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Friday 22nd Sep 2017

Assorted Rants, Rumblings and Ruminations from the Mind of a “So-Called” Expert

This past Tuesday evening, I had the privilege of participating in the Mixed LABR draft. A few years back, Steve Gardner of USA Today added an on-line draft to the League of Baseball Reality family, joining the traditional American League and National League auctions, which will be occurring March 7 and 8.

Mixed LABR is a 15-team league with standard 23-man rosters with a six-man reserve. Important to note is we use a separate DL with no limits. This will become relevant in a bit. Trading is allowed and as opposed to some industry leagues, deals are commonplace.

I drew the lucky 13 spot. Complete results are available HERE. A review of my general strategy is HERE.

What follows is a pick-by-pick review with a snapshot of what I was thinking at the time.

1.13 Jose Altuve 2B, HOU: Before each draft, I do what we all do but no one wants to admit it. It’s OK, we’re all adults here, we’ve been doing it for years. I turn the lights down low, grab my laptop and mocksterbate. This time I dreamt about a pair of up-and-comers: Anthony Rendon and Anthony Rizzo. The only question was which one I wanted to do first. It turned out they both came out prematurely. I thought I was screwed. Hold on, here comes the climax. There’s a happy ending after all as Jose Altuve fell right into my lap. I know he’s small, but size isn’t everything. What he lacks in stature he makes up for with speed and durability. Not everyone would have taken Altuve in this spot, afraid he blew his wad last season and there was no way he could get it up to that level again. I’m OK with that. I don’t need him to do that again, what he did in a previous relationship is his business. I just need to lower my expectations and plan accordingly so I don’t get hurt down the line.

OK, enough with this tongue-in-cheek spewing. Altuve may not have been my first choice but part of a draft is being so intimate with the player pool that you can adjust to any situation. I had worked out some paths for just this scenario and here’s why I picked Altuve. As mentioned, this is a trading league with separate reserve and disabled lists. This means I can comfortably stash a prospect and still have ample reserve spots to manage pitching and cover the hitting with back-ups. It won’t be opening day but at some point, the Atlanta Braves are going to promote Jose Peraza and hand him the reins to either second base or center field. The day they do, I put Altuve on the market. I’m guessing ten minutes later, MLB.com’s Fred Zinkie will send me three offers from which to choose. The point is, I have already considered how to build a team starting with Altuve and embellished it with a possible trade from strength.

2.03 Hanley Ramirez LF, BOS: Twitter expected Josh Donaldson at this spot but I’m swinging for the fences. If I had it to do again, I may have taken Donaldson but I’m also doing a little diversification. I already have a few shares and although I expect huge things from the Bringer of Rain in Toronto, I’m concerned about the turf. So of course I opt for the durability and reliability of Hanley. Sigh. I know the risks but I’m playing to win and that’s Ramirez. Anecdotal, for sure, but David Ortiz and Ramirez have a father-son type relationship, so I expect attitude and effort isn’t going to be an issue.

3.13 Matt Kemp LF, SD: If you’re keeping score, you’re playing to win. Kemp is another play-to-win pick. I like the upside and am not shying away because of the park.

4.03 Yoenis Cespedes LF, DET: Love the lineup, and Comerica isn’t the monster park many perceive. It’s all about counting stats and Cespedes should have bountiful runs and RBI.

5.13 Kole Calhoun RF, LAA: The only surer thing is Batman escaping the clutches of the Joker or Penguin. If healthy, Calhoun could lead the league in runs with 20/10 well within his grasp.

6.03 Sonny Gray SP, OAK: This was a tough one. I could push pitching a little further but there’s someone I’m eyeing and the last thing I want is to get burned on both pitching and not getting my guy. This is the equivalent of nominating someone you want fairly early in an auction and either buying him so you know what you’re working with or letting him go. I opted to buy him.

7.13 Cody Allen RP, CLE: Most say there’s a big-four with respect to closers. Others contend it’s five with Dellin Betances joining Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Greg Holland and Craig Kimbrel. I agree that it’s a quintet; I just think they have the fifth musketeer wrong, it’s Allen.

8.03 Rusney Castillo CF, BOS: And here’s the mystery guy. Yes, there’s a logjam but I’m taking off my projection hat and putting on my drafting hat and have to believe Castillo is going to play nearly every day. He’ll be hitting down in the order, which will hurt him a bit, but Boston should turn the order over enough so it shouldn’t be that bad. I think Castillo has a Starling Marte ceiling with a Leonys Martin floor. My thoughts on ADP are expressed in the piece linked above. I’m playing to win.

