Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down

What’s Your Franchise? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 19 October 2013 03:30

When I am not prowling around the ballpark, I spend the rest of my working time at Project Management for ATT.

It is actually a pretty good gig: I work with great people, and mercifully, I work from the office I have in my home, which is about as convenient and cozy as it gets.

I tend to start my day pretty early workwise—at 7 AM—largely because I am an early bird, but more because the ATT universe is pretty much spread across that same broad splash of existence.

I drive a lot of meetings during the week, and they are all virtual. That means the good side is no one ever knows if I am still in my jammies, but the bad side is very few of the people with whom I interact ever meet face-to-face.

Since the work day isn’t like it was when I was younger—as in people had desks in offices, which eventually became cubicles, and they gathered in meeting rooms to discuss projects and plans, sometimes tying into another group in another conference room—it does become hard to get to know and appreciate the folks with whom we interact with in a personal way.

No dropping into someone’s space, looking at the pictures of their family, and a calendar of some passion, like sailboats or skiing or cooking, and prints of art they like or photographs taken while on a family holiday decking the walls.

So, when I am running a meeting, as we are waiting for the masses to join, I like to ask where people live, and that often leads to, “Oh man, your Chiefs are hot,” or “The Mets have some pretty good live arms, if they can get a little hitting they should be very good.”

Of course, on occasion there is someone who simply does not like sports—or equally curious, thinks of NASCAR as one—and that is fine, for I am a Bay Area guy, and I have a lot of friends who would rather go to a concert or hiking than get caught up on the machinations of the Raiders.

But generally, folks have a team and love their team accordingly, and during football season, on Monday calls are happy to discuss the previous day’s agony or triumph.

I have found it interesting, especially over the past couple of months with the baseball playoffs looming, as a couple of my bosses (we are talking up the corporate chain) live in St. Louis, and though my partner Brian Walton is on the east coast, he is a well-known source of Cardinal information with his site, The Cardinal Nation.

Furthermore, our other partner, Lord Z himself, is a Bostonian, so it has been interesting this post-season, as we all had our teams and fingers on the playoff pulse (well, now everyone but me does).

It was fun when Michael Wacha was no-hitting the Pirates messaging my bosses Patti and Matt, not only asking if they were tracking the game, but noting that this was an adult version of being in grade school and listening to the Series with a transistor radio and earphone discretely cabled up through my shirt.

With another group, my friend Sancha Maston, who now lives in Texas but was born in the Bay Area, and I can commiserate over the Raiders, who, for the first time since maybe 1983 might look like they are starting to have a team.

I say this because that team loyalty thing is such a tricky business. For, as I have written, I have been a Raiders fan since 1960, and suffered and struggled with them for years.

But, as they moved to Los Angeles, and then abandoned their “Commitment to Excellence” in lieu of dedication to mediocrity, I grew weary of them.

So, I have always justified the fact that I do player and team analysis, and thus have to remain objective. Thus I really should not have a favorite team (in fact wearing sports team regalia, let alone rooting in the Press Box is strictly verboten, unless you are one of the media folks from the participating teams).

Still, it is odd that as much as I loved the Dodgers as a kid in Northern California in the 60’s, they seem like such a foreign body to me now, removed several owners from the O’Malleys, that I don’t really care how they do.

Although, I have to admit it was a thrill to meet Vin Scully last year, the voice of the Dodgers of my youth.

But, other than that, I really don’t care how they do in the playoffs.


You see, this team loyalty stuff getting into one’s bloodstream is a difficult thing to shake.

But, it certainly binds us as well.

Schizo Thursday PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 12 October 2013 00:00

I had a lot of anticipation all day last Thursday, working, and waiting for 5 PM, Berkeley time.

That was when the Athletics and Tigers were set for first pitch, and shortly thereafter, the Giants and the Bears were ready for their kickoff.

When I invited my best bud Mark Berenberg, and his son-in-law Mike Schlesinger over, it was with the thought of the Bears--who I follow--and Giants--who Mike follows--dominating the evening.

For Mike and his wife Emily, and now their new son Gavin, don't yet get the NFL Network, so an evening watching and hanging sounded like a lot of fun.

But then Mark said Mike was off to Vegas for the weekend, and could not make it, and then I had to let Mark know that the real focus of the evening was going to have to be the Athletics and Tigers.

