Saturday, December 31, 2011

[sigh]

[double sigh]

Yeah... Happy New Year's eve y'all.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Act Together

“Liiiiiifffffffeeeeeeeee.”

My wife says this all the time. Usually it is said with the culmination of a lot positive things all happening at the same time. I use it now, as more of a lets-slow-down-I-am-tired kind of way.

Two columns in two months. Woof. If the consistency with which I have been writing lately were female and dating, then this column would be dating Buzz McCallister. And it is not like there have not been topics to talk about either. We have had topics like lockouts, rape scandals, hiring’s and firings, holiday nightmare stories, NCAA football standings, Cowboys games and all things NFL, Super Bowl commercials that feature people in my family, lifted lockouts, hilarious YouTube videos of a song made soley out of Mike Tyson quotes, Theo Epstein taking the reins of the Chicago Cubs, renting a Chevy Impala and somehow ending up with a Corvette, fantasy standings etc,. I could go on.

If I were crafty I would have intentionally created the writing absence but dropped Twitter bombs here and there, hired sexy PR majors to create tantalizing and cryptic press releases to keep my many readers chomping at the bit. Instead, I have alienated all my subscribers because I am lazy bandicoot. Even my mom has ceased reading this column.

I have gone so long without putting out a column I do not even know what to write about. Looking back at what should have been my regular writing schedule, I should have had a lamenting Red Sox column, a fantasy sports gloating column, a 3000-word article on a video game nobody cares about, and at least four columns about the Cowboys. One about being 2-and-3 with me asking, “What the hell is happening? We are going to finish last in the division and we’re one of the most talented teams in the NFL”. In the second I would have clamored about laying off of Romo because he has collapsed lung and is a champion/please let us win some games. The third would showcase me swinging in to full on positive “We got this” mode by me writing as if I had never written the previous two articles, and the fourth should have been put out on Monday night with me gloating about how we are going to win our division. Instead of getting those columns, you got the last paragraph.

I am sure I could have squeaked out a column on the NBA Lockout. You know, the one I never cared about. The lockout happened and we officially missed games. But not once did I feel like I had been bent over a wooden barrel that was the depravation of NBA action. Nor did I feel like a kid who climbed out of one of those circular shirt racks at JCPennys, only to instantly panic about the certainty of his mother intentionally leaving him at the mall so she could move to another county. That feeling of “I am forever lost”, in relation to NBA, never manifested me. I cannot honestly say that I even wanted it to. Forgive me if I offend anyone, but I wish we had missed the whole damn season. I really do, because I was never an advocate of the players should-get-what-they-want party or the owners-should-get-what-they-want group. I wanted both to lose so I could win.

There are three main groups that lose once a season is lost, but there are still ways fans can win. The list of losers are the players, the owners, and the fans—and in that order. Financially speaking, anywhere from 40-50 players would have made it through a missed season with no problems. These are the superstars of the league who signed $90 million dollar shoe deals when they turned eighteen years old (read: LeBron). The rest would have quickly begun to bleed out and turn desperate. Some actually did. Kenyon Martin is stuck playing in China until March because he did not read the fine print of the contract he signed. He has to play the whole season, at a wholesale price, while everybody else starts playing on Christmas. The owners would have taken a hit too, but as business men with other investments (I am guessing) would have made it through drought too. At the very least, they would have outlasted the majority of the non-superstar players and would have started to feel the strains of no NBA income at the same time the superstars did.

The operative phrase to notice the previous paragraph: would have.

Would have, ladies and gentlemen. That is a hypothetical because they never, actually, did. Thee would have never manifested. As fans we… wait for it… would have lost out entertainment, but that is it. If anything, while all of these players and owners went without money, we would have been M-A-K-I-N-G money. Who do you think provides the income for these millionaires anyways? We would not have—

(Scoring update: “would not have” does not garner italicization or bold font but does receive partial credit for those keeping score at home. The person who correctly tallies all of the “would haves” in this column and submits a 1-page, double spaced essay on why they actually read anything on this website, will be declared the winner and will win a year’s supply of Diet Coke… for the remainder of this year…)

—spent money on tickets, merchandise, parking, gas driving to-and-fro, food, you name it. That is money for our pockets and we still get our sports fix through the NFL and NCAA Football and Basketball.

If there would have (the phrase is now haunting this column the same way self-respect haunts the Kardashians) been a season long lockout, then perhaps owners and players would never again have these inner-dialogues that lead to NBA lockouts:

NBA OWNER: “Hmm… that Joe Johnson is a pu-ri-tee good basketball player. He is good, might be great, and certainly will never be elite. But I need to make sure he stays on my team. I should probably rape myself in keeping him here. I am going to pay him $120 million dollars over the next six years.”

JOE JOHNSON: “Hmm… I must be a pretty good basketball player. I am not the best by any means, and there are probably 20 guys in the league that are more talented than me. I just got paid $120 million dollars. This is what guys, with talents such as my own, should be making. I know this because somebody just gave me $120 million dollars”

PLAYER X: “Hmm… I am mediocre basketball player who had one semi-shiny season. I’m also old. I think that means I am good. Joe Johnson is making $120 million dollars. I think I should be making at least half of that because I am half as good as he his… almost. I should be making $11 million dollars a year. Oh wait, that IS what I am making per year right now. My name is Hedo Turkoglu.”

This had to stop, and in ways I think the lockout curtailed stuff like from happening in future, but I stand believing that an entire missed season would have been even more effective. It does not really matter. It looks like there is going to be a 50-50 split with an adjusting formula depending on if the projected revenues exceed or fall short. Happy Holidays, get ready for professional basketball games on Christmas Day. I am very much over the NBA season and it has not even started yet.

This is OK because right now I am in full fledge Fantasy Football ball mode. Both of my teams are 7-and-5, and are in 2nd and 4th place respectively. In the one league, which I have been in for almost a decade, things have been so strange this season. With my team comfortably resting at two games above .500, I have somehow had more points scored against me than points my team has scored for themselves. I feel like last year’s Seattle Seahawks winning NFC West with a 7-and-9 record. If you break it down the point spread, it shows I have won each of my seven games by an average of 0.11 points. It is beyond me. At this point, I am grateful my team is sitting in 4th with one game remaining in the fantasy regular season.

In the league I created myself, there has been a ton of headway made this year. People are trading left and right, throwing in cash considerations and what not, people are participating in the league polls, giving their input on the direction of the league and owners are coming in to their own. The league is blossoming and I am a beaming proud parent. They grow up so fast, and right under your nose. I think I will get their baby booties bronzed.

Things have been crazy in this league too. Last season, Rob finished in dead last and prior to this year’s draft, he paid $50 dollars plus—per player—to resign Peyton Manning and Andre Johnson. A week after the draft, we found out that Peyton Manning was done for the season with a neck injury. Rob was all but, officially screwed. At least he has Andre Johnson, or least that was the case until Andre Johnson hurt his hammy Week 3. Johnson just barely made it back to his first game since the injury this last week. Needless to say things did not look good for Rob.

His team jumped out to 1-and-5 start, which given the injuries sounds about right, but somehow through trades and player pickups, Rob has rattled off six wins in a row and is guaranteed to play in Championship Bracket. He could even win his division outright and be the #2 seed in the playoffs. You cannot make this stuff up.

I promise a Fantasy Football playoff preview by the end of the first week of December. If I do not come through, then I will refund your subscription fees for access to this website.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Oktoba

October is one of my favorite months. In the words of my nephews, “it is one of my most favorite months.” When he told me that, I looked at him, right in his 3-year old eyeballs, and said, “You’re damn right it is.” I really think if children are going to be exposed to moderate swears, such as damn and hell, it should come from a family member. Just kidding. I just like to see their eyes light up when I say the word damn, like I am their risk taking, badass uncle. That, and it bugs my sister. It is a win-win.

However, I really do think that the English language should allow the use of ‘most favorite’ because I believe that one can posses many favorites, some more than others, and certainly one beyond all others. English professors and grammar-Nazis world-wide would correct this error, telling you, “If one is preferred above all others, than it is simply: your favorite. The ‘most’ is used unnecessarily.” They are right, technically; if you are in to that kind of thing. The definition reads:

fa·vor·ite
noun
1.
a person or thing regarded with special favor or preference; preferred above all others of the same kind


I know this definition because one of our senior editors told one of our countless peons at HITS, to go get a dictionary and look up the meaning for this article. We then did our best Brian Regan impression, and demanded the peon, “Bring us the head of a pig!” Then we had a good laugh, and spent the rest of the afternoon drinking 150-year scotch whilst congratulating one another on being billionaires. Working for HITS offers many perks, with moments like these. It also offers absolutely no pay, and zero health benefits. Health benefits are so far from the spectrum of what HITS is about, we had to have the same peon look up the definition of what health benefits were. From what it sounds like, they sound amazing. With all of the talk about word definitions and whatnot, we asked ourselves, “As the collective HITS writing team, do we care about things pertaining to the nature of grammatical correctness? Do we care what argumentum ad populum means, and support that it’s use in writing as being 100% incorrect, because anyone who says otherwise, is wrong and a dope?!”

No, we do not.

These columns are lucky to get a quick read through before publishing. That is no joke. MLA, APA, AMA, Chicago/Turabian—with their prickly rules and formats—who need ‘em? Spell check? Spel chek iz fore wusies. What were we talking about again? Oh yeah, October.

Part of the reason I like October is because just the word by itself looks cool, no matter the language. In German, October looks like Oktober. With Bulgarian it reads октомври. Spanish is Octobre—same with French. Swahili might be my most favorite: Oktoba. Looks like it would sounds gangster if spoken aloud and like things that sound gangster.

