Yesterday was pretty fun. As it turned out, it was my birthday, and one of the great things about league expansion and extended playoffs and wild card games is there is almost always a World Series game for me to watch.
As it was, Diane and I came up to the mountains for one more stay before winter really takes hold of the Lake Tahoe area, and for the day we drove near Reno, to Sparks, to spend the afternoon with our friends Reid and Elaina. Mind you, Reid is a sports junkie. He had golf on when we got to their house, and over the weekend there is always golf or baseball, NFL or college football on, so once the Cubs/Tribe pre-game came on, that is where the TV went.
Unfortunately, by then it was getting dark, and the day was rainy, so we decided we should beat it back across the border to Soda Springs, which was ok with me, as I do indeed like listening to baseball on the radio. So, on the 50 mile drive back to Soda Springs, that is what we got.
I do indeed enjoy baseball on the radio, especially in the car, and this fun, throwback Series between a couple of old franchises pulls me back to when I first loved the game. This was when there were two leagues with eight teams each, and winner took all, and well, the Cubs had trouble beating the rest, while the Indians could sometimes do it.
But, when I think of those teams, these are the names that come up: Jimmy Dykes. Sonny Siebert. Rocky Colavito. Don Kessinger. Glenn Beckert. Ken Hubbs. Billy Williams. Jimmy Piersall. Ron Santo. Ernie Banks. Glen Hobbie. Max Alvis Woodie Held. Tito Francona.
I guess you get the idea.
Needless to say, I am as happy as the media--hell as we all seem to be--that both these fine old teams, who have struggled for the ultimate seasonal success, are actually duking it out with one another, meaning at least one of our big cities will finally have an end to their pennant chasing drought.
But, the whole thing, through three really fine games thus far, is indeed a sort of national tonic for us at a time when contentiousness could not be more plentiful.
Not that I want to be politicial. Nor, with the presence of teams who at least for now remind us of the "good old days" which in many ways, for many of us, were really not all that good.
But, it is great to see that Terry Francona, who won in Boston for Theo Epstein and ended their drought, now gets to try to outsmart his former boss on the field while the great tactician Joe Maddon gets to carve Theo's name for eternity by ending said droughts, first in Boston and the Curse of the Bambino, and now, maybe the Curse of the Billy Goat can similarly be exorcised. And, if that happens, who knows, maybe Cleveland will be Theo's next stop.
But, back to this Series, it is great, and we did indeed listen into the fifth, missing only the removal of Kyle Hendricks in between getting home, and getting into the house where my brother Eric had figured out how to stream on our TV (we have no cable in the mountains, as the object is to get away from it, though we do have movies).
And, while it surely is fun to watch live, again, the radio, like the old teams, reminds me of Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons and ads for Chevron while calling the Giants games, in contrast with Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett talking up Union 76, reporting Dodger Blue.
I guess this all makes me feel and sound nostalgic, but as noted, I really am not. But, I do know what is in my comfort zone.
Mashed Potatoes. Pho. Pasta with Bolognese. Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Lying in the sun with a book. Playing acoustic guitar by myself, right here on the porch of the Soda Springs house in that very same sun.
And listening to baseball.
About six months ago, my niece Lindsay, with whom I share music, completed her exhortations in getting me to subscribe to Spotify.
"We can share playlists," she said.
"We can do that anyway," said I.
"No commercials," said she.
"I listen to the Truckee independent radio station, and they have all local commercials, and I like them. They are funky," said I.
"You can listen to baseball without commercials," she said.
"But, I like listening to baseball on the radio. I grew up listening to baseball on the radio," said I. "I love listening to baseball on the radio."
That was the end of the conversation, and in the end, Lindsay won. I got us a Spotify subscription, and the reality is I like it a lot.
But, I still listen to baseball on the radio the old way. Finding the announcers on AM by hitting the seek button till paydirt arrives.
And, well, I can tell you: For some reason, this Series seems extra special on that radio, scratchy reception through the mountains and all.
Don't forget you can find me @lawrmichaels.
I need to start this treatise by stating that by nature, I am not a patient human being.
As a kid, I was certainly quick, and I suppose smart enough to be pushed ahead in school, but the whole process made me a little impatient and often sloppy.
So, much of my challenge as I have aged was learning to slow down. My friend Stan Cohen keeps imploring me to remember my "clicks": that each click is a beat of the heart and we are each allotted just so many clicks before we move on. Thus, we don't want to squander our clicks.
I do, in fact, credit my late son Joey with forcing me to slow down, for Joe had multiple birth anomalies, and was in diapers and a wheelchair for all of his 22 years on the planet, and well, I could only go as fast as he could. Meaning if we were ready to leave the house, and Joey needed something--like a diaper change--everything stopped and that took precedence.
