2014 World Series champ Garth Lewis gets his trophy

Unable to attend the I-75 League’s 36th convention to receive his trophy, Garth Lewis was presented his hardware in Dallas recently.

Garth celebrated his third World Series crown in 10 years in 2014. He’s shown here surrounded by the trophy and 2014 plaques for his North Division championship and the World Series championship.

Three-time World Series champion Garth Lewis.

Three-time World Series champion Garth Lewis.

Epic comeback nets World Series title for Warriors

Down 3-0 to heavy favorite and top-seeded Chatfield, the South Grand Prairie Warriors pulled off a comeback for the ages, storming back to win four consecutive games, including a Game 7 thriller, to win the 2014 I-75 League World Series.

Surrounded by division and world championship plaques and the league trophy, Garth Lewis celebrates his third World Series in Warrior franchise history.

Three-time World Series champion Garth Lewis.

Three-time World Series champion Garth Lewis.

After emerging from a season-long dogfight just to win the Northern Division, the Warriors hit their stride in the postseason and notched their third I-75 League World Championship, following similar conquests in 2006 (over Littleton) and 2007 (Margaritaville).

“Winning three World Series titles in 10 years is an honor,” said South Grand Prairie skipper Garth Lewis. “All three series were down to the wire against two of the top Strat minds in the country (John McMillan and Phil Roselli). Having the opportunity to be in this league has been a blast and something I’m really happy I’ve been able to do.”

Roselli’s Chatfield Choo-Choos had entered the postseason as a heavy favorite after a 106-win season that saw them capture the South Division by 21 games. So jumping out to a 3-0 lead was no surprise.

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Playoff pairings set after wild finish to 2014 season

It took a 161-game season and several days into November, but we’ve finally locked down the five teams that will challenge postseason favorite Chatfield for the 2014 I-75 League crown.

Margaritaville defeated Michigan 10-1 in a Game 161 blowout to secure the third wild-card position, spoiling the Moneyballers’ bid for a postseason berth in just their third season.

West Division champions Chatfield (106-54) and North Division champion South Grand Prairie (87-73) earned the top two seeds and first-round byes. The Warriors had to take 3 out of 5 from Destin in their final series to clinch the division title outright, and that’s exactly what they did.

South Grand Prairie will await the winner of an unusual first-round series that has the sixth-seeded Volcanoes with the better regular-season record (85-76) than the third-seeded team they play, Savannah (83-77). As South Division champion, Savannah gets the home-field advantage.

Chatfield will watch while fourth-seeded Bismarck (86-74) tangles with playoff newcomer and fifth-seeded Iowa (85-75), which makes the playoffs in its third season in the league.

Final records and playoff matchups are tentative, pending a review of final statistics by the Rules Enforcement Committee. That review is under way.

In addition to Michigan’s heartbreak, Springfield is the other club bemoaning its fate, missing the playoffs despite an 82-win season and second-place finish in the South. The Isotopes went into the month tied with Savannah with 71 wins, but an 0-5 mark in a head-to-head showdown with the Scorpions proved fatal to their playoff chances.

Thrills await during 20-game sprint to the wire

With 20 games to go, there is plenty of excitement ahead of us on many fronts:

* Savannah and Springfield are tied for first in the South. The winner will take the division; the loser might not even make the playoffs, as they are three games behind the wild-card leaders.

* Iowa and Michigan right now are leaders in the wild-card clubhouse and headed for their first postseasons in their brief franchise histories.

* The North Division has begun to separate, with the South Grand Prairie Warriors opening up a two-game lead and the Applegate Paperclips tumbling below the .500 mark. Margaritaville is in a classic ‘tweener position; the Volcanoes are just 2 behind the division lead; they hold down a wild-card berth at the moment, but could get knocked out entirely with Bismark (1GB) hot on their heels.

