Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Top 10 signs your fantasy baseball team is already hosed

10) You are living in fear that the newly released Corey Patterson is going to wind up cuckolding your sleeper pick in another town

9) The players you named in the auction were met with baffled and awkward silence

8) You went all-in on the Opening Day DL Double Play Combo of Ian Kinsler and Jose Reyes (hand raised)

7) Your ace starting pitcher spent March answering questions about velocity... of balls leaving the park

6) You drafted guys who were sent to the minors, and not for "clock" reasons

5) You're already fielding pity trade offers

4) The waiver settings matter way too much

3) If you are in a keeper league, you are wondering when to start tanking

2) It's an effort to check your team page already

1) You're already counting the days until fantasy football leagues start

Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts

Yes, yes, I know; too late to help you in your draft. Well, sorry, but I'm going to put my leagues ahead of the blog on this one, folks, and not give up who I like and dislike before it can hurt things. But now that I'm well drafted...


5) Ben Zobrist.
What, exactly, isn't there to love here? He's got 20-20 power and speed, over .400 OBA and near .300 BAA, and can play second, short or the outfield, which means he's even more useful in head to head leagues. He's not exactly ancient, and even if you are paying for a career year, you're still going to get absurdly helpful value.

4) Clayton Kershaw. The last three months of 2009, he was an absolute monster, with a strikeout slider to go with his other plus pitches, and some absolute dominance in pressure situations. He works half of his games in a great pitcher's park, has a solid defense behind him, a plus bullpen to keep inherited runners off the board (along with a manager that always coddles his starters while burning his bullpen), and a great strikeout rate. Sure, the story is that a 22-year-old guy is going to have limited innings, and the control issue could crop up again. But Joe Torre will make sure he's still got gas in the fantasy playoffs, and there's a real chance that you are getting Sandy Koufax before the world knew he was Sandy Koufax. Winning fantasy baseball leagues is all about the upside, and there might not be a pitcher with more upside than Kershaw in the NL.

3) Ricky Nolasco. Kershaw but right-handed, and on a worse team. OK, it's actually not that close, since Nolasco has more of a track record of innings pitched, the Marlins are not the Dodgers, and Nolasco won't have his innings limited by the penny-pinching Fish. Nolasco's especially valuable in leagues that value K/BB, and since the Fish are forever selling guys who can actually play, you might wind up with a top SP on a contender in August. That's all good, really. Don't let the 2009 numbers fool you. He's an ace.

2) Asdrubal Cabrera. I love position flexibility, and I like it even more when it comes in an emerging young offensive player who is going to hit in the teeth of a reasonable offensive lineup. Cabrera's breakout 2009 was derailed by injuries, which means that the dimmer owners in your league are going to miss out on him for a lack of counting stats. Either that, or they only remember him for his goofy first name and weak-hitting younger playoff self. I like him for 20-20+ this year.

1) Vladimir Guerrero. OK, he qualifies as DH only, he's 35, he doesn't run anymore, and you won't get the monster that used to be a top round powerhouse. But on the other hand, he hit when he was in the lineup, he's bent over having to move to Texas to justify a final big contract, he plays in a bandbox and he'll have plenty of men on base. Ron Washington is also goofy enough to play him in the OF occasionally, especially if Josh Hamilton goes down again, so I expect some flex later. Last night, I got him in the 18th round with the 215th pick, which is to say about 100 picks past where his offensive numbers should be going. The chance for one last beast year, and a season like what Bobby Abreu gave to the Angels last year, is much higher than where he is going. Texas is going to score runs, and the Impaler will be a big reason why. Finally, his career OPS in Arlington is over 1100. Admittedly, that was against the Ranger pitching staffs, but still.


5) Aaron Hill.
There's just no way he hits 36 home runs again, and even in his monster year, his OBA was just .330 -- not exactly a big win, since your average championship team in a 12 team league is going to be around .355 to .360 to win the category. Not getting steals from your 2B will put you behind any number of other top 2Bs, and it's not as if Hill has been a model of good health over the years. Let someone else pay for the career year, unless he slips long enough to make for a dynamite middle infield / bench play.

4) Nate McLouth. The Atlanta OF has struggled so much in spring training that he might have lost the leadoff job, as well as lose platoon at bats, to the immortal Melky Cabrera. He's really just an average player who rode a hot streak when he came to Pittsburgh to fantasy prominence; the All-Star nod once upon a time was just tokenism. He plays in a pitcher's park, in a division with many top SPs. And yet, he's still going pretty early in many drafts, despite really not having that much going for him. I'm just not getting it.

3) Ian Kinsler. Some people rank him as the #2 2B, with 30-30 potential in a bandbox park with a high octane offense. But that presupposes the idea that Kinsler will actually stay healthy for once -- he's already looking like a candidate to start the year on the DL -- and that he'll hit in better luck than last year. Maybe the injury bug will leave him be for once, but I'm just not seeing it.

By the way, Kinsler is on my keeper league roster. The keeper league roster that's seemingly doomed and DOA before even a single game has been played. 100% win, this.

2) Matt Cain. The Giants' #2 SP dropped his ERA by nearly a run last year en route to a 14-win season. In a pitcher's park, with a good defense and bullpen, he looks like a pretty safe bet... but he just doesn't strike out enough guys to pull off a sub 3 ERA again. Cain has seen his home runs increase in three straight years, the walks have always been a bit of a problem, and the Giants just aren't going to be so good as to get him this many wins again. He's still a good starter and an asset to every staff, but only if he's not your #2. Or maybe even your #3.

1) Joe Mauer. The clear #1 catcher, defending MVP and all-around favorite son of Minnesota is a tremendous player... but he's also a guy with recurring back issues, with only one year as a serious power hitter, who plays half of his games in a new park that's completely unknown for hitting effects, but probably won't be as useful to offense as the Homer Dome. What he does best is hit for average and get on base, which is pretty unique for a catcher, but also has the worry of injury to take even that away. And if you believe in the redemptive power of the Walk Year, you also have to believe in the dulling power of the Got Paid Year, too.

Mauer is still the best in the business at catcher, but that's in reality, not fantasy. In our game, I'd let someone else take him by slotting him the 4th to 5th round, and get similar HRs and RBIs from an under the radar guy like Kurt Suzuki much later in the draft.

Anyway, that's it for me. Add your own in the comments, if you like...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Top 10 Rules For Running A Live Draft

Last weekend, I ran the third annual draft day for the baseball league. Only after it was all done, and everyone had left happy and grateful for the event, did I realize just how many times I've done this over the years for various leagues... and how there's a reasonable chance that I could actually help someone who hasn't done this do it better. So here's what I've learned over the years.

1) It's a gig. In my 20s, I fronted a rock and roll band, and played a few hundred gigs. Some were among the best nights of my life, and some were among the worst. But in every instance, the 30 to 60 minutes before people came were the absolute worst. If everything is perfect, you stare at the clock and worry; if anything needs to be done, you run around at breakneck pace, completely convinced that this is the last time that you are ever going to put yourself in this position again. Just know that the last hour is the worst, and accept it.

2) There will never be enough of one thing. For this draft, I ran an extension cord to a pole in the middle of the Man Space, wrapped it perfectly around the pole, then mounted a six outlet surge protector for people who were bringing a laptop to the draft. There were 10 owners at the draft plus myself, with one owner drafting remote; I went off a cheat sheet and did not use my laptop.

Which meant that, of course, there was not enough outlets, since it seems that every single person at the draft brought a computer. Or three. Gahhh. (They worked it out among themselves. Helpful.)

3) Someone will "help" you to death. I prepare for the draft by ordering a premium draft board and label kit, and mount it a week or so before the event, so that I'm sure that the board won't fall during combat. The last two drafts I've held, I've sprung for the "Jumbo" option, which means the labels can be seen from a good 10 to 15 feet away, even if your eyesight is failing with old age, like mine.

Which means that, this year, my most fussy owner decided to show up 75 minutes early with a projector and league manager software.

Now in past years, I'm sure that I'd have gotten loud in my desire to tell this guy where to put his projector, especially since he wanted to block my driveway to unload it... but this year, I just told him to come over early and try it out. And when the garbage trucks blocked my driveway, preventing him from loading it out, then having to lug it a half a block while I ran out to pick up food... well, for once someone else had the hard final hour before the draft.

