Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down

Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 13 September 2014 00:00

It just so happened that following the Ravens' triumphant victory over the Steelers Thursday night, my favorite sports movie--"North Dallas Forty"--was on cable.

I have seen the film, based upon the novel by former Cowboy Peter Gent, and based based upon the career of Raider great Fred Biletnikoff a bunch of times, particularly right before the Super Bowl because it reminds me about the bottom line between sports and business.

What I love about "North Dallas Forty" is it was the first film to realistically look at pro football, at the machine that drives the game, and the impact upon the players living in the isolated bubble of the NFL.

To a degree, the now infamous Ray Rice incident has certainly pointed to this, as there is surely an "old-boy network" attitude where the league will protect its own, up until a point.

Never before--and the film was made in 1979--had a story been so honest about sex and drugs and racism in professional sports, just like never before had the indulgences of the successful money generating players, like QB Seth Maxwell--played brilliantly by Mac Davis, and loosely based upon Don Meredith--get a blind eye from the powers that be, while an aging and ostensibly interchangeable part like Phil Elliott (Nick Nolte) cannot afford to breathe wrong for fear of being cut.

Within the film, we see the North Dallas Bulls as they go through a week of practice as they prepare for a potential playoff game with the rival Chicago Marauders.

We see the aftermath of Sunday play, a day off and subsequent after-game party that shows menacing athletes howling at the moon in an effort to subvert their own potential weaknesses.

We see the politics and pressure of ownership, publicly embracing rules and lines of decency as long as they don't compete with success, while passively condoning any deviant behaviors as the mood strikes them.

The problem is that the players are as vapid and self indulgent as the front office, making for a freight train of self righteousness and lack of critical thought about the game or how it is administered.

The players, that is save Phil Elliott, who does question and wonder and for the most part see incidents and teammates and coaches largely for what they are, as opposed to what they think, are blissfully ignorant of much of anything beyond their own needs. As long as the team is winning, ownership plays the same head in the sand game.

But, in the 35 years since the film was released, as we have seen over the past few weeks, very little has changed in the front offices aside from the fact that the league has more money and power than ever.

There is a fabulous scene near the end of the film, where a player (no name in the cast, but played by former Raider great, the late Lyle Alzado) reams out coach Johnson (Charles Durning), screaming that every time he calls it a game, they call it a business, and every time he calls it a business, they call it a game.

That says it all, aside from Nolte, at the end of the film, being threatened with release by the team for violating the morals clause of his contract (he is photographed smoking dope with Maxwell by a Dallas policeman who works undercover for the NFL, spying on potential problem players, although no one in the front office or the league seems to be able to recognize the team's QB).

Nolte quits, walking away, noting to his Tom Landry-like coach that it is indeed time to put away childish things.

Somehow, in watching the insane machinations of the league and Roger Goodell over the past months, all the movie does is confirm the worst and most self indulgent about what has become the biggest economic sports entity ($10 billion a year) in our land.

Over the past months, I was watching the great HBO mini series "Rome" with Diane. I watched it when the show was first presented back in 2005, but Diane had never seen it.

Over and over, as we watch petty behaviors and political backstabbing and silly wars waged as much out of ego as anything, I have looked at Diane and said "2000 years ago, and very little has changed in our human nature, save the Roman politicians were a lot more cutthroat and serious than wimpy morons like John McCain and Louis Gomert and Dick Cheney."

So much for nothing changes, everything changes.

If you think it does, I am happy to bet by the football playoffs Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice won't even register a blip and spousal abuse will go back into complacency, under the radar of the interest level of America, being of slightly less notable than the next Super Bowl Budweiser commercial.

In Defense of Ray Rice PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Thursday, 11 September 2014 00:00

Don't jump to conclusions: I do not think Ray Rice did nothing wrong.

The TMZ videos confirm he can be a brute.

But, as I was mostly appalled--along with the rest of the world I suppose--with Roger Goodell's initial penalty for the Running Back, I now think the world has gone overboard in trying to right some bad judgement from a path that was messed up from the start.

To be sure, Rice seriously clocked his now wife--Janay Palmer--and now we have a pretty good look at before and after.

There have been so many analysts spitting it out how men should never hit women, and I agree, although I kind of think women should never hit men, either. Hitting is not a good thing, no matter who does it, so while I understand that Janay might need a crow bar to return the favor to Ray, it is indeed the lashing out that needs addressing for it is the main behavior that needs modification.

I am, though, curious as to why everyone seems so shocked as to how visceral Ray's knockout punch really was?

I mean, we see him drag her, unconscious, out of the elevator, and even go back to pick up Janay's errant shoe. How did anyone think she got that way? A ruffie? Sodium Penethol?

Aside from the fact that there was a police investigation, and apparently Rice has been somewhat contrite about admitting he belted Janay, what did we think the blow would look like? Gentler?

Yet when the McGuffin-like imaginary punch turned into an actual video, suddenly the league and team were shocked and Rice lost his job and ability to play in the league.

He also lost his Nike contract, his likeness on the EA Madden football game, and god forbid, if you liked Ray and bought one of his jerseys, the Ravens will let you trade it in for another number.

