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My Dream Fantasy Connie Mack World Series Lineup

I play in a couple of fantasy baseball leagues, and with just a third of the season left, my team in the Denslow Cup, a league that Mike, Griff, and I play in alongside many of our friends from college and high school, is tied for first place.  Because the last two pieces I have written have been a little intense, and since I’m about to head to Opening Night at Ricketts, I think something a little more light-hearted is in order.  So, without further ado, here is the CMWS fantasy team that I’d like to own if there ever was a CMWS fantasy league and the only restriction on eligibility is that players have to have played in at least one CMWS.


Catcher: Mike Matheny

Matheny won a national title with Midland in 1989 after which he took his talent to the University of Michigan, where he captained.  He played 13 Major League seasons and is currently the manager of the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.  He won four Golden Gloves and an N.L. pennant.


1B: Eric Hosmer

Hosmer played in three CMWS (with Florida in 2006 and Midland in 2007 and 2008) and won the 2007 MVP following the Redskins earning of yet another title.  He was taken third overall and is currently starting at first for the Royals in his second Major League season.


2B: Jemile Weeks

This one is tricky because a rule that I just made up is that the player must have played the position during the CMWS.  That comes into play here as certain players have played short in the CMWS and now are at second professionally or collegiately.  Weeks was a member of the 2004 Florida Bombers and was taken 12th overall by the A’s after a stellar career as a Miami Hurricane.  He debuted with Oakland 13 months ago and should stick around the Big Leagues for along time.


3B: Sean Burroughs

Burroughs was a member of the Orange County Dodgers, 1997’s runner-up.  He went 9th so San Diego the following year, won an Olympic gold medal in 2000, and debuted in the show in 2002.  He was one of baseball’s top prospects for years, had a lot of off-field trouble, and has recently been released, but he was really, really good as an amateur.


SS: Stephen Drew

Drew was a member of the East Cobb Yankees in 2001, the eventual champions.  Because of his bloodlines, there was a tremendous amount of hype surrounding him.  Shortstop is a tough position to really select just one guy.  Even in recent years, Manny Machado, Deven Marrero, Gordon Beckham, and Danny Espinosa have played short at Ricketts.  Drew went 15th overall, was an All-American at Florida State, and is currently in his seventh season with Arizona.  Cal Ripken Jr. was left off of the team primarily because he went in the second round and was not regarded as highly as a teenager as he is now.


OF: Ken Griffey Jr., Cameron Maybin, Manny Ramirez

Griffey is arguably the best outfielder of the last 50 years, so he needs no explanation.  Ramirez is the same way but for left fielders.  Maybin won an MVP with Midland and went 10th overall.  He currently plays for the Padres and is in his 6th MLB season.


Utility: Gordon Beckham

Beckham won the MVP at the 2005 CMWS as East Cobb’s SS.  He was an All-American at Georgia and went 8th overall in 2008.  Since this is a fantasy team, and since he currently plays 2B for the White Sox, the added positional flexibility he gives my team makes him all the more valuable.


P: Roy Halladay

P: Barry Zito

P: Dylan Bundy

Since he’s the only one without a long and illustrious MLB career on my list, I think this video says where he’s headed pretty clearly.

P: Zack Greinke

P: Duane Ward

Had to get a local guy in somewhere.


I think I’d win with a team like this.

Why Farmington Deserves Hosting Rights at the Connie Mack World Series

Recently a small New Mexican newspaper interviewed a highly celebrated and recently graduated (from an affluent private high school) New Mexican baseball player, who was chosen as a pick-up player from a regional tournament after his club team took it’s second loss in a Connie Mack regional tourney.  The player, who is signed at perhaps the premier university in the premier conference in all of NCAA baseball and who had arguably the nation’s highest bat-tool grading in the 2012 draft class (at least I thought so), was quoted at length and offered several controversial opinions regarding the host team rights of the Connie Mack World Series held annually in Farmington, New Mexico.  Those opinions basically can be summarized by the assertion that baseball players, coaches, administrators, and fans from Albuquerque and the surrounding metro area do not feel as though the CMWS hosting rights should be accessed solely through winning Farmington’s city CM league.  In other words, Albuquerque should be in the tournament that crowns the host for seemingly no other reason than relative geographical proximity to Ricketts Park and the assumption that, due to their win-loss record this summer, they are capable of fulfilling the host role in a superior fashion than whatever team won the Farmington tournament.  In the last few years, that event has been won by the Strike Zone Cardinals who have gone on to numerous wins in the CMWS against several premier clubs from across the nation.  In fact, the host representative has wins in each of the last four CMWS, while the winner of the New Mexico state CM tourney has never qualified for the World Series.

