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Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down


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.

 

 
Looking at the AFL Prospects PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 02 November 2013 00:00

This past weekend, I have been carousing with my mates at the annual BaseballHQ first pitch, in the Valley of the Sun.

As part of my participation this year, I was on a panel that previewed some of the top players participating in the Fall League.

So, as part of what I factored out, I took the 43 players the panel of six reviewed, and crunched their statistics against the formulas I use to create my Top 250 Prospect List (which is due out December 1, and which will be my 15th iteration).

For the archivists, the first list, in 1998, was a Top 100, and if memory serves, names like Rick Ankiel (as a pitcher) and Marcus Giles were among the best.

In completing my ratings, I crunch numbers that look at power (ability to hit for extra bases or earn a strikeout, depending upon position), prowess over the strike zone (walks-to-whiffs for both hitters and pitchers) and level of play relative to age.

While the results are often rhetorical—as in Dylan Bundy was a Top 10 guy last year—often our equations spot players ahead of the curve.

As in Albert Pujols, ranked #10 in 2001 after just one year in the Minors (remember, Pujols only made the Opening Day roster after a strong spring that year due to injuries).

Other notables:

So, while the path of the quintet noted above might well have been the Majors, all five appeared in the year of our ranking them higher than the mainstream.

So, for fun this AFL, I ranked the players the panel as a whole has just reviewed, using the same algorithms I use to determine the yearly Top 250.

A few things to note:

Ratings are based upon the level of play noted. When I do the final Top 250, players must meet these baselines to qualify:

  • Have played at least at Single-A level or above.
  • Have logged at least 200 at-bats at one level for hitters.
  • Have logged at least 70 innings, with a minimum of 70 at one level for pitchers.

The Top 250 will be published next month and is included within the Mastersball.com Platinum Subscription Package.