I also enjoy Oktoba because it brings my life World Series baseball and I am the kind of guy that needs World Series baseball in his life. After the sting of the Red Sox collapse, I distanced myself from the sport to almost, but not quite, extinction. It is what you do in the wake of being utterly dumbfounded from one of your favorite sport franchises. In the aftermath I was only able to physically watch one playoff game (Brewers/Cards—where my wife inexplicably became a diehard Cardinals fan). It was all I could muster. Some of those games should have been Red Sox playoff games, and they were not.

Nonetheless, I put in the bare minimum, and followed the games to see what the scores were and who was likely to beat who. My original projection was that the World Series winner would be the victor of the Milwaukee Brewers/Arizona Diamondbacks series. Well, the Brewers beat the D-Backs, and the Cardinals beat the Brewers, so logic would suggest that I think the Cards will be the team to take it. This ordered thought process pleases ‘The Boss’ because if you do not know by now, she has been a Cardinals fan since the dawn of time. At her request I was asked to put in a “Go Cardinals” if I ended up writing about baseball. She thinks they will win. And perhaps they will. But I think I am going to go for the root for the Texas Rangers because they made it back to big dance after they were dumped and humiliated in front of the whole school the year before, ya know? I mean, how about Nolan Ryan, taking his team to World Series in his first two years of ownership? This is the same owner that signs autographs of him holding a man in a headlock while pounding his fist in to the guy’s head. That is straight gangster, and as we mentioned earlier, we like things gangster. There is the gangster standpoint and then there is fact that the Rangers play in the same division as my Seattle Mariners. When one of your teams has a season, as bad the Mariners did in 2011 (a 67-95 season; besting only the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins), sometimes the only way you can cling to any sort of dignity, is to say your team played in the same division as the World Series champs. I am sure the Toronto Blue Jays fans feel like this all the time.

[Somehow, somewhere, some Jays fan is reading this and nodding woefully to himself.]

Continuing with my love of this month, besides signaling the weather to transform the air in to that brisk, perfecting chilled goodness—and the leaves repainted themselves with yellows, chocolate browns and stunning reds—October usually Usher Raymonds’ in the start of NBA action. But the NBA is in full lockout, lockdown mode. You and I should be panicked. We soberly are not.

If you lend your ear to anyone who covers the NBA for a living, you will hear them telling you this lockout is super serious—way more serious then the NFL lockout—because the problems perpetrating the lockout are completely different then the ones sports fan faced two months ago. The NFL was arguing over how the billions of dollars in profits were split up. The NBA is arguing about how the owners are not making any profits, how it is the players to blame, and how they to give in to order to fix it. The players on the other hand are like, “Look, you are the ones who paid us this money. Blame yourselves.” As a result of this back and forth, the NBA has already cancelled two weeks of the season, and could cancel the entire season if both sides do not make some headway before Thanksgiving. These are the facts, but if I am honest with you, and I think I speak for 76% of NBA fans, the urgency of panic associated with the threat of cancelling an entire season, is at a sure-and-steady low. If I were to illustrate this panic by using Smokey the Bear’s fire danger meter, we would be holding steady at blue. The role of Smokey will be played by Marc Gasol, with is brother Pau as his second.

[Dirk Nowitzki just slammed his fists on his desk after reading that last sentence.]

The NFL lockout ruined any fear the NBA lockout could instill in me. It is kind of ironic because the fear of losing the NFL season was more of a propaganda tactic, used by owners to get the players to agree to their deal, whereas the NBA threat of a cancelled season is likely a reality. Even though I know this, in the back of mind I am telling myself that the NBA will work something out in a reasonable amount of time and I will not feel any sort of loss, because that is exactly what happened in the NFL lockout. The NBA has already cancelled regular season games. I should be freaking out, but I am not. However, I will agree missing two weeks of NBA basketball is not the same as missing two weeks of the NFL, but still. We have the writing is on the wall. However, one could argue that on the flip side, even with the missing two weeks, the NBA could still put a condensed schedule together, featuring the 82 games. My NBA panic button is still collecting dust. We are still sitting at threat blue.

[Meanwhile, Dirk Nowitzki is furiously punching the keys of his keyboard, in a hate filled e-mail in response to his Smokey the Bear snub.]

With the NFL, World Series baseball, and college football in full force—the possibility of losing professional basketball for a year does not seem too scary. It is like a mom telling her kid that she is going to take away his Nintendo Wii for six months. It sucks, but the kid will still have his Playstation 3, X-Box 360, and Nintendo DS to tie him over. It will not be until February that the Sony and Microsoft systems begin to fizzle the lack of any new games, on then we will feel cheated. But that is February.

Right now, it is Oktoba.

.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ending Things

The answer is: no. I am not on suicide watch. I do not think that I ever was. There was a dizzying spell right after the Longoria walk-off, in the where I kind of blacked out—I think, so my mind could adequately suppress what had happened in all of Wednesday night’s game—and I came too lying in the back of car that did not belong to me (true story).

In my fantasy league, my buddy—whose team is currently 0-and-3 but was favored before the season started—texted me and said that his fantasy team was like the Sox in September. Great players that cannot get it done.

Ouch. He is a D-Backs fan. Baseball life is good for him right now.

The morning after friends and co-workers treated the situation as if there had been a death in the family. Hand shakes, consoling e-mails, and dozens of ‘I’m-so-sorries’. There were a few that directly had to ask what happened because they missed the games entirely. Those were fun, re-living the play by plays, 12 hours after the fact.

But in all honesty, I cannot really be angry at anyone, but the Red Sox. I cannot point the finger away from the team—even though I **expletive** hate the Yankees for doing exactly nothing. Gosh dammit. In the latter part of the Rays and Yankees game, I sent out the following Twitter, Google+, and Facebook updates:

 “I swear, if the Yankees get on their knees on blow Tampa Bay, and screw me over... I'll kill someone.”
 “You suck d--- Yankees, I can't stand you. What the Eff is your problem.”
 “You gosh damn effing Tankers, I effing hate you.”

The last status that containing ‘Tankers’, was the first one that I posted, but because I was updating my status on my phone, when you type the word ‘Yankees’ it auto-corrects to tankers. How poetic.

In the bottom of the ninth inning of that Tampa/New York game, when Dan Johnson was at the plate, I was watching the game on my iPad with MLB.tv app. For every game you watch, you can choose if you want to view video feed of the home or away team. I chose the Rays feed. It did a couple quick shots of the Rays dugout, showing the dejected look on their player’s faces; one strike away from almost, but not quite completing their improbable comeback and finalizing the subsequent Red Sox collapse. I felt a tinge of sadness for them. The feeling of your baseball season ending is never pleasant, it is a feeling of... ‘I just wasted so much time for nothing.’ There was a pain in my heart for what they were about to go through. (In the writing business, we call the previous sentence f-o-r-s-h-a-d-o-w-i-n-g).

No need to get in to the messy details. If you want to re-live it, Bill Simmons did a running diary of the game found here. I will share a small excerpt of that article which perfectly describes the Red Sox unbelievable and never-in-the-history-of-baseball collapse, in which he closed by writing:

“They [the Red Sox] blew basic baseball plays, botched fly balls, dropped relay throws, ended games by getting caught stealing, threw meatballs, bitched at each other, admitted to being scared … you name it, they did it. They choked away Game 162 by getting three guys thrown out on the basepaths, by blowing a 3-2 lead in the ninth, by botching a season-deciding fly ball, by letting Chris Davis, Nolan Reimold and Robert Andino beat them with two outs in the ninth. You can't say it was unbelievable, because, actually, it was totally believable.”

In regards to talking about the Red Sox 2011 season, and it’s ending—and to quote Forrest Gump—“That’s all I have to say about that.” But I do have a few things to say, elsewhere.

To start, lets talk about a game we all love, Words with Friends, and it’s social problems. Lately I cannot get enough of it, but there are too many gray areas involved that lack etiquette guidelines.

PROBLEM #1
The most glaring of these is the whole post-game, do I say, “yes I want a rematch” if I beat you, or do I decline and let you decide that? Or when I get on my phone and I have a notification that says I just lost, of course I want a rematch, but did you already start one because you found out that you beat me, before I did? What the hell is happening? I do not know what to do. Nobody does. I cannot tell you, how many multiple games I have going on right now with the same person because of this exact problem. I have four different games going on right now between myself and my sister-in-law. It needs to stop. With so many duplicate games, nobody knows which game to be the more emotionally invested in. We need to fix this.

PROBLEM #2
Words with Friends (WWF) and the cause and effect ripple of the Cheats with Friends (CWF) users. Look, we all know the difference between trying letter combinations to get that triple letter or triple word and because of this you “find” a word and the difference between people who go straight for the CWF. The CWF user problem is affecting the non-users, because the non-users remember these bogus words. I am one of those people. If I am in a game and someone plays a random word that seems totally fishy, I am certainly going to try and use that word down the road.

A prime example is the word: oxyacids. I played this word against my wife a week ago because some CWF player (you know who you are) added the ‘oxy’ when I played the word ‘acids’. My own brother refuses to play WWF with me because he thinks I cheated by playing random words I learned in other games, like ‘rotgut’. Stop using Cheats with Friends people, because you are inadvertently making me look like a cheater.

PROBLEM #3
Do not start a game with a three-letter word. Especially a three-letter words that cannot be turned in to a longer word. Words like “but”, “can”, “bit”, and “fin”—those words are fine. They can all be turned in to butter, cantor, bitten, and finish. I am talking about words like “hah” and “biz”. What the freak are you trying to do to the board? Just do a tile swap. The game has not started yet; there is not a huge advantage to be had by being the person to start the game. There certainly is not an advantage to playing “hah”. Nobody knows how to build on that, and those that do, use Cheats with Friends. You add to the problem and not the solution.

