The 2012 RJSL Finishing Line Is In Sight & Food for Thought
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Back to Business and 2014 RJSL Playoff Predictions
And the league just keeps getting better and more interesting! This is my first blog in approximately 2 years and it appears that people have missed it. It's always nice to know that you've been missed...at least in print (because I certainly have not been missed on the playing field)! :-) So, let's just get into it. The season began with lots of drama. The five best players of the former 1st place Medicine Men team committed mutiny and combined forces with the best players of the top ranked Major Energy team. By the time the dust settled, former team captain Michael Chasen was out of a job, sponsor Jason Shatkin took control of the proverbial team reins and a new superpower by the name of NJAIM was created. The thing is, championship teams like Westrock and the former Medicine Men are not permitted to recruit players from within the league. We are forced to constantly look outside the league in order to preserve existing team dynamics and the overall balance of power. So how did Jason and his cohorts accomplish this ingenious feat? Well, quite simply, the former Evil Empire Medicine Men was dissolved, the best of the best that the team had to offer declared themselves a sovereign state, smoked a peace pipe with Yitz Greenbaum and his cronies from the former Major Energy team, and voilà...the new Evil Empire NJAIM is born. Genius... true genius in getting around the rules. But, it's all good because what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Rumor has it that Westrock, as well as other teams, are in high-level negotiations to combine forces. The precedent has been set which should remake team dynamics within the RJSL for years to come.
So, I'm back to playing on only one team (Westrock), and the commissioners have again allowed me to be one of the primary league replacement players in return for managing the RJSL website. To all extents and purposes, things have worked out very well. Thanks to Major Energy, Merockdim and Chefman, as well as a scattering of other teams, I played many games against most teams this season. This has enabled me to gain a certain amount of insight regarding team dynamics which provides the fodder for my blogs. There are certain teams that I still do not know very well which include Subaba and Rockland Window because there wasn't much opportunity to play for them (although, I have played against them a number of times). There are other teams that have very full rosters and never really needed me (NJAIM and Bubbas) and then there is Newday who simply won't use me because there is bad blood between us (that's another story for another blog). I will say that I'm very happy for Ezzy Katz who is Newday's formidable captain, a good friend and a great competitor who has brought his team to second place during the regular season. In fact, Ezzy has done such a remarkable job transforming his team that it would not surprise me if he ended up Manager of the year. He not only has the passion, insight and determination to succeed but is "blessed" with a solid Midos foundation in which all his decisions and temperament are based. It is my very strong belief that in order for a player to be afforded Captain of the Year or MVP within the RJSL, he must not only possess the "goods" in terms of talent, but must also possess the "goods" in terms of Midos (sportsmanship). There are plenty of players in our league that encapsulate both qualities, but to select a player with a strong talent level but low sportsmanship would be a travesty in what we stand for as a community and as a league. There is a reason that Marv insists that we wear either our ball caps or yarmulkes while on the field: so that we never forget who we are and what we represent as a people, even when in the midst of competition.
We recently went through the process of selecting the MVP for the 2014 season and there was major disagreement in deciding if this honor should be based on pure athletic ability, or some combination between athletic excellence and sportsmanship. I do understand that in the outside world, MVP would be based exclusively on athletic excellence. You can have a player who is obnoxious, insensitive, a horrendous team player, offensive and insulting to both his teammates and competitors and yet, because he has exceptional athletic ability, he could be honored as MVP. I believe in the strongest of terms that it is our responsibility to live our personal, business and competitive lives well above the norm and convention of secular life. If we are a light unto the Nations, then the way we act within competitive sports should be as important as our ability to hit or field a softball within the RJSL. Some of my cohorts feel that this is a slippery slope which opens doors to all kinds of probing and scrutiny. Let’s say, for instance, a candidate was discovered being unfaithful or didn’t pay his taxes for the past several years? Should these individuals qualify for MVP? These are excellent questions and I do understand that once you open the door to scrutiny like this, things can get very complicated. I do see both sides and these are not easy determinations. But, if I had my druthers, I would at the very least incorporate sportsmanship on the field, between one’s teammates and competition, as an integral part of the MVP decision. It’s one man’s opinion…and one that I’m willing to fight for.
To those of you with a strong acumen, you can probably sense that there is much that is “not” being said. And you would be 100% correct.
