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Old 10-25-2018, 07:07 AM   #2641
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In the meantime, there was also a Federal League Championship Series, in which the Buffaloes were facing an uphill battle against the 99-win Pacifics. While the Buffaloes were washed to the top in an extremely crummy FL East in which their 84-78 record made them the sole winning team, the Pacifics had only made the playoffs after a Game 163 against the Scorpions, breaking Sacramento's permanent occupancy of the FL West's playoffs slot.

Both teams had been built around offense, with the Buffaloes sitting third in home runs compared to fifth place for the Pacifics, but only L.A. had the pitching to pair with it. The Buffaloes staff, while holding two strong starting pitchers in Jose Lerma and Nick Danieley – neither of whom managed a winning record! – was very much rough around the edges and difficult to project for greatness in a tight FLCS. The Pacifics on the other hand had conceded the fewest runs in the Federal League, which was no mean feat, had the best rotation, the best bullpen, and were headed by 19-game winner Dave Christiansen, and closed up by 48-save Alex Ramos and his 1.51 ERA in the regular season. The Buffaloes had nothing remotely close to this on offer.

2026 FLCS:

Buffaloes @ Pacifics … 1-2 … (Pacifics lead 1-0) … LAP Dave Christiansen 8.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, W (1-0) and 2-3, RBI;

Buffaloes @ Pacifics … 5-4 … (series tied 1-1) … TOP Stephen Williams 3-5, 2B; TOP Pat Green 1-4, HR, 3 RBI;

Pacifics @ Buffaloes … 4-1 … (Pacifics lead 2-1) … LAP Dylan Allomes 3-4, HR, 2 RBI; LAP Allen Retzer 2-3, BB; LAP Bryan Hanson 7.0 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, W (1-0); TOP Josh Motley 3-4;

Pacifics @ Buffaloes … 0-3 … (series tied 2-2) … LAP John Hansen 2-4, 2 2B; TOP Stephen Williams 0-1, 2 BB; TOP Travis Benson 3-3, RBI;

Benson had all but one of the Pacifics' base hits, but somehow they managed to squeeze out three runs on Dave Christiansen. Williams twice walked, stole second base, and then scored either on a Benson single or on a passed ball charged to Dylan Allomes. It was the most minimal amount of offense viable to win a playoff game against a 99-win outfit.

Pacifics @ Buffaloes … 4-1 … (Pacifics lead 3-2) … LAP Dylan Allomes 2-3, 2 BB; LAP Dan Avent 2-2, BB;

The game remains tied at one into the ninth inning before TOP CL Mike Baker comes apart for four hits and three runs. LAP Joe Vanatti drives in a pair. It was a crushing blow for the Buffaloes, who lost Nick Danieley to injury (so far not diagnosed) in the third inning and still battled on right until it all evaporated.

Buffaloes @ Pacifics … 2-4 … (Pacifics win 4-2) … LAP Shane Baker 8.0 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, W (1-1);

The Pacifics get three in the bottom 1st with a bevy of singles against Topeka's Tim Wells, then ride the Baker train before Alex Ramos notches his fourth save in the series.
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Old 10-25-2018, 07:23 AM   #2642
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2026 WORLD SERIES
Portland Raccoons (94-68) @ Los Angeles Pacifics (99-64)


So that is that; the Raccoons will face the Pacifics in the World Series, whom they have never met in the title round. Limiting the focus to 2026, either opponent would have lost their season series against the Critters, who swept the Buffaloes at the start of a 12-game winning streak in August, but had already won two of three from the Pacifics in May.

What do the Pacifics bring to the table? Both teams had roughly equal run differentials, but there tended to be a bit more action in Pacifics games, which was due to the Federal League factor of being the more offense-oriented league. In fact, both teams had surrendered the fewest runs in their respective subleague.

They would roll out two left-handed and two right-handed starters, with southpaw Dave Christiansen (19-9, 2.74 ERA) the biggest threat. He had pitched in Game 4 and was thus ready to go in the series opener, and three times in total if they would short-circuit… eh, short-start them again.

The key to the Pacifics' offense was their on-base percentage, their .343 mark ranking third in the league. They were not good in terms of power (88 HR, fewer than the Coons), or speed (75, fewer than the Coons), but there was a 14-point difference in OBP in L.A.'s favor. This was however something that could match up well with the Raccoons' tight infield and their starters' (normal) reluctance to issue walks. Our four designated starters for the series had doled out 193 walks during the regular season while pitching 734.2 innings, which struck me as a sound value.

One weakness I perceived was the Pacifics' unpreparedness to counter left-handed hitting; they did not seem to carry a left-handed reliever on their World Series roster at all! Their own lineup was well mixed, and they had the potential to alternate batting handedness to keep the opposition off balance, so it's not wrong that we keep carrying three southpaw relievers.

One more interesting angle: among the three ex-Coons or Coons farmhands on the roster was Jeff Mudge, who the Raccoons had traded in with a third-rate prospect for Matt Jamieson in July. The other two were Pat Walston and Pete Molina. The latter had been the Raccoons' first-rounder in 2018, but had been shipped off to Denver in the deal for the sad story of Frank Kelly, actually a 6-player deal back then that also left the Gold Sox with Yoshi Nomura. Molina had since been traded twice more inside the FL West and had a 3.73 ERA in 104 career appearances, all in relief.

+++

Speaking of the Raccoons, there was some sort of dilemma regarding Kevin Harenberg, who had been injured in Game 6 of the CLCS and so far had not been diagnosed. Usually, if you can't find out what's wrong for two days, it's pretty bad. But we didn't KNOW.

So how do we go about this? Do we keep Harenberg on the roster as potential dead weight, erasing somebody else and adding a bat to compensate for the hole at first base? And who is even going to be on first base? And which bat are we going to add for the World Series?

Anybody remember Jon Gonzalez? On June 23, Gonzalez had suffered some chip fracture in his elbow on a pitch just a bit inside by Chris Munroe (an ex-Coon no less) in a 7-2 win over the Indians, pretty much the only game the Coons won in June. Gonzalez had batted a meager .244 with 10 HR and 40 RBI at the time of his injury, and had then been replaced by Terry Kopp and the weirdo Kyle Koel until we had made the Harenberg trade five weeks later.

The night after Game 6 Gonzalez stepped into my office and declared himself ready, with no meaningful rehab, no swing program, and no guarantee that he would hit anything. The Druid said that medically the elbow was sound. Miguel Carrasco objected that he hadn't swung a bat in four months. I had tears in my eyes because here was the Youth of America (okay, the Dominican Republic, but bear with me…), ready to march into the thundering guns of death.

The Raccoons gambled high, struck Alvin Smith from the World Series roster, kept Kevin Harenberg on base, and added Jon Gonzalez as starter at first base for Game 1 in L.A. …! Also starting in Game 1 will be Rico Gutierrez, who will be on regular rest, as will be Dan Delgadillo in Game 3. Rin Nomura is probably going to get the Game 2 assignment, because Mark Roberts would have to pitch on short rest and was already crummy in the CLCS on extra rest. Between those two, the Coons went 0-3 in the CLCS, but we have Rico and Yusneldan lined up to make four starts again.

+++

The series will not start now, because there is not enough time left for a long series before I have to head out for my accounting classes. We will play this tonight in about nine hours from now!

I will also take this opportunity to complain about the game's bitchiness with roster assignments whenever a guy comes off the 60-day DL during the playoffs…
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Old 10-25-2018, 05:07 PM   #2643
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2026 WORLD SERIES
Portland Raccoons (94-68) @ Los Angeles Pacifics (99-64)


Game 1 – Rico Gutierrez (16-5, 3.48 ERA) vs. Dave Christiansen (19-9, 2.74 ERA)

To be honest, I was so nervous on our way to L.A., I didn't even eat the sandwich that was handed out in the airplane, but I ate the napkin, too. It has been 16 years since the Coons played a World Series game, 33 years since they won the damn thing, and I was close to snapping. Better get this thing going!

POR: SS Alb. Ramos – 2B Spencer – LF Gomez – 1B Gonzalez – CF Jamieson – 3B Nunley – C O'Dell – RF Kopp – P Gutierrez
LAP: RF Vanatti – 2B Hansen – LF Cambra – CF Fowler – C Allomes – 1B Retzer – SS B. Cook – 3B Avent – P Christiansen

Operation "This is ours, you can't have it!" began with Alberto Ramos singling to center before the next three batters hit three groundouts to the left side. There were in fact six straight groundouts, before rain doused the field in the bottom of the second inning and we went into another unwelcome rain delay. Rico Gutierrez had thrown 22 pitches at that point, and the rain delay was almost four times as many minutes long. When play resumed, the Pacifics added a third runner to Dylan Allomes and Allen Retzer, who had both singled past Alberto Ramos, by virtue of Ben Cook drawing a full-count walk. Bases loaded, Dan Avent singled over the head of Jon Gonzalez for the first run of the series before Rico got Christiansen to pop out and whiffed up Joe Vanatti. But we had seen better beginnings to playoff series for sure…

Rico was completely not sharp after the rain delay, and being drilled by Christiansen in the top 3rd certainly didn't make him better. Ramos got him forced out on a grounder, but Spencer hit a 2-out single before Rafael Gomez, the 1-Coon wrecking crew against the Thunder, launched a ball to deep center … but not past Justin Fowler. That catch ended the inning, but in the fourth inning, the Coons started with two runners aboard as Jon Gonzalez walked and Matt Jamieson hit a single past Cook. Nunley hit a floater to shallow center that Fowler wouldn't catch, and that loaded them up for whatever threat the bottom of the order was supposed to represent. Brett O'Dell grounded up the middle, and that ball had no chance of escaping, but at least it was too slow for John Hansen to turn two on it. O'Dell was put out at first base, but that also meant that the tying run scored.

Here it got dicey. The Pacifics walked Terry Kopp intentionally to load the bases with one out, and obviously Rico was next. But they also removed Christiansen for right-hander Joey Hopkins, as obviously Rico wasn't the only pitcher that had been soiled by the rain delay. The Coons flicked the switch as well: Cookie Carmona batted for Rico, but his fly to right was easy pickings for Vanatti. However, Jamieson tagged and scored, and the Coons had the lead; Ramos walked to restock the bags, but Spencer would fly out to Fowler, continuing a rotten postseason in which he was barely batting .200 …

The Raccoons needed length and went to Kyle Anderson, who gave them two scoreless innings before his time to bat was due for the first time. This was after the top 5th, where Gomez and Gonzalez had opened with singles against Hopkins, but Jamieson hit into a double play and Nunley grounded out to Hansen. Here in the sixth, O'Dell led off with a single up the middle before Terry Kopp launched a drive up the leftfield line for a double. The Raccoons were greedy for offense, yet mindful that they had sent away one of their long men and this was only Game 1, not a good spot to burn all the pen you got. Anderson *batted*, took two strikes from Hopkins, then grounded up the middle, Hansen missed it, and the Raccoons added a run on the unlikely single! Ramos' sac fly would up the score to 4-1 before the inning fizzled out.

Anderson lasted 3.1 innings, departing with Cook on first base after a leadoff single in the bottom 7th, but not until after he had struck out Dan Avent. A double switch by L.A. meant that Erik Janes was in the #9 hole and playing second base, so here was the right time for a left-hander. Josh Boles came on and was not very relieving, surrendering a single to Janes and another hard ball to Vanatti, who hit it near Spencer, good enough to get Janes at second base, but not good enough for two to end the frame. Left-hander Eddie Pence pinch-hit for right-handed reliever Tom Grant now. Mound conference. Pence was the tying run. Boles remained in, fell to 3-1, but Pence popped up, high above the infield, Nunley – the out is made! (exhales)

Justin Gerace reached on an uncaught third strike in the eighth inning as he pinch-hit for Boles. He stole second, leading to Ramos getting directions to first base directly from the Pacifics manager. Jarod Spencer could have put the game away now, but crashed a 1-0 pitch into an inning-ending double play. Ramos featured again in an unhelpful role in the bottom 8th, throwing away a Fowler grounder for a 2-base error with one out. Jeff Kearney was pitching and Fowler was that one righty that concerned me in the 3-4-5 set he was handed. He would have gotten him! I wonder on how many headstones that was written. Dylan Allomes grounded out, but no more lefties were to come up. The Coons went full steam ahead and sent Jonathan Snyder to end the Pacifics right here and now. He blew away Allen Retzer to strand Fowler at third base, then rounded up the bottom of the order in the ninth inning on just ten more pitches.

