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Wednesday 22nd Nov 2017

Bed Goes Up is back!

Truthfully, I thought much of the ground I like to cover in this space would simply be similar to what my mate Jason Mastrodonato and I are doing daily at the Mastersblog. But, the reality is the Mastersblog has much more of a focus on current events. Which is something I looked at from time-to-time in this space, but, well, waxing poetic about Howard Hawks movies, or theorizing on draft picks is not really conducive to the Mastersblog.

So, Bed Goes Up is back.

As good a fantasy year as I had in 2009, my 2010 was equally bad.

I dropped from first to last in Tout Wars, a tumble that included a 60 point drop, and my XFL team, which started hot enough, fell nearly as far, with just 41.5 measly points in a 15-team format.

One of the thing that was clear to me coming out of the 2010 Tout auction, easily the toughest I had encountered, was that my previous ability to be patient and hold onto money and thus pretty much control the end game was no longer my dominion. In Tout, four other owners kept bucks they salted away, forcing up the costs of those end-of-draft nuggets. This had never happened to me before in an auction setting, so one of the things I determined to do come 2011 was figure out another way through the victory door.

Now, I have indeed a few things in mind come March, but last Friday, as part of the BBHQ First Pitch Arizona, those of us in the XFL assembled and picked our core--as in 23-man--rosters for the 2011 season.

There are some nice twists in the XFL. We may freeze 12 of our 40-man roster players, but that includes prospects (and that means hitters with less than 50 at-bats, and pitchers with less than 10 innings according to XFL law).

When we draft we cannot use any props. No magazines, no laptops, no cheat sheets, so the auction is pretty much complete out of our heads (though we are given a sheet of unfrozen players, and an overhead lists each team and those retained by each, and each player's freeze price).

Then, in March, just prior to the start of the season, we have a 17-round expansion draft where holes can be filled and future stars theoretically selected. Oh yes, one other caveat of the league is that participants must be at least 40 years of age, meaning we are not just an experts league, but we are a league of old experts.

Over the past few seasons, one of areas I have been able to exploit is in obtaining generally good players who are coming off down seasons. But, this season, experimenting at the XFL, I decided to try and build as much of a roster around these established, yet seemingly struggling players. For the most part, these players are indeed undervalued, meaning cheaper. But, such players also generally has a resume of success, meaning the following--or coming--season's totals may not be commensurate with a peak year, but likely better than the dismal previous year.

So, as noted, Ron Shanlder assembled us for the auction, and the roster below--frozen players in bold--is what I got.

  • C-Russell Martin ($11)
  • C-Bengie Molina ($2)
  • 1B-Justin Morneau ($36)
  • 2B-Brian Roberts ($18)
  • 3B-Juan Francisco ($4)
  • SS-Asdrubal Cabrera ($15)
  • CI-Kika Ka'aihue ($3)
  • MI-Stephen Drew ($16)
  • OF-Jason Kubel ($16)
  • OF-Vernon Wells ($12)
  • OF-Carlos Quentin ($21)
  • OF-Andres Torres ($5)
  • OF-Ryan Sweeney ($6)
  • UT-Luke Scott ($11)
  • P-Josh Johnson ($23)
  • P-AJ Burnett ($4)
  • P-Josh Becket ($10)
  • P-Jonathan Sanchez ($16)
  • P-Javier Vasquez ($6)
  • P-Jake Peavy ($8)
  • P-Kevin Slowey ($6)
  • P-Ryan Franklin ($10)
  • P-Craig Breslow ($1)

I did freeze five pretty good minor leaguers including Ben Revere, Dustin Ackley, and Nick Wieglerz, but as you can pretty much see my plan was fully engaged, especially with my pitching staff. Which, if healthy, will get a lot of strikeouts, and set the tone for my offense.

If the pitchers fail? Back to the drawing board.

Woo hoo.

The second round of the playoffs have begun, and with a bang, as the Rangers are all over the Yankees in the first inning.

I do really like CC Sabathia, the anchor of both my title winning Tout teams, so I hate to see him get knocked around, but well, I really want to see the Rangers advance and play the Giants.

Actually, as noted, last week was pretty much spent by me as a couch potato, and I suppose my timing could not have been any better.