4) Order food and pick it up. You don't want the stress of having someone else cook for you (or, at least, I don't). You also don't want to have to rely on some delivery clown. So the best options is to order from a solid place (for me, it's a local place that does chicken and ribs spectacularly), then go get it and bring it back. It's better than snapping at people for bothering you in the last hour before things begin, and and it's better than obsessing over your rankings or the other stuff that, well, people do. It's not as if your draft is really going to change in that last hour, or that it should. So get out of the house and drive a little.

5) Accept that you are going to take a bit of a bath. You can ask people to chip in on the food -- and I do. You can leave out a tip cup for beverages (don't make them all go 100% BYO -- that's just tacky). You can even put in a commish fee into the league fee. It's not going to matter. You aren't going to come out ahead on this, and you probably shouldn't.

When you commish, you aren't paying for gas, tolls, train fare, wear and tear on the car, and you are on your home field. That's the most comfortable situation you can have for a draft, and that's why so many commishes tend to finish in the top half of their leagues. So don't be a penny pincher on the soda and pretzel bills. It's just not worth it.

6) Expect your owners to be as on tilt as you are. At my draft last week, 20 minutes before the draft, I'm wolfing down lunch when one of my owners... wants to hand me his entry fee. Because, really, there's nothing I want to do more in the middle of inhaling a sumptious rib than to drop the meat and get your $20 bills all greased up. And I'm utterly certain that they'll do it again next year.

7) Make lists. Being commish is like being a parent; a never-ending list of things you gotta do. And as you get older, and you try to not just do what you did before but make it better, it's just impossible to remember it all. Get yourself a clipboard and make a list of the things you've got to do, and the order in which you want to do them. It's the only way to stay sane.

8) Don't overcomplicate things. One of my owners couldn't get out of work, so he was over the phone. Now, I could have ran a Web meeting so that he could have access to the spreadsheet that was being updated with the results. I could have put him on mutual speaker phones and spaced them out enough so that the feedback didn't kill all of the vermin in the area. I also could have bought a Web camera, punched his image through a plasma screen, and in short ruined my life for good and for ever. Instead, we just had him call my phone and put him on speaker. Worked out fine.

9) Accept imperfection. When I was a musician, I drilled into my band that when tech mistakes or screw ups happened on stage, that they absolutely positively had to smile as if they had just found a $50 bill. Why? Because when you get all shoe gazey in that situation, even the least sophisticated audience knows that you are as good as dead in March. But if you have a good smeg-eating grin on your face, they actually had to know how the song went, or that you weren't just trying something new.

So when your laptop dies, or the food order is wrong, or the board falls over or a third of the league is stuck in traffic, just breathe and relax. It's still going to be the best day of the year, provided you don't prevent it.

10) Push for feedback. This year, I asked my owners, most of whom haven't said anything less complimentary than "I hope you never stop being the Commish", to fill out a 15 question survery where they ranked their level of agreement on a 1 to 10 scale. I worded it tricky enough to make sure they had to read the questions, rather than just check off a bunch of 10s. With luck, I'll actually learn something I can use for future drafts.

And if not, well, it's still worth a shot. And who knows, maybe it will spark a thought among the others. So... moving on.

Monday, March 29, 2010

In even more news you could not possibly care about

Here's the serpentine H2H fantasy baseball team for 2010. I promise, this is the last of these posts.

1. (2) Hanley Ramírez
2. (23) Zack Greinke
3. (26) Grady Sizemore
4. (47) Brian Roberts
5. (50) Chris Carpenter
6. (71) Derrek Lee
7. (74) Nick Markakis
8. (95) Clayton Kershaw
9. (98) Josh Hamilton
10. (119) José Valverde
11. (122) Adam Jones
12. (143) Leo Núñez
13. (146) Kurt Suzuki
14. (167) Jorge Cantú
15. (170) Octavio Dotel
16. (191) Mark DeRosa
17. (194) Edwin Jackson
18. (215) Vladimir Guerrero
19. (218) Stephen Strasburg
20. (239) Hiroki Kuroda
21. (242) Ben Sheets

I was having a good old time here until the 11th, when I waited a pick too long to get 2B/3B Ian Stewart, dooming me to the cold corner of Cantu and DeRosa. I also really didn't feel good about being pulled into the closer run for Nunez and Dotel, neither of whom strikes me as a great bet to finish the year with the job. I also kind of got away from speed after the early picks, and as this is a daily league, I'm hurting for ABs if and when HanRam, Roberts or Suzuki grab some pine. There's also some absolute horror in rooting for three Oriole hitters.

But on the plus side, I like my chances on having four hammer SPs, especially on K/9, and I like Vladdy Daddy's chances for a Texas rebirth. If Strasburg is what he's advertised, I might even have pitching to deal, not that I can deal worth a damn. And the simple fact of the matter is that you rarely, if ever, win a league on draft day. But you sure can lose it.

NESW Drop: The End Of The Hate

The NESW run is over with this post, so by all means, go click. There's just no money in blogging, folks. But at least it let me go out with the best ending in the history of film.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

In this year's news that you could not possibly care about...

Here's the auction league roster. It's a 5x5 league with OBA instead of BA, and K/BB instead of K/9. $250 cap, keepers are in bold.

C Matt Wieters BAL 12
C A.J. Pierzynski CHA 2
1B Joey Votto CIN 17
2B Ian Kinsler TEX 21
3B Pablo Sandoval SF 10

SS Jose Reyes NYN 29
CI Carlos Pena TB 22
MI Martin Prado ATL 3
OF Justin Upton ARZ 11
OF Carlos Quentin CHA 8
OF Vernon Wells TOR 5
U Garrett Jones PIT 2
SP Chris Carpenter STL 8
SP Clay Buchholz BOS 15
SP Yovani Gallardo MIL 12
SP Max Scherzer DET 10
RP Trevor Hoffman MIL 9

RP Jason Frasor TOR 7
P David Price TB 8
P C.C. Sabathia NYA 33
P Fausto Carmona CLE 1
BN Drew Stubbs CIN 3
BN Justin Duchscherer OAK 1
BN Neftali Feliz TEX 1

Basically, my draft came down to making big bets on Reyes and Sabathia early, and getting a bunch of guys in the end game that I really liked at the price. Pena at 22 is a nice value in an OBA league, especially if he can stay healthy the whole year in a walk year. Of course, this also assumes that my keepers actually stay healthy and productive, and since Upton and Kinsler have already had ankle issues this spring, I think we all know where that's going.

The outfield is a problem unless I get lucky on weak bets like Wells and Jones, as I lost out in the bidding for BJ Upton yet again. I do have hope for Drew Stubbs to come through big, though. I'm also not going to compete for saves in a league where some guys have a half dozen closers. Had I the courage of my convictions, I'd have punted the category entirely, and had something left to bid for Buster Posey, who the league's defending champion took down when I didn't have anything left to bid.

But regardless of how the league turns out, the simple fact is that Draft Day is a great day. We had 11 out of the 12 owners in the room, no real tech issues, BBQ and fried chicken and soft pretzels and just the good time of doing a dumb thing with our whole hearts. Which I can't recommend enough, really.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Top 12 reasons why Vincente Padilla is the Dodgers' Opening Day Starter

12) Dodger manager Joe Torre bet a guy that he could get Padilla drafted in fantasy leagues

11) Kevin Brown not answering his phone, and Jason Schmidt can't, since that involves using his arms

10) Team remembers how badly this worked for Hideki Kuroda last year

9) Couldn't convince Fernando Valenzuela to leave the Spanish announcing booth, and its extremely tempting craft services

8) Torre is still bent at Chad Billingsley for last year's playoff effort

7) Orel Hershiser is too busy playing poker and hating his ESPN booth mates

6) The club doesn't want to give Clayton Kershaw the extra ammunition during the inevitable arbitration hearings

5) It's a little-known and highly unwelcome aspect of the McCourt divorce settlement

4) When your division competition includes the Padres, D-Backs and Giants, you need to do something to keep the game challenging

3) Gives Torre a head start on doing what he does best, which is take the most talented team in the division to the playoffs while trashing his bullpen

2) Season always start best with a brawl, so Padillla's unique headhunting style will come in handy

1) The game's in Pittsburgh, so it's not as if it will be televised, or that the Dodgers will be facing an MLB team

Disgrace Period

So I've been trying to figure out why I've been so unmotivated to fill the blog hole for the past few weeks, and it finally came to me: I have absolutely no enthusiasm for what we normally write about at this time of year, which is the upcoming MLB season.