Raccoons 4, Pacifics 1 – Raccoons lead 1-0

Ramos 1-2, 2 BB; Gomez 2-5; Nunley 2-4; Anderson 3.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K, W (1-0) and 1-1, RBI; Snyder 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, SV (3);

Prior to Game 2, we finally got confirmation from the Druid that Kevin Harenberg was done for the year with a sprained wrist. No way he was going to swing a bat. He was moved to the DL, while the open roster spot was taken by Alvin Smith again.

Game 2 – Rin Nomura (9-5, 2.75 ERA) vs. Bryan Hanson (13-13, 3.69 ERA)

The Raccoons stuck with Nomura for Game 2 not because he had asked so nicely for the start or because we didn’t like Mark Roberts anymore, but Roberts had been crummy in the CLCS and he wasn't going to be much better on short rest now. Roberts was assigned to Game 4, while in the here and now we'd get the second all-lefty duel of the series.

No need to change the lineup right now. Or, it would not get any better right now.

POR: SS Alb. Ramos – 2B Spencer – LF Gomez – 1B Gonzalez – CF Jamieson – 3B Nunley – C O'Dell – RF Kopp – P Nomura
LAP: RF Vanatti – 2B Hansen – LF Cambra – CF Fowler – C Allomes – 1B Retzer – SS B. Cook – 3B Avent – P Hanson

Ramos seemed to get better; he hit another leadoff single in Game 2. Spencer seemed to be paid off by the Pacifics, finding Ben Cook again for another double play… Hanson (not related to Hansen, obviously) saw the minimum in the first three innings, while Nomura seemed to put every single right-handed batter on base, but they were spread out and there was also a life-saving double play by Ben Cook so the Pacifics didn't find the scoreboard either in the first three innings.

Top 4th, Ramos with another leadoff single. Kid's gonna come through! He stole second, his third base of the postseason, but could only reach third base when Spencer singled over Cook into shallow left and Firmino Cambra, the FL batting champion that was stuck at .200 in the playoffs, was on the ball right away. The Coons got on the board, but it was ugly; Rafael Gomez grounded sharply at John Hansen for two, but at least Ramos scored, 1-0. Gonzalez flew out to right.

Speaking of Firmino Cambra… he led off the bottom 4th with a jack. And that was also the beginning of the end for Nomura. Fowler singled, Retzer walked, Dan Avent hit a 2-out RBI single to put L.A. on top, and as if that was not enough damage, he allowed another RBI single to HANSON. A 4-pitch walk to Joe Vanatti ended his outing in total disgrace. Kevin Surginer replaced him, got Hansen to ground out to Nunley to end the inning and strand three, but now the Coons were in a 3-1 hole against Bryan Hanson and Alberto Ramos wasn't going to bat again for a while… and when he did, he grounded out to Allen Retzer to end a 1-2-3 sixth for Hanson.

The Coons only got back on base with a 2-out double by Jon Gonzalez in the seventh inning, but that didn't lead anywhere nice either. In turn, the Pacifics appeared to put the game away against Billy Brotman in the bottom 7th. Billy walked Vanatti to begin the inning, then surrendered a 2-run blast to Justin Fowler to run the deficit to four runs, 5-1.

Like that wasn't enough, the bottom 8th featured Ricky Ohl against the 6-7-8 batters, resulting in a leadoff walk, a single to center and Jamieson error, and a hit batter; three on, nobody out. Ricky made it so much worse, balking Retzer across, then walked Eddie Pence on four pitches anyway. Josh Boles would walk in another run as the Coons went down a total mess. Hanson pitched a 4-hitter for eight innings, then Brian Cope finished the deal in the ninth without much effort.

Pacifics 7, Raccoons 1 – series tied 1-1

Ramos 2-4; Spencer 2-4;

Oy vey. If there was ever a blow to morale, it was this game. Brrrr….
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Old 10-25-2018, 06:44 PM   #2644
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2026 WORLD SERIES
Portland Raccoons (94-68) vs. Los Angeles Pacifics (99-64)


Game 3 – Dan Delgadillo (12-7, 2.76 ERA) vs. Shane Baker (15-11, 3.35 ERA)

The burning question what on ****ing earth was wrong with Rin Nomura could wait until Game 6, but the question what on ****ing earth was wrong with the lineup remained to fester in me. Never mind crummy pitching, but only amounting to five base hits every other game was not making for an easy night sleep!

LAP: LF Cambra – 1B Retzer – C Allomes – CF Fowler – RF Vanatti – 2B Hansen – SS B. Cook – 3B Avent – P S. Baker
POR: SS Alb. Ramos – 2B Spencer – RF Gomez – 1B Gonzalez – 3B Nunley – CF Jamieson – LF Carmona – C Tovias – P Delgadillo

Like Nomura in Game 2 (here it comes…), Delgadillo struggled right away against opposite-handed batting in Game 3. Cambra's leadoff single, a walk to Allomes, and **** was real right in the first inning. Gomez' hustle on Fowler's fly got us a crucial second out, and then Jamieson got to stretch the paws on Vanatti's drive to deep center, and also made the catch.

Alberto Ramos kept logging a hit to begin the Coons' efforts in every game, driving a double to right to begin the bottom 1st. Behind him, nothing good appeared to happen with Spencer flying out to shallow center, Gomez grounding out to third, but then Jon Gonzalez came through with a single to right, his first RBI in the series as Ramos coasted home for the first run in the game. Alberto came up big in his next appearance again; then with Jamieson and Cookie on base and two outs in the bottom 2nd. Ramos laced another double past the helpless bystander Vanatti, and this scored both runners to give the Coons an early 3-0 edge. Spencer singled, but Ramos had to hold at third base, and Gomez struck out, ending the inning.

Things got a little bit easier for Dan Delgadillo with every early inning that passed. The second time through he was much better against L.A. than the first time, and overall they were still held to two hits through five innings.

The Raccoons were looking for a deciding blow, and the next best opportunity came in the bottom of the fifth inning. Spencer and Gonzalez hit singles off Baker to occupy the corners, bringing up Nunley with one out, but Matt rolled into a double play.

As if on command, Dan got wonky again in the sixth. Firmino Cambra led off with a single over the second base bag, and then Allomes walked; always the left-handers that were making trouble! Justin Fowler cracked away at a 2-1 pitch, on the ground, right at Ramos, and now the Coons turned two to ruin an effort for L.A.!

Bottom 6th, Cookie reached on a 1-out infield single, which already got the crowd excited, and they could barely contain themselves when he stole second base off Allomes. Not that it helped the Critters; Tovias struck out, and Delgadillo grounded out to short. Delgadillo dragged his bum through the seventh inning, which began with Vanatti flying out very easily to Cookie on a 3-1 pitch, then continued with two groundouts. The Furballs were still hoping for that knockout blow; Ramos hit his third double of the contest in the bottom 7th, leading off, and that also tied a CL playoff record. Gomez walked, and Gonzalez' groundout moved them to scoring position for Nunley. The double play taken off, Nunley shone with a single to right. Ramos scored anyway, Gomez was sent, arrived inches ahead of Vanatti's throw, and the call was safe, 5-0! That was it for Baker, who was replaced by Jay Schimek, who surrendered another run on a Jamieson double.

Delgadillo faced Avent to begin the eighth, but was yanked after allowing a single, the fourth base hit for L.A. in seven-plus for Dan. With left-hander Jason Stone pinch-hitting, Kearney came out. He got a double play from Stone, then a (deep) fly out to Gomez from Cambra.

Tim Stalker hit a pinch-hit homer off Pete Molina in the former Coons farmhand's first appearance of the series in the bottom 8th, and the Coons put two more on that they left stranded. But that was a 7-0 lead, and Alvin Smith came on for the ninth…

And ****ing Alvin Smith created a save opportunity. Smith got blasted for four hits, a walk, and three runs before the Coons (with two outs) broke the safety glass covering the fire alarm and sent Billy Brotman to face PH Erik Janes… whom he drilled! That loaded the bases. Suddenly, Firmino Cambra was up as the tying run. Panic. A full count, then a drive to deep right, where Terry Kopp was racing for the fence. OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD. OH MY – AT THE WALL HE MADE THE CATCH.

Raccoons 7, Pacifics 3 – Raccoons lead series 2-1

Ramos 3-5, 3 2B, 2 RBI; Spencer 3-5; Gonzalez 2-5, RBI; Jamieson 2-4, 2B, RBI; Carmona 2-4; Stalker (PH) 1-1, HR, RBI; Delgadillo 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K, W (3-0);

(sits there, frozen solid, mouth open, and won't blink)

Game 4 – Mark Roberts (13-10, 3.05 ERA) vs. Dave Christiansen (19-9, 2.74 ERA)

The Pacifics had no time to waste; they now planned definitely with three starts for Dave Christiansen, and the buck had to stop right here for them. Meanwhile the Coons went to their fourth option, still-reigning Pitcher of the Year and Triple Crown bearer Mark Roberts. Never mind his 4.91 ERA in the CLCS along with an 0-1 record. At some point, ****ing pride had to kick in!

One tid bit that we considered quite certain before the series, but now were really assured of: the Pacifics would not pinch-hit for Firmino Cambra, who was after all still the batting champion in the Federal League. It was safe to send Jeff Kearney to molest him.

The Raccoons wanted Tim Stalker's bat in the lineup now. Tim was hitting .500 (3-for-6) with two dingers in the postseason. Jarod Spencer evacuated the infield to make room for him.

LAP: RF Vanatti – 2B Hansen – LF Cambra – CF Fowler – C Allomes – 1B Retzer – SS B. Cook – 3B Avent – P Christiansen
POR: SS Ramos – LF Spencer – RF Gomez – 1B Gonzalez – 2B Stalker – CF Jamieson – 3B Nunley – C O'Dell – P Roberts

Never mind a deep out by Cambra, Roberts had a scoreless first, which was great, as we were taking it bit by bit. Ramos however struck out to begin the bottom 1st, so Christiansen was not taking any hostages today apparently.

Indeed, Christiansen soon had the Raccoons in a tiny cage. While they had the first base hit, a Gonzalez single, in the game, Jamieson ended that inning with a double play, and then L.A. took the lead with Ben Cook's long homer off Roberts to begin the third inning. That was not the first and not the last long drive off Roberts in the game, either. Nope, he was still not any good.

That made it so much harder to watch him try to get the upper hand in the fourth, then maintain the upper hand in the fifth. The bottom of the fourth inning saw Christiansen lose cohesion for a few minutes. Those few minutes were enough for Portland to take the lead on back-to-back home runs: Gomez to left, Gonzalez to right, and it was 2-1 with the crowd roaring in delight.

Then the rain started in addition to all other struggles for Mark Roberts, who soon enough had a ball get away and drill Ben Cook in the upper back. It was bad enough so the Pacifics had to replace him with Janes, but they couldn't let Roberts feel their anger just yet as Avent flew out to end the inning.

When Matt Nunley was hit by Christiansen to begin the bottom 5th, the crowd's mood changed and they started to bicker and hiss. However, I watched the scoreboard just before the red lights went out. There was no intent on that pitch; Christiansen had been 0-2 on Nunley, who was left on base in the inning.

Things started to spiral out of control nevertheless when Roberts hit John Hansen with two outs in the sixth. That was the tying run, Cambra came up, and it was really time for a huddle and get Roberts readjusted as rain drizzled down on all the players on the field. Hold on to it here, was the message, don't get beat by Cambra. Then he HIT Cambra with a 1-2 pitch. By now, the umpires became concerned, too, but the mood remained calm among the players, because the Pacifics, too, knew that there had not been intent, because: 1-2! And this brought up Fowler, who was a right-handed batter, and had hit 14 dingers during the regular season and one in the playoffs.

