’73 Crowns Champ, ’13 Tourney is Here! (Replay Zone – October 2014)

By Jeff Polman
October ruminations from your trusty Strat-O-Matic replay addict. Check out “Ball Nuts”, my latest “fictionalized” replay book, which used the 1977 season.
They did it with depth, they did it with bullpen, but most of all they did it with timely bats. Paul Dylan’s ONE FOR FIVE DOTCOMS took the ’73 Freaks League crown by winning the Best-of-Nine World Series against Dan Lee’s HUMAN BEINGS in only six games. All of the matches were close, but the Dotcoms’ ability to get the key big hit whenever needed was the big difference.
Before the exciting Series, there was also a great Eastern Division playoff. After leading the division for most of the season, David Jordan’s JORDANNAIRES just couldn’t put the thing away, and was only able to tie the Humans on the final day when Gaylord Perry nearly pitched a 4-hit shutout against the Smilin’ Seymours. The Humans and Jordans then squared off in a breathtaking five-game playoff, the Humans outlasting them to win the Eastern pennant on a Game Five grand slam off Bert Blyleven by Bill Melton.
So the top three teams all finished with a 92-70 record, but the Dotcoms, who fended off late charges in the West from the Ghost of Horace Clarke, L.A. Superflys and Kuhnskinners, were built for the postseason, as they say. In the draft last March, Mr. Dylan opted for speed (led the league with 132 steals, 48 more than any other team), on-base percentage (.346, tied for second), slugging (.441, also tied for second), and a killer, four-headed bullpen of John Hiller (12-4, 24 saves), Dick Baney (7-2, 4 saves), Cy Acosta (6 saves) and lefty specialist Max Scarce. Their starting pitching was far from overwhelming (4.47 team ERA ranked fifth), with only Reggie Cleveland (22-10) high up in the win column, but the versatile relief and late-inning clutchness from their lineup pulled out many wins. Their ± of 45 comeback victories and only 26 blown leads was far and away the best in the league.
Offensively, depth was spilling over the top. For on base/power demons, you had Davey Johnson (43 HR, 119 RBI, 80 BB), Willie McCovey (41 HR, 111, RBI, 115 BB), Ron Santo (30 HR, 96 RBI), Rick Monday (25 HR, 83 RBI, 82 BB, and Thurman Munson (16 HR, 92 RBI). Along with these guys on base most of the time, you had batting average experts Al Bumbry (.342) and Rich Coggins (.318) against righties, Dick Dietz (.443 OBP) getting aboard constantly in the no. 2 hole vs. lefties. Davey Concepcion (.296, 68 RBI, 25 steals) doing a little bit of everything and Don Baylor (83 RBI, 58 SB, only 6 CS) leading off. Except for Randy Hundley and Tim Foli, with one at bat between them, every man on the bench proved useful. Frank Duffy filled in for the occasional Concepcion injury and hit .286 with a couple game-winning RBI. Ken Griffey hit .349 in 86 AB, usually only pinch-hitting and starting against the Seavers and Blylevens of the league. Rick Miller and Mike Anderson were 1-rating outfield replacements late in games. Even this young guy named Mike Schmidt pinch-hit a few dingers.
1973 had a surplus of great pitching, so I expected many teams to struggle offensively, but that wasn’t the case at all. Because we only drafted 12 teams from the original 24, used the DH and a flurry of great hitting parks, pitching by and large took a back seat to slugging. The Black Diamonds, for example, who finished third in the East and played their home games in the Atlanta Fulton County Stadium launch pad, slammed 276 home runs while allowing 262, for over three and a third homers per game. Bert Blyleven (24-12, 2.91 ERA) of the Jordannaires, Don Sutton (24-9, 3.20) of the Humans and Nolan Ryan (24-8, 3.61, 349 strikeouts) of the Ghost of Horace Clarke were clearly the starting pitching stars, but great hurlers were few and far between.
Still, it was a fun, fabulous project, filled with my many “live dicecasts”, and I’m sure I’ll be doing a similar one with a different season in the near future.
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For the time being, I’ve decided to return to the middle of May in my home replay with the best teams from 1997, and all the mashing that entails. You can follow the standings and results on the Strat Fan Forum semi-regularly.
Coming very soon, though, will be my BEST OF 2013 TOURNAMENT featuring the top 8 teams in each league, squaring off in four rounds of best-of-seven series. Like the ones I did for 2010, 2011, and 2012, Strat-O-Matic will award a $25 gift certificate to the eventual champion. Last year, Chris Witt of Arlington, IL went all the way with the 2012 Nationals.
All I require from any participating “absentee managers” are 4 or 5 man rotations and lineups to go against righty and lefty pitchers. If you’re interested in trying your luck this year, email me your top three preferred team picks from the list of first round matchups below, no later than November 10th, to jefftourney.13@gmail.com.