PROBLEM #4
The whole “should I” or “should I not” start a game with you because we are Facebook friends? Nobody knows what to do. We all have friends on Facebook that we have added or they have added us because the two of you went to the same high school or took the same class in college. You never actually hung out with this person. Maybe you have been to a couple of the same parties, but there were 15+ people at this party, so you were not forced to interact them. I am talking about the people that you never write on each other’s wall or message or anything like that, and you would feel weird if you wrote on their wall for their birthday. The only reason you added or accepted said person because

A) you know their face or had a class project with them, and;
B) all you really want out of the Facebook friendship is the luxury of being able to stalk them on the off chance that they should they ever get married/divorced, do something crazy, get fat or get hot, put up super skanky Halloween pictures, suddenly invent something and get mega rich, compete on reality TV, or become famous.

We are all just a bunch people gamblers, playing the numbers, waiting for some ish to go down. Period. My question is this: because we are not friends—or what friends should be—is it weird if I start a WWF game with you because all the other people that I play with on a regular basis are being lazy and not updating our games? I merely need to get my WWF nicotine fix, OK. I am not trying to stalk you, I just want to play some damn words already. We need to determine if this is a line that is copasetic to cross.

Sooo…

In an attempt to add order to the world of WWF and right the ship, the writing team at HITS has come up with the following guidelines and rules:

1) If you win a game and the program prompts you start a re-match, decline. The person you just beat, is going to get the same message. Let them say yes, and play first. Perhaps the think you cheated a bunch and do not want to play you again. Which brings us to rule two;
2) Stop using Cheats with Friends. If you really do know an ambiguous word, then use the message feature, and drop a clarifying line the person you are playing. Same thing goes for you, if you think, they cheated.
3) Do not play, short, dead-end words to start any game. Swap tiles. This is the only time that you should ever feel obligated to open the board up.
4) HITS writers are making an executive decision on this one. Start a game with anyone and everyone. Who cares? We need to burst out of our shy, voyeuristic tendencies. If someone starts a game a game with you, it is not because they love you. The want to get their words on, and that is all.


FINAL THOUGHTS
In closing, I just want to say that I love my Boston Red Sox no matter how they may historically screw themselves. Going in to the month of September, the Sox had a 99.6% chance of making the playoffs, and now they are sitting on the couch just like me. I still love them and I still love baseball.

Predictions: Whoever wins the D-Backs/Brewers series is your World Series Champion. If not them, anyone but New York.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Adrian Peterson: this generation's Barry Sanders?

Usually, I am not super big making comparisons of athletes; especially when they play within the same sport. Typically, I like to compare players from two different sports. For example, I have always thought that Grant Hill was the Ken Griffey Jr. of the NBA, because I will always wonder what might have been, if either of those guys had never encounter the nagging injuries they did. With Griffey, I think we see him smashing the home run record, which never gets touched, until late in Albert Pujols career. With grant… I am not entirely sure. Maybe an NBA title somewhere along his career. But we will never know, but those are the types of comparisons I like to make.

Breaking out of my norm, I have been wrestling with one player mirror for a couple of days. No, it is not, “Is Cam Newton the next Michael Vick?” No. Although, I do think that is the best case scenario for Newton. Only time will tell. My curiousness has lately been this:

Is Adrian Peterson this generation’s Barry Sanders?

The more I think about it the more convinced I become. Adrian Peterson is a gangster talent, super good, and is never going to miss an opportunity to be great. The Viking organization knows these facts just as well as every other NFL general manager does, and that is why Adrian Peterson will never be traded or outbid by any other NFL team when his contract is about to come up. Ever. Probably for his entire career, but most definitely for the prime of his career, Adrian Peterson is going to be in Minnesota Vikings jersey. Viking fans everywhere are rejoicing. The only thing that would put him out of Minny uniform, is if he suddenly became a Randy Moss-like head case. Viking fans everywhere are solemnly nodding their heads. But he never will be a head case. Viking fans everywhere are, again, rejoicing.

But because Adrian Peterson is so good, the chances of him playing on a Viking team that will make the Super Bowl are no bueno. No bueno at all actually. I will tell you why. It is simple really. Because of how good Peterson is, the Minnestoa Vikings will never completely suck enough in order to nail that cannot miss pick (read: QB, something along the lines of an Andrew Luck). His greatness will become his Achilles heel. It will plague him, just like it plagued Barry Sanders, and therefore Adrian Peterson will never be combined with a current Top 10 quarterback. The Donovan McNabb trade is not going to take the Vikings to the promise-land. How can it? McNabb is not the player he once was, because if he were, he would still be with the Eagles or at the very least, the Washington Redskins. You realize the Redskins told themselves John Beck or Rex Grossman were better quarterbacks. It is no bueno for a third time Viking fans. Even if he does OK, who is McNabb going to throw to?

It was hard for Donovan McNabb to do it in his prime when had a money Brian Westbrook running the football and was throwing TD passes to Terrell Owens—whose on the field prowess loomed far above any other wide out in the league. Unfortunely, Terrell Owens knew that, and it pissed people off. That Eagle team was very close, but they were unfortunate to match up against the early 2000s dynasty, known as the New England Patriots. That was McNabb in his best-case scenario and it did not get done. And that was 7 years ago.

So how is McNabb going to do it now, after the semi-washed up season we saw in Washington? And how will he do it being traded to team with ZERO elite wide outs? All of these facts do not bode well for Adrian Peterson—just like it did not bode will for Barry Sanders back in the day. The numbers do not lie when you look at Barry’s Lions team seasons stacked up next to Peterson’s Vikings team seasons. They actually paint the same picture.

The Detroit Lions seasons when Barry was on the team:

1989 7-9 3rd NFC Central
1990 6-10 3rd NFC Central
1991 12-4 1st NFC Central
1992 5-11 5th NFC Central
1993 10-6 1st NFC Central
1994 9-7 3rd NFC Central
1995 10-6 2nd NFC Central
1996 5-11 5th NFC Central
1997 9-7 3rd NFC Central
1998 5-11 4th NFC Central

The Detroit Lions won their division twice during Barry Sanders career. The 1991 first place finish came in spite of the Lions losing starting quarterback, Rodney Peete, midway through the season. With the loss of Peete, the two reasons the Lions finished so well that year, came as a result of Barry’s combined 1,885 yards rushing/receiving and 17 touchdowns. The other factor was one of renewed and unbeatable fighting spirit birthed from tragedy. In a game against the Los Angeles Rams, Lions starting guard, Mike Utley, sustained an injury at the beginning of the fourth quarter, which left him paralyzed from the chest down. Without being able to feel his arms or legs, somehow, as he was being carted off the field, Mike Utley was able to give the fans in attendance a ‘thumbs up’—forever cementing his fighting spirit that would later lead to him creating the Mike Utely Foundation which seeks a cure for paralysis. The Detroit Lions would wear his #60 on their helmets for the rest of the season and would win their remaining six games. The Lions would eventually lose to the eventual Super Bowl Champion, Washington Redskins, in the NFC Championship game.

The division-winning season of 1993, was a combination of quarterbacks Rodney Peete, Erik Kramer and again, running back Barry Sanders. Sanders was limited by injury that and only played in 11 games, yet he was able to notch 1115 yards, a paltry 3 rushing TDs, and trip to the Pro Bowl. The Lions lost in the NFC Wild Card game to the Green Bay Packers.

Now peep the four seasons the Vikings have played with AP:

2007 8-8 2nd NFC North
2008 10-6 1st NFC North
2009 12-4 1st NFC North
2010 6-10 4th NFC North

Adrian Peterson burst on to the scene in 2007 by winning Rookie of the Year, rushing for 1,342 yards, and 12 touchdowns. He would go on to the Pro Bowl that same year and win that games’ Most Valuable Player award.

The following season, when the Vikings ended up winning their division with credit being given—much like the 1991 Lions season—mainly to Peterson. Peterson played even better as a sophomore in the NFL than he did as a rookie, increasing his rushing yards by 419, to a total of 1,760. He had minimal dip in touchdowns, going from 12 to 10. The starting quarterback for the Vikings that season, was none other than Tavaris Jackson who failed to put up 2,000 yard passing and posted a 70.8 quarterback rating.

When the Vikings won the division for the second year in a row, Adrian Peterson was again solid. Racking up 1,383 yards on the ground and a gargantuan 18 rushing touchdowns. He also posted a career high in receiving yards with 436, giving him a 1991 Barry Sanders-eqse 1,819 all-purpose yards and +1 on Barry’s 17 touchdown total. The Vikings were further blessed by the arrival of Brett Favre that year, and Brett’s miracle season. For the first time in 19-year career, at the ripe old age of 40, Favre posted a 100.0+ quarterback rating on the season, with a rating of 107.2, and kept his interceptions in the single digits (7). His previous low for INTs was 13… coming from all the way back in the 1996 season. So too, like Barry’s 1993 season, Adrian had another productive rushing year, but his team was also aided by the quarterback position. The Minnesota Vikings would lose to the eventual Super Bowl Champion, New Orlean Saints, in the NFC Championship game. Hmm… didn’t the Lions do something like that?

If we are honest with one another, barring the unlikely Brett Favre formula happening to McNabb—playing whole career for city that worshipped him, only be let go and then play for a random team, only to wind up on the Vikings the following season—Adrian Peterson’s saving grace is resting on shoulders of Christian Ponder. Let’s face it. That is the cold hard truth. Somehow, Ponder is going to have to become, at minimum, a Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger or Matt Ryan for his franchise in order for the Vikings to find Super Bowl glory. Every championship caliber team needs a gutty quarterback and either a stand out half back or wide out. Minnesota has AP, so they can get by without a stud receiver. But they need the right quarterback to make it happen. If Ponder is not that guy, then it looks like Peterson becomes this generation’s Barry Sanders.

