2009 JLB Winter Report
By Carlton Davis
GM, Falls Church Foxes
2009 JLB Champions
What a difference two seasons can make. In 2007, the Sterling Starfish won the League with the second most points in JLB history. The Falls Church Foxes finished dead last, with the lowest number of points in history. Just two years later, however, those roles were reversed, as Falls Church won its first JLB title and tied with the 2007 Sterling squad for the second most points in League history. Sterling, after a quick fall from grace, finished with the third lowest total in JLB history.
Unlike the historically competitive 2008 season, when a winner was decided on the last game of the last day of the season, the 2009 season was anticlimactic at the top. Falls Church seemingly had the title locked up by Memorial Day, and the only question was who else would finish in the money. After an extremely strong performance by the upshot Arlington Arsenal, maintaining a solid second place for well over 80% of the season, Arlington was eclipsed in the seasonÕs final week by a veteran Centreville team, led by previous winner Debdeep Maji. Perhaps MajiÕs experience paid dividends as he made the necessary moves at the deadline to climb his team out of 3rd place. Or perhaps it was ArlingtonÕs two-headed ownership monster which butted heads in figuring out whether or not to acquire another closer which ultimately led to their fall from 2nd. Regardless, two things are certain: experience pays off, and the Arsenal have seemingly fired a warning shot to the rest of the League that they are for real.
The battle for fourth place also held much intrigue over the seasonÕs second half. Three teams, Herndon, Fairfax, and Clifton, swapped fourth place spots over the seasonÕs final two months. Clifton, who for one day held third place alone, emerged as the winner for the final money slot, with a commanding 6.5 point victory over a disappointing Fairfax squad.
The state of the League is strong, as all owners are active, and outside of a couple rebuilders, all owners have their eyes on the prize in 2010. With a suave and attractive 2009 Champion to match the handsomeness of the Commissioner, the face of JLB has never been better either. As the League begins to negotiate a new television contract, the marketability and sex appeal of its most recent champion has never been more important. Even more importantly, 2009 marked the final year in graduate school for many of JLBÕs owners, indicating that their commitment to the League will only be increased as their commitments to studying no longer exist.
2010 is shaping up to be a competitive season. There will no doubt be some returning faces at the top of the standings, but sleeping giants await. More on that to come.
Joe Mauer, C, Arlington Arsenal
516 AB, .362 AVG, 27 HR, 93 R, 93 RBI, 4 SB
2nd: Matt Kemp, OF, Arlington Arsenal
3rd: Albert Pujols, 1B, Great Falls Grenades
When Joe Mauer announced in Spring Training that he was going to miss the first month of the 2009 JLB Season, nobody, not even the Arlington owners, though that Mauer had any chance of having a career year. And career year he had, leading the League with a sizzling .362 average to go along with career highs in homers and RBI. When you factor in MauerÕs position and contract status, it is easy to make an argument that not only was Mauer the League MVP this year, but he is also the most valuable asset in all of JLB. Mauer started his season off on a tear and never let up, mashing everything in sight. The only question left is whether Mauer can come anywhere close to replicating his numbers in 2010.
The fact that the MVP race was such a close one given MauerÕs ridiculous season is testament to how well Matt Kemp played in 2010. Kemp is a five-category studbag in an Arlington lineup that is going to be destroying the rest of the League for years to come. Kemp is young, has an extremely team-friendly contract, and is only going to get better. Expect KempÕs name to be near the top of MVP voting for the next decade.
Albert Pujols had arguably his best JLB season yet in 2009, finishing with 47 homers, 124 runs, 135 RBI, and a .327 average, while also chipping in 16 stolen bases. Perhaps in any other year he would have been a unanimous MVP selection with such numbers. In this year, however, Pujols led Great Falls to another mediocre finish, 7th place, as his talent continues to be wasted away on a team that seems ungrateful for his generational talent. Perhaps Great Falls will surround Pujols with an upgraded lineup in 2010, allowing for even better numbers, if such a feat is even possible. More than likely, Pujols will put up another stunning line and finish in the middle of the pack in MVP voting, overshadowed instead by lesser players on superior teams.
The rest of the field was also worthy of the votes they received. Ryan Braun had another exceptional year, dominating in five categories across the board, and Hanley Ramirez had a monster season with his new club in Fairfax. Tim Lincecum garnered one first place vote after leading the historic Falls Church pitching staff, and Jason Bay was the other Fox who received votes after coming back from a down year in 2008. Derek Jeter found the fountain of youth as he hit over .330 and had more than 100 runs for a stacked Arlington lineup. Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez are written about below, while Mark Reynolds suffered from Albert Pujols disease – putting up remarkable numbers while playing for a terrible team. This year, Reynolds hit 42 homers to go along with 24 steals to pace the 11th place Robots. The last two vote getters played for a strong Centreville squad, a team that had more players receive MVP votes (4) than any other, as Trevor Hoffman defied all expectations and had a very strong year closing for the 66ers, while Ryan Howard put up his typically studly power numbers.
Name 1st 2nd 3rd Total
Joe Mauer 3 3 1 25
Matt Kemp 2 2 1 17
Albert Pujols 2 1 1 14
Ryan Braun 2 1 11
Hanley Ramirez 1 1 1 9
Tim Lincecum 1 5
Jason Bay 1 1 4
Derek Jeter 1 1 4
Zack Greinke 1 3
Felix Hernandez 1 3
Mark Reynolds 2 2
Trevor Hoffman 1 1
Ryan Howard 1 1
Zack Greinke, SP, Clifton Clams
221.1 IP, 16 Wins, 234 K, 2.24 ERA, 1.07 WHIP
2nd: Tim Lincecum, SP, Falls Church Foxes
3rd: Javier Vazquez, SP, Centreville 66ers
When Clifton GM Jon Lasken bought out Zack GreinkeÕs remaining arbitration years after a mediocre 2007 season, many JLB owners laughed at LaskenÕs foolish move. Now, those same owners are jealous that Greinke remains under Clifton control at a bargain price for 2010 after Greinke had a dominating 2009 season, leading to his first Cy Young Award in a nearly unanimous vote. Although Tim Lincecum had more strikeouts and a better WHIP than Greinke, voters focused on GreinkeÕs incredible ERA and rewarded Lasken for a year of marketing and campaigning for the award for his prized pitcher. Although Greinke has always been highly touted, especially by Lasken, nobody saw this season coming. Many pundits expect Greinke to have another dominating performance in 2010, and he has truly established himself as a staff ace and one of the best pitchers in JLB.
The Centreville staff had an outstanding season under the tutelage of a new pitching coach, handpicked by Centreville owner Debdeep Maji himself. Javier Vazquez put up stellar numbers in his first year with the new ballclub, as he struck out 231 and had a miniscule 1.04 WHIP to go along with a 2.89 ERA. Teammate Felix Hernandez finally put it all together this year as he tied for the JLB lead with 19 wins as his ERA plummeted to 2.56, more than a full point less than 2008. The comeback pitcher of the year unquestionably went to Chris Carpenter, who at the beginning of the year looked to be deadweight on the Herndon roster. After pitching only 6 innings for Herndon in 2007 and 5.1 in 2008, Carpenter worked out in the offseason under a special regime designed by HerndonÕs new strength and conditioning coach. The dividends paid off as Carpenter returned to form in 2009, pitching 187.2 innings, racking up more victories than Tiger Woods (16), and settling in with a ridiculous 2.30 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. Had Carpenter only struck out a little bit more than Elin Nordegren, perhaps he would be hoisting this yearÕs Cy Young trophy.
