Tuesday, December 23, 2008

'Tis the season for giving

In the spirit of Christmas, I figured that it was time to give a gift on this blog. But not just any gift. Yes, you guessed it… it’s time for another prestigious award.

I usually steer clear of politics on this blog, so please forgive me as I give a brief background for this award. Back in 2007, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton launched her campaign to become the first woman elected President of the United States. She began her campaign letting the voters in our great country know that she wanted to have a “conversation” with us. She wanted us, as Americans, to explore ideas together and have an open and honest dialogue.

While Senator Clinton’s campaign for president ultimately fell short, her conversation continues to this day. Last month, President-elect Barack Obama nominated Clinton to be U.S. Secretary of State where she will be able to continue this conversation all around the globe.

The My Baseball Fantasy blog recognizes Senator Hillary Clinton as our country’s soon-to-be top diplomat who, above all else, is committed to the conversation and just so happens to be a lifelong Yankees fan, too. For these reasons, and others, I am proud to unveil the most prestigious award this blog has ever bestowed upon a reader: “The Hillary Clinton Conversation Award.”


The “Hillary Clinton Conversation Award” (or “Hillary” for short) goes to reader who, over the course of the year, adds the most to the baseball conversation on this blog. While this award favors quality over quantity, a poster’s entire body of work (for that year) is considered.

Deciding who would win the Hillary this year was an extremely difficult task. Having never done this before, I first tried various subjective methods to calculate points and kept getting a different winner each time. As such, I was essentially stuck with a four-way tie. With it being Christmas and all, I thought that would actually be a nice story—just give the first-ever Hillary to all four of my readers. But then I thought, “No, this award needs to have some integrity.”

So how to break the tie?

Just when all seemed hopeless, I remembered a post of mine from late July. It was titled, “What if?” In it, I pondered what a regular MLB fan should do if they just so happened to be in the dugout when a bench-clearing brawl breaks out. I was careful not to say too much in the post, because I wanted to see how readers would connect the dots on their own.

In reality, the situation I described in the “What if” post gives the reader only two choices: Stay in the dugout and break from the brotherhood—a dishonor so disgraceful that your entire experience would be wrecked; or save face and go out there and get your butt totally kicked in.

Now some people might say, “I’ll go out there and really hold my own!” Well, not so fast. First off, remember that you’re a regular fan. MLB players are professional athletes, and regular fans are not. Even the journeymen are professional athletes. Just because a guy has a .216 batting average or a 6.83 ERA doesn’t mean you could “hold your own” with them in a fight. You’d get your ass kicked. Badly.

On the other hand, others might say, "I'd just stay in the dugout." Well, okay, you'd only be breaking the most sacred of unwritten sports rules: Protect your teammates.

So as I’m pondering this dilemma, a possible (albeit ugly) solution does come to mind. During these bench-clearing brawls, it’s not just MLB players who join the melee. It’s coaches, too; and some of those guys are really getting up there in years. I then remembered the time a few years back when Don Zimmer charged Pedro Martinez who, in self defense, pushed an already stumbling Zimmer down to the ground. (Martinez caught hell for that in the media, but I honestly always thought Zimmer was lucky that nothing worse happened to him.) In any case, as I was writing the “What if” post I thought to myself, “Well, if I were ever in one of those brawls, my best bet would be to find a guy like Zimmer…”


I finished my post by posing this question to the readers: “My question to you, the regular fan sitting in the dugout, is this: What would you do and why?”

Lo and behold, Chairman Gau gave a concise answer that still managed to touch on all of the major themes that I had been considering. Here are his golden words verbatim:

“I think that I go out there, swinging, and go down in infamy. Maybe go find Don Zimmer or some other old dude.”

So Chairman Gau, with your countless insights into the game of baseball, off-color humor, and willingness to admit that in an MLB brawl your best shot at respectability would be to find Don Zimmer, you have contributed to the conversation on this blog more than any of the other six billion people on this planet. As such, My Baseball Fantasy proudly presents you with "The 2008 Hillary Clinton Conversation Award."

Congratulations, Chairman Gau!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kerry Wood If He Could

It seems like it was yesterday. But it was really a decade ago. Kerry Wood striking out 20 Astros at Wrigley Field on his way to winning Rookie of the Year. Back then, it seemed like the sky was the limit for his potential. But as it turned out, he never once won 15 games in a season.

I remember Wood being asked about his 20-strikeout game on the tenth anniversary of it. He replied that he does watch it from time to time, such as when a friend will call him and say it's on ESPN Classic or something like that. One of the things that Wood said he notices about that game is how big the strike zone was. (Hmm... I'll keep that in mind the next time I hear of a pitcher striking out 20 major league batters in 9 innings.)

The moment for which I'll most remember Wood's time with the Cubs was when he hit the game-tying 3-run homer in Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS against the Marlins. Unfortunately, his pitching arm had reached its limit for that season, and he couldn't quite carry the Cubs into the World Series. He gave it his all, though.

Sadly, injuries bogged down his Cub career. For me, Wood's low point came when he was involved in criticizing Steve Stone and the media a few years ago during spring training. I remember Stoney's response was, "We already know that Kerry's mouth is in shape. The question is whether or not his arm is."

Sometimes the truth hurts.

From a business perspective, I can see why Hendry is letting Wood go. Yeah, he had a great season last year, but his history of injuries is still looming. That, coupled with the emergence of Carlos Marmol, meant that Wood wouldn't get the "big bucks" from the Cubs. Even though Wood says he would have accepted a one year deal with the Cubs, it seems that the organization is comfortable turning the page.

It's just another reminder that major league baseball is a business. We'll see where Wood ends up. The crazy thing is that he could go on to become one of the game's top closers over the next five years. Wouldn't that be just like the Cubs?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Still here

Yes, this blog is still alive. I'm in the process of moving, so I don't have Internet at home right now...

Here are a few quick baseball thoughts:
  • If Carlos Quentin, Jose Contreras, and Scott Linebrink hadn't been injured near the end of the season, then the White Sox would have been a more formidable playoff team. (But the Rays were probably still better.)
  • Jim Hendry overpaid for both Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome. However, I'm more concerned about the Cubs' farm system. I'm not sure how I feel about Hendry's 4-year extension. Yes, he built the first Cubs team to make the playoffs in back-to-back years, but I don't know that I would say the future is "bright" for this team. How Hendry handles Ryan Dempster's contract will be an interesting sign of things to come. (My view: Don't overpay for Dempster.) And the Cubs need to have better "top prospects" than Felix Pie in their farm system--especially when it comes to pitching.
  • I don't blame Lou Piniella at all for the the Cubs' failures in the previous two playoffs. Last year he took a lot of heat for pulling Zambrano out of the game "too early." In my view, Piniella was trying to win the World Series, not trying to ride Zambrano's arm off in the first game of the playoffs just "to get there." It's a team game, and since all of Zambrano's teammates were stinking it up against Arizona, they got swept. Regarding the series against the Dodgers this year, people were upset that Piniella batted Fukodome second in Game 1 and played him at all in Game 2. Well, which other left-handed bat was he supposed to put in the lineup?
  • As for the Rays and Phillies, these are the two teams that I wanted to see in the World Series if it couldn't be Chicago. I'd prefer to see the Phillies win just because those players have been around longer. But if the Rays win it, well, that would certainly make for a nice story.
  • Congrats to C-Lauff for winning the UPL. In a strange bit of irony, I'm the one who ended up find out "how fifth place taste."

