Margaritaville repeats as I-75 League World Champs

The turning point came in the seventh inning of Game Four.

To that point, Applegate had taken a 2-1 lead in the series and was up 3-0 through six innings. The Paperclips were nine outs away from taking a commanding 3-1 series lead. Starter Kyle Hendricks had allowed just one hit over six shutout innings.

Then, the dam broke.

Joey Votto singled and Justin Turner homered, cutting Applegate’s lead to 3-2 and bringing Hendricks’ night to a sudden close. Lefty Justin Wilson came on to face Charlie Blackmon, but Blackmon singled. Righty Fernando Rodney spelled Wilson and retired Gary Sanchez and Domingo Santana, but allowed Blackmon to steal second. The Clips decided no more messin’ around and called on lefty ace Andrew Miller to face Robinson Cano, but Cano laced a game-tying single. The very next batter, Francisco Lindor, blasted a two-run homer and in the blink of an eye, the Clips were down 5-3. Margaritaville had stifled the Clips’ momentum.

That inning ignited a Volcanic eruption that saw Margaritaville score 11 runs in Game Five (an 11-5 win), seven runs in Game Six (an 8-7 loss in 11 innings) and 10 runs in the decisive Game Seven, a 10-2 anticlimactic blowout that gave Margaritaville its second World Championship in a row.

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Clips to employ ‘secret weapons’ in desperate bid to upend Volcanoes

It’s Applegate vs. Margaritaville for the 2018 I-75 League World Championship, coined by some as “The Mismatch of the Century.”

No. 2 seeded Applegate fought back its longtime rivals, the sixth-seeded Bushwood Gophers, taking four out of five Pennant Series games to advance, while the top-seeded Volcanoes mashed No. 4 seeded Superior in five games as well, outscoring the Titans 37-14, to earn a chance to defend their league title.

But while record-wise, a matchup pitting a 106-win team against a 101-win team might seem like a juicy duel, Applegate Manager Gary Kicinski reiterated a midseason sentiment: “We have no chance. At least — not employing conventional weapons.”

Kicinski noted that since the trading deadline, the Volcanoes are 14-1 against the Paperclips and Titans, the teams with the second- and third-best records in the league. Margaritaville swept the Clips in a five-game series in September, the Titans in a five-game series in August, and just concluded the four-out-of-five playoff landslide against Superior. “They have future Hall of Famers up and down their lineup. They have the best of the players they drafted, and the best of the players Savannah drafted. It’s like one against two.”

But, all is not lost. By receiving special dispensation from the league commissioner, the Clips were able to make a pair of offseason off-the-books trades to acquire the key components they’ll need in order to have any chance at all of not getting their doors blown off.

Applegate has acquired Manager Dave Renbarger from the Bushwood Gophers in exchange for a bag of chocolate donuts, and manager Jason Renbarger from the New New York Hypnotoads in exchange for naming rights to something that is More More Sensible.

Dave Renbarger guided the Gophers to an improbable 11-4 record against Margaritaville this season, while Jason Renbarger skippered the worst team the planet has ever seen, one that went a historically bad 36-124, to a 3-2 series win over the Volcanoes in July. Dave will be in the third-base coaching box during the World Championship for Applegate and Jason will coach first.

“We know that John McMillan will manage his club differently against us in the postseason than he did against those teams during the regular season,” Kicinski said. “All of his top players will be active and the rules are different in the postseason.

“But if some of that Dave and Jason karma doesn’t rub off on us… we have no chance.”

Take that, millennials: Veteran managers fill Final Four slots

The Canadian Football League plays for the Grey Cup. Given the four teams still alive in this year’s I-75 League playoffs, should we be calling our trophy “The Greybeard Cup”?

Four managers with a zillion years of experience remain alive in pursuit of our 39th championship, after original franchise managers Dave and Mike Renbarger piloted their clubs to five-game series victories in the Division Series round of play.

Dave’s Bushwood Gophers, who survived a Game 161 tiebreaker with Dyersville to earn the sixth seed and a shot at No. 3 seed South Grand Prairie, rode a pair of victories from ace Justin Verlander to advancement. Mike’s Superior Titans came in with the No. 4 seed and dispatched Savannah in five games, after the Scorpions had lost their own division-title-tiebreaker Game 161 with South Grand Prairie to settle for the fifth seed.

That sets up semifinal rounds featuring:

  • #6 Bushwood vs. #2 Applegate
  • #4 Superior vs. #1 Margaritaville

In addition to Dave and Mike Renbarger being two of the league’s five managers who remain in the league from its 1980 debut, they are tied with six league World Championships earned in 39 years. Applegate’s Gary Kicinski, who is another of those five, although he did take a four-year hiatus, has three World Championships to his credit and is looking for a fourth. Margaritaville’s John McMillan has been in the league 16 years and is the defending champion with consecutive 106-win seasons on his resume.

In the Bushwood-South Grand Prairie tussle, the Gophers prevailed twice in matchups featuring Verlander and Warriors ace Max Scherzer, once in a blowout (Game One, 11-1) and once in a nail-biter (Game Four, 1-0). Verlander went 2-0 with a 0.63 ERA. Jesse Winker provided the offensive support, hitting .636 with four homers and a double. The Warriors’ only win came in Game Two by a 4-3 count.