The final two pitchers receiving votes could be pitchers whose names we will see on here in the future. Andrew Bailey, discussed below, had a filthy season in relief for Reston, while Matt Cain finally put things together in Falls Church.
Name 1st 2nd 3rd Total
Zack Greinke 10 1 53
Tim Lincecum 1 6 1 24
Javier Vazquez 1 6 9
Felix Hernandez 2 2 8
Chris Carpenter 1 3
Andrew Bailey 1 1
Matt Cain 1 1
Rookie of the Year
Tim Lincecum, SP, Falls Church Foxes
225.1 IP, 15 Wins, 261 K, 2.48 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
2nd: Andrew Bailey, RP, Reston Roundabouts
3rd: Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Arlington Arsenal
While many questions were raised about Falls ChurchÕs decision to leave Tim Lincecum in AA in 2008, it clearly turned out to be the right move as Lincecum became the 2009 JLB Rookie of the Year with a dominating performance. Lincecum finished second in the League with 261 Ks, and his absurdly low ERA and WHIP anchored the Falls Church staff and preserved its bullpen.
More interestingly, Andrew Bailey came out of nowhere to finish second in Rookie of the Year voting. A complete unknown prior to the season, Reston Roundabouts GM Dan Hausman, with an eye for talent, signed Bailey off the waiver wire the second week of the regular season. Bailey rewarded HausmanÕs signing by finishing the year with 80Ks in only 75 innings, to go with 26 saves and stellar ratios of a 2.04 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. Given his numbers, contract, and position, no doubt Bailey has, overnight, turned himself into one the top overall JLB commodities.
Jacoby Ellsbury also had a stellar rookie season, finishing 3rd in the League in Rookie voting. Ellsbury had 53 stolen bases for an Arlington ballclub that smashed the previous League record for stolen bases in a season. While EllsburyÕs other stats were not stellar for a leadoff man – only 72 runs, a .289 average, and 43 RBI to go with 4 homers – Ellsbury no doubt ignited the Arlington offense to an amazing 57.5 offensive points. Given the difficulty that stolen bases are to come by in the League, Ellsbury is an extremely valuable commodity for Arlington over the next several years as it gives the franchise great flexibility in crafting its roster.
Other players receiving votes include Evan Longoria and Adam Jones, two players who not only provide Gold Glove caliber defense but also who will be a strong offensive force for Oakton and the Robots for years to come. Ubaldo Jimenez has turned himself into a strong #2 starter for the Clifton franchise behind Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, and Jair Jurrjens has ever so quietly become a reliable starter for Arlington. James Loney played well filling in for Justin Morneau at the end of the year for Falls Church, and has emerged as the perfect backup for years to come.
Name 1st 2nd 3rd Total
Tim Lincecum 8 40
Andrew Bailey 3 4 1 28
Jacoby Ellsbury 3 4 13
Evan Longoria 1 4 7
Ubaldo Jimenez 1 1 4
Adam Jones 1 3
Jair Jurrjens 1 3
James Loney 1 1
Mike Durgala GM of the Year
Carlton Davis, Falls Church Foxes
2nd: Jubriastin Warhalgh, Arlington Arsenal
3rd: Jonathan Lasken, Clifton Clams
The path to Mike Durgala GM of the Year began back in 2006 for Carlton Davis, as he took over a struggling franchise with few long-term assets. Looking at the core of the late Annandale franchise, and seeing young pups such as Felix Hernandez, Ryan Howard, and Jose Reyes ready to step in and make a big splash, Davis was unable to contain his jealousy as he quickly traded off veteran players and rebuilt with a young core. This Durgala-mold of thinking, building from the ground up, worked wonders for Davis in 2009 as he won the League and was voted GM of the Year, both for the first time.
Jubriastin Warhalgh, however, took a vastly different approach when they took over the late Burke franchise. Jubriastin entered the League and immediately went on a spending spree, trading for high-priced assets from Great Falls and Sterling and dumping a ton of money in free agency to acquire Carlos Beltran, Brad Lidge, John Lackey, and Brian Roberts. However, Warhalgh simply didnÕt throw money at any free agent that walked through the door – they did so strategically. The two-headed GMship of Jubriastin combines a gambling background with a Princeton education, and in a league where each team is given $100 million per year, it was obvious to everybody that it was only a matter of when, and not if, Arlington would rise to the top. However, after ArlingtonÕs complacency with their second place spot in the standings and refusal to trade for a closer mid-season – only 8 more saves would have garnered them second place – one has to wonder if the gambling aspect of Warhalgh will start to outweigh the conservative Princeton approach during team executive meetings. This could be an interesting offseason for ArlingtonÕs ownership, but for now, Warhalgh has turned Arlington into a perennial contender, and for that, they finished second in Mike Durgala GM of the Year voting.
Surprisingly, the GM who finished in third place in this yearÕs voting was Jon Lasken. To summarize LaskenÕs season and stellar job guiding his team to a fourth place finish, letÕs examine some of his quotes throughout the year:
ŌNelson Cruz is the best free agent signing in JLB history.Ķ
ŌIÕve told you guys for years that Zack Greinke is the best pitcher in the whole League.Ķ
ŌJosh Hamilton! He is going to be in the JLB Hall of Fame.Ķ
ŌUbaldo Jimenez is the most valuable pitching asset in all of JLB.Ķ
ŌI told you guys Miguel Tejada was still an All-Star.Ķ
ŌV-MartÕs signing was a steal! I canÕt believe I got him for that price.Ķ
ŌChris Ray is going to have 40 saves this year.Ķ
ŌDid you guys see JP Howell in the 2008 World Series? HeÕs on MY team this year!Ķ
Ō[Player XÕs team] is so overrated. Prospects never pan out. [JLB All-Star]? He is overrated.Ķ
ŌWhy would I want to trade for A-Rod when I have Chris Davis whoÕs just as good?Ķ
ŌScot Shields is the most underrated reliever in the game. Look at his ratios!Ķ
ŌPujols is too expensive for JLB. His contract is too long. IÕve built my squad on better players who have better contracts, like Brandon Phillips.Ķ
ŌI have $45 million to fill just two holes on my roster. My team is going to be so good!Ķ
ŌGuys, you donÕt understand. [Terrible player on the Clams] is going to have a huge season! [Jon sends out 8 different links to websites that nobody has ever heard of touting his player] You guys are really underrating my team.Ķ
And there you have it. With astute mid-season signings such as Ben Zobrist and Garrett Jones, Lasken took advantage of a weak field and guided his team to fourth place, seemingly a long-shot when rosters were submitted for Opening Day. For his efforts, Lasken finishes a well-deserved third place in this yearÕs voting.
Finishing in fourth place in this yearÕs voting is Debdeep Maji, who won the award last year. Perhaps overlooked by many voters was MajiÕs actual second place finish, as well as the moves he made to get there. In third place for most of the year, Maji was the most active participant at the Trading Deadline, acquiring offensive studs such as Manny Ramirez and Chase Utley and multiple closers, thus gaining him valuable standings points. Though Maji had to overcome injuries to many of his key players in 2009, this year was actually a stronger managerial job than in 2008. As a defending champion, however, expectations are high, and Maji was unable to deliver back to back titles.
Name 1st 2nd 3rd Total
Carlton Davis 9 1 48
Jubriastin Warhalgh 1 6 2 25
Debdeep Maji 2 6 12
Team Final Points Midseason Midseason 2nd Half Point
Points Rank Differential
Falls Church Foxes 102 102 1 0
Centreville 66ers 89.5 77 3 +12.5
Arlington Arsenal 86 89.5 2 -3.5
Clifton Clams 76 65.5 5 +10.5
Fairfax Firemen 69.5 68 4 +1.5
Herndon Heroes 61.5 60 8 +1.5
Great Falls Grenades 61 57.5 10 +3.5
Reston Roosters 60.5 63.5 6 -3
Oakton Outlaws 55.5 60 8 -4.5
Reston Roundabouts 49.5 57.5 11 -8
Reston Robots 46.5 62.5 7 -16
Sterling Starfish 22.5 17 12 +5.5
While the midseason standings are simply a snapshot of time, comparing where teams ranked at the midway point to where they were at the end of season tells us a couple of things. First, both halves of the season matter. While a team can position itself in the first half to make a run in the second, the fact is that this year, the top three teams at the midway point were also the top three teams at the end of the season, and it was not particularly close. The second half of the season matters just as much as the first. While no team finished within six points of fourth place this year, at the halfway point of the season, there were three teams within six points of fourth place. Hungrier managers who can overcome the doldrums of summer and focus on the end goal are going to be the most successful managers in JLB. This year proves exactly that.
Second, the dominating year by Falls Church and the paltry year by Sterling were not flukes. This is the way both of those managers planned things to be, and everything operated according to plan. Sterling, not wanting to beat the Falls Church 2007 season as the worst one in JLB history, made a couple of minor moves in the second half of the season to boost its point total. In the process, it saved itself a couple of million dollars in standings points penalties. Falls Church, with zero competition whatsoever, simply became complacent and bored during the second half of the season, not bothering to change its lineup, leaving valuable counting stats on the bench, and falling into a dangerous spat of overconfidence that hopefully will not linger into next season.
Third, the strong run by Centreville in the second half of the season and the late-season collapse by Arlington goes to show just how valuable experience can be. Having won last year on the last day of the season, Centreville knew what it took to finish with the maximum amount of points possible. They swung some major trades to improve the squad (discussed below). Arlington, having never been in a JLB money chase before, simply sat back, content with its double digit lead over the 66ers before the gap closed seemingly overnight. Before Arlington was able to make a move, it was too late. It remains to be seen whether this collapse by the Arsenal will affect them the way it affected Jean Van de Velde in the Õ99 British Open. Van de Velde, of course, was never to be heard from again. Will Arlington meet a similar fate, or will the new owners show resilience and bounce back strong in 2010?
In addition to Centreville, another clear second half winner was the Clifton Clams. Realizing that 4th place was up for grabs, Clifton made a couple of minor moves and took advantage of the weak JLB field this year to finish in 4th place. Fairfax, however, could not do the same. Not only did they fall out of the money, where they were at midseason, but they faded badly down the stretch, falling out of the money by 6.5 points. Although FairfaxÕs point total increased from where it was at midseason, it simply was not their year.
The Herndon Heroes had an interesting second half of the season, at one point holding onto fourth place before finally falling back into the pack. Well out of the money at midseason, Herndon made a strong push as its bats became hot and its pitching remained strong. However, the talent level on the Herndon roster eventually pushed it back to the middle of the pack, where it seemed destined to be since Opening Day.
The biggest gainer during the second half at the bottom of the standings came from the Great Falls Grenades. This is not surprising, given the threat of UMC Charges leveled against General Manager J.D. Moss in the Mid-Season Report. Moss managed to get his act together, and deftly played his hitters according to their splits as he saw his offense gain several points in the second half. The Roosters and the Outlaws, both realizing that they could not compete and had valuable assets, both made trades to acquire prospects as they look towards next year. Their second half slump was not unexpected.
Points-wise, it was the Hausman brothers who had the worst second halves in the league. Dan slipped 8 points while his younger brother Matt, who is twice as awesome, twice as good at basketball, and twice as easy to fleece in JLB trades, slipped twice that amount, 16 points. Similar to the slips of the Outlaws and Roosters, however, this decrease in points over the second half was not unexpected, but their magnitude was. There was a rumor at midseason that the Roundabouts would make a run for fourth place, but that quickly dissipated, as Dan Hausman knew his squad did not have what it took to finish in the money, and instead set his sights on building for 2010. Matt Hausman, however, had a terrible second half, as his pitching completely collapsed and injuries struck his lineup. Only 6 points out of 4th place at the halfway point, this second half had to have been very disappointing for the RobotsÕ GM. Harping back on the earlier theme of experience, perhaps Hausman will learn a lesson from this season knowing his young pups will have trouble transitioning from the minors to a full-season of JLB. Adding depth on the roster during this offseason to make a better push next year could be in the offing.
1st Place: Falls Church Foxes, 102 points (45 hitting, 57 pitching)
When GM Carlton Davis took over the squad in 2006, he immediately went into rebuilding mode. Two straight years in the cellar did not discourage the fans in Falls Church, as they saw gains in 2008 when the Foxes finished in 6th place. The goal had always been to compete in 2009, and the Foxes arrived right on schedule, finishing tied for the 2nd most points in League history and having the 2nd largest margin of victory. Falls Church took over first place in late April and never looked back. A stronger finish was prevented only by the complacency and inevitability of victory by their now-cocky GM in the late summer months.
What Went Right: To be a champion, many things need to go your way, and in 2009, many things did for Falls Church. Prized free agent pitching signing CC Sabathia proved his value by logging 230 innings and picking up 19 wins to go along with a 3.37 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. Tim Lincecum won the Rookie of the Year Award, and there was consistency up and down the Falls Church lineup as seven players hit more than 20 home runs. Fan favorite Pablo Sandoval emerged as a force in the middle of the lineup and promises to be a one-man wrecking crew for years to come.
What Went Wrong: For a team that finished with 102 points, itÕs hard to point to things that went wrong. But many things did not go Falls ChurchÕs way in 2009. Cole Hamels, coming off a very strong 2008, put up extremely disappointing numbers in 2009 which has led to questions about his role in the organization in 2010 and beyond. Offseason signing Chipper Jones put up the worst numbers of his JLB career in 2009, and he is still under contract for nearly $9 million in 2010. Falls Church non-tendered David Aardsma before the year, only to have Aardsma gain the closerÕs role in Seattle. Davis was too quick to trade Aardsma, garnering only a 2nd round pick for him, and Aardsma became one of the best relievers the rest of the way and is only entering his 4th arbitration year in 2010. Carlos Quentin took a step backwards from his 2008 season, and Alex Gordon saw another year of wasted development. Most importantly, All-Star catcher Russell Martin performed extremely poorly, and questions have arisen as to whether he will ever be able to contribute again.
2010 Outlook: While Falls Church returns most of its championship 2009 squad, many questions remain. Star outfielder Matt Holiday is a free agent, and Falls Church has some serious salary cap issues. Late season swoons by key performers Jason Bay, Justin Morneau, and Ian Kinsler could be bad signs for the team as it enters 2010. The Foxes need to shore up its pitching staff, add another big bat to the lineup, and fill its hole at catcher. The youth movement will have to wait until 2011, though young pups Carlos Gonzalez and Jay Bruce hope to win some playing time in the Falls Church outfield in 2010. Falls Church is for sure a top title contender in 2010, but will face stiffer competition by hungrier franchises than it did in 2009.
2nd Place: Centreville 66ers, 89.5 points (41.5 hitting, 48 pitching)
Centreville owner Debdeep Maji was the LeagueÕs most active owner in 2009, as Centreville managed to negotiate 7 trades with five different teams during the calendar year which landed them the following players: Kaz Matsui, Manny Corpas, Alfonso Soriano, Manny Ramirez, Rafael Soriano, Chase Utley, Kevin Gregg, Ryan Franklin, and Manny Ramirez. Further, Maji acquired Ichiro Suzuki before free agency to fill a pressing need. Like all great GMs, some trades are hits, and some are misses, yet you donÕt know what will happen until you actually make the deal. Maji almost always makes the deal, and in 2009, these moves paid off as Centreville fought its way into a remarkable 2nd place finish.
What Went Right: Unlimited texting. Thanks to VerizonÕs unlimited monthly in-network texting plan, Maji didnÕt have to worry about the amount he was spending to text his many secretive girlfriends. Instead, he could text away without fear of shredding his bank account and focus his time on managing the 66ers, which he did with great skill in the second half of the season. Maji acquired perennial studs Chase Utley and Manny Ramirez at the trade deadline, bolstering his offense and putting a jolt into the spirit of the team, and Maji was also able to acquire closers Ryan Franklin and Kevin Gregg, who ultimately pushed him over the top into second place. Realizing a teamÕs needs and making the necessary moves to address those needs are what separates championship managers from has-beens, and though Maji only finished in second place this year, this veteran saviness is something to which all managers should aspire.
What Went Wrong: Injuries. Every squad has irreplaceable players who, no matter how the roster is constructed, are so valuable that if an injury were to hit him, the team would suffer. Jose Reyes was that player for the 66ers, and when Reyes went down early in the season, chances of a back to back title evaporated. When ace Jake Peavy went down just a little while later, the Sixers were forced to fight just to stay in the money. Injuries are inevitable and they hit every team, but when a star hitter and an ace go down in succession, it is impossible for a team to replicate their performances on the fly. Perhaps with a young squad showing its face in Centreville in 2010 Maji will look to bring in a new trainer to build up muscle mass and increase flexibility to prevent any further injury as Centreville gears up for another title run in 2011.
2010 Outlook: Enthusiastic. 2010 will be a rebuilding year for the 66ers, but as other teams will show, it is very possible in the era of salary caps and free agency to rebuild in just one year. After four consecutive years of finishing in the top two, Centreville has seen its contracts with studs such as K-Rod, Peavy, King Felix and the Big Puma all expire. The Sixers have already begun trade negotiations to trade other players in the last years of their contracts in an effort to restock the farm system. Young pup Clayton Kershaw makes his long-anticipated Sixers season debut and will learn under the tutelage of seasoned veteran Javier Vazquez. Though the Sixers will not be competing in 2010, donÕt expect them to be down for long.
3rd Place: Arlington Arsenal, 86 points (57.5 hitting, 28.5 pitching)
When Jubriastin Warhalgh took over the former Burke Boomerangs at the end of the 2007 season, few people knew what to expect. After a 2008 offseason of massive spending and spending most of the 2009 season in second place, the League now knows what to make of the ownership in Arlington – owners who are not afraid to spend, not afraid to win, and will do anything possible to bring a title back to Arlington for the first time. The League is on notice that Arlington is a force that is to be reckoned with. Despite this force, however, Jubriastin has proved surprisingly easy to work with in trade negotiations, and the calmness of the LeagueÕs first quarter-Asian owner has proven to be a stabilizing mechanism in a League with many outsized personalities.
What Went Right: Free agent signings. When you spend over $40 million in free agency, itÕs tough not to have those free agents perform well. Yet which free agents are signed makes the difference, and Arlington has an unquestioned eye for selecting the right free agents. 2B Brian Roberts had a fantastic year for the Arsenal scoring over 100 runs and chipping in with 26 stolen bases. Derek Jeter had a career year that few saw coming, and Carlos Pena hit 30 homers as the Arsenal were loaded at every position. Free agent Carlos Beltran got hurt early in the season, and despite his large salary, his lack of production was offset by the brilliant signing of Raul Ibanez for only $1.9 million. Ibanez hit 31 homers for Arlington. After missing out on the extremely high bidding for Brandon Webb, something Arlington has never once regretted, free agent pitcher John Lackey contributed with his usual solid numbers across the board.
Arlington also cleaned out its farm system for Alex Rodriguez, but A-Rod put up his usual stellar numbers despite missing all of April. Mirroring the stellar numbers that Joe Mauer put up for Arlington despite missing April, perhaps Arlington will tell its entire team to the month of April off in 2010. In so doing, Arlington probably wouldnÕt skip a beat as its offense is absurdly talented and promises to put up record numbers for a long time.
What Went Wrong: Complacency. Arlington spent the vast majority of the year in 2nd place, and despite acquiring Brad Lidge and Huston Street in the free agent market, they stood pat for closers as the season progressed, feeling they could finish in 2nd with what they had. This proved to be a fallacy as the Sixers passed Arlington in the seasonÕs final week, and a last-day barrage of starting pitching signings was not enough to overcome the more experienced leadership of Debdeep Maji. Just 12 more saves and a WHIP of .01 less would have clinched second place for Arlington, but they failed to make a move. The horrible production out of premiere free agent signing Brad Lidge was something that nobody saw coming, and Arlington did not respond. Do not expect Arlington to make the same mistake twice.
2010 Outlook: Extremely bright. Returning all parts of the sickest offense in JLB history, the Arsenal need only to shore up its pitching staff in order to be the hands-down favorite for The Joe. Before free agency has even begun Jubriastin has traded for Johan Santana, giving up nothing but C-level prospects in a fleecing that even Bernie Madoff has acknowledged was impressive. Jubriastin has shown no qualms about spending in free agency, so one more ace-level pitcher which they will inevitably buy should push them to the forefront of the standings in 2010.
