Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down

DH, Astro Turf, OK, But Stop Already! PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 31 January 2015 00:00


I realize that I am now a sort of "retiree," since I have left the corporate world, and even qualify for Social Security, that I am on the road to becoming a cranky old man.

It is true: When Henry Winkler prefaces his reverse mortgage commercial, noting, "If you are 62 or older..." my head quickly turns to the sound, even though I have seen the ad many times, and have no intention of putting my house on such a plan. At least not just yet.

On the other hand, I do still play in a rock'n'roll band, am a complete junkie for Mr. Pickles and Squidbillies on Adult Swim, and dig Modest Mouse and The Black Keys.

I can say that I started watching baseball when there were two leagues with eight teams in each, having witnessed the first expansions in 1962, the lowering of the mound and expansions of 1969, and also the implementation of the DH. There was the recent re-alignment, and of course Interleague play, and now the expanded Wild Card. And, then there was the advent of Instant Replay.

Among those, there have been some really good moves in my view. I love Interleague play, and apparently the expanded Wild Card keeps more teams in it as hopefuls longer, and seems to create a dogfight for a chance at post-season play in the best of ways.

The lower mound, and the DH? Well, they have not killed the game, although I wish both leagues simply used the DH, or neither did. As in both leagues may as well play the same game. If I had a preference, it would be in favor of having the pitcher hit, because I love tactics and watching a manager try to push or pull the right buttons at the right time when the game is on the line.

But, I can live with the DH.

Although, I hate Instant Replay, and the idea of umpires and referees being second guessed. Not because I don't want the crew to "get it right," as they say, but as often as not, Instant Replay is not definitive and I truly feel that the officiating at games is really pretty good, all things considered. More important, since the game is played by humans, can we please just let humans adjudicate and be done with it?

For, when push comes to shove, I think the good and bad breaks for every team are about the same (even with Instant Replay). The issue is whether or not a team can take advantage of the situation. But, the timeouts do disrupt the flow of the game, in my opinion.

But, this talk about a pitch clock, and even worse, banning the shift is just crazy.

Let's start with the shift. Prohibiting moving a team's defense is almost like saying a team's offense cannot platoon. Which could be a way of saying you cannot pinch-hit under certain circumstances. The shift is indeed a strategy, like a platoon. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it is certainly not like using a spitter, or corking a bat, which actually does involve manipulating equipment to gain an advantage.

But, moving your defense is simply part of the game, and a smart hitter (and manager and batting coach) will try to figure a way around it. Because, as we know, baseball is a game of adjustments.

As for the pitch clock, isn't one of the main things we love about baseball the fact that it does not actually have a time limit? Is it frustrating when Jamey Wright pitches--you can start a fire and toast marshmallows on it between throws--but that is also part of the game. So is Mark Buehrle not allowing a hitter enough time to adjust his jock, let alone hat.

But, again, it is a game played by human beings. So, can our hurry-up world of instant gratification please just take a deep breath? Then, in 10-15 years, when I am dead, go ahead and change everything.

Ayyy! Even the Fonz knows the wait won't be that long.

Nothing But Air PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 24 January 2015 00:00

There is some pretty serious stuff going on in the world these days. ISIS. Boko Haram. Climate Change. Charlie Hebdo-like attacks. 

So, it was good the major news outlets had "Deflategate" to fall back upon the last week's worth of reporting cycles.

Now, I do love football. I love watching the game, thinking about it, and playing fantasy football. And, with times seeming uncertain with thoughts of terrorism and unflinching weather et al, it is good to have distractions like football. Because again, the game is fun and exciting, and gives us a mental respite from external strife and pressures.

But honestly, I have so many questions about Deflategate, the first of which is "Who Cares?"

Well, apparently everyone, as the controversy has been among the lead stories on MSNBC this past week, picking up the slack from Charlie Hebdo and Boko Haram, who were the leads the previous couple of weeks.


Don't get me wrong. I am not a fan of cheating. In fact, I don't really even understand it, for winning or succeeding by cheating cannot be particularly satisfying. Well, at least if you have a conscience, it isn't.

Maybe I am stupid, or naive, or even both.

But, my understanding has been that each team's footballs are given to the referees a couple of hours before the game, and are then weighed and secured. I may be wrong, but my understanding is that the refs then control the footballs till the end of the game.

Granted, the footballs do get switched out, and fall to the sidelines, so finding the specific problematic football is sort of like finding the shell with the pea under it.

Even so, the game moves fast enough, and there are enough cameras that if someone was monkeying with something, at least above ground, there must be a record of that.

If the balls were being mucked with at halftime, or secreted downstairs for some form of manipulation, even that would be hard to cover, and if nothing else, suggests some kind of inside job beyond the poor Assistant Equipment Manager who will now get fired for this horrible civic transgression. That way the Patriots, the League, hell, the entire NFL, and their fans can feel justice has been served.

