the team faded in the second half. We scored 612 runs in ’52, up a bit (38) from 574 in ’51, and we allowed 734, slightly less (29) than the 763 of the previous year.

Improved, but with largely the same problems as in ’51. There were some highlights in the Minor Leagues; Dale Smokervich moved quickly through A and AA level ball, with an 18-5 overall record. He’ll be starting ’53 at AAA Baton Rouge, and maybe finish the season in the majors? I like this Smokervich kid.

In the draft I went for pitching again. The best pitcher available when my first pick came up was a relief pitcher, a Yale man, Unethical Chad McCall, but I may make him a starter. My second pick was a starter, Bucky Glumak, my third pick was a starter, Izzy “the snake” Camorra, and my fourth pick was Dexter Watts, a relief pitcher. My last pick was a young switch-hitting third baseman, Guy Bounds. A slick fielding long shot.

2053

And now the 2053 season is winding down. It’s the dog days of August, and the Blaze are out of the race, 47-72. Our ERA is 4.25, compared to 4.05 last year. Our batting average is .241, compared to .251 last year. We take a step back. Pitching, batting, both inconsistent. We’re waiting for the young horses to come up.

Young Horse Dale Smokervich got hurt at AAA. He had a 6-3 record with a 3.20 ERA when he tore his labrum and went down for the season. Ouch. But the doctors say he’ll make a full recovery, and meanwhile Bucky Glumak and Unethical Chad McCall have done well, and have just been moved up to AA ball in Shreveport. I’m slowly replacing the older hands in the minors with younger kids with potential, and all my teams in the minors are leading their divisions. (A minor victory.)

I brought up young Robert Riley to the big club, even though he’s a first baseman; I’m playing him at second and in left, and he’s hitting .297. I wish I had more options with him in the field.  Yoshida has been slumping the last couple of weeks, but is still hitting .310.
One pleasant surprise has been John White, my left fielder, who has been hitting home runs again, 17 so far, and leading the teams in RBIs with 73. But the biggest surprise has been at catcher, where young Tomas Valdez, who I picked up as an undrafted free agent back in ’50 (my first free agent signing) has surprised everyone and made it up to the big leagues. I started him off in Rookie ball in ’50, and he hit a surprising .390. I bumped him up to AA Shreveport, and he hit .301, and at AAA he hit .347, then .247, then .343 this season, when I brought him up to the big show. He’s hitting .262 in the majors so far. It’s early. But it’s a glimmer of hope. Which is what Blaze fans need..
I am looking forward to the coming draft. I still need starting pitching, but I feel much better about my prospects now. If everyone can stay healthy. And develop according to plan. And not get hurt. Then maybe we can contend in a couple of years.