After a 9 Year ULB Career with SA/SJS Christos 'Stos' Tsocanos elects to join Athens Panathinaikos in ULB Europa.
— Official ULB (@ULB_Commish) October 26, 2014
The 2008 ULB All Star Game Voting Period has ended, and here are the winners for the 14th edition of the ULB Classic.
C Alfonso Delgado PHO
1B Alex Crooks OKC
2B Gerard King LV
3B John McCurdy SJJ
SS Stephen Drew CHA
OF Josh Hamilton MIL
OF Mark Folsom CHA
OF Ichiro Suzuki LV
DH Kenneth Payne PHO
C Andy Burress WAS
1B Eron Morrow POR
2B C.J. Henry NO
3B Mark Schramek JC
SS Mike Peeples SJS
OF Jason Kubel LAS
OF Jason Harrison SL
OF Albert Pujols HOU
DH Jody Gerut JC
The ULB Playoffs will be set is just 8 days, and there is plenty of excitement in three of the four divisions. With the Charlotte Eagles as the lone team that has clinched their division outright, everything is still up for grabs in the rest of the league.
The Federal League East Champonship is suddenly in doubt as the Buffalo Blizzard and New Orleans Pelicans have gained significant ground on the Jersey City Giants in recent weeks. While the Giants will begin the final full week of the season with a 3 game winning streak, they’ll have one game vs the always awful Generals and then face the Salt Lake City Bees at home and finish the season in San Juan against the Storm.
The Pelicans would have to hope to sweep the Blizzard before getting to the Generals for an easy series if they can pull off an improbable comeback to end 2007. The Blizzard face the Storm for 1 game in Puerto Rico then finish the season with 3 games against the Pelicans and Apollos on the road. Jersey City is still the favorite, but as we’ve learned in the past, don’t count out New Orleans. in 1999, New Orleans and Jersey finished the season tied and went on to play a game 155. The Giants won that game and went on to win the Union Cup that season. You can bet that if we get a game 163, the Pelicans would love to get some payback against the Giants.
In the Federal League West, The Mavericks are currently on top, but the Los Angeles Stars are sitting just a half game back and are looking to get their second FL West Division title. It would be the Stars 2nd title and first since 1995. The loser of the FL West Division Title will get the 1st Wild Card, so the Stars are all but assured of a playoff berth. The Bees hold the 2nd Wild Card for now, but the Blizzard are just 2 games back and Pelicans 3 games back in the Chase final Federal League Playoff spot.
The race everyone is talking about is of course the Players League West Wild Card Race. While the Vipers look to have the Division all but locked up, barring a monumental collapse, we have a 3 way race for the final two spots. The Saints hold Wild Card spot #1 for now at 91-63, and the Oklahoma City RedHawks and San Jose Jedi are tied at 91-64 for the 2nd spot.
Perhaps OKC GM Mark Bauer said it best:
“Holy cow. That is nuts”
The Three way race could very well end in a tie for final spot, meaning the league could be looking at multiple Game 163’s to end the season. Holy Cow is an understatement.
The 2006 ULB Divisional Cup is now finished, and the ULB League Championship Cup match ups are now set. Four teams remain to challenge for the right to hold the Union Cup high.
The Portland Mavericks swept the San Juan Storm in 4 games, sending one former champion packing. The Mavericks weathered the Storm easily, but Portland remains concerned about the poor performance of Ace pitcher Roy Halladay, who allowed 11 hits and 6 runs in 6 innings of work in Game 1 of the Division Cup. Thankfully for the Mavs, the offense picked up the slack and was able to help Portland squeak out a 7-6 victory. Game 2 went 11 innings, with Portland coming out on top thanks to a Mark Teahen walk out solo home run.
The Boston Colonials defeated the Oklahoma City RedHawks, 4 games to 1, and were the only Wild Card to advance to the League Championship Cup. Oklahoma City took Game 1 by a score of 6-5, but the Colonials then dominated the rest of the series. Kevin Forbes and Dernell Stenson both homered in Game 2 and led the way to a 7-5 victory. Dan Mozingo gave up just 1 run in 6.2 innings of work in Game 3 to help the Colonials to a 4-1 win in Boston. Ben Sheets went 8 innings and allowed just 3 hits in Game 5 as Boston won the series in 5 games with a score of 5-2.