Again, I am not so much defending Rice as suggesting he too has become a victim of a set of inadequate guidelines from the NFL and then the incredibly fickle judgments of the media and public.

So, think about this.

The incident was reported to the police. Rice was charged, and he has begun going to counselling with Palmer.

And, though I agree--as I wrote at the time--two games was an insignificant penalty relative to say Wes Welker losing four games for illegal self-medication.

But, the league had no rule for Rice, or for the other 75 players charged with spousal abuse since 2000, none of whom seemed to merit a mention save Jovan Belcher last year. But, it was only Belcher's sad actions after the arrest that caught our attention.

That incident did, however, offer Goodell and the owners an even more high profile opportunity to take a stand on spousal abuse--under far more dramatic circumstances--but, well, they all fumbled.

I do ask, as a matter of ethics, is what Rice did worse than what Josh Gordon did? How about Michael Vick?

What about the idea of double jeopardy (ok, so the NFL front office is not a court of law), and changing the punishment to Rice after the fact? Total bullshit, that is, and if you think not, imagine if you were arrested for spousal abuse where you work?

True, your employer might fire you, but more than likely, you would be required to seek help (which Rice is doing) and perhaps face some kind of disciplinary action at work.

For a first offense--of which this is Rice's, anywhere, it seems--that would pretty much be it. It isn't like after levying judgment, your employer or the court would say, "hey, what we sentenced you to was incorrect, we are going to change it to make us look better."

And what about it being Rice's first offense--not that the anger or frustration might not have been building for years, or even that he has lashed out before, and we didn't know about it--and giving people a second chance? Or, at least a chance to learn and redeem themselves?

Now, I am not saying Nike was wrong for terminating their contract. That is appropriate, but something the company should have done months ago, but really, taking him out of Madden football? How petty and punitive is that? Or, allowing fans to trade in their jerseys?

That is just mean-spirited at this point. Had the Ravens, like Nike, taken action right away stating that spousal abuse had no part in their organization, that might have seemed harsh, but for me I would have understood.

But now that the punch is public instead of just the aftermath of the holocaust, suddenly the NFL and Ravens have become holier than though.

If you asked me, suspending Rice for a year off the top, giving him that time to go to counselling and get his life together to go with a year's NFL suspension, seems appropriate. That strikes me as a business dealing directly with an employee who is facing a challenge, and even supportive of him or her.

But, now, after a first series of penalties, changing the parameters, and essentially casting both Rice and Palmer to the emotional wolves is beyond inappropriate and cruel. 

It is wrong.

The Groove of the Game PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Sunday, 07 September 2014 00:00

It's no secret that my favorite leagues are the two Strat-O-Matic contests in which I play.

Both my Strat Leagues are keepers. One, the MidWest Strat League, allows us to freeze up to 28 players from year-to-year, while the Summer League of Champions lets us retain ten players, but all are HOF'ers.

Both leagues are more than tough, each having 30 teams with 30 equally savvy owners. And, since both leagues have very strict usage rules--in the MW League you get the previous season plus 20% at your disposal, while in the SLOC, it is straight up whatever the card says at-bats or innings are--so having a roster of good players, plus a strong bench is critical.

Like playing in a deep fantasy contest, I really enjoy this kind of setup, where it becomes essential to have Chris Stewart (who is on my MWest team) or Carlos Hernandez (who is on my SLOC squad) in order to get through the season sans penalties.

For, that is so much more realistic than playing in a 12-team mixed league where Jason Castro or Mike Zunino could be floating along in the free agent pool.

That said, the SLOC league is pretty shallow, as my bench of Mickey Lolich, Bobby Murcer, Richard Hidalgo and Tim Salmon suggests.

For the first two-thirds of this season, Hidalgo and Salmon and Murcer have been pushing pine since my regular starting outfield has been Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonds and Mike Tiernan, a more than effective troika, with essentially plenty of plate appearances to simply trot out there every day.

Which is what I did over the first chunk of games, and over a spell where I wound up 16 games under .500.

So, looking at the roster, and my games ahead, I went more of a path of platooning, even placing the high OBP Salmon atop the order, sticking Hidalgo in the #2 slot when he started, and even moving Murcer to third (where he qualifies, per Strat rules) against right-handers, giving Bill Dahlen a day off.

Same with Lolich, who I had pegged as a fifth starter, and who in a league with Ed Delahanty, Cy Williams and Josh Gibson wound up being shredded to the tune of a 6.53 ERA. But, plopping Lolich into relief--both long and situational--has seemed to be a tonic as well.

Not that my SLOC team will make the playoffs, but over the past two months, we are a little over .500, and that is largely because Hidalgo, Hernandez and another sub, Nate Allen, have been red hot.

Same in the Midwest League, where I relied on an infield rooted in Jedd Gyorko, Brandon Crawford and Pablo Sandoval, with Eduardo Escobar in a utility role.

In that format, Escobar has been a revelation since I started playing him somewhat regularly, hitting close to .300, batting in front of another switchie, Sandoval, who are just dynamite at table setting.

