Friday, July 25, 2014

The First 23... A Ranking of the Most Successful Franchises in Hobbs History...

As the inaugural post of the re-vamped Hobbs Headlines, why not do a look back at the most successful franchises in the first 23 seasons of the league. The teams were ranked on both regular season success and playoff success, pennants, and, of course, championships. Each franchise name is listed in its current incarnation. The initial post will be teams 10-15, and I'll post one new team per day until we get to #1 (but I'm guessing all of the long time Hobbs members can guess which team is #1... SPOILER ALERT: Its not a surprise!).

1- Indianapolis Cougars

Championships: 5
Pennants: 7
Division Titles: 14
Total Playoff Appearances: 14
Franchise Record: 2128-1598
Seasons w/ winning record: 15
Best Position Player in Team History: Sal Lombardi
Best Pitcher in Team History: Jair Gonzalez

I won't lie... this one is painful for me to write. I'm still bitter, broken and emotional over back-to-back seasons of losing the WS in Game 7 to the Cougs... Two of the WS could be mine! But, alas, they're not. They're just two of a collection of WS Banners hanging at aptly named 'Victory Field.' Just to show you how far ahead the Cougars are... I'll reveal the franchise scores for this ranking. The scored for #2 KC was 60, and the score for #10 Vancouver was 48. All of the teams at 2 thru 10 were pretty damn close. Indianapolis scored at 101. Take a deep breath... here are the records... most championships, most pennants, most regular season wins, most division titles, most trips to the LCS or deeper, most 100+ win seasons, second most seasons with a winning record and second most trips to the playoffs. What about the Golden Age? That's right now. This team has been dominating Hobbs over the last six seasons, and dominating the NL for 13 seasons. Six consecutive trips to the World Series, with 4 championships to show for it. Only Colorado (now Honolulu) and Syracuse were able to slow down this dynasty. The NL in particular has really been under this team's shadow. Out of the last 13 seasons, the Cougars have been to the NLCS 11 times. The NLCS has almost been an appointment to see what team gets to play Indianapolis for the Pennant. Even more impressive... during those 13 seasons the Cougars (or, briefly as the New York Nightmares) were the #1 seed in the NL 10 times! They were a #2 seed twice and a #3 seed once... Thirteen seasons of dominance is absolutely incredible... will the Age of the Cougars ever end?

2- Kansas City Jayhawks

Championships: 1
Pennants: 3
Division Titles: 12
Total Playoff Appearances: 16
Franchise Record: 2100-1626
Seasons w/ winning record: 16
Best Position Player in Team History: Luis Concepcion
Best Pitcher in Team History: Woody Clifton

Normally I'd talk about a team's history, when they were at their best, where else the team has played etc, etc. Not the case with KC. They have only played in Kansas City, only ever been the Jayhawks, and only Dakar has run this squad. They don't have a Golden Era, because they don't really have down seasons... only missing the playoffs 7 times in 23 seasons. The only chick in this franchise's armor is the lone, single title. But lets check out the other stuff. Second best franchise record in the league, most seasons with a winning record, most times in the playoffs, second most division titles, second most 100+ win seasons, and second most trips to the LCS or deeper with 9. The Jayhawks have been the benchmark for consistency and winning in the league, and the jewel of the AL.

3- Baltimore Buushwackerz

Championships: 2
Pennants: 3
Division Titles: 5
Total Playoff Appearances: 13
Franchise Record: 2006-1720
Seasons w/ winning record: 16
Best Position Player in Team History: Slick Rapp and Hugh Figueroa
Best Pitcher in Team History: Steve Smart

This franchise was one of the most stable in the league. For 21 seasons this team was the Scranton Blue Collars and guiding by stnick44. For Season 22 it stayed in Scranton as the RailRiders, before turzich took over a couple of seasons ago and the team became the Baltimore Buushwackerz. For this piece, we'll be focusing on the Blue Collars. This is the 4th winningest franchise in Hobbs and one of only 4 with multiple WS titles. The 16 seasons with a winning record is tied for the most with KC. The Blue Collars really hit their stride in Seaons 5-14. During that span, the team made the playoffs every season, and also was the NL's #1 seed for 4 straight. The team won 3 Pennants and 2 World Series, in Seasons 6 and 13. The franchise has really been in a drought since that Season 13 WS win though. In the 10 seasons since, it has made the playoffs but twice, including last season, the 1st season that turzich took over.

