Quick 1962 Brawl Predictions

Puerto Rico vs. Houston – It’ll be interesting to see how the Hurricanes set up their rotation for the Brawl but it’s clear they’re coming in hobbled after having to play hard through the last game of the season just to be here. Staff ace Tony Castillo is not likely to be ready to pitch until game 3 and that’s if they get there. Trade deadline acquisition Salvador Lopez will not be fully rested until game 2. Childers pitched the clinching game against Louisville so he’s out entirely which leaves Saunders or Corona to go for game 1. Houston on the other hand is fully rested and will throw Mendez, Jordan, and Martinez (if needed) out there. This one will go 3 as I fully expect Los Boricuas to sneak a win in there but Houston gets through.

Houston in 3.

Hollywood vs. Montreal – I think Lopez vs. Watts in game 1 is the main card of this round and must-see TV even if you’re not a fan. Whoever wins this matchup is pretty much guaranteed to go through the next round so outcome is crucial and will heap a TON of pressure on these two young hurlers. The Royals enter hot off a sweep of another hot team in Seattle but I think Watts gets blinded by the bright postseason lights while David Lopez and co. have already been here and must still be smarting from the early exit last season. Obligatory ‘oh by the way’ Joe Davis is hitting .194 with only 1 HR in September so he enters this series ice cold. Eric Davis? .465 with a 1.267 OPS. Fire.
Despite ‘Shrimp’ Gary’s best efforts…

Hollywood in 2.

Oakland vs. Philadelphia – I mean, let’s be honest – Philadelphia is only here because this was a down year in the CL, they were the least sucky of the sucky teams, and someone had to take the 5th spot. Orlando Mendez is gone, David O’Quinn is gone, Gustavo Deffenu is gone. They still have Tim Ray but he just finished the worst season of his career not counting the 22 games he played in ’48 prior to his full rookie season, and he’s on a steep downward slide. Being in the playoffs is a big bonus for a team that threw the towel and started a rebuild in the middle of the season, but they’ll be lucky if that bonus lasts more than 2 games. The Oaks have bigger fish to fry and no amount of ‘FTO’ chanting by the Philly faithful will change that. Poor Santa is going to get pelted this year.

Oakland in 2.

San Francisco vs. Toronto – this is probably the hardest series to call because winning that first game is so important and we just don’t know which version of Claudio Reyes is going to show up. His September has been… bad… but could the adrenaline of pitching in the playoffs kick him back into gear? Or is Toronto going to be panicking after game one and hoping Brady McIntyre can right the ship? Or does McIntyre go in game one given his September performance? But Reyes will still have to go at some point, right? On the other side of the coin we got Eric Dukes, talented 23 year old kid who nevertheless has taken his fair share of lumps this season and is still looking, in his third full PUB campaign, to arrive at that rarefied upper echelon his talent attributes seem to suggest he’ll reach. He enters the playoffs after a solid run of starts in September but, like Thomas Watts in Montreal, he will be starting his first playoff game ever (and on the road) so we have to be mindful of how the jitters will affect his performance. Then who follows him? Steve D Barber is 24 and also has no playoff experience. Ronnie Blom started a game in ’60 and lost it. Dan Flannery has a whole 2.1 innings of playoff experience (scoreless at least), Thomas McLean will not start a game but he also has not had a taste of the playoffs.
On the offensive side Danny Britt is the clear difference maker between these two squads and has been hot all damn year but this is also his first playoff appearance and OOTP happens.
I’m calling this one a toss of the coin.

San Franronto in 3 and extra innings.

1962 Draft Pool Review

***This review is being provided as another data point to evaluate the amateur prospects available in the 1962 PUB amateur draft. I set out to interview a randomly-selected third of PUB scouts and asked them to analyze every position, select the top 3 prospects for each, and provide a quick comment for all the selections. I compiled the results and am sharing them with all owners for your consideration.

These lists should not be considered gospel! The scouts are not infallible in their evaluations and my methodology in compiling them is not exactly rigorous. There are many other variables to consider about these lists which are not included since the point of this exercise is not to encourage owners to use this as the definitive guide to drafting, but rather as a complement to all the other bits of information available in-game. Lastly, the Commish’s take is based solely on OSA ratings and HS/College stats (if available).

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s check out some prospects!***

CATCHER

Arnie Pratt1. Arnie Pratt
Most favorable review: “Potential to unleash his obvious talent on the field and at the plate”
Least favorable review: “Potential to be a second division starter”
Commish’s take: “Elite contact and looks like a tough out. Will need to work on his eye and defense to become a premium talent”

Joe Givens2. Joe Givens
Most favorable review: “Profiles as an everyday catcher who can make an impact on a top-tier team”
Least favorable review: “Potential to be a second division starter”
Commish’s take: “Looks more complete offensively than Pratt since his eye and gap power project much better. However, his defense is underwhelming and will need a lot of work”

Jake van Tassel3. Jake Van Tassel
Most favorable review: “Projects to be an above average big league catcher”
Least favorable review: “Potential to be a second division starter”
Commish’s take: “A notch below the top two but could still be a serviceable regular. His defense could become elite with a few more arm reps”

FIRST BASE

Howard Brown1. Howard Brown
Most favorable review: “High ceiling and projects well on the field and at the plate”
Least favorable review: “His bat and hustle should make him a frontrunner for an audition”
Commish’s take: “If you like your first basemen to have power, defense, and even a little speed then Brown is your guy”

Rusty Staub2. Rusty Staub
Most favorable review: “Has the talent to flourish in the majors”
Least favorable review: “Can be a second division starter”
Commish’s take: “Beyond the cool nickname, The Big Orange is projected to be a premium contact talent bolstered by his preternatural ability to avoid strikeouts”

Austin Skinner3. Austin Skinner
Most favorable review: “Should be a regular starter”
Least favorable review: “Can be penciled in for a lion’s share of starts”
Commish’s take: “The poor contact may hold him back but the raw power and ability to draw walks is undeniable; also, may be better suited as a DH”