RANK

NAME

POS

OD AGE

B

T

AFL TEAM

RATING LEAGUE

HR/W

RBI/ WHIP

SB/ SV

OPS/ SO

TOTAL

1

Corey Seager

SS

20

L

R

Glendale

MID

12

57

9

.918

20.88

2

Addison Russell

SS

20

R

R

Mesa

CAL

17

60

21

.885

21.14

3

Byron Buxton

CF

20

R

R

Glendale

FSL

4

22

23

.887

21.64

4

Mookie Betts

2B

21

R

R

Surprise

SAL

8

26

18

.895

21.68

5

Jorge Alfaro

C

21

R

R

Surprise

AZL

2

8

2

1.310

21.91

6

Albert Almora

OF

20

R

R

Mesa

MID

3

23

4

.842

21.96

7

Delino DeShields

OF

22

R

R

Peoria

CAL

5

54

51

.873

22.48

8

Jorge Bonifacio

OF

21

R

R

Peoria

CAR

2

29

0

.776

22.83

9

Kris Bryant

3B

22

R

R

Mesa

NOR

4

16

0

1.108

23.24

10

Austin Hedges

C

22

R

R

Peoria

CAL

4

30

5

.768

23.47

11

Colin Moran

3B

22

L

R

Glendale

SAL

4

23

1

.796

23.50

12

Jorge Soler

OF

22

R

R

Mesa

FSL

8

35

5

.810

23.60

13

Alen Hanson

SS

21

S

R

Scottsdale

FSL

7

48

24

.783

23.94

14

Peter O'Brien

3B

24

R

R

Scottsdale

SAL

11

41

0

1.012

23.94

15

Cheslor Cuthbert

3B

21

R

R

Peoria

TEX

6

28

5

.638

23.97

16

Garin Cecchini

3B

23

L

R

Surprise

EAS

2

28

8

.824

24.30

17

Adalberto Mejia

P

21

L

L

SFG

CAL

7

1.126

87.0

89

24.48

18

Taylor Lindsey

2B

22

L

R

Mesa

TEX

17

56

4

.780

24.58

19

Stephen Piscotty

OF

23

R

R

Salt River

TEX

6

24

7

.810

24.71

20

Tyler Austin

1B

23

R

R

Scottsdale

EAS

6

40

4

.717

24.82

21

Mason Williams

OF

22

L

R

Scottsdale

FSL

6

40

4

.717

24.82

22

Eduardo Rodriguez

P

21

L

L

Surprise

CAR

6

1.21

0

66

24.84

23

Aaron Sanchez

P

22

R

R

Salt River

FSL

4

1.19

0

75

24.95

24

Kyle Crick

P

21

L

R

Scottsdale

CAL

3

1.27

0

95

25.09

25

Brian Goodwin

OF

23

L

R

Mesa

EAS

10

40

19

.762

25.16

26

Tyler Naquin

OF

23

L

R

Surprise

CAR

9

42

14

.769

25.19

27

Eddie Rosario

2B

23

L

R

Glendale

EAS

4

38

7

.742

25.26

28

Jameson Taillon

P

22

R

R

Scottsdale

EAS

4

1.34

0

106

25.47

29

Marcus Stroman

P

23

R

R

Salt River

EAS

9

1.13

0

129

25.47

30

Richie Shaffer

1B

23

R

R

Salt River

FSL

11

73

6

.707

25.55

31

Burch Smith

P

24

R

R

Peoria

PCL

5

1.20

0

65

25.82

32

Kelly Dugan

OF

24

L

R

Peoria

EAS

10

23

0

.771

25.89

33

Jonathan Schoop

SS

22

R

R

Surprise

INT

9

34

1

.697

25.96

34

Andrew Heaney

P

23

L

L

Glendale

FSL

5

1.01

0

66

26.18

35

James Ramsey

OF

24

L

R

Salt River

TEX

15

44

8

.780

26.54

36

C.J. Cron

1B

24

R

R

Mesa

TEX

14

83

8

.747

26.74

37

Mike Montgomery

P

25

L

L

Salt River

INT

7

1.46

0

77

26.75

38

Alex Meyer

P

24

R

R

Glendale

EAS

4

1.27

0

84

26.94

39

Carson Smith

P

24

R

R

Peoria

SOU

1

1.00

15

71

26.95

40

Tyler Matzek

P

23

L

L

Salt River

TEX

8

1.57

0

95

26.95

41

Henry Urrutia

OF

27

L

R

Surprise

EAS

7

37

1

.983

27.98

42

Tommy La Stella

2B

25

L

R

ATL

SOU

2

4

7

0.895

28.27

43

Tommy Medica

1B

26

R

R

Peoria

TEX

18

57

4

.954

29.43

 
Tim Much, Ain't Enough PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 26 October 2013 00:00

With all respect to Tom Petty, whose tune I modified to get the title this week, there has been a lot of talk and speculation and consternation regarding this week's signing of Tim Lincecum for two years and $35 million.

I like Timmy. I got to score his very first start back in 2007 and have probably worked at least 30 of his starts over the years, so I am used to seeing Tim's motion, deliver, velocity, success, and over the past couple of years, lack thereof.

Personally, I think no matter how much I like Lincecum, enjoy watching him when he is on, and want him to do well, he is not worth that much money.

While it is true that the new contract is a drop of about $5 million a year over what Lincecum was making, there has been discussion about whether the right-hander was getting this deal more for what he has done than what he can do for the Giants.

The truth is for me that professional sports salaries all seem like funny money to me anyway.

In fact, if we look at the highest paid pitchers in the Majors in 2013, most of them are established stars at the tail ends of their careers.

  1. Cliff Lee ($25 million)
  2. Johan Santana ($24.644 million)
  3. C.C. Sabathia ($23 million)
  4. Tim Lincecum ($22.5 million)
  5. Zack Greinke ($22 million)
  6. Matt Cain ($20.833 million)
  7. Cole Hamels ($20.5 million)
  8. Justin Verlander ($21.1 million)
  9. Roy Halladay ($20 million)
  10. Barry Zito ($20 million)

Aside from it being kind of scary that the Giants already had $73.2 million tied up in three of the top 10, none of whom was particularly effective in 2013.

Furthermore, among this list, only Cain and Lincecum are under 30 (each turns 30 in 2014), and Santana, Halladay and Zito are not even guaranteed a rotation gig in the coming season, while only Greinke really earned his salary last year, and that was for a 15-4, 2.73 mark over 28 starts and 177.2 innings.

All of this makes me wonder just what owners are thinking, or paying for, when they hand out the big bucks like this.

