The United Rotisserie League’s free agency period has been open for close to a month now, but signings have been few and far between.
Of those that filed for free agency, only seven—catcher Yadier Molina, first baseman Carlos Pena, outfielders Kosuke Fukudome and Ken Griffey, and pitchers Kelvim Escobar, Rafael Perez and Jose Valverde—have come to terms with teams. The Arkansas Cardinals and URL Champion Wendy’s Peffercorns have signed the most free agents with two.
“It’s a weak field,” said Conway Capitols owner Mark Scott. “Most of the big names were signed to long-term deals last offseason. There’s not a whole lot out there this year.”
Edwardsville Armada owner David Reed pointed to the lack of need as well as the lack of quality.
“There are some guys out there that could help a team,” Reed stated, “but they play positions that most everyone is stocked up on. Look at Nick Johnson. If healthy, he can rake and really be productive. But he plays first base. There aren’t a lot of people that need a first baseman. They either have a major league player at that position or have a minor leaguer ready to step up and be productive.”
Charles Rector, owner of the runner-up Atkins Alley Cats, doesn’t expect that next off-season will be much better. “Most of the good ones were locked up well past two years. Sure, you have Josh Beckett scheduled to be a FA, but that could be about it. It’s when you get into 2009 and 2010 offseasons that impact players become available, assuming they aren’t slapped with the franchise tag.”
Free agency will continue until January 25.
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.
Wendy’s Peffercorns used a strong last week to defeat upstart Atkins Alley Cats 10-4 and claim the first ever United Rotisserie League championship.
Dodging champaign blasts, owner Mike Salony was ecstatic.
“All year long, I believed in these guys,” he said. “We were a strong team all throughout the season after our stellar off-season and roster stocking. To finish it off and to take the first title, words just can’t express the excitement.”
Shortstop Derek Jeter led the celebration, one he had not been a part of for many years.
According to Jeter, “this year has been the best. I had real reservations coming to play for Mike. His leanings on the little east coast rivalry I was a part of were well known. But he’s been nothing but class since I got here and it’s great to finally play on a team that can win some games in the postseason.”
The offense carried the Peffercorns to the title, but the pitching staff was glad to celebrate as well.
“This is the greatest,” said Justin Verlander. “Even more so because I didn’t throw any balls away in this series!”
The URL starts now to transition into the postseason. Commissioner Shoptaw promises updated files and spreadsheets soon and a fun free agency period.
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 Texas Outlaws weren’t the most extravagant during the free agency period. In fact, they were the last team to sign a player. But just like the fabled turtle, their slow and steady approach now has them a 14 game lead in the standings.
“We knew we had a pretty good team,” said owner Robert Arnwine in a telephone interview Thursday. “There were some holes, we thought, but I felt like we could stay in contention. Did we think we’d be up this much this late? I don’t think anyone could honestly tell you that was the case.”
After sharing a lead with Wendy’s Peffercorns for a number of weeks, the Outlaws have gradually pushed their win total higher and higher and stand at 144-66 (.686 winning percentage) with only nine weeks left to go until the playoffs.
Riding players like third baseman Alex Rodriguez and first baseman Justin Morneau, the Outlaws lead the league in home runs and follow the Peffercorns in most other offensive categories. The pitching staff has been a little shakier but heavily strikeout-based, as they lead the league in that category as well as K/9 and holds.
Plans for the stretch run?
“Just keep doing what we’re doing,” said Arnwine. “If we can get another good pitcher, we’d think about it. Otherwise, it’s status quo, I’d expect.”
So far, it seems like the United Rotisserie League is going to be a two-horse race. And those horses are going head-to-head here in Week 8, creating the environment for some solid baseball and a new overall leader.
The Texas Outlaws and Wendy’s Peffercorns have done battle at the top of the standings for a long time, usually winding up tied at the end of each week. This week, they do battle in Florida as Wendy’s hosts the match between the two dominant URL teams.
“Dominant” is an understatement, as these teams sit at 72-26, a whopping 19 games ahead of the third place Brewville Style. Without a major surge by some team, these two will be contending for the overall crown all year long. Texas right now has the edge in the season series, winning 9-5 at home in Week 1. However, Peffercorn owner Mike Salony thinks this time is going to be different.
“The Outlaws have put together a heck of a team,” Salony said in a press conference on Sunday, “but the Peffercorns have been tweaking as well. Couple that with the home field advantage and our devoted fans and I feel confident we’ll be on top come Sunday night.”
Texas owner Robert Arnwine released a statement congratulating the Peffercorns on their early-season success and expressing anticipation for this week’s matchup.
“I’m ready to knock y’all off this first-place perch. You are taking up too much room!” the statement read.
After five weeks of the inaugural United Rotisserie League season, there have been surprises and disappointments. A couple of the biggest surprises are separated by only one game in the standings.
Wendy’s Peffercorns, who finished the free agency portion of the offseason with the lowest payroll in the league, have made numerous moves and set their team up for an early season run. Until last week, they were tied at the top of the standings before slipping one game back in Week 5. However, their 49-21 record puts them nine games ahead of their closest competitor.
Mike Salony, who was interviewed as he packed up team operations for a summer relocation, felt strongly that his team has what it takes to contend.
“Our pitching is looking good, though we have had a couple of guys have to hit the disabled list lately. I’m really liking our offense, however. Prince Fielder is picking up where he left off last year, (David) Ortiz and (Todd) Helton are hitting….we can put up runs with the best of them.”
The Peffercorns host the Atkins Alley Cats, currently the cellar-dwellers of the league, for a week-long tilt.
The team that is leading the league, though, is the Texas Outlaws. The Outlaws, a team that was one of the slowest to sign free agents, has rolled up a 50-20 record in the early going.
“We’re never satisfied, of course, but we like where we are at,” said owner Robert Arnwine. “I feel like our pitching could be a little better and we hated to lose Felix (Hernandez) to the DL. Alex Rodriguez has really carried us in the first month, but there are a number of bats on here that have helped out. We aren’t a one-man show, by any means.”
The Outlaws take on their designated rival, the Arkansas Cardinals, in Texas this week.
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.”