SECOND BASE

Pete Rose Sr1. Pete Rose, Sr.
Most favorable review: “Projected to be an elite starting second baseman”
Least favorable review: “Should be a regular starter”
Commish’s take: “Charlie Hustle may not wow anyone with his glove but all the ingredients are there for him to have a long career at the top of any lineup”

Joe L Morgan2. Joe L Morgan
Most favorable review: “Above average, everyday big league player”
Least favorable review: “Profiles as an above average player”
Commish’s take: “Morgan may be better suited as a first baseman unless he can make some major defensive improvements at 2B before his PUB debut – no matter where he plays on the field though, he will mash”

Ryan Hannigan3. Ryan Hannigan
Most favorable review: “Has the talent to flourish as a second baseman”
Least favorable review: “Potential to be a second division starter”
Commish’s take: “In my opinion, his premium defense at the keystone and proven hitting performance in college makes him a more complete prospect than Rose and Morgan, even if the bat doesn’t project as well”

THIRD BASE

Ricardo Castro1. Ricardo Castro
Most favorable review: “With his talents the light of Castro’s star could be blinding”
Least favorable review: “Has good potential and a very promising future”
Commish’s take: “Polished 5-tool player who could be at or near the top of this class”

Simon Decker2. Simon Decker
Most favorable review: “Potential to unleash his obvious talent on the field and at the plate”
Least favorable review: “Can be a second division starter”
Commish’s take: “Another truly elite 3B prospect albeit more raw than Castro, and thus carrying more inherent risk. On the upside, he may end up as an even better product for whomever has the patience to groom him”

Kyle García3. Kyle Garcia
Most favorable review: “Has the potential to be a cornerstone player”
Least favorable review: “Could develop into a productive regular on a contending team”
Commish’s take: “Third base is stacked this year! The poor plate patience and lack of speed place him just a notch below Castro and Decker, but if/when he fills out a bit more his raw power could easily make him a middle-of-the-lineup monster for any team”

SHORTSTOP

Nick Goode1. Nick Goode
Most favorable review: “If he fulfills his potential he could make multiple trips to the All-star game”
Least favorable review: “His bat and hustle should make him a frontrunner for an audition”
Commish’s take: “This raw talent will flash the leather at SS and could be a prototypical leadoff hitter with high contact and quick wheels if he can put it all together”

James Malone2. James Malone
Most favorable review: “Has a considerable ceiling and can be a first division starter”
Least favorable review: “Should be an average big leaguer”
Commish’s take: “His superior glove and baserunning chops are enticing at this key position, but the underwhelming bat may mean he ends up as more of a bench player/utility guy”

Rico Petrocelli3. Rico Petrocelli
Most favorable review: “Profiles as an everyday shortstop who can make an impact on a top-tier team”
Least favorable review: “Can be a second division starter”
Commish’s take: “His impeccable work ethic could help him overachieve but there’s not a facet of his game which sets him apart”

LEFT FIELD

Ken Harrelson1. Ken Harrelson
Most favorable review: “Projected to be an above average, everyday big league player”
Least favorable review: “Has the potential to be a second division starter”
Commish’s take: “Could become a serviceable corner OF for a team needing some pop in the lineup”

John Heller2. John Heller
Most favorable review: “Has the highest ceiling imaginable as an elite left fielder”
Least favorable review: “Could be a second division starter”
Commish’s take: “He’s a long-term project but the finished product could be a gem if his performance in HS is anything to go by”

Joseph Peters3. Joseph Peters
Most favorable review: “Projected to be an above average, big league player”
Least favorable review: “Profiles as an above average player”
Commish’s take: “Another long-term project but without as much upside as Heller. Will need to put in a ton of work to become a PUB regular”

CENTER FIELD

Jimmie Hall1. Jimmie Hall
Most favorable review: “With his talents the light of Hall’s star could be blinding”
Least favorable review: “Can be a second division starter”
Commish’s take: “This 24-year old has the already developed tools to be drafted in June and lead a team to the Polaris Classic championship in October”

Jim Wynn2. Jim Wynn
Most favorable review: “Has good potential and a very promising future”
Least favorable review: “Can be a second division starter”
Commish’s take: “’The Toy Cannon’ could become a dangerous 5-tool player at an elite position with a little bit of work in the minors”

3. Vic Davalillo
Most favorable review: “Has potential to unleash his obvious talent both on the field and at the plate”
Least favorable review: “Worthwhile development project for a future starting role”
Commish’s take: “I have to admit Vic (Victor) Davalillo is my favorite player in this year’s class. He and his brother Pompeyo are two of the most well known Venezuelan baseball players of all time, especially in my region, Zulia, where they hail from. The professional baseball stadium in Cabimas, where the Davalillos were born, is named after Victor and he managed the team (Petroleros de Cabimas) for a time during the ‘90s. His brother, Pompeyo, managed the rival Aguilas del Zulia, the team that I follow, to a championship as well. The soon-to-be 26 year old is much like Jimmie Hall, ready to jump onto a PUB roster and lead them to glory. He’s a potential 5-tool player (that eye needs work) who can hit, field, and steal a bag”

RIGHT FIELD

Cal Johnstone1. Cal Johnstone
Most favorable review: “Could develop into a productive regular on a contending team”
Least favorable review: “If he can cut his strikeout rate he can become an average major leaguer”
Commish’s take: “The 19-year old needs a minimum of 2 seasons in the minors to develop his fielding (which could be above average) and polish his hitting skills, but he could be a slick-fielding dumb masher corner OF if everything goes as projected”

