MLB Championship Series Preview | SYFFAL

October 15, 2010

As I’ve gotten busy with other endeavors, my baseball writing time has taken a hit. The Division series was a great way to usher in the 2010 MLB Playoffs though so here’s a piece I wrote today for http://www.shutyourfuckingfaceandlisten.com, where you can find many a musing from yours truly.

he division series have come and gone in momentous fashion. We said goodbye to Atlanta skipper Bobby (“Scourge of Flushing”) Cox, whose Bravos fell to the mastery of Tiny Tim, Brian Wilson and the S.F. Jints in 4. The Phils crushed the Red Leggings three straight with stupid starting pitching including Doc Halladay tossing only the 2nd no-hitter in post season history. In the A.L., Tampa fought back from a 2-0 deficit but fell to the left arm of the human adverb, Cliff Lee and his Rangers of Tejas in the first playoff series in baseball history where the road team won every game. Up in the Boogie Down, the Yanks once again dominated the Twins as expected, sweeping away Minnesota’s hopes “down the banks of the Mississippi River,” as Hold Steady frontman (and big Twins fan) Craig Finn would say.

Oh by the way, Finn loves the Twins so much, he recently penned an ode to his hardball idols: “Please Don’t Call Them Twinkies.” Peep the dissing of the Atlanta Tomahawk Chop at around 2:50. When the Braves play my boys in Flushing, we like to mock the chop while chanting “fuck the braves,” to the tune of their stupid cheer…

http://www.youtube.com/v/DAxVNQTqU1s?fs=1&hl=en_US

 

Now to review my picks from last week: Got both NL series correct. Picked the Yanks, but in 5 and I had Tampa in 5. Pretty close. My 5-star, triple crown locks for the League Championship round:
American League
These aren’t your father’s Texas Rangers. They aren’t just a bunch of gigantic juice heads (see Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, Jose Canseco and later A-Rod) golfing homers into the short porches of Arlington stadium. Ron Washington’s boys have the good shit and they’re running wild! The Jorge, Cervelli NY catching duo’s got their work cut out for them and Yankee pitchers will have to work extra hard to keep the deer antlers off base. Of course they still hit homers, with Vlad the Impaler, The Natural, Nellie Boomstick and the Jewish Guy, Kinsler all swinging for the seats. Of course the Yanks can run up the score with anyone and their bats were hot in the first round too. With Lee going in the deciding game against Tampa, the Yanks won’t see him until Game 3, so the pressure is on Texas starters C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis tomorrow and Saturday. If they’re not careful, they could be down 2-0 by the time Lee takes the mound. Yanks ace, C.C. Sabathia hasn’t pitched in 8 days and NY’s hoping he hasn’t been hitting the buffet too hard. Yanks starters Philly Hughes and Andy Pettite have their work cut out for them in Games 2 and 3, but Hughes has had success against the Rangers and Pettite hold runners better than anyone. This is going to be a tough series between two teams that are very evenly matched up and down the roster. I’ll say Yanks win in 7. Why? Mariano. ‘Nuff Said.
National League
It’s David versus Goliath, Sparta versus Persia, Vietnam versus America… you get the idea. As much as it pains me to say it, the Phillies are the most complete team in baseball right now. They have an American League style lineup that hits from 1-8 and they have the best 1-2-3 starting pitching punch in the game. The Giants bats have woken up some but they’re going to need a minor miracle to touch up the Halladay/Oswalt/Hamels three-headed monster. They have a pretty potent 1-2-3 starting pitching combo too and Lincecum/Cain/Sanchez are all going to have to be lights out in order to give their team a shot. While Doc Halladay was almost perfect, Timmy was just as dominating in his game one appearance, throwing a 2-hit, 14 K gem. In a baseball nerd’s wet dream, Saturday the two aces face each other in what may be the best playoff pitching duel in recent memory. If you watch only one game the rest of October, watch this one! These two guys will be enshrined in Cooperstown one day and you’ll be able to tell the kids about this game. Phils are too deep. They beat S.F. in 5.

MLB Championship Series Preview via SYFFAL.


REPEAT!

October 5, 2010

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The Cortizone Kids

September 22, 2010

It’s been a month to remember for Team Donkey Punch. Never thought you’d see that sentence in writing did you? After closing out the regular season with a scorching 30-3-3 record, I ultimately finished in 2nd place, 1/2 game out of the top spot. I actually held first going into the furious final day of play, that saw three teams in first, before the dust settled and The Thirsty Monster stood atop the standings for the second straight year.