Starting with the Rangers and Rays, and I also like the Rays, but thought they were lacking, and the Rangers hungry, thinking after the first two games Tampa Bay would be short work.

Not so easy, but a solid game five produced the win that sent my friend and his team to the next round.

The Giants and Braves, however, was a different animal, and once that probably increased sales of Pepto Bismol and Pepcid even in the laid back Bay Area.

All one run games, the Giants did their thing all right, with just wicked starting pitching from Tim Lincecum and his wonderful 14 strikeouts on out.

Last Friday I was allowed out of the house, and Diane and I met our friends Gabe and Kelli, and Mark and Debbi for dinner, but I kept tracking the updates on my IPhone from ATT because alas, as good as Rick and Ann's diner in Berkeley is (check it out on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives) there is no TV.

When we arrived, the Giants were up 4-0, but by the time we were on our way home, the Braves battled back to a tie, and I was tired. I got into bed and saw an inning before Rick Ankiel sent everyone home.

A friend noted to me Monday after the Giants amazing two-out ninth inning rally Sunday, how "lucky" the Giants were.

But, I got to counter with my theory that was separates teams is the ability to take advantage of a moment of potential luck.

So, let's face it. The Braves had the Giants down to their last out, allowed a walk, and then had Freddie Sanchez down to his last strike. Diane was chewing her normally well manicured nails, and I kept saying, if they Giants want someone up now, this is the guy as Freddie is a terrific contact hitter.

When he pushed his single up the middle she looked at me as if my words were magic.

Then another single and I told her "watch the plate, they have to try to score now and force the play as they cannot risk they will get another chance at a hit."

Bingo again.

And then that moment of luck when Brooks Conrad let the ball play him.

When I wrote my friend Tom, arguing it was not so much luck, I also had to point out that the Braves had the game lead, were in the position of advantage, and they let the game slip away. Plain and simple.

And that win gave the advantage more to the Giants, who could start Madison Bumgarner and hold Lincecum out for tomorrow, should he be needed. While the Braves, back to the wall, had to toss Derek Lowe back out there, and the truth is, Lowe was dominant with that killer slider that when on makes him look like Greg Maddux.

So now the really hard work, as Texas has to take on the Yankees, and the Giants those dangerous Phillies.

For, the pitching match-ups alone are so deadly with Lincecum/Halladay, Cain/Oswalt, and Sanchez/Hamels being the first three match-ups.

The Giants problem is they simply do not have a dominant player a la Ryan Howard or Jimmy Rollins.

But, well, though Diane had to go back to Chicago to take care of some business as she prepares to move out this way by first of the year, I am again sworn to hang out on the couch with the pups, and watch the next round of the playoffs.

Sigh. It is a hard path, but, well, someone has to do it. And, I am guessing some of you out there will be right there with me.

For fun!

 

I have to admit, the past week has been a challenging one for me.

I returned from Chicago with what I thought was bronchitis, but it turned out to be fairly severe asthma.

The day after I got home, I saw my doctor and got some medication, and was doing pretty well 'till a cold caught up with me--my second in 10 days, thanks largely to airplane air--and knocked me back some Thursday.

I likely would have been ok, but I was also scheduled to work the Giants/Padres game Friday night, and, well, there was no way I was going to miss that.

Unfortunately by the time I got home, my lungs and body were, as Dave Edmunds might say, "crawling from the wreckage." By Saturday morning, I could not breathe so well, but I had to stay home and watch the Giants try to beat the Padres that day, right?

Wrong, though I did.

By the time I went to the drop-in clinic after the game Saturday, they pushed me down to the ER, where I got four hours of treatment, and was sent home. Sadly, an hour later I was back, in worse shape, and as a result I spent the time from Saturday night to Tuesday afternoon in the hospital.

Oddly, once I began to feel better, I was as happy as a clam. If you have ever survived near suffocation--and I am told I was close--well, the prospect of living a few more days or weeks or years is simply wonderful.

By Sunday morning I was pretty weak, but was also sitting on a bed in the hospital, watching the Yankees and the Red Sox, awaiting the Giants next attempt. Of course a bunch of my friends called, and said, "how horrible." All I could note was that a week earlier, I was in Chicago, watching football with my mates at Buffalo Wild Wings, having beer and food delivered by the wait staff.