I did hear local radio guy Greg Papa the other day dismissing stat heads, and noting what we had to do was "watch Tim pitch" in order to understand the deal.

Well, Greg, I have. And, with Lincecum, as with Matt Cain, what I have seen of late are good pitchers who no longer seem to be able to put away hitters with their best stuff.

If they could, they would not have allowed nearly half the homers of their respective careers over the last two seasons. As in Lincecum allowed 44 of the 110 dingers over the past seven years over 2012-13, while Cain also surrendered 44 over the past two years. What is odd is that in 2011 Cain only allowed nine big flies, while over 2008-09 again it was 44.

Mind you, I have no problem with the success of these guys or capitalism or the essence of what makes our country and economy go, but there is something wrong here with the system. 

As I believed back during the last labor dispute, we--and basically I mean baseball management--is really doing this the wrong way. And, if you think I am wrong here, answer this question: Does Tim get $35 million for what SF thinks he will do the next two years based upon what he did the last two? Or, are they paying him for being so good for the five years before that, and simply hoping he will sort of return to form?

But, if you are not sure where the dollars for past performance end, and hopeful future performance begins, then I guess you are smarter than me.

I think it is time to change how players are compensated, and I think the solution would be to simply pay a lump sum--maybe a billion dollars for a season, and though I made that figure up, it would be negotiable over some period of years--and then the Players Union gets to figure out how to distribute the proceeds.

Teams could still draft, and there would be the same rules about free agency. There could even be incentives for players to stay with the team that drafted them.

OK, so maybe the above suggestion is not perfect, although with any idea you have to start somewhere. 

But, it is ridiculous.

Don't you think?

 

 
What’s Your Franchise? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 19 October 2013 03:30

When I am not prowling around the ballpark, I spend the rest of my working time at Project Management for ATT.

It is actually a pretty good gig: I work with great people, and mercifully, I work from the office I have in my home, which is about as convenient and cozy as it gets.

I tend to start my day pretty early workwise—at 7 AM—largely because I am an early bird, but more because the ATT universe is pretty much spread across that same broad splash of existence.

I drive a lot of meetings during the week, and they are all virtual. That means the good side is no one ever knows if I am still in my jammies, but the bad side is very few of the people with whom I interact ever meet face-to-face.

Since the work day isn’t like it was when I was younger—as in people had desks in offices, which eventually became cubicles, and they gathered in meeting rooms to discuss projects and plans, sometimes tying into another group in another conference room—it does become hard to get to know and appreciate the folks with whom we interact with in a personal way.

No dropping into someone’s space, looking at the pictures of their family, and a calendar of some passion, like sailboats or skiing or cooking, and prints of art they like or photographs taken while on a family holiday decking the walls.

So, when I am running a meeting, as we are waiting for the masses to join, I like to ask where people live, and that often leads to, “Oh man, your Chiefs are hot,” or “The Mets have some pretty good live arms, if they can get a little hitting they should be very good.”

Of course, on occasion there is someone who simply does not like sports—or equally curious, thinks of NASCAR as one—and that is fine, for I am a Bay Area guy, and I have a lot of friends who would rather go to a concert or hiking than get caught up on the machinations of the Raiders.

But generally, folks have a team and love their team accordingly, and during football season, on Monday calls are happy to discuss the previous day’s agony or triumph.

I have found it interesting, especially over the past couple of months with the baseball playoffs looming, as a couple of my bosses (we are talking up the corporate chain) live in St. Louis, and though my partner Brian Walton is on the east coast, he is a well-known source of Cardinal information with his site, The Cardinal Nation.

Furthermore, our other partner, Lord Z himself, is a Bostonian, so it has been interesting this post-season, as we all had our teams and fingers on the playoff pulse (well, now everyone but me does).

It was fun when Michael Wacha was no-hitting the Pirates messaging my bosses Patti and Matt, not only asking if they were tracking the game, but noting that this was an adult version of being in grade school and listening to the Series with a transistor radio and earphone discretely cabled up through my shirt.

With another group, my friend Sancha Maston, who now lives in Texas but was born in the Bay Area, and I can commiserate over the Raiders, who, for the first time since maybe 1983 might look like they are starting to have a team.

