December 29, 2002
Anyone that reads this blog on a semi-regular basis knows that I dream of being a General Manager some day.
I think about what my organizational strategy would be, what my office would look like and what all the trade negotiations would sound like.
And I think about it way too often.
No one has given me a job GMing yet, so I do the next best thing, I play Diamond-Mind baseball in a "keeper league" with a bunch of other GM wannabes.
Prior to this year I had only played "roto" fantasy baseball, which is basically drafting a brand new team each year and adding up their accumulated stats to figure out the winner of the league.
It was fun, but I really didn't love it.
I got "recruited" to join a Diamond-Mind league and since I had heard so much good stuff about it and since I was looking for a new fantasy baseball game to play, I said yes.
So, I took over an abandoned team and set about building it into a contender.
Before I tell you all the details, let me give you a few of the facts first...
Diamond-Mind is a simulation game.
The easiest way to explain it is that you can use the previous season's performances to replay the season.
For example, my league just finished playing our 2002 season, using everyone's real life 2001 stats.
Our next season will use the stats from the recently completed 2002 season.
The simulation is extraordinarily detailed and it includes in-depth defensive ratings for each player, lefty and righty hitting and pitching splits, ballpark factors and just about anything else you could possibly want and probably a lot more.
You actually play out all the games, pitch-by-pitch (if you want to), with lineups and pitching rotations, bullpen usage patterns and managerial tendencies.
The league works like this...
There are 24 teams, split into 2 leagues.
Each team has a $400 salary cap and a roster that can be filled with up to 50 players.
During each off-season, there is a "auction" for all of the new players (the ones that made their major league debut the previous year).
Also during the off-season, each player on everyone's roster sees his salary go up 15%.
If a guy is $30 one year, he costs $34 the next.
You can cut players at any time, at which point they are put into the off-season auction with all of the players that debuted that year.
Anyway, I took over this team that had finished in last place the year before and had been abandoned by its owner.
The roster wasn't very appealing overall, but it had 2 players that were worth building around: Jim Thome and Freddy Garcia.
I decided that I would scrap the entire team, except for those 2 guys, and try to build for 2003.
I didn't care what I did in my first year and I sort of thought of it like an expansion team taking its lumps.
In the off-season auction, I bid on "prospects" that hadn't done much in 2001 (the year we would be using for my first season) but that I hoped would have good 2002 seasons and be ready to help me in my second year (and beyond).
I bid $32 on Josh Beckett.
$50 for Adam Dunn.
$16 for Michael Cuddyer.
$20 on Carlos Pena.
$22 for Juan Uribe.
$15 for Nick Neugebauer.
$11 for Nate Cornejo.
$14 for Kurt Ainsworth.
And I also traded for Nick Johnson, who cost $25.
Basically, the majority of my $400 salary cap was being spent on guys that couldn't help me at all in my first year.
A couple of really funny things happened on the way to me building for 2003.
First of all, almost none of the "prospects" I picked to build around had very good seasons.
Josh Beckett was pretty good, but he was injured a lot and only pitched about 100 innings.
Adam Dunn was very good, but he wasn't the God-of-walks-and-homers that I imagined he would be.
Juan Uribe flat out sucked.
Michael Cuddyer only got about one-fifth of a season with the Twins and he didn't do all that well.
Carlos Pena and Nick Johnson had decent rookie years.
Nate Cornejo and Nick Neugebauer both stunk.
And Kurt Ainsworth pitched very well...in Triple-A.
So there I was, trying to build for 2003 (which would use the 2002 stats) with young players and none of them really were having good seasons.
Then the second funny thing happened: I made the playoffs!
I am not really sure how it happened, although I suspect it had to do with 3 major things: Jim Thome, Freddy Garcia and a really bad division.
No one else in my division finished over .500, which allowed me to win it with only 85 wins or so.
Jim Thome had a monster year, which made sense because his 2001 was very good in real life.
And Freddy Garcia had an even better year, which made sense because he was also awesome in 2001 in real life.
I ended up winning my opening round series, before losing 4-1 to the best team in the league in the American League Championship Series.
So, instead of scrapping 2002 and building for the future, I won the Division in 2002 and had almost nothing to build around for the future.
Along with all of my "prospects" not having good years, Freddy Garcia really struggled in 2002. His ERA went up over a run and he served up almost twice as many homers as he did in 2001. So, while "Chief" was the best pitcher in the AL for me this season, he wasn't going to be such an ace next year.
The one constant in all of this is Jim Thome.
He was good in real life in 2001, good for me in 2002 and great in real life in 2002.
One thing is for sure, Jim Thome will be on my team for my league's 2003 season and he'll be hitting cleanup while costing me $57.
So, other than Thome playing 1B everyday and taking up about 15% of my payroll, what does the rest of my team look like for 2003?
Keep in mind, "2003" is really the replay of the 2002 season, which just ended.