As a result, I was forced much more into the moment than I could ever anticipate. And, around the time Joey arrived, I also started playing fantasy ball, and I like to think some of the lessons I got from my son with respect to patience then fell onto my strategy and game playing. I do try to be very patient the first month or so of the season, allowing the players on my baseball rosters to get into a groove, or be sent to the oblivion of the Minors, not transitively jettisoning anyone unless absolutely necessary. Because, the season is long and strange, and the guys who sucked the first month might well be really good in August.
So, when it is time to actually draft my football teams, I try to mostly get everything I think I will need over the course of the season, minus a slot here or there.
It isn't that I don't like to play the waiver wire, either, but I like to give my players a chance which means at least a month of play (just like baseball) so I can see things shake out. Either that, or I will impulsively drop Fozzy Whittaker on a Wednesday for Matt Asiata, and two days later Whittaker will tear his ACL as Jonathan Stewart returns to his starting spot, while Asiata is benched for Jerick McKinnon.
OK, maybe that is a bit melodramatic, but you know the drill. And, with just weekly games, football presents more sporadic stats than in baseball, and for me it gets hard to judge on Tuesday after a game exactly who in the waiver pool might be of help.
More to the point, I try to draft as comprehensively as I can: A pair of QBs, three-to-four each of Running Backs and Wide Receivers, and some combo of Tight Ends and Kickers, the best defensive matchup I can get at the bottom of the draft pool, and some rookie crapshoot somewhere. That usually gives me one roster slot I can shift around during bye weeks.
But, the bottom line is it takes a month to be sure that Willie Snead and Theo Riddick will even get to play and generate points regularly, so that means I just cannot feel right dropping them willy nilly. Or, so it seems.
What is tough is the same patience that was so difficult to attain, and which largely serves my tactical purpose in baseball, seems to be my bitter enemy in Fantasy Football.
But, again, the reality is on Tuesday morning, just as the orgy of weekend games have concluded, I am hardly ready to think in terms of who to replace or grab 144 hours out.
Hell, I barely can figure out who to play at 9:30 in the morning on football Sunday.
As this NFL season worked its way through the bunch of Howard Bender's #MockDraft Army, I not only made sure I knew the player pool, but as is my way, tried to figure a way around the current PPR-league logic around drafting top wide receivers first. In fact, 2QB or not 2QB: That is the Question is the piece I wrote suggesting this year I was looking at drafting Cam Newton and a top David Johnson-type running back first two rounds, then exploiting #2 wide receivers like Michael Crabtree, Stefon Diggs, and Willie Snead. Then to augment, I went after Theo Riddick/Bilal Powell-type running backs who would get some carries, but for sure targets.
Five weeks into the season, I feel pretty comfortable knowing that so far it doesn't seem to make much difference. I did draft five of my seven teams (the odd ducks are Dynasties) to getting Cam first and then one of Adrian Peterson, Lamar Miller, or Johnson, and among the handful of squads I assembled, four are 3-2 and one is 2-3 and all are in the throes of the title run.
What is interesting is that as we all know, Cam has been largely ineffective, especially in context to last season, and the coup de gras was being placed on the concussion protocol. Well, in the two leagues in which I did wind up with Cam, I managed to bag Derek Carr as a back-up in one. But, in the second league, I didn't even draft a second QB, so last week I was able to grab Sam Bradford out of the free agent pool.
Both teams won, interestingly with the Derek Carr team being the 2-3 one, and the "Bradford to the Rescue" squad logging their third win. And the four starters each team had in common last week were Snead, Riddick, Kelvin Benjamin and DeAndre Washington.
Of course, we are just barely one-fourth into 2016, and over the next few weeks the good teams on the grid iron will coalesce and improve trying to hit the post-season, while the over-achievers will drift into a longer off-season. And that means we have way too small a sample to judge what really has worked.
Still, I feel pretty confident that by the end of the season, I might not win any of the five leagues where I tried to go against the grain, but I do feel I will be competitive.
However, I have also been playing DFS each week, and parlaying this same strategy with an asterisk seems to be working as well. That is, I have indeed been drafting Riddick and Washington, along with Fozzy Whittaker, or other mid-line running backs who can catch and get some carries along with a nice chunk of snaps.
And, though I have not drafted Cam, I have looked at the cheapest QB with the best combo of wide receivers playing against the crappiest defenses, and thus far that has meant Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady, and that also meant selecting Antonio Brown (and some Sammie Coates), Julio Jones (and at the time a cheaper Crabtree) and Rob Gronkowski (with Julian Edelman) and as a result, have had pretty good results.
Again, I am not certain what any of this makes at this juncture: probably nothing. However, I have long felt there are always many ways to skin the "Fantasy Game Cat" irrespective of the source of the contest--e.g. baseball, or football, hoops--or format, that with every seemingly dominant solution, there is always a path to defeating whatever contemporary convention says.
After all, such innovation is what made Bill Walsh and Sid Gilman successful, and makes Bill Belichick a winner today, and that is what makes Billy Beane, Theo Epstein and Branch Rickey equally brilliant within their own respective discipline.
