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Tuesday 17th Oct 2017

It is indeed LABR (League of Alternative Baseball Reality) weekend in Phoenix, which means spring games, great time with friends, and of course serious drafting.

The league, curated by the inimitable Steve Gardner of USA Today, includes some of the great humans within the industry like Rick Wolf, Glenn Colton, Eric Karabell, Tristan Cockcroft, Derek Van Riper and many more who converge to draft in the AL and NL formats.

In the past, I have often revealed just who I covet in drafts like LABR and Tout before the draft, something I may well do prior to Tout in three weeks, but as I prepare for the AL LABR contest, after a week of play, I am looking at some names that were more or less off everyone's radar until the games began.

And, I say this because it is important to remember we do win with the cheap Rick Porcellos and J.A. Happs, not the expensive Mike Trouts we need to establish the stat base. For, those bargain players are indeed the ones who turn their respective profit into titles. Note that though I am drafting in the American League, the National League LABR auction is tomorrow evening, so I hit some players who could be germane to either league for this time.

Note that you can listen to the draft live on Sirius/XM hosted by our mate Kyle Elfrink.  

Billy McKinney (OF, Yankees): Drafted #1 by Oakland in 2013, traded to the Cubs with Addison Russell in 2015, and then for Aroldis Chapman last year, the outfielder certainly seems to have been attractive to a lot of teams, but he's now with a fourth squad in four years with an unclear role. Just 21, McKinney has always been highly rated, but he hit just .246-4-44 last year at two levels but scored a solid .342 OBP. However, after six at-bats, he is .500-2-5 with a double and is clearly raising eyebrows. The outfielder is at least worthy of reserve consideration.

Kendall Graveman (P, Athletics): After a crappy start, Graveman got his sinker sinking, finishing 10-11, 4.14 over 186 innings, and is probably #3 in the rotation behind Sonny Gray and Sean Manaea. I saw his debut Friday and the sinker was sinking as Graveman allowed just a freak hit that bounced off third base over his two innings during which he coaxed four ground outs. 

Sonny Gray (P, Athletics): OK, Gray will probably still garner $10 or so, but he too looked good in his first start, whiffing four over two innings and allowing nothing else. If Sonny is healthy, Sonny is worth it.

Greg Bird (1B, Yankees): He missed all of last year after being penned as the heir to Mark Teixeira, and who knew what this year would bring? There has been speculation, but .417-3-5 with two doubles after 12 at-bats has to make us all go "hmmmm."

David Price (P, Red Sox): I dunno. He is not a sleeper, but if you want my opinion, I would stay away and use my resources elsewhere.

Ubaldo Jimenez (P, Orioles): I saw Ubaldo speak after his two strong innings earlier in the week, and he talked about how he had gotten into a bad habit with his grip that he resolved last August. And after going 0-2, 3.92 that month, Jimenez turned in a stellar September, going 3-1, 2.31 over 35 frames with an 0.829 WHIP. Is he worth a $1 late gamble in an AL-only format? Yep.

Jabari Blash (OF, Padres): A great name. Blash, who was drafted in 2010 (8th round), has bounced around, but on another young and changing team, he has a shot at earning some playing time, especially if his .455-3-10 start over 11 at-bats continues.

Jarrett Parker (OF, Giants): Definite pop, but lots of whiffs. However, Parker has the left field gig and he cracked a shot the other night that left the yard in a hurry. Parker banged 100 homers over 681 games in the Minors and is hitting .286-2-7 with a swipe thus far. Watch him.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @lawrmichaels.

I am back hardcore with The Mock Draft Army, hosted by our friends at Fantrax, and my bud Howard Bender's (@rotobuzzguy) push to improve our drafts, after a week of vacation playing golf and sitting in the Maui sun. 

Three weeks ago, I began my latest drafting experiment, drafting in 12-team and 15-team formats, grabbing hitters with at least four of my first five selections. This week, I repeated the process, going with four pitchers out of my first five selections in both formats. In all drafts, I selected from the #9 slot, and that position was simply based upon the random spot I was assigned over the first of the four drafts.

The question obviously was could I go hitter heavy and still assemble a pitching staff, both in 12-team and 15-team formats. Note that each team held a standard 23-man roster plus two reserve selections.