Bob Byers2. Bob Byers
Most favorable review: “Profiles as an above average player”
Least favorable review: “Needs more seasoning against quality pitching before getting a shot”
Commish’s take: “The name of the game is power with this kid but he needs a lot of time in the minors and a lot of extra work to round up the rest of his tools. His glove work is mediocre and he has trouble connecting with the ball, but when he does there’s a good chance it leaves the park, so he’s an interesting project for someone willing to invest in him”

Terry Weeks3. Terry Weeks
Most favorable review: “Reliable hitter in the organization’s grand scheme”
Least favorable review: “Potential to be a second division starter”
Commish’s take: “Has had a decent journey in HS but he’s a very milquetoast sort of prospect. He’ll draw walks and steal a bag but he needs to get his contact rate up to have much of a career”

STARTING PITCHER

Bob Sadowski1. Bob Sadowski
Most favorable review: “Has the potential to be a #2 starter”
Least favorable review: “Expected to develop the tools needed to propel him into mid-rotation”
Commish’s take: “He’s a decent enough fella with above-average movement and control, but when scouts think his ceiling is a #2 but more likely a mid-rotation guy, and you compare him to the sure-thing pitching prospects we’ve had in the past few drafts like Lopez, Escobar, Watts, Dukes, Blackford, Simpson, etc. … well, he leaves a lot to be desired as the ‘top’ starter in the draft. This IS PUB though and if Hal Newhouser is one of the GOATs with mediocre stuff, then Sadowski may just surprise us all and end up a pretty good player”

Ray Culp2. Ray Culp
Most favorable review: “Should end up near the top of any rotation”
Least favorable review: “Should fill out as a mid-rotation arm”
Commish’s take: “Culp looks like a more well-rounded prospect with an already developed changeup as a strikeout pitch and near elite stuff and movement. Some work on that control in the minors and he could be a solid 1/2 starter”

Mickey Lolich3. Mickey Lolich
Most favorable review: “His future lies at the top of the rotation”
Least favorable review: “Can occupy a spot in the middle of the rotation”
Commish’s take: “Throws 5 pitches but only two of them look to be any good. If he fills up a bit and gains more velocity in his offerings then he might end up a decent hurler, but nothing to write home about”

RELIEF PITCHER/CLOSER

Armando Martínez1. Armando Martinez
Most favorable review: “Will likely have setup duties and use his firepower when emergencies arise”
Least favorable review: “Inability to corral lefties but so efficient against right handers to remain effective”
Commish’s take: “Two strikeout pitches and overwhelming stuff at 95-97 mph scream top closer material”

Dale Willis2. Dale Willis
Most favorable review: “Has the potential for high-leverage, late-inning duties”
Least favorable review: “Projects to provide consistently reliable middle relief”
Commish’s take: “He’s almost 24 and ready to jump in and be a setup guy for a good team or closer for a rebuilding one. He might be just a tad wild so he’ll need some work in the offseason to keep down the walks moving forward but every other skill is there”

Bob Wagner3. Bob Wagner
Most favorable review: “Will likely be suited for setup or long relief, and maybe pick up a few save opportunities”
Least favorable review: “May eventually settle into a key role in the bullpen”
Commish’s take: “Unlike Martinez and Willis, Wagner will need some time in the minors to develop. He’s only 20 so there’s no need to rush him but the fact his control is so underdeveloped is a tad troubling. He needs to grow up in a hurry if he’s going to fulfill his vast potential”

The Orlando Oracles are your 1961 Polaris Classic Champions!

For the second year in a row the Orlando Oracles have embarked on an incredible journey through the playoffs as the 5th seed in the UL to successfully defend their title and become only the second team in PUB history to hold multiple Polaris Classic titles along with the Colt .45s. The Oracles defeated the Philadelphia A’s 4-2 in an epic series which included a 13-inning nail-biter in game 2 which likely swung the series Orlando’s way. 

Ted Kluszewski was extremely clutch throughout their playoff campaign winning the MVP award in the Brawl, WC Championship and Polaris Classic to continue cementing his status as the greatest pure hitter in PUB history. Add up these accolades to his second consecutive Championship ring and likely second consecutive Prime Masher award and Ted K. has had a couple of seasons for the history books. 

Congrats to the Oracles, A’s and all the other playoff teams on another great season. 

Orlando Crowned Champions
With a 6-4 win over the Philadelphia Athletics tonight at Shibe Park, the Orlando Oracles wrapped up their 2nd title in team history.

Orlando left little doubt who was the better club. “Team” was the word of the day as the Oracles celebrated the culmination of their banner year in the victors clubhouse following the game.

“Hitting, pitching, fielding; those are all things you need to win, but most importantly you need a team, a team that works together toward the same collective goal,” said Orlando manager Greg Blair. “Our players felt that way all year and they played that way. When one guy had an off day, 24 others stepped up their game and filled the void.”

A jovial mood filled the air as Orlando celebrated into the night. The city’s mayor said parade plans were underway and a “huge celebration” in the works.

“We’re going to celebrate our team, our championship Orlando Oracles,” he said.

The champions completed the regular season with a 5th-place finish in the Ursa Division and a 91-65 record.
1961 Polaris Classic Champions – Orlando Oracles

1961 WC 1st Round Preview

(5) Orlando vs (2) Hollywood

The defending champions lost 4 straight to end the season which means entering the playoffs for the 2nd time in a row at a disadvantage as the 5th seed in the UL. However, this may end up being a blessing in disguise since the #3 seed Terriers have been on a tear as of late so avoiding them this early may play in their favor.

The Stars make their first playoff appearance after a 96-win campaign that finally saw their young core gel well enough to fulfill their long-awaited potential. Going up against the defending champs will mean baptism by fire for Lopez, Davis, Reyes, et. al.

Key Players

Orlando

Ted Kluszewski may be eclipsed at present moment by a dude named Mike Barnett in the ‘GOAT’ conversation due to all the categories in which the long-time Meatball has set league records, but there’s no doubt that Ted K. is the greatest pure hitter the league has ever seen. Should he continue his current level of performance for 5-6 more seasons (not impossible in PUB) he could end up surpassing Barnett and claiming that mantle all for himself. For now, he’s an MVP favorite and has another chance to carry this team on his back to a second straight title.