This is not unlike Allen, and all three do have batting from both sides in common, something that seems to precipitate a bit of a hitting boost in Strat.

What is interesting is that statistically. and logically, my teams--any teams--should play their best by sticking the best eight position players out there every day.

Especially in a game like Strat, where the cards are based upon stats, and the dice are completely indifferent as to who is in the field and who is at bat, but as with baseball on the diamond, that is not necessarily so. Which is part of what makes baseball so intriguing to me.

What I have a tough time with, however, is remembering this, for the temptation to simply put my best eight out there every day is so great, yet it takes a losing streak and sticking an Escobar in the lineup for a few games to remember.

Despite my hardheadedness, it does come back to me, and I actually think having the tough usage rules also fosters the need to play those bench guys and actually see what they can do.

And that reminds me to use all my players from the start.

Too bad it does take 100 games for me to remember.

Two QB Too Many? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 30 August 2014 01:39

There is something in general that is a little more laid back about fantasy football than fantasy baseball.

A lot of this is rooted in teams playing once a week rather than six, and there is also the principle of just drafting say 16 players instead of 30, and playing 11 instead of 23 on any given day.

I think there is also that angle that most of my football drafts--currently in process--are handled via e-mail, during the week, over several days, rather than over three-to-four intense hours sitting at a table trying to out-think a dozen guys.

For me, though, after a long haul of baseball, which pretty much starts in January, and pushes into November, the weekly transactions and games, leading up to a long and leisurely Sunday on the couch with the NFL, a fire, and a mound of wings is as relaxing and pleasurable as life can get.

Of course, during those Sundays there is the constant stat tracking among my five football leagues that goes with the channel surfing as I watch for signs of Cam Newton and Matt Ryan and Anquan Boldin, my favorite players.

The only problem I really have had with fantasy football is that though there certainly is skill involved in selecting and starting the right players, there is also so much more luck involved in the game.

Obviously, the chance for injury leads that list, but there is also the Zack Crockett factor, a stigma that harkens back to the Raiders days when Napoleon Kaufman would gain 1,000 yards each year, and be a fine player, but it was Crockett, so much bigger and more powerful, who was the guy punching the ball over the goal line.

The other thing that has bothered me about standard fantasy football dynamics is that the specific luck in most leagues is rooted in the Running Back.

Quarterbacks are important, as are Wide Receivers, and Tight Ends but most players in most leagues favor the numbers driven by RBs, and for me that tends to make the draft, the game, and the season more one-dimensional that baseball.

Hence two-QB leagues, of which I play in...two.

One, the Utter Genius League, is what is known as a "Super Flex" competition, where one can indeed play a second signal caller at an offensive Flex position.

The second, the long standing Kathy League Gifford, is not only a two-QB league, but one in which we added the wrinkle of playing three individual defensive players instead of a single defensive unit.

Needless to say, this league is my favorite, the hardest, and the most fun.

To start, just the fact that if we consider bye weeks, in a 12-team league, when you are obligated to start a pair of Quarterbacks each week, then there will be teams caught short as there simply are not enough starters at the position to go around.

And, since only one really plays for each team on any given week, obviously there is a shortage before we even go into the draft.

So, the question is how to balance a roster, and points, making sure you pick the perfect combo of receivers and linebackers and runners and throwers to simply field a full roster each week.

This all makes for a fun draft where there are crap shoot QBs selected in the late rounds, for we are allowed to freeze three players from the previous season, with draftees moving up three draft rounds each year. Meaning if you drafted Russell Wilson on a crap shoot in the 15th round in 2012, he would be a ninth rounder this year, and that is a real help.

This setup also makes for some really fun FAAB weeks, where shelling out $75 on the likes of Josh McCown is something that happens all through the season, and which generates some great bidding wars, coupled with an enormous amount of shame and second guessing (nothing like bidding that much on Charlie Batch, huh?).

Similarly, the rule works for some fun draft strategies as noted, though from start to finish.

In League Gifford, though, the fun does not stop there, as that use of an individual defensive player similarly is a game changer, for a sack and fumble recovery that result in a touchdown make the likes of Patrick Willis as valuable any given week as Pierre Garcon.

It does seem that over the course of each season, however, the two-QB rules always force talks for rule changes, because it can indeed be so frustrating to suffer with injured and/or ineffective QBs.

Or, worse, I can cite a couple of years back, when I decided to play it cautious, drafting Alex Smith and Eli Manning, figuring quiet, steady, and healthy was just fine.

And, both guys did indeed start out well, but by Week 7, Smith lost his job to Colin Kaepernick while Manning simply lost all of his skill set.

On the other hand, even with just one Quarterback, in League Gifford, if you can adjust around your remaining players and get good week out of your defensive players, your team can still put up some points.

Because, one other angle of the Gifford League is we are an "all play" configuration, meaning each week, each team's point total is matched up against the other 11 teams, something that mitigates a lot of the anguish of who gets lucky with the Crockett principle on any given Sunday.