Me, I am pretty suspicious of any wrong doing.


If the weight differential was so great as reported, how come no one noticed? I mean, it isn't as if when the Patriots used their footballs, the Colts and refs never had cause to pick one up and hold it for a second or two.

I remember hearing once that Jim Palmer would ask for a new baseball if there was anything he did not like about the feel of one of the spheres. Sometimes, he would return them to the ump without even using them, asking for a replacement. Apparently one ump, trying to test Palmer, sent the same baseball right back after a Palmer rejection, and the pitcher threw it back yelling, "I just gave you that one back."

OK, maybe Palmer's sense of touch is extra sensitive, but we are talking over 100 folks, among both teams and coaches, and the referee squad, and not one of them noticed? Over three hours, and hundreds of hands, that hold the same article five-to-six days a week, and not one person can tell that maybe there is a 10% differential on the weight?

Additionally--and I have driven this one to death on Twitter--there is no body of statistics that I know of where all footballs are weighed after the game. If that is true, the numbers rumored are meaningless, because there are things like altitude and weather, that compounded with play (and football players play pretty tough by most of our standards), could knock around the weight of a football.

More than anything, though. I think this is a byproduct of our stupid predilection with reward as a society. Everyone gets a trophy on every little league team, always. If we lose our cool, it is because of a medication being taken, or pressure at work, or any of the litany of excuses we hide behind in order to avoid responsibility.

Mind you, I am totally for rewarding and positive reinforcement, but similarly, I think we all need to learn how to accept defeat and disappointment, as they are even more common to most of us as part of life than are triumphs.

The outrage of "Deflategate," as I see it, is not so much about anything other than the "how could I/we lose?" in the Mitt Romney sense, and the inability to embrace the fact that on that day, someone else was better, or more popular, or simply a better choice.

I do think that if the NFL is going to go to the trouble of weighing footballs before the game--and unless I am incorrect and that post-game weighing process does exist today--that maybe starting that process to see what a normal post-game weight for a football is, might not be a bad idea.

But, I more think, like Lawrence Tynes said the other day, "LeGarrette Blount could have been running with a two-liter bottle of Coke and it wouldn't have made any difference."

So, please, please, stop giving this issue air.

What You See is What You Gattis (FSTA Draft Review) PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 17 January 2015 00:00

Las Vegas is a strange place. In the middle of the desert, Vegas is a sort of oasis of make believe where you can pretend to go to Paris or New York and still hit up slot machines and poker tables.

Vegas is also where the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) holds their Winter Conference soiree, and the big kickoff for the event is the FSTA "Experts" draft that Charlie Wiegert of CDM curates. A lot of the usual suspects--Ron Shandler from BBHQ and Shandler Park, Chris Liss from Rotowire, and Steve Gardner and Howard Kamen of USA Today--participate as part of the 13-team mixed snake draft.

As always, there is some strangeness (Charlie Blackmon in the fourth round, ahead of Matt Kemp, Kole Calhoun, George Springer and Yoenis Cespedes?) but that is not only to be expected, that is a lot of what makes the whole process fun.

Lord Z and I drafted seventh (by choice, for after the first and 13th slots were taken, selecting in the middle suits me well) and I guess we helped with some of that consternation with a few of our selections, so here is the team we got, and whatever logic I can muster the morning after (Todd will likely both chime in and post his own thoughts).

Note the parenthetic is the round selected:

C-Evan Gattis (5): Lots of pop, and he will play left, meaning no lost time due to split fingers and other miscellaneous catcher injuries and a sweet home run park. Oh yeah, and there are a lot of up-and-comers and some power around him in the lineup.

C-John Jaso (15): Solid #2 catcher, won't hurt in average, and like Gattis probably will not play behind the dish. Meaning we might be the only team with two catchers, neither of whom will actually catch.

1B-Anthony Rizzo (1): Coming off a .286-32-78 year, with a solid 73 walks to 116 strikeouts as a 23-year-old, Rizzo will be the offensive spark on what will likely be the best team in the NL, if not the Majors, by the end of 2015. This will be the first sacker's third full season, meaning everything within screams of bigger breakout.

2B-Kolten Wong (7): Power/speed combo up the middle, more than likely to improve.

3B-Josh Donaldson (2): Right now the best choice at the hot corner? After a season hitting with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion hitting around him, in Toronto, we can probably remove the question mark.

SS-Erick Aybar (14): A litle pop, a little speed, and a steady average plugs the shortstop hole just fine.

CI-Mike Morse (19): Truth is we were hoping Lucas Duda would have fallen back to us in the 15th, but that was not to be. Morse and 15-20 bombs here, however, will be just fine.

