The Spring 2006 Season has all the makings of a re-creation of 1961. An expanded league schedule, going from 10 games to 14. The addition of 4 expansion teams to thin out the quality of play. The real question will be at the end of the season, will the asterisk appear on any single season records set this Spring?
While those discussions can wait, the Commissioners predictions on this season can’t, and it’s time to call them as I see them from the league office here on Snowpea Court.
By leaps and bounds the toughest Division in the PWL. The East will produce the wildcard team for the postseason and will win at least 6 more games than the other two divisions when the dust settles on Week 4 and inter-division play is over.
- Canvassers – The two-time World Champion’s are destined to repeat as the Divisional Champions. They’ve lost a key player in David Gross, who after failed contract negotiations has formed the upstart Mary’s Mad Dogs. Unconfirmed reports were that Gross was asking for the new breakfast flavored Gatorade and a quart jar of Vaseline for each game. The Canvassers have filled the hole in their roster with Andrea Pagano, who will compete strongly for the ranking of the best female player. While Manager Gallaway is past his prime on the playing field, his skills in the dugout continue to improve, and returning players Zigmund and Cani are just getting better with age. They lost to the Hot Sundaes in Week 1, but expect only one more defeat on the way to the Division Championship. Plus, their new uniforms, both home and away versions, are the best in the league. (12 wins – 2 losses)
- Borg – The surprising play of the Borg last season makes them a force to be reckoned with for most teams this year. If they weren’t in the same Division as the Canvassers, they’d likely win their Division. Don’t let their Week 1 victory over the Cowboys fool you though. They’re not good enough to beat the two-handed Cowboys, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they got knocked off by a couple of new teams. Ben Prochazka and Mindie Reule are the core of this team, and if Ben stays healthy…well, we’ve heard that before…and if Mindie could hit the ball anywhere but the first base line…they can score. Of course, scoring is only part of the game, and there might not be a worse fielding team in the league. The additions of Tim and Steve to their roster last year vastly improved their squad as less-than-stellar Coby and totally-unremarkable Lew see less playing time. If only Tim and Steve could pitch. They sit on top of the East now…but they started out the same way last season. Look for the same result, a second place finish, but they will claim the overall wildcard. (11 wins – 3 losses)
- Mammas, Pappas and Zapatas – Like the Monkee’s, this team was created just for the show. With a ridiculous name and yet-to-be determined talent, it’s hard to know for sure where they end up this season. They need to recruit more players to make sure they can play all their games, something manager Ryan Grover couldn’t do last season. As the only returning player, Grover’s .378 batting average isn’t going to be enough to carry this team. I’m picking them to beat most of the other teams who are in it for “fun” and not to win, but they could easily go 1 and 13 with a revolving door of players. (5 wins – 9 losses)
- Big Red Bat – A totally new team, with all rookie players, Big Red Bat is a big red question mark. Both their manager Todd Conklin and player Tobey Flagstaff seem to know their way around a wiffleball field. They had a bad draw Week 1 having to play the Hot Sundaes, as well as revitalized Masterbatters team who was looking for revenge after an opening day thrashing by the Canvassers. Their 0-2 start is deceiving, and the Commish wouldn’t be surprised if they end up in third place in the Division outplaying the Mammas, Pappas…forget it, I give up, you know who I mean. I assume their name, Big Red Bat is a reference to a commonly used alternative to the “official” Wifflebat, which has a bigger barrel, and is, well…it’s red and not yellow. If so, they’re at least in the ballpark on having an interesting team name which references the sport. After they learn the game, they could be dangerous and might squeak out a few victories. There is a rumor that their manager works for the Secret Service, but it’s unclear if that is true, or if that means trouble. (4 wins – 10 losses)
The newest Division in the league and probably the weakest, though not by much. Two teams from last season return, though one has a new name.
- Coconut Cowboys – The Cowboys only lost 3 games that they actually played last season, and none were in the regular season. It just happened that the 2 they lost in the World Series cost them the Championship. 2006 Summer Batting Triple Crown winner Ross Duenas returns as their manager and with a full cast on his arm and hand hit .615 with one homer during Week 1. Their loss to the Borg might as well have been a forfeit, with Ross’s injury, and new players who couldn’t get a hit if their lives depended on it. The Cowboy’s phoned it in. Even so shorthanded they beat the Mamma, Pappas and Zapatas in their second game. If we see the return of Anne and Sam…who we desperately miss, both for different reasons…the Cowboys should be up to form. Though, rumor has it that Sam is still so shell-shocked from his performance in the World Series that when he takes the mound he loses control of his bladder. They’ll run away with this Division, and the cast came off last week. (13 wins – 1 loss)
- Mary’s Mad Dogs – After winning two Championships with the Canvassers, David Gross is finally out on his own. He brings with him Mary and Andrew to form Mary’s Mad Dogs. They dealt a loss to the Whiffleblowers in Week 1, largely through a lot of Whiffle-blown opportunities. In Spring Training and Exhibition games they say they’ve hung close with the Canvassers, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. They sit on top of the Central right now, but they won’t be there for long. Their real problem is being able to score. They limp in a run here and there, but don’t have the defense win games that way. If they can get in the 5-7 runs per game range, they’ll win some ballgames, otherwise, expect them to be one of those teams that “almost” wins a lot, but loses by two runs. (9 wins – 5 losses)
- DC Whifflehouse – You might remember these guys as the Ballers for Jesus from the Summer 2006 season. Not even divine intervention could help them last year as they were the absolute worst team in the league. That’s despite their manager, Ryan Hughes, being nominated twice for Player of the Week, and despite being featured on the front page of the Washington Examiner during a practice session on the Mall. ( http://www.potomacwiffleball.org/News/66/wiffleball-on-the-mall ) Like the Mad Dogs, they have a scoring problem and lose a lot of close games that could go either way. Good news is that I’m predicting them to double their win number, from 1 to 2. However, with the 4 extra games, that means they get 3 more losses too. (2 wins – 12 losses)
- Good Sportsmanship – Another completely new team and total unknown in the league. They have matching shirts, but not uniforms. So, it’s kind of like they got close, but just couldn’t finish. They play Wiffleball about the same way. It’s unclear if their manager, Andrew Wiseman should spend more time on the shirts, or on his batting, which isn’t good. However, Troy and Mike appear to have decent sticks, and if the good lord is willing and the creek don’t rise these rooks might get a W or two. It’s also unclear after Week 1 if Good Sportsmanship is a) a true statement about their beliefs, b) irony, or c) something you say when you lose 12 games. (2 wins – 12 losses)
The West has two returning teams, and some good new players, but as it was when there were just two Divisions, will continue to be outshined by the East. With no All-Star Game by Division, at least they won’t have to worry about that embarrassing loss again.