9.13 Tyson Ross SP, SD: When you push pitching, you often need a little luck and I am very fortunate Ross fell to me as my SP2. Everyone knows about the park; it’s the quiet 200 whiffs that I covet.

10.03 Adam LaRoche 1B, CWS: LaRoche is a key component of the Altuve plan. I knew I’d need some solid but not overly pricey power from my corners and LaRoche is perfect.

11.13 Hector Rondon RP, CHC: I considered fading my second closer since this draft is so early and there are still a number of unsettled bullpens. But then I realized that other than Rotowire’s Jeff Erickson, who cleverly paired Chapman with Holland early, everyone else would have the same thought and some would follow through. The result would be a high demand for each emerging closer, so instead of getting involved with that, I went with a guy that demonstrated he belongs in the middle tier of closers.

12.03 Zack Wheeler SP, NYM: As psyched as I was with Ross, I was just as giddy with Wheeler. He may not get 200 punch outs, but it is certainly plausible. I can make up ratios later. I need to make up strikeouts now and Wheeler fits the bill.

13.13 Adam Lind 1B, MIL: Lind is in a similar spot as LaRoche except he may fall into a platoon. If that happens, I’ll see what kind of numbers he’s producing and make a decision. I’m OK with a couple of platoon hitters in a 15-team league, though admittedly I prefer to grab them later.

14.03 Ian Kennedy SP, SD: There were a lot of ways to go here – primarily addressing third base or catcher. There were still some receivers I liked on the board, but the guys with picks 14 and 15 didn’t have any catchers either. I figured the rest of the guys wouldn’t be looking for their second backstop and I’d pick before Bobby Colton at 14 or Mike Gianella/Bret Sayre at the wheel, so I should have my pick of what’s left and if one or both teams pushed catchers even more, I’d get two. As for third base, I didn’t like the inventory available at this spot and made peace with the fact that I’d be picking one from Trevor Plouffe, Nick Castellanos or Lonnie Chisenhall in a few rounds. That left me with another 200-K arm in Kennedy.

15.13 John Jaso C, TB: My friend and colleague Glenn Colton expressed some displeasure with this pick while covering the draft with fellow friend and colleague Rick Wolf for SiriusXM fantasy, citing the lack of upside. While I’m not sure I’d call it upside, the allure of this choice is Jaso will be the primary DH, hitting out of the two-hole for the Rays. Tropicana Field may not be a hitter’s paradise, but the rest of the AL East is rather kind to lefty swingers.

16.03 Rene Rivera C, TB: Not going to lie, I loathe this pick. In a vacuum, it’s not horrible. It’s just that I didn’t need to lock down my second catcher, but in my head the plan was for two and sure enough, a couple went at the wheel. I should have been better prepared for that but I wasn’t. Shame on me.

17.13 Michael Cuddyer RF, NYM: Not sexy but Cuddyer should play regularly and Citi Field was positive for home runs even before they moved the fences in…again.

18.03 Brad Boxberger RP, TB: The way to address ratios is with smart match-up plays while using relievers like Boxberger if the steaming options aren’t attractive. Plus, I may have drafted a third closer. My money is on Boxberger to emerge from the Tampa bullpen with the gig and maybe even keep it when Jake McGee returns.

19.13 Wily Peralta SP, MIL: Peralta isn’t my usual type as an SP5 since his home park mitigates the straight skills advantage incurred when working at home, but the overall potential was too good to ignore.

20.03 Dalton Pompey CF, TOR: Here’s where having already done a ton of drafts comes in handy. Pompey is in essence my first reserve. I know there will be a plethora of viable utility options in reserve. And if Pompey hits the ground running…literally…speed is really an asset, further paving the way for an Altuve trade even if I get sniped with Peraza.

21.13 Lonnie Chisenhall 3B, CLE: It’s really funny how things sometimes work out. Of the three hot corner candidates I mentioned earlier, I prefer Chisenhall. And, the other two were taken before him. As an aside, this is why offering choices in a trade is a great idea since the player your opponent selects may not be the one you like best.

22.03 A.J. Burnett SP, PIT: Now this is exactly the type of late starter I like to deploy: high strikeout potential and a great home park to play match-ups.

23.13 Jose Peraza 2B, ATL: I love it when a plan comes together.

24.03 Shane Greene SP, DET: I prefer National League streamers but Greene fits the description otherwise.

25.13 DJ LeMahieu 2B, COL: Someone has to play second until Peraza is ready.

26.03 Matt Joyce LF, LAA: And here’s my utility.

27.13 Kendall Graveman RP, OAK: If he wins a spot in the Oakland rotation, I have another spot-starter. If he doesn’t, I have my first drop.