Mark, who lives within spy distance of the Coliseum, understood. We stood, in fact, on Mark's back deck back in August when after the Athletics game it was Green Day Fireworks Night, watching the aerial ballet while my shuffle blasted out American Idiot.

Thursday, however, turned out to be a tough night.

Oakland lost a playoff series for the seventh time since 1992, and have not appeared in the Fall Classic since 1990, when they were beaten by the Reds, a team the Oaklanders should have bested, but Tony LaRussa was outmanaged by Lou Piniella

I did have high hopes for Oakland this year as first pitch neared, and a special desire for the team to take it out on Justin Verlander, who in many ways cost me heavily in Tout Wars. For, I had paid $31 for the rights to his services, and his performance was not even close to what I expected, let alone cost me.

But Verlander simply has the Athletics number, and no matter how many homers the team hit, or how well great youngster Sonny Gray looked, once Gray let a fastball hang for a second to Miguel Cabrera, that was all she wrote.

I had a hard time, in fact, watching the game once the first Detroit runs were scored because Verlander was so dominant, and the Oakland bats so completely impotent on that all important night.

That meant flipping to the Bears, a team that should have easily had their way with an 0-5 "jugger-not" like Eli Manning and his mates.

But I was wrong, for the most part.

7-0, yay.

Then 7-7, oh.

Then 14-7, yay.

Then 14-14, oh.

Around the time that the Athletics actually got a hit, the score had upped to 27-14 with the Bears in charge, but Eli and company came within six, as the eighth inning arrived, and Detroit moved it to 3-0.

I suppose had Oakland not been struggling so mightily against Verlander, the Bears tenuous lead would have felt a little better, but the truth is though I knew Mike was not present, with his team going to 0-6, I knew he was suffering. New baby or not, 0-6 is tough stuff.

Not to mention, when we did watch for a few plays, the Bears looked competent, but hardly convincing.

Eventually, I made us cheesesteaks and fries, and Mark and I subverted the end of the baseball season in the Bay Area by eating all of it, in the true fashion of sports fans trying to forestall agony.

Actually, since Mark really follows the Warriors, neither the Giants nor the Athletics losses took much of a toll on him. But, despite my desire to maintain some neutrality and keep my player analysis objective, I love it that the A's proved to be as good as I predicted seven months ago.

And, well, I was born in Oakland, whether I like it or not, so it becomes like extricating myself from the Raiders, whom I followed since 1960, and loved with all my heart until 1983, when they became as schizophrenic as my sports watching last Thursday.

Last Sunday, however, on the oddly named "Thursday Night Football Special Sunday Edition", the Raiders actually did look like a team for the first time since I can remember.

They had a defense with some purpose, and maybe even a quarterback in Terrelle Pryor who might really be something the past signal callers since Jim Plunkett have not been: a winner.

As for the Athletics, unlike my mates Lord Zola, and his Red Sox, and Brian Walton, who covers the Cardinals, well, we will simply have to wait till next year.



The DH, Interleague Play, and Now This? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 05 October 2013 00:00

My friend Ben Klein sent me an e-mail the other day, admitting he just realized that the Reds and the Indians were now out of the playoffs.

He then proceeded to note that he did not like the DH, or Interleague play, or the new playoff format.

I would hardly consider Ben negative, but he is a purist of sorts. So, I contextualized this in a traditional baseball sense, I knew what he meant.

When I was young, and I have about a decade on Ben, there were two leagues with eight teams in each. The winner of each league earned the right to duke it out in the World Series with the other league champ.

Now though we still have two leagues, each has 15 teams, just one less than the total of my youth.

I guess it did seem simpler, or maybe purer watching those 16 teams when I was eight years old, goggle eyed at the spectacle of Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson and Mickey Mantle.

It would be a decade before the DH, and another 30 years for Interleague games, and then another chunk before this last iteration of playoffs.

I don't remember whether I even cared that much, however, when the DH change was made. I was 17, a Sophomore in college in the late 60's in the Bay Area. Those days were a lot more about sex and drugs and rock'n'roll, with the occasional Vietnam protest tossed in to give the illusion of purpose.

As far as keeping the DH, I don't think it matters so much whether it exists or not anymore, as opposed to both leagues should simply play by the same set of rules. Period.

Though it was years later for Interleague games, I not only liked them at first glance, I really started to love them this year when they were simply scheduled during the course of the season as opposed to during specific periods.

But, I have to say, I think the new extra wild card one-day playoff is wonderful.

Just think back to how exciting the last week, and especially day of the season has been over the past pair of seasons.

