The doors to free agency were thrown open today, insuring that teams will be talking to players, buzz will be circulating, and various moves will be made. However, the trade market knows no restrictions and has been very active in the last couple of weeks.
At the center of most of the dealing has been the Arkansas Cardinals and the URL Champion Wendy’s Peffercorns. Those two teams have made two trades, with the Cardinals making a deal with the Brewville Style on Friday and completing a blockbuster deal with the Conway Capitols as well.
“The Cardinals have been looking to get younger,” said an industry source. “I’m not sure that they’ll be competitive much in 2008, but they could be good in a few years. And, of course, any team that now has Albert Pujols is worth watching.”
With some teams wanting to make room for free agents, it is possible that the trade market will continue to fuel the hot stove.
It wasn’t the way the postseason was scripted. But postseasons rarely follow the plans laid out before they get underway.
The most dominant team in the United Rotisserie League’s short history had home field advantage and faced a team that finished under .500 for the season. The Texas Outlaws were supposed to quickly dispose of the Atkins Alley Cats and move on to face either Wendy’s Peffercorns or perhaps Brewville Style.
Instead, Atkins won the key saves category–the only pitching category they claimed–and posted an 8-6 victory over the Outlaws. Atkins won every hitting category, while the Outlaws claimed all pitching categories save, well, saves.
“It’s frustrating,” owner Robert Arnwine said after the final game on Sunday. “To know that we were that close to playing for a title that, honestly, we feel we deserve, it cuts at you. Our offense just didn’t show up this week. We take one more category, we get the win due to the tiebreaker. You have to give credit to the Cats, though. They showed up to play.”
Drenched from a champagne shower, Cats owner Charles Rector was noticeably exuberant.
“That’s the way we roll!” he bellowed in the clubhouse, surrounded by hitting stars Ryan Howard and David Wright. “We punished the ball this week. Too bad our pitchers didn’t do much for themselves, but Frankie (Francisco Rodriguez) bailed them out. We’re going to the Series, baby!”
The other series, while tight, went more true to form as the Peffercorns dispatched the Style 8-6.
“I didn’t expect it to be that close, honestly,” Style owner Steve Egge said in the post-series press conference. “We’ve dealt with a lot of injuries and off-the-field stuff, so to battle one of the cream of the crop teams to the very end, that makes me proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
When it was noted that three runs and a slightly better WHIP might have the Style moving on, Egge shrugged.
“We didn’t get them. They did. End of story.”
Mike Salony, owner of the Peffercorns, extended respect toward the Style for a great series.
“They came to play, and they really made us extend ourselves. I wasn’t sure we’d be able to do it, but it’ll was good for the team. They won’t be overlooking the Cats next week, trust me.”
After a long, tough season, the excitement of playoff baseball has come to the United Rotisserie League. Four teams battle it out to see who will be the inaugural United Champion.
In the first matchup, the Texas Outlaws (230-106), owners of the best record in the URL, host the fourth-place Atkins Alley Cats (161-175). The Alley Cats are the only team under .500 to make the playoffs, but owner Charles Rector is unconcerned.
“The records aren’t cumulative,” he said. “It’s who plays the best this week. I think this team can put together a magical postseason run and be a team talked about for years to come.”
Robert Arnwine, Texas Outlaws owner, is confident his regular-season success will carry over to end of September baseball.
Talking to the press on Monday, he said, “We’ve got a lot of solid, producing guys and they’ve been doing it all year. I don’t see any reason for them to stop now. Not having [Eric] Bedard will hurt, sure, but I think we can work around that. Having the series at home is key, as well. Our fans are going to be loud and proud. I think our home-field advantage is second to none.”
The other matchup has the Brewville Style (178-158) traveling to Wendy’s Peffercorns (206-130).
“It’s been a rough year on us,” Style owner Steve Egge said, “and I feel like we were fortunate to finish over .500. That said, we plan on putting up a tough fight for the Peffercorns. They may want us to wave the white flag, but we’re coming with guns ablazin'”
The Peffercorns were very excited about playoff baseball in Florida, according to owner Mike Salony.
“We really wanted to pass the Outlaws for the top spot, but having home field in at least one round was the top priority. The Style have played well, but we plan on ending their season after Sunday.”
Both series will wrap up on Sunday, with the winners playing a week-long series at the home of the best record remaining. Continue reading
The first week of the United Rotisserie League’s inaugural season is done and already there is a first-place showdown.
The Texas Outlaws, Arkansas Cardinals and Brewville Style all finished the first week with a 9-5 record, placing them one game ahead of the Conway Capitols. In Week 2, the Cardinals travel to Illinois to take on the Style.
“It’s great to have this early season battle,” said Cardinals manager Sparky Anderson. “We feel we have a team that can beat some people, but we have to go out and prove it. Getting a chance to do so and maybe take over first by ourselves is a great thing. Now, if the snow will just stay away……”
All the home teams won in Week 1, which seems to bode well for Brewville.