With the additions of pitchers Yovanni Gallardo and Ryan Dempster via trade and young phenom Daniel Hudson and veterans Joe Blanton and Jake Westbrook off of waivers, the starting pitching that was a weakness earlier in the season became a strength down the stretch. I patched the speed-hole in my offense as well by adding Brett Gardner to the mix and seeing Chone Figgins come on in the second half. With a team more well-rounded than ever and a first-round playoff bye, Donkey Punch was ready to battle it out for another championship.

Then the injury bug struck.

On the first day of my semi-final match up with the commissioners team and 2007 champ, The Devil Wears Prado, I had Albert Pujols, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner all receive cortizone shots to various aching body parts. Three days later, the Cardinals would shut down rookie sensation Jaime Garcia. Lead by a resurgent pitching staff and big weeks by Jason Werth, Angel Pagan and Derek Jeter, Donkey Punch overcame the odds to earn a trip to the finals to face The Thirsty Monster. Which is where we are today, currently leading 8-3 (no thanks to lousy performances by Cole Hamels and Trevor Cahill today) going into the second week of the championship series. With the offense clicking (I’m ahead in all offensive categories) and the rotation loaded with 15 starts for the final week, we might be sipping bubbly once in October once again.
Some notable moves: I finally let go of the Panda. Lets call him F.U. Panda, shall we? He’s been bad enough to land on the bench as the Giants battle it out with the Padres and Rockies in the final weeks. Panda get sent off to waivers in place of Marlins rookie Logan Morrison. Had I rostered Morrison instead of F.U. a month ago, I’d have probably finished in first. Now that I pick him up, he cools off, going 5 for 28 in the past week. At least he’s playing and not terrorizing Bay area buffet tables, unlike the disappointing Panda.

Mike Aviles on the other hand has done serious work the past week, with 7R/2HR/5RBI/2 SB and a .333 BA. Aviles replaced Emilio Bonnafacio who I rostered to give me a speed boost while Brett Gardner was out with his recent wrist injury. Aviles is a perfect example of playing the hot man in H2H as he’s hit 6 of his 8 homers in the month of September.

That’s all for now. I’ve got some writing to do for SYFFAL.com, a music/culture/variety blog that I write for now but I’ll be back next week either celebrating another championship season or licking my wounds after a monumental collapse.


Doctoring The Ball

August 23, 2010

I just wanted to give those readers out there in fantasy land (hi ma, get well soon!) a reminder that while I have been a bit too busy with my day (and often night) job to write much here lately, I am still following the games as closely as ever and keeping up my teams and I will most certainly keep TTO going when in the future. I just got one of them new-fangled smart phones, an HTC Incredible, so I’m fully mobile now. I spend a lot of my working days on location and away from WiFi interwebs, so mobile access to my fantasy teams will give me that much better a chance at glory as we head down the stretch. Currently the renamed “Donkey Punch!” (12 team h2h keeper league) sits in 4th place and is looking good for the playoffs, while the Harlem Hangovers seem to have been stuck in neutral and are mired in 7th, 29 points out of the top spot. Barring a miraculous come-back, it looks like it’s time to start looking forward to next year for the Uptown faithful…

So just a reminder, if you’ve got roster questions, comments, suggestions for future pieces you’d like to see or whatever else, do comment here on the site. You can also go to Advanced Fantasy Baseball to get the 411 from John, Paul and myself in one tidy package. We schmooze like Steve Somers on the overnight.


Doris From Rego Park

August 16, 2010

I hadn’t commented on Razzball in about a week or so, which actually feels like a long time to me since I started checking out the site on a daily basis back in March. Saying the site’s main voice, Grey Albright, is a great writer baseball writer is like saying Albert Pujols can hit. That he’s just about always connected to the site and giving specific fantasy feedback and advice – for free – is unprecedented in the fantasy baseball world. What makes the site special is in no small part the commenter however, whose comments usually number well into the triple digits for every post. The same names always appear day in and day out: Royce!, Wilsonian, ThePoonTycoon, Howie Met Your Mother, and many more offering wit, wisdom and obsessive comradery during the long and often grueling months of the fantasy baseball season.