OK, let's make some predictions:
Jason Shatkin has undoubtedly compiled one hell of a team. They are experienced, seasoned and well glued. Gone are the overt chastisements and berating’s that took place within former versions of this team. NJAIM clinched first place with an 18 - 2 record and a 90% win percentage. Actions simply speak louder than words and although they seem to love to be "hated" (e.g. the Evil Empire), they know they are good and that's probably what pisses everybody off.
However, I do have one nagging question which can only be answered during the championship. Is NJAIM the best team that has ever been created within the RJSL? I've heard people within our captains meetings suggest this possibility. I'm not so sure because I don't believe that NJAIM has been fully tested. There are very few teams in this league at the moment that can give the Evil Empire a run for their money. One of those teams is Bubbas who would have to play to perfection in order to persevere against the men in black. The other team who could potentially pull it off is Westrock who has yet to play this season with their A-team. Fortunately, playoffs tend to attract A team players and the proof will be within the proverbial pudding if the Evil Empire really has what it takes to go the distance.
Prediction: NJAIM will indeed dance in the championship round but will they win? There is certainly a strong precedent for such an outcome.
This is probably the greatest turnaround team in the last five years. The former Lucky-Chai team, who did not even qualify for the playoffs last season, has secured second place in the regular-season. What an accomplishment! I've only seen Newday play once this year when Westrock faced them during our 2nd game of the regular season and pitcher Zevy Simanowitz was "hot". Apparently, Zevy has been a one man wracking crew all season long...cutting down virtually all batters in his path. This is a team with massive experience and many former "great" players who remain above average in their ability to win. BUT, I put the question to Captain Ezzy Katz the other day whether Newday can stand up to the top tier teams? It's one thing to play against the lower and mid-tier teams and show great stats. However, Newday was "easily" clobbered by NJAIM recently and I just have this sense that neither Ezzy Katz nor Zevy Simanoviwitz can complete with the Big Boys when the going gets tough.
Prediction: Newday will sail through the first round of the playoffs but will be defeated during the 2nd round by a top tier team.
Approximately two years ago I stated in a blog: “With ten strong players, everything is achievable”. However, getting ten strong Westrock players to show up on the same day for any given game has been virtually impossible for the past two years (except for the playoffs). To say that it’s been challenging would be an understatement. I think what makes it so frustrating is that I have some incredible talent on my team but I simply cannot harness this talent on a weekly basis due to the understandable distractions of family, business, learning, relocating, newborns and all the other wonderful complications that make life so beautiful. So, I thought that I could roll with the punches, be patient and wait it out and live for the playoffs…but I can’t… it’s just too hard! Westrock has lost this season to some of the lowest-ranked teams simply because our top-tier players are unable to show up. So, what’s to be done?
It’s time for Westrock to evolve and move on. With a just over 500% win percentage, my belief system in making it into the championship round is quite challenged (although we pulled it off last year when all of my top players came together for the playoffs). The only benefit of not making it into the championship is that Westrock would qualify for the first time in six years to draft players from within the league. There are players in our league who possess incredible talent but who are stuck on mediocre teams. Some of these players simply want to play with their friends and that’s all that is important to them. But there are other players who want to win and have the goods and are looking to improve their prospects of getting on a winning, well managed team. Westrock is that team and we will be opening our doors to a new generation of players who will advance our long history of winning championships and having a great time doing it. My calculation is that if I can combine the talents of my A team with an expanded roster of dependable great athletes, then Westrock will continue winning for years to come. For those of you with the goods, we will be knocking on your door in the very near future.
Prediction: If Westrock can harness the passion and focus of our A team, we will sail right back into the championship and give NJAIM a real run for their money. However, if our focus remains distracted and dislocated, Westrock will be defeated during the second round of the playoffs.
I really thought that this was Bubbas year. They started out so strong, so confident, a real force to be reckoned with. They were hitting and they were fielding and they could do no wrong. However, at some point during midseason things started to change. They stopped winning and their battle for third place is primarily based on the wave that they were riding during the first half of the year. I have not spent a great deal of time with Bubbas but I believe I’ve heard Pinny mention that there were a few vital players on his team who were injured and this has negatively impacted their ability to win consistently.
Although Bubbas has come a very long way over the past five years, I believe their primary weakness is in their pitching. They need to get Solomon back or somebody of that ilk who can take control of their pitching game. In every other area, both offensively and defensively, Bubbas is very competitive and a great team. But they are simply too hittable unless they put up someone with great talent as Lazarus, who is unfortunately inconsistent as a pitcher.