28.03 Seth Smith LF, SEA: Just an alternative to Joyce.

29.13 Josh Rutledge 2B, LAA: What can I say, I’m still a believer and if he comes away with the second base job in Anaheim, he’ll earn the draft equivalent of an auction buck.


C: Jaso and Rivera
CI: LaRoche, Chisenhall, Lind
MI: Altuve, Ramirez, LeMahieu (Peraza, Rutledge)
OF: Kemp, Cespedes, Calhoun, Castillo, Cuddyer (Pompey)
UT: Joyce (Smith)
SP: Gray, Ross, Wheeler, Kennedy, Peralta, Burnett (Greene, Graveman)
RP: Allen, Rondon, Boxberger

An interesting scenario has developed in a league I administer. I think it’s important to note that while the person in charge of a league is referred to as the commissioner, my belief is their role should be as administrator and not to govern. The rules should run the league. The commissioner just makes sure everything is adhered to, along with setting things up, etc. In essence, once the first pitch is thrown, football is kicked off, puck is dropped or basketball is tipped off, the league runs itself.

The league in question is a 15-team mixed high stakes keeper league, run as a private satellite by the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. The entry is $1150, so I’m extremely sensitive to making sure everything is done by the book. There’s no trading, which means the opportunities for a lesser squad to rebuild are limited.

One way to play for the future is to not activate a minor league player and wait until you’re contending. Once active, you control the player for three years, so this way you’re not burning a season of eligibility while you’re out of the money.

Another means of focusing on next season is we use our FAAB budget to bid for draft spots – for both the regular and farm draft. The person with the first pick in the regular draft goes last in the Minors portion and vice versa. We auction off each spot with the winning bid subtracted from the original $1000 units. We’ve had owners bid as much as $950 for the first overall pick and almost that for the first minor league selection. The idea is you don’t care about this season, so having the full boat of FAAB doesn’t mean as much as securing a top keeper or prospect.

The catch to this bidding is the four teams that cashed the previous season are excluded from the slot auction. After the other 11 teams have bought their spot, we go in reverse order of finish to pick the remaining spots. Furthermore, the four teams lose FAAB equal to the average of the 11 winning bids. This number is usually between 200 and 300 units.

I didn’t set up this rule. I took over the league from the original commissioner. The intent is more from the commissioner’s perspective than from that of the player. It’s supposed to help prevent lesser teams from leaving as well as being a factor if we do need a replacement. The idea is the top teams are hindered since they don’t get to decide if they want to pay for their desired spot along with being saddled with less FAAB.

After last season, a long-time owner asked that we vote on this rule, wanting to eliminate the penalty of exclusion from the slot auction. So we’ve put it up to a vote.

Arguments have been stated both ways. We’re in fact in the process of tallying up the votes.

Here’s my conundrum. As an owner in the league, I’m not sure the rule is fair. When I cash, why should I be penalized? We can only keep players three years. More often than not, the better keepers on a cashing team are on expiring contracts, so their freeze list isn’t all that strong.

On the other hand, have you ever tried to recruit an owner to take over a crappy team? Now ask that owner to send you 1000 jellybeans. Yeah, it sucks.

This vote came up four years ago when I wasn’t running things. Back then, while I didn’t initiate the vote, I was fairly vocal backing it. And I still feel that way. I don’t believe the top teams should be penalized for their success.

I don’t want to come off as a mensch here, but my philosophy when it comes to running a league is the by-laws should be for the good of the league and not for the ease of administering. The rule is obviously doing its job as cashing teams feel penalized and others feel that’s a good thing. If it passed, as commissioner, I’m accepting the responsibility of finding alternate means to prevent teams from leaving and/or enticing new owners to join. It comes with the territory.

Tied into the vote is the rule would not go into effect this season. If it passes, winning teams would be part of the auction in 2016. I had a few teams contact me privately and confide that while they are in favor of the rule change, they are adamant that we delay its implantation until 2016, contending decisions were made with the present rule in place.

Obviously, this is standard protocol. That said, I had trouble believing major decisions were based on this rule and asked a couple to reconsider their positions. But they all insisted they made moves based on the rule being in place. Harkening back to my sensitivity that a league with an entry over 1000 clams needs to be run by-the-book, I made it clear that if the rule passed, we’d begin using it a year from now and not the impending slot auction.