Hollywood

David Lopez is the unquestioned star of this team and at the tender age of 23 he just notched his 3rd straight 7-WAR season. If it weren’t for someone named Herb Score that would probably mean his 3rd straight UL Prime Hurler award but no matter; it’s playoff time now and all that counts is pitching his team to the pennant. The accolades will arrive soon enough. The matchup with Jensen in game 1 will be huge and if he can shut down Ted K. and co., that will go a long way towards ensuring the Stars get to the 2nd WC round.

Orlando will win if… the other players in the lineup set up enough run-scoring opportunities for Ted K. and he capitalizes.

Hollywood will win if… Lopez, Neill, and White outgun Jensen, Cannon and Marino.

Prediction

I gotta go with the defending champs here. They already rode this 5th seed thing once before to the title and this is a team that seems to thrive on being the underdog. Hollywood has had a fairytale season but according to Pyth (we all love Pyth) they are immensely lucky to have gotten such good seeding. Lopez will almost definitely win game 1 so…

Oracles in 3.

(4) Houston vs. (3) St. Louis

The 4-time champions and dynasty of the ‘50s are back in the playoffs going against the ’59 champs Terriers. The Terriers are coming in on a tear, having won their last 10 to climb up the standings and secure home-field advantage for at least the 1st WC round. The 92-win Colt .45s rode an 11-game improvement from last season to secure their 10th playoff appearance but their Pyth record states they are extremely lucky to be here. Regardless, this is not Carroll’s first rodeo in the playoffs and he’s going against PUB’s newest owner so this is an intriguing matchup nonetheless.

Key Players

Houston

RF Burton Therien is a 5-tool player and the clear star of the team. There is not one obvious area in which this team bests the Terriers beyond the bullpen so him and Chris Howard are going to have to put this team on their backs to get anywhere.

St. Louis

Herb Score. Period. The indisputable ace of his generation is in line to earn his 4th straight UL Prime Hurler award and is a fearsome opponent whenever he’s on the mound. He’s scheduled to pitch in game 1 and he’s a stellar playoff performer so you almost feel like Houston will have do-or-die games 2 and 3 just to get to the next round.

Houston will win if… they can get to Score in game 1.

St. Louis will win if… they build on their late-season run and assert their across the board dominance on the opposition.

Prediction

Game 1 is almost a foregone conclusion with Score on the mound and I give the nod to Kelly over Jordan in game 2 so St. Louis sweeps the Colt .45s.

Terriers in 2.

(5) Oakland vs (2) Toronto

This series pits a former champ and perennial playoff contender in Oakland against a playoff newcomer and newish (to PUB) owner in Toronto, but looks for this battle are deceiving. The mighty Oaks stumbled into the postseason losing 7 of their last 10 to cap off a forgettable campaign in which they experienced a 15-win dropoff from 1960 after losing several stars to FA, and are going up against a Toronto team which experienced a remarkable 26-win turnaround from last season under the black magic tutelage of noted virtual baseball shark Rich Ryall. Oakland has the name and the history but will that be enough against the hungry newcomers?

Key Players

Oakland

Armando Aguila. The first baseman just notched his worst season in PUB since his debut and his numbers have been steadily declining since winning the ’59 CL Prime Masher award. Although the trends don’t look good for the bopper, he’s still this team’s best hitter so the Oaks will need a vintage performance from him to inflict damage to the BJs.

Toronto

Claudio Reyes is the key in such a short series but he’s not scheduled to go until game 3 which must have fans in Toronto sweating. Reyes has a very good case to win his first CL Prime Hurler award even if the competition is fierce, but being sidelined until the last game of the series is not ideal. Fans in Toronto and Oakland will be hoping for a quick 2-win sweep in their favor, but fans of baseball will be hoping for a split and an epic game-3 matchup between Reyes and Oakland ace-emeritus Hal Newhouser.

Oakland will win if… their AARP rotation shows up to play ball.

Toronto will win if… they overcome playoff jitters and get to the Oaks’ rotation early and often.

Prediction

This one is going the distance with Toronto winning game 1 behind a vintage McIntyre performance and Oakland stealing game 2 behind Ovidio Bravo. In game 3 Reyes will succumb to the first-time playoff jitters while old-dog Newhouser will leave his heart out on the field to take Oakland to the next round.

Oaks in 3.

(4) Philadelphia vs. (3) Edmonton

Here we have two equally matched CL blue bloods who are very familiar with each other doing battle once again. They each have a title (Philly ’55, Edmonton ’57), and they’re both entering their 7th playoff campaign. They’re both still competitive but it’s not preposterous to say they’re on the tail end of their respective windows and tough rebuilding decisions loom ahead of them. However, those are matters for another day. Today they face each other with the full knowledge that another grueling CL playoff journey awaits them but the bragging rights at the end are sweet.

Key Players

Philadelphia

LF Ricky Burnett experienced something of a renaissance this season at age 36/37 posting a 5.0 WAR, his highest total since his age 29 season with Houston. His 32 HRs and 120 RBIs were also career highs but the most impressive thing is that he racked these numbers while playing half his games at expansive Shibe Park. If the A’s have any hope of advancing to the next round Burnett has to maintain this production because this rotation is not as dominant as it used to be, so this team needs to score runs to get anywhere.

Edmonton

Will Lambert and Alejandro Guerrero have flashier numbers this season but the straw that stirs the drink for this team and has for several seasons now is Alejandro Torres. The 33-year old put together another excellent campaign and led the league in hits with 218. Those were good for a .363 batting average which was the highest of his career. Getting on base consistently at the top of the order will be essential to set the table for the big boppers in the middle of the lineup.