I say this because that team loyalty thing is such a tricky business. For, as I have written, I have been a Raiders fan since 1960, and suffered and struggled with them for years.

But, as they moved to Los Angeles, and then abandoned their “Commitment to Excellence” in lieu of dedication to mediocrity, I grew weary of them.

So, I have always justified the fact that I do player and team analysis, and thus have to remain objective. Thus I really should not have a favorite team (in fact wearing sports team regalia, let alone rooting in the Press Box is strictly verboten, unless you are one of the media folks from the participating teams).

Still, it is odd that as much as I loved the Dodgers as a kid in Northern California in the 60’s, they seem like such a foreign body to me now, removed several owners from the O’Malleys, that I don’t really care how they do.

Although, I have to admit it was a thrill to meet Vin Scully last year, the voice of the Dodgers of my youth.

But, other than that, I really don’t care how they do in the playoffs.

Mostly.

You see, this team loyalty stuff getting into one’s bloodstream is a difficult thing to shake.

But, it certainly binds us as well.

 
Schizo Thursday PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 12 October 2013 00:00

I had a lot of anticipation all day last Thursday, working, and waiting for 5 PM, Berkeley time.

That was when the Athletics and Tigers were set for first pitch, and shortly thereafter, the Giants and the Bears were ready for their kickoff.

When I invited my best bud Mark Berenberg, and his son-in-law Mike Schlesinger over, it was with the thought of the Bears--who I follow--and Giants--who Mike follows--dominating the evening.

For Mike and his wife Emily, and now their new son Gavin, don't yet get the NFL Network, so an evening watching and hanging sounded like a lot of fun.

But then Mark said Mike was off to Vegas for the weekend, and could not make it, and then I had to let Mark know that the real focus of the evening was going to have to be the Athletics and Tigers.

Mark, who lives within spy distance of the O.co Coliseum, understood. We stood, in fact, on Mark's back deck back in August when after the Athletics game it was Green Day Fireworks Night, watching the aerial ballet while my shuffle blasted out American Idiot.

Thursday, however, turned out to be a tough night.

Oakland lost a playoff series for the seventh time since 1992, and have not appeared in the Fall Classic since 1990, when they were beaten by the Reds, a team the Oaklanders should have bested, but Tony LaRussa was outmanaged by Lou Piniella

I did have high hopes for Oakland this year as first pitch neared, and a special desire for the team to take it out on Justin Verlander, who in many ways cost me heavily in Tout Wars. For, I had paid $31 for the rights to his services, and his performance was not even close to what I expected, let alone cost me.

But Verlander simply has the Athletics number, and no matter how many homers the team hit, or how well great youngster Sonny Gray looked, once Gray let a fastball hang for a second to Miguel Cabrera, that was all she wrote.

I had a hard time, in fact, watching the game once the first Detroit runs were scored because Verlander was so dominant, and the Oakland bats so completely impotent on that all important night.

That meant flipping to the Bears, a team that should have easily had their way with an 0-5 "jugger-not" like Eli Manning and his mates.

But I was wrong, for the most part.

7-0, yay.

Then 7-7, oh.

Then 14-7, yay.

Then 14-14, oh.

Around the time that the Athletics actually got a hit, the score had upped to 27-14 with the Bears in charge, but Eli and company came within six, as the eighth inning arrived, and Detroit moved it to 3-0.

I suppose had Oakland not been struggling so mightily against Verlander, the Bears tenuous lead would have felt a little better, but the truth is though I knew Mike was not present, with his team going to 0-6, I knew he was suffering. New baby or not, 0-6 is tough stuff.

Not to mention, when we did watch for a few plays, the Bears looked competent, but hardly convincing.

Eventually, I made us cheesesteaks and fries, and Mark and I subverted the end of the baseball season in the Bay Area by eating all of it, in the true fashion of sports fans trying to forestall agony.

Actually, since Mark really follows the Warriors, neither the Giants nor the Athletics losses took much of a toll on him. But, despite my desire to maintain some neutrality and keep my player analysis objective, I love it that the A's proved to be as good as I predicted seven months ago.

And, well, I was born in Oakland, whether I like it or not, so it becomes like extricating myself from the Raiders, whom I followed since 1960, and loved with all my heart until 1983, when they became as schizophrenic as my sports watching last Thursday.

