Friday, February 15, 2008

History of a San Jose StratHead & Where the Scorpions Franchise is Headed

It always starts with a flurry of deals. And it seems I can ONLY do deals in this league in bunches. I make one deal, which leads to another, which creates another opportunity, etc etc. Who says the domino effect isn’t real?

I had about 6 trades happen pretty quickly when I first took over this franchise, and now, approaching free agency, I find myself committing to a direction that will have me compete next year via another series of deals. As you will come to know, I am one of those owners where the trading is half the fun for me. So hopefully without boring everyone to tears, now I’ll write a bit about my history in SOM, my management style, and where all these deals fit in.

I cut my teeth in simulation baseball not with SOM at all, but with Pursue the Pennant, the forerunner to Diamond Mind, in the early 90s. The Sporting News launched their SOM online leagues in 2001, and it was very similar to PTP (which I played as a board & dice game). So relative to many here, I’m probably a newbie at SOM.

In TSN’s version, the leagues have a salary cap and all SOM players with cards are assigned a cap value. For those of you interested in a different, lighter SOM experience, I can highly recommend TSN to you – they are offering a completely free trial of a full 162-gm season of their upcoming 1986 replay release. Some of the leagues will be managed by celebrity SOM heads like Doug Glanville & Curt Schilling, who I guess will have a lot of time on his hands now.... TSN’s game is less hands-on as all games are autoplayed (3 games per night), but very strategic in terms of roster building and cap management.

So I won my first league in TSN in 2001, and like a pinball game, the high score (winning a title) earns you 2 free games, so I was hooked after that. At that time leagues were limited to 12 teams but this year’s version will offer flexible league sizes. That first team (link below for those interested) was built on LH & SW hitters (Thome, Tino Martinez, Chipper Jones, Robbie Alomar, Beltran), very solid D, and pitching that was good enough but not great. I housed it in a park that took advantage of the cards I had and in this case, masked an average bullpen.

This LH park & team approach become kind of a signature for me. I made the playoffs about 70% of the time, and won titles about a third of the time. So for the next 4 years I spent a lot of time honing the lefty approach, and hanging out on SOM boards, giving advice to newbies who wanted to build lefty teams that could win. After 2005 my attention turned to pre-card leagues (get out your crystal balls everyone), then keeper leagues, then in the last 2 years, dynasty leagues with 40-man rosters similar to BRASS & BLOC, and now I do very few leagues other than dynasty style.

Now I am entering into a new fun SOM phase with BRASS and BLOC, and one of the challenges I will have is seeing whether a lefty approach can translate to this format. I have heard from many naysayers on this approach, who believe it will be tough to win in this way in large leagues with no salary cap, but being a little bit stubborn at times as I can be, I’m going to give it a real shot.

In BRASS, the first set of deals I made (which Tim documented and analyzed pretty handily) landed me several good LHs, among them Pena, Hamilton, Ellsbury, and Zito, to complement existing players like Sizemore and Rollins. With free agency coming and a bit of money and some trade parts on hand, I turned my focus to acquiring pieces to fit around Pena & Rollins. I couldn’t ignore their career years, and I decided I had to go for it now. So in come Ellis for his D & nice bat against LHP to balance out my lineup, and the rights to Marlon Byrd, to give me a RH bat that hits RH ok (N power required) but is not BP HR dependent. I swung another deal to get the rights to Hafner, a DH favorite of mine, followed by another deal which gave me Sherrill + the rights to E Chavez as a possible fill-in at 3B (even if his body is held together with duct tape at this point), and Werth, a nice OF piece similar to Byrd – not a lot of power but solid D and good BA/OBP.

The big move I needed to really allow my approach a chance to work this year was to move out of DET. I was pretty disappointed when Comerica came out as a completely neutral park this year, so the final move in this flurry was to get the best lefty-tilted park I could find, PNC. Its dimensions should keep it lefty-friendly, so I expect to be here for years to come, and especially this year, with pitchers like D Bush and K Gregg, who will give up some BP HR to RHs, the park will add a lot of value to their cards.

Coming up to free agency, I enter the bidding with my bullpen pretty set at 480 innings, most of them good quality, my SPs in decent shape with 900 innings, and needing just a few position players to round out the squad. I will probably not go hog-wild in FA (like I did in BLOC) as I have several players who will be Y3s this year who will need long-term deals or extensions: Sizemore, Dave Bush, Correia (who I picked up not only for his SP/RP card now, but as the frontrunner for the Giants’ 5th SP role), and Snyder.

So our short-term goals are to be a playoff team in 2008 with probably a longshot at the title as things stand. Looking forward, maybe we can become a more serious contender in 2009 if our youngsters Ellsbury and Hamilton develop as hoped and we pick up one or two pieces in the draft.

BRASS has been a blast for me so far & I’m looking forward to more of the same - thanks all for the warm welcome!

Dave/San Jose

0 Swings of the bat: