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Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down


Mocking Away January... PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 11 January 2014 00:00

This time of year gets to be big fun. I have indeed finished all my magazine pieces and player profiles for 2014, and though the cycle of weekly pieces is rapidly picking up, these days it is Mock Draft City. And, that usually means a league with a bunch of guys who have been my friends for years now.

Add in the Roto Tour 2014, which starts next week when my mate Lord Z and I defend our Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) Fantasy Baseball title (Z previews in The Return of Zen and Now) in Las Vegas. Then First Pitch rumbles through the Bay Area in February, and right after that is LABR in Phoenix. The wild ride culminates with Tout Wars in the Big Apple at the end of March. And, sure the drafting is fun, but just as wonderful is seeing my league mates: those same pals I am at present mocking with.

Earlier this week, Zach Steinhorn, who doubles as a Mastersballer when he is not driving the MLB.com Fantasy 411 Blog, kicked off their annual Mock Draft.

I really like mocks, partially because it gives me a sense of how my peers value players, but more because mocks are a time we are truly free to draft on the fringe. 

As we are almost through seven rounds of the Fantasy 411 Mock, I thought I would relate some of my thoughts, on top of what my league mates included, for the first cluster of picks:

#6: Jason Collette – Clayton Kershaw – As if taking Gomez 5th overall in our last draft wasn’t crazy enough, I’ll take Sandy Koufax Jr. I cannot remember a starting pitcher being taken this early since the days of Pedro Martinez. Kershaw is surely good, and pretty healthy so far, and if he sets the tone for strikeouts and WHIP for a team, as Jason seems to think he will, more than worth the high choice.

#15: Derek VanRiper – Ryan Braun – Can’t pass him up here. Braun hit .306/.396/.579 with 8 HR, 26 RBI in his first 32 games last season (40 HR pace) before a thumb injury surfaced in mid-May. I am attributing his pre-suspension power outage to playing through that injury rather than some post-PED issue. Contact trends even during that early-season stretch of production hint at potential decline in AVG. He can hit, for sure, and I think he will have something to prove. I agree with Derek: Can't pass him up here.

#28: Tim Heaney – Matt Kemp – Abundance of options for my next pick. Ample risk, yet the waning pay-off of top-flight bats justifies this gamble. A healthy Kemp should go 20-20, or at least 20-15. I dream of his stud upside, though. Success in fantasy is largely stilted to gambles paying off. If Kemp is healthy for 150 games, this is as good a gamble as it gets (though the truth is, this is so for all of our picks, mock or not).  

#35: Nando DiFinoAlbert Pujols – I’m chalking up his 2013 shortcomings to playing a full season with injury, after pushing too hard, too fast to get back for the early part. I do think Albert returns to some form, but somehow I don't think he will ever be what he was. I am guessing .280-25-85 which is fine, but, do I think he can outproduce Eric Hosmer (#67 to Ryan Carey) or Adrian Gonzalez (#76 to Derek Van Riper)? Not any longer.

 #62: Lawr Michaels – Ian Kinsler – New park, new season, new division, and Miggy hitting behind him (I am guessing). Dude is due to play full and healthy season. Just please deliver. I have really been having fun grabbing Jedd Gyorko around now in all the other mocks I have done so far, but this time Kinsler was still there. A major drop from last year, when Kinsler was a second round favorite, but I like the risk here.

   #70: Joe Sheehan – Billy Hamilton – I punted speed (and protected against downside) for four rounds, so while I probably can wait a little longer, the downside risk of doing so is high. I took Hamilton here in the October mock, and the Reds have done nothing to dissuade me from the idea that he’s going to play, and probably bat leadoff. If he plays, it’s 80 steals and 100 runs, even at a .300 OBP. If Hamilton can get on to the tune of the .300 OBP Joe suggests, he should indeed bring 15 SB points and be a boost to runs as well. I am not so sure he will get on base enough to justify a job. Either way, it will be interesting to see how the world values Hamilton going into the 2014 season.  

# 83: Todd Zola - Jose Dariel Abreu - Need some power and since I've been quite conservative so far and it's time to let what's left of my hair down and take a chance. Especially with the help of The Cell, Abreu's power should translate, so it comes down to contact and patience. There's some other intriguing options at this point but I'll refrain from dropping names. Such an interesting pick. As noted, not that far down from the likes of A-Gone and Hosmer, and this for a guy who has yet to see a Major League pitch. A bold pick by partner Todd, and the kind that makes for success.

 
It's HOF Argument Time PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 04 January 2014 00:00

In a few days, we will discover the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, amongst a more than illustrious group.

This is in a year following a year where no one was inducted. And, though I have my thoughts about PEDs, and their influence (I actually think the PEZ company should distribute a special set of big-headed "PEDs Dispensers" featuring Sammy Sosa and of course Barry Bonds) and impact on Hall admittance.

