A+ Tier (1-3): Presenting the favorites for the 2016 KVKL Crown.
Happy Shirt – This back to back reigning champion squad will hold on to the #1 spot until proven otherwise. They have the best defense, a savvy offense known to manufacture runs at key moments, and their clutch factor is the stuff of legend at this point. The X factor will be how their new pieces fit in. Will they remain a well oiled machine, or will the gears start to stick? Something tells me that they will be fine, but hears to hoping that I’m wrong.
KTC – Arguably the 2nd best team through much of 2015. I think KTC has the fastest lineup top to bottom. Picking up Kenny Flanders in the off season, one of the elite athletic talents of the league, doesn’t hurt either. Also their defense is pretty dang good, led by Louis Schmidt at 3rd base (seriously just don’t kick it anywhere near that guy) and the McKee brothers flying around the outfield (don’t kick it to them either). They don’t just know how to win and have fun. They expect to win and have fun. Jerks.
Channel 6 – This appears to be the same team from last season. Channel 6 earned maybe the most impressive week one win in dominating a good Rats team (21-4). Channel 6 has my vote for most athletic team in the league. Do y’all work out or something? Seriously, cut it out. I have them coming in at number three here, but Channel 6 believes they are the best team in the league and that counts for a lot. Key players are Isaac, CF, who has a crazy range in his offensive game that makes him near impossible to shut down, and Cheyenne, their lady catcher, who is just praying you try and bunt on her (Hint: don’t). In all seriousness, Cheyenne’s unique ability to play catcher with the best of the league, allows Channel 6 to experiment with their defensive formation to give teams a unique challenge from any other team they will face.
A Tier (4-6): A half-step down from the A+ tier finds three teams that should have their sights set on nothing less than a KVKL championship. For it to happen, however, they are going to have to show something new this year.
Wildman – Poor Matadores got to see what Wildman can do when they are on. This has been the story of Wildman for the past couple of seasons. When they are on they can steam roll anyone in the league (even the above teams), but consistency and ability to succumb to infighting is the thing that keeps them out of the S tier, and from advancing to the final four the past couple of years. If they can keep their kicks and tempers down, then expect all opponents to go down as well.
Red Lyon – With back to back finals appearances, Red Lyon shows that they firmly belong amongst the KVKL elite. Just don’t be too surprised when Red Lyon loses a regular season game or two that this list indicates they should win, easilly. Don’t be fooled . It is in the post season when Red Lyon really comes to play. Still, falling twice in the finals begs the question if Red Lyon has peaked as runner up, or if they can burst through the final hurdle in 2016. It’s going to be really tough (obviously) to surpass what they accomplished in 2014 and 2015, but count out these beer guzzling veterans at your own peril.
Chalmersiz – This might be a slightly controversial pick. Chalmersiz beat KTC not once, but twice last year. They only finally fell in the final four to the eventual champion, Happy Shirt, after sweeping the two pool. Certainly there is no shame in a season like that, and in fact their success was what many considered (myself included) the biggest surprise of the season. However, I got the feeling that 2015, much like 2008, was Chalmersiz year, and to some extent one in which they performed above their abilities. Don’t get me wrong, they are amongst the KVKL’s best, but unless they can keep the magic going, then they may be looking back on 2015 as a missed, best opportunity. This feels like the appropriate spot for this team for now. 6th is nothing to scoff at, Justin.
A- Tier (7-10): These are the gatekeepers to the KVKL elite. These teams are still frightening, talented, and poised to make noise in 2016. They have also consistently fallen to the above teams over the past couple seasons. Presenting your 2016 longshots.
Love Garden – Despite significant roster changes each of the past three years, Love Garden has remained a force to be reckoned with. They seem poised to be dangerous again after strong week 1 result against a solid Pawsh Wash team (12-0). Unfortunately, over the past couple seasons, LG has come up just short time and again – losing to the likes of Chalmersiz, KTC, and Happy Shirt all by 1 run in pool play, and getting upset in the second round of the tournament twice in a row. (For the record, I did not like typing that sentence.) They will need to find a way to win close games and avoid their patented post season slump if 2016 is going to be their year.*
D Holes – The D-holes have been the definition of consistency over the past few years, soundly beating the teams they were supposed to beat, and losing when they were supposed to lose. Though they aren’t the most athletic of the A tier teams (still very athletic by general KVKL standards), they make up for it with savvy kicking and a calm confidence to play to their strengths. Their no errors, no nonsense style of kickball is a grind to play against, and makes it feel like you are beating yourself. You aren’t though, you are just getting d-holed, right in the D. To take it to the next level against top competition, this team may need to learn when to risk it for the biscuit, or should I say… doughnut.