Not like I think I can be as good as any of those guys. But, I do have to model myself after someone!
Don't forget you can hit me up @lawrmichaels.
It has been a week since the dust settled in the realm of the Tout Wars and LABR leagues, in a year where I drafted pretty well, and basically made it to the wire in one league, and made a swap in the second hoping to move up from fifth, and the result was I dropped from fifth to tenth.
Going into each auction, both American League 12-team 5x5 contests, I tried to stick to my basic precepts:
I do generally try to build balance out of that, and my history is one of success, but one where my teams are invariably pitching heavy and power light. This is largely because I look to WHIP and OBP as primary stat objectives. However, this year I went back to my John Benson days strategies and focused on steals and saves, for good things follow those categories.
LABR brought me Chris Sale ($33), Craig Kimbrel ($21), Danny Valencia ($10), Coco Crisp ($1), and Marco Estrada ($8) on the good side while Brad Boxberger ($11), Joe Mauer ($11), Ketel Marte ($15) and Avisail Garcia ($15) brought me down. Actually, my high-priced hitter was George Springer ($31) and the group was decent--good enough for mid-pack till August--but not a front runner, and in the end Larry Schechter nosed out Tristan Cockcroft for the win.
So, I swapped Sale to my mates Glenn Colton and Rick Wolf in an attempt to boost my power, replacing Sale with Daniel Norris. While the power helped, Steven Wright and Lance McCullers and Matt Shoemaker all fell to enough injuries to kill any chance of anything.
In Tout, I went with too many of the same players, opting though for Sonny Gray ($25) in lieu of Springer, thinking a good frontline starter will be trade bait: that all i needed to do was pad some counting stats in pitching. As a complement, I grabbed David Price ($31), and instead of Boxberger went with Roberto Osuna ($8). If I made a mistake there, it was $7 for Rusney Castillo rather than a couple of bucks on Travis Shaw, whom Rob Leibowitz smartly grabbed as a first round reserve selection.
Still, that team was in the throes of things, raising as high as second place with a couple of weeks to go in the season, and with enough tight contests in points among the top six teams, it was possible for a couple of good days to tighten and/or loosen things all around respectively. But ultimately, it was too little, and not quite late enough as Seth Trachtman hung on to take the title.
In the end, I feel good about how I built the teams, for even though neither won, going back to those simple basics of steals and saves and OBP and WHIP were the foundation. Where I need to go is trusting i can build some pitching, and build more around hitting, which somehow runs contrary to the notion that good pitching will beat good hitting.
As usual, I must thank my Tout and LABR mates, especially Steve Gardner, Todd Zola, Rick Wolf, Glenn Colton, Jeff Erickson, Peter Kreutzer, Ron Shandler, Zach Steinhorn, Cory Schwartz, Derek Van Riper, and the rest of the guys. I look forward to seeing you at FPAZ, and then again during the spring tour next year. And, I look forward to reporting the results to all.
Back when the Beatles were the biggest thing in the world, they made movies, starting with the brilliant A Hard Day's Night, and then Help!, which is amusing and has some great songs. Originally, Help! had a working title of Eight Arms to Hold You, with a statue of Durga, a goofy metaphor for the Fab Four.
Well, somehow this year I have found myself a player in eight separate Fantasy Football leagues, though I share management of one with Lord Z. Add in a couple of DFS leagues, and suddenly I am tracking ten or eleven rosters and sets of points on Sundays, a far cry from the five Fantasy Baseball leagues in which I compete.
Since I do tend to like certain players, I tend to draft to and around them as often as I can as I feel a good player is always a good thing to have. Thus, if I like Jarvis Landry in one league, I will probably like Jarvis Landry wherever I can play him, at least in season-long contests, and if I think Cam is the best signal caller, there is a good chance I will roster the Panther as often as I can.
All-in-all, that means 57 players spread over four sites and formats, with varying rosters, all of which makes me grateful that the teams only play once a week. For, over the past weeks, I have left Markus Wheaton active by mistake in two leagues, and Jonathan Stewart was on the roster last week, as was the Willie Snead gamble which failed even when I was able to make a last minute Mohamed Sanu substitution.
But the big culprit over the past week was the Steelers defense, known for being a tough gaggle who are stingy with yards and rushes. Philadelphia and their rookie QB Carson Wentz were going up against the longtime cross-state rivals. Sure, Wentz had played admirably over the first two weeks, but this time the Steelers were a serious physical club. Or so I thought.
Just for grins, though, I did go through all my rosters, and here are the players who appear most on my rosters:
Objectively, I do see that my teams are indeed Raider heavy, which makes me feel like a homer. But the reality is the bulk of Oakland picks I have were fifth round or beyond, and their defense was generally the last selection I made in almost every league. Furthermore, I do think that squad will begin to gel and be quite good by mid-season, let alone down the stretch.