So, while there are a lot of things to consider when both drafting, and even setting a roster in Gifford, all those wheels in motion make play so much more fun and challenging.

Which is great for me, as though I like to win, victory is never that satisfying to me if there is no effort expended.


Dealing With Cheaters PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 23 August 2014 00:00

I have a hard time thinking in terms of cheating.

It isn't that I don't like to win, and truly, within the rules, I will do whatever I can to do just that.

But, I think of my league mates as just that--my mates--and betraying a friend just seems out of the question to me.

More so, though I do indeed like to win, were I to cheat and finish on top, irrespective of the suspicions of the rest of the league, or even the fantasy world, I would always know I didn't really win, and that would make the victory so hollow it was more than worthless.

I am also a pretty trusting soul, and naive in the sense that I just assume everyone else on the planet thinks this as well, but I am not so lost in it that when I find myself in the midst of a cheater, I am surprised, and yet not so surprised at the same time.

A case in point is the Summer League of Champions (SLOC) that I was invited into this past off-season.

SLOC is a 30-team league that allows a throw-back every three years of all players.

At the time of the throwback, there is a 300-player draft that allows each owner to create a core roster of ten out of the Strat-O-Matic HOF League.

Those players remain constants over the three years, and then to fill out our lineups, the league selects a season (right now it is 1996) from which we then draft our remaining 25 players.

That means I get to have Pop Lloyd, Ed Walsh and Barry and Bobby Bonds on my roster, and it is a fun league, but it is also very tough.

That is because I am playing against a bunch of experienced Strat players, who also know their history.

But, one particular team had a home record of 51-2 before Commissioner Larry Denicola locked the league. Since Larry enforced the lock, the team was 10-6, yet they also had a record of 15-54 on the road in the SLOC this season.

And that suggests something fishy.

It also suggests, to me, someone who wants to get caught, as it would not have been that hard for the owner to win say 65% of his games instead of a gaudy 90% margin.

The owner in question is in a couple of other leagues, and his home record in all three this year is an astounding 193-20 (.903 PCT), and that number sort of hearkens thoughts of the "Superman" movie with Christopher Reeve, when he laments to Earth father Glenn Ford that if he played football he could get a touchdown every play.

To me, even that cannot be any fun, for as frustrating as it is to have the bases loaded in a tight Strat game, with no one out, and not be able to bring in a run, it is equally satisfying to get that single just when the game is on the line, scoring what turns the outcome of the game.

It seems to me, then, when cheating, you simply don't get to experience those highs and lows that modify life itself, making the whole affair something not to bother with, in my meager opinion.

In other words, I would rather lose 90% of the time for real than win 90% of the time by cheating.

Power Out-age PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 09 August 2014 00:00

I think I have a sometimes fatal flaw in drafting: I never have enough power.

It isn't that I try to avoid drafting power, although truth is, I really hate to spend more than $30 on a player in an auction, and am more willing to gamble on Mark Trumbo as a fourth rounder than Chris Davis as a second rounder.

Which might well explain the problem, for I do have Trumbo as a $20 purchase in LABR where I also have Matt Kemp (also $20), although Lucas Duda happens to be my real power guy.

And that should tell you all you need to know.

It isn't that I don't know you need at least one banger on your team, for in AL Tout I have Alex Rios and Nick Swisher, who should have hit 40 homers between them by the end of the season, but have just one-fourth that total so far. However, had the duo accumulated just 12 more this season--more than half of what I projected, but less than the 40 I wanted--and if all those dingers were solo, it would be worth seven points and push my team from fourth place to second.

In LABR, Kemp and Trumbo have not helped much either, for I would have thought the pair was worth 50 dingers between them, while the pair has just 20. But, had the pair bagged an extra 15 would be worth four points alone in homers, which might not be enough to move me to the top half of the standings, but would be enough for some respectability.

What does make the NL numbers interesting, though, is that Shawn Childs and Greg Ambrosius of NFBC/STATS have 16 fewer at-bats than my team, they have 15 more homers, 25 more RBI, 16 more points in average and a whopping 108 more runs scored.

Meaning Shawn and Greg surely got a lot more bang for their hitting buck than I did.

But, I think this is nothing new.

In my best Tout Wars years (2000 and 2009), I had to trade from pitching depth to get the hitter who pushed me to the top in Paul O'Neill and Howie Kendrick respectively.

And, I am hoping my acquisition of Carlos Santana last week for my team will do the same kind of trick, but, well, sometimes there is only so much magic in the hat.

But, something in my nature tells me I can always trade pitching, and the reality is I seem to be a lot stronger at assembling pitching staffs than I am rosters of position players.

Which makes me wonder if the reason I gravitate towards pitching is simply because I know somewhere inside that I am better at it than I am grabbing hitters.

Which is something for me to consider over what could indeed be a long winter.

At least Swisher, Rios and Santana have a shot at making it shorter. Or, god forbid, longer.

The Big Trade PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 02 August 2014 00:00

I have been having a pretty good Tout Wars year.

My team has been among the top four all season, with us resting mostly in third, spending a blink or two in second or fourth.