I guess all I need to do is figure out if saying such a thing, is a compliment or something to be sad about. Perhaps it is both.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

NFL & Post Draft Thoughts

We made it. And Ben Roethlisberger went without raping someone this off-season! If only the lockout had been as strong as the Capital City Nightclub’s bathroom door the night Big Ben was in town—then we might not even have a season to kick off. But we do, and this season’s kicks off happens to be between the 2010 Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers and the 2009 Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. Top tier quarterback vs. another top tier quarterback. Personally, I am hoping for a shellacking delivered by the Saints to the Packers. Something along the lines of Drew Brees repeating his performance against the Detriot Lions Week 1 in 2009, and Aaron Rodgers mirroring his Week 4 start, in 2008, against the Falcons.

In the last seven days I have completed two Fantasy Football drafts. I will get in the breakdown at the end of this column. This week has also taught me something I think that I have always known about myself. I cannot compete in a bunch of different fantasy drafts. Hell, I can barely even compete in two. How people play in thirty different leagues is beyond me. Friend league, work league, random online league, church league, league with the pizza delivery guy, etc. It is too much for me. I know my limits, what can I say? It is like drinking Red Bull. Drink one, maybe two, and you are feeling super positive—you might even decided to get your butt in gear and write a column. But drink four or more, and you either feel like you are going to throw up or you curl up in the corner convinced you are going to die. To much fun and joy can be a bad thing.

In addition to rooting for the guys on your team, a big chunk of joy associated with Fantasy Football is rooting against the guys on your opponents’ team. The more leagues you participate in, the more players you are likely to have in one league, but not have in the other. I do not want to pull for Philip Rivers in one league, and pray he snaps his arm in nine places in the other. It is a conflict of interest and I like to have my fantasy loyalties as PC as possible.

More often than not, because I like to keep my group of guys as uniform as possible, I usually end up with a couple players on both of my teams. And if you are going to draft the same players (if possible) in every league… why do you need to have 5 copies of the same lineup? For example, in both the leagues I participate in, I have quarterback Drew Bress and wide receiver Roddy White. Those are my guys and I will have no problem hoping they break every NFL record week in, week out. But that is it. Almost ever other player I own, has me battling my principles of do good and do terrible or “do just enough to help me in this matchup, but not so good that you screw me over in my other one.” I hate that.

Over the years I have collected some multiple league, fantasy pearls. Granted, I have only ever done a maximum of two separate Fantasy Football leagues at the same time, so take this for what it is worth, but I have figured at least much:

A) There is always one team you manage that trumps the other one.

In my case, that is the auction draft league I set up just last year, even though the other league is one I have been a part of since 2003. The very league that popped my fantasy cherry. Normally, I am a lifer when it comes to sports things, but the layout in my year-two brainchild league is so much more… more. Ya know? If that makes sense. I was crazy with the amount of spread sheets I prepared, and how much I would spend on Player X if Player Y had already been drafted, and so on and so forth. I made sure I to pick my spots—almost too carefully because post draft I had about $20 left over that I could have used to get a particular receiver I wanted. In my other league, I kind of winged it, and drafted more dangerously. Do not get me wrong, I care about that league, and I want to whoop some ass, but the process and path I am taking to do it, is a bit more cavalier.

B) You develop a set of principles/ideas you stick to every year.

My main set of principles are dichotomatic (yes, I invented that word.)

Explanation: any running back that has a super monster year—and they are either a rookie or have otherwise never had such a season—I am wwaaaaayyy cautious of and anti-them the following year. The exception was been Adrain Peterson. That proof was in the pudding for all to see. But with wide receivers and the occasional quarterback, I am all about their upside. And I prove it with draft picks. Between the two leagues I am in, I either own the rights to or that actual player in: Jonathan Baldwin, AJ Green, Julio Jones, Dez Bryant and Cam Newton. Make it rain!

When it comes to breakout RBs, however, you can deal me out. And I do not lose sleep over it; even if they return the next season and have another solid year.

Last year, that guy was Chris Johnson. Passed on him and he had great year. If he has another pretty decent year, I will welcome him in to the fold of players I do not mind having on my team. This year the two players I want nothing to do with are Arian Foster and Jamaal Charles. Avoided them like the plauge. Sort of. I hate the handcuff and the obligation of having to keep them. In the league I have been in since the early part of 2000 (we call them the ‘Licious Leagues’ because the league name for football is Footbalicous, basketball is Baskelicious, and baseball is Basebalicous) I somehow inherited Jamaal Charles as keeper for 2011. The league is a two-keeper league. I was obligated to keep Jamaal Charles because they said he was Top 5, and now I am obligated to keep him on the off chance that he really is, and it sucks because I do not trust the guy! I am not happy about it.

C) There is always one guy you MUST HAVE.

That guy for me is Michael Vick. I had him in my Licious Leagues, but had to let go of him after his ghetto fabulous season in 2006, when he was sent to prison. In order to get my brainchild league up and going last year, I took the season off from the Licious League, and missed out on reuniting with him in Week 2, the same way I did in my new league. I am contemplating gutting my team just to trade for him. Having the guy already on your team will allow you to focus your energy elsewhere and will help you do better in your league. It is always nice, when your must have guy is not good, because you know it will be easier to get him.

D) Winning your league championship relies 75% on who you picked up on the waiver wire, 15% draft savvy, and 10% luck.

My 2004 Footbalicious League championship came on the heels of running back Larry Johnson, who stepped in mid-season for the ever-concussed Priest Holmes. I got LJ off of waivers. That was the same season my holdover was Deuce McAllister, and he blew his knee ACL out like someone had strapped C-4 to it. Had he been healthy, I never would have picked up Johnson. Same sort of thing happened last season when I nabbed Vick off waivers, except nobody on my team got hurt. I saw flashes of 2006 in Vick’s second half of the Eagles opening game. Combo’d him with my gangster wide receivers. Won my league.

Take this for what you will. It is not a perfect science, but it is pretty damn concrete.

POST DRAFT THOUGHTS

Brainchild Draft Winner: JOEY
He was able to hold over 6 players for $90ish bucks and filled his roster with good to moderate players up and down on draft night.

Footbalicious Draft Winner: RYAN/KYLE (Co-managers)
Their holdovers were Michael Vick and Adrian Peterson. Because they won the league last year, they were able to choose their draft position. Choose first, obviously, and drafted Aaron Rogers with their first pick.

Brainchild Draft Loser: ROB
Rob overpaid for his resigns, except for Arian Foster. Unfortunely, one of the guys he overpaid for was Peyton Manning ($50), who looks like he is going to miss the entire football season.

Footbalicious Draft Loser: JUSTIN
His wife just had a baby and he was unable to show up for the draft. Auto-picked all of players. Auto-pick is not that bad, when there are a couple of other teams that are auto-pick as well. When you are the only one, it never is a good thing.

Brainchild team to look out for: JEFF
Jeff is DEEP at running back. Darren McFadden, Rashard Mendenhall, DeAngelo Williams, and LaGarrette Blount. He also has Tom Brady and Jermichael Finely who—by the way—is going to catch a zillion touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers… after Week 1 of course ;)

Footbalicious team to look out for: ME
Brees, Roddy White, Jamaal Charles (who better do something) and upside guys like Cam Newton, AJ Green and Julio Jones. Let’s make it happen baby!

Prediction for tonight? Saints over Packers. 45 to 17. Shaboomya!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Get paid Vick, get PAID!

The summer going in to my senior season of high school, for a summer job I moved to Utah and worked for my brother, a general contractor in the Wasatch front and Park City area. The state was only a few months removed from the 2002 Winter Olympics, and in the words of my brother, Park City had now been, “discovered,” which, as the years grew later, turned in to him saying, “All of the billionaires are beginning to push out the millionaires.” I always liked that imagery. I thought it was clever. But for a contractor, that is a wonderful problem to have in your region of work.

Up until this point in my life, I had only ever had two jobs. The first was the family paper route, handed down kid to kid, from my oldest brothers to my sister just above me. It was a system and it was all done with the help, supervision, and guidance of our parents. Every morning we would wake up at the crack of dawn and head to distribution center to collect the content from the presses. I started delivering papers when I was eight years old, and continued to do so until I moved to the Beehive state at the age of seventeen. My second job, I worked for a company called Office Furniture Source in my home state of Washington. I assembled the various office chairs and entertainment centers, as well as making deliveries of said furniture. I had received the job to make extra money to buy clothes and have mad money. I was sixteen and got the job through a family friend of our church. It was an good job and I have a couple of funny stories to tell from it. One of my fondest memories ever, is a story from that furniture job:

It was my third week of working with the company. Richard (my Hispanic co-worker who had the thickest accent of all time) and I were driving out to the boondocks of all boondocks. I halfway fell asleep on the drive out, which kind of adds to the dream-like feeling of that day. We had a ton of furniture, some really expensive oaky pieces, loaded in the van, and invoiced for just one residence. The areas we were driving through did not necessarily scream, “We have extra money for office furniture”. I began to doubt the day as being a drag. Driving a bit further and coming up over a hill, some developer had decided to build these massive structures, disguised as homes people could buy and live in. Gigantic places.

Richard always started to untie everything and lower the lift gate when we arrived at our delivery destinations, and that always meant I had to be the one to make the first contact with our customers—something I hated doing as a somewhat bashful sixteen year old. This delivery was no exception. I dreaded making conversation with customers, and by the size of this house, I was extra intimidated. When I rang the doorbell, I half expected a butler to answer in full tuxedo or some old grumpy guy that had bought up all the land surrounding him just so he could be left alone.

Not remotely.

Chh.
Chh.
Chh.
Chh.
Chh.
Chh.
Chh.
Chh.

BAUM! Bu buu buam… bu buu buam………. lA nu na la bu baum!


