2016 was a learning experience for rookie General Manager Robert Kirkbride, who took over for previous GM Brian Benzing. The number one lesson was don’t designate Matt Cain as a keeper.
Cain was a major disaster last year, finishing as the league’s 1,047th-ranked player. Cain pitched just 89 innings but gave up 58 runs. He went 4-8 with a 5.64 ERA and was eventually waived by Hapamon.
Cain wasn’t alone. Starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw and outfielder Charlie Blackmon were the only designated keepers that finished the season ranked in the Top 80 in the final player rankings. Second baseman Dee Gordon was hurt and had just 325 at-bats. First baseman Brandon Belt had a typical Belt year, 17 homers, 84 RBI, and a final ranking of 161st.
When your draft is ranked the 17th worst in league history with an average player value of 523.92, it’s difficult to post a winning record. Only three teams that have had drafts ranked in the bottom 20 have managed to reach .500 in the regular season. Hapamon wasn’t one of them.
Chalk up 2016 as a learning experience and continue to build around Kershaw and Blackmon. The return of a healthy Gordon and the continued improvement of outfielder Christian Yelich and closer Jeurys Familia give Hapamon a strong nucleus for 2017.
Benzing’s management style came into focus early in the first season. He was a “draft-and-play” manager. Benzing made a total of 15 player transactions during the season. He made three transactions in April and none in May as the team was slumping, winning two of their first eight series. Benzing made seven transactions in June and the team won six in a row to climb back into the playoff race.
Kershaw was good enough to pitch Give it a Yankee into the playoffs in the league’s inaugural season. The team finished 134-122-20 and finished second in the North Division pennant race, 13 games behind Bacon at Mile 11. They had momentum entering the postseason and defeated the Vicious Fishes in the consolation semifinal. They then lost to the Jersey Boys in the fifth-place game and finished sixth.
2010 was Kershaw’s worst season. Kershaw (214.1 IP, 23 QS, 212 Ks, 2.90 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) ranked 43rd overall and 12th among the league’s starting pitchers. He finished 10th in strikeouts and tied for ninth in QS. Roy Oswalt (211.2 IP, 24 QS, 193 Ks, 2.76 ERA, 1.025 WHIP) finished 11th in the final player rankings and became the only Give it a Yankee starting pitcher to ever finish higher in the final player rankings than Kershaw. Brad Lidge (45.2 IP, 27 Saves, 52 Ks, 2.95 ERA, 1.226 WHIP) emerged as the closer but he was the only reliever on the team to finish the season ranked in the Top 100.
Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez earned team MVP honors, ranking 8th overall in the final player rankings. Gonzalez (.375 OBP, 111 Runs, 34 HR, 117 RBI, 26 SB, 135 Ks) was the top-rated outfielder in baseball.
In the first keeper draft, Give it a Yankee protected first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, catchers Joe Mauer and Mike Napoli, Kershaw and Oswalt. Inexplicably, they left their 2010 MVP, Gonzalez, off their roster and he was drafted with the second pick in the Regular Season Draft by the Bulls, Give it a Yankee’s North Division rival.
Again, the team started slow, winning just two of their first 11 series. Benzing made just one player transaction from April through the end of June and Give it a Yankee failed to make the playoffs. They finished 121-132-23, 11.5 games behind the Bulls in the North Division pennant race.
Kershaw was second in the Fantasy Cy Young rankings behind Justin Verlander. Kershaw (233.1 IP, 25 QS, 248 Ks, 2.27 ERA, 0.977 WHIP) finished the season as the fourth-rated player in fantasy league, earning team MVP honors. He led the league in ERA, WHIP and Strikeouts and was tied for second in quality starts.
Gonzalez was the team’s best hitter. Gonzalez (.409 OBP, 108 Runs, 27 HR, 117 RBI, 1 SB, 119 Ks) finished the season ranked 17th overall and fourth at first base. Francisco Cordero (69.2 IP, 37 Saves/Holds, 42 Ks, 2.45 ERA, 1.019 WHIP) emerged as the team’s closer and ranked 89 overall.
Gonazlez, Napoli, second baseman Brandon Phillips, Kershaw and starter Josh Beckett were protected in the Keeper Draft. Benzing failed to keep corner infielder Mark Reynolds, who hit 37 homers the year before.
Give it a Yankee started slowly again, winning just two of their first seven series, and Benzing gave his core group of players little help. The general manager made just seven player transactions for the entire season.
Despite the lack of help, Kershaw and third baseman David Wright carried the team. They slowly climbed back into the playoff race and challenged the Bulls for the North Division pennant, eventually finishing 129-130-17, 7.5 games behind the Bulls. The record wasn’t good enough for a playoff berth and the team settled for 10th overall.
In a year that saw hitters take the top three spots in the league’s player rankings, Kershaw was the top-rated pitcher and won the Fantasy Cy Young. Kershaw (227.2 IP, 25 QS, 229 Ks, 2.50 ERA, 1.02 WHIP) again led the league in ERA and WHIP and was tied for second in quality starts and strikeouts. He also earned team MVP honors for the second straight season.
Wright emerged as the team’s top hitter. Wright (.391 OBP, 91 Runs, 21 HR, 93 RBI, 15 SB, 112 Ks) ranked 21st in the final player rankings and fifth at his position. Chris Perez (57.2 IP, 39 Saves/Holds, 59 Ks, 3.58 ERA, 1.127 WHIP) emerged as the team’s best relief pitcher.