Today I dropped a comment on the site, starting it by jokingly channeling Doris From Rego Park with a trade offer of Benny Agbayani and Masato Yoshi for Luis Gonzalez. It got a few laughs and this response from Grey, which I thought I’d share:

I wish I could have met Doris. When she died in 2003, I felt like I lost an aunt, whose raspy voice comforted me on many a sleepless summer night. Here’s to you Doris. Thankfully for your sake, you were spared the horrors of watching those two colossal Met collapses in ’07 and ’08.

Here’s a posthumous fan page on Facebook for Doris Bauer. Check it out and spread the love.


Film Review: “The Lost Son of Havana”

August 2, 2010

Born in 1975, I didn’t get to see Luis Tiant at the peak of his pitching prowess. In fact, my few memories of Tiant consisted of his unique, whirl-wind windup and his affable, cigar-chomping post-game interviews with the press after pitching for the Yankees. Only a few years removed from some incredible years pitching for successful Red Sox teams that seemed to come up just short year in and year out through the mid to late 70′s, my father would tell me how Tiant was a fierce competitor with impeccable control and a pure joy to watch on the field. In that era, some would say that if you had a must-win game, the man you’d pick to start it would be Luis Tiant.

As a mixed-race child of divorce, who grew up often feeling alone and displaced in the world, Tiant’s mystique as a Cuban exile captivated me. Even then, there was something about a man with no place that struck a chord with me. The pitcher I saw in his final years was but a shadow of his former self, but the numbers on the back of his baseball card didn’t lie. There was a time when Tiant was about as good as any pitcher in the game. In fact his 1.60 ERA in 1968 was the lowest in the American League since Walter Johnson’s 1.49 ERA in 1919, second in baseball that year behind Bob Gibson’s mark of 1.12, which still stands as the lowest in the modern era. Opposing batters hit .168 off of Tiant in ’68, a Major League record, as he notched 9.22 K/9 over 258 innings pitched. With his funky wind-up, his fu-manchu moustache and his ever present post-game cigar, he was a larger than life figure and his legacy of excellence inspired me to emulate his trademark delivery when I pitched out in the courtyard in front of our little garden apartment in Flushing. Even though he was on his last legs as a professional pitcher, he was one of my first baseball idols, a few years before a young flamethrower named Dwight Gooden would come along to sweep New York City off of its feet.

In 1961 Tiant was a young amateur, touring America as part of a traveling exhibition of Cuban players. Then the Bay of Pigs invasion occurred and Fidel Castro gave those players in the states an ultimatum: return home to play in Cuba or never return home again. Spurred by his father, Luis Tiant Sr., himself a fantastic pitcher in the American Negro League, who never had the opportunity to pitch off of a Major League mound before returning to a working class life in Cuba, young Luis stayed in America and carved out a name for himself as one of the era’s finest hurlers. In 2007, after 46 years spent in exile, Luis Tiant returned to his native Havana, followed by a film crew, lead by director Jonathan Hock. “The Lost Son of Havana” documents Tiant’s bitter-sweet return home.

Tiant’s journey back to Havana is a touching and poignant tale, which shows a side of El Tiante that we’ve never seen before – a man torn with regret, as he returns to find an aged and impoverished extended family that he felt in some ways he abandoned when he decided to stay in America. As much about Tiant’s family as it is about the pitcher himself, Hock does a great job skillfully weaving the stories of both Tiants, father and son, together. With a photo of his old man in tow, his only tangible connection to his past, he reminisces about his youth and talks with others of his generation who saw both him and his father play. We’ll never know, but many say that “Lefty” Tiant, the senior, with his confounding array of pitches was better than his son. Said by some to have invented the screwball, he once struck out the mighty Babe Ruth in an exhibition game and held him to lone single while facing him as a starter in both games of a doubleheader.

With Cubans living and breathing baseball, many in the streets of Havana knew of Tiant’s triumphs in the majors and welcomed him home like a conquering hero. A fun moment occurs when they visit a Havana park where men gather to talk baseball. When asked “who is the greatest Cuban pitcher of all time,” the mostly young crowd rattle off names familiar to current baseball fans, such as Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez and Jose Contrares, before one young man knowingly barks out, “Luis Tiant,” as the aged legend stands their behind them with a grin. As testament to Tiant’s tremendous success, Hock intercuts the film with a wealth of old footage from Tiant’s playing days, as well as interview clips from former teammates such as Carlton Fisk and Carl Yastrzemski. Along the way we hear of all the highs and lows of Tiant’s career, from his early days with the Indians, where he threw his hardest stuff, to his reinvention as a pitcher and the development of his tornado wind-up, after he suffered an injury plagued campaign in 1969. From his return to dominance in the 1970′s to his multiple comebacks in the early 80′s, Tiant comes across as a man who loved nothing more than to take the mound and pitch. Of course, we see his greatest on-field moments with the Red Sox, where Tiant became one of Boston’s most beloved athletes, averaging an astounding 280 innings pitched a season from 1973 through 1976 and ultimately leading them to a World Series appearance against the Big Red Machine in 1975. There Tiant put the team on his aching back, going the distance in complete game victories in Game 1 (a five-hit shutout) and Game 4 and received a no-decision in Game 6.

