Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Meet Steve's Stones

The next in our weekly Q&A with former owners is bittersweet.  Steve Olson brought Steve's Stones to the CFCL in 2000.  Ironically, Steve a HUGE Brewer's fan chose a Cubs announcer for his team name.  Or at least there's the logical connection with the name.  Maybe Steve was referring to something else.

The Stones were part of the CFCL for nine seasons.  They had an "all or nothing" experience, winning the championship twice and finishing 8th or lower six times.  Unfortunately the Stones left the CFCL under less than happy circumstances, but Steve remains one of the nicest, classiest former owners the CFCL has known.

You can see the Stone's profile by clicking here http://home.comcast.net/~dmahlan/owners/retired/Stones.htm

Normally what follows is a true Q&A.  The Q's were sent to Steve.  What he sent back was a wonderful, detailed narrative of his experience in the CFCL that I didn't want to break down into a simple Q&A.  It's time to meet Steve's Stones.

I have promised Rich about 5 times (8 with inflation) that I would write something about my time in the league to commemorate its 30th Anniversary. At the pace I'm writing this, it will be the 31st. Anniversary before I actually finish it.

But that's probably appropriate! While I was in the league, on draft day I would show up a few minutes before the bidding started. The day was always long. I would often lose my focus and forget the bid amount, fail to flip my card over or back up at the end of the round or simply get bored and space out. I would try to figure out how, and from whom, I could steal additional Twizzlers or Red Vines during the next break. All of this was done to Rich's great displeasure!! It's like that commercial on TV now where the guys are talking about a minivan and the one guy says he wants it. His wife walks up to him and asks why they don't have one already, to which he responds, "you're the smart one, honey, you know it just takes me a little longer!" Notwithstanding any of these antics, draft day was always a highlight.

Hmm, about the CFCL. Well, first, I never really liked the name. It made me uncomfortable. I liked the FCL part but I felt the first C was too exclusive. I'd ask myself, as a Milwaukee boy, could I stomach being in a room full of Cubs fans each year? While it was often difficult, being forced to listen to the boundless enthusiasm for the coming season, or the optimistic forecasts of Eric Patterson's future, or sitting through a bidding war on Hee-seop Choi, it wasn't as dreadful as I had feared. In fact, by the end, I actually felt a kinship with another group of long suffering fans.

Beyond the routine over bidding on Cubs prospects, the league was a lot of fun with a very diverse group of guys, most of whom I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know.

I was originally asked to join the league by a friend who was also joining for his first season. He sold it as a league steeped with tradition. He said the owners were hard core and included, investment guys, college professors, computer geeks and really passionate sabermetric baseball fans. I didn't even know what Sabermetrics were!  He sold me and I passed the entrance exam. He lasted one season. I think I lasted 10.

Not really knowing how to "play" roto, having played only in fantasy leagues previously, I was a complete noobie. I asked David Mahlan tons of basic questions. To his credit, he always answered.  He held back a bit of secret sauce but he took me under his wing. I'd ask him "What's "inflation"? How do I know what to bid?" He always answered. It was more than bit of a learning curve but I started to get the hang of it. I did a lot of learning by watching and by making mistakes. Many mistakes! I severely overspent on offense in the first draft, not fully understanding the value of each category or how to structure a roster or a prospect list. I don't think I finished in last place, but I finished pretty low in the standings.

After being a financial donor for a couple of seasons, getting fleeced in more than a few trades (some with David) I started to get the hang of it. I think by year 4, I won the first of my two championships.

The Stones brought home the Trophy! Brewer Geoff Jenkins was my favorite player that season. He still graces my trophy case in the championship ball and cardholder. As an aside, Jenkins was often referred to in Wisconsin as looking like another son of the state. He was had a similar look to that of Brett Favre, but he clearly did not have the same skills with a cellphone camera.

Anyway, I started to feel pretty good about my developing skills. I was a sponge absorbing info from roto websites, asking for expert advice, learning how to use spreadsheets to make projections and calculate inflation.

The next few seasons were a return to the bottom of the standings for me after leveraging so many prospects for a "win now" approach.

My second championship and final season was less gratifying as a mid-season trade created a league-wide riff that took on a life of its own. While I felt the trade was appropriate, others were upset to the point of wanting to quit after years of involvement. The trade was never meant to create a riff so deep, but it certainly put my team over the top and I hear it led to the next season's champion's success. As that season wound down, I felt that for the sake of all involved I needed to step away. It was hard, because I totally enjoyed the group of guys and being a part of such an awesome tradition. And, it was the League's 25th  season. No wonder why you're celebrating 30 years so enthusiastically!

I am thankful for the experience of the CFCL. As a Banker, in many ways, it was an extension of what I did everyday; Budgeting, data gathering and number crunching, ongoing performance review and problem solving. In a way, it was a form of investment analysis to obtain a desired return. I loved it! And, I miss it. Each spring training, I feel a little tug to do it again, but I remember the investment of time. I just don't have that time anymore, but I loved the challenge.

Congrats to the everyone who made the league possible and those who've kept it alive for so long. That's a notable achievement.

Best wishes on the next 30 years.

Hail to the Stones and Go Brewers!

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