“I don’t know about that,” said Egge, “but we do plan on beating the Cardinals to a pulp, especially since it looks like we’ll miss (Chris) Carpenter. We’ve got the tarp on the field, but if those pansies from Arkansas can’t handle a little snow, they are worse off than I thought.”
The other first place team gets a two-week homestand, as Texas hosts the Capitols.
“Mark and I have had a rivalry for a long time,” said Outlaws top gun Robert Arnwine. “To be able to clash early on, with first place possibly on the line, just adds to the luster. Our fans are looking forward to seeing them come in, especially that Albert Pujols guy.”
The Capitols, to a man, say they are pumped as well.
“Texas looks like they are going to have a good ball club this year,” said owner Mark Scott. “To win this league, we are going to have to play well against top competition. This should give us a gauge on how well we are doing.”
The four teams that lost their opening series also get to do battle, as the Atkins Alley Cats drive up the road to Clarksville to take on the Cubs and the Edwardsville Armada head for the warmer climes of Florida to take on Wendy’s Peffercorns.
Cubs owner Jason Hoover is very excited for this series. “It’s our opener, so the first 5,500 fans get a set of Cubs playing cards, perfect for laying down a bad beat on someone. That’s what we plan to do to the Cats as well. It’s going to be like we are holding pocket aces each hand.”
The Alley Cats, for their part, aren’t impressed.
“We’re talking about the Cubs? They still in the league? I figured they’d have folded like 7-2 offsuit by now,” taunted Cats owner Charles Rector. “Seriously, though, we are disappointed in our first outing and we have to take it out on someone. Might as well be Clarksville.”
Armada head man David Reed doesn’t care who they are playing, as long as they get out of the cold.
“It’s been freezing up here in Edwardsville, so I don’t mind at all going to Florida for a week,” Reed said. “Hopefully we’ll have a great week, win some games, and by time we get back home, it’ll have thawed out some.”
The Peffercorns have a lot planned for their home opener, according to Mike Salony, owner of the club.
“We plan to give out 5,000 copies of The Sandlot to those 15 and under that come to the game,” said Salony, “and we’re thinking about having a doggie-day later in the week, letting the pooches come into the game and see if any of them can catch a home run.”
The clock is ticking. Final roster positioning is being done. Bats are ready, stadiums are clean and crisp, the grass is mowed. Only a weekend stands between now and the beginning of the United Rotisserie League and teams are starting to get excited.
“We’re going to go up to Russellville and take care of those Cardinals” says Atkins Alley Cats owner Charles Rector about his first-week matchup with the Arkansas team. “This rivalry, which comes complete with a shiny trophy, is one that I’ve impressed upon my players. We’re going all out to start this season off right.”
Cardinal owner Daniel Shoptaw wasn’t impressed.
“Those Cats talk a good game, sure, and maybe they’ll play one. But I’ve got faith that my team will come out on top this first week as a precursor to an eventual league title. And we are excited to be hosting one of the first URL games ever. There will be lots of great promotions, including an inaugural season baseball to the first 10,000 that come through the gates,” said Shoptaw.
Right down the road in Conway, the Capitols will be hosting the Edwardsville Armada.
“It never rains at Capitols Field,” said owner Mark Scott in a teleconference Thursday. “We are ready to get this thing going under perfect skies, with a winning team. That Armada may come sailing in here thinking they are the bomb, but we’ll show them that political power can trump military power any day. And the first 7,000 fans get a Capitols team set of baseball cards, so how can you beat that?”
The Armada are sure going to try to find a way to beat it, says owner David Reed.
“Mark’s a good guy and all, but when you are looking down the barrel of our cannon, you are going to be singing a different tune. When you can bring a big gun like Johan Santana into battle, well, you just better go run back inside that pretty little dome of yours!”
The only Arkansas team venturing away from the Natural State is the Clarksville Cubs, who head up to Illinois to visit the Brewville Style.
“It’s always tough to start out on the road, but I think we can go up there and show that we are a solid team,” top Cub Jason Hoover said. “The Style are tough, but I think with Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano, Cub blue will prevail like it always does.”
Steve Egge, owner of the Style, was confident in his squad.
“Manny Ramirez. Mark Teixeira. Vladimir Guerrero. Jake Peavy. What is there NOT to be confident about? We’re going to have a very good year here with the Style. And the first 12,000 fans that come through the turnstiles on Opening Day will get a free schedule magnet, so plan to be here early!”
The only matchup of the first week not involving an Arkansas team is in Texas, where the Outlaws welcome in Wendy’s Peffercorns
Outlaws owner Robert Arnwine is impressed with the spring showing of his team.
“A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez) and (Justin) Morneau have especially been stinging the ball, and they may both be in the MVP mix. On the pitching side, you have to like what (Eric) Bedard and Matt (Cain) have been showing. We’re looking forward to our first game and we think we can take those Florida guys down. Our fan base should be out in force, especially with Outlaws key chains being given out to the first 15,000 that come in.”
Mike Salony, owner of the Peffercorns, had a different view.