I’m writing this because I suspect many leagues are in the process of gathering the band back together with the likelihood of having their own rules discussion and I thought it may be helpful to share how a long-standing high stakes league operates. Rules discussions are often tedious if not frustrating - but they're necessary. Inevitably, votes are cast for the good of the owner and not necessarily for the good of the league.

Everything is contextual, but it’s up to the commissioner to marry the two. I personally find eliminating the factor of making my job easier helps get to the meeting point quicker.

If the sole purpose of the rule is to make the commissioner’s job easier, then you need a new rule. Or, a new commissioner.

“How could they have taken Anthony Rizzo over Carlos Gomez?”

“They should have waited on Evan Gattis.”

“For a guy that preaches to ignore scarcity, Zola sure drafted scarcity early.”

“The Mastersball team is a train wreck.”

“Zola and Michaels reached for too many, especially early.”

And my personal favorite…

“Whoever Mastersball is, they must have been looking to make a name for themselves with some look-at-me picks.”

This is just a taste of the commentary posted on the web, said on the radio or uttered live at the recent Fantasy Sports Trade Association draft as pertains to the squad Lawr and I drafted. Upon reading and hearing all this, I’m going to be honest. After going back and reviewing the team, I like it even more now than before.

Lawr already did a pick-by-pick analysis. What follows is an explanation of the strategy we employed and why the aforementioned opinions are a bit myopic.

Before every draft where we partner, Lawr and I always go through the same routine. Well, actually this time it was a little different. We usually take a trek down the Strip and strategize over a pastrami sandwich at the Carnegie Deli. But this year, I donned some nicer clothes and since I usually consume half of my sandwich and wear the other half, I asked my mate if it was OK if we skipped Carnegie this time and lunch on something that has less of a chance of staining my tie.

The discussion, however, was the same as usual.

  • Derive an overall plan and narrow down our first round choice accordingly
  • Decide how we want to attack pitching
  • Go through the inventory looking for the players we agree will have a solid season
  • Neither of us are married to an overall plan, though we did agree to really focus on counting stats and pay less heed to batting average early. If necessary, we would address average later.

    We concurred not to take Clayton Kershaw if he fell to us at seven. We'd then approach pitching on a round-by round basis. The idea was to identify the pitchers we were willing to take if they made it to the next pick, otherwise we’d take a hitter. Even if this meant we were among the last to select an arm, we’re confident in our ability to draft then manage as necessary to get the pitching points needed to compete.

    The common names we rattled off included Yoenis Cespedes, George Springer, Kole Calhoun, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, A.J. Pollock, Rusney Castillo, Dalton Pompey and Angel Pagan. See a pattern? The shared list was almost exclusively outfielders. Furthermore, the majority had steals as part of their arsenal.

    Before proceeding any further, I need to take a step back and elucidate a bit where I’m personally at in terms of philosophy and draft theory. In full disclosure, I didn’t discuss this directly with Lawr since I knew he would be on board with it and ultimately we would be landing at the same place - my path being more analytical with his employing more subjective views sprinkled with Zen.

    The bottom line is I didn’t really care to try to gauge the market and time the room on most of our picks. The only available average draft position (ADP) comes from the National Fantasy Baseball Championship’s early leagues, which are all of the 15-team, 50-player draft-and-hold variety. The FSTA league has 13 teams with trading, albeit limited to one deal with each team.

    Instead, I used the results from a process I call graph-a-draft. (Note – I don’t use the term value anymore, substituting the more apropos word potential). By taking the potential of each player and assigning it to a corresponding draft spot from top to bottom, you can get a rough idea of the production expected from each spot. By means of example, when making the 100th pick of a draft, ideally the players would be in my top-100.

    There are exceptions as what’s most important is the intrinsic potential of the player, which is a function of team construct and plan for in-season management. For instance, if you draft Jose Altuve, then Dee Gordon’s intrinsic value to your team is diminished greatly. If you plan on liberally streaming starting pitchers with favorable home match-ups, someone like Tyson Ross is more useful than where his rank places him based on both home and away games.

    I’m not naïve. I’d be a fool if I didn’t take the market into consideration. But quite frankly, I think too many are too much of a slave to how they perceive the market. Picks aren’t made in a vacuum. The idea is to finish the draft with the squad with the most potential. Looking for the best value (arghh) at each turn is not necessarily the way to go about the process. As such, my primary concern isn’t playing cat-and-mouse or chicken with my competitors but rather working my way towards a goal by choosing players I expect to out-produce the expectation defined by their draft spot. I don’t care if I could have waited since I plan on drafting another edge at that later spot as well. I see no advantage of taking a player the market likes more than me to push a player I like into a lower draft spot. What if someone else takes the player? Now I have forfeited the chance to gain an edge with the earlier pick while in turn letting an opponent get a big edge with that player. No thanks. I’d rather focus on what I can control and that’s taking a player at every turn that exceeds that spot’s expectation regardless if I possibly could have waited.

