It was the summer of 2001. My son was 9 years old and was ready for his first year of Little League baseball. He went to tryouts and was drafted by the Davis Brothers Diamondbacks. Davis Brothers was a local printer that was gobbled up a few years later by a bigger company.
The Diamondbacks were in need of an assistant coach and since I had experience both playing and coaching, I volunteered. That's when I formed my friendship with Richard, who was the head coach. It became apparent early in the season that we had an exceptional team and we won the league championship and then won the city championship by beating other league champions in our area.
Richard and I, along with our other assistant coach Rob, stayed in touch through the years, occasionally meeting for lunch and reminiscing about that magical summer and catching up with each other's families.
During one of those lunches, Richard mentioned he was in a fantasy baseball league, the Twin Rivers Baseball League. Formed long before the internet sites began hosting leagues, he said the first several seasons they kept score manually, checking the box scores in the local newspaper. As fantasy websites came to be, they joined the ESPN site, which hosted the league stats for years. This season the league switched to the Fantrax site, so there was a learning curve for us all as we played with the new software. He mentioned several times that if someone dropped from the ten team league, he would extend an invitation to me to join. That invitation came four seasons ago.
The league values power hitting and consistent pitching. Hitters receive one point per base on hits, one point each for stolen bases, runs and RBIs. There are no points awarded for walks or hit by pitch. Pitchers receive one point per out and lose two points for each earned run. They also receive seven points for a win, four points for a save, and one point for a hold. No points are awarded for strike outs and no points are deducted for walks. Each team has a total of 25 active players per week, with the entire league playing heads up games beginning each Monday and ending the following Sunday. The top team goes 9-0 for the week with the second best going 8-1 on down to the worst team shouldering a 0-9 week.
Each team is allowed to keep five players from the previous year with the remainder of the 32 player roster eligible for the draft. Every third year all the players, including the "keepers" are eligible to be drafted, causing each team to start clean. The 2019 season is the second season of this cycle, allowing each team to keep five players.
This is my fourth season in the league. As a greenhorn, I managed to finish fifth my first season . Not the greatest finish, but I did finish in the top half of the league, which meant I got some of the prize money, so I was satisfied. My second season I made a few roster moves that worked out, plus got a little lucky and managed to win the championship! There are a couple teams that have been in the league since its inception 29 years ago that have not won a championship, so I'm extremely proud of that accomplishment. Last season was one of consistent injuries, a major reason I slipped to sixth place.
A week before our draft, which was in late March, each team must submit their list of five player they intend to keep. My five were starting pitchers Blake Snell (Cy Young winner) and Carlos Carrasco, catcher J.T. Realmuto, outfielder Marcell Ozuna and third baseman Nolan Arenado. My thought was Snell and Carrasco would be a strong 1-2 punch at the top of my rotation. Other than the Yankees Sanchez and the Phillies Realmuto, the catching position offered little in the way of hitting, so I felt that keeping Realmoto would give me an advantage at the position. Ozuna and Arenado are both no brainers.
Of the players I drafted this season, the ones that have pleased me the most is the Mets' Pete Alonzo and the White Sox Eloy Jimenez. Alonzo has been raking it this year and Jimenez is heating up after a slow start. My biggest disappointment has been Blake Snell. Between injuries and poor performance, he has become a liability. And Carrasco isn't far behind, posting a pedestrian record and spending a lot of time on the injured list.
This past week I threw in the towel with Snell, trading him, along with starting pitcher Jon Gray and first baseman Jose Abreu. Trading Abreu stings a little, but I was able to strengthen both my bullpen (Sean Doolittle) and middle infield by receiving Eduardo Escobar and Scooter Gennett, who is on the field after being on the IL all season. I will also be able to put Craig Kimbrel on the active roster now that he is closing for the Cubs.
Currently I'm sitting in fifth place, 16 1/2 games out of first. Although it's not where I want to be, it's not as bad as it looks. A big week coupled with a bad one by the leader can gain you up to nine games in a weeks time, but I can't afford to lose any more ground on the Comets.
I'm sure there will be a few more free agent pick ups and maybe another trade or two before the season ends. My hope is that Carrasco will get back sooner rather than later and that injuries in the second half of the season will be much less common.
Keep your fingers crossed for a big second half by the Lucki Ducks. 🙂