And, while this year, it seemed the deadline trades were down a little based upon expectation, there were a ton of post-deadline machinations made.

Having the Monday duel between the Rays and the Rangers as a pre-cursor to those follow-up elimination matches between the Reds and Bucs, and then Rays and Tribe were similarly fun.

I know there are those out there who think if there has to be a playoff like that, it should at least be a best-of-three scenario, but I look at the game like sudden death, which is basically what it is.

Or, in other words, one last ditch chance to show how good your team really is under a pressure situation.

The Devil's Advocate in me notes that any team can have a bad day, and one game is not a barometer of a team's real quality.

That might be true, but neither is a three-game series, or even a best-of-seven format.

For, certainly a team has to be good to make the Wild Card playoff, but it is also true that in most championships like baseball or football, the team that is hot at the right time is the one to favor. And, being hot at the right time means winning those one-game showdowns.

Baseball is a pretty conservative organization, all things considered.

Back to when I was eight, and really into it for my first full season, it had barely been a decade since Jackie Robinson.

It would be another decade for baseball to be on television more than just the Saturday Yankees game with Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese (it was called the "Game of the Week," but it was mostly the Bronx Bombers as I remember). And, that is a far cry from my Extra Innings package, that brings me just about every game, every day of the season.

I guess the bottom line is that change is not only necessary, it is inevitable.

We may as well get used to it. Both Ben, and me. In fact all of us.



Ultra Crunch Time PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 28 September 2013 00:00

It's almost here.

"It," in this instance, is the Xperts Fantasy League, a collection of 15 elder--as in over 40--members of the fantasy industry who play in a 5X5 keeper competition.

If you happened to hit the link to the league above, you will note that over the decade I have participated in the XFL, my team has sucked.

Which is particularly rough, for the 15-team mixed 5X5 format is how I first played fantasy ball, and mine was certainly a dominant team during my time in what was the Coco's Fala League.

A lot of my failure, I believe, has been due to my long-held belief that in such a shallow format with just a decent keeper list, and we can keep up to 15 players, there will always be the points in the auction pool ($260 cap) who can be mixed with my freezes to make a winning team.

I also have to admit that the competitors in the XFL are also excellent players and it is not only a tough competition, but one in which my league mates tend to see the same skills that I do.

But, in 2011, due to my consistent failures--enlightening in that I can indeed eventually recognize that repeated failure suggests a new approach--I grabbed the biggest stars I could, and turned them into Matt Moore, Jacob Turner, Yonder Alonso and Yoenis Cespedes on the cheap. This year, I have added Mike Zunino, Jedd Gyorko, also cheap, and with a couple of more bargains--Leonys Martin, Ben Revere, Kyle Seager and Allen Craig--so I have a solid young core going into the auction, which takes place at the First Pitch AFL in just about a month.

As noted before, I really love rebuilding, especially when it works, but despite loving to try new approaches, I want this to work. It does seem like my league mates who have built their strong teams--like Steve Moyer, and Don Drooker--have done it this way.

But, I also have a Strat-O-Matic team in pretty much the same shape: two years ago, realizing we were not going to improve much, a housecleaning of Ryan Zimmerman, Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Mark Ellis yielded some nice pieces, and I suddenly have an outfield--Carl Crawford, Jose Tabata and Domonic Brown--and some pretty good other chips in a 30-team usage enforced sim set-up.

But, with some other little chips to trade (Norichika Aoki, and either Jonathan Lucroy or Derek Norris) I can up my draft selections for this year, one that should be rich in newcomers all over the diamond, and flesh out a strong starting 8 on the field, and even offer up a strong rotation anchored by Jose Fernandez and Matt Harvey (remember, Strat-O-Matic is based upon the previous year, so in 2014, I will get his 2013 stats to use).

But, with Gyorko, Anthony Rendon and Nolan Arenado all out there, and even outfielders like Yasiel Puig, Christian Yelich and Marcel Ozuna, in my National League side of the house, I am so looking forward to that draft, which will not take place until this coming February.

I really do love this rebuilding, and it is especially rewarding when it works, and I have tried to be patient--two years is a long time in fantasy terms, you know--so I am hoping this is a path to respectability in one league, and a return to it in the other.



Sleepers or Sluggers? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 21 September 2013 00:00

Just about this time last year, I remember writing about how completely deceived I was by the Oakland Athletics, a team I thought should have lost 90 games by late September, not win that many.

