Longtime WhatIfSports.com user taz21 is the subject of our latest User Interview. Taz21 has transitioned from an impressive Hoops Dynasty career to Hardball Dynasty during his time on the site and currently manages four teams, excelling at rebuilds.
taz21 Hardball Dynasty Overall Records
|Seasons||Record||Playoff Record||Division Titles||Championships|
|53||4,733-3,853 (55.1%)||213-174 (55.0%)||28||7|
taz21 Hardball Dynasty Franchise Records (Active Teams)
|World||Franchise||Seasons||Record||Division Titles||WS Champs|
|Ripken Jr.||Las Vegas seven out||15||1,424-918 (60.8%)||12||3|
|Wailing Onions||Cincinnati 3-ways||9||815-643 (55.9%)||5||1|
|Banks||Toledo Defenders of the North Border||2||78-129 (37.7%)||0||0|
|Fingers||Monterrey Gringos||13||1,216-728 (62.6%)||10||3|
taz21 Hoops Dynasty Overall Records
|Game||Seasons||Record||Conf. Champs||Ntl. Champs|
|Hoops Dynasty||86||1,760-859 (67.2%)||44||3|
WIS: Who is taz21?
taz21: I'm a mid-30s father of 2, engineer, residing in southwest Ohio for most of my life. I've always loved sports, though football was the only one I was actually good at. I've found them to be a great release from everyday life.
WIS: How did you find out about WhatIfSports.com?
taz21: I can't recall for sure how I found out about WIS. I went to the same college as the guy who created WIS, but I also heard it mentioned on Lance McCallister's talk show here in Cincy, so I can't say for sure which route I discovered the site. It was definitely in the early days when there was short season sim baseball and football using historical players. The Dynasty games had not been created yet, I think they were several years away. Anyways, I jumped on, created the first username I could think of (which I kind of hate today, but I've had it so long, what can you do?) and messed around with that. There wasn't a ton on the site yet, and I quickly forgot about it until a couple of years later, following graduation, I heard Lance talking about his Hoops Dynasty team. It sounded interesting, so I reserved Ferrum College in Crum on the day before forgetting about it again until the email popped up one evening about the draft starting that night. I guess the love affair started that night as I started recruiting my first class of 7 players to my team and trying to figure Hoops Dynasty out.
WIS: Which of our games have you played? Which do you prefer?
taz21: As I mentioned, I messed around with the early version of Sim Baseball and Sim Football, but never seriously. I haven't even tried them since I jumped on board several years later with Hoops Dynasty. HD kind of ran its course for me, at which point I jumped into Hardball Dynasty and liked the additional layers that Hardball Dynasty provided.
WIS: What are some of your interests and hobbies?
taz21: I used to love getting out and golfing, about as often as I could. I'd also get out and do a decent amount of long distance running, doing the occasionally 5k or 10k. Then I discovered about 5 years ago that kids can really cut into your hobbies. I no longer have as much free time for golf as I'd like, nor near as much time for the running as my body needs, but we like to get our kids out to the pool as much as we can in the summer, over to the local amusement park where our 5-year-old shows no fear, out to the parks for some hiking in the fall, etc. I've found the time spent with the kids significantly more rewarding than the weekly golf game, though I hope to get back into it one day when the kids get a little older.
WIS: Which five people, past or present, sit at your dream roundtable discussion?
taz21: I'll start with my mother, whom I lost at a young age, then make my next 4 people that everyone would know (after all, who really wants to read about a table discussion with my wife, kids, family, friends, etc.???). I'd love to hear Warren Buffett's thoughts on business, Ronald Reagan's thoughts on politics, Bill Cosby's thoughts on comedy/life and Steven Spielberg's thoughts on the movies. I figure I've got a diverse and experienced enough mixture in that group to give a great overall view of all aspects I just touched on with each of them having the ability to cross over into several different categories.
WIS: Did you play any sports growing up?
taz21: I played as many as I could, baseball, basketball, swimming, karate and football. However, football was the only one I was good at, so by the time I got to high school all my sports focus was applied to that. Between football season and offseason lifting/conditioning, it was pretty much a year-round sport. I had a couple of small colleges that wanted me to continue playing football for them, but nowhere I was really interesting in attending so competitive athletics stopped at that point.
WIS: Who are your favorite all-time players?
taz21: Growing up a kid of the 80s, Jordan was my sports idol. WGN used to carry just about all of their games, so even though I grew up several states away, they felt like the home team as often as I got to watch them. I also used to love watching Marshall Faulk and Barry Sanders running the ball and Eric Davis in baseball. As I've grown older, the only guy I really stop to watch individually is Joey Votto. I just love his cerebral approach to hitting a baseball.
