Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The second is the subset of the above: Injuries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen, Kendrys, and Ragged Bones PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 31 May 2014 00:00

Over the years, I have noted my love for the transactions page.

In fact, I have occasionally posted about the trannies on the Mastersblog--usually during the off-season--in a sort of running "series" entitled "Life and Death in the Transactions" (I think I am up to 34 of them over the years).

As a romantic, at least when it comes to philosophy and literature, I do see baseball as a metaphor for life. The business of games and statistics and box scores: the sort of organized chaos or chaotic organization of pitches and plays that constitute the stats and box scores indeed mirror the crazy hustle bustle everyday life can bring.

Within this world, most pitches never actually result in an out or a run, much like the zillion things we slog through on a daily basis--kids, pets, work, bills, the gym, lunch breaks, meetings, and such--are just threads within the larger whole of existence.

And, of course within the ordinary we can indeed see the extraordinary.

So, somehow within this microcosm, transactions are the obituaries and life and birth and marriage announcements, all cleverly crammed into reduced type in the paper I read as a kid, essentially telling us the real back-story of a player's maybe ten-year run as a professional.

I know that most everything that is in the transactions we can, and often do know before they are neatly clustered in one space for scrutiny the next day. In fact, I like Twitter and what I get from it, but somehow, seeing that somewhat ordered list of promotions and demotions and injuries and trades and retirements gives context to the crazy ethos of all the strikes and balls and hits and double plays.

Let's take Steve Pearce, for example, who was released by his Orioles team and then re-signed within a day, finding himself right back on the field the next day as the starting first sacker when Chris Davis went down earlier this year.

Previously, a top prospect, just the sequence so aptly describes the promise-then-despair-then-hope that reflects Pearce's career, that it is kind of eerie.

For it is to the transactions I go first each morning before I actually look at the box scores: to see that Jose Fernandez is going to undergo Tommy John surgery (lucky I own him nowhere) or that Erick Aybar is out for seven days due to a concussion, or the same Chris Davis is now out for a series on Paternity Leave.

We learned that George Springer, arguably the "must have" hitting prospect of this year not named Oscar Taveras or Gregory Polanco, was available, so far without the glitches usually associated with making the big jump to the Show under a microscope with the expectations of the world on your shoulders.

The transactions are where it was finally confirmed, after more gyrations and speculation that Stephen Drew will spell out the rest of the season with the Red Sox, which is four months worth or so, only a few fewer than the entirety of said negotiations.

Now it will be the Kendrys Morales show, and the slugger will sign somewhere over the next week and there will be FAAB bids galore within the leagues where Kendrys' services have not as yet been accounted for.

All the while, Kyle Farnsworth and Heath Bell, and probably now Jose Valverde will be out there peddling his services so he can squeeze out a few more days at the ball park before he has to consider life outside of baseball.

The question is where else can we witness the strum and drang of our existence in such a tidy and at the same time unpredictable fashion.

For, as surely as Valverde can sign on, and out of nowhere save a handful of games, so in a month could he be an ex-ballplayer.

Relegated to perhaps baseball card signings or SABR conventions where he can relive his best moments with us, and in all likelihood, which we will be happy to hear.

Trading My Shovel for a Scalpel PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Sunday, 25 May 2014 00:00

Life is indeed a funny and fortuitous thing.

As I drove up towards our Lake Tahoe house for both the Memorial Day Weekend, plus another week just to stay up and enjoy being away, I was concocting this very column in my head.

The trouble was I got a bit of a late start and the normally three-hour drive turned into more of a five-hour marathon, so not only was I beat when I finally hit Soda Springs, where the house lives, but as I sat down to write, the ever schizy high elevation Internet connection died.

I was able to text my mate Todd, who said not to worry, that our fellow partner had us covered with his Saturday piece "Being Jeff Luhnow Is Not Easy."

In his article, Brian notes that he has seriously undertaken the "rebuild" word in the Experts Fantasy League (XFL), which I believe is really the toughest fantasy league of all.

Unlike Brian, who challenged for an XFL title for several years, my teams over the span of the league have been nowhere close to good. In fact, they have been beyond bad in a Mixed format that used to be my strongest environ.

The deal with the XFL, however, is that if you can stumble into the Hanley Ramirez-types in the Minors, and bring them up as part of your franchise system that allows 15 keepers over the off-season, you can hit paydirt.