Philadelphia will win if… the starters can hang on for long enough in games to hand the keys to the bullpen to drive them home.

Edmonton will win if… the lineup can avoid a playoff slump to put a ton of runs on the board.

Prediction

At first glance these two teams are pretty evenly matched but Edmonton has a sizable advantage in their lineup. Torres, Schneider, Lambert, Guerrero are a fearsome 1-4 and they’re capable of doing a lot of damage on their own.

Trappers in 3.

1959 Polaris Classic off to a testy start!

Image result for 1950s brawl baseball
The moment which led to chaos — Hal Newhouser getting hit in the head by a 95-mph fastball thrown by Conrad Makeever.

The Classic heads to the Bay Area tied at 1 but not before some fireworks went off in game 2, as hurt feelings after a key homer led to a beaning, a benches-clearing brawl, two ejections, and two more retribution hit-by-pitches before the end of the night. 

Kitscoty starter Conrad Makeever could not handle getting taken yard by C Cory Barton at the top of the 6th to break the 2-2 stalemate the teams had played to that point, and proceeded to plunk Oakland starter Hal Newhouser in the head with the first pitch of the subsequent at-bat, leading to some choice words from the wily, 38-year old veteran before he charged the mound. The benches proceeded to clear with both teams exchanging pushes, shoves, and even a couple of thrown punches before order was restored. Makeever and Newhouser were thrown out by ump Art Passarella for their role in igniting the fight but the tension in the stadium was palpable as play resumed. Kitscoty CF and cleanup hitter Ricardo Rodriguez was plunked at the bottom of the 8th by reliever Cody Risch who pointed to the Kings’ dugout and stared down as Rodriguez took his base, and Oakland pinch-hitter Carlos Rodriguez was hit right back at the top of the 9th leading to a warning to both teams from Passarella. Needless to say, tempers are flaring in both clubhouses going into game 3 and whatever good will existed between the squads prior to the series has completely evaporated, being replaced instead by a simmering resentment which could boil over into mayhem once again at any given moment.

Will the rowdy atmosphere in Oakland as the Kings come to town lead to more strife and chaos or will the umpiring crew be able to keep the peace between the squads? Is Hal Newhouser OK after getting plunked in the head by a malicious Makeever heater? What about both Rodriguezes? Will Sean Schultz and Ted White be able to tamper down tempers in their respective clubhouses to avoid another HBP war of attrition?

The answers to this and more, tomorrow night!

1959 Commissioner Predictions – Ursa League

12. Louisville Redbirds
Last season: 45-111
Prediction: 40-116

The Redbirds, coming off 111 loses in 1958, decided to cut ties with Mickey Mantle and his 8.0 WAR this offseason in order to secure as many assets as possible for their most valuable player. That was probably the right call for their future but it does not bode well for their prospects this season. William Payne enters his third year in the league with a big question mark over his head after two underwhelming showings in 1957 and 1958. The 24-year old has been earmarked to become this team’s ace but so far his performances have vastly underperformed expectations and I believe this is due to being thrown into the fire too early. Even if he finally lives up to the billing this season, the lack of other talent in this team sans Mantle augurs another year of looking ahead for Redbird faithful.

11. Seattle Rainiers
Last season: 59-97
Prediction: 56-100

There’s only one thing to discuss here: will Mean Mike ever free Chuck Snyder? The Rainiers last made the playoffs in 1952; since then there have been some close calls but last year’s was the lowest win total for Seattle since the inception of PUB. Chuck Snyder is 34 years old now and by all accounts still the most complete hurler in the league with no signs of slowing down, but his performances for a struggling team beg the question of whether Seattle would be better served trying to get the biggest return of young talent possible to build for the long term instead of hanging on to its future Hall of Famer. I can understand why retaining him is an appealing option – Chuck Snyder is synonymous with the Rainiers for good or bad and finishing his HOF career with the team that nurtured him into a star would be the most fitting end to it. However, if we subtract sentimentalism from the equation for a moment, this season really seems like the right time to finally say “Thanks for all you’ve done” and give him the option to pursue a championship elsewhere. The kind of return he would garner would really set this team up to become a contender in a few years. It’s the last gift he could give this team after so many wonderful seasons of brilliance in the PNW.
#FreeChuckSnyder

10. Saskatoon Jazz
Last season: 60-96
Prediction: 65-91

The Jazz were in the playoffs as recently as 1956 (when they were the Whalers) but things have been downhill ever since. They’ve got some good, young pieces but it’s a matter of putting the puzzle together properly in order to return to contention. The most intriguing player is 2B Elliot Pierce, a former 12th rounder, who has developed into a true 5-tool player and could be in line to become the next star in the league. I can see them improving a bit but not enough to become a playoff contender – at least not this season.

9. Montreal Royals
Last season: 68-88
Prediction: 72-84

On paper the Royals are the second most-improved team after Bronx following the free agency period. How improved I’m not sure but it’ll be interesting to find out.
SP Robert Gary is poised to take a massive step forward this season and he’ll be the main key on whether this team sinks or swim in 1959. He had a decent year in ‘58, yet was only able to muster a record of 10-11 for the season. If he’s able to keep the ball in the park a bit more and lower his contact rate I could see him having a sub 3.00 ERA and racking up anywhere from 15-18 wins. Jimmie Young was the “biggest” addition to the team but the 37 year old seemed to drop some velocity this Spring, so team ownership must be hoping that won’t affect the numbers he can put up. As a finesse groundballer it may not matter too much but again, we can only wait to find out how it all shakes out. All in all, this team may put up a bit of a fight early on but there’s too much talent at the top of the Ursa this year for the Royals to make any serious noise.