Additionally, I tried to go strong with Quarterback, but my support cast are full of potential receivers in PPR formats, and some of my players might be great freezes in the couple of dynasty formats in which I participate.
But, back to my management issue, it is hard to remember all my rosters, track all the injuries, make all my waiver moves, track the amount of FAAB I have left, manage bye weeks, and of course, remember to set a roster before kickoff on Thursdays.
The thing is, I prepped for football the most judiciously I ever have this past off-season, working a good 15 mocks, tracking pre-season stats, following the top draft picks, and contributing to a cluster of periodicals.
So, that, coupled with the fact that I really want to challenge the conventional WR-heavy strategies by exploiting running backs who can catch, but well, that is hardly a secret.
It is though a challenge, though one I likely would not swap. I mean, who doesn't love Football Sunday? On the other hand, per the Beatles, Help!
Let me know if you too have roster management issues @lawrmichaels.
For some reason, I wound up in more football leagues than ever before this season: even more than those in which I play baseball.
Football is a lot easier to manage than baseball in that there are games only once a week per team coupled with general roster limitations--such as size of roster, or max at a position one can even have on a roster, and this generally keeps things manageable. And in two leagues, things are oddly parallel, and yet nothing alike.
Both leagues--A SiriusXM Experts, and a SiriusXM Keeper--include pretty much the same humans, although my teams are as different in makeup and format as they are in record after two weeks. Both of these drafts were hosted by our good friends at Fantrax.
In the Throwback league, ten players are active each week, including defense and a kicker, out of a 16-man roster, while in the Keeper league (just for the archivists, this too was a draft since this is the first year of the league), we start 11 a week with a 30-man roster.
It is interesting how similar my teams are in some ways yet different in others, but more to the point, my Throwback team is 2-0, while my Keeper team is 0-2.
|Pos||Throwback (2-0)||Keeper (0-2)|
|QB||Cam Newton/David Carr||David Carr/Tom Brady/Alex Smith|
|RB||David Johnson/DeAndre Washington||David Johnson/Fozzy Whittaker|
|RB||Theo Riddick/Empty||Theo Riddick/Matt Asiata|
|WR||Kelvin Benjamin/John Brown||Jermaine Kearse/Breshad Perriman/Gabriel Taylor|
|WR||Jarvis Landry /Pierre Garcon||Jarvis Landry/Seth Roberts/Eddie Royal|
|WR||Willie Snead/Markus Wheaton||Cameron Meredith/Andre Roberts/Cecil Shorts|
|TE||Richard Rodgers/Empty||Jason Witten/Jared Cook/Richard Rodgers|
|FLX||Bilal Powell/Empty||Bilal Powell/Marcel Reece|
|PK||Steven Hauschka/Empty||Steven Hauschka/Mason Crosby|
|DEF||Oakland Raiders/Pittsburgh Steelers||Oakland Raiders/Pittsburgh Steelers|
I have to say the presence of Benjamin and Snead have made the major difference, but I am curious to see how the Keeper team evolves, where I had the prescience to draft both Whittaker and Asiata, who will now get some serious touches for a few weeks at least. But, more significant, my faith in Theo Riddick as a solid #2 in every league, for better or worse, has some real promise.
But, even though the squads are similar, where I drafted players varied a lot. In the Throwback league, Newton and Johnson were my first and second selections while in the Keeper league, Johnson and Landry were my top two picks. Further, I selected Carr in the fourth round in the Keeper set-up, and the seventh in the throwback, while the Raiders Defense was my last pick in both.
Naturally, the player pool in the Keeper league, where 12 teams each drafted 30, is pretty thin. The rule is we are each allowed to select five players in a draft following the NFL selections, and by Opening Day we will chop five names from the total of 35. And, we are allowed to trade the draft picks in advance of the next three years, which is a nice variable.
The thing, though, is I tried to go against the grain in the Throwback league, drafting Newton and Johnson, and then exploiting Wide Receiver, so the fact that I landed both Landry and Benjamin in a receiver dominated format is a little odd to me.
Then again, those players went that much sooner in the Keeper format where I did try to go young and draft to sort of win now, but more to build around a solid core, and maybe make trades depending upon the flow of this season and my success rate. And, surely I am thinking both Asiata and Whittaker will have some value to the teams that lost AP and Jonathan Stewart.
Additionally, I went three-deep at Quarterback, figuring someone in the Keeper league is going to need an arm due to a combo of bye weeks and injuries, so again, I have a serviceable signal caller and the potential to nab a couple of future draft selections as well.
Since this is the first Keeper league with this type of format in which I have played, I am trying to stay competitive, but also learn just how to rebuild in an Ultra Football league.
I will keep you posted.
As I have written often, the Dodgers were my baseball team as a kid.