Now, that's actually an overstatement, because I've been preparing like mad for my roto drafts, but the actual nuts and bolts of what's going to happen with actual teams this year? Feh. Feh on the whole enterprise, and feh most proud on my preferred laundry, the Oakland A's.

Time was that we -- we being the small cult of A's fans who would actually go to games and watch the telecasts -- knew that no matter what indignity might befall us, being the runt of the MLB litter, that All Father Beane had a plan. A great and masterfully cunning plan, built on his ability to squeeze into small cracks of value and three-way trades where his facilitating abilities were as meaningful an asset to the club as any of the talent produced. But then it all went sour, and here's where.

He traded Tim Hudson to the Braves for a great big bag of nothing, and went all-in on Eric Chavez, who turned out to have the durability of a leper. With HIV, rickets, and a skin condition.

Up to that point, you see, it was all defensible. Losing Jason Giambi to the suddenly OBA-happy Yankees (who, it should be noted, only won when they got rid of his no-defense no-base running no-truth telling about PED carcass) was heartbreaking because of who Giambi was, but on the actual field, there was a Scott Hatteberg to provide happy hidden value. Losing Miguel Tejada to the clueless Orioles was sad, but what the hey, Miggy was a little sketchy as a suspiciously precocious Dominican, and even in the best of times, he didn't take a lot of walks. Lesser cuts, like the end of the one year Johnny Damon rental despite playoff heroics, the annual shedding of high value closers, or the farewell to quiet soldier Ramon Hernandez, didn't completely kill the vibe, because All Father Beane Had A Plan.

What he had, of course, was the good luck and fortune of being in the seat when the farm system gave him a once in a lifetime confluence of high value and durable young pitchers (Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito) who happened to have their good years match up in the slot machine pull that is MLB- life. After that, the only "magic" was a lot of occasional seasons from not quite good players (Terence Long, Randy Velarde, Mark Ellis, John Jaha, etc.) and a masterful sell job perpetrated by the All Father and Moneyball author Michael Lewis.

Since the book was written, the club has had one playoff run (the Last Hurrah Year of Frank Thomas, which coincided with the second wave of value pitching from Sell Sell Sell candidates Rich Harden, Dan Haren and Joe Blanton) and an avalanche of players who not only aren't good enough, but are in no way fun to watch. I give you -- and it's a give, and perhaps a heave -- Jack Hanrahan, Nomar Garciaparra, Giambi II, Bobby Crosby and a steaming beige load of Mark Kotsay Lite outfielders, which is to say, the least exciting outfielders in MLB.

And here's the thing that makes all of that utterly indefensible: the fact that when the farm system produced the occasional position player who was actually worth buying a ticket to see -- Andre Ethier and Carlos Gonzalez, primarily -- Beane moved them to the Dodgers and Rockies, respectively, for a year of the Milton Bradley Circus (admittedly, one of Milton's "better" years) and three months of watching Matt Holliday's value erode in a pitcher's park while surrounded by flotsam. I won't even get into the Harden and Blanton salary dumps, neither of which has produced anything of baseball interest, unless your idea of fun is to watch Matt Murton prove why he's a AAAAll-Star, or Josh Outman prove the age-old adage that young pitchers will break your heart, roughly around the same time that they break something in themselves. When they have kept and played kids, the kids (Daric Barton, Dan Johnson, Travis Buck, Crosby, the list goes on and on and on) have stunk, especially in the outfield. A failure to adequately access your own talent is just as deadly as the failure to assess others.

Is the franchise hopeless? Well, they are no smarter than anyone else in the division at this point, since the Mariners and Rangers have turned over their front offices to people with clues, and it's not as if the Angels are going to lose their attendance and managerial stability advantages anytime soon. With the Giants pulling a Peter Angelos and cockblocking their move to the only slightly more fertile land of San Jose (seriously, guys, you do know that town is also in the throes of an economic meltdown based on plummeting real estate values and the new corporate austerity, and that there have been no new stadiums built in California in my lifetime, right?) and the hometown of Oakland thoroughly disenchanted from the constant moving threats and ballpark begging... well, let's just call a spade a spade here.

Yes, yes, yes, the A's are hopeless.

They exist as a distressed property that exists strictly as a low stakes reclamation zone for resalable assets. So bring in Ben Sheets for his three-month showcase that he's healthy and competent again, and ready to be wrapped up in a bow and sent off for some grade Z collection of circus meat. Trot out Coco Crisp in his downmarket spiral (seriously, Coco, if you thought the games were uninspiring in Kansas City, just wait until you play to fewer than 4,000 people on a weeknight at the Coliseum), because he's cheap and plays defense and that's all that matters right now, because the defense allows us to make Sheets Et Al look better than they are when it comes time to sell them. Bring in the new Mike Sweeney (yes, I checked -- the old one isn't here anymore) to add service time to his pension and provide "veteran leadership" to the rest, never minding the fact that when the team was actually good and fun to watch, veterans were few and far between, and could actually play baseball.

Just do not, for the love of your eyes or the flickering hope that the All Father is smarter than Brian Sabean or a guy doubling down on his bets at the casino when he's already lost the rent money, actually watch the team play baseball.

Because, well, life's too short to spend your time rooting for hopeless.

Or, really, writing about them.

The Bad Tooth, in one of his more cogent moments in writing about fandom, put forth the proposition that if a team wins a championship, they should receive a five year Grace Period where the fan base does not pule about any decision, no matter how questionable, because of the past glory. Like many Toothy ideas, it sounds reasonable at first glance, but fails under repeat study, because it's not like you should lose your ability to question authority just because something good happened, and said championship could have been a fluke in the first place. (There's also the very hard-hearted notion that calling off the dogs just because the people that run your laundry finally did what is expected of them is just silly. You can also call this being a Yankee Fan, or why Brian Cashman drinks and can't find cheap but playable back ups to save his life. But I digress, admittedly to a team that some people actually care about.)

But independent of the merits of that argument, I'm starting to wonder if an equal and opposite period should exist -- a five year Disgrace Period where the team collects no benefit of no doubt from the fans, because they have had the unmitigated gall of putting, well, 90% of the people the A's have employed to play baseball in the last three years.

Leading to long posts that should really lead up to grand I Wash My Hands Of You declarations. Or springs without hope.

All Father (Beane) Knows Nothing, kids.

Now go write about a team that actually plays baseball, rather than whatever this is.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Top 10 reasons why the Nets CEO is yelling at fans wearing bags

According to the New York Daily News, CEO Brett Yormark of the 7-63 Nets, a team that has to win two of its last 12 games to avoid finishing the year with the worst won-loss record in NBA history, got into a shouting match with a fan wearing a paper bag on his head. What prompted the altercation?

10) When you've got 38 people in the stands, the clothing choices of each person matters, dammit

9) On very rare occasions, people engage in negativity and confrontation, even in northern New Jersey

8) Yormark is very eco-conscious, and wanted the man to wear a reusable bag

7) Fighting to defend the honor of Yi Jianlin, which is more than he ever did

6) Fourteen straight losses at home can make a man a bit testy

5) Yormark's efforts to learn Russian to keep his job under new ownership aren't going well

4) When you've actually had to stand up in public and be excited about moving to Newark, that can't be good for your mental health

3) Has already asked nicely for the fans to come out, so has to go to the stick now

2) After 14 years with the Nets, it's a wonder that the man hasn't Gone Spreewell

1) It's not as if he can attack the players

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Top 10 reasons why Milton Bradley keeps getting ejected from spring training games

10) He's a little on edge over never being able to get his forwarded mail

9) Seattle clubhouse coffee has too much caffeine

8) Being who he is, he works on different things in the preseason

7) When you are hitting in front of Casey Kotchman, it breeds a certain amount of tension

6) Keeps thinking that if he just gets angry enough, the Mariners will let him DH

5) A Bradley ejection provides a certain validation to bush league umpires

4) It's all a massive misunderstanding, just like everything else that's happened in Milton's life

3) He's a little on edge from that Chicago lease issue

2) Cracking under the pressure from having to be better than Carlos Silva

1) Just because he's paranoid doesn't mean everyone isn't out to get him

Monday, March 22, 2010


This is how it goes...