Okay, that's all for now; and yes, we'll have hot stove on this blog. It wouldn't be a true baseball blog without it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Singin' the Cubbie Blues

It might take another hundred years, but some day Eddie Vedder will be right.



(BTW, I always pictured this song as being sung by depressed, drunk Cubs fans after yet another loss. And besides, this song would lose its charm if the Cubs actually did go all the way.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What a game


Yeah, I'm glad that the Sox won tonight. But even better, it's how they did it. What a game. A total team effort.

And one other thing. Back when the Sox first traded for Ken Griffey Jr., I was curious as to how things would play out. I didn't expect him to bat .290 and play a Gold Glove center field, but I was hoping that he could at least contribute--and maybe even make a difference in a big game.

Griffey's numbers haven't been great, and he doesn't play center the way he used to. But it's been enjoyable to see him have fun playing for the Sox these past few months; and, oh by the way, he did help make the difference tonight.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Coolstandings

Earlier this year I noticed a new feature in ESPN's MLB standings. In the last few columns they started showing what appeared to be percentages showing the likelihood that the team would win their division, the wild card, or make the playoffs in general. Today I finally checked out what these Coolstandings mean.

And for what it's worth, back on July 5th Coolstandings had these five teams as the most likely to finish the season in the playoffs:

TEAM POFF
Chicago Cubs 82.6
Philadelphia Phillies 79.0
Tampa Bay Rays 77.8
Chicago White Sox 68.9
Boston Red Sox 67.6

I imagine many baseball fans have already read about Coolstandings, but if you haven't, then you might be interested in checking it out.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Hey Chicago, whaddya say?"

I didn't make it to a Cubs or Sox game this season. However, I've been thinking back to the Cubs game I attended last year in July. It was an exciting game and the Cubs beat the Astros by a run. At the end of the game, though, something happened that seemed surprisingly natural, yet disturbingly unfamiliar.

Everyone in Wrigley was singing, "Go Cubs Go."

It seemed natural in the sense that everyone knew the routine, belting out the song in a celebratory bliss. For those who don't know the lyrics, the chorus goes like this:

Go Cubs Go!
GO CUBS GO!
Hey Chicago, whaddya say?
The Cubs are going to win today!

Granted, it seemed like a safe song to play AFTER a win, although maybe a bit sappy. However, it was a catchy tune and I still distinctly remember the crowd being happy, singing and watching as their players in the home whites and Cubbie blue looked alive, giving high fives all around on the bright green diamond.

But what bothered me was that I had never heard the song before. Yes, this proves I'm not the biggest Cub fan in the world, but still, had I been living under a rock? Where did this song come from? Had I heard it before, only to have forgotten?

I asked a few of my friends who also were at the game, and the answers I got varied. Some were indifferent to the question, whereas others had insisted they had heard it at the end of games before. At that point I dropped the issue.

Until a few months ago.

Late at night I was listening to some sports radio which, if it's not a game that time of night, is usually brutal. Some host whom I likely feel sorry for is trying to keep things interesting while begging for phone calls before each commercial break. Of course, once somebody calls in, it tends to be some idiot asking why Lou Piniella doesn't drop a slumping Derrek Lee down to the six hole or what Kenny Williams could get in return by trading a slumping Jim Thome. My favorites are when little league coaches explain how certain advice they gave their kids worked wonders, and it's that same advice this pro team needs to hear. (I know, I know, I'm complicit in this stupidity for listening.)

But one night somebody called in to ask the host, "When did they start playing that Go Cubs Go song after Cubs' wins?"

In all my years of listening to sports talk radio, I've never heard a more interesting question. So I stopped whatever it was I was doing, and I listened very carefully for the host's answer.

And his answer was: "You know, I've been wondering the same thing."

Seeing an opportunity to salvage his show for the night, the host then encouraged people to call in with the answer. And call they did.

The first guy claimed that it started this year (2008). However, even I knew that was wrong, because I had heard it with my own ears in July 2007.

So the next caller came in and he had a different story, and so did the next. There were many different opinions, but finally a trend started to appear.

One of the callers said the song was actually fairly old, possibly dating to the 1980's, and several callers verified that the song had often been blared in the streets near Wrigley during the 2003 playoffs. After that, things became a bit murkier. But one guy claimed that he was a season ticket holder, and he knew that the song really started to gain traction as the tune to be played in Wrigley after a Cubs' win shortly after the Carlo Zambrano vs. Michael Barrett fight last year. According to this Cub fan, it was during a Cubs' hot streak last July when this tradition started to form.

Which, as it turns out, is the same month that I first heard the song.

For whatever reason, today I finally Googled the song. Like so many things in life, you have to understand the way things were before you can understand the way things are. How could a Cubs' song from the 80's pop out of nowhere and become entrenched in a new Wrigley Field tradition? And what's with those sappy, optimistic lyrics?

Before there was a Steve Bartman, there was a Steve Goodman. Back in 1981, just in his early 30's, Steve Goodman had already been living with leukemia for more than a decade. He was a lifelong Cubs' fan and, back in those days, the Cubs really sucked. They hadn't been over .500 in nearly a decade, and in 1980 they lost over 60% of their games while finishing dead last. So Goodman, a (2-time Grammy-winning) singer and songwriter facing terminal cancer, decided that it was finally time to tell it like it was. He wrote a song called "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request." While the lyrics spoke of a person who loved the Cubs, they also spoke honestly (and humorously) about the ineptitude of that same team. Here's an excerpt:

When I was a boy, they were my pride and joy
But now they only bring fatigue
To the home of the brave, the land of the free
And the doormat of the National League

His voice was pretty good, his words poetic, and Goodman's song started to get a lot of attention. But one person hated the song: the new Cubs' general manager, Dallas Green. At the time, the Cubs were trying to ditch the "lovable loser" label. They wanted to be about winning, and Dallas Green didn't like the idea of Cubs' fans embracing this song. Reportedly, Green even said that Steve Goodman was no fan of the Cubs.

Before the 1984 season, Dan Fabian, program director and head of promotions for WGN radio, set out to find a new opening theme for the Cubs' radio broadcasts. His first thought was to get Jimmy Buffett, a Cubs' fan, to re-do "Margaritaville" as "Wrigleyville." But then he heard an interview with Steve Goodman, and he had a new idea...

Goodman agreed to Fabian's request, and that's when the song "Go Cubs Go" was born. Here's an excerpt from a Chicago Tribune article talking about the song's creation:

Among the backup vocalists on the refrain are former players Gary Matthews, Thad Bosley, Jay Johnstone, Jody Davis and Keith Moreland -- dubbed "The Chicago Cubs Chorus" on the label.
Moreland, at it happens, shows up in the lyrics of Goodman's other notable baseball song, "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request," dropping a "routine fly" at the "ivy-covered burial ground."
As it turned out, the Cubs finally started winning again in 1984, the first season that "Go Cubs Go" opened up the radio broadcasts. While the Cubs did go on to win the National League East Division that season, Goodman died just a few days before it actually happened. During Goodman's 36 years, he never saw the Cubs even make the playoffs.

After 1984, the Cubs started to taper off again, and finally in 1988 "Go Cubs Go" was replaced by a Beach Boys song ("Here Come The Cubs"). Although, "Go Cubs Go" was still occasionally played at Wrigley.