This week I was sitting in bed, watching football, and the nurses were bringing me meds and food, so the only real differences were the location and that my friends were absent (although harsh words for TBS, who should have televised the Giants game which was important, as opposed to the Yankees, which was not).

Since I took the rest of the week off, I was prone on the couch Wednesday, ready for the orgy of three ball games. Of course it started with the Rangers fun win over the Rays. And of course I want the Rangers to win, as their manager, Ron Washington, is one of my better friends in the baseball universe.

I had some lunch, and dozed off on the couch as the Phils and Reds went at it, waking up in the third with a 4-0 Phillies lead. "Dull," I thought to myself, until I saw Roy Halladay had not only not allowed a hit, but whose stuff was electric that night.

Of course we all know the rest: Halladay did walk a runner, but threw a no-no, and all that left me feeling pretty good and happy about the previous few days, no matter how difficult.

I did then watch the Yankees and Twins, and after that the great movie, The Third Man came on TCM, and to that I drifted off to sleep, back snuggled up with the dogs, safe and sound in my own home and bed.

Life does indeed throw us loops, no question. But, well, I have no complaints at all. Sickness or not, the day, and even the week turned out nearly perfect.

If you don't believe me, ask Roy Halladay, and look at his stat line.

As I sat in the Denver airport, last Monday night, awaiting my connecting flight home from Chicago, I sat in a little cafe, eyeing the televisions in the bar across the way.

I had really planned the trip poorly, as noted in an earlier post here. As a Bears fan, I had no clue they would play on a Monday night, thinking I would watch them on Sunday with my Midway Mates. Well, we did spend over six hours at Buffalo Wild Wings on Sunday, but my connecting flight home boarded at 6:25, Rocky Mountain Time, about five minutes before kick off.

But, as I sipped my green tea and glanced at the tube, the story that former Bears, Oilers, and Raiders quarterback George Blanda had passed away popped onto the screen.

Now, as a die hard Raiders fan from 1961 till the mid-80's, when all sanity and reason fell from their front office, this struck me.

Now, Mr. Blanda, a grand old man, was the dignity and even keel for the Raiders during those exciting and tumultuous years, and if you remember the Jets and Raiders Sunday afternoon game in November of 1968, Blanda and his leg had a lot to do with Oakland's crazy come-from-behind wind, when with 65 seconds to go in the game, and New York ahead 32-29, Oakland scored two TDs and won the game, which at 4:00 PM, PT, was pre-empted so a national broadcast of the movie "Heidi" could be shown.

I remember sitting in the tub at home that Sunday afternoon, listening on the radio to Bill King describing the craziness, so, I was spared the truncation of the game. Although, the fallout from football fans struck hard, and is still felt today.

Now, Blanda was pretty well established as the Oakland kicker by then, but in in 1970, when Blanda, who was 43 at the time, stepped in to facilitate the following:

  • Against the Steelers, Blanda threw for three touchdowns in relief of an injured Daryle Lamonica.
  • One week later, his 48-yard field goal with three seconds remaining salvaged a 17–17 tie with the Kansas City Chiefs.
  • On November 8, Blanda once again came off the bench to throw for a touchdown pass to tie the Cleveland Browns with 1:34 remaining, then kicked a 53-yard field goal with 0:03 left for the 23–20 win.
  • In the team's next game, Blanda replaced Lamonica in the fourth quarter and connected with Fred Biletnikoff on a touchdown pass with 2:28 left in the game to defeat the Denver Broncos, 24–19.
  • The streak concluded one week later when Blanda's 16-yard field goal in the closing seconds defeated the San Diego Chargers, 20–17.

That is pretty much a career over five weeks, and it was a time when the Raiders were indeed the most successful--win/loss wise--sports franchise of the time, plenty to make me proud of my scrappy roots.

Ideally the spirit of Blanda, who began his career with the Bears in 1949, and was their starting QB in 1953--a year after I was born--was floating over Soldier Field last Monday when the re-energized guys took the favored Packers to the mat.

I actually arrived home in time to catch most of the final quarter as I awaited my luggage, then the very end when my friend Mark Berenberg drove me home and I forced him to listen on the radio.

