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As the chill of winter begins to take hold across the country and the major-league playoffs are but a thing of the past, let’s take a look at the results of this year’s HACKING MASS contest. As we run down the list of accomplishments by the stiffest of major-league players and HACKING MASS team owners in 2003, remember: although the Milwaukee Brewers probably aren’t going to be calling anyone who didn’t finish in the top 10 for help in the front office, all of this year’s participants–even lebindy–are big winners as far as we are concerned.

All-Star Team

The 2003 HACKING MASS All-Star team is a fetching mixture of the young and the old; the highly-regarded defensively with a sprinkling of butchers thrown in; members of good teams and members of awful ones. Elderly Astros catcher (and recipient of a brand-new two-year contract) Brad Ausmus, young Dodgers glove merchant Cesar Izturis, Most Valuable Player and Texas Ranger Colby Lewis, and Blue Jay starter Cory Lidle, who missed his traditional second-half stretch of high-octane pitching, all scored in the triple digits. White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, Orioles third baseman Tony Batista, Expos center fielder Endy Chavez, Athletics right fielder Jermaine Dye, and Lewis and Lidle were all selected for fewer than five HACKING MASS squads. A perfect roster was worth 937 points in 2003.

Name Position Popularity 2003 ESPN
Brad Ausmus C 72 105
Paul Konerko 1B 1 49
Rey Sanchez 2B 132 84
Tony Batista 3B 4 90
Cesar Izturis SS 217 120
Carl Crawford LF 157 87
Endy Chavez CF 3 80
Jermaine Dye RF 0 72
Colby Lewis P 1 139
Cory Lidle P 0 111
Total 587 937

All-Popular Team

We thought it’d be interesting to track player popularity this year, and what we got was a cautionary tale about the tyranny of the majority. As it happens, no player made both lists, with the best showing on the popular list coming from Mets speed demon Roger Cedeno, with 54 points. Giants first baseman J.T. Snow and Devil Rays shortstop/HACKING MASS patron saint Rey Ordonez actually finished the season with -1 points apiece, and Atlanta Braves third baseman and Most Popular Player Vinny Castilla scored only 16 points for his 519 owners–56% of HACKING MASS teams. Sticking to the popular bets in 2003 would have netted a team 260 ESPN–far less than the 340 ESPN HACKING MASS owners actually averaged.

Name Position Popularity 2003 ESPN
Ben Molina C 258 23
J.T. Snow 1B 305 -1
Pokey Reese 2B 241 32
Vinny Castilla 3B 519 16
Rey Ordonez SS 320 -1
Roger Cedeno LF 429 54
Juan Pierre CF 317 49
Jeromy Burnitz RF 328 8
Chan Ho Park P 323 35
Denny Neagle P 103 45
Total 3143 260

Your Winner

This year’s captain of the good ship HACKING MASS was Paul Harmon, whose squad scored 13 points more than the runner-up. Save first baseman Snow, all of Harmon’s players were solidly in the black. “I’d actually just about given up on my chances”, said Harmon, despite the fact that he’d hung around the top three most of the season. But the inclusion of pitchers in this year’s competition–volatility and all–paid off big for Harmon when Orioles starter Omar Daal took the mound against the scalding Red Sox offense on September 25. After 1.2 innings pitched of 7-run “relief”, Daal had goosed his ESPN by over 20 points, propelling Harmon to victory.

We asked Harmon about the makeup of his victorious team. He started with conventional thinking–look for general badness, coupled with the playing time that comes from teams without other options at the position–but then things got personal. “Don’t shy away from picking players you don’t like, or players that have done bad things to a team you do like,” said Harmon.

As always, a winning campaign in a game like this involves some luck, and beyond Daal’s fantastic season’s-end relief adventure, Harmon got some. Snow being platooned hurt, but Rey Sanchez‘s mid-season trade to the Mariners revitalized the shortstop’s 2003 HACKING MASS performance, and Corey Patterson‘s gruesome season-ending injury coupled with Dusty Baker’s fascination with speedy, no-hit center fielders made Doug Glanville more than just a fleet bench jockey in Chicago.

Harmon’s advice for aspiring HACKING MASSters in 2004? “Pick guys that are more likely to play than not–even if they do well, you won’t do so bad. Don’t be afraid to pick players whose failure you will enjoy.” The additional synergistic benefit of a player you don’t like doing poorly in real life and bolstering your HACKING MASS team is seductive, especially since the smart money is so often off target–as a cursory look at this year’s All-Popular team will show.

Harmon’s pick for 2004 HACKING MASS MVP? “Definitely Izturis. He doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon.”

Position Player Popularity 2002 ESPN 2003 ESPN
Catcher Einar Diaz 105 88 59
First Base J.T. Snow 305 45 -1
Second Base Rey Sanchez 132 50 84
Third Base Jeff Cirillo 192 87 72
Shortstop Cesar Izturis 217 109 120
Left Field Roger Cedeno 429 75 54
Center Field Doug Glanville 213 73 46
Right Field Gene Kingsale 128 17 36
Pitcher 1 Omar Daal 4 -5 73
Pitcher 2 Glendon Rusch 25 49 99
Total 1750 588 642

Conclusion

We hope you had as much fun with the daily updates and new rules as we did this year. In 2004, we’ve got a few more changes we’re considering–expanded team views, hot-cold measurements, on-demand e-mail updates, and even Harmon’s suggestion of a postseason HACKING MASS competition. To those of you who wrote to us about excluding teams with partial rosters, your complaints have been heard! We’ll be doing this as well. If you’ve got any more suggestions, send them to me and we’ll see what we can do.

Thanks to all our participants this year, and congratulations to all our winners. The 2004 contest is only a few months away–we’ll see you then.

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