About 6 or 7 weeks ago, Westy made a trade with Pauly, sending Craig Kimbrel to Hats for Bats, in exchange for Michael Pineda. Most of the audience thought that it was a reasonable trade, moving a closer to get a live, young SP who had been pretty good through his first 4 or 5 months. Rupert begged to differ, posting one of his classic messages about how he had been offering much better deals, and bemoaning the fact that Westy had settled on trading Kimbrel for a "cheese sandwich." More on cheese sandwiches later.
The other prominent feature of the final weeks of 2011 UPL Baseball was popcorn. Back in late June, Greg, in another of his subtle-so-as-to-not-be-subtle jabs, was commenting on how the O.N. Thugs were being uncooperative in his efforts in acquiring Clayton Kershaw, and how that it was clear that the Thugs were pushing for a Hats for Bats championship. And before I had the chance to respond, the conversation was continued by Westy and C-Lauff, and Greg threw in this gem:
Passive-aggressive. It's what's for dinner. That and popcorn.
In any case, at this point, Hats for Bats were dominating the league, flying over the 140 mark. And the O.N. Thugs were about 3 weeks into their annual comeback efforts, having moved from about 80 points up to about 95 points. And mind you, the Thugs were in 5th of 6th place at the time (though it was better than the 7th or 8th place they were in at the start of June). Naturally, the Thugs found reason for confidence. And of course, there had to be a reply.
The latest in UPL icons: Greg enjoying popcorn, while I remind people to never get in a land war with China.
As an aside, I've been proud of how little explicit vulgarity I've been using in my trash talk.
For the first couple months, the Thugs were publicly quiet about their 2011 team, but privately, they liked the squad. After all, the disastrous May/June that led to the mediocre results had to be the worst-case scenario (Dunn being awful, Jeter looking old, Carpenter getting smacked around, Volquez getting demoted, Kershaw not hitting his stride, yet). In conversations with OD and CJ, the Thugs would explain how things were trending upward, how they still had the best pitching staff in the UPL, and how Pauly was going to come back to earth, as Bautista and Weaver came back to earth. The thought was that there was too much variance in Pauly's pitching for this to keep up. And in these conversations, OD and CJ would just say "uh-huh" while rolling their eyes. To paraphrase OD, "Uh, yeah. I was pretty sure that you were talking out of your ass."
By any fair assessment, back in June, an O.N. Thugs victory would have been uber-Sisyphean.
Of course, this is how an O.N. Thug (or any other delusional person) sees the world.
But at the end of June, the Thugs went public by co-opting O.N. Thugs icon, Terrell Owens, and telling everyone who wasn't going to be involved (like Greg and Westy) to just sit back and enjoy the show (despite the fact that the Thugs well back in the standings). But by the time September rolled around, the O.N. Thugs had moved all the way up to about 110 points, pretty much passing Greg up in the standings, to be in 3rd place. And at the same time, C-Lauff had made a run, and was emerging as a winner in the duel w/ Pauly for first, with both teams running around 125-130 points. So the O.N. Thugs had the task of making up 15-20 fantasy points, and jumping 2 teams. Clearly, the O.N. Thugs had the title in the bag :-)
And amazingly enough, the picture of the UPL was sort of like this, through Game 161, out of 162, as the O.N. Thugs were in 1st place on the penultimate standings, with 123.5 points, with Pauly and C-Lauff just behind.
Generally, in situations like this, you bet on Rock. Paper and Scissor are generally afterthoughts.
But like Dr. Jones, the Jabrones make an epic escape, aided by two cheese sandwiches.
If you've ever played in a poorly designed head-to-head league, one of the features is the churning of pitchers. Basically, you pick up and drop pitchers so you can use them for a given start. Generally, a keeper league will dissuade you from doing that too much. However, the last few days of the season end up being like those head-to-head leagues - you figure out who your keepers are, and anyone who you know won't be kept may get dropped so that you can pick up an SP to get an extra start or two in the hopes of chasing an extra W or getting a miracle bump in ERA or WHIP. Similarly, you may start to try to find a random HR or SB with an offensive player that would hurt your OBP or SLG in the long run, but may be a quick miracle cure. From an aesthetic standpoint, it's sort of an ugly way to win - much like hitting your opponent with a steel chair while your manager distracts the ref. From a practical standpoint, you have to do it, because it maximizes your chances, and if you do it right, can steal you a point or two at the end of the season.
In anticipation of the churning, the Thugs evoked some of Rupert's imagery:
Channel your inner Homer... mmm... cheese sandwiches...