That is because Hanley, as an example, is owned by Alex Patton and Peter Kreutzer, who pay $25 for his rights. They acquired him from Lord Zola as a farm player, and his salary has simply gone up $3 a year since.

That means there is a premium in grabbing Yordano Ventura, who will be $4 next year for Steve Moyer since I just swapped the Royals flamethrower to Steve for a $25 Matt Kemp, who came up through the system just like Hanley.

What this also means, however, is that with 15 smart and well versed owners, there are no secrets. As an example, Yu Darvish, who is presently at $7 on his $3 path the Kemp/Ramirezdom, in his fourth year in the Majors, was actually drafted six years ago by Trace Wood.

Indeed the pickings are thin. So, in trying to figure a way to stock with these guys, I went the route of rebuild during the 2012 November auction (another fun twist to the league) in overspending on some stars, leaving $40 on the table to hopefully destroy some of the dollar values for the rest of the league, as well as grab potentially cheap youngsters like Leonys Martin ($11 this year).

And, then I dumped all the big names, like Roy Halladay and Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols for youngsters with the $3 promise.

That has meant sacrificing a couple of years in the absolute cellar, as in Brian finished 14th in the XFL last year because I was 15th.

Truth is, as this season began, my team, peppered at the time with Mike Zunino, Yoenis Cespedes, Yonder Alonso, Matt Moore, Nick Castellanos and Jedd Gyorko all on the $3 path, was again floundering at the bottom, making me wonder why I was sticking with the path I had taken.

And then, out of nowhere, the boys got hot. Mike Morse ($1 reserve pick) and Zack Greinke were delivering, and Jose Reyes returned to add some fuel and suddenly we moved up to eighth place, about 23 points behind the leaders.

I admit that 23 points seems like a lot to make me optimistic, but the reality is that my team was at the bottom of steals and saves, however even as I write, ten steals are worth almost half of those points, while 15 saves are worth another seven.

Since I traded Moore for Kenley Jansen, while I have both Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour, the saves are indeed doable, and since Reyes is not stealing like he used to, his swipes, and those of Kemp have similarly increased, so the reality is if each of the guys can simply add five steals to the base I already had, 17 of those 23 points are mine.

Couple those moves with the addition of Mark Teixeira (part of the trade with Brian, wherein he got Miguel Sano as well) and Kemp, the pair--if they can stay healthy--should surely help my offense. And, again, if each player can simply boost my offense by three points aside from the steals, I am there.

Now, I am not sure if the above logic is realistic, or I just got tired of sitting at the bottom of the pile, and impatient for my guys to kick it up a notch, but the reality is I am going for it now.

The best part is the real impact in my future is not really impacted, as I kept the bulk of those $3 a year increase players, and still even have a handful of prospects, as well as some well priced stars, on my current roster.

Meaning 2015 suggests that I will not be a last place team any more than I will this season.

At least I hope it means I am reading those tea leaves correctly.

Taking a Hard Look PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 17 May 2014 00:00

It is getting to be crunch time #1 for fantasy owners--at least those playing the full-season format--as we approach Memorial Day.

Over the next week or so, you should be able to clearly see whether your team can compete or not.

I am actually in this position in a couple of leagues, and as you can guess if you are in a similar situation, you probably spend more time thinking about just what to do?

In keeper leagues, should you be in this quandary, there are really three things you can do. But, for fun, let's say you are in the middle of the pack, maybe 25 points behind the leader, and you are low on saves and steals, but mostly keeping pace.

In such a situation, there are basically three paths you can follow:

  • 1. Trade your younger cheap bargains, or prospects for starters, focusing on saves and swipes, throwing basic caution to the wind, going for it.
  • 2. Trade you more costly stars for a few more cheap players, setting yourself up for a killer 2015.
  • 3. Do nothing.
  • It is tough to figure which of these three paths you should follow, but if there are 20 points you can realistically pick up between now and the middle of August, go for it.

    My reasoning for this breaks down into this:

  • 20 points, especially in attainable counting stats, is a reasonable achievement, and if that means swapping off Gregory Polanco, or Yordano Ventura for Alex Rios or Jonathan Papelbon in some combination, do it. Yeah, you might fall short, but pennants in any fashion are tough to come by, so go ahead and swap and strengthen. And, I do say August for a reason. By September, remember that playing time gets squishy with roster expansion, so if you are going to make a trade, swap for players on contenders. If you don't think you are quite there with the points, turn the tables and trade your expensive non-freezes and pick up the players you think will turn a profit next year relative to what they cost this season and stash them. Meaning if you can get Michael Brantley or Sonny Gray on the cheap for Adrian Gonzalez, again, go ahead. Just do be careful not to overload with too many up-and-comers, for that can make as mediocre a roster as having a team full of Darwin Barneys.
  • Do nothing? Seriously, it is a path, and sometimes doing nothing is the best move you can make. (It does take patience though.)
  • If you are in a throw back league--meaning every year fosters a clean scratch draft--again, take a look at the same standings. Since there is no next year, that says either you make the moves you can to improve as much as possible, or you pack it in.