The reality is had Rick Wolf and Glenn Colton not just made about every possible right move, things would really be jammed tight, but they have rested at around 100 points for most of the year while my Mastersball mate Rob Leibowitz and I have hung behind at around 80 points with Jeff Erickson having moved up into the fray over the past month.

Though I have a pretty good roster of mostly everyday players, I do lack a bit of power--something that always seems to elude my teams--although I have great pitching and even pretty good speed.

However, it has been clear to me for over a month that I could use an extra big bat.

Not a huge one, like Mike Trout, or even Josh Donaldson, but just a regularly playing guy who could hit 10-15 homers and knock in 40 runs over the course of the season.

Since I drafted so well at closer--with Fernando Rodney and Glen Perkins--with a 15 save lead in the category to start July, I reasoned now was the time to trade one, so I offered away.

I got some nibbles, for sure, but two of them were from Rob, and then Rick and Glenn, and for the most part the last thing I want to do is swap with a team that will subsequently bury me by virtue of the deal.

I had a couple of other things out there. In particular, I tried to pry Kole Calhoun away from Mike Podhorzer, but over a few weeks we could not seem to sort things out.

So, I decided to relax, and not panic, and see what would come.

The trouble is it was nearly August, and in the past when I have won Tout, it was because I made some kind of pivotal and risky swap right around this time of year, and for the life of me, I could not see how to do that.

I kept looking at the standings, noting that I really did not need either Perkins or Rodney that much any longer, and as such I could trade both of them, but the mood of the league did not seem so conducive to getting that much for either.

And, then it hit me: Why not package both closers together to a team that could easily pick up a half-dozen points in exchange for the best bat I could get.

I looked at the teams and tried to figure the two who had some hitting to spare, but who would similarly benefit with the adddition of two stoppers. So, I sent feelers out to Ron Shandler and the same Jeff Erickson (with whom I suggested Carlos Santana as an object of my desire) who was now battling me for third.

Ron, with Edwin Encarnacion and George Springer hurt, just couldn't afford to let a stick go, but Jeff sent me a great e-mail back, suggesting he had begun to look at the numbers.

In fact, this is what he sent:

"I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations, and something like this might work.

But I'm more inclined to do it if the "and something" is netting me a little more.

I looked at it three ways:

a) Potential points gained & potential points lost:

Jeff-pitching: Saves (5 - including over the top three remaining teams) + ERA (2) + WHIP (2) = 9 Less Wins (2-3, to you, Rob & G/R no less) & K's (1 to you) = + 5-6

Lawr-pitching (assuming you add at least one starter to replace your closers): Wins (1-2) + K's (1-2) = 3-4, less Saves (1), maybe one ERA or WHIP point = +2

Jeff-hitting: Less one RBI or R (we'll call it one or the other to split the difference), less 1-2 OBP points. No change in HR or SB = Less 2-3 points

Lawr-hitting: Plus 2 R, plus 1-2 HR, plus 1-2 RBI, plus 1-2 OBP points = Plus 5-8 points.

Net gains: Jeff 3-5 points; Lawr 5-10 points.

I think you might be getting a bit of a windfall according to the categories.

There's just no downside to you on the hitting equation, and I think you'll end up neutral in pitching because you have such a big lead in saves.

b) Value earned so far: According to our in-season $ value calculator, Santana has earned 28 using TW's scoring system, Perkins & Rodney 13 apiece. Pretty even - our value calculator does not assume a 50-50 split, but rather tries to assume the auction's split.

c) Draft values: Acknowledging the auction is an imperfect reflection of value (blah, blah, blah) - it's still a reflection of how our league values these players.

Santana = $28

Rodney = $12

Perkins = $18

Again, pretty even, a couple of dollars in your direction this time."

So, he proposed my sending Perkins, Rodney, Robinson Chirinos and $10 of FAAB to him in exchange for Jason Grilli, Jeremy Guthrie and Santana.

So, as the Major League trade deadline ticked away, I accepted and that was that.

Will this do it for me? Maybe, just like it might do it for Jeff (my secret karmic hope is that this ignites both of our teams and pushes us both past Teams Leibowitz and Colton/Wolf and we duke it out for the last month of the season: Yeah, I want to win, but a pennant race is great fun, if not stressful).

The bottom line is I had to do something, and ideally I hit the right equation.

The antithesis is had I just stood pat, I never would know. Neither would Jeff. Or the rest of the world, for that matter.

The Key to Suspend is the Spend Part PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 26 July 2014 00:00

Even though I have already had one football draft so far this year, I have really not paid a lot of attention to the NFL pre-season flurry, but it did surprise me the past couple of days to see the sports wire below the baseball games tell me that Josh Gordon and Ray Rice had been suspended.

More interesting has been the waves of moralizing going on about these two men's crimes, especially with respect to the source of Josh and Ray's misdeeds.

Gordon was arrested for drunk driving for the third time, while Rice got into a donnybrook with his wife--at the time his fiancé--however, for the physical violence charge the Ravens running back was suspended just a pair of games while Gordon has been called out for the entire 2014 season, per Roger Goodell (Gordon is appealing the sentence).