Opening the palatial door was this… vixen. A certified eleven out of ten, eye candy, music video, super hot, probably-sent-a-few-men-to-prison-before-she-turned-of-age… bombshell. Blonde, 5’4-ish, amazingly tanned that when she wasn’t sparkling, she was glowing. We must have caught her getting ready after a shower. Her hair was still wet and kind of scrunchy, but she had already done her make up. Someone had airbrushed these white things call short-shorts on her and she sported an oversized sweatshirt that had been cut in all the right places. These two items were the only thing on her body. Nothing else. I could not move. I could not breathe. The only thing I could do was stare. If I had died right then, my tombstone would have read ‘Died in the Presence of Perfection’. She moved in slow motion, like stopping time was a parlor trick that her hotness granted her. Some movie lighting crew existed invisibly and followed her everywhere to accentuate her stunning everything.

I do not know how long I stood at the door under a spell, but she just smiled and gave me the friendliest, “Hi,” that ever existed, and it snapped me out of it.

“We furniture. I mean, we have your furniture.” I practically drooled it.

She gave a laugh and said to follow her and that she would show me where he husband wanted it. Anywhere and everywhere I thought.

I took a look at the space and the path she showed me to get to the room and worked up the courage to ask her if there was a different way to get to this furniture there, either through the back yard or garage. She had not thought of that and said that the garage would probably work better and to follow her once more. Truth be told, I would have followed her off of a bridge at that point.

Finally starting to recover from my shellshock, and trying to play every movement I made as nonchalant as possible, she opened the door leading in the garage.

Shellshock part two.

There sat the dopest Ferrari. A shinny, silver, 575M Maranello. I recognized it immediately; after all, it was the same exact car on the cover of my Motortrend sitting on the foot of my bed at home. As I stood helplessly staring for the second time that day, hottie hot hottie went back to the kitchen to get the keys.

She came back, hoped in, started the car—it literally purred—and put it in gear. Stalled it. Started it again. Stalled it a second time. After the third time she did this I was going to suggest we just put it in neutral and push it out in to the driveway, but then she opened the door and asked if I knew how to do it. The car was her husband’s and he was out of town. I gave her the quickest, shortest ‘yes’ in the history of the world. It was almost a whisper.

Backing out that Ferrari was one of the greatest feelings in my life. I think I topped it out at 4 MPH. I have done 4 MPH in a Ferrari 575M Maranello people. I now live on a higher echelon than most of society. Best day of work, hands down. Needless to say, Richard and I took our sweet time moving the furniture in and getting everything situated. To cap off the day, she tipped us each twenty bucks and gave me a personally signed Maxium-styled picture of her that she kissed with lipstick. Okay, so one of those two things did NOT happened… but still. It was the single greatest day of work I have ever worked.


Back to the real world and how things normally go. This new labor intensive job, working with big brother, did not yield any Ferrari driving or encounters with saucy minxes, but it produce some nice paychecks for a seventeen year old kid and remember taking that pay check to the newly built outlets in Park City where I made two key purchases for a seventeen year old male. Headphones and some Nike kicks.

The headphones were Bose’s noise cancelling ones. They were THEE best head set on the market and in my opinion—worth the $300 bucks I shelled out for them. Looking back at the purchase, I quickly slap my hand to my forehead, but then again, I was a kid, so big whoop. The kicks where a black with red trim, set of Michael Vick indoor turf shoes. I loved those shoes and rocked them everywhere I went. It was the precursor to my love of Michael Vick and the precursor to his 2002 Pro-Bowl season and the subsequent kick off of MV7 taking over the league, and eventually signing a 10-year $130 million dollar deal. We all know what happened to that contract two years later and the fallout that ensued.

Fast forward to yesterday. Michael Vick had for the second time in his career, has captured and taken over the National Football League and again, signed his second hundred million dollar deal—a 6-year $100 million dollar deal to be precise, with the Philadelphia Eagles.

You either love it or hate it. Most hate it. I love it. I love the whole entire Michael Vick story. I’ve talked about it. I’ve written about it. A small part of me hopes he wins a Super Bowl just to cap off the most inspiring story of redemption of all-time, and that is saying something because I am a through and through Dallas Cowboys fan. They play in the same dang division for crying out loud. Philly winning a Super Bowl means Dallas does not. So maybe let me clarify: if the Dallas Cowboys cannot win the Super Bowl, then my loyalties immediately fall to Michael Vick. I will probably get some wicked hate mail for saying that from Cowboys fans. Actually, on second thought, I won’t. Three people read these columns, and I do not think you are a ‘Boys fan… are you? Moving on.

I am not a father, but some day I will be, and I am going to ingrain the Michael Vick story in to my children’s brains, and that no matter the terrible things you may do in this life, you can always pay for what you did, right the wrong, and rise from the ashes of your trial to accomplish everything you once had… and even more. Regret can teach you, make you better. Stronger. I believe that whole-heartedly. Everything about this story can be a lesson. Learning that some people, can never get passed mistakes you may make, but their bitterness does not define you, and that the opinion you hold of yourself is greater than any other. Forgive those that do not forgive you. The best challenge in being humbled is how to stay humble. You can be anything you want to be and can always be a better person. These are the takeaways we need to be making.

I think Michael Vick has gotten everything he deserves, both good and bad, and I love his contract extension. Go out and silence the critics MV7, silence them like you always have.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fantasy Preview

No matter how you look at it or should I say listen to it, whether it be:

Like this.
Or this.
Even this.
Perhaps this.

The dawn of the NFL kick off is creeping upon us. We can all agree we are glad it is back in lives. Or can we? Hold that thought for a minute.

I have given this some long and ponder-some thought and have come to the conclusion, that NFL football means more to me this year than it ever has in the past. Initially, I would not give that longing sort of feeling credit to the lockout, but perhaps I ought to. In the minds of most of us… the lockout never happened because it did not really affect us at any great deal. I did not miss any games at all, and the games are the only thing that would given me a sense of “missing something” if they were not present. But they have been present. So why have I felt like I have longed for the NFL more this year, as compared to any other moment in my life?

Today it hit me—along with the sharp, poignant, and glaring fact that I have not written anything in over a month—that I have missed the NFL. During the lockout, I did not pay any attention to it, because frankly there was never a moment where I had a fear that I was going to miss out on my annual partaking of the NFL. It would, in my mind, be the same as it has been over the past 10 years of my life. I always knew it would be back and that a deal would be reached between owners and players. Not scoffing that sentiment, like a know-it-all sports writer, rather it was just my opinion on the whole ordeal. And I was right. (OK, that part was scoffed a ‘lil bit).

I did not follow the lockout, read up on it, refresh my Twitter every two seconds for the latest Adam Schefter update. Nothing. The exact opposite rather. I locked out the lockout. I simply put the lockout and all things associated to it, out of my mind. Today I realized, because I did this, the times when I would be reading about camps opening up, the occasional offseason trade, etc., the little NFL crumbs that kept my belly sustained, were cut off. I was going NFL hungry. It is so obvious now that I write it down. Why did I think that I could starve myself… and not feel starved?

Regardless, the NFL is indeed back and with that comes my nerdy, super geeky, pencil pushing, I-wear-black-rimmed-glasses-with-tape-around-the-middle Fantasy Football. It still amazes me when I mention Fantasy Football in casual conversation with strangers that I interact with, and they ask me, “What is Fantasy Football?” Fantasy Football is such a part of my life, it has become one of those things that you just naturally assume every person likes and does, same as you. I will acknowledge that Fantasy Football has grown and is pretty mainstream, and lot of that has to do with the advances in social media and technology, but Fantasy Football is not to the capacity that everyone does it and knows what it means. What is Fantasy Football at its basic core?

My take and the way I tell people about Fantasy Football:

"You and your buddies get together and take turns picking the rights to real life NFL players, with which you form a “fantasy team”. Each week your team plays another person’s “fantasy team” and you keep score with a point system correlating to said person’s actual, real life, NFL performance. If Drew Brees is the QB for my “fantasy team” and he throws a touchdown pass that week in his real life game, than I get X amount of points. Whosever team has the most points in that weeks matchup, wins."

This is the part where I finish and look at them, and they respond with a blank stare or say something like, “Ohhhh OK…” Which really—I mean, lets be honest—just translates to, “I get what you just said, but in no way does that sound fun.”

I like to break the awkward tension just by saying, “Yeah, its just a super nerdy thing I do with my friends” to which they let out a real, genuine, somewhat gasping, like they were holding it in, laugh. The laugh is the joyous, ha-ha, look at you, non-verbal form of saying, “Oh my gosh, that is exactly what I thought when you were talking, and the look on my face probably gave it away already, but because you just said what you said, I am going to take the opportunity to unconsciously laugh to your face.” It’s OK. When it happens I think I remain really funny, while still being geeky, and that people respect me. I think that way until I write about it in a column and realize people laugh at me…

Moving forward.

Fantasy is back in my life and this is the second year of an auction league I set up to serve an extra scoop of dorkiness. If you are reading this and are a League Commissioner in your first year: I feel for you friend. That is not a good time. Hang in there; it will get much better year two. At least it did for me. Last season—when I posed on everyone like the Heisman on the way to the locking up the League Championship (yeah, I said it)—we only had one person quit and one person who never checked their team. Luckily I was able to find someone mid-season who would take over for the quitter and would stick around for the foreseeable future. It was not too hard to adjust the roster for the non-checker, and I found a solid replacement to take over this year. Do not get discouraged by the slothfulness of people in your league.

The thing that separates our league, from most leagues out there, is that I set it up using the best formats of various Fantasy Football settings, all rolled in to one. On top of that, I added elements that have never existed in Fantasy Football, such as farm system draft of collegiate players and long-term contracts. What is a long-term contract in Fantasy Football you ask? Basically, it is light years ahead of your patty-cake patty-cake bakers pan lottery draft. I wrote about this last year. If you are still using a snake styled format to conduct your draft… you are living in the Stone Age. Time to elevate your thinking and switch to the auction draft. It is where the playas’ play. And we all wanna play where the playas' play.

Pretty much, a long-term contract is the equivalent—which mind you, does not exist anywhere else except in my fantasy league thanks to my time, hard work, and inspiration of Bill Simmons—to the hold over that exists in snake styled drafts.

