Opening Day. Simple, easy and so much fun. Right? Not so fast, says the United Rotisserie League.
Due to issues with their statistical interface, a number of the opening series will be played at less than ideal conditions.
“It’s pretty embarrassing,” stated Commissioner Daniel Shoptaw at a hastily-called news conference. “Starting the season in Japan, while perhaps great for the future coffers of Major League Baseball, has caused us in the related leagues nothing but sleepless nights, technical headaches, and teams that are not up to their full potential. Hopefully this will not be an issue when the pennant races are decided this summer. If a team misses the postseason because their ace pitcher wasn’t on the DL this first week, there’s not much solace in the fact that ‘everyone was affected'”.
Sources say that, due to the timing issue with the actual season starting while most teams were still in spring training, those players technically placed on the MLB disabled list before their team started the season but after the Japan series between the Boston Red Sox and Oakland A’s were counted as “active” the first matchup of the season.
“I’m not real happy about it,” Clarksville Cubs owner Jason Hoover was quoted as saying. “Everyone knew that [Mark] Prior was going to be out until June. But since the Padres didn’t make that official until a couple of days before the season starts, I have to pay the price? There’s something wrong with that.”
Hoover hastened to add that he had no problems with the response of the commissioner, just that he was “hating the system, not the player.”
Most every team had a similar complaint. The Texas Outlaws had two such cases, outfielder Rocco Baldelli and pitcher Scott Kazmir. Owner Robert Arnwine was sanguine about the glitches.
“Not much you can do about it but play on,” Arnwine said. “I don’t think it’ll cost us the season. Check back with me in August, see if I’m still as unconcerned.”
As Arnwine said, the real ramifications may not be known for a while.
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.
The final group of free agents has closed, but an almost eerie silence reigns as decisions about where those players will go are being made. With a large number of players signing and few slots to be had, a number of decisions were to be made by the teams throughout the day.
One team that didn’t have to sweat out the decision making process was the Clarksville Cubs. With only two catchers slots available and only leading on two catchers, the Cubs were able to announce the signings of Jason Kendall and A.J. Pieryznski early on Tuesday.
“We’re glad to have the roster complete and have these great guys behind the plate,” said Cubs owner Jason Hoover. “Now we can really turn our attention to the minor league draft and then toward opening day.”
Numerous players were up in the air at press time, including Grady Sizemore, Jim Thome, Justin Verlander, and Rickie Weeks.
With only one group remaining after Thursday’s signings, more and more rosters are filling up. Some of them for the second time.
With Thursday’s signings of DH Travis Hafner, outfielder Matt Holliday and first baseman Paul Konerko, the Edwardsville Armada again have 35 men on their roster. Also filling their slots were Wendy’s Peffercorns, who signed pitcher Rich Harden.
“To be able to have a signing day like today this late in the game is unbelieveable,” said Armada owner David Reed. “This is why we made the trades to free up room in the first place. Having hitters of this caliber on our squad will be a huge asset as we try to take the first URL championship.”
Wendy’s owner Mike Salony released a statement, in which he was quoted as saying, “Finishing our staff with a quality guy like Harden is about all you can hope for when you are in this business. It’s great to see him in the green of the Peffercorns.”
Also having a good signing day on Thursday were the Arkansas Cardinals. The Cardinals, who had been quiet the last couple of weeks, landed third baseman Scott Rolen, second baseman Placido Polanco and pitcher Anibal Sanchez.
Finishing the signings were the Clarksville Cubs, who were very happy to get shortstop David Eckstein.
“Great price, great player. Can’t beat that,” said Cubs owner Jason Hoover.
A week wasn’t long enough for Thursday’s group. It had to go into overtime.
After all decisions are made, up to six players may be signed. As it stands now, though, destinations are only known for two of them. The Clarksville Cubs completed their sweep of major Chicago little bears by signing first baseman Derrick Lee to a five year, $205 contract, while the Texas Outlaws got some cheap catching help by nabbing Jorge Posada to a two year, $2 deal.