Sure, the rag-tag fellows in Green and Gold played loose, and had really great and unparalleled rookie pitching, along with a couple of young outfield stars in Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick

But, Oakland used their experience last season, and were brilliantly managed by Bob Melvin, coming amazingly close to even making it to the series last year.

However, I saw the moves Billy Beane made over the off-season, like acquiring Jed Lowrie, John Jaso and Chris Young while retaining Coco Crisp, and it was very clear to me what the 2013 path could be.

In fact, just before Tout Wars, on the CBS Broadcast hosted by Nando DiFino, I was pretty sure that Young would get 400 at-bats (currently at 353 plate appearances, and 315 at-bats, with an average that just crept over the Mendoza line), that neither Jemile Weeks nor Hiroyuki Nakajima would be a factor, and that pretty much every position player on the team was capable of double-digit dingers over the course of the season.

Add in that those record setting rookie pitchers of last season all were now essentially veterans, with playoff experience, along with a pretty good bullpen.

Still, in the toughest division in the Majors--and I do mean the AL West, with the Rangers and Angels--going into the 2013 season it seemed that despite the solid roster, Oakland would still have a tough row to hoe to make it to the postseason.

However, after last night's 11-0 trouncing of the Twins, brilliantly manipulated by the wiley Bartolo Colon, who nabbed his 17th win, Oakland now has 174 homers for the season, including four players with 20-plus big flies.

And, paramount among those players is third sacker Josh Donaldson, who at .306-24-91 is among the league leaders in hits, and has 54 multi-hit contests. If you have not paid much attention to Donaldson, remember that going into the spring of 2012, he was a catcher, not a third sacker, and he was struggling with defense and the plate such that he had to spend the first couple of months of the year in Sacramento.

Since his return to, however, the 27-year-old has been more than a revelation, playing an increasingly strong defense, and proving himself to be the best pure hitter on the team.

The only exceptions to the double-digit taters are catcher Derek Norris (who does have eight, but also has missed time on the DL), any of the three Oakland second basemen (although by the third week of spring, Scott Sizemore was still the Athletics second sacker) and the DH spot (Seth Smith also has eight). However, fourth outfielder Chris Young does have 12.

Still, Oakland is largely unknown and underestimated.

But, with a great defensive lineup--the team can essentially play centerfielders at all three outfield spots--great pop on both sides of the plate meaning good platoon possibilities, and a postseason rotation that is probably Colon (17-6, 2.64), Jarrod Parker (11-7, 3.81), A.J. Griffin (14-9, 3.78) and Dan Straily (10-7, 4.08), or even more dangerous Sonny Gray (3-3, 2.50), the other postseason teams better not let down for a second.

If you remember way back in the spring, when I noted the Athletics were really good, it seemed everyone's favorite in the American League were the revamped Blue Jays. In fact, conversely, while the Athletics might have been underrated, the Red Sox and Yankees were flat out dismissed.

However, if we look at the standings today, well, the Sox, and soon the A's may well have the last laugh, while the Jays, despite all their talent, will have to wait until next year.

What that means is the best collection of players does not necessarily constitute the best team. The collection of players needs to perform well as a unit.

I am not sure if Oakland has the best of those, as in team, but they certainly are one of them.

Don't say I didn't warn you.


How Did We Live Before Technology? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 14 September 2013 00:00

Remember back in the Pleistocene era, when we just had touchtone phones? Around the time of 4800 BAUD modems? When Beta tried to rain on the parade of VHS, and cassettes were happening?

That was when a "portable" video camera weighed about 10 pounds, and rested on your shoulder, and long before the first batch of portable phones. Though, I vividly remember the first one of those I saw: it was huge, and sat in a giant cradle, plugged into a cigarette lighter, and looked as stupid in retrospect as those portable video cameras do today.

Well, for the past week I have been up in the mountains, at Donner Pass, near Lake Tahoe at around 7200 feet of altitude.

Meaning my cell service is, at best spotty; that is, we can maybe get one bar in our bedroom and the bathroom, but none in the living room or kitchen.

The truth is, one of the reasons I like coming up here is just that: that no one can get to me unless I want them too.

While we have no television reception, we do have TVs with DVD players, so this is the perfect place to catch up on Downton Abbey and Breaking Bad episodes without much distraction.

We do have DSL, though, allowing me to write and post and edit and follow the scores, and while I could probably subscribe to SiriusXM, and stream on our iPhones, or subscribe to or, I am just not that interested (I do get Extra Innings and Sunday Ticket at home).

