Wednesday, February 1, 2012

That What Ifs of WhatIfSports

One of the great things about WIS is the personal experience it creates with each owner. It doesn't take long for owners and coaches to develop individual mythologies. We remember our favorite players and triumphs with nerdy nostalgia, and our mistakes and losses with wistful regret. The difference with WIS is these incidents aren't shared with a broader fan base the way they are in real sports.

Mostly, my HD experience leans toward the wistful regret. I made so many mistakes early on simply because I didn't understand the game. That's part of the fun, I guess, and it makes success sweeter, but I still think back and cringe sometimes.

The incident I wanted to write about today wasn't exactly disastrous, but it certainly made me cringe when it happened, and I still wonder what could've been.

Here's what happened: I had the 5th pick in the Season 9 amateur draft. It was easily the highest pick I'd had to that point, and since I was in the throes of rebuilding, I knew I needed to make it count. I had a decent collection of quality prospects, but I didn't have a star, and with high scouting budgets, I felt I had a good shot at getting one.

Season 9 was a quality draft at the top. As I saw it, there were four prospects on the list I would've been happy with, and I thought I stood a good shot at getting one of them. (Clay Young, who went 1st overall, was fine, but I already had a shortstop.) I set about putting my list in order.

I knew I needed an ace, and they're hard to come by outside of the draft unless you're willing to pay out the ass, so I ranked Vic Spehr first even if his durability and health bothered me. Howie Vosberg was second, since that's a pretty great bat to have at 2B or CF.

After that, it was between Felix Crosby (who was rated as a DH, but had enough pitch-calling ability to work behind the plate) and Footsie Sanders. As I said, I needed a pitcher, and I'd grabbed a pretty decent catching prospect a few seasons before. Still, Crosby's hitting ability was unbelievable. He had the potential to be the best-hitting catcher in Feller history, better even than Rock Moore. I had some decent hitters, but no one near as good as Crosby. In the end, I ranked him third, and Footsie fourth.

So the day of the draft comes, and I see the picks I made, and I'm moderately satisfied at getting Sanders with the 5th pick. I knew Vosberg and Spehr would likely go early, but at least I had a guy who could be an ace.

Then I looked at the draft as a whole and I saw Felix Crosby was picked sixth by Charlotte, one pick after mine. I'd missed a once-in-a-lifetime hitter in favor of a very good starter. My heart sank. At first, I wondered if I'd somehow screwed up the order, but then I realized what happened.

Since I was in the National League, I'd set my DH picks at 0, and since Felix Crosby was listed as a DH, I passed over him to the next pick. On the plus side, as an ardent fan of the Portland Trail Blazers, I'm used to coping with franchise-shattering draft mistakes.

I trade chatted Charlotte owner joemac55, "You didn't want Footsie Sanders over Felix Crosby, did you? I accidentally picked the wrong guy."

"No," he replied.

Fortunately for me, Footsie Sanders won the NL ROY and the Cy Young in Season 13, the first player in Feller history to do so. He's been an ace pitcher in four World Series, a four-time All-Star, has the the single-season record for strikeouts, and might one day be the all-time strikeout leader if his career lasts long enough.

Fortunately for joemac55, Felix Crosby won the AL ROY and the MVP in Season 13. He has four All-Star appearances, five Silver Slugger awards, and a career OPS of 1.022.

Ten seasons after they were drafted, it's difficult to say whether my screw-up turned out for the better or not. On one hand, Footsie Sanders is on track for a Hall of Fame career, and I doubt I would've won two championships without him. On the other, a freaking 1.022 career OPS.

I think it worked out well for joemac55, because his staff is just fine. I'm still open to a trade, though, joe.

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