We will miss you George, though the memories are solid. And, well, maybe you are haunting the Bears locker room in a good way.

Earlier yesterday, when White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel announced he was leaving his position to run for mayor of Chicago, he noted that indeed times are strange at home. He paused, and then started with, "The Bears are 3-0."

Truer, and more unexpected words were never spoken.

It has been a pretty fun week in the Midwest, despite the Giants trouncing the Cubs, and the Athletics synching a win over the White Sox with a Twins victory, knocking the Pale Hose out of contention.

That is because last Sunday, the hometown Bears, a source of frustration and pain for the last cluster of years, upset the six-point favored Dallas Cowboys,  in Dallas, causing nearly as much excitement as last February when the hometown Blackhawks took their first Stanley Cup since 1961, breaking a 49-year drought.

True, the White Sox have a title, and the Bears had championship moments when they did the Super Bowl Shuffle in the 80's. As for the Cubs, that is a subject that locally appears to be best left alone.  And, the Bulls? Well, say no more than Michael Jordan.

But, for better or worse, Chicagoans love their teams. If you talk to the folks around here, you know that in the baseball world, it is fierce. If you are a North Sider, you follow the Cubs, and if you are a South Sider, you go with the Sox, and never the twain shall meet, and each side somewhat despises, and clearly looks condescendingly at the other.

Which is funny, because for sure, they all love their Bears.

When I have been in this lovely town in the past during football season, whatever happens on Sunday is the talk of every talk and sports show anywhere on the radio till say around Thursday, when all hope, analysis, criticism, speculation, magic, voodoo, blues, beer, and anything else they can conjure in hopes of a more successful Sunday come.

To tell the truth, the Bears barely beat the inferior Lions the previous week, squeaking by because Calvin Johnson's brilliant catch at the gun was not really a catch.

So, in a home opener, against the Cowboys and their significant pass rush, in Dallas, well, the question seemed more a question of how badly the locals would be clobbered.

Now, if you have watched the Bears over the past few season, you know they have a pretty good defense, and a decent kicker in Robbie Gould. Matt Forte is also just fine, and they have two solid wide outs in Johnny Knox and Devin Hester. Even QB Jay Cutler is pretty good, but, the problem is the Bears offensive line, which is indeed offensive.

Few quarterbacks were pounded last season like poor Cutler.

For three series, against Demarcus Ware and friends beat the crap out of Cutler.

And then something magic indeed happened. Offensive Coach Mike Martz did something spectacular. He adjusted.

Out of nowhere, Cutler did two-step drops, and suddenly he started completing passes, and suddenly there was a football game. Not only that, but suddenly there was a real game, and miracle of miracles, the Bears prevailed, winning 27-20.

Oh, I did hear some rumblings from the locals who mistakenly bet on the Cowboys, thinking their locals would not cover the spread, but mostly the tone of their voice sounded of bitterness not just for money lost, but that even in victory, the Bears had betrayed them just as badly as had they lost without a bet.

But, for the most part, the City of Chicago has gone nuts. And, justifiably so, I suppose, and now the whole town has its eyes on Monday Night and the Packers, and truth is, the Pack are not a question mark like Dallas.

Still, an old and storied rivalry should not be taken for granted, and when Diane and I were downtown yesterday, Soldier Field was shining and the locals were displaying their colors.

Now, I am meeting my posse to watch all day tomorrow, and eat and drink, and schmooze, but I was not paying attention when I booked my flight home, so while the Monday Night game is on, I will be on a plane without a live stream, so for the most part, I will miss it.

Too bad, since I decided last summer I might as well embrace the Monsters of the Midway because, well, why not? I don't have a favorite team, and, well, they are not much of a threat, and well, I am softening in my old age. So, why not?

I will be thinking positively the whole time, but, maybe not watching would not be such a bad thing. For, when I do watch a team I want to win, or a player on one of my roto teams, well, I feel like a jinx.

The Bears might indeed beat the Packers. Probably not, but, into the second week, the Bears are 2-0, and the Cowboys 0-2.

That seems to be enough to make the season. And, well, that adjustment thing that Martz did? I get the feeling maybe good things are in store for the team of my adopted second city.