Still, win-loss record, quality of roster in terms of both commitment/drafted list and high school stats, strength of schedule, event invitations, or reputation hardly represents what the host team is expected to be each year.  The Connie Mack World Series is the third oldest annual amateur baseball event in the world to use the same host city (48 years) and the oldest for high school-aged players.  The quality of baseball is as good as it gets.  Ken Griffey Jr. played here.  Manny Ramirez played here.  Barry Larkin, Zack Greinke, Chris Carpenter, Cameron Maybin, Eric Hosmer, Todd Van Poppel, Joe Benson, Stephen Drew, Micah Owings, Gordan Beckham, Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy, Archie Bradley, and a freakishly long list of players who have gone on to unbelievable accomplishments within the game of baseball and beyond played here.  In light of those names and the hundreds of professionals left off the list, the suggestion that even the finest team in New Mexico baseball history, the Albuquerque Heat of the early part of the 2000s which featured multiple Big Leaguers and was comprised of many players from consecutive nationally No. 1-ranked HS teams, would deserve a berth in the event purely because they happened to think they might be capable of defeating the best club from Farmington is considerably arrogant and a little silly.  The Heat had more respect than that, though.  They went to the regional, played hard, were defeated, and went on with their lives and baseball careers without complaining about the structure of local Connie Mack leagues.

What’s more, the notion that the community of Farmington, which has hosted the CMWS for nearly half of a century, would willingly support a team from what would be considered simply another metropolitan baseball academy is preposterous.  The value of the host team’s place in the CMWS field is both motivation and reward for the community of Farmington.  The host team provides the city a reasonable team to root for in the tourney every year.  My guess is that there are even more Midland Redskins fans in Farmington than exist in Cincinnati and perhaps as many Dallas (DBAT) Mustangs fans as well.  The East Cobb Yankees, despite not qualifying for the event in recent years, have a tremendous following too.  No team fills the stands like the host team, though, and the atmosphere at Ricketts when the host team is in a close game is uniquely tense and the entire city feels it.  To think that this degree of support is somehow not unique for Farmington’s team and could in fact be the case for teams from any other town in New Mexico is simply incorrect.  The very notion defies the logistical fact that the seats at Ricketts are bought decades in advance and passed from generation to generation by Farmington families.

The city of Farmington and in particular its young baseball players are fortunate beyond words that the Connie Mack World Series is held at Ricketts annually.  However, this good fortune works both ways.  The CMWS is just as lucky to have Farmington as its host.  While the community benefits greatly from the revenue generated by the event every year, the real reward is the opportunity to cheer on the city’s players as they challenge the country’s best amateur talent, winning a better than could reasonably be expected share of its games.  Additionally, since many of the players comprising the host team are graduated seniors soon to be departing to whatever school they may be taking their baseball talent; it is a perfectly staged farewell for these young men.  The Connie Mack World Series belongs to Farmington.  It does not belong to New Mexico, and thusly, the winner of Farmington’s league, and only the winner of this league, deserves the right to host so long as the event is held at Ricketts.

DBAT: 20% of the 2012 Connie Mack World Series Field?

As the Connie Mack South Plains Regional concluded Sunday evening at TCU, the DBAT Mustangs squad advanced to yet another Connie Mack World Series.  The same thing happened last year, but in less of a landslide.  This year’s march to victory was reminiscent of the domination that Carpenter’s Mustangs squad displayed prior to the creation of DBAT.  DBAT is the premier amateur baseball academy in the world and has the most sophisticated infrastructure, tournament/showcase access, and funds of any similar company throughout amateur baseball.  ABD in California, Midland in Cincinnati, and Top Tier in Chicago as well as many others worldwide provide players (customers) with access to facilities, coaching, evaluation, tournament and showcase entries, equipment, and teammates.  No company does this as well as DBAT in large part because the DFW area has other rival clubs capable of providing consistent quality opponents year round to the DBAT squads.

