Mastersball

Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down


Charlie the Pill PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 24 August 2013 01:39

I wondered about Mariners' hurler Charlie Furbush over the past few years,wondering why Seattle kept the pitcher in tow.

Of course, my wondering had nothing to do with his past couple of very good seasons. As in last year Furbush was 5-2, 2.72 over 46.1 innings, with a terrific 0.95 WHIP, and this year he is 2-4, 3.20 over 53 more innings, with 1.086 WHIP. Plus, Furbush has a solid 122 strikeouts over 99.1 innings.

My problem is unreasonable. It just seems like a guy who goes by Charlie and is 6'5" sounds more avuncular than dominant to me.

So, when I started filling in my roster last night when the Giants and Pirates matched up for their only series in San Francisco this year, who was pitching for Pittsburgh? Charlie Morton, going up against Madison Bumgarner.

I asked my mates if anyone could think of a dominant pitcher named Charlie, and Bill Arnold brought up both Charlie Liebrandt and Charlie Hough.

And, while Liebrandt turned in a pretty good resume from the mid-80's into the 90's--and graced my Strat-O-Matic team during much of that period--he was more a control pitcher than a dominant one. Liebrandt was 140-119, 3.71 over 2308 innings, but he only whiffed 4.4 per nine innings, and was 6'3".

There was also Charlie Hough, who went 216-216, 3.75 over 25 seasons and 3801 innings, though with 5.6 strikeouts per nine innings in his 6'2" knuckleballing body.

I did look through the Charlies at the Baseball-Reference site, and could only make it through the first 125 names before yielding to write this and shoot for some sleep, and I did make some discoveries.

As in Chuck Finley was a hard thrower, with 7.3 strikeouts per nine over his 3189 innings (200-173, 3.85), and though he is 6'6", well, he goes by "Chuck" which just sounds tougher than Charlie.

Another Chuck was Chuck Connors, who was also 6'6", but was also a Chuck, was a hitter (and not such a great one at .228-2-14 over 67 Major League games), and became an actor (The Rifleman, Branded--and got that Lebowski fans--and a great part in William Wyler's fine western The Big Country).

Also, Connors' given name was not Chuck, but rather Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors.

Both Charlie Comiskey and Charlie Ebbets, both of whom were managers, came up in that first batch as well. Both also had ball parks named for them, among other things.

So, I was surprised when Charlie, as in Morton, held the Giants to seven hits and a walk over 7.2 innings, tossing just 83 pitches, 54 for strikes--and earned his fifth win of the season, pushing his record to 5-3, 3.42 over 13 starts and 76.1 innings. 

In fact, he more than matched up against Bumgarner, who went eight, but was taken down by a three-run Clint Barmes jack down the left field line in the seventh.

Still, though I saw the performance with my own eyes--in fact I scored every pitch of the contest--I still have a hard time believing the 6'5" Morton is that good.

Though he does have 5.9 punchouts per nine, better than the other Charlies. 

Maybe it is time I rethought this pitching Charlie prejudice?

 
While My Mind's on Vacation PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 17 August 2013 00:00

In case you hadn't noticed, I have been away for a couple of weeks, on vacation.

Last week, Diane and our niece Lindsay took off for performing arts camp in the Redwoods on the California coast. Since this is the 13th time I have attended, I guess that makes it kind of a tradition, and though we get spotty internet at camp, our cell phones don't work at all.

Which is great, because vacations are supposed to be a respite from whatever it is we face on a daily basis in our lives.

We did return home for a couple of days, but then took off again for the place we own up in Serene Lakes, about 25 miles south of Lake Tahoe.

Though we do get pretty solid internet at the Lake, again our cell phones are toast. We can play games on them via the wireless router, but, no calls, no texts, and so for the most part we go through a couple of weeks having very little contact with the outside world.

The reality is, I find it kind of refreshing, for it reminds me that our wonderful planet ticks on with or without my sanction, and for some odd reason that makes me hopeful for our species.

Over the years, while we have been "off the grid" as my mate Lord Zola likes to call it, there have been holocausts. For instance, around ten years ago, there was a huge heatwave and brown-out back east and a lot of people lost their lives as a result. Famous people have died during our absence, like Bernie Mac a few years back, and Dyan Cannon this past go-around.