I did grow up in Northern California, where the Giants had only played in San Francisco for a couple of years in 1959, when baseball caught my eye. It was the year the Dodgers beat the White Sox, although that did not have nearly as much to do with my identification with the team as did my notion to be different. Not that I meant to be contrary. I just always gravitated to the underdog/other side of whatever.
Since everyone else in my universe was a Giants fan, I took a fair amount of guff from my brother and his friends and even my friends, because I preferred Willie Davis and Maury Wills to Willie Mays and Jim Davenport.
As a picked on little brother, the smallest of the pack, I found my childhood consolation with music, movies, books, and then baseball, and the Dodgers were the leaders of the pack. The NL was a tight consortium in those days, with just eight teams, all loaded with one star or another. The Reds had Frank Robinson, the Pirates Clemente, the Cubs Banks, the Braves Aaron and Mathews, for example. And that meant any time we went to see a game, there were stars abounding.
But, the Dodgers, with Koufax and Drysdale, were so special to me during a time that was particularly tough all over, for the 60's were indeed that time of unrest, and they were also the years of my formative schooling. They were also the years, from 1963-1969, that I suffered the most from Crohn's disease. So those things, books like "The Catcher in the Rye," movies like "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," songs like "Please, Please Me," and the Bums having a good day were all of importance that was magnified to say a 12-year-old.
Many was the night I went to sleep, adjusting the clock radio that sat on my night table, pulling in a scratchy KFI, the Los Angeles flagship station that carried the Dodgers. And it was there I heard Scully, and his partner Jerry Doggett, wax on about Union 76 Oil and Farmer John's sausages between innings.
I remember the pain of the Dodgers collapse in 1962, and the blitz of the Yankees in 1963, victory over the Twins in 1965, and the thumping handed over by the Orioles in 1966, when girls and hippiedom entered my universe.
Of course, the common denominator of the Dodgers at the end of their days in Brooklyn, to their first days at Chavez Ravine, to the days of the Lopes, Garvey, Russell, Cey infield to the present is Scully, who is indeed retiring at the end of this season, at age 88, following 67 years of tracking Dodger Blue.
A few years back, when I was still chasing stats for MLB.com, I was walking out of the press dining room at ATT when I spotted Scully, perfectly attired in a blue flannel sport coat with charcoal gray slacks. He was leaning against a wall outside the door to the Dodgers radio room, talking on a cell phone.
I had actually seen Scully in the dining room before games for a number of years, often even sharing meals with my friends like David Feldman and Michael Duca, who were Official Scorers. But, I was always too shy to ever want to crash their table and pay any respects.
But, with a good 40 minutes before first pitch, and the voice of the Dodgers right there, I waited till Vinny's call was finished.
I approached Scully, somewhat shyly, and he looked up and I told him just how important his voice and that team was to a sick kid, struggling to make sense of an increasingly crazy world. How I lived as a sole Dodger fan in the midst of Giants fanatics, and that I tuned him in on my radio at night to make me feel some kind of connection to something on the planet.
Vinny looked me right in the eye as I blurted all these incidentals to him, rambling for a minute or so, then sighing, and the voice of the Dodgers graciously took my hand and shook it, thanked me for sharing these details with him, finishing with "it's stories like these that validate my years of work."
It was all kind of surreal: the best voice in baseball thanking me for simply listening to and acknowledging him.
It certainly made my day, and it is one of those moments I will treasure in my memories always.
Thank you Vinny, for being an anchor to a distraught kid during many years of uncertainty, and then validating the same kid, grown up, 50 years later with your kind words.
I will miss your voice, and spirit, but do enjoy your well deserved retirement!
A few years back, I was out eating dinner with my friends Michele and Leslie. We were going out to eat before heading off to see Yo La Tengo. The three of us wanted noodles, and the Japanese Center is right near the Fillmore. We picked one. There was a wait, however, so I sat down and put our name on a list while Michele and Leslie looked at the shops.
As soon as I sat down, I pulled my iPhone out of my pocket to check messages and play Words With Friends and essentialy kill the time waiting wherein I used to sit and think, or read a book (I always do have a book, but the iPhone is so damn tempting) and noticed the other handful of folks waiting were doing the same.
And that made me think about the time before our hand helds and smart phones, when there was no texting or e-mail and though we somehow survived, well, it is hard to imagine letting the phones go, no?
I did start playing roto ball before I got a computer: you know, those old giant computers that were not half as powerful as our phones are now? Amazing. Actually, I have played or watched some form of baseball for as far back as I can remember. Made up games with baseball cards, the Cadaco spinner game, APBA, and Strat-O-Matic in the old days with cards (I still play Strat as most of you know).
And, before our phones got too sophisticated, I bought an XBOX trying to figure out baseball and football, but the game that caught us was the Simpsons Game, wherein Diane was Homer and I was Bart. And, as an aside, Diane is a wicked EGames player, having once beat an arcade Pac Man game and currently playing level 1236 at Candy Crush and 832 on Candy Crush Soda, levels I can only imagine.
