2004 Season


   2004 Season

Edition No. 31

October 5, 2004

(Somewhere in Missouri)









In a Hot Stove League campaign for the ages, Skipper’s Senators outlasted fierce competition from the field to finish the 2004 campaign on top of the leaderboard, completing Skipper’s quest to join Itchie in the select company of four-time HSL winners. To cap off an illustrious season that will forever be known in HSL annals as The Great Race of Aught Four, Skipper’s bold charges used a final-weekend flurry to vault past the tenacious Tigers, the rabid Redbirds and the cap-besieged Wahoos and Skipjacks and into 1st place in the HSL standings at season’s end. Not unlike the real-life 2004 Houston Astros, the cream-like Senators rose to the top when it counted, at the end, which was their first Sunday night visit to the top of the standings the entire 2004 season.

It was a fantastic finish to a great season, which saw an unprecedented five teams enter the final week of the season with a realistic chance at finishing on top. At the start of Week 26, the Wahoos paced the field with 9473.0 points, a cushion of 60 points over the 2nd-place Senators and 66 points over the 3rd-place Redbirds, with the Tigers close behind at 9396.0 and the Skipjacks within catching distance at 9347.5. Never before, and probably never again, will five teams enter the final week of the season with only 125.5 points separating 1st from 5th. It is also highly unlikely that we will ever again see four teams entering the final two days of the season with a legitimate chance of winning it all, or a race in which the 1st place team on Saturday morning ended up as the 4th place team on Sunday night, as was the fate of the Hanover Wahoos.

Congratulations one and all on a great season, and plaudits to everyone for competing so aggressively from Start to Finish in the 2004 campaign. It was great to look at the transaction wire each Monday morning and see that even the teams that were situated in the Southern end of the Lower Division were drafting free agents, promoting and demoting, and making moves to try to better themselves in the standings, even where the best that could be hoped for was to climb a single rung up the ladder. It’s all about the competition, and not where we end up. Well, okay, it’s obviously better to end up in 1st than in 11th, but the journey’s the thing, not the destination.

Now that there’s not a dry eye in the house, let me snap you all back to reality with the final standings and the Week 26 point totals:


1. Senators 9804.5
2. Redbirds 9723.0
3. Tigers 9682.5
4. Wahoos 9677.0
5. Skipjacks 9625.5
6. Reds 9337.0
7. Chiefs 8748.5
8. Bombers 8747.5
9. Irates 8679.5
10. Blues 8611.5
11. Cubs* 8538.0
12. Tribe 6176.5


1. Blues 448.5
2. Senators 391.5
3. Reds 351.5
4. Bombers 323.0
5. Redbirds 316.0
6. Chiefs 313.5
7. Tigers 286.5
8. Skipjacks 278.0
9. Irates 247.5
10. Tribe 209.5
11. Cubs* 206.5
12. Wahoos 204.0

(Hmmm, Skipper thought to himself as he drove south on Highway 71 through inner-city Kansas City and eyed the Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard exit, I wonder if this would be a good spot to pull off and refuel?, as his Jeep Liberty sputtered on fumes. However, seeing as how he was not wearing his protective go-go boots for footwear, he thought better of it and successfully chanced it to the first suburban exit.)

I am dictating this edition of From the Bullpen as I head south on Tuesday toward Springfield, Missouri, for a late afternoon deposition of a medical expert in my hepatitis C mass tort litigation, and so you will excuse me if my thoughts bounce around a bit as I perceive my environment around me during the trip. Before I tune my radio in to the Dodgers-Cardinals playoff game, let me share with you now the team pitching and hitting standings for the 2004 season:


1. Tigers 6103.0
2. Reds 6071.0
3. Senators 6049.0
4. Skipjacks 6026.0
5. Wahoos 6004.0
6. Blues 5957.0
7. Redbirds 5909.0
8. Irates 5718.0
9. Bombers 5533.0
10. Chiefs 5490.0
11. Cubs* 5004.0
12. Tribe 4427.0


1. Redbirds 3814.0
2. Senators 3756.0
3. Wahoos 3673.0
4. Skipjacks 3600.0
5. Tigers 3580.0
6. Cubs* 3535.0
7. Reds 3266.0
8. Chiefs 3259.0
9. Bombers 3215.0
10. Irates 2962.0
11. Blues 2655.0
12. Tribe 1750.0


