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THE BRAGGING ZONE
 
By Jeff Polman

September ruminations on The Bragging Rights League, my latest alternative history Strat replay 
(http://braggingleague.wordpress.com)

Another Strat replay blog is in the books, but my new one won’t launch until February. What to do? Well, I could always buzz over to my local Toys ‘R’ Us and buy the snappy new Strat-O-Matic Baseball Express game. Or maybe it’s a great time to roll out my Strat juke box, and catch up on some unfinished dice-and-cards replay business.
 
Much like the stack of paperbacks on my night table, there’s always a handful of past seasons I’ve begun and never completed—for an assortment of reasons. It’s what is commonly known as “a good problem to have.” Let’s get an update, shall we?
 
1911: If sluggish early starts by the Tigers and Giants and crazy success by the Cleveland Naps were annoying me, the horrendous e-ratings across the board were putting me over the edge. It’s a miracle I made it as far as June 1st.
 
1920: Not sure why I only played a couple months of this season, because it’s a super-fun year. Maybe it was the crummy work of the post-1919 Black Sox, who I desperately wanted to be in the pennant race to extract a bit of revenge on Commissioner Landis for banning them from the game later that year. It may have been a fruitless hope, though, because I was determined to not let Ray Chapman die in August and give the first-place Tribe a 1-rating at shortstop all season.
 
1948: I actually lobbied Glenn Guzzo years ago to try and get Strat to recreate this season, and then I went and stopped after three months of the schedule. The AL pennant race between Cleveland, Boston, and New York was a gas, and it was great to play with the only good Boston Braves team available, but there wasn’t a lot of overall power, and outside of the contenders, a whole bunch of boring clubs.
 
1963: I played the first three weeks of this year recently, and actually liked it, despite the mostly pitiful hitting. At 17-3, the Yankees were off to a blistering pace, with a team ERA of 2.50 and WHIP of 1.16. And despite a lukewarm 14-13 start by the champion Dodgers, the NL has featured a tight five-team race between Milwaukee (18-9), San Francisco (17-9), St. Louis (16-10), Philadelphia (14-11) and Cincinnati (14-11).
 
2004: Using a classic, 8 team-per-league schedule (you know it’s from the 50s because there must be ten doubleheaders a week), I took the best teams from each league and began a 154-game schedule, my favorite way to replay any more-current season. St. Louis has been nuclear, with their crushing Pujols-Edmonds-Rolen middle of the lineup, and currently has an 8-game lead on Houston, but the real fun’s in the AL, where Boston just went on a hot streak to tie the Yanks for first, with the Johan Santana Twins just two and a half behind.
Bonds seems to either walk or homer every time up, and there have been 52 grand slams hit through July 28th.
 
Yup, that’s right. I’ve played deeper into 2004 than any of the other years, partly because I’m a Boston fan but also because I began documenting the replay on the Strat Fan Forum four years ago, and it would be nice to eventually report its conclusion.
 
On the other hand, I did just get a new Strat hockey game to reacquaint myself with the new NHL players and awesome Hall of Famer set. I broke the Famers into 12 teams, trying to draft the players evenly, and here’s how the divisions finally lined up, with star players in parenthesis:
 
CANADIAN DIVISION
Halifax Harbormasters (Mario Lemieux, Paul Coffey, Joe Mullen)
Quebec City Frontenacs (Bryan Trottier, Larry Robinson, Bill Barber)
Thunder Bay Thunderheads (Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Dale Hawerchuk)
Saskatoon Sasquatch (Peter Stastny, Rod Gilbert, Brad Park)
Medicine Hat Gassers (Mark Messier, Gordie Howe, Denis Savard)
Yukon Mush (Guy LaFleur, Bobby Clarke, Darryl Sittler)
 
U.S. DIVISION
Rapid City Rushmores (Steve Yzerman, Maurice Richard, Jean Ratelle)
Bismarck Bisons (Mike Bossy, Steve Shutt, Jean Beliveau)
Brattleboro Flatlanders (Bobby Orr, Marcel Dionne, Lanny McDonald)
Helena Sheets (Wayne Gretzky, Denis Potvin, Mark Gartner)
Bangor Bashers (Phil Esposito, Ray Bourque, Patrick Roy)
Madison Cheese Skates (Bernie Federko, Jari Kurri, Eddie Shore)
 
I created a 74-game schedule, with teams playing everyone in their division ten times and the out of division teams four times. Which amounts to…444 games. Hmm…
 
Look for occasional news on the rest of my 2004 baseball replay on the Strat Fan Forum, at http://www.stratfanforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=57413&page=5