12-Team Hitting 12-Team Pitching 15-Team Hitting 15-Team Pitching
Rizzo, Anthony Syndergaard, Noah Harper, Bryce Syndergaard, Noah
Syndergaard, Noah Bumgarner, Madison Freeman, Freddie Scherzer, Max
Freeman, Freddie Cueto, Johnny Cespedes, Yoenis Cueto, Johnny
Cespedes, Yoenis Archer, Chris Carpenter, Matt Cespedes, Yoenis
Carpenter, Matt Cespedes, Yoenis Kipnis, Jason Chapman, Aroldis
Davis, Khris Carpenter, Matt Hendricks, Kyle Davis, Khris
Duffy, Danny Kipnis, Jason Duffy, Danny Santana, Carlos
Miller, Brad Miller, Brad Miller, Brad Miller, Brad
Gausman, Kevin Eaton, Adam Gausman, Kevin Herrera, Odubel
Travis, Devon Herrera, Odubel Herrera, Odubel Travis, Devon
Piscotty, Stephen Piscotty, Stephen Calhoun, Kole Ottavino, Adam
Vogt, Stephen Santana, Carlos Ozuna, Marcell Vogt, Stephen
Calhoun, Kole Belt, Brandon Gray, Jon Gray, Jon
Ray, Robbie Gray, Jon Neris, Hector Kiermaier, Kevin
Ozuna, Marcell Pence, Hunter Cervelli, Francisco Crawford, Brandon
Ottavino, Adam Ray, Robbie Ottavino, Adam Gyorko, Jedd
Neris, Hector Inciarte, Ender Santana, Ervin Finnegan, Brandon
Finnegan, Brandon Vogt, Stephen Bandy, Jett Cervelli, Francisco
Gray, Jon Ottavino, Adam Cabrera, Asdrubal Devenski, Chris
Cervelli, Francisco Neris, Hector Finnegan, Brandon Prado, Martin
Crawford, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Prado, Martin Santana, Ervin
Inciarte, Ender Bandy, Jett Choo, Shin-soo Pillar, Kevin
Pederson, Joc Madson, Ryan Pillar, Kevin Conforto, Michael
Foltynewicz, Mike Dull, Ryan Barraclough, Kyle Souza Jr., Steven
Barraclough, Kyle Reddick, Josh Conforto, Michael Dull, Ryan

The big question, of course, is did I manage enough hitting on the teams favoring pitching, and vice versa, to be competitive? Well, let's take a look.

Of course there were considerations with each draft even if I was selecting specifically towards hitting or pitching, as in with the 15-team format I had to think about closers around the sixth round, while in a 12-team format, I did not worry about saves till nearly the end of the draft. Similarly, I tried to milk strikeouts and power, and obviously that was tougher in the deeper leagues.

But, how exactly do the numbers project? Well, loosely, which is what projections kind of are, here is the shakeout.

12-team hitter heavy 12-team pitcher heavy 15-team hitter heavy 15-team pitcher heavy
.272-343-1083-1124-141 .271-274-1165-1072 168 .267-303-1240-1306-130 .263-273-1107-1085-143
81W 1385K 61Sv 3.53 1.28 96W 1720K 80Sv 3.43 1.24 71W 1055K 61Sv  3.56 1,29 92W 1595K 70Sv 3.37 1.24

I do think these numbers, however iffy they might be during the pre-season, look like they have enough pop and arms to at least compete. Of course, the number totals do include all 25 players, so that must be accounted for. But, if you draft carefully, there are indeed veins of players each round who can be successfully statistically mined.

Don't forget you can find me @lawrmichaels.

Most of the mocks, in fact most of the leagues in which we play are pretty much standard NFBC 5x5 configurations with little tweaks and customizations indiginous to the play and desires of the league at large.

Of course, lots of us do sim games like Strat-O-Matic and Diamond Minds, and there are a cluster who like to play Head-to-Head, a format that reduces roster and active player size, matching up nine against nine on a daily basis, but still using the basic 5x5 categories. Actually, I would go into the details deeper, but earlier this week, Scott White, venerable curator and analyst at CBS Sportsline, hosted a H2H mock and in the article in which he recaps, Scott describes the format much more clearly than I ever could. 

But, one of the things that Scott emphasizes in his piece is an emphasis on making sure a completed team has enough hitting, focusing on that skill over arms. Scott lays out a terrific argument but I am not as certain hitting is the key to one-on-one play. I will admit that I have always been a sucker for the maxim that "good pitching will beat good hitting", but I also get the problem is that may be true on the actual diamond, but not necessarily in "The Frank Robinson League of Greater Cincinnati."

Irrespective, I am good at building pitching staffs, and draft towards them figuring if I strike gold, I will have a surplus and someone always needs a pitcher, at least in deeper AL-only and NL-only contests. And, to a degree, playing H2H pushes me towards a different path than that of Scott. I do like the format, and though Strat is a Sim game, it is indeed H2H play, and I play Scoresheet and used to play Bill James. Although having good everyday at-bats at every position is a ticket to success in all those variations, having a strong pitching staff in any of those leagues at least guarantees a .500 mark.

So, I went big on arms, drafting in the 12-hole, nabbing Madison Bumgarner and Chris Sale with my first two selections, grabbing Yoenis Cespedes with pick three, but then going Johnny Cueto. And when the run came back my way again, I took Jason Kipnis, but moved on Chris Archer as well, meaning four of my first six picks were arms.