Not that I don’t follow the scores when I am up here, but mostly just on-line or via MLB At Bat.

Since the Athletics are in the throes of a great pennant race with the Rangers, I have been following those scores to the best of my ability.

However, I don’t remember not being anywhere near where there was coverage of the NFL for the first weekend of the season.

In fact, I worked the Athletics/Astros game the Thursday the NFL season opened, so I missed that game, and got up to the mountain house Saturday afternoon, meaning no NFL Today or any of that stuff.

So, Sunday morning, I set my four rosters just by using the basics that MyFantasyLeague (and if you don’t know this great site, shame on you!) provides, winning half my games. Although the two I lost were simply because I did not trust my instincts, leaving Jordy Nelson on the bench against the Niners defense.

So, despite my somewhat deprived access to technology, I was able to set lineups for all my football and baseball teams and track their progress, or lack thereof, as often as I liked.

I did think about driving into Truckee, to the Blue Coyote specifically, to watch as they have food and 21 flat screens, but it just didn’t seem that important, and I don’t think the only reason for this is age.

Still, it did make me think of the early days of fantasy baseball, when I tracked games on CompuServe with the aforementioned 4800 baud modem. Back before there were commissioner services, when we had to download the weekly USA Today stats, American League on Tuesday, National on Wednesday, and have someone convert using a DB program (I think we used a product called Paradox) and we would get standings once a week.

This is a far cry from my being able to track pretty much anything I want up here.

Right now, it sort of feels like the best of both worlds, but it does make me wonder what we did way back in the dark ages, back in the 70’s when dial phones still ruled?

Draft Blown? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 07 September 2013 02:01

I don't know about you, but last week was crazy with Fantasy Football drafts for me.

First, there was the Experts Schmexperts draft, curated by my good friend Trace of Long Gandhi Fame. Then during the week, two slow drafts--The Kathy League Gifford and the North American Internet Fantasy Football League--both driven by my partner Lord Zola, ensued.

This all culminated Monday with the drafting of The Utter Genius League, driven by yet another mate, Michael Duca.

Now, I might have my troubles with some football leagues, but in the Utter Genius I won in 2010, and though I lost in the playoffs in 2011, my team The Smith Brothers (as I had both Steve Smith and Torrey Smith, although the cough drop box is our logo) had the most total points by season's end.

Last year, I again won, although my friend Jeff Smith maintains that he had the best team because he had the most points, even though I not only had the best won-loss, but I beat his Megalodons not once, but twice.

In 2011, the league freeze rules changed such that we were only allowed one keeper instead of two, so I let go of Ray Rice and hung onto Arian Foster, and grabbed Wes Welker and Marshawn Lynch with my next picks. I got the Bears defense, but where I struck paydirt was in drafting Russell Wilson as my #2 QB (behind Carson Palmer).

For, the Utter Genius League allows us to plug a second QB into a Flex spot, meaning playing a pair of signal callers is a great move. Well, as soon as the Raiders had their bye week, I dropped Palmer, who was then picked up by another team, so, I grabbed Colin Kaepernick, and, well, you can guess the rest.

So, this year I froze Lynch and Foster, figuring that when I got my first selections--picks 36 and 37--I would simply grab Kaepernick and Wilson back, assuming running backs and the likes of Drew Brees and Peyton Manning would eat up the bulk of early picks.


Both my desired quarterbacks were gone by the first two rounds, so I figured I would hold on that spot, drafting Darren Sproles and Victor Cruz with my first selections.  

In fact, I did not pick a quarterback till I got Joe Flacco in the sixth round. Actually, I think Flacco is seriously underrated this season for a guy who led his team to a Super Bowl win last year, although there are other guys I wanted more.

And, even though I do like playing a pair of QBs in leagues that offer that option, I chose Mark Ingram and Danny Woodhead, assuming Philip Rivers would still be there when I wanted him.

He wasn't.

Nor was the Seahawks or Bears defense.

Or even Vernon Davis or Jermichael Finley.

So, I wound up with Martellus Bennett and the Ravens defense on my roster.

In other words, "who are these guys?"

And, while I left the draft well covered at RB and WR, I was concerned elsewhere, especially at defense, for Ravens' stars Ray Lewis and Ed Reed retired during the off-season. Still, Baltimore did not win last year on the strength of two players, and they have had a strong defense for years. Not to mention they are well coached. 