In leagues that allow for holdovers (usually 2 or 3 players) you can keep that player for ever and ever and ever. Not competitive enough, and did not really reflect how things are done in the actually NFL. Obviously NFL teams can keep players… but they have to pay those players… so why not model my Fantasy Football league as much as I can to the NFL? That is why our league plays like this:

i. You can keep any player for a TOTAL of four years.

ii. Any player you drafted can be kept for an $10 the following season.

iii. After Year 2, you then have the option to sign that player for TWO extra years, for $15 more in Year 3, and another $5 in Year 4.

iv. Decisions to sign a kept player to a 2-year contract extension (years 3 and 4) must be made prior to the Year 3 draft.

THE 2-YEAR CONTRACT EXTENSION LOCKS IN YOU IN FOR TWO YEARS FOR SAID PLAYER. Even if that player gets hurt and you drop them. That money is still coming out of your draft budget regardless.

Say what?! Any player that was on your team last year, can be re-signed for what they were paid the first year, but for an additional ten spot on top? You betchaya. With this format, I am not limited to 2 or 3 “holdovers” but instead I am only limited my team’s budget AKA a Salary Cap… just like the real NFL. It puts you in the owner mind set. Plus, the agony of whether or not to sign a play to a TWO YEAR deal is felt by the fantasy owner, the same as it is felt by the NFL owner. I really cannot wait to get to Year 3 to see if I have to face that kind of decision. Even more than that, I cannot wait for someone in my league to go through themselves, sign the player, and then have that player suck it up. It’s fantastic! Mental stress over a fake game that ultimately does not mean anything! Yaayyyy!

Well how much money do you have each year? In our league, every team is allotted $200 to spend on players for the draft. The funds for the guys you re-sign are taken out of that $200 dollar amount. For mid-season pick-ups, each team will have $150 dollars to spend for the entire regular and post season. To get a feel for it here is each teams break down for this year’s upcoming draft:

JEFF

RB Darren McFadden $11
RB LeGarrette Blount $13
TE Jermichael Finley $14

Remaining funds for draft night: $163

Last season was Jeff’s first time every doing Fantasy Sports. He did pretty well, but his team was plagued by injuries and semi-off years by guys who he paid top dollar for. He stuck in there and took his licks and landed two good re-signee’s in Run-DMC and LaGarrette Blount mid way through the season.

BRAD

QB Josh Freeman $22
WR Mike Wallace $11
RB LeSean McCoy $11

Remaining funds for draft night: $156

Brad is taking over the guy who never checked his team and really, we should not be surprised that he never checked his team because he was a no-show on draft night. Because he could not nominate players or bid on them, his team was given players at $1 dollar last season after the rest of us had finished the draft. Getting LeSean McCoy this year for $11 is a steal, when ESPN has him projected to go $48 on their big boards.

R-DAWG

RB Jamaal Charles $16
QB Aaron Rodgers $42
WR DeSean Jackson $27
TE Antonio Gates $25
RB Frank Gore $36
WR Miles Austin $28

Remaining funds for draft night: $26

The big spender our first year, and now the big spender again. At the start of last year’s draft, I nominated the first pick to be bid on—the New York Jets defense—and Ryan bought them for $6 dollars. His explanation has been, “I am not keeping any of this money in real life, so why save it?” To each their own, but $26 bucks left over on draft night, to fill 9 positions will be interesting. Granted you cannot completely knock him. He finished 2nd overall in the league last year.

E

QB Matt Ryan $14
QB Ben Roethlisberger $14
TE Todd Heap $11
WR Calvin Johnson $36

Remaining funds for draft night: $125

E was unreal last year. He finished the regular season at 10-3 after starting out 0-and-2. On top of that, the only reason he lost his first two games is because he never switched out the injured Beanie Wells in Weeks 1 or 2. Had he played ANY other running back on his bench, he would have won both games and finished the regular season 12-1. However, come the playoffs he was a no-show and was dismissed in the first round.

SNOOPY

RB Peyton Hillis $13
WR Hakeem Nicks $12
WR Vincent Jackson $15
WR Michael Crabtree $15
QB Tony Romo $14
QB Philip Rivers $27

Remaining funds for draft night: $104

The sneak. When everyone was battling it out in the playoffs, Joey saw that it was not going to happen for his team, and did the smart thing by picking up players that had been dropped due to injury to make a playoff run. He snagged Tony Romo for $4, Michael Crabtree and Vincent Jackson for $5 a piece. Like Ryan, Snoop re-signed six guys, but managed to do it for less than $100 bucks of his draft budget

ROB

QB Peyton Manning $50
RB Arian Foster $13
WR Andre Johnson $51

Remaining funds for draft night: $86

Rob finished last year’s draft by shoulder shrugging at the three $3 dollars he spent on Arian Foster, because he had forgotten to draft a back up running back. It was the last pick of the draft and nobody thought anything of it. After Week 1 we were all whistling a different tune as we watched Foster put up a gangster 46 points… for Rob’s bench. Same thing happened again in Week 2. Rob wised up and started Adrian for the rest of the season.

ME

QB Michael Vick $13
RB Michael Turner $28
WR Roddy White $26
WR Dez Bryant $17

Remaining funds for draft night: $116

I made moves and ended up League Champ. I intend to RE-peat with my RE-signs.

JASON

RB Chris Johnson $56

Remaining funds for draft night: $144

Jason took over for the quitter, and let us just say the team he took over did not have a bunch to work with, hence him only resigning one player. He has promised big things this year and is looking forward to playing a team that he drafted himself.

Last year was extremely fun and challenging but this year should be even better.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

MLB All Star Game 2.0 part 2

If you missed Part-1 of my version of the 2011 MLB All-star game, click here. Here is Part 2.

ATLANTA BRAVES
Player: Jair Jurrjens
Age/Position: 25/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 1.87, SO 65, WHIP 1.07

Pronounced j-I-air jur-jins, I like to call him Triple J or TJ for short. At the end of the first half of the season, TJ is leading the National League with wins (12) and ERA. It is intriguing that TJ has the most wins because, on paper, he does not dominate hitters. Sixty-five strikeouts are good for 91st in league. He is not the type of pitcher that goes out there and dominates you with a 98 MPH fastball. Jurrjens 2-seam and 4-seam fastball, at a maximum, hit 89-90 MPH. With Jair, he does not need to have an overpowering fastball, because he is so effective with how he uses his pitches overall; getting hitters to fly out or hit in double plays. He also does not walk very many batters. With pitchers that have thrown at least 100 innings, Jurrjens in 12th best in league, only giving out 25 free passes to the hitters.

FLORIDA MARLINS
Player: Gaby Sanchez
Age/Position: 27/First Base
2011 Stats: BA .293, HR 13, RBI 50

Who is Gaby Sanchez? No one is quite sure, but I can certainly tell you he is not Hanley Ramirez, who is batting .242 and with only 8 HRs. The state of the Marlins is in shambles; nobody knows what is happening down there.

Gaby Sanchez is the only one I see keeping it together. He makes this All Stat selection with almost identical numbers, that Hanley Ramirez had last season. Technically, Gaby has been in the league since 2008, but he only played 5 games that season. In 2009 he appeared 21 times. Last year was the first full season for Sanchez. Posting a modest .273, tallying 165 hits, and showing OK power and production with 19 homeruns and 85 RBIs, Gaby could be developing in to a gamer. It is not out of reach for this Marlins first baseman to cap the season off with a .295/25/95 year. For the Marlins sake, I he does.

NEW YORK METS
Player: Jose Reyes
Age/Position: 29/Short Stop
2011 Stats: BA .354, HR 3, RBI 32

Whoa whoa whoa… Ms. Lippy. The part of the story, that I didn’t like, was when the little boy tried to put Jose Reyes in a fake All Star game when he cannot even play due to a hamstring injury.

Can I bend the made up rules a little…? Should I bend the rules? Could one, not argue, that by allowing a player who is hurt to play, that it opens the door to ‘wouldas’ and ‘couldas’ if ‘this’ and ‘thats’ had or had not happened?

Sure, but I do not really care because A) Four people read this column and B) I do not have the patience or the brainpower to convince my four readers that Carlos Beltran is the Mets best player, when Jose Reyes is playing out of his mind in a contract year.

Jose “mama says, ‘shut yo mouth’” Reyes is so very anomalous. In July of last year, I wrote:

“If you had asked me who the best player on the Mets was, my knee-jerk reaction would have been Jose Reyes. “Jose Reyes, that guy is SO good.” But in reality… not so much.”

David Wright was the Mets representative last year. I would like to amend my statement and proclaim that Jose Reyes is pretty good, but he scares me the same way Vince Carter used to. You know? They sting together these amazing and sexy statistical athletic performances and production, but then two weeks later, as you manage your fantasy team, you talk to your computer screen and say things like, “Why are you always getting hurt?” and “Really? Again?”. You want this person on your team and you draft them somewhat high, but they always eat up allowable-games-played, by missing too often with injury.

I acknowledge what you are doing Jose Reyes, but would I want the Red Sox to throw tons of cash at you in the offseason? I mean, I know I hate Marco Suck-a-ro, but how would you fit in our lineup? You are a leadoff guy and we already have Carl Crawford—who hopefully bounces back—and Jacoby Ellsbury who is already do a fantastic job. There is nowhere to put you. The Mariners are out. They will never pay the undetermined-but-certainly-super-high asking price Peter Greenberg and Co. will be asking come November. The most the M’s ever doled out, was a 6-year $90 million dollar contract extension for Ichiro… and that is for Irchiro—one of the greatest hitters of all-time.

I do not know what to make of you Reyes, other than the fact that you will be representing the Mets—injury free—in my made up All Star game.