    With that as a backdrop, let’s circle back to Lawr and I discussing our first pick. We were fairly certain that the first six picks would be Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt, Giancarlo Stanton, Kershaw and Jose Abreu in some order – and we were correct. That meant we had to at least broach the possibility of rolling the dice Miguel Cabrera comes back somewhat early and is as effective as normal. We mutually opted to pass. That left Gomez, Adam Jones, Rizzo and Edwin Encarnacion as viable options. Now remember:

  • We want to focus on counting stats
  • There are a plethora of speedy outfielders we both covet
  • We decided to cross off the outfielders, desiring to leave as many spots open as possible, rendering Rizzo or Encarnacion as the candidates. We favored the youth and upside of Rizzo, so unless something unexpected occurred, we were fully prepared to initialize our squad with the Cubs’ first baseman.

    What follows is a table displaying our picks and where I ranked them at the time of selection. The rest of the discussion will refer to this table.

    Round Pick Rank Diff
    1 Rizzo, Anthony 7 17 -10
    2 Donaldson, Josh 20 21 -1
    3 Springer, George 33 28 5
    4 Cespedes, Yoenis 46 23 23
    5 Gattis, Evan 59 13 46
    6 Calhoun, Kole 72 33 39
    7 Wong, Kolten 85 79 6
    8 Melancon, Mark 98 88 10
    9 Cashner, Andrew 111 105 6
    10 Martin, Leonys 124 73 51
    11 Ventura, Yordano 137 183 -46
    12 Sanchez, Anibal 150 132 18
    13 Smyly, Drew 163 130 33
    14 Aybar, Erick 176 118 58
    15 Jaso, John 189 66 123
    16 Duffy, Danny 202 215 -13
    17 Boxberger, Brad 215 154 61
    18 Pompey, Dalton 228 156 72
    19 Reddick, Josh 241 187 54
    19 Morse, Michael 254 279 -25
    20 Peavy, Jake 267 237 30
    21 Kazmir, Scott 280 213 67
    22 Pagan, Angel 293 227 66
    23 Tillman, Chris 306 180 126
    24 Heaney, Andrew 319 246 73
    25 Semien, Marcus 332 253 79
    26 Napoli, Mike 345 421 -76
    27 Quackenbush, Kevin 358 304 54
    28 Panik, Joe 371 251 120
    29 Jones, Garrett 384 362 22

    Let’s concentrate on the questionable picks according to the table. The explanations will call into play the philosophy and game theory explained earlier.

    We took a ton of flak for Rizzo and according to the table it may be deserved. But that’s looking at things in a vacuum. Sure, ten players were ranked ahead of Rizzo with reference to the draft spot but three of them were pitchers and three more catchers (more in a minute), so we’re now taking my 11th best non-catcher or pitcher in the 7th spot which softens but doesn’t eliminate the blow. More importantly, Rizzo doesn’t take away a valuable outfield spot and should produce a ton of homers, RBI and runs. He fits the team construct without sacrificing the opportunity cost of taking an outfielder.

    Speaking of which, the plan requires that we in fact grabbed a bunch of the outfielders we yearned after at an efficient cost. Well, look at that. Springer, Cespedes, Calhoun, Martin and Pompey were all selected at a potential profit according to my ranks.

    The pick that raised even more eyebrows than Rizzo was Gattis in the fifth. There are several factors in play here. Even before the deal to Houston, I had Gattis behind only Buster Posey and Jonathan Lucroy at the receiver spot, figuring on about 30 homers. Without going too deep into the gory details, my rankings entail looking at replacement by position and the catcher bump this season is huge. Chances are much of the consternation over this pick was rooted in valuation with some differences in production. Though, talking to others at the draft table, many actually projected Gattis for mid-30 bombs.

    As mentioned, not only did I not have a feel for where the market slotted Gattis, even if I did I don’t care. He’s my 13th ranked overall player. Lawr and I talked about it and decided since Gattis was the third backstop on our list, we would draft him the pick after Lucroy was drafted, feeling fairly certain he would follow Posey off the board. Lucroy went early in the fifth, so we jumped on Gattis. Could we have waited? Perhaps, but we would have taken Calhoun in his stead, the player we got next. Early or not, Gattis provides us with considerable potential profit while really boosting the counting stats we drool over.