8. Honolulu Rays
Last season: 71-85
Prediction: 75-81

It’s hard to believe Sandy Koufax is only 23 as it feels like he’s been around forever, so the most exciting development in the Islands is his impending move to the rotation from the closer role he’d held the last couple of seasons. It’s going to be really interesting to see how he fares in the rotation with one great pitch and three middling ones. I really think he’s going to be fine because he’s got too much talent to be anything less than, but in order to be successful he’ll have to be able to keep opposing hitters on their toes with not a whole lot of pitch variety. Honolulu will not contend this year in the Ursa League to which they belong but Koufax and Burton Therien are a solid foundation to build upon long-term. Now all Churchie has to do is draft well, swing a couple of savvy trades, and not get deposed by his brother.

7. Hollywood Stars
Last season: 73-83
Prediction: 81-75

It’s the David Lopez show in La-La-Land this season. The 21-year old, first pick of the 1958 draft spent most of last year honing his craft in the Stars’ bullpen and is poised to lead this team to glory moving forward. Don’t be surprised if he’s contending for the Prime Hurler award as soon as this season. Adding this talent full-time to the rotation to what was a fun, if flawed, team last year should pay big dividends this season. If Eric Davis can sustain his production from the past 3 campaigns (and there’s no reason to doubt he will) the Stars could be the dark horse playoff contenders I thought they were last year. Ultimately I think they’ll fall short again because the teams at the top just have too much going for them but games are played on the field and anything could happen. Don’t be surprised if the Stars making their first playoff appearance is one of those things.

6. Houston Colt .45s
Last season: 97-59
Prediction: 88-68

All good things must come to an end and Houston’s unbelievable playoff run is nearing its conclusion. I’m going to bet it’s going to be this year. There are two reasons why: the level of competition in the Ursa is going to be the best it’s ever been, and Houston’s rotation is arguably the weakest since PUB’s inception. Ovidio Bravo is a really good pitcher but he does not compare to other teams’ aces. Narahiko Ageda has made a career out of smoke and mirrors but his velocity is gone and I question how effective his mediocre forkball is going to be when it’s fluttering to the plate at 86 MPH. Kris Jordan is a nice young pitcher but better suited as a 2/3 option and may not end up as the future ace Carroll probably wants him to be. Beyond that you’ve got an array of pitchers who are passable but not the stuff of playoff or championship teams, especially in the Ursa of 1959. Ryan Mullins is a nasty closer and with 4+ pitches, and plus-plus stuff, movement and control, he could be this team’s ace if only he had 20-30 more stamina. Nick Young is still going to rake but I’ll be surprised if 8.0 WAR Wally Clarke ever shows up again. This is still a good team but you need more than that to compete in this year’s Ursa, although Carroll always seems to cook up some black magic out of thin air so who knows…

5. Puerto Rico
Last season: 86-70
Prediction: 89-67

Puerto Rico made a massive 13-game improvement in Jorge’s first full season with the team and the trend does not look like stopping there. The Hurricanes have a young dynamic duo at the top of their rotation in Emilio Corona and Tony Castillo which can make them competitive with any other team out there. They’ve got the preeminent PUB closer in Stan McCullough (even if he’s getting long in the tooth) and a complete lineup built around 27 year old SS Dave Conner (coming off his 3rd All-star appearance), big bopping 1B Ivan Bautista, and slick fielding CF Willie Mays. This team does not have one big, obvious flaw but they’ll be trading blows with some heavy hitters at the top of the Ursa so improving via trade shouldn’t be out of the question in order to continue catching up to the top dogs. Hip hip Jorge shouldn’t be counted out of making a run but if this team doesn’t come out firing on all cylinders, he’ll have to take matters into his own hands and quick if he wants a prayer of making the playoffs.

4. Charlotte Snappers
Last season: 95-61
Prediction: 90-66

This is probably the most enigmatic team in the UL and for good reason. In 1957 they won 95 games, ended up in 2nd place but lost the Brawl and went home much earlier than they anticipated. They came back last year, led the division for most of the first half, sputtered down the stretch, and got left out of the playoffs on the last day of the season even though they garnered the same win total from a year before. Now, they see before them a vastly improved Ursa league and the window probably seems shut again before it ever fully opened. This is an undoubtably talented team with Fernando Colon, Sancho Gonzaba, Juan Feliciano and Orlando Valle comprising one of the most fearsome middle of the lineups in the whole league. However, this team lacks a true No. 1 and it is this deficiency which had Branda waving the white flag (in my estimation prematurely) this past offseason when he tried to offload all his talent unsuccessfully. The fact that he couldn’t land a trade may be a blessing in disguise.
Sure, the Ursa has arguably 7 out of 12 teams which could end up battling for a playoff spot or at least making life difficult for those contending, but all a team needs in this league is a hot streak, a 3rd place finish, a good Brawl showing, and then all bets are off. Would I bet $100 on this team making the playoffs and winning a title? No. Would I be surprised if it happened? Nope. Branda is a master trader and all he needs is that #1 ace who can get on the mound and get him past a Brawl opponent. The sticks are there and the supporting cast in the rotation is there. Find that #1 somehow and then this team is in business. For all we know, Gabriel Martinez or Artie Campbell could get on an inspired run, become that #1 and carry this team to the promised land. Weirder things have happened.

3. Orlando Oracles
Last season: 86-70
Prediction: 91-65

The Oracles took a minor step back in 1958 after two successive 90-win playoff seasons but there shouldn’t be cause for concern. Yet. This is still a team built to win now, but the competition keeps getting tougher in the Ursa and the core is right at their prime seasons so the time is now for Smithwick to make a push if he wants to make something of this window. Marino, Jensen, and Cannon are already established as one of the most complete trios of starters in the league. Kluszewski will continue to rake at a HOF level, while Miller and Gould are more than capable complementary pieces for this offense. If we want to nitpick, the bullpen seems a bit thin but it’s the 1950s so injuries are not a big concern as everyone right now is made of steel plus the bullpen does not get heavy usage.
Orlando is close and could get even closer if they make a couple of trades so I expect them to be active at the deadline, especially if they can sniff that playoff spot.

