Designs on a 6th Championship and A Game 7 to Remember

After a pair of 2nd place finishes last season between the division and the GLBL championships, this year’s Architects had designs on heading back to the Championship series with something to prove.   They would need all 7 games and 5 extra innings in the GLBL Championships to do it.

A hot Chicago start in April, going 20-3, was followed by a losing month in May,   Chicago bounced back and held onto the lead for the rest of the season, though in early June they were tied for first, not with  — as many suspected — Milwaukee.  It was Traverse City led by MVP Pedro Morales, who won the batting title with a .349 AVG and finished with an 8.2 WAR.  The Bears had surprised everyone and while they never passed the Architects, they did manage a clear wild card berth and were the only other team in the league to win more than 80 games.

Chicago finished with 91 wins, a far cry rom their 100+ of the last two seasons, but good enough for the best in the league   The offense led was by Daniel Huffman (302/402/556), who led the GLBL in HR with 35, and aided by OF Eric Pryor (.928 OPS, 5.5 WAR) and 3B Paul Boulay (.905 OPS, 5.9 WAR)   On the mound, Antonio Mendez and Everton Mounsey led the league in ERA (2.48 and 2.54 respectively).   Tom Higgines was the rock in the bullpen with a 2.28 ERA and 22 saves.

 

 

While the Canadian division see-sawed back and forth, the USA was decided earlier.   TC would face Chicago in the opening round of the playoffs.   Unfortunately for TC, they could manage just 5 runs in four games and were swept out of the wild card.   Meanwhile, Owen Sound emerged leading Canada and defeated Toronto in 5 games.  Both teams were looking to be in good form advancing into the Championship.

 

With Chicago taking the first two games in Owen Sound (and opening the playoffs with six wins), they looked unbeatable.   Owen Sound responded with a decisive 7-2 win in Chicago, but the Architects had an answer of their own, winning the next 10-3.  Backed against a wall trailing 3-1, Owen Sound won 9-5 in Chicago again to make the series 3-2.   Game six evened the series at 3-3 when Owen Sound opened a 5 run lead and narrowly escaped with a 1 run win, setting the stage for one of the most exciting Game 7 games in GLBL history.

 

In Game 7, Chicago struck first in the top of the third, but Matthew Smith tied the game on a solo shot in the bottom half.  The Architects quickly took the lead back when Roberto Ortiz laced a single to center that scored Daniel Huffman in the top of the 4th.   That would be the last run scored until the bottom of the 9th.   His team trailing by a run, Shane MacKinley walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch.  Javier Crespo, on a 3-2 count with two outs, hit a shallow single to left, scoring Mackinely and tying the game in dramatic fashion.

 

By the time the 14th inning came around, Chicago had used 22 players, leaving only Dave Bell available.   Owen Sound had used 18 players.  Between the two teams, they would use 15 pitchers in 14 innings.   The top of the 14th, 10 innings after they had last scored, Bill Bungay doubled home Daniel Huffman, who scored his second run of the game to give Chicago the lead.  While they threatened with runners on 2nd and 3rd with just one out, Julien Pages escaped the jam and gave his team one more chance to come back.   Antonio Gomez walked the first batter, Matt Iles, but managed to get two fly outs.    Gomez then walked Brett Collins, likely pitching around him because the next batter was Julien Pages with no one to pinch hit for him.  This did move Miles into scoring position, but Pages swung at the first pitch, grounding out to short.     Unfortunately for Pages, he gave up the winning run and made the last out, likely a first in the GLBL (and doubtless the first in the final game of the GLBLG Championships). 

This gave Chicago their sixth championship and 4th since 2030.

Hamilton Captures First GLBL Title Since 2021

At long last, the fans in Hamilton again have a champion. The Mounties have won the 2035 GLBL
Championship, dispatching last year’s champs, the Chicago Architects, in six games.
The deciding game, won by Hamilton by the decisive score of 8-1, was anomalous in a hard-fought series rife with lead changes and late-inning comebacks.
The road to a championship is rarely a smooth one, and the Mounties’ path to victory was a rocky one
nearly from day one.   With the sting of their seven-game GLBL Finals defeat at the hands of the Architects last season still fresh, the Mounties were pre-season favorites to repeat as Canadian League champions, with largely the same team that won the division handily in 2034 returning.
But the Toronto Maples got off to a hot start, and the Mounties spent most of the regular season looking up at Toronto and over their shoulder at Owen Sound, who always loomed within striking distance. Injuries riddled the pitching staff, most notably a season-ending rotator cuff tear to #3 starter Josh O’Toole in early May.
 