Next Saturday, I'm hosting the third year of my keeper / auction baseball draft, the House of Meat. This means that I get to:

1) Purchase and mount the big board materials

2) Prep the room for a dozen or so people

3) Arrange refreshments.

Fairly simple, right? Something you could do in a couple of hours, tops? Especially since I've done this a few dozen times now, between football, baseball and poker events. And yet I still find myself...

1) Organizing a meat run for lunch

2) Planning on laying in a load of soft pretzels in the unlikely event that there isn't enough meat to go around

3) Working out various ways to teleconference in the 1-2 out of state owners that might not make it to the live event

4) Buying oversized labels and board materials to make for better viewing, then realizing that it complicates the seating situation, since it means that the board is going to go lower than it usually does

5) Sitting in every seat in Step #4, like I can really get a sense of how this will be with a dozen people in the way

6) Arranging for a Helper Monkey person to update the rosters in real time, so that it can be emailed to people post-draft faster, and give the out of towners a better shot

7) Um, cleaning the while damn house like a stereotypical '50s housewife, because dammit, People Are Coming Over, And We Can't Possibly Be Seen As Bad Hosts

All of which, of course, comes from my draft prep time, and running the auction while participating in it also can't help your chances. Much like, say, running a poker tournament while playing in it.

In short, I am everyone's favorite kind of mark; the one that does it to himself.

And with that said, back to the draft prep...

NESW Drop: The Nation's Worst College Basketball Fans

The drop this week gets you into some of the truly freaky college sports fans, in honor of the Madness. I'm sure there's others and more out there, just as I'm sure that I don't want to know about them. There's already some things in just this link that I'll never be able to un-see...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Top 10 signs of bandwagon college basketball fandom

Hey kids! My Syracuse Orangemen made the Sweet Sixteen after back to back easy wins (thank you, NCAA selection committee, for deciding that the "West" bracket needed to play in the wild West town of Buffalo, NY, aka a de facto home game). Some readers of the blog might remember that last week, I wrote that I'd rather find $20 on the ground than see a big long run from my alma mater, but that, clealy, was a joke. But how do you recognize real bandwagon fans?

10) Their logo merchandise still has that new car smell

9) When they talk about the current team's players, they sometimes refer to them with the names of alumni

8) You've never heard them refer to their school or team before

7) The "we" pronoun gets used in ways that are extremely forced

6) They talk about the coach more than the players (but not, of course, as much as the TV mouth jobbers)

5) The smack talk about the next opponent doesn't extend beyond making fun of the school or mascot

4) They can't talk about any other games in the tournament

3) They refuse to admit that they are bandwagon fans, and are overly offended at the suggestion

2) They keep mispronouncing the names of the players

1) Their bracket is much better than yours

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tapp In

Earlier this week, my Philadelphia Eagles made a move to pick up 25-year-old sackmeister Darryl Tapp from Seattle. Seeing how Tapp went to Viriginia Tech, where an old friend of mine lives and watches the town team, I checked in for an assessment. It's encouraging... in that Tapp was so beloved for his engine there that he was given the nickname of Lunch Pail, and tht he was the only guy to not only get the sobriquet, but also the actual damn item. So there's that.

On the other hand, he's a 6'-1, 270-pound DE, which seems to point to him being too light in the hindquarters to me an every down force. And 18 sacks in 64 games on a team where the defense has not overwhelmed... does not overwhelm. Especially in the NFC West, where the teams generally have bad offensive lines and QBs that take sacks.

Now, it's possible that with coaching and experience comes wisdom, or that Tapp is just a bit of a late bloomer, or even that he's just a better version of the guy that went to Seattle (Chris Clemons, who spent two years in Eagle green doing little more than reminding us that sometimes ex-Raiders don't leave all the Raider behind).

There's also this: the team wanted Tapp in the 2005 draft, when Seattle took him. They got him back now for relatively little, and didn't tie up a ton of contract cash, the way that a Julius Peppers signing would. Plus, he's still just 25, so his best days *should* be ahead of him.

Of course, if he just slips below the waves and has no more impact than Clemons, it's also not like the team is going to take it in the neck from the fan base. Which makes it the perfect Andy Reid signing, the equivalent of calling a mild raise with a low pocket pair in hold'em; if the flop hits them right, they'll look like geniuses on the cheap.

Or, well, cheap.

And finally, under the heading of "Things Philly Fan Didn't Want To Hear"... the man likes pedicures. Enjoy that one, Sports Radio Meatheads...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

2010's top 10 lame excuses for getting out of work during the NCAA tournament

Yes, I know, it's a perennial. What, you think bloggers don't ever hit the same stuff? We're human, dammit.

10) You are sitting shiva for Georgetown

9) Your religion requires you to treat the week of St. Patrick's Day and the first and second rounds as Drunken Hannukah

8) Actually nice weather on the East Coast has caused your world view to lose all meaning

7) Just not getting the hang of this Daylight Savings Thing

6) Science has proven that only the presence of your Concern Rays can make your pool picks win

5) Last-minute jury duty for a homeland security court, so there's no paperwork

4) The sudden onset of warm weather is givng you terribly convenient allergies

3) Your fantasy baseball draft preparations has left your eyes bleeding from spreadsheet abuse, and your fingers raw from annual magazine paper cuts

2) With the health care reform issue finally (?) coming to a head, you're not comfortable leaving the house for fear of missing a C-Span moment

1) Filling out the Census form is going to take you all day, if only to read all of the online conspiracy theories

Clock You

After his latest scintillating spring training outing, pitching uberprospect Stephen Strasburg has thrown five scoreless and mostly dominant innings in spring training, proving that he has absolutely nothing left to prove to the Washington Nationals, the team that drafted him #1 overall last year. With the eyes of a drooling fantasy nation upon him, he's been as good as advertised. The Nationals, a team that lost 103 games with pitching being the main culprit (a team ERA of 5.00 in a pitcher's park, with no one on the current roster with the talent to rank above a fourth starter role), need him to the point that he could be the team's MVP, even as a rookie.

Strasburg's performance so far is, of course: no fluke. There may not have been a bigger hyped college pitcher in MLB history than Strasburg, who combines top-shelf stuff with great control. Mechanically, he's sound, and there is no part of his game that isn't ready for the Show right now. Sure, he might struggle with composure or nerves, and he's probably not going to love having to swing the bat for himself, but that's all secondary. Starting in the majors would do more than help the Nats win games and sell tickets - though that wouldn't hurt, seeing how the Ex-Pos have given the DC fan base absolutely no reason to embrace these skinflints. It would also tell a very useful fiction to themselves and others; that they actually care about winning, and are playing the same game as everyone else.

They are, of course, not.

Just like last year with Tampa and David Price, and the Orioles with Matt Wieters, the Nationals are going to deny their fanbase even the illusion of hope on Opening Day... and if they *don't*, and do the right thing to the paying public and put the best team possible on the field, they'll be accused of callous stupidity, since they'll be using up Strasburg's service time before the team is ready to contend.

And isn't that just wonderful, really? That baseball has gotten so diseased about competition that MLB- teams will take grief for putting their best team on the field, and even the sanctity of hope on opening day -- the day that every team's fan base should feel good about life, because miracles can happen -- has been tossed aside.

I'm pretty sure that baseball, at least in its current condition, will cease to be in my lifetime, with league contractions, different tiers for different leagues, and maybe even a class-action lawsuit or two from a disaffected fan base.

And it couldn't happen to nicer people, really.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2010's Top Ten Make Or Break Fantasy Baseball Players

10) Grady Sizemore. Sure, he should be fine and back to his old 30/30 and more self... but Cleveland's looking at another bad year due to uncertainty in the starting rotation. That kind of thing can lead a player to push himself too hard coming back from injury, and a team to pull the chutes early and break up the foundation for parts. Grady's a weapon, but one with a few holes, and he wouldn't be as valuable in a lot of places. But if you want him, you're reaching for him in the second or third round, which means he's very likely to be your best outfielder. Hard to win when that slot doesn't produce.