The Coons stuck to Roberts, who lost Fowler in a full count, and by now the bags were full. Allomes was next, a left-handed batter. The Raccoons still weren't going to switch lefty-for-lefty. This was Roberts' man! And he didn't even hit him – Allomes drove the 1-1 to right. Deep right. Back, back, back, Gomez back, back aaaand he had it.

After this point, a 45-minute rain delay knocked out both starting pitchers. Surginer got the ball for the seventh, blew the lead on Allen Retzer's leadoff jack, and then allowed a single to Janes. Avent grounded out, advancing the runner, and when Jason Stone pinch-hit, Surginer was yanked for Brotman. Stone grounded out, Vanatti walked on four pitches, and then Jamieson had to sell out again on a deep drive by Hansen to end the inning.

Bottom 7th; Nunley and O'Dell were successless against Tom Grant, but Terry Kopp had a pinch-hit double into the leftfield corner with two outs. Ramos walked, and Spencer singled over the head of Avent, but Kopp stumbled over third base and had to paddle back to not get tagged out somewhere. Bases loaded for Rafael Gomez, who had been lights out in the CLCS, and who's light had gone out in the World Series. Here, Allomes helped out the Critters, losing possession of strike one and chasing the ball into foul ground, which allowed Kopp to score the go-ahead run. Gomez then rammed the very next pitch off the fence for a 2-run double, putting Portland up 5-2. Gonzalez popped out.

Cambra led off the eighth, with Kearney going after him… and walking him. The Coons skipped to Ricky Ohl immediately, although I had dizzying pictures of Game 2 flashing rapidly before my eyes. Fowler hit an infield single. OH GOD WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!! (hugs Slappy in blind panic)

Ohl rung up Allomes, but the tying run remained at the plate, now in Retzer, who had already homered off a right-hander in this game. The count ran full, Ohl needed the K, Retzer knew it, and wrapped a 3-2 fastball around the left foul pole to make this a brand new ballgame.

Ohl ended the inning in two more batters when it didn't matter anymore, but the Coons wouldn't erase his shame in the bottom 8th. Snyder was sent out for the ninth, Pence singled, Vanatti doubled. Runners on second and third, no outs. And all had looked so well before… Hansen fouled out, but that left the Cambra problem well alive and twitching his bat. The Coons called for the intentional walk, preferring to face Fowler instead with the bases loaded, which was a very generous interpretation of "preferring". With three Pacifics on, Fowler fell to 0-2, hit a ball after all, but popped out to Ramos. Allomes with two outs, with the whole park screaming for a strikeout. They didn't get it. Allomes ran a full count, then grounded up the middle, Stalker reached the ball, but too late – no play was to be made, all hands were safe on a soul-shattering, run-scoring, 2-out infield single. Retzer grounded out to Ramos, but who cared now?

Bottom 9th, down a run, and here came their lights-out closer Alex Ramos. Kopp struck out. Alberto Ramos laid off the junk and walked, then stole second base. A wild pitch even moved him to third base! …which was also where Jarod Spencer hit a grounder for the second out, and with no chance for Alberto Ramos to score. That brought up … Tovias, and after a series off double switches, we could not bat for him. He flew out to Vanatti.

Pacifics 6, Raccoons 5 – series tied 2-2

Gomez 2-4, HR, 2B, 3 RBI; Gonzalez 3-4, HR, RBI; Stalker 2-4, 2B; Kopp (PH) 1-2, 2B; Roberts 6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K;

You are up by three runs with six outs left, line up Ohl and Snyder, and then they still blow it, and quite forcefully so…

Momentum? All L.A.'s.

Game 5 – Rico Gutierrez (16-5, 3.48 ERA) vs. Gavin Lee (17-9, 4.01 ERA)

I wished I could have come up with a smart idea to stop them from fumbling everything overnight, but … I had nothing. We went back to the Game 3 lineup against the right-hander Lee, which was as much managing as there was left to do at this point.

LAP: RF Vanatti – 2B Hansen – LF Cambra – CF Fowler – C Allomes – 1B Retzer – SS B. Cook – 3B Avent – P G. Lee
POR: SS Alb. Ramos – 2B Spencer – RF Gomez – 1B Gonzalez – 3B Nunley – CF Jamieson – LF Carmona – C Tovias – P Gutierrez

The Raccoons, obviously DEEPLY ASHAMED OF THEMSELVES, stormed out of the gates in Game 5. Ramos and Gonzalez both hit doubles in the first inning to stake Rico to a 1-0 lead, and that increased to 3-0 in the bottom 2nd with singles by Jamieson and Cookie that put them on the corners, Tovias' sac fly, a bad bunt by Gutierrez that forced out Cookie, but then Ramos walked and Spencer singled to left-center, with Rico scoring from second base to make up for his boo-boo. Now, if we could get that sort of vigor transposed to his mound work…

And he sure wasn't bad. Rico allowed one base hit the first time through, along with a walk, and when Vanatti singled to center with one out in the third inning and Jamieson had another fielding gaffe to put the runner on second, that wasn't directly Rico's fault. At least he managed to make up with good pitch selection, popping up Hansen for the second out, and then Cambra flew out harmlessly to Rafael Gomez.

Now, Allomes' single in the fourth was still not the end of the world, but a wild pitch was the sort of thing Rico should really keep to himself in this pivotal game. Once more, L.A. had a guy on second with one out. Retzer drove a ball to center, Jamieson was still much better in the air than on the ground and made a wonderful catch in the gap, and then Cook, hobbled but not backing down, lined out to Spencer to end the inning. The Pacifics kept getting a runner per inning; it was a 2-out walk to Vanatti in the fifth, but they still couldn't get on the board.

Bottom 5th, the home team had another chance at putting the game into safer confines. Spencer and Gomez were on the corners after starting the frame with singles, bringing up a .500 batting Jon Gonzalez with nobody out. Jon cranked the first pitch in line drive fashion to the left side, Ben Cook leapt as high as his bad back permitted, but couldn't swipe it, and the Coons added a run on the RBI single, 4-0! Lee wasn't fooling anybody right now, as Nunley also hit the first pitch for a single, this one loading the sacks for Jamieson, who had just found the .200 mark again and was now surging. He chucked the second pitch to left for an RBI single, and it was 5-0! Cookie's sac fly made it 6-0 and also ended Lee's day. Jeff Mudge retired Tovias and Rico in his first appearance of the series.

Up by six, the Coons could ride the Rico train as far as it would take them, or at least until some goon blew up the tracks from underneath him. Cook drew a leadoff walk in the seventh, which we could work with, yet it was Ramos' error on a perfect double play ball from Dan Avent that created the real agony. Two on, no outs, 93 pitches on the clock, how about the Rico train now!? He remained in for the moment, facing PH Mario Diaz, a right-hander, who grounded sharply to Jon Gonzalez, who took a sterling 3-6-3 double play chance when he got it. Rico still surrendered a run on a Vanatti single, but got through the inning still up 6-1.

Yet, by now we had to think about which part of the pen we would be infinitely disappointed by today. Maybe a sound strategy was this: pick a guy, then stick to him until somebody gets on. Sounds good. Surginer was out first, retired Fowler and Allomes on two pitches before Retzer reached on the third, on which Tovias was called out for catcher's interference.

Okay, the next guy making a STUPID ERROR will be strangled with my bare hands.

Continue, Kevin. Ben Cook grounded out on the first pitch, ending the eighth. Surginer had faced four batters and had thrown four pitches. WHATEVER WORKS. Ramos singled, stole, scored in the bottom 8th, but we were well more concerned with pitching right now. Three outs with a 6-run lead was tighter than one might think! Surginer hung around to strike out Avent to start the ninth, because we had a hunch a left-hander was coming afterwards. Indeed, Jason Stone pinch-hit for the pitcher, prompting a move to Boles. Stone grounded out. Vanatti was rung up. The Coons went to L.A. as favorites.

Raccoons 7, Pacifics 1 – Raccoons lead series 3-2

Ramos 2-4, BB, 2B; Spencer 2-4, RBI; Gonzalez 4-5, 2B, 3 RBI; Nunley 2-4, BB; Jamieson 2-5, RBI; Carmona 2-3, RBI; Gutierrez 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, W (2-0);

Yet, Game 6 will be Nomura's.

I am so glad we got Dan Delgadillo in Game 7!
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Old 10-25-2018, 07:39 PM   #2645
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2026 WORLD SERIES
Portland Raccoons (94-68) @ Los Angeles Pacifics (99-64)


Game 6 – Rin Nomura (9-5, 2.75 ERA) vs. Bryan Hanson (13-13, 3.69 ERA)

This was the same matchup as in Game 2, you know, the game we had lost early rather than late. We went back to the Game 4 lineup with Tim Stalker protecting Jon Gonzalez with all he had.

Here is a bit of motivation for us all: the Coons have never lost a World Series in which they won at least three games!

POR: SS Alb. Ramos – LF Spencer – RF Gomez – 1B Gonzalez – 2B Stalker – CF Jamieson – 3B Nunley – C O'Dell – P Roberts
LAP: RF Vanatti – 2B Hansen – LF Cambra – CF Fowler – C Allomes – 1B Retzer – SS B. Cook – 3B Avent – P Hanson

Rin Nomura entered with a postseason ERA of 9.39 and struck out three around a Hansen single in the first inning. Maybe things would still work out for him? They sure did in the top 2nd, when he came to the plate with Gonzalez (single), Nunley (single), and O'Dell (walk) on base, two outs, and chipped a soft bloop to shallow center for an RBI single, putting the Coons up 1-0! And it's not like this was going to be just an RBI single – it also brought up Alberto Ramos, who had struggled badly in the CLCS, but had lit the afterburners ever since he had spotted a blue cap. Coming up with the bases loaded, he dug out a low 1-1 and rushed it to rightfield for a 2-run single, and then Spencer hit another 1-1, this one deep to left-center, past Firmino Cambra's reach, and to the track for a 2-run double!

OH GOD!! OH GOD!! OH GOOOODD!!

Before I could climax for good, Rafael Gomez struck out, but roles were well defined now. The Raccoons were on the cusp, up 5-0, and the Pacifics had to murder Rin Nomura in a hurry.

This was a situation I could become friends with.

Nomura struck out five the first time through the order, but also allowed a run in the bottom 3rd. Dan Avent led off with a double to left-center, was bunted to third, then plated when Gomez got paws on a Vanatti rocket, defusing it from an RBI double to a sac fly. Alright – no permament damage done. We still have this under control. If Nomura could give us six innings without unravelling, we already had a stellar chance.

But who honestly thought that Rin Nomura would suddenly get his ducks lined up? He walked Cambra to begin the bottom 4th, surrendered an RBI triple to Fowler, and of course that run would not stay on base either. Through four, it was only a 5-3 lead anymore…

Maybe it was time to get the offense restarted. The Coons had had a runner in the third and fourth innings, but hadn't gotten far. Things were getting more urgent now, though, and it was time to put Hanson to sleep. Tim Stalker hit a leadoff single in the fifth. Jamieson popped out, and Hanson also got two strikes on Nunley before hanging a breaking ball. It was his final pitch of the season, and Matt Nunley hit it over the 347' mark in rightfield for a 2-run homer!

That put the Coons up 7-3, yet Nomura would not earn the win. He allowed a 2-out single to Hansen in the bottom 5th, then was taken deep by Cambra over the very same 347' mark, and it was 7-5 again. Surginer replaced him, walked Fowler, walked Allomes, then surrendered a real rocket to the left side to Retzer AND NUNLEY!!! Matt Nunley with a mindless swipe fetched the ball out of the air to end the inning!!

Surginer would get through the bottom of the order in the sixth, after the Coons had stranded Spencer and Gonzalez and their pair of singles in the top 6th against Pete Molina. When to go to which pitcher was crucial now, though, but that a pitching change was in order after the sixth was crystal clear because Surginer's spot came up with Nunley (single) and O'Dell (double) in scoring position and one out against Molina in the seventh. We wanted a left-hander… Cookie or Kopp? One run would already be swell, and Kopp was whiffing like crazy. Cookie batted for Surginer. Aaaand he popped out to Dan Avent. Ah… but that was only the second out, and Alberto Ramos was still to come. Molina was trying to finish the inning, threw a 93mph fastball in the sweet zone and Ramos zinged it into right-center for a 2-run single! RAMOS!!!! 9-5! Ramos stole second, but Spencer couldn't get the ball to fall in, ending the inning with a fly to Fowler.