MI-Marcus Semien (25): The trade of Yunel Escobar makes the Bay Area resident a starter again.

OF-George Springer (3): On a now improving team, imagine what he could do during a full season.

OF-Yoenis Cespedes (4): Another case of nice pop in a fun park with a good hitting team.

OF-Kole Calhoun (6): We were surprised, and pleased that Calhoun fell to us this late. We both wanted him. Bad.

OF-Leonys Martin (10): A fave of mine, I expect a jump in power with a full season of play. Same speed as 2014 will be fine.

OF-Dalton Pompey (18): Toronto rookie has a gig so far, and a lot of upside. If he struggles, we have a few options and can still protect Pompey.

UT-Angel Pagan (22): One of the options for Pompey moves Pagan to his slot should there be a problem. If the Giants centerfielder can stay healthy, 15-20 numbers are totally reasonable.

SP-Andrew Cashner (9): Our first starter. We both love Cashner, and just hope he can stay healthy.

SP-Yordano Ventura (11): I look for Ventura to step up to the role of #1 starter at Kauffman this year.

SP-Anibal Sanchez (12): A nice value, with good strikeout numbers.

SP-Drew Smyly (13): I really like Ventura. Similarly, Todd really likes Smyly.

SP-Danny Duffy (16): I more lobbied for Duffy, but once he really was set in the rotation, he delivered down the stretch. I am guessing he can build on that.

SP-Jake Peavy (20): Back in the NL West, in a pitcher's environ, Peavy is due for a solid year. At least the kind you want at the bottom of your rotation. Like 14 wins and a mid-3.00's ERA.

SP-Scott Kazmir (21): Kind of like Peavy, Kazmir picks it up following a strong come-back.

SP-Chris Tillman (23): Amazed Tillman was still out there this late.

RP-Mark Melancon (8): First closer.

RP-Brad Boxberger (17): Sort of second closer, Boxberger will get a lot of whiffs, and could keep the gig if circumstances are correct.

RES-Andrew Heaney (24): Starting pitcher #11, the plan is to stream our starters and relievers as appropriate/necessary.

RES-Mike Napoli (26): Not sure how much is left in the tank, but Napoli should have two weeks of .375-7-17 numbers sometime. We hope he is active at that time.

RES-Kevin Quackenbush (27): Much like Boxberger, lots of whiffs, great for streaming, and maybe some saves even.

RES-Joe Panik (28): Middle coverage and potential average help, should we need it.

RES-Garrett Jones (29): Left-handed power who will platoon at Yankee Stadium. What more do you need to know?

Rule 5 Picks, 2014 Style PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 10 January 2015 00:00

It's a new year, and I guess that means that football playoffs aside, it is time to start to kick the baseball content into gear.

And, well, every year I like to look carefully at the Rule 5 picks. The fun aspect of the Rule 5 guys is the selecting team is obligated to keep said player on the active roster for all of the following season. Meaning all the players noted below, from the first round of this year's Rule 5, will be active on their new team for 2015. Unless they wind up on the DL (which does indeed happen). However, if the new team wants to send the player down, the player must be returned to his original organization.

On the other hand, these guys were made to be $1 sleepers in an auction league, and they are even reasonable as a last reserve crapshoot in an NFBC-type format.

Oscar Hernandez (C, from the Rays to the Diamondbacks): At 21, Hernandez is still pretty young to have five years of service under his belt (a parm of Rule 5 is five years within an organization with no appearances in the Majors), so he could be a nice chip, but with a .249-9-63 line last year with 25 walks to 78 strikeouts at Hudson Valley (A ball), Hernandez will likely be overmatched in the Majors.

Mark Canha (1B/3B/OF, from the Marlins to the Athletics via the Rockies): A Bay Area product, Canha similarly went to UC Berkeley before being drafted by the Marlins, then nabbed by the Rockies, and then swiped by Oakland. With a .303-20-82 line last year at Triple-A New Orleans with 57 walks to 112 strikeouts (.384 OBP), Canha's versatility fits right in to the Athletics schema, and he looks as close to "camera ready" as anyone on this list.

Delino DeShields, Jr. (OF, from Astros to the Rangers): Deshields has been a top prospect, one with a pedigree no less, but I guess his stumble at Corpus Christi last year (.236-11-57, albeit with 57 swipes) was apparently not enough for the Astros to protect. In fairness, Houston is not exactly bereft of prospects. The problem seems to be Texas is similarly loaded with the likes of Jurickson Profar and Rougned Odor, both of which DeShields is a sort of clone. Third wheel, methinks.

Jason Garcia (P, from the Red Sox to the Orioles, via the Astros): Not totally sure about the interest in this guy, save maybe he throws hard and is still working on his control. He did strike out 59 over 56.3 innings last year at two levels, saving three games, but walking 24 (1.31 WHIP). Anyway, after Boston grabbed Garcia as a Rule 5, they swapped him to Baltimore for a player to be named later. He's a reliever, so not worth much of an investment anywhere in 2015.