- Hot Sundaes – Remember when little Kevin Hyde was a below average platoon player with Just Look at Yourself? A blink of an eye and he’s in his third season as a big-league skipper, with basically the same team he’s fielded the last two times. They’ve got Kevin and Kevin and Phil and Jim. They all four share a brain, and it’s unclear who has it during the playoffs. This same team has made it to the playoffs…twice, and has lost the decisive Game 3…twice. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Unfortunately this year won’t be any different. Finally out of the shadow of the Canvassers and the Cowboys, the Sundaes will experience total domination of their Division. They’ll also have the best record in the league this season, but it won’t be enough for them to make it to the big show. Keep hanging those Division pennants boys; they look nice next to your high school graduation tassels on the rear view mirror of your cars. (13 wins – 1 loss)
- Masterbatters – They threatened a name change, (apparently the logo didn’t go over so well in the bathrooms of the porno theatres frequented by team manager Dan Dondero), but in the end are sticking with it. What they did do though, was recruit a solid player in Joe Gortenburg who can hit, pitch, and field, which is something the combined talent of their team couldn’t do before. Dan’s also been working on his arm strength (see above), and hit two homers in Week 1. In case you’re wondering, that’s exactly double the amount of Homers he hit in the entire two previous seasons combined. We’re told they also have new chants, but “work it, own it” was good enough in Week 1 to go .500. We still love these guys and gals, and Wiffleball wouldn’t be Wiffleball without them. If they put some glue on Ben’s hands so he can catch a ball, for the first time in league history, they’re going to win more than they lose. (8 wins – 6 losses)
- Whiffleblowers – Brand new team, all rookie players. Last minute walk-on Kris Garcia beat out two veterans for Player of Week for Week 1 in what was otherwise a mixed bag for the Whiffleblowers. They’re still learning who they are and how to play together. They stranded four base runners in their 3-1 loss to the Mad Dogs. If they keep going at this rate, they’ll be one of those teams who is just a run or two shy of winning. Their manager seems thoroughly un-American and wouldn’t know a base hit if it was served up to him by a special interest lobbyist in an envelope of unmarked bills. Regardless, we’re glad they’re in the league, and if they start to play together, could surprise even the Commissioner and win more games that predicted. (3 wins – 11 losses)
- Team FSI – Is a brand new team with all new players and were no-shows Week 1. Their manager is a professional organizer, though clearly better at talking than turn-out. She’s also from Tennessee, which means we need to all speak slower. I’m picking them to win two games because, hey, with 12 teams, everyone ought to be able to win two games. I’ve heard they’ve already been doing a little trash talking, so they should be fun…if they ever show up. (2 wins – 12 losses)
With three Divisions, the Divisional Champion from each will head to the postseason, as well as the remaining team with the best overall record. That means it will be the Hot Sundaes from the West, Coconut Cowboys from the Central, and the Canvassers from the East. The Borg will end up being the wild-card, setting up the same four teams from the last post-season, when both series took three games to decide a winner. However, since the team with the best record will play the team with the worst, there will be a criss-cross of the Divisional contests from 06. The Coconut Cowboys will have the overall best record and will host the Borg in Round 1, and the Hot Sundaes will host the Canvassers in a re-match of the Spring 2006 Divisional Championship Series. These same teams all met Week 1, but expect different results. The Canvassers will beat the Sundaes in 3, and take revenge for their loss at the start of the season. The Borg won’t be so lucky to face a one-armed Ross in the playoffs, and will go 2 and out against the Cowboys.
It shouldn’t be this way, but it will be. A re-match of the 2006 Summer Series, only this time the Cowboys will have home field advantage over the Canvassers because of record. The turf won’t change the result though, Canvassers in three…for a three-peat. A third consecutive World Championship. The only question after that, can anyone take the title away from this team? Or are they just in a league of their own?
Remember, Wiffleball isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s in the top three.