Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Savior - Gary Scott

The previous post is the part of Trading the Gator that  shows how owners prepare for the draft.  The plan for this blog was to have daily entrees from Draft Day 2013 through Draft Day 2014.  While we are in excess of 200 posts, we certainly have fallen short of our daily goal.

The clip from TTG, in part, explains why this time of the year is so hectic.  With spring training moving to actual games being played, Draft Prep is accelerating.  Prior to right now all we could do is look at projections, assumptions and last year's numbers.  Now we can actually see that one of our players pitched four innings giving up one run.  Or went 0-2.  Our time starts to get used up.

The CFCL has eleven owners who are professionals so there is the career thing to take up our time.  Seven owners are married and with that comes responsibilities and time commitments.  Four owners have young children which bring with it more awesome responsibility and time commitments.  The DoorMatts, thus far, are the only CFCL team to have "graduated" through the young reliant children stage to the empty nest stage, so while they dealt with the above challenges for many years as a CFCL owner, they currently enjoy endless amounts of time to surf the net for baseball nuggets.

Oh yeah, and it's also the time of year that Uncle Sam gets really interested in our money so there's a time commitment to organize our tax information, unless we want to wait until after the draft to put our accountants under the gun to meet the deadline.

There's a lot going on at this time of the year for all fantasy owners and unfortunately being creative on a daily basis has become a losing battle.  My apologies if you are a daily visitor looking for the latest memory of CFCL life from the past 30 years.

But having watched the TTG clip and seeing updates on the MLB network naturally made me think of  . . . Gary Scott.

It was spring training of the 1991 season.  The Rebels were coming off a very disappointing 6th place finish and needed to make a move for the future.  As we saw with the Will Clark Incident and the Jeff Stone Incident, pre-season hype can be costly.  Well, the Rebels are slow learners.  Reports out of Arizona all spring training long were about this phee-nom that was tearing up every pitcher he faced. 

Gary Scott was a 22 year old thirdbase prospect who, heading in to spring training, was not supposed to make the club out of camp.  He was viewed as someone who could be the next great thirdbaseman since Ron Santo, but he was not supposed to be that guy in 1991, in April.  But Gary would NOT be denied.  Every day the sports report on WGN radio told about Scott going 1-3 or 2-4 with an RBI. 

I used to listen to Spike O'Dell in the afternoons and I specifically remember about halfway through spring training the sports guy was doing an update and said "And from Arizona, Spike, guess who just drove in the winning run again?"  Spike responded "Not Gary Scott again!"  Sportcaster, "Yep."

Scott made the club and that sealed it in this GM's mind.  I HAD TO HAVE Gary Scott.  I built my entire draft around getting Scott and riding him to the title while he helped the Cubs win their division.  As the draft loomed nearer I sweated and fretted how to approach Scott.  Should I nominate him early when everyone else might be focusing on the likes of Charlie Hayes, Terry Pendleton and Matt Williams? 

But this is a Cubs Fan League.  Bringing him up early in the draft when everyone had money to spend could cause his price to be higher as emotional Cub fans drafted their teams.

If I waited too long, I may not budget my money properly and someone could lay in wait and snag him just beyond what I could afford.  Oh the dilemmas.

As it turns out, I don't recall exactly how it played out as to when Scott was nominated.  All I remember, as we drafted in the apartment David and I shared in Forest Park, was that I GOT GARY SCOTT!!!!!  And I got him for a steal - .09!!!!  My season is made!  I also seem to recall that everyone else on my "Have to Have List" ended up on my team as well.  What a shrewd drafter am I!

The one lasting memory I have is right after I bid .09 on Scott and the last standing owner folded, I exclaimed some sort of victory expression.  I also remember the other owners more or less looking at me as if to say "You poor fool.  This is just another example of a Cub having a great Arizona experience who will no doubt fail."

What did they know?  I wanted Scott.  I got Scott and together we would pop champagne together.  We would raise pennants together.  We would be awesome!

The results?

1991 - Rebels finished 5th (better than 1990 but a half point worse in accumulated points).

Gary Scott - one homerun, five RBIs, batting average of .165 and in the minors by May.

Foiled again.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Trading the Gator: Draft Prep

Spring Training has begun, and soon teams in Arizona and Florida will begin playing preseason games.  Elsewhere, all around the world, fantasy baseball owners are shaking off the cobwebs of winter and starting their research and preparation for the Greatest Day of the Year - Draft Day.