But that didn't matter. It was 9-5, and we had nine outs to collect. Starting with the left-handed Vanatti, handedness would change for each batter in the Pacifics order, with Cook a switch-hitter. We sent out Billy Brotman, but there would always be a lefty and a righty tossing in the pen now and nobody dare sit down!

And boy, did things go well! Brotman walked Vanatti, who stole second, then made it to third on Hansen's single. Cambra struck out. Dilemma, with Fowler batting. Was it too early for Ohl? Was it prudent for Ohl with trouble brewing already? Who were we going to send otherwise? Alvin Smith? Enter Ricky, then exit a 91mph pitch to centefield, courtesy of Justin Fowler, an RBI single. The tying run came up in Allomes, who popped out, and then Retzer struck out on a borderline 2-2 call.

Whatever the **** works in a 9-6 game.

Make that 10-6 after Rafael Gomez' leadoff jack against Pete Molina in the eighth, his fifth homer of the playoffs – he had hit only four during the regular season! That brought up Jeff Mudge, who didn't improve L.A.'s fortunes noticeably. Stalker singled, then scurried home on a Jamieson gapper between Cambra and Fowler, extending the lead to 11-6. Ohl got two outs in the bottom 8th before walking Stone. Josh Boles replaced him and got Vanatti on a grounder to Ramos.

With that, the ninth inning dawned. Daniel Bullock batted for Boles to lead off in his first appareance of the series, and grounded out to Retzer. Jay Schimek went on to nick Alberto Ramos, who advanced on Spencer's groundout, after which Schimek issued walks to Gomez and Gonzalez, both in full counts. Terry Kopp batted for Tim Stalker, but popped out. He remained in the game, playing rightfield, with Gomez and Spencer being realigned as we went to the bottom of the ninth.

Jonathan Snyder took the ball in the 11-6 game, because why **** around after 33 years of ****ing around way too much in all aspects of the game?

The Collapse of '97. Clyde Brady, the Avatar of Losing. The Double Yoshi Infield. Keith Ayers out at home. Ray Gilbert and the Darkness. Nick Lester and the second tie-breaker. Jonny Toner's demise. All of these would now be consigned to the history books and haunt us no more, if Jonathan Snyder could get three outs from Hansen and his followers before surrendering a handful.

John Hansen struck out. Firmino Cambra singled to center. It's alright. His run does not matter. Get outs from somebody else. Snyder lost Justin Fowler in a full count. It's alright. Get outs from somebody else. Dylan Allomes singled to left, Cambra scored from second base. Jonathan – get outs. Please. The history books! Mind the history books! Allen Retzer hit a 1-1 pitch to deep left, sending Gomez storming back. The runners went halfway, then shied back as Gomez made the catch at the edge of the warning track. Fowler scooted over to third base anyway. It's alright. His run still didn't matter. Ben Cook was the batter. Snyder drilled him. And that brought up PH Eddie Pence, a left-hander, 5-for-10 in the postseason with a home run. And his run… his run DID matter. Bases loaded, two outs, a booming crowd, desperate for a home run. Snyder sweating like a pig.

The Collapse. The Avatar. The Double Yoshis. Keith Ayers. Ray Gilbert. Nick Lester. Snyder ran a full count, then walked Pence to force home a run. When the Pacifics sent Erik Janes to pinch-hit for Schimek, the Raccoons made their move: Jeff Kearney would face the Janes and the winning run at home plate. He threw ball one, causing the pitching coach to yell some choice words from the dugout. One strike on the corner. Another strike on the corner. Janes flicked one well foul.

Then he flicked one well to center. Matt Jamieson racing back, turning, twisting. The Collapse. The Yoshis. Nick Lester. All of them crumbled to dust when Matt Jamieson caught the ball on the run in deep centerfield. The Raccoons were winners again!

Raccoons 11, Pacifics 8 – Raccoons win series, 4-2

Ramos 2-5, 4 RBI; Spencer 3-6, 2B, 2 RBI; Gonzalez 2-5, BB; Stalker 2-4, BB; Jamieson 2-5, 2B, RBI; Nunley 3-5, HR, 2 RBI;

2026 WORLD CHAMPIONS
Portland Raccoons

(3rd title)
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Old 10-26-2018, 03:44 AM   #2646
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At some point the flitter on the field in Los Angeles stopped flying, but it was a wonderful celebration as the Raccoons, one by one, were handed their gold medals by the ABL brass and got to lift the giant trophy into the night sky. Cookie Carmona, senior citizen around, got first grabs on the pot, and astonishingly lifted it without breaking or pulling something. Cookie released a primeval scream of relief after 33 years of general futility had ended. Matt Nunley came next, then World Series MVP Jon Gonzalez (.500/.536/.692 fresh off the DL), then undisputed team leader and moral instance Kyle Anderson. The rest of the crew filtered through in some order. Eventually; I got my turn, weeping profusely on national television, although by now Pacifics and neutral fans had long switched off and only Raccoons diehards were still watching, and they were probably weeping, too.

For one magical night, all the sorrows were gone. All the burden – gone. All the grief, all the worries – all gone. Matt Jamieson had retired Erik Janes, and now it was all gone.

The Raccoons are World Champions. The Raccoons are World Champions again. And in the league's anniversary season …!

Two generations of players had come and gone. Randy Farley. Clyde Brady. Ralph Ford. Carl Bean. Al Martin. Nick Brown. Daniel Sharp. Ron Alston. Angel Casas. Yoshi Nomura. Craig Bowen. Marcos Bruno. Jong-hoo Umberger. Adrian Quebell. Dylan Alexander. Ron Thrasher. Manobu Sugano. Hector Santos. R.J. DeWeese. Eddie Jackson. All had come and gone without the Raccoons winning a championship. But now they were champions again. The Raccoons were World Champions again.

Alas, the march of time was relentless and unforgiving. Win a ring, you get a day off, and then it is back to daily business. Win a ring on Monday, then chase after the next one on Wednesday. There was payroll to cut, a budget to beg for, the first base situation to sort out, and what the heck to do with senior citizens that were well past their due date? The Raccoons had gone $126k overbudget in '26 in their chase for a ring – how pissed off exactly was the Mexican Prick going to be?

There was only one way to find out. Subject to the relentless march of time and get carried into the offseason.

+++

Edit: Fixed the rant which said that Eddie Pence was the final out in Game 6. If you cry hard enough, they all look the same!
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Last edited by Westheim; 10-26-2018 at 08:21 AM.
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Old 10-27-2018, 11:08 PM   #2647
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After all these years ... and so many close calls ... man, I hope you just bask in this one for a few days. You certain deserve it.
Congratulations!!!!!! Go Critters!
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Old 10-28-2018, 12:41 PM   #2648
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New season, new horrors. Three teams (Crusaders, Scorpions, Warriors) had new ownership, everybody wanted new contracts, and the Raccoons would have to find a mostly new coaching staff after scouting director Miguel Carrasco retired along with our hitting and pitching coaches. Everybody went home as soon as they had rings.

Not me. I wanted more damn rings – I still had empty fingers.

But before we could win another ring, we had some urgent matters to sort out, like an immediate 40-man roster crunch, and then there was also the mighty dollar to chase after or be chased by. The Raccoons got a budget increase from $30.5M to $32.5M in 2027, which saw them merely go from t-11th to t-10th in the ABL. Oh well, we've worked with less, I guess?

The Scorpions retained the biggest budget in the league at $41M, followed by the Crusaders ($39M), Pacifics and Titans ($38M each), and Gold Sox (sic! - $37.5M). The smallest budgets were available to the Indians ($23.2M), Stars ($23M), Loggers ($22.6M), Falcons ($21.8M), and Wolves ($20M). The only remaining CL North team were the Elks, sitting 13th at $30.5M.

The average budget was $30.4M. The median budget was $31.25M.

Urgently enough, having loaded up on salaries prior to the trade deadline in 2026 left us with no budget space right now; every single dime was being spent right now – and then some more. The Coons started the season $541k overbudget (and that was without much of a coaching staff or head scout!), which put a slight crimp into my plan to retain both Kevin Harenberg and Jon Gonzalez to build a platoon of death at first base. Good luck signing extensions! [see the free agent and salary arbitration table at the bottom]

Looking at the salaries for 2027 it became apparent that our biggest earners would be Kevin Harenberg ($2.4M), Mark Roberts ($2.3M), Abel Mora ($2.1M), then Dan Delgadillo, Kyle Anderson, Rafael Gomez, Cookie Carmona all in the $1.8M range. Jon Gonzalez remarkably came only at $1.2M on his slowly escalating contract, AND he was the World Series MVP!

But before we traded Harenberg for a warm meal, we might want to sound out what we even needed in terms of player material. Certainly no infielder; with Harenberg OR Gonzalez at first, not dead quite yet Matt Nunley at third, and our golden middle infield we were still set in this regard. And the outfield? The outfield was a mess.

Matt Jamieson was a free agent and probably expensive, so out of reach right now. Him aside we had Abel Mora in centerfield, Cookie was still around, as was Rafael Gomez, but Terry Kopp was also a free agent (and hadn't exactly amazed in recent times, so the Raccoons would refrain from an offer). There was Gerace, there was Alfaro. Magallanes, too.

Thinking about it, maybe we wanted a catcher. Brett O'Dell was a free agent, and Elias Tovias had been breathtakingly horrible, batting .218 with seven homers and a .658 OPS after already swinging only for a .652 OPS last year, then even in a full season. I know, I always say somebody's gotta bat eighth, but good grief! Little remained from his first two full seasons in the league, where he had swung for 33 homers and a total of 5.8 WAR between '23 and '24. Yeah, picking up a catcher somewhere didn't sound too bad a plan…!

Our first moves of the offseason were much more mundane, though. The Coons waived and DFA'ed relief pitchers Juan Barzaga and Juan Mendez to get them off the 40-man roster so they could get Abel Mora back on and save another dime.

While we were clipping individual pennies in late October, there was also the pressing issue of Rico Gutierrez, who was already an expensive player after the arbitration disaster from last fall. On the other hand, as long as the Loggers were in our division, Rico would be worth his weight in gold…!

We were ticking off a few other arbitration cases in early November, signing 1-year extensions with a number of players. Jonathan Snyder signed for $660k; Tim Stalker agreed to $770k; Billy Brotman would take home $340k;

+++

October 29 – The Crusaders trade C Armando Leal (.282, 77 HR, 496 RBI) to the Blue Sox, one of his former teams, for OF Nick Hatley (.284, 29 HR, 196 RBI).

+++

Did you know the Raccoons are sixth all time in terms of winning percentage (.514) in the ABL? Also t-4th for playoff appearances (12) and t-3rd for championships (3).

Among retirees at the start of the offseason is ex-Coon Brett Lillis, who had been with Portland in the second half of 2019 and then again from 2021 through 2024, saving 129 games during those stints. Overall he had 303 career saves and a 3.22 ERA in 796 apperances, all in relief. Things went really south for the 37-year-old in 2026 and he posted a 10.70 ERA with the Buffaloes, prompting him to focus on golfing in the future.

Other notable players throwing in the towel included catchers Jamal White and Pat Walston.

Oh, I have some more news. We signed an extension with Rico Gutierrez as well, but not just for a year or two. On November 5, we announced a 9-year deal with Rico Gutierrez that would keep him tied up until 2035, which would be Rico's age 36 season. The deal was worth $900k in '27, $1.43M in '28, then $2.09M annually. Overall the deal was worth $16.96M. The final two years were team options worth $550k each.

We also are eagerly completing our staff again, signing coaches left and right, and we also added a new head scout in early November. Jorge Perez was 47 and from Cotza… Coxta… Coaxa… from somewhere in Mecixo, ehm, Mexico. He had no preferences, and was a good scout all around. He would certainly find us some gems!

