Alaska Hot Stoves – a Rookie Team’s Look Back at their First Season

Part 1 of 2


I took over the reins of the Baltimore Bay Sox in November of 2005, inheriting a team in collapse.  I packed the vans and moved cross country from the pollution and continual tunnel construction of Baltimore, up to the brisk, clean Artic air of Alaska.  There was plenty of grumbling among the players, but I made it known that wholesale changes were on the way.


The first step was to analyze the roster.  What realistic chances did the team have for the upcoming season?  That was pretty easy.  I had 3 star players (Andruw Jones, Rafael Furcal, and Shawn Green), 2 good pitchers (Chris Young, Dustin Hermansen), and some good prospects.  No third baseman.  No second baseman or Left Fielder.  No catcher.  And short about 900 innings.  Oh, and only $7M for free agency.


So competing in 2006 was out of the question.  Next question: could we even field a team? 


Both Andruu and Green were in the last year of their contracts, so they had to go.  No sense paying for stars when you were having trouble just filling positions.  After offering Andruu around the league for a month I had surprisingly little interest.  He was a 1 in CF and hit 50 home runs, but hardly anyone made an offer.  My brother came to the rescue, trading me underachieving Austin Kearns and super catching prospect Dioner Navarro for him.  Now I had a RF/CF and at least part of a catcher.


Hoboken came through again as I traded my brother Dustin Hermanson for SP Jon Lieber, JT Snow, a pick, and most of Snow’s contract.  I just got a 1B and a good SP.


In free agency, I grossly underbid on all the reliable starting position players and blue chip pitchers.  A new lesson learned.  I was able to land a closer (Miguel Batista) and a 3B (Aaron bleeping Boone), and, more importantly, lots of cheap, bad, pitching (Al Leiter, and bad 2B Marlon Anderson.  I wasn’t able to get a starting 2B, but at least I got part-timers Anderson and Desi Relaford, who together could conceivably make it through the season sharing 2B if they batted 8th and bunted a lot.


By Christmas, after shopping Green for a month and a half, I made a trade with Maryland where I sent him and newly acquired Jon Lieber (who was really too good for my team) and cash, for Aaron Cook (OK innings), Andy Sisco (good prospect, left reliever, and innings), Larry Bigbie (CF at bats), and some good picks.  More importantly, I freed up about $4M in cash.


I was able to put together a whole team, just covering the pitching innings I needed, short at 2B and C, a mishmash in the outfield, but at least we could play.  And I got some cash freed up.


Next Stop: the draft.  I took Jon Lester with my first pick – highly thought of pitcher, had a chance at the starting rotation, and a min.  Next I overspent on Travis Denker, who I liked but was probably safe to let slip til later. 


The pressure of draft day was new to me.  I’m a slow typist (one finger) so just keeping up on who was taken was an adventure.  And despite a lot of research, I wasn’t prepared to rattle off my picks.  Another lesson learned.



Next I took another prospect, Marcus Sanders, who I liked as an all-around athlete.  I really wanted Matt Kemp, but Virginia nabbed him the pick before.  In the 2nd round I took Shealy, who I was surprised was still around, and in the 3rd, Humberto Cota (filler, but important Catching at bats), Ray Liotta – supposedly Chicago’s #1 pitching prospect – and Casey Janssen, who had great numbers at AA, but wasn’t highly regarded.


Unbeknownst to me, I took my last pick – Shaun Marcum – another AA New Hampshire pitcher – in the 4th.  I later learned yet another important lesson: You can only have 10 mins on your roster max – EVEN IF YOU HAVE SPACE ON YOUR 40-MAN ROSTER.  As a result, my subsequent picks were later cut.


There were a few more minor trades made, but basically I had my team to go do battle.


So how did the team look?  Awful.  My offense looked terrible.  No power at all and I’d have been surprised if I hit .230 as a team.  My defense was bad as well – a 4 high e at 2nd and high e’s at 3rd and the OF.  For pitching, I had a decent bullpen, a good closer, and just enough innings.  The problem was my starters were easily the league’s worst: Al Leiter, Aaron Cook, Chris Young, Joe Mays and Seth McClung.


Honestly, I was predicting my team to lose 110 games.


Next Issue: The 2006 Season Recap