ATT Park was all optimism last Tuesday as I toddled down the street, clearing my head for the work that lay ahead.

I could tell it would be a tight evening as I walked. One of the rules of my park job is I have to be sitting in my seat, setting up, at least an hour before first pitch, and I have a spot where I always park when the Giants are playing at night, or on Sunday. It is a street spot, where the meters stop at 6 pm, and don't exist on Sundays, and though I could park in the press lot on the other side of Third Street, I like my normal haunt.

One reason is it is cheap, but more important, it is about a ten minute walk from the spot to the park, and I like the walk. Before the game, it allows me to clear my head so I can pay attention, and post game the stroll allows me to decompress. However, last Tuesday, when I arrived at 5:45, almost 90 minutes prior to first pitch, all the street parking was gone, and that suggested a full and robust crowd when the Giants took on their arch-rivals, The Dodgers, at 7:15.

There was indeed pennant fever--along with the requisite scoreboard watching--in the booth, and much talk of baseball and college football and sports of all kinds. I was particularly mezmerized when filmaker Ken Burns--making the rounds in anticipation of his Tenth Inning segment of his terrific Baseball documentary was presented with a Giants jersey, and ten minutes later walked right past me: close enough so that I could tell him, and get an acknowledgement, of how much I loved the body of his work.

Then the game started, with struggling Barry Zito and the Dodgers hot Clayton Kershaw taking the hill. Zito was a bit shaky first few pitches, allowing a single to Matt Kemp, but a double play erased that, and through five innings, the two pitchers pretty much matched one another, pitch for pitch. Kershaw threw 55 balls, with 29 strikes, while Zito was at 58 and 31.

Then, with two out in the top of the sixth the Dodgers got a walk. And a hit batter. And another walk, followed by a groundball to the hole that Juan Uribe bobbled, allowing an unearned run to score. That meant a run without a hit, in fact scorewise, it also mean no RBI. But, it was still only the sixth inning: lots of outs to go.

And, they went. The Giants managed just four hits as Kershaw earned both his first complete game, and shutout, tossing just 111 pitches, while Zito, the loser was chased out in that sixth inning. The final was an ignominious 1-0. On an unearned run.

Which brought up a lot of head shaking and consternation in the booth as we all finished our work for the evening. It reminded me of Harvey Haddix his perfecto in the twelfth inning, and a couple of guys went to their laptops and then to Baseball Reference.

Apparently, the last time the Dodgers beat the Giants on an unearned run, one-hitter, 1-0, was in 1923. Personally, I was kind of stunned there was even a precedent, but, there it was.

It was a tough loss, but, of course, an excellent game. And, it reminded me of a few weeks earlier when Gio Gonzalez battled  Scott Kazmir in Oakland. That game was 0-0 through five innings, and if one was simply scoreboard watching, he or she would have thought the game a tight pitching duel.

Truth is Gonzalez threw first pitch balls to the first 16 batters he faced, and by the fifth, both hurlers and tossed over 140 pitches, as opposed to the tidy 114 for Zito and Kershaw.

The difference was the Athletics game revealed itself with an explosion of runs, while the Giants and the Dodgers kept up the stinginess till the last out was recorded.

It has been and exciting, if not tight week for the Giants, who beat the Padres last Sunday, but suffered through 1-0 games, winning one, losing one, the two nights previous. That meant the Giants had played three of their last four games to 1-0 finishes, which is tough during a pennant run.

It is also the stuff that makes baseball exciting and compelling. And, a lot of fun!

I was thinking about the Mariners and their team as I sauntered into the Colliseum last Wednesday night, for the Athletics were indeed taking on the AL West cellar dwellers.

With just 55 wins this year--only Pittsburgh and Baltimore are worse--it seems like kind of a surprise, as The M's came into the season as pretty heavy favorites to take the west. With an arm arsonal of Cliff Lee, King Felix, and Erik Bedard, couple with Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman and Milton Bradley, joined by stalwart Ichiro, well there was to be no stopping these guys.

Now, I for one never bought in. I did like the Rangers, but truth is I thought the Angels would once again run the category, so it is not like my clairvoyance was any better than any of those Mariner supporters.

But, somehow, over the last few years--maybe going back to the actual swap for the barely healthy Bedard--the Mariners have simply become a second rate team.