Big Guy made the interesting observation that his Tigers led the circuit in hitting points with 6103.0 points, even though Big Guy drafted 12th and picked pitchers (RJ, Gagne, Kevin Brown) in the first three rounds of the Draft. The lesson to be learned? Draft pitching first, because hitters are fungible.
But try telling that to Shamu. Sir Charles also went pitching, pitching, pitching in Rounds 1, 2 and 3 (Pedro, Hudson and Mussina), finished a distant 11th in hitting, and finished 11th in the overall standings. My advice: Draft better pitchers.
U-Bob may want to reanalyze his drafting strategy next season. Mr. “Hitting is Everything, Pitching is Nothing” drafted hitters in each of the first five rounds, but finished dead last in hitting (by 777 points) to go with his dead-last pitching. Something needs a bit of tweaking here.
Big Guy’s Tiger hitters knocked out a probable record 2021 collective hits, and had a team batting average of .297. That’s right, I said a team batting average of .297. I don’t have the statistics to prove it, but I would imagine that this is an all-time HSL record. At the other end of the spectrum, the Tribe posted a team batting average of .266, which is way bad, but probably not a league record. The other ten teams had collective batting averages ranging from the Irates’ .273 to the Skipjacks’ and Chiefs’ .289, which would seem to be the usual range.
The Skipjacks belted out a total of 322 home runs, losing even more to homer caps than the Wahoos, who had a total of 321 dingers. The Jax also capped out on RBIs with 1096, and had 137 more RBIs than runs, meaning that they in effect lost 137 points to the RBI cap. Guess you guys didn’t see this coming, eh?
The Wahoos led the league in free passes with 875, well above the allowable limit. (We know, we know, Possum. It’s not fair, it’s not logical, it’s not right. But like the expanding bald spot on the back of Itchie’s head, it’s there. Deal with it.)
The Blues led the league with 192 stolen bases, followed by the Chiefs with 189. The Blues and Chiefs finished 10th and 7th, respectively. You do the math. Speed kills in this league.
Even though the Tigers blew the pack away with their .297 batting average, and even though Itchie’s Jax were suffocated by the homer and RBI caps, the Jax still led the league in hitting points per game with 3.8, well ahead of the Redbirds with 3.6 PPG, and inexplicably, the Blues with 3.6. Maybe somebody should have told McBlunder that his hitters were doing this well, so he could have gotten them a few more at-bats. Details, details. Four different teams, the Senators, Tigers, Reds and Wahoos, all averaged 3.5 PPG. Of these four teams, three finished in the top four. It’s not how many points per game your players are averaging, it’s how you manage them, obviously.

On the pitching side of the equation, the well-balanced Redbirds led the league in ERA (3.44), had enough but not too many saves (78), and led the league in Q1 outings (191).

The Wahoos led the league in pitching winning percentage at .601 with a 101 and 67 record, converting an obscenely high percentage of their 107 Q6 starts. While Starter Wins Blown By Other Teams’ Relievers is usually a fervent source of whine material for Possum, he’s been mysteriously silent on this subject this season. Perhaps because my own Senators matched his team ERA precisely at 3.54 and had 18 more Q6 starts, but managed 8 fewer wins and 19 more losses than the Wahoos staff, with a sub-par .520 winning percentage for the Senators pitching staff.
And then you have the Chiefs, who posted an incredible 104 and 79 pitching record with only 102 Q6 starts, with a pitching staff that sported a stinky 4.42 collective ERA. Despite this largesse in the pitching win department, the Chiefs could manage only a sub-par 7.1 PPG for its staff.
Not to be left unmentioned, the Tribe staff and its 4.60 team ERA and 8 (not a misprint) team saves and 1750 total points, was lapped by six other pitching staffs, each of which scored a total of more than 3500 points, or more than double the Tribe staff’s total.

10/6/04 (Kansas City)


For anyone who desires to see an update of our historical summary of final finishes, click on the HSL Winner’s Circle link. Maybe I really do have too much time on my hands, but after last night’s Twins-Yankees Game 1 was over, I was bored silly in my hotel room in Kansas City and decided to spend some time poring over the numbers. For the record:



The Senators 1st-place finish in 2004 was –– and I realize that you all know this –– the fourth title in the proud history of this franchise, and the 2004 pennant will now fly proudly with my pennants from 1990, 1997 and 2001. This was the eleventh money finish for the Senators in twenty years of HSL competition, and the twelfth Upper Division finish in this same span. As Dizzy Dean once told a baseball writer, “Them’s not lies, them’s scoops.”


In the Bridesmaid Revisited Department, the Redbirds’ 2nd-place finish was their fourth time as runner-up, and their fourth money finish and eighth Upper Division finish in twelve years of play. The Chirpers’ jump from 8th place in 2003 to 2nd place in 2004 was the second biggest leap in the league.  Well done, Jim Ed.