    The next player drafted at a perceived loss is Yordano Ventura. Some of this is my conservative projection but regardless, the reasoning is the same. We faded pitching. It wasn’t by design but no satisfactory arms were there for us when we were on the clock. As such, it was necessary to take a hurler with serious upside. Ventura was the most attractive option so we jumped on him. A static ranking does not reflect downside, risk and potential upside. We felt we needed to draft the upside.

    Ironically, the next player with a negative difference is Ventura’s teammate, Danny Duffy. One way to mitigate the lack of an ace is to play the match-up game with the back end of your fantasy staff. This means avoiding the poor starts so the stats actually added to your team total are better than projected. Kauffman Stadium actually inflates runs a tad but it is death to home runs, which is Duffy’s primary crutch, hence his numbers should benefit from home tilts.

    A couple other players, Michael Morse and Mike Napoli, were taken at an apparent loss. Both are power hitting corner infielders, fitting the team mold, but both also have injury concerns. The thing is, if they’re hurt, we’ll backfill with a similar player. This is another weakness of static ranks – not accounting for the replacement stats when the original player is hurt.

    Are Lawr and I going to recapture the title we won in 2013? Who knows, it’s still January. But I feel very good about our chances irrespective of how others may think.

    That’s because Lawr and I did it our way.

    I probably shouldn’t do this. I probably should stop typing and go back to writing profiles for the Platinum subscribers. But, it appears as though I’m going to keep going.

    In full disclosure, I am a card-carrying member of Patriot’s Nation. I’ve been to two of their Super Bowls: Carolina in Houston and the first one against the Giants in Glendale. I had tickets to a third but a laboratory accident the week of the game prevented me from making the trip to New Orleans to witness the victory over St. Louis. I’ve been to numerous playoff games including the Tuck game and Ty Law picking off Peyton Manning to secure the AFC Championship.

    I believe the New England Patriots are innocent. I don’t think they cheated against the Colts. I believe Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

    You think I’m nuts. You think I’m a naïve fanboy with myopic vision, not willing to admit my team is a bunch of cheaters. You think Belichick and Brady are liars.

    But here’s the deal. I’m a fan of the team and I WANT them to be innocent. Truth be told? I have no freaking clue.

    On the other hand, you aren’t a fan of the team. You are still recalling Spygate. You’re sick of New England always being in the playoffs. You are turned off by the smug nature of Brady and the mesh of aloofness and cockiness displayed by Belichick. You WANT them to be guilty. Truth be told? You have no freaking clue either.

    The analogies aren’t perfect but this reminds me of the fantasy league owner that votes against a rules change that benefits the league but hurts their team or vetoes a fair trade because their team is negatively affected.

    This incident is simply another example of passing judgment without knowing the facts on either side. It’s a fixture in society, I get that. I just don’t happen to like it. It’s not even innocent until proven guilty. It’s drawing a conclusion without knowing all the facts.

    It’s probably the scientist in me. Imagine if research was conducted on hunches. Sure, maybe that’s how experiments may begin, but do you want your physician subscribing a medication that he thinks may work?

    Another societal element is the need for rooting for the white hat and against the black hat. It’s bred into our DNA. It’s why soap operas are so popular. It’s why cop and detective shows dominate prime time. Heck, it’s why professional wrestling is so huge, not to mention reality TV in general. Even a show like "Survivor" thrives off that mentality. Most want the good guy to win. The entire science fiction and superhero genres are based off this principle. We’re brought up to root for good to prevail over evil. We yearn for that narrative or else the time spent feels unfulfilling. We’re not satisfied.

    I’m guilty of this with respect to watching the Olympics. While I was alive during the Cold War, I was too young to really appreciate what was happening. But in the ‘70s, I was old enough to know the Russians were evil. I didn’t care about speed skating or the luge. I didn’t know what a meter was, let alone 400 of them. But by golly, so long as we kicked the Russian’s ass I was happy. Once we became buddy-buddy with them, the Olympics lost much of their luster and to this day I barely watch.

    I do realize there’s a significant faction of black hats out there that root for the dark side, and that’s fine. But, it is the minority and it’s more for fun than anything else.

    I get it. The Patriots are the bad guys and in order for the narrative to work best, you need them to be cheaters. And in order for me to root for them without feeling guilty, I need them to be innocent.

    But again, neither of us really know the truth.