I truly feel Craig Biggio (3000 hits) and Tom Glavine (300 wins) and Frank Thomas (dominant hitter) and Mike Piazza (maybe the best hitting catcher who made his teams winners) all deserve to be inducted.

And, though I have no real issue with most of the abuse of PEDs, I don't see Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa or Rafael Palmeiro making it any more than Jack Morris, Curt Schilling or Mike Mussina (I am not trying to suggest this last troika altered their bodies, but their numbers are pretty similar in the grande relative scheme). But, these guys are all a lot like Al Oliver, and Steve Garvey and even Bill Buckner: they all had more than solid careers, and were even beyond steady, but they never really kicked it the extra level up (although I think there is a case that could be made for Morris, a fabulous money pitcher).

But, there are players--and I am not even thinking Gil Hodges--who I think really deserve more than a passing thought, now by the Veteran's Committee, pretty much.

So, here are those guys, and why.

Darrell Evans: His line does not look that great compared to today's producers, like Palmeiro and even Thomas, but a .248-414-1354 line with 1605 walks (.361 OBP) put Evans around the top 10 in RBI and walks around the time he retired. He did hit 40 homers in each league (Jim Thome, Adam Dunn and Mark McGwire did this as well) and when Evans retired, 400 homers was a barometer for HOF entrance, not the 500 of today. Evans was a leader on the '85 Tigers when he went .248-40-97 at age 38. Underrated, yes, but steady with big pop at the right time.

Dwight Evans: Fred Lynn and Jim Rice got the bulk of Boston outfield ink in the 70's, but Dewey was the most awesome to me. But this Evans produced a .272-384-1384 line, with 1697 walks (370 OBP), which makes most of his numbers better than his Darrell counterpart. Dwight also collected eight gold gloves, and had a serious gun (157 career assists). 

Jim Kaat: 283-237, 3.54 career mark over 4503.3 innings, with 16 gold gloves, including 12 in a row. Kaat won 20 games three times, and if Morris and Schilling and Moose get consideration, there is no reason Kaat is simply not in. Period.

Tommy John: 288-231, 3.34 over 4710 career innings, with three 20-game seasons, John was swapped to the Dodgers for another notable name, Dick Allen from the White Sox. He was en route to a 20-win year in 1974 (13-3, 2.59 over 153.3 IP) when he blew out his arm, and had the tendon replacement surgery we now commonly refer to with his name first of all. Thus, John sat out 1975, but came back to twirl for 13 more years after his arm was repaired. Again, a career line not unlike the others on this list.

Curt Flood: As stylish a centerfielder as we had in the 60's, and there were some really good ones, like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Duke Snider, Flood had 1831 hits at age 33, when he left the game. He did completely sit out 1970, as he tried to become a free agent challenging the reserve clause after being traded to the Phils, and then played only 33 more games in 1971 before hanging it up. But, he averaged 171 hits a year, and had he played to age 38 and averaged that same 171 from 1970 through 1979, Flood would have had 3028 hits, and that would have easily been good enough for Hall inclusion. And, well, he was blackballed for challenging the system in a fight where Flood eventually proved to be right, even if his personal battle fell short. All the free agents since who signed all the big contracts have Flood to thank for helping them earn the big payday. If that doesn't make him Hall worthy, no one is.

 
Talk About a Resolution... PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 28 December 2013 00:00

Over the course of the football season, I have lamented on a regular basis how it hurts to play seven points and leave 27 points on the bench on any given Sunday, at any given spot.

I also think that football seems to hurt more than baseball in that the volume of games makes it so that the impact of a lost performance gets lost in the stat shuffle.

Not to mention aside from head-to-head baseball leagues, a format eschewed by most fantasy baseball players, accordingly looks at stats as a whole rather than under a one-on-one microscope for most of us.

As an example, over the summer I had Raul Ibanez sitting on the bench May 22-26 of the 2013 season when he hit five homers and knocked in 12. But, well, I had to look it up.

However, I will likely remember I lost a shot at a championship in a football league because I sat Danny Woodhead (31 points) and played Darren Sproles (seven points) instead.

Which brings me to the conundrum of last Sunday's Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) game where Anthony Perri of Fantistics beat Todd and me for a title.

Now, I am not writing this to second guess Z at all: he made vitually all the moves for the team over the season, though we did discuss the free agent selections and roster setting week-to-week after drafting together in Chicago last summer.

Furthermore, three of our first four selections were Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew and Stevan Ridley, and we still ran up ten wins, the best record, and made it as far as the championship game, which is no small success.

During the final game, we had the option to play Matt Ryan against the Niners defense, and opted to go with Ryan Fitzpatrick with an easier path, and in the end Ryan netted nine more points.

Similarly, we sat Steven Jackson and played Ray Rice (my impulse), although in thinking about RB's, and touches, we probably should have sat Torrey Smith. Along with that, Smith's QB was ailing, so the chances of the ball getting to him often were slim. That difference would have been worth another 12 points.