2. Kinuso Blues
Last season: 99-57
Prediction: 94-62

I’m predicting a slight win decrease for the defending champs but only because the quality of the Ursa seems to be up this year, not because of any shortcomings the team might have. This team’s Championship was likely won on July 1st last year when Jacob Bullock and Luis Hernandez arrived from the then Charleston Riverdogs and having the duo for a full season will only make this group stronger. The key to whether this team contends for the division title is Karl Spooner having another inspired run as the 5th starter. His Spring Training performance seems to suggest that’ll be the case. Tyler Barker is an elite closer, and Soto, McIntyre, Berroa, et.al. should put up their usual big numbers. The only thing harder than winning a Championship is repeating, but this squad has all the pieces to do so.

1. Kitscoty Kings
Last season: 97-59
Prediction: 95-61

Herb Score became PUB’s best pitcher last year when he won the pitching triple crown plus his first Prime Hurler award, and at age 25 he only has to worry about maybe David Lopez challenging him for that title in the near future. The individual accolades are great but they’ll mean nothing if they cannot be complemented with team success. Thankfully for the Kings, this team is built to contend for the long haul. The team is young, talented, deep and the addition of 34 year old Dominican free-agent CF Ricardo Rodriguez adds the multi-dimensional hitter they were lacking in the middle of their lineup. At $160,000 per annum for the next 4 years, I expect him to be a steal especially if the team is able to secure a Championship during his tenure. I expect several teams to challenge Kitscoty for the division title and the playoff bye but I think they have enough talent to fend them all off and comfortably wait for the winner of the Brawl.

1959 Commissioner Predictions – Canis League

10. Chi-town Coalition
Last season: 68-88
Prediction: 54-102

It’s a new era for the former Charleston Riverdogs as rookie owner Todd Lively embarks on his quest to implement his blueprint for success in their new Windy City environment. Gone are Jacob Bullock, Luis Hernandez and Mark Matthews. Left are reigning CL Prime Rook Willie McCovey, Botol Peniche, and a monumental rebuild job ahead. There are worse places to start building from than a 21-year old superstar and the 4th best minor league system in the land but the next couple of seasons in Chi-town are going to be painful for sure. Looking over this team, I think I may even be a little optimistic with my 54-win projection but let’s see how it all goes first. It looks like a heavy lift ahead to bring this team to relevancy but if the next couple of drafts go well, we could be talking about the Riverdogs as playoff contenders just as McCovey enters his prime.

9. Atlantic City Aces
Last season: 66-90
Prediction: 62-94

The Aces always seem to hover around the 60-70 win mark and unfortunately that won’t end in 1959. The major league team is thin in talent but there’s some reason for hope in the farm. However, a few swings and misses in the draft means the minor league system is not as loaded as it should be. One player to keep an eye on this year is 1B Abizar Mainaky who came over from Philly in the Lou Brissie trade, and could start making some noise in The Show either this season or next. The only problem is that he’s currently blocked by 1B Raghunand Sreekanthan so one of them’s gotta go. It’s time for ownership to pick one and get as high of a return as possible on the other to further along the rebuild process. It’s been a long road for the Aces to become competitive so I hope they come up with a long-term vision and stick to it to get there.

8. San Francisco Meatballs
Last season: 59-97
Prediction: 64-92

The 1950 champs have had some lean years since hoisting the first PUB Championship banner and unfortunately the trend will continue in 1959. Fans in the Bay Area had some cause for excitement last season while Mike Barnett pursued the 3,000-hit mark, but now that the chase is over it’s not clear what will keep fans coming to the park. There are some interesting prospects in the minors, headlined by 1958’s #3 pick Zak Erickson who will loom large in AAA this year, but it may be 1 or 2 more seasons before we really see this crop of youngsters start to lift the Major League boat. The question until then will be whether Mike Barnett will stick around long enough to receive them or whether he will hang them up before then.

7. Toronto Blue Jays
Last season: 74-82
Prediction: 69-87

Toronto is a middle of the pack team that just lost ace SP Alex Alvarez to Free Agency and was unable to bring in some much needed reinforcements. They’ll get Bronx’s 13th pick in the upcoming draft as compensation but I’m not sure why he wasn’t traded at the deadline when he could have garnered a bigger return. If there’s one thing to be excited about north of the border is C Edgardo Vasquez and looking to see what kind of step forward he takes this year. The 23-year old was drafted with the 7th pick in the 1954 season right out of High School and although he’s already spent 3 seasons with the major league team, it seems like his development has finally reached the level needed to turn him into a star. With such an important cornerstone in place, I would expect the front office to deal some of the older important players like Juan Mercado or Fernando Medina to surround the young core of Vasquez, Rico, Reyes and Diaz with some more talent.

6. Ottawa Knights
Last season: 74-82
Prediction: 78-78

Ottawa has been in a downward spiral since winning 98 in 1955 (unluckily during the year when that was good for 4th in the CL) and I think it’s time to seriously consider blowing it up and starting fresh. There are several valuable veteran players on the team, but for whatever reason they haven’t seemed to click in the past 3 years. The CL does not seem as prohibitively competitive in 1959 as in years past so it may be worth to see how this team gets out the gate, but ownership must think long and hard about how much longer they want to give this core a chance to pull it together.