Superior too rode some studly starting pitching to its series victory as Cory Kluber pitched a complete-game five-hit shutout in Game One (3-0) and went the distance again in the Game Five clincher, a 6-3 win. Bryce Harper hit .563 in the series with two homers, three doubles, six walks and seven RBIs. Savannah’s win came in a Game Three matchup of lefties, thanks to great bullpen work in relief of James Paxton and a four-run rally in the seventh for a 6-5 win.

Bushwood and Applegate split their 10 regular-season games, while Margaritaville had its way with Superior, winning eight out of 10.

Margaritaville duplicates 106-win total; Game 161s settle two playoff berths

The Big Prize was long-ago largely settled, that being league best record and No. 1 playoff seed, which Margaritaville sewed up awhile ago.

But there was plenty of drama elsewhere as the I-75 League wrapped up its 39th season and set the stage for playoff clashes:

  • Bushwood and Dyersville finished tied for the final playoff spot when the Treblemakers exploded for a 15-win October to match the Gophers’ 88-win total. But Bushwood captured the playoff game 5-3 thanks to 6 2/3 hitless bullpen innings, ending Dyersville’s season and allowing Bushwood to claim the No. 6 playoff seed.
  • Savannah and South Grand Prairie tied for the Southbound Division title at 90-70, resulting in a one-game playoff, won by the Warriors 4-1, as Max Scherzer and two relievers held the Scorpions to three hits. SGP was awarded the division crown and a No. 3 seed, while Savannah settled for a No. 5 seed.
  • In the Westbound Division, Applegate won 4-out-of-5 against Superior and went on to a 15-win month. The Clips needed almost all of those wins as Superior went 12-3 in its remaining games to finish just three back of the Paperclips. Superior collected a No. 4 seed and division champ Applegate, by virtue of its 101 wins, secured the division crown and first-round bye.

Margaritaville racked up 106 wins for the second year in a row and will use its first-round by to await the winner of No. 5 Savannah vs. No. 4 Superior.

Applegate will take on the winner of No. 6 Bushwood vs. No. 3 South Grand Prairie.

At the other end of the spectrum, the New New York Hypnotoads set a futility record with a three-win October that resulted in a 36-124 record, obliterating the league record of 114 losses and even topping the modern major league loss record of 120 set by the 1962 New York Mets.

Superior’s Avisail Garcia won the league batting title at .349. South Grand Prairie’s Giancarlo Stanton clubbed 61 homers and drove in 141 runs to win both of those titles.

Bismarck’s Zack Greinke was the league’s only 20-game winner; he finished second in the ERA race to Superior’s Corey Kluber (2.39). Destin’s Chris Sale whiffed 301 to win the strikeout title.

Three games separates six teams in furious battle for one final playoff spot

It’s the final month of the 2018 season, and while the race for the No. 1 playoff seed was long ago sewn up, the fight for the No. 6 seed has turned into a dogfight the likes of which the league has seldom seen in its 39-year history.

Aided by the ruling of two forfeits following the discovery of player limit abuse in September, our October showdown features six teams  — West Atlanta, Bushwood, Satellite Beach, Destin, Dyersville and Bismarck — separated by three games in contention for the final postseason berth.

Additionally, Superior sliced Applegate’s lead in the Westbound Division to just one game and Savannah’s lead over South Grand Prairie stands at two games in the Southbound Division.

After 140-game statistics were submitted, it was discovered that Satellite Beach’s Miguel Sano and Austin Jackson had already exceeded their player limits for the year by 16 and 21 at-bats, respectively. The Brawlers were assessed two forfeits for their infraction, dropping their win total from 76 (which would have left them holding the final playoff berth going into October) to 74, one game behind wild-card spot.

Sano and Jackson exceeded their at-bat totals by 16 and 21 respectively in series against Dyersville and East Cobb. Dyersville was awarded one forfeit victory, boosting its win total from 72 to 73 and strengthening the Treblemakers’ playoff hopes. East Cobb was not awarded a forfeit, however, as the Juice squeezed a few too many at-bats out of J.D. Martinez and Miguel Rojas that they weren’t entitled to — 3 and 14, respectively. This occurred in series against Satellite Beach and South Grand Prairie. East Cobb thus was deemed to have offset its gain vs. Satellite Beach with its infraction. South Grand Prairie was awarded a forfeit victory, giving the Warriors a more comfortable hold on the fifth playoff spot, and nudging them to within two games of the division lead. Further penalties could be dished out at the end of the season in accordance with the league penalty structure.

September also saw the Bismarck Bombers thrust themselves into postseason consideration with a 13-7 month, while West Atlanta’s 14-6 month enabled the Crush to tie the Gophers for the final playoff spot if the season ended today.

And so, with intradivisional play across the board in October, division crowns are at stake in two of the three divisions, and two wild-card spots are virtually up for grabs.

With 107 losses, New New York needs 13 losses to tie the New York Mets’ futility record of 120 losses set in 1962. The league record of 114, set by South Grand Prairie in 2012, is easily within reach.