Star outfielder/first baseman Eric Orr also had trouble staying in the lineup, playing only 64 games (while amassing 4.4 WAR).  But the starting pitchers who avoided the IL were rock solid, especially veteran superstar Fred Cannon (4.9 WAR) and rising star Gabriel Rodriguez (4.4 WAR), and although the offense went cold for stretches, lineup fixtures such as Claude Schwartz (5.5 WAR), Dominique Roy (5.0 WAR), and Mark March (4.3 WAR) turned in fine campaigns.
A late-May trade with Traverse City for outfielder Jim Riordan and closer Walt Bond, coupled with the July free agent-signing of veteran hurler Pascal Brunet, filled holes and added depth. The Mounties overtook Toronto in late August and kept Owen Sound at bay, ultimately finishing two games ahead of the Waveriders and three ahead of the Maples.
Owen Sound had frustrated the Mounties during the regular season, taking the season series 14-10 and winning some games by lopsided scores, notably a 15-2 pummelling on September 1. Some observers considered the Waveriders a slight favorite, but the Mounties won the Canadian Series with relative ease, outscoring Owen Sound 25-12 and finishing the Waveriders off in five games.
Suddenly, Hamilton’s offense was humming.  Chicago, winners of 100+ games for the second consecutive season, promised to be a more difficult test. In Game One right fielder Sergio DeJesus hit two home runs and Rodriguez gave the ball to Bond in the ninth with a 4-1 lead, but the when the normally unflappable closer squandered the lead, the momentum swerved sharply in favor of the defending champs. Orr’s tenth-inning two-run blast, however, put the Mounties in the
driver’s seat again and Bond finished up to give the Mounties a 1-0 Series lead.
 
As nerve-wracking as that was, the nail-biting moments were only beginning. In Game Two the Mounties built a 6-2 lead on the strength of an unlikely grand slam off the bat of light-hitting catcher Roberto Lopez, but Cannon and the bullpen were not up to the task, and the Architects chipped away at the lead until tying it in the bottom of the seventh. The Mounties were not to be denied on this day, however, as four of them— DeJesus, Luis Torres, Alex Reyes, and Roy—hit solo shots in the top of the ninth, and Hamilton escaped Chicago with a 10-6 Game Two victory.
No sooner had the Mounties built what seemed like a commanding Series lead that the façade began to crumble. The offense that had looked so formidable over the last week and a half looked anemic against Chicago ace Jeff Michaud in the Architects’ 6-0 Game Three triumph. In Game Four the bullpen, already worn a bit thin after Harris Wilson’s short start in Game Three, was pressed into early service again when Antonio Gomez left with a herniated disc after a near-perfect (one hit) four-and-a-third innings. The game went 12 innings but the more-rested Architects bullpen was sturdier and Chicago came out on top, 7-4, tying the Series.
With the bullpen gassed the Mounties needed an ace-like performance from Rodriguez in Game Five. They got it. Catcher Truman Good’s RBI-double in the fifth gave Hamilton a 3-2 advantage, and Rodriguez held  the lead until yielding to Florian Jacques in the eighth. Jacques pitched two scoreless frames for the save, and the Mounties were a win away from the title.
Back in Chicago for Game Six, Hamilton was determined not to play a seventh game. Cannon escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth unscathed; meanwhile, the Mounties’ bats had returned in full, with  home runs by Roy and Orr helping build a 8-1 lead. Travis Wallace got the final six outs and the Mounties were the kings of the GLBL for the first time since 2021.
 
