JFBL 2005 Winter Report

By Chris McDonald

GM, Sterling Starfish

 

The year 2005 will forever be remembered as a year of transition.  Not just for the implementation of the new and improved JLB Constitution, but also for the new name at the top of the standings.  For the first time since 2001, the Joe will not reside in Reston.  The Sterling Starfish ended the Roundabouts’ impressive run of three straight championships in what was the most competitive season in JFBL history.  The 45-point difference between the first and last place teams marked the smallest standings range ever seen in JFBL, easily besting 2003’s 76-point spread.   Many have attributed the unprecedented level of parity to team owners who this year have put a greater effort into filling seats than ever before.  Credit must also be given, however, to the emergence of many young players on teams that had been rebuilding.

 

While the memories of what happened on the diamond in 2005 will gradually fade into the archives, the off-the-field developments will never be forgotten.  Though the Jefferson Fantasy Baseball League had a good run, in the end it simply could not satiate the brilliant minds that were a part of it.  These cunning young men desired something greater, something more challenging, something more real than any fantasy baseball league known to man had ever provided.  After months of heated discussion, strenuous negotiation, and brain-racking problem solving, the founding fathers of the future of fantasy baseball produced what will one day be celebrated as the preeminent league in the entire fantasy universe:  Jefferson League Baseball.

 

The roots of this crowning achievement of humankind can be traced back to a fateful weekend in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  It was a hot August evening when many young league members gathered in the city the Liberty Bell calls home, ostensibly there to see a Phillies-Giants game the following day.  Unbeknownst to the rest of the fantasy world, however, the winds of change were blowing that would forever affect the rotisserie baseball landscape.  No doubt inspired by the nearby presence of Barry Bonds, the greatest human being to ever walk the green Earth, these young men got to work on outlining the tenets of JLB, and tackling the toughest questions that had hindered them for so long.  How to fairly implement free agency?  What about the established contenders and their reserve clause?  Or the rebuilders and their prospects?  How in the world could one simulate contract negotiations?  The arbitration process?  Hometown discounts?  But like well-place dominoes, one by one, the obstacles fell.  The room was filled with a synergistic brilliance the likes of which is felt only once in a generation.  The ambitious minds stayed up until the wee hours of the morning formulating the basis for the Jefferson League Baseball Constitution, which would be finally ratified a year and a half later.  Finally, a league with million-dollar bankrolls, lifelike free agency, vast farm systems, and most importantly, a smooth transition period.  The names Elias, McDonald, Keenan, White, Bertman, and Winings will forever go down in the annals of fantasy baseball as those who dared to do what had never been done before—as the six fantasy philosophes who personally oversaw the latest step in the evolution of fantasy sports.

 

 

Awards

 

MVP:  3B Alex Rodriguez, Sterling Starfish

124 R, 48 HR, 130 RBI, 21 SB, .321 AVG

 

Rodriguez is a unique winner in the history of JFBL MVP’s.  Unlike previous winners Beltre, Lopez, and Soriano, A-Rod entered the season as an established fantasy force.  After a disappointing 2004, however, there were whispers about whether or not he’d lost some bat speed.  Reports even indicated that his name was bandied about in trade talks with the Firemen and Robots.  The Starfish faithful are ecstatic that he remained in Sterling, though, as he carried their offense on his back all year.  Among all fantasy players he ranked 2nd in runs, 2nd in home runs, 4th in RBI, 13th in steals, and 5th in average.  His numbers contributed across the board, and all from third base, a relatively weak position this year.  Rodriguez’s offensive output was enough to garner him two-thirds of the MVP vote on this year’s ballot.  He overcame surprising seasons by Derrek Lee, whose underachieving teammates may have cost him the award, and Andruw Jones, who did not have the balanced numbers that A-Rod did.  After enduring years of criticism for being the team leader of an organization that always wilted down the stretch, 2005 was certainly a season of vindication for Alex Rodriguez.

 

Cy Young Award Winner:  SP Chris Carpenter, Herndon Heroes

20 W, 206 K, 2.79 ERA, 1.04 WHIP

 

Carpenter came into his own in a big way in 2005 to give Herndon its second consecutive Cy Young winner.  After wallowing in Johan Santana’s shadow last season, Carpenter managed to outrank him by one spot in this year’s pitching rankings.  The dynamic duo were a pivotal part in the unbelievable performance delivered by Herndon’s pitching staff, as they finished first in all five pitching categories.  While they both contributed almost equally to the Heroes’ success, Carpenter was by far the more valuable fantasy player.  Santana was coming off of a Cy Young season of his own, whereas Carpenter entered 2005 with only 8 JFBL wins to his name.  He pitched like a proven veteran this season, however, coming in 3rd in wins, 5th in strikeouts, 4th in ERA, and 5th in WHIP (among qualifiers).  His emergence has Herndon well-poised to shut down opposing offenses again next season.