    No, you don’t.

    And neither do I.

    Back to the scientist thing. I put much of the blame on the NFL. Belichick alluded to some of the processes whereby footballs are tested, but even the steps he described are seriously lacking.

    I spent 20 years in chemical manufacturing, a goodly number of them in pharmaceuticals where everything was done according to an approved Standard Operating Procedure. The manner the NFL handles the footballs is a joke. There should be no controversy. Either they were compliant or they weren’t. But the proper testing measures are not in place.

    Was the pressure gauge calibrated? What’s the error associated with the gauge? What were the exact conditions where the testing took place? Did the footballs sit for the requisite time needed to equilibrate in the testing conditions? Are there p.s.i. specifications relative to that specific temperature? Were the readings taken at a specified (and consistent) time before kickoff?

    Was all this done by an operator and checked by a reviewer? Was it written down?

    Pharma has a saying that is drilled into everyone’s head – IF IT ISN’T WRITTEN DOWN IT NEVER HAPPENED.

    Any violation along the way results in a deviation being filed. If checking footballs were medication, they’d never make it out of the manufacturing stage.

    This is only half the story. What’s the rule during the game – do balls have to maintain a specific p.s.i.? Do they need to be a certain level after the game?

    There’s a good chance I’m guilty of what I’m railing against by jumping to a conclusion – perhaps all this is in place and I don’t know all the facts. I just find it curious we haven’t heard about the results of the tests run on the Indianapolis footballs. Were they inflated to 13.5 so a loss keeps them in range? If all this was on record, someone would have reported it.

    I know, at this point you’re even more pissed that I’m making excuses. Of course, Brady should have known the ball was different. Ask Mark Brunell.

    Then why didn’t the refs notice it?

    For every circumstantial reason you can come up with, I can counter.

    My favorite reason cited for the Patriots guilt is they don’t fumble. There are some studies floating around saying how remarkable it is that the Patriots fall so far outside the bell curve of random distribution with respect to fumbling. The conclusion is there has to be a reason. So of course, the reason is softer balls are easier to handle so they’ll fumble less. It can’t be that the team is coached not to fumble and players that do find their butt on the bench. The same guy bitching that Belichick benches guys like Stevan Ridley when they fumble are calling the team cheaters because they don't fumble.

    You say they’ve cheated before. I say do you really think they’d put themselves in a position to be caught again? Will the defense never have a chance to handle the football and notice it was softer?

    You want them to be guilty.

    I want them to be innocent.

    Neither of us knows the truth.

    I’ll be honest. This time of year is just another couple of weeks for me. It’s not that I’m against being festive or even feeling a bit melancholy that my parents are no longer with us. These days are just no different for me, that’s all.

    Though, there is something about the week between Christmas and New Year’s that drives me goofy. I can’t stand all the end-of-the-year reviews or top-ten-of-the-year lists. I was here, I lived through it. If I cared in the first place and it was worth remembering, I still remember it.

    I don’t need to be reminded about the top ten news stories or the ten most influential people. I don’t care to rehash the ten most exciting Monday Night Raw moments or even the top ten best defensive plays of the 2014 MLB season. And, I certainly don’t want to hear the top ten songs of 2014 or see the top ten nude movie scenes.

    OK, I can use a refresher here and there.

    So as a means to get even with everyone that feels the need to subject us to the year in review (I’m looking at everyone that opted to make public the presentation Facebook put together for all their users), I’m going to present my best non-baseball tweets from 2014.

    Some fat guy wearing a red suit just came out of my chimney, saw a plate of potato latkes and glass of milk and said, "sorry, wrong address"

    I don’t have a chimney and I realize sour cream and not milk is the preferred dairy accompaniment but I’m willing to fib for a chuckle.

    Does anyone know the protocol for live tweeting a Bar Mitzvah rehearsal?

    For those unaware, cell phones aren’t allowed in a synagogue so this employs a little irony to take a shot at those who feel they need to live tweet their entire day.

    OK, let me get this straight. A fictional movie has been pulled from five theater chains but the Thursday night football game is still on?

    For the record, this was Tennessee versus Jacksonville, which turned out to be a decent game so the joke is on me.

    Holy cow is gas cheap! I just drove around for 3 hours just so I could fill up my tank.

    Those who know me, know the truth. I wasn’t just driving around, I was lost.

    This whole eating healthy thing would be so much easier if someone invented a vegetable that tasted like pizza....and another like chocolate

    You’ll soon notice a common theme.

