Tampa, FL - On a hot and muggy night, the S24 World Series champion Burlington Bison sqw their S25 postseason run come to an end. As the Tampa Bay Bandits celebrated in the field and advanced to the NL League Championship Series, the Bison watched in disappointment as their fans reflected on a solid season that saw them win 97 games and an improbably run to buy a first round bye into the playoffs. Ironically, it would be the team that they knocked out of the first round bye that send them packing into the playoffs.
This version of the Bison retained the core of players that won the World Series, with some notable changes in the offseason. First baseman Ivan Pescado, who stole over 100 bases in 3 seasons for the Bison and had some notable highlights in the World Series run, left as a free agent. To fill his spot in the lineup, starting pitcher Yovani Velazquez was traded away despite posting a career year for the Bison. The only Bison pitcher who won more games than Velazquez last season, Brooks Reames, was demoted to the bullpen after offseason surgery following an injury sustained just prior to the World Series. Closer Carlos Tavarez was traded away with pitching prospect Anthony Narveson early in the season in exchange for RJ Nunez.
In return for Velazquez, the Bison got 35yr old first baseman Andres Beltre. The starting rotation was rounded up through the signing of a pair of free agents: Joaquin Gil and Bob Willis. The Bison took a chance on Gil, who despite coming off a 5-17 and a 7+ ERA season, was inserted into Reames' spot in the rotation. Willis, on the other hand, signed with the Bison for the chance to start after appearing in 58 games last season for Las Vegas, all in relief. Rookie of the year candidate Tyrone Fasano, who made a big splash in last year's World Series, was inserted into the leadoff spot. Utilityman Rodrigo Vargas was placed in an expanded role and made the everyday third baseman while David Lee was shifted to right field.
The moves worked for the Bison, as Gil and Willis combined for 34 starts. Gil became a 17 game winner with a 2.60 ERA. 36 yr old veteran Bison OT Ferrara had a career season with a 19-9 record and a 3.16 ERA over 250 innings. RJ Nunez saved 36 games in 37 opportunities as a Bison. Beltre, Pete DeJean and Brian Ramirez had solid offensive seasons, and rookie Fasano swiped 79 bases for the new Bison single season record. Three Bison (David Lee, Brian Ramirez and Pete DeJean) got Gold gloves at their respective position, and DeJean was awarded with a silver slugger award. Vargas stole 43 bases and scored 81 runs.
The Bison won 8 of their last 10 games to match the record of the Tampa Bay Bandits and secure a first round bye in the playoffs by virtue of the two teams' head to head record during the regular season. Tampa Bay would not be deterred, quickly getting past the Richmond Riot to face the Bison. Tampa Bay won the series 3-1 to advance in the playoffs.
Burlington is left pondering on the makeup for next year's team, with several players leaving as free agents and some veterans raising questions about their health to be relied on for a whole season.