They have not swapped well, nor have they been particularly strong at free agent signings, and I write that knowing they did pluck Russell Branyan off the scrapheap.

The thing is, the Mariners, much like the Twins, always played good fundamental baseball. Good defense. Speed. Some pop. Good starting pitching. All of these were hallmarks of the strong Mariners teams of the last decade, but the last year, whatever organization and planning had guided Seattle to success seems to have gone out the window.

This puts the Mariners down there with the Royals as being amongst the least organized front offices in the majors (note that Baltimore now has some good young players, a few thanks to Seattle, and the Pirates might not seem to have a plan, but they have a handful of very good young players).

In my Strat-O-Matic league, we have 30 teams and strict usage rules (in case you are not familiar with Strat, it is a Sim game that recreates the previous year, where the games are played head-to-head) meaning once the innings or at-bats of a given player are exhausted, an owner cannot use that player (or, risk severe penalties during the following year's rookie draft).

In order to allow owners with less depth to still field a team, each squad is assigned a pair of dog starters and hitters. The pitchers can toss 150 innings, but their ERA is 9.00, WHIP is 1.50, while the hitters have .150 averages with no pop, speed, or defense. If you play Scoresheet, this is much like that format automatically advancing a Triple-A pitcher or hitter to fill a void.

In the Strat league, there are always a handful of teams that by the stretch run simply have to play these dog players in order to field a team (I tend to lick my chops when I know I will face Bill Hands on the hill, and Rusty Kunz behind the dish, for it is against these weaker teams that a good squad can get fat and make a pennant run. Similarly, during the season, if a team is to make a run, just like at The Show, you must beat these weaker squads.

So, as I settled into my seat and got set up for the Seattle game, drawing up their lineup featuring Branyan and Josh Wilson and Kotchman, it seemed like the Athletics, not like they are a juggernaut, were facing one of the lame Strat teams, and despite a two-run shot in the first and a solo blast in the second, Oakland hung in and won the game, 4-3.

As I walked out the of park post game, it did make me chuckle, and then feel some sadness at the similarity between the Mariners and those lousy Strat teams in the league, for surely they were not so far apart. Poor M's. I do hope they get better. They cannot get much worse. 

 

I have to say I wish I was in the middle of a handful of pennant races. The sad truth is I am in the hunt in my Scoresheet League, and my Strat-O-Matic team has a chance to make the post-season, but winning would be a miracle as I my bench is thin.

Locally, the Giants have a chance to make the playoffs, so that is great. And, I set my XFL team up with more prospects than I know what to do with, so in a year or so I should have a nice dynasty there

But, in Tout and LABR, nothing worked, and in the Bloomberg League I drafted a great team, and was up to third place when Kendry Morales and Kevin Youkilis went down, and in a shallow 12-team mixed league, that is essentially the kiss of death.

So, what do we have?

Football drafts up the wazoo this week. For some reason I am in four leagues this time, three of them keepers where I mostly like my keepers.

Like in the league I won last year I had to choose among Ray Rice, Miles Austin, and Phillip Rivers (sorry Phil, back in the pool you go), and in Todd Zola's NAIFFL, I have my best--well, favorite--set of keepers ever with Matt Ryan, Ryan Grant, and again Monsieur Austin.

Then in the Kathy League Gifford I hung onto Darren Sproles as a fifth rounder, Kevin Boss as a twelfth rounder, and Michael Bush as a 15th rounder. That is a two QB league where we also play indvidual defensive players, so that takes some thought (my first picks were Drew Brees and Brett Favre).

Now, I confess, as I have before, that I am not the greatest fantasy football player on the planet, and my failures are largely because I just don't track rosters and transactions and statistics for the NFL like I do baseball.

But, I do like to play and draft and win, so this long Labor Day Weekend, as my drafts are in process, it is a lot of fun to watch the scores and my email and track who went where while I watch which team is winning what where.

And, during the final month of the baseball season, when football is getting going, there are few things more fun that prepping for a game in the press box while the myriad of televisions surrounding us are tuned to virtually every sporting event on the planet. It is seriously fun watching football (don't kid yourselves, sports writers and scouts all play fantasy football, even if they don't play baseball).