Perhaps the high point of the film comes as we look back at Game 1, before which Fidel Castro allowed Luis’ parents to go to America to watch their son pitch in the World Series. Before a frenzied Fenway Park crowd, Luis Sr. proudly took the hill to throw out the game’s ceremonial first pitch – a strike – that brought a thunderous ovation from the Boston fans. Denied the chance at his beloved sports ultimate glory because of the color of his skin, the father then got to watch the son pitch the game of his life on baseball’s biggest stage. Seeing that footage brought me to tears, as my father, a scouted high-school star, also once dreamed of pitching off that big league hill before his career was curtailed by injury. It’s times like those when the game transcends provincial, generational and cultural boundaries and becomes something greater than what we simply see on the field. It becomes more than just a pastime, but a link to our past itself, both personally and as a nation.

Hock’s crew takes us along with Tiant through his native city, who’s 1950′s architecture and automobiles seem so alien to him now. Sometimes shown in grainy images, as though frozen in time, the city of Havana itself comes alive for the audience as we are lead down its boulevards and alleyways, meeting people such as Juan Carlos Oliva, the brother of former Major League star, Tony Oliva. Juan Carlos was a talented ball-player himself but decided to stay in Cuba and served in Castro’s army as a tank commander before later becoming a baseball coach. Together he and Tiant talk of the many greats who never got a chance to prove their meddle and reap the rewards of glory and wealth in America. We also meet a childhood friend, named Fermin, who while taking a sentimental look at their youth, cannot help but convey his anger and envy at Tiant, whose career brought him riches beyond the wildest dreams of most Cubans. Of course we meet Luis’ extended family, living an impoverished life, far removed from that which Luis came to enjoy in The States. From the old aunts who last days draw near to the young ones who seem somewhat puzzled by all the commotion, it is a bittersweet scene as Luis feels the pain of having stayed away so long and finds out that many of the care packages he had sent home never made it to his family. Haunted by regret, we see Tiant give them necessities in short supply, such as needle and thread and toothpaste, before peeling off dollar bills.

As reviewer Michael Janusonis of the Providence Journal artfully pointed out, the film is indeed two tales. One is the story of Luis’ catching up with a family that he had lost touch with after all those years away. The other story is the tale of Tiant the pitcher and his triumphs in America, succeeding in ways that his father, denied the opportunities he was afforded, could not. The two stories are woven together masterfully and serve to make the film an engaging and rewarding viewing for fans and non-fans alike. Even my wife – who’s hardly a fan of the game and is truthfully sick of it, since it’s always on in our living room – enjoyed this film. If you are a fan of baseball, do yourself a favor and see this film immediately.


Welcome To Splitsville Part 2

July 16, 2010

Originally published on Advanced Fantasy Baseball. Stats current as of the All-Star break.

…Continued from Part One

Here’s the rest of my 2010 All-Splits team for players owned by 50% or fewer teams according to Yahoo.

Vs. Righties

C: John Jaso (6% owned) Although he’s cooled considerably since May, the 26 year old catcher came seemingly out of nowhere to perform admirably behind the plate for the Rays. Jaso has put together nice numbers against righties, going .295/.412/.397 in 177 PA, while struggling against lefties in limited action. Interestingly enough, Jaso’s MiLB Splits are pretty even throughout his five years on the farm. With enough plate appearances against big league lefties (since returning from injury, the struggling Kelly Shoppach has been getting a lot of appearances against southpaws), Jaso might be able to prove he’s deserving of a full-time gig.