That is because I generally use my phone to check scores and transactions and teams and play a few games, and though Candy Crush is one, I am hardly the player my mate is.
But, the other day, while surfing and looking at scores or something, a little trial for Tap Sports Baseball '16 which featured a hitter with the user simply trying to hit pitches for an inning. Of course I got nowhere, but I repeated the trial once, then again, and after the third time I somehow wound up downloading the app to my phone.
And, since that fateful download, I have played a total of 65 games (23-42) and I have to admit that Tap Sports Baseball is a pretty good distraction.
Within the game, you only hit: There is a pitcher, but the results of your time on the field is reported to you between at-bats. As with most such games, timing is everything, for if you can judge and time the pitch, you can hit.
The thing that makes Tap Baseball interesting is that you start with a crap team. As in real crap. My initial roster included Jacoby Ellsbury and a rookie Madison Bumgarner, with Stephen Drew as a power source, and then a bunch of dreck a la Jordan Pacheco, Allen Craig, Matt Harrison and Sean Nolan.
Players get star rankings, and aside from the threes Ellsbury and Bumgarner held, the rest of my guys were at best 1.5 stars, meaning not very good. So, if my team faced a three star pitcher, with my squad throwing a one star hurler out there, chances are my tail would be handed to me, and that indeed did occur for the first 20 or so games.
But, with goals, like hitting five doubles in a game, or scoring ten runs, you get points and gold (you can also buy these commodities via the Apple Store) and using these accomplishments, it is possible to upgrade, and thus improve your team. And, with said success, you climb league levels, something I am still awaiting having just started climbing the amateur ranks of the game.
It takes about ten minutes or so to play (and you can pause, and leave the app, and the game will auto save) and, well, once you get started.
I have taken some lumps, as the 42 losses suggest, but ten of my wins have come over my last 12 games. Odder, I have a sudden attachment to Drew (who has hit 33 homers), Ellsbury (who is hitting .297-12-37 with 52 runs scored and 17 steals) and even the guys who seemed like useless toadies such as Christhian Adames (my shortstop) and Zach Walters have worked into a soft spot in my heart.
Of course, since I have been improving and gaining points, the face of my team has improved. I now have Kendall Graveman (three stars!) as one of my starters, and Cesar Hernandez is killing for me at third base. I have some gold savings and a lot of points from winning little low level tourneys.
But, uh, well, I am kind of into it and well, it is a pretty fun time and game and well, if you are reading this, you too probably love baseball and its variations. So, I am just saying.
I mean, I know, I can delete the app any time I like. Right?
One of the tougher leagues in which I play is the Strat-O-Matic "Summer League of Champions" (SLOC) league, curated by the ever venerable Larry Denicola in a setup that includes 24 total participants.
Using the great Strat format, SLOC allows a throw back draft every three years which allows teams to build a basic roster using the Strat Hall of Fame set. From there, each year we pick a season to exploit and the Hall of Fame set is augmented by the players and rosters for a particular year (for this season, the chosen year was 1948).
So, we keep our Hall of Famers for three seasons, and then redraft from the specific season each year, and play it out. It is important to note that players like Dwight Evans and Orel Hershiser--excellent players who fell short of actual HOF status--are included within the HOF set, and the league does have fairly tight usage rules. That is, players can only play in the assigned position, and there are penalties for overuse of a specific player.
Well, I have struggled over my three years in the league, trying to balance defense and speed and power and pitching. But the longer I play, the clearer I am that pitching doesn't help that much when Bob Gibson goes 8-18, 4.94 and David Wells 8-10, 5.71. So, next season that means I will look more to hitting than pitching.
But, if I ever wondered how much difference it makes for a very good team to match up against a great team, this lesson was drilled in this final month of our season when I played eight home games and went a sad 1-7.
Because I got knocked out of the playoff picture by mid-season, I used the bulk of my starters like Ozzie Smith and Ed Delahanty and Eddie Murray up until our September play, and then subbed out said stars for the likes of Howard Johnson (Strat-O-Matic averages stats over three-year periods in HOF-type contests, so Johnon's numbers reflect a .255-25-80 season), Bobby Brown (.300-3-48 with a .383 OBP) and Birdie Tebbetts (.280-5-68 with a .371 OBP) over the likes of Ron Santo, Frankie Frisch, and Bill Dickey.
In just about any Strat or sim matchup, Tebbetts, Brown, and HoJo would be excellent bench support, but in a league that features Lefty Grove and Walter Johnson as the top arms, and where guys like Frank Chance can simply kill your squad whether Nolan Ryan or Webster McDonald is hurling is the norm, not the exception.
That does indeed make things very tight, but also, I have found, very depressing. For, in a league where indeed the toughest three outs are those in the ninth, where a seven-run lead is nothing to feel safe about, and where Rogers Hornsby and Dave Parker can easily come off the bench and bounce a pitcher around, this is the way of things.