Last Sunday, however, on the oddly named "Thursday Night Football Special Sunday Edition", the Raiders actually did look like a team for the first time since I can remember.

They had a defense with some purpose, and maybe even a quarterback in Terrelle Pryor who might really be something the past signal callers since Jim Plunkett have not been: a winner.

As for the Athletics, unlike my mates Lord Zola, and his Red Sox, and Brian Walton, who covers the Cardinals, well, we will simply have to wait till next year.

 

 

 
The DH, Interleague Play, and Now This? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 05 October 2013 00:00

My friend Ben Klein sent me an e-mail the other day, admitting he just realized that the Reds and the Indians were now out of the playoffs.

He then proceeded to note that he did not like the DH, or Interleague play, or the new playoff format.

I would hardly consider Ben negative, but he is a purist of sorts. So, I contextualized this in a traditional baseball sense, I knew what he meant.

When I was young, and I have about a decade on Ben, there were two leagues with eight teams in each. The winner of each league earned the right to duke it out in the World Series with the other league champ.

Now though we still have two leagues, each has 15 teams, just one less than the total of my youth.

I guess it did seem simpler, or maybe purer watching those 16 teams when I was eight years old, goggle eyed at the spectacle of Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson and Mickey Mantle.

It would be a decade before the DH, and another 30 years for Interleague games, and then another chunk before this last iteration of playoffs.

I don't remember whether I even cared that much, however, when the DH change was made. I was 17, a Sophomore in college in the late 60's in the Bay Area. Those days were a lot more about sex and drugs and rock'n'roll, with the occasional Vietnam protest tossed in to give the illusion of purpose.

As far as keeping the DH, I don't think it matters so much whether it exists or not anymore, as opposed to both leagues should simply play by the same set of rules. Period.

Though it was years later for Interleague games, I not only liked them at first glance, I really started to love them this year when they were simply scheduled during the course of the season as opposed to during specific periods.

But, I have to say, I think the new extra wild card one-day playoff is wonderful.

Just think back to how exciting the last week, and especially day of the season has been over the past pair of seasons.

And, while this year, it seemed the deadline trades were down a little based upon expectation, there were a ton of post-deadline machinations made.

Having the Monday duel between the Rays and the Rangers as a pre-cursor to those follow-up elimination matches between the Reds and Bucs, and then Rays and Tribe were similarly fun.

I know there are those out there who think if there has to be a playoff like that, it should at least be a best-of-three scenario, but I look at the game like sudden death, which is basically what it is.

Or, in other words, one last ditch chance to show how good your team really is under a pressure situation.

The Devil's Advocate in me notes that any team can have a bad day, and one game is not a barometer of a team's real quality.

That might be true, but neither is a three-game series, or even a best-of-seven format.

For, certainly a team has to be good to make the Wild Card playoff, but it is also true that in most championships like baseball or football, the team that is hot at the right time is the one to favor. And, being hot at the right time means winning those one-game showdowns.

Baseball is a pretty conservative organization, all things considered.

Back to when I was eight, and really into it for my first full season, it had barely been a decade since Jackie Robinson.

It would be another decade for baseball to be on television more than just the Saturday Yankees game with Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese (it was called the "Game of the Week," but it was mostly the Bronx Bombers as I remember). And, that is a far cry from my Extra Innings package, that brings me just about every game, every day of the season.

I guess the bottom line is that change is not only necessary, it is inevitable.

We may as well get used to it. Both Ben, and me. In fact all of us.

 

 

 
Ultra Crunch Time PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 28 September 2013 00:00

It's almost here.

"It," in this instance, is the Xperts Fantasy League, a collection of 15 elder--as in over 40--members of the fantasy industry who play in a 5X5 keeper competition.

If you happened to hit the link to the league above, you will note that over the decade I have participated in the XFL, my team has sucked.

Which is particularly rough, for the 15-team mixed 5X5 format is how I first played fantasy ball, and mine was certainly a dominant team during my time in what was the Coco's Fala League.

A lot of my failure, I believe, has been due to my long-held belief that in such a shallow format with just a decent keeper list, and we can keep up to 15 players, there will always be the points in the auction pool ($260 cap) who can be mixed with my freezes to make a winning team.