“I’m not excited about making such a long trip to start the season, but better to do it when we are fresh than when we are worn out with the grind. I’m really not looking forward to the travel come summer time. All that said, this team is primed to kick some Outlaw rear this week, and I am pretty sure we are going to do just that.”
The United Rotisserie League released their 2007 schedule on Tuesday, and a number of early matchups stood out as must-see baseball.
The season starts off with a strong rivalry, matching the Atkins Alley Cats against the Arkansas Cardinals in Russellville.
“We are excited to start off the season with such a bang,” said Cardinals owner Daniel Shoptaw. “This will be a great way for our team to get the buzz going in the community and quickly see how we are going to match up with the rest of the league.”
Week 2 matches up a couple of old high school friends, as the Conway Capitols make the trek to Texas to take on the Outlaws.
“We may not have geography on our side,” Capitols owner Mark Scott was quoted as saying, “but that won’t dimish the intensity of the two teams. Both sides will be playing their top game in this series.”
The third week of the season has the Clarksville Cubs and the Cardinals tangling for what is sure to be a long and protracted season battle.
Cubs owner Jason Hoover stated, “We really want to take the Cardinals down early and show that we are for real when it comes to supremecy in the Arkansas River Valley and the URL.”
The anticipated Battle of Illinois doesn’t kick off until Week 6, when the Brewville Style travel down to Edwardsville and engage the Armada.
“We’d like to be getting this started earlier in the year,” said Armada owner David Reed, “but we hope that we’ll be ready to go by time the Style get here.”
While not a rivalry either team will acknowledge, the Armada visits Wendy’s Peffercorns in the second week of the season. That series should be one to keep an eye on as well.
Grady Sizemore tested the market twice, but kept coming back to Atkins. Todd Helton, given the same chance, went elsewhere.
Sizemore and Helton were two of the final players to sign on the last day of the United Rotisserie League’s first free agent period. Sizemore, who had been granted his release from the Atkins Alley Cats earlier, resigned with the team for $175 over five years.
“The money is less, that is the most notable thing,” laughed Sizemore at the press conference. “I probably made a mistake in giving up that much cash, but it helped this team get stronger, and the more I looked at it, the more I wanted to be a part of that, even at a lower price.”
The Cats filled out their pitching rotation by signing Rich Hill and Phillip Hughes, young guys who can “make an impact,” according to owner Charles Rector.
Helton, who had been let go from the Brewville Style, hooked on at a reduced rate with Wendy’s Peffercorns.
“Todd is going to be a great addition for us,” said owner Mike Salony. “I think he can really kick start this offense and push us up the standings.”
Also finalizing rosters were the Arkansas Cardinals, who grabbed two low-priced hitters in James Loney and Hideki Matsui, and the Texas Outlaws, who signed Chris Burke to play second base.
The Brewville Style today announced three signings, headlined by the five-year, $140 year deal handed out to second baseman Rickie Weeks.
“We had some cap room, and I don’t know of anyone better to spend it on,” said owner Steve Egge. “Rickie is going to be a cornerstone at the keystone for years to come. It’s exciting to see him in Style orange.”
Also signing on Tuesday were catcher Brian Schnider and closer Mariano Rivera.
“Getting Rivera is great as well,” stated Egge. “Having that presence in our bullpen, not only for the on-the-field benefits but for the leadership he can provide to our pitching staff is amazing. We were lucky to be able to lock him up.”
Teams continue to jockey for position for the few remaining free agents, as another trade was pulled in advance of Thursday’s penultimate group closing.
On Wednesday, the Edwardsville Armada sent first baseman Sean Casey to the Brewville Style for closer Chad Cordero and financial considerations. This marked Cordero’s second deal, having been part of the first-ever URL deal back in November.
“We’ve really been focused on getting another closer,” said Armada owner David Reed. “Getting one of the quality of Cordero has made 2007 get off to a great start.”
The Style were glad to get a player like Casey into the fold.
“We saw what he did in the World Series, and we don’t have any reason to believe he can’t produce at a similar level throughout the year,” stated Style owner Steve Egge.
Luis Castillo had the shortest stint in a uniform the United Rotisserie League has ever seen.
Just hours after being acquired by the Brewville Style in a deal, Castillo was shipped out to Wendy’s Peffercorns in a four-player deal. Going with Castillo was third baseman Bill Hall, while the Peffercorns sent Takashi Saito, Kenny Rogers and financial considerations to the Style.
“Flipping Castillo like this was never our intent,” said Style owner Steve Egge. “However, Mike (Salony, owner of the Peffercorns) and I got to talking and it seemed to work out for the both of us.”
The Peffercorns were pleased as well with the deal, according to Peter Gammons, Wendy’s GM.
“Getting a guy like Hall that can play so many positions, that’s going to be a very helpful asset as we round out the roster and finish putting the pieces together,” said Gammons in the press conference held in the “Northern Command”, the Boston division of the Wendy’s braintrust.
After the moves of Friday morning, only the Conway Capitols now have a complete roster.