Steve Romer is both a sponsor and captain of the Westrock-Refuahs.org softball team and the recipient of the 2008 and 2010 Captain of the Year award. He was also instrumental in driving his team onward to win the 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013 RJSL championship titles. A team captain since 2003, Romer has consistently led his team to the playoffs and continues to be a force to be reckoned with. At 58 years of age, he is certainly one of the "senior" league members and his love for both the game and the RJSL makes his blog one worth reading.
Romer is a real estate entrepreneur as both an investor and for 30 years, the president of Westrock Appraisal Services, Corp., a commercial real estate appraisal provider. He has earned both an MBA and the prestigious MAI designation. Married for 34 years, Steve has three children, all who are married and grand-children running into the double digits.
Free Agency and League Predictions
June 29, 2011
Well, it's a whole new ball game. All of the old RJSL checks and balances were literally thrown out the proverbial window for the 2011 season. Talk about over the top! For years we aggressively maintained a "balance of power" between the teams so that everyone had a legitimate chance of going the distance. Only the championship team was theoretically protected. But this season the commissioners turned everything on its head by means of FREE AGENCY!
This turnaround is actually the brainchild of commissioner Sam Wainhaus. Sam's argument was that league members want to play on the same team as their friends. That's certainly reasonable, but superstars tend to want to play with other superstars which lend itself to gross inequities in terms of team talent. One clear case in point is the contrast between Medicine Men and Major Energy. Last season, the former Jada team (renamed Medicine Men) were in clear need of a major infusion of "young legs". Jada displayed respectable talent during the 2010 season, having captured sixth place during the regular season. However, by the playoffs, it was very clear that this well seasoned team had no future without a material talent infusion. That infusion became available with the demise of the Team Samet squad.
The former Team Samet is the perfect example of how a team can literally implode when there is a major in-congruency in talent. Samet had it all...the very best and, well, "not" the very best. By the end of their dismal season Samet's top players called it quits and looked for greener pastures. Free agency allowed them all to find a new home with Jada, now renamed Medicine Men after Dr. Jason Shatkin took over the sponsorship reigns who also brokered the deal bringing the multi-talented Moshe Hans, Shragi Lazarus, Meir Stimmel, Eli Gilden and Steven Schwartz to the Medicine Men bench. This could "never" have happened in the past, five top players unilaterally leaving one team to shore-up another. But free agency paved the way and the result is that Medicine Men now has a tremendous talent arsenal who can decimate virtually any team in the league.
The downside to free agency is the example of Major Energy. This team contains the residual talent of Team Samet, as well as players unhappy or disillusioned with their former teams and new players to the league with unknown talent. We all know the results of Major Energy's first three games...horrendous! I was embarrassed to post the game results and I'm guilty of asking opposing team captains "not" to submit game summaries which would only put "salt on the wound". Fortunately, the commissioners took drastic measures, added a top flight pitcher (Daniel Peikes) as well as some additional top talent, and Moshe Lehmann started showing up to help. Although the long term results remain a mystery, Major Energy has recently defeated LY and Bubba's. Certainly a step in the right direction....
I must admit that I was fiercely against free agency, although Westrock also benefitted by the change in rules (if you can’t beat them…join them). My main bone of contention was that teams would become destabilized by their best players switching to another team. To make my point, I challenged Sam that I could “buy” virtually anyone in the league I wanted to join my team. So, Sam decides to be cute and advises me that Yitzy, his incredibly talented son and one of the best short stops in the RJSL, is looking for a “summer” job and for $1,000 I can recruit him. Unfortunately, I misunderstood Sam’s intentions to “make a point” that no RJSL captain, including me, would actually pay a player to move from one team to another. Instead, I interpreted Sam’s invitation to speak to Yitzy as his way of telling me that Westrock (the 2008 and 2010 RJSL champions) would be a great new home for his son. So, I would say that within one minute of speaking to Yitzy on the phone he was recruited to the Westrock roster and we were both very happy about the arrangement. But when Sam found out that I recruited Yitzy without offering the $1,000 he was pissed! And of course Marv was going crazy thinking that I was trying to hurt Subaba by stealing their short stop. And then when I found out that Sam was simply trying to make a point and that he had no intention of weakening the new Subaba team by losing Yitzy, I apologized for the misunderstanding and withdrew my offer to Yitzy (who concurred that leaving Subaba under the circumstances would be a “bad” idea). But it goes to show some of the craziness that can occur with Free Agency and how misunderstands, bad feelings, and heated accusations are just some of the derivatives of this process.