It wasn't until last July, nearly 20 years after it had been replaced on the radio broadcasts, that "Go Cubs Go" became a permanent fixture at Wrigley Field after Cubs' victories.

Speaking of Cubs' victories, they clinched a playoff spot today. It also happens to be exactly 24 years after Steve Goodman's passing.

And you know what? Goodman's "Go Cubs Go" song is as popular - and true - as ever.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Not my year

For a while there it seemed like 2nd place was in reach, but that's a tall order now:
Rank
Team Points Pts Change Waiver Moves
1.
IamJabrone 120 -4 8 58
2.
IStillSuckCurveballs 107.5 -1 9 17
3.
O.N. Thugs 106 -0.5 12 68
4.
TheJimmyDixLongballs 101 2 7 32
5.
Milwaukee Whiffers 87.5 -1 4 22
6.
'90 Reds 86.5 0 2 47
7.
Black Sox 66 0.5 6 28
8.
Phatsnapper 62 -1.5 1 9
9.
Muddy Mud Skippers 57 1.5 3 12
10.
Cheeseheads 55.5 -0.5 5 23
11.
Westy's Slugs 48 5.5 11 69
12.
Benver Droncos 39 -1 10 42

My latest indignity, aside from being 15 minutes late in putting James Shields into my starting lineup, was Chris Young's near perfect game yesterday (one week after I finally dropped him).

Making matters worse, rumor has it that C-Lauff (IamJabrone) is getting ready to post a rap video he cut while in Maui, supposedly titled, "Got First Place," where he's ripped off the melody to Lil' Wayne's "Got Money." C-Lauff's allegedly all over the place, from frolicking on sandy beaches and splashing in the ocean, to sitting in night club jacuzzis surrounded by bikini-clad bunnies, all while iced out, sipping champagne, bragging about his fantasy baseball extravagances while still getting in his personal shots at all of his UPL haters.

I personally won't be watching that.

Oh well, I guess now that the writing is on the wall, it's time for me to join in that time-honored tradition most of us have this time of year in the UPL Baseball: Start colluding to do everything possible to prevent Roland from winning.

Hmm... who would Roland like to pick up from that waiver wire next?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Second City Squad

So I thought I'd have some fun with this post. It's more from the "what if" category which I promise to move away from after this one. But for now, I'm rolling with it.

Currently, there are only three cities that have two major league teams: Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. While the Mets and Yankees faced off in the World Series eight short years ago, right now Chicago's Cubs and Sox along with Los Angeles' Angels and Dodgers are playing great baseball. But if these cities were allowed to pick their best players for one elite team, who would reign supreme?

The way I got onto this topic was in thinking about Chicago and how tough it would be to combine the two rosters. But of course, I decided to try it anyway:

C - Geovany Soto (Cubs)
1B - Derrek Lee (Cubs)
2B - Alexei Ramirez (Sox)
SS - Ryan Theriot (Cubs)
3B - Aramis Ramirez (Cubs)
LF - Carlos Quentin (Sox)
CF - Reed Johnson (Cubs)
RF - Jermaine Dye (Sox)

SP - Carlos Zambrano (Cubs)
SP - John Danks (Sox)
SP - Ryan Dempster (Cubs)
SP - Rich Harden (Cubs)
SP - Mark Buehrle (Sox)

CL - Bobby Jenks (Sox)

From there, you could fill in the bench and bullpen in various ways. I imagine Mark DeRosa and Juan Uribe make the squad with their versatility, and Alfonso Soriano and A.J. Pierzynski would have spots too. The bullpen could be amazing, especially if you look at some starters who weren't mentioned above.

So, what do you think? Is the starting lineup I mentioned the best Chicago lineup? I doubt a combined New York (Mets and Yankees) lineup would be better. But what about Los Angeles now that Manny Ramirez and Mark Teixera are in the mix?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hit parade...

Big Z in big trouble: Last Saturday the Cards weren't kind to the Cubs' ace. 10 hits. 9 earned runs. 4 homers. One of Carlos Zambrano's worst starts ever. Ouch.

Red storm rising: No, not Russia or China. The '90 Reds. A few weeks ago I was 40 points out in the UPL. Now I'm just 20 points out.

The Tortoise and the Haren? During the All-Star break the O.N. Thugs offered me Carlos Quentin for Dan Haren. I gladly obliged, and here are their numbers since: Quentin: .417/.745 with 11 homers, 23 runs, 24 RBI. Haren: 4-1, 35 K in 33.1 IP, 4.05 ERA, 1.29 WHIP. Both have done well, but the important thing is that I'm closing like Jason Lezak on the Thugs...

Snakes on a plan: I really like the D-Backs' trade for Adam Dunn. That, combined with their earlier trade for Jon Rauch, makes them all the more dangerous if they make it to October.

Trivia: If Ryan Braun manages to hit 12 more homers this season, he will hold the record for most homers in the first two seasons of an MLB career. Who currently holds that record with 75?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

You down with OBP?

When I was a Little Leaguer every now and then I would calculate my own batting average. A typical scenario would go like this: I had just gone 2 for 3 in the fifth game of the year, so then the excitement of a multi-hit performance would spur me to add up my stats so far on the season to see how "well" I was doing. I would then find my totals to be something like 3 for 14, which makes for a batting average of .214.

Of course, then I would be depressed. Even when I was ten years old I knew that .214 sucked. As a baseball card collector in those days, I had a limited number of those plastic sleeves used to protect cards. So what did I do? I only used sleeves on hitters who had batted at least .250 the year before. Anything below that I didn't deem worthy of a sleeve; and yet, even after a multi-hit game, I was still below .250.

Ah, but wait! What about those walks? If I added the two walks that I had gotten so far, now my total looks like this: 5 for 16, which makes for a .313 average. I could feel good about myself again. In my mind, I was now a ".300 hitter." It might not be a manly .300, but it was good enough for me.

Little did I know back then that I was dabbling with baseball mathematics that had yet to be fully understood by most MLB scouts. What I'm talking about, of course, is baseball's century-old love affair with "batting average."

Let's compare two hypothetical players who each had 600 plate appearances in a season.

Player A
165 hits
570 at-bats
.290 batting average

Player B
130 hits
490 at-bats
.265 batting average

For the longest time, the .290 average would have been praised whereas the .265 average would have been viewed, at best, as just okay. The .290 average might make you an All-Star, whereas the .265 average might make you a journeyman.

However, when it comes to a hitter's value to an offense, batting average is not the best indicator. Let's look at the previous numbers closer:

Keeping the math simple, let's say Player A had 30 walks. That brings his on-base percentage (OBP) to (165+30) / (570+30) = 195 / 600 = .325 OBP.

For Player B, we have a whopping 110 walks, bringing OBP to (130 + 110) / (490 + 110) = 240 / 600 = .400 OBP.

In this example, the pendulum swings favorably toward Player B. Quite simply, for any given plate appearance, Player B has a 40% of not making an out. Player A only has about a 33% chance.

If memory serves me correctly, one of the points made in Michael Lewis's Moneyball was that the number 3 is at the heart of baseball. In an inning, anything can happen for the offense until they make 3 outs. Therefore, each out is precious, and it is the statistic of "on-base percentage" that gives us the best measure of the frequency at which a player makes (or avoids) outs.