On the other side of the fence, Anthony picked up the Browns defense, and played them, sitting the Panthers squad that helped get him to the finals in lieu of the Clevelanders who were facing the offensively erratic Jets.

Had Anthony stuck with the Carolina D, that too would have been worth 14 points as the team ran roughshod over Drew Brees.

Not that it would have mattered over the long haul: Anthony still would have beaten us with or without those moves, but, we would have maxed out our point totals for the game (and I guess maybe I would have felt better?).

I do think it is easier, though, or at least seems more rational to sit a wide receiver when the weather is very cold and windy, or to sit a given skills player against a lineup that is particularly harsh on those skills, but just as I would have a hard time sitting Cam Newton, so should we have a hard time sitting Matt Ryan, or the Panthers defensive unit.

Still, I have done most of the above with much more thought than not sitting just about any fantasy baseball player not named Joe Saunders pitching in Texas.

But, on this eve of yet another year in my arc of a life, I want to reinforce a promise I made with myself early on in my fantasy sports life: second guessing.

For, what I decided was that I could not second guess moves I made in life, like relationships and jobs and the kind of car I bought, but, I could do it all I wanted in the fantasy world.

I think I am going to give up on that one, too.

 

 

 
Musings on an Almost Winter's Eve PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 21 December 2013 00:00

Our modem died on Monday of this week, so I have largely been connecting with the world via my iPhone.

I had not really checked any signings, and though I was watching the news (ok, can well all please agree that Santa Claus has no race: or that is, he is whatever race the individual wants him to be, ok?), but for the most part it was almost like being at music camp. No internet almost feels like no connection with the universe sometimes, I am sorry to report.

It has been busy around here, though, as with Diane off in Chicago visiting her mom for the holidays, I get to watch our zoo (four cats, three dogs) and work and I guess get ready for the holidays. That means baking and cooking, which I like. 

It also means things sort of slow down in some ways. And, people seem to be in a generally happier space. 

Over the last couple of days, I have been watching variations on Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," as one pastime (I got my MA in English with a focus on those Victorians).

I really love the 1951 Allister Sim version, and the 1935 Reginald Owen, too. Earlier, I was watching Patrick Stewart taking a stab, but before that I was busy watching the eighth inning of Ken Burns' wonderful "Baseball" series, the installment that covers the 60's, which was when I first fell in love with baseball.

For, though I was aware of baseball, and even baseball cards in 1959, it was in '60 that I started to buy cards, and that was the year I sat on the couch and watched the first full game of my then seven-year old life, start to finish. It happened to be the last game of the 1960 World Series.

And, as I watched the Yankees dominate, and Maury Wills and the Dodgers change the game, I was sifting through draft picks for my Summer Legends of Cooperstown Strat-O-Matic league, while working trades in the MidWest Strat League.

There is so much to playing in a really deep league, especially with well defined rules, which is what both those Strat leagues push for.

For, as I wrote to my league mates, there is something magical in Steve Reed being drafted in between Lefty O'Doul and Jack Morris, is there not?

As I watched one of my heroes, Curt Flood, make his plea to then Commissioner Bowie Kuhn on why he should be a free agent, I tried to figure out how to land Albert Pujols in the MidWest League without giving up too much, but without being unreasonable. No Robinson Cano type deals for my teams, I hope.

Then on came MLB Tonight, and the Grant Balfour upset, which is obviously close to home. For, wherever Balfour plays next year, it won't be Oakland. On the other hand, the Giants signed Mike Morse, the Rangers lured Kensuke Tanaka out of Japan, while Japan lured Kevin Youkilis out of the United States.

Tomorrow I have a couple of parties to crash--one with brownies I will make in the morning, and I will try to figure out those Pujols angles, along with do I now need one more defensive catcher in my HOF/1998 league, or another right-handed relief guy? Or just some speed, or a solid bench bat like Bubba Trammel or John VanderWal. For in SLOC, I did wait too long on Jim Leyritz, who could have been both a solid bat and a third catcher.

Leyritz was drafted right between Lloyd Waner and Chuck Knoblauch.

Like I said: magical. Just like this time of year can be.

 

 
The Top 250 List: Digging Deeper PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 14 December 2013 00:00

Last Monday, we released the Top 10 from the 2014 Top 250 Prospect List, always good fun, and much anticipated.

Well, last year I made some changes, both in including a comment on the spreadsheet for each player, but I also listed some names from the Top 250 that jumped out at me.

So, for fun, let's look at some of those names (if you buy the list, you will see them highlighted in blue) and why.

Henry Owens (21, P, Red Sox): Boston's first-rounder in 2011, Owens was signed out of high school, and so far has more than justified that selection. A 6'6", 205 pound southpaw, Owens has 299 minor league whiffs over 236.6 innings, with just 184 hits allowed. Owens does give up the walks (115), but he finished 2013 at Portland, going 3-1, 1.78 over 30.3 innings, with 46 punchouts. Should start 2014 at Double-A, but is one of those guys who could jump fast.

