Saturday, March 29, 2014

Trading The Gator - Draft Day

Today, for the 31st time in history, the owners of the CFCL gather for what they collectively acknowledge is the Greatest Day of The Year:  Draft Day.

I'm sure Rich will be recapping the events of the day, as well as the celebrations that took place to recognized the CFCL's 30th Anniversary.

For now, though, let's take a look back for an in-depth examination of Draft Day and what it means, courtesy of Trading the Gator.  This clip from the film documents the draft of 2002.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Five Most Significant Changes in the CFCL - #1

We have reached the top of the list.  The most (in my opinion) significant change to the CFCL.  Arguments could be made that the assignment of ratings for being computerized and changing categories were inaccurate, but for our #1 selection, there can be no argument.  It is, without question, the most significant change to the CFCL.

October 11, 2010.  It was on that date that David's Copperfields retired from the CFCL.  The man that started the league by bringing his best friend in high school to Kroch's & Brentano's and showed him this shiny green book, decided to walk out with class, walk out with a heavy heart and to walk out on top.

David Mahlan, following his passion for books and his passion for baseball, sought out "The Greatest Game For Baseball Fans Since Baseball" and changed the face of baseball in Chicago forever, at least for nearly 44 devoted baseball fans.

For 27 years David gave his heart and soul to the league becoming its League Secretary, League Archivist, Co-Commissioner and, not least of all, most successful team in league history.  On top of developing the most honest and classy fantasy sports organization around, David won eleven championships in twenty-seven years (good for a 41% winning percentage, not just finishing in the money percentage).

David had the unique ability, as Commissioner, to deal with many owner personalities - some honest, some conniving, some selfish, some Vile-Despicable-Scum - and was able to make each feel as they were being dealt with honestly and fairly.

As owner of David's Copperfields David came in to each draft prepared to the gills.  That's not a subjective analysis.  For many years before laptops became all the rage, David would quietly place three, count 'em, three three-ring binders each more than two inches thick on the table in front of him.  They were full of player analyses, inflation ratings and general intimidation.  Many an owner would quietly say (hoping they were right)  "There's probably nothing on most of those pages.  He's just trying to scare us."  All comments in that vein were incorrect.

Enough words cannot be written about the absolute class David used in establishing and then enforcing the rules of the CFCL.

David tried to walk away a couple of years earlier, but I temporarily was able to talk him out of it by offering to take on as much administrative responsibility as possible so he could simply run his team.  After two years, David realized that even just running his team would require more time than he was willing to give at this point of his life.

While David retired from active team ownership and Commissioner duties, we have been able to cajole him into stopping by for the beginning of each draft, enjoying our company at the CFCL Awards and Banquest Extravaganza and staying involved with endeavors like this blog.  We are all holding out hope that once his boys are grown and on their own there will come a time when the Copperfields need to take the field once again.  Always being as honest as possible, David has reponded to all such inquiries as "Probably not."  But we can always hope.

It's not the same.  David understood better than anyone that the league is bigger than any one owner, but the league has not been the same without him at the helm.  Teams will compete, fun will be had and championships will be won.  The CFCL will go on ("We're Not Even Halfway There!") but it won't be the same.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Five Most Significant Changes in the CFCL - #2

Finishing second of the most significant change in the CFCL (and honestly there's a strong argument to be made that it could have been #1) is the advent of computers and the computerization of the CFCL.

Back in 1984, when this amazing ride began, pteradactyls dropped the Sporting News from the sky . . . well, no not exactly, but the only computers being used were by major companies to process paperwork and NASA to shoot for the stars.  There was no such thing as a home computer.  David and I were in high school learning to code computer programs with "if then" and the dreaded output of "endless loop".

As far as the CFCL, it was all paper and pen.  When we prepared for the draft we would handwrite our notes (or highlight passages from a magazine or baseball book).  There were no sortable spreadsheets.

When it was time to do the stats each week, it was paper and pencil and a calculator.  I still remember that Friday night in May, 1984 when I set up a card table in my parents' living room, turned on a Cubs game, pulled out the USA Today with the first printed stats for the season and started, manually, entering numbers on to each team's stat sheet.

About three hours later I had (I thought) the first standings in CFCL history!  I called David because I knew he was doing the stats too.  In my mind I thought we would both do the stats, compare our results as a sort of check and balance and then send the standings off to the rest of the league (which for David meant walking down the hallway and handing his dad and brother a copy of the standings).