    Food should either be universally liked or easy to pick out of a dish. Peas are both gross and a pain in the ass to completely remove.

    I admit, I often dine with those allegedly healthy microwave dinners. Five or six of them and I’m full (remember that fib thing).

    Developing a serious mid-life crush on Liz Phair....

    There’s no attempt at humor or social commentary here. She’s seriously adorable in a hot and sultry way. As opposed to Nell from NCIS LA who’s incredibly adorable in a girl-next-door sort of way.

    There has to be a way for me to stop ruining keyboards by getting food stuck under the keys. I mean, other than not eating over my keyboard.

    I’ve been known to snack on what’s under the space bar.

    Retweet this if you feel trolling for retweets is cool. Favorite if you think it is self-serving and disingenuous.

    If you’re not familiar with Twitter, people can choose to follow you. For some, followers are a way of keeping score. They feel like they’re a better person because they have more followers. It’s really not important to me. When I hang out with my friends, we don’t whip out our Twitter followers to see who has the biggest….following. Anyway, having an entry retweeted or favorited exposes you to the followers of the person that retweeted or favorited and this often results in more followers. Some will troll for followers by posing a question in the above manner.

    Have I mentioned my Twitter handle is @ToddZola?

    I wonder how long being a thing will be a thing....

    See what I did there?

    Vote NO on allowing waving of political signs at busy intersections and hanging over a bridge on a busy road.

    I don’t often offer political or social commentary but when I do, I reserve it for the most important issues.

    Really not sure I want to exist in a society in which cray cray has become an accepted part of its lexicon.

    And while we’re at it, who decided that prolly is an acceptable proxy for probably? Is probably really that hard to spell? You’re saving two freaking keystrokes. That’s just cray cray.

    I don't have a couch because I can rarely sit there. But on those occasions I could, I really wish I had a couch.

    For those concerned, since this tweet, I have purchased a nice recliner (that I’ve sat in all of about six times since I bought it four months ago).

    I'm a grown-ass man but that little blonde kid in the Toaster Strudel commercials creeps the shit out of me.

    toaster-strudel-now-with-more-fruitI am seriously not kidding. The little SOB freaks the hell out of me. I haven’t had the heebee-jeebies like that since the doll in Magic with Anthony Hopkins.

    The problem with cleaning your glasses if you really need glasses is you can't tell if they're clean, without, you know, your glasses.

    Sometimes I tailor my tweets to those who smoke weed. You know, for medicinal purposes.

     The only thing that bothers me more than being called an expert is being called an "expert."

    Actually, the use of quotation marks when you’re not actually denoting a quote bothers me. It’s as if you’re too much of a “wuss” and “hiding behind” the words as if you’re not really "saying" them. Kind of like a ventriloquist getting away with some stuff he wouldn’t say directly but can do it through the dummy. If you want to say something, SAY IT. Don’t pretend using quotes absolves you from accountability or softens the blow.

    If fruit were always as good as it is right now I'd eat more fruit. My problem is pizza is always good.

    This was mid-summer. I still don’t understand why there isn’t a country somewhere that can grow a decent peach, plum or nectarine during our winter. It’s summer somewhere, right?

    White chocolate is just a way of tricking fat people into eating vanilla

    Be honest, if you have the option of choosing regular chocolate or that white crap, you’re going brown every time.

    I'm pretty sure we can knock off half the national debt if supermarkets put more items into those plastic bags.

    And not just that, they double bag some stuff for no reason.

    Even Bobby McFerrin has had enough of Pharrell Williams' "Happy"

    Anyone that tells me “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” will have their account disconnected.

    So, is "now with kale" really supposed to entice me to want to try it?

    I actually forget what this was in reference to, I just don’t get how adding kale makes anything better. Change that to bacon and we’ll talk.

    Looking forward to spending a week in New York City. Just hope I can find somewhere to get a good bagel and decent slice of pizza.

    Don’t worry, I did.

    Fat people get made fun of for drinking diet soda. Well, invent 1-calorie pizza and I promise we'd eat that too.

    It can be inferred by now that I eat a lot of pizza. Not saying whether I do or don’t, but when I say I haven’t had a slice for awhile, that usually means since breakfast (re: fib = giggle). But, you’ll be happy to know I make it a point to include at least one vegetable on every slice (which is actually mostly true).

    If you're going to sit in one of the airport gate chairs where you can charge something, you know...CHARGE SOMETHING!!!!!

    Just another reason being allowed to carry a stun gun should be legal.

    I think I’ve taken enough of your time. Thanks for your indulgence and have a great new year.

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