WIS: Do you have any sports-related items on your bucket list that you have not yet done?
taz21: There's not many sports related bucket list items that I haven't done on my list. I have no desire to watch a Super Bowl live (well unless I can get sideline passes). I've done some of the big events like the Kentucky Derby (which is more about the beverages than it is the horse races) and I've attending all of the main rivalry games of my favorite teams (like Ohio State v that team up north). Having been to the Old Course in St. Andrews, I'd love to walk about Augusta National, doesn't even have to be during the Masters, and I'm certainly not good enough to play that course, but just to take in the scenery and get a feel for the challenge that course presents. Give myself a camera, and a couple hours of free reign to roam the course at my own pace, and I don't care if there is even another soul on the course or not. Off the beaten path a little more, I'd love to do the running of the bulls (well out in front, I have no intentions of ever seeing a bull until I'm in the stadium seats and they're entering the arena) someday. I missed my chance the one time I was passing thru Spain by a couple of weeks, maybe someday before I get too old to keep a big head start on the bulls.
WIS: What is your favorite WIS moment?
taz21: That's pretty easy. I was on my honeymoon, roughly 7 years ago when I had someone fill in for recruiting in my Wooden D3 dynasty. My team that season was pretty stacked, and I only had 1 opening, so I didn't need much, just a guy that I could redshirt and develop. I can't recall who did the actual recruiting for me, but he landed Benjamin Coomer, a 6'6" PF who spent the season redshirting while the team went on to win the conference and reach the 2nd round of the tournament. Benjamin eventually developed into a lockdown defender, quick enough and strong enough to guard the opposition's best defender at either the 3, 4 or 5 spot. His senior season, I think he started the tournament w/ a pedestrian (for him) stat total in the neighborhood of 10 points and 10 rebounds as Chicago cruised to an easy 1st round victory. After that, he went on to score more than 20 points each game and grab more than 10 rebounds each game while shutting down the best player the opposition had at the 3, 4 or 5 spot leading us to a national title. I can't recall if that was our first HD title (I think it was) or not, but Benjamin Coomer is the only "name" I can recall from all of my HD teams thru the years. Guy was the most complete player relative to level I ever had. Overall, the whole D3 challenge we set up in the Upstate Conference of Wooden was a blast. I kept my interest in HD long past the point where I had grown worn out by the game. If I ever get back into HD, I'm going straight there.
WIS: You recently assumed the reigns for the Toledo Defenders of the North Border in the Banks world. Are there any criteria you look for when selecting a new world and a new team to join?
taz21: I once had 4 Hardball Dynasty teams, but decided to cut back a bit right around the time my daughter was born a year ago. I wasn't sure how much free time I was going to have, and the two teams that were facing a rebuild I figured I could turn over to other owners who were more sure of their future. However, I found that sometimes I enjoy the buildup to success as much as the success itself. I had recently just completed the turnaround with my Cincy franchise in Wailing Onions and was interested to see if I could do it again. That franchise went from having little talent in the majors/minors to a playoff contender in 4 seasons and WS contender in 5 seasons.
WIS: After a 13-year run and three World Championships with Las Vegas Seven Out in the Ripken Jr. world, you called it quits. The franchise immediately fell apart and just two seasons later, you returned to the helm. Why the sabbatical? Any hard feelings toward the owners during the seasons you were gone?
taz21: As I mentioned above, I began to realize I enjoyed the rebuild as much as I enjoyed the championship runs. I had kept my eye on my old Salem franchise in Ripken Jr. since I left right before my daughter was born. They were on their 4th owner in 3 seasons when I noticed the world chat talking about looking for a replacement for the then current owner who never showed up. I site mailed him my interest in taking over the team and trying to get it set straight. I was now the 5th owner in 3 seasons, and things were in shambles, the coaches were beyond terrible, the major league team was full of aging vets w/ poor contracts, the recently drafted prospects weren't very good (despite the franchise drafting a couple of times in the top 5), the pitching staff was completely worn down, etc... I feel like the WIS gods threw us a huge bone when on the evening I showed up my IFA scout found arguably the best IFA I've seen in any world (at least his initial demands and initial skill set were as strong as any I remember). Despite having a low IFA scouting budget and less money to throw at an IFA than a couple of other owners, I managed to snag him for around $25 mil. We're continuing to struggle on the major league level this season, but I think next season I can start building up the back of my ML roster similar to what I did with my Cincy franchise targeting Type A/B free agents who's demands have dropped to round out the roster as my first prospects mature into major leaguers. Not sure if we can replicate the run we had the first time around with this franchise, but the pitcher certainly gives us a great head start.