Andrew Edwards (22, P, Royals): Edwards is one of those kinds of guys I like because they seem to like to go to work. A 19th round selection by Kansas City last year, Edwards started at rookie ball (1-1, 1.56 over 17.3 IP) and then moved to High-A Wilmington to close out the year with six more innings (1-0, 0.00). With 17 strikeouts over those 21.3 innings, Edwards also allowed 13 walks and hits each, so the walks are high, but hits low (no homers BTW). He is big (6'5", 260 pounds), so if he harnesses the walks a little, could be one of those dominant guys.

Rob Refsnyder (23, 2B, Yankees): A fifth-round pick by the Yanks in 2012, Refsnyder could well be the heir apparent to the departed Robinson Cano in a year or so. Refsnyder hit .283-6-51 at Tampa last year with 16 steals over 413 at-bats. But, what is really striking are the 78 walks to 70 strikeouts (100 to 107 as a pro) and .408 OBP he bagged at High-A. Has 15-homer potential as his career unfolds.

Victor Payano (21, P, Rangers): He is young (will not turn 22 till the end of next season), and can be wild (170 walks over 290.3 innings) but also has 288 strikeouts over that span. At 6'5", but just 185 pounds, Payano could gain a little more weight and power, so it is the control he needs. As I say, probably too much, there is a fine line between being Daniel Cabrera and Randy Johnson. And, though it may be fine, it ain't so easy to cross. Still, having just completed High-A, that certainly merits our eye going into 2014.

Gonzalo Sanudo (22, P, Astros): A Mexican League import, Sanudo is another big guy (6'3", 235 pounds), who wove his way up from rookie ball to Class-A and then to Double-A, finishing with a 1-2, 1.15 mark with 19 saves over 38.6 innings. Sanudo struck out 51 while allowing just 20 hits and only four walks (0.621 WHIP, and almost a 13:1 K:BB ratio). Do you need to know more?

Shae Simmons (23, P, Braves): Went 1-1, 1.49 at Rome over 53.3 innings, with 24 saves and 82 strikeouts. Simmons walked 22, allowing 31 hits (0.969 WHIP), but no homers. In fact, over his 78 minor league innings as a pro, Simmons has yet to allow a big fly. He finished 2013 at Double-A Mississippi, going 0-0, 2.45 over 11 innings with 16 more punchouts. 

Wilmer Font (23, P, Rangers): Went 2-2, 1.04 with 14 saves over 52 innings last year, split between Frisco (Double-A) and Round Rock (Triple-A). Font whiffed 72, and allowed only 22 hits, though 34 walks (1.077 WHIP). The Rangers do move their pitchers up quickly if they show dominance, and Font surely shows that with 466 strikeouts over 387.3 minor league innings.

Matt Stites (23, P, Padres): Drafted in the 17th round in 2011, Stites has 150 strikeouts over 135.3 innings in the Minors, with just 76 hits allowed to 19 walks (0.702 WHIP). He was 2-2, 2.08 at San Antonio last year over 51 innings with 14 saves and 52 whiffs. Stites is only 5'11" and 170 pounds, but he could be one of those Tim Hudson slight build guys who is deadly. 

Again, the whole list will be available this coming Monday as part of our Platinum Package.

 

 
Cats Living With Dogs...Hot Stove Madness PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 07 December 2013 00:00

I have to say for the most part the free agent moves this Hot Stove so far are beyond puzzling to me.

And, I hate to write the previous sentence, sounding like a cranky old man, I suppose.

But, it seems there is such a trend in baseball to advance younger players, and push them into the lineup, that it is hard for me to understand exactly where that balances with signings like that of Curtis Granderson and Nate McLouth and, dare I say it, Robinson Cano.

Mind you, I do understand, for example, that among Mike Zunino, Kyle Seager, Justin Smoak, Nick Franklin, and even the disappointing Dustin Ackley, that allows for a lot of money in the starting lineup that Seattle can extend. For, the aforementioned are all pretty inexpensive players.

But, as a path forward goes, I don't see Cano's presence alone making the difference.

Just not that big a difference at this point.

For grins, let's take a look at the Mariners as they now stand:

C: Mike Zunino - Goes into his first full season, and now we will see what he can do.

1B: Justin Smoak - No question he has pop: many questions if he has anything else?

2B: Robinson Cano - Rhetorical

3B: Kyle Seager - Just fine for now, with a .270-18-75 baseline as a Major Leaguer. Not sure if he gets better, but don't think he will get worse.

SS: Brad Miller/Nick Franklin - Both with strong minor league credentials, and credible debuts last year. I would give the shortstop defensive edge to Miller, but I think Franklin will have a more potent bat. But, for now I see Miller at short, and Franklin moving to the outfield.

OF: ?

Thus comes the abyss.

Certainly, we can pencil Franklin into one of the outfield slots, but like most of his team mates, first full year, and who knows what expectations with Cano now on board.

Then what? Raul Ibanez (if he re-signs). Dustin Ackley. Franklin Gutierrez. Michael Saunders

I like Ibanez the best of the corps, but I don't expect him to repeat his somewhat awesome and unexpected .249-29-65 season of last at age 41 on Opening Day. The rest have some promise, but the truth is, a really good team could contend with one among Franklin, Ibanez, Ackley, Gutierrez and Saunders, but not with two, let alone three of them.

What I think the team really needs is two outfielders with .280-25-90 potential, or better. 

Now, maybe the addition of Cano as productive hitter mitigates part of the need for a serious hitting outfielder, but what really seems like a better path is to simply eat another year, see which of their young crew can rise up, and then add a couple of vet players where needed.

Note, this also gives Taijuan Walker a chance to get a full season under his belt, for that would give a very respectable Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Walker atop a promising rotation.

In writing the above, I don't mean to be picking on the Mariners, mind you. 

And, I do understand a team's need to keep their fan base both engaged, and coming to the yard.

But, I also think running the path of the Rays, or Nationals, Cardinals, and even the Athletics by trying to draft or trade for a young core of parts built around some really strong young arms.

In other words, I am not sure if the Royals did indeed do the right thing by trading Wil Myers for James Shields, not so much that I dislike Shields, but more to the point that the team was probably a year or two away anyway.

Baseball is such a funny game, as we all know.

And, teams can surprise out of nowhere: they do every year.

I mean, who thought Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Oakland would be as tough in 2013 as they were? Or that the Royals would have such an upsurge? Or, more to the point, how many experts had the Red Sox written off before the first pitch was tossed?

I also know that most of us make better GM's than the guys actually doing the job.

But, if you have a plan to rebuild around youth and the draft, you have to know that it is a 4-5 year process. And, though we have to always be flexible, we have to stay the course.

And not panic.   

 
Hot Stove Holidays PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 30 November 2013 09:03

With the holidays now upon us, hot stoves cooking up delicious meals as well as tasty deals in our leagues and in the Show are big fun for fantasy owners.

Clearly, wondering the impact of the Ian Kinsler/Prince Fielder swap, is a big one. I personally love it, for I froze Nick Castellanos in the Experts Fantasy League, and at least going into the spring, that looks like an at least optimistic move.

Well, in my great MidWest Strat-O-Matic League, a 30-team keeper format where we can freeze 29 players year-to-year, the hot stove has been really jumping with swaps.

Since I have been rebuilding, I was able to make a few trades that will hopefully put me back into contention as early as 2014, and with a little luck, make me a serious force for a few years once 2015 rolls around (after which I guess it will become rebuild time again).

And, since the 2013 season—though remember, Strat-O-Matic is a simulation league, so we play out the stats from the previous season—is done, in addition to making the trades that will make each team stronger, we are also looking at the upcoming draft.

For because the MidWest League is a sim, the rookies from last year—like Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez and Wil Myers—will be up for grabs.

And that means a lot of jockeying and swapping as dump trades can occur at any time in this type of format. That is because rebuilding can start at any moment; that is, as soon as the owner of a team decides the path of his squad is going nowhere.

Well, my two-plus year ordeal seems like it is nearly done.

Over the past seasons, I swapped Ubaldo Jimenez, Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Zimmerman, Mark Ellis and Shane Victorino, among others, in my attempt to regain respectability.

In exchange, I wound up with Bud Norris, Domonic Brown, Carl Crawford, Derek Norris, Aaron Crow and Jose Tabata.

Now, that might not sound like much, but in this league, which is both extremely deep and with strict usage rules, I now have a strong everyday outfield with Tabata, Brown and Crawford.

My real needs going into next year entail getting one good starting arm, and knowing that I needed both second and third sackers to flesh out a solid starting nine.

Well, one of the advantages of having a terrible team in 2012 was that I netted the #2 draft pick, and that meant Matt Harvey, whom I love and figured I could have as the core or my pitching corps for years.

True, he has had surgery, but, I do still get his 2013 numbers: it is the 2014 season that would be a void.

Well, when I got an offer from Jed Latkin to send me Zack Greinke along with Pablo Sandoval in exchange for Harvey (there were other players involved to make sure the swap was even), I had to jump on it.

For, though it is tough to let go of a talent like Harvey, Greinke likely has 4-5 solid seasons ahead as he is in his prime. Furthermore, as good as Harvey has been, Greinke’s resume is longer.

As for Pablo, he gives me a solid everyday bod at the hot corner, and one who is just going into his prime (think years, there, not beef, although the Panda’s weight is a concern to me).

As part of the Harvey deal, I was also able to grab a second first-round selection as well, so that means with Jedd Gyorko, Nick Franklin and Anthony Rendon all on the rookie parade for 2014, things start to look good.

Then, with so many great young arms out there, filling the final pitching slot and even getting arm strength to help keep my team going for a few years is more than plausible.

I actually did make a second trade with defending 2013 champ and league commissioner Al Koman, sending him Jonathan Lucroy, Erik Bedard and a #4 pick next year for Ervin Santana, George Kottaras and his #4 pick in 2014.

Since I have Derek Norris (whom I received last year from Al along with the same Bedard guy in a swap that sent Ellis to the would-be champs), whom I like a lot and think will step it up as the full-time Oakland catcher next year, augmenting his usage with that of the left-handed Kottaras (platooning is essential in Strat), along with the defensively strong Chris Stewart gave me the freedom to swap the potent Lucroy.

In exchange, I have catcher covered, and now have a strong fourth starter in Santana, to go along with Greinke and rotation incumbents Norris (the Bud, this time) and Kevin Correia.

Now, if you play straight 5x5 fantasy ball, you might scoff at having names like Stewart and Bedard and Kottaras on squads, let alone the thought of them as useful pieces on a team.

But, in such a deep format, where a player can be used the same as the previous season plus 20% (so if a hitter was up 200 times in 2013, he gets 240 at-bats in 2014), these players are essential.

And, because the penalty for over-using a player from the previous year results in reducing the number of freezes going into the coming season, having depth on your bench and minors is similarly critical.

One of the things I often hear fantasy players say is what they are looking for in fantasy is realism, duplicating the game on the field to our imaginary leagues.

Well, let me tell you that when Eduardo Escobar is a pivotal utility keeper on a squad, you are a lot closer to hitting that realism we all crave.

So, though I am not sure my machinations will work out over the long haul, I have had fun making them. For, I do so enjoy the rebuilding process.

Furthermore, if you are a real lover of not just baseball, but games, I urge you to try different formats and deeper and more challenging configurations.

It is how we keep moving forward, after all.

 
The Times Were a Changin' PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 23 November 2013 00:00

I am not particularly nostalgic.

Not that I don't have a memory or feelings about the past. In fact, I remember pretty much everything about my life since I was around two. But, I don't really like to dwell on the past, and I was already weary of the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination weeks before yesterday.

I do recall, vividly, that I was in Mr. Singer's third period Algebra class. Mr. Singer, and Miss Kramer, who taught French at Sam Brannan Jr. High, were an item.

Several times a week, Mr. Singer would give us some problems and excuse himself to the office when in reality he was meeting Miss Kramer in the Teacher's Lounge for a smoke.

On November 22, 1963, the seven minute cigarette was cut short, and Mr. Singer returned to class and informed us the president had been killed.

Though I was not that interested in politics then, I certainly knew a lot about the president. My mother had campaigned for him, and was another one of those mothers of the 60's who wanted to wear what Jackie wore, and do what Jackie did.

In those days, though, it was movies, books, baseball, and music that really had my passion: something that has not really changed since, though I have added a few things.

Still, I was more than aware of the Civil Rights Movement, and the Free Speech Movement, and the other social stirrings that had begun to grab our attention.

So, though America sort of portends our innocence was lost the day the president died, the seeds were already sown.

As I was working through the day yesterday, one of the local radio stations--KFOG--did their "10-@-10" feature, where at 10 AM they play ten songs from a particular year.

Well, on the Kennedy anniversary, of course the year was indeed 1963, and, as I listened--and I could still remember virtually all the words--it did indeed surprise me just how much the music of the time was indeed a harbinger.

In fact, and without trying to be nostalgic, here they are, in order, with a little commentary.

  • Blowin' in the Wind (Bob Dylan)--A fitting opener, with a tune by the most influential song-writer and poet of our time.
  • Surfer Girl (Beach Boys)--The California surf band hit their peak with this cut from the album of the same name. But, as the times were changing, so was the music, and soon the Beach Boys would no longer be the dominant pop band.
  • Busted (Ray Charles)--Along with James Brown, Charles was at the forefront of cross-over in '63, just ahead of Motown (keep reading).
  • He's So Fine (Chiffons)--A total major #1 hit, and, in the odd way this list is inter-related, remember that George Harrison mimicked it with "My Sweet Lord."
  • I Want to Hold Your Hand (Beatles)--The fab four ushered Brit Pop into America, and as much so as Dylan, nothing else would ever be the same.
  • Wipe Out (Surfaris): Iconic surf song with iconic drum solo.
  • Fingertips, Part II (Little Stevie Wonder)--He was just 13 when this song--his first breakthrough--hit the radio waves. Hence, he really was still "Little" Stevie Wonder. And, Stevie's second album was called "A Tribute to Uncle Ray." As in Charles.
  • Stoned (Rollingstones)--They seemed so different from the Beatles, and yet this instrumental was the B-side to the Stones first single, "I Wanna Be Your Man."
  • Up on the Roof (The Drifters)--A great song from a great group, and penned by Gerry Goffin, and his wife and partner of the time, Carole King. They were writing out of the Brill Building, with Lieber and Stoller and Neil Sedaka and the whole bunch.
  • Puff the Magic Dragon (Peter, Paul, and Mary)--Fitting finale, penned by the same Bob Dylan who led off the set. Wonder if the times were changing? Well, ever say the title of the tune to yourself as "Puff, the magic drag, in"? 