4th Place: Clifton Clams, 76 points (48 hitting, 28 pitching)
The 2009 baseball season will forever be remembered as the one where Clifton Clams owner and GM Jon Lasken finally made the right strategic decisions as the Clams, for the first time ever, finished in the money. For years, Lasken has been the laughingstock of the entire League for odd decisions and interesting analysis. (I recall a time a few years ago when I was trying to trade Jon one of my pitchers. Jon kept telling me how bad my pitcher was going to be because his MLB team was Ōbuilding a new ballpark, and since they are building the park in the city, they wonÕt have much space so the fences will be really shallow, thus driving up his numbers.Ķ) This year, however, Lasken is the one getting the last laugh as he finished 3rd place in the Mike Durgala GM of the Year voting and finishes in 4th place in the money with a bright future ahead. For the first time in memory, the Clams have high picks in the draft and the semblance of a farm system. More importantly, the Clams have direction.
What Went Right: Lasken was brilliant with his in-season day-to-day managing, as he played 21 hitters and 29 pitchers throughout the course of the season, far more than any other team in the League. Realizing that his team was not the most talented in the League, Lasken was forced to examine daily pitching and hitting matchups and adjusted his lineup accordingly. As a result, Jon led the Clams to their first ever money finish. To this, Lasken deserves much credit. The Clifton GM seems to have learned from the lessons of the Centreville GM in 2008 – do what it takes to win – as Lasken acquired closers (Chad Qualls and Kerry Wood) and hitters (Bobby Abreu) at the trading deadline to bolster his team in a successful attempt to finish in the money. Even while finishing in 4th place, Lasken still managed to have an eye on the future as he acquired a top-5 amateur pick for a hot-hitting Jorge Cantu at the beginning of the season. The Clams have not had draft picks for years, so the fan base is anxiously awaiting to see what their GM does with his newfound toys.
What Went Wrong: ItÕs hard to say that much went wrong for Clifton in 2009. The squad needed a lot of things to break their way, and that happened. Fairfax and Herndon faded down the stretch thus opening up 4th place, and the players took advantage, finally earning a postseason bonus for the first time in team history. Clifton held on to its top future draft picks, and even though the team traded away Adam Dunn and Matt Holliday before the season, Clifton still finished with 48 points in offense. In the only really questionable move of the season, Clifton called up Max Scherzer in early May based off of his late-2008 promise. While Scherzer had a K/9 ratio of better than 9, his ERA and WHIP helped drag down the rest of the staffÕs and his first arb year was completely blown.
2010 Outlook: Uphill. At this point in time, before free agency, Lasken will claim that he has as good a shot at anybody else at bringing home the Joe. ŌTop to bottom my team is filled with top 75 guys. No one else can say that,Ķ Lasken claims. Ignoring for a minute the top two teams in 2009 return virtually their entire squad, one might ask, wasnÕt the ClamsÕ squad filled with top to bottom top 75 guys in 2009 as well? Perhaps. But as Lasken would dutifully counter, he has two top-5 picks this year to use as trade bait to acquire that elite player to push him over the top. Although the rest of the League might get caught up on elite names, Lasken pays no such attention to the elite payers, instead directing his efforts on building a championship squad full of mediocre talent, depth, and solid stats across the board. Will this strategy payoff in 2010? Only time will tell. But entering free agency with a couple of holes on his roster (no different than any other team, for sure) and a limited amount of cash to spend in a market flush with cash, will the Clams GM be able to land the players he needs? Lasken was able to pull magic out of a hat in 2009 and seemingly come from nowhere to finish in the money. In the most intriguing storyline of the year, will Jon be able to pull off a repeat?
5th Place: Fairfax Firemen, 69.5 points (30 hitting, 39.5 pitching)
In a season where Fairfax GM Mike Keenan had aspirations to finish the season with 120 points, MurphyÕs Law was in full effect. The Firemen started out the new year with a bang, announcing a January 4 trade with Sterling that brought the Firemen perennial studs Hanley Ramirez, Roy Halladay, and Vlad Guerrero. While this trade cleaned out FairfaxÕs farm system, it also put them at the forefront of contenders for the 2009 season. Finally, after years of rebuilding and a disappointing 3rd place finish in 2008, Fairfax was ready to take home the title. But alas, it was not meant to be.
What Went Right: Hanley Ramirez and Roy Halladay. Suffice it to say that KeenanÕs blockbuster trade brought him two pieces that performed at an absurd level for the entire year. Halladay, failing to garner any Cy Young votes because he was on a disappointing team, had 17 wins, a 2.79 ERA, and a 1.13 WHIP for his new squad. Ramirez batted a mere .345 with over 100 runs and RBI to go along with 24 homers and 27 stolen bases to finish as the unquestioned #1 shortstop in the League. Further, Mariano Rivera put up another stellar season. Though Keenan signed him to an expensive contract following the 2007 season, there is no doubt that Rivera was worth every penny paid to him.
What Went Wrong: Nearly everything else. Another offseason blockbuster brought 2008 Rookie of the Year runner-up Geovany Soto to the Firemen in an effort to bolster the offense. Soto batted .218 with only 10 home runs. In return, Keenan shipped off Justin Verlander after a disappointing 2008 season. Verlander led the League in strikeouts in 2009 and had 19 wins. The Fairfax farm system has been absolutely cleaned out, and the only real prospect remaining, Kyle Drabek, just saw his stock slip as he was traded to the American League. The Firemen wasted the entire 2009 MLD by undergoing a new Latin youth movement even though the product of their first Latin movement has, thus far, only led them to one 3rd place finish the whole decade. Even worse, the Firemen traded what is now the 3rd overall pick in the 2010 Amateur Draft to the Cams in order to acquire Jorge Cantu after the Firemen 3B, Aramis Ramirez, went down early in the season. Perhaps Keenan has learned the importance of acquiring backups at every position in order to better prepare for injury, and Keenan will no doubt spend a few dollars this offseason to construct his roster in a more cautious manner.
2010 Outlook: Grim. Fairfax went for broke in 2009 and it came up severely short. In doing so, it traded away almost all of its assets, including Justin Upton, arguably the most valuable asset in JLB. Fairfax enters the offseason with a severe pitching shortage, as closers Mariano Rivera and Jose Valverde depart via free agency, as do starters Roy Halladay, Rich Harden, and Aaron Harang. FairfaxÕs ability to swing a trade is severely restricted by its lack of assets, but it does have some money left to spend on the deepest FA pitcher market in history. Fairfax has already shored up its depth on the offensive side by adding 2009 breakouts Adam Lind and Marco Scutaro. While it remains to be seen whether Keenan will give it another shot in 2010 or simply rebuild, these latest moves indicate another go for broke. What we do know, however, is this: after one full season of being a full-time worker, Keenan will better be able to balance his work/JLB schedule in 2010. If Keenan decides to finish in the money in 2010, do not bet against him. As recent moves indicate, Keenan has quite the eye for elite talent. Surrounding that eite talent with JLB-caliber players, however, is something that Keenan has so far failed to do.
6th Place: Herndon Heroes, 61.5 points (18 hitting, 43.5 pitching)
The Herndon Heroes entered the 2009 JLB season with high expectations, despite the losses of veteran leaders Brad Lidge, Carlos Beltran, and Brandon Webb in the offseason. With only a couple of teams looking elite at the beginning of the season, Herndon hoped to sneak into the back half of the money for the sixth straight year. Despite making a strong midseason trade for a closer and snatching up a couple quality arms off the waiver wire, however, Herndon was only to spend a couple of days in 4th place after the All-Star break as a late season swoon derailed the HeroesÕ hopes of a sixth place money finish. Ultimately, perhaps a bout of exhaustion arose after a draining second-place finish in 2008 left a negative memory in the minds of many Heroes, and the team simply stopped playing come September.