J.R. Graham (P, from the Braves to the Twins): I understand the claiming of right-hander Graham even less. Graham spent his second straight season at Double-A (at 23) and went 1-5, 5.55 over 71.3 innings. Pass.

Jandel Gustave (P, from the Astros to the Royals, via the Red Sox): Kind of like Garcia, Boston claimed Gustave, then turned him over to the Royals for cash. He just turned 22, and did strike out 82 over 79 innings last year, with two saves. He also posted a 5-5 mark with a 5.01 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP. He is interesting, but not worth an investment.

Taylor Featherston (2B, from the Rockies to Angels, via the Cubs): I am seeing a pattern in drafting and swapping Rule 5. Decent .260-16-57 at Double-A Tulsa. However, the Texas League is a hitter's environment, and he just turned 25. Could be a Mike Aviles type. More likely a John McDonald type.

Odubel Herrera (2B, from the Rangers to the Phillies): Herrera just turned 22, and hit pretty well at Double-A Frisco (.321-2-47 with 12 swipes), and displacing Freddy Galvis doesn't seem to be that tough. And, well, the Rangers did have a lot of Herrera clones.

Andrew McKirahan (P, from the Cubs to the Marlins): Another reliever, McKirahan converted ten games over two levels, going 2-4, 2.08. The latter was at Double-A, where he struck out 24 of the 57 he copped over 65 innings. Might be something some day, but probably not in 2015 (he will be 25 on Opening Day).

Sean Gilmartin (P, from the Twins to the Mets): Gilmartin, who turns 25 in May, was 9-7, 3.71 over 145.6 innings spread between Double-A and Triple-A. He went 2-4, 4.28 with a 1.32 WHIP over 76.6 Triple-A frames with 59 strikeouts. Middle reliever for now.

Daniel Winkler (P, from the Rockies to the Braves): Another 25-year-old, one with a killer 2014 (5-2, 1.41 over 12 starts and 70 innings with 71 strikeouts to 17 walks (0.74 WHIP). And then he needed Tommy John surgery. Which means there is a good chance Winkler will be a Rule 5 protected on the DL. Which also means he will not have much value in 2015, but could be worth tracking in 2016.

David Rollins (P, from the Astros to the Mariners): Age 25 returns, this time as a reliever after going 3-4, 3.81 with a save at Double-A over 78 innings. A 1.23 WHIP, but Rollins is not likely to make much of a contribution to the Mariners or your team either.

Logan Verrett (P, from the Mets to the Orioles): 11-5, 4.33 over 162 Triple-A innings. Essentially, the Mets gave up Verrett to obtain Gilmartin. Another long shot.

IBBWA HOF Picks, 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 03 January 2015 00:00

So as a card carrying member of the Internet Baseball Writers of America, I got to drop my votes for the Hall of Fame. As with anything, this is so subjective, but, I will list my selections for this year, and reasons why, along with why I did not vote for some other largely worthy nominees.

Made my cut:

Barry Bonds: Yeah, Barry has his HGH issues, but essentially we get to wipe out a decade of sluggers to seriously enforce any kind of control around hitters who did, or didn't use. Not that this justifies a cheater. However, Bonds did win seven MVPs, and if you take 200 of his homers away, assuming they were "enhanced," Bonds still places #14 on the all-time list. He also is the all-time walks and intentional walks leader. I understand that many, if not all of you, might disagree with me on principle, and I don't really have a response aside from what I wrote above. He was, however, the most dangerous and electric offensive player in the game for 15 years, and that is similarly hard to argue, no matter how it happened.

Tim Raines: Players of Raines' skill set are the toughest of all. 2605 hits, 808 steals, a career .294-170-980 with 1571 runs and a .385 OBP and a dominant force on the most competitive (and best) Expos team of all. As with Bonds, you could argue any number of other players--Al Oliver, Bill Buckner, Steve Garvey, Dwight Evans, Vada Pinson and Darrell Evans to name a few--had equally impressive resumes. And, my rationale for Rock is that he was simply more of a driving force on his team than were any of the other players I just noted.

Alan Trammell: With a .285-185-1003 line, the Tigers shortstop falls within the same realm of logic as does Raines. The arguments I see to support Trammell was he played the key defensive spot on a great team, becoming a starter at age 20, and subsequently spent 20 years and 2293 games, playing his whole career in Motown.

Missed my cut:

Sammy Sosa: You can make the same argument for Sosa and HGH's as for Bonds. But, remember, Sammy also corked his bat, so that makes him a double cheater, which is a bit much. Sammy played 18 years, so take away 200 homers from his total (the net is 409) and both Darrell Evans and Dave Kingman pass him on the all-time list.