I called David and said "Well, it looks like (X Team) is leading so far."  To which he replied that he got a different result.  Upon further review it turned out I added or divided or copied wrong and David's stats were right.  Thus ended the great Bentel as Standings Calculator Experiment.  Logically we decided that I should be in charge of the league money and keep track of fees.

And so it went for a few years, David crunching the numbers as soon as he got the weekly USA Today stats and then mailing everything out.

Fast forward to sometime in the late '80's/early 90's.  Bob Monroe (owner of the Bald Eagles) was in the league and had gotten one of those home computer things.  He walked into the draft one year with a bunch of computer printout sheets (no doubt trying to intimidate us since he couldn't outdraft us).

Shortly there after he and David started talking and Bob said he could probably design a form (think early version of Excel Spreadsheet) that would allow us to manually enter in the numbers into the form and then the computer could quickly and accurately calculate the standings.  So every Thursday night during the season usually David, but sometimes I, would trek over to Bob's house in Brookfield and one of us would type in the numbers while the other would read the numbers out of the USA Today.

David's computer genius allowed him (as you can see by all the websites he's created for the league) to fine tune things and streamline the process.  But he still had to manually enter the numbers.  He did this during the day, under the veil of "working" at work.  Eventually work and family (rightfully so) demanded the priority of his time so we voted as a league to finally cave and pay for a stat service to handle our statistics and standings.  **

**  I would like to make an important comment about the league.  If you had the chance to read the the article in the Daily Herald about the CFCL, you see that I am quoted saying "First and foremost this is a gentleman's league."  While the quote was referring to our Constitution and how we settle any disputes, another example of being a gentleman's league took place when we decided to farm out our stats to a service.  We debated the issue long and hard.  Would the service get it right? (We knew David was getting it right).  What would the cost be?  How easy to access the information?

What it all boiled down to and was actually verbalized by both the Ruffins and the DoorMatts was "if it makes David's life easier, then we have to do it."  Our owners knew how hard and long David worked to turn around the stats to the league and could only imagine (because David never really said anything) the toll it must be taking on him to try and sneak it through at work or stay up until the wee hours of the morning when he could be oh, sleeping, or something.

Now with the use of computers and technology we have the ability to not only have our standings updated daily, we have them updated by the pitch!  Live Scoring on OnRoto allows us to track our players at bat by at bat and pitch by pitch.

That doesn't even include the ability owners have to run their drafts with spreadsheets and the ability those behind the scenes have with creating Master Draft Lists, updated Rosters and Draft Sheets.

Computers have changed the face of the CFCL.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Five Most Significant Changes in the CFCL - #3

As we have mentioned over the past year, the CFCL has evolved in many ways.  The Number #4 Most Significant Change was identified as the change in categories.  We did that so that we could have more true value of ALL National League players as well as allow us to be more well rounded drafters and team builders.

Another change we made to allow us to run our CFCL team in as a realistic "real baseball" fashion as possible was shifting to what fantasy baseball calls "Ultra".  Ultra essentially means we finally got reserve rosters.

Prior to Ultra, each CFCL owner would draft a team of 23 players.  If you had an injury to a player, you could reserve that player and pick up an available player from the Free Agent Pool.  BUT the rules stated that when your injured player became healthy you either had to waive that player or you had to waive the player you picked up for your injured player.

Draft a player that ABSOLUTELY SUCKED?  (See 1984 Electric Eels roster for many, many examples)  Too bad.  You lived with the suckiness.  Imagine a major league team having to keep a player in the starting lineup even if they were 0 for August.

Ultra gave us an opportunity to have a more realistic baseball team.  Now if we had horrible players on our active roster (see many, many lineups for Dem Rebels over the last 20 years), you could either take someone from the Free Agent Pool, or you could look at your Reserve List.

But the main point is owners now have options.  You can fill your reserve list with seventeen minor league and high school prospects (if your team name is the Graging Bulls) or you can snatch up the 4th and 5th OF of various NL teams, an extra starter or relief pitcher and have some flexibility with your team.

This allows us to "manage" our team during the season.  We still can't control Dusty Baker driving a pitcher into the ground, but at least we can reserve that pitcher so when his arm blows out or he gives up eight runs in the eighth inning of an important game, we don't have to absorb those stats.