The Columbus Crickets put out the Phoenix Fire in 5 games to eliminate another former Union Cup Champion. The Fire won game one by a score of 5-4 behind Tim Lemon. The rest of the series was not as kind to the fire. A.J. Pierzynski provided a home run to tie Game 2 in the 3rd inning, and Jeff Baker scored on a Pat Osborn double to give the Crickets all the lead they would need in a 2-1 victory in Game 2. Matt White kept the Fire at bay in Game 3, allowing just 2 runs and 4 hits in 8 innings of work in a 5-2 victory for the Crickets. Kerry Wood went 7 innings and allowed just 2 runs in an 8-4 victory in Game 4. The final nail in the Fire’s coffin was Dan Denham who allowed just 2 unearned runs in Game 5. Eric Junge would allow a Jody Gerut solo homer in the 9th to briefly bolster the Fire’s hopes, but he then got Tagg Bozied to ground out and struck out Michael Sirois to send the Crickets to the League Championship Cup with a 4-3 victory.
The defending Union Cup Champion Buffalo Blizzard survived the hardest fought series as they sent the New Orleans/Kansas City Gold Sox back to their adopted home for the rest of the playoffs. Buffalo won Game 1 on a 3 run walkoff home run by Corey Smith in the bottom of the 9th inning to give the Blizzard an 11-10 victory. The Gold Sox won Game 2 in the 10th inning on a Tom Brady RBI single in a 4-3 Gold Sox victory. The Gold Sox took a 2-1 lead in the series behind Gen Sueyoshi’s 8 inning, 2 run masterpiece in a 5-2 loss for Buffalo. The Blizzard tied the series in a 15-11 scorefest in which every starter for both teams had a hit. Darren Holt had 5 hits in 5 at bats, with 3 runs scored to lead Buffalo to a hard fought victory. Jeff Flaig added 4 hits and 2 home runs and 4 RBIs as well. Lloyd Peever went the complete game in Game 5 and allowed just 1 run, while Roy Oswalt fell apart early and lasted just 1 inning and allowed 5 runs. The Gold Sox would win 11-1 and take a 3-2 lead in the series. Antonio McDowell, Bryan Bass and Gene Smith all homered for the Gold Sox. With the series on the line, Gerik Baxter turned in a dominant performance and held the Gold Sox to 2 runs on 6 hits in 8 innings of work. Corey Smith and Brent Abernathy both homered for the Blizzard as they went on to win 6-2 and send the series to a decisive Game 7. Kris Benson went 7.1 innings and allowed 4 runs on 8 hits. But Gen Sueyoshi lasted just 1.2 innings and allowed 5 runs, 2 of them unearned. Bryan Bass had the unfortunately costly error in the second which led to the unearned runs by Ben Cordova and Brent Abernathy and ultimately drove Sueyoshi from the game. Bass was also caught stealing in the top of the 2nd to end the inning. Darren Holt added another 3 hits to bring his Division Cup average to .433 with 13 hits, as well as 11 RBI’s. The Blizzard would secure a 8-4 victory, with Stan Green striking out Auturo McDowell to end the game and send the Blizzard to the League Championship Cup as they continue to attempt to become 3 team to win back to back Union Cups.
In the League Championship Cup it will be the Boston Colonials hosting the Columbus Crickets and the Portland Mavericks hosting the defending champs in the Buffalo Blizzard.
The Union Cup Playoffs kick off tonight, and we have some interesting matchups in the first round of the Playoffs.
Boston Colonials (85-77) vs Oklahoma City Red Hawks (100-62)
The RedHawks took the season series, going 8-6 against the Colonials. However in their last meeting in September, the Colonials took 3 of 4 from Oklahoma City. In that series, they outscored the RedHawks 26-19. Josh Lyons was 2-0 against Boston, and Dan Mozingo played the RedHawks hard, beating them twice this season. Boston will look to keep the momentum of that recent series alive as they head to Oklahoma City tonight.
