Disclaimer: This article will not likely appeal to anyone who is not affiliated in some way with the NWLA. If you are not informed on the fantasy tournament that takes place at the end of the year then avert your eyes to another story on the site. If you’d like to know more about the subject then you may benefit from visiting the NWLA website where you can learn more. Please withhold any comments about how the premise of such an event is preposterous. If you play in tournaments or are involved with Golden Stick – awesome. However, commenting on how your team would destroy any team in the tournament will not be approved for posting. Those types of comments become a catalyst for divisive discussion in the wiffleball community and this is not the place for it. So if you are relatively knowledgeable or interested in this yearly fantasy tournament feel free to continue reading. If you just don’t “get it”, that’s fine. This article just won’t be your cup of tea. It’s all good.
Freaky Franchise. It’s a name that has crossed the lips of almost everyone who has been paying attention to wiffleball in 2012. Last April they graced the virtual pages of the March/April issue of Wiffler’s Digest magazine where I ranted about their success from the 2011 season and the likelihood that they would repeat that success. At the time not everyone was so convinced of the prophecy. But in July when Freaky Franchise trekked to Ohio they meant business. I got a front row seat to the beat down they would lay on the NWLA teams from across the eastern half of the country. I caught my first glimpse of them at the London Wiffleball Tournament the afternoon before the NWLA tournament was scheduled to begin. When I was not ducking in and out of tents to escape the scattered rain showers and chatting with players I had met the year before, I was scouting the talent. I wanted to get a feel for what the teams had to offer. Only three of the leagues participating in the NWLA tournament decided to play in the London Wiffleball Tournament as well. Kalamazoo had a separate team for London and another team resting for the tournament in Columbus. OCWA’s Freaky Franchise participated in both tournaments as did WSEM.
Pre-NWLA Tournament power rankings were generally unkind to Freaky Franchise but that would change once we all started to see what they were capable of doing on the field. Time and time again they crushed teams with home runs and spectacular catches. They seemed to move in slow motion. Their style was well rehearsed and perfectly executed. However, in the end they did not make it very far in the London Wiffleball Tournament but that was not the reason they came to Ohio. As I watched them I could tell they were playing but not necessarily competing. Their eyes wandered as if to suggest that their minds were not set to dominate the competition in London. Perhaps they were trapped in the unique atmosphere that the London Wiffleball Tournament is known for and therefore did not rise to the occasion. Most teams play in that particular tournament for fun while the rest work tirelessly to glory. More could be said but let’s stick to the topic at hand.
By the fourth round of the tournament, I felt that I (along with two friends who had come to assist me film the event) had seen enough and decided to pack up and head back to Columbus. When the tournament began it did not take long to see which teams were going to do well and which were not. Freaky Franchise looked to be among the best teams and indeed won the NWLA Tournament. They only lost one game during pool play and were undefeated when the actual tournament began. They reigned victorious in Columbus! I should also mention that they went 20-0 in their league, won their second consecutive OCWA title, and are considered to be the #1 team in the country (according to the latest rankings). Shall I go on? Yes? Okay.
Let’s consider the three remaining teams in the tournament: Manchester Punchouts, Bad Meets Evil, & Whiteford Wicked Aces. Let’s begin with the team Freaky Franchise now faces off against in the bracket – the Punchouts. At 26-2 and ranked #4 in the country, the Punchouts are no pushovers. However, I feel that Freaky Franchise will advance past them. The Punchouts could have possibly won the WSEM championship if they had not forfeited games in the series. Two of their players (Evan Bortmas & Sam Hatt) were on the WSEM’s Big Wood team which represented the league in the NWLA tournament. Big Wood did not make it to the finals but Sam Hatt was one of the top 5 pitchers in the entire tournament with a 2-1 record, 1.67 ERA, and 47 K in only 18 innings pitched. However, it’s important to note that Ryan Bush still outperformed Hatt by going 5-0 with 68 K and a 0.96 ERA. Freaky Franchise appears to have an advantage in the batter’s box as well. Three out of the top ten hitters in the tournament were Freaky Franchise players. Only one of the ten were from Big Wood (Sam Hatt). So it’s safe to say that Freaky Franchise has a clear advantage at the plate against the Punchouts and would likely advance past them were they ever to meet and play each other.
So far we’ve established that Freaky Franchise, at least in the scenario I’ve listed, would make it to the championship. But who do they play for the title? On the other side of the bracket Whiteford Wicked Aces (WSEM) battles Bad Meets Evil (BWBLPA). Freaky Franchise is likely to defeat whichever team advances to the championship. The Wicked Aces won the WSEM title partially due to the absenteeism of the Punchouts but that’s not to discount the power that this team has on the mound. Austin Bischoff is one of the league’s best pitchers and certainly did impress when he played for Big Wood in the NWLA Tournament. The Wicked Aces were 1-3 against the Punchouts so if the Franchise can defeat the Punchouts they can beat Whiteford Wicked Aces.
But let’s say that Bad Meets Evil beats Whiteford Wicked Aces. It’s a plausible scenario, after all they are 20-0 and the #3 team in the country (according to the rankings). Should be a tough decision, right? But so little is actually known about the style of play in BWBLPA that it’s tough to say just how good Bad Meets Evil really are. What can be said is that out of the four teams left in the tournament they have the highest team batting average and that could count for something. But what is the level of competition in their league? Are they fast pitch? These are important questions to consider for such a hypothetical matchup. This uncertainty of the talent of Bad Meets Evil gives me comfort in my choice to vote for Freaky Franchise as the victors of this tournament. Furthermore, I’m not sure I’m even comfortable voting for Bad Meets Evil over Whiteford Wicked Aces.
Maybe all of this was over analysis. Perhaps portions of my assumptions may be inaccurate to a degree in which you may disagree. Whatever the case, I am pretty certain that Freaky Franchise has what it takes to take on what remains of the competition. I’ve enjoyed picking winners of this tournament more than before since I’ve had the privilege of seeing how this tournament can turn out when some of these titanic teams collide. It’s made each round more fun as I have learned more about each league’s style and skill. I think that’s something all of us can agree on. I hope all of you have had as much fun voting for the winners of this tournament as I have. Here’s how I think the four remaining teams stack up. Perhaps it may help you decide who you think could win it all.