Mark McGwire: Much more of the same. 16 years with a .263-583-1414 line, and McGwire didn't cork his bat that we know of, but neither did he appear to be as good when not juiced. In other words, to me, Bonds was so consistent over his career, which cannot be said of Big Mac.

Curt Schilling: I think it was FanGraphs that recently posted a pretty convincing piece, noting how Schilling stacked up against some of the greatest pitchers of all time, so I will have to think about Curt in the future. But, I am a guy who thinks that Tommy John and Jim Kaat deserve to be in the Hall, too. Truth is I don't really like Schilling (as a person, and I feel the same about McGwire), so that probably shades my thoughts. But, I would pull Ty Cobb from the Hall as well, no matter how good he was.

Roger Clemens: Kind of the same as Schilling. In essence, I think he played enhanced, which I can at least accept to an extent. But, I truly believe the Rocket is a smarmy guy.

Mike Piazza: .308-427-1335 over a 16-year career, when he was the power hitting catcher of his era, Piazza, like Schilling, will get some future considerations from me. Worthy of note is that every time I had Piazza on a fantasy team, I won.

Craig Biggio: .281-291-1155 over 20 seasons is pretty good, but the 3060 hits makes Biggio a guy who gets my vote next year.

Edgar Martinez: I like Edgar as much as I dislike Schilling and McGwire, and dude could certainly hit (.312-309-1261 over 18 years), but his 2247 hits for someone who played almost three times as many games as a DH than in the field. One reason I can give the nod to Biggio, Trammell and Piazza is they played positions that traditionally do not register offensive powerhouses. As a DH, Martinez should be one by definition, but his numbers don't stack up against those three, so I will pass.

John Smoltz: 213 wins and then 154 saves tells me Smoltz is up there in Dennis Eckersley territory. He might have come close to 300 wins, had Smoltzie stayed in the rotation, or he would have been among the great closers of the game, had he just done that. Certainly worthy.

A Change of Course PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 27 December 2014 00:00

I am a writer.


Yeah, I know. If you have been reading my thoughts on god and life and baseball over the past 22 years (yes, I started writing for John Benson in 1993, which does seem like yesterday), you probably figure I always was a writer.

But, due to family and especially health, I was also locked to a job.

As it turns out, it was a very good job as I finished up as a Project Manager with ATT for the last 20 years, handling some high powered and successful IT projects. And, I can say, as a Berkeley hippie of the highest order, that ATT was a fantastic employer.

As most of you know, I have dealt with Crohn's disease most of my life (since I was ten) and as a result, suffer from stage three kidney disease (I have only half of one functioning kidney). I also had a severely disabled son, Joey (he passed away in 2006, six months after Cathy), and the illness of my dear late wife Cathy is pretty well publicized I suppose.

Because of just that, I have been stuck the last 35 years, working jobs that provided solid health care for obvious reasons.

However, thanks to the ACA, and since I turned 62 last October, I was able to retire from ATT as of next Tuesday (I saved vacation days, so my last actual day of work was last Friday, December 19) and just be a full time writer. For, though I do get a nice little pension from ATT (and another from a job I held before I worked for the phone company), as well as my Social Security, I don't get any other benefits till I turn 65.

I could have stayed at ATT for three more years, and that would have added health care and a lot of benefits to my exit package, but again, remember, I have had Crohn's since 1962, and have pretty much had a full time job since 1968, even while going to college. I have been advised six times that I might not live through the night thanks to Crohn's emergencies/body break downs, although if you know me, or saw me in the street, the fact that my health is sometimes compromised might not ever occur to you.

If you have followed my existence here for at least the past couple of years, you will know that the last time this happened--my life apparently in jeopardy--was just two years ago, when after Crohn's surgery, my poor body went into acute renal failure on Christmas Eve 2012.

So, largely thanks to Obamacare, I can simply stop the regular grind, begin collecting my pensions, and settle into being a writer full time. That means covering a lot more baseball and football, and mostly writing about it in the daytime, even (my old routine was to work my ATT job till 5 PM or so, and then take a little nap, and complete whatever column was due the next day).

Since I began writing on the Net, in 1996, if I averaged five columns a week, since that time I have written over 4500 columns, and if each column was 750 words, it means almost 3.5 million of them, as a second gig.

No more.

I decided--thankfully with the support of my lovely Diane and great circle of family and friends--that though I felt just fine, working those extra three years simply for a bit more pension and health care to simply do what I always wanted to do anyway (be a writer) was probably not the best gamble or use of my time.

Mind you, I have no intention or desire to leave the planet any sooner than is absolutely necessary, but, well, I have gotten old enough to at least try to be both practical and realistic.