In seeing the game differently from Scott, I think in terms of H2H as a kind of variation of DFS in that every day I am putting a lineup out there, and as we know from playing daily leagues, it is very hard to finish among the top teams without a strong performance from your starter. In grabbing Robbie Ray in the 12th, and then the tandem of Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances back-to-back 15/16, I certainly have the chance to put up dominating pitching numbers every day, and in a 12-team league, I felt there was enough hitting depth.

Of course, Lord Z and I discussed this and he is in Scott's school, but I wound up with the following parcel of hitters:

C: J.T. Realmuto

1B: Brandon Belt

2B: Jason Kipnis

3B: Maikel Franco

SS: Brad Miller

OF Khris Davis

OF: Stephen Piscotty

OF: Yoenis Cespedes

UT: Kole Calhoun

So, power and essentially the counting stats are covered, save steals which I in essence punted. Swipes are ephemeral, and on the H2H scale, singles and runs and knocks will each earn the same as a steal. Plus, I am already set, on a day-to-day basis, to get more strikeouts and allow fewer runs than the rest of the league, so it is that slender reed of logic on which I made my picks.

Will it work? I don't know. As with all my theorizing, I have majestic failures and epic victories, and there is a complete logic to the way Scott and Todd build on hitting before arms. 

In the end, I told Scott that I figured we would finish fifth and sixth, in the middle of the pack, were we to play things out. But the truth is, I drafted these guys to win, not to come in second. So, if the team fails, the difference between second and twelfth is negligible.

Faithful Readers: I will be off all next week on a belated honeymoon/vacation. All columns will resume after 2/20 when the Hotpage goes weekly for baseball.

Find me @lawrmichaels.

This past week, I participated in three of Howard Bender's (@rotobuzzguy) #MockDraftArmy, and this week my experiment was to test a draft spot against league depth. So, I signed up for three--10, 12, and 15-team drafts of 25 rounds. Since I drew the middle of the first draft, I chose to draft in the middle of all three, though I must confess, that is among my least favorite drafting slots.

And of course, before you review the list, some observations:

1) I do tend to grab the same players because, well, I think they will perform well.

2) It seemed logical to load up on more pitching earlier in the 10-team format, figuring there were less good and dominant starters out there than hitters.

3) Even in the 12 and 15-team formats, I did grab a starter early, but in the 12-teamer, I then went for hitting for a long run.

4) I waited until just about the end of the 12-team, and to the end of the 10-team draft to grab saves. Since there are indeed 30 teams, if each league member grabs two, in those leagues there should be some saves to play with now, and some out there when the season begins that no one anticipated.

5) Though I do indeed draft players I like, i was also more willing to take some chances in the shallower formats, figuring with a phat reserve pool, it would be much easier to fix a production problem. 

Round Player (overall) 15-Team Player (overall) 12-Team Player (overall) 10-Team
1 Arenado, Nolan (7) Kershaw, Clayton (7) Arenado, Nolan (6)
2 Cespedes, Yoenis (24) Freeman, Freddie (18) Syndergaard, Noah (15)
3 Springer, George (37) Cespedes, Yoenis (31) Kluber, Corey (26)
4 Kipnis, Jason (54) Davis, Khris (42) Cespedes, Yoenis (35)
5 Carrasco, Carlos (67) Carpenter, Matt (55) Carpenter, Matt (46)
6 Melancon, Mark (84) Miller, Brad (66) Archer, Chris (55)
7 Herrera, Kelvin (97) Piscotty, Stephen (79) Davis, Khris (66)
8 Duffy, Danny (114) Duffy, Danny (99) Miller, Brad (75)
9 Miller, Brad (127) Hendricks, Kyle (103) Kipnis, Jason (86)
10 Ray, Robbie (144) Herrera, Odubel (114) Santana, Carlos (99)
11 Belt, Brandon (157) Travis, Devon (127) Piscotty, Stephen (106)
12 Vogt, Stephen (174) Gausman, Kevin (138) Ray, Robbie (115)
13 Margot, Manuel (187) Andrus, Elvis (151) Kiermaier, Kevin (126)
14 Gray, Jon (204) Ray, Robbie (162) Gattis, Evan (135)
15 Travis, Devon (217) Neris, Hector (175) Ozuna, Marcell (146)
16 Estrada, Marco (234) Crawford, Brandon (186) Jankowski, Travis (155)
17 Devenski, Chris (247) Vogt, Stephen (199) Crawford, Brandon (166)
18 Gyorko, Jedd (264) Ottavino, Adam (210) Vogt, Stephen (175)
19 Bandy, Jett (277) Cervelli, Francisco (223) Manaea, Sean (186)
20 Pillar, Kevin (294) Jankowski, Travis (234) Ottavino, Adam (195)
21 Souza Jr., Steven (307) Devenski, Chris (247) Maurer, Brandon 206)
22 Cobb, Alex (324) Finnegan, Brandon (258) Bedrosian, Cam (215)
23 Rosario, Eddie (337) Santana, Domingo (271) Devenski, Chris (226)
24 Finnegan, Brandon (354) Cabrera, Asdrubal (282) Madson, Ryan (235)
25 Altherr, Aaron (367) Santana, Ervin (295) Inciarte, Ender (246)

You can follow me @lawrmichaels. And, you can check with @rotobuzzguy about future mocks.