 

Rookie of the Year:  OF Jason Bay, Great Falls Grenades

86 R, 24 HR, 81 RBI, 19 SB, .295 AVG

 

This award is a bittersweet one for the Great Falls organization, as Bay wins the honor despite wasting a quarter of his season on the Great Falls bench.  This controversial move cost his team dearly, as the Grenades missed the money by only 2.5 points.  The poor managing job in Great Falls should not overshadow Bay’s stellar season, however.  In limited time he still managed to prove he was a five-category fantasy stud.  Bay joined the Grenades during the 2004 season, and figures to play a prominent role in their upcoming youth movement.  He was not the only Great Falls outfielder to have a breakout year—Jonny Gomes, Jeff Francoeur, and Grady Sizemore also began to make names for themselves.  These four young hitters should help keep Great Falls in contention for years to come.

 

General Manager of the Year:  Chris McDonald, Sterling Starfish

 

McDonald finally brought a championship to Sterling after years of contention.  Despite spending time near the top of the league standings every season, the Starfish frequently faded down the stretch, never finishing better than 4th before this year.  Entering the season, Sterling had many holes to fill.  Alex Rodriguez’s controversial refusal to play shortstop ever again left his team without a shortstop on the roster, and with little trading leverage.  They managed to fill his shoes with the heir to his throne, however—Miguel Tejada, the position’s highest-ranked player.  The departures of power threats Jeff Kent and Craig Wilson also left a void, but that was ably filled by the acquisition of Travis Hafner for mere draft picks.  McDonald’s work was not done, however:  In 2004, Sterling featured the best offense in JFBL history, but had a miserable pitching staff.  McDonald addressed this Achilles’ heel in April, swapping the well-traveled Ichiro Suzuki for a reliable ace, Roy Oswalt.  The result was a balanced 86-point team, one point less than last year for Sterling, but in a season that saw the decline of the traditional powerhouses.  The result:  Sterling’s first JFBL title.  As the saying goes, timing is everything.

 

Teams

 

1st place:  Sterling Starfish (44 hitting, 42 pitching)

 

Sterling’s first championship came on the back of the most balanced attack in the league—it was the only team to have a least 40 points of hitting and pitching.  Though Sterling’s 86-point total is the lowest ever for a JFBL champion (it would have ranked no higher than 4th in any other season), it was good enough in what stood as the most competitive year in JFBL history.  Sterling’s offense was led by league MVP Alex Rodriguez and offseason acquisitions Miguel Tejada and Travis Hafner.  Roy Oswalt, the bounty from the Ichiro trade, set the pace for the pitching staff along with help from lifelong Starfish Billy Wagner.  The Starfish are poised to compete next season as well as in the future, as their farm system is stocked with top prospects Andy Marte, Brandon Wood, Conor Jackson, and Craig Hansen.  If Sterling’s training staff manages to get a full season from oft-injured Roy Halladay next year, the Starfish will be optimistic about their chances to defend their title.

 

2nd place:  Reston Roundabouts (34 hitting, 50 pitching)

 

For any other JFBL organization, a second-place finish would be something to celebrate.  Not so with the Roundabouts, the three-time defending champs.  The ‘Bouts made a late-season run at the title, but ended up 2 points out of first.  The pitching for the Northsiders was stellar, as always, as they cracked 50 points in pitching for the fourth consecutive year.  The offense, however, finally showed its age.  Even big power-speed years from Alfonso Soriano and Bobby Abreu couldn’t make up for the devastating injuries to Jim Thome and Scott Rolen.  GM Dan Hausman claims that his organization is well-poised to adapt to JLB, as “all contract decisions are clear-cut and the talent level in the minors appears to be rising after years of neglect.”  Recent offseason moves support this claim, as Hausman has finally began to apply the savvy he’s shown at the big-league level to the low minors.

 

3rd place:  Herndon Heroes (19.5 hitting, 60 pitching)

 

The 2005 season in Herndon was a tale of two sides of the ball.  Herndon achieved the unprecedented feat of maxing out one half of the standings with its 60-point pitching staff, but the league-worst Heroes offense cost them a title shot.  The last two Cy Young Award winners, Chris Carpenter and Johan Santana, together with a dominant bullpen, amassed the best pitching performance JFBL had ever seen.  Give credit to GM Danny White for picking them both up off the scrap heap and developing them into a pair of aces.  The offense was nearly as pathetic as the pitching was incredible, however:  Herndon ranked second-to-last in HR, RBI, and AVG.  One can’t help but wonder how different things might have been had the organization not stubbornly refused to call up young phenom David Wright.  The fierce loyalty Herndon exhibited by sticking with 2004 MVP Adrian Beltre at third base may help them in the free agent market, but it certainly hurt them in this year’s standings.