Then in a couple of weeks I toddle off to Chicago for Diane's cousin, Cherie's 50th birthday. I have not one, but two Sundays in the Windy City, and a day's worth of games with my mates, hopefully at Wild Buffalo Wings with plates of food and drink and killer games.

It is arguably my favorite time of the year.

 

Stephen Strasburg.

There, I started it: this week's column.

I thought of a million other ways, including, "Does the name Brien Taylor mean anything to you?," and "I told you so."

Not that I wanted Strasburg to fail or endure difficulties, for certainly there is very little more that invigorates not just a local fan base, but baseball fans in general, than a hot young pitcher.

I mean, think Fernando Valenzuela or Mark Fydrich or even recently Tim Lincecum, all of whom generated enormous interest when they broke through, much like Strasburg.

MASN made it a point of sending emails advising subscribers that they would cover Strasburg's first start, which was certainly a good one, but not the best debut ever.

Since then The HOF collected a ball from that game, and there was talk after two starts that the youngster make the All Star team, a proposition so preposterous and silly that it almost came to fruition.

Just before the All Star Game voting was finalized this season, I found myself driving to ATT Park to work, and local radio host Mychael Urban has Chris Lincecum, father of Tim on his show for a weekly segment called "Father Knows Best."

Lincecum, who worked in Parts and Inventory at Boeing, coached his sons (Tim's brother Sean also received tutelidge), emphasizing the need for his boys to follow through (which is the source of the elder Lincecum placing a dollar bill at the foot of his son so Tim would reach for the money.

When asked about Strasburg and the mid-season classic, Chris Lincecum noted that Strasburg was exciting, and clearly noted he wished no ill on the the National, but he said that Strasburg was an arm injury waiting to happen, confirming his belief with, "just watch his follow through. He doesn't, and his arm is at risk."

Pretty prophetic for a non-baseball coach, and like Lincecum, I wish no ill on Strasburg.

On the other hand, it is likely a sobering fact to the bulk of fantasy owners who drafted the hard thrower anticipating he would be the core of their fantasy pitching from anywhere from this year, to the next ten, depending upon the format.

It also reminds me of when DiceK was new to the Red Sox and folks at one of Ron Shandler's First Pitch seminars insisted that Mastsuzaka was a $35 pitcher.

The bottom line is as much fun as it is to pluck an unknown player from the ranks of the minors and have a star for the coming years, the risks are great and the likelihood of instant gratification are minimal (Trace Wood once suggested to me that roughly one of every 20 prospects selected in our XFL league actually developed into an impact player, a la Hanley Ramirez, for example).

Meaning, as unsexy as it is to own say Mark Buehrle or to take a chance on Jonathan Sanchez, the flat out reality is the percentages that they will earn a profit, or have a breakthrough are far greater than with a Strasburg.

And, that is a tough lesson to embrace in life, let alone the fantasy universe. It does, however, mean boring is a lot better path to success than flash.

Maybe in 2013, a year removed from Tommy John surgery and a year of rehab in the pros, we can revisit.

In the mean time, I will suffer with Mike Minor or Madison Bumgarner, pitchers far lower on the cosmic scale than Strasburg, but pitchers with a lot better chance of delivering the goods I seek.

 

 

I remember Roger Clemens, finishing off Oklahoma back in 1983, when his Texas team won the College World Series over Alabama.

Even back then, you could tell he was one determined fellow, so it was not much of a surprise that The Rocket was a first round selection that year, or that a year later he was chucking the pill at Fenway, or that he became a force on the field, where over his now clouded career, he went an astounding 354-184, 3.12, with 4672 strikeouts, not to mention seven Cy Young Awards.

Now, I will admit that despite the success, I was never really a Clemens follower. Not like, say I liked Greg Maddux, who began his career a few years later, and was pretty much as successful.

For whatever reasons, I wanted Maddux on my fantasy teams, and did not care too much about Clemens, in fact I don't ever remember ever drafting him, though I did swap for his stats for successful pennant runs several times in dump trades.

Because even back then, there was something in his determination that smacked of arrogance, and I write that knowing one cannot be determined without a modicum of arrogance, but there is also a difference between arrogance and confidence.