PHILIDELPHIA PHILLIES
Player: Cole Hamels
Age/Position: 27/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 2.32, SO 121, WHIP 0.93

I finally get to stick to my guns and go pitcher with the Phillies rep. Ryan Howard edged Roy Halladay a year ago on his gangsterness. And, even though Howard is putting the power 18 homeruns and 71 RBIs whilst hitting a Ryan-Howard-like .257 like he did last year, the batting average is just low enough for me to take a pitcher. Ryan was batting .295 at the break.

Now let me explain why I did not choose Roy Halladay.

First and foremost, their numbers are almost mirrors of one another. Both have eleven wins. Halladay has more strikeouts (137) but his ERA is also a bit higher—by a teensy 0.13 difference to be precise. They basically wash one another out in my opinion. So my choice came down to the age difference between the two. Cole Hamels is playing like Roy Halladay, but is also 7 years his junior. That spells longevity for me, and thereby makes him more valuable. Do not feel bad for Halladay. He starts the real All Star game tonight.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Player: Michael Morse
Age/Position: 29/First Base
2011 Stats: BA .306, HR 15, RBI 49

Michael Morse is guy who seems like he is coming in to his own. He spent his first four seasons with the Seattle Mariners, playing as a back up. In his four year stint there he only saw 107 games of action before he was acquired by the Nationals in 2009.

Morse’s 2010 season produced 77 hits, 15 home runs and 41 runs batted in a 98 game time span. Through just the 81 games he has played up to the All Star break, Morse has surpassed his career best. Like Gaby Sanchez in Florida, perhaps Michael Morse could become one of their better, more reliable players. Unlike a certain right fielder the Nationals signed in December of 2010.

Did you know the Washington Nationals have paid Jayson Werth $2,982,857 dollars and fourteen cents, for the 87 times he has struck out this year? That is a half a million dollars MORE they have paid him for his 70 hits.

That is right folks, Jayson Werth is making $34,285 dollars per at bat… and the guy is batting .214 on the year. Gulp. Did I mention they are going to paying him this amount for the next six and half seasons? Oh, I never mentioned that? Well, yeah… they are.

CHICAGO CUBS
Player: Starlin Castro
Age/Position: 21/Short Stop
2011 Stats: BA .307, HR 2, RBI 39

He is the real deal. I have been able to watch a handful of the Cubs games, and their watching Starlin hit in the two hole for the Cubbies, kind of reminds me of Hanley Ramirez first two seasons with the Marlins. You can just see that this guy has it. So much raw talent and all at the young age of 21. He played 125 games for the Cubs in 2010 and batted .300 so you can see the consistency. He does not hit for the power like Ramirez, but is still solid. An easy decision to make.

CINCINATTI REDS
Player: Joey Votto
Age/Position: 27/First Base
2011 Stats: BA .324, HR 13, RBI 55

Going two for two, in fake All Star selections, Joey Votto again will represent the Reds. His power has dropped off with just the 13 home runs this time around. At the end of last years break Votto had pounded 22 yaks for 60 RBI, but with the drop in home runs, Votto has show a rise in batting average and on base percentage. I am glad Joey is performing well again, because in last year’s column I said to watch him over the next couple of seasons. Thank you Mr. Ro-Votto for making me, in nothing but appearance, look smart.

HOUSTON ASTROS
Player: Hunter Pence
Age/Position: 28/Right Field
2011 Stats: BA .323, HR 11, RBI 60

Last year’s paragraph leading in to the Roy Oswalt selection:

“The Astros only have a better record than the Indians, Pirates and Orioles if that tells you anything. Nobody on that team is good. Their best hitter is batting .273, has one home run, and has 25 RBIs.”

Fast forward 365 days and the Astros have a better record than… nobody. They are the league’s worst baseball team. However, one person on the team is good. In case you are wondering if Hunter Pence was the guy who was batting .273 last year—he was not. Hunter took a .263 batting average in the All Star break. It is worth noting hunter finished that season with a nice .282 batting average—the same average he finished with in 2009—and 25 home runs and 91 runs batted.

2011 seems to be a breakout year for him and I will paying extra close attention to pence, to see if he can keep his .300+ average and eclipse the 100 RBI mark, for the worst team in baseball. We shall see.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Player: Prince Fielder
Age/Position: 27/First Base
2011 Stats: BA .297, HR 22, RBI 72

A quick non-Prince-Fielder-prior-to-looking-at-the-stats-rant:

How the freak is Rickie Weeks a real life All Star selection? The last Brewers game I watched, they played the Cubs and Rickey Weeks tried to stretch, not one, not two, but three averagely driven base hits—all hit in front of Cubs right fielder Kosuke Fukudome—in to doubles. Guess what? Homeboy was thrown out easily all three times! The first time it happened, I was like, “OK, maybe he is trying to make a play.” Second time I thought, “Are freaking kidding me?” The third time it transpired, “Oh… my… gosh. What at dumb ----.” If I am Brewers manager, Ron Roenicke, I am pulling Weeks’ slow ass out of the game, and then benching him another game just to make my point that much more. And what was even worse, nobody on the team seemed pissed about it. No shots of the dugout with the team holding their arms in the air because what Rickie Weeks did was indefensible or shaking their heads in disgust. They went about as if it had not happened. THREE TIMES IN ROW! You suck Rickie Weeks. You are batting .273 and are magically the starting the real life All Star game, in the leadoff role!! WHAT THE *#%^*# %(#* ^ !&#@ IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?!!?!??

A second quick non-Prince-Fielder-post-looking-at-the-stats-rant:

The people playing second base in the National League, are so terrible, some how Rickie Weeks is the best player at the position. It is uncanny how bad NL second basemen are. Logic dictates that Rickie Weeks must be the starting first baseman. If you have dreams of playing in The Show someday, I firmly—repeat FIRMLY—suggests you abandon whatever position you are trying to perfect now, if you have not already, for second base. You are pretty much guaranteed to make it. Apparently, any ordinary, sub par player can make the All Star game. I am not kidding. Some random person in the street can now say the following sentence because of the deplorable state of second base in the NL:

“Aw, daaaaamnnnnnnnn. There goes All Star second baseman Rickie Weeks!!! Doo dat is sick!!”

I am so pissed right now.

(deep breath, count to 10)

In a battle of sabermetrics, Prince Fielder bested Ryan Bruan in 2010 with following

Fielder: BA is .262, but his SECA (secondary average) is .396
Braun: BA is .287, but his SECA only .308

A discrepancy of 0.63 going in the favor of Prince Fielder. In 2011, mind you, the margins have dwindled.

Fielder: BA of .297 and SECA of .463
Braun: BA of .320 and SECA of .416

Both players have improved in both categories, but the margin is now at 0.22 between the two. Also a year ago, Fielders’ RC27 (runs created per 27 innings) proved to better than Braun’s. This year the two are tied with 8.56 a piece.
Prince has 6 more home runs and 10 more RBIs than Braun, and is trailing Ryan only three total hits and four runs. For a second time again, Prince retains his crown.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Player: Andrew McCutchen
Age/Position: 24/Center Field
2011 Stats: BA .291, HR 14, RBI 54

Congratulations are in order for Andrew McCutchen going back to back in fake All Star selections, showing that he was not a fluke in 2010. McCutchen doing the same things he did last year with his bat and speed. Fifteen stolen bases and .892 OPS. Way to go Andrew.

Also, how about big pirate-hats off to Pittsburgh for being one game out of first place, right behind two very good Cardinals and Brewers teams? How crazy would it be if the Pirates were representing the NL Central in October?

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Player: Lance Berkman
Age/Position: 35/Left Field
2011 Stats: BA .290, HR 24, RBI 63

What-the-what-the-what-the-what-the what the what? As far as I am concerned, Albert Puljos walks on baseball water, but Albert, at .280 batting average? Come on. Do not scare me like this. I need to you to get it back together so you can crush Barry Bonds gigantically asterisk’d home run record. Stop scaring me.

Now, Lance Berkman… I thought you retired like three seasons ago. How are you hitting better than Albert Puljos at 35-years of age? You and Paul Konerko are blowing my mind. Go on with your bad self, and enjoy sneaking the Cardinals All Star pick out of the hands of AP.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Player: Justin Upton
Age/Position 22/Right Field
2010 Stats: BA .293, HR 15, RBI 46

Peter Gammons made me put Justin Upton against Mariner hero, Ken Griffey Junior, a year ago and I must admit the numbers were closer than I thought. If you want to the recap then you can read last year's column. Basically, if Justin got the go ahead last time with .260/14/40, then he is certainly getting it again with better numbers. If you want to talk Diamondbacks ball, then hit up my boy Joey on Twitter: @joeytnelson.

COLORADO ROCKIES
Player: Todd Helton
Age/Position: 37/First Base
2011 Stats: BA .321, HR 10, RBI 41

How about Todd Helton, at age 37, still gaming in Colorado like he has for the last 14 straight seasons. Check it:

1998 – BA .315
1999 – BA .320
2000 – BA .372
2001 – BA .336
2002 – BA .329
2003 – BA .358
2004 – BA .347
2005 – BA .320
2006 – BA .302
2007 – BA .320
2008 – BA .264 (injured, only play 83 games)
2009 – BA .325
2010 – BA. 256 (his first official bad year)

And now he is right back up to his .320 batting average in 2011. It is incredible. Say what you will about the size of the ball park and altitude—that discussion only is applicable when talking home runs. Hits are hits, and batting average reflects that. Todd Helton gets the award for being my favorite selection this year.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Player: Matt Kemp
Age/Position: 26/Center Field
2011 Stats: BA .313, HR 22, RBI 67

Kemp is third in home runs for the National League, third is runs batted in and has the sixth best batting average. I recently got back from a two week vacation in California and was able to catch the first of a three game series between the Angels and Dodgers. Watching the fan interaction was way better than the actual game. Dodgers won 5-0, and Kemp was 1-for-4 with and RBI. Watching him at the plate you can see the confidence, mind set, and rhythm he is in. This was an easy selection to make.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
Player: Tim Stauffer
Age/Position: 29/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 2.97, SO 90, WHIP 1.21

There are only nine pitchers in the National League who have an ERA lower than 3.00 and Tim Stauffer is the last of them. It sucks for Stauffer that the Padres are not good on the offensive side of things, second to last actually and only one spot better than my beloved Seattle Mariners. In 19 starts Tim Stauffer has put for 14 quality starts for a .74 win percentage, not bad for a person who is in his third season as a starting pitcher. With Adrian Gonzalez playing for the Red Sox now, the San Diego Padres seriously downgrade their All Star contribution this year.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Player: Tim Lincecum
Age/Position 26/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 3.06, SO 132, WHIP 1.20

I am fine with putting Lincecum back for the second time, but if I am honest with myself, and revert back to the Jose Reyes selection rule bending, Buster Posey would likely have been the selection here. I just feel it for some reason. But with Buster’s injury being a season ending one, and Reyes only being put on the 15-day DL, I cannot in good conscience make a case for him.