At least that is what I told myself when I picked the Ravens.

In fact, Thursday, when I got to the Coliseum to cover the Athletics/Astros game, Jeff, who sits beside me at the yard, simply said "you're killing me."

For at the end of the first quarter, the Ravens had held the Broncos scoreless, while Flacco had thrown for a score.

"It's early", I replied, and the game began, and we did not pay any attention to the football score until the game was over. And, I discovered that the Ravens allowed 49 points, good for -11.2 for my team.

OK, so I know we have only finished one game, and there are 478 teams worth of numbers remaining, but I am getting a really bad feeling about this draft.

As in I already feel drafty.

And, while I did adjust with the free agent market last year building a winner, I don't feel so solid about the possibilities this year.

I think Jeff will cream me this first week. And, with Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles as his freezes, it will be his turn to run the table.

I guess karma is everywhere.


The Problem With "I'm Sorry" PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 31 August 2013 00:00

One of the great things about being at music camp, and then up in the mountains for a couple of weeks, was being spared the news.

Not that I am not concerned with the state of the world, or condition of our country, and such. It is just we get so hammered by the news and tweets and internet updates and repetitions of the same story with gossip, scandal and opinion dominating so much of what could just be a straight news story--if that--that the news sort of becomes like being bonked on the head with an inflatable hammer after awhile.

So, while it was interesting being away early in August when a cluster of baseball players were rather unceremoniously suspended for the balance of 2013, I really did not care.

Truth is I was not really interested in what any of the players in question had to say, or why. They did what they did, and while I understand wanting to get every possible edge to be successful in any field, the rules are the rules, and well, you break the rules, and then get caught, and you suffer the consequences.

I am actually of the opinion that even when we break a law or rule--and that could be something as simple as lying or cheating on a test--we will subvert ourselves in some other way, even if we get away with the original misdeed in the first place. That is because deep down we know when we are cheating, and in a way we are our own version of Santa Claus, as in "we know when we are sleeping and we know when we're awake."

However, Ryan Braun did cop to his HGH use, and accepted his suspension for the remainder of 2013 before I left, and the reality is I did find the outfielder's simple acquiesence somewhat refreshing. I mean, generally folks go the complete denial route until caught and/or punished. And, then they generally acknowledge that thanks to Jesus, they are forgiven for their misdeeds (and as Bill Maher has pointed out, has anyone ever heard of Jesus not forgiving someone, irrespective of the transgression?).

But then a week ago, Braun decided to take it a step further, and made a pubic apology for his misdeeds, including apologizing to Dino Laurenzi Jr., who was accused of mishandling the urine sample that almost got Braun suspended prior to the 2012 season. It was that technicality that put fantasy players in a tizzy, not knowing whether 100 games of Braun was better than nothing, or if the suspension would have a successful appeal.

Of course, those who took the Braun crap-shoot were rewarded with a .319-41-112 season, and there was virtually no cloud hanging over Braun in 2013. Or so we thought.

That made Braun a clear first-round pick, but all we got out of him in an injury-plagued season were .298-9-38 totals over 61 games.

Meaning Braun figured out a way to indeed pay himself back--and many of us as well--with a seriously sub-par season.

And, while we did have to expect first that Major League Baseball would indeed target the guy who successfully thumbed his nose at the system a little over a year ago, I do wish Braun would not have made his public apology.

Not that I am against taking responsibility for one's actions, but it reminds me clearly of both being a kid, and having kids, and demanding that I either provide an apology, or be given one, depending upon my situation in life as a child or a parent.

In particular, I remember the air of resentment my kids carried when their mother told them to say they were sorry, for the act of contrition was not voluntary, and as I agreed with my mate Lord Zola just the other day, most of the time the source of the apology was more the result of being caught as opposed to actual remorse over a misdeed.

I would like to think that Braun's confession was sincere, just as I am almost always willing to give a transgressor a second chance. However, the whole thing does ring in a Shakespearean sense, echoing these lines from "Hamlet": "Thou doth protest too much."

Of course, we are just talking a game here, and hardly anyone's life hangs in the balance, although as Todd did note to me, it would be great for Braun to go into a draft year without any semblence of a cloud hanging over his head.

For, in 2014 there will be both the questions of the enhanced season, and whether or not Braun is really healthy, mentally and physically.

Personally, I hope he is both, and that he returns to being one of the better players in baseball simply because it is fun to watch a person who really knows how to do their job, especially an athlete performing publicly.

