Monday, May 27, 2013

The Mitch Williams Incident

In 1989 we experienced one of the most bizarre Incidents ever at a draft.  First a little background.  We had two teams leave after the 1988 season (Aces to Win and Davies’ Crocketts).  Two new teams replaced them, The Lambchops (beginning a 19 year run with the CFCL) and Scotland Wiseguys.  The Wiseguys were going to be run by a guy that worked at one of the branches of the bank that I worked at.  Scott liked baseball and knew who Mario Mendoza was which was the bar we set back in the day to determine if an owner was worthy of joining the CFCL.

The draft was set for late morning at Mount Olympus (the apartment David and I shared in Forest Park) on a beautiful Spring Sunday.  As I tried to confirm directions and attendance for Scott, something seemed awry.  We couldn’t get a hold of him and then hours before the draft found out he wouldn’t be attending because he had a tryout with a local semi-pro team.  Here is where the wheels began to come off the track.

I suppose we were hoping that Scott would either make the team or not and still have time to run his fantasy team.  As it turns out we never heard from him again.  So before the draft began we decided, instead of disbanding his team into the Free Agent Pool, we would keep his team intact and draft as a collective unit on its behalf.

The theory was that when an owner dropped out of the bidding on a particular player, he would assume control of the Wiseguys.  With seven owners at the draft, that meant throughout the day up to seven different people could make bids on behalf of the Wiseguys – even though each of those seven owners were competing directly against the Wiseguys that season!

Apparently we thought that was a good idea.  Here’s what I don’t understand.  The other owners were pretty smart.  David Mahlan (5 years in the CFCL at the time), Dave Holian (3 years), Bob Monroe (3 years), myself (5 years), Kelly Barone (1 year) and Eric Lamb (first year in the league) all had a good head on their shoulders.  Specifically Mahlan and Holian being two of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met to that point (and that statement holds more strength today).  And nobody thought this was going to be a mess.

So the draft started and honestly I don’t remember much about drafting for the Wiseguys (who ultimately would be renamed the Headless Horsemen when we never heard back from Scott) other than there did seem to be a committee in charge of the Wiseguys.  So for example, Kelly would drop out on the bidding of a player and take over the Wiseguys.  When the bidding got to a point that it was questionable whether the Wiseguys should keep bidding, Kelly would ask around to other owners who had dropped out and say “What do you think?  Keep going?”  Again, no one thought this was ridiculous.

So we get to Mitch Williams.  Another piece of background.  At the time one of the categories in our scoring system was Saves (not Save + Holds like we use today) so closers were very valuable.  Williams was involved in a trade between the Cubs and Rangers during the off-season.  Coming into the draft I was excited at the prospect of drafting Williams since he was a closer and he was on the Cubs.  I was concerned that everyone else would want him as well.

In the best effort of trying to play poker before the draft started, someone mentioned Williams’ name to gauge interest.  To a man, EVERYONE else said “Yeah he’ll get saves, but he’s wild as hell and his ERA and WHIP will kill you”.  Good news for the Rebels since no one else was going to want him.

One more reminder.  The rules of the CFCL Draft are “You’re either in or you’re out” (thank you George Clooney – that was our motto waaay before Oceans 11).  When the bidding comes around to you, you either increase the bid or your drop out and you cannot come back in to the bidding on that player once you drop out.

So back to Williams.  He gets nominated and there’s some initial interest around the table.  The way my memory has it, Kelly dropped out at one point and took over for the Wiseguys.  The bidding continued until it was just me (Rebels) and the Wiseguys.  I made a bid of .13 (I think) and Kelly eventually dropped.  So everyone starts confirming “Mitch Williams for .13 to Dem Rebels” UNTIL Monroe chimes in “Wait, I don’t think the Wiseguys would have dropped out so soon.”  And somehow he convinced everyone that the bidding should be re-opened and continue on.

Let me point out two huge factors.  1)  The rules in the Constitution state “once you pass on a player you are out of the bidding”.  The Wiseguys passed.  2)  Six other owners also dropped out on Williams at an earlier spot in the bidding.  So six other owners felt that .13 was too high for The Wild Thing.  Why, oh why, would a non-existent owner suddenly decide that .13 wasn’t too high for him when six real life owners did?

Can’t answer the question because I didn’t think to ask.  I protested, but I think it was viewed as a bit biased since I would have to pay more for Williams than for what I had rightfully attained him.

So Bob convinced everyone the bidding should continue.  The Rebels and Wiseguys went back and forth until finally I blinked and let Williams go for .20.  Below are the Roster Sheets for the Rebels and Wiseguys after the 1989 draft.

By the end of the year, Williams had led the Cubs to the Division title.  With Williams the Horsemen finished 8th (last).  Without Williams Dem Rebels won their first title.  And for Bob, it wasn’t the first or last time he got the best of an owner.  But Steve Carlton was waiting around the corner.

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