The Tigers’ 3rd-place finish was their seventh time in the money in twenty years of competition, and their eleventh UD finish. Their nine-place jump from dead last to third makes Big Guy the HSL Manager of the Year favorite for 2004, in my opinion.


Possum’s squad just missed out on their tenth money finish in twenty years of play, but remarkably, the proud Possum franchise has now finished in the Upper Division an incredible sixteen times in twenty years. Fantastic job of competing this year, Possum. Next year, bone up on those point caps before Draft Day.


In spite of their failed bid for a fifth title and a seventh money finish in seventeen years of competition, the Jax managed a respectable 5th-place finish and an impressive eleventh UD berth in seventeen years in the league. Like the Sooners after Barry Switzer stepped down, the legendary “Itchie Magic” finally petered out. That said, great season, Bone. For someone who thought his team sucked on Draft Day (along with the rest of us) you done yourself proud.


While Tricko’s charges stumbled to their worst finish since 1998, they nevertheless managed to finish in the Upper Division for the sixteenth time in seventeen years of competition. Incredible. While the Reds’ drop from 1st to 6th was somewhat precipitous, finishing in the top half of this group ain’t bad. Look for a rebound in 2005.


Although the Chiefs dropped two spots from their 2003 5th-place finish, some adroit managing by Screecher allowed the Chiefs to pass up several teams toward the end of the season, and possibly saved his job. While Boss Steinbrenner isn’t exactly thrilled at finishing 7th, it appears that Screech’s job is secure for at least one more year. Go get ’em in ’05, boys.


Mouse’s boys slipped a spot from their 7th-place finish in 2003 and their lone  UD finish in 2002, but it wasn’t for lack of trying on the part of Brother Mouse. With a little bit of luck and one more year of managerial experience under his belt, look for Mouse’s squad to slip through the “back door” in ’05 and surprise a few people.


Although the Irates had great promise in the early part of the season, at one point actually finding themselves in 3rd place, as the wear and tear of the season went on and as Underbelly ran out of players to contribute to the Irates’ cause, SloPay’s team fell back to 9th and equaled their 2003 placement. This was the Irates’ fifth 9th-place finish in eighteen years of HSL competition, and their twelfth Lower Division finish in the last thirteen years of play. Look for Captain Graybeard to shake things up in his organization and make a move toward the UD next season.



Never has a team worked so hard to get themselves into 10th place. For the bulk of the 2004 season, it looked like to all the world as if Stretch’s boys would finish in the penultimate position, but some scrappy and bold proactive measures in the tail end of the campaign vaulted the Blues past the Cubs* and into 10th place. Nothing like saving your best for the last week of the season, eh, Stretch? Give yourself a pat on the back for moving up one spot from last year.



My only question here is: What happened? Shamu picked a team on Draft Day that was the consensus No. 1, but it became apparent early on that they were nothing more than a paper tiger. One theory is the five S hypothesis: Sammy Sosa Sans Steroids Sucks. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine. But look at it this way, Shamu. Even though your wheels came completely off at the end and even the Blues passed you by, you still finished more than 2300 points ahead of the team behind you. So at least you have that going for you.



Just for giggles, here were my preseason predictions for 2004:

1. Chiefs
2. Senators
3. Reds
4. Cubs*
5. Skipjacks
6. Tigers
7. Wahoos
8. Bombers
9. Redbirds
10. Tribe
11. Blues
12. Irates


I will save for a future issue my “How Great I Art” recap of how the Senators were built and managed to the title in 2004, to give you all time to stock up on anti-nausea medication. I will also provide you with individual player point totals and some other great tidbits of fascinating information in the next issue. Enough said, for now.

Let me close this issue by congratulating everyone for another great year of Hot Stove League competition, from start to finish. Draft Day was the funnest day of the year, as usual, the Trip to San Diego and PETCO Park was an all-timer, and the furious finish to the 2004 campaign was historic and titillating, at least for the top five. Our second year of scheduled guest writings for posting on the HSL website was an unparalleled success, as each offering was insightful and funny, if not always timely. Finally, the action on the HSL Message Board was spirited and plentiful, even if dominated by Possum and his run-on paragraphs and frequently inscrutable diatribes. To the man, I believe that we are all richer, at least spiritually if not financially, for having competed in this great league for one more season.

Do we really have to wait until March of next year to start it all over again?

With great appreciation and admiration for all, I remain,

Very truly yours,








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