My State College Spikes won the first ever OMBL World Series, and I still have a hard time believing it. Hell, I won 84 games and didn’t even expect to get past the first round. Funny how things happen. Here’s that story from the GM’s perspective:
After the OMBL inaugural draft, I felt pretty good about my team going forward. I knew that my draft had produced a team that possessed the potential to succeed in the short-term and the long-term, yet it surprised me when the computer predicted my Spikes to finish with 97 wins before the first season. The season began innocuously enough, with my team hovering around .500, but midway through the first off, my Spikes caught fire and won 13 straight games. Afterwards, however, the injury bug took infected a few key players for much of the season, including MVP candidate Joey Votto and young stud Mookie Betts. Before the trade deadline, I had made a few deals, which included getting top prospect Sean Newcomb for Tyler Naquin and trading Byung-Ho Park for Jacoby Ellsbury, only to release him a couple weeks later. Once the deadline approached, I strategized by only approaching deals that would not only focus on the interim, but also the future. At the deadline, I traded for Marcus Stroman, Tony Zych, Zack Wheeler, Ryan McMahon, and Todd Frazier, but I’ll get back to these guys later. Also, I plucked a couple people from waivers, including Ben Zobrist and Curtis Granderson. Most significantly, I felt as if I did not compromise my future to acquire these players, and ultimately, I pulled the trigger at the deadline based off of my prediction that my team’s hot start would be enough to make the playoffs. As everyone reading knows: in the playoffs, anything can happen. My postseason forecast did not come true until the last weekend of the season, and the odds were stacked against me in the first round against the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, my division rival which had won our division by a comfortable margin and had scorched me throughout the season. However, we split the first four games of the series, so it was time to win-or-go-home, but I made an error while setting my rotation in OOTP that forced Gerrit Cole to start the decisive Game 5 instead of my desired choice, ace Zack Greinke. Nonetheless, I rolled with Cole, and he rewarded me with a brilliant scoreless outing. Greinke ended up pitching the rest in relief to punch the Spikes’ ticket to the next round. I paid close attention to the East Texas-Fort Myers Divisional Series, as the former had rocketed past me in the standings to gain the first wild card while the latter had struggled against my team as of late. After getting the State College-Fort Myers matchup I desired, Joey Votto, who had been slumping since returning from the DL, announced his comeback with a performance that warranted him the Championship Series MVP. My Spikes followed suit, with my starting pitchers throwing five quality games to win the pennant. The World Series really frightened me. The Edenton Steamers had the better squad led by a ridiculous rotation anchored by Clayton Kershaw. During Game 1, however, Kershaw went down with a torn labrum, and my rookie sensation Steven Matz pitched eight scoreless for the win. Then, after dropping the next two games, Garrett Richards and Marcus Stroman pitched two great games to put me up 3-2 in the series. Game 6 at Edenton featured an early home run from–who else—Joey Votto, another great start from World Series MVP Matz, and, after Todd Frazier’s two-run home run in the top of the ninth put me up 6-2, Jeremy Jeffress, my team’s primary game-finisher, closed out the season. My State College Spikes, who had won 84 games and had sneaked into the playoffs after an up and down inaugural season, won the 2016 World Series. I’m very proud of it. I still can’t believe it happened. My team’s strength was depth, especially starting pitching. Greinke was consistently excellent, Cole and Matz had temporary bumps in their otherwise stellar seasons, and Richards along with trade deadline pickups Wheeler and Stroman were invaluable, especially during the postseason. Others who found themselves in the starting rotation, like Cody Anderson, Charlie Morton, and Newcomb, did their part and earned their rings. My starting middle infielders, 2B Cory Spangenberg and SS Adeiny Hechavarria, played to their strengths and were team stalwarts. When Votto went down, 1B Greg Bird stepped in and had a great first month, and although 3B was a constant issue throughout the season, Frazier and rising star McMahon filled in admirably. Betts in right field, defensive wizard Byron Buxton in center, and slugger Khris Davis in constituted a versatile outfield, and the overshadowed contributions of Zobrist and Granderson translated into my easy decision to bring them back for 2017. Wilson Contreras and Gary Sanchez, the former of whom played 3B quite often, proved quite the diverse catching tandem, and DH Edwin Encarnacion’s home run count and postseason heroics will forever be in Spikes’ lore. In the bullpen, Jeffress, Nate Jones, Brad Ziegler, Joe Blanton, and Aaron Loup made up the bullpen constants, and Zych came back from injury in the World Series to notch a couple key saves. This team was an honor to manage.
That being said, the league gets better and smarter every season, and, to paraphrase my favorite GM (outside of Cashman, of course) Billy Beane, the playoffs are a crapshoot once you get there. Thus, as a GM, my one goal for this wacky offseason went as followed: Repeat. In my quest for a dynasty, I traded away many important players of mine, including Stroman, Encarnacion, Bird, Sanchez, and Richards, and some of my minor league hopefuls like Clint Frazier, Luis Noguera, Daz Cameron, Anderson Espinoza, Hyo-Jun Park, and Willy Adames. Moreover, the expansion draft and Rule 5 took away key players such as Greinke, Buxton, Todd Frazier, and minor league hopefuls like J.T. Realmuto, Trea Turner, and Dylan Cozens. In the end, however, I have no regrets. Mr. Beane mentioned that a great starting rotation is the best weapon in the playoffs, so I signed Max Scherzer, who I have been coveting since the trade deadline last year, and traded for Corey Kluber to go along with Cole, Matz, Wheeler, and a future star in Newcomb. I beefed up the bullpen by trading for Jeruys Familia, Will Smith, and Andrew Miller, who will be joined by returning arms like Jeffress, Jones, Loup, and Zych. My offense last year struggled at times, so I upgraded at every position I could, singing Andrew McCutchen and Dustin Pedroia, picking up Jin-De Jhang as my backup catcher, in Rule 5 and trading for Dee Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, and Addison Russell to complement Votto, Betts, Contreras, Hechavarria, Spangenberg, Granderson, Zobrist, and another future star in McMahon. Lastly, in my farm system, I have a collection of young guys who will have the opportunity to make a splash a few years down the road, including Blake Rutherford, Jose Velarde, Mike Donadio, and Bobby ‘Mississippi’ Enos. All-in-all, I’m very excited for the 2017 season to begin. My State College Spikes have come a long way from the start of 2016, but after a great spring, we couldn’t be more ready to defend our title. Oftentimes when I make a decision in OMBL, I think, “Well, it’s only just a game.” However, it’s a hobby that I love, and I look forward to the upcoming competition. If it is only just a game, then game on.