I can indeed adjust next year, where I will freeze Gibson and Hershiser and McDonald (if you do not know him, he is a great reliever in such a setting), focusing first on hitters, then pitchers. And, ideally, some success will follow and I can sub the likes of HoJo for Santo once a week to spread out the usage impact.
But, even with that, it was shocking this year during my final round of games to see that for the most part, my team never stood a chance with a contingent of very good and respectable players trying to stay on equal footing with Hall of Famers.
I suppose this was much like the old winter barnstorming days when American All-Star teams would tour Japan and win 19 of 21 games, for the one game I salvaged this time was a close one where Nolan Ryan held our opponents to just two runs, and Mr. Johnson belted a two-run jack in the eighth to give me a lead that McDonald successfully protected.
However, I feel sure had Johnson hit his dinger in the sixth, that game too would have fallen by the wayside as the late-inning pressure and players would have dropped my Berkeley Radicals onto the losing end of the scoresheet.
Mind you, I am not complaining. Fantasy and Sim games are good fun, and for me they are an opportunity not just to play a game, and a baseball game at that. But they also afford a chance to play out situations and see just how the hits and strikeouts fall, and which side of the diamond said stats live by the last out.
I frequently like to advise fantasy players to try a lot of formats and styles of play, for what we learn in one league can often help us learn what to do in another seemingly different league (remember, the league might be different, but the game of baseball remains a constant).
So, I can only suggest you have at it. After all, games are fun! And baseball games are the most.
Any of you watch the Matt Moore just about no-hitter on Thursday night, when Moore came within an out of tossing that all elusive hitless game?
Before you get too excited and trade for Moore with an eye on a title or looking for an ace next year, remember that going into Thursday's start, Moore was 0-3, 4.69 over four starts and 23 innings over which he managed a decent 22 whiffs to go with an indecent 1.52 WHIP.
To get to two outs in the ninth, Moore needed 133 pitches while walking three and striking out seven. I did watch the final five innings of the game and Moore was spotting his curve well, but he was similarly making good pitches at the right time, something that usually indicates a good pitcher who knows what he is doing.
I do remember how in love with Moore we all were when he arrived in 2012, but unfortunately his pitching line has not been much better than that of another tantalizing-then-disappointing Florida prospect, Jeremy Hermida. Ineffectiveness and injury made Moore expendable, and the Giants, in desperate straights for arms, bit on the 27-year old.
And, while I don't want to knock Moore while on a high, who remembers that Chris Heston hurled a no-no last year and now is buried in the minors? Or, who remembers Mike Warren, who tossed a no-no for the Athletics September 29, 1983--before pitch counts were logged--and wound up 3-0, 4.11 that year completing his career at 9-13, 5.06 over 27 starts?
I was in the crowd first when Jose Jimenez blanked the Astros on 101 pitches and no-hits (Randy Johnson faced him, allowing just one) on June 25, 1999, when he finished the year 5-14, 5.85 finishing 24-44, 4.92 over 521.3 frames. And, I was in the press box scoring for MLB.com on May 9, 2010 when Dallas Braden needed 109 pitches for a perfecto, but again, poor Braden was injured and completed his career 26-36, 4.19 over 491.3 frames.
The diciest no-no, though, I think must belong to Tim Lincecum, whose 2013 no-no against the Padres took 148 pitches, probably takes the cake (Lord Z made a compelling case for Johan Santana, BTW), with Lincecum sadly on the down side of what was such a promising and fun career.
But, at least in that game, Lincecum whiffed 13 compared to Moore's seven. The thing about Moore's game was that he was hittable: Sadly, all the Giants hurler's pitches seemed a lot fatter over this series with the now front running Dodgers than when the season began.
I think the main issue, however, is that irrespective of the end result, the no-hitter Jake Arrieta twirled at the end of last season was a completely different animal than the nickel-and-dime nibble affair Moore delivered yesterday (and again, Moore lost his bid with two out in the ninth on a squib hit by Corey Seager) when the pitch count lost to the single and Moore delivered his last pitch in what would have been.
It is easy to get excited, as noted, when a guy like Moore tosses a solid game and even better, boosts our totals late in the season giving us hope. Just try not to confuse the hope of Moore's game with the general excellence of a pitcher like Arrieta, who is good game after game, and excels within that construct, as opposed to Moore, who is iffy game after game, and managed to assemble 130 good pitches (14 more than his previous season high) and give us an evening's worth of excitement.
In 1957, Nevil Shute penned a novel called On the Beach about a post-apocalyptic world that became a film starring Gregory Peck. In 1974, Neil Young released his fifth studio album, also entitled On the Beach, this time covering the insanity following his break with Carrie Snodgress, the death of Crazy Horse mate Danny Whitten, and the angst of a country finally extricating itself from the insane Vietnam conflict.