With Ultra meant adding rules to the Constitution, it meant adding another hour or two to our draft each year, it meant adding hours and days and weeks of prep time to our January through March draft prep schedule.  And it meant running a baseball team in the most realistic manner possible while having a family life, an actual career and all for the low, low cost of just $2.60.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

CFCL In The Limelight Again

First it was a film documentary.  Now it's a local paper.  The media just can't seem to get enough of the CFCL.  Burt Constable, intrepid beat reporter for the Daily Herald made a visit to the CFCL's Draft Headquarters and then made some phone calls to find out what exactly has been happening for the last 30 years.

The result is an article explaining a bunch of guys and their passion and dedication.

For our owners, I would make this suggestion when you come in for the draft a week from Saturday:  Sharpies and sunglasses.  The autograph requests will no doubt be numerous and the paparazzi intrusive.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Drew Stubbs Incident - From Their Perspective

A few days ago we were introduced to the The Drew Stubbs Incident.  Now we have the opportunity to hear directly from the participants involved.  The showdown occurred between Mike Coulter, owner of the Candy Colored Clowns, and Kenn Ruby, owner of the Kenndoza Line.  Here is the fateful sequence of events - in their words.

Mike: I went into the 2012 season having built up a solid roster of keepers. But as usual, my Achilles heal was my outfield. With five outfielders per team, I always seem to be reaching on auction day for someone.
But this auction year, I felt I was in luck. Dexter Fowler was available. So was Andre Ethier. Shane Victorino was also out there. And then there was Drew Stubbs.
Coming off a partial year with 15 homers and 30 stolen bases (despite a terrifying 205 strikeouts), all of the preseason readings had Stubbs pegged for lofty status. Some had him as a 30 homer 40 steal guy. And while outfield is usually my weakest position-wise, I always seem to be chasing stolen bases as well. So why not kill two birds with one stone?
And to top it off, he was a Cincinnati RED!
I did my due diligence and research. And promised myself I would come away from auction day with one of three outfielders: Fowler, Ethier or Stubbs.
Fowler went off the board first. I hung around in the bidding until the very end, finally folding my card knowing there were two others.
As fate would have it, Ethier would go off the board next. Stayed in the bidding until the end on him as well, before determining that I would rather spend the coins on Stubbs.
Kenn: I seem to recall that there weren't many good outfielders left and during one of the breaks Coulter and I kind of knowingly communicated to each other that there was one more that we had our eye on. I knew it was Stubbs for some reason (probably because he was a Red), but I absolutely did not want anything to do with him. I knew Coulter would, however, so I let him believe that. I really *did* need a good outfielder then, but I didn't want it to be Stubbs. Even my son, who was like five at the time and probably did not know who Johnny Bench or Joe Morgan were, knew Stubbs was the Worst Red Ever ("who is that guy who always strikes out Daddy?").
Mike: What I had not factored in: Dem Rebels and Kenndoza Line had their covetous eyes set on Stubbs as well. The bidding rolled along. Once we reached the mid-20s or so, it was just Kenn and I left standing.
Kenn: When Stubbs came up, not long after the break, I knew Coulter was going to pay whatever it took to get him. Going into the draft I figured he was the guy to beat, and I wanted to stick Coulter with as many bad players as I could. This one would be the motherlode though, because Coulter and I both realistically needed him and had more than 40 cents to realistically spend on him. So I kept bidding and bidding and bidding, living dangerously, but confident that Coulter would never blink.
Mike: In what I consider a bit of revisionist history, Kenn swears that he was driving up the price on Stubbs in an effort to cripple my budget and franchise. But the glint in his eye on auction day told me he wanted him. And since he had already out Votto'd me in another epic bid war, I wasn't going to blink. I was going to win the war and the title with Drew Stubbs smacking 30 homers and stealing 40 bases.
Once the bids entered the 40s, the snickering from the peanut gallery began. I turned a deaf ear. What did they know? I had the bank and the willpower to ink this guy...and I wasn't going to bend. The remaining alternatives were a gaggle of fifth outfielder types that would spend just as much time shuttling between the majors and minors as they would dragging down my hitting ratios when they were in my lineup.
Kenn: Every time I would bid, I'd worry that this would be the time I would be wrong. It would absolutely RUIN my team to get him, but it would ruin Coulter's team to NOT get him. I had to keep doing it. Finally when he got to 48, I could go no further.
Mike: The back and forth bidding spewed in snarls. 41! 42! Oh yeah, 43! And onward it scaled northward.
I believe the winning bid was a ridiculous 48. I exhaled and penciled in STUBBS into my outfield. The Reds outfielder "thanked" my generosity of bank and vote of confidence by posting a putrid .213 batting average and .277 on-base. In almost 120 more at-bats than the season before, he actually hit one FEWER home run and stole 10 FEWER bases.
Kenn: Coulter won him, and in an email to the rest of the league that night, he signed his name,
League Online Coordinator
and proud over-bidder for the services of one Drew Stubbs."
Mike: His exorbitant salary cost me a shot at some quality starting pitchers. So on that front, Kenn did some damage, as I was forced to trade from my well of minor league phenoms (most notably super cheap mx contracts for Carlos Martinez and Zach Wheeler) to land some pitchers to make sure I reached the Bald Eagle requirement, much less climb in quality starts.
Kenn: He got the last laugh of course, as he won the league despite spending 42 on an outfielder who hit .213.
Mike: But in the end, the Candy Colored Clowns emerged victorious. Barely, but we did win the team's first (and to date only) Copperfield Trophy.
Kenn: I also found this exchange in an email between us not long after the draft, which you may find interesting:
[Mike] Knew I was going to get bent over for Stubbs. I had Stubbs in a tier with Fowler and Ethier as must get one of these guys. When Stubbs was the last of the three named, I knew I had to blow the budget out for him.
[Kenn] The funny thing about it is I never even wanted Stubbs. Wasn't even thinking about him before Sunday. Suddenly it looked like I was going to lose out on Ethier, Victorino, Fowler, all guys I wanted, and then it was clear that you and me were going mano a mano on Stubbs because you really wanted to and I really HAD to. At one point I thought of just going up to 48 and ending it, but again, I couldn't pull the trigger (or break your heart). The Stubbs money got me Bryan LaHair (bleah), Sergio Romo (one of the top five relievers in this format, in my opinion), Jason Bartlett (ecch), and Frank Francisco (why?).
Mike: And in a fitting epilogue to this incident: When I received my glorious Copperfield Trophy, who should be staring at me from the ball card slot? That's right.
Drew Stubbs.
Thankfully the following offseason he was exiled to Cleveland in the Shin-Choo-Soo trade. But bad pennies always have a way of reappearing. The second the Colorado Rockies acquired his rights this winter, my yahoo inbox lit up with a missive from Kenn, promising a Stubbs bidding war sequel.
I've spent my offseason making sure I do not have 48 cents to waste this time.