So, it's still a week to the free agency deadline. We still have four players left over that we would take to salary arbitration, and the question is whether we have to save some coin here: Alvin Smith, Elias Tovias, Daniel Bullock, and Omar Alfaro still had not signed a contract. Was Bullock worth $360k? I didn't think so, but there was Cristiano Carmona again, feverishly producing presentations of how he was of immense value hard to put into words or dollars. I remained unconvinced.

Tovias will probably be retained because I didn't want to hunt after TWO new catchers, but what about Alvin Smith? We already have six starting pitchers crowding for five spots with Roberts, Gutierrez, Delgadillo, Nomura, Anderson, and James. If you are that close to foreclosure, maybe skim a bit with the seventh-string starting pitchers…

What do you do with Alfaro? We have waited for him to break out for five years now. He hit three home runs this season. Had he played a full season, he would have hit about 11 or 12. He was 26, clumsy, nonchalant, infuriating. Who was going to be our rightfielder in 2027? A clumsy, nonchalant, infuriating sixth-year player with a 162-game average of .244 with 14 HR and 60 RBI?

+++

ABL AWARDS

Players of the Year: SAC C David Drews (.310, 31 HR, 111 RBI) and TIJ 1B Kevin McGrath (.302, 31 HR, 120 RBI)
Pitchers of the Year: LAP SP Dave Christiansen (19-9, 2.74 ERA) and NYC SP Mike Rutkowski (16-10, 2.00 ERA)
Rookies of the Year: LAP OF Justin Fowler (.262, 14 HR, 69 RBI) and POR SS Alberto Ramos (.307, 3 HR, 38 RBI)
Relievers of the Year: LAP CL Alex Ramos (4-4, 1.51 ERA, 48 SV) and POR CL Jonathan Snyder (1-2, 1.34 ERA, 36 SV)
Platinum Sticks (FL): P LAP Dave Christiansen, C SAC David Drews, 1B SAC Luis Moreira, 2B TOP Chris Owen, 3B CIN Ricardo Rangel, SS DEN Rich Hereford, LF LAP Firmino Cambra, CF SFW Pedro Cisneros, RF WAS Tsuneyoshi Tachibana
Platinum Sticks (CL): P CHA Greg Gannon, C LVA Tim Robinson, 1B TIJ Kevin McGrath, 2B BOS Rhett West, 3B TIJ Shane Sanks, SS OCT Alex Serrato, LF VAN Alex Torres, CF VAN Tony Coca, RF OCT Luis Sagredo
Gold Gloves (FL): P SFW Vinny Olguin, C DAL Armando Galan, 1B POR Kevin Harenberg, 2B SFW Ricky Tello, 3B CIN Ricardo Rangel, SS CIN Frank Eisenberg, LF SFW Jeff Wadley, CF PIT Carlos de la Riva, RF RIC Dan Dalton
Gold Gloves (CL): P NYC Carlos Marron, C TIJ Pat Sanford, 1B SFB Tomas Caraballo, 2B TIJ Dave Bross, 3B BOS Adam Corder, SS IND Mario Pizano, LF IND Ricky Loya, CF VAN Tony Coca, RF VAN Brian Wojnarowski

A Rookie of the Year, a Reliever of the Year, and a Gold Glover that spent four months with the Wolves – not a shabby harvest. Right? Right?
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Old 10-28-2018, 12:46 PM   #2649
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Better late than never.... congrats!!!
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Westheim (10-28-2018)
Old 10-28-2018, 01:32 PM   #2650
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Better late than never.... congrats!!!
Yeah, there was some three decades of slacking off here...

But here is a neat stat: whenever the Coons have won a championship, they won two in a row!
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Orcin (10-28-2018)
Old 10-30-2018, 07:13 AM   #2651
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The week leading up to the arbitration hearings and free agency deadline were spent counting individual dollars to squeeze the most out of a budget that wasn't exactly tiny, but certainly could be bigger…

The Raccoons ended up waiving and designating for assignment another two AAA players to get them off the 40-man and keep them to meal money in the minors, Jake Burrows and Marco Ramirez; one our third-string catcher that hadn't hit anything, the other a more or less failed left-handed starting pitcher that had been signed in the July 2017 IFA period for merely $15,600 and apparently even that had been too much. In fact, with three absolutely horrendous years on the 40-man roster, the 26-year-old Ramirez' total bill was up to about $547k. He had pitched to a 4.35 ERA with the Alley Cats in '26, while also missing time with assorted arm woes.

To reduce costs down the road, the Raccoons also would not make an offer to Alvin Smith, who would be granted free agency. Two more players came off the arbitration list when Elias Tovias and Omar Alfaro, who somehow had been supposed to the very core of the next Raccoons dynasty, but had ended up being little more than a sore on a hindpaw of the team that actually won a championship (gleams), signed 1-year extensions on the morning of the arbitration hearings, thus avoiding us having to publicly throw dirt at them. Tovias signed for $500k, Alfaro for $575k.

That left one (technically two, since Matt Jamieson was going to be offered arbitration to get that extra draft pick) arbitration case to be decided, and that was Daniel Bullock's. Now, one was justifiably able to argue that Bullock was hardly worth the $320k he had already collected this season, and certainly not worth a raise of any sort, or continued employment. Send him back to Brazil, so he can take his talent to the Carnival, you might rightly proclaim. But here is where Cristiano Carmona's splendid presentations about his value to the team got me: the Raccoons have Matt Nunley at third base. Matt Nunley has been at third base for the Raccoons since basically the President Eisenhower administration and has suffered from assorted ills and sores all along. I felt like his defense had gone down towards the end of the season, but that was probably just a string of slow plays all bunched up; overall the numbers don't suggest that he let up over the course of the full season (and actually was better than in 2025).

Matt Nunley will be 36 in January. He will also be in a contract year. When Nunley replaced Jon Merritt at third base (a LONG time ago), Merritt was in his late 30s and it was not all that pretty. The Raccoons definitely need a backup at third base, and one that is defensively adept. Tim Stalker is misplaced there, as is Jarod Spencer. Butch Gerster would be an option, but he is more of a shortstop, and he also batted only .196 during his 30 games for the big league club, and he is also already 25, so he won't get infinitely better (said the guy who just threw another $575k into the fire by extending Omar Alfaro).

Behind Nunley, Bullock, and Gerster, the options become dire. In AAA we have f.e. an excellent defender who can't hit a lick even against AAA pitching (German Sanchez), a decent-ish hitter who could not be worse if he'd play the field with his pants dropped down to his ankles and the glove glued over his face (Chris Golka), and behnd that there was not a whole lot more. New head scout… if I remembered his name, I would put it here… hey, hey, Chico! Come over here and show me that scouting report on- … what do you mean, your name is not Chico? Anyway, we signed a Dominican kid in the 2024 IFA period that was promoted to single-A in September, but only got a few at-bats there. He has a strong arm, good range at the corner, but he (Andy Michel) is *18* and probably won't make it to the majors before Nunley retires to the farm.

Since the Raccoons were really, really cash-strapped (and just imagine what would happen if Matt Jamieson took them up on the arbitration offer with a $1M estimate…) they could ill plan to just sign a third baseman. We had to find improvements via trade, and right now we didn't even know who we wanted to get rid of. In fact, we wanted to get rid of nobody – they were all champions, our precious champions!

In the end, Matt Jamieson refused arbitration, and Daniel Bullock received a $350k award, with the arbitrator having a good chuckle at his argument (also prepared by Cristiano Carmona) that he was worth near $500k. For that, I rolled the younger Carmona into a closet, wedged Slappy's broom in the spokes of his rear wheels and locked the door.

Just remember me to let him out of there before I go home for the weekend.

+++

November 14 – The Stars trade SP Jeff Dykstra (39-48, 3.99 ERA) to the Thunder for two prospects.
November 14 – The Wolves send C/1B Matt Wittner (.285, 116 HR, 646 RBI) to the Buffaloes, receiving three prospects in return. The package includes #48 prospect CL Miguel Salazar.

+++

I would have loved to keep Matt Jamieson around, but it was not financially possible. That would have been an awesome centerfield platoon with Abel Mora. Nope, not going to happen.

With free agents departed, this was a good time to take another look at the outfielders that were still left over at this point. There was not exactly a shortage of personnel; but whether it was the personnel that we *wanted* right now was a matter worthy of being discussed in detail, as the Raccoons retained six outfielders on the active roster by November 19.

First, there was the elder statesman Cookie Carmona in a contract year. He had actually been worth 0.6 WAR in 2026, which didn't change the fact that the 4-yr, $7.5M deal we had signed him to prior to even the 2023 season (with a full year left on his old contract then) had not reaped the Raccoons any rewards whatsoever. Also vying for a spot mainly in leftfield would be Justin Gerace, who had 17 career home runs in not even a season's worth of at-bats, but was still only a .700 OPS player thanks to swinging freely. Our new scout, who's name I will one day learn for sure, attested him being lazy, greedy, a glory hound, and a distraction to the team. Probably not stuff you put in your resume, and probably also not stuff you want in the starting lineup every day.

Centerfield saw Abel Mora facing no challenge whatsoever from Juan Magallanes. As long as we didn't import a leftfielder, his job was secure, because as long as we didn't import a leftfielder, we could play Rafael Gomez – the CLCS MVP – over there and still had room for Omar Alfaro in rightfield. Alfaro by now had just over 1,400 major league at-bats, batting .244/.322/.384, which was more or less precisely league average (101 OPS+). He also had been demoted often enough to be out of options at this point.

Gomez in turn had missed much of the 2026 season to injury, but had appeared in almost as many at-bats as in 2025 with the Rebels, producing near identical OPS values (just under .760). Confusingly, he had hit more triples than home runs for the Coons in the regular season, and had also hit more home runs in the playoffs than during the regular season. He was also under a long-term deal (4 years at $6.88M remaining).

Shedding salary was something the Raccoons would have to do in trade, because while we had a bit of wiggle room in the budget, it was not what I would call "riches" or… actually, any "money" at all.

Looking ahead to the end of the season, Mora, Cookie, Nunley, Bullock, and Jeff Kearney would all be free agents. What to do with Mora then? It seems like he only arrived recently, but he's actually been with the Raccoons for three years now after arriving from the Wolves for a mix of pitchers. His OPS had gone down every season (.793, .762, .748), and he would be 31 in May. Do you invest money long-term into that package? He hit 18 homers in 2025. He hit seven this year? What to do, what to do…?

Alright, I think this is all for now.

Did I forget something? Nah. Time to go home. (flicks out the lights)
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pgjocki (10-30-2018)
Old 10-30-2018, 09:14 AM   #2652
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If you ever play in New York...

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Old 10-30-2018, 09:27 AM   #2653
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If you ever play in New York...
You have no idea how hard that cover just made me laugh.

But I *think* we might be back in some borough or other come spring.
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Old 10-31-2018, 11:18 AM   #2654
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The offseason would get into the speedy part with the Raccoons still stuck with two princely paid and surely slugging first basemen, still champions OF ALL THE WORLD, and Cristiano Carmona was still pissed after I locked him in the closet for the weekend, because nobody reminded me… how I am supposed to remember everything around here? Can a man get a little help? And while we're on it, who are you here? – "Josh Boles"? Never heard of you. – You play on this team? Seriously?

The Gonzalez/Harenberg crunch was real. First, they were opposite-handed, so they could indeed be turned into a mildly insane platoon. There was another idea we floated around, and that had to do with putting one of them in leftfield to put both those bats back to back in the lineup. However, have you ever seen one of them play first base? They do so – both of them – with one paw always stretching and feeling for that base to give them security. If anybody had to go to the outfield it would be Gonzalez, because Harenberg was throwing like a girl, which didn't stand out as much as long as he was on the infield, but yeah, he could hardly throw the ball 150 feet without having it bounce. He was not an outfielder, ever, under any circumstances.