This past cycle, Egypt has been going through the pains of revolution, again costing many, many lives, reminding us that freedom is certainly not free, while our own National Politics pretty much stayed with the gridlocked business as usual that our leaders have self inflicted.

In fact, I believe the Affordable Health Care Act was subject to its 40 recall attempt, suggesting the mental health aspects of the bill should be administered to those who cannot grasp repeating a mistake is not always such a sane thing to do.

Just as we were leaving, a cluster of ballplayers, including Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta and Everth Cabrera joined some lesser names, along with the previously disciplined Ryan Braun, in the Biogenesis debacle, so I largely missed those players acquiescing, turning in their spikes until spring of next year.

It also meant I missed seeing how the contenders, like Texas and Detroit, are adjusting around a lineup hole, let alone the fantasy teams trying to adjust to such an instant hole, for especially in a deeper format, everyday players and at-bats are essential to success simply because the player pool is thinner.

Similarly, I completely missed the feisty Alex Rodriguez and his return to Yankee Stadium, in defiance of the ban, as he challenges the right of the Commissioner's Office to essentially end his career. Which, is why it makes sense for Rodriguez to challenge, for at age 38, returning to baseball at age 40 does not bode well for any kind of success, so he has very little to lose by challenging (actually, if anyone needs to rethink, it would be the Yankees front office who have to pay their aged third sacker through the 2017 season). Because this is the end of the line on the field for A-Rod no matter what happens.

Of course, it was interesting to see the reactions, for A-Rod, like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and probably even Barry Bonds, might find himself blacklisted out of Hall of Fame consideration much like Pete Rose, who self admittedly had the wrong kind of addiction. But, as all these actions play out, just like the Affordable Care Act, and promotions and earthquakes and weddings, it will be interesting to watch how us goofy human beings compartmentalize and process all the rights and wrongs about all of this.

All of these machinations I had missed, along with the first few preseason games for the NFL, which in retrospect proved to be no more important than anything else in the grand scheme.

At camp this year, a particularly devout Athletics fan and friend asked if I wasn't concerned about the pennant races and play while I was away, and I shook my head, noting "it will still be there when I got back home."

It was.

 

 

 

 
More Strangeness at the Yard PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 27 July 2013 00:00

Trivia time: When was the last time two teams split a doubleheader, where the home team won both games (answer coming)?

It has been a crazy week, locally, as both the Giants and Athletics were set to be in town this weekend, while between the two teams there were not just daily games to cover, but the Giants and the Reds managed a twin-bill on Tuesday, and I worked them both.

As I have said many times--and as we all know--part of the charm in baseball is you never know what you are going to see. And, the chances that you might see something unusual on any given day are pretty much equal.

For example, I worked the Giants 16 inning game against the Mets earlier this month, and despite 48 putouts made by the Giants, none went to center fielder Gregor Blanco.

Or, just as goofy, during that second game of the Tuesday doubleheader, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford never touched the ball on defense despite 27 outs.

No assists. No putouts. No relays. No nothings.

So, out of 75 outs, over those two games, the two middle guys hardly touched the ball at all. Weird.

As for weird double dips, the Yankees and the Mets have played cross-town two stadium games three times, and the White Sox played two games against two different teams--the Indians in the day, and the Twins at night--the same day.

And, with the advent of interleague play, the resetting the home squad as part of a make-up game has become sort of business as usual for baseball. Though unusual is still more like it.

Irrespective, when the Reds and Giants took the field for the second game on Tuesday, it was to make up for the July 4 Cincy rainout, making the Reds the home team.

Which was indeed very odd to score, let alone watch.

For the Reds wore Red jerseys, but white pants, while the Giants wore greys. And, the Giants batted first, meaning Barry Zito had a chance to win his first road game of the season. Except at home.

It was odd.

And, in the end, Zito only lasted 4.2 innings, but the Giants did win, although it took four outs from Sergio Romo closing out the powerful Reds in the bottom of the ninth to get the win for Santiago Casilla (not Jake Dunning, who did get Zito off the hook to close out the fifth).

The game proved to be Bruce Bochy's 1500th victory as a manager, certainly an auspicious achievement, but Bochy's real sentiment was expressed in the statement, "it felt good to win a road game."

Oh, and by the way, since the Reds won the opener, that did indeed mean there was a doubleheader split, and the road team came out victorious each time.

Once again, you gotta love baseball.