“We set out with a plan and we are very happy to be able to complete that plan,” said Cubs owner Jason Hoover about Lee’s signing. “Obviously these guys don’t have a lot of postseason experience, but we feel they’ll be great here in Clarksville and bring us the title Chicago is missing.”
Players such as Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Zimmerman, Hideki Matsui, and Ryan Shealy will be making their intentions known through the night and into tomorrow. Stay tuned for updates as developments warrant.
While many people took a break during the New Year’s weekend, the owners of the United Rotisserie League continued wheeling and dealing in an effort to manuever their teams into position for the final stretch run of the initial free agent period.
On Friday evening, the Clarksville Cubs made their first trade, sending one of their stars, pitcher Dontrelle Willis, to the Atkins Alley Cats in exchange for three players, headlined by pitcher Noah Lowry and outfielder Torii Hunter.
“Losing Dontrelle would have been a major blow, save for the talent we got back in the deal,” said Cubs owner Jason Hoover. “We are excited about the players coming back, especially Noah, who we think can really fill the whole left by Dontrelle.”
“Trades are the lifeblood of a healthy team,” said Cats head honcho Charles Rector. “We are always trying to fine-tune this roster, especially with the talent that is still out there left to be signed.”
In the last trade of 2006, the Texas Outlaws made a minor deal, sending third baseman Rich Aurilia to Wendy’s Peffercorns for the now much-traveled Luis Castillo.
“Luis has had a rough week, but now that he’s landed on our roster, he can settle in. We have no plans to trade him again,” announced Outlaw owner Robert Arnwine. “We liked Aurilia, but we had a backlog of third basemen and had a need at second base. It’s a classic baseball trade.”
Wendy’s owner Mike Salony was unavailable to comment at press time.
Both the Brewville Style and the Conway Capitols wrapped up their free agent signings, filling in the rest of their roster with quality signings on Thursday as business resumed with a vengance after the Christmas break.
Prior to Thursday’s signings, familar trade partners Wendy’s Peffercorns and Atkins Alley Cats swapped players, with Raul Ibanez going to the Cats and Mike Gonzalez to the Peffercorns. This became very beneficial for both teams, as they landed free agents that they normally would not have been able to land.
As of this writing, the Cats were still deciding on the pitcher they were going to sign, having landed the rights to two of them. The Peffercorns signed outfielder Carlos Beltran to a five-year, $125 deal.
“Getting Beltran makes that whole Ibanez trade that much sweeter,” said Peffercorn owner Mike Salony.
Conway only needed one player to finish their roster, and they signed outfielder Jeff Francouer to a $35, five-year contract. The Style made a bigger splash, wrapping up the last five players they needed, headlined by second baseman Ian Kinsler’s five-year, $61 pact.
“I didn’t expect to complete my roster today,” Style owner Steve Egge was quoted as saying, “but if I had to, these are great guys to get. Looking over the team, it looks very good in my eyes.”
The Clarksville Cubs finished up their pitching staff by signing Ben Sheets to a $150, five-year deal.
“For the last pitcher we signed, he’s darn good,” grinned owner Jason Hoover.
The URL will take another breather for New Year’s before resuming next week in a last push to finalize rosters and prepare for the minor league draft.
Thursday’s list of free agent signings had a definite theme, as the Texas Outlaws and Brewville Style combined to sign ten of the 18 players that came to terms today. The headliner, in terms of money, was the Outlaws’ signing of third baseman Garrett Atkins to a $155, five-year deal.
“We’re glad to really start filling up the roster,” said Texas owner Robert Arnwine. “We got guys at good prices, in our opinion, and we really feel this will help push us to the top of the standings. Outlaw fans really have something to get excited about now.”
Brewville became the fifth team to fill their pitching staff, leaving few jobs left in the URL for those making their living from the mound.
Owner Steve Egge stated that he was glad to get quality relievers such as Francisco Cordero ($42, 3 years) and Joe Nathan ($110, four years) to round out his staff.
In other signings, Wendy’s Peffercorns came to terms with outfielder Andruw Jones, locking him up for $130 over five years, and the Clarksville Cubs won the tiebreaking bidding on reliever Akinori Otsuka, getting him for $25 over three years.