9) Dan Haren. He doesn't quite have the aura of a top-drawer ace, even though that's really what he is... at least, until the wheels fall off near the end of the season due to his consistent second half / September problem, which is usually death in a head to head league. But at least he gets you there, especially on the ratios, unless this is finally the year that the second half fade predicts a next year problem. Haren's been a workhorse ever since moving into the rotation in Oakland, and eventually he's going to break down or become ineffective for the full year, not just the last bit of it. That's why you can get him after six to ten other SPs go off the board, after all.

8) David Wright. The second-highest ranked 3B in all of baseball, assuming that the Met rework of the outfield walls gives him back his power and/or confidence. He's too young and too good to lose all his home field power this fast, but there's also the team's recent snake bitten injury record to worry yourself about. If he comes back all of the way and more -- after all, he's still in his prime -- he's going to win a lot of leagues,

7) Alex Rodriguez. Everyone loves him again, all the way to a top six or better slot, especially after the World Series heroics and the promise of a full year in the New Yank Launching Pad. But just a year ago, he was under a PED cloud, with a worrisome hip surgery that cost him time. And on some level, you have to wonder if that could flare up again, and if so, whether the speed that made him not just special but irreplaceable will be gone for good. There is more risk here than people generally think, and he's also not a kid anymore.

6) The Uptons. Take BJ, and you are buying into the guy that ruined a million teams last year, with a power stroke that's been erratic, an injury record that's downright troublesome, and a Rays' team that has other options this time around, should he struggle. Go with Justin, and you lose the speed but gain potential, as he generally raked last year when healthy... and ah, there's the rub. For all of the Upton talent and pedigree, there's also been a significant number of injuries and inconsistency to go with that big brand name. It's all or nothing, with a better than even chance on the all. But if you're wrong here, you're gonna feel it. A lot.

5) Joe Mauer. A borderline top 5 pick and talent, especially in OBA leagues, since he's giving you tremendous production in a position that's usually an offensive sinkhole. But if last year's power is a fluke -- and sure, every scout always said he'd eventually hit for power, but how often does a guy show so little for so long, then become this kind of threat? -- you'll be taking him ten rounds ahead of his production, especially since he doesn't contribute those early career steals, and he's still got the big injury history. There's no question that 2010 won't be quite as good as 2009, but if it's a lot worse, his owners are DOA.

4) Roy Halladay. Probably the consensus #1 starting pitcher in early drafts, with dreams of C.C. Sabathia with the Brewers domination as one of the AL's best moves to the weaker league. But there's concern here, really; for where you draft him, anything but domination will be a letdown, and it's not as if he's going to a pitcher's park or strikes out 10 guys a game. There's a very real chance that Cole Hamels gives you 90% of the value for a third of the cost, but if the consensus is right and Halladay is dominant, you're going to lose to the guy who owns him in any head to head matchup. Major swings ahead.

3) Chris Carpenter. Last year's comeback miracle is back for another go-around with the stars-and-scrubs Cardinals team that should roll in the weak NL Central. If he's found the healthy part of his career, he's a fantastic arm, and if he hasn't, they will DL him, so at least your risk is mitigated to some extent. But unlike lat year, you aren't getting him late or on the waiver wire.

2) Johan Santana. Remember him? He was this year's Halladay just a few short years ago, except in a better park, and with a team that was supposed to win more games. But a funny thing happened on the way to multiple Cy Young Awards and a long-term Nelson Muntzian laugh at the Yankees; the bullpen, weak run support and perpetually injured teammates eventually laid even the great Santana low. This year, he could bounce back with a team that's got to be better by simple power of regression, or he could be on the wrong side of the career, never to quite return to his former status. Either way, he's going to sway a ton of leagues.

And finally...

1) Jose Reyes. If he's anywhere close to what he was before last year, he's a top ten talent and a stolen base leader at shortstop, which is a position that's getting quite thin on superstars, thanks to his absence. If you get that guy past, say, the fifth slot in the draft, you're golden -- and if you get him in the 10th through 30th range, which is where he's going to go after the thyroid scare, he might not even be your best player.

But if he can't stay healthy again, he'll kill you -- because there just isn't anyone else like him, and if the Mets' past behavior is any indication, they'll keep trying to get him on the field no matter what, which means you'll spend the summer waiting for his Godot-like self. Just like in 2009. Steady hands, roto owner. This hobby of yours turns out to be gambling after all.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Top 10 signs that you are overthinking your fantasy baseball draft

Not that I am, you know, guilty of all of these and more...

10) Your tiered list has more tiers than players

9) Your draft preparation includes a special list of players that are so overrated that you think they are underrated

8) You not only know what VORP stands for, but you've used it as a verb

7) You've ranked more players -- many more players -- than your league could possibly draft, just so you're prepared if you join another league

6) You are joining other leagues

5) You've invented a special formula for your rankings, and it's not the first time

4) You find yourself applying regression to the mean analysis to food and beverage choices

3) You openly disparage anyone who dares to come into a draft without dozens of hours of research

2) You not only have a unique strategy for this year's draft, but you've also named it

1) You feel guilty for having read this list, since it took up time that you could have spent on draft preparation

Memo to Browns Fan

1) Your team brought in Mike Holmgren.

2) He correctly identified that the QB tandem of Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson was terrible, and needed to be upgraded.

3) He then cut Anderson and traded Quinn to Denver for fullback / halfback / usable special teamer Peyton Hillis, pictured right.

4) Holmgren also poached his old team in Seattle for Seneca Wallace, who probably isn't in the bottom half of backup QBs in the league...

5) And to finish things off, signed Jake Delhomme.

No, seriously.

Yes, the same guy who did this nine days ago. (And I'm ignoring the fact that he'll make ludicrous jack, no matter what, in 2010.)

The same guy that threw more godawful picks last year than any franchise in years? The guy who single-handedly kept his team out of the playoffs? The guy that every fantasy football player kept tabs on last year, to make sure that they had the opposing defense?

I'm astounded that Delhomme is employed to play pro ball in 2010. I'm amazed that anyone would want a 35-year-old injury-prone pick machine without wheels or even much arm strength to be under center. And yet here he is, the odds-on favorite to be given one of only 32 sets of keys in the whole danged NFL world. (And yes, I know the Browns would be completely insane to not draft a QB next year, and both Delhomme and Wallace are just warming the seat, but the Walrus isn't going to put a rook into the fire no matter what. Besides, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez and Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan exist; you can win games with rookie QBs.)

So, Browns Fan... have you ever considered the idea that your team is just conducting an elaborate practical joke at your expense?

Jim Lampley Bangs The Shark

Via Deadspin, witness the new Blogfrican meme. Bang goes the dynamite. (And so does Lamps' reputation as one of the more brainier people who make a buck from boxing...)

March Sadness

It's that magical time of the year when I wish, on some level, that I gave a damn about amateur hoop played by people who aren't physically mature enough to be at their best at it, but who are good enough to be fiscally exploited by rapacious institutions in a cruel manipulation of the marketplace and the general public's dislike of a majority African-American enterprise. (Whoops, blew the game already.)

Between the bracketology, the nonstop games that all mean something, and the fact that the first two days of the tournament are an unofficial holiday of sport and tremendous excuse to blow off work, it just seems like the time that you should care about such things, or at least, pretend to. Despite all of the exploitation and unseemliness.

But I just can't do it; I didn't grow up with it, and as soon as I got out of school, the transplant failed. Even when my alma mater (Syracuse) finally broke through and won it all with Carmelo Anthony and Hakim Warrick taking out Kansas, it was more along the lines of "Oh, that's nice" than a grand celebration. I enjoy watching Duke lose as much as the next red-blooded American and biped, but beyond that, there aren't even teams that I root against, really. Had I the choice of finding $20 on the ground or seeing the Orange cut another net, I'd take the $20. And maybe $10.