 

4th place:  Burke Boomerangs (39.5 hitting, 36.5 pitching)

 

The Boomerangs parlayed a hot start and some shrewd mid-season dealing into their first money appearance in franchise history.  As seems to happen every year, the boys from Burke shot out of the gates, but this season it seemed as if GM Josh Bertman was determined to avoid another late-season stumble.  Just before the trade deadline, he swung a blockbuster deal, acquiring Jeff Kent, Kris Benson, and Brad Radke from Fairfax for mere prospects.  The Boom was in 2nd place at the time, and looked ready to make a title run.  Unfortunately for them, Benson and Radke struggled down the stretch, posting ERAs over 5.00 and winning only 2 games each.  As a result, the Boomerangs wound up in fourth, but the season still must be considered a success.  The third-best offense in the league was carried by two fantasy mashers, David Ortiz and Andruw Jones.  These two cornerstones were picked off the free agent heap and acquired for a burnt-out closer, respectively, which is a credit to Bertman’s uncanny eye for talent.  Despite his successful building of the Burke franchise, however, some local writers are questioning Bertman’s commitment to the team.  One has already dubbed him the “Fantasy Harry Frazee,” alluding to his dedication to other endeavors besides the running of his fantasy baseball team.  Only time will tell if Bertman has what it takes to build on 2005 and take the Boomerangs to the title.

 

5th place:  Great Falls Grenades (38.5 hitting, 35 pitching)

 

At the beginning of the season, the Great Falls organization thought it was well-suited to contend in 2005 and beyond.  GM J.D. Moss was planning on getting a last hurrah from his veteran outfielders while holding his young studs in the minors for one more year, thus delaying their arbitration years and helping future Grenades squads.  Great Falls found out that it couldn’t have its cake and eat it too, however, when the old guard of Sosa and Pierre showed they weren’t the fantasy studs they used to be.  In May, the Grenades finally called up Jason Bay, but Grady Sizemore never left AA.   As a result, they missed out on a full season from one potential top-12 outfielder, and two great months from another.  When the Grenades look back at 2005 and wonder what might have been, they will always come back to that outfield.  That said, Moss is right when he says “there’s a lot to be excited about in Great Falls.”  There’s a slew of positional prospects knocking at the door, and the Grenade pitching staff has the makings of a contender, depending on which versions of Tim Hudson and Bartolo Colon show up next year.

 

6th place:  Reston Robots (44.5 hitting, 19.5 pitching)

 

The injury bug bit the Robots early this year, and it never let go.  The runner-up from the previous season plummeted 30 points in 2005, though most of the blame can be attributed to bad luck.  Jason Schmidt, Rich Harden, Jaret Wright, Armando Benitez, and Octavio Dotel were all excellent fantasy players in 2004, but this year each pitcher’s performance suffered significantly due to injury.  The ‘Bots were leading the league in saves in May until their three closers went down in the span of a month.  The staff never recovered, and when all was said and done, the Robots star-crossed pitching dragged the league’s best offense all the way down to sixth place.  On the bright side, the Robots continued to boast the best outfield in all of JLB, and should for years to come.  Down on the farm, Reston’s minor league system isn’t one of the strongest, but they do possess a few blue-chippers, led by potential fantasy beast Rickie Weeks.

 

7th place (tie):  Oakton Outlaws (22 hitting, 41.5 pitching)

 

Despite one of the best fantasy seasons in recent memory from Derrek Lee, the Oakton offense ranked as one of the least powerful in the league, bringing up the rear in runs, home runs, and RBI.  Injuries to shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and demigod Barry Bonds left the lineup punchless for most of the year.  The solid pitching staff was the only thing that keep the turnstiles moving in Oakton, as Roger Clemens and Bob Wickman stubbornly refused to pitch their age.  With those two sure to decline somewhat, and Bonds still a question mark, the future remains very uncertain for the Outlaws.  Baby-faced closers Bobby Jenks and Huston Street give some reason for optimism, but the question will be whether they’ll ever get any leads to close out.  Oakton seems to be stuck in an organizational limbo between pushing for that title it came so close to getting two years ago and scrapping the current team and entering the rebuilding phase.  GM Mike Elias will have some tough decisions to make as they transition into JLB.