So, from now on out, I am a writer full time. Although I must also confess that I studied literature as an undergraduate, and then a graduate, and what I really like to write the best is fiction.

I have three novels mapped out (I wrote another as a thesis) as well as a collection of short stories that has eight, but could use a half dozen more to really make it a volume of anything substantive.

In addition to writing, I plan on playing a lot of guitar and bass (toss in some ukulele, too) and hopefully finish off a second album of original tunes (my first, "Downward Facing Dog", is out there on Amazon), read fat novels, watch classic movies on TCM, cook, spend time sitting in the sun with our dogs, and checking out our wonderful country with my pal and partner, Diane. Oh yeah, and spending time at the yard during the season, keeping an eye on the machinations, and reporting back what I see to you.

I think it will be a pretty good ride. Happy for you to come along.

Just How Simple is Parity? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 20 December 2014 00:00

One of the things I hear fantasy owners mention most frequently when they are suggesting rule changes is parity.

I am not sure exactly what that term means to each specific owner, but I suspect it means something to the effect of "I want to have a chance to win every year."

Now, if you are in a throwback league, where there is a redraft each season, this is not an issue as everyone has an equal chance year-to-year to build a new squad from scratch.

But, if you play in a keeper league of any type, then once the variable of freezes has slipped into the salary structure, the actual idea of parity year-to-year pretty much goes out the window.

Meaning that even though a great draft or auction might help a team without a stellar list of keepers win a league, the advantage going into a new season will always rest with the team possessing the highest value players at the lowest actual cost per player.

That means $15 worth of Jose Abreu is, like it or not, a better base to go into a draft with than $37 of Miguel Cabrera.

The problem for those owners craving "parity" is that aside from forcing the team that owns Abreu to either trade or dump him, an equal shot going into the coming season is probably not going to happen.

Again, that does not mean it is hopeless going into a draft: rather there are a lot of players, and many of the unknowns of baseball promise a couple of guys will step it up into the Abreu set of numbers, while a couple more will slip from the Cabrera baselines.

To me, that is where the fun lies: in trying to figure out just where to build and conjure and compensate in order to be competitive.

However, most of the time, it takes a year or two of trades and retooling to assemble a roster that can compete if your team has been less than successful (or, in the same vein, if your team won via dump trades).

As well documented here, I have been rebuilding a couple of my teams--MWStrat and my XFL--for a couple of years, and finally both look like they are ready to compete.

And, if we turn our eyes to the Hot Stove, the Marlins, Padres and Athletics have turned their squads upside down rebuilding. In the cases of San Diego and Miami, both teams had pretty good young cores being developed, so now the swaps for vets will ideally give both teams what they need to move to the next level.

But, Oakland has had one of the best teams over the past two-and-a-half seasons. They also hit such an epic meltdown second half of 2014, that Billy Beane felt the best path forward was simply to deconstruct what he had, and reinvent the team.

That might sound strange, and you might question Beane's tactics, but for the most part that is what he did four years ago--starting with the signing of Yoenis Cespedes--and bingo, within a year he had a team that was beyond dangerous. He also had a team that made the postseason three years straight, which is really pretty good.

The truth is, I doubt the Athletics, as they now would take the field, would be much of a threat to AL West teams like the Angels and the Rangers, and even the Mariners and nearly retooled Astros.

But, peppered with the likes of Marcus Semien and Brett Lawrie and Ike Davis, Beane will give this cycle's collection from the island of lost players a chance to show what they can do.

Which is pretty much the path for your roto teams: it takes till the break to even see whether or not your team has what it takes to compete in any given year.

I think what this boils down to is if Billy understands how "parity" works, it is probably silly for fantasy owners to expect much more.

As noted, I personally find that whole rebuilding process satisfying, and I would bet Billy does too.

Disgruntled owners, take note.

Chillin' With the Hot Stove PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 13 December 2014 00:00

What a wild wind up to the Winter Meetings we saw with teams adding and subtracting pieces and jettisoning salary trying to stumble into the correct combination that will lead to post season glory.

So, let's see what just how we think teams did?

Didi Gregorius: Diamondbacks to Tigers to Yankees, Gregorius is an interesting add to the Yankees, but hardly a replacement for Derek Jeter. In fairness, no one would be a worthy successor to DJ anymore than would they be to Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays. Gregorius is clearly an offensive step up from Brendan Ryan, which unfortunately, is not saying too much (I think I might even be that). But, the Yankees need to do something. Alex Rodriguez may be able to play third, which means Martin Prado could play second, to Mark Teixeira's first base, but this team is aging and brittle, and we have not even started talking pitching. Looks like it might be a tough year to be in the Bronx.