I have been advised from the powers that be that this season's experiment will "not" be duplicated next season. New checks and balances will be added so that teams have some "protectia" from sudden, unexpected player departures. I think that this is both smart and prudent, and a level of protection against potential abuses.
So, moving on….Being a league captain and the primary league reserve player, I've either played against or for virtually every team in the league. I think at this juncture I have a pretty good sense of each team’s strengths and weaknesses. So, what’s going on in the league?
As of this writing, StubWorld is in first place with 18 points (although in fairness, they have played two to three more games than most teams in the league). Regardless, this team is on a roll, winning their last seven games. StubWorld is the brainchild of Levi Blachman and Menachem Landwirt, two veterans of the RJSL. Landwirt is a former MVP and Westrock championship player who left the team after undergoing an ACL operation. Blachman is the owner of StubWorld and a ferocious, smart competitor. Team StubWorld was created with the intent of affording team members a relaxed environment and equitable playing time. According to Landwirt, if the team can achieve a 500% winning record, he would be happy. Well, after 13 games played, Stubworld has an outstanding 700% record with nine wins. This team was off to a very slow start, having lost their first two or three games. However, after Yitz Greenbaum took over as starting pitcher and then pulled a couple of white rabbits out of his magical hat, drawing on formidable Teaneck talent to man left and center field, StubWorld has become an explosive expansion team. StubWorld must now be considered the "real deal", a tenacious competitor who is having a great time winning baseball games.
With only “10” games played, WC is one point out of 1st place with an 850% winning record. In certain ways, the former champs are stronger in terms of talent compared to last year having added utility players Dovid Katz and Eli Schiff. In general, despite the loss of Landwirt and Gable to StubWorld and Ushy Schwartz to Bubba's, Westrock continues to be a formidable competitor led by an all star team and seasoned captain, Steve Romer. There are rumors, however, that starting short stop Yossie Ritterman, who just got married this past Monday (Mazel Tov!), may relocate out of the local area which could diminish WC's defensive posture. I believe that I speak for everyone on the team that we collectively hope that Yossie can remain with us for many years to come, leading our infield and bringing real "pizzazz" to the game. Should WC's track record continue during the 2nd half of the season, they stand to finish high in the standings and have a shot at their third championship.
If there is one team in the league that has real "attitude" this is it big time! These guys are like bull dogs, stubborn to win, always ready for a fight to the finish, and easy to ignite (and sometimes unravel). Captain Michael Chasen and Sponsor Jason Shatkin are seasoned veterans of the game who play to win and take no prisoners. Some "sick" talent exists on this team including short stop Meir Stimmel and 2nd basemen Jacob Fein. Starting pitcher Vic Fein brings 30 years of experience, throwing an arsenal of pitches that typically stymies the opposing team. Having picked up the best of former Team Samet, the Medicine Men have maintained 1st place for most of the season, until quite recently due to losses to Bubba's and StubWorld. However, these guys simply lick their wounds and fight the good fight, winning the vast majority of their games and are favorites to achieve top honors in the standings.
Subaba is actually the former Marv'les team who is now captained by David Samet. The former 2009 league champions actually started the season quite well, capturing 1st place early in the season, only to lose it due to poor player attendance and inconsistent results both offensively and defensively. This is a problem which has plagued Subaba over the past two years…a pure lack of consistency in bringing out the heavy guns for their games. The continuance of this problem will adversely impact Subaba’s future in the standings and will ultimately demoralize those players who show up every week to play ball. It’s wonderful having such a talented and versatile roster but if they don’t show up…well what’s the point? One thing is for sure…if Rabbi Rudman and his band of merry heavy hitters consistently show up to play ball, watch out RJSL, because this gang of rabble rousers will tear up the diamond.
Cross River Bank
This is the former Sterling team...with the accent being placed on “former” since this team is simply a shadow of their “former” self. Team politics, injuries, the aging process, and managerial issues have all combined to bring Cross River to a 5 and 6 record. Gone is the assault on every team with the gall to challenge their “empire”. Gone are the stolen bases, the intensity, the pushing of the envelop and the tenaciousness which allowed this team to win three consecutive championships. Cross River has lost its heart and requires a major transplant in terms of new talent which will help carry the torch. I believe that Cross River deserves the opportunity to be great again which can only be accomplished by the “acquisition” of new young and talented blood and a resolution of many of the “political” issues which makes Cross River only a mediocre team. Someone must take this team in hand and build on the strong talent which still exists. Short of that, Cross River will remain only a shadow of its former great legacy, a legacy which once made the rest of the RJSL shake in their pants when faced with the prospect of doing battle with the Empire. LONG LIVE THE EMPIRE! May opportunity knock once again upon their door.