 

7th place (tie):  Annandale Ants (22.5 hitting, 41 pitching)

 

This was supposed to be the year that the Ants left the ranks of the rebuilders.  After finishing in the money in 2001, the Ants quickly entered a retooling phase before rocketing up to sixth place in 2004.  Eschewing his normal strategy of adding to an already well-stocked farm system, GM Mike Durgala entered the last offseason draft with the idea of picking proven JLB veterans in an effort to push the Ants back into contention.  Top four picks Dave Roberts, Ted Lilly, Lew Ford, and David Wells returned only mixed results, however.  While Dontrelle Willis and Jake Peavy were doing their best Carpenter/Santana impression, the offense took a step back, leading to a disappointing finish in Annandale.  The Ants organization remains one of the most promising, however.  In addition to the two stud starters, the pitching staff boasts two fireballing relievers, Frankie Rodriguez and B.J. Ryan, with help on the way from “King” Felix Hernandez.  Meanwhile, Annandale’s infield is loaded with youthful potential:  C Martinez, 1B Howard, 2B Hendrick, 3B Stewart/Braun, and SS Reyes.  Rumors in Annandale have it that Durgala will be actively pursuing patches to his holes on the offense this winter—one of which he’s already secured in the form of Scott Rolen.

 

9th place:  Reston Roosters (26 hitting, 26.5 pitching)

 

The Roosters’ 52.5-point total represented a franchise-record for one of JFBL’s most humble organizations.  The Reston faithful will be hoping that 2005 was the first step to contention, rather than just a blip on the radar in a sea of mediocrity.  They have reason to hope, however, thanks to All-Star seasons from young studs Mark Teixeira and Chase Utley, who promise to be two of the most valuable players entering the era of JLB.   On the pitching side, John Lackey and Brett Myers showed flashes of brilliance, and their continued development will be crucial to the Roosters’ future.  Third base seems to be an area of strength in the minor league system, with Garret Atkins, Eric Duncan, and 2005 first-rounder Ryan Zimmerman.  GM Dan Fleeter would do well to convert that stockpile into a more balanced spread of prospects.  In a city fraught with fierce fantasy rivalries, the Roosters seem to have garnered the reputation as the “lovable losers” of Reston.  Whether or not Fleeter will be able to shake that moniker and start competing with the big boys, only time will tell.

 

10th place:  Fairfax Faithfuls (39.5 hitting, 10 pitching)

 

The Faithfuls managed to improve on their point total from the previous season for the first time in franchise history in 2005, though unfortunately the good news stops there.  The 2005 campaign got off to a rough start in Fairfax, as one week into the season GM Kyle Bisutti swung perhaps the most lopsided deal of the year.  Dealing from a supposed surplus of starting pitching (Kerry Wood, Matt Clement, Kris Benson, Jarrod Washburn, Jeremy Bonderman, and Brad Radke), Bisutti sent Roy Oswalt to Sterling for 2004 batting champ Ichiro Suzuki.  What seemed like a good deal for both sides at the time couldn’t have turned out worse for the Faithfuls—while Ichiro had by far the worst season of his career (.296 AVG, just 30 SB), Oswalt outpitched every one of his former teammates on his way to a championship in Sterling.  Give Bisutti credit for not being gunshy afterwards, however—he was involved in the trading deadline’s only blockbuster, unloading veterans for solid prospects Curtis Granderson, Thomas Diamond, and Matt Cain.  This trade gave the farm system instant respectability, which hopefully will one day transfer to the JLB level.

 

11th place:   Clifton Clams (36 hitting, 11 pitching)

 

With the second-worst team ERA in JFBL history, the Clifton Clams entered the current offseason with a clear goal in mind—shore up the pitching staff.  GM Jon Lasken has been true to the task, already bringing in Brad Penny, Joe Blanton, and Oliver Perez before Thanksgiving.  Though all three come with their fair share of question marks, Lasken was right to realize that things couldn’t get any worse in Clifton, and in the process has introduced a new word to his staff’s vocabulary:  upside.  Meanwhile, the Clams offense looks to be in good shape.  Adam Dunn and Miguel Cabrera should serve as lineup cornerstones well into the next decade, assuming they accept the long-term deals Clifton has been rumored to have put on the table.  As soon as Felix Pie and Jeremy Hermida take the league by storm, the Clams will be a force to be reckoned with.

 

12th place:  Fairfax Firemen (24 hitting, 17 pitching)

 

Hard as it may be to believe, 2005 marks the first season that the Firemen finished in last place.  The perennial rebuilders finally hit rock bottom in 2005, though the season was not without its positives.  Rookie of the Year runner-up Jorge Cantu had a huge year at the keystone, and should remain productive and low-priced for many years.  Once the future of the Firemen (Prince Fielder, Delmon Young, and the Upton brothers) is ready to join him, the Fairfax offense might actually start putting some runs on the board.  On the other side of the ball, GM Mike Keenan added ace Carlos Zambrano to a pitching staff that already included Ben Sheets, C.C. Sabathia, and Jon Garland.  The complete lack of relief pitching is something the organization will have to address before it can become truly competitive.  If the Firemen can beat the Faithfuls into contention, however, they should be able to take advantage of one of the region’s most lucrative markets that is dying to root for a winner.

 

 

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