As seems to be well-known, Lord Z and I drafted at the 2017 Fantasy Sports Trade Association Draft as the organization held its annual winter conference in Music City, Nashville, Tennessee. 

Todd already has made some comments that are a pretty good assessment, accessible via our Platinum Package and you can view the results here. I suspect most of the motivation behind our selections has largely been covered, as in this post-draft discussion with Joe Pisapia and Dan Strafford on their FNTSY radio show.

But, instead of looking at my team, or shock/surprise picks, I want to simply look at my favorite selections: You know, the players when their name comes up you think to yourself, "that was a nice pick."

1.3 Nolan Arenado (Mastersball): I don't really mean this as #Humblebrag because this was our first pick, but it seems such a no-brainer, for as noted, take away steals--on which we can fade a bit--and Nolan is indeed the best hitter over the past two years. No disrespect to Mike Trout or Mookie Betts, or even Paul Goldschmidt. All we need is a repeat performance.

1.13/1.14 Josh Donaldson/Corey Seager (BBHQ): Ray Murphy and Brent Hershey picked at the fun and sometimes lean wheel, and got the perfect pairing of Donaldson and Seager, commanding some great potential numbers on the left side of their infield. With a first rounder, you are ostensibly hoping for roughly $35 of value, and this duo collectively should indeed return the $70 and maybe a little more.

13.8 Elvis Andrus (Sirius-XM): OK, so we are into a new golden age of shortstops, but Ray Flowers grabbing a guy who hit .302-8-69 with 24 steals, 75 runs, and a .362 OBP in the 13th round when the player is just into his prime years. Eeek.

15.1 Nomar Mazara (Fantistics): Mazara is a big (6'4") left-handed hitter that Anthony Perri wisely picked, for the rookie, not yet 22, dropped down 20 big flies in his first season, and though he only walked 39 times to 112 strikeouts, this is not a bad contrast for a player so young. He could be a 30-homer guy as soon as this year, and even if Mazara repeats last year, those are some nice numbers to get at this stage of the draft.

16.7 Stephen Vogt (RotoWire): We all know catcher sucks, so why does a guy who averages .255-17-68 fall so far down? Nice grab Jeff Erickson.

18.1 Devon Travis (BBHQ): Once again Brent and Ray make a fine pick with Travis, who has a career line of .301-19-85 with 46 doubles and 92 runs over 163 games. That is like a season, so theoretically Travis stays healthy and gives us something like those totals? Such a deal.

20.2 Didi Gregorius (Fantasy Scout): Mark Bloom, AKA Dr. Roto, made a nice grab with Didi, who is learning to become a good hitter, and in that sense reminds me a lot of the Ozzie Smith/Omar Vizquel smart slick fielding shortstop who becomes a fine hitter. But I doubt any of us expected the .276-20-70 mark with 32 doubles, as the shortstop delivered last year.

23.8 Kyle Barraclough (FNTSY): Andrew Miller went as the last selection of the 8th round, while team Cardano/Meaney grabbed the Marlins reliever 202 picks later. No doubt how good Miller is, but Barraclough did whiff 113 over 72.6 innings, or 14 per nine (14.9 for Miller), and while I am not sure how long Miller can continue, I suspect Barraclough can get better. Relative to their draft spot, that makes Barraclough a steal.

24.6 Greg Bird (NFBC): I thought Bird was the word in New York last year, but now the first baseman, who was injured last year, could come out of those ashes to be the new Mark Teixeira, and Greg Ambrosius knew it.

29.2 Jordan Zimmermann (Colton and the Wolfman): A great last crapshoot by Stacie, Glenn, and Rick on a guy forgotten and/or written off by the rest of us. At this point, nothing to lose in a shallow league by making such a sharp pick of a good arm.

Follow me @lawrmichaels. 


A new baseball season is indeed upon us, and that means it is Mock City for me, for though I have already participated in a good half-dozen baseball mock drafts, the two-time a week drill of Howard Bender's (@rotobuzzguy) #MockDraftArmy is what really puts me through the paces to make me feel prepared for any type of draft or auction of any format.

So, this past week Howard and his beleaguered minions kicked off the first drafts of the week, and there I was. If you follow along to this virtual space, you will note that last week I provided some thoughts about the value of the mock process and though I will go through some of my thoughts and rosters throughout this pre-season, it will be mostly to reveal what team I wound up with drafting under some obscure parms, like picking at the wheel and grabbing a pitcher with each turn, or some such investigative silliness.