So, Gonzalez, with just a touch of arm, but the new scout (Felipe? Rodrigo? He looks Latin for sure!) unearthed some video material where Jon Gonzalez had shagged fly balls in the outfield during batting practice at some point during the first half of the 2026 season. After he showed me two minutes of it, the idea was shelved for once and for all. It was that grim. Ever seen a guy rush in on a ball clearly hit to the fence, for everyone to see? Yeah, right. That grim.

Another area where a slight squeeze was on was the starting rotation. Counting carefully I arrived at six pitchers that all had a claim to a slot, and the decision would be a tough one.

First, there was former Pitcher of the Year Mark Roberts, 32 and princely paid. We knew his deal, which revolved around lots of fly balls, including deep ones (75 homers surrendered since becoming a Coon), but controlling the damage with a low walk rate that usually hugged the 2 BB/9 mark and plenty of strikeouts. He was a 3-time strikeout champion in the Contintental League, and also three times had led the league in K/9, including the last two years (but not all instances of the two feats aligned with another). Despite not winning a single game in the postseason, he was undeniably valuable as a top-of-rotation piece. There had forever been a red flag to his scouting report that he had a history of injuries, but he had made 32+ starts for five straight seasons and I sure wasn't seeing it…

Next up was Rico Gutierrez, 27, who had just signed a 9-year deal (seven guaranteed), which was some sort of commitment. He was also not averse to the long ball, and while he didn't strike out as many (165 K in '26 being a career high), he was even more Uncle Scrooge when it came to walks. He had allowed only 1.6 BB/9 last season, a career-best. His career numbers showed him with 61-43 record, 3.37 ERA, and 2.3 BB/9 and 6.6 K/9, and that after a very rough sophomore season in 2023. You don't trade anybody with a 9-year deal with the ink still wet either.

With that, we went into the "maybe?" zone regarding who could be traded for profit. Dan Delgadillo was first on the radar, and yes we have to talk about him despite that 3-0 mark and 0.89 ERA in the playoffs. He debuted at what he claimed was 21 years of age, and was only 24 now. His first two seasons had been partial write-offs thanks to Tommy John, including a stenchy 5.44 ERA in just seven starts in 2025. Last year, he had hardly missed a beat, starting 31 times for a 12-7 record and 2.76 ERA. He was more of a control pitcher than the previous two, but still gave up some dingers from time to time. Also, 3.2 BB/9, not exactly great, but who knows how old he is and how much better he can get still in that department. Nah, how can you trade the Game 7 winner in the CLCS who would doubtlessly also have been the Game 7 winner in the World Series if the Coons hadn't pulled the plug on Snyder in Game 6 and put Kearney in there instead?

Then there was Rin Nomura, who had only 20 starts' worth of data available after debuting in AAA initially after coming over from Japan. All his stuff had some sink and dart to it, meaning people were putting the ball on the ground. He had struck out 7.6 per nine innings in his half-season. The playoffs had been a disaster, frankly, when even the least amount of cruising would have done in Game 6 in L.A. after the team jumped out to a 5-0 lead. He was labelled a rookie for ABL purposes, but it is important to remember that he is not one: he is 28 and pitched professionally for a while in Japan. There is lots to like (groundball rate, strikeout rate, only 8 homers allowed during the season), and sometimes people have some residual iffyness. He was a very fine pitcher that could be a #1 or #2 for many other teams.

George James had made only four starts in his age 22 season, making a spot start for his big league debut in which he won without allowing a run and also homered right away, then three more in September. He had not been on the postseason roster due to a lack of eligibility, but had gotten a ring anyway. The sample size (23 IP) was almost too small to pay much attention. Here was a young talent that was pushing upwards with force, and who were we to deny our 2024 first-round pick?

Finally, there's Kyle Anderson, 28, picked up from the Falcons during the last Winter Meetings. He went 10-6 with a more or less league-average 3.99 ERA (which was nearly his career ERA). 1.1 homers, 2.5 walks, 5.8 strikeouts per nine, all rather pedestrian. He barely pitched the required 162 innings to appear in the stats that requested this minimum participation, and the 171.1 innings he did pitch in the end (plus being moved to the pen in the postseason) came across as another one of those pedestrian values.

But there remained one more factlet about him: he was the undenied team leader, kept this pile of Furballs together and in line, and we had just gone through a few years where there had been a royal mess in the clubhouse, and didn't want to go back there. Anderson had way more value than his stat line. He made EVERYONE better.

Not that any of this solves the roster crunch.

In good news (?), the Raccoons were in the market for another right-handed reliever to add to Snyder, Ohl, and Surginer. Neither Nick Derks, nor Jonathan Fleischer or Steve Costilow had convinced us of their product during the 2026 season. For the latter two this was not that surprising – both had started the 2026 season in Ham Lake (AA), and Derks had been a mediocre AAA pitcher for a while.

Well, if anything there was going to be some trade to be made, probably two, to sort these situations out. The Raccoons as World Champions (I like saying that!) might even trade for prospects!

More bizarrely, they could end up trading the World Series MVP (Jon Gonzalez) for prospects.

Well, there are a few things we know for certain about players that were firmly entrenched. One of Gonzalez and Harenberg was going to be the first base starter. Spencer and Ramos – no question up the middle. Nunley, still unchallenged at third. We are also fairly certain that Rafael Gomez will be a starter at any outfield position, probably a corner. Mora - *probably* the starter in centerfield.

So it was really about importing a catcher or a corner outfielder, you know, unless we believed in Omar Alfaro to stick the landing his sixth time around. No? Maybe next year?

No more next year! There's rings to defend in '27 and we're tired of perpetual experiments yielding barely league average results, and Omar only arrived at a league-average OPS in '26 at the very end of the season, after missing five weeks on the DL, then blowing out of a hole for a month, being demoted on June 10 with a decidedly not league-average .604 OPS. He spent the next 12 weeks in AAA or on the minor league DL, then was recalled on September 1. He kept a steady .600-ish OPS through September 12, then suddenly lit on fire with a 10-game hitting streak that saw him go 17-for-34 or .500/.552/.823 with 3 HR and 9 RBI. That was all his homers that season. And is that supposed to be the base for him getting another starting assignment on Opening Day?

After an 8-5 loss to the Bayhawks in which he hit two home runs, he went 0-for-4 in his next attempt, and 4-for-31 to end the season. And that is the Omar Alfaro that we have seen on and off for five years. He is 26 years old. How is he ever going to get better?

There will never be an Age of Omar. If there was an Age of Omar, it coincided with the Raccoons putting up three consecutive losing seasons, 2022-24.

Nope, didn't advance a single day; just a long rant!
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Old 11-02-2018, 01:50 AM   #2655
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If there was a position where the Raccoons could not have less of a squeeze, it was catcher. We definitely needed a new one with Elias Tovias having turned into David Vinson II in a hurry, and this time we would not waste an entire decade. Except that Tovias had not even been THAT good. For comparison, Tovias had batted for 19 homers at age 23, 14 homers at age 24, with the better OPS (.755) in the latter season (2024). Vinson had swung for eight homers and a .792 OPS at age 24 (his sophomore season after a late-start rookie campaign in '88), then had homered 21 times for a .912 OPS the following year – the foundation of his entire major league career because that 1990 season held the Raccoons (and me in particular) out on the hope that there would another such season coming.

By 1997, none had come. Vinson finished his career tingling through four more towns in the next six years and finished a career .238/.367/.383 batter, generally seen as a disappointment. He was not even on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2010.

This time, we'd pull the plug earlier. And since splurging on free agents was not an option this time around until we shed some salary, we had to have a look around the league to see what the other GMs had on offer. This quickly got me to the Condors, coincidentally once David Vinson's first stop post-Portland. They had Pat Sanford, a 28-year-old right-handed batter from coastal Oregon (Myrtle Point near Coos Bay to be precise), who was a bit of an aim-for-the-fence type of guy. He had five double-digit homer seasons to his career, with a high of 18 in '23, all with the Condors. Hitting for average had been his problem for a while, but he had hit .306/.388/.528 in an injury-riddled 2025 campaign, now .279/.356/.441 in '26 while playing in 138 games. He was smart, defensively capable, and under a relatively affordable contract through 2030.

The CL South was also the longtime home of Ruben Luna, the Knights' slugger who had fallen into a chasm prior to this past season and had never emerged from it, going from .266 with 31 homers and an .880 OPS in '25 to .225 with 14 homers and a .705 OPS in '26. If he was gravely injured, we sure hadn't noticed it. He was also 34 years old and in a contract year, and made the mind-boggling amount of $3.8M in 2027. I think we'll pass.

The Capitals had David Lessman, 26, who had gone deep 23 times for an .828 OPS this year and had actually hit for a .930 OPS last year, albeit also in an injury-shortened season. One of those great half-seasons that will fool you forever… not that I would ever be guilty of that. (gnashes teeth) He was also signed through 2030, but his salary would go up to $3M next year, and if we could avoid paying $3M to a catcher at all, we'd probably try our best.

How about Keith Leonard on the Titans? He was a special sort of batter. From 2023 through 2025 he had led the Continental League in walks drawn as well as OBP. Yup, a catcher. Too bad he also ran like a catcher and was the perfect lump of hair to clog up your drain, or the bases. He was worth 5 WAR more or less every year, which showed again what useless stat WAR was, because he made any lineup construction endlessly difficult. You sure want your best OBP guy to be leading off (or so this book here says), but if we would have him leading off, we would have Ramos or Spencer batting second, but if they both get on, Ramos or Spencer would not be able to exploit their speed. Then we want the big bats in the middle; now all of a sudden a guy like Ramos has to bat sixth. Makes no sense.

Also, since trading for a catcher with any sort of contract would inherently require us to shed a first baseman, and I was extremely reluctant to give the Titans anything they could use against us, a trade for Keith Leonard was sort of prohibitive from the start.

On the other hand, the (probably?) best candidate for addition was Sanford, but the Condors could hardly be tickled with a first baseman given that they had Kevin McGrath, who was not even arbitration-eligible yet and thus played for the minimum, and had merely led the CL in doubles, homers, RBI, slugging, AND OPS this year. .302/.367/.539 with 31 HR, 54 2B, 120 RBI. They needed Jon Gonzalez or Kevin Harenberg as badly as a hole in the forehead.

Nope, still no progress, I have a brainlock right now.
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Old 11-04-2018, 04:06 PM   #2656
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Days crept by slowly. Was it the fear of doing something dumb? The panic of doing the wrong thing? The realization, born out of experience and countless history lessons, that you'd do the wrong thing eight out of ten, and a dumb thing the other two times?

What's R.J. DeWeese doing anyway?

Nah, other team made the news as November passed into December, like the Rebels extending 2B Marco Hernandes for 5-yr, $10.6M.

+++

November 26 – The Indians trade 1B/LF/CF Richard Linnell (.244, 28 HR, 138 RBI) and a third-rate prospect to the Stars for LF/RF Steve Rokosky (.231, 4 HR, 19 RBI).
November 27 – The Canadiens deal LF/RF/INF Tom Fitzsimmons (.313, 3 HR, 36 RBI) to the Condors for a prospect and a minor leaguer.
November 28 – The Condors sign 34-year-old ex-TOP CL Mike Baker (89-92, 3.38 ERA, 258 SV) to a 3-yr, $3M contract.
December 1 – Rule 5 Draft: 13 players are selected over three rounds. The Raccoons are not affected.
December 1 – Former Falcons SP Jim Bryant (85-111, 4.28 ERA) is a Rebel now. The 32-year-old has signed a 3-yr, $2.13M contract.
December 4 – The Indians add a true ace in ex-DEN SP Chris Sinkhorn (125-77, 3.23 ERA), who signs a 6-yr, $20.88M deal with Indy.
December 4 – The Knights pounce on ex-TOP SP Tim Wells (70-68, 4.06 ERA) and sign him to a 3-yr, $6.84M contract.
December 4 – 39-year-old veteran ex-BOS INF Jamie Wilson (.280, 151 HR, 894 RBI) signs with the Pacifics for 2-yr, $4.88M.
December 4 – The Condors continue to add, signing ex-ATL SS Andrew Showalter (.308, 236 HR, 1,127 RBI) to a 2-yr, $5.76M contract.