WILD-CARD STANDINGS

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
MARGARITAVILLE 93 47 .664
APPLEGATE 86 54 .614
SAVANNAH 81 59 .579
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
SUPERIOR 85 55 .607 +10
S. GRAND PRAIRIE 79 61 .564 +4
W. ATLANTA 75 65 .536
BUSHWOOD 75 65 .536
SATELLITE BEACH 74 66 .529 -1
DESTIN 74 66 .529 -1
DYERSVILLE 73 67 .521 -2
BISMARCK 72 68 .514 -3

Worse Than the ’62 Mets? Hypnotoads Practically a Lock

After a 3-17 August, the New New York Hypnotoads are on pace to post a 160-game record for futility that will eclipse that of the 1962 New York Mets, considered the worst team of the Modern Era.

Those Mets went 40-120 (.250) and finished 60 1/2 games out of first place.

The Hyp-no-wins stand 26-94 (.217), and already have been eliminated from divisional championship consideration at 42 games behind. They need to go 15-25 in order to finish ahead of the Mets, which seems extraordinarily unlikely considering they haven’t won more than five games in a month all year.

The top of the Southbound Division remains infinitely more interesting, as the reluctant Scorpions keep winning games despite the efforts of their front office to dismantle the team. Savannah and South Grand Prairie are deadlocked at 68-52 with 40 games to play. That tandem also holds down the third and final wild-card position at this point.

At 81-39 and with a 17-game lead, Margaritaville is making a mockery of the Northbound Division “race.” After limping to a four-win August, last-place Tatooine carries a “tragic” number of 2 into September play — any combination of Margaritaville wins or Tatooine losses adding up to 2 will eliminate the Rebels from the divisional title race. And if you’re curious, Margaritaville needs to go 35-5 to attain 116 wins and match baseball’s regular-season record, held by the 1906 Chicago Cubs and 2001 Seattle Mariners.

Then there’s the Westbound Division, where Applegate has posted double-digit win totals each month this season and Superior weathered a winless series against Margaritaville in August to cling to a three-game deficit behind the Paperclips. But in September it’s the Clips’ turn to likely get bludgeoned by the Volcanorpions. Superior does hold down the first wild-card spot, followed by division mate Satellite Beach.

Last-place Boulder is a whopping 35 games back of Applegate but did post a 10-win August to leap from 30 wins to 40 wins — although four of those wins came at the expense of New New Yuck.

WILD-CARD STANDINGS

 

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
MARGARITAVILLE 81 39 .675
APPLEGATE 75 45 .625
SAVANNAH 68 52 .567
S. GRAND PRAIRIE 68 52 .567
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
SUPERIOR 72 48 .600 +4
SATELLITE BEACH 69 51 .575 +1
SAV/SGP 68 52 .567
BUSHWOOD 64 56 .533 -4
DESTIN 63 57 .525 -5
DYT/WATL 61 59 .508 -7

With 60 games to go — is there any point?

We imagine the conversation that changed everything went something like this…

Ring, ring.

GRID: “Hello, hi Steve!”

HART: “How did you know it was me?”

GRID: “You’re calling me on the direct hotline we established last year after the David Ortiz trade…”

HART: “Oh yeah, that’s right. I understand you’re making Mookie Betts available and I want to make an offer.”

GRID: “I’ve been expecting your call! And I accept!”

HART: “Wait, you haven’t even heard what I’m offering.”

GRID: “I know based on our last six trades in 20 months that you will make me an offer that I will find acceptable.”

WILD-CARD STANDINGS

 

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
MARGARITAVILLE 66 34 .660
APPLEGATE 62 38 .620
SAVANNAH 56 44 .560
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
SUPERIOR 61 39 .610 +6
SATELLITE BEACH 58 42 .580 +3
SGP/DBB 55 45 .550
WEST ATLANTA 54 46 .540 -1
BUSHWOOD 52 48 .520 -3
BISMARCK 50 50 .500 -5

HART: “Thank you for those kind words. So I want to offer you Charlie Blackmon…”

GRID: “Charlie Blackmon, perennial .300 hitter, reigning NL batting champion, for Betts? I accept! Pleasure dealing with—”

HART: “Hold on. I’m also offering Rhys Hoskins…”

GRID: “Hoskins, eh? No. 18 pick overall in this year’s draft? Guy with the 18-homer in 170 at-bat season and 1.014 OPS card? Hmm…. I like Hoskins but because he’s limited I think I’ll take Blackmon.”

HART: “You don’t understand — they’re both in the deal.”

GRID: “Both? I get Blackmon and the 25-year-old Hoskins? Currently with 21 homers and fifth in the NL with 70 RBIs? I accept.”

HART: “Hold on, I’m not done. I’m also including Michael Fulmer in the deal.”

GRID: “Michael Fulmer? He has one of the top starting pitcher cards this year! He was eighth in the majors in 2017 with a .644 OPS. He had a 1.15 WHIP last year. He’s better than any starting pitcher on my staff. He’s in the deal too??? I accept! I accept!” Continue reading