As for the apology, the best thing Braun could do is simply shut up, go about his job and prove to us why he was--and ideally still is--one of the best players in baseball on the field. If he does that, everything else good will certainly follow.

Charlie the Pill PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 24 August 2013 01:39

I wondered about Mariners' hurler Charlie Furbush over the past few years,wondering why Seattle kept the pitcher in tow.

Of course, my wondering had nothing to do with his past couple of very good seasons. As in last year Furbush was 5-2, 2.72 over 46.1 innings, with a terrific 0.95 WHIP, and this year he is 2-4, 3.20 over 53 more innings, with 1.086 WHIP. Plus, Furbush has a solid 122 strikeouts over 99.1 innings.

My problem is unreasonable. It just seems like a guy who goes by Charlie and is 6'5" sounds more avuncular than dominant to me.

So, when I started filling in my roster last night when the Giants and Pirates matched up for their only series in San Francisco this year, who was pitching for Pittsburgh? Charlie Morton, going up against Madison Bumgarner.

I asked my mates if anyone could think of a dominant pitcher named Charlie, and Bill Arnold brought up both Charlie Liebrandt and Charlie Hough.

And, while Liebrandt turned in a pretty good resume from the mid-80's into the 90's--and graced my Strat-O-Matic team during much of that period--he was more a control pitcher than a dominant one. Liebrandt was 140-119, 3.71 over 2308 innings, but he only whiffed 4.4 per nine innings, and was 6'3".

There was also Charlie Hough, who went 216-216, 3.75 over 25 seasons and 3801 innings, though with 5.6 strikeouts per nine innings in his 6'2" knuckleballing body.

I did look through the Charlies at the Baseball-Reference site, and could only make it through the first 125 names before yielding to write this and shoot for some sleep, and I did make some discoveries.

As in Chuck Finley was a hard thrower, with 7.3 strikeouts per nine over his 3189 innings (200-173, 3.85), and though he is 6'6", well, he goes by "Chuck" which just sounds tougher than Charlie.

Another Chuck was Chuck Connors, who was also 6'6", but was also a Chuck, was a hitter (and not such a great one at .228-2-14 over 67 Major League games), and became an actor (The Rifleman, Branded--and got that Lebowski fans--and a great part in William Wyler's fine western The Big Country).

Also, Connors' given name was not Chuck, but rather Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors.

Both Charlie Comiskey and Charlie Ebbets, both of whom were managers, came up in that first batch as well. Both also had ball parks named for them, among other things.

So, I was surprised when Charlie, as in Morton, held the Giants to seven hits and a walk over 7.2 innings, tossing just 83 pitches, 54 for strikes--and earned his fifth win of the season, pushing his record to 5-3, 3.42 over 13 starts and 76.1 innings. 

In fact, he more than matched up against Bumgarner, who went eight, but was taken down by a three-run Clint Barmes jack down the left field line in the seventh.

Still, though I saw the performance with my own eyes--in fact I scored every pitch of the contest--I still have a hard time believing the 6'5" Morton is that good.

Though he does have 5.9 punchouts per nine, better than the other Charlies. 

Maybe it is time I rethought this pitching Charlie prejudice?

While My Mind's on Vacation PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 17 August 2013 00:00

In case you hadn't noticed, I have been away for a couple of weeks, on vacation.

Last week, Diane and our niece Lindsay took off for performing arts camp in the Redwoods on the California coast. Since this is the 13th time I have attended, I guess that makes it kind of a tradition, and though we get spotty internet at camp, our cell phones don't work at all.

Which is great, because vacations are supposed to be a respite from whatever it is we face on a daily basis in our lives.

We did return home for a couple of days, but then took off again for the place we own up in Serene Lakes, about 25 miles south of Lake Tahoe.

Though we do get pretty solid internet at the Lake, again our cell phones are toast. We can play games on them via the wireless router, but, no calls, no texts, and so for the most part we go through a couple of weeks having very little contact with the outside world.

The reality is, I find it kind of refreshing, for it reminds me that our wonderful planet ticks on with or without my sanction, and for some odd reason that makes me hopeful for our species.

Over the years, while we have been "off the grid" as my mate Lord Zola likes to call it, there have been holocausts. For instance, around ten years ago, there was a huge heatwave and brown-out back east and a lot of people lost their lives as a result. Famous people have died during our absence, like Bernie Mac a few years back, and Dyan Cannon this past go-around.

