JLB 2007 Winter Report
By Chris McDonald
In perhaps the least dramatic season on the field in
JLB/JFBL history, the Sterling Starfish steamrolled to their second
championship in franchise history. The
boys from Loudoun took over first place on April 9th and never
looked back, never leading by fewer than 10 points after the second week of the
season. It was a shocking result for a
season that seemed to have many contenders when the gates opened. Even the 2001 season, which featured the
Gamers’ famed 19-point margin of victory, included a few second-half lead
changes. Nothing of the sort occurred
this year, however, as
Of course, that is not to say that the League was devoid of all excitement. It experienced a moment of trepidation when original League member Brian Winings expressed a desire to vacate his position as owner and General Manager of the Reston Robots. Never before had the League witnessed any owner wishing to voluntarily forsake his membership in this exclusive fraternity, nor had many even considered it a possibility. Winings’ announcement was a good wake-up call for the League, however, as it opened the door for other owners to express their frustrations with the League’s increasing complexity.
The transition from JFBL to JLB has been nothing if not complex, but hopefully the metamorphosis is nearing its completion. As the League has now undergone two full seasons under the new rules, most of the legal loopholes have been closed and Constitutional wrinkles ironed out. For the first time in memory, we come to a winter meeting with no pressing legislative issues to discuss. Here’s hoping that we can settle down into a Pax Jeffersonia and appreciate the fruits of our labor in the coming years. On to the awards…
MVP Award: Hanley Ramirez (123 R, 27 HR, 75 RBI, 51 SB, .329 AVG)
In the closest MVP race in JLB history, the young shortstop
Cy Young Award: Jake Peavy (19 W, 234 K, 2.36 ERA, 1.03 WHIP)
Centreville’s undisputed ace rebounded from a disappointing 2006 campaign with his best season yet, becoming the first non-Hero to win the Cy since Mark Prior claimed the award in 2003. Peavy didn’t miss a start all year, and led all JLB starters in strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP. He was one win short of the seemingly unobtainable quadruple crown. His season was no fluke, either, as he improved his already strong peripherals across the board, delivering a higher strikeout rate and decreased hit, walk, and home run rates. Speculation around Centreville has attributed Peavy’s resurgence to the pressure taken off of him by the team’s offseason acquisitions. With the additions of John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, both top-10 starters until Escobar’s second-half injury, Peavy no longer felt the burden of leadership that weighed him down last year. Others receiving votes included Erik Bedard, Fausto Carmona, and Chris Young.
Rookie of the Year Award: Prince Fielder (109 R, 50 HR, 119 RBI, 2 SB, .288 AVG)
The big bopper from
Mike Durgala General Manager of the Year Award: Chris McDonald
The second installment of the Durgala
Award goes to the General Manager of the champion Starfish. Though the trophy will forever have the year
2007 imprinted on it, it was moves made during the 2006 season that set the
foundation for this year’s title run.
Mid-season trades brought in Jorge Posada, the number one catcher in
2007, and Jeremy Bonderman, whose strong first half
2nd place: Centreville 66ers (41.5 hitting, 51 pitching) – The 2007 campaign was a consolidation year for the relocated 66ers, as young studs Ryan Howard and Jose Reyes regressed from amazing to merely excellent and, despite significant roster turnover, Centreville turned in its second consecutive second-place finish. Newest JLB owner Debdeep Maji immediately made his presence felt in the front office, adding John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar to a stellar pitching staff that won the second-most games in JLB history (97). This club will for years possess the fingerprints of the late Mike Durgala, however, as many of his savvy draft picks came into their own in 2007. Ryan Braun, Chris Young, and Felix Hernandez all showed flashes of their immense potential, while youngsters like Howie Kendrick and Yovanni Gallardo are knocking on the door, ready to contribute. This Centreville club should be a good one for years to come.
4th place: Herndon Heroes (38.5 hitting, 40 pitching) – Herndon continued its incredible run of being the last team in the money for the fourth consecutive year (3rd place in 2004 and 2005, 4th place in 2006 and 2007). The outcome might have been different for this popular preseason favorite had former Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter not suffered a season-ending elbow injury in week one. That void was too much to fill, as the staff that had ranked as the best in JLB for three years running fell to third in 2007. On the bright side, the offensive performance was the best Herndon has seen in the past five years. The Heroes had yearned to find a long-term solution at first base ever since prematurely cutting David Ortiz in 2003, but GM Danny White finally got his man in switch-hitting slugger Mark Teixeira. A much less heralded but equally as valuable addition to the lineup was rookie Nick Markakis, who quietly turned in a top-10 season among all outfielders.
