The Columbia Bison may no longer be a prominent team in today’s JAL, so let’s take a quick trip back down memory lane to remind us all why this franchise will always have a place in our league.
Back in the club's heyday (JAL IV - IX), the Bison won two WWCD Cups and were labeled as “contenders” every tournament. During that time period Kevin Johnson was the team’s owner and primary player. Besides himself the roster changed frequently. During that six tournament phase a total of eight different players, not including Kevin, played for the team.
After JAL IX, Kevin decided to give somebody else a chance to own their own franchise in the league and moved on from the club. Unable to find a new owner for the Bison right away, league officials simply acted as “interim owners” of the team.
Part of the reason that the Bison took an immediate dive as a top team in the league is because the interim owners treated the Bison’s roster as a “filler destination.” What this means is that instead of aggressively trying to sign good players, the interim owners sat back and waited for all the other teams to become satisfied with their rosters. Then, after each team’s roster was full, the Bison signed whoever was leftover.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…. “The league officials (Cale, Ty and Brock) sabotaged a once very good and well renowned Bison franchise and turned them into a bottom dweller with low level talent!”..... The truth is, that’s exactly what we did. But you have to keep in mind that we weren't true owners of the team. Our focus was solely on making sure that the Bison had a full roster, how much talent the roster had was never a concern. And to be completely honest, it also didn’t help that we were each playing on other teams who would be competing against the Bison.
So, who did the interim owners sign to play for the Bison in JAL X? Two rookies, James French and Mikel Skreen. Going into the tournament the Bison were ranked #6 (last) but ended up nearly making the playoffs with a 1-2 record. Ironically enough, had the Bison won their final game of the regular season they would have been the #1 seed.
Noticing his enthusiasm for the league during JAL X, the league decided to offer James French the ownership position of the Bison, which he accepted.
Right away James signed rookie Ty Franklin and then re-signed Mikel. In JAL XI the Bison impressed again by finishing 4th and making a playoff appearance after being pre-tournament ranked #6 again.
When asked, James says he wants to keep the new “core” (Himself, Mikel, Ty) of the team together to develop this new era in Bison franchise history. With that as the team's precedent going forward here’s look into the Bison’s crystal ball...
The Bison have done nothing but exceed expectations in the last two tournaments. Individually the same applies. James French was named to the all-star team in JAL XI and Mikel and Ty proved to be adequate role players. The big question is no longer, can this team be respectable? But instead it’s now, can this team become contenders?
If the answer to that is to be yes, then here’s what needs to happen: Discipline with the bat.
The Bison have all the tools on defense because believe it or not, James is a good pitcher. His #3 ranked era (2.94) in JAL XI is reason he made the all-star team, not his .359 OBP. Batting has to improve for this team to truly get on the same level as the Lynx or Fog.
If you happened to have seen the article that displayed the stat leaders in JAL XI you might be thinking: “What do you mean their batting needs to improve? Ty and Mikel ranked #2 and #4 respectively in OBP in JAL XI.” Yes that’s true, but remember, OBP means on base percentage, which includes walks. If you look closer at the stats you’ll notice that neither of them get very many actual hits. Why does that matter? Because when you walk you only move one base at a time, if you get hit’s you can skip bases. Duh. It’s like if you scored four times in football, but they were all field goals, so you only have 12 points instead of 28.
The point is that the Bison are efficient on offense, but lack “big play” potential. Being a defensive team is perfectly fine, look at the Lynx and Fog. But one thing those two teams have that the Bison don’t is a player who, on any given pitch, can go yard. If somebody can step up in that way then look out, the Bison could be back in the mix at the top like they once were.