    And, let's face it, packing it in is not only no fun, it is chicken shit, so I would never recommend that.

    But, if you have a surplus in said steals, or power, or starting pitching on your reserve list (I am thinking Matt Wisler or Dylan Bundy, for example), swap existing, or even potential surplus for what you need to finish as high in the standings as you can.

    For, I believe it is always important to play as hard as you can irrespective of anything else.

    Yes, I know there is a wait till football season, but don't forget, now there are daily games like FanDuel, and monthly games like Shandler Park.

    Believe it or not, they are just as much fun, just as challenging, just as frustrating to lose, and just as exhilarating to win.

    I'm Just Sitting Here (Watching the Wheels Fall Off) PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 10 May 2014 00:00

    Earlier in the week, my mate Lord Zola concocted a piece, How Important are April Standings?, at our KFFL sister site.

    The premise, per Ron Shandler and his fanalytics, is that if you are not among the top five in your league standings at the end of April, you have a 20% chance of finishing among the league elite.

    Todd asked us-who would be the knights of the fantasy round table--among other things, what we should do if we find ourselves scrambling in that lower 80% at this juncture.

    First, I have no reason to doubt Ron's stat, but my gut reaction is a Hans Soloesque "never tell me the odds."

    But, my NL LABR team, which a couple of weeks ago was among the top three, has had a two-week run that dropped the squad to a low of 11th place a couple of days ago (we have rebounded to tenth over the past few days).

    What makes the drop tough is my pitching had been strong, with a max of 52 points two cycles ago when I swapped Jordan Zimmermann for Aaron Hill. Since I needed at-bats, and had Cole Hamels coming off the DL, it seemed a logical move to grab those plate appearances and trust that Hamels could fill the slot vacated by the steady Washington pitcher.

    And, though my at-bats have picked up relative to the league, in the process I lost my power source of Mark Trumbo for up to a couple of months.

    But, we hit a collective .187-5-15 and lodged a 3.45 ERA with a couple of wins during Fantasy Week 4. A week later, we raised the hitting to a more respectable .265-6-25, but the pitching went way south with zero wins, a 6.864 ERA and a 1.657 WHIP. This week, the bats are back to a more anemic .242-2-17, and on the pitching side still no wins (means none over the past 11 days), a 4.80 ERA and a 1.433 WHIP.

    So, at this point of the season what can I do, and what can I expect?

    Since I cannot really afford to trade anything at this point--and, to a degree, because most of my team is slumping--making a trade is not really in the cards. Although a post-All Star possibility would be to swap one of my closers--Sergio Romo or Jonathan Papelbon-- for some more at-bats.

    I am hoping the second step--if trading for Hill was the first--will be this week, when I can move Emilio Bonifacio to the hot corner after he played his sixth game there, meaning I can move Hill from Utility to second, and slot Scott Van Slyke in the Utility spot.

    But, aside from that, I simply need to be patient and trust that my pitchers will indeed pick it back up, and that Will Venable, Ryan Doumit, Jordy Mercer and Matt Kemp can prove to be better than their numbers over the first six weeks reflects.

    Since all but Mercer have indeed proved to be just that previously over their careers, I have to trust that they will indeed get into form.

    So, we mostly have to mark time, wait for the inevitable streaks, enjoying the good, and hoping there are only a couple of more flat spots, and ideally sync that with the return of a Trumbo, who was as hot as his first week.

    If you should find yourself in such a position as that LABR team, and you are feeling frustrated and desperate, try to resist the desire to dump or rebuild your team on the fly.

    For that is not only diffficult to do, but remember that should Kemp raise his season average to .280 (from his present .240) and hit 25 homers (he has four now), should you trade him, you are swapping the plus .300 average and 21 homers we are projecting to someone else.

    As I have noted many times, a fantasy team can endure several mistakes over the course of the season, and having weeks where your team hits .187, or posts a 6.84 ERA certainly qualify as mistakes, natural or mental.