Luckily, I made some pretty good waiver wire pickups during the regular season and got a few guys that had very nice 2002 seasons.
I claimed Tony Fiore, Andy Fox, Mark Bellhorn, Joey Eischen, Quinton McCracken and Mike Koplove - all for only $1.
They will all cost me only $3 each for next year (I know I said all players go up 15%, but those making only $1 go up to $3).
Fiore will serve as my long relief/spot start man out of the bullpen.
Andy Fox will be my full-time shortstop against right handed pitching.
Bellhorn will be my everyday second baseman and will probably hit right in front of Thome in the batting order.
McCracken will be good for about 400 at bats as a "utility outfielder" spending time at all 3 spots and hitting leadoff a lot.
And Eischen and Koplove will be setup men for me.
Strangely, it seems that my shrewd $1 pickups off of the scrap heap during the season turned out a heck of a lot better than my expensive prospects that I bid on during the off-season.
I also made a pretty good trade early in the year, acquiring A.J. Burnett.
Burnett was awesome in 2002 before he got injured.
He managed to come back from the injury and pitch a few more innings, putting him over the 200 inning mark for the year.
He'll take over for Freddy Garcia as my #1 starter next year at the very reasonable price of $17.
That is pretty much it for the good news.
Thome was good, Burnett was good and I made a few quality pickups for $1 that will help me next year for $3.
Other than that, everything was a mess.
And now I have a very tough decision to make.
I can either:
A) Choose to keep guys like Beckett and Ainsworth and Cuddyer and Pena and Johnson, etc. on my roster and continue to build around them while giving them all 15% pay increases on top of their already substantial salaries.
B) Cut bait on all of my "prospects" and look to build the roster around Thome, Burnett and the cheap guys in hopes of seriously competing this upcoming season.
I am really having a tough time making a decision.
I really believe Josh Beckett will be a stud, but can I afford to pay him $37 for a season that he only pitched 100 innings in?
I love Adam Dunn and I think he will be an absolute superstar very soon, but can I afford to have him take up $58 dollars worth of my payroll for a year in which he only hit 26 homers and slugged only .454?
Michael Cuddyer is the real deal and I am hoping he will be the cleanup hitter for my hometown Twins for the next decade or so, but can I afford to waste $19 of my payroll on his 112 at bats?
I think you get the point.
I like most of the guys I spent the big bucks on last off-season and, despite their struggles or lack of Major League playing time in 2002, I would still like to build around them.
At the same time, I don't know if I can keep them on the team and devote such a huge chunk of the payroll to them and still hope to compete this upcoming year, which I feel obligated to do with Jim Thome on my roster.
Which is why I am turning to you, my loyal readers and fellow baseball nuts, for help with my decision making.
I urge you to take a few minutes to look over my roster (which I will put below) and decide what you think the best option would be and then send me an email about it.
I honestly am not leaning one way or another, so your help will mean a lot to me.
Here is my roster, along with what each player would cost if I decide to keep them for next season (keep in mind, the salary cap is $400):
Adam Dunn $58
Jim Thome $57
Nick Johnson $29
Juan Uribe $26
Carlos Pena $23
Michael Cuddyer $19
Ramon Hernandez $15
Lee Stevens $12
Michael Tucker $9
Gary Matthews Jr. $5
Gary Bennett $5
Travis Fryman $4
Mark Bellhorn $3
Andy Fox $3
Jose Vizcaino $3
Eric Owens $3
Quinton McCracken $3
Olmedo Saenz $3
Luis Alicea $3
John Valentin $3
Tom Goodwin $3
Keith Lockhart $3
Freddy Garcia $38
Josh Beckett $37
Nick Neugebauer $18
Kurt Ainsworth $17
A.J. Burnett $17
Shawn Estes $15
Tim Redding $13
Nate Cornejo $13
Rick White $5
Felix Heredia $4
Ryan Rupe $3
Tony Fiore $3
Scott Eyre $3
Mike Fetters $3
Mike Koplove $3
Joey Eischen $3
Travis Harper $3
Chad Paronto $3
There are some very obvious decisions to be made.
Guys like Keith Lockhart, Luis Alicea and Lee Stevens aren't worth spots on a roster, especially for $3, $3 and $12 bucks, so they will definitely be cut.
At the same time, guys like Jim Thome, A.J. Burnett, Mark Bellhorn and Tony Fiore are definitely worth their salaries for next year and will certainly be kept on the roster.
Who else do I keep?
Who else do I cut?
Should I stay with the prospects and devote a huge amount of the payroll to them next season, in the hopes of continuing to build around them?
Or should I scrap that plan, cut or trade everyone that won't help me a lot for next year and work on building a contender around Thome, Burnett and the bargains?
I need your help!
The future of the Minnesota Gophers of the Three Run Homer League rests on your capable shoulders (and emails).
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****