Das Boot – Another team with incredible top end talent that’s found themselves coming up just short over the past couple of years. Looking at the Das Boot scores last year, culminating with a 6-8 loss to KTC in the second round, you really get the impression that Das Boot’s season just could have been different if one thing or another had gone their way. Unfortunately, nothing did. Interestingly their week 1 loss to Happy Shirt (10-7) could be an indication of either more of the same been in 2016, or a return to form showing, once again, that they can play with the best of the best. Only time will tell, but I’m banking on the latter.
Muddy Waters – Muddy Waters doesn’t give a shit about your feelings. Up 15 going into the ninth, this is the type of team that will tack on 9 more runs. Brutal. Muddy Waters finds themselves as the border between A and B tier for a couple of reasons. Similarly, to the D-holes, they have beat everybody they should have over the past few years, and lost to teams they should lose to… just to slightly less impressive results. Muddy Waters has found their stride in pool play the past two years, winning the three pool twice in a row. On the other hand, they have failed to make it into one or two pool twice in a row. This shouldn’t be the case this year however, as the change in league structure makes it unlikely that Muddy Waters will miss out on the 1 or 2 pool this time around. It will be interesting to see how they performs there. For now, they find themselves in the position of ultimate gatekeepers.
B+ Tier (11-14): The teams knocking on the door of elite status. If any team is going to bust into the conversation of KVKL contenders outside of the top 10, I think it’s pretty safe to assume it’s going to be one of these four teams.
Free State – This team has been on a sharp rise for the past couple of seasons, going from the 7 pool in 2013, to the 6 pool in 2014, all the way to winning the 4 pool in 2015. It appears that they have brought all their pieces back for 2016, and if they intend to improve yet again (I think they do), there simply isn’t anywhere left to place them outside the top 10. Additionally, Bad News Bagels drop off has left the door wide open for Free State to make the 2 pool if they can take down the Corksuckers in the Deron Belt. If they do, they will have ample opportunity to test their mettle against many of the above teams. Knocking on the door status achieved.
Woost – Unlike Free State who has risen on a linear path, Woost has been all over the place. They were in the 4 pool in 2013, then 6 in 2014, and back up to the 5 pool last year. The reason Woost is placed so high here is a result of some solid acquisitions in the offseason over the past couple years. We all already know Dan Mauga (if you don’t, you’ll learn quick) as one of, if not the best offensive weapons in our league. Adding another skillful veteran like Jacki Becker last year, and an on base percentage machine like Dave Owens, who went 5 for 5 in week 1, may be exactly what the doctor for this already solid veteran team to put themselves back on the map in 2016.
Red Legs – If you hear Rick McNeely tell it, who’s Jazzhaus team suffered a 2-10 defeat at the hands of the Red Legs week 1, the Red Legs are already one of the 5 best teams in the league. If you hear James Findley, captain of the Red Legs, tell it, then you would also get that feeling. Personally, I’m not willing to hand them the title just yet, but if they pass the eye test already, then the future is very bright for this team. Still, I’m not ranking them above teams like Woost or Free state based solely on a 2-10 win over a Jazzhaus team that finished with a 2-8 record last year. We’ll know a lot more about this unknown quantity after week 3. They shouldn’t look past a potential trap game week 2 against a sneaky good Where’s My Pitches team, but if they take care of business there, then the week three matchup with Das Boot becomes very interesting. For now, color me intrigued.