    So, what will tell me if my team can indeed make it back to the top is simply if they level back out to quiet consistency as the warm weather arrives.

    Because there are some advantages coming, and patience is the only way to take advantage of those potential breaks.

    One is indeed the return to a full complement, and that means Trumbo, and maybe even Marco Scutaro.

    Second, I have amongst the most FAAB with $107, so I need to wait until an inter-league trade might afford a migration to the Senior Circuit.

    Third, even though I have fallen to the bottom rung of the standings, there are 35 fairly tight points that separate the top from the bottom. For example, ten homers separate last place and third place, while 13 swipes stand between 11th place and first in that category.

    On the pitching side, two teams have more than 20 wins while the rest have between 11 and 18, so the points are indeed there.

    And, let's face it, statistics or not, winning is largely a by-product of being hot at the right time, and through the course of the season, everyone has a hot spell.

    Once again, to Ron's 80% rule, I do know the leagues where my teams have generally done the best were when they started slow, and picked it up as May warmed into June and the summer months, while my teams that start out hot always seem to be the ones victimized by that ambitious 20% team out of the top five when May comes.

    But, the bottom line is at this point, I am wedded to a plan and a course. I have to stay it to see if that plan will work.

    For now, anyway.


    Another Typical Saturday Column PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 03 May 2014 00:00

    Just about a year ago, in June of 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed a number of portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act—a landmark aspect of the Civil Rights Movement—with Chief Justice Roberts noting of racism, "That problem is solved."

    This is an odd, and unnecessarily optimistic ruling in the face of states working hard to restrict voting, and where our minority president has been challenged and questioned like no other leader in the history of our country.

    Think back to congressman Joe Wilson yelling out “you lie,” during the 2009 State of the Union, or Arizona Governor Jan Brewer sticking her finger in Barack Obama’s face, or simply dissing the Prez by saying how much he hates America.

    Think about Richie Incognito, former defensive lineman of the Miami Dolphins and a man with as ironic a name as there might have ever been, whom some think has become a “scapegoat for racism in the NFL” thanks to his racially charged needling of teammate Jonathan Martin. Part of the point being if Incognito is a scapegoat, then maybe the problem is deeper than Justice Roberts thinks?

    How about Texas Governor and 2012 Presidential Candidate Rick Perry, whose family Hunting Lodge had the dubious name of “n*****head” until the mid-80’s. Apparently it was more a source of amusement than outrage up until that point.

    What about in 1998, when three Ku Klux Klan members—which like the Mafia doesn’t really exist—kidnapped African American James Byrd, Jr, tied him to the back of their car, and dragged him until he died?

    OK, let’s get more recent: a month ago, hypocrite Cliven Bundy, the Nevada farmer who does not recognize the US Government (but somehow seems to have the Stars and Stripes flying wherever he goes), complaining about “Negroes” who get welfare and government subsidies. Of course, all Bundy’s problems are surrounding his refusal to pay a cattle grazing fee, for which he gets roughly a $15 subsidy per head to the same government he does not recognize. Yet he still does not want to pay the discount fee.

    So, I guess there is not much point in mentioning Clippers owner Donald Sterling, and his insightful comments on god, life, race and stuff last week, and maybe we should consider that perhaps Chief Justice Roberts has no idea what he is talking about when it comes to race in this country.

    Not that I want to hammer it in, especially since you probably logged in here on a Saturday morning, hoping to read about how Allen Craig is breaking out of his slump, or explaining how I think Chris Archer can overcome the stigma of pitching outside his home park.

    I would like to, but it is hard when Paul Ryan, a leader in congress, makes racist tinged comments, sourcing Charles Murray, whose studies in IQ and race are reminiscent of Neanderthal Tom Buchanan of “The Great Gatsby.”

    Ryan always amuses me because he used the student loan program to get an education, and whose only jobs since finishing school have been government ones. Yet he decries government programs and says the same government should not provide a living: that Americans need to be self-actualized is an equally Neanderthal Ayn Rand way.

    How about just yesterday when Chris "Mad Dog" Russo stated that there were no black radio hosts worthy of doing his job? Although I have to admit Russo--to whom I wouldn't have listened prior to Friday's gem of stupidity--is right. I don't think I have ever heard any of the African American commentators on ESPN or FOX say anything as assholey as Russo.

    I understand that Russo later backtracked. Good for him. Tell it to Sterling. Or perhaps Mel Gibson.