5. Harlem Hellions
Last season: 74-82
Prediction: 82-74

Every year I think “This is the year the Hellions finally put it together and make the playoffs” and every year the Hellions let me down. They’ve been my dark horse contender since seemingly the beginning of PUB and yet they’ve only managed to crack 80 wins once. I don’t know what it is but like Ottawa they just can’t seem to put it together for some reason. However, here’s where the news get good for Harlem – this is what I wrote about Alex Hunt, their 1st round pick (4th) in last year’s draft:

‘This one feels like a bit of a reach. Hunt made a big improvement between seasons one and two in college but none of his numbers are otherworldly or arguably even worthy of a #4 pick in the draft. This is another case like the Meatballs where there were better position players left on the board, but the GM made an organizational decision and selected a starter. I’m not sure this was the right starter to pick in this spot though. He could prove me wrong but he’s likely destined to be a mid-rotation horse, especially with that mediocre curveball and below average stamina. Decent pickup but at #4 you have to do better.’
Grade: C+

Looking at his performance last year in the minors and the MASSIVE MASSIVE improvement he’s made in his development in just one year, Alex Hunt and Carter Jordan seem poised to make me eat my words. To be fair, the stamina concerns and mediocre curveball are still there, but Hunt looks to be a half a season away from becoming someone who could be a major contributor for this ballclub. Add him to a rotation with 28-year old Brian Harvey at the top and that could be a pretty decent 1-2 punch for years to come. The question for Harlem is how they can build quickly on what they have so they can make the most of Harvey’s prime. SS Cesar Munoz and 2B Norberto Salazar are the other young pieces upon which they can build but this team needs talent and quick if they want to seize upon a weakened Canis league and make their first PUB playoff appearance.

4. Edmonton Trappers
Last season: 85-71
Prediction: 89-67

This may be the most frustrating team to predict in the CL. On paper they have a team that should be ending up with 90+ wins every season and contending for the CL division, but in reality they seem to underperform their talent every couple of years. Last season most people likely expected them to pick up where they left off after their 96-win Championship season, but they sputtered out of the gate early on and only made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth because the rest of the CL had a down year. This team is at the peak of its powers right now but no action during the offseason has got to hurt, so barring some masterful mid-season moves on the trade market, I expect them to be in a dogfight for one of the Brawl spots. Likely the second one.

3. Oakland Oaks
Last season: 99-57
Prediction: 90-66

Oakland had a charmed year in 1958 en-route to a Canis League Championship and a Polaris Classic appearance, but this team has all the makings of a harsh correction coming its way. The starting rotation has an average age of 35 and it’s really tough to see 37-year old Hal Newhouser, 32-year old Lee Wood and 40-year old Bob English all having the kind of exceptional seasons they had last year. To make matters worse, no impactful reinforcements were acquired via FA or trade so it’s tough to see how this team keeps up with the rest of the league. Ownership has to have its fingers crossed that all the old dogs have enough gas left in their arms after last year to carry this team to another league title.

2. Bronx Bombers
Last season: 84-72
Prediction: 93-63

The Bombers were extremely aggressive this offseason and added arguably the most coveted free agent SP Alex Alvarez to an already fearsome rotation. Majana-Moreno-Alvarez is a formidable tandem in itself and that’s not even counting the ever-reliable Dave Ferriss and ‘Mr. Magnificent’ Jorge Reyes rounding out the starting corps. On the offensive side the addition of Mickey Mantle to the lineup via trade should give reigning CL Prime Masher Matthew Frost some much needed cover to swing the stick.
The bottom half of the lineup is nothing to write home about, and the bullpen outside of closer Mark Riggs looks like it’s put together with duct tape and prayers, so the rotation plus Mantle and Frost will need to put this team on their back if they want to reach the playoffs.

1. Philadelphia Athletics
Last season: 97-59
Prediction: 96-60
Philadelphia has an aging pitching core just like Oakland but playing half their games in cavernous Shibe Park allows them to hide shortcomings on that end much more easily. This is another team that didn’t do much in Free Agency although the addition of lifelong Colt .45 Rich Brisebois is intriguing. He’s had a couple of down years since posting a 5.1 WAR season in 1956 but he’d had a diminished role in Houston, so more at-bats plus the wide outfield spaces in Philly could do this gap-hitter some good. This team is definitely starting to show its age but the A’s have a run of 5 consecutive years with 95+ wins plus  1st/2nd place finish and I’m not convinced they can’t do it again until I see it with my own eyes.

Kinuso Blues are the 1958 PUB Champions!

It took a tough 7 games but the Kinuso Blues vanquished the Oakland Oaks by a score of 4-1 in the decisive Polaris Classic match to take home their first PUB Championship!
The Blues join San Francisco, Houston, Oakland, Philadelphia, and Edmonton as PUB champions, becoming the 6th team in 9 seasons to raise a Championship flag but only the 2nd from the Ursa league. The Oaks failed to become the 2nd team to win multiple championships after Houston but gave it a hell of a fight.
RF Jorge Soto was named MVP of the series though Kinuso will likely send a championship ring to Bill Pritchard and Hal Newhouser.
Congrats to Gord, Donnie, and all the other playoff owners on a great season.

Louisville‘s António Hernández and Orlando‘s Elijah Cannon have been handed 2-game suspensions for their parts in yesterday’s upheaval at Louisville Slugger Field. The teams were notified today that the suspensions would go into effect immediately. According to the league commissioner Hernández and Cannon provoked and incited the brawl and bore the blame for what transpired.

So far this season, Hernández has recorded a .311 batting average with 138 hits, 13 home runs, 58 RBIs, 51 runs scored and a .368 OBP.

Checking out his stats for the season, Cannon has racked up 11 wins and 10 losses in 28 starts, 3.64 ERA and struck out 144 batters in 210 innings.

Barnett becomes first player in PUB history to get 3,000 hits

“Overwhelmed,” he said. “That’s how I feel about it right now.”

Meatballs third baseman Mike Barnett never thought his name would be associated with some of the great players in league history. Now that he has become the first PUB player to reach the 3000-hit threshold, that’s all but guaranteed. Barnett collected his big hit in the 5th inning of a 7-1 loss to Ottawa off SP Yoichi Tanaka.

Afterward, he thought about the achievement: “Overwhelmed,” he said. “That’s how I feel about it right now.”

Barnett went 2-for-4 for the game.

His career numbers show Barnett has batted .308 and collected 3001 hits, 477 home runs and 1740 RBIs.