The state of Texas also has over a dozen Division I universities with the DFW metro claiming three of their own.  Carpenter recognized that academies like DBAT were very much the future, and in the late 90’s he decided to merge his Mustangs team that he had cultivated for decades with the business-minded DBAT.  This move not only has allowed those involved with DBAT to profit financially but also ensures that DBAT fields the best team(s) in Texas every year, as Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and El Paso have yet to unify their city’s amateur talent in as complete a fashion.

Well, for fans of amateur baseball outside the DFW metro and in, the Connie Mack World Series represents the finest collection of amateur baseball teams each season.  The AABC adequately divides the nation into regions based largely on geography with each regional tournament feeding into the CMWS every year.  For this reason, the CMWS field is always quite impressive because there is hardly any room for bias as is always the case with invitational events.

In 2006, however, the CMWS expanded its field to 10 teams with the addition of two spots for teams winning qualifiers.  Since then those qualifiers have migrated geographically with 2012’s held in Tempe and Flemington, NJ.  A DBAT group won the Tempe event in rather thrilling fashion, and many would debate that the qualifier events are at least as challenging as a regional tournament simply due to the volume of teams receiving invites.  The qualifiers typically have over 20 entries, all representing prestigious academies throughout the country as well as Canada and Puerto Rico on occasion.

The fact that the CMWS is going to feature two teams from the same academy must be viewed as the worst-case consequence of the qualifier tourneys.  Imagine a CMWS title game between DBAT and DBAT.  Why not just split town early and have a live BP session back in Dallas with L-screens and a roll cage?  DBAT is hardly to blame, though.  The very nature of the qualifier tournaments is anti-Connie Mack.  The qualifiers more closely resemble typical recruiting events like those held by Baseball Factory or Perfect Game as opposed to the state and local league structures required by conventional AABC rules.  Only through those leagues do teams have access to regional events, and only through those do teams have access to the CMWS.

Eight teams is not a large enough field of participants, though, which was the size of the CMWS field prior to the introduction of the qualifying events.  The problems with a 10-team double-elimination tourney are the requisite byes, which begin in the second round and possibly don’t end until championship night, and the tremendous bias associated with a potential champion that potentially drew more byes than the teams they defeated along the way. So why not 12 or 16 teams? That would eliminate the byes but still be a small enough number not to weaken the quality of the field of participants.  But we still have the problem with multiple teams from the same academy qualifying.  That problem is eliminated if we simply increase the number of regional tournaments from 7 to 11 or 15 and ditch the qualifiers.

The fact that Colorado plays in the same regional event as Louisiana is silly to begin with.  The local economy in Farmington would benefit considerably from a larger and longer CMWS.  The host family tradition might need to be modified or replaced with something new, but Farmington’s hotels are rarely if ever full.  It has been argued that the host families make the tournament, and I agree to an extent, but for the CMWS to keep pace with rival events, baseball must come first and must be the key determinant in progressing the tournament.  The fact that in 2012 the second best club from an academy might win the CMWS is a dangerous step in the wrong direction even if it is DBAT.

The First Trade of the 2012 Denslow Cup Season

This afternoon the Towel and I completed a trade in the Denslow Cup that we had been discussing since last week.  It involved David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman as the centerpieces, and since I had Zimmerman, my side was going to be bigger.  We play in a league that uses both OBP and Slug% as well as the traditional rotisserie categories.  Obviously Wright’s projected numbers year in and year out are going to give him a little more spring value than a guy like Zimmerman in our league because the couple percentage points Wright walks more than Zimmerman essentially cancels out the 5 or 6 extra points of contact percentage that Zimmerman will throw up come October.  Wright will steal roughly 10-15 more bases most years than Zimmerman, though, which gives him the edge.  Both are injury prone to an extent as well.

What I’m getting at here is that a trade involving these two guys should simply not involve any other truly valuable players beyond these two guys because they are strikingly similar players in a league like The Cup.  To further solidify my point, Wright’s ADP in ESPN league’s right now is 36.0, and Zimmerman’s is 39.0.  It does not take much value to square up a trade between two players that are 3.0 draft positions apart.

What that means is that I got hosed, because I threw in Josh Beckett and John Axford to go along with Ryan Zimmerman to bring back an oft injured 29-year old whose best season was now five years ago.  What’s more, Wright is in the middle of one of the hottest periods of his career at the dish and has a fractured finger.  Finally, the Mets are awful.  There is no realistic reason to think that anyone in that lineup will bang in 100 runners or score 100 runs himself because it’s basically a lineup comprised of refuse, Wright, Ike Davis, and Daniel Murphy.  Beckett is currently being taken at the 103 spot on average and Axford is going ten spots earlier.  What that means is that according to ADP, I gave up three guys in the top 100 for the guy I just described.