I know that, on some level as a raging NBA lover, I should be caring more about the tournament. It is, after all, the proving ground for the majority of future NBA players. But the level of play is just so scatershot, the media mouth jobbing of coaches so total, and the sense that you really need to be gambling -- and doing so with a lot more on the ball than I've got -- to be enjoying it.. well, the feeling that I'm missing out on something passes almost as quickly as my brackets used to, back in the day. And since the tournament usually loses a great mass of steam as soon as 95% of the brackets are garbage, and the games start happening outside of work hours and/or aren't doubbled and quadrupled up so that you've got buzzer beaters all over the place...

Well, if you're into the tournament, more power to you. I'm pleased and a little surprised to see my Orangemen still got a #1 seed in the West after losing their last two games of the year.

But if and when they go out, I probably won't care much more about it than I do now. The blog is mostly for MLB, NBA and NFL, and I just don't have the time and patience to add more things to that mix. Moving on.

NESW Drop: Top Five Hateful Foreign Sports Fans

As a special bonus to all of you that might be coming back to the blog from NESW, rather than the other way around, here is the rare DynaMan clip that shows you more of Dyna Pink and Lucy Muffin Tail than we've ever seen before. I will now sing my Paul McCartney medley.

And as one more bonus that you won't get over at NESW, here's the video that I considered, but didn't use, because that site is a little more family friendly. I thought the heel was supposed to wear black.

And if you've got no idea what any of this has to do with sports, I guess you have to take that click now, don't you? (Not that it'll really help.)

Top 10 reasons why the Jets signed LaDanian Tomlinson

10) Thomas Jones had way too much left in the tank, and by tank, we mean "reasons to actually be paid"

9) Team desperately wanted to have its own, very sad and very inadequate, LT to compete with the Giants

8) Had to do something drastic to keep Shonn Greene from going too high in fantasy football drafts

7) Best way to make sure that the team never has to undergo the media scrutiny and salary escalation that comes with a Super Bowl trip

6) The very accomplished Jets OL really needed a challenge

5) It really cheeses off the Patriots, who were hoping to team Tomlinson up with Fred Taylor and Kevin Faulk in a Three Headed Century RB Attack

4) Since every other free agent signing of a post-30 heavy workload star running back has utterly and completely tanked, we must be due to have this one work

3) Still bitter at Brett Favre, and heard that the Vikings wanted him

2) Secret payoff for the choke job that Tomlinson gave them in last year's AFC playoff win over the Chargers

1) Curtis Martin, Freeman McNeil and John Riggins all said no

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Top 10 reasons why Tiger Woods hired Ari Fleischer

The golfer who can't keep his club in the bag has decided to hire the ex George Bush press secretary and most well known (note: not actually good) spin doctor in sports. What caused Eldrick to pull the trigger on what appears to be yet another self-inflicted injury?

10) Like fellow AF client Mark McGwire, Woods isn't here to talk about the past

9) Wants to make sure that he keeps being shunned by African-Americans, and there's no better way to do that than to bring in a Bushie

8) Needs to know where he can get one of those big "Mission Accomplished" banners to put over his bed

7) When you've made Tiger's kind of money and screwed this many service workers (both on tips and, um, other ways), you more or less have to hang with Republicans

6) Planning to distract the press and public with a land war in Asia, so there's really few PR people who have the experience

5) Baghdad Bob not available

4) Hopes that continuing bad PR efforts distract from what he's supposed to be apologizing for in the first place

3) All part of an elaborate and wacky romantic comedy plot to win his wife back

2) Necessary step to make his sponsors find room in their hearts to one day believe in him again

1) Woods has less common sense than a 1-iron

Top 10 reasons why Ben Roethlisberger's latest scandal is nothing to worry about

10) As he's told people over and over again, every time something like this happens, absolutely nothing happened

9) Took precautions to make sure that nothing would be remembered, if you catch our drift and I think you do

8) It's not like he's got a pattern of tremendously bad decision making in off-season life choices

7) Even if the allegations are true, he's got two-time Super Bowl winning immunity

6) He's being accused in Milledgeville, GA, which can't possibly have the grade of trim that he's used to in Pittsburgh

5) The off-duty cops that were with him, and couldn't possibly be moved to lie by BR's money and star power, said nothing happened

4) If push comes to shove, he can just take a DNA test, like any other white trash reality TV star

3) Everybody knows you have to collect at least a half dozen false rape allegations against a star athlete before it gets serious

2) Pretty sure that if he were in a situation like this, he'd hold the ball too long, try to do too much, and wind up taking the sack

1) Unlike Kobe Bryant, Michael Vick, Tiger Woods and so many others, Ben hasn't made the tactical error of sinning while black

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

NBC Philadelphia Craps The Number Bed

In the words of Mark Jackson, come on NBC Philadelphia, you're better than that. (This, by the way, is a screen shot from their site. And my Number Bed is Numbered 69, honey chile.)

On the other hand, you are also employing Howard Eskin, who I'm not linking to here, because it would involve linking to Howard Eskin. So maybe not.

And what the hey, we are talking about the Sixes' front office here. Might as well let the slower interns and copy editors work on this. It's not like it's a team that anyone cares about anymore, so what's the harm?

Top 10 reasons why the Clippers fired Mike Dunleavy

10) After seven years of more or less abject misery, somehow lost faith in his abilities

9) Dunleavy didn't bring the same zing to his work, now that he couldn't screw Elgin Baylor anymore

8) Club found out how he personally crippled Blake Griffin

7) Being 110 games under .500 as a coach left him with nothing more to prove

6) Seeing as this is the Clippers, one has to assume that they had to pay him, or offer medical benefits, or something

5) Axing Dunleavy is the only thing that could get Baron Davis to try again, or Bill Simmons to re-up his all-important season tickets

4) Kept drinking the last cup of coffee without starting a fresh pot, even after being confronted about it, and his TPS reports were always late

3) According to the team's press release, they want to win now, which represents a sea change in philosophy

2) When LeBron James doesn't sign with them, the club wants LBJ to be able to turn them down with a straight face

1) Owner Donald Sterling jealous of how Dunleavy was becoming even more hated than he is

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Top 10 least meaningful NFL free agent developments

10) Tennessee signed LB Will Witherspoon, because a guy who couldn't keep a job on in the awful and injured St. Louis and Philadelphia 2009 defenses is certainly worth 3 years and $11 million

9) The Raiders released WR Javon Walker, causing everyone to remember that Walker was with the Raiders

8) Landlocked Browns walrus Mike Holmgren imported QB / WR / Ineffective Slash Guy Seneca Wallace to back up Josh Cribbs at the critical "Oh God, Someone's Got To Play QB In December" position

7) The Bengals are deciding which veteran WR malcontent (Terrible Owens? Brandon Marshall? Antonio Bryant?) can make Chad Ochocinco look sane by comparison in 2010

6) Carolina released 33-year-old FB Brad Hoover, seeing how being 33 and a fullback are two conditions that are more or less impossible in the NFL

5) The Chargers released RB Michael Bennett, which means Bennett has only 28 organizations left to go in his quest to be released by every team

4) OL Stacy Andrews restructured his deal with the Eagles, so that his resume listing of Payroll Thief could be changed to Payroll Grifter

3) The Steelers brought back Antwaan Randle El from the Resdkins in the hope that they can flip his switch back to Don't Suck

2) The Browns released QB Derek Anderson, who at least got to be reminded that he once made a Pro Bowl in the headline

1) QB Jim Sorgi decided that if he's going to carry a clipboard in the presence of a Manning, it might as well be the one that might get benched in this lifetime

Separate but female

A quick little think piece for those of you who want more than the snarky list from me...

First, there was a pre-Oscar column in the NYT in which the female writer put forth the proposition that there is no reason to split acting awards (or directing, for that very strong matter, especially in the wake of "The Hurt Locker") among men and women. The more sensible approach, of course, is to give out awards for drama, comedy and other disciplines, since there's no way on this Earth to judge that apple against that orange, but in the meantime, it's kind of silly to think that a best supporting actor is doing anything that's very different from a best supporting actress.

Heck, many women in the field don't even call themselves actresses anymore, as part of a whole movement to avoid gender roles in proper nouns. The road to equality also involves taking away little trophies, it seems, or at the very least, making sure that Marisa Tomei in "My Cousin Vinny" level moments don't happen anymore. So be it.

