December 12, 1999

"I got attacked by a six-pack last night and had to swim my way to safety,"

-- Charles Barkley, earlier in his career.

I know itís not baseball, but you guys know I like to start these things off with humorous sports quotes, so it just seems fitting to pay homage to that walking quote machine, Charles Barkley. Besides, the sentiment reflected in that quote sort of explains why itís been so long since Iíve felt like sitting at the keyboard. As you can probably guess, I spent a little of my winnings on alcohol. OK, I spent a lot of my winnings on alcohol.

Before we get to more pressing league business, like me mentioning that I cashed the first-place check this year, hereís a couple of more words of wisdom from Sir Charles courtesy of a collection of gems in todayís local paper:

Remember when Barkley threw a bar patron through a plate glass window? Apparently an Orlando judge asked Charles if he had any regrets. "I regretted we were on the first floor," Barkley said.

He didnít seem to express any regrets at the end of his post-game press conference in Philadelphia, where Charles announced the injury was ending his career, either. "Just what America needs, another unemployed black man," Barkley said.

I found this one in my files: During Rocketís training camp, which was held in Austin this year, somebody said to Charles that Houstonís new NFL franchise should help keep sportswriters off the streets. Charles shook his head and said, "Naw, I want Ďem on the streets. Better chance they might get hit by a car."

But we shouldnít worry about Barkley quotes disappearing from these pages forever. "He didnít hurt his mouth," said Paul Westphal, who coached Barkley in Phoenix.

And I didnít hurt mine either. Did I mention that I am now your defending champion? (It occurs to me that, along with the first-place check, I won the right to give everybody shit for a year.) Speaking of which, those pictures of Ken and Look holding champagne bottles are about to be relocated to another part of the website. Iíve got a few to replace them, I just havenít scanned them in yet. Look for my own Y2K update sometime between Christmas and New Yearís Day. Letís just say Iíve got a couple of shots for the two teams who were vying for the title of "Team of the 90ís."

Anyway, weíve got news.

Itís expansion time!

DISCLAIMER: The Surgeon General has determined that adding owners indiscriminately to a rotisserie league can be hazardous to the leaguesí health. (See Silverman, Bob, CRL 1991.)

With the lessons of history firmly entrenched in the collective memory of the CRL, we elected not to expand by two teams a couple of years ago when both Milwaukee and Arizona became members of the Senior Circuit. We did add one team because of Sanford Bakerís divorce from Steve Kerr, but that meant, at least as far as we were concerned, there was an inter-league game every night because the Brewers might as well have still been in the AL. Our intention all along was to mirror real baseball, and we agreed to expand again, but only when the right owner came along. We decided we were not going to beg a potential owner to join our little party, we wanted them beating our door down. Well, someoneís banging on the door. And they are not alone.

We have two expansion candidates. Both are very interested in being a part of the CRL.

One is Terryís son-in-law, Rich Van Buskirk. Rich has a partner, Keith Ottman. Rich has already made arrangements to have Draft weekend off so that he can join us in Vegas. Heís even ready to send his money in. I donít know about you, but I consider that an impressive showing by a wannabe.

The second expansion candidate is Marcus Cathey, who works at Time Warner Cable here in Austin. Marcus worked for TCI cable in San Marcos, Texas, before Time Warner acquired that system and Marcus was moved to the Austin office. He has been sitting next to Jim Fraser since opening day, watching and listening as the season unfolded. Marcus is in both fantasy football and basketball leagues, and is currently fighting for last place in my season-long football pool where we pick games against the line (but heís not going to take the bone from me without a fight). As the season came to a close he was talking almost daily about the money he would be donating his first couple of years. You like to hear that kind of talk from an expansion owner.

So we have two teams that want in. But we are only adding Milwaukee to the available pool of players. So who gets in? We have two proposals.

Before I outline the possibilities, there is the chance that we wonít have to decide. The February 15th money deadline is extremely important this year. Anyone who hasnít paid is not in. If one of the expansion teams doesnít pony up in time, the decision of who to add is easy. If an existing team doesnít pay, then one of the new guys will take the existing team, while the other will be an expansion owner. Weíll worry about how to decide that if it happens.

Here are the options:

1. We flip a coin. This is pretty self-explanatory, so Iím not going to go into any more detail on this option.

2. (This one will take a little explaining.) We add both.