WIS: You're enjoying a long run of success with the Monterrey Gringos in the Fingers world, where you've topped 100 wins nine seasons in a row and made six trips to the World Series. Will you be able to maintain the success despite a hefty payroll?
taz21: I'm not sure how long we can maintain it. I figure we've got another 5 seasons in us before we'll have to think about rebuilding. A lot of my star players should be willing to resign without testing the free agent market, which will help keep the budget intact. However, at some point the lack of prospects is going to catch up to us, as we keep striving for "1 more" WS title with that team. I think Dedelman does a great job running that world, and retention is pretty high, so when the rebuild comes, I'll look forward to the challenge of restacking the roster.
WIS: What is your strategy for allocating your budget?
taz21: It sounds obvious, but the budget is truly different for every team. I like to look ahead 3-4 seasons at a time. Perhaps I know next year won't be a big free agent year, so I may tie up bigger chunks of contracts in that year, so my payroll can be a little smaller in future seasons if I've got a team I know will be competitive in the FA market 3-4 seasons out. When rebuilding, I try to put as much money into IFA scouting as I can, but once the payroll starts building up, the IFA market gets too expensive for big name free agents, so I often trim that back first as the rebuild process goes thru. 20/20 high school/college scouting is great during the initial stages of a rebuild, but once things get rolling, I'll go to 20/0 or 0/20 w/ my draft day scouting. Going 10/10 is a waste of money. I also always look at my fielding coach when a world runs over. I don't try to overspend in coach salaries, but a good fielding coach is hard to replace.
WIS: How do you approach off-season events with players such as arbitration and free agency?
taz21: Generally speaking, if a guy is solid, I'll arbitrate him 2 seasons, then sign him long term for 5 seasons. However, there are exceptions. Sometimes a guy doesn't make it to the show until he's older, so going out that long with him brings you to the point where he's going to start to decline, so I may only arbitrate him 1 year (giving him his demands) then sign him to a 3 or 4 year deal after that. I like to look for guys that will be willing to resign without testing the market, so that I don't have huge holes in free agency. I'm also always on the lookout for a guy who gets overlooked. Sometimes that might be a guy that can only hit lefties to give some relief to my all-star who struggles a bit with lefties but mashes righties, or a reliever that slips thru the cracks because of type A status or initial demands. Oftentimes, late in free agency a guy's demands will fall well below their production level and you can sign them for multiple seasons at a steep discount to fill out the roster.
WIS: What is your basic strategy for setting your starting lineups and pitching rotation?
taz21: I'm a pitching whore. If I could have 5 future hall-of-famers at the expense of offense I would. I also love having 2 or 3 lockdown relievers so I can bring my starters out earlier. On the lineup side, I love defense, so most everyone has to meet the recs, if not exceed them for the position they're going to play. I may let a guy fall below that standard if he brings the bat, but more often than not I'll mover that guy to a position where he's a plus defender and find a plus defender with a lesser bat to play a key defensive position.
WIS: What do you believe are the most important individual player ratings for performance?
taz21: As part of the mentoring program, I get asked this question a lot. I don't think there is any "1" key individual rating. I think they all mix and match to form a ballplayer. You always need power, but the power is no good if you can't make contact or recognize a pitch. A wise man once told me to aim for 60+ across the boards for any hitter playing a key defensive position and 70+ for any player playing in the corner, and I still strive to achieve that, knowing that you need some guys whose job it is to get on base and other guys whose job it is to drive them in.
WIS: How do you approach in-season player events like the draft, international prospects and promotions/demotions?
taz21: I only do internationals when I'm rebuilding, as they get too expensive at any other point. With the draft, I let my formula builder set my initial board, then I'll come thru them 1 at a time for the top 50-100 players so that I can hopefully draft a guy that can fill a hole or two in the 2nd & 3rd rounds. I rarely demote any players of consequence at any point in their career. I typically promote at the end of the season. I like to get my draftees/IFAs their first season in low A, their first full season in High A, a year in AA, a year in AAA and 25 games in AAA before coming to the show for good. Obviously things get sped up a bit if I need them at the ML level and they can make the difference between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs, or a guy may get delayed in AAA for a couple of seasons if there is "no room at the inn" for the role I envision him filling. I've occasionally had a defensive SS in AAA for 4-5 seasons thinking that "next season" was going to be his year to fill my defensive jack of all trades on the bench role, only to find someone more adept at that role thru trade or the free agent market.