I cannot argue that this seems silly: driving drunk will cost you the season, but beating up your girlfriend is only worth a pair of contests, but I suspect some of the sentence has to do with horrifying or not, Rice is apparently a first time offender while Gordon--like Justin Blackmon--has run afoul with the bottle a magic third time and you're out.

Mind you, to reaffirm, I am not saying what Rice did is more reprehensible, but, I also suspect the first failed test for Gordon might not even have merited a suspension, but rather a warning and the directive to seek counseling.

Further, it is not like DWI is to be taken lightly, for most of the time drunk drivers have luck or an observant police force--or both--keeping the inebriated out of harm's way while protecting the public at the same time.

I do think it is interesting that in the case of football, the it is the league for the most part that metes out justice, for I wonder why the teams themselves don't immediately react to malfeasance, at least suggesting the team management is reviewing the particulars and will make a decision.

Because I ask you: where you work, were these issues to come to the attention of your management, would the HR department take care of things, or the folks that regulate your particular industry?

But, as I was thinking about this and trying to figure out what I think the best way to handle such suspensions, I decided to look and see just how many players are on administrative hold thanks to a league ruling.

Amazingly, depending upon how you look at it, only 11 players are on active suspension by the NFL. I went through the Niners roster (and the 11 does not count Aldon Smith) and counted 84 active players in camp. Times that by 30 teams and we have a whopping 2520 human beings.

That means that including Smith, 0.437% of the league are actual miscreants, with problems enough to merit public spectacle.

Although, because so much money is involved with the game, what this could also mean is a player has to really blow it bad a bunch, or very publicly (or both) in order to receive the judgment of Goodell.

I suspect there are a lot more "incidents" involving moral turpitude that go on in a population of humans who paid huge sums of money in order to destroy opponents on a weekly basis for half of each year.

According to, this is a list of those players currently under suspension (they don't have Smith in there yet) in the NFL, along with the reason, and for how long:

  • Daryl Washington - Substance abuse, third incident, out for the season
  • Ray Rice - Domestic violence, first incident, out two games
  • Frank Alexander - Substance abuse, first incident, out four games
  • Josh Gordon - Substance abuse, third incident, out for the season
  • Robert Mathis - Banned substance, first incident, out four games
  • Justin Blackmon - Substance abuse, third incident, out indefinitely
  • Dion Jordan - Performance enhancing substances, first incident, out four games
  • Jayron Hosley - Substance abuse, first incident, out four games
  • Jake Knott - Performance enhancing substances, first incident, out four games
  • Aldon Smith - Substance abuse, third incident, 2014 season pending
  • Stedman Bailey - Performance enhancing substances, first incident, out four games

It does seem odd that all but Rice are drug violations of one kind or another.

And, I do need to make a distinction between Blackmon, who is a pothead, noting that in Colorado and in Washington, the wide receiver was not even doing anything wrong in the first place, according to state laws.

The truth is, I am not sure I really want to know how many NFL players beat their kids or drive drunk or bully or jaywalk or whatever.

I just want to watch them play.

Not that anyone in such a chosen profession--where money and fame and privilege are so accessible--athletes should not take the role model moniker seriously.

I mean, I am just a writer, and I always want to be thought of as a stand up guy, because that is how I want to be.

On the other hand, we not only are fallible human beings, but apparently ones who have to be Art Schlicter or Aaron Hernandez or Rae Carruth to really get our votes cancelled.

Checking Up on the Cubs PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 19 July 2014 00:00

On Wednesday, in the AL or Nothing space, I noted the bevy of Boston prospects who are on the horizon, possibly making the Boston club the most exciting on the horizon in the American League.

In the National League, the Cubs are the analagous next big thing, prospect-wise, meaning the two teams have a lot more in common than Theo Epstein and the best two ballparks on earth.

It would be fun to see the North Siders break back through the postseason, and with the youngsters they have in tow, this might indeed be the scenario.

Dubious? I can appreciate why, but, let's take a look at what is coming down the road in Wrigleyville.

Kris Bryant (3B): Haven't heard of Bryant, arguably the next big hitter on the Major League horizon? Well, if you are in a keeper league, it is way too late, as he will be way too gone. For the archivists, 93 games into 2014--with 68 at Double-A, and 25 at Triple-A--Bryant is hitting .350-32-82 with 11 swipes, 27 doubles and 55 walks to 108 whiffs (.446 OBP). 48% of his hits have gone for extra bases, and the only question is where he will play. With Anthony Rizzo already at first, it won't be there.

Arismendy Alcantara (2B/OF): Already arrived at the show with a .391-1-5 flourish over his first five games, the 22-year-old has surely helped make a splash. Was hitting .307-10-41 with 11 triples at Iowa. Chances are Arismendy will own second base and partner with Starlin Castro for awhile.

Javier Baez (SS/3B): Almost made the club out of spring, and he is just 21, Baez got hurt in camp and started slow, but he too has kicked it up at Iowa, hitting .244-15-58. He does whiff (28 walks to 111 strikeouts) but again, he just turned 21 in January. Likely will move to third to keep Castro as a wiley veteran at short, at least until Addison Russell comes up.

