THE FUNK ZONE
By Jeff Polman
November ruminations on my 1977 replay, Play That Funky Baseball (http://funkyball.wordpress.com), and other Strat-O things
Well, what I thought might happen thankfully has. Heading into the final week in August, I have two crazy five-team races happening, with absolutely no idea who will win either one. The Phillies and Red Sox have seriously swooned, the Pirates and Royals have moved back into the lead, but neither of those teams has resembled a juggernaut yet. Even the Texas Rangers, with their tough Blyleven-Ellis-Perry-Alexander rotation, spent 24 hours in first place before getting roughed up by Cleveland. George Foster finally smacked homer no. 50 for the Reds last night after a long dry spell, while Rod Carew has re-upped his average to .391 and stayed within striking distance of .400.
But that isn’t what I’m here to talk about today.
Many of you who are dice-and-cards players have probably launched full seasons of your own, only to shelve the project in June, let alone August. Sometimes you lose interest, or unlike a freak like me, have more of an actual life and just can’t make the time for all those games.
Well, Dr. Funk is here to help alleviate that dilemma. It isn’t a full season, but you can get a great flavor of any baseball year by playing a tournament with the best sixteen teams that usually takes no longer than two months. The clubs are seeded in 1-8 bracket style in each league by winning percentage (or in case of a tie, run differential. Every series is a best-of-seven. What you often get is tremendously gripping fun, because every game of the tournament is critical. I’ve been doing one of these every year since the 1992 cards came out, and I can swear by them.
For instance, here’s my 2009 tournament matchups, currently in the first round:
8 Rays at 1 Yankees
7 Mariners at 2 Angels
6 Tigers at 3 Red Sox
5 Twins at 4 Rangers
8 Cubs at 1 Dodgers
7 Braves at 2 Phillies
6 Marlins at 3 Rockies
5 Giants at 4 Cards
I allow each team to have an ace “asterisk” pitcher go in games 1,4, and 7, do not use injuries and have no limits on at bats, but do follow strict reliever use.
The good news is that only once in 16 years has the team with the best record gone all the way (1998 Yankees), making it a fabulous format for inviting your friends to take the other teams. Despite the final records for that year, everyone has a chance.
I’ve had an incredible array of upsets doing this, with #8 seeds like the Cubs beating Texas in the ’92 World Series, and the ’04 Indians pulling the same trick against the Dodgers that year.
It’s also a great format to play if you have a Strat draft coming up in a month or so after getting the new cards, because it’s a great chance to showcase a lot of the best players.
While most people seem to like what expansion did to baseball, I’m kind of an old school believer in de-expansion, because from 1901 to 1960, the sport was just fine with eight teams in a league playing each other 22 times a year. It’s one of the main reasons I like to replay old seasons, and why doing a “Best of” tournament works so well.
Obviously the tournament can be done with any old 16-team season, but it could be very aggravating if the horrible 1954 Athletics upset the 1954 Indians in the first round. And believe me, anything can happen in a short series. But when you’re dealing with the more current card sets, this project can be simply superb.
I’ll be back close to the Christmas break next month with my down-to-the-wire 1977 news.