Yoenis Cespedes: Boston to Tigers. On one hand, Cespedes is such a perfect fit to the Tigers powerful offensive scheme. Can you see him hitting between Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez? On the other hand, the team swapped Rick Porcello, and is not (yet) resigning Max Scherzer. That means David Price stays as the ace, but that Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander have to pick up the slack. As with the team's approach toward closers, I kind of get what they are doing, and yet I have no clue what the real plan is. I do think Detroit will play third fiddle to the Royals and Indians, however.

Dee Gordon: Dodgers to Miami. I think both the Dodgers and the Fish made a smart move here. I do sort of think that Gordon's value may never be higher. But, even if his numbers drop--which I expect as Gordon is a low on-base player, especially for a lead off hitter--he should still be valuable atop a Marlins team that includes perhaps the best up-and-coming outfield on the planet. Add in stabilizing the middle defense by pairing with Adeiny Hechavarria, and Miami's rebuild is on a nice path. In fact I am really looking forward to watching the Fish, Mets, Padres, Astros, and especially the Cubs who are all near the end of the rebuild process.

Howie Kendrick: Angels to Dodgers. The Dodgers surely needed a second sacker with the departure of Gordon, and I must confess to long being a big Kendrick fan. Under-rated and steady (.292-12-75 162-game mean with 14 swipes over his nine years) Kendrick is perfect for the Dodgers. I see him hitting second, putting up his career average numbers, and working well with new shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

Jimmy Rollins: Phillies to Dodgers. Just about the end of the line for J-Roll, but somehow, a perfect spot, holding short until Corey Seager is ready.

Matt Kemp: Dodgers to Padres. I am not sure I would swap off the potentially potent Kemp quite so readily, were I the Dodgers, but a lot of what they did was adjusting payroll to positions to opportunity.

First things first: San Diego, who has a lot of nice stuff going on, needed serious help in their outfield. The existing configuration--Carlos Quentin, Will Venable, and Seth Smith--is really a configuration of fourth outfielders, So Kemp adds impact and credibility out there. Rumor has it the Pads would also like to land Justin Upton, which makes things even more interesting.

If San Diego can install Cory Spangenberg at second, and move Jedd Gyorko back to third, that too would serve them well.

The teams still has short and catcher (now that Yasmani Grandal is a Dodger), and their essentially young pitching staff will need to work into a groove by July, but San Diego could be a fun team in 2015, and really good in 2016.

As for what the Dodgers get is a chance to give Scott Van Slyke (.297-11-29 with a .910 OPS last year) and Joc Pederson patrol the outfield, along with vets Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford. Toss in Grandal behind the plate, Rollins and Kendrick, and Adrian Gonzalez and the Bums look pretty good (though they still need someone at the hot corner).

Jon Lester: Free agent to Cubs. Talk about the perfect move, on a team with six monster prospects, a veteran presence like Lester's is just brilliant. For one, he  knows what it takes to make the post season. For another, he can indeed mentor the likes of Javier Baez and Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant et al. But, this also tells all those great young prospects that management has confidence their team can compete, and are willing to pony up for a premier starter to prove it.

Picking a World Series winner is a dicey thing, especially when it comes to the Cubs, but in 2016, I think the Cubs will have the best team in the National League. And, I think they will at least afford an excellent chance of overcoming 100-plus years of post-season misery.

Life Imitating Art Again PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 06 December 2014 00:00

There has been a fun controversy the last couple of weeks regarding the NFL Playoffs.

That is because with just a couple of weeks left of the regular season, the Chiefs might only be the fifth seed, the Cardinals might finish 9-7 and not make the party, and whoever faces the winner of the NFC South will carry the wrath of all the teams over .500 who was robbed.

The whole fuss about changing the rules to make the playoffs "better" really hit home, since this is the time when all of my baseball leagues go through the painful process of suggesting rule changes.

We just went through those gyrations in the XFL, and one simple note just noting thoughts to the Tout Wars community pushed 47 arguments on how to perfect the game within the first 20 minutes of distribution.

In fact, later today, the annual winter meeting of the MidWest Strat-O-Matic League will take place at my friend Dean Peterson's home in Palatine, Chicago. I will have to dial in along with a bunch of other owners who are scattered across the country as we finalize five basic rule changes that have generated a similar amount of league buzz.

It is just crazy to me. And, it is not that I don't want to play by the rules, or think the league and its parameters cannot be at least tightened. But, for the most part, the stronger the advocate of the rule change often is, the greater the chance that he or she feels the existing setup is between them and a title.

I do think if we spent a fraction of the energy spent on trying to change the rules on trying to figure out how to win within the existing confines, the world would be a happier place.

Right now, the XML Team in the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) League has the fifth best power ranking in the 12-team league, but their 7-6 record means they will miss the playoffs that involve the top six teams, won-loss wise.

