Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down

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.

    Tapping Our Fingers, Waiting... PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 29 March 2014 00:00

    With the season just about here, there were a bunch of prospects sent down who we can expect back soon. Here are my thoughts on a few of them.

    Jackie Bradley, Jr. (Red Sox, OF): Lost the battle of center field to the somewhat resurgent Grady Sizemore, and Boston still has Daniel Nava, Shane Victorino and then Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes. And, actually Carp had pretty good numbers last year, and Gomes is just one of those charmed guys. The real thing here is I am just not sold that Bradley is the second coming of anything, and though I do think Sizemore will hurt himself, I think Nava ends up in center field. Not sure why, since Bradley has a nice resume, but just think he is one of those guys who will not measure up to our expectations. At least not yet.

    Jake Marisnick (Marlins, OF): Kind of a National League version of Bradley, but a loser to the very good and young troika of Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton. Marisnick had a great spring (.432-0-4, with four swipes) but was probably not going to be the everyday play the team would like, so down he goes. Marisnick does strike out more than Bradley, but, the Marlins fourth and fifth fly chasers are not as good as Boston's. I think Marisnick could be a nice acquisition down the line, although I also think that over the long haul, Bradley will be bettter.

    Michael Tonkin (P, Twins): At 6'7", 220 pounds, Tonkin made it to the Show last year after going 2-4, 3.47 at Double-A New Britain and then Triple-A Rochester, followed by 11 very good Target (0-0, 0.76) innings. 36 minor league saves along with 366 whiffs over 358.6 innings. Lying in wait should something happen to Glen Perkins (I am thinking trade, not injury). Definitely a closer of the future, and he won't get much better in the Minors it seems.

    Wilmer Flores (2B, Mets): Signed as a 16-year-old, out of Venezuela, Flores now has five years of pro ball experience, and played full-time at Las Vegas last year, hitting .321-15-86 with 36 two-baggers. Flores has played third in the Minors, but with that David Wright guy at third, second is Flores' future. Not much reason to think he cannot handle second base, irrespective of the presence of Daniel Murphy, who is probably more of a utility guy than Flores. Flores is prone to the whiff, but he has great power potential for a middle guy.

    Matt Davidson (3B, White Sox):  A first-round selection in 2009, Davidson hit .280-17-84 at Triple-A Reno--with 32 doubles last year, and culled a .308-2-6 line this spring. He does strike out like a power hitter (243 walks to 616 whiffs) but a minor league .803 OPS is pretty good, and Davidson is likely just waiting his turn. That turn should come shortly where the Sox (who traded Addison Reed to Arizona during the off-season) really just have Conor Gillaspie in the way.

    Caleb Gindl (OF, Brewers): Gindl is sort of under the radar, but he did log 132 at-bats in Milwaukee last year, going .242-5-11, with 20 walks to 25 strikeouts. Gindl, who at 5'9", 210 is of the fireplug ilk, hit .295-11-51 at Nashville during the rest of last year, and the left-handed hitter does not have that many folks ahead of him should there be a failure in the outfield. Keep an eye on him.

    Rubby De La Rosa (P, Red Sox): Was great with the Dodgers, then swapped for Adrian Gonzalez, then needed Tommy John surgery, but is now a year removed from that. 313 minor league punch outs over 313.3 minor league innings, and Boston has some older starters. I can see De La Rosa ramping it up and earning major rotation time. 

    Billy Burns (OF, Athletics): Has played in 265 minor league games, and has 125 steals, 148 walks and just 143 strikeouts. Burns hit .310-0-3 with 10 swipes--and lead spring training in that last number--scoring 12 runs and logging a .375 OBP. Keep an eye on this guy, especially with the Athletics outfield being good, but a bit on the injury-prone side, among Craig Gentry (hurt now), Coco Crisp (hurt every year), Yoenis Cespedes (hamstring pull waiting to happen) and Josh Reddick (hurt last year). I get the feeling once Burns get a chance, he will be hard to send down.

    Tout Wish List 2014 PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 22 March 2014 05:50

    It is Tout Wars weekend: the weekend of the fantasy draft season that culminates with the convergence of the Touts in New York City.

    Perhaps because we do draft in midtown Manhattan, and the joy of spending five days in the Big Apple is the catalyst. It always means some time with my cousin Richard, which is great, and it means some great food. Wings at Virgil’s, for sure, and usually great deli with Gene McCaffrey. Of course, it also means time with Brian Walton and Lord Z.

    The weekend also means that I get to draft in what may indeed be the toughest league of all, AL Tout Wars.