Phoenix Fire (91-71) vs Columbus Crickets (95-67)
The Fire and Crickets split their season series 7-7. The Crickets won the last series in September 2 games to 1. The Fire will be without ace Andy Yount, and they will have to hope that Tim Lemon can win a couple of games for them. He went 3-0 against the Crickets this season with a 1.59 ERA. If the Crickets’s bats stay hot and can get to the Fire’s bullpen, the series could end badly for Phoenix.
New Orleans/Kansas City Gold Sox (91-71) vs Buffalo Blizzard (94-68)
The Blizzard are the defending champs, but lost the season series against their divisional rivals 12 games to 11. The Gold Sox swept the Blizzard in their last meeting, which ended yesterday. If the Blizzard hope to repeat as Union Cup Champions, they will have to go through the Gold Sox, and a rabid fan base that has enjoyed being the temporary home of the New Orleans franchise. Luckily, the Blizzard will have home field advantage for the first two games before heading to Kansas City. Roy Oswalt could be the key to victory for Buffalo.
San Juan Storm (85-77) vs Portland Mavericks (96-66)
The Mavericks won the season series 10 games to 4, and though the two franchises haven’t seen each other since August, you have to give the Mavericks rotation a slight edge in the series. Andy Pettitte dominated the Storm when he faced them, and Roy Halladay and Mike V. Gonzalez all have good numbers against the Storm. The Storm won the first three games against the Mavs and went 1-10 the rest of the way, including the last 8 meetings. Clearly things look bad for the Storm right now, but the Mavericks also have a long history of losing in the Playoffs. (Most Appearances, Most Losses in ULB Playoff history…) We’ll find out if the Mavericks can finally crack the code soon enough or if the Storm will once again send Portland home early.
The 2006 Union Cup Playoffs are set now that the regular season has concluded. They will feature the Columbus Crickets, Boston Colonials, Oklahoma City RedHawks and Phoenix Fire in the Players League. Over in the Federal League, the Portland Mavericks, New Orleans/Kansas City Gold Sox and San Juan Storm will attempt to dethrone the defending champions, the Buffalo Blizzard.
In the Federal League, the Portland Mavericks are the only team that has never won the Union Cup. In the Players League, the Phoenix Fire are the only team to have won the ultimate prize in the ULB. The Boston Colonials and Oklahoma City Redhawks have never been to the Union Cup, and will vie for a shot at their first trip.
Stay tuned for more coverage as the Postseason gets underway.
Arriving at Third Base, we had a bit of a problem, as we had a couple players we could have selected and called it a day. The ‘hot seat’ of the baseball diamond has seen some great players man the position in ULB history. Jim Thome played a couple of his early seasons at the position. It came down to a trifecta of Jamie Taylor, Aubrey Huff and…
Third Base: Ray Rice (Jersey City Giants 1997-2004)
Now for Third Base, we perhaps have an unsung hero in Jersey City’s Ray Rice. His stats place him slightly higher than Jamie Taylor on our list, and the only player with a higher VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) is Las Vegas’ Aubrey Huff. Huff didn’t debut until 2001 however, so we’ve gone with Rice as our selection for Third Base. Rice is also a three time All Star and led the league is On Base Percentage in 2000. He amassed 126 home runs and 488 runs batted in from 1997-2004. He also drew more walks (533) than strike outs (482). And he’s a two time Union Cup Champion as a member of the Giants. Defensively, Rice started 575 of his games as a Third Baseman, and while he will never be known as a Fielding Bible Quality 3B (-20.7 ZR) he made up for it with his bat.* Also without Ray Rice’s clutch RBI single in the one game playoff against the New Orleans Gold Sox in 1999, the Giants might not have won the 1999 Union Cup.