Fortunately, the XML owner took it philosophically, which is always refreshing, but apparently if the Browns can finish 9-7 and fourth in the AFC North, there will be sour grapes if the Falcons manage to scrape by with a 7-9 mark.

In the MidWest League, where there are strict usage rules: In the simulation, based upon the previous season, we are allowed to use a player for his total at-bats or innings pitched, plus 20%. As such, no injury factors are considered.

What is funny, was when the league was set up, the number of starts a pitcher made was that baseline, but we decided to change to innings simply because that is the actual usage.

So, now we have to vote again, trying to decide if we should move back to starts, because innings are too difficult to track, but starts are simple. But, the reality is innings are no more trouble to follow than at-bats, so that is a silly argument in my opinion.

It does show how consistent human beings are, especially when it comes to justice, for we all want it for ourselves, but not necessarily for anyone else.

And, while arguments about religion and politics are generally no more substantive than sports rules, it is hard to imagine getting twisted around winning a game when there are enough more serious things on the planet to try and handle. Like maybe Climate Change. And racism. And hunger. May as well toss in world peace, as long as we are at it.

As for the FSTA, Todd and I made the playoffs for the second straight year, and thought we had a bye Week 1, but, in the H2H playoff tie breaker rules, we missed by a point, and have to play after all.

Because, as my mate Lord Zola said, "rules is rules."


Black Friday Review: Baseball Signings Thus Far PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 29 November 2014 00:00

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend, one of the best times of the year. Family, food, and football do make for a great combination, as does second guessing sports management.

So, as we head into the throes of the holiday season, in anticipation of the winter meetings, let's take a look at the first cluster of big name signings, and see what fun we can have with them.

Pablo Sandoval (Red Sox): I have to say that I will seriously miss the Panda manning the hot corner at AT&T, but all-in-all, the Red Sox might well have made a great move signing the 28-year-old for five years. Pablo is actually a pretty good third sacker, who might not have as much range as we would hope, but who does possess quick reflexes and a related quick bat. I understand that Pablo is set to cover third until David Ortiz retires, then slide into the DH spot, which is the perfect way to break Garin Cecchini into the hot corner without missing a beat. And, Pablo will be 33 when the contract is over, so the time invested is pretty reasonable. By the way, I am thinking, if I am Brian Sabean, I would think about moving Buster Posey to third, to both preserve his knees, and to keep Brandon Belt busy at first.

Hanley Ramirez (Red Sox): Kind of like the Red Sox signing of Pablo, Ramirez, who is slated to play left field, is a decent gamble for four years and $88 million. Yes, he can be injury prone, but similarly he can hit. And, again, moving Hanley to left allows the Sox to play and develop Mookie Betts, so again, nice move. The question in L.A. is what to do till Corey Seager arrives?

Russell Martin (Blue Jays): I have always been a big fan of Martin, but I do think he will struggle a little, a la Brian McCann, with this move to the American League. Still, I expect him to adjust and be a good investment over the five years, giving steadiness behind the dish and some punch while at it.

Victor Martinez (Tigers): I think the Tigers dominance in the AL Central is fading, and Justin Verlander and V-Mart are part of the reason why. True, Martinez had a killer 2014, and true he has played in 150 or more games the past two years, but he will be 36 when the season begins. I would expect a drop. I think he will be part of some last hurrah in Detroit, as the team tries once more to get to the postseason and win a Series. I don't think it will work, and I do think the team will fall into mediocrity as V-Mart's contract comes to term. 

Billy Butler (Athletics): Interesting signing on a team that has been left-handed heavy. But Butler has been beyond solid the past eight years, logging a 162-game mean of .295-18-87, which includes his poor numbers (.279-9-66 with a .323 OBP, way below his career average of .353) of last year. Butler can platoon at first with Brandon Moss and provide a right-handed stick at the DH slot as well, fitting in on a team that is so good at using the pieces of their respective sum. Butler is the slowest player I have ever seen (take that Bengie Molina and Jarrod Saltalamacchia), so how he fits in with the Oakland speed game will be interesting, and I also think Oakland needs a batter who, like Yoenis Cespedes, provides enough of a deep threat that opposing pitchers and managers have to think about it.

A.J. Burnett (Pirates): I have always been a fan of Burnett's, but I would have rather seen the Buccos move to retain Francisco Liriano and/or Edinson Volquez before tossing $8.5 million at a 38-year-old #4 starter. Go figure.

Adam LaRoche (White Sox): Aside from 2011, when he was hurt, LaRoche has hit no fewer than 20 homers since 2005, and though he is 36, the deal is just for a couple of years. LaRoche can spell Jose Abreu at first, and spend some time at DH, picking up the slack created with the departure of Paul Konerko, and I guess Adam Dunn. I guess I can understand this move, and though it is not a bad one, I don't necessarily understand it.

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Saturday, 28 November 2015 16:57
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