Back in the late 90's (or early 2000's), Billy Beane and the geeks working for him (such as Paul DePodesta and others whom I can't remember) discovered that OBP is the stat which best correlates to a player's ability to produce runs for an offense. The Oakland A's used this information to great advantage for a few years. However, the league started to wise up to this strategy. In fact, the GM for the Red Sox, Theo Epstein, has employed many of Beane's statistical strategies; that, combined with the Red Sox's superior resources, has contributed to Boston's high level of success over the past 5 years.

So here's my complaint. If it's so well documented that OBP is more important than batting average, why do TV announcers (and just about everyone else) keep referring to batting average instead of OBP? It seems to me that when a player comes to bat, the announcer should list his on-base percentage, not batting average.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What if?

You've just won the opportunity of a lifetime. For one inning, you get to sit in the dugout with your favorite team during a Major League Baseball game. Yes, you, dressed in the home whites, sitting among your heroes. Sure, maybe some of the bigger stars won't pay you as much attention, but at least some of the journeymen are chatting you up, making sure you feel welcome and "part of the team." There's a lot of swearing, chewing, spitting, and scratching going on in that dugout, not to mention the smell of wooden bats and the dust coming in from the infield. You're right there in middle of it all with the best seat in the house.

As it turns out, one of the guys on the team discovers he went to the same college as you and offers to exchange cell phone numbers. You can't believe this is happening. And then, as if it couldn't get any better, your team's best player is now digging in at the plate. You're hoping he hits a homer. After all, he already hit one in his first AB of the game.

But something else happens. He gets drilled by a fastball in the shoulder. The reaction in the dugout is very negative--a lot of hollering at the pitcher. Your team's best player shakes it off, takes three steps toward first and then suddenly looks at the pitcher.

Then he charges the mound.

Now, I think we all know what happens next...

My question to you, the regular fan sitting in the dugout, is this: What would you do and why?

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Q Word

You can bet your bottom dollar that there are thousands upon thousands of fantasy baseball team owners who by now have abandoned common decency and publicly engaged in a nasty, vile act represented in the English language by four-letter word best left unsaid in polite company.

They've quit.

Fortunately, in the UPL this hasn't been much of a problem. Aside from the guy in our league who picked all Red Sox players in March and then sat back and did nothing as his team has coasted to first, everyone else in our league seems to at least still be putting forth some effort in making roster moves.

Over at RotoAuthority, Tim Dierkes has made a list of 8 ways to avoid teams quitting your fantasy league. Here they are from Tim :

1. Make it a keeper league. This is a pretty obvious way to ensure everyone maintains interest in the league all year long. Just like in real baseball, the lousy out-of-contention teams can trade off expensive stars for affordable youngsters. This is more easily done if the draft is auction rather than snake draft style. The more keepers you allow, the more flexibility for poor teams to stockpile prospects. My league allows a healthy ten keepers.

2. Require a decent cash buy-in, and give prizes for the first three or four finishers. I suggest at least a $60 buy-in. Then you've got $720 to work with. $460 for first place, $200 for second, third gets their money back. Even if the first place team runs away with it, you might have a gaggle of teams fighting for second and third.

3. Give cash prizes to monthly winners. If your provider tracks leaders by month, you can dole out small cash prizes ($20 maybe) based on that. The previous incarnation of Fanball used to accomodate monthly stats; I'm not sure if any services do now. Monthly prizes can provide a little extra incentive.

4. Choose head-to-head over rotisserie style. I am not a fan of H2H leagues. A standard roto league already has plenty of luck involved, but with H2H you are slicing up the season 26 times into weekly matchups. I acknowledge that H2H has its own strategies, and it can certainly keep a person invested just for bragging rights over another team.

5. Kick out the worst four teams each year. If you've got enough people vying to be in the league, you can give the boot to x number of teams at the bottom of the standings while keeping the rest for next year. If it's the bottom four, this might create a battle to stay out of 9th place. We are trying this in the RotoAuthority league this year.

6. Periodically publicize the league results, with trash talk. This has worked well in one of my H2H leagues. Weekly matchup results are analyzed on a blog, and losers are good-naturedly insulted. Plus, it's always good to randomly mock a league member for a bad drop or trade. They'll remember that, and strive to prevent future embarrassments. Public shaming is useful, but be aware that trash talk can very easily cross the line and create animosity.

7. Don't play in a league with strangers. For your league, try to recruit friends, family members, coworkers, or other acquaintances. If you see league members in person regularly, they might feel ashamed about quitting on the league. If you join a random Yahoo league, people will have no such qualms.

8. Seek out league members who aren't always busy. The number one reason people give for quitting on a fantasy league is that they just didn't have time to manage their roster. Some people are truly busy, while others just pretend to be. It's a lot easier to say this than to admit they drafted a lousy team and lost interest. When possible, opt for people with a little time on their hands - college students, freelancers, coworkers at a laid-back job, retirees. If a prospective owner never has time to hang out because of work/family/whatever, they probably won't have time for a fantasy league either.

These all seem pretty reasonable to me. Although, I imagine most people would have difficulty finding a league that actually kicks out the bottom 4 each time. It seems that would be difficult to replenish every year.

HT: RotoAuthority

Monday, July 14, 2008

N

Oh, what a difference a single letter can make.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Win or die tryin'

Today I was very disappointed to see that my team has fallen all the way down to 7th place.

But I've got a plan. From here on out, I just need my starting pitchers to pitch, my closers to close, and my hitters to hit. If we do those three simple things, then we'll take back first place. If not, then I'm going to retire from fantasy baseball.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A storm is brewin'


So here in the midwest, the past few days major trades have been all the rage. Essentially, the top two teams in the NL Central both bolstered their starting rotations. First, the Brewers traded for CC Sabathia. Then the Cubs traded for Rich Harden.

Before this Harden deal, when I looked at the Cubs as a team, the biggest weakness I saw (aside from the Billy Goat Curse and the Bartman Ghost) was the top of their starting rotation. Now, I'm not knocking Carlos Zambrano/Ted Lilly/Ryan Dempster. Those guys are nice starters for the regular season. But I'm talking about the playoffs. Last year in the playoffs both Zambrano and Lilly got outpitched by their Arizona counterparts, and that was that. Season over.

In the offseason Arizona added another ace in Dan Haren, so you have to figure if they make the playoffs again they'll be even tougher. As such, it's been hard for me to look at Zambrano/Lilly/Dempster and feel as though the Cubs were somehow a heavy favorite to make the World Series.

Granted, now that the Cubs have dealt for Harden, this changes things. Provided that they can stay healthy, the Cubs should have four quality starters for the playoffs. Furthermore, if Zambrano were to go down with an injury, I think the Cubs still have a shot at the championship if Harden/Lilly/Dempster can pitch well in October.

But where things really get interesting is with Milwaukee. A small market team, the deal they've made for Sabathia is essentially a "now or never" move. If I'm not mistaken, Prince Fielder, Sabathia, and Ben Sheets are all free agents at season's end--and Milwaukee would likely lose at least two of them.

The Brewers have an explosive offense, but a suspect bullpen. Regarding their starting rotation, with a healthy Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia leading the way, their 1-2 punch is as good as any in the majors. The unfortunate thing for the Brewers is that Yovani Gallardo is hurt. He might be back in September, but it's hard to say how he'll perform. If the Brewers have Sheets, Sabathia, and Gallardo going strong in October, they'll be tough to beat.

