Sunday, February 10, 2008


The Challenger season is now in the books after a 5-3 series win over our hated crosstown rivals, the Andover Cougars. 85-77 might not seem like much but for a band of youthful misfits it was quite a fun season.

But how did it happen? How did a team that lost 100 games last season and entered and exited the 2007-08 season with little pitching (team ERA of 4.99) wind up on the cusp of a BRASS playoff spot?

There were three elements that got the Challengers situated for an engaging 2007-08 season.

1. The Trade

Near the end of last season, Challenger management pulled the trigger and sent Albert Pujols away- the finest draft pick I've ever made. But in return came back Prince Fielder and Hanley Ramirez. These two precocious infielders proceeded to have great freshman seasons that easily made up for Albert's departure.

Hanley: .294 BA, 17 HR, 88 RBI, 36 SB, 826 OPS
Prince: .288 BA, 52 2B, 24 HR, 96 RBI, 879 OPS

2. The Ballpark

I had come to hate Yankee Stadium. Every year I looked at the same staid graphic to play my games. Every year, practically 1-10 for every thing. Whoopty-do! It was becoming quite monotonous. I wanted a new ballpark. ANY ballpark. So Kevin and I swapped parks. My new home was the corporate home of the ChiSox that at least sounds respectable enough when shortened- The Cell. I've played Strat for over 20 years now, but it had been a long time since a ballpark had such a dramatic effect on my club. The Challengers responded and deposited 140 souvenirs for the fans in the bleachers. [Truth be told, our opponents kicked in 143 souvenirs.] The cheap long balls aided the Challengers in reaching a 46-35 home mark. It also helped make stars out of Chris Shelton (23 HR, 19 at home) and Mike Lieberthal (20 HR, 18 at home). The pitchers have complained about the new digs, but when I get my $4,000,000 check for almost mking the playoffs, they'll be happy to see the extra dinero around. Which leads me into point three...

3. The Rule Change

I have to admit- it was a sweeping, novel idea that came to BRASS last offseason: Paying clubs extra for angling toward the playoffs rather than being content to make the season a 100+ loss mockery. I've done the latter more often than I'd care to admit and losing becomes quite distasteful. So with the new rule in place I set about in the draft with a peculiar and definite strategy to get me some of that cash come the end of 2007-08. So, during the draft, I went after cheap unprotected players to augment my roster. Added were Tony Graffanino (.269 BA, 32 2B, only 7 E) and the aforementioned Mike Lieberthal. And further to that end I grabbed a solid lefty bat in the form of Eric Hinske (884 ops in 298 PA) for a paltry $200,000.

In conclusion, the 2007-08 season was a refreshing change for a club that is still admittedly focused on the future. But at least my campaign was a little proof that the path toward promise needn't be pockmarked with woeful losses.

0 Swings of the bat: