Mastersball

Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down


B-Leaguered PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 22 June 2013 00:00

As I noted last week, Todd and I were in Chicago attending the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) Summer Conference, during which we drafted a football team for one of the organization's experts leagues.

New to the FSTA competition in football (we have been doing baseball for years), and due to the popularity, we were placed in the "B" league, as opposed to the highly featured "A" league, which had its draft broadcast on Sirius/XM.

The deal with the league set-up is that the winner of the B advances to the A the following year, and whoever finishes last in A is redacted to the B skirmish.

So, there is certainly incentive to win B, and not lose A.

But, if Todd and I were new to the FSTA draft, we are certainly not new to Fantasy Football, by any means. I have played in four leagues the past five years, all of which Todd also plays (and he plays in more than I), and have played the game going back to my days with John Benson in 1996, when I finished third out of 620 teams in a Compuserve League (thanks to Barry Sanders, Napoleon Kaufman and Brad Johnson).

However, though Mastersball has had football coverage over the years--as did CREATiVESPORTS--we decided we wanted to kick our presence up a bit so there is really something to follow between baseball and football all year, every year.

So, though Marc Meltzer has always done a great job setting weekly rankings for over 15 years, with Greg Morgan documenting NFFC strategies, Ryan Carey writing as much about football as baseball, along with Perry Van Hook, and then Todd and me, we have some pretty good stuff out there.

So, to the point: the draft? 

Well, we picked fifth, and here are our selections in the 14-team, PPR league with 16 roster slots (making it as deep a competition as I have ever played in).

  1. 1. Ray Rice (RB): A pretty pedestrian selection at this juncture, Rice can run and catch and is still mostly in the prime of his career.
  2. 2. Maurice Jones-Drew (RB): A bit of a gamble based upon last year, and trying to return to form, but Jones-Drew is a tough guy, and like Rice he can run and catch. A little bit of a gamble, but we were pretty sure QB would run late and deep, so a focus on running back first and wide receiver second was how we went.
  3. 3. Jordy Nelson (WR): Pretty hard to go wrong with that Aaron Rodgers guy throwing to you.
  4. 4. Stevan Ridley: Maybe a little controversial, but we both like how Bill Belichick uses his personnel, and we think Ridley will get increased opportunities in the coming season.
  5. 5. Torrey Smith (WR): Smith has height and speed and hands and heart, and is one of those guys that can put up a three TD, 200-yard game once a season to boot. And, he still has some upside.
  6. 6. Matt Ryan (QB): Not bad to grab Matty Ice--my favorite player in the NFL--in the sixth round. He may be sort of quiet and businesslike in the way he does things, but he does them all well. Best of all, as his nickname suggests, he never panics.
  7. 7. Vernon Davis (TE): Davis did not "connect" as well with Colin Kaepernick as did Michael Crabtree, but with Crabtree injured at least to start the season, going into a new season as the signal caller for Kaepernick, we look for the tight end to pick it up.
  8. 8. Emmanuel Sanders (WR): With Mike Wallace departed, Sanders has a good chance to be the #1 guy on the team. He already has a starting gig.
  9. 9. Sidney Rice (WR): Torrey Smith light, Rice does get injured, but he can be as explosive as Smith. And, if Sidney fails, Lord Z can blame me.
  10. 10. Seahawks Defense (Def): I like to get a good defense, and generally ahead of the rest of the league, and I really like the Seahawks "D." In fact, I like their whole team and coach.
  11. 11. Darrius Heyward-Bey (WR): Sort of a forgotten man on sort of a forgotten team, but as a fill-in wideout, Heyward-Bey might prove to be a real sleeper.
  12. 12. LaMichael James (RB): With Frank Gore getting longer in the tooth, James, in his second year, might well step into the starter role and give us a chunk of points on a team with a very good offense. 
  13. 13. Joe Flacco (QB): Huh? The highest paid guy in the league is a 13th round back-up on our team? What is the world coming to?
  14. 14. Nate Burleson (WR): Wily vet, still has some juice.
  15. 15. Denard Robinson (RB): We selected Robinson as a tether to Jones-Drew, but it is unclear whether Robinson will indeed play in the backfield or on the line. This makes him potentially the first flex guy to play the flex spot. And if he fails. I can blame Lord Z.
  16. 16. Randy Bullock (K): As good as any other kicker at that moment in time and space.

 
Windy City Blitz (from Chicago) PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 15 June 2013 00:00

Over the four-and-a-half years that Diane and I carried on our relationship--before she moved to the bay area and started school at Davis--I probably travelled to Chicago 20 or so times when it was my "turn."

During that span we only went into the city a couple of times: once to see the Cubs play, and once when we actually ate downtown and went to the Field Museum and she drove me past Water Tower and Soldier's Field and such. And, during Tout Wars 2003, Trace Wood dragged me downtown to go to the Art Institute.

But, up until this past week, I had never really spent any time in the heart of the Second City.

However, since this summer's Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) fete was in Chicago, and since I have not been here to say hi to Diane's best friend and cousin Cherie, or her mother Deloras, I figured I would lump the cluster together.

So, last Wednesday afternoon I landed, took a shuttle downtown, and did a little exploring, hitting tourist spots, like the original Billy Goat for a burger, and later Lou Malnotti's with Lord Z, who was in town to draft at the FSTA Experts Football Draft the next night.

Wednesday found Steve Gardner, Chris Liss, Dean Peterson, Todd, Cherie's husband Mike, and me all off to Wrigley for a game between the Cubbies and the Reds, and we had great seats, right behind home plate, at field level, about 20 rows back. We did take the "L" with the locals, which was similarly fun, for a good way to get a taste of a city is to do what the locals do.

The game was tight--2-1--and I know Nate Schierholtz homered, but it was one of those pleasurable games with my friends in the stands. A game where I did not have to watch and track every pitch. And ,I don't mind my baseball work, but it was fun to eat and goof off and talk about everything and nothing.

Though rain had been threatened for days, the game went without a hitch, and I managed to talk Dean and Steve into walking the little over four miles back to the hotel with me, rather than be stuck in traffic, or on the subway.

And, with those rain clouds threatening we traipsed by the lagoon and through Boystown, hugging the lake past Ohio Beach, then zigging through the streets to Michigan Avenue and finally back to our hotel.

As it was, Chris and Todd, who rode with Mike in his truck, only beat us by about 15 minutes, and the rain mercifully started dropping in little chunks just as we hit our destination.

That night, Todd and I did indeed draft our FSTA "B-League" squad  (that is a topic for another column), but if you weren't drafting in this town that night, you were watching the Blackhawks and Bruins go at it (as it was, I wore the Blackhawks shirt Diane bought for me a few years back, and Boston native Todd had his Bruins T on).

Mike, wanting more than just the visual of the TV in the hotel bar, popped across the street to O'Toole's with apparently a couple of hundred other hockey junkies (a cluster of whom were at the convention) and when the draft completed, just into the first overtime, I shot over and joined him.

Now, I have to say I am not a hockey fan. I don't dislike the sport, but I don't skate and I just never developed an interest (unlike hoops, where I was a fan, but the Warriors mis-management in the 90's put me so far off that I simply had to walk away).

But, I have to say it was a total gas watching those final 35 minutes or so in a bar with 8 million TVs and what seemed like 9 million humans watching and screaming.and drinking and carousing till the joyful end.

Next day the convention began proper but I had to split for the burbs as Mike and Cherie are moving into a new house in Woodstock (where "Groundhog Day" was filmed) they have been building pretty much themselves over the past three-plus years, and I wanted to see and help as I could.

That meant missing Glenn Colton's (and John Hunt's) induction into the Fantasy Sports Hall of Fame, but fortunately Todd was able to attend and represent us.

However, before we left town proper, Mike and I met up with Chris, Andy Behrens and Derek Van Riper at a killer spot--Hot Doug's--for deadly sausages.

Of course, I had a "Moe Drabowski" (ground pork and crayfish) to go with my "Steve Swisher" (Italian dog with Santa Fe seasoning) and some great home made fries.

Then it was northwest, near Algonquin where Diane used to live, and the area that was familiar to me.

It was just great, though, having time in the city, walking around, having as Diane noted a "real Chicago experience." Furthermore, it appears Mike and I will continue the experience, as we will be watching the Blackhawks game tonight at a local joint with the locals.

 
Am I Ready (for Some Football)? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 08 June 2013 00:00

While it is fun to write about baseball and football, and be part of the fantasy industry, it is also sometimes goofy.

As in November, when football season is going full tilt, most of my colleagues (and I) are working on magazine articles and mock drafts for the coming baseball season.

Similarly, though we are barely one-third into the baseball season, all the fantasy football journals are being put to bed, as are a myriad of football mock drafts.

I have actually done a couple, coordinated by Rotowire's Mike Gottlieb, but next Tuesday, my mate Todd and I will venture to Chicago for the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Summer (FSTA) conference.

As part of the soiree, we are participating in the "Group B" 2013 FSTA Fantasy Football draft. Meaning there is so much interest in the competition that they have to have two leagues (as opposed to the one baseball league in which Lord Zola and I also participate).

While I certainly cut my fantasy chops playing baseball--and often even bill myself as a crappy football player who still loves to play--I can do alright at the game when I choose to. As for Todd, he is pretty good at whatever he tries that has to do with numbers and statistics.

Still, as part of my prep to go head-to-head with the serious indy sharks, I prepped with the Mock Drafts, and wound up with teams I think I like.

wilson_russell

In fact, in the second draft--a ten-team, two QB set-up--I think I might have walked away with the best team. In that venue I chose to pick first, and nabbed Arian Foster, on the return took Colin Kapernick and Russell Wilson, and then with picks four and five took Frank Gore and Eric Decker.

But, that was a mock.

Furthermore, last year, in the Kathy League Gifford, that Todd and I manage, and that also happens to be a two QB set-up, last year I drafted Eli Manning and Alex Smith as my principle signal callers. In hindsight, you may shake your heads and laugh at that, but going into 2012, with both those guys having led their teams into the 2011 post-season, they seemed like good and steady picks.

The point is even under the best circumstances, the worst possible outcomes can indeed occur.

Irrespective, in the NFBC-style format the FSTA is presenting, I certainly do want to grab a Wilson, or Kapernick, or Cam Newton or Robert Griffin III as a QB, but, depending upon when we pick, the question becomes how long do we focus on Running Back before we grab one of those prized young generals.

For I am clear: just as Michael Vick, in his prime, was worth so much because he could both pass and run, so are the Newtons, Griffins, and Wilsons of the world.

Aside from that, Wide Receiver undergoes enough flux--kind of like outfielders in fantasy baseball--that I am not so worried about that spot, and Tight End is deep enough and can wait a bit as well.

Meaning it all boils down to Running Back or Quarterback for my first pick.

But, kind of like deciding whether I want swordfish or steak at a nice restaurant, I will make my choice when I am on the clock.

Since it is still baseball season, that is about as ready as I can get. But, there is incentive, for the winner of the FSTA "B" league moves up to the "A" league the following season.

And that is exactly where Todd and I fancy ourselves.

 
Wedge Issues PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 01 June 2013 00:00

Back when I was in graduate school, studying Dickens, Coleridge, and my favorite, George Eliot, I learned that there were pitched battles between two schools of literary interpretation.

Those schools consist of the Radical Historians--who believe writing is supposed to be read in the context of when the piece was written--and the Deconstructionists--who believe a work becomes new and subject to contemporary mores every time read or performed (in the case of a play).

The arguments between these two schools were insane. And, often amusing to view, as each side tended to be certain their perspective was the right one (although in fairness, the Deconstructionists were a lot more tolerant of the Radical Historians, though not vice versa).

I have found this same schema in most of life that affords us a chance to apply what we humans believe is a system of logic and/or belief. Certainly, religion and politics fall under it. As do judging movies, books, climate change, boxers, briefs, I guess just about everything.

Which includes, of course, baseball, where there are the classic tools school and the sabermetricians.

There is the school, a la "Moneyball," that is largely identified as those SABR-guys.

And, there are those guys like Seattle manager Eric Wedge, who claims that Dustin Ackley's struggles hitting at the Major League level was "the fault of sabermetrics."

Yeah, right. Ackley's inability to understand/apply the concept of plate selectivity caused him to miss the ball so many times as a hitter that he just could not make it in the Bigs.

But, it was not just Ackley. Somehow, in the throes of re-drafting and trying to build anew, somehow the Mariners have gotten stuck in an identity crisis worthy of the Deconstructionists and the Radical Historians. 

Oh, they have some nice prospects, like new second sacker Nick Franklin and third baseman Kyle Seager, along with some struggling guys, like Ackley and Jesus Montero, and Justin Smoak.

But, they also have some guys who don't necessarily fit into the future, like Raul Ibanez, Kelly Shoppach and Aaron Harang.

In fact, if you want to track all these schizo moves, check out my mate Perry Van Hook's Masterblog piece Back to Prospects or Prospects Go Back. You can view almost all their moves over the past few seasons.

Mind you, I like Shoppach as a $1 roto catcher, and, even as a tutor to another interesting prospect, Mike Zunino, Shoppach could be helpful.

However, Wedge making statements like that of Ackley smack of those who flat out deny climate change without even considering the possibility of anything else. 

That is because what the sabermetricians are supporting is not taking a lot of pitches for the sake of earning a walk, but to work the count to both get a favorable count, as well as force the pitcher to throw a lot of pitches.

In fact, my inside understanding of Ackley's problems is rooted upon: "Ackley's progression after the 2011 season - he was a different cat in Aug/Sept of that year compared to June/July, spike in K rate, front side flying open, not covering the outer third of the plate, and got nowhere. A year and a half and no adjustments later, and it's apparently sabermetrics fault, per Eric Wedge."

This reminds me a lot of Harold Reynolds saying that Ben Zobrist could not possibly be the best defensive second baseman, irrespective of the mathematical support the fielding bible used to label him accordingly in 2011.

Now, I am not saying that it is not important to look at a player's skills, or tools, but I also think it is important to note that when a batter gets on base, the chances of his team scoring a run, or something happening, are greater than with no one on base. And, that pitchers who keep runners off the bases have a  greater chance of giving up less runs, and thus giving their team a chance to, uh, win.

Meaning Wedge's logic is akin to thinking the earth is flat, or that the sun rotates around us, or that there is not such thing as micro-organisms, which might cause disease. And, well, Copernicus, Galileo and Pasteur all were vilified for actually daring to question the status quo.

This does not mean OBP is as important in the scheme of things as say, curing disease or well, understanding our planet is round.

But, it does suggest an intransigence in thinking that is not only provincial, but in some ways dangerous.

Personally, I don't think the Mariners will do so well over the next few years, and that Wedge will pay the price not so much for his inability to see the forrest and the trees, but distinguish the difference.

Because if my sources are right, it won't help Montero or Smoak, or any of the Mariners prospects adjust, as all ballplayers must if they wish to have a successful career.

 

 
Bad Trade (or Just Lousy Players?) PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 25 May 2013 00:00

There is that great moment during Annie Savoy's (aka Susan Sarandon) soliliquoy at the beginning of "Bull Durham" when she laments that trades are a part of baseball, then invoking one of the most famous, Milt Pappas for Frank Robinson.

It was a swap that did not work out so well, although on paper, it looked like a good trade. Pappas was 27, going into those infamous peak years, and had been 110-74, 3.24 over nine years with Baltimore. Robinson, at 29, had spent a decade with the Reds, going .303-324-1009, but his success so exceeded that of Pappas (who was 30-29, 4.04 as a Red) that the trade surely did seem to work out pretty lopsided.

Not so different was Ray Sadecki for Orlando Cepada, one that caused a lot of local stir in Northern California when consumated. The "Baby Bull" was 27 when dealt, and had gone .308-226-767 over his nine years with the Giants while Sadecki was coming off a 6-15, 5.21 year, but a season earlier had gone 21-10, 3.68. Truth is both players had injuries around the time of the swap if memory serves, and at least locally, the Giants had Willie McCovey to play first, and a bevy of outfielders, so again, on paper it looked like a great swap.

Then there was Ernie Brogilo for Lou Brock. A year before the deal, Broglio was 18-8, 2.99 for St. Louis, and though his mark slipped to 3-5 just before the 1964 trade, his ERA wa 3.50. Brock, on the other hand, was .257-20-86 with 50 swipes for the Cubs before the trade over 327 games, never having achieved the great predictions made for the former Texas A&M star.

Again, on paper, the deal seemed right at the time. But, the reality is all three pitchers pretty much fizzled, while Robinson, Cepada and Brock all went on to Hall of Fame careers.

Not that fiascos are limited to let-down pitchers being swapped for future superstar hitters. Because what made me think of all this was the recent demotion of Jesus Montero by Seattle, after hitting .208-3-9 this year (and putting up an aggregate .252-18-71 over 164 games in the Northwest).

Of course, we all remember the big trade that sent the then biggest Yankees hitting prospect to Seattle in exchange for one of the most promising young pitchers on earth, Michael Pineda. Pineda went 9-10, 3.74 for the Mariners in 2011, and since being traded to the Bronx in January of 2012, the right- hander has logged precisely zero innings with the big club.

Pineda finished fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year competition in 2011, even, but these examples illustrate just how iffy both trades, and mining for prospects, can be.

For, we all are excited to grab Kevin Gausman or Tony Cingrani, or anticipate the arrival of Oscar Taveras, or feel envy for the guy who landed Jurickson Profar, recently promoted to fill the Ian Kinsler void.

But, the reality is that a trade, like drafting prospects, is largely a crap shoot. Sometimes, it is an educated one, but, well, sometimes educated people fail tests. Worse, sometimes smart people lack common sense, which is as bad as dumb people thinking they are smart (well, it generally means the same less than stellar results).

The question, though, is how do you know who will be good, and who won't? 

I am not sure, for though I have had more than my share of successes picking prospects, I have also had my failures: Daric Barton, Dustin Ackley and of course, the guy who killed us all, Brandon Wood.

My friend Jeff Smith pointed to a team in his league that he thought would rock because the owner has neatly stashed Mike Zunino, Anthony Rendon, Billy Hamilton, Oscar Taveras, Michael Wacha, A.J. Cole, and Zach Turner, among others. But, when I saw that team, I pretty much shrugged, for maybe one of all those players will establish himself within a year, and the rest could take three or four years, like Jeff Samardzija (whom I drafted in the XFL in 2006, excitedly activated for 2008, dropped in 2009 and watched blossom elsewhere in 2011).

As we all know, those baseball gods are some fickle folks. I know from the trades I just mentioned, and I know from some of the roto deals I have made myself. And, in fairness, I have had deals pay off and win pennants for me, but similarly, I have had trades simply destroy my teams for a couple of years (in fact in the XFL, I am still rebuilding trying to get over deals I made for Jason Bay, Francisco Liriano and Stephen Drew).

However, as with baseball itself, you just never know, and gambling as such is as much a part of the game as trying to take third on a weak arm.

Still, I have to wonder what both the Yankees and Mariners think of their swap in retrospect. I realize that to them it was business, and sometimes business deals pay off, and sometimes they don't. But, it is kind of funny that both properties, so highly regarded just a couple of years ago, are at the moment, total failures.

Of course, like Samardzija, both could emerge in a couple of years and realize the ephemeral potential. Or, worse, they could be swapped, and have their skills come to fruition for another team, probably a respective nightmare for both Seattle and New York.

But, well, it is part of baseball.

Just as surely as Larry Anderson for Jeff Bagwell was.

 
Hitting (or Missing) PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 18 May 2013 00:00

There is a trend in baseball towards generally more and better pitching than hitting these days.

I have a lot of thoughts about this, and have actually been noting my reasons over the past couple of years: Back to when I went to a Twins/Giants game and noticed that among the 16 starting position players, only three had OBPs over .330.

I think a lot of it is that due to escalating salaries, and the allure of good and powerful young hitters, players are advanced before really going through the minor league system and truly approaching their craft as batters did when I was younger.

Mind you, I am not trying to make one of those stupid "back when I was young and they really played the game the way it was supposed to be played rants."

Times change, as do games and everything, and with those changing times, so do trends shift right before our eyes. Furthermore, when I was a kid watching baseball, there were only 16 teams, meaning a lot fewer Major League slots, and a lot more time to move through the system and learn and prepare for the Majors.

Additionally, the college system was simply not as sophisticated as today, and players with ostensibly a good college resume--as well as a few years on the planet of experience under their belts--couple with a crazy salary "structure" teams looking to the future are happy to move potentially upwardly mobile players up.

Not to mention as fans, and fantasy players, we are happy to see these young players make it and show what they can do.

So, if that explains the hitting, I think that pitchers generally have the advantage over hitters, and if pitchers are moved along from a high school draft or college like hitters, they generally are young, and will throw hard, and more often than not at least be able to take advantage of hitters for a while.

Mind you I haven't done any empirical number crunching around these thoughts: they are anecdotal and observational, so I am aware my theories could be disproved. But, that is not the point, and it is baseball (we all have our theories about everything baseball).

I do think, though, that eventually hitters catch up and things even out, and the recent demotion of Philip Humber reaffirmed this.That would be Philip Humber of the perfect game on April 12 of last year against the Mariners.

Because like it or not, Humber is really a mediocre pitcher at best, with a career 16-23, 5.34 mark that also included a 5-5, 6.44 record (that is with the perfecto as part of the stat base), Dallas Braden, who also tossed a perfect game--that I scored no less--has a 26-36, 4.19 mark, and though he is not in the minors, neither is he pitching in the majors thanks to a dead arm.

But, the thing is 11 of the Perfect Games in history have occurred since 1994, after the last expansion, six since the first big expansion in 1962, which means a total  of five of the modern perfectos occured between 1904 (Cy Young) and 1956 (Don Larsen).

Again, I am not sure what all this observation stuff means, but it does make me think of my friend and former partner J.P. Kastner, who has played Strat-O-Matic since 1984 in somewhere between one and three full season leagues, and the only perfect game that ever occurred was tossed by Don Schulze, another mediocre pitcher with a career 15-25, 5.47.

 
Press Box Politics PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 11 May 2013 00:00

Working in the press box is a trip.

Of course, it is exciting, and a little scary at first.  

But, most of us have assigned seats, which means always sitting in the same place. That means always sitting by the same people for the most part,  so after a while it is like a job where you go to work and sit around those familiar to you. Often--in fact most of the time--those same folks become your friends, too.

Just like your office, we have likes and dislikes. For example, as much as those in the stands might crave extra innings, the rest of us fear them. For if there is a game, we go to the office, put in our eight hours, and then want to go home. I mean, how excited would you be to "get" to stay at the office for an extra hour because two extra vendors dropped in to try and sell you a new product?

You may well remain and hear the pitch, but you would not necessarily be as enthusiastic as you might have been over a lunch or early morning meeting. Not to mention, the longer the meeting goes, generally the more tired and loopy you become.

Well, the press box is no different. That is because we are essentially all co-workers. Meaning there are arguments and relationships and memorable moments, just like any other situation where us human beings are close knit.

There are also differences of opinion, and as it is, I always sit next to the Official Scorer when I work a game, so I have become friends and observational buddies with all of them (there are six who cover the Giants and Athletics).

It is no easy job, being the OS. For, though the questionable plays are less frequent than the routine, the focus is always on those judgements and their impact.

I clearly remember the first game C.C. Sabathia pitched at ATT Park when he spent time with the Brewers. First play of the game, shortstop J.J. Hardy did not field a ball cleanly, but the leadoff hitter was fast and it was a tough play, and ultimately called a hit.

At the time, no one really questioned the call, and Sabathia was able to get the runner with a double play, retiring the next 17 hitters in a row. During the break between the top and bottom of the seventh, I looked up to find the OS and me on the ATT Diamond Vision, noting the Brewers announcers were suddenly questioning the call in the first. For, there was no longer a chance for Sabathia to have a no-hitter. 

That inning the Giants got a hit, making the point moot, but it is pretty typical to second guess and bemoan calls ex post facto.

In 2008, during Tim Lincecum's final start of the season, a ball rode up third baseman Rich Aurilia's wrist, allowing a runner, again a fast one, to reach first base. And, the ball took a little hop and was ruled a hit. That meant the subsquent runs that scored against Lincecum were earned, and at the time he had the lead in the ERA title. So, there was a lot of pressure from the team to really look at that replay again--especially after Aurilia said he thought it was an error--and make sure and put the truth in "its best light." As in agreeing with Aurilia, for if it was an error, and the runs unearned, it meant Lincecum could win the ERA title, and that would surely be a feather in the cap of a team that still had yet to win a pair of World Championships.

Last Friday, when the Giants and Dodgers were playing, a similar play happened where a ball took a hop on second sacker Marco Scutaro and though he recovered, he then threw the ball away and the runners advanced accordingly. The play was deemed a single and a throwing error, and not an eye was batted.

Four days later--last Monday--when Madison Bumgarner and his sub-.2.00 ERA was pitching--Scutaro had a similar play where the ball hopped, no one was covering second, and he chose to throw to first, albeit wildly. This was ruled an error on the play and the throw, but then overturned to a single and a throwing error.

And, when the call was made, at first, it was not questioned.

Until it was discovered that Scutaro was sure it was an error, and the again unearned runs would be a kick in the shins of Bumgarner's ERA. For the remainder of the game, the single adjudication was asked about, and the OS noted he was still thinking about it.

By the end of the game, the single stood, as did the earned runs, and I checked my box score against the OS's to ensure we both had everything correctly and consistently.

As we were leaving, the Giants media guys came back up into the booth, and as we passed them the OS asked "Are they still pissed at me?" 

"Yes," was the response.

"Well, you can always appeal to a higher authority," was the response, and we walked out to go home.

It is true. It is also why I am glad that people make the decisions in the booth, as on the field. For, though we are not infallable by any means, we are human. And, a game played by humans should also be judged by humans.

It is also why I have no ambition in ever becoming an Official Scorer.


 
Halladay, Cain, and Price (oh my)! PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 04 May 2013 00:00

Man, what a brutal first month for starting pitchers.

Not all starting pitchers, mind you. Just a lot of the ones we counted on.

But, in case you were wondering, let's list a few of the worst according to the simple ERA totals.

Of course, these are just a few, and the list does not count guys like Vance Worley and Dillon Gee, of whom we might not have hopes as high as the guys listed.

The question is, of course, what do we do with these guys? Pretty much all of them are stalwarts, in fact a few, like Cain, Price, and Gonzalez were likely top flight pitchers in auctions, and maybe fifth to sixth round picks in draft leagues.

So, the question is what to do?

Well, I do have to stress patience this time of year, with five more months left in the season.

That said, obviously you cannot trot Buehrle out there every five days only to watch him get hammered, without stirking anyone out, destroying the good work of your other pitchers.

But, I do sort of place these guys into three categories, with the following path forward as appropriate.

Leave them alone: This counts pretty much for Cain, Price, and Gonzalez for now, as they are both talented, and young, and are just going through some struggles. But, if they wind up with ERA's of 4.20, that means some good innings ahead, and you don't want to stream them and risk missing the good innings by taking pot shots with starts.

Sit them till they right the ship: This pretty much accounts for the rest, like Buehrle (of whom I have faith) and Vogelsong (of whom I have less) and Morrow (who will get whiffs, along with Volquez and Jackson). Although I am not a big believer in streaming, for these guys, I would just hang and see if they can figure it out. For again, percentages say they will not wind up with an ERA as bountiful as they presently have.

See about a trade: Now, this third category presumes you have some arms out there to fill the void of the trade, and some kind of offensive need. But, for example, a crap shoot of Roy Halladay for Ike Davis, or Adam LaRoche, B.J. Upton, or Rickie Weeks might be not just doable, but a trade whereby you give up some potential and jettison frustration but at the same time gain some potential while picking up someone else's frustration.

It is a long season. And, it is early to be thinking about dumping or desperation moves, but, being practical, and in the moment trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear is not necessarily a bad way to go.

Of course, if your team is peppered with Price, Cain, LaRoche, Upton and Davis, you have my deepest sympathy. But, take heart, football season is only four months away.

 

 
Rhythm of the Game PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 27 April 2013 00:00

I made my third sojourn to watch my friends' kids do their little league thing last Saturday.

A few weeks earlier, my guitar teacher/producer, Steve Gibson's son Guy was playing with the son of another pal, percussionist Mark Rosenthal's boy Julian. A week later, I saw my friend Ben Klein's son Isaac do his thing, and then last Saturday, there was the fun of a doubleheader in Lafayette.

Lafayette is a little closet community about 10 miles from where we live in El Cerrito, and on a beautiful Saturday I trucked off--top down on the car even--to watch my friends George Anderson and Julie Schmit's sons Ben and Zach play.

Zach plays in the Triple-A level  while Ben is a level lower--both boys are ten--and Zach is at a point where he has shown some physical prowess, playing with kids that are a couple of years older.

I got to the game in time to see Zach get a hit and then toss a couple of innings--which is what I really wanted to see--as I knew he was indeed doing some pitching these days.

The reality is though it does eat up a little of what small amount of free time I have during the baseball season, I really enjoy watching the kids, who know I do baseball work and get as much of a kick out of my coming as do their parents, and even me.

Zach actually pitched pretty well and his team--the Athletics-won their first game under my guise, so then we moved on to Ben's contest where his Blue Jays' team was working at their own win (Ben collected a couple of hits, too).

However, what became interesting is that though George carried a pad and pen, tracking the kids' pitches with hash marks (there are pretty strict usage rules), Julie was asked to actually score the game for the team, an honor she had previously avoided.

So, I sat next to my friend and explained the numeric designations of the defensive players, along with the cryptology of decoding things like 43/G and 5/P. I also told her little tricks I have for tracking RBI and stolen bases, and marking the scoresheet so you can pick up the next inning in the right column with the right batter.

Julie is pretty smart and she picked it up quickly, although it was admittedly fun when a wild pitch or passed ball occurred, allowing a baserunner to advance a base (at this level walks and "steals" are the core of existence). "Is that a steal?", she asked, to which I initially replied, "No, that is a passed ball." Julie's perplexed raised eyebrows was the response and I said, "Just write it down as a stolen base for that is fine." Note that things like the Infield Fly Rule don't exist either at this level, and in deference to our kinder, gentler generation of parents, the "slaughter rule" has transmogrified into "the mercy rule."

Julie actually had to leave the game to meet friends for a night out before a wedding, so for the last two innings of the game she handed the scoresheet to me and I logged pitches and plays and outs, which was actually kind of fun.

For one of the reasons I so enjoy watching my friends' progeny play is that Infield Fly Rule and such aside, the kids are indeed playing the same game they play at ATT and the O.co Coliseum, where I indeed track stats the same way for Major League Baseball.

Which, curiously I found myself doing both the next day--last Sunday--on another beautiful day in San Francisco, then again on Thursday night in Oakland.

While the Sunday game was really crisp (two hours and twenty-eight minutes), the Athletics/Orioles match-up was torture, with five four-pitch walks (and four more 3-0 counts that could have become walks). There were errors and misplays, and the reality is that it always amuses me that the smoother the game on the field, the easier it is to track the pitches and subsequent disposition.

Meaning the Sunday Giants game was pretty easy, while the Athletics game was much closer to Ben's Blue Jays game, where passed balls and wild pitches and the Infield Fly Rule were as illusory as guys throwing strikes in Oakland.

How can you not love the madness and beauty of that?

 
What's Wrong US? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 20 April 2013 00:00

NOTE: If you were looking for thoughts on baseball this week, I am sorry to disappoint you today. But, after Monday's Patriots Day events and the Senate's voting down of gun registration legislation, I cannot help myself. However, if you need a fix, Brian Walton's "Articles of Configuration" will probably help, so I recommend that.

In the mid-70's, I was turned onto a book--Richard Greenan's "It Happened in Boston"--a tale about a psychotic killer who is trying to transcend corpereal existence and meaning by downing his victims with--if memory serves--cyanide sprinkled in the table salt of selected Beantown restaurants.

I could not help but flash on that tale (and title) as my mate and partner Todd--a Boston resident--and I got into an GMAIL chat about the craziness of the Patriot's Day events.

He was clearly upset, which is clearly understandable. I mean, in my lifetime in the bay area there have been a number of holocausts that grabbed national attention.

The big earthquake in 1989, the firestorm, the assassinations of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. I know there are more, but those are the biggies that popped into my head reminding me of how much I love where I live, how much pride I stake in my home and community, and how pained I felt to see my area and fellow citizens suffer.

Not that I would localize an incident, for I felt the same human pain after the Oklahoma City bombing, and after 9/11 for sure, not to mention the spates of shootings that fellow countrymen seem to feel is necessary to prove some kind of point. Like Todd, I am an empath, feeling a connection to our fellow inhabitants of the country, and the planet. And, I have had enough suffering within my own life to clearly get the implications and pain, and to feel sadness that others have to endure.

Furthermore, I do understand tragedy happens, often in ways that transcend guns or bombs. As in fires and earthquakes and tsunamis and so on.

But, I have to wonder what is wrong with human beings? 

Mind you, the 6000 years civilization that has been recorded is really a blink in the scheme of things, but why do we find it necessary to destroy those with whom we disagree? And, especially, why do we think that whatever diety we follow wants us to destroy the infidels who think or have different beliefs?

Before, however, you jump on any bandwagon that suggests the brothers who facilitated the Boston bombing were true believers in Islam, were that true, they were no less perverse than Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, the single biggest supplier of mercenaries in the Iraq/Afghanistan conflict.

An ex-patriot, who apparently loved America, his country of birth, so much he left to live in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Prince is on record noting that he feels the war in the Middle East is an extension of the Crusades whereby the forces of the Christian god must destroy Islam. Meaning he is no better than the Tsarnaev brothers, or the perpetrators of 9/11 (note that I personally don't think the bulk of Muslims or Christians adhere to these radical notions, but I also don't see either side doing much to discourage the violence their extremists perpetrate).

Of course, we need look no further than our own Senate, who despite the support of 90% of the public, refuses to pass the simplest rules around checking the background of would-be firearms purchasers (let alone limiting magazines to a "reasonable" ten rounds) because such a check would violate the Second Ammendment of the Constitution, which really speaks to "the right to bear arms" in the context of a "well regulated militia."

But, the Declaration of Independence also speaks to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," something violated in the case of Newtown and the Boston Bombing victims for sure. 

The thing is, if the god of Mohammad and Jesus is indeed a god of mercy and love--as the religions' supporters suggest, and like it or not, the bulk of Senators who voted down the gun legislation identify themselves as Christians--why are they all so complacent about the whole thing? Why are they not, in the name of that same god, speaking out and acting vigilantly on behalf of the god who holds their faith?

I wish I knew--as a Jew who does not go to temple, but as the offspring of immigrants who fled the Nazi holocaust--for I do understand we cannot sit still and do nothing.

Which means the least I can do is occupy this space once in awhile with an admonition to do the right thing. 

Now, I know "the right thing" can be a subjective item, but I do ask this: "Why is it an infringement on our rights to tighten the rules around owning a gun, but it is not an infringment to tighten the rules around voting?"

Unfortunately, I think the simplistic answer lies with every football player who said god was with him when he scored a touchdown.

Because, if there is a god, he or she is not a Cowboys fan, understands that Moses, Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammad all said the same thing, and for sure understands that we are all his or her children.

 

 
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