Draft Day prep can involve many facets - from reading every bit of news you can get your hands on and watching spring games - live or on television, to arts and crafts and ensuring you have the right foodstuffs with you at the Draft Table.

See all that and more in this latest clip from "Trading the Gator," the fantasy baseball documentary that featured the CFCL (read that story in this earlier post).  You'll see CFCL owners Kelly Barone, Eric Lamb, David Mahlan, and Jason Grey, Paul Zeledon, plus Walter Shapiro of the American Dreams League discussing their pre-Draft routines and strategies.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Will Clark Incident

Earlier in this blog’s life, we revisited one of the very first Draft Day “Incidents” in the CFCL’s history: the time the Co-Founders found themselves locked in an insane episode of bidding on Phillies’ outfielder Jeff Stone during the 1985 Draft. The end of that write-up teased a similar incident from the following year. It’s now time for the Co-Founders to to reminisce about 1986’s The Will Clark Incident…

I LOVE the history of the CFCL. I LOVE the fact that I have been a part of all the history of the CFCL – many times on the embarrassing end (see Jeff Stone Incident, Mitch Williams Incident, Murphy/Dysktra Trade). But every so often I am able to come out on top (Steve Carlton Incident). And here’s one more – The Will Clark Incident. 

The problem is I don’t remember the minute by minute, blow-by-blow happenings. I remember the before and I remember the after. The during? Not so much. It could be because I was still reeling from the Jeff Stone Incident the year before. It could be that it was 28 years ago and, really, how much can one person remember?

Flashback to spring training, 1986 -- This was in the early days of Rotisserie and fantasy baseball, and information on minor leaguers and prospects was still fairly hard to come by. The minor league overview in Bill Mazaroski's annual magazine was the best of the easily-obtainable sources, and the owner who knew about Baseball America's "Top Ten Prospects" issues, let alone who could find one on a newstand, had an incredible advantage. 

Here’s what I do recall. The Rebels and Copperfields had teased each other with our plans heading into 1985 when we both had our eyes on Jeff Stone. After we squared off in the bidding on Jeff Stone, I think we were both reluctant to lend voice to our intentions for the 1986 draft. 

This time around we both had our sights on a young left handed slugger in the Bay Area. I can’t recall if we gave each other even a bit of indication of our desires or if we figured it out during the bidding.

There was still a good chance of “back-dooring” a young or unknown talent. There wasn’t ESPN and Internet. You had the Sporting News and Bill Mazeroski’s mag. 

And it’s not like Mazeroski was over the moon for Clark. In the positional outlook for the major league team the magazine mentioned Clark as a possible contributor in 1986: 
"[Dan] Driessen’s limitations could help [Bob] Brenly worm his way in here, at least against lefthanders. And don’t count out last June’s No. 1 draft pick, Will Clark, who pumped 25 homers in just 65 games at Mississippi State last year, then jumped to Fresno and hit .305, drove in 48 runs in 65 games, jacked 10 home runs and had an on-base percentage of .458. Clark might not be able to make the jump this year, but it won’t take him long."
The minor league write-up at the back of the magazine said: “He’s a disciplined left-handed hitter with 20-homer strength and Gold Glove potential. Clark will get a chance to take first base this spring because he’s so far advanced in the mental aspects of the game.”

Jackpot! Just what every Rotisserie owner longs for – mental aspects!

Clark didn't even make Maz’s Gold List (the prospects likely to make their presence known in the majors in the coming season). Instead, that list was toting the likes of Todd Worrell, Lance McCullers, Andres Galarraga, and Roger Mason. Maz’s list of secondary prospects did mention Clark, saying that he “could make the leap this year – sometime.”

All-in-all, not exactly ringing endorsements; and not the type of write up that would set our winter hearts a-lusting.

So if you read those periodicals, you knew of a guy named Will Clark. Had a pretty good college career and was expected to make the team and be wonderful in 1986. But to the passive eye, he wasn't that well known. 

It wasn't until March 1986 that stories of "The Natural" came drifting Chicago-way. Tales told of an intense young slugger with only 65 minor league games under his belt who was the hit of the Giants' spring camp. There were rumors that he hit a ball through the outfield fence in a spring training game. 