Goats – Unlike the steady rise of Free State, the sporadic movement of Woost, or the unknown quality that Red Legs brings, the goats have been pretty stagnant over the past two years, and not in a particularly good way. They went 2-1 in the 5 pool in 2014, and 1-2 in the 4 pool in 2015. The crazy thing is that as recently as 2013, they were busy winning a game and competing in the 2 pool. Sure, the roster has changed quite bit since then, but not so much that The Goats should be fairing as poorly as they have lately. This team is better than that, and if they can figure out a way to keep the momentum going after an impressive week one blitzing of Leeway Franks (25-7), who finished 2015 by knocking off Merchants and giving Los Matadores a better game than Free State could muster in the less awesome bracket by the way, then watch out. Amelia Earhart might be interesting to pay attention to is all I’m saying.
B Tier (15-19): The middling teams of the KVKL. These teams are capable of knocking off one of the better teams, but also capably of losing to a worser team. It’s kind of a mixed bag of teams trending in different directions. I’ll take a guess at which way they are going.
Corksuckers – I have never played this team, so I don’t know much. They hung a bagel on Repetition Coffee in week 1, which is hard to evaluate. On the one hand, Repetition is brand new, on the other hand shutting someone out is always impressive. I’m more impressed by a shutout than scoring a boat load of runs because it shows an understanding of the game. I’m siding on the side of this was an impressive win, and that makes me think this team is on the rise. Trending: Up
Merchants – This team almost finished off 2015 in impressive fashion by sweeping through the 5 pool 3-0. Just when you think they got it figured out, they go out with a whimper, suffering one of the crazier upsets of the post season at the hands of Leeway Franks (5-2). (Karma from sandbagging round 1 perhaps, even if the tournament structure does reward you… but that is a post for another time.) Flash forward to 2016, and Merchant jumps out to a lead against KTC before ultimately succumbing 9-2. So wherever that leaves us, you find Merchants –fundamentally sound, but prone to mental errors. Regardless, I think this team is trending up and likely in store for its best season ever. Keep at it, y’all, just not this week. Please. 😉 Trending: Up
Pawsh Wash – Pawsh Wash enters 2016 rebuilding, after losing Austin Wagoner to form his own rag-tag band of tavern frequenters. Teams change, names change, but Pawsh Wash will always be Pawsh Wash. They have been hovering around the middle of the league for the past three seasons, and I think smack dab in the middle is where they’ll be in 2016 as well. Trending: Horizontal, but I do like them over Johnny’s this week. Trending: Horizontal
Rockets – Another team in the midst of serious rebuild are the Rockets, who were plundered by James Findley and his Red Legs. Unlike Pawsh Wash however, the Rockets were coming off of a very impressive final four season.** Unfortunately, a big chunk of the core that got them there are wearing different jerseys now. The good news is that it seems the Rockets reloaded with some awesome talent. Shout out to Liz Schafer, a Love Garden transplant, Justin from Pawsh, and Hani Cahine, fall ball guest player extraordinaire. This team is trending down by necessity of the pieces they lost and how high they finished last year, but I don’t think they fall that far, and perhaps start climbing back up before the end of the year. Trending: Down, then up.
Los Matadores – Santos squad is yet another that got plundered, losing huge pieces to KTC and Johnny’s, but you don’t want to count out the KVKL’s mad genius. Just because everyone got to watch their blow out loss to Wildman doesn’t mean that about half of the KVKL was blown out in week one by an average score differential of 12.7 (thanks Ethan). The good news for Los Mats is that their loss was to one of the top 5 teams. The other good news is that they play in the Danny Manning division, my vote for easiest division (it’s that or Deron Belt), so they are certainly still in the hunt with Rockets and Ghosts for 2nd in the division. Trending: Down
B- Tier (20-23): These teams aren’t taking their division, but they are competitive teams that can surprise people and put themselves in the hunt for the three pool, or an outside shot at the two pool even. The fact that these four teams slot in at 20-23 is a true testament to just how strong the KVKL is top to bottom.
Rats – We played these guys in the charity tournament and they were good! It’s a shame they are in the super tough Clyde Tombaugh (is this the Pluto guy?) division because they could really cause trouble somewhere else. As it is I could see them, maybe giving Woost a game, but more likely they will slot in as a shoe in for 4th, where I think they will ultimately do well. (Also I didn’t realize the Rats had finished as high as 2nd in the 3 pool in 2014, their second season in the league. A true inspirational story for new teams!)
