Wow. That really did happen. Everyone said we’d be the best and then… we… were the best? Honestly that was one of the outcomes I wasn’t expecting. But, since that might not make sense to some other fans, I wanted to let people in on how it felt to be a Hellmouth Sunbeams fan recently.
Stage 1: Hubris Rising
On January 15th, 2023, the Moab Hellmouth Sunbeams, who had been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs the previous day, won the Batting Boost blessing. In the previous season, the Sunbeams had the second best offense, behind only the Mexico City Wild Wings. With this boost, and a few unfortunate events that happened to the Wings, the Sunbeams would be going into Coronation Season 2 with over a full star on average above any other team. This may be the greatest disparity in stats that any team has ever begun a season with.
The Sunbeams were riding a high, but were cautious. Long has it been an adage that you never Estimate the Sunbeams, but under certain circumstances, it’s hard to avoid. BNN’s power rankings put the Hellmouth Sunbeams at a solid #1, nearly unanimous, and even members of the community were starting to believe the Sunbeams could take it all. Many of the Sunbeams fans began, instead, to speculate on what it would be that would take us down the peg we deserved to descend. Would it be the new umps and their mysterious weather? Would it be the Sunbeams themselves, tanking against all odds?
Stage 2: It would be the Hellmouth Sunbeams
As the season began the next week, things got out to an expected start, winning the first 2 games against the struggling Millennials by scoring 16 runs. Things immediately turned dramatically, as the Sunbeams lost their next game with a score of 9 to 4. But hey, this was Grollis Zephyr pitching, who had a rocky Season 1, so it’s probably fine, right? And the next team up was the Tokyo Lift, the only team in the ILB with lower average defense. AND the next two pitchers were Dunn Keyes and Mooney Doctor, both of whom received votes during Season 1 as pitching MVPs for their sub 3 ERA. A 5-1 record was sure to follow.
But it didn’t. Dunn and Mooney gave up 11 and 10 runs respectively as the Lift took the series, leaving the Sunbeams at a shocked 3-3. It seemed like things were going to go the way of Beta Season 13, when the Sunbeams gained Aldon Cashmoney and performed worse despite it. Cries of WHERE IS BNN rang out through the halls of the Solarium. I began to fear for my life, knowing that I, who had estimated the Beams, was at risk of being charged by the fans I so loved.
After subsequent series against the Georgias, Shoe Thieves, and Dale, the Hellmouth Sunbeams sat at a somewhat disappointing 8-7. Would things ever turn around in the Beams favor?
Stage 3: Yep!
Immediately, the Hellmouth Sunbeams proceeded to sweep the Pies, Tacos, and Magic before taking 4 games off the defending champion Shoe Thieves in a 6 game stand. With their record now at a much more comfortable 21-9, the Sunbeams would then proceed to only lose 10 more games over the rest of the season, at one point winning an astonishing 18 consecutive games from Day 54 to Day 71, easily a New Era record.
However, this isn’t the biggest shock of the season. While the Hellmouth Sunbeams had managed to dodge their own early sabotage efforts, they still had to dodge something else: the weather tearing other teams apart. As fan favorites like Inky Rutledge and Beef Knight, the increasingly perceived Sunbeams… simply did not catch the eye of the Umpires. Not a single weather event occurred to the Sunbeams. No Favors, no deaths, no alternates, no dodges. The Sunbeams entered the Season 2 playoffs the exact same way they entered.
Stage 3.5: So how good were the Sunbeams?
I just want to take a second here to focus on how good the Sunbeams were this season. Some records are spotty while SIBR gets their tools together, but we know that the Sunbeams scored at least 731 runs. Over 90 games, this averages to 8.12 runs per game. The Sunbeams almost 1 average ferocity (.997) led to an astounding 2.6 Home Runs per game.
Perhaps most astonishing is that amongst the permanent lineup, the Sunbeams lowest OPS was Cory Ross with a .913 (lending itself to an OPS+ of 111.043). The Sunbeams worst batter was a not-insignificant amount above average. In fact, Cory Ross would have been the #1 batter by OPS on the Chicago Firefighters, and in the top 3 of many other teams.
There were many outstanding individual stars on other teams. Kiki Avci ruined slugging numbers, Demet Cabrera, Zack Sanders, and Sheri Friday (RIA) had ridiculous seasons, but what the Sunbeams had was a tight, consistent lineup with no holes. The team’s average OPS of 1.043 would place, itself, in the top 40 batters with an OPS+ greater than 125.
But they often say that Defense and Pitching are what wins championships, so would that be the case?
Stage 4: The Playoffs
The Sunbeams would first fight off the energized Lovers in 4 games, losing game 2, and completely ignoring the metaphorical symbolism of a player named Icarus crashing to the field in Game 3.
An unfortunate scheduling error (which this reporter won’t go into too deeply in this article) would see the Awful Good Sunbeams playing for the Evil Conference championships against the Hawai’i Fridays. Though the Beams would drop the first game in this series, a quick sweep of the next 3 games was enough to set the squad up for the Finals.
And the finals would be against the Boston Flowers.
Tension was MASSIVE in these games, reader. Games 1, 2, and 3 were as close as could be, all of them being decided by a single run, with runs being scored late in both games. Game 3 would see Guozhi Ong hit a grand slam with 2 outs in the top of the 8th (why were all the games in Boston, anyway?) to take the lead 6-3, a lead which almost evaporated as the Flowers scored 2 runs in the bottom of the ninth.
But having won 2 of these incredibly close, hard fought, tension filled games, the Beams headed into game 4 behind their ace Dunn Keyes, ready to try to claw out another game. But then Team Leadoff and Unofficial Captain Pangolin Ruiz blasted the very first pitch out of play, putting the Hellmouth Sunbeams up 1-0. This would be followed by a Cravel Gesundheit home run in the top of the 2nd, and just two batters later, Ruiz would take another first pitch to the fence for a second home run, leading to a 6-0 Sunbeams lead. It never really felt close after that. The Flowers put up 2 runs later in the game, but the Sunbeams always had an answer, and won the game in anticlimactic fashion, 12-2.
And so the Sunbeams had done it. Despite the danger and estimation, the Sunbeams emerged over their rivals and anti-rivals, and had their golden record stamped at 71-19.
And this reporter, my dear reader, cried out in vindication. Because sometimes, it’s not estimation. Sometimes, it’s just reporting. And that’s what we did this season. We reported the strength of the Sunbeams, and they came through.
Will this strength last throughout Season 3? Will we report or will we estimate? Only time will tell.
Stare Into the Sun, reader. I’ll be right there next to you, trying to keep my hubris in check, and failing.
Written by Panama Dan (https://twitter.com/PandaSunbeams)