Addison Russell (SS): Part one of the spoils of Jeff Samardzija, Russell was a first-rounder in 2012, who hit .275-17-60 at Stockton last year. Russell was slowed with hurts this year, but was hitting .333-1-8 over 13 Double-A games when swapped. He is the real shortsotp of the future for the Cubs, and with Rizzo, Alcantara and Baez joining, will be part of a seriously good infield. Meaning Bryant will have to learn to play left, and perhaps Castro center.

Billy McKinney (OF): Part two of the spoils of Jeff Samardzija, the Athletics first-rounder last year was hitting .241-10-33 at Stockton when swapped, but with 36 walks to 58 strikeouts, at age 19, he still has more than a ton of upward growth in his sights. Actually an outfielder, McKinney is likely a late arrival to the position lineup, but he is very interesting.

Jorge Soler (OF): A 22-year-old, and another outfielder, Soler is big (6'4", 215 pounds) and looks every bit the power right fielder with a .310-20-87 line over 113 pro games, that also includes 17 swipes, 32 doubles, 45 walks to 77 strikeouts and a .912 OPS.

Kyle Hendricks (P): Acquired in the 2012 swap for Ryan Dempster with the Rangers, Hendricks is 31-19, 2.69 over 452.3 innings with 386 whiffs and a 1.072 WHIP. Made his Major League debut last week, but will be at Wrigley to stay to start 2015.

Jake Arrieta (P): Drafted by and struggled with the Orioles, and then swapped for Scott Feldman, at 28, Arrieta is not a prospect let alone a youngster, but he seems to have learned his craft with a 5-1, 1.95 mark over 13 starts and 78.3 innings this year. Arrieta has 85 strikeouts and a sterling 1.009 WHIP. He will be a wiley vet when the rest of this list comes into their own, and maybe then World Series rings will grace Wrigley and Chicago can breathe again.

What's the Score? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 12 July 2014 00:00

The second week of July is always a big deal around our house.

That is because starting six years ago, our friends Mike Volk and Jody Lerner started organizing a "retreat" of sorts within our music community to a little California town called Long Barn.

Long Barn has a standing population of about 250, but they also boast The Long Barn Lodge, a lovely little compound with cabins and rooms and a huge expanse of grass. There is a swimming pool and paraphernalia to play horse shoes and volleyball.

Up the road ten miles is the larger hamlet of Pincrest which has a great kayaking lake and you can horseback ride around the area, or hike. Most of the 75 of us that converge on Long Barn talk and catch up.

It does get hot so a lot of time is indeed spent poolside, but there are also little jam sessions omnipresent, so the air is full of guitars and mandolins and banjos and fiddles as we eschew our electric gear in deference to rootsier instruments and older bluesier tunes.

There is a huge BBQ pit at the lodge and we all bring mass quantities for both our own consumption, but also to share and, well, we all regard the time as the best week of the summer.

Diane and I always drive up on the Wednesday of Long Barn week, but the official weekend does not begin until Thursday. Since we are pretty busy during the year, having an extra day to goof off together is great, and we usually go out to dinner--just the two of us--something that simply does not occur as often as we would like.

However, this year we had a bit of a problem with the Thursday start for two days ago, coinciding with folks arriving, and most are from the bay area, was the Giants/Athletics "Bay Bridge Series" final game, and since both teams are more than competitive this season, that proved to be of interest to many within the group.

Unfortunately though we all love both the Long Barn, and getting away from the city, there is no TV in the Lodge: at least none that will show either the Giants or Athletics.

And, there is a cluster of hardcore fans among the group, all of whom know of my affiliation with the game and keeping stats.

So, when I noticed that the teams were indeed playing against one another during the day, I suggested we not only drive six miles up the road to a nice little restaurant, Mia's, in Cold Springs, but that I would be happy to help anyone who wanted to learn how to score track the game's progress.

Now, I can be pretty intense about such things, especially when I am trying to teach, so I did have to keep reminding myself that these folks were among my dearest friends, and that starting at the right time didn't really matter, nor did getting rosters ahead, and again that the basic idea was to watch the game and spend some time together.

In fact, part of me was afraid that among the six or seven folks who said they were interested, half would change their minds when push came to shove and the whole idea would be for naught.

Surprisingly, 12 people arrived, and I got to enjoy trying to explain the basics--the difference between a wild pitch and a passed ball, for example--along with the rote 63/G means a ground ball, fielded by the shortstop, then put out at first.

Some folks were interested, and some friends just wanted to watch and talk, both of which, with my more relaxed thoughts about how to approach the whole affair, were just fine.

Jody and her daughter Monica Lerner-Volk were the most adept, but the rest of their family (Mike and daughter Sarah), and friends like Les Ogilby and his wife Janet, Lisa Leal, partner Christy and their son Louie, along with Jeremy Steinkoler, his wife Michele Friedman, and their some Evan comprised the group.