4- Durham Bulls

Championships: 1
Pennants: 4
Division Titles: 4
Total Playoff Appearances: 12
Franchise Record: 1926-1800
Seasons w/ winning record: 13
Best Position Player in Team History: Fred Henderson
Best Pitcher in Team History: Rob Abercrombie

Different franchise. Nearly the same story. Six different owners, five different cities. First the Dover Diamond Devils, then the Dover Bull  Dogs, the Columbus Red Dogs, the Wichita Lineman, the Rochester Rockets and now the Durham Bulls. This team really had its glory days as the Dover Diamond Devils. That team played for Seasons 1-9. Every one of those seasons it made the playoffs. Four times the Devils were the NL's #1 seed. Four times they won the NL Pennant, and they won the World Series in Season 2. The next 11 seasons were terrible. Not once did the Bull Dogs or the Lineman or the Rockets make the playoffs. And only once did any of those teams finish higher than 3rd place. Bux_express took over 4 seasons ago, and has made an immediate impact. Though he certainly hasn't reached the heights of the Diamond Devils, the Durham Bulls have made the playoffs every season they have been in North Carolina. They even made it to the NLCS. Now they just need  to take the next step forward and start seriously competing for a Pennant.

5- Nashville Bootleggers

Championships: 1
Pennants: 3
Division Titles: 12
Total  Playoff Appearances: 13
Franchise Record: 1987-1739
Seasons w/ winning record: 13
Best Position Player in Team History: Yunel Guerrero
Best Pitcher in Team History: Corban Chiasson

This franchise hasn't had the instability that has plagued many of Hobbs' franchises. Its only played in four cities, under four different owners. The seasons that propelled this franchise into the top five were all early in Hobbs history. In Seasons 1-6 (with 1-4 playing as the New Orleans Bayou Bengals and 5-9 playing as the Austin Kangaroos), this squad was a #1 or a #2 seed in the AL every season. They won the AL South every season. They won two AL Pennants and a World Series in Season 4. The team would then go from Austin to Oklahoma City. The five seasons in Oklahoma, as the Falcons, were a time to forget. The Falcons would never make the playoffs, never have a winning record and would finish in 3rd or 4th place every season. Rbjb came in to take over the team in Season 16. He moved the team to Nashville and re-branded it the Bootleggers. In just one season he had his team back in the playoffs. Since the move to Tennessee, the Bootleggers have been a factor in the AL and a perennial playoff team. They have made the plyaoffs 5 of the last 7 seasons, and also won the AL Pennant in Season 19. This franchise has tied (with Kansas City) for the most division titles in the AL, has the 2nd best overall franchise record in the AL and is tied for the 2nd most 100 win seasons in the AL.

6- Honolulu Hurricanes

Championships: 1
Pennants: 4
Division Titles: 7
Total Playoff Appearances: 10
Franchise Record: 1881-1845
Seasons w/ winning record: 11
Best Position Player in Team History: Zack Matthews
Best Pitcher in Team History: Jack Harding and Dennis Hyun

In the pre-historic period of the Hobbs league, this franchise was the whipping boy of the AL. In Seasons 1-11, this franchise earned exactly 1 playoff appearance and had exactly 0 seasons with a winning record. The only reason the team made it into the playoffs at all in Season 1 was the AL West was terrible and 76 wins was good enough to win it. This franchise even finished in 4th place for five consecutive seasons at one point. Part of the issue was most certainly (like many other teams at the time) instability in ownership. Season 1, San Jose Red Bulls... Season 2, Portland Pioneers... Season 3, Salem Thunder Stixx... Seasons 4-10, Las Vegas Legends/Beer View Mirrors... etc. The only thing these squads had in common (because it certainly wasn't ownership, 3 different owners in the first 6 seasons before mal24 took over) was that they lost, a lot. The franchise finally found a long term owner in Season 7, when mal24 came in. He would guide this team for the next 12 seasons through Season 18. Though the team would still bounce around a bit (from Las Vegas to the Salem Senators to the Honolulu Honolulus to the Colorado Crotch Crushers) before mal left, he provided the stability and direction that the franchise desperately needed. Though it didn't appear that way at first. For mal's first five seasons, the team had a losing record, averaged a record of 63-99 and finished in last place. Then the team moved to Salem and everything seemed to fall into place. In the first season as the Senators, they finished with 90 wins... and the franchises 1st ever winning record and trip to the playoffs. It was a sign of things to come. The Senators would win back-to-back AL Pennants in Seasons 13 and 14, though ultimately lose in the WS both seasons. This team was now an AL power. Five consecutive division titles, five consecutive 100-win seasons, seven consecutive trips to the playoffs, 3 AL Pennants and, finally, that elusive WS title in Season 18, in their only season under the guise of the Colorado Crotch Crushers. Mal would leave Hobbs on top, and rattlers would take over in Season 19. Under pressure of the players, the team was moved back to Hawaii (I mean, come on, Hawaii or Colorado?) and re-christened the Hurricanes. Rattlers took over a team that was on the back side of dominance and was able to orchestrate a mini-Renaissance in his first season, and playoff baseball was back in Honolulu. Ultimately though, he was unable to maintain playoff status, as the team was clinging on a bit too long to prior glory and was in need of at least a re-tooling, and maybe even a re-build. Rattlers chose the re-tooling route, and though the team missed the postseason for three straight seasons (20-22), it was still a competitive team and he was he was rewarded for staying the course with a fantastic run in Season 23. Last season's playoffs were a magical time for this team. They defeated the Season 20 WS Champion, and their 2 All Star starting pitchers Wilson and Ellis, in Syracuse in the Wild Card round. Then in the ALDS, in a tight 5-game series, the Hurricanes defeated the back-to-back AL Champion, and division rival, Las Vegas Desperados. In the ALCS, they surprisingly ran over the AL's top seed, and perennial AL power, Kansas City Jayhawks in 5 games. To add insult to injury for the Jayhawks, the Hurricanes are now tied with the Jayhawks for most AL Pennants with four. The team fell just short in the WS though. Once again the dynastic Cougars defeated the AL Champion in a very tight seven games. It was the third straight season that the AL has had their hearts broken by Indianapolis in seven games. Will the Hurricanes carry their success into Season 24? It'll be tough, no doubt. The AL West boasted 3 teams with winning records last season, and Vegas has proven to be the class of the division (and it could even be argued of the AL) for the last 2-3 seasons.