The 2021 Mounties also won the Series in six games, and also defeated Chicago. The same two GMs who pulled the strings for the 2035 GLBL Series combatants, Al Borie and Alex Wobbema, were on hand in 2021—but the roles were reversed. Borie, who ran the Architects from 2015 to 2022, was on the losing side in ’21, while Wobbema, who was in charge in Hamilton from 2015 to 2023, got to hoist the trophy. Wobbema has a league-best four GLBL titles to his credit; Borie is now second with three.

Architects Build Upon Last Year’s Success

With just four outs remaining in their season, the Architects were down 0-1 with the bases loaded.   What looked like their best chance for scoring some runs had passed when the eventual series and USA MVP, Daniel Huffman, had struck out as the second batter sent down that inning.  It came down to David Mowry.  If the Mounties could get him out,  they would stand a very good chance of demolishing the Architects’ plans to cap off their historic regular season with a championship.

As they had become known for throughout the season, they would deliver with two outs. Mowry smashed a hard single up the middle that scored two runs after Truman Dares beat the throw home.  Chicago held onto and expanded that lead, winning the series and taking back-to-back championships, their fifth overall and third since winning in 2030.

It’s hard to imagine now, but the road to the 2034 championship really began the previous year.   Much the same roster found themselves in fifth place in the USA on May 25 , 2033.  Playoff odds at the time were 1.7% chance, the longest odds a team in the GLBL has overcome to make the playoffs. That team came back to make the wildcard and win it all.   This year they wanted to prove that wasn’t a fluke did more than that.

By April 18 of this season, Chicago had claimed first and never looked back.  A month later, they would have a 98% chance to make the playoffs which, oddly enough, was around the same time last season they held less than a 2% chance in 2033.

They held on to first the entire time, consistently flirting with a .700 win percentage during the first few months of the season.  That consistency was key because it was enough to weather Milwaukee’s hot 18 game streak and still maintain a lead of 8 games.   Shortly thereafter and for the rest of the season, the lead would remain in double digits and expand.   In the last 37 games of the season, Chicago lost just 5 games and went on an 18 game winning streak themselves.   The Architects set a new record of 107 wins in a single season, besting their own previous mark by 7 and finishing at 107-37.

While the team had several players who had career seasons, Alfredo Gutierrez won the Pitcher of the Year award and Daniel Huffman won the USA Lake Superior Best Player award.   Gutierrez finished the season 15-2 with a 2.89 ERA.  He gave up just 12 HR, walked 28 and struck out 109, earning a 4.5 WAR.  Huffman had a triple slash of .328/417/.579.  The SS had a ZR of +7.0 and led the team with 29 HR and 108 RBI. He also posted a 8.25 WAR, the 7th best in the last decade and 22nd ever in the GLBL.

Huffman remained the team leader in the postseason, hitting .451/.519/.683. Gutierrez struggled a bit, going 1-0 in 3 games with a 4 ERA. It would be a theme for Chicago’s struggling pitching and defense that showed some cracks against a hot Milwaukee offense in the first round. The more dominant Chicago offense was up to the task, though, and outpaced the Eagle’s scoring in five games to take the series.

Not unexpectedly, Hamilton proved a bit more defensive minded, but what may have been a surprise is that the Mounties took the seesaw series to 7, in one of the most riveting series ever in the GLBL. It went Chicago’s way, but Hamilton was within just a few outs of toppling the odds on favorites.

As we head into 2035, the Chicago Architects return with a mostly intact roster facing the challenge of becoming the first GLBL team to win three titles in a row.

When an Eagle soars

What is it like to see a team win 18 in a row?  What are the odds that a very good team could achieve that feat in a well balanced league?  To further accentuate the oddity of it all, how likely is it that a team with a record of 27-31 just prior to the streak would be the team to achieve it?

 

Whatever the odds the Milwaukee Eagles defied them to win 18 straight in the middle of the 2034 season.  The hot streak propelled the Eagles into second place, yet still trailing the Chicago Architects by 10 games after their three game losing streak on the heels of the big 18.

Duluth was victimized seven times during the streak to lead the four losing teams in the loss department.  It was Traverse City, a loser three times between June 20-22, who finally put the knockout blow in place as they clobbered Milwaukee 12 to 4.

