BBFL: Final Jeopardy

Monday, September 20 2004 @ 09:00 AM EDT

Contributed by: Coach

Itís come down to this ó Lars Kvaleís AGF will meet my Toronto Walrus in two weeks of Head-to-Head combat. At stake is the Alomar Division championship and a place in league history beside last yearís inaugural winner Scott Lucas. No trophy, only a replica jersey, which I hope will be Jays home black, extra large.

My come-from-behind 9-3 victory over the Chatsworth Halos was closer than it looked, as I will explain. AGF edged Mebion Glyndwr 7-5 in the other semi, with narrow margins in several categories. All four clubs played very well all year; last week was no exception. Brad and Gwyn, who suffered those disappointing playoff losses, now meet in the bronze-medal match.

The Horse Field Hammers and Austin Senators waged a spirited battle in one Consolation showdown, the lead changing hands several times. The Texans held a 7-5 advantage into the Sunday night game, where the Hammers, thanks to Roger Clemens, took over the K/BB lead to even the score at 6-6 and win the match. Baird Brain trounced Hannibalís Cannibals 10-2, so Geoff and Jurgen will square off for the Consolation crown, seventh overall, with Scott and dp meeting to decide ninth place.

Four other playoff teams now head to the sidelines: Gashouse Gorillas claimed fifth by thumping Red Mosquitos 10-2, and the finish couldnít have been much closer between the Eastern Shore Birds and the SABR Magicians for eleventh spot. The 6-6 draw went to the Birds, by a difference of 0.04 in the ERA tiebreaker.

I frequently credit good fortune for my HtH wins; this week, a copious amount of bad luck went the other way. Three Chatsworth starters left with the lead after 4.2 IP, losing their chances at a W. (One was ejected for arguing balls and strikes, the other two got the hook from managers who apparently donít care about the impact of their moves on fantasy stats.) On Sunday, Bradís FA pickups Heilman and Chen were superb, as was Washburn, but the three of them ó combined ó received zero run support. Literally. More Chatsworth misfortune: I had been leading the match by an uncomfortably close 7-4 score after Saturday, but with a reasonable chance to catch up in several hitting stats, the Halos stumbled badly out of the blocks, going 1-for-18 yesterday in the early games. Needless to say, I was relieved.

His staff pitched a lot ó 113.1 innings! ó and remarkably well. Mine was just a bit better, coming up large yesterday, with Pirates lefty Dave Williams striking out 7 Mets and walking just 2 in six IP of 3-hit shutout, while Freddy Garcia mowed down the Tigers and whipped Bonderman. Paul Byrd also had a great week, winning twice on short rest. My hitters may have been rusty after the bye; a 6-for-40 disaster on Monday left me trailing badly in those categories. By late Thursday night, led by Carlos Delgado and Bobby Abreu, they had closed the gap, then a couple of free agent hunches, Luis Gonzalez and Jay Payton, combined for a very helpful 10-for-17 weekend.

Heading into the final, Iím cautiously optimistic. The Walrus would have beaten AGF 9-3 last week, which I interpret as an encouraging sign, however meaningless. When we met way back in Week 12, I earned a 6-5-1 decision while in a team-wide hitting slump and (not coincidentally) without Delgado. Lars does have the Unit, Rivera, and three of the A's Big Four, so Iíll be content to split the pitching categories and hope my slight advantage in hitting makes the difference. As always, I wish my opponent, and every other owner in both divisions, the best of luck.

I know that anything can happen in fantasy baseball, especially in a short HtH series. Iím trying to tell myself Iíve had a great season regardless, and this is just another match. Yeah, right. I want to win.