I also have to admit that the competitors in the XFL are also excellent players and it is not only a tough competition, but one in which my league mates tend to see the same skills that I do.

But, in 2011, due to my consistent failures--enlightening in that I can indeed eventually recognize that repeated failure suggests a new approach--I grabbed the biggest stars I could, and turned them into Matt Moore, Jacob Turner, Yonder Alonso and Yoenis Cespedes on the cheap. This year, I have added Mike Zunino, Jedd Gyorko, also cheap, and with a couple of more bargains--Leonys Martin, Ben Revere, Kyle Seager and Allen Craig--so I have a solid young core going into the auction, which takes place at the First Pitch AFL in just about a month.

As noted before, I really love rebuilding, especially when it works, but despite loving to try new approaches, I want this to work. It does seem like my league mates who have built their strong teams--like Steve Moyer, and Don Drooker--have done it this way.

But, I also have a Strat-O-Matic team in pretty much the same shape: two years ago, realizing we were not going to improve much, a housecleaning of Ryan Zimmerman, Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Mark Ellis yielded some nice pieces, and I suddenly have an outfield--Carl Crawford, Jose Tabata and Domonic Brown--and some pretty good other chips in a 30-team usage enforced sim set-up.

But, with some other little chips to trade (Norichika Aoki, and either Jonathan Lucroy or Derek Norris) I can up my draft selections for this year, one that should be rich in newcomers all over the diamond, and flesh out a strong starting 8 on the field, and even offer up a strong rotation anchored by Jose Fernandez and Matt Harvey (remember, Strat-O-Matic is based upon the previous year, so in 2014, I will get his 2013 stats to use).

But, with Gyorko, Anthony Rendon and Nolan Arenado all out there, and even outfielders like Yasiel Puig, Christian Yelich and Marcel Ozuna, in my National League side of the house, I am so looking forward to that draft, which will not take place until this coming February.

I really do love this rebuilding, and it is especially rewarding when it works, and I have tried to be patient--two years is a long time in fantasy terms, you know--so I am hoping this is a path to respectability in one league, and a return to it in the other.

 

 

 
Sleepers or Sluggers? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 21 September 2013 00:00

Just about this time last year, I remember writing about how completely deceived I was by the Oakland Athletics, a team I thought should have lost 90 games by late September, not win that many.

Sure, the rag-tag fellows in Green and Gold played loose, and had really great and unparalleled rookie pitching, along with a couple of young outfield stars in Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick

But, Oakland used their experience last season, and were brilliantly managed by Bob Melvin, coming amazingly close to even making it to the series last year.

However, I saw the moves Billy Beane made over the off-season, like acquiring Jed Lowrie, John Jaso and Chris Young while retaining Coco Crisp, and it was very clear to me what the 2013 path could be.

In fact, just before Tout Wars, on the CBS Broadcast hosted by Nando DiFino, I was pretty sure that Young would get 400 at-bats (currently at 353 plate appearances, and 315 at-bats, with an average that just crept over the Mendoza line), that neither Jemile Weeks nor Hiroyuki Nakajima would be a factor, and that pretty much every position player on the team was capable of double-digit dingers over the course of the season.

Add in that those record setting rookie pitchers of last season all were now essentially veterans, with playoff experience, along with a pretty good bullpen.

Still, in the toughest division in the Majors--and I do mean the AL West, with the Rangers and Angels--going into the 2013 season it seemed that despite the solid roster, Oakland would still have a tough row to hoe to make it to the postseason.

However, after last night's 11-0 trouncing of the Twins, brilliantly manipulated by the wiley Bartolo Colon, who nabbed his 17th win, Oakland now has 174 homers for the season, including four players with 20-plus big flies.

And, paramount among those players is third sacker Josh Donaldson, who at .306-24-91 is among the league leaders in hits, and has 54 multi-hit contests. If you have not paid much attention to Donaldson, remember that going into the spring of 2012, he was a catcher, not a third sacker, and he was struggling with defense and the plate such that he had to spend the first couple of months of the year in Sacramento.

Since his return to O.co, however, the 27-year-old has been more than a revelation, playing an increasingly strong defense, and proving himself to be the best pure hitter on the team.