6th place: Fairfax Firemen (28 hitting, 38
pitching) – In a season reminiscent of the Annandale Ants’ 2004 campaign,
the Firemen effortlessly climbed into the top half of the standings on the
backs of several young stars. First
baseman Prince Fielder hit a franchise record 50 bombs and won the Rookie of
the Year Award, Alex Rios produced in all five categories, and B.J. Upton
finally found a position. Most
impressive, however, was the precocious starting rotation, which outperformed
every other staff this side of Centreville.
C.C. Sabathia, Justin Verlander,
Scott Kazmir, Fausto
Carmona, and Jered Weaver all won at least 13 games
and all are 27 or younger. With plenty
of talent still in their system and coffers spilling over with saved cash, it’s
only a matter of time before
7th place: Reston Robots (37 hitting, 29
pitching) – The Robots were in a money spot as late as August 4th,
but a second-half swoon dragged them down to the bottom half of the standings
by season’s end. Magglio
Ordonez carried the offense on his back all year as Troy Glaus
and Carlos Delgado began showing signs of age.
The starting rotation witnessed a changing of the guard for
8th place: Great Falls Grenades (26 hitting, 35 pitching) – Great Falls entered the last offseason with a clear plan in mind—upgrade its league-average pitching staff to match its strong offense in order to get back into contention. By swapping slugging first baseman Justin Morneau for Carlos Zambrano, GM JD Moss hoped he had done just that. Unfortunately, Big Z had an off year and the pitching treaded water while the Grenades’ hitting took a turn for the worse, losing 20 points and dragging the organization down to its worst finish in franchise history. Future JHOFer Albert Pujols wasn’t his typical self, and one has to wonder if his lingering plantar fasciitis could make his hefty contract a $100-million mistake. Meanwhile, Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur, two of the newer ‘Nades that were being counted on to be middle-of-the-order run producers this year, regressed from their strong performances last September.
9th place: Burke Boomerangs (29 hitting, 21.5 pitching) – After being one of the feel-good stories of 2006, everything came undone for Burke in 2007. A year after ranking above the median in 9 out of 10 categories, these Boomerangs managed to do so in only one this season. Young phenom Joe Mauer never got going thanks to chronic knee trouble, Andruw Jones had the worst year of his career, and Jermaine Dye was a sorry excuse for a designated hitter. Even career years from Eric Byrnes, Torii Hunter, and especially Josh Beckett weren’t enough to prevent a 41-point dropoff, the largest in JLB since the Clams’ precipitous 45-point fall in 2002. With Jones and Beckett entering their walk years, it will be interesting to see if GM Josh Bertman attempts to flip them for youngsters that could be a part of the next contender from Burke.
10th place: Oakton Outlaws (10 hitting, 33 pitching) – In 2007 they demonstrated their acute ability to recognize star pitching talent, picking up Dan Haren, Gil Meche, and John Maine before all three turned in career years. Now Oakton just needs to apply that eye for talent to the batting side of the equation. Oakton fans witnessed the worst offensive performance in JLB history this season (tied with the Firemen of last year), thanks to a lineup that featured just one position player (OF Carlos Lee) ranked among the top 60 players in the game. On the bright side, OF Hunter Pence and SS Troy Tulowitzki seem poised to step into the heart of that lineup in 2008 and make an immediate impact.
11th place: Reston Roosters (24 hitting, 13
pitching) – The Roosters 2007 infield could hold its own next to any
other in JLB, and with 1B Adrian Gonzalez, 2B Chase Utley, 3B Garrett Atkins,
and SS Michael Young all under contract through at least 2009, it might provide
GM Dan Fleeter a foundation upon which he can build a contender. He’ll have plenty of work to do, however, as
the rest of the squad leaves much room for improvement. The entire
12th place: Falls Church Foxes (11 hitting, 8
pitching) – The Foxes took sole possession of last place on June 19th
and ran away with it, distinguishing themselves as the first team in JLB
history to manage a sub-20 point season.