For my first tour of duty, I did get the 12th selection in a 12-team 5x5 mixed format. Since this format affords a fatter free agent pool, I did try to grab homers and strikeouts early, and waited till nearly the end to take closers (remember, if each team takes two closers, that is 24, and there are 30 Big League teams, so you can stall there). But, what did surprise me is just how late some players went, which i will discuss below. Here are the results of #MockDraftArmy #1.

Mock #2 was tougher, with 15 teams, and me drafting in the 11th hole. Again, i tried to focuse on getting one or two dominant starters early but still make sure I had some power and also take care of closers as early as permitted. Here are the results of #MockDraftArmy #2 and a thought about where the same pick identified for the first draft fell when three more teams were gutting the player pool.

Note that both drafts went 25 rounds.

Khris Davis (6.1/5.11): I actually took the Athletics slugger in both leagues, hoping he can at least hit the 30-home run mark. I do like Davis, but I listed him here to contrast with another slugger whose game surprised us last year. Davis was a lot more selective in the second half, for even though his average during the first and second halves were pretty much the same, Davis jumped his OBP from .284 to .332, improving his whiff-to-walk numbers from 87/11 to 79/31. 

Adam Duvall (18.1/10.2): Wow, what a drop from Davis to Duvall, huh? I will admit I am dubious of a repeat of 2016, but though the Reds outfielder's pop dropped from 23 homers in the first half to 10 in the second half, his OBP (.306) jumped nearly 20 points and his strikeout-to-walk rate improved from 94/16 to 70/25. Apparently no believers. 

Carlos Gomez (19.7/10.9): This guy was first round material between 2012-15, but considered twice as valuable when three more teams were thrown into the mix? The shallow league does not trust the Texas numbers, and the deeper league has to? Hmmmmmmmm.

Dansby Swanson (17.7/12.1): OK, three shortstops here. You figure this out? Swanson is .302-3-17 over 129 total big league at-bats.

Brandon Crawford (22.1/15.13): .259-52-346 over 2681 at-bats coming off a second straight strong season with 84 RBI in each.

Marcus Semien (24.6/14.2): Averaging .246-20-63 with 11 steals over the past two years over 314 games. I mean, both these last guys are under 30 still, so why does a guy with no resume to speak of get picked over them?

J.A. Happ (20.4/20.6): Clearly no one is buying into the Ron Bryant/Storm Davis of 2016. But, two picks later in the deeper draft. Wow.

Chris Carter (23.3/13.5): A ten-round difference is just as weird, as had the first mock been a 23-rounder, Carter would have been a final-round gamble.

Matt Wieters (22.5/15.10): I feel vindicated. Back when Wieters was entering his rookie season, I did a Scoresheet dynasty Mock and Wieters was a second rounder. I commented on how foolish I felt it was to draft an untested player that early, and was largely corrected that I did not know how to assemble a dynasty team. So, I feel vindicated. Kinda. Still, hard to think Mock #1 thought more highly of Wieters than Carter?

You can follow me @lawrmichaels.

Since football is winding down, and we are just a month shy of pitchers and catchers reporting, the hard core mock draft season for Fantasy Baseball comes into play. I have already participated in a good half dozen, and have shared some of those results with you. In fact, last week Todd, Perry, and I did the Couch Managers Xperts of which Perry and Z are addressing within the Platinum Pages.

But, as the days towards Spring Training and the draft season fall upon us quickly, practice in Fantasy might not make perfect, but it does help a lot. I personally will be participating in as many of Howard Bender's (@rotobuzzguy) #MockDraftArmy as much as I can, and Howard makes most of these public, so you can indeed hit him up and see about joining. There is also Couch Manager, and of course if you are an NFBC fan, they drive a lot of mocks, almost daily. Of course there are more, but these are just a few suggestions of places to go to get your draft chops down.

So, this time, I want to make some suggestions not just on why mocking will up your game and edge, but even some tactics I have messed with to help with my world view of the player pool. Of course, you too might have ideas about tricks you like to employ, so feel free to share either here, or tag me @lawrmichaels.

1) Practice a lot: Participate in as many mocks as you can. I do somewhere between 10-15 and by the end I have a good sense of the player pool, the flow, and my perceived value of players as opposed to that of others.

2) Try things: Last year, I made some kind of pick at some point and one of the participants sort of blurted out in the chat "bad pick at this point you will not win like that." As casually as I could, I responded "this is a mock, and that means pretend and it doesn't count. If ever I were to experiment this is the time." "Oh yeah" the guy responded. It is true. And, any angle you can wrangle. For instance, I drafted a football team last year predicated upon taking the best pick I could first, and then drafting totally around the one bye week of that player. The results were both interesting and a lousy team. But, if you wonder how teams like this will work, the mock is the perfect environ.

3) Know the pool: This goes hand-in-hand with a lot of practicing, but the more you mock, the better you know the pool, and the better you know the pool, the easier it is to both draft and more important, adjust. Nothing in a draft ever really goes as planned anyway, so the best way to plan for this is via experience. So, experience with as many different formats as you can before it counts.

