Bracket Challenge: Best PBL Franchise Ever
Posted September 19, 2012
This winter we’ll feature an 11-team bracket-style tournament of the top-seeded franchises since 1980 in the Powerline Baseball League.
Read the story below and see how I chose the Top 11 franchises in PBL history since 1980. From there, Facebook polls will decide each round. Each matchup will last three weeks with the championship culminating in February.
Let the debates begin.
The Leduc Milleteers made history by being the first Powerline Baseball League team to win four straight championships since 1987 when the new PBL Cup was introduced and retrofit a few years back after the original cup was swiped in 1989-90.
So let the debate begin. Best modern-day PBL dynasty? They have a little competition.
Pre-1987: Camrose and Armena
Prior to 1987, older players recall a powerhouse Camrose squad who won in 1983, and possibly prior to that as well. The Armena Royals were defeated by that Camrose team in three one-run ball games in 1983 before winning in 1984 over an upstart Ryley Rebels squad. It would be interesting but a flailing attempt by anyone to compare these teams and try to rank them.
But it might be fun to do.
Ryley Rebels (1988-1990, 1993, 1995-1997, 1999-2000)
Unfortunately, even those remaining from the Ryley Rebels in the late 80s into the 90s might not even remember how good they were compared to today’s teams. Some of us have heard the stories of Donny Oslund and Ray Lehman heating it up in their prime with a mix of others.
I caught the tail end of their amazing run of nine league championships in 13 years. The team caught fire in the playoffs for the final two before time took its toll.
Equally unknown was the level of competition. The Tofield Lakers were victorious in 1994. The only speed bump to the Rebels 5-titles-in-six-year stretch. They then were only tripped up by the Brewers in 2001 – the only blemish on another 5-titles-in-six-year run.
Armena Royals/Axemen (2002-2004)
A joining of two semi-final foes in the 2000 playoffs led to a new era in the Powerline Baseball League.
Striking at an opportune time as the Rebels finally began to lose players and the Brewers (35-and-over all-stars) were on the downhill side of a youth movement in the league. Bardo and Lamont couldn’t find ways to win the big games yet.
Some luck and crafty bench moves guided the Armena teams to regular season success, but playoffs were never easy. Similar to Leduc, they had their speed bumps come playoff time, including three straight championship losses after their three-peat.
Camrose Colts/Roadrunners (2004, 2007)
Probably the best team I ever saw in my PBL days was the 2005 Camrose Colts. In 2004, believe it or not, Camrose had two PBL teams, plus Armena had a team. Almost every player was from the county on all three teams during what seemed like a baseball boom.
All three combined for a 32-13 record in the regular season. So when the best of both the Colts and Roadrunners joined in 2005, it’s hard to describe several years later how good that team was. A dynasty it wasn’t, but seeing that 2005 team square off in some sort of simulation vs. previously mentioned.
But longevity and commitment are part of the equation. Guys got busy with work or moved away. A sure dynasty was ended and the team split off into variations of the Roadrunners long-term, and in 2005, a Sunburst team, the Camrose Cubs. I am almost sure if that team hadn’t fled, the Colts would have been able to win three in a row, if not more.
Leduc Milleteers (2009-2012)
Part of what has made Leduc so good is their management and ability to keep a pretty solid core of pitchers who can play other positions year-to-year. They have a good mix of young and old with a few new recruits every year.
Their pitching rivals the Colts of 2005. Their defense is maybe unmatched. Previous dynasties and Bardo in the mid-2000s had better overall offence, but this Leduc team knows how to get clutch hits late in games.
I even concede they likely would win a seven-game set with the best Armena Axemen lineup vs. their best lineup. This is saying a lot of them since I am obviously a little bias.
The Final Rankings
This is a bit of a guess on my part. Based on the fabled stories I ranked the Ryley Rebels of the late 80s as No. 1. but a 1a might be that 2005 squad in Camrose. They cruised that year and trampled everyone. As I said, if it not were for the split to the Sunburst, we may have them right up there with the Leducs, Armenas and Ryleys.
The Leduc Milleteers are right there, edging the offensive juggernaut in Armena. I then pegged some of the 1980s teams and the 2000 editions of Bardo and Ryley to round out the list. What are your thoughts? Who would you spot on as No. 1?
- Ryley (88-90)
- Camrose (05, 07)
- Leduc (09-12)
- Armena (02-04)
- Ryley (95-97)
- Armena (1984)
- Camrose (Early 1980s)
- Bardo (06, 08)
- Ryley (99-00)
- Holden (87, 92)
- Tofield (91, 94)