Clark had a pretty solid spring. This was when the Cubs played the Giants about 450 times during the Cactus League, so now he was becoming less unknown. But one could still be hopeful that the other owners would attribute it to a young kid having a good spring against lesser pitchers (kind of like being Gary Scott before Gary Scott).

Still, Rich and I both hoped -- no, believed -- that each of us was the only one to be hearing this info. We were both certain we would be able to sneak Clark though at the end of the Draft. Of course, this was another textbook case of Hyper-Inflation resulting from Pre-Draft Obsession.

We were both disappointed on Opening Day. Any chance we had of trying to sneak Clark through at a low price ended on April 8, 1986. Keep in mind, back in the early days, we drafted after Opening Day so we knew who was on an NL roster. By the time we drafted there were some games already played and emotions affected (see Brian Littlefield effect in the original Rotisserie Book).

On April 8th, Will Clark came to the plate for the first time EVER in a major league game. And he homered. Homered in the first inning against the Astros. Homered to straightaway center field in the Astrodome. Homered off of . . . Nolan Ryan in his first at bat ever. And the legend exploded.

No more sneaking him through. Now it’s good ol’ country hardball ala 1985 and Jeff Stone.

Flash forward, to Draft Day 1986 -- Our new owner, Dave Holian, received the honor of nominating the first player of the Draft. This ended up being the unofficial institution of what would come to be known as The Ruffin Privilege, which wasn't formally recognized until 1992.  

Of course, it's obvious who he chose to make the first player up for bid in 1986 -- Will the Thrill.

Bidding quickly escalated, with the Bald Eagles, Copperfields, and Dem Rebels the main participants. Bob Monroe, owner of the Eagles, called a conference with Head Copperfield in a side room. The Bald One offered to drop out of the bidding on Clark if In would promise not to bid up another player later in the Draft. I refused, and we returned to the draft table where the bidding continued. Monroe remained in a little while longer, then dropped out, leaving me and Rich as the only two active bidders. Another showdown between the Co-Founders/Co-Commissioners. As the bidding reached the upper 30s, memories of the Jeff Stone Incident crept into both our heads.

I was probably feeling the pain of Stone still so at some point I blinked and the Copperfields got Will Clark for .40.

Perhaps it was the memory of what Jeff Stone did to his team, but whatever the reason, after I said ".40", Rich said "Pass", and I brought his head crashing to the table at the realization of what I had done.

Clark's stats for the year: .287-11-41-4. Respectable, but not worthy of .40.

Clark would go on to hit only 10 more home runs and drive in only 40 more runs all season. So I finally won a showdown against the Copperfields, right?

1985 – Rebels outbid the Copperfields on Jeff Stone for .32 and finish 4th out of seven teams.
1986 – Copperfields outlast the Rebels on Will Clark for .40 and win their first championship (first of three in a row and first of eleven overall).
And that right there in a nutshell is the Rebel/Copperfield rivalry.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

This Is The CFCL

I will admit what follows does not put the CFCL in a class all by itself, but it speaks VOLUMES to the kind of owners we are fortunate to have participate each year.  Each owner makes sacrifices from spending time away from their young children all day on a weekend day, to adjusting their work schedule to attend the draft to making annual travel arrangements to make sure they come into town on Draft Day.

The Twin Killers (California), Beatniks (Iowa - gateway to Nebraska), Ruffins (North Carolina) and Kenndoza Line (Ohio) all put together travel arrangements to make sure they can participate live at the draft and then scurry back to their part of the country to get back to work and school on time the following Monday.

This year, the Kenndoza Line is adding an additional challenge by going out of the country on a family vacation the week before the draft. 

After posting a reminder at our Front Office about some deadlines for Roster Cut Day and Draft Day, there was this response from Kenn:

So...March 23 I will be overseas.
Know - as I'm sure you already do - that I will still not be the last to send in my keeper list. When I arrive (in the Bahamas) on March 22, one of my first items of business will be making sure I have internet access. Apparently it's going to be ridiculously expensive. The amount spent on internet the week before the draft, the hotel the weekend of the draft, and gas to/from the draft (I'm driving, not flying this year) will far exceed whatever I might be lucky enough to win. I guess I like this league.
See you 53 days.
Finishing in the first division 70% of the time for the past 10 years certainly could enhance his "liking" of the league.  But this attitude, held in its own way by each owner of the CFCL, is what makes this league so damn special and so much fun to be a part of.