First, this week’s column begins with an apology. I was unable to write last weeks post as I was suffering from a lingering cough from a summer cold I have been suffering from for the last few weeks. While I still have not completely kicked the illness the Cape League playoffs are here, and the playoffs wait for no one.
The Cape League has been described by many as a bit of a crap shoot. You fill out your roster nearly a year before and pray that the players you have signed stay healthy and actually report. Then when you actually get to the season you focus on who will be showing up when, have any players made it to the College World Series? Is anyone nursing a lingering injury? Who has an innings limit and when is that going to come into play? All the while your team is playing 44 games against the cream of the crop of college baseball talent. If you make it through that gauntlet and the dice have rolled your way for the whole season you get to play in the Cape League Playoffs, where one throw, one hit, one error, may separate your team from the next round or even the Cape League Championship, against going home early.
The Cape League Playoffs consist of the top four teams in each the East Division and the West Division who play each other in a best of three seeded divisional battle to determine one team from the East and one from the West to play for the Arnold Mycock Trophy and the title of Cape League Champion. This year in the first round the East Division co-champion Chatham Anglers (both Chatham and Orleans finished level on points at 50) take on the Harwich Mariners, and the other East Division co-champion, the Orleans Firebirds take on the mighty Y-D Red Sox in the first round. In the West the Division Champion Falmouth Commodores open their playoffs against the Bourne Braves, and the defending champion Wareham Gatemen take on the Cotuit Ketteleers.
Looking at this year’s playoffs I find myself drawn to the battle in the East Division where the first place and fourth place teams were separated by only six points. On top of that the tie for the Eastern Division title between Chatham and Orleans has the potential to offer a new dimension to the long fought rivalry between the two teams if both of them should make it to the Eastern Division Finals. But if there is one thing that Y-D head coach Scott Pickler has proved time and time again its to not count out the Red Sox. Scott Pickler has been the coach of the Red Sox for more than 20 years, and during that time he has won six Cape League championships including three in a row from 2014-2016. During this time he has proven time and time again that the playoffs can be just as much of a crap shoot as the regular season and when it comes down to it, seedlings mean very little as over his years at the helm in Y-D Pickler has won the title from the number three seed twice, the very seed his team finds itself in this season. Further, in both 2017 and 2018 a heavily favored Y-D team was defeated by the upstart Brewster Whitecaps, who in 2017 would go on to win their first Cape League title in 17 years.
All of this isn’t to say that the West doesn’t provide an interesting playoff picture, as it absolutely does. Starting at the top is the Falmouth Commodores, who following an impressive and historic 12 game winning streak have proven to be the best team on Cape Cod during the regular season, a position they have occupied several times before but have yet to be able to parlay that into playoff success. The 2019 season marks the 39th anniversary of their last Championship in 1980, the longest streak of any Cape League team. If 2019 is to be the year when Falmouth finally breaks through, they will first have to get through the Bourne Braves. The Braves, while struggling in the regular season, have proven to be a competent baseball team and during the playoffs when everything is on the line anything can happen, as it did to Y-D last season when the 13 win Brewster team upset the 27 win Division Champion. Also not to be counted out is the Wareham Gatemen, and the Cotuit Kettleers. Both teams have a record of Cape League success including a championship win from Wareham last season and both have looked fairly evenly matched all season long. I will be interested to watch and see if the fact that Cotuit does not have lights at their field plays any roll in the outcome of their home playoff game, and while playoff games at unlit fields start at 3pm to avoid any of those issues, there is always a chance of extra innings which could make things very interesting in a best of three series.
Missing from this year’s playoffs is the Brewster Whitecaps and the Hyannis Harbor Hawks. Brewster, despite their All Star success this year in having both Brett Auerbach, the All Star Game MVP, and Tyler Hardman the Home Run Derby Champion, found themselves out of the playoffs this year after losing a close battle with the Harwich Mariners and falling just four points behind them in the final standings. In the West the race for the playoffs was not nearly as close. The fourth place Bourne Braves carry a record of 18-24-2, good for 38 points. The Harbor Hawks on the other hand finished the season with a record of 9-32-3 and only 21 points, 17 points behind Bourne in the playoff chase, and concluding the worst season in the Cape League since 2006 when Bourne finished the season with only 9 wins.
While both of those teams have seen their seasons end early, in just a few days they will not be only ones putting the 2019 season to bed. Codball will not be making an predications as to who the Cape League Champion will be but make sure to follow along as we will be posing throughout the playoffs until we have a 2019 champion. Until then, the playoffs start tonight, and I would encourage all of you to follow along as its sure to be one hell of a ride, and nobody knows just how this crap-shoot is going to play out.