What Went Right: As usual, White was a master with his pitching staff, as everything he touched turned to gold. Chris Carpenter came back from injury and had a ridiculous year, and even though staff ace Johan Santana was injured in August, White was able to coax fantastic seasons out of Wandy Rodriguez and Jorge de la Rosa, two cheap free agent signings that White made last offseason. Further, White signed veteran Mike MacDougal mid-season, who accumulated 20 saves for the Heroes, and Francisco Cordero pitched well out of the bullpen after an early season trade.
What Went Wrong: The Heroes finished the year with an extremely disappointing 18 points in total offense. David Wright had a major regression after winning MVP honors in 2008, and the loss of Carlos Beltran proved too much for the Heroes to handle. While Mark Teixeira had another outstanding year and White scored big again in free agency by signing the overlooked Johnny Damon, Nick Markakis had a disappointing season and White too often left Josh Wilingham on the bench while he was mashing. WhiteÕs complete lack of production from the Catcher position also helped this offense suffer. Further, Herndon did not have much payroll flexibility at all, as they entered last offseason with one of the lowest cash totals in the League and no margin for error regarding the salary cap. This constricted their ability to acquire big name players in the offseason, and the lack of stars on the squad showed as HerndonÕs secondary pieces were unable to get the job done. The fact that Herndon entered the season with Cristian Guzman as its starting shortstop tells you all you need to know.
2010 Outlook: After finishing out of the money for the first time in six years, the Heroes are in the midst of selling off their players left under team control for one more year. 2010 will be a rebuilding year in Herndon, and with David Wright under team control through 2011, Danny White will look to go all-in for the 2011 season. However, his return on studs Johan Santana and Mark Teixeira is questionable, as rumors have it that he passed up better offers of guys who are more ready to contribute. This kind of questionable decision making during a one-year rebuild can have drastic negative effects; hopefully for White, his new prospects will pan out. Young studs already in the Herndon system such as Buster Posey, Gordon Beckham, and Chris Tillman look to be valuable contributors in 2011, however, thus potentially giving Herndon a lot of payroll flexibility at a time when many teams will have massive contracts to deal with.
7th Place: Great Falls Grenades, 61 points (34 hitting, 27 pitching)
According to recent press reports, President Obama is considering using his power to issue an executive order which adds to the only two certainties we face in life. In addition to death and taxes, Obama has been rumored to want to include Ōa mediocre and disappointing finish by the Great Falls Grenades.Ķ However, when told about these rumors, the Great Falls PR office fired back, claiming that GM JD Moss has all but guaranteed a finish in the money in 2010. For the sixth year in a row, the Grenades finished between 5th and 8th place. While the franchise is a model for consistency, being a mediocre franchise is not something that teams should strive for. Moss, however, has developed arguably the best farm system in the League, and with some elite level talent already at the JLB level, the future for the Grenades is looking extremely bright.
What Went Right: Moss did not trade away any major future assets during his mediocre 2009 season, and now boasts a farm system that is the envy of the League. Moss kept payroll low while avoiding any major standings points penalties, and is now flush with cash for an offseason that will see a gazillion big names on the free agent market. He also signed potential closer Luke Gregerson in a late-September move with forward-looking implications.
What Went Wrong: The 27-point strategy. While Moss decided to pitch Jonathan Broxton for just 1 inning this year, thus guaranteeing him 27 pitching points, he did so at a cost of other possible pitching points. In a year where leaguewide pitching was down and 4th place was wide open, Moss gave up on the season before it even began. He signed Josh Beckett to a $37.5 million/5 year contract while not even pitching Beckett during the first year of his contract. He wasted early arb years from some of his other pitchers like Gallardo and Danks, and signed Bobby Abreu to a foolish one-year contract only to weasel out of it by creating a rule that allowed him to place Abreu on irrevocable waivers. Moss also traded for multiple shortstops who he hoped to start in 2010. Jhonny Peralta was a flop, while Yunel Escobar is only getting older, more expensive, and at this point in time is not a strong fantasy option. Lastly, Moss traded away Adam Lind, in the midst of a breakout season, who subsequently performed even better and was traded again at an even higher price. Moves like these lead one to believe that Moss will overthink the 2010 season and finish out of the money again. But there is one saving grace – with a baby on the way, MossÕ life will forever be changed. Will he even have time to overthink and screw up future decisions?
2010 Outlook: Without question, Moss is, at this point in time, a lock to finish in the money. He put the League on notice as he has already traded for perennial stud Mark Teixeira and new closer Rafael Soriano, giving up mere prospects and low picks. The Grenades have the most amount of money and largest room under the salary cap for the strongest free agent crop in history. Moss has somehow accumulated a wealth of talent in his minor league system, and the only thing holding Great Falls back from finishing in the top 2 at this point is history, as noted above. Will this finally be the year that JD Moss defies all odds and doesnÕt screw up the easy situation in which heÕs been placed? Time will tell. At this point, however, bet the house on the Grenades finishing in the upper half of the money.
8th Place: Reston Roosters, 60.5 points, (26.5 hitting, 34 pitching)
The 2009 season saw another year come and go and another finish out of the money for the Roosters, who have never finished higher than 8th in the history of the League. The RoostersÕ window of opportunity may be closing as his young talent is growing older and more expensive, with few elite prospects waiting in the wings hungry for their chances. Though the 2010 season will give Fleeter more time to dedicate to JLB as his schooling wraps up, will he use the extra time to devote to the Roosters? The Reston fans have been patient for long enough. They are waiting for action and deserve the commitment from the owner and general manager.
What Went Right: Not much. Adrian Gonzalez continued to mash for the Roosters, and free agent signing Jorge Posada exceeded all expectations by banging 20 home runs after spending much of 2008 on the shelf. Fleeter landed a gem of a free agent in Aaron Hill, signing him to the minimum salary, and all Hill did was respond to this opportunity by mashing 28 home runs. Strategic signings such as Hill indicate that Fleeter has the eye for talent to be competitive in free agency while spending only pennies. If he can apply this talent to this and future offseasons, then look out.
What Went Wrong: Trades. Fleeter entered 2009 knowing that he wasnÕt going to be competitive, yet waited too long to trade prized 2B Chase Utley, and as a result got only a minimum return. Further, the Roosters did not trade Cliff Lee, who could have fetched a handsome sum, and this lack of action undoubtedly hurt the RoostersÕ farm system while only helping the squad very marginally in 2009. The question surrounding Fleeter has always been, how much will he pay attention to the team during the intense competition in-season? If Fleeter decides to dedicate himself, the sky is the limit. Until then, however, more 8th place finishes are in the offing.