The way I see it, the Cubs are the deepest, most talented team in the majors. Their batting lineup top to bottom, starting rotation top to bottom, and bullpen top to bottom match up very well with anyone else out there. However, while that's all nice for a 162-game regular season, it's not really what carries the day in a Best-of-7 (or Best-of-5) playoff series. In the playoffs, the biggest factor is starting pitching. If you can send a guy to the mound who's going to throw 9 shutout innings, then you've got a great shot at winning.

Look at what Josh Beckett did for Boston last year (or for Florida in 2003). Another great example is what Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling did for Arizona in 2001. Or how about Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Jose Contreras, and Freddy Garcia for the White Sox in 2005?

On paper, both the Brewers and Cubs have enough starting pitching to win the World Series. Now it's all about going out and proving it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

It's just a hat

I don't have many hats. In fact, when it comes to ball caps, I currently only have two. One is a white U. of I. hat which I put on my bed head when I wake up in the morning to go running (which usually only happens once or twice a week). My other cap is the one worn by the Cubs on the road (pictured above)--I got it last year at a Cubs game mainly because I needed something to keep the sun off me.

When I was getting ready to go to the Taste of Chicago on Saturday, I figured that I should wear a hat since I'd be outside all day. I would have liked to have worn my white U. of I. cap, but since it's not actually white but yellow and smells like it has six years' worth of sweat stains in it, I decided to go wtih my fresh Cubs hat. However, I didn't make this decision without some hesitation. After all, the emotions in this city are riding higher and higher with each passing week. For a brief moment, I pictured myself in the middle of 100 restaurant canopies at the Taste, holding a slice of deep dish pizza in one hand and an Italian beef in the other, happy as a kid in a candy store... but then somebody makes a comment about my Cubs hat and next thing you know a minor skirmish turns into a full-scale riot with even the restaurants taking sides (North and South) for a brutal "Black and Blue" Windy City brawl that makes national news.

But of course, I snapped out of it and told myself, "That could never happen. Nobody will say anything to you." So I put on my Cubs hat and went on my way.

I hadn't been at the Taste more than 20 minutes before some older guy walking past me said, "Like your hat." I wasn't really paying attention to him, so I wasn't sure if he was talking to me. But I looked up and realized he had to be talking to me, so I just muttered, "Thanks." Although, honestly, it felt weird. The only thing weirder would have been if the same guy had said the same thing about the same hat while I was at Wrigley Field.

Uh, thanks.

But I couldn't complain. It was better than having a White Sox fan taunt me. (Especially since I root for the White Sox too.)

So the day went on and things were going well, as planned. The crowds by now had swelled, so there were certainly more people walking in closer quarters. As I made my way toward the exit, there was a guy walking along, talking to a group of teenage girls nearby. I could tell they didn't want him around, but he kept talking, going on and on about how God loves them and such. (One of the girls sneered to another, "I just want to walk up, kick him in the butt and say, 'Shut up!'") But what was really funny was when the guy switched from trumpeting theology to wondering aloud, "Does anyone have any tickets they don't want?" (He was referring to the tickets used to buy food at the Taste.) Over and over, to nobody in particular, he would ask the same question, "Does anyone have any tickets they don't want?"

Everyone kept walking, but so did he. At one point I thought he had gone another direction, but when I looked over I saw him again--and he saw me.

And he noticed something.

"Oh, you're a Cubs fan. I'm a White Sox fan!"

Dang it. I can see the exit, but now this is happening.

He continues, "The Cubs are going to get theirs. We're gonna whup 'em!" And of course, as he was prone to doing, he couldn't just say something once. He had to say it five times with that crazy look in his eyes. "You're gonna get yours! You're gonna get yours!"

He seemed harmless enough, so I found the whole thing amusing. Although, if he had instead pointed at me and hollered, "That Cubs fan stole my tickets!" then that wouldn't have been quite as amusing. That would have made me a marked man among the White Sox fans and who knows, it might have even started a riot...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Great DH Debate

Last week two American League pitchers were injured while either swinging a bat or running the bases in National League parks. The Yankees' owner, Hank Steinbrenner, had this to say after his team lost its top pitcher due to an injury while running the base paths:
"It's time the National League joins the 21st century."
Hank wants the NL to switch to the AL-style DH rule so pitchers don't have to bat. Is he right?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Switch pitcher

My guess is that there are about 30 switch hitters in the MLB at any given time. However, I've often wondered why I hadn't even heard of a single switch pitcher. Furthermore, I've been curious as to how that would work. Would the pitcher be allowed to have two gloves with him on the mound? What about switching hands during an at-bat? The questions went on and on.

Well, it looks like I'm finally going to get the answers to my questions.

The Yankees recently drafted Pat Venditte, a switch pitcher, in the 20th round. He made his professional debut in Single A on Thursday during the 9th inning. He started out pretty well, giving up a hit and getting two batters out. But, according to this AP story, the plot then thickened...

Things got a tad dizzying when designated hitter Ralph Henriquez, who had taken his on-deck circle swings as a lefty, entered the batter's box from the right side.

Venditte put his specially made glove (it has six fingers, two webs and fits on both hands) on his left hand, and got ready to pitch right-handed.

Henriquez then changed his mind and switched sides of the plate, because a batter sees the ball sooner when it is thrown by a pitcher using the opposite hand.

So Venditte shifted his glove to the other hand.

Then it happened again.

And again.

And again.

Apparently unsure of how the rules handle such an oddity, the umpires didn't stop the cat-and-mouse game until Venditte walked toward the plate and said something while pointing at Henriquez. Umpires and both managers then huddled and the umps decided the batter and pitcher can both change sides one time per at-bat, and that the batter must declare first.

The ruling favored the pitcher, since he gets to declare last.

About seven minutes after he first stepped in, Henriquez struck out on four pitches as a righty against a right-handed Venditte and slammed his bat in frustration.

As it turns out, the MLB is currently trying to decide exactly what the official rules should be for this situation. So stay tuned...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Text buddies: A-Rod and Rose

According to Tom Friend's ESPN.com article "Unlikely BFFs," Alex Rodriguez has been getting hitting advice from Pete Rose for two-plus years. While I was a bit surprised (and entertained) to learn of A-Rod's choice for a hitting mentor, I must admit that Rose made a great point in the article when he said, "Well, if I wanted to talk to somebody about hitting, I'd talk to me, too."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Citizen Papi

From breitbart.com:
Big Papi has found a new nation to call home. David Ortiz, the pride of Red Sox Nation, became a U.S. citizen Wednesday with 220 other immigrants from 57 countries at a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
The 32-year-old slugger from the Dominican Republic posed for photographs and shook the hands of many other new citizens and their families before the ceremony.
"It's a great country. I'm proud to be here," said Ortiz, who wore a pinstriped suit and his signature dark sunglasses. He said he was eager "to be part of the American family."

So does this mean that Big Papi can now switch over to the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic next year? I sure hope so. (We need all the help we can get.)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Hangin' tough

Do you remember that New Kids on the Block song, Hangin' Tough? It's the one that had the chorus that went something like this:

Ohh ohh ohhh ohhhhhh oh oh... Hangin' tough!

Well, my fantasy team is hangin' tough in a New Kids on the Block sort of way. That is to say that even though we suck, with the noise we're makin' we could still defy all logic and shoot to number one.