Besides, Tim Lincecum is The Freak. Even though he did not three-peat on the Cy Young award last year, he still is playing like a Cy Young award winner this season. He is 7th in strikeouts and has shutout under his belt.

It is strange to think, that with a mediocre offensive output, the Giants are currently in 1st place with a three game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks. If they were a little bit better, or maybe had Buster there, I am curious to how well they would be doing and if Tim’s record would be better than the 7-7 it is. The sabermetics adjust Lincecum’s record from 7-7 to a nice 10-4 with three TLOSS’s (tough loss) so far.

ROSTER NATURALLY FILLED

C
1B Prince Fielder
2B
3B
SS Jose Reyes
RF Hunter Pence
CF Matt Kemp
LF Lance Berkman
DH
P Jair Jurrjens
MR
MR
MR
CL

Remaining players: SP Cole Hamels, SP Tim Lincecum, SP Tim Stauffer, 1B Todd Helton, 1B Joey Votto, 1B Michael Morse, 1B Gaby Sanchez, SS Starlin Castro, CF Andrew McCutchen, RF Justin Upton

ROSTER WITH ADJUSTMENTS

C Joey Votto
1B Prince Fielder
2B Starlin Castro
3B Michael Morse
SS Jose Reyes
RF Hunter Pence
CF Matt Kemp
LF Lance Berkman
DH Todd Helton
P Jair Jurrjens
MR Cole Hamels
MR Tim Stauffer
MR Gaby Sanchez
CL Tim Lincecum

Reserves: CF Andrew McCutchen and Justin Upton

This is the second year in a row the National League has failed to produce a catcher, and since Joey Votto filled in last season—based solely on the sound of his name—there is nobody else with any catching experience. Moving Starlin Castro to second base from his natural short stop should not be a problem. Michael Morse could show so problems at third, but in baseball third basemen and first basemen seem to go hand in hand. The only person, besides Votto, playing in a random spot is Marlins’ first basemen Gaby Sanchez. But given his mental capacity to even function well at first, in such a tumultuous Florida organization shows me that he, more so than anybody, could fake it in a middle relieving role.

My 2010 version featured a best of five game series between the American League and National League, but doing that again calls for more pomp than circumstance can allow this year. Plus, I am already 8000 words deep in to this column, and I lost my four readers 6000 words ago. Here are your two teams:

AL REPS
C Joe Mauer
1B Adrian Gonzalez
2B Gio Gonzalez
3B Travis Hafner
SS Nick Markakis
RF Jose Bautista
CF Alex Gordon
LF Josh Hamilton
DH Paul Konerko
P Justin Verlander
MR Jered Weaver
MR CC Sabathia
MR James Shields
CL Felix Hernandez

vs

NL REPS
C Joey Votto
1B Prince Fielder
2B Starlin Castro
3B Michael Morse
SS Jose Reyes
RF Hunter Pence
CF Matt Kemp
LF Lance Berkman
DH Todd Helton
P Jair Jurrjens
MR Cole Hamels
MR Tim Stauffer
MR Gaby Sanchez
CL Tim Lincecum

Having these made up All Star teams going for five games or just one, it all boils down to one thing: and that thing is pitching. This year the American League has more of it than the National League, and shuts them down. AL wins again.

Score that two years in a row with the AL besting the NL.

Prediction for the real All Star Game tonight however? I will take the American League again. With Rickie Weeks as the National League selection at second base, look for either Curtis Granderson, Jose Bautista or Josh Hamilton to throw him out when he tries to turn a single in to a double time and time again.

Monday, July 11, 2011

MLB All Star Game 2.0

When I first started this website, one of my earlier columns was a mega three part scenario, of a made up MLB All Star team. When the NBA All Star rolled around, I did the same thing again. After abandoning the traditional selecting methods of forming a team, I made up my own criteria for how my Major League All Star teams would be created.

Instead of selecting the best players in baseball, I formed my All Star teams by having the one best player from each team and then proceeded to make up the roster. Each team’s roster would have to fill the following posistion:

Catcher
First Base
Second Base
Third Base
Shortstop
Right Field
Center Field
Left Field
Designated Hitter
Starting Pitcher
Middle Reliever
Middle Reliever
Middle Reliever
Closer

Since selections where not done by position, I stated that any position that had excess would fill in the gaps of the ones that did not have any. For example, if I had 6 right fielders, I could place one in right field and with the other five in any position that did not already have a player that naturally played there.

The American League All Star representatives are as follows:

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Player: Nick Markakis
Age/Position: 27/Right Field
2011 Stats: BA .292, HR 7, RBI 36

For the second year in row, Markakis is the team representative for the Orioles. Last year I was really eager to get my version of the All Star game out before the real one by two weeks. This year I thought I would put it out right before the actual All Star game, so the stats and numbers would be cut right at the half of the season. OK, that is lie. I was just super lazy.

Last year Markakis got the nod with a batting average of .300, three home runs and 23 runs batted in. This year his numbers are a bit better, even with the dip in average and the adjustment for two additional weeks that stats could be accounted for. He is just the dependable, freak athlete that he was a year ago. Nothing has changed.

It is also interesting to note that the teams leader in HRs, RBIs, runs, and OPS is not Nick Markakis, but the new guy acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks: Mark Reynolds. So why not Reynolds over Markakis? Because Reynolds batting average is .227, he only has 65 hits compared to Nick’s 106 and has struck out 96 times against Markakis’ 36. I would much rather have Nick’s consistency over Reynolds power.

BOSTON RED SOX
Player: Adrian Gonzalez
Age/Position: 29/First Base
2011 Stats: BA .354, HR 17, RBI 77

If you had asked me to write a pre-season version, of my version—of the All Star game—with out a doubt in my mind I would have put Carl Crawford here. It would not have even been a competition. I saw Crawford getting 50+ stolen bases this season. Crawford, so far, has eight swipes this season and has been on the disabled list on June 18th with a hobbled hamstring. Getting those 50+ stolen bags is pretty much out of the question unless he some how channels the 1982 stealing prowess of Rickey Hendersen. Since the Sox will not be getting those stolen bases, the only other thing Crawford brings to us, is his stable .295 to .300 batting average. That is what you get you expect when you sign a guy who was a 2010 Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award winner to a 7-year $142 million dollar contract. However, Carl Crawford is batting an awful .243 to date. I did not expect this kind of fall off or dip.

The person who I expected dip in their number production was Gonzo. My goodness. A major league leading batting average and major league leading seventy-seven runs batted in! We are talking about a pace for 150+ RBIs. The last guy to hit like that was Alex Rodriquez in 2007 when he hit batted in 156 runs. Some might call foul and say A-Rod was juicing in 2007, so if you want to go back to an honest figure try a name on like Babe Ruth. In 1921 ‘The Great Bambino’ threw up 171 RBIs, in 1927 Ruth tallied 164 RBIs, drove in 154 in 1929, and was responsible for 163 in the 1931 baseball season.

This 2011 season, Adrian Gonzalez is putting up Ruthian numbers.

NEW YORK YANKEES
Player: CC Sabathia
Age/Position: 30/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 2.72, SO 126, WHIP 1.16

First off, I must give credit where credit is due, and give a hearty standing ovation to Derek Jeter joining the 3000 hits club. Big accomplishment.

To the Yankees All Star rep. I wanted to go Teixeira because of his 25 home runs and 65 RBIs, but the .244 batting average is nothing to write home about. I want to see someone that is more impressive. OK, if not him how about Curtis Granderson? The man is playing out of his element, but is not pulling a Donnie, by actually being out of his element. Roll with me, I can expand on this.

2010 Curtis Granderson vs. 2011 Curtis Granderson

In 2010 Curtis Granderson batted .247, with 24 home runs, 67 RBIs, 12 stolen bases and 76 runs. He did all of this through 136 games.

So far in 2011, Granderson has a batting average of .269, has hit 25 home runs, has drove in 63 runs, has 15 stolen bases and has scored 79 runs… and has done all of this through 87 games.

Hmmm…


I do not want to put you as the Yankees rep, Granderson, because I just do not trust you to either sustain this production, or ever duplicate it again. I acknowledge that it is happening, but do not credit you that it is happening, it that makes any sense. Like Teixeira, I want to put someone else here. Should I go Bartolo Colon? No, his season is just as baffling as Granderson’s.

Sabathia works. Major league leading 13 wins and a very respectable 126 strikeouts, and Sabathia has had seasons like this before. There is nothing that has me scratching my head by giving him the nod. My only complaint (besides the wearing of Yankee uniform) is his quality start percentage. Holding company with the likes of Bruce Chen, Alex Cobb and Erik Bedard with a .60 quality start percentage is not good… 77th in the league actually. Would those low percentage types of starts, get him 13 wins on another team? Probably not, but 13 wins is 13 wins.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Player: James Shields
Age/Position