2010 Outlook: Undetermined. Fleeter announced that he would enter free agency and make some Ōstrategic signingsĶ, but what does that really mean? He has a strong core ready to make a run in 2010 led by Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis on the offensive end, but the lineup still has many many holes that need to be filled. Toeing the rubber are Chad Billingsley and Jon Lester, two future aces, but with the loss of Cliff Lee, the Roosters staff has been thinned out and they currently have no closers on the roster. The farm system has been thinned out as well, and not much in terms of future potential help is going to be available in the coming years. Fleeter still has a long ways to go before making his team competitive, but in this era of free agency, he can do so overnight as he has a ton of money to play with. If Fleeter decides to spend one more year rebuilding, he can do so successfully as Gonzalez, Billingsley, and Lester and three of the most valuable properties in JLB. With an impending graduation from Harvard Business School, Fleeter will unquestionably have the business acumen to run a competitive franchise. An internship in the CommissionerÕs office has given him the necessary baseball acumen. The only question is, when will Dan dedicate himself to combine these two experiences and lead the Roosters to hoist The Joe?
9th Place: Oakton Outlaws, 55.5 points (29 hitting, 26.5 pitching)
The Oakton Outlaws entered the 2009 season with high hopes, hoping to finish in the money for the first time since 2003. In the offseason, Oakton added veteran arms to the pitching staff in the form of AJ Burnett and John Smoltz, and shored up the back of the bullpen with closers Kerry Wood, Matt Lindstrom, and Brandon Lyon. Oakton added two big bats to its depleted outfield in Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn, and looked to enter the season in a competitive fashion. But things soon took a turn for the worse in Oakton, and after spending April in 1st and 2nd place, the Outlaws began their annual summer swoon and began to sell off expiring contracts. Though Oakton was able to get some strong prospects during the sell-off, Oakton again finished the season in disappointing fashion, finishing in 9th place.
What Went Right: Not much. In a year when Oakton hoped to field a competitive team, his young players performed extremely well as Evan Longoria was stellar in his first JLB season, Troy Tulowitzki bounced back from a horrible 2008, and Robinson Cano continued mashing at 2B. Further, up and coming prospects Matt Wieters and Julio Borbon played well in their MLB debuts, possibly leading to a JLB 40-man roster spot in 2010. Oakton was also able to pick up slugging prospect Brandon Allen in a trade of Manny Ramirez, and star outfield prospect Austin Jackson in a trade with the Grenades that sent shortstop Yunel Escobar, the backup shortstop on the Outlaws, to Great Falls.
What Went Wrong: Pride. The Oakton season was doomed from the beginning as a January skiing accident where their GM tried to one-up his girlfriend resulted in a broken collarbone, a trip to the hospital, and a subsequent swing and a miss on signing 1B free agent Carlos Pena as a result. No other strong 1B options were available for the Outlaws at that point, and without the power in the middle of their lineup that they were hoping to have, Oakton had a big hole behind Manny Ramirez. In the seasonÕs first week, the Oakton franchise suffered another blow as top pitching prospect Nick Adenhart died in a car accident. Oakton never recovered. In an effort to ease the pain from this loss, star LF Manny Ramirez began taking performance enhancing drugs, was subsequently caught by the LeagueÕs new testing policy, and was suspended for 50 games. At that point, Oakton had no chance to finish in the money, and any trade value Ramirez had in the last year of his contract was also crushed.
2010 Outlook: Positive. Oakton returns arguably the best infield in the League with Cano, Longoria, and Tulowitzki. Signing a 1B will be a top priority during free agency, and once that is done and Matt Wieters is promoted, Oakton, along with Arlington, will be the envy of the League for its offensive infield prowess. However, Oakton still has much work to do in shoring up its outfield and rounding out its pitching staff. Though staff aces Dan Haren and Adam Wainwright are both very cheap in 2010, Oakton has to fill out the rest of its starting corps behind #3 arm AJ Burnett. The Outlaws already have a couple of closers on the roster, but to be serious contenders they need to acquire another in free agency. The Outlaws have some severe talent on their squad, and to be a true title contender in 2010, they need to spend heavily in free agency. Will they do so? The pieces are there. Oakton fans are hoping the answer is yes.
10th Place: Reston Roundabouts, 49.5 points (19.5 hitting, 30 pitching)
After a 2008 season that saw the Roundabouts finish out of the money for the first time since the inaugural 2001 season, Roundabouts GM Dan Hausman looked around the League and saw new teams emerging for the 2009 season. As such, he realized he could not compete and decided to sit out the 2009 season. With an eye towards the future, Hausman targeted young pitchers in free agency and signed them cheaply. He brought young talent on board and traded away his veterans. As a result, he has established, along with Great Falls and Sterling, the best farm system in the League, led by top prospects Tommy Hanson and Jason Heyward. It is only a matter of when, and not if, this elite talent proves itself on the JLB stage. When that occurs, and when Hausman complements these youngsters with other talent from trades and free agency, the Roundabouts will once again finish back in the money where they are so used to being.
What Went Right: As usual, Hausman was active in signing players off the waiver wire during the middle of the season, and he had a major hit with Andrew Bailey. Further, Hausman signed Jake Fox, who could be a big bat in the middle of the lineup for years to come. For a manager who knew he was not competing in 2009 going into the year, Hausman still made some veteran savvy moves that would improve his squad for the future. He also traded for Adam Lind from the Grenades, and after Lind had a stellar season, Hausman flipped him to another team at a higher price. Moves like these, and by building an elite farm system, ensure that Hausman will finish back in the money sooner rather than later.
What Went Wrong: After the season, Hausman indicated a strong desire to trade his 2009 JLB breakout stars Adam Lind and Jayson Werth. After giving Werth away to his brother for basically nothing – the first time in a long series of trades between the brothers when the immediate consensus was that the older Hausman came out a loser – Dan traded Adam Lind away at below market value as well. What this means for the RoundaboutsÕ future is anybody guess, as a full-blown youth movement seems to be underway in Reston.
2010 Outlook: Intriguing. The Roundabouts have a ton of elite prospects in their minor league system, and with the promotions of young pups Elvis Andrus, Dexter Fowler, and Chris Coghlan, there is no telling how much better the Roundabouts lineup will be in 2010. The Roundabouts have established a strong but cheap pitching staff with Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, and Tommy Hanson leading the way, and Rookie of the Year candidate Andrew Bailey leads the back end of the bullpen for the Roundabouts. Delmon Young also had a promising second half of 2009, and some are now wondering if 2010 will be the year he finally puts it all together. Reston currently has an extremely low payroll and gobs of money to spend, but the question is, will they spend it this year? In a fantastic free agent market, who will Hausman target, and what will he do with his team? He has already traded Jayson Werth and Adam Lind, two breakout players in 2009, indicating a possible extra year in rebuilding, but at this point, nobody knows what will happen. Free agency, not surprisingly, well tell us a lot.
11th Place: Reston Robots, 46.5 points (29 hitting, 17.5 pitching)
New Robots GM Matt Hausman was an active player in last yearÕs free agency, and coming into the season, few people knew what to expect. It didnÕt last long for many to realize that the Robots were not yet built to compete with the big horses of the League. Though the team stayed competitive through April, injuries hit hard and the squadÕs true talent started to show as the team kept slipping in the standings, saved from a last place finish only by the dreadful Starfish. Hausman, however, was never discouraged, constantly making free agent signings and swinging trades to improve his team for the future. As a result, he has built a franchise that has young talent at the JLB level with a farm chock full of prospects, not to mention accumulating high draft picks for the next couple of drafts.