By all accounts this record may never be shattered.  But, it is baseball and we know that records are made to be broken.  Congrats to those Eagles for entertaining the GLBL with their dazzling display of winning baseball.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Architects engineer a turnaround to capture their 4th

For the fourth consecutive season, and sixth of seven,  the USA has prevailed in GLBL championship series.  The Chicago Architects won their 4th title as a Wild Card against a game Kingston Comet squad that was looking for their third championship ring.

The story behind the Architect season is best described by their own GM, Alex.

On April 26 last season, we were 7 games back of TC (6-13).   We stopped losing ground at that point, at least for a bit, TC, MIL, and even TOL (though that may have been earlier) traded places.   However, by late May, we were down 12 games to TC and 7 games out of 2nd.  While our winning percentage had improved, we had lost ground.

Early June, around June 2nd, we started to turn things around, beating TOL in a series by taking 2 of 3.  MIL beat them in the next series.  Those two series were key, pulling them back to the pack.  A 6-0 run the next week and we had passed Duluth and tied MIL.   However, Milwaukee took two of three in the next series, so by June 15, TC was in command of first by 6 games while MIL, CHI, and TOL were all within a game or so, but MIL held 2nd.

Interestingly, I looked back and saw that I had trade discussions the first week of June (before the 6-0 run) about my relievers, Swaneveld, and Whip Charles.   Luckily, no offers came of that at that point to make me pull the trigger (I was looking for more as I knew that probably meant throwing in the towel).   I even saw a PM to a GM about holding off after my 6-0 run as things had changed.

July 7th, after a sweep of MIL, all three of us (TOL, MIL, CHI) were tied, while TC was 6 games in front.  After a 7 game win streak that ended July 18th, we found ourselves two games ahead of MIL and TOL for the first time in the season. TC maintained a 4 game hold on first.   TC extended their lead over us by beating us in the next series, but we wouldn’t relinquish 2nd place and a 7 game win streak in early August made it a two team race.

We finished within two of TC and the rest is history, but it was definitely a long path back.  And while I was confident I had a good team, it definitely wasn’t a sit and wait situation, iirc.  I benched Swaneveld against RHP to get a better defensive option in (since neither were really hitting), kicked Rowsell from the rotation for Sabin, swapped out my 4th OF (who gets a lot of ABs against all the LHP in the US) and traded for 2B Benincasa to bolster IF defense and hoped he could swing a bat. 

All Star shortstop Daniel Huffman led Chicago in WAR with 4.6

Traverse City earns their first GLBL Championship

The Traverse City Bears making their only their second post-season appearance in team history made the most of the opportunity.  The Bears finished first in the USA, another first for the club.  When Toledo closed out the regular season by besting the Architects in the added game, it set the stage for more dramatics.

The Bears had most observers thinking it would be a short series when they went up three games to none.  But, the Neptunes had were not going to go quietly.  They reeled off three straight wins and led in Game 7 before the never say die Bears rallied to take the USA title.

But, Traverse City only had half the job complete.  They had to face on of strongest teams in recent league history, the Toronto Maples.  The Maples took first place hardly breaking a sweat.  They then discarded the Kingston Comets, a pretty hot team at the time, in four straight.

So, you will forgive the GLBL fans for thinking it was all but over when the Maples took the first two games in Toronto.  Little did anyone know at the time, that an amazing rally was waiting in the wings.  The Bears ripped off four straight W’s clinching in Toronto in game six.

Jim Riordan had a .948 OPS for the Bears in 2032 and was a major contributor to the success of the team.

Holy Toledo

The Neptunes won their second championship, the hard way.  Winners of the Wild Card of the USA, they faced off against the previous years champs, the Chicago Architects who were gunning for their 4th title.   Chicago’s most impressive 100-44 record made them prohibitive favorites.

Despite being 9-15 against the Architects, the Neptunes had a little something to say about who would face the other ‘beast’ coming out of Canada, the Toronto Maples.  Toledo, 90-54 for the third consecutive year, took the series in 6 games and then got ready for the next challenge.

The 96-48 Maples, just 2 years removed from their first and only championship, were the odds on favorite to prevail in the series.  The teams split the regular season series 2-2, but it was Toledo who would for the second time in the post-season defeat a team with a better record.