+++

Former ex-Coons sneaking through a hole in the window into shelter: Alex Duarte got $274k from the Condors; Frank Kelly will continue to try to stay healthy ith the Rebels for $302; and the Rebels also signed Ruben Pelles for $940k for a single season; Alvin Smith was snatched up by the Loggers for 2-yr, $1.42M; old fart Mike Bednarski signed with the Capitals for $860k;

Also, the Hall of Fame ballot is out. Some names on there that made our existence a living hell for a long, long, long time.

50 years into the ABL's existence, there are two teams with no Hall of Famers to their name. One is the Wolves, the other the Aces, although for the latter the wait could be over. Oliver Torres already grabbed 73.6% of the vote last winter and looks like a pretty decent bet to make it into the Hall this year. Add to that Martin Ortνz, who is as dead certain a first-ballot choice as can be with 3,220 hits and six Player of the Year awards. I also think that Hector Garcia will make the Hall right away. A peculiar case is "Midnight" Martin. His career ended early (he was junked by 36), but his peak was *intense*. He had nine straight seasons of 5.7 WAR or more and pretty much nothing outside of that. That peak included no season with an ERA worse than 3.10; three seasons of 2.60 or better; also six straight years of 16+ wins.
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Old 11-06-2018, 02:39 PM   #2657
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The Winter Meetings were upon us, and with them soon the first crunch. I mean, money was a crunch all the way in this offseason, but this was the best time for trading, and the Raccoons bitterly had trading to do.

The main crunch in question was the one at first base. Jon Gonzalez had been having a so-so season and had gone down to injury in June. True, he eventually returned and won World Series MVP honors, which was mind-boggling to say the least and maybe I still don't have fully grasped that the Raccoons are WINNERS again, but that was not the point right now. Between him Kevin Harenberg we had two players with no other position that were prohibitively expensive to have on the roster at the same time, never mind the platoon of death. One of them had to go! Now, Harenberg made $2.44M this year and every year through 2030, while Gonzalez was at $1.2M in 2027, a contract that would escalate to $1.8M in '30, also his contract year. They were both 29 years old. They were both not exactly Gold Glove winners. But Harenberg was also the better offensive player.

He was a career .306/.371/.468 batter with 107 HR and 525 RBI. Gonzalez? .277/.331/.450 with 97 HR and 394 RBI in about 10% fewer at-bats. But that is almost an 80-point difference in OPS, and 80 points more of OPS in your primary slugger can be the difference between "OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD WE ARE CHAMPIONS" and "Well, the Titans really earned another one, tally ho!" I liked the first one better. We had tally-hoed quite a bit for 30 years prior to that. No more tally-hoeing other teams! This pot is ours and I will not ever give it back!

Maud, what do you mean, the league already picked up the original and this is our replica? – What do you mean, "replica"? – This is not THE pot? – They… they took it back?

Ugh, I don't … can't… ugh.

Now it was about finding a trade partner to either unload the expensive one or the one that was a bit less good, and get a decently-sized return. You know, we WOULD trade for prospects, but 5-star third base prospects were few and far between and we needed good players NOW.

On the first day of the winter meetings I worked on a deal with the Stars, who were consistently rebuilding at this point and couldn't find any mix of pitchers to stay alive in their shoe box down in Texas. They would merrily take either one of the two first-sackers, given that they were still under contract for four years and they were hammering away at a corps of young starting pitchers trying to get them just right for a push at the end of the decade, but money was an issue and we would take substantial salary back. Working out a deal with Harenberg involved not only players that actually tickled me, but would also require throw-ins by the Stars and the Coons to add a deal-sweetener (like a second-rate prospect). With Gonzalez it was hard to find a mix that worked just right.

+++

December 9 – The Titans acquire SP Greg Gannon (58-45, 4.15 ERA) and cash from the Falcons, who receive three prospects in the deal.
December 9 – Young Colombian outfielder Nelson Ayala (.318, 7 HR, 76 RBI) is traded to the Crusaders by the Warriors, who pick up MR Gilberto Castillo (8-6, 3.30 ERA, 1 SV) and #35 prospect 2B David Perez.
December 9 – 28-year-old SP Jonathan Shook (23-30, 4.49 ERA) is traded from Cincy to Vancouver in exchange for a prospect.
December 9 – The Bayhawks add ex-OCT CL Ryan Corkum (29-42, 3.71 ERA, 207 SV) on a 1-yr, $1.26M contract.
December 10 – Star CL Alex Ramos (18-18, 3.93 ERA, 71 SV) is traded from the Pacifics to the Bayhawks for old scrub outfielder Tony Ruiz (.286, 20 HR, 93 RBI) and interesting but unranked prospects CL Jimmy Souders.
December 10 – The Stars deal SP Robby Gonzalez (16-38, 4.80 ERA) to the Gold Sox for two prospects.
December 11 – In a trade that sees World Series MVPs traded for another, the Raccoons send 29-yr old 1B Jon Gonzalez (.277, 97 HR, 394 RBI), 27-yr old LF Justin Gerace (.231, 17 HR, 67 RBI), and the #77 prospect, 20-yr old A-level SP/CF/LF Aaron Hagemann to the Dallas Stars in exchange for a pair of 28-year-old players, INF Trey Rock (.315, 6 HR, 355 RBI) and OF/1B Adam St. Germaine (.261, 20 HR, 194 RBI).
December 11 – The Canadiens add MR John "Icon" Waker (29-41, 3.96 ERA, 84 SV) from the Wolves in exchange for a prospect, then send two more prospects to the Bayhawks to pick up SP Rodolfo Cervantes (44-56, 4.26 ERA).
December 11 – The Crusaders trade for the Blue Sox' SP Blake Lowrey (13-15, 3.94 ERA), parting with a prospect.
December 12 – Left-handed ace SP Tom Shumway (98-77, 3.28 ERA) is traded from the Indians to the Aces. The 29-year-old merits the return of four prospects, including #75 SP Ben Darr.
December 12 – The Falcons sign ex-IND/TIJ utility player Brody Folk (.256, 40 HR, 330 RBI) to a 3-yr, $4.66M contract.
December 12 – 26-year-old SP Bryce Sudar (30-24, 4.15 ERA) is traded from the Rebels to the Pacifics for a prospect.
December 12 – The Canadiens acquire C Ricky Ortνz (.268, 6 HR, 36 RBI) from the Capitals for MR Ivan Morales (40-31, 3.52 ERA, 55 SV), age 32, and 24-year-old rookie MR Dusty Kulp (1-0, 2.96 ERA).

+++

ALRIGHT, we made a deal. Now let's exhale and analyze the damage. The Agitator proclaims the End Times thanks to us trading away the current World Series MVP, but they ignore that we get back the 2024 World Series MVP (St. Germaine!) and are obviously just out to get me. The trade actually started with me trying to get rid of clubhouse distraction (I would say cancer, but you have to make at least DeWeese-size waves to be a cancer) Justin Gerace in a minor deal, but I ended up finding a hole through which to resolve our 1B situation and at the same time load some assorted hitting talent.

And first off, constructing a lineup will be hard, with the Raccoons now having three constrictor-like players to place atop the batting order and no conventional #3 hitter anywhere in sight. Which sounds like I am doing some high-level whining indeed!

Between their stats and scouting report, Kevin Harenberg *was* the better player compared to Gonzalez, and although the fans were sad to see Gonzalez go, they also enjoyed braying KEVIIIIN during the final two months (and let's face it, without Harenberg batting for a 1.026 OPS (!!) after July 28, the Raccoons never get past the competition in the North!). We also traded first-rounder Aaron Hagemann, the two-way guy. Turns out, our new scout is less than enthusiastic about him. And yes, I know the scout has a name. Stop bugging me. Also, his pitching in single-A was … (looks unsure) … he walked almost six per nine innings and didn't really hold up to expectations at an early age. Me and first-rounders, huh?

What do we get in return? First off, the third veteran involved in the talks was C Josh Wool, but I ultimately went for Rock instead combined with St. Germaine, who played a full season with the Stars for over 500 at-bats, but won't do that with the Coons in all likelihood unless more deals come around or Able Mora breaks his pelvis on April 6 or Rafael Gomez gets a leg stuck in his eye socket (and not necessarily his own leg either) at the same time… you get the point. He has elite defense and a high-OBP bat, but nothing special. He hit ten homers in Dallas, but won't hit that many in a more standard-sized park. He also makes the minimum in 2027, narrowly missing super-2 arbitration.

Rock is a versatile infielder with very good defense and steady hands that can reasonably play all over the diamond. He adds to our on-base frenzy with quick hind paws and knows how to get on base, slapping singles in the category of a Jarod Spencer. Both had over 200 base hits in the 2026 season. Also, given their combined versatility, they also fit into the lineup at the same time, with Spencer being shiftable to leftfield, and since Rock bats right-handed, he can also spell Matt Nunley at the hot corner against left-handed pitching. In total, this deal was worth +8 WAR for Portland (but the fans are still not thrilled YET).

It all works out so well in my head!

Except for the part where we actually construct a lineup of those guys.

By the way, nobody has any interest in Omar Alfaro's old bum – I tried to move him. Well, there was one potential deal with the Miners for young catcher Jeremiah Brooks, who was an extra-base threat but not exactly a strong presence behind the dish. Was he going to be the replacement we wanted for Elias Tovias?

Somebody's gotta bat eighth …!

Brett O'Dell signed with the Falcons for $256k;
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Old 11-08-2018, 06:37 AM   #2658
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As was to be expected, the Agitator was up in arms again after the Jon Gonzalez trade and elaborately calculated how the Raccoons now had five shortstops on their roster and how on earth was that supposed to help them? While the Agitator could obviously count to five really well (Ramos, Rock, Stalker, Bullock, Gerster makes five), they were of course very much shortsighted again because Butch Gerster didn't figure in the 2027 plans at all, and Stalker and Bullock were backups with multiple possible applications.

In fact it was more or less a given now that the Raccoons would carry seven infielders and four outfielder in the new season, although one of those seven infielders (Spencer) was probably going to spend a good chunk of his time in leftfield. The four outfielders were going to be Mora, Gomez, St. Germaine, and whatever would remain between Cookie and Alfaro, and since Cookie was the immovable object on the roster (not for performance, but for a huge contract he didn't merit anymore, also 10/5 rights), Alfaro was **** out of luck. What we REALLY needed was a catcher.

No help was to be expected from the free agent market, as the Coons were already banging hard against the top end of their budget and could not sign anything much anymore this season. A catcher worth his oxygen supply could only come on in a trade or after we unloaded salary in another way; such was the price of sending away Jon Gonzalez over Kevin Harenberg, a crisp $1M difference in salary there.

But as has been said before, somebody has to bat eighth. Matt Nunley will bat seventh I guess, and behind that we can bury Elias Tovias just as well. The problem is that Brett O'Dell went away and we are still looking for a second catcher able to at least bat his own weight in the major leagues (and Jake Burrows isn't it).

+++

December 15 – The Crusaders sign ex-SAC CL Ben Marx (71-64, 2.83 ERA, 334 SV) to a 3-yr, $5.7M contract.
December 21 – A $4.24M commitment over two years wins the Gold Sox former Blue Sox SP Jose Menendez (90-108, 3.61 ERA).
December 24 – One more contract for 37-year-old ex-LVA C Tim Robinson (.260, 227 HR, 788 RBI), who signs a deal worth $1.38M with the Cyclones for the 2027 season.
December 25 – Ex-CHA 3B Ryan Czachor (.244, 53 HR, 329 RBI) gets paid by the Miners, who ink the 30-year-old right-handed batter to a 6-yr, $13.68M deal.
December 25 – Right-handed SP Tadasu Abe (128-114, 3.73 ERA) continues his tour of the FL East with a 3-yr, $10.56M contract signed with the Buffaloes. Abe, 35, had previously already pitched with the Blue Sox, Capitals, and Miners in this division as well as the Raccoons outside of it.
December 30 – The Wolves add C Tim Roush (.252, 26 HR, 180 RBI) in a trade with the Cyclones that sees Cincinnati add LF Danny Morales (.275, 62 HR, 408 RBI), #26 prospect SP/MR John Simenson, and cash.
January 2 – The Indians sign ex-NYC C Jose Ramirez (.266, 68 HR, 350 RBI) to a 1-yr, $1.24M contract.
January 4 – Indianapolis also adds ex-POR OF Matt Jamieson (.255, 59 HR, 416 RBI) on a 3-yr, $2.73M contract. The Raccoons receive a supplemental round pick.