How could I do that?  Well, in short, I didn’t like looking at my squad every day and not seeing Wright’s name.  I hated watching highlight shows of him performing so well and playing so courageously through injury while on another manager’s squad.  David is my favorite player.  As I write this, I occasionally drift off and take in the objects in my room.  Directly under my television is an autographed photo of David driving in Luis Castillo from second that Whitney got me for my 26th birthday.

David Wright is my favorite baseball player ever (tied with Nomar…duh), and I don’t mind if I got hosed in April to get him on my squad, because he is the kind of player that will keep me motivated and interested for the next six months.  If I didn’t already have Jimmy Rollins, Andre Ethier, or Shane Victorino, I’d be making the same kind of boneheaded moves to get them too.

That brings me to my final thought of the day.  I love the squad that I drafted this season more than any season in the past.  I have an entire lineup of my kind of guys.  When I say that, I mean that my squad collectively knows how to hit.  They crush strikes and take balls.  They hit the ball in the air.  They are either terrific athletes or young enough that it doesn’t matter yet.  And now, I have David.  If I don’t win this season, I’m going to be pretty upset, but what I’m fairly sure of is that my team hits, and that’s a really, really big deal to me, because for the next six months, they are an extension of myself.  When I look at my lineup before I go to bed, my team’s performance over the previous 24 hours is going to have a large and meaningful impact on the next 24 hours.

That’s just life in The Denslow Cup, bro.

Just a Few Reasons I Love this Time of Year

I recently returned to Dallas after a spring break that took me to Scottsdale and Farmington to visit the people I love as well as to visit a residency that hopefully I will be a part of once I graduate from dental school.  During my time off I was able to watch several Cactus League games at the finest baseball venue on the planet: Salt River.  Holy shit.  That place makes Camelback look like a JV complex.  After a decade in Tucson, the Rox and Diamondbacks deserve this place.

When I got home Griff allowed me to work out his C-Team guys in the infield and at the dish for a couple of days.  I was able to watch his guys play Durango (CO) High’s C squad a couple times later in the week.  A friend and former teammate of ours manages the DHS boys, and that entire program is doing a terrific job in no small part due to what he brings to the lower levels.  It was a great little break from the daily grind of dental school, and it reminded me of what makes this time of year so special.

I was fortunate enough to watch some of the younger guys for Arizona and Colorado take part in an afternoon Minor League contest on some of the practice fields at Salt River, and it was easy to see in their faces how grateful they were to be doing what they were for a living.  They were nearly all around 3 or 4 years, if ever, from breaking camp with the big club, but that was nowhere to be seen in the way they carried themselves regardless of the fact that it was Minor League Spring Training.

Over on the big field, Colorado utility guy and fellow New Mexican, Jordan Pacheco, was demolishing Cactus League pitching as he has done all spring.  It would take a real group of idiots to send this guy back to Triple-A.  He represented the state, as he has always done, spectacularly.  With upwards of five New Mexican players cracking Major League rosters this spring, there’s never been a better time to grow up a ballplayer back home.

As I worked out Griff’s boys, it was obvious how into the game the youth around Farmington is today.  Farmington High and Piedra Vista are the two best AAAA teams in the state and probably the two best regardless of class.  Shilo McCall (PVHS) is now the top draft prospect statewide following an Alex Bregman (Abq. Academy) hand injury.  PV defeated several very high quality teams in Phoenix last week including nationally ranked Santa Fe High (OK), and both Farmington schools are poised for what will prove to be a dogfight of a district season.

Perhaps the one thing that stuck out in my mind the most vibrantly while I was home was the generational aspect of the game.  Several of Griff’s kids have family members that I either played with or against or even watched as a kid myself.  Two good friends and former teammates watched the births of their first children this month as well.  This time of year reminds us all to look positively toward the future and toward the upcoming months and to treat today as exactly what it is: an opportunity to grow within the game and within life that we will never get back.  It reminds us that last season, last month, and yesterday are all distant memories and that today and every single day after it deserve to be approached positively.  Also, the weather in the desert southwest in March cannot be beat.