Ties at the top of both divisions with 60 to play

Update, 10:50 p.m.: Wisconsin engineered a 10-player deal with Savannah to strengthen its playoff push, plucking a pair of 1-rated fielders for the left side of its infield and fortifying its bullpen. It was one of four deals consummated in the four-hour marathon trading session — none involving Margaritaville or Chatfield.  Trade deadline recap here.

Nearly lost in the buzz about trade deadlines and expansion formats is the fact that we have exciting races in both divisions with 60 games to play.

Wisconsin and Margaritaville are tied atop the South Division with 53 wins each, while Hickory, Superior and Bushwood are engaged in a three-way headlock atop the North Division.

Wisconsin got a first-hand look at the Northerners’ might in July, going 3-7 against Hickory and Superior en route to a 7-13 month. That included just one win in a head-to-head battle with Margaritaville.

Superior was the big winner on the month, racking up 14 wins. The balance of power has resulted in the oddity in which the last-place team in the South (Detroit, with 41 wins) is closer to first place in its division (12 games behind) than the fourth-place team in the North (Springfield, with 49 wins) is to third (15 games behind).

Hickory, Bushwood and Margaritaville have swung deals to bolster their playoff stock. What else could happen as we count down the final hours until rosters are locked until the end of the regular season?

New No. 1 in latest Mock Draft

It’s time for another end-of-the-month installment of the 2012 Mock Draft. This time you’ll note a few adjustments, based on the new expansion format adopted since the last mock draft, starting with the fact that there are now a whopping 19 selections in the first round. But, expansion teams can no longer select uncarded players. That, and the fact that several rookies made their debuts, resulted in several pronounced jumps in this month’s rankings.

Let’s get started, with a new No. 1: Continue reading

Revised offseason expansion plan

With Detroit Demolition Dogs manager Ken Kuzdak making the decision not to return to the league for the 2012 season, the league has made modifications to the overall offseason expansion plan to account for the dispersal of Demo Dogs talent.

The league will still expand to 15 teams, but now will bring in four new franchises instead of three to get to that level. Here’s a recap of how it will work:

Phase One: Dog Dispersal Draft (October/November)

The four expansion teams will conduct a three-round Dog Dispersal draft, selecting a total of 12 players off of Detroit’s current roster, which is frozen (Detroit cannot conduct trades).

Phase Two: Expansion Draft (October/November)

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Hickory gets jump on trade-a-thon as deadline looms

The Hickory Nuts weren’t about to let the Bushwood Gophers and Superior Titans slug it out for the Northern Division title.

With pre-emptive strikes in the marketplace, the Nuts are fortified for the 60-game sprint to the postseason and beyond.

Meanwhile, managers who haven’t had any success in private channels can join the annual public trade-a-thon festivities, scheduled for Sunday, July 31 from 8 p.m. to midnight ET in an AOL chat room (details to come). The trading deadline is midnight that night.

Hickory has added starting pitchers Adam Wainwright (from Bismarck) and Felix Hernandez (from Springfield) as well as a couple of potent hitting cards in Justin Morneau and Shin-Soo ChooA complete rundown of trades can be found on this page.

Meanwhile, managers would do well to consider not only how trades would affect their teams this year, but how this year’s offseason expansion process impacts their roster setup for 2012. Existing teams can only protect 10 players before expansion teams can start stealing players for their roster.

Warning from Strat regarding NetPlay

Possible NetPlay interference in the next week or so. Unclear whether it would affect us. From the Strat Fan Forum website:

The company that runs our Game Lobby module for all of our Netplay software has notified us that they will be upgrading their servers and doing maintenance over the next week. Please do not be alarmed if the game lobbies are not available or you experience any technical difficulties during that time.

We are sorry for any inconvenience this might cause for our Netplay gamers.

Hal Richman, President
Strat-O-Matic Media LLC

Scorpions, Clips go retro for July series

Name that cat (click for larger image)

Savannah manager Steve Hart and Applegate manager Gary Kicinski sported a retro look for their July series, complete with short shorts, hideous facial hair and a replica of Steve’s Newburgh, N.Y., dining room circa 1985. The Clips took three out of the five games.