Like I said, change was upon us, everywhere.

And, while I think it is a specious to ask how different the world would be had Kennedy--in fact either of the brothers--lived, just like it is silly to wonder what Hendrix or Buddy Holly or Ernie Davis or any icon who left us too early not done so.

For me, it is better to appreciate the gifts they gave us while they were alive.

 
The Funnest Draft Yet... PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 16 November 2013 00:00

My pal Dean Peterson asked me if I was interested in being in the Summer Legends of Cooperstown (SLOC) league, a Strat-O-Matic Hall of Fame league which has 30 teams scattered across our lovely country.

Now, I have played in STATS Diamond Legends Leagues over the years (with Dean), so I got sort of used to Dutch Leonard and Charlie Root and Hughie Jennings being on my squad, but the SLOC League has a fun basic parameter that mixes the past with another year.

The basic premise is every three years there is a throw back snake draft where the 30 teams each get to draft from Hall of Famers for whom Strat has produced cards.

After we have a core of ten HOF players, there is an open draft that includes additional Hall of Famers, borderline Hall of Famers (like Al Oliver and Jim Kaat) and the players of a selected year.

For this year, 1998 is the year, but, before the entire league could move into the open 1998 draft, there was a redistribution draft.

For the redistribution, all the players from the two teams with new owners (so, one of those teams was mine, previously known as the Minneapolis Millers), plus all the players from two other teams who decided to cash in and draft over first went into a common pool.

The remaining 26 teams in the league each froze ten players, and the unfrozen went into that same common pool, and then the four redraft teams had a snake draft to bring us up to ten players each.

And then, League Commissioner Larry Denicola took the remaining non-selected players and merged them with the Strat pool from 1998 and the draft at large began.

Since it is a slow e-mail draft, and since there were around 400 players to be picked, things started right around the first of November.

If you don't know Hal Richman's wonderful concoction, Strat-O-Matic accounts for such baseball minutae as holding runners, defensive skill, and then range, base running skills separate from out-and-out speed, ball park factors and a lot of other nuances that make the game pretty much irresistable.

As I write, I just made my 15th pick for the Radicals, Boston reliever Dick Radatz, a big strikeout right-handed complement to my lefty in the pen, Lazaro Salazar.

Truth is, I really only have one close to modern player, along with two who played in the 70's, and Radatz, who was at Fenway in the 60's, with the balance being the Hall, or near Hall of Famers.

We do get through around ten picks a day with the draft the way it is going, which means I get a selection every three days.

Which also means after each selection I make, I have to plan what I think, and then hope, will be out there in 72 hours for me to fill out my roster.

Sometimes it works pretty well, as in I got Mike Tiernan and Deacon White. But, sometimes, as in any draft, not so well, as I missed out on John Wetteland and Billy Wagner.

The basic plan I am looking at is building around strong pitching, speed, on-base totals and defense, but it is really fun looking at players I did not know as well prior to joining the league.

So, here are my picks so far, with a little narrative.

  • Ray Schalk (C): HOF backstop with a career .253-11-594 line to go with 169 steals, a .340 OBP and stellar defense.
  • Deacon White (C): Another HOF'er, White played 20 years and put together a .312-24-988 line, with 70 documented steals (1890 was his final season). White is a left-handed platoon counter to Schalk, whose defense is as solid.
  • Buck O'Neil (1B): The star of Ken Burns baseball, an affable and astute student of the game who played with the Monarchs and played defense, had speed, power, everything.
  • Bid McPhee (2B): McPhee played 18 seasons, ending in 1899, hitting .272-53-1072 and again, giving me great defense at second.
  • Bill Dahlen (3B): Dahlen actually patrolled the hot corner up until 1911, and walked 1,064 times to 759 whiffs, and played more great defense.
  • Pop Lloyd (SS): Lloyd logged 25 seasons in the Negro Leagues, with a .337 average and .383 on-base percentage.
  • Barry Bonds (LF): I get his 1998 numbers, which means a 1.047 OBP and great defense in left field.
  • Mike Tiernan (CF): Played 13 seasons with the New York Giants, ending in 1899, with a .311-106-852 line, along with 428 steals and a .392 OBP. Remember, those 106 dingers were during the dead ball era.
  • Bobby Bonds (RF): Fun having father and son in the same outfield. Bobby has pop like his son, and a serious gun in right.
  • Ed Walsh (SP):  Career 192-126, 1.82 mark over 2964.3 innings.
  • Tim Keefe (SP): 342-225, 2.63 record over 5049.7 innings. He actually tossed 619 innings in 1883 (five years before my grandfather was born).
  • Mickey Lolich (SP): The Tigers' premiere lefty from the 60's and 70's, Lolich was 217-191, 3.44 over 3638.3 innings.
  • Carl Mays (SP): 208-126, 2.94 mark over 3021 innings with a 1.207 WHIP.
  • Lazaro Salazar (RP): Pitched and hit in Cuba, and then the Mexican and Negro Leagues. 
  • Dick Radatz (RP): 122 saves over seven seasons, with 745 strikeouts over 649.7 innings.