WIS: Do you have any favorite players from any of your HBD teams?
taz21: Craig Winston stands out the most for me, drafted him #3 as a "probably won't sign kid." It took me about 4 or 5 attempts before he'd finally agree to sign for roughly $11.5 mil signing bonus and he was as good a pitcher as I've ever had. Unfortunately, while we were routinely in the playoffs, we were never able to advance, much less win a World Series championship with that squad.
WIS: How much time do you spend on your Hardball Dynasty teams? How much do you think is necessary to be competitive?
taz21: In the early stages, when I first take over a team, I probably spend a good 30 min a day on the team trying to figure out who is who and how they got there. Once things are established, it's mostly just checking box scores and resting guys occasionally until the playoffs begin. Maybe 10-15 minutes a day depending on how much time you spend combing thru your minor leagues. I like to keep check of the world chat to see if any trade possibilities pop up. Sometimes it pays to be the early worm with an owner looking to move a player mid-season.
WIS: If you were to give one piece of advice to a new user, what would it be?
taz21: Pay attention to your budgets. Every person gets the same $185 mil to compete, so figuring out where you can give yourself advantages in that $185 mil is huge. Simple things like not giving a career AAAA guy a multi-million ML contract, to not overpaying for a guy on the back end of his deal, not blowing money in the draft on the 18th rounder asking for $5 mil to sign, picking up a solid free agent late in free agency when his demands have dropped, etc... There are a lot of ways to both not blow money and to cut corners. Take advantage of them. Aside from that, pay attention to defense. The cheapest way to field a competitive team is to ensure that each player is qualified defensively for their position. I've seen several playoff teams doomed by a SS making 40+ errors in a season.
WIS: What is your favorite aspect of Hardball Dynasty?
taz21: Trades. I love the back and forth, figuring out what each owner wants, etc... I talk way more trades than I ever accomplish, but I enjoy the give and take. I made 52 trades in my first 10 seasons w/ my Salem franchise; more than once Involving the same player. I'm always looking for a way to improve my team both near and long term.
WIS: Least favorite?
taz21: Fielding coaches. I don't mind the hiring process, but it seems like there should be a better way to develop fielding coaches, perhaps a minor league fielding coach, low minors (low-A, high–A, rookie ball), high minor league fielding coach (AA, AAA) and ML fielding coach so that you can take that fresh to the world, 50-rated fielding coach and put him to work as a fielding instructor, rather than giving him a AAA bench coach job for ‘the good of the world' so that somebody will develop some fielding coaches.
WIS: What is one feature you want to see implemented in a future update?
taz21: There have been a lot of ideas mentioned that I like. One that I saw recently that I liked was having the option of buying out a contract. Namely paying a guy what he is due "today" so that he can move on and play somewhere else without having to take a hit for future years. I've taken over a good number of teams mid-season as a replacement for guys that didn't show up or even intentionally sabotaged their team. Seems like the biggest obstacle they face is a bunch of bad deals.
WIS: Who are the users you respect and/or enjoy the most?
taz21: There are a ton, so I apologize to anyone I've forgotten. In HBD, the list is small; dedelman helped me out a bit when I took over my 1st team, as did the prior owner of that squad sigsoho who I knew from my HD days. Otherwise in HBD most of what I've learned is thru trial and error or on the forums. In Hoops Dynasty there are all of the great coaches from the Wooden D3 dynasty, MrPolo09, peacemaker, jjboogie, l_eustachy, wronoj, goodtymes, killbatman who owned my backside in my D3 wooden days and just beat me for a WS title in Wailing Onions, and I could go on, but unfortunately many of those names are from 5-8 real life years ago and I can't recall them all at the moment. D3 wooden was once a great, great time, hopefully it's remained so after my absence. I haven't paid as much attention as I could.
WIS: If you were in one of our games, what sport would you play, at what position, and what would you be rated?
taz21: Well considering I was a true 3 outcome hitter in baseball (strikeout, hit by pitch or walk) it would definitely have to be something on the football side. I was a pretty solid center in HS, but I think my strength was in my understanding of the game, so I think I'd be best as an offensive coordinator.
WIS: Thanks to taz21 for taking the time to share with WhatIfSports.com and the Hardball Dynasty community.