Check out how the ‘wild-card’ standings look right now;  the top three teams with the best records apart from the division champions make the playoffs:

CHATFIELD 94 46 .671
S.GRAND PRAIRIE 76 64 .543
* SAV/SPR 71 69 .507
IOWA 77 63 .550
MICHIGAN 75 65 .536
BISMARCK 73 67 .521 1
* SAV/SPR 71 49 .507 3
DESTIN 70 70 .500 4
APPLEGATE 69 71 .493 5

* tied for division lead and 3 GB in wild-card race

State of the Expansion Franchise: Destin

Last in a five-part series reflecting on our 2012 expansion.

There’s no truth to the rumor that at the Destin Beach Bums’ home stadium, turnstiles have been replaced with revolving doors.

Even though that would be appropriate for the expansion franchise that has seen more turnover than any other, both on the field and in the front office.

Debuting in 2012 under GM Rick Lackey as the English Pigdogs, the club has wheeled and dealed and cut with reckless abandon, and now sports just three remaining players out of 40 who were part of the organization prior to it playing its first game less than three years ago.

Now known as the Destin Beach Bums, the club remains in search of an identity as it is reshaped yet again under new manager Mark Gergel, while lurking on the fringe of playoff contention.

Freddie Freeman

Freddie Freeman

Destin Beach Bums Roster Evolution

Players acquired pre-2012: 40
Players dealt away: 17
Players cut: 20
Still Pigdogs/Beach Bums: 3  — OF John Jay, SS J.J. Hardy, P Nathan Eovaldi.

2014 record: 59-61 (.492)
2013 record: 62-98 (.388)
2012 record: 62-98 (.388)

Face of the franchise: Freddie Freeman

Fast Fact: An abysmal record within its division — 10-25 — doesn’t bode well for a playoff bid with 25 games still to play against North clubs. Destin is 49-36 (.576) outside the division.

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State of the Expansion Franchise: Michigan

Part IV of a five-part series reflecting on our 2012 expansion.

The Michigan Moneyballers will forever be known as the club that passed on Mike Trout and instead selected catcher Alex Avila with the first overall pick in the 2012 Draft.

Trout is already a legend at age 23, and he’s helping carry the Iowa Cyclones to what looks to be their first playoff berth this year. Avila was cut by Michigan manager Ken Crawford after the club’s 2013 season.

But the Moneyballers aren’t feeling that bad for themselves. They dealt shortstop J.J. Hardy to Chatfield that first winter in exchange for Adam Jones, who has turned out to be a pretty fair center fielder of his own. Jones leads this year’s Moneyballers in homers (15) and RBI (73) through 120 games as Michigan holds down one of the three wild-card spots with 40 games to play.

Adam Jones

Adam Jones

Michigan Moneyballers Roster Evolution

Players acquired pre-2012: 34
Players dealt away: 10
Players cut: 18
Still Moneyballers: 6  — OF Peter Bourjos, 1B Brandon Belt, P Homer Bailey, CF Adam Jones, P Ricky Nolasco.

2014 record: 64-56 (.533)
2013 record: 67-93 (.419)
2012 record: 60-100 (.375)

Face of the franchise: Adam Jones

GM Style: Charts R Us — Michigan has more than twice as many sac bunt attempts as the league’s No. 2 team, and also leads the league in hit-and-run attempts.

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State of the Expansion Franchise: Satellite Beach

Part III of a five-part series reflecting on our 2012 expansion.

The Satellite Beach Brawlers were the fastest expansion team out of the chute in 2012, with 69 wins, but have hit a big-time speed bump in their third season.

With a lineup that ranks last in the league in offense and first in the league in errors, Satellite Beach is a non-factor in this year’s pennant race, but still sees promise on the horizon.

Justin Upton

Justin Upton

Satellite Beach Brawlers Roster Evolution

Players acquired pre-2012: 34
Players dealt away: 6
Players cut: 22
Still Brawlers: 6  — IF Marco Scutaro, 3B Edwin Encarnacion, P Brandon Beachy, IF Brett Lawrie, C Wilson Ramos, OF Justin Upton.

2014 record: 45-75 (.375)
2013 record: 67-93 (.419)
2012 record: 69-91 (.431)

Face of the franchise: Justin Upton

GM Style: Draft and Develop — The Brawlers make deliberate draft selections, prefer to trust their judgment and wait for them to pan out.

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