Now, I have to admit that when I posted this, I knew that I had an advantage. First of all, I was up by one W on both Pauly and C-Lauff. And more importantly, I wouldn't get hurt by an L, as I was 3 L's behind Pauly. So I had some room to work with. And in fact, I sort of wanted Pauly and C-Lauff to stretch. My logic was that the Fantasy Gods would punish anyone who was going to start a cheese sandwich, if not with an L, but at least with a bad ERA/WHIP. And Pauly and I were dueling over both ERA and WHIP, and C-Lauff was at risk in WHIP (with, ironically, Cheeseheads). My thought was that the churn could easily take a turn for the worst, and hang them with 1 or 2 L's (which would be worth 0.5 to 1 points), and that they could backfire in ERA and WHIP. And the second thought that I had was that I had a guy who wasn't a cheese sandwich (Carpenter) who had a pedigree, who was on a roll in September, and who was playing in a must-win game. I liked my chances w/out churning an starter, especially when I looked down the list.
Wade LeBlanc didn't look bad starting in SD, but the Cubs felt like the sort of team that may go off and hand a dozen runs on a team when the game is meaningless.
Ted Lilly looked reasonable, but I had bet against the D-Backs twice with Tim Lincecum, and gotten bit both times. Basically, I didn't feel like messing with the D-Backs with the season on the line.
Christ Volstad against WAS wouldn't be terrible, but he was going up against Stephen Strasburg, who was looking solid.
And really, that was about it for me.
When I saw that Pauly got Miguel Batista, my first thought was that "Pauly's an idiot. Miguel Batista died years ago." But I looked closer, and it turns out that Batista was, in fact, alive, and starting for the Mets against my Reds. My Reds who finished 2nd in the league in runs scored. So my thought changed to, "Pauly's crazy - he's about to give me that point in WHIP, too." It was at that point that I decided that I was going to start Volquez, as well (I did check to see if OD, who I was tied with in W, had starters going, and saw that he had 2). I figured that I needed to give myself a chance to stay ahead of OD, in case he got a W. That and it would be fitting for me to let Volquez atone for his fantasy baseball sins. So I had one cheese sandwich going, and it was one that had a high ceiling. So I felt that I was in a stronger position than either C-Lauff of Pauly with my pitching.
So the morning comes, and I roll out of bed. I see that Volquez was pitching well, but the Reds were down 1-0. Eh. Whatever. Then I notice that Volquez gave up a 2-run HR. Uggh. Oh well. At least the Reds will get to Batista and punish him eventually, right?
So I get showered, and roll out to lunch. And I see this show up on my Blackberry.:
Sometimes there's no justice :-) Also, Pauly had that icon before Sheen had his #DuhWinning meltdown.
And a little while after, I see this on my Facebook feed, from Tom, White Sox fan, one of Mikey's old roommates, and former UPL Football dim-wit turned finalist (Tom was the guy who didn't look at the rules and drafted Pittsburgh DEF early in the first round, presumably because "defense wins championships," and was labeled as Tweedledum [or Tweedledummer, I don't really remember] by myself).
Tweedledum (or dummer) as the bearer of bad news.
Of course, I thought to myself, "Sucks to be Greg (who owned Sergio Santos). Sale just tossed 1 2/3 last night to get the SV. He's young, and they're going to build up his arm strength to be a starter next season. There's no way they're going to jeopardize that." And then I realized that this was the White Sox we were talking about. The same White Sox that seem to botch player development and had everything go wrong this season. So I just had to check. And sure enough, somehow it was Chris Sale on the mound. At least he didn't blow out his arm (I don't think). But the damage was done. 1/3 IP, 2ER, 2H, 3BB. I don' t know exactly how close it would have been. But I lost a point in ERA to Pauly after the Volquez and Sale debacle, and it didn't look like I could get it back (I was then at 3.20, while Pauly was down to 3.17). Happily, the 2 L's didn't factor into it. And in all honesty, I probably would not have been gutsy enough to start Volquez had L's mattered.
At that point, Pauly was in first, I was behind, and C-Lauff had lost ground. I still had hope because I had other avenues to victory (namely by scoring some runs on offense, swiping a few bases, or racking up some OBP). And there was plenty of play left, as Pauly still had one more cheese sandwich, and C-Lauff had 2 cheese sandwiches to eat.
Which set the stage for the exciting finish to the season, where the UPL championship wasn't won until the last pitch was thrown.
More on that in Episode III, part II.
-Chairman (aka O.N. Thugs)