    What is sad, or odd, or crazy, is that despite Roberts' declaration of our nation moving beyond race, neither Russo nor Perry nor Wilson nor Ryan nor Incognito nor Bundy think they--or their remarks--are racist.

    To be fair, I think we are all racists of one kind or another, at times. Or at least we are capable of less than stellar thoughts about human beings who are different than we are. I think this goes back to old tribal times, and being wary of anyone even remotely stranger than what one is used to.

    So, it is old shit.

    But, pretending the obvious doesn’t exist and trying to make incidents like those I noted as the exception, and not the rule, is painfully naive.

    As a first generation American, whose parents fled the holocaust with pretty much their lives at hand, and their fortunes left behind, I would like to think I at least understand what being on the receiving end of “dirty Jew” comments is like.

    I write this knowing that one-third of my family was exterminated as part of that same holocaust.

    And, I also write this grateful that my family had the opportunity to come to America, and build a life as refugees, in a country where ostensibly “All men are created equal” and where we all are supposed to have a say in how our government works.

    But, if you will pardon one more analogy, the State of Georgia recently allowed for the purchase of special license plates with the Confederate Flag on it, and I have to wonder what are these people thinking?

    For, if the Southern tradition of grace is represented in the words of Donald Sterling, how can people refuse to see or acknowledge the problem?

    That is because though six million Jews were murdered during the holocaust, some 13 million blacks were interred as part of a plantation system that was no more benevolent than the death camps that claimed my relatives.

    So, while I hate the overuse of comparing groups we don’t like to the Nazis, putting that flag on a license plate is pretty much akin to sticking a swastika on a Mercedes in Saxony.

    So, if you think the former is OK, but the latter repugnant, maybe you need to rethink your analytic skills.

    I do have hope for our species, despite ourselves. And, I think that, to tie this back into sports, one of the great things about athletics is they do afford an opportunity to break barriers in every social and national and ethnic way.

    Similarly, I think we have to wake up and be honest, just with ourselves. And, acknowledge some responsibility for how we fuel our anger, our inability to accept, and equally important, to forgive (including acknowledging our own mistakes, and forgiving ourselves).

    If you think about how quickly our culture has shifted on gay/bi-sexual/transgender relationships, overcoming our racial issues is something we can do.

    However, as Mahatma Gandhi said, so wisely, "you cannot change men's minds: you have to change their hearts."

    Bapu was correct, so, to bring the Supreme Court back into it, when Proposition 208, the California Gay Marriage law, went before the high court, Justice Antonin Scalia asked, "when did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage?"

    The answer, my dear justice, is that excluding rights, or freedoms, or opportunities to any sentient being was never ok. Ever.

    It means the things said by Donald Sterling or Rick Perry's family were never ok. That means slavery and segregation were never ok. Ever.

    Because, all men are created equal. And we all believe in liberty and justice for all.


    Are We Not Men? We Are Broken PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 26 April 2014 00:00

    A couple of Saturdays back, I wrote asking what has happened to our arms: Why is it that pitchers can no longer throw as many innings as they could in previous generations?

    I understand the game is different and baseball is more specialized these days, with closers and platooning. I also think my mate Todd has a valid point in noting that with hurlers tossing splitters and sliders and other pitches that cause a different torque on the arm, that is a contributor to the DL.

    I remember back when the Marlins were in the post-season, back in 2003 during Dontrelle Willis' first season. I was watching a playoff game and the Train was pitching. My mother-in-law, Edie Hedgecock was spending a few days with us at the time.

    Born in Romania, Edie fled the holocaust with her parents and they settled in Calcutta, India for ten years before relocating once again to La Jolla, California, which is near San Diego. I always figured that was pretty odd and if anyone deserved some culture shock slack, it was Edie.

    Well, Edie is not too much into commercial sports. One time she asked me, for example, why Major League ballplayers did not high five the opposing team after a game, like they do in little league? Which might seem like a silly question on one hand, and a deep philosophical one on another.

    Edie has also made her vocation as a body worker, and as she trolled through the living room where I was watching the game, she happened to see Willis delivering a pitch and exclaimed, "My goodness, does he know he is going to hurt his arm doing that?"

    Prophetic words, and I guess we all knew it was going to happen, maybe even Willis himself.

    Maybe that is an extreme case, and maybe it is wrong to focus on pitchers and arms for there certainly is extra stress and work that hurlers place on their bread-and-butter wing.