Prediction: Bubbas will sail through the first round of the playoffs but will be defeated during the 2nd round, unless of course, they rediscover their passion and focus, in which case they will again be a force to be reckoned with.Subaba
This is where the league’s weighted schedule gets interesting. Subaba has won nine games, four of them against Chefman, one against Rockland Window, and then surprise victories against Valuclean, Evergreen, Merockdim and “Westrock” (I can assure you I went home depressed that day). To be objective, defeating three mid-level and one top tier team deserves a round of applause. Subaba has had a very good year and I’m not going to attempt to poke holes in their accomplishments. Interestingly enough, Subaba has a shot at capturing third-place! Not only that, but if Subaba can win their last three games (two against Chefman and one against Newday), and Westrock defeats Bubbas tonight, that would result in a first round playoff competition between Westrock and Bubbas. This would make things very interesting, very quickly. To all extents and purposes, Subaba should not be able to defeat Newday, but you never know how things are going to play out.
Prediction: Subaba will be defeated during the first round when faced with the full roster of the opposing mid-tier team.
I happen to like this team who in the last few weeks have defeated Westrock, Bubbas and Newday (although that may have been a giveaway). This team is probably more responsible for messing up the plans of top-tier teams like Westrock and Bubbas who thought that they could simply walk away with third-place. Well, not so fast! I saw Solomon pitch against Bubbas last week and he looked good. It was a very close game but Evergreen prevailed and I believe that we are all taking them much more seriously than we did earlier in the season. If Evergreen can really clamp down, maintain their pitching edge, play smart defense and relax at the plate, this team could find themselves in the second round of the championship. I don’t think that they have the goods to go the distance, but I think that they’re going to give some teams a real headache.
Prediction: Evergreen is on a roll and I do not believe that their momentum will be stopped until the second round at which time they will lose two games to one.
There is really not much to say regarding a team who has had an unspectacular season. Valuclean is currently hanging on to a playoff spot by the skin of their teeth, and they have simply had a terrible year and have failed to gain any meaningful momentum. This is a team that has some real talent, but that talent has not come together to produce a winning season. My opinion is that after this season, Valuclean is done and will look to reestablish itself in some other team venue. Either that, or they must start from scratch and rebuild around their top five or six players.
Prediction: Valuclean should sneak into the playoffs after Major Energy defeats Merockdim today and Subaba eventually cuts off the legs of Rockland Window in order to achieve a third-place honor.
This has been a very disappointing season for Michael Chasen and his band of un-merry men. Roster problems, forfeits and a seemingly ongoing stream of roster add-ons has all added to what appears to be a convoluted season with far less than stellar results. As with Valuclean, I believe this is Major Energy’s last hurrah and it is time for this team’s players to find either greener pastures on some other team or hang up their cleats as they enter the twilight of their softball careers. There is certainly some good pickings on this roster which would enhance alternative teams, but I don’t see Captain Chasen frustrating himself further with trying to pull together the remnants of old friendships which can no longer produce winning results. Michael, I am stating here publicly, that you have a home with Westrock if you want it. We will speak further during the off-season.
Prediction: Major Energy should defeat Merockdim today and make it into the first round of the playoffs at which point they will be swept 2-0.
What can I tell you… it’s just not happening with this team! Instead of the Campers becoming stronger, they are weaker and less competitive. Merockdim must be completely remade, assuming that they can retain some of their prime talent. Frankly, I’m going to be knocking on the door during the off-season of Mendy Halpert, Michoel Guzelgul and Tzviki Gottesman, to name just a few. Westrock may not attract any of them, but we are going to give it the old college try. The Halperts and Gottesman of the world love to win…and get tired of losing. I believe the Merockdim train has simply come and gone, and is now just a distant memory of greatness unattained. It’s time to get on board another train boys that, with your help, is bound for greatness and success.
Prediction: Merockdim will be defeated by Major Energy today and for the first time in many years will not qualify for the playoffs.
My comments regarding the remaining two teams are similar to my last blog from a couple of years ago. Both teams require comprehensive talent to lift them out of the league’s basement. However, these teams do serve a strong purpose in the RJSL by providing a repository for players who enter the league with unknown talent or for those individuals that simply want to play for the fun of it without the competitive stresses that come with playing for a middle tier or top team. I expect that many of the stronger players on Rockland Window and Chefman will find inviting captains from upper tier teams next season. But until then, just keep playing your hearts out and good things will come to pass.
So, in the meantime, lets PLAY BALL!