Article by: Sam Skibbe
Ever since the beginning of our league’s history in 2003, the SWBL has been creating preseason power rankings to stir up offseason wiffle-talk. For the early years, I, as Commissioner, picked the preseason power rankings on my own. When the league began to grow, I included input from others interested in participating, and in the most recent years, the league has the front office vote, in a system similar to college basketball.
In the 12-year history of the league, the front office has never, I repeat, never predicted the winner of an SWBL Season.
In recent years, the word “curse” has been thrown around and many believe it to be true. Below is a year-by-year account of each season’s pick and a possibility of what went wrong.
SWBL Preseason Pick: Brett Spencer and Jeff Bertram
Season 1 Champions: Sam Skibbe and Nic Meyer
Brett and Jeff Bertram have won 7 MVP awards in the first 6 years of the league’s existence, so obviously the league knew greatness was in front of them, hence the number one ranking. During the regular season, Sam and Nic defeated Brett and Jeff with Sam striking out 10 batters for the 10 outs of the game. In the Championship game, Brett and Jeff took a 5-3 lead into the last inning before darkness delayed the game until the next day. Upon returning, Sam and Nic scored 5 runs in the top of the last inning and held Brett and Jeff in the bottom to claim the first ever SWBL Championship, 8-5.
SWBL Preseason Pick: Jeff Bertram and Kevin Wiethuchter
Season 2 Champions: Brett Spencer and Craig Boyd
Jeff and Kevin claimed the ORIGINAL number one seed during the preseason rankings before Season 2. Then, news hit of Jeff Bertram possibly not being able to play for most of the season so the league switched the rankings to reflect that accordingly and claimed Brett and Craig as the preseason favorites. It seems as though Jeff and Kevin were cursed before the year even started.
SWBL Preseason Pick: Blake Spencer and Nic Meyer
Season 3 Champions: Brett Spencer and Gus Skibbe
Despite Blake winning the Rookie of the Year over Gus during the season, Nic Meyer was a no-show during the season due to work and Blake could never get a bench partner to keep the winning alive. Between Brett’s power and Gus’ ability to get on base, they easily ran through the competition as one of the best two-man teams in SWBL history.
SWBL Preseason Pick: Brett Spencer and Kevin Wiethuchter
Season 4 Champions: Sam and Gus Skibbe
Season 4 brought the first year of Kevin’s downward trend in the statistics department. Brett could not hold off the Skibbe onslaught as Sam and Gus almost claimed the first undefeated SWBL season.
SWBL Preseason Pick: Andy Oldenburg and Kevin Wiethuchter
Season 5 Champions: Gus Skibbe and Scott Pohle
Andy Oldenburg had probably the best rookie season so far in 2006, and even being paired with Kevin, much was expected from this team and Andy to perform at a high level. Well, Andy was terrible in his sophomore slump year and Kevin continued his downward trend on their way to a LAST PLACE finish.
SWBL Preseason Pick: Blake Spencer, Grant Steward, and Chris Martin
Season 6 Champions: Brett Spencer, Scott Pohle, and Chris Whitehead
After a stellar rookie season, Grant being paired up with captain Blake and singles machine, Chris Martin looked like a sure lock for the Championship in Season 6. Well, Grant went into his sophomore slump and was not the same player he was in 2007, while Rookie of the Year Chris Whitehead helped his teammates to Brett’s third and Scott’s second championships of their careers.
SWBL Preseason Pick: Andy Oldenburg, Jeff Bertram, Chris W., and Chris M.
Season 7 Champions: Blake Spencer, Paul Castellano, Spencer Bogad
With the news of Jeff Bertram returning and the thought that Andy can’t do any worse than he had been doing, along with the combination of both Chris’ looked to be good enough for the number one ranking in Season 7. Well, Andy’s team backfired again as they finished in last place with the uncommitted Jeff Bertram.
SWBL Preseason Pick: Peter Leicht, Kyle Cornell, and Mike Derstine
Season 8 Champions: Sam Skibbe, Matt Boeding, and Nick Lape
Even with Derstine, Peter took his first preseason ranking of his career with confidence alongside teammate and friend, Kyle Cornell. Kyle was impressive, but Derstine just isn’t quality material for a number one ranking, as the team fell to 3-7 on the season, not making the playoffs.
SWBL Preseason Pick: Blake Spencer, Brian Kenney, and Matt Boeding
Season 9 Champions: Scott Pohle, Sam Bakula, and John Calloway
With Blake continuing to get better and better, Brian Kenney with one of the best bench player resumes ever, and Matt Boeding coming off of a Championship season, this team looked strong heading into Season 9. What the league did not predict was the offensive prowess of Rookie of the Year winner, John Calloway, as him and his teammates finished 2-4 in Home Runs and RBIs on the year. Blake’s team finished 4-6 without a playoff berth.
SWBL Preseason Pick: Royals
Season 10 Champions: Rays
With the new format of the SWBL underway, this looked like the year Gus Skibbe’s team would be poised to strike after winning the MVP and Triple Crown awards in 2011 and being teamed up with power hitter Edloe Donnan. The team started 5-1 before losing the last 5 games of their season, which left them wondering what could have been.
SWBL Preseason Pick: Cardinals
Season 11 Champions: Rays
The Rays’ Championship was surely a fluke and the veteran laden Cardinals squad put together a roster with Sam Skibbe, Brett Spencer, Jeff Bertram, and Craig Boyd with too many awards to count. Despite putting up MVP numbers, Sam wasn’t strong on the mound, Brett wasn’t strong at the plate, and Jeff just wasn’t around and the Cardinals turned in a mediocre 5-5 season with no playoff berth.
SWBL Preseason Pick: Brewers
Season 12 Champions: Rays
Surely the Rays couldn’t win three in a row! After an incredible 9-1 season in 2013, the Brewers looked like the best team on paper, the SWBL had ever seen heading into 2014. Whether it was too much drinking, shenanigans, or just bad luck on close games, the Brewers couldn’t put it together and ended up 5-5 and out of the playoffs for the first time in the franchise era.
Every year, the league has been wrong on their pick for the SWBL Championship. The proof is there that a curse may be true when it comes to being number one. Next year, who will it be and do you want it to be you? Is it the pressure of being number one, with that target on your back that gets into the heads of those players? Can the number one curse be broken and if so, who will it be? I can tell you one thing though; I bet everyone really wants the number one team preseason next year to be the Rays. Surely they can’t win four in a row, so why not have them be #1?