We could go on about why we selected Ray Rice, but we’ll leave it up to Jersey City Giants GM Ryan Huff to make the case for him:
“Rice was drafted in the in the eighty fifth round of the ULB inaugural draft. He was nothing more than a 21 year old utility infielder prospect at the time. Rice spent 1995 between AA and AAA while playing subpar and having minimal impact but 1996 was a completely different story. Something just clicked for Rice as many scouts raved about his intangibles and intelligence for the game. Rice always knew what to do in any given situation one Jersey City scout stated. Rice finished 1996 in AAA for the Newark Bison’s. He won two Player of the Week Awards, four Batter of the Month Awards, and the Morgan Burkhart MVP Award. Not to mention he won the Frontier League Series as a Newark Bison. The final stat line for Rice’s MVP season was a .303 BA, 41 HR’s, 141 RBI’s (the numbers that the voters count).”
And that’s before he even made the Big Leagues. How about some ULB action?
“After spending a few months of the 1997 season in AAA Rice finally got the call he was waiting for, a chance to play for the big club. Rice would end up spending 8 seasons with Jersey City before leaving through free agency in 2005. He was instrumental in the two Jersey City championships (1997 and 1999). He enjoyed his best seasons from 1998-2000 and was a perennial All-Star. Rice has always hit RHP all over the field, he just never really got those lefties figured out. Because of this he will never have those HOF numbers. He will never be remembered as an elite slugger but he still had solid power. He had above average defense, a good arm, and could make all plays on the field. Rice averaged a 2.5 WAR while in JC and I would take that any day of the week.”
*If we went by defense only, we'd have selected two time Fielding Bible award winner Frank Valdez of the Boston Colonials and Portland Pioneers. But he jumped to the MLB in 2001 and retired after bouncing around as a backup in 2003. Defense isn't everything.
With our third selection of the ULB’s First Ten, we’ve selected the best Second Baseman from the first ten years of the ULB’s history. This one was a pretty easy selection.
Second Base : Mike Peeples (San Antonio Wolves 1997-1999, San Antonio DireWolves 2000-2003, San Juan Storm 2004)
Peeples led all Second basemen in nearly every hitting category of note. The young 20 year old Peeples debuted in 1997, and has never looked back. The 5th overall pick in the inaugural draft, Peeples came to the San Antonio Franchise straight out of Clay High School in Green Grove Springs, Florida. The 6 time All Star was also named the Federal League MVP in 2003 after hitting .320 with 47 home runs and a league record 179 runs batted in. He is also among the elite fielders in the league, and was named a Fielding Bible award winner in 2000.
Peeples current General Manager, Wally Tims, is clearly enamored with his star player.
“What can you say about this guy? Well Mike has a combination of Power (Averaged 41 Doubles and 35 Homers) and Speed (averaged 22 Stolen Bases) over his ULB career. Mike has also been an asset on the field with good defensive skills especially at his second base position. During his career he has been and still is a force to be feared by his opponents.”
Peeples was the clear winner at second base, and will likely continue to be a ‘force to be feared’ for the future. He led the Storm to the Union Cup in 2004, and could very well collect more moments with the Cup before his career is over.
The Buffalo Blizzard capped off a remarkable season by sweeping the St. Paul Saints to capture their first ever Union Cup Championship. The Blizzard survived an epic postseason duel with the Portland Pioneers and went on to defeat the 2004 Union Cup Champions, the San Juan Storm to advance to the Cup for the first time. St. Paul was favored slightly, but Buffalo was now used to their role as the Underdog.
“We came to win. Destiny called and we answered!” said Kris Benson, who led the Blizzard to a Game 1 victory going 8 innings and allowing just 2 runs. Roy Oswalt led the Blizzard to a Game 2 victory, allowing just 1 run in 8 innings. Rick Jost gave the team a solid effort in game 3, allowing 3 earned runs, and 1 unearned in a 8-4 victory that put the Blizzard firmly in the Driver’s Seat. Jimmy Barrett started Game 4, is 1st start of the playoffs, and allowed just 2 runs in 8 innings, and the Blizzard rolled to a 5-2 victory and their first Championship.
Catcher Victor Martinez was named Union Cup MVP, hitting .250 with 6 RBI and two important HR that clinched Victories for the Blizzard.