 
Two Weeks Into a 30-day Game PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 20 July 2013 00:00

I have good news and I have bad news with respect to my Lawr-gesse team, the squad I chose for Ron Shandler's new twist in roto, 30-day leagues.

Ron's idea is we play a month at a time, with a salary cap team based upon current performance, meaning Matt Kemp only cost $6 while Max Scherzer's price tag was $25 in the format where we picked 30 players with a $300 budget.

Back to the news, my being in 10th place, with 81 points, means there are nine teams beneath, which is good. It also means there are nine teams above me, which is bad.

The contest, which balances relievers by giving points for saves plus holds, and for hitters runs produced and on-base percentage.

My team features Yasiel Puig ($6), Michael Cuddyer ($25), Matt Adams ($5) and Mike Trout ($43), along with Zack Greinke ($1) and Chris Sale ($18) to name a core, and my league best 116 points over the past week has been enough to put me halfway up there, and, understand how volatile standings are over the first month. I guess I have a chance at first place, although I would need to pick up about 45 points.

Still, I am only six homers behind first place, though ten swipes back, while being among the leaders in strikeouts, while not so high in saves plus holds.

Since it is draft-and-follow, meaning the team you draft is the team you are committed to for the 30 days of the contest, Ian Kinsler ($11) and Rajai Davis ($9) have to kick it in gear.

The truth is I probably need to play the format a few times, not so much to get the hang but to see if I can find a pattern beyond the obvious, "if you pick the 30 hottest players, you will win."

Ron's set-up does allow for roster changes a couple of times a week, although doing that mid-week set is still something that I haven't gotten used to (meaning I forget I can do it).

In fact, Ron played in all the leagues this first time, and set all of his rosters without buying the rights to either Puig or Trout. 

On the other hand, I am not really one to stream pitchers, for example, and especially when the time frame is a month, there are really not that many opportunities to take advantage of a two-start week anyway.

But, aside from the fact that I personally think you will shoot yourself in the foot by streaming any players, I like to think that I picked the best players I could relative to what I had to spend, and to tell the truth, who I thought would produce over the month.

Since I am in the middle of the pack, I guess I have just as much ground to gain as I have to lose.

I guess I will have to report back in a couple of weeks.

 

 

 
Going the Extra Inning PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 13 July 2013 00:00

When I was young, and first attending baseball games, the best thing I could ever hope for was extra innings (well, actually a doubleheader was better as we were guaranteed 18 innings). That is because the longer the game lasted, the longer would my joy at simply being at the yard be extended.

However, times have changed, and though I love that I get to work at the yard a good 40-50 games a year, the last thing anyone in the press box wants is those same extra innings.

Now, that might sound like sour grapes, but, for most of the folks working the game, it is indeed their "8-5" and for the most part, most people don't like staying after work any longer than they have to, irrespective of the profession.

The other reason is that extra innings just throws everything in our universe off.

For, an extra innning game generally means funky plays and weird calls. It means writing and re-writing the leads for articles and running up and down between the clubhouse and booth as players come in and out of the game.

For the Official Scorer, my mates Jerrin, Jeff, or Mike--who score for STATS, and me, it means another inning of tracking every pitch and the disposition thereof.

And, that is a lot harder, and takes a lot more focus than you might imagine, for if each half-inning averages 18 pitches--or 36 per inning--that simply affords that many more chances to make a mistake as the game wears on, for we do indeed get tired after awhile, as anyone would at work.

Well, as it happened, I have had two extra inning games this year that tested my endurance.

The first was the Athletics' 19-inning game against the Angels last April 30, a game that lasted six hours and thirty-two minutes. The second was last Monday, when the Mets beat the Giants 4-3 on an unearned run over 16 innings after five hours and twenty-six minutes.

Both games did have weirdness, which is one of the things that makes baseball fascinating.

For instance, there were three triples, and also three swinging third strikes that necessitated a throw to first (thus a K23 putout). There were three terrific defensive plays by Brandon Crawford, all web gem quality. And yet, the game ended as a result of the same Crawford botching a fairly simple play.

The Giants stranded 18 baserunners during the 16 innings, while the Mets just seven, as San Francisco fanned 19 New York hitters.

While Buster Posey got five hits over eight at-bats, Brandon Belt struck out five times over eight at-bats.

But, perhaps the oddest stat was over those 16 innings and 48 outs recorded, there were no putouts to center fielder Gregor Blanco over the entire game.

