Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down

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.

Soccer Boppers PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 28 June 2014 00:00

A few years back, I was talking politics with my friend and XFL mate Jeff Winick, when I mentioned what an idiot I thought Anne Coulter was.

Jeff paused for a second and noted that he went to law school with Ms. Coulter, and that even though her mouth and views were not necessarily rational to most of us, that she was hardly stupid: rather that she understood marketing in a manner that is just different than most of us.

Now, I confess that I am not much more of a fan of the sport of soccer than she is; that is, I don't watch it, and am not really interested in watching it. But, neither am I that interested in watching basketball for a myriad of reasons, but none of them have anything to do with any contempt for either sport.

Rather, between baseball and football, I have enough to keep my competition cravings fulfilled, and I would rather spend the rest of my free time watching old movies, cooking, playing the guitar, reading and performing a bunch of other tasks that I suspect Coulter would say also point to the moral decay of America.

For Coulter certainly suggested that the popularity of soccer is contributing to just that in the piece she authored Wednesday on her own site (presumably because no one else will publish her?) noting her contempt for the game, now enjoying huge coverage thanks to the World Cup.

Now, I will admit there are parts of Coulter's piece that are funny, and I also think Jeff is correct in that Coulter has indeed sized up her market, and knows that though what she says or writes is outrageous, well, controversy means notoriety, and there is no such thing as bad publicity.

On the other hand, who really cares what we like to read or eat or enjoy? I mean, isn't the whole idea of personal freedom and liberty mean that we get to watch or do what we want as individuals?

For, though I was not raised playing soccer, surely the last couple of generations of American kids have, just like most kids around the world who play the sport that is the most popular on the planet.

And, just because something is popular, but not indigenous to our country, doesn't mean it is bad. For, like the metric system, another communist plot Coulter despises, Americans rejecting a discipline the rest of the world embraces, doesn't make us right or superior. In fact, it more points to some hard headed immaturity.

Like noting to a little kid that he or she put their pants on backwards, and the child defiantly replying "I did that on purpose."

In addition, some of the things that Coulter hates about soccer--aside from the fact that Patrick Henry did not invent it--are that there are often not a lot of points scored, and well, there are not a lot of players carted off the field on stretchers like in hockey and football.

Maybe it is just point of view, but if I am watching a baseball game, and the score is 1-0, well, to me that is as exciting as it gets. Now, I understand if there are those who prefer a slug-fest, and I even admit sometimes a 14-12 contest is fun.

But, in a 1-0 game, it means with every pitch, victory hangs in balance, so if there are 225 pitches, or plays in a particular game, to me that is as exciting as a sporting event can get.

As for the violence, I am not sure why the inclusion of the Red Cross is important to Coulter, whom I believe is a Christian, so I wonder just what Jesus would say about high sticking. But, aside from that, apparently she has not heard of Luis Suarez.

It is no secret that I am well versed in 19th Century British Literature: in fact I have an MFA with a specialty in Dickens and Coleridge and their ilk.

A few years back, I was reading George Eliot's "Silas Marner," a book that somehow eluded my reading lists from high school through grad school.

In that book, when talking about the use of tokens and spells, Eliot presciently wrote that "Ann Coulter did not wear such a charm and had an idiot child."

Well, if what we write and publish are indeed our children of a sort, Eliot surely nailed Coulter on that one.

That means in the game of literary soccer, the score is Eliot 1, Coulter 0.

Maybe boring, and maybe like the slow low-scoring contests Coulter decries, it took forever to get a final (like 150 years), Anne, but to me, a satisfying victory nonetheless.

In fact, maybe I will even start watching the final 16.

As for you, Anne, maybe you should stick to NASCAR with the rest of the knuckle draggers.

8 Rounds and then Poof PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 21 June 2014 00:00

So Tuesday afternoon, after a great lunch on the bay--with Glenn Colton, Steve Gardner, Stacie Stern, Nando DiFino, and my partner Diane at San Francisco's Pier 23--Todd and I ambled back with the group to the Marriott Union Square where we participated in the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) Fantasy Football Experts Draft.

Interest in playing in the leagues over the years has burgeoned along with our national interest in fantasy sports (40 million Americans play fantasy sports, as opposed to the 3 million when I got started in the industry 21 years ago) such that the FSTA features a showcase league sponsored by SiriusXM, in which Glenn, Stacie and Steve play, and the "B" league, with 14 wanna-be's.

It is that 14-team configuration, coordinated by Charlie Wiegert and Ted Kasten, which allows the winner to move to the SiriusXM league, and sends their last place team to the B contest, hoping for redemption, in which Todd and I compete.

Last year, we did pretty well, finishing the season with a 10-3 mark, but lost in the finals to Fantistic's Anthony Perri, so this year, Todd and I are determined to finish it off with a win and move up to the top tier.

The problem is it is so hard to draft a team before training camps have even opened, in fact as I write, NFL teams are still signing their 2014 draft picks and free agents.

Which means the elusive starters and injuries and surprises of the camps and pre-season are a mystery to those of us at the table. And, that means for the most part, we were all drafting blind after the league mainstays are off the board.

What this process also suggests is that it is possible to grab a starting eight players of sorts, but then everything becomes a pile of Jack Straw players whom the group didn't know existed, or dismissed for one reason or another. This also suggests that the closer we get to the season, and then for the first few weeks, there will indeed be a free-for-all within the waiver wire.

Amazingly, I pulled the #1 pick for Todd and me, and, well, here is our post-draft squad, with whatever reasoning I can fabricate after we did establish a basic roster.

1. Jamaal Charles (RB, KC): Who else should we take? It is sort of the Mike Trout/Miguel Cabrera conundrum with two more. Matt Forte has to share the rock with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. LeSean McCoy may lose touches to Darren Sproles and there is some worry whether Nick Foles can do it again. Adrian Peterson is getting on and isn't a PPR force. Charles is not devoid of warts as he is running behind an O-line with three new mates. But here's the thing. Last year, we took Ray Rice as our first pick, then Maurice Jones-Drew as #2. Still, we managed to make the championships (thanks to some shrewd waivering by Todd). So we opted for the highest upside, realizing that if we miss, we can still make a run. But if we hit, that run could be all the way to the big-boy table next year.

2. Drew Brees (QB, NO): Drafting at the wheel, we agreed if a really top signal caller was there, grab him. This mollified my desire to make sure to get a solid productive player at the QB position before the pickings were reduced to Matt Schaub and Joe Flacco (neither of whom was drafted).

3. Keenan Allen (WR, SD): Todd's idea, but I am totally down with a rising star who nabbed 1074 yards, 71 passes, and scored eight TDs, as he goes into his second year of play. Plus, Allen went to UC Berkeley. What's not to like?

4. Chris Johnson (RB, NYJ): New team, new season, and well, as long as Johnson comes close to his decent 2013 (1077 yards, 42 receptions and ten total scores), we will be way happy.

5. Torrey Smith (WR, BAL): Z knows how much I like Torrey, and well, his 65 catches and 1128 yards for a guy in his prime, it's hard to argue.

6. Dennis Pitta (TE, BAL): We were hoping Vernon Davis would slip to us, but so much for that. Pitta was hurt most of last year, but he is supposedly healthy, and played every game in 2011-12, catching 101, and scoring ten times.

7. Danny Amendola (WR, NE): Of late, the Troy Tulowitzki of the NFL: when he is hurt, it is painful, but when he plays, look out. And, with the now wiley Tom Brady throwing to him, a gamble we are happy to take.

8. Carolina Panthers (DEF): Todd knows I like to grab an aggressive defense early, and Seattle, whom we took last year, went in the sixth round. The Panthers are a really good team, getting better, and I think their D is going to emerge as top flight along with their QB.

9. James Jones (WR, OAK): I know Z has a soft spot for Patriots, and he knows I have one for Raiders. And, the team may not be any good, but someone has to catch the ball, kind of like even on a crappy baseball team, a closer will still get 30 saves. 60 catches and 800 yards would be good, though.

10. Chris Ivory (RB, NYJ): Pretty durable, and a nice handcuff to Johnson, Ivory did nab 833 yards last year for the Jets. Not much of a receiver in a PPR league, but, it is getting late and you have to take what you can get.

11. Aaron Dobson (WR, NE): Cuffed to Amendola, and satisfying Todd's Patriot fix all at once, the second-year player did pretty well with 37 receptions and four scores last year. Likely to improve on that.

12. Lance Moore (WR, PIT): Since Brees saw something in Moore, so do I. I realize he has only two or three really good games a season but with a new team, as a #4 wideout, as long as we can cash in on those big games, it should be fine.

13. Andre Williams (RB, NYG): A rookie on a team that is likely in transition, but well, I like the UC Berkeley guys, and Todd loves the guys from his Boston College Alma Mater. Being a huge Matt Ryan fan, who am I to argue?

14. Knile Davis (RB, KC): A handcuff to Charles, and not a bad one. He did score four times and caught 16 pass as well for 317 yards his rookie season.

15. Dan Bailey (PK, DAL): We needed a kicker, and well, there you have it. Easy to swap out for another as necessary.

16. Michael Hoomanawanui (TE, NE): Mr. Irrelevant. He is a Patriot, and Gronk does get hurt. Plus, fun to have the longest surname in the NFL.

There you have it. We both decided one kicker, one defense, and one QB, and when the bye weeks come, adjust accordingly. At least going into the season, we will live or die by our Patriot influenced sword.

Am I Ready for the Football? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 14 June 2014 00:00

I think the answer to the query posted in the title is "no."

However, the world marches on whether I like it or not, and come Tuesday, Todd and I will again represent Mastersball at the Fantasy Sports Trade Assocation (FSTA) Experts League, with an asterisk.

The asterisk is that the FSTA has two football leagues, A and B, and since Todd and I joined the football party late, we are in the B league, not that I want to paint the newcomer setup as inferior; but, the catch is the winning B team each year moves up to A, while the last place A squad drops to B.

Last year, despite a slow start, Z and I made it to the championship game, losing in the end to Anthony Perri of Fantistics in what was really a pretty good trouncing.

So, back we go this year, with the draft in my back yard, San Francisco.

While it does make a fun twist to draft a chunk of time before--and between the FSTA and XFL, it is also problematic for a few reasons.

The first is that even thoough we can speculate to a degree, camps have not even opened, so roles are, to say the least, uncertain.

The second is the subset of the above: Injuries.

Z and I have already swapped e-mails and chatted about what to do, and we do share a difference of opinion as to who our first pick might be.

Mind you, as of now we don't know what our draft spot is, so that adds to the speculation, but, I think drafting a quarterback first is not a bad row to hoe.

Now, I know Z feels differently, but in looking at last year's top point producers, eight of the top ten (Jamaal Charles and Matt Forte being the exceptions) were signal callers. And, I think points are points.

However, 15 of the top 24 point producers were also quarterbacks, meaning in a 12-team format, there are enough top guys for each team to safely grab one, meaning as long as we don't wait too long--and remember, a strong back-up is a good thing for bye weeks if nothing else--a strong player should fall our way.

For example, last year, under the same aegis, we drafted Matt Ryan in the sixth round and you might think that things worked out well selecting our passer that far into the draft.

However, our first two selections were Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew, and well, how well did that work out for us?

What did work was selecting Jordy Nelson, Vernon Davis and the Seahawks defense, picks that I favored (note we were both down with Jones-Drew, Rice, not to mention Stevan Ridley, along with taking Ryan when we did).

But, it was Todd's shrewd waiver moves--particularly grabbing Charles Clay, Rashad Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson -- that fleshed out our team and pushed us to the brink.

However, that brink is where we finished, with another chance this year.

Somehow, even in writing this, I am thinking Todd is right: that we can wait a couple of rounds before grabbing a QB. Although I really think taking a Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson--a player who can throw and be just as dangerous running--is a solid idea.

I'm inclined to look for Calvin Johnson as a first pick and maybe even looking for Demaryius Thomas or Jimmy Graham second (though I do still love the Niners' Davis).

And, I think being aggressive with selecting a solid defense is a smart move, because, as I noted about QB, points are points.

As to what we will actually do, however, I haven't a clue.

However, if you tune in next week, we will all surely find out.


What Makes Iconic? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 07 June 2014 00:00

"Who's Don Zimmer?" Diane asked the other day, when the news flashed at the bottom of the TV screen that the baseball icon had drifted from this planet.

"A lifetime baseball guy," I said, finishing with "I think he was in baseball for something like 66 years (it was actually 65). Only job ever, playing or coaching or scouting baseball."

That was about as much as she needed or wanted to know, and then it was back to whatever else we were watching or doing.

Since then, though I have not really read any articles about Zim, whose career, and as a result life I have witnessed. But, I have thought back most of those 65 years, since Zim was three years into his career when I was born.

I remembered my first baseball cards: a bunch of '56 and '57 Topps that my parents' friend Richie Israel had outgrown, so Passover of 1960, he gave his shoe box to me.

What is funny is how old those two and three-year-old cards seemed to me at that time, and how old fashioned they seemed compared to the 1959 set (which remains my favorite). The players looked old to me in the same manner our grandparents seem ancient to us when we are little.

But even then, Zim looked like kind of a throwback, in the Rocky Bridges "I have huge forearms and an equally large hunk of chaw in my mouth" way.

Zim may not have been old enough to have seen Ruth or Gehrig play, but certainly he saw the next generation of stars--the generation of Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio--and he played with Jackie Robinson.

And, he played at Fenway and Wrigley, where Ruth and Gehrig and Williams and DiMaggio all played for at least a game.

As for me, I got to see Willie Mays and Willie McCovey in their prime, and Sandy Koufax and Cal Ripken, Jr. Along with Greg Maddux and Albert Pujols, and now Mike Trout and Jose Fernandez.

For Trout, and Fernandez, and these days Josh Donaldson and Sonny Gray in Oakland, are the cool now players, not old guys like Derek Jeter.

I know this because a couple of weeks ago, I had my yearly weekend of watching my friend's kids play ball. That included a playoff game that pitted brothers Zach and Ben Anderson against one another, in what proved to be an excellent 6-5 game that went to the last pitch, and featured just a couple of walks: pretty good for ten-year olds.

But, I know Zach and Ben and their teammates like Gray and Donaldson and Brandon Moss because they told me so.

And that is much of what makes baseball so magical and mystical to me.

For the game that Zach and Ben played is essentially the same game that is played down the road at the, and across the bridge at ATT. They are playing the same game that was played at Ebbets Field, where Zimmer began his Major League career, and at both Fenway and Wrigley, where baseball has witnessed 100 years of play.

I remember how jazzed I was when I attended my first games at both those storied yards.

I hope that someday Zach and Ben--hopefully together--get to both those ball parks.

Where Don Zimmer played and coached for a chunk of those 65 seasons.

That is how baseball binds us, person-to-person, generation-to-generation.

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