Regarding our photo trivia from May, commissioner Dave Renbarger reports those photos were taken during the Captiva Island draft of either 1987 or 1988 and that the photo was taken by Mike Renbarger’s wife Lynn. The before-and-after nature of the two photos was scripted by Larry Pittman, who you will notice has a ball in his hand in the ‘before’ shot but not one in the ‘after’ shot. And everyone else is looking rather exhausted in the after shot. And Gerry Yurko lost his hat. And umpire Steve Bizek appears to be taking an outside position instead of an inside position. And Ken Kuzdak needs Larry’s support to keep him from collapsing.

Dave further recalls that the first field we found was so tiny that the first couple batters crushed balls easily over the fence and we had to move to find more competitive space.

Angels call up top prospect Mike Trout; will he get a card?

Hold the phone on that mock draft: There’s news today that the Angels have called up Mike Trout to the majors. If he’s up for the rest of the season, that will make him eligible for a card and eligible for the first-15 picks of the first round, shooting him up from 17 to probably No. 1 or No. 2 when the next mock rankings come out at the end of July.

If he’s only up as a fill-in for injured Peter “Bishop” Bourjos (a nod to Steve Bizek’s alma mater), and he doesn’t get carded, well, then, he’s back to No. 17.

Who has the most all-stars?

Sixty-six players were named to the 2011 All-Star Game Sunday. Fan vote will select two more, and undoubtedly some replacements will be named. Of the 66, 63 can be found on I-75 League rosters; two of the three who cannot were not carded.

Among the highlights:

* Applegate leads the way with 8 players selected, including newly acquired Curtis Granderson and Josh Beckett.

* Bismarck can claim the most players in starting lineups with four — three infielders and DH David Ortiz.

* Springfield has four of its starting pitchers, plus its closer, represented.

Here’s the complete breakdown:

(8) Applegate: Starters  (3)– C. Granderson, B. McCann, J. Reyes.  Reserves (4)– J. Ellsbury, C. Jones, G. Sanchez, H. Pence. Pitchers (1) — J. Beckett.

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2012 mock draft time — bring out the 18-wheeler!

We have some exciting division races and the trade wires are burning up. You know what that means — time to look ahead to next year and our mock draft for the 2012 season…

This draft will be different than past years since we will be welcoming three new teams to the fold. As voted on in the offseason, these three new teams will have picks 1, 3 and 5, as well as supplmental picks 16, 17 and 18 at the end of the first round. So this mock draft features a whopping 18 picks.

Remember the retention format is different too — you essentially will be protecting 21 players but losing three of them. So you might be stuck keeping some guys you wouldn’t have dreamed of keeping in past years.

Honestly, doing a mock draft at this point in the year feels like a crapshoot after the first half-dozen players or so. We’ve got about 40 players on our Watch List for first-round consideration, and a lot will depend on the play the next four months of some players who just recently have joined the bigs. This mock draft only considers players who already have spent time in the big leagues.  So without further ado, here are the crappy guys you’ll be stuck with as first-rounders next year.

1. Michael Pineda, SP, Seattle (expansion team) — Big righty is just 21 and already has more than 100 IP as a rookie. He may tail off in the second half but right now he’s sporting a 1.03 WHIP and opponents are hitting less than .200 off him.

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Tide shifts in North as season hits midway point

June was a month of upheaval in the North Division, as first-place Superior tumbled to third after a nine-win month and was passed by both Bushwood and Hickory.

Bushwood struck a big blow with a 15-win month that lifted the Gophers into first place, then added slugger Josh Hamilton for the second half of the season in a trade with Applegate. Meanwhile, the Nuts were roasting too, posting 17 wins to move from third into second, and trail Bushwood by just one game at the season’s halfway mark.

Bushwood, Hickory and Superior all remain on pace for 100 wins, thanks in no small part to the Chatfield Horrow Show; the Chimeras posted their second consecutive 3-win month and are on pace for 116 losses.

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