What a difference from last year. During 2010, LY kicked butt all season long. This year, they are hanging onto 6th place for dear life. But, some radical changes have occurred which have short circuited this team’s normal explosiveness. For starters, starting short stop Mendy Halpert is hurt awaiting an MRI. Batting sensation and regular season MVP Yaakov Jacobovitch is imminently getting married and has missed a majority of games (he is also relocating to Far Rockaway so that’s a major bat lost to matrimony). Starting pitcher Eli Gelb, as usual, spends so much time traveling that he can’t make the games and captain Avi Katz is having one heck of a time getting his team members to show up for games “on time” or at all! With a 4 and 6 winning record, it is a shame to see this once great team sink so low in the standings. Although this team has always been the comeback kings due to their incredible ability at bat, I’m starting to question if LY has the spark to get them on a major comeback return. If they are willing to dig deep and play the game with the passion they once possessed, I believe in their future. If not, I question if they will make the playoffs this season.
I must admit that up until last week I was proposing that Bubba’s be dismantled as a team at the end of the season and distributed to teams like Cross River, Major Energy, Merockdim and Shoe Tova who really could use their youth and incredible talent. This team has been tested time and again to prove their capabilities and each year they just come up way short. But then a major change occurred last week which could potentially change the entire winning complexion of this team. Starting pitcher Ushy Schwartz took over as General Manager of the team and as his first issue of business, went on to demolish Medicine Men 10 – 2! Wow…what a beginning! Bubba’s next game against Major Energy, which they lost, is explainable since the game took place on the same day as Yossie Ritterman’s wedding which pulled virtually all of Bubba’s premiere players away from the game. Schwartz’s experience as the GM of the Rockland Jewish Basketball League may pay off big time in bringing this vastly talented team together. With the right management and player placement, Bubba’s could potentially shoot right to the top of the standings. I personally think that they can do it if captains Yaakov Katsof and Pinchas Kahana allow Schwartz free reign. If not, team politics and mismanagement will kill this team and any chance to achieve the respect they deserve.
Major Energy is the team that I know the least. I have played against them a number of times and quite frankly, I felt badly for them. However, the league commissioners were able to finally bring some additional new talent to this team including a top flight pitcher (Daniel Peikes) who may be the strikeout king of the league! Moshe Lehman also appears to be making a material contribution to the cause and of late, ME is on a slight roll defeating both a depleted Bubba’s team and LY. However, I’m just not a believer yet, considering their 3 and 7 record. Captain Sam Wainhaus’s enthusiasm may have to be backed up with additional talent backbone in order to make this a viable team. But the proof will be in the pudding. This week ME faces Medicine men. If they can make a good showing against this team, then I’m prepared to “Believe”. May the force be with them….
What is going on with the Campers who as of this writing are in 9th place!? Something has gone terribly wrong this season and the question is: What is it going to take to turn this talented team around? Just last week Westrock and Merockdim went head to head for 10 very tough innings and the campers were “just” edge out 2 – 1. So the team certainly has the potential and the depth to be league leaders. Probably the biggest problem is that Merockdim cannot hit this season to save their lives. It’s very sad but the entire team is in a fundamental batting slump. These guys need to camp out at the batting cages and relearn how to hit a “line drive”. I’m also starting to wonder if new management is required to get these guys the jump start that they so desperately need. It seems to be working with Bubba’s…could it work for the campers also? One thing is for sure, something dramatic must be done to get Merockdim to perform at their potential. Otherwise, I predict that the campers will go the way of former Team Samet, with the better players jumping ship in order to find greener pastures.
Shoe Tova again finds themselves in last place with one win, two ties and six loses. Shoe Tova is also an expansion team that is trying to find their way into the light and I’m confident that they will accomplish this goal if given sufficient time. Several of the team’s core players are great athletes, but there remains a large hole in their talent roster which may take another season or two to fill. In the meantime, Shoe Tova’s management continues to look for viable talent to help bring this team into their own. Anyone with above average talent looking to be placed on a potentially great team should contact Captain Lazer Ungar at 845-494-4306.
So, in the meantime, lets PLAY BALL!