The only exceptions to the double-digit taters are catcher Derek Norris (who does have eight, but also has missed time on the DL), any of the three Oakland second basemen (although by the third week of spring, Scott Sizemore was still the Athletics second sacker) and the DH spot (Seth Smith also has eight). However, fourth outfielder Chris Young does have 12.

Still, Oakland is largely unknown and underestimated.

But, with a great defensive lineup--the team can essentially play centerfielders at all three outfield spots--great pop on both sides of the plate meaning good platoon possibilities, and a postseason rotation that is probably Colon (17-6, 2.64), Jarrod Parker (11-7, 3.81), A.J. Griffin (14-9, 3.78) and Dan Straily (10-7, 4.08), or even more dangerous Sonny Gray (3-3, 2.50), the other postseason teams better not let down for a second.

If you remember way back in the spring, when I noted the Athletics were really good, it seemed everyone's favorite in the American League were the revamped Blue Jays. In fact, conversely, while the Athletics might have been underrated, the Red Sox and Yankees were flat out dismissed.

However, if we look at the standings today, well, the Sox, and soon the A's may well have the last laugh, while the Jays, despite all their talent, will have to wait until next year.

What that means is the best collection of players does not necessarily constitute the best team. The collection of players needs to perform well as a unit.

I am not sure if Oakland has the best of those, as in team, but they certainly are one of them.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

 

 
How Did We Live Before Technology? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 14 September 2013 00:00

Remember back in the Pleistocene era, when we just had touchtone phones? Around the time of 4800 BAUD modems? When Beta tried to rain on the parade of VHS, and cassettes were happening?

That was when a "portable" video camera weighed about 10 pounds, and rested on your shoulder, and long before the first batch of portable phones. Though, I vividly remember the first one of those I saw: it was huge, and sat in a giant cradle, plugged into a cigarette lighter, and looked as stupid in retrospect as those portable video cameras do today.

Well, for the past week I have been up in the mountains, at Donner Pass, near Lake Tahoe at around 7200 feet of altitude.

Meaning my cell service is, at best spotty; that is, we can maybe get one bar in our bedroom and the bathroom, but none in the living room or kitchen.

The truth is, one of the reasons I like coming up here is just that: that no one can get to me unless I want them too.

While we have no television reception, we do have TVs with DVD players, so this is the perfect place to catch up on Downton Abbey and Breaking Bad episodes without much distraction.

We do have DSL, though, allowing me to write and post and edit and follow the scores, and while I could probably subscribe to SiriusXM, and stream on our iPhones, or subscribe to MLB.com or NFL.com, I am just not that interested (I do get Extra Innings and Sunday Ticket at home).

Not that I don’t follow the scores when I am up here, but mostly just on-line or via MLB At Bat.

Since the Athletics are in the throes of a great pennant race with the Rangers, I have been following those scores to the best of my ability.

However, I don’t remember not being anywhere near where there was coverage of the NFL for the first weekend of the season.

In fact, I worked the Athletics/Astros game the Thursday the NFL season opened, so I missed that game, and got up to the mountain house Saturday afternoon, meaning no NFL Today or any of that stuff.

So, Sunday morning, I set my four rosters just by using the basics that MyFantasyLeague (and if you don’t know this great site, shame on you!) provides, winning half my games. Although the two I lost were simply because I did not trust my instincts, leaving Jordy Nelson on the bench against the Niners defense.

So, despite my somewhat deprived access to technology, I was able to set lineups for all my football and baseball teams and track their progress, or lack thereof, as often as I liked.

I did think about driving into Truckee, to the Blue Coyote specifically, to watch as they have food and 21 flat screens, but it just didn’t seem that important, and I don’t think the only reason for this is age.

Still, it did make me think of the early days of fantasy baseball, when I tracked games on CompuServe with the aforementioned 4800 baud modem. Back before there were commissioner services, when we had to download the weekly USA Today stats, American League on Tuesday, National on Wednesday, and have someone convert using a DB program (I think we used a product called Paradox) and we would get standings once a week.

This is a far cry from my being able to track pretty much anything I want up here.

Right now, it sort of feels like the best of both worlds, but it does make me wonder what we did way back in the dark ages, back in the 70’s when dial phones still ruled?

 
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