Here's my current roster:

C - Dioner Navarro
1B - Prince Fielder
2B - B.J. Upton
SS - Stephen Drew
3B - Chipper Jones
OF - Hideki Matsui
OF - Hunter Pence
OF - Ryan Ludwick
Util - Fred Lewis
Util - Randy Winn
Bench - Mark DeRosa
Bench - Carlos Pena (hurt)

SP - Dan Haren
SP - James Shields
SP - Ted Lilly
SP - John Maine
SP - Wandy Rodriguez
RP - Joakim Soria
RP - Jon Rauch
RP - Matt Capps
RP - Todd Jones
RP - Dan Wheeler
DL - Chris Young
DL - Chad Cordero

Note: I traded away Edwin Encarnacion for Stephen Drew, which so far has been a blah trade. I need Drew to get back to his .350/.500 ways.

Here's how my team is doing in each category through Saturday, June 7:

Runs -317 (T-9th, 47 off category leader)
HR -83 (6th, 12 off)
RBI -313 (T-7th, 37 off)
SB -43 (8th, 34 off)
OBP - .362 (2nd, .034 off)
SLG - .456 (3rd, .041 off)

W - 33 (T-3rd, 5 off)
L - 28 (T-5th, 9 off)
SV - 48 (5th, 9 off)
K - 442 (4th, 24 off)
ERA - 3.72 (4th, 0.72 off)
WHIP - 1.25 (2nd, 0.15 off)

Here's a snapshot of the UPL's overall standings through Saturday, June 7:


Some things have changed quite a bit from my previous UPL standings update. First off, you'll note that Westy's Slugs have sunk like a rock (about one month ahead of schedule). Also, you'll see that UPL rookie Black Sox has surged 33.5 points to put himself back in contention.

But other things haven't changed, such as the fact that six weeks later I'm still sitting on 94.5 points. The good news is that my team isn't completely inept at runs and steals anymore. Although, in all honesty, this is mainly due to the fact that some of my original guys have finally started hitting and stealing (B.J. Upton to name one).

About a week ago Westy's Slugs offered me Josh Hamilton for Prince Fielder straight up. I actually liked the offer, but I couldn't quite pull the trigger because I felt Fielder was starting to come around and Hamilton has yet to put an entire season together. In the end, Westy managed to move Hamilton to the Jabrones for Manny Ramirez. We'll see how that goes.

I'm glad that I took this time to go through my league's stats. It's already given me some ideas going forward. My next league update will be during the All-Star break. We'll see if the '90 Reds at that point are still hangin' tough.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Stat check...

Okay, so I've been wondering about something. In the MLB, it's rather common to hear of a player getting two steals in a game (probably happens nearly every day somewhere). Two homers in a game is less common, but still probably happens about once a week. A player with one homer and one steal is also fairly common, although I'm not sure if that happens every week.

However, when was the last time a player had two steals and two homers in the same game?

I tried searching for this answer online but couldn't find it. I'm sure that it has happened, but now I'm curious as to the last time it happened--and how rare is this feat?

Any suggestions out there?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bye bye

Some of you might remember my frustration post from last month. At the time, I didn't really go into too many details, but yes, something very specific--a single event--had set me off; and only now am I able to directly confront the pain and talk about it.

Let's revisit my post from April 19:
After the Big Hurt's second consecutive 0-for-4 outing on Friday, I took a good look at his season stats and decided that I could do better. After perusing the waiver wire, I picked up Carlos Quentin (instead of Ryan Ludwick whom I also considered).
Well, well, well. Who was the manager with the foresight, intuition, and guts to pick up Carlos Quentin on April 19? That's right. Me.

What made my Quentin pick-up even better was that he played for the White Sox, a team that I naturally cheer for, and furthermore, the main road by my apartment that I drive on every single day is Quentin Road. It's like Quentin and my team were made for each other.

The only problem is that a few days later I dropped him for a player who shall remain nameless on this blog.

Granted, I didn't view the Quentin demotion as permanent. I just wanted to juggle my roster around a bit... and I figured nobody else would pick him up before I re-acquired him. But of course, somebody did snag him off waivers before I could (apparently Yahoo doesn't let you put a waiver request in for a player you just dropped).

But that's not even what I'm upset about. As it so happened, at the time I was really trying to figure out how to increase steals and runs for my team; and as the month of May neared, I ramped up my efforts to swing a deal. One player that I really targeted was Hanley Ramirez.

Then one night I finally put together my best offer for Hanley. I forget the exact details, but it was an aggressive offer. When I checked the league the next day, I saw a "Protest" message on the board. I figured the trade had gone through (although I didn't understand how it could be protested). With excitement, I went to verify that I would be receiving Hanley Ramirez, the man who would lead my team to the promised land...

But what I found instead was that the dreaded Thugs had traded for Carlos Quentin.

That was enough to spark my Lee Elia-style tirade; and honestly, I think the recurring thought of Quentin slipping through my fingers into the Thugs' clutches has been affecting my play. A few weeks ago I erred by dropping Shane Victorino for Fred Lewis. Just the other day I thought (and thought) about dropping Mark DeRosa for Jerry Hairston, but I wasn't quick enough with the trigger. My string of mental lapses seems to know no end.

However, last week I heard Mariah Carey's new "Bye Bye" song on the radio, and I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It was as though she knew what I was going through, and that she had written the song just for me and my loss of Carlos Quentin.

So I decided that the only way I could move on from this incident was to bring in Mariah and have her perform "Bye Bye" for my team (the '90 Reds are a big-market team in the UPL so we've got the resources).

Even though I'll always have the depressing Quentin Road reminder at least twice a day for the rest of the summer, I have to start the process of putting this behind me. It's a new month and time for a clean slate.

For all you fantasy baseball players out there who have lost someone to another team, come on, don't be ashamed, put your hand to the sky and sing...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hit parade...

Chase-d away early: Monday was tough on Jorge De La Rosa and the Rockies who gave up 20 runs to the Phils, including 6 RBI to Chase "MVP?" Utley.

Pitchin' ain't easy: Has anyone else noticed that, dating back to the early 90's, nearly all of the relatively young MLB players who have unexpectedly died have been pitchers?

Bruce Almighty: So Jay Bruce has had two nice games so far. I'll still be surprised if he puts up Ryan Braun-like numbers this year. But then again, I dropped Braun last year...

Dangerous Mind: Padres' GM Paul DePodesta, who earlier this decade helped Billy Beane revolutionize scouting, has started his own blog.

Trivia: In 2007, the Chicago Cubs won at least 20 of the games that one of their pitchers started. Who was that pitcher?

Monday, May 26, 2008

It's easy to forget

I mentioned earlier that I'm reading The Head Game: Baseball Seen from the Pitcher's Mound by Roger Kahn. Originally I picked up this book from the library because I thought it would give me insights into the intricacies of the battle between a major league pitcher and batter, but so far it's been a disappointment in that department. However, I'm about four chapters into the book, and it has gone into some interesting baseball history.

Here's an excerpt:
You cannot trace the early evolution of baseball with consistent precision, nor can you even follow the game far back through the centuries. It was never a sport of kings and bishops, as tennis was, and our knowledge of medieval times springs almost entirely from court and church. (Ordinary medieval folk left no records behind; few could read or write.)