Trading the Gator - From the Cutting Room Floor - The Ralph Macchio Incident

The 2014 CFCL Draft is just two weeks away.  To whet our collective appetites, here's a little glimpse inside the Draft Day segment of Trading the Gator, the fantasy baseball documentary featuring the CFCL.
Note: See this post for the background on the CFCL’s involvement in Trading the Gator
The documentarians following the CFCL during the 2002 season shot hours and hours of video - the vast majority of which never made it into the final cut.  Included in those hours and hours recorded, was the full 8 or 9 hours of Draft Day, shot with multiple cameras, and including side interviews during breaks in between rounds.

The producers whittled the Draft Day segment down to about 7 or 8 minutes in the final cut of the film (we'll be sharing that sometime in the next couple weeks, to celebrate The Greatest Day of 2014).  Most of the Draft Day footage left cast aside in the editing suite consisted of those mostly silent, brooding moments as eleven owners sit waiting as the 12th endures the internal debate about whether to raise the current bid a penny.

There were a few really entertaining moments, though, that just couldn't make it into the finished product.  Case in point, The Ralph Macchio Incident...

The producers were kind enough to share some of the unused footage from Draft Day, so we were able to save this moment for posterity.

To set the scene, Six Packs' owner Kelly Barone was locked in a bidding war for Hideo Nomo with Bruce Ellman of Tenacious B.  It was the point in the auction when you're getting down to the last few players who are really worth spending for, and Kelly found himself with the choice of spending more for Nomo than he had budgeted or passing him by and possibly being stuck with a much lesser pitcher.

Kelly begins the clip apologizing for taking so long to make up his mind, and declares that he's at a crossroads in how he'll proceed with the rest of the Draft.  Bruce wonders whether he's referring to the Ralph Macchio film, "Crossroads", or the Brittney Spears offering of the same name.

Cue the film ...