Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Meet David's Copperfields

We have met twelve former owners already via this Q&A format. While a few other inquiries were, not surprisingly, ignored by some additional owners, we fittingly finish our Former Owner Q&A with the most impactful former owner of all before we transition next week and move on to current owners the following week.

One of the Original 6 owners, it may be more appropriate to say he was The Original Owner of the Original 6.  Without him there would be no CFCL.  David Mahlan formed the CFCL back in 1984 and for the next 27 years David's Copperfields absolutely dominated.  During those 27 years they finished in the money an astonishing 81% of the time (22 of 27 seasons).  David not only ran the Copperfields like a finely tuned Swiss watch, he was CFCL Founder, Commissioner, League Secretary, League Historian, Voice of Reason and League Conscience.

David embraced the new wave of technology both as an owner and league administrator and made the CFCL what it is today.

The Copperfield Profile can be viewed here.  Much has and will be written about the impact David and the Copperfields has had on the CFCL.  If you have been a consistent reader of the Q&A portion of our blog, you have read humorous, witty, insightful, painfully honest answers.  Well, David raises the bar once again.  Throwing himself into the Q&A, he attacked it like he prepared his Copperfields for Draft Day each year.  It's time to meet - David's Copperfields.

How did the CFCL get started?

I think I covered that one pretty well in my first posts in this blog, The Birth of the CFCL (Copperfields Point of View).  I don’t think there’s much more I can add beyond that… 

It's been 30 years and as I like to tell the current owners "We're not even half-way there!"  What do you see as the CFCL's legacy?

“Legacy” is such an imposing word.  On the one hand, you’d like to think that there would be some kind of lasting impact if something you helped create lasts over 30 years, but at the same time its, you know, a game.

Certainly on a personal level, the CFCL has had a profound influence on me as an individual.  Because of the CFCL’s social aspect, I went from an extremely introverted, timid, and insecure 16-year-old to a moderately introverted, reserved, and semi-confident 44-year-old.

I’m proud of some of the innovations we brought to our game – things like IFAB Day or the Home Town Discount Budget.  Those things may not go beyond the CFCL to be adopted by other leagues, but I think they are clever spins on the game that demonstrate our commitment to keeping the game engaging.

In the end, though, for me the legacy is the friendships and memories that I’ve got as a result of the CFCL.

You won the title eleven times, which is amazing.  Perhaps more amazing is that you were an owner for 27 years and finished 1st, 2nd, or 3rd twenty-two times!  To what do you attribute such success?

Wow, I wish we played for more money!

I don’t know … I think in the early years I moved through the learning curve faster than a lot of the league.  Part of that came from being League Secretary - since I recorded every draft pick, every transaction, etc, I think I got a better sense for what worked and what didn’t before other owners who just followed their team.

I also think I was an early adopter of a lot of strategies/philosophies over the years.  For example, it felt to me like I was one of the first to “get” the economic side of the game … the impact of scarcity, inflation, budgeting, etc.  I also had the feeling I was one of the first to put significant effort into learning about and drafting minor leaguers.  None of that is earth shattering now, but when we started Draft prep consisted of coming to the draft table with a list of 10 players at each position and a copy of the box scores from that morning’s Tribune.

Speaking of Draft prep, it’s probably safe to say I spent more time on it than anyone else, and that certainly helped.  I used to take a lot of ribbing about the binders of notes I’d bring to the Draft, but the simple act of putting those notes together over the long winter was like months-long training for Draft Day.

Finally, I loved reading and thinking about the science of the game, which I think helped me innovate faster than others.  Along those lines, I’ve got to give credit to Ron Shandler, who probably influenced the way I approached the game as much as anyone else.  I was a subscriber long, long before he conquered the internet with BaseballHQ, when his Annual Review was produced on a dot matrix printer and his newsletter was bunch of photocopied pages stapled together and delivered via snail mail.

You have 27 years to cover, but what are a couple of your favorite CFCL memories?

Wow, that’s a tall order…

Of course, the easy way out would be to say every Draft from 1984 to 2010.  When all is said and done, it’s not the championships or masterful trades, but the interaction with the rest of the owners that really makes for indelible memories, and most of that interaction takes place at the Draft.

For season-long memories, the whole “Trading the Gator” documentary experience in 2002 was a ball.  Taking part in all the filming and talking about the league was a ton of fun, but just being selected to be the ‘featured’ league was amazing.  It was kind of a validation of everything we had been doing the previous 18 years.

Ok, off the top of my head and in no particular order, my Top 10 Memories of my time in the CFCL:

·         1985: Going head to head with Rich on Jeff Stone, and winning (not getting him)

·         1986: Going head to head with Rich on Will Clark, and losing (getting him)

·         1999:  Dave Goetz falling asleep at the Draft

·         2002:  Trading the Gator

·         1993: Bidding in (mostly) Spanish on Orestes Destrade

·         1999:  Celebrating our 15th Anniversary with logoed hats and a photo of the Wrigley Field marquee acknowledging the achievement

·         2002:  Kelly admitting to being at a crossroads during the Draft, which leads Bruce to riff on Kelly’s supposed fanboy worship of Ralph Macchio

·         1988: Watching Gibson take Eckersley deep during the awards banquet

·         1997: Trying a round or two of the Draft as a true auction, and Dave Holian suggesting a footrace to resolve ties when two owners bid the same amount at once

·         1987:  Fielding an outfield consisting of Darryl Strawberry (39 HR, 36 SB), Barry Bonds (25 HR, 32 SB), Eric Davis (37 HR, 50 SB), Kal Daniels (26 HR, 26 SB), and Mitch Webster (15 HR, 33 SB); an infield that included Howard Johnson (36 HR, 32 SB), Ryne Sandberg (16 HR, 21 SB), and Juan Samuel (28 HR, 35 SB).  I think I owned nearly every Power/Speed guy in the National League that season.  It was awful fun reading box scores the summer of ’87.

These aren’t ranked in any order – that’d be impossible.  Half of them might not make the Top 10 if I answered this tomorrow.

Any chance you'll come out of retirement and lead the Copperfields to victory once again?

Highly unlikely.  I definitely miss participating in the CFCL, but all of the other demands on my time that led me to retire as an owner are still there.  Since leaving the league I’ve continued to follow baseball as a casual fan, which has been fun, but the depth of knowledge needed to compete in the CFCL is far beyond that of a casual fan.  It’s amazing how quickly I became out of touch once I stopped following the entire NL on a daily basis … a few weeks ago I caught part of Quick Pitch on the MLB Network and their recap of the Diamondbacks game featured someone named Patrick Corbin who (at the time) was 9-0 with an ERA under 2.00.  Never heard of him – and that’s not an isolated case.  I just don’t have the time it would take to get back up to game speed and compete on a meaningful basis.  And, really, I enjoy and appreciate all the things that I’ve had time to do now that 100% of my free time isn’t focused on the CFCL.

That said, I appreciate the opportunities to remain involved on the fringes of the league – helping with some of the web stuff, showing up on Draft Day to take the league photo, etc.  I LOVED being able to take part in the Draft as the Ruffins’ proxy this year – all the fun and excitement of the most important day of the year without all the prep work and in-Draft stress!  And certainly being able to revisit the past 30 years through this blog has been outstanding – thanks for including me!

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