1B: Lyle Overbay (4% owned) It seems like you could pencil Overbay into this list every year and still somehow he manages to hold down a full-time job in Toronto. The veteran first baseman has always done better against right-handers (.264/.353/.443 in 269 PA so far in 2010) while doing little against lefties, but that split is even more dramatic this season as he’s stunk it up to a tune of .192/.232/.308 so far. With first base so rich in talent, there’s no reason to have to roster Overbay outside of the deepest of leagues. If you do however (maybe you own Kendry Morales and Todd Helton, both shelved with injuries), you’d do well to sit him against lefties or platoon him with a guy like Daric Barton or Adam Rosales.

2B: Omar Infante (9% owned) The man who may forever be known (through no fault of his own) as the worst All-Star selection ever is the only 2010 All-Star to also make my All-Splits team. The jack-of-all-trades has been consistently mediocre from both sides of the plate through out his nine years of mostly part-time, MLB play. This season however, the right-handed Infante has shown infinite prowess if not power against righty hurlers, posting a .364/.384/.447 in 138 PA in while disappearing against lefties in limited time (.262/.303/.311 in 67 PA). If he receives regular playing time, I would expect that gap to close quite a bit before season’s end.

SS: Wilson Valdez (3% owned) Wait, what? Yeah I put Valdez on this list, what of it? That’s how shallow SS is and the 32 year old journeyman plays in a hitter’s paradise. While starting in place of the injured Jimmy Rollins at short and now Chase Utley over at second, Valdez has proved useful against righties (.283/.300/.449 with all 4 of his HR in 133 PA), while doing next to nothing against southpaws. Outside of a hot streak, I don’t think he’s rosterable in 12 team mixed, but I did have him for a cup of coffee on my 15 team mixed league a few weeks ago.

3B: Chase Headley (45% owned) The Padres every day third baseman started off like a ball of fire in April, only to come back down to earth with a thud in May and June. He’s been picking it up again lately however, and remains solid against right-handed pitching going .306/.351/.427 with 5 of his 6 homers in 251 PA. His weakness against left-handers remains glaring however, as he’s been shut down to the tune of .197/.258/.248 in 129 PA. His sneaky speed makes you want to pencil him in every day in case he swipes a bag, but his ineptitude while facing lefties removes that option unless you like zeros. Cavernous Petco Park saps his power and that weak Padre lineup does him no favors either, so unless you’ve got another 3B eligible guy to platoon him with, I’d stay away from Headley in all but deep leagues.

OF: Hideki Matsui (37% owned) Godzilla is a shell of the player he was a few years ago with the Yankees and he’s been absolutely dreadful against lefties this year – .188/.224/.366 in 107 PA. Against righties however, Matsui can still hit and he’s put up a useful .281/.381/.408 line in 231 PA. Consider him rosterable in deeper leagues, when platooned with an outfielder who can rake lefties like Matt Diaz, Jeff Francoeur or Cody Ross.

OF: J.D. Drew (44% owned) The captain of my all-splits team, J.D. Drew is the epitome of a platoon player – when healthy, of course. Drew demolishes right-handers with a .315/.400/.586 line, along with 9 of his 10 home runs in 210 PA. Conversely, he’s atrocious against lefties, going .185/.265/.235 in 91 PA. If you’ve got Drew on your team, platoon him or else!

OF: David DeJesus (50% owned) The Royals outfielder is quietly having a very nice year all around – 45 R/5 HR/ 36 RBI .326/.395/.460 and his career splits aren’t that far apart, however this season he’s really shined against right-handers, going .344/.403/.478 in 275 PA. I’ve currently got him in my 12 team mixed league and I sit him against lefties in favor of Dexter Fowler, since his .272/.372/.407 line with little pop or speed in 95 PA doesn’t offer much in that format. DeJesus has been mentioned in trade talks with the Red Sox, where I see him in a platoon with Mike Cameron, once Jacoby Ellsbury gets back, which would certainly help his counting numbers against righties.

UTL: Angel Pagan (50% owned) Currently the Mets leader in batting average (.315), Pagan will get the bulk of the playing time in a platoon with Jeff Francoeur, once Carlos Beltran gets back. His speed makes him playable every day right now, but if you can afford to, it’s best to platoon him to take advantage of his splits. Against lefties Pagan has been pretty underwhelming with a .273/.309/.386 line in 96 PA. Facing righties though, Angel has been heavenly, belting out it out at a .335/.398/.512 clip. Platooned with a lefty killer and you’re looking at steady production in the second half.

I’m ending my list here, but there are lots of other players around, who if platooned properly can provide your fantasy team with a nice lift. Who do you think are some other players who could have made the Splitsville All-Stars?

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