+++

Oh look, the Wolves got fleeced again. Roush is 32 and has 1,240 major-league at-bats. Some teams can be desperate for catching, but there are limits…

There is some mild beef going on between the Miners and Falcons right now because of draft pick compensation for Ryan Czachor and Tadasu Abe. The Falcons received the Miners' then-highest pick (12th in the second round) rather than the #14 pick the Miners received from the Buffaloes for the Abe signing when the Miners announced the addition of Czachor at 6am (!) on Christmas Day, presumably because they had gotten wind of the Buffaloes having come to terms with Abe during the night and they now beat the Buffaloes to the clock with their curiously timed announcement. The Falcons, who would have received the #14 pick themselves if deals had been made official in reverse, have appealed to the commissioner's office to investigate.

I doubt anything will come of that; the commissioner is easily impressionable and believes in a flat earth, the easter bunny, and the good nature of mankind. No punishment has been handed down to a team in decades… I think we should actually start bending the rules, too.

Elsewhere, more simple-minded humans gave Chris Munroe a $292k contract with the Stars;

+++

2027 HALL OF FAME VOTING

The Hall of Fame welcomed four more players, three of them selected on their first ballot, in the 2027 electoral process. Full voting results below.

Often called the best player of his generation, Martin Ortνz was elected nearly anonymously (isn't there always SOME jerk?) after terrorizing the CL North for 19 years as part of the two Crusaders three-peats in the 2000s and 2010s – not bad for a waiver claim that the Crusaders snatched up from the Loggers, who are probably still kicking themselves for letting a 6-time Player of the Year, 12-time All Star, and 12-time Gold Glover walk like that. Ortνz, who led the majors in a lot of categories and a lot of times, ended his career with a .294/.398/.465 slash line, 377 HR, and 1,670 RBI. Not content with striking fear through his 1,101 extra-base hits, Ortνz also stole 457 bases with a career-high of 46 in 2006.

Switch-hitting Hector Garcia spent 17 years with the Dallas Stars when they were still a force in the league and won the World Series with them in 2006. A steady defender and consistent threat with the bat, Garcia did not pile up many individual accolades (he was the 2008 FL Player of the Year and won three Gold Gloves in addition to 12 All Star nominations), led the majors just four times in doubles and once in RBI, but would consistently put out high-.800s in terms of OPS with the occasional .957 mark mixed in as in 2009 when he amounted to 9.6 WAR. He would end his career playing briefly for three other teams in his 40s, and ultimately piled up a .312/.399/.474 slash line, 183 HR, and 1,295 RBI.

Salvadaro "Livewire" Soure changed teams frequently and often in a 20-year career that saw him on nine assignments for eight different teams, but he excelled wherever he was, winning five Reliever of the Year awards with three different teams between 2008 and 2016, and was also the 2013 FL Pitcher of the Year as a member of the Stars when he saved 43 games and struck out 109 batters while posting a 1.37 ERA. He fell one short of 500 saves for his career and posted a 2.84 ERA with 1,552 strikeouts. He also was an All Star nine times and won a ring with the 2015 Crusaders.

The only World Series ring of Oliver Torres came one year later as part of the 2016 Pacifics championship, with Torres also winning World Series MVP honors. An often overlooked player with only three All Star nods and two Platinum Sticks, Torres nevertheless put up high offensive numbers especially in his 20s with the Aces, the team that first put its insignia in the Hall of Fame with the left-handed batting Puerto Rican, whose specialty was incredible patience at the plate that saw him with "only" 2,474 base hits in a 20-year career, but also a mind-boggling 1,837 bases on balls. He led the league in walks six times, and in OBP four times. Despite being held to 38 home runs in his career, Torres even led the CL in slugging twice in 2003 and 2005, which were also the years of his two batting titles. In the former year, he led the CL in all of doubles, triples, and walks, and was adjudged worth 10.0 WAR. Overall he was a .300/.429/.402 batter and drove in 883 runs. He also stole 162 bases.

NYC LF Martin Ortνz – 1st – 99.4% - INDUCTED
DAL 2B Hector Garcia – 1st – 93.8% - INDUCTED
SFB CL Salvadaro Soure – 1st – 85.8% - INDUCTED
LVA 2B Oliver Torres – 3rd – 82.2% - INDUCTED
IND C Jose Paraz – 3rd – 70.0%
NYC SP Jaylen Martin – 1st – 65.0%
MIL CF Jerry Fletcher – 10th – 49.9% - DROPPED
LAP 3B Jens Carroll – 2nd – 41.2%
??? SP Chris York – 9th – 29.1%
TIJ SP Kelvin Yates – 8th – 28.8%
??? SP Bob King – 1st – 16.0%
VAN 1B Ray Gilbert – 2nd – 14.5%
CHA CL Luis Hernandez – 5th – 5.6%
WAS C Jose Flores – 1st – 5.0%
??? CL Tommy Wooldridge – 3rd – 3.9% - DROPPED
TOP LF Lionnel Perri – 3rd – 3.9% - DROPPED
PIT SP Miguel Rodriguez – 3rd – 3.3% - DROPPED
VAN LF Don Cameron – 1st – 0.3% - DROPPED
??? MR Ray Kelley – 1st – 0.3% - DROPPED
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Old 11-09-2018, 11:30 AM   #2659
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2027 had arrived but a new catcher had not, and as January kept progressing the Raccoons became more and more accepting of Elias Tovias being the new (and old, and before that even, the new) starting backstop. And to be fair, there were also upsides to that. Tovias was still relatively cheap, he was a switch-hitter, and his defense was pretty good, and he was calling a good game, and the pitchers generally liked throwing at him. Wait, is the last one good or bad?

But we still needed a backup catcher, and it was not going to be Jake Burrows (.141/.225/.219 in 34 games in 2026), and it was not like we had any other options in the minor leagues. Since we were also already spending all the budget we had, we had to work out some form of trade for a backup or free up some money from scouting or youth development and pick through the destitute leftovers on the free agent market. Also someone basically willing to work for free.

+++

January 6 – The Pacifics add a first baseman in well-travelled veteran Mike Rucker (.258, 348 HR, 1,173 RBI), who will be 40 years old by the time the season will start. Rucker receives a $1.54M deal for the 2027 season.
January 9 – 30-year-old ex-CHA SP Doug Moffatt (65-66, 3.98 ERA) lost 20 games in '26, but this did not dissuade the Crusaders from signing him to a 4-yr, $10.56M contract.
January 11 – The Pacifics add more experience in 39-year-old left-handed SP Tristan Broun (124-143, 3.83 ERA), who signs a $2M deal for '27. Broun was with the Aces the previous season.
January 19 – The often surgically fixed body of OCT OF Dave Garcia (.297, 245 HR, 907 RBI) needs another adjustment; in particular Garcia is experiencing range-of-motion issues from the elbow he fractured in August and has to have it operated again. The Thunder now expect him to miss the first two months of the 2027 season.
January 19 – The Aces trade for the Buffaloes' C Josh Motley (.240, 20 HR, 149 RBI), sending MR Adam Rosenwald (0-0, 4.38 ERA, 1 SV in 8 games) and a prospect to Topeka.
January 20 – The Miners acquire OF Omar Alfaro (), cash, and A-level OF Angel Vaglienty from the Raccoons for 23-year-old #19 prospect MR Dan McLin (3-6, 4.37 ERA).
January 26 – The Crusaders announce a 6-yr, $20.4M extension with SP Mike Rutkowski (79-50, 2.90 ERA), the reigning CL Pitcher of the Year.
January 29 – 28-year-old relief expert Vince Devereaux (27-22, 3.65 ERA, 27 SV), coming off a season with the Rebels, signs a 3-yr, $4.18M contract with the Buffaloes.
January 29 – The Cyclones pick up 35-year-old ex-WAS SP Alejandro "Ant" Mendez (170-143, 3.36 ERA) on a 1-yr, $640k deal.
February 1 – The Loggers announce with regret that 27-year-old CF Ben Adams (.239, 29 HR, 208 RBI) will move into their administration after being left with an unstable knee following multiple operations after initially tearing his posterior cruciate ligament near the end of the 2026 season. Adams, who played all of his 552 ABL gams with the Wolves, had signed a 2-year deal with Milwaukee this winter, but had to retire without ever playing for them.
February 1 – The Raccoons sign 28-year-old Taiwanese free agent C Jing-quo Liu to a 1-yr, $280k contract.

+++

Garcia, 32, is one of the saddest ABL cases of recent decades. Whenever the Bayhawks or Thunder have been able to pry him off the stretcher, he has been absolutely amazing, but the problem is that he only amounted to 1,410 games in 12 seasons he started on the Opening Day roster. Nine-time All Star, twice the Player of the Year, also a Gold Glove for good measure. Is he finished this time? Would be a shame because this was another Hall of Fame career undone by injuries. I compare this to Daniel Hall's similar attendance record in his days…

Now, the Alfaro trade was utterly necessary because the Omar Alfaro saga had really run its course at this point and there was no reasonable way to keep him on the roster and dump an infielder (and yes, this includes Daniel Bullock into our infield concoction, but it's not like he has much value to pick up a prospect). McLin will no longer be a prospect when the season begins because he pitched a full season with the Miners this year, but we like his 94mph sinker and cutter, and the groundball action he generates. He is right-handed and makes the minimum. The Miners selected him with the #15 pick in the 2022 draft. Vaglienty, the third-rate prospect included in the deal, we found rather nondescript and had no big problems including him at the Miners' request.

McLin fills the fourth and final right-handed slot in the bullpen as we will continue to carry three southpaws in Brotman, Boles, and Kearney (unless things develop, y'know…). Before, the slot would have gone to some scrub between Nick Derks, Jonathan Fleischer, and Steve Costilow, or whoever else we felt like inserting into runaway games in September, usually to grim results.

Finally, ex-Coon Graham Wasserman signed a $316k deal with the Capitals;
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Old 11-11-2018, 11:32 AM   #2660
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February 3 – The Stars add pitching with ex-SAL SP Alex Contreras (68-94, 4.30 ERA). The right-hander receives a 2-yr, $2.24M contract.
March 8 – The Gold Sox pick up ex-POR OF/1B Terry Kopp (.271, 125 HR, 614 RBI); the 30-year-old left-handed batter receives a 2-yr, $2.88M contract.
March 20 – With two weeks left in the offseason, 29-year-old left-hander Joe Jones () returns to the Buffaloes on a 4-yr, $10.24M deal; he is the last type A free agent to sign.

+++

Terry Kopp lingering until March before still hauling a sizable contract is all you need to know about his 1 1/2 seasons in Portland.

Who else found a new forever home? Wade Davis got a 2-yr, $808k deal from the Buffaloes; Shane Walter goes back to the Crusaders for the 20th time on a $334k deal; and the Crusaders also pick up 42-year-old Jose Gutierrez for $338k; Cory Dew joined the Indians for $262;

Jose Gutierrez remains the second-longest-ago Coon (Yoshi Nomura!) still active. You have to respect the old man, who was a Raccoon as recently as *2008*, and last year played a full season (589 PA!) with the Rebels, batting .275 with three homers and a 96 OPS+. However, since he didn't become a regular until his age 28 season, he only has 2,205 hits tallied up. Remarkably, after 20 years you should have stumbled into some trivial award at some point, but Gutierrez, who got the first 37 hits of his career in 172 attempts with the '07 and '08 Coons, has never been an All Star, never won a Platinum Stick, or a Gold Glove.

But Jose Gutierrez does not care. Jose Gutierrez just keeps on playing.

Yoshi Nomura meanwhile is 43, and still available. He batted .266 with three homers in half a season with the Buffaloes last year and crossed the 3,000 hits mark.
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