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.
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.
In celebration of Mike Trout‘s 21st birthday, here is a video of him playing on a god-awful field as a high school senior:
And who doesn’t love a little bonus Trout?
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.
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.