In a surprise start to the season, Benzing dealt slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to Matt Patchell and High Cheese in exchange for another frontline starting pitcher, Jered Weaver. In April, Benzing shrewdly added exciting rookie hurler Jose Fernandez and in May he added Michael Wacha. By the time the season ended, Give it a Yankee had made 23 player transactions, the most in team history. The influx of talent helped the team earn a playoff berth, despite another slow start that saw them lose four of their first five series.
With Fernandez, Weaver and Kershaw leading the rotation and young second baseman Jason Kipnis hitting, Give it a Yankee challenged Bacon at Mile 11 for the North Division pennant. Over the last five weeks, Give it a Yankee lost just one series and finished 149-134-16, just 5.5 games behind Bacon. In the playoffs, they lost the consolation semifinal to High Cheese and then lost the seventh place game to HUMA to finish eighth.
Kershaw claimed his first Fantasy MVP and his second Fantasy Cy Young in a dominating season. Kershaw (236 IP, 27 QS, 232 Ks, 1.83 ERA, 0.915 WHIP) led the league in strikeouts, WHIP, Quality Starts and ERA and finished second in Innings Pitched.
Fernandez (172.2 IP, 20 QS, 187 Ks, 2.18 ERA, 0.978 WHIP) gave Give it a Yankee a one-two punch at the top of the rotation. He finished the season ranked 8th overall and fifth among starting pitchers and was named Rookie of the Year. Kipnis was the team’s best hitter. Kipnis (.365 OBP, 86 Runs, 17 HR, 84 RBI, 23 NSB, 10 GIDP, 143 Ks) finished the season as the fourth highest rated second baseman and 39th overall.
Give it a Yankee committed to pitching in 2014. They kept Kipnis and then it was four starting pitchers – Kershaw, Fernandez, Wacha and Wainwright. They lost Fernandez in May as he underwent Tommy John surgery. Benzing made just nine transactions on the season but did add a pair of quality bats in outfielder Charlie Blackmon and second baseman Dee Gordon.
Kershaw did it again in 2014, winning both the MVP title as the league’s highest rated player and the Fantasy Cy Young. Kershaw (198.1 IP, 24 QS, 239 Ks, 1.76 ERA, 0.857 WHIP) led the league in ERA and WHIP, and finished third in strikeouts. Wainwright (227 IP, 25 QS, 7.096 K/9, 2.37 ERA, 1.030 WHIP) finished 18th in the final player rankings and seventh in starting pitcher rankings.
Blackmon (.334 OBP, 82 Runs, 19 HR, 72 RBI, 18 NSB, 3 GIDPs, 96 Ks) was the team’s top hitter, ranking 36th overall and seventh among outfielders.
Give it a Yankee finished 140-131-15, 24 games behind Bacon at Mile 11 in the North Division. The team lost six of its last nine series but limped into the playoffs as the seventh seed. That’s when they caught fire, upsetting the Lower Haighters 8-5 in the quarterfinals before losing to Twinkle Toes in the semifinal They finished with a victory over A-Rod’s Mirrors in the third place game, securing their highest finish in league history.
Give it a Yankee kept Kershaw, Wainwright, Blackmon, Gordon, and designated hitter Victor Martinez. In the first three months of the season, the team won just one series and Benzing made just five player transactions the entire season.
Kershaw (246.1 IP, 29 QS, 301 Ks, 2.15 ERA, 0.880 WHIP) claimed his third consecutive MVP and Fantasy Cy Young award, ranking first in Innings Pitched and Strikeouts, third in ERA, WHIP and Quality Starts. At one point during the season, he threw three straight scoreless starts and he was the first pitcher in MBL history to throw back-to-back scoreless starts without issuing a walk.
Blackmon (681 PA, .796 OPS, 93 Runs, 58 RBI, 30 NSB, 112 Ks) finished with a Top 25 season and was the league’s fifth-rated outfielder. He has emerged as the team’s primary hitting threat.
Give it a Yankee finished under .500 again in 2015. Despite the brilliance of Kershaw, they finished 111-146-7, 45.5 games behind Bacon at Mile 11 in the North Division pennant race. They finished the season 13th.
Hapamon went 3-5-3 to start the season and was able to forge ties with Bacon at Mile 11 and Buster Hugs, a pair of playoff teams. The last half of the season was a disaster, as the team won just two series. In Week 14, the team suffered its worst loss of the season, an 11-1-1 humiliation at the hands of Home Run 101. Hapamon went 2-6-2 against North Division foes.
Kershaw (149 IP, 17 QS, 1.69 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 17 QS) earned team MVP honors for the fourth season, ranking third in the final player rankings despite missing time with injury. He led the team in ERA, WHIP, and K/9.
Blackmon (641 PA, .933 OPS, 111 Runs, 82 RBI, 8 NSB, 102 Ks) was Mr.Consistent, earning his second straight Top 25 season. He led the teams in runs scored and OPS and ended 2016 as the league’s 25th-rated player.
Yelich (659 PA, .859 OPS, 78 Runs, 98 RBI, 5 NSB, 138 Ks) led the team in RBI and was a draft day steal for Kirkbride. Yelich was taken in the ninth round with the 141st pick and finished as the 74th-rated player.
Kirkbride added just 11 free agents over the course of the season but nearly found a keeper in reliever Chris Devenski, who finished as the league’s 84th-rated player.