    But, what about Brett Anderson, the uber-brittle now Rockies pitcher who is on the DL? Anderson--who was just moved to the 60-day DL--broke his finger batting, and he hurt himself hitting in the cold, not holding the bat correctly, and getting that nasty sting we have all experienced when the ball rattles the bat we possess. So, we can understand the sting and hurt, but, a broken finger that requires the insertion of pins?

    How about Ryan Zimmerman, now down for 4-6 weeks after breaking his thumb sliding into second, following on the heels of other crappy sliders like Yasiel Puig?

    Or Mark Trumbo, who is now hampered with a stress fracture on his foot, or red hot Kevin Kouzmanoff?

    Kouz came back to the Majors to spell the injured Adrian Beltre after a two-year hiatus from the Show, and was red hot, winning the AL Player of the Week prize last week. But the third sacker tweaked his back--for the zillionth time--the other day, fortuitously just as Beltre was ready to return. This once again displays the perfect Zen in baseball, as a matter of fact, with Kouz coming up to replace the injured Beltre, and now Beltre returning to spell the injured Kouzmanoff.

    In addition to Trumbo and Kouzmanoff being sidelined this past week, Chris Sale, Josh Johnson (again), Jason Grilli (adding to the crazy closer merry-go-round), Scott Feldman, Wandy Rodriguez and Michael Cuddyer all went on the injury list as well.

    And, about the only thing I can think of is that Sale's NL counterpart, Clayton Kershaw, went to rehab this past week after being injured himself, meaning maybe his return is imminent.

    Now, I do realize ballplayers are expensive investments made by their Major League owners, and that it is good to exercise caution and protect those assets in deference to the long-term investment.

    But, I have also been watching the wonderful Seth McFarlane produced retake on the old Carl Sagan Cosmos series these past weeks, and if it took us thousands of years to develop eye sight, or upright locomotion, how come our bodies suddenly have devolved into a pile of vulnerable broken up cells so quickly over the past 40 or so years?

    I'm just asking?

    The Toughest League of All PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 19 April 2014 00:00

    I play in some pretty tough fantasy leagues.

    I am sure most people would consider AL Tout as hard as it comes, and no question, it is difficult. Though a little less storied, LABR, and I am in the National League there, is just as competitive.

    I also play in a 30-team Strat-O-Matic league with strict usage rules, meaning the presence of George Kottaras is essential, and it is very hard as well, as is the 24-team Strat Hall of Fame set-up where Rogers Hornsby came off the bench to pinch hit against me the other day. Talk about tight.

    But, the difficulty in all those formats pales to me in comparison to the Xperts Fantasy League, or XFL as we refer to it.


    The XFL is a 15-team mixed format that is pretty much a straight forward dynasty set-up, save a couple of quirks.

    We do--and always have used--OBP instead of batting average.

    We can freeze up to 15 players from year-to-year, and keep players in our minors provided they tossed less than 20 innings or accumulated less than 50 at-bats. Once those numbers have been passed, the player must be activated or dropped, but the beauty is that they come up as $1 players, and increase in salary for just $3 thereafter, as long as promoted from within (these players can be swapped and if so, the salary rules remain intact).

    Otherwise, players have a salary increase of $5 a year for the most part over the purchase price at the auction held at the Arizona Fall League each year.

    We do have a monthly free agent pool draft--where players command a $10 base salary--rather than weekly moves. but since we get 17 reserves in addition to our 23-player roster, it is pretty easy to fill an injury hole.

    Oh yeah, and league members must be at least 40-years of age, with at least 10 years in the fantasy industry.

    What it means is that Ron Shandler, Doug Dennis, Todd Zola, Brian Walton, Trace Wood, Don Drooker, Perry Van Hook, Peter Kreutzer and Alex Patton, along with Greg Ambrosius, Gene McCaffrey, Jeff Winick, Brian Feldman and Steve Moyer are the fierce competition where over 12 seasons, I have finished as high as sixth a couple of times, but otherwise no better than ninth. Worse, I have owned the cellar five times since the league began, though in fairness I expected that result the last three seasons.

    That is because following a failed 2011 season, I decided to radically change the approach in a format where I had always dominated, albeit to apparently lesser competition.

    Because the minors are so shrewdly picked over, I sacrificed the past few years buying and then trading my expensive auction purchases for prospects, trying to bottom feed and freeze guys like Leonys Martin and Yan Gomes to go with franchise cheapies like Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Moore (who was a deal at $7 plus $3 a year until last week), Nick Castellanos, Yordano Ventura and Mike Zunino.