That is really strange. Strange enough for the media team for the Giants to note it while the OS and I happened to be discussing the same thing after the game as we were squaring out box scores.

But, there was also the tactical blunder made by Bruce Bochy in the 14th inning. 

With George Kontos pitching, and Eric Young on first, pitching coach Dave Righetti went to the hill to talk with Kontos as David Murphy stepped into the box. On the second pitch to the Mets second sacker, Young took off and stole second, so Bochy went out--mid at-bat--to put in Javier Lopez, a southpaw to finish off Murphy (also a lefty).

The problem is a manager cannot go to the hill twice during a single at-bat, per the rules. If he does so, the pitcher must complete the current at-bat--meaning Murphy--and after the conclusion, that pitch must come out. Meaning Kontos had to finish pitching to Murphy, and then he had to be removed.

This was a rule enforcement over half of us in the booth had never seen enforced, so once again it was one of those "never saw that before" baseball moments. In the end it was inconsequential, but at the time, it was scorebook chaos.

All this does mean I did have to log 12 hours working two games, which is usually about three-and-a-half games worth of work. And, while I didn't get to sleep until two in the morning last Monday--and, 3:30 A.M. back when the Athletics triumphed after a Brandon Moss walk-off in the 19th--and it meant all that extra stress and pitches (638 for Oakland game and 517 for the Giants game), I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

A few years back, I worked an Oakland night game on a Friday, then had to go in to work the next day's game which was a day game. Meaning I left the yard around 11 P.M. and then had to be back by 11 A.M. the next morning.

I got into the elevator with Marcel Lachman, and he looked and asked if I had worked last night and I nodded. "It is kind of like having a hangover without being drunk" I said, and Lach nodded, sort of smiling.

"But," I finished, "it is still a lot like that bumper sticker about the worst day fishing is still better than the best day at work or in an office."

However long our games last, it is still a pretty good deal.

 
The Perfect Score PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 06 July 2013 00:00

I worked the Athletics/Cubs game on the Fourth of July and like any other game, it had its idiosyncrasies. 

It was a game where the winning team--Oakland--conjured a victory on an unearned run with no RBI.

But, what made it particularly goofy was the final score was 1-0, so, the only run scored all day was Derek Norris coming in from third on a wild pitch cut loose by losing pitcher Matt Guerrier.

To me, though, the best part was this was the first 1-0 game I have seen this year. Because, my favorite score when watching a baseball game is 1-0.

In fact, my very favorite is 1-0 with a lead-off home run, something I have witnessed once in person (Rickey Henderson hit the dinger, if memory serves).

Now, I know there are those who love a lot of runs, and it is not like I don't appreciate that, either.

In fact, a wild 11-9 game where the lead changes hands four or five times is a great thing to watch (though not so much fun to score, let me tell you).

But, there are a few things about a 1-0 game, and particularly the lead-off homer variety, that pique my intrigue with baseball even further.

First, a lead-off homer makes me think the game will be one of those 11-9 back-and-forth affairs.

Second, as the game progresses, the significance of that one run increases with what seems to be some kind of geometric progression.

Third, it means the game boiled down to one pitch. Now, this is really true of any one-run game. And, it can be true in any shutout where one hit scores all the runs of the game.

It also means with every pitch the balance of the game hung in jeopardy for at least a microsecond. For, one more mistake and everything changes even more dramatically. As in, a homer for the team behind means suddenly the game is tied, and a dinger for the winning team means 2-0, a lead that can seem insurmountable when there is a dearth of runs.

Even more in line with the strange beauty baseball offers, as observers of said 1-0 game, we did not know just how important each pitch would really be until we can see the completed contest and look back upon the opportunities offered, and most likely missed.

And, in the Cubs and Athletics contest on Thursday, that pitch boiled down to a swinging strike wild pitch, an odd combination to start with, let alone for a winning run to produce. As in, no one even hit the ball and yet the game was won.

Still, in the scheme of baseball, where so many games are played, and the winning percentage of a good team is 55%, and, is also an environ where one at-bat can make or break one game, and thus the season. The same can be said of that one pitch in a 1-0 game, and there is something so strangely mystical and yet totally fatalistic about the possibility of an entire season being won--or lost--on one pitch.

It is also just another reason why baseball will keep me engaged to my last breath.