Kirk Gibson, belting his famous homer off Dennis Eckersley exudes confidence--and the joy of victory in the moment--to me, though, way more than any of Clemens fist-pumping antics.

In fact, I loved that for the most part I rooted on the winning side of Dave Stewart versus The Rocket when the Athletics and Red Sox would square off with some pretty good battles in the late '80s.

Well, it looks like that arrogance has been Clemens tragic flaw, as the pitcher has now been charged with lying to Congress when he swore in 2008--at a hearing convened at Clemens' insistence--after the Mitchell report suggested that Clemens had indeed used HGH. Clemens insisted upon the hearing so he could clear his name, and apparently the whole thing backfired.

Had Clemens simply told the truth back then, he would have perhaps been chastised, but that would have been the end of it. But despite fairly damning evidence--not just the testimony of Brian McNamee, but the unknowing corroboration of former teammate Andy Pettitte--and confident or not, that is going to be tough to ignore.

Clemens is sticking to his guns--he says he looks forward to challenging the ruling--in typical fashion, kind of reminiscent of another baseball outcast, Pete Rose.

And like Rose, Clemens is his own worst enemy. Too bad. If public redemption worked for Mark McGwire, and it seems to have, it could work for those guys too.

 

 

I have written before, that as a youngin', smitten by baseball in 1960, it did not occur to me that I had to be a fan of any given team. That is, in 1960, it did not occur to me, though I was excited to get Giants baseball cards, like Jim Davenport--who was in the first pack of cards I ever bought--and their then shortstop Eddie Bressoud--who as a seven-year old, made me struggle to recognize his surname due to my youth and the semingly strange spelling and pronunciation of his surname.

By 1961, largely due to the goading of my older brother, Peter, who along with all of our friends was a Giants fan, turned my back on the locals, opting for the Dodgers and Duke Snider and Don Drysdale and Frank Howard and the Davis's--Tommy and Willie. At the time I did not know I was being contrary, in fact I did not mean to be. I did want to be myself, and I liked being different, but it took another 35 years of life along with 15 years of therapy to figure those riddles out.

In the mean time, though, I enjoyed a World Series win in 1963, and again in 1965, so that even losing in 1966 to Baltimore gave my team a better resume than that of Peter.

Those were indeed glorious days for a kid to be a baseball fan, and the Giants and Dodgers, in particular, had a vicious rivalry that carried over from Flatbush and Coogan's bluff. I remember listening to the infamous Juan Marichal/John Roseboro bat incident, as well as Drydale's consecutive shutout inning streak, notoriously controversial thanks to Dick Dietz, if memory serves.

I stayed loyal to those same Dodgers for many many years after, at least until I started playing sim games, and then got sucked into playing the Royals in the late 70's, and then the Blue Jays, and eventually moved into the roto world when I realized I better not have favorites if I wanted to truly write objectively about player performance.

And, that is the path I have tried to follow since, not that I don't enjoy relationships with the local teams, Oakland and San Francisco, nor do I deny having players I love to watch, but mostly, I want to see a good and exciting game.

Then, last year, when the scrappy Giants, with no offense at all, made some September noise and almost made the post-season, it was fun to be at ATT Park. The crowd was into it, and well, that made the games electric.

So, it has been kind of fun this season with the San Franciscans hanging in the fray all the way into August, such that Diane and I, in San Francisco this weekend for a wedding, went to see the Giants and Padres go at it the first game of their series on Friday.

It was looney indeed, riding the Muni with a throng of boisterous orange and black fans--for Friday is orange and black night at ATT--anticipating arguably the biggest series here in years.

The game was calculated on both ends, with a double switch, seven pitching changes, a protest thanks to a disputed runner's interference call, and a one run game that was as much decided by Aaron Rowand's baserunning blunder--he got picked off second with one out in the third--as it was the winning run being scored on a fielder's choice with a wide throw to the plate.

It was a tough loss, and it was odd to feel sad that the Giants lost, but also recognizing, how beautiful and optimistic baseball is, as there is always tomorrow. As we walked back to our hotel after the game, I was really hoping the Giants made the post season.

For one thing, I wanted to work a post season game.

For another, I wanted the home team to win, and on this Friday, I was wearing my orange sweater and black leather jacket to prove it.

 

 

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