4) A pox on ADP, and...Personally, I have no use for ADP. However, knowing when your opponents will or might draft a player is excellent tactical information to know. I do try to build my teams based upon the combination of players whom I think will produce the results I seek, but knowing that if I like Kyle Hendricks, I might want to know how far I can push without getting sniped.

5) Trust your instincts: Clearly, playing any game requires the skill of knowing the components and rules in order to produce an outcome. That said, there are always a number of moments, many pivotal, within any given contest in which our inner voice is telling us the path. Listen to that voice, and trust it. Don't depend upon it, or get overly enamored if those hunches pay off, but do indeed listen.

And, above all, have fun.

You can find me @lawrmichaels.

Hall of Fames are indeed goofy things. Hell, all awards are. Were they not, the Beatles would have more Grammys than the Starland Vocal Band (and note, the one Grammy the band earned was for movie soundtrack for "Let It Be"). That should be enough to convince all of us that rewarding creativity and longevity, let alone overall artistry of the best at any discipline is a hazy affair.

I wrote about my own decidedly prejudicial thoughts last week in this space, and similarly have written about the Rock'n'Roll HOF at sister-site The Remnants of Rock, a locale dedicated to examining music--particularly roots rock--driven by my mates Peter Kreutzer, Gene McCaffrey, Steve Moyer, and me where I discussed my dismay at the enshrining of Deep Purple last year.

Though I have not yet been to the Rock'n'Roll Hall, as noted, I have been to Cooperstown a couple of times. In fact, in a few weeks, Diane and I will be in Nashville attending the FSTA Winter Conference, and I am looking more than forward to going to the Country Music Hall as part of the soujourn.

The first time I was in Cooperstown was when I discovered that the Baseball Hall, founded in 1939, was essentially the first of its ilk, sponsored by the Clark family. In the vicinity of the Cooperstown Hall are the Knitting (who knew?), and Boxing Halls, and in addition to Canton and Naismith, a bunch that might be designed to preserve the history of a given art or sport. But, they may also be run in order to make money.

But, popularity also seems to factor in. For example, I cannot imagine KISS as an all-time great band, but I guess the generation after me has a differing opinion. But still, while I can see Jorge Posada as a Hall member, it is kind of a stretch as is Jeff Kent, but not so much Larry Walker, who did have a solid career, and some killer years. But so did Deep Purple have a pair of radio hits that apparently elevated the band's stature in the world of contributing artists.

This year, Journey was nominated to the Rock'n'Roll HOF, which is totally out there to me. For at least there are statistical criteria for baseball, in which Freddy Sanchez, on the ballot this year, is more worthy of Hall induction than either Journey (name a great album the band completed) or Deep Purple (same).

But again, whether it is the crochet hook or Michael Jordan's poetry in the air or Brett Favre's rifle arm, or even Ellis Valentine's...Well, wait, maybe those other guys belong but does Valentine? Well, as I suggested last week, it is all not only subjective, but open to the frailties, likes, and dislikes of us human beings.

And, well, it is one thing to decry the inclusion of Andre Dawson or Jim Rice in lieu of Dwight Evans or Bill Buckner, but sorry, neither Deep Purple nor Journey ever made it to an equivalent of 200 homers, let alone 2000 hits, or 200 wins and whiffs. Take it whatever way you wish. But, the entrance criteria for anyone into any given HOF is, well, as wacky as the folks who follow the music or the sport in the first place.

Now, thank you for indulging me. Next week, I will get back to something that really matters. Baseball. Or, maybe football. Or, could be golf.

I submitted my Hall of Fame votes for the Internet Baseball Writers of America Association (IBWAA) last week, and though we can vote for up to ten players, I only voted for a couple.

Somehow the Baseball HOF is one of those great examples of perspective, like politics and religion, where we are all experts, and know all there is to know about said subject. But, just as we can despise or adore Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, the same can be said about Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Curt Schilling, all members of this year's nominee list.

And, these arguments are as old as the Hall, which I have visited twice during induction weekend. And the arguments pro and con as to who should be enshrined is as polar as Trump/Clinton, though those diametrics have been going on for a lot longer than the recent election.

For example, I wonder if Pete Rose is verboten, why Ty Cobb is still in? Or, why Jim Kaat, who led the league in wins in 1966 with 25, who won a total of 283 games, and who won a record 16 Gold Gloves is not in the Hall? Tommy John, who won 288 and has the iconic surgery named for him belongs, while Darrell and Dwight Evans, along with Bill Buckner, Al Oliver, and even Steve Garvey deserve some consideration.

And, you might sneer at Darrell Evans, but at the time he retired he was a Top 10 all-timer in RBI and walks, and was the oldest guy to hit 40 homers and the only guy to hit 40 homers in each league. As for Dwight, his numbers are not that far off from his teammate Jim Rice and Dewey's defense was the best in the game in right. But, if Rice, or Andre Dawson get the nod, these guys all made contributions as great in my view.