To be sure, baseball is related to rounders, an English game of ball played not on a diamond but on a pentagon, and to cricket, the "summer pastime of the English race." A British manuscript from 1250 delineates two male figures playing a game of bat and ball. The left-hand figure is a batman, who holds hi weapon upright. The right-hand figure is a fielder, who waits with hands extended. Another manuscript, in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, entitled "The Romance of Good King Alexander," shows a bowler--cricket for pitcher--and defensive players in the field. All are monks. The date of this manuscript is April 18, 1344; one can dreamily imagine that spring afternoon on a greensward in the Thames Valley or on Salisbury Plain as the first opening day.

King Edward III (1327-1377) disparaged creag, as cricket was then called, and in 1477 Edward IV tried to interdict the sport entirely. Anyone allowing creag to be played on his premises was subject to three years' imprisonment and a fine of twenty pounds. This was to discourage entrepreneurs, the medieval Rickeys and Steinbrenners and Murdochs. The players themselves were subject to two years in jail and a ten-pound fine. All implements--the balls and bats--were to be burned. English kings wanted their yeomen to work at martial skills, particularly archery. In the royal view, games of bat and ball were useless to the developing empire. But bans against creag in the fifteenth century seem to have been no more successful than the prohibition against drinking whiskey in the United States 450 years later.
And speaking of the United States:
Alexander Cartwright, an amateur athlete and surveyor, prepared the first written baseball rules in New York City in 1845. Cartwright set the number of players at nine per side. He sketched a model of the playing area with bases approximately thirty strikes apart. His diamond is recognizable today. But finding a modern balance between pitcher and batter was beyond Cartwright's formidable inventive skills. that balance was half a century away.

In the Cartwright diamond, the pitcher released the ball behind a line forty-five feet distant from home plate, which was round, rather than the pentagon we know. One can understand the reasoning of Cartwright, the surveyor. Separate the bases by ninety feet; spearate the pitcher and batter by half the distance. For the rest of the nineteenth century, baseball people tinkered ceaselessly with just about every aspect of the pitcher's trade. By raising or lowering the mound, by redefining the strike zone and fine-tuning the interpreations of balks, baseball people still tinker today.

The Cartwright rules spread through the Northeast after 1846, and Union soldiers carried them throughout the country during the Civil War. In the eleven months of the siege of Vicksburg, baseball became a favorite leisure game of the besieging army. Just four years after the war, the first professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, loaded with former cricket stars, appeared.
While it seems obvious now, I hadn't previously put that 1869 Red Stockings team in the context of the Civil War's immediate aftermath. Furthermore, I find it fascinating to picture the location of that team. Cincinnati borders Kentucky, which was a critical state in the Civil War.

While wars have raged around the world, these past 143 years since the Civil War have been relatively peaceful on our nation's soil; and for 139 of those years we've had professional baseball.

It's easy to forget how much of our nation's good fortunes are dependent upon the brave men and women who have served in our military throughout the decades; and to think, that military has sometimes included some of our best baseball players.

So I guess this was kind of a long post just to say that, while most days out of the year I ashamedly forget our military's heroic record of sacrifice, today I do remember.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Is Yost toast?

I haven't watched many Brewer games, so I'm not in much of a position to judge Ned Yost as a manager. However, it did raise a red flag with me last year when the Brewers called up Yovani Gallardo and immediately put him in the bullpen. If that was Yost's decision, then I will count that as a strike against him. As far as I'm concerned, when you have a top-flight prospect like Gallardo you don't bring him up to the majors to sit around in the bullpen for a month before inserting him into the starting rotation. Why mess up his rhythm?

In any case, my point here is that the Brewers are in 4th place, and it seems that the pressure is building on Yost. Sure, it's not his fault his team doesn't have a bullpen and the starters are injured, but professional sports are brutal. When things go bad, the manager is usually among the first to go.

There is currently much speculation as to which MLB manager will be the next one canned. Who would your guess be?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Manny being Manny

If Manny Ramirez didn't have two rings on his way to Cooperstown, then the following video wouldn't be funny. But he does, and it is:



HT: Fantasy Baseball Generals

Sunday, May 18, 2008

How's that trade working out for Detroit?


Last December the sports world went abuzz when Detroit traded away their top prospects to Florida for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. The conventional wisdom at the time, as I remember it, was that this trade was exactly what Detroit needed to return to the World Series. And as for the Marlins? Well, many experts seemingly couldn't help but feel sorry for that small market team's fans.

My first reaction to the deal was one of surprise. Yes, it was an aggressive move by the Tigers, but the more I looked at it, the less I liked it. Adding Miguel Cabrera seemed fine to me, but adding Dontrelle Willis didn't. Then when I began to consider what the Tigers would have to pay Cabrera as well as the number of quality prospects they gave up, the trade started looking more and more desperate. Whereas on Florida's side, I felt they had done well to ship out Willis's and Cabrera's contracts while at the same time getting some top prospects in return; they had "diversified their funds" so to speak, and that made sense to me.

What I didn't expect was for Detroit to start out this season with the worst record in the AL through May 18. Nor did I expect the Marlins to be leading the NL East (many picked the Mets, Phillies, or Braves). These teams have both been surprises this year, although I think Detroit's troubles are mainly found in a non-existent bullpen (injuries) along with mediocre starting pitching. With regard to the Marlins, well, their young talent is finally taking it to the next level which is always among hardest things to predict in baseball.

I still believe one should usually wait at least three years before really judging a baseball trade, and this one is no different. However, that won't stop me from speculating; and as far as I'm concerned, the Marlins got the better end of the deal. Not only is their team playing better than the Tigers this season, their talent is younger and they have a better farm system going.

Although, while it's surprising to see the Marlins atop the NL East, what's more shocking is that they might not even be the best team in the Sunshine State...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

That's so money

Sorry I've been a bit AWOL this week. Next week I plan to blog more, and there will be plenty of baseball things for me to tell the world.

In the meantime, I just wanted to say that I finally got around to reading Moneyball by Michael Lewis. I really enjoyed it, and I imagine that I'll get at least a couple of posts out of it.

Next up I plan to read The Head Game by Roger Kahn. I haven't started it yet, but I did glance at the dedication page in the beginning:
"To Clem, for fifty years of friendship and one title."
Hmm... that sounds like it could also be a projection for C-Lauff's UPL career.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Frustration

A little over 25 years ago the Cubs had just lost a tough one-run ball game to the Dodgers at Wrigley Field, dropping their record to 5-14 on the young season. Making matters worse, Cubs fans had been booing and heckling their own team throughout the game, and afterward a few of the Cubs players nearly got into a fight with some of the fans. When Cubs manager Lee Elia was asked about the depressing state of his team after the game, he flat out lost it and went on one of the most legendary sports rants of all time.

Here in May 2008 my fantasy baseball team, like those 1983 Cubs, has gotten off to a disappointing start; and the frustration is starting to set in. If you were to ask me today why my fantasy baseball team is doing so poorly, my answer would go something like this:

Warning: The language in this video is not appropriate for Little League.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Hit parade...

Feeling Chipper's Bat: The Reds' pitching got roughed up by the Braves 14-7 on Sunday. Chipper Jones had 5 RBI (good for my fantasy team), but woe to anyone who had Bronson Arroyo starting: 1.1 IP, 7 ER, 7 H, 1 BB.

Who Shot J.R.? I'm embarrassed to admit that I used my waiver priority to take Houston catcher J.R. Towles early this season. He's only mired in a minor 9 for 55 slump over the past month. And by "minor," I mean if he keeps this up he'll be back in the minor leagues.