Getting back to sports, this also translates to the recent kerfluffle about the track star who is somewhere in between, in that great false dichotomy of the gender scale between men and women. And it's not as if Danica Patrick is racing on a distaff circuit, or that the Winter Olympians go have their separate but unequal hoedown, though there is that sad little spectacle that is women not being allowed in ski jumping.

Which leads us to the curious case of Kelly Kulick, the first woman to win a Professional Bowlers Association title. Kulick didn't just win a title, she won a major in that world, and took down a $40,000 pot. In the Lemur article that told the tale, we get the following money quote from Women's Sports Foundation Founder Billie Jean King, who knows something about gender equity:

"Kelly Kulick's win... is not only historic, it serves as a motivational and inspirational event for girls and women competing at all levels all around the world."

And the following statement from the kugler herself:

"Obviously, this is a turning point for my career and women's sports in general, but I would really like to see the whole sport benefit."

Which would be... the creation of a full-time women's tour, where she'd probably be the big fish in the (same old) little pond.

Ah well. One shouldn't expect the athlete to be anything more than the athlete, really. And for the sake of argument, I'll call bowling athletic, if only because it still qualifies as sport, seeing as you don't need a judge to tell you who won. Or how what you are doing is no different than the men...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Top 10 reasons why the Eagles picked up Michael Vick's $1.5 million bonus

10) That one touchdown pass against Dallas is clearly worth serious coin

9) As far as they know, won't do done anything unsettling, inhuman and awful with it

8) When your season stats are 6 for 13 for 86 yards and a touchdown on the air, and 95 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, you can just write your own bonus, really

7) Will give the team more time to agonize over a QB decision

6) They can tie up millions in quarterback salary, since they rarely pay defensive players or free agents

5) With AJ Feeley getting a job in St. Louis, there aren't enough guys available who can run the system and fail without embarrassment

4) Buys coach Andy Reid a few more weeks of Tony Dungy Access

3) Really, really cheeses off the animal rights activists

2) "The Michael Vick Project" on BET is their favorite show

1) Want to wring every last second of local sports interest away from the Sixers, Phillies and Flyers

NESW Drop: The Enemies List Presents Five Hateful Sports Movie Women

This week over at NESW, we get up close and personal with the women that ruin sports movies, and discover that it's 40% Barbara Hershey's fault. It's a festival of rancor and disdain, with just a dash of misogyny. In other words, it's sports!

Top 10 destinations for Donovan McNabb in 2010

First things first; I must be mad to write this kind of post when one of the bigger source of traffic to the blog is YardBarker, aka Where Donovan McNabb blogs. If this gets a link there, I'm sure to get hordes of McNabb haters and fans in the comments section going crazy Broadway-style, and maybe even the big man himself chucking some Chunky Soup at my head. (Seeing how it's Five, my feet are in greater jeopardy. But let's just move on.)

Secondly, this list omits the constantly discussed notion of Minnesota, simply because if I have to go there, I have to talk about Brett Favre. And if anyone else in Blogfrica does that, the Internets will break. And I'd hate for that to be on my conscience, really.

10) Washington. If you really think that the Eagles want to deal with a vengeful high-level QB that could finally drag the Skins out of the swamp... well, um, no. Besides, the Skins are far more likely to jerk around Jason Campbell and torture some big-named rook, rather than go after an older, injury-prone name.

9) Oakland. McNabb makes a lot of sense here, since he's got a ton of experience in making terrible wideouts look tolerable, and the Raiders have brought in veterans (Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks) before. It's also got to eat at the organization that, if they had just a replacement-level QB, they would have been in the running for a playoff spot last year. But whether all of that translates to making a move and finally giving up on JaMarcus Russell as a sunk cost is another matter entirely.

8) Carolina. With the Jake Delhomme Experience being over, the Panthers are looking at 2010 with Matt Moore under center, and while that ended well last year, starting a new campaign is another matter entirely. McNabb's history of low mistakes would play well here, Steve Smith would have to appreciate his touch on the deep ball, and the running game might add years to his career. It's a dark horse spot, but not a bad one.

7) Denver. The reunion tour with Brian Dawkins could take advantage of the usual comedy stylings of the AFC West, and the Broncos have to be thinking hard about a big name under center after a year in the Kyle Orton wilderness. It would also help to distract the fan base from missing Brandon Marshall, which seems like a done deal. But it's hard to see coach Josh McReynolds go hard for an option that wouldn't reflect on his genius.

6) Arizona. My favorite dark horse candidate, in that they might feel the need to make a big splash after a flurry of moves involving well-known players. It would require an utter and complete lack of faith in understudy QB Matt Leinart, which makes sense if you've seen Leinart actually play or practice. McNabb has a fair amount in common with departed messiah Kurt Warner, and he'd certainly make the remaining offensive options more attractive for fantasy players. He's also oddly local, in that he trains in Arizona in the off-season.

5) San Francisco. The Niners have picks to spare, a division that's ripe for the taking, and a shaky QB in once and future retread Alex Smith. They also have an emerging WR threat in Michael Crabtree, a fan base that's starved for a big splash move, and a solid but aging RB1 in Frank Gore. The defense also picked it up nicely last year, which is important in that it means they might think that they are close enough that a veteran QB might get them into the playoffs. But realistically, this franchise hasn't made a move like this in years, and probably won't now.

4) Seattle. Do they really want another season on the Matt Hasselbeck / Seneca Wallace treadmill, especially when owner Paul Allen has more money than sense and the town is ready to just give up and move to Vancouver for the sports scene? No and no, and they do have picks to move if they want to upgrade here... but it's hard to see how new coach Pete Carroll wants to tie his wagon to a QB who will have this much weight in the locker room. The fact that the Seahawks are also bringing in Tim Tebow for a visit tells me that Carroll would rather lose with someone young.

3) Cleveland. Here's where the bidding gets serious. The Browns have a festering wound at QB (seriously, the "decision" to tender Derek Anderson or not is right up there, in terms of difficulty, with not setting your genitals on fire), noted Green Bay / Andy Reid enthusiast Mike Holmgren steering the ship, a nice piece (NT Shaun Rogers) that would make for a reasonable trade of valuable but older pieces, and their hands in the middle of a dozen conversations about lesser QBs than McNabb (David Carr? Seneca Wallace? Yeesh). It also doesn't hurt that the GM here is Tom Heckert, who has Eagle ties as well. The rumor here a month ago was actually QB Kevin Kolb, but you'd have to think (hope?) that the Eagles would rather move the older guy.

2) St. Louis.
The 1-15 Rams have been so linked to a deal for QB Micahel Vick for so long that one has to wonder if the rumors might just be a dodge for larger prey. Vick makes more sense here, since he'd hide the porous offensive line better and maybe sell more tickets from protestors and people who don't really understand football, but there's always the possibility that the team really believes the insanity they've been pushing about how much they value Vick, and would rather go to a competition between him and Kolb.

Getting back to why McNabb's chances of being here are higher is the face that head coach Steve Spagnuolo is intimately familiar with McNabb's work from his team on Reid's staff, which probably explains why AJ Feeley's career will continue here. If it's my team, I draft a QB, give Feeley the caretaker role for a year and build the lines, but maybe Spags just sees that as the way to prime the pump for the next coach. Seeing how he just went 1-15 in his first year, I'm not thinking he's got that long of a leash, really.