Of course, that is my view, and I am indeed an expert when it comes to the world of Lawr, just as you are the unchallenged expert in your universe.

But, choosing who deserves it among Bonds, Schilling, and Clemens is weird, for I feel strongly that Bonds does indeed belong, but I would not vote for either Clemens or Schilling, mostly because aside from being as intransigent as Pete Rose, I don't like either. But, I am willing to forgive Bonds' HGH use because I figure even if Barry hit an extra 200 homers thanks to juicing, he still hit more dingers than anyone else.

I do indeed understand that my rationale is completely flawed and hypocritical, for I like Bonds because he is a Northern California guy, but I understand fans outside the Bay Area having the same disgust for Bonds as do I for Schilling and Maddux.

The thing is I like it that we are all experts and are right, at least with respect to baseball, which is a game, and is a source of pleasure and much more of an outlet as a rule than religion or politics, and any of you calling me an idiot for supporting Kaat and not Jack Morris are probably correct.

It is, however, this subjective insanity that exists for each of us baseball fans that sends the what ifs of a baseball game into further stratospheres of wonder and imagination than does any other game or sport. 

And, that is why I similarly don't endorse Instant Replay, or challenges to calls, for the ruling of the arbiter of the base, in the moment, is good enough for me. I understand sometimes those jurists of the diamond make mistakes, but as often, even with replay, it can be tough to determine exactly what the true disposition of any given play is.

But, I also think most of the time the umps get it right, and that over the long haul the good and bad breaks even out for all players and teams. And, just like I am ok with the Writers selecting the Hall's inhabitants, without question, similarly I can accept the ruling on the field.

That is because we human beings who play the game and judge the game and are fascinated by the game and argue about the game are full of the flaws that direct our lives in other strange, yet wonderfully human ways.

For we are indeed all human beings, and being one is generally a lot of fun.

As for voting, Bonds and Moose were the only human beings I felt good about (note Edgar Martinez, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines are already in the IBWAA HOF).

But, since I am too a human being, you can try to change my mind.

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

As we reach yet another Christmas holiday, we are similarly headed for a New Year, and that usually means it is time for my annual Top 250 Prospect List. 

I have been a little slower in finishing the list up this year mostly as some post-Thanksgiving surgery has slowed me a bit, but I am in the throes of the final data scrub, editing and reviewing, which is likely to last till the middle of January when the release of the full list is projected.

But, to tantalize a little, I will present a cluster of players who achieved my sleeper status this year. Last year, when fine tuning the list, I noted the cells of the guys I thought were really worth watching in blue, and this year I have repeated the process.

Whereas in the past, it seemed the Top 250 was much better suited to players in a Dynasty format, with minor leaguers being advanced so much more rapidly than in the past, there are indeed players to mine on the big list. For example, among the players highlighted as sleepers last season were Nomar Mazara (#18), Mallex Smith (#185), Willson Contreras (#212) and Trevor Story (#241), all of whom likely made some roster contributions on fantasy squads last year.

So, as I reveal some of the sleepers for this year, please do have the best and safest of holidays with family and friends! 

 Luis Urias (19, 2B, Padres): .333-6-55 last season mostly at High-A Lake Elsinore, with a fantastic 45 walks to 37 strikeouts, good for a .404 OBP. Urias could indeed spend time at Petco before the end of the 2017 season. He did make a three-game show in El Paso to finish 2016, so Urias could be fast-tracked on this rebuilding squad, especially since he can play second and third as well.

Yohander Mendez (22, P, Rangers): Went 12-3, 2.19 over 111 minor league innings last year with 113 strikeouts before a brief appearance in Arlington. Mendez could indeed make the roster out of camp. He sports a 1.093 WHIP over 292.6 minor league frames, and he is a 6'5" lefty, meaning a nice downhill angle for a hard thrower.

Brent Honeywell (21, P, Rays): Arguably the best pitcher I saw at the Fall League, I wrote as such just a few weeks back, so it is not much of a surprise Honeywell did well on the list. Went 7-3, 2.34 over 115.3 innings last season with 117 strikeouts and a 1.032 WHIP.

Phil Bickford (21, P, Brewers): 7-7, 2.92 at two levels, over 120 innings with 135 strikeouts and a 1.150 WHIP. The Brewers thought enough of Bickford to get him in exchange for Will Smith.

Eloy Jimenez (22 OF, Cubs): .329-14-81 with 40 doubles at the Midwest League at age 19. Could learn some patience with just 25 walks, but only struck out 99 times and should improve with experience. And, the Cubs indeed can have some patience with their prospect.

Ramon Laureano (22, OF, Astros): .319-15-73 with 43 steals at two levels with a solid 79 walks to 119 strikeouts, good for a .428 OBP. This included a solid performance at Double-A Corpus Christi (.323-5-13 over 36 games).