Now itís obvious that there are not enough available players under our current system to allow two more teams in, even with Milwaukee. So we would have to modify the makeup of each team slightly. For this option to work, we would need to drop an outfielder from each team. This would mean there would be 12 additional players in the available draft pool. Those 12 players plus 14 Brewer hitters (25-man roster minus 11 pitchers) would mean there would be 26 additional hitters to be drafted. Each of the new teams would need 13 offensive players, meaning they would draft 26 hitters between them and the free-agent pool would have the same number of hitters next year as it has in previous years.

Now I am not one to mess with the mathematics of a 23-man roster and a 260-unit salary cap, so for this to work, we have to add a couple of caveats. To replace the fifth outfielder on the roster, each team would have to draft a 10th pitcher. And since we wouldnít want that pitcher to be a meaningless position, we would need to increase the minimum innings-pitched requirement to 1100 innings.

Let me explain that second point first. For most of us, at least those who havenít thrown in the towel or whoís initials arenít KA, getting to the current 1000 innings pitched is not a problem. If we add another pitcher without upping the minimum innings pitched requirement, an owner could simply draft a pitcher who would be on the DL all year and thus not hurt their ERA and ratio. Unless we increase the minimum innings requirement, we will effectively change the salary cap to $129.50, with everybody drafting a 50-cent pitcher who they hope will never pitch. We hope to get at least something out of our fifth outfielder, so we should expect to have to get something out of our tenth pitcher.

Why an outfielder, you ask? Because we currently draft five outfielders. And a lot of outfielders also qualify at other positions (and a lot of guys who qualify at other positions, also qualify in the outfield). Besides, who could draft a team of 12 middle infielders? And we need the flexibility afforded by the utility player.

I realize this is a bit of a radical change for a league that has been in existence for a decade. But when you think about it, it makes sense. Over the past few seasons, there has been a movement afoot to do something to make pitching more valuable. Add strikeouts. Add holds. Add inherited runners scored. Anything to make us spend more money on pitching. In our league, middle relievers and setup guys are worthless. They donít get wins and they donít get saves. The feeling is that the amount of money we spend on hitting vs. pitching has gotten way out of whack. We fill out our rotations with 50-centers in the hope that one or two of them will work out, and we dump the ones that donít. What we really want are guys that wonít hurt us too bad. Increasing the innings-pitched requirement will mean the inning eaters who donít give up a lot of runs will be worth even more, while those bullpen guys who get 50-70 innings with a low WHIP are suddenly worth something Ė especially when you find yourself the owner of a fourth or (egads!) fifth starter who doesnít pitch half his games at Turner Field. Jeez, we might even have to study strikeout-to-walk ratios instead of just adding up dingers or at-bats.

We have gotten to the point where we worship at-bats. I give Kerr and Baker all the credit for discovering this first, and Ken Alexander the credit for exploiting it. The more everyday players you get, the better you do. But thatís not real baseball. Real baseball teams donít have 12 everyday players. Hell, most real baseball teams donít have eight everyday players Ė most platoon at one or two positions.

This change would also help balance out the free-agent pool. As you all know, there are 30% - 50% more pitchers available throughout the season than there are hitters. I just looked back at the first stat report following last yearís draft. Keep in mind this was after most of us had replaced our guys who opened the season on the DL (either kept or drafted). There were 41 offensive players in that free agent pool. There were 67 pitchers. If we make this change, there would be the same 41 hitters (remember my math six paragraphs ago?), while the number of available pitchers would shrink to 46 (11 Brewer hurlers added minus 32 additional pitchers drafted Ė 12 on existing teams plus 20 on expansion teams).

Some people have said they think this change would mean holes will go unfilled because there wonít be anything to choose from. I disagree. I think everyone will have more marginal players, which means they canít afford to let holes sit open. Golly, we may even have to a little homework on who we pick up (Vladimir Nunez, 7 wins, 1 save) or draft (Bruce Aven, $0.50, .307 BA, 11 HR, 65 RBI, 47 R).

Lest I forget to mention it again, both of those guys were on the roster of the guy who, ahem, won it all this year.

The main reason our free-agent pools have gotten so far out of touch with reality is that we havenít changed with baseball. Ten years ago, most MLB teams had 10-man pitching staffs. Now everyone has at least 11, if not 12, pitchers on their roster. I know Iím the one who keeps spearheading the movement to get back to the original Constitution, but it is a 10-year old document and is based on a game that has evolved. (Even the U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times in its 211-year history Ė once every 7.8 years Ė and donít even ask me how many times the Texas Constitution has been amended.) While baseball has changed, we havenít. Our original goal was to try to be as much like real baseball as possible. Our current goal is the same. In real baseball, the guy who gets 3-5 at bats a week is important. We donít have those guys on our teams. The Yankees had depth. They won it all. We need to reintroduce the concept of a good bench to the CRL. The 23rd guy on each of our rosters should require some thought, and not just be an afterthought.