7- Santa Cruz Designated Drinkers

Championships: 3
Pennants: 3
Division Titles: 9
Total Playoff Appearances: 9
Franchise Record: 1839-1887
Seasons w/ winning record: 10
Best Position Player in Team History: Roland Stanton
Best Pitcher in Team History: Mike Burroughs

Like the now Vancouver VooDoo, this is another franchise that has a history of instability. It has played in 10 different cities, under 11 different names, with 9 different owners guiding it. Are you ready for the list (deep breath): Las Vegas Marauders, San Francisco Dedringers, Arizona Cascabel Diamantes (named after the snake I suppose, but could also have been sponsored by Mitsubishi?), Boise Potato Heads, San Jose Poppies, San Jose Phils, Anaheim Angels, Albuquerque Swingers, Oakland Cracked Bats and the Scottsdale Darts. The longest period of stability was Season 2 through 8. The team was the San Francisco Dedringers. But we'll get back to the Dedringers. Unlike Philadelphia and Chicago, who earned their way onto this list with decades of stability, winning records and playoff appearances with the occasional Pennant and World Series, this franchise broke onto the list with a short period of extreme dominance. This is the only franchise in the Top 10 with a losing record, that has more losing seasons than winning seasons, and has the fewest playoff appearances of any of the Top 10. But its hard to overlook 3 World Series titles. Lets go back to the Golden Age of Hobbs baseball in San Francisco. For a seven season stretch, this team was the San Francisco Dedringers. In six of those seasons, they won the NL West. It also won 3 World Series' in a five season span... raising a championship banner for Seasons 3, 5 and 7. Since this team left the City by by Bay, it has been but a shell of itself. In the 16 seasons since that last World Series win... only 3 trips to the playoffs, and only 3 seasons with a winning record. In those 3 playoff trips, the team didn't make any noise. This season brings yet another new owner, and another new city. Though nobody is quite sure what to expect from the new Santa Cruz Designated Drinkers, hope springs eternal from fans in this small beach city. There is certainly opportunity here as well, as the NL West has been a weak division for the last two seasons, with only one team within the division producing a winning record during those two years.

8- Philadelphia Erffdoggs

Championships: 1
Pennants: 2
Division Titles: 7
Total Playoff Appearances: 11
Franchise Record: 2042-1684
Seasons w/ winning record: 16
Best Position Player in Team History: John Yamamoto and Ken Woods
Best Pitcher in Team History: Ted Sheets

The Erffdoggs have consistently been a very good team throughout their history, always in contention for the playoffs. They have the 3rd best franchise record, and are one of only 3 teams to have 16 seasons with a winning record. In recent Hobbs history, the Erffdoggs have been one of the AL's heavyweights. For seven straight seasons, from 16-22, Philly won their division and was either the #1 or the #2 seed going into the playoffs. In six of those seasons, 16-21, the franchise won at least 100 games. In Season 17, the City of Brotherly Love was treated to this franchise's 2nd AL Pennant, and a its lone, and long overdue, World Series Championship. Considering the dominance of this team during that span, one could argue that this team has underachieved in the playoffs, but I think that is overlooking the really brutal nature of the AL in the last eight seasons or so. Perennial playoff squads Syracuse, Las Vegas, Nashville and a recently reloaded Kansas City squad make the AL playoffs a gauntlet to run though, and a real crap shoot where anything can happen. Going into this season, I think fans and the local media have some questions about the direction of this squad. For the last two seasons, this squad's win total has taken a step backward. Last season, the Erffdoggs didn't make the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. The question is: Is the Golden Age in Philly over? Is this group done? Is it time for a rebuild? Or were the last two seasons an anomaly? Is this squad capable of reloading around the great Ken Woods and veteran Juan Carrasquel and making another playoff run? Stay tuned for our AL Preview Post...