Later today, probably around the third inning of the Saturday games starting at 1:00 pm, Pacific Time, my best friend Diane Walsh and I are going to be married on the sands of Stinson Beach, a lovely teeny little town just outside of San Francisco.
If you have followed my adventures here at Mastersball (nee CREATiVESPORTS) over the past 20 years, you have certainly seen the strange path of my life, then as my partner Cathy Hedgecock went from vital to suffering from the breast cancer that took her from us in 2005 at the age of 44. Six months later, my son Joey passed away at the age of 22, and though both my family members were ill for many years, I have to admit, after the pair left this planet, I went through arguably the darkest time of my life.
Through all this, I made my main living working as a Project Manager for ATT, and in 2002, when in Chicago for company business, Diane and I met and began a working relationship, she as a vendor liasion, me as the manager of the interface the vendors accessed to process DSL orders.
Diane had dogs, and was a bright and fun person to manage teleconferences with, and though we started as colleagues, we became good friends and she was among the kindest and most supportive within my circle when Cathy, and then Joey passed away, even though we had met face-to-face just once, and I did not even remember her from the first meeting.
Just after Cathy left us, in July 2005, Diane found herself in New Orleans, as a member of the Illinois Doberman Rescue, pulling pets out of flooded and destroyed homes in an effort that changed both of our lives. For Diane, who had been a Director at ATT, and worked at the company for 27 years, the rescue lit a flame under her to seek some other occupation through the remainder of her working days.
For me, though I liked Diane as a friend, it showed me a depth of character that ran way beyond what I had previously experienced in our discussions.
Diane, who has certainly travelled the world some having visited the Carribean, the Amazon, Alaska, and a chunk of the eastern seaboard, had never really been to California, and as our friendship deepened, a couple of years following the passing of Cathy, I innocently invited Diane to California.
"I have a guest room" I reassured her, adding that "I had just bought a house by Lake Tahoe. We could go there, we could go to the wine country, to San Francisco, and all over the beautiful haunts I knew in Northern California."
We discussed this over and over, and finally, as I was in New York for Tout Wars in 2007, Diane made a plane reservation to the Bay Area, and as we anticipated her arrival in late May, we suddenly realized that maybe we "liked" one another.
Diane's visit kicked off four years of long distance relationship for the two of us whereby she got to know the Bay Area, and I got to know northwestern Chicago, and though I kept working at ATT, Diane retired with all of her benefits, and began working on an AA at Harper College. Two years later, Di finished her tenure at Harper, applied to UC Davis, and amazingly got into the school as a 53-year-old Junior.
Since my home in El Cerrito was just 50 miles from Davis, and Amtrak had a station at the University, we decided it was time to put our relationship to the test, and Diane sold her home in Algonquin, packed up her four cats (her German Shepherd, Mahi, actually rode across country with us the previous summer, and he just stayed in the Bay Area in anticipation of Diane relocating the following year) and moved in with me for good.
We settled in, and I retired from ATT, allowing me to focus on writing here at Mastersball, while writing some ficiton and playing a lot of golf, and Diane did indeed graduate from Davis with a degree in Animal Biology and began a business--Endless Pawsibilities--and things moved along swimmingly.
We became registered Domestic Partners in California, allowing us to access one another's health care and such personal information, and though marriage came up a couple of times, we had both been there before, and simply felt no compelling need to officially formalize much of anything.
But, since Diane had graduated, friends suggested I throw a graduation party for Diane, and since her best friends, Cherie Dudek (from Chicago) and Dee Dee Huebner (living in Fairbanks, getting a PhD there) were coming out in August for a girls week in the mountains and at the beach, I figured I would arrange the soiree for when Diane's pals were out here.
In the interim, Diane and I went to New York for the FSTA Summer Conference, and I thought Di would like a nice fancy dinner one night, so I made reservations at Tavern on the Green, and then decided that she might like a carriage ride through Central Park after dinner. I am not sure why, but I then thought as long as we were doing something romantic, I might as well see if Diane wanted to get married, targeting the August 20 date when we would be partying anyway, and with her best friends in our neighborhood.
So, at 2 pm, today, Diane and I are getting married on the beach at Stinson, with a cluster of our closest friends surrounding us at one of the most beautiful spots in the area.
It is hardly Nevil Shute, nor even Neil Young, but I think we are both sort of happy with how things have worked out: moving from colleagues to friends, to partners, to best friends, to ideally married best friends.
Weddings and all the trappings is a stressful process, and though we have tried to keep the process low-key, we both reasoned that this is a bigger deal than we wish to admit, so we are both simply trying to go with the flow and enjoy the ride.
Neither of us expects much to change, for we have known one another for 15 years now, and been a couple for nine, but I think we are indeed both happy with the path life has tossed our way.
For every moment of every day is the best of adventures for us. This act just enhances the storyline.