Of course there were sarcastic comments by the Athletics fans as the solid Oaklanders held the Giants at bay, at least till the sixth inning, when Mia's closed so they could prepare for dinner.

But, in between bites of pizza and Mia's great chips and sandwiches, talk of watching the game, and "How can you tell a slider from a curve?" and "What is the code for a fly ball to center that is a sacrifice again?" was the real thing that pushes us to love the weekend, and spending time together.

And that is the wonderful feeling of camaraderie that accompanies such a gathering. By the time we shuffled back to the Long Barn, indeed the rest of our clan was appearing, and just as suddenly baseball slipped away in the ether of being with friends you have not seen for awhile.

I suspect not much baseball will come up between now and Sunday, which in this case is a good thing.

Tight is Tight PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 05 July 2014 00:00

About 17 years ago, Cathy and I flew up to Seattle to visit friends over a long Memorial Day Weekend.

Neither of us had ever been to that lovely town in the Northwest--one that reminds me a lot of the San Francisco Bay Area--before, and we happened to arrive on a crystal clear day.

"Look," everyone said, pointing to Mt. Rainier, clearly visible in the distance.

It was indeed a lovely sight, and it continued through the evening for I remember both the hostess and waitress at the restaurant where we ate near Pikes Market pointing out the mountain.

"What's with that?" we both wondered, thinking we have skied in the Sierra and seen more than our share of beautiful snow-capped ridges.

Well, "that" was that over the remaining four days we spent in Seattle, all foggy and dewey and overcast--as it is in the Berkeley hills where we live, we did not even get another peek at the peak.

I think of this event not infrequently because it always reminds me how important context is to just about everything we see and process as human beings, and how easy it is for each of us to miss that context within the perspective of others.

I say noting that in my Soccer Boppers article of last Saturday and that I am not captivated by soccer and the World Cup, though I have no problem with the rest of the world largely going goofy over the event.

So, on Wednesday, when 1 PM rolled around, I turned on the match between the United States and Belgium. I suppose were I Yogi Berra, I would have said I turned the game on 50% out of national pride, 50% out of curiosity and 50% to irritate Anne Coulter, who thinks the sport is facilitating a moral decay within our country.

If you watched, you know that it was a very tight match, tied 0-0 as the contest went into the 30-minute overtime period where the Belgians prevailed in a game that was still largely foreign to me in essence, but in which I certainly could discern one thing: the Belgians had a more aggressive team with the bulk of play occurring within the US side of the field of play.

timhowardSo, it did indeed seem that our boys were on their heels, and on the defensive for the bulk of the 120 minutes of play, which was enough time for goalie Tim Howard to deflect no fewer than 16 shots at the goal.

Which it turns out, is a World Cup game record.

I was keenly aware at how reactive and adept Howard was during play, and was pretty amazed by his agility, but until it was noted that Howard set the record, I took his play as much for granted as did Cathy and I dismiss Mt. Rainier.

Still, with the attack of the Belgians, I was indeed surprised the game stayed knotted and went as long as it did, not that I wanted to be a purveyor of doom, but rather as an objective casual observer, it just seemed their team was better on that day.

As I also mentioned in last week's piece, I am not a fan of basketball.

However, back in the early 90's, I truly tried to be.

Along with three friends, we bought a share of Warriors season tickets, so I got to see ten or so games a year for a couple of years, and during that time the Golden State team was poised for greatness it seemed, with Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin on the squad, along with Billy Owens and the team's #1 draft pick, Chris Webber.

As it happened, when we divvied up tickets during Webber's rookie season, I drew the game against the Orlando Magic, wanting to see their #1 selection Shaquille O'Neal in action.

Well, that game, between the Warriors and the Magic, was easily the most exciting sporting even I have ever attended.

With something around a minute left, Golden State was down by five points, and though Shaq had dominated, he fouled out, and with timeouts and fouls and other gyrations, that final minute took about ten minutes of actual clock time to wind out, with the Warriors pulling out a victory, 117-116 if memory serves, blocking a shot that was in the air as the buzzer sounded in a play several of the more sophisticated fans around me claimed was goaltending.

I did know the game well enough to agree, and no one called the foul, but it was indeed intense as virtually everyone within the Coliseum was on their feet during those final ten minutes of play.

I could have been hooked right there, forever as a basketball fan, but unfortunately--and if you follow hoops you might remember this--the Warriors front office mismanaged their players and roster and coaches so badly after that so the team which seemed so great and promising turned into the worst kind of disappointment.

Disgusted by the waste, I told my friends the following year I was no longer interested in supporting a bunch of lamebrains who could not manage a handful of uber talented kids to success.

So, I walked away from hoops, just like I will walk away, for the most part, from soccer despite that great effort earlier in the week.

If nothing else, my perspective has been as skewed as seeing Mt. Rainier that May day back in 1997.

For, I shall be disappointed if every soccer match I watch is not a 2-1 120-minute nail biter.

That said, Ms. Coulter can rest assured that my moral fiber is no more distorted today than it was to start the week.

Just that and well played Team USA: you did us proud.

<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

Page 5 of 26
sex izle hd film izle