9- Chicago Orphans

Championships: 1
Pennants: 2
Division Titles: 9
Total Playoff Appearances: 15
Franchise Record: 1975-1751
Seasons w/ winning record: 14
Best Position Player in Team History: BJ Lawton
Best Pitcher in Team History: Willie Strong

Though this team has been at the bottom on the NL in recent seasons, the Orphans break into the top ten due to the franchise's incredible consistency. The team has the 5th best record in all of Hobbs, and has been in the playoffs more times than any other franchise except for Kansas City. From Seasons 4-18, 15 consecutive seasons, the Orphans were in the playoffs. The team was a dominant power in the NL for a 4 season span in Seasons 10-13. The team was 405-243 during those 4 seasons. It won 3 division titles, 2 NL Pennants, made 3 trips to the NLCS and won its only World Series title. Franchise legends Lawton and Stong were both instrumental in winning that title and in Chicago's Golden Age. Lawton, of course, isn't just a legend on his team, but one of Hobbs' All Time Greats. He is in the Hobbs HoF, and is 3rd on the all-time home run list, and 2nd in career SLG. Outside of this four season Golden Age though, the Orphans haven't had any success making deep playoff runs. Despite the team being unable to get to 70-wins for the last four seasons, the franchise has a number of very good prospects and could be on the verge of turning their fortunes around. David James (LF), Harry Johnson (CF) and Mule Meek (SS) are all highly touted, top end prospects who are on the verge of getting their call to the big leagues. The pitching farm depth isn't nearly as deep, but the team does have young lefty Corey Booker in the lower minors. Booker has the potential to develop into a top of the rotation starting pitcher, though it won't be for another few seasons yet, and well after James, Johnson and Meek are well established. If Chicago can either add a few more elite arm prospects, or make a couple of timely free-agent signings of veteran pitchers, this team could be figuring into the NL playoff picture in the very near future.

10- Vancouver Voodoo

Championships: 1
Pennants: 4
Division Titles: 4
Total Playoff Appearances: 8
Franchise Record: 1891-1835
Seasons w/ winning record: 16
Best Position Player in Team History: Alfredo Payton
Best Pitcher in Team History: Adrian McGuire

Out of the top 10, the Voodoo have one of the lowest win totals, fewest division titles and playoff appearances. What put this squad in the top 10? Its 4 AL Pennants. That is tied for the most in the AL. It was the early history of this franchise that was its hay-day. In Season 1, as the Seattle Imperials, this franchise won Hobbs' inaugural World Series. They then won the pennant in the AL in Seasons 1-3. After dominating the AL for the league's first three seasons, its been downhill. The franchise has been plagued by a revolving door in ownership and has moved from city to city. There have been 9 different owners and seven different cities. No owner has stayed with this franchise for longer than six seasons. They started in Seattle as the Imperials, and stayed there through Season 6, finishing that stint as the Mariners. Then, staying in the Pacific Northwest, they moved to Portland for 3 seasons as the Pub Crawlers. The team packed up and moved across country for one season as the Syracuse Orange, before returning to Portland once again, for only a single season as the Seadogs. Another cross-country trip to play for two seasons as the Hartford Colonials preceded the longest period of stability in franchise history. The team moved to Canada, and for the next six seasons played as the Mutant Caribou. This period was highlighted by a magical playoff run in Season 16. The Caribou were the AL's #6 seed and tore through the playoffs to win the franchise's 4th AL Pennant, including a shocking upset of the heavily favored Philadelphia Erffdoggs in the ALDS. The team would ultimately play in Montreal for 8 total seasons, with the last two under the name of the 'Exporters'. For the last two seasons, the team has stayed in Canada, but on the west coast as the Vancouver Voodoo. They are the only Hobbs team in Canada and have a strong following throughout the country, having just played their 10th season in the US's northern neighbor. Times have certainly been very lean for this franchise in recent history. It hasn't won a division title since Season 4. It has only made the playoffs 4 times in the last 19 seasons. Things seem to be looking up though. The team was in the playoffs last season, and boasted a regular season record of 97-65, the best record this team has had in 14 seasons.

11- Richmond Fire Blitz

12- Jackson Mudslide

13- Las Vegas Desperados

14- Los Angeles Lothbroks

15- Syracuse Shockers

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