    Truth is I had a great feeze list going into the draft last fall, but I did not really think my youth movement would really become mature and dangerous till next year, but still, I knew I was moving in the right direction.

    So, nearly a month into the season, I am not last, but in 14th place, I am again dangerously close.

    And while I have among the best pitching in the league, my hitting, at near the bottom in both OBP and logically runs scored, needs help.

    What has become abundantly clear to me is that my team simply has to have a couple of serious power sources, like Mark Trumbo, or even Nelson Cruz if I hope to complement the good young players.

    So, timing it so that I can get a few 30-homer guys in concert with my youngsters coming of age is the challenge now, and let me tell you, in this league it is very very hard.

    One of the ways I have always tried to work my leagues is to observe and see what people do and come up with an angle no one else has exploited just yet.

    The problem is that though I have had basics, and the framework of a strategy, playing against such tough customers has made playing a lot like whack-a-mole in that I plug one gap and another reveals itself.

    I am still thinking about this, and cogitating how to approach the draft this coming fall to make sure that at least I can finish the season in the top five.

    I'll let you know if I can figure something out, but should anyone out there have any ideas, I am more than open.

    This league, like I said, is hard.,

    Confessions of a Cranky Old Man #1 PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 12 April 2014 00:00

    I didn't really plan on getting old.

    I guess no one does, but the reality is with all the illnesses I had growing up, I never thought I would make 20, let alone 60.

    So, here I am, pushing 62, and ready for my turn at Social Security, and what do I have to reflect upon?

    How about Instant Replay and an epidemic of Tommy John surgery that is bordering upon insane.

    Mind you, I don't want to sound like a curmudgeonly old codger, screaming "baseball is a pussy game compared to when I was young."

    I thought about this the other night while watching the Giants game, whereby the bay area officially kissed The Stick goodbye.


    On hand, along with ex-Giant Mike Krukow, were Willies Mays and McCovey, Roger Craig (too bad the Niners player of the same name was not there to toss out the first pitch with the former Mets hurler) Orlando Cepeda, and a number of San Francisco players who had performed at the old, cold venue that is being put out to pasture.

    Whenever I see greats like Mays and McCovey, I do feel lucky that I got to see them play in their prime. Like I saw Hank Aaron and Sandy Koufax and even Stan Musial and Frank Robinson and the other stars of the era. When I think of that, it reminds me of that goofy cycle of life, and though I missed seeing the Gehrigs and Robinsons, I did see the players mentioned.

    And, while Mays and Willie Mac are to kids today what Babe Ruth was to me, those same kids will be able to tell their kids they saw Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera in their prime.

    Just like that, though, the DH and inter-league play and the playoff wild cards are normal to the newest generation of baseball fans, and these are variations that were beyond foreign when I became enamored with the game in 1959.

    I guess that makes Tommy John surgery another thing that post-1973 fans also simply accept as part of the game. I do think there is a rash of TJ operations now, just like everyone else, but what puzzles me more is what has happened to players--or is it human beings or athletes--over the past 40 years?

    Between 1962 and 1980, the leader in innings pitched in the Majors always tossed more than 300 innings. Since 1985, when Bert Blyleven chalked up 291 innings, only knuckleballer Charlie Hough has exceeded 280 innings in a season, with most top starters going around 240 innings.

    If that is 60 innings less on a sort of average, that is a little over five more complete games that have been lost over the years. Or, these days, nine more starts of six innings.

    What puzzles me is when I was growing up, teams had four-man rotations and the dog #4 starters did 250-plus innings.

    Now, I am not begging for those days, but I do wonder what has happened to our arms that make them now break and need a surgery no one had considered in 1964?

    I wonder too about hamate bones and rotator cuffs, neither of which was identified as a specific diagnosis back then? Were players tougher, or did those kinds of injuries get tossed off and guys played through them, or what?

    Is it the difference between being full-time athletes now, working out daily, having more finely tuned, and perhaps vulnerable, musculature that makes the ligaments and bones and system more vulnerable? Because if that is the case, it is counter-intuitive that a bunch of summer time ball players who sold insurance and major home appliances during the off-season--as most ball players before the free agent days did--had bodies that were more durable.

    It just doesn't make any sense to me.

    Speaking of which, I have to chime in on the new instant replay rule: I hate it.