    Since the season begins Saturday night, with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, the Tout schedule was juggled so that instead of kicking things off with the American League, we will finish things off on Sunday while the NL and Mixed auctions take place later today (note you can listen to all the drafts live on Sirius/XM, channels 87/210).

    Since I have made it a tradition to put my wish list out there each season just before the draft, this year will be no different. So, here are some of the guys I am looking at, and how much I think they will cost.

    Chris Sale ($25): I love having a pitching anchor—and I mean stabilizer, and not dead weight—and I think Sale is getting close to being the American League’s version of Clayton Kershaw. Well, maybe not quite so dominant, but close. I want him stabilizing me.

    Colby Rasmus ($12): I wouldn’t say I have man-love for Rasmus nearly as much as I think he is both talented, and will grow up someday. I think today is someday, and he will be a tad undervalued.

    Michael Brantley ($14): Kind of the same as Rasmus, though younger, more consistent, and ready to put it together. Potential 20/20, though.

    Alberto Callaspo ($5): Versatile Athletic will give some on-base numbers with a little pop, while also providing position flexibity.

    Yordano Ventura ($6): Perhaps Ventura will be the best barometer of the flow of the draft, depending upon when the Royals' young fireballer is nominated. I realize he could indeed go for the $6 I think he is worth, but that just as likely, Ventura could go in the $15 range. If that is the case, my mates can take the gamble.

    Adrian Nieto ($1): I think I can fill my #2 catcher spot with the Rule 5 pick who is the back-up to Tyler Flowers. That means Nieto, with a .346 minor league OBP, should stay on the roster and if he can hit with more consistency than Flowers, could steal the starting job.

    Luke Gregerson ($2): Perfect #3 reliever, and he might even cop a few saves.

    Ian Kinsler ($15): Make or break for Kinsler as an over $10 player. I am hoping that being on the Tigers and hitting around Miguel Cabrera will help rebuild his game to the $20 range.

    Dan Straily ($12): Would be solid as a #2. I think Straily is underrated still, but not for long. This is a guy with 592 minor league punch outs over 551.3 innings, to go with a 1.221 WHIP.

    Leonys Martin ($15): Would love to get Martin, who along with Brantley and Rasmus will give me a nice power/speed outfield base without costing too much.

    Of course, there are others I covet, but for one thing, I would hate my competitors to know everything I am thinking, and for two, well, it gives if you dial into Sirius/XM Sunday, you can hear for yourselves.
    Tracing Tommy John's Elbow PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 15 March 2014 00:00
    When I was reading the tributes to Dr. Frank Jobe, who passed away last week, I kept thinking about the trade of Tommy John to the Dodgers.

    When John was swapped to the Dodgers in 1971, I was as hardcore a Dodgers fan as you could find. 

    As I have noted before, I didn't realize as a ten-year old in 1962, when I adopted the Dodgers as a Northern California boy, that I was contrary. Part of the deal was everyone else loved the Giants, but I would like to also think that I had some subliminal attachment to the Bums and Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson that appealed to me: Me, a supporter of the underdog and, well, lifelong happy bearer of all things Berkeley Hippie.

    By '72 I was already in my third year of college, and as much into Pink Floyd and the Who as the Dodger rotation of Bill Singer, Al Downing, Claude Osteen, Don Sutton and the newly added John.

    When the Bums traded the great and wrongly maligned hitter, Dick Allen to the White Sox for John after the 1971 year, I was sort of shocked, kind of like I was when the Dodgers copped Osteen for Frank Howard in 1964. However, that trade really worked out well for the Bums, and over the years I learned to trust their front office and moves.

    Sure enough, TJ was very good. At age 29, in '72 he was 11-5, 2.89 (186.6 innings), and 16-7, 3.10 (218 innings) in 1973, before really killing it at 13-3, 2.59 over 153 innings in 1974, when the lefty blew out his elbow.

    By then, Sutton and Downing were still in the rotation, joined by Doug Rau and Andy Messersmith and TJ, whose career looked like it was suddenly over. (When you think about it, that was a rather storied rotation, for in addition to John's narrative, Messersmith was amongst the first players to be declared a free agent, Downing gave up Hank Aaron's 715th homer and Sutton went on to become a Hall of Famer.)

    Enter Dr. Frank Jobe, who grafted a ligament from John's right elbow to his left, resurrecting his career in an amazing fashion.

    For John, 164 more wins over the 14 seasons after he returned to the lineup from the pioneering operation that was performed by the good doctor were the results, and according to the Los Angeles Times, over 1000 such surgeries have been performed on Major Leaguers since TJ was the guinea pig.