Where’s My Pitches – Here is another team trending up in a big way over the past couple seasons. I already said earlier that this is a sneaky good team, but I’ll add to that. I think Where’s My Pitches was the most improved team of 2015. They shot up from a 3-7 record playing in the 7 pool, to a 5-5 record playing against much better competition in the 5 pool. That’s an enormous improvement. And they got 2016 started the right way as well, with an important win over asteroid head. However, a narrow win over Asteroid head doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence that this team will take another big step forward in 2016.
Johnny’s Tavern – My most confident prediction in this article is that nobody is going to like this pick. Johnny’s will think they are too low. Austin Wagoner, for example, sounded pretty confident they would take down Pawsh Wash in their week 2 match up (we’ll see). Screamers will definitely not like seeing Johnny’s ranked above them because, well, they just beat Johnny’s week one (8-4). Here’s where I land. It’s one thing to have a bunch of new players. It’s another thing to have a bunch of new players and no captain at the game. I just don’t think the week one result is indicative of what this team is capable of, but I also think it is indicative of the fact that this team is going to be a work in progress. Their potential might be higher than the rest of the teams in this tier, but there’s no guarantee they will put it all together this season. Special shout out to new KVKLer Dylan Guthrie, who cut his chops in fall ball on Drunk Defenders, and will likely be a big part of this teams success.
Ghosts – I hear Matt Cosgrove is trying to recruit Wayne Simien. If he lands that one, then I may have to reevaluate. I think even without the KU star, the Ghosts are going to be yet another very solid team. Despite the big pick up of Bryan Scholz in the offseason, Ghosts fall this low because the win, by the narrowest of margins, week one over the Late Fees (8-7) doesn’t inspire much confidence. Still, the Ghosts are fortunate to be in the wide-open (for second place, anyways) Danny Manning division, and I don’t think it would be terribly surprising for them to steal a game from the Rockets or Los Matadores if they can use all their pieces effectively. It may be a long shot, but that would mean even the two pool could be in play for this team on the rise.
C+ Tier (24-27): We are starting to get to the most fun wins territory here, but even amongst the most fun wins cohort there must be a top tier because I say so. Here are the best of the teams with no real hope of finishing in the top half of their division. (I love you all. Please don’t hate me.)
Leeway Franks – This team will always be an enigma to me. I’ve never played them, and my best insight into their play is that one time their pitcher (then Taco Tuesday) cornered me at Harbor Lights and insisted he could make kickers kick wherever he wanted with his pitches (???). I hope that guy is still on the team. Seriously, I don’t know what to make of them. They upset Merchants last year in the less awesome bracket, and absolutely nobody saw that coming. They actually were closer to beating Los Matadores in the final four than Free State was in the final. All that tells me they are on the rise, but without any knowledge of who they are and only a 25-7 shellacking by the goats to go off of, they wind up here. I fully expect them to make the four pool in the top heavy Amelia Earheardt, so it will be interesting to see if they can win any games there.
Liberty Hall – To be honest, I’m really impressed how well Late Fees did against the Ghosts. I would have expected that game to be way more lopsided. It’s just crazy to me how good everyone is getting. Unfortunately for Liberty Hall, it’s not going to get much easier. I think the Late Fees will end up in the five pool, where they will finish second behind whoever ends up there from the John Brown division. Have y’all seen the John Brown division? Sheesh.
Screamers – Speaking of the John Brown Division, poor Screamers. Have y’all seen the John Brown? Gee wiz. In all seriousness, who is the worst team there? Is it Screamers who just took down Johnny’s in week one? I’m guessing it is, and that’s a damn shame because if they were in the Amelia Earheardt in place of Leeway Franks, then they might be the ones shooting for the four seed. Instead, it’s hard to see where they get another win. Having said that, if Johnny’s doesn’t win this week, then it is possible Screamers will edge them out by virtue of their week one win alone. That would be pretty wild…
Asteroid Head – In heartbreaking fashion, Asteroid Head gave up 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th to lose by three to Wheres my Pitches. The win would have put Asteroid in great shape for making the 4 pool, which would have been a big step forward for a team that seems to always be on the cusp of taking a big step forward. Unfortunately, they will likely find themselves in the five or six pool, where they will once again be a force to be reckoned with. Maybe they just prefer it that way?
C Tier (28-32): Couple of surprising teams in this tier AKA hot takes incoming.
Jazzhaus – To be honest, I think my appreciation for the number of talented teams in the KVKL grew as I wrote this article. Last Wednesday, I scrimmaged against a bunch of Jazzhaus players, and came away really impressed by what I saw. Surely this would be a team to reckon within their division. Unfortunately, when you look at just how good the Wilt Chamberlin is top to bottom, it’s really tough to find anywhere this team will pick up wins. Still, you better believe Rick McNeely will be drilling his team into the best possible shape they can be in. Whichever pool Jazzhaus ends up in; consider them a threat to win it.
Sacred Sword – My first year in the league and playing for Spacepussy we came up against Sacred Sword. At the time they were described to me as a super team, who recruited the best players from around the league. Sword beat us something like 35-2 that year (so pretty much a normal game for us). Anyways, it isn’t the Sacred Sword of old that enters the KVKL in 2016. Prior to the season starting, I heard rumors that they might have trouble fielding a team. It looks like they got a team together (and Adam Mitchell back), but I see no signs of a big turnaround as of yet. Despite all of this negativity, I think Sword will finish 4th in their division with wins over Repetition Coffee and the next surprise team on this list.
Bad News Bagels – I don’t think it’s fair to compare this Bad News Bagels team to last years Bad News Bagels, and for all intents and purposes, I think they should just be considered the 5th new team to join the KVKL this year. According to Ben, his entire roster is new. Challenges will come with being a new team, and if week one’s blowout loss to Red Lyon was any indication; Bad News Bagels could be in for a challenging year. Perhaps this ranking is too low, and we will be shown their true potential, but until shown otherwise, this is where I have them.
Homies – My girlfriend Bridget is playing on Homies this year. It was her first ever KVKL game last weekend. Muddy Waters was up 22-7 going into the top of the 9th. They tacked on 9 MORE RUNS IN THE TOP OF THE 9th WITH A 15 RUN CUSHION. No hard feelings, but, seriously. That’s just not nice. Anyways, Homies are awesome. Shout out to Hazem, Katie, and Bridget. Best team in the league, and Bridget deserves her own kicking spot when we are back for week 4. Watch out world.
Harpies – The fact that I have four teams ranked below the Harpies, and my only thought is that I’ve got the Harpies too low is a testament to how much this team has improved. (No offense intended.) I firmly believe that Harpies are going to have their best year ever this year. I also think next year will be their new best year ever, and so on and so forth. They are making incremental gains each year. They already have more fun than anyone else. It almost will feel unfair once they start winning a bunch of games to boot.
C- (33-36): Takes swig from flask.
Glass Kickers – Huge shout out to Kristen for organizing the biggest and best open scrimmage every week. I have nothing but love for this whole team; no matter if it’s KVKL, fall ball, or city league, there is nothing but smiles from these guys and gals. Also they are improving a lot. I used to play on this team as Spacepussy, and how much the team as a whole has improved since then is evident. Keep up the good vibes and good times, you guys.
Brewballers – I don’t really know anything about this team. I think I was out of town last year when we played them, but I’ve heard from several people that they don’t take games too serious. Then again, I certainly don’t begrudge anyone having a good time in their own way, and if they don’t want to take games serious, so be it. Enjoy the game in your own way, just don’t come crying to me about your placement on my pointless tier list exercise.
Repetition & Leafy Greens – And finally we come to the two new, new teams. I don’t have much to say about them because I haven’t seen them play a game. Repetition lost 13-0 to Corksuckers. Leafy Greens managed to score, but also gave up more runs losing to Rockets (23-4). To be honest there is no way I can look at those two scores and infer one team is better than the other, so I’m not going to. Instead, I’ll just wait and see what happens when these two brand new teams face each other (barring a big upset) in the 6 pool. I’m going to cast my vote now to make this one a GOTW!
*Full disclosure, Love Garden is my team. I’ll always try to be as unbiased as possible when doing analysis for Sundays in the Park, but that may be impossible to avoid at times.
**Rockets were expected to have to go through Channel 6, the number 2 seed, but didn’t have to because of the disqualification. Still a great season for the Rockets.