Wang Chung Havin' Fun: Chien-Ming Wang is now 6-0 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 32 K in 45 IP. Two years ago I heard some expert say Wang had the best stuff on the Yankees staff, including Randy Johnson. It looks like he's finally living up to that hype. (And yes, I regret dropping him from my team last season!)

Bale Break: Royals pitcher John Bale, already on the DL with a bum shoulder, broke his throwing hand while punching a hotel door in a fit of rage on Friday. I know it sounds stupid, but I've punched a door too. I think it was about a month after I dropped Wang...

Happy Trails, Julio: In case you haven't heard, Julio Franco, age 49, finally retired from baseball last week. When he homered off Randy Johnson last year he became the oldest player to homer in the majors. I'll miss Julio. He and Eric Davis had two of my favorite batting stances.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Presenting the Charlie Hustle Award

When I first started this baseball blog, I wasn't sure what tone or direction it would take. Heck, I didn't even know if anybody would read it. However, as this blog enters its second month, I've already been more than pleased with the baseball discussions that I've had with people here online as well as offline. It's been a fun start to the season.

So in the spirit of being inclusive, and in building confidence in others, I've decided that it's time this blog start giving public recognition to its readers. Yes, I'm talking about an award.

A prestigious award, of course.

Now, I'm sure the last thing you expected when you went to check this blog today was a prestigious award ceremony. However, just like in baseball, with this blog you've got to be ready at all times. (I hope you're dressed for the occasion.)

So, without further ado, the My Baseball Fantasy blog presents "The Charlie Hustle Award."


This award is given to a reader who demonstrates an obsessive passion for baseball at all times--even at times when he or she probably shouldn't. Much the same way that Pete Rose (a.k.a. "Charlie Hustle") bulldozed Ray Fosse at home plate in the supposedly just-for-fun 1970 All-Star Game, the Charlie Hustle Award Winner goes all out all the time for all things baseball. And like Charlie Hustle himself, makes no apologies for it.

I had a very difficult task in choosing who would win the first ever Charlie Hustle Award on this blog. There were many qualified candidates and, in their own way, they are all winners. However, as with any prestigious award, there can only be one winner at a time; and, after carefully reviewing all of the nominees, one did start to stand out.

I had known for quite a while that my co-worker Paul was a baseball fan. However, it wasn't until this season that I realized just how passionate he is for both the MLB and fantasy baseball. Whether he's laughing his way to the bank in Vegas betting against over-the-hill pitchers, boasting about ripping somebody off in a trade, telling me about obscure sites to read for extra baseball knowledge, or spending all of his fantasy basketball winnings to pay $120 for MLB.com's online TV coverage complete with 6 window screens at once with audio alerts for whenever one of his fantasy players is coming to the plate, Paul (a.k.a. "Pauly") has continued to demonstrate an unparalleled commitment to "America's Pastime."

There isn't a plaque or prize money to go with this award. Heck, I don't even have a paper certificate for you. But Pauly, just know that this honor will be enshrined forever on this blog, and nobody can ever take it from you.

Congratulations to today's Charlie Hustle Award Winner... Pauly!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Happy days here again with the Fons?

Last July I attended a Cubs game at Wrigley, and afterward I went with some friends to the outdoor parking lot where many Cubs players leave after the game. Apparently it's a good place to get autographs.

I remember it was beautiful weather as we waited outside a low, chain-linked fence looking into narrow lot. There were many expensive cars, a few unidentified security guys as well as other Cubs employees. I would later find out that some of the people waiting around in that lot were friends and family of the players.

Since Carlos Zambrano hadn't pitched that day, he was one of the first to arrive (and subsequently depart). I also remember Derrek Lee and Ryan Dempster (who actually left by pedaling his bicycle). And there was Lou Piniella who, as he walked toward his SUV turned to the small crowd and uncomfortably waved. I had nearly called out, "Hey Lou, nice double-switch in the sixth inning!" The only reason I didn't was because a small part of me thought it might actually have been the seventh... (And it really was a nice double-switch as the Cubs hung on for a one-run victory that game.)

But the person I remember most from that parking lot was "Fons." Alfonso Soriano.

I hadn't realized it before, but Soriano in person is just a cool dude. It's hard to explain, but as he chatted with teammates, friends and family while holding somebody's little girl for part of the time, his smooth style was readily apparent. Although, some of the fans waiting nearby weren't nearly as smooth as they rattled the fence, waving pens and hats and paper, yelling out repeatedly, "Alfonso! Alfonso pleeeease!"

But Fons kept chatting away, occasionally looking over to the fans, flashing a smile and coolly holding his hand up extending his index and pinky fingers like they do at the University of Texas for "Hook 'em 'Horns." The fans would reach a fevered pitch thinking that this was their chance to get Soriano's attention for an autograph, but understandably, he'd just go back to his conversation. Then after about ten minutes he was gone.

From a purely baseball perspective, I never understood why the Cubs committed $138 million toward Soriano; and it's not really the money that bothered me. What bothered me was the following question: Where does Alfonso Soriano fit on a World Series-caliber team?

Ever since Soriano has come to Chicago, a big debate among Cub fans is where to bat Soriano in the lineup. Some say leadoff (which is where he usually bats), but others say with his power he should be batting fifth.

To make a long story short, Soriano needs to bat leadoff by default. Even though he doesn't steal bases like he used to, the leadoff spot is the only spot in the lineup where he'll see a lot of fastballs, which is what he needs to be a good hitter. (The View from the Bleachers has the numbers here if you're curious.)

As if the confusion surrounding where to place Soriano in the batting lineup isn't enough, there is also confusion over where he belongs in the field. He was brought up by the Yankees as a second baseman, the Nationals moved him to left field, then the Cubs tried to convert him to center field and now he's back in left. While he is fast and has a strong (and accurate) arm for throwing out runners, overall he's not a great defensive outfielder.

Last season the Cubs had a better record with Soriano than without, but this year they're doing better without him. At the very least, not having Soriano hasn't been a devastating loss to this club.

I often enjoy listening to Steve Stone's take on baseball, and here's what he said recently on his blog regarding Soriano (please note, Stoney's known for his baseball knowledge, not his writing skills):

I believe the Cub fans are starting to realize that with a tragic loss, at least for a while of Alfonso Soriano, the Cubs have won 7 of their last 10 and have won 4 games in a row. I am sure that the Cubs miss that sterling play in left field, they miss all the bases that Alfonso didn’t steal, they miss how artfully he played the off the wall and his occasional solo homeruns. It appears that that 175 batting average, 2 homeruns, 5 runs batted in, the four walks he had taken in 57 at bats coupled with the 11 strikeouts doesn’t seem to be hurting the Cubs very much.

In fact I would venture to say with a leadoff hitter, whoever Lou decides to put there who is actually a leadoff hitter, the Cubs are a better team without Soriano. There, I’ve said it. Anybody familiar with the emperor’s new clothes? If not, understand this, 136 million dollars over 8 years buys you a very accurate arm, a guy that will steal very few bases from here on out because of recurring leg problems and a man who should change the name on his back to Hans Solo, describing the overwhelming amount of homeruns with no one on base that he will hit.
Hans Solo? Ouch!

Soriano comes off the DL in a few days. I'll be curious to see how he meshes with the team upon his return.