 

 

 
Climbing the Fantasy Mountain PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Sunday, 30 June 2013 00:00
When I first met Matthew Berry, the night before Tout Wars 2003 in the restaurant of the Radisson in Schaumburg, Illinois, he had just cracked wise during the annual pre-draft soiree, and I made some kind of remark. Matthew looked at me, smiled, and said "I can see we are going to get along."

At that time Matthew was toiling for Rotoworld, but within a few years he initiated his site, The Talented Mr. Roto (TMR), that eventually became part of ESPN, with TMR himself easily becoming the most recognizable face in the Fantasy Industry.

In his new book, "Fantasy Life," Berry goes back before that fateful day in suburban Chicago, to growing up in Texas as a somewhat nerdy Jewish kid (as one, I relate)/tennis player/fantasy geek, seeming much like Valentine Michael Smith of Robert Heinlein's "Stranger In a Strange Land."

Although tennis gave Matthew some sense of belonging, it was fantasy baseball--still a new and bizarre concept to most in the mid-80's--that gave him not just a passion, but a community, and as TMR's tale unfolds, he cleverly parallels his own evolution with that of the fantasy industry, tying in the strange, outrageous, and wonderful about the game that binds us as human beings.

Through the journey, however, there is no more poignant or important moment than when we are introduced to Matthew's Uncle Lester.

It is within that brief "time-out" on Uncle Lester--each chapter of "Fantasy Life" has such a departure nestled within--that we see the heart and soul of the book, and more important, the guiding forces that led Mr. Berry to the top of the fantasy heap.

Invoking such gems as "Never chase a woman, a streetcar, or a deal," or "Don't risk what you cannot afford to lose," Lester's simple aphorisms may well seem to allude to life, but as Matttttheeeeeew--for that is how Uncle Lester enunciated his nephew's name--points out, the common sense of life and business make a perfect metaphor for both the fantasy game and community.

Furthermore, very few things these days build that community like fantasy, be it a work football league, a group of college buddies reuniting for years for their baseball league and draft, or a handful of distraught housewives meeting and bidding on the rights to Bob Mackie and Natalie Portman in a fantasy fashion set-up.

So, as we track Matthew from College Station Texas (and the Fat Dog Rotisserie League, which still functions with Berry as a member) to Syracuse and college, then off to Hollywood and a screenwriting career, and finally into the throes of a burgeoning industry that was haunting him all the time anyway we see heredity and environment converge with pop culture, dangling the fantasy gold ring that Matthew grabs.

For it is shortly after Uncle Lester's "Time Out" that Matthew takes a chance, chucks making a living a traditional way, and essentially by embracing much of the avuncular wisdom Lester imparts, carves a path to Sunday prime time.

In the process we hear about leagues with crazy rules, and trades that border on solicitation. We see trophies that are explicit enough to be censored in the book  along with players--and more important the leagues in which they compete--joined in a brother/sisterhood of play that transcends virtually all of the social stigmas that often separate us as Americans.

For in fantasy, no one cares what you look like or who you sleep with. My league-mates are oblivious as to  who I vote for, or whether I spend time working for Habitat for Humanity or the Tea Party for that matter. But, they do care if I got a steal in picking Chris Davis in the fifth round, just as they relate to biting it by taking Ryan Braun in the first round this year. More important, if they can swap Braun to me for Davis at the break, that is even better. And, cutting such a deal, and then bragging about it endlessly is the cream of the league crop.

Irrespective we see people bound to one another as mates, making their drafts despite motor cycle accidents and car repossessions and cancer surgeries and weddings and funerals and the gamut of the human experience filtered through the game creator/mentor/high priest of all things fantasy (and some things more) Dan Okrent, called "The Greatest Game for Baseball Fans Since Baseball."

If you have seen the Talented Mr. Roto on NFL Sunday, or tweeted him, or heard his podcasts, you probably have a pretty set opinion--in the form of love/hate--about him.

Like it or not, when you are arguably the most visible member of a given industry and in the public eye, as Matthew is, scrutiny and related criticism just go with the territory.

As for "Fantasy Life," it is indeed a fun and compelling read for anyone who loves the games--in your head and on the field--as well as anyone who wants to simply understand those of us who do play.

By the way Matttthhhhheeeewwwwwww: Uncle Lester would be proud.

 
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.

 

 
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