What Went Right: Despite achieving only 29 points in hitting, the Robots were blessed with several magnificent individual performances. Mark Reynolds, making his second consecutive All-Star team, mashed to the tune of 42 homers and 24 stolen bases. Rookie Adam Jones, a lynchpin in the Robots offense for years to come, slugged 15 home runs while stealing 8. Young 1B Joey Votto hit .313 with 20 home runs in time limited to injury, and free agent signing Carl Crawford proved to be the sparkplug at the top of the offense Hausman hoped he would be, stealing 58 bases while batting over .300. Further, Hausman traded for closer David Aardsma who registered 33 saves and is under team control for an additional three years.
What Went Wrong: Pitching, pitching, and more pitching. The Robots invested very heavily in free agent Brandon Webb, signing him to a $67.5 million / 5 year contract. Nobody could have foreseen what happened next. Webb, arguably the LeagueÕs most consistent pitcher the past several years, pitched only 4 innings before injuring his shoulder and sitting out the rest of the year. Relying on Webb for another 200+ innings, the Robots were devastated by this loss, and the pitching staff never recovered. Derek Lowe had a major regression from his 2008 season, putting up a WHIP in excess of 1.50, and Ervin Santana had a similar regression, pitching only 26 innings due to injury to the tune of a 7.96 ERA and 1.77 WHIP. Rookie Adam Jones also faded late in the year and lost September due to injury.
2010 Outlook: Competitive. But first things first – after being ravaged by injuries all over the field in 2009, the RobotsÕ first piece of offseason work needs to be to find a new training staff. As of press time, however, with nearly three months elapsed in the offseason, Reston has yet to announce this move, indicating that perhaps one will not come at all. The Robots, however, have a fantastic core of young talent, led by mashers Joey Votto, Billy Butler, Adam Jones, and Mark Reynolds. Further, Hausman has shown a willingness to spend in free agency, and no doubt he will be gearing up to land one, if not two, of the aces on the pitching market come January. Solidifying the pitching staff is the absolute most important thing Hausman can do this offseason and will be the determining factor in whether or not the Robots will be competitive in 2010. Though the squad has a long ways to go, finishing in the money is a definite possibility with the right offseason moves.
12th Place: Sterling Starfish, 22.5 points (12 hitting, 10.5 pitching)
Sterling announced its intentions to rebuild at the beginning of the 2009 calendar year with a series of blockbuster trades, shipping off both Alex Rodriguez and Hanley Ramirez to different title contenders. The trades sent shockwaves through JLB as the 2007 champions broke up their team. Was this the right move? Only time will tell. Surely Sterling didnÕt foresee a monster rebound by 1B Derrek Lee in 2009. Combining that with another strong showing by Hanley and A-Rod, perhaps Sterling could have finished in the money yet again in 2009 had owner and GM Chris McDonald not given up so soon. But he did, and the sell-off began. As a result, Sterling stayed out of the free agent market for any big names and put a putrid team on the field. After spending much of the year challenging the 2007 Falls Church squad for the lowest point total in League history, Sterling made some moves in the second half of the season to overcome that obstacle, but still finished with a whopping $17 million in standings points penalties.
What Went Right: Justin Upton. If there was one player in the League who Sterling should have traded for in the Great Sell-off, it was Justin Upton. Upton managed a stellar JLB debut this year smashing 20 homers with 18 stolen bases and a .295 average in just a glimpse of things to come. Sterling also signed Rajai Davis off the waiver wire in late August, and Davis went on to steal 15 bases in a month and a half while hitting .320 for Sterling.
What Went Wrong: The debate over whether or not C-Mac should have traded A-Rod and Hanley will be debated amongst the Sterling fanbase for years to come. The fruits of the package, however, will also take years to materialize. Stud prospect Angel Villalona has already lost his luster as he has been accused of murder in his home country of the DR. Mike Moustakas and Matt LaPorta had disappointing years. While Wade Davis and Neftali Feliz looked strong in their MLB debuts, will the first round picks Sterling also acquired pay off down the road? Only time will tell. McDonald also failed to capitalize on a strong year by 1B Derrek Lee and did not trade him at the deadline. Now, Lee has been lost to free agency and Sterling has nothing to show for it. Will McDonald regret making these moves and passing over a strong offer from Falls Church that included David Price, Jay Bruce, and Pedro Alvarez?
2010 Outlook: Boring. Having spent two consecutive years in the cellar, I can verify that it is really quite boring. Following the squad on a daily basis is not very exciting, although the world of prospects certainly became a lot more fascinating as my prospect knowledge became the self-proclaimed best in the League. Likely, C-Mac will follow the path of the Ô06-Ô07 Foxes and stay in the cellar for another year while accumulating a massive amount of money before coming out of the hole and dominating the League. Perhaps less likely, C-Mac will make a splash in free agency and spend a little bit of money in hopes of not alienating the Sterling fan base, many of whom have moved 20 miles down Rt. 7 and converted to fans of the Foxes. As is the case with every team in the League, however, it will be hard to determine just what the precise 2010 outlook will be until free agency is well under way.
2010 Season Preview
The 2010 season looks to be one of the most competitive in JLB history. Of course, every season seems to have the same promise when pitchers and catchers report, but the inevitable string of injuries and mismanaging quickly dwindles the number of JLB competitors. This much, however, we know: Sterling will enter 2010 as favorites for a back to back last place finish as the teamÕs rebuilding project is in full swing. Other teams that have had recent runs of success also look to be noncompetitive in 2010, as the Heroes and 66ers have already begun to sell-off expiring assets.
This narrows the competitive field to nine. The defending champion Foxes and 3rd place finishers Arlington will not only come back strong, but both teams hope to retool and come back even stronger in 2010. At this point, they seem to be the cream of the crop. Once free agency starts, however, all bets are off. The Clifton Clams have promised to make another run, and the Grenades have put some very elite pieces in place where only a couple of free agent signings will boost them into the same class as Arlington and Falls Church.
The Outlaws and Roosters both have elite talent and a lot of money to spend. The question is, will they shell out the cash necessary and spend the requisite amount of time during the dull summer months to field competitive teams? After years of losing, their fan bases are clamoring, and free agency could treat these two teams quite kindly.
The Fairfax Firemen have had difficult internal discussions, and with the availability of free agent pitching, the Firemen brass is going to gear up for another run. The Reston Robots have also shown a willingness to spend money, and by filling some holes in their squad, they could also be quite competitive. The Reston Roundabouts are the wildcard team, as they have extreme talent in their minor league system and have built a good foundation at the JLB level, but nobody is quite sure what Dan Hausman has up his sleeve. Will they compete in 2010, or wait it out one more year for an ultra-competitive 2011?
Based on the aforementioned discussions, here are my predictions for the 2010 season:
1st: Great Falls Grenades
2nd: Arlington Arsenal
3rd: Falls Church Foxes
4th: Fairfax Firemen
5th: Oakton Outlaws
6th: Clifton Clams
7th: Reston Robots
8th: Reston Roundabouts
9th: Reston Roosters
10th: Centreville 66ers
11th: Herndon Heroes
12th: Sterling Starfish