1) Philadelphia. What, you really think that Andy Reid is going to get run off from his best chance at winning 10-11 games and one playoff game next year? Cap'n Andy needs that level of sameness more than he needs extra bacon in his coffee. Besides, he's really not serious about Vick's potential, and doesn't have (um) the stomach for a rebuilding year. Not when the team was so close to beating Dallas last year. (Don't tell him. It'll only upset him, and when that happens, he eats.)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The most original poker bad beat story of the year

I was holding trips when the gunman came in and robbed the place of a million euros. That will teach me to play poker on television in Germany. (Though, to be honest, I'm kind of amazed it hasn't happened here yet. What's the matter, thieves of America? Are you going to let those stinking Euros take all of the initiative?)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Top 12 reasons why Chicago is to blame for Milton Bradley's poor 2009

"Two years ago, I played, and I was good. go to Chicago, not good. I've been good my whole career. So, obviously, it was something with Chicago, not me." - Milton Bradley, as quoted in the New York Times
12) Kept taking his stapler

11) Didn't tell him that they hadn't won a World Series in over a century, and that the town might have some negativity

10) Put him in a situation, unlike Texas, where local fans noticed whether the team won or lost

9) Exposed him to the gateway drug of deep dish pizza, leading to hardcore rib addiction

8) Signed him to a totally ridiculous 3 year, $30 million contract that he could never hope to earn

7) Did not make it totally clear which Chicago ballpark he would be playing in

6) When a player is on his fifth organization in five years, and his eighth overall, it must be the team's fault when it doesn't work out

5) Area landlords refuse to follow the rule that big name free agent outfielders stay for free

4) Club kept bringing in water coolers that looked at him funny

3) Media kept noticing when he'd say he wasn't talking to them, then talked to them

2) It's all that damned goat's fault

1) Um, they signed Milton Bradley

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Top 10 signs that fantasy baseball is getting too popular

10) Five people in your office have asked you if you are starting a league

9) People are actually drafting teams now, despite a month of spring training injuries ahead

8) The poor quality of American League shortstops offends you

7) MLB- markets like Oakland, Kansas City, Washington and San Diego actively marketing their ticket plans as "Our guys count in fantasy leagues, too"

6) People actually choose to listen to Matthew Berry

5) Season previews of teams getting a tenth of the page views of player rankings

4) Jose Reyes' owners about to file class-action lawsuit to make the Mets hit him leadoff, instead of third

3) The decision isn't whether to join a league, but whether to go for an auction or snake draft

2) You've read this whole list in the hopes of finding one sleeper (Julio Borbon)

1) No MLB fan under 30 doesn't have a team

Five Very Nerdy Baseball Questions

As I begin the annual exercise in diminishing returns that is fantasy baseball prep, I'm ready to get in touch with my inner (OK, he's not that inner) nerd. And since we're now some 20 to 30 years into the statistical reformation of baseball, which means that Joe Morgan now knows what slugging percentage means, I can only up the ante and see if these metrics have been cranked up already. (Probably on some pay gomer service, of course. That's what the comments are for, really.)

5) Is there an optimal number of throws to first, and does stolen base percentage change after repeat throws to first?

This has always been one of the things that I'd pull if I was a manager and wanted to buy time for the reliever. Instead of having to trudge my weary self to the bump to talk to the arsonist that got me into this jam in the first place, I just signal to the catcher to keep throwing to first until the reliever is good and ready. Assuming that your pitcher and first baseman can successfully play catch (and if the throws to first are nice and soft enough to drive the opposing team's fans crazy, so much the better), you avoid any sense of the reliever not being ready, and you might even get an edge by taking some of the gas out of the speedster's legs.

Of course, if the numbers go the other way (i.e., more throws = higher percentage, maybe from the redemptive power of hate), then the pitcher and catcher are going to have *major* communication issues. Best to go through all of those signs again, Jorge.

4) Are offensive variances more predictable on the percentage of hits and fouls that just clear the fence, and do the same guys lead in this category year over year?

Take a look at Ichiro hit sometime (Ichiro, for all of the Red Sox and Yankee fans out there, plays for *Seattle* -- isn't it cute how other cities have teams and players, too?). He fouls off a tremendous number of pitches, but the vast majority of them are deflections off the bat, and hence sharp lines that always make the stands. He's a remarkably consistent hitter, and money in the bank as a fantasy player.

Now look at Alfonso Soriano. Every swing is for the downs, and he produces (at least to my memory of him during his time in Texas, when I saw a lot of him in games against my A's) a ton of pop ups, some of which would wind up getting collected for outs in the huge Oakland foul turf. And he seemed to be one of the most erratic offensive players from a year to year basis in the majors.

If we can measure people's batting average on balls in play, I suspect we can also measure this, really. And see if the same guys lead the league in pop ups from year to year.

3) Is there a consistent split among road pitching performances that follow attendance?

All road games are not created equal, really; a Tuesday night in Oakland in front of a few thousand souls is not the same, in any way, as a game against the same team on Friday night, in front of a full fireworks house. It would be interesting, not to mention a very nice point to know for those who still enjoy wagering on games, to know if there is a consistent difference, and what kind of opposing pitcher (young vs. experienced) feels it the most.

2) How much more likely is a player to get hurt if he plays second, short, or catcher?

We know that some positions rack up more injuries than others, and it's even been the historic reason why any number of stud hitters get moved later in their careers, since they just can't stay healthy in the middle positions. We've got a century of games played by position; we should know a better number than an anecdote.

1) What pitchers are the most likely to throw a first pitch strike?

As a fan, nothing galls more than the reliever who comes in during a rally and falls behind the hitter. It would be good to know who does and who doesn't have this problem. (Though, of course, they can quickly have another problem if it becomes none that the first pitch is always a get-ahead fastball...)

Monday, March 1, 2010


Sorry for all the emo, but tonight as I came in the door from the evening commute, the Shooter Brother called to tell me that my father has passed on. Seeing as FTT is where I do the writing, and we're not going to get back to the site's business before I get through this, here comes some personal words. If you want to skip, I won't hold it against you.

My relationship with my father is, for the most part, a void. My mother and he split, and nothing about it was pretty. He left behind my older brother and sister, and I was five. I have no memories of him as a child, and the Shooter Mom didn't discuss him. We lived on her earnings as a bartender, my siblings didn't bring him up, and for the most part, it wasn't an issue.

My uncles on my father's side were important players in the Philadelphia music scene, which was how I spent my 20s. So our paths finally crossed twenty years later. By odd coincidence, my father worked with a woman who played bass in the band, and we met for me to sell him some demo tapes. (He insisted on the money.) The meeting was odd, fairly brief, awkward, and the only thing that struck me was how the man was actually shorter than me. I'm 5'-3", so I don't often meet men who I can look over. He was probably in his late 40s then, in reasonably health, and didn't seem to have any idea of what to do next. Neither did I, really. I still don't.

Five years later, I was coming up on my 30th birthday, the music career was winding down, and I was taking an EST-ish course that focused on clearing personal drama from your life. So I contacted him again, tried to get him to do the course with me (he passed, which wasn't too surprising, but still a shame), and went over to his house for an evening. He talked a lot, mostly saying the same things over and over again. He had gone through some serious health issues that seemed to make him a little more thoughtful, but it's not like he showed me a lot of potential for growth. He was what he was.

I wrote about the experience for a local weekly that's no longer around, which I think offended him a little... but more for the idea that it could cause him trouble at work, rather than the truth or falsehoods of anything I actually wrote. (I didn't use his name, but my byline appeared, and my last name isn't very common.) He also had the same breed of dog as me, which was officially weird.

So having only really met him a couple of times by the time I was 30, I wasn't terribly interested in trying to have a traditional father-son relationship. The man also had a new family and obligations, so it's not like he had a ton of time and interest in going there, either.

I think he was proud of what I had accomplished and who I was, but it's not like we were going to go hang out. When I married the Shooter Wife, he wisely stayed out of the wedding rather than run into my mom, sent some cash, and that was that. We didn't speak again for the 10+ years after that, and when his grandchildren were born, I didn't get in touch. My kids asked about him a few times, but not very often, and not recently. I'm still mulling over how I tell them that he's passed, or even if.

It all seems harsh, I suppose, and on some level, I kind of regret not having the chance to say goodbye. But it never really seemed to be a need, or a good idea. Getting in touch with him just seemed like timewaste, and a betrayal of the parent that didn't skip.

But when I was talking with the Shooter Wife tonight, it got me to thinking. If I had been a father at 18, the way he was, I wouldn't have gone to college, since I would have provided for the kids. I wouldn't have had the meager amounts of patience that I have as a parent at 30 (and now 40). I'm sure I'd have resented the kids and their mother, not made very good coin, lived in a dicey neighborhood, and worked a job -- or two, or three -- where I just got beaten down every day. And had I grown up in the situation that he did, without anyone pushing me to do something more with my life...

Well, we all make our own luck in this world, of course, and the man had brothers who overcame the same hardships that he had to have pretty great lives. But the margin for error isn't so huge, really.

And if everyone is here to teach us something, he's taught me the price of not putting your kids first. Not the worst thing to take away from a father, really.

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