When we started this league, we were trying to mirror baseball. Weíre not anymore. This is just one ownerís opinion, but I think this change would get us closer to being like real baseball again.

(Soapbox mode off.)

Now I know it sounds like I am really supporting this proposal, after all, itís mine. But I havenít really made up my mind (after all, I won under the current rules, remember?). It is my job to present the arguments supporting proposed rule changes. Itís also my job to point out all the consequences of any proposed change. Itís not that I think this is a bad idea, itís the possible consequences that bug me.

If I propose a rule change, itís voted on and accepted, and it turns out to be a bad idea, Iíll be the first to admit it. But this change will take a lot of thought and debate. Once we make it, we canít go back. This is not like the lesson of Prohibition (which, as you might have guessed, I never supported) because if this proposal is accepted and reversed, weíll be stuck with a free agent pool that looks like my wallet on the plane back from Vegas (hint: thereís not much there). A few years back, we voted to have teams not making their innings finish last in all pitching categories. A year later we realized we made a mistake and voted to not let those teams effect anyone else in the standings. But this change couldnít be reversed unless an owner dropped out or the National League expands again. Iím not saying vote for it. Iím not saying vote against it. Iím just saying we really need to think about this one and all of the ramifications.

Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe we could add two teams without adjusting the roster makeup. Other leagues do. (Talk about emphasizing a good bench.)

I need to know everyoneís vote by January 15, 2000. We all need time to plan, and at least one new owner will need to make reservations.

There is one additional proposal out there, but we can wait until Draft Day to vote on it. Several owners have expressed a desire to do away with the $20 category winners, where we give $20 to the owner of the player who finished first in each scoring category. The proposal is to simply throw that money into the prize pool to be distributed among the top five teams.

If any of you have anything else youíd like to see changed, let me know so I can inform everybody in this forum prior to our voting on it at the Draft.

By the way, while Iím on the subject of proposals, I need to take time out to apologize to Glenn. I got a little testy with him during one of our numerous conversations on the subject. We all say things we wish we hadnít, and since I talk to all of you, I get more of a chance to say the wrong thing than the rest of you. Talking to the entire league is one of the things I like about being League Secretary, but the one thing I do get tired of is the bitching. That last comment is most assuredly NOT directed at Glenn, he was simply the messenger. And itís not that there was anything wrong with the message, he was simply relaying one ownerís opinion, which is just as valid as any other ownerís opinion. So Iíll say this in front of everyone, I misspoke. Maybe Glenn caught me on a bad day.

There are other topics to cover besides expansion. As you may recall, the last time we had a league-wide communication was in November when you let me know which of your linked players you were keeping. Hereís who was let go: George Arias, Curtis Goodwin, John Johnstone, Kevin McGlinchy, Russ Ortiz, Chad Myers, Greg Myers, Hal Morris, Jimmy Anderson, Glen Barker, Jose Fernandez, Javy Lopez, Pat Watkins, Greg Colbrunn, Paul Bako, Pat Mears, Carlos Perez and Mike Remlinger.

Lastly, hereís a calendar of important dates.

Saturday, Jan. 15 Ė Expansion vote deadline.

Tuesday, Feb. 15 Ė Each team has to have $250 to Glenn.

Wednesday, March 1 Ė Each team has to have the list of the seven players they are protecting from expansion to me. Trading freeze commences.

Sunday, March 5 Ė Expansion owner(s) have the results of their first-round selections to me. I inform all owners who was selected in the first round of the expansion process.

Wednesday, March 8 Ė Those owners who lost a player in the first round of the expansion draft inform me of the additional player they are protecting.

Sunday, March 12 Ė Expansion owner(s) inform me of their additional expansion selections. I inform all owners of the expansion draft results. Trading recommences.

Friday, April 1 Ė Roster Freeze Day.

Friday, April 7 Ė Pizza at Bautistaís.

Saturday, April 8 Ė Draft Day.

One last note. If any of you are interested in springing for the suite to host the draft, please let me know. Donít forget the league will throw you a bone of $130 ($140?) to help defray the cost of the suite. As the League Champion (have I mentioned that yet?) I realize I should probably be the host. But there is the possibility, however remote, that I may be accompanied by someone of the opposite sex this year. And since my entire reason for doing this would be to have sex (no, not as entertainment at the draft, you sick bastards), should this possibility come to fruition, I will not be staying at the Imperial Palace, swanky as it may be. Remember, in this instance, I might be actually trying to impress somebody.


Until next time.