73-89 (.451); 2nd place in NL East (as Wauwatosa Wizards)
C Darrin Fletcher, OF Brady Anderson, 1B/3B Ken Caminiti, RHP Joey Hamilton, RHP Ruben Quevedo, 3B Hank Blalock, 1B Justin Morneau
C Charles Johnson, 1B J.T. Snow, OF Rickey Henderson, 2B Todd Walker, 3B Tyler Houston, RHP Steve Karsay, RHP Dustin Hermanson, 2B Alfonso Soriano
The Wauwatosa Wizards (as this team was then known) spent last summer chasing the division rival Glen Allen Mets. Wauwatosa's offense was certainly up to the challenge, scoring 849 runs on the season to Glen Allen's 842. In fact, the Wizards entered the month of August trailing the Mets by just three games on the strength of this offense.
Unfortunately, however, Wauwatosa's pitching and defense did not match up well down the stretch. For the season, Wauwatosa allowed 947 runs and committed 113 errors, roughly average figures for a National League team.
Meanwhile, though, Glen Allen allowed only 824 runs on the strength of a rock-solid defense that committed only 68 errors in 2001, a figure second to only the Minnesota Mudcats (64 errors) in all of BRASSball.
Despite this handicap, Wauwatosa posted a September rally, winning 12 of 15 games heading into the year's final week. The season's finale would feature seven head-to-head games between the two teams, of which the Wizards would need to win six. This task proved too difficult for Wauwatosa, however, as Glen Allen won four of the seven games and clinched the division.
Wauwatosa's top position players in 2001 were C Charles Johnson (.322, 25 HR, 83 RBI), 1B J.T. Snow (.296, 20 HR, 96 RBI) and rookie OF Mark Quinn (.315, 26 HR, 80 RBI). Its top pitchers were RHP Scott Elarton (11-10, 4.96 ERA) and RHP Bob Howry (57 IP, 3.30 ERA, 16 SV).
Finally, after months of speculation, the league announced that the team's new owner was none other than atomic energy magnate C. Montgomery Burns. Soon thereafter, Burns announced his intention to move the team to his hometown of Springfield and rename it the Isotopes in honor of his nuclear power empire. Although the exact location of Springfield remains a mystery to the league, rumors place it in the state of North Takoma, eight miles from Toon Town. Unfortunately, its vicinity from Metropolis remains unknown.
During the 2001 campaign, an anonymous owner gained control of the team from its previous management. While the team played out the season at Wauwatosa, rumors swirled over the identity of the team's new owner and a possible relocation of the team to another market.
During the tumult of these announcements, the Isotopes lost a few of its key players to free agency. Gone are top players C Charles Johnson, 1B J.T. Snow and OF Rickey Henderson (.226, 62 R, 40 SB). The vagueness of Springfield's geographic location probably did not help in retaining these players.
To his credit, Burns did open up his pocket book (slightly) and replace these players with another set of equally proven veterans. Now proudly wearing an Isotopes hat are C Darrin Fletcher (.291, 15 HR, 50 RBI), 3B/1B Ken Caminiti (.274, 15, 43 RBI) and OF Brady Anderson (.257, 21 HR, 72 RBI).
Due to the outstanding intangibles they bring to every game, both Caminiti and Anderson led their teams to the playoffs last season, announced Burns regarding his free agent signings. All three players certainly know what it takes to win, added Burns. And short of cheating -- which I also plan on doing whenever possible -- there is nothing else as important as veteran leadership.
A proven student of the game, Burns also understands the value of a platoon (just ask Darryl Strawberry!). To help Burns play the percentages this season, OF Jose Guillen (.236, 6 HR, 45 RBI) will split time with OF Chris Richard (.284, 9 HR, 45 RBI) in right field. Likewise, OF Wendall Magee (.313, 2 HR, 5 RBI in just 16 ABs) will share center field duties with OF Michael Tucker (.269, 20 HR, 60 RBI).
While Springfield's line-up is indeed full of proven talent, many more question marks surround the team's youthful pitching staff. Leading the way once again will be LHP Chuck Finley (7-16, 5.24 ERA) and RHP Scott Elarton (11-10, 4.96 ERA). Both were disappointments last season, but Burns expects them to rebound in 2002.
Joining them will be LHP Mark Mulder (7-5, 6.26 ERA), RHP Ramon Ortiz (5-3, 3.39 ERA) and LHP Jarrod Washburn (6-3, 4.83 ERA), all of whom Burns signed to multi-year deals during the off-season. While none has yet to pitch a full BRASSball season, all three hold unquestioned talent. As insurance, though, Springfield also signed free agent RHP Joey Hamilton (4-11, 6.33 ERA).
Given the maturity of its line-up, then, the success of the Isotopes will depend upon these unproven pitchers. If its young arms are ready to contribute, the Isotopes should contend for the NL East once again in 2002. If they do not, though, Springfield's inaugural season could be more painful than an episode of The Itchy and Scratchy Show.
LF Brady Anderson
2B Craig Biggio
3B Corey Koskie
1B Ken Caminiti
RF Chris Richard/Jose Guillen
DH Mark Quinn
C Darrin Fletcher
CF Michael Tucker/Wendall Magee
SS Rey Sanchez
Jarrod Washburn/Joey Hamilton