    When all of this transpired 40 years ago, it seemed such a miracle (it really was) that John recovered and was able to pitch again. At least I remember being skeptical at the time about the process, but John's recovery, and the now standard use of the procedure, clearly shows Dr. Jobe knew what he was doing. In fact, it seems that most pitchers who undergo the surgery actually throw a bit harder post operative than they did prior to the operation.

    Dr. Jobe, who died at age 88 on March 7, was the man with this vision, and to whom so many arms and players attached owe their livelihood.

    As a case in poin: below is the list of players who are currently under contract and are recovering from TJ Surgery.

  • Luke Hochevar
  • Eric O'Flaherty
  • Fernando Rodriguez
  • Matt Reynolds
  • Gavin Floyd
  • Jonny Venters
  • Kyuji Fujikawa
  • Chad Billingsley
  • Scott Elbert
  • Matt Harvey
  • Casey Kelly
  • Jason Motte
  • That is quite a legacy, Dr. Jobe. I am sure all those ballplayers--and others who have undergone the operation for whatever reason--thank you so much.

    I certainly do.

    Freeze Time Trades and Stuff PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 08 March 2014 00:00

    It is that time of year, whereby if you are in a keeper league, you have to pare your team down--or sometimes even fill spots-- to meet freeze requirements prior to drafting.

    And, while I am making decisions about my own freeze lists, I also get questions about who to keep, who to trade, and who to dump.

    Well, Shaune Beatty sent a real poser last week, so I want to take a look at Shaune's offers.

    First, and this is the most important aspect of thinking about any trade, Shaune gave me some league parameters.

    14-Team League.

    Head to Head.

    Over ten-year league.

    This year we keep 9-12 players. Contracts are 3 years only. 

    Contracts renew when traded. Expire Yr in ( ).
    Compete in following 6x6 areas:

    On top of that, Shaune says he expects to go into the draft protecting 9 hitters and 3 starting pitchers.

    Who would you rather keep out of the following deals? I would have either for two more years.
    Zack Greinke or Wil Myers?

    Well, to start, I would keep Myers under just about all circumstances.

    TRADE 1:

    TRADE: Cliff Lee (must trade), Jose Bautista (one year left), Craig Kimbrel (must trade), Zack Greinke OR Wil Myers (both two years left)
    GET: Joey Votto, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Fernandez
    * I could likely keep Greinke/Myers if I pull Jose.

    TRADE 2:

    TRADE: Cliff Lee (must trade), Joey Bats (one year left), Craig Kimbrel (must trade), Zack Greinke OR Wil Myers (both two years left)
    GET: Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Justin Verlander.

    Now, I have to say these are both really great offers, but the set-up of Shaune's league makes me go in a different manner.

    Normally, I would edge towards the troika of Votto, Stanton and Fernandez, looking for the youth and contracts that would help me this year and make me more than competitive in coming years with, in particular, Stanton and Fernandez both moving towards peak years, but also as the Marlins improve.

    However, with the league only allowing for three years before having to toss players back into the pool, I would opt for Miggy, Braun and Verlander as established pros in the throes of those peak years now.

    So, as much as I--as I guess we all do--love having those wonderful up-and-coming prospects, Shaune would be looking at Myers, Bautista, Cabrera, Braun and Verlander as the core of his keepers. Were that an NFBC format, that is a pair of first rounders, with possibly four second rounders, and that is a core that should be seriously competitive in 2014, and 2015.

    Furthermore, while it might be tough to pass on Fernandez and Stanton, they too would be back in the player pool in 2016 as established veterans, ideally as masters of their craft to the degree that Verlander and Cabrera are now.

    At least that is how I would approach this deal.

    Looking at a different Head-to-Head situation, I had to decide whether to keep Alex Gordon or Erick Aybar in my Scoresheet League this weekend. In most instances, that seems like a no-brainer since offensively, Gordon is a lot more productive.


    But, in the Scoresheet format, where defense counts, and with the Head-to-Head spin which only allows for playing nine hitters (DH is used) each game, making sure the entire roster is fleshed out is critical.

    Meaning the decision is not so much of a no-brainer as it seems.

    In the end, I did keep Gordon because of his run production skills, but, believe me, I am targeting Aybar as my first selection next Saturday, when we draft in the 24-team format. I just hope he is still out there (I know Gordon would not be).

    Note that if you have a question, feel free to tweet it to me @lawrmichaels

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