    I do hear all the rationale about baseball and fans and the game "wants to get it right," but that is a lot of crap (kind of like pretending that voter registration laws are about voter fraud).

    My case in point is the Rays game of earlier in the week when Ben Zobrist made a pivot at second and dropped the ball, ostensibly during the transfer, after stepping on his bag for a force out. The problem was that because of the muff, the runner going to second was ruled safe, even though the replay looked like Zobrist stepped on the bag before the transfer.

    This was obvious to the Tampa announcers, who were clear the call would be overturned, especially in deference to the clear safe support the replay showed.

    Only the umps, after review, upheld the call.

    So, the Rays broadcast crew, happy to have the replay rule before the judges supported the call to make things right, suddenly were all over the umps and process, saying they made the wrong call and it was unconscionable.

    Well, how different is that from what happened before replay? I say not at all.

    Meaning no matter what, there will always be questions about whether calls are right or wrong, no matter how the play is adjudicated.

    If that is the case, why not just let a game played between human beings be judged by human beings in real time?

    Now you might think this is a bad idea, but I ask: has your team ever been victimized by a bad call?

    I am sure the answer to that is "yes."

    However, I would also ask: "Has your team ever been able to take advantage of a bad call?"

    Well, I know the answer to that is similarly "yes."

    And there you have it, for over the long haul, the good and bad breaks work out.

    Plus, as we know, most of the time, the umps and refs get the calls right.

    Now again, I understand change and I accept the DH and all the changes that have been invoked in the years since I began watching baseball.

    Similarly, I think the beauty of the game is the game. Hitting the ball, fielding the ball, and throwing the ball.

    It is, as said, that simple game.

    Why do we need to keep messing with it?

    Crash and Burn PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 05 April 2014 00:00

    There is something comforting to me about baseball games and box scores that come with Opening Day.

    Much like grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup on a rainy day, with a fire roaring in the background and a great old movie on the tube, boxes and statistics somehow bring me back to my childhood. In fact, I get an ever-present mental image of Ron Fairly's 1963 baseball card--one that was tough to get at the time--in my fingers when I was 10. Just looking at the card, and flipping it over and staring at the numbers occupied me for quite awhile when I finally got one.


    I don't really know why the numbers and cards were--or are--so mesmerizing to this day, but, with the first games and statistics of the season, here I am again, content to look at standings and numbers and player's lines, trying to turn the integers into some sort of roto Philosopher's Stone. 

    Of course, there are those early-season joys and tears, too, and I was more than struck by this the first couple of days of the 2014 season when just about every closer I have experienced melt down majora.

    Starting with Sergio Romo, who got a save, but allowed a run in his first appearance, followed by Glen Perkins, who blew a game, but at least redeemed himself the next day. Not to mention Jonathan Papelbon, who has an ERA of 20.25 so far, also over two appearances.

    I guess at this point I should be grateful I don't own Jim Johnson, who also has managed two appearances, and over one inning boasts a 45.00 ERA to go with his 0-2 record.

    When I start thinking of the black hole of saves, it reminds me of the turn of the century--remember back to the millennium--when I really thought Matt Anderson, the hard-throwing newly-anointed closer of the Tigers, was my guy.

    I owned Anderson in 2001 in a few leagues, watching in amazement as he allowed six hits and a walk which resulted in seven runs over one-third of an inning against the Twins on April 11, 2001.

    Anderson did finish the season with 22 saves that year, to go with 52 strikeouts over 56 innings, but he also allowed 56 hits and 18 walks (1.321), and a 4.82 ERA.

    Not great, but the 0-1, 3.80 record with 14 saves over the second half made me think that Anderson had transcended his difficulties, so I picked him up again for the 2002 season.


    Well, almost a year to the date after that ugly performance against Minnesota--on April 14, 2002--Anderrson repeated the performance, once again versus the Twins, allowing four hits, a walk and a homer over zero innings.

    Anderson went on the disabled list for the rest of the season, running a stat line of 2-1, 9.00 and no saves over 11 innings, and that was pretty much the end of his career.

    It is odd in that I sort of imagined that after those failures, Anderson would return as the American League's Kyle Farnsworth (at the time) and deliver a decent finale to his career.

    Alas, it was never to be.

    I am not sure if I find solace in the history of Matt Anderson, alluding it to the 2014 perils of Romo, Papelbon and Perkins, but as with the Proustian host of memories that spin through my brain early in the season, with the return of the first games and numbers of the year.

    Life is good.

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