The game has actually tailored the stats for my non-1998 players into a mean of solid seasons, but the fun is not just in learning and drafting guys like White and McPhee.

In Strat, as in baseball, set-up and utility players are paramount, so names like Ricardo Rincon, Vic Darensbourg and Graeme Lloyd are gracing rosters along with Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby.

How much fun is that?

 
Planet Florida PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 09 November 2013 00:00

Our bud, artist Deborah Gorman, just got back from what she calls "Planet Florida."

Deborah grew up in the state that is sticky hot in the summer, and fled to the somewhat more temperate bay area some time back.

Now, I know there are those who think those of us in California--particularly the San Francisco Bay Area--live in looney land. Before Diane moved out here, her family referred to this as "the land of fruits and nuts."

Now, like anyone, I love home, and home is what is normal to me. And, I suspect the same is true for residents of the Sunshine State. Furthermore, it is not like weird stuff does not happen out here.

But, somehow, among Trayvon Martin, Rick Scott, weird voting laws and now the explosion of the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin crap, I do wonder whether the state that actually has the oldest settlement in the country (that would be St. Augustine, founded in 1565) seems to be happier living in the time of stocks and pillories, rather than the real world in which the rest of us have tried to evolve.

Between the information now coming to light about the latest questionable "Stand Your Ground" case--that would be that of Jordan Davis--and the light shed on Incognito's incredible racist diatribe, which was caught on Jonathan Martin's answering machine, I wonder just how Floridians define the sunshine in state?

Davis, who with his buds got into a dispute with a fellow traveller at a gas station, was shot to death sitting in the passenger seat of an SUV after the gunman decided Davis and company were playing their music too loud. So, Michael Dunn unloaded ten rounds from his nine milimeter gun into the SUV, killing the 17-year-old Davis.

Though no weapon of any kind (per the Davis family attorney) was found in the SUV, and oddly, Dunn's legal representative, Robin Lemonidis, told reporters her client "acted as any responsible firearm owner would have."

Which does not seem that far from the vicious message that Incognito left for Martin.

But, the other analogy here is that the inhabitants of the state largely seem as passively accepting of "Stand Your Ground" as do the Dolphins, and perhaps the entire NFL with respect to the "Incognito Affair" (is it not ironic that the guy's surname proves to be the opposite of his actual behavior?).

Now, I recognize that sports seems to have odd hazing rules. There are these unwritten rites of passage that seem to be accepted and denied at the same time. Hazing, like headhunting in baseball, or the Mafia, or honor killings in some countries, reflect the darkest side of our nature, cloaked in some delusionary rationalization that justifies said deviant behavior.

And, while I am sure the behavior that occurs in the Dolphins locker room is not unique to that franchise, let alone sport, I do have a bit of hope that like hazing rituals on college campuses, the scandal starts to quell this horrible behavior.

But, to start, I believe that Joe Philbin, the Dolphins coach, needs to be terminated immediately.

There are rumors that Philbin and his staff encouraged the hazing activities, and though that would not surprise me, that is not really the point, any more than the racist name of Rick Perry's family hunting lodge is suddenly acceptable because the name was painted over a decade ago.

That name was NEVER ok, any more than hazing was ever ok.  Or stand your ground murders.

When the story first broke, earlier this week, we saw Philbin speaking, talking about the "safe environment" he wanted for his players, just like he wanted a like aura for his kid's school.

Diane said Philbin sounded reasonable, but all I could say was "bullshit."

Di asked me why, and I said, "He is the coach. He better know everything that is going on with his team, in his clubhouse, and largely among his players. At least about something like this. So, if he knew about it, shame on him, and if he did not know, well, shame on him as well."

When I was just out of college, back in the mid-70's, my high school friend Morrison England was a big and fast enough defensive football player to be drafted by the Jets, out of the University of the Pacific.

Morrison signed, and went to camp, quitting after about a month because of the horrible racist (England is African American) tenor of camp, something as a Northern Californian, he was just not used to in that degree.

So, instead of the NFL, England went to law school and low and behold, he is now the Chief Judge of the Federal Court District of Eastern California.

I think one thing we might think here is that Morrison made the right choice.

But more important, we should think of how good Jonathan Martin might be with encouragement instead of ridicule. Or, what kinds of lives Trayvon Martin or Jordan might have led had they not been the victim of said prejudice. They never even had a chance, let alone a choice.

 

 
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