This past cycle, Egypt has been going through the pains of revolution, again costing many, many lives, reminding us that freedom is certainly not free, while our own National Politics pretty much stayed with the gridlocked business as usual that our leaders have self inflicted.

In fact, I believe the Affordable Health Care Act was subject to its 40 recall attempt, suggesting the mental health aspects of the bill should be administered to those who cannot grasp repeating a mistake is not always such a sane thing to do.

Just as we were leaving, a cluster of ballplayers, including Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta and Everth Cabrera joined some lesser names, along with the previously disciplined Ryan Braun, in the Biogenesis debacle, so I largely missed those players acquiescing, turning in their spikes until spring of next year.

It also meant I missed seeing how the contenders, like Texas and Detroit, are adjusting around a lineup hole, let alone the fantasy teams trying to adjust to such an instant hole, for especially in a deeper format, everyday players and at-bats are essential to success simply because the player pool is thinner.

Similarly, I completely missed the feisty Alex Rodriguez and his return to Yankee Stadium, in defiance of the ban, as he challenges the right of the Commissioner's Office to essentially end his career. Which, is why it makes sense for Rodriguez to challenge, for at age 38, returning to baseball at age 40 does not bode well for any kind of success, so he has very little to lose by challenging (actually, if anyone needs to rethink, it would be the Yankees front office who have to pay their aged third sacker through the 2017 season). Because this is the end of the line on the field for A-Rod no matter what happens.

Of course, it was interesting to see the reactions, for A-Rod, like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and probably even Barry Bonds, might find himself blacklisted out of Hall of Fame consideration much like Pete Rose, who self admittedly had the wrong kind of addiction. But, as all these actions play out, just like the Affordable Care Act, and promotions and earthquakes and weddings, it will be interesting to watch how us goofy human beings compartmentalize and process all the rights and wrongs about all of this.

All of these machinations I had missed, along with the first few preseason games for the NFL, which in retrospect proved to be no more important than anything else in the grand scheme.

At camp this year, a particularly devout Athletics fan and friend asked if I wasn't concerned about the pennant races and play while I was away, and I shook my head, noting "it will still be there when I got back home."

It was.




More Strangeness at the Yard PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 27 July 2013 00:00

Trivia time: When was the last time two teams split a doubleheader, where the home team won both games (answer coming)?

It has been a crazy week, locally, as both the Giants and Athletics were set to be in town this weekend, while between the two teams there were not just daily games to cover, but the Giants and the Reds managed a twin-bill on Tuesday, and I worked them both.

As I have said many times--and as we all know--part of the charm in baseball is you never know what you are going to see. And, the chances that you might see something unusual on any given day are pretty much equal.

For example, I worked the Giants 16 inning game against the Mets earlier this month, and despite 48 putouts made by the Giants, none went to center fielder Gregor Blanco.

Or, just as goofy, during that second game of the Tuesday doubleheader, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford never touched the ball on defense despite 27 outs.

No assists. No putouts. No relays. No nothings.

So, out of 75 outs, over those two games, the two middle guys hardly touched the ball at all. Weird.

As for weird double dips, the Yankees and the Mets have played cross-town two stadium games three times, and the White Sox played two games against two different teams--the Indians in the day, and the Twins at night--the same day.

And, with the advent of interleague play, the resetting the home squad as part of a make-up game has become sort of business as usual for baseball. Though unusual is still more like it.

Irrespective, when the Reds and Giants took the field for the second game on Tuesday, it was to make up for the July 4 Cincy rainout, making the Reds the home team.

Which was indeed very odd to score, let alone watch.

For the Reds wore Red jerseys, but white pants, while the Giants wore greys. And, the Giants batted first, meaning Barry Zito had a chance to win his first road game of the season. Except at home.

It was odd.

And, in the end, Zito only lasted 4.2 innings, but the Giants did win, although it took four outs from Sergio Romo closing out the powerful Reds in the bottom of the ninth to get the win for Santiago Casilla (not Jake Dunning, who did get Zito off the hook to close out the fifth).

The game proved to be Bruce Bochy's 1500th victory as a manager, certainly an auspicious achievement, but Bochy's real sentiment was expressed in the statement, "it felt good to win a road game."

Oh, and by the way, since the Reds won the opener, that did indeed mean there was a doubleheader split, and the road team came out victorious each time.

Once again, you gotta love baseball.

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