The Neptunes had 5 LHP in the rotation but it was Dean Floyd (14-3) and Derrill Dougherty (15-8) who did the heavy lifting.

Jesus Sanchez led all batters on the team with a .341 average.

 

 

 

Bill Atteberry inks his name in the record book for second time in GLBL history.

Chicago, back to the Top

 

Were they the best team in 2030?  Some might argue that they were not based on the overall record and the fact that it was Toledo that won the USA League Championship.  But, it might be more important who you are at the end of the season as compared with the rest of it.  Because, it was Chicago who was able to match up against Toledo, a team that specializes in grinding up their opponents on their home field.  That doesn’t happen by accident, it takes a plan.

Alex Wobbema, the brains behind the team, guided his Architects to their third GLBL championship.  The first two belonged to Al Borie who now heads up Alex’s old team, the Hamilton Mounties.  With Wobbema’s championship, his second overall, he becomes the first GM to win in both leagues having accomplished the feat in 2021.

If there was a player who stood out it might just be the one year wonder, Phillipe Janin.  The 29 year old had 7 seasons in Windsor before inking a $13. million dollar one year deal with Chicago.  His 4.7 WAR was a career high.  Janin has since bolted for Kingston, ironically the runner up in the finals.  It will be interesting to see if Phillipe can work his magic back to back.

Kurt Peterson, GM of the Comets, is hoping it’s true.  Prognosticators cite his team as the most improved over the off-season.

Janin tied two other Architect players for the team lead in round trippers with just 13.  He led the club in doubles with 47, Runs with 91, and was second in RBI’s with 83.

 

The GLBL salutes Alex and his Architects for their successful 2030 season.

 

 

The Season of The Maple

  It took 15 years for the Toronto Maples to reach the Great Lakes Baseball League Championship Series, their last and only first place finish was in 2019.  And then, they were brushed aside by the Windsor Vigilantes.  That Toronto team won 80 games and lost 60.  In 2021 and 2022 the Maples reached 81 wins narrowly missing first place in the Canadian League.  But, each time the club failed to advance to the finals.

The year 2029 was the culmination of an improved regular season record for the 4th consecutive year as the Maples finished 91-53 and were never seriously challenged for first place all year long.  The top two teams in the GLBL met for the championship as the Toledo Neptunes were gunning for back to back championships, having won their only title the year before.

Colin Miller (12-3) and and Scott Churchill (18-5) were a highly effective one, two punch most of the season.  Miller, acquired from the perennially strong pitching Kingston franchise was outstanding at keeping the ball in the park as his .2 HR/G average led the league.  He didn’t stop there, as his 1.2 BB/G led the league in that department.  Churchill’s 2.36 ERA was league best as was his 18 win total.

If we’re looking for one two punches on offense, no one could be faulted for selecting two of their outfielders, Whip Charles and Clyde Benson.  Whip had a 7.3 WAR and Benson finished at 7.1.  Of course, the two didn’t carry the offensive load by themselves as Serge Thibault (.923 OPS) was a huge force in the line up.  Nelson Wooten struck out 103 times but then he batted in a team leading 109 RBI’s.  Before the editor gets a hold of this paragraph let me just amend that one/two punch to the one through 4 knockout blow.  This team crushed opposing pitchers.

The final series saw a game Toledo squad come up short as the Maples, in 6 games, claimed their first championship rewarding GM Martin Abrams for his due patience and diligence with the trophy.

Neptunes – Kings of the GLBL in 2028

When you have a team with the best starting pitchers, relievers, batting average, and defense, it’s hard to be surprised when they finish with the best overall record (92-52), followed by a relatively easy post-season series against the Sea Gulls and, finally, a very talented Thunder Bay team, seeking their 4th championship in the GLBL.

But, in the end, it was the Toledo Neptune’s walking away with their first championship in a league that now has 14 seasons to its history.  For William Atteberry, original GM of the Toledo franchise, it was a sweet culmination of putting the right pieces in place and parlaying it into a championship for the USA League, its second in a row.

How appropriate that the god of the sea is the reigning champ in a league that is bound by the Great Lake waters.  Hail to the Neptunes!