Chance Adams (22, P, Yankees): Went 13-1, 2.33 at two levels over 123.3 frames with 144 strikeouts and a spectacular 0.903 WHIP. Adams finished at Double-A Trenton, going 8-1, 2.07 with a whiff an inning, so he could be ready real quick.

Victor Robles (20, OF, Nationals): Played at three levels, finishing at High-A with an aggregate line of .280-9-42 with 37 steals and a solid 32 walks to 77 strikeouts. Really quite good for a 19-year- old. 

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

I have done little to hide my love for the Oakland Raiders, especially the last couple of years as the team has risen from the ashes in a Phoenix-like fashion that probably makes the Cardinals blush.

The Raiders hit me in 1962, when Cotton Davidson was their quarterback and the team played at Frank Youell Field, which was the gridiron associated then with Laney Junior College. Since I was born in Oakland and was, as also acknowledged, contrary, despite living in 49er-land, the Raiders became my team. Over the years since, I moved from the Dodgers to the Royals to the Blue Jays to pretty much the Athletics and Giants in baseball, and I have had my attractions with the Seahawks and Ravens and other teams doing a great job of rebuilding.

But my love for the Raiders has been steadfast, and for many years--like 1965-1990--Oakland rewarded me with the winningest franchise in sports. However, since losing in the Super Bowl 14 years ago, the Raiders have been among the most pathetic and rudderless of sports organizations.

This was sad to me, for I saw Al Davis grow from brilliant head coach to part owner to managing partner of the Raiders, to head of the AFL, to becoming the driving force behind the league merger over 50 years ago. And, that was indeed one of the more significant mergers in sports history, paving the way for the NFL we all enjoy today.

Davis was a smart judge of talent to be sure, but he also knew how to get the most out of the Island of Misfit players, as guys like Lyle Alzado, Ted Hendricks and John Matuszak all flourished beneath the Silver and Black and their motto of "Just Win Baby."

However, as Davis aged, and the league changed and grew and adjusted to itself--something that beautifully continues with innovations like the Patriots defensive schemes--the Oakland owner was stuck, trying to assemble a team as he had in the past, and well, wrecking the whole mess. With disasters like Jeff Hostetler and JaMarcus Russell, Oakland floundered until a few years ago, when Davis passed.

The good side of that is new thinking came vaulting into Oakland, and suddenly we have a once again exciting team with Amari Cooper and Derek Carr and Khalil Mack, to name the marquee guys.

Truth is I did expect Oakland to make the playoffs this year. In fact, I made a few bets supporting just that, but certainly I did not expect a 10-3 mark at this point, hoping the guys would do 9-7 as they improved this year, becoming a serious Super Bowl threat next year.

I still think this is true, but believe it or not, the Oakland loss to the Chiefs last week has given me some optimism that maybe more is in store for Oakland than I imagined this time.

And, though my reasoning here is Oakland specific, the example holds true for most any competitive team in almost any competitive sport. For Oakland did win six straight games--many in the final quarter, let alone minutes--which is pretty tough to do. I mean successfully doing anything six straight times is tough, let alone winning an NFL game. 

So, for one, the loss pulled the streak equation out of the bag for Oakland, just as it did for the Cowboys, who also saw their 10-game winning streak halted last weekend.

Since both these teams--Oakland and Dallas--are young, I did expect that as the season wore on, the team play would tighten along with experience, making the youngsters seasoned vets by this time of year, well used to the weekly patterns of game preparation.

Furthermore, the Raiders may have been confident going into the Thursday night game last week, but the team similarly had chances they could not convert, and I am guessing this loss was both sobering, and more important, a learning experience for both the players as individuals and the team as a whole.

And that should make Oakland a better, stronger, and tougher club.

I think of my time in the IT world, especially when things were new, that we would try to solve problems in certain ways and hit a roadblock. Almost always, out of this frustration grew both a solution as well as potentially providing a solution for the future with the failed idea of today. But, mostly, I learned from this process that we learn a lot more from our failures, if we pay attention, than from our successes, and I would be sure that same opportunity affords itself to both Oakland and Dallas.

As it is, Kansas City does look tough for the Raiders to hurdle, although they now are the team trying to protect the streak. Similarly, I think the Patriots, as the best coached team, possibly ever, will be beyond tough for the Oaklanders to get by looking ahead to post-season play.

But, I also think Oakland could well surprise me beyond belief with their learnings, and come back the final weeks with confidence that makes them a hot team. For, it is the hot team that usually cashes in when the post-season arrives, irrespective of discipline.

If you remember "Bull Durham," you must remember Crash Davis' great speech about respecting the streak, and to a large degree, everything he says is correct. But, I think in this instance, the pressure is off, and maybe those Raiders can indeed come through as a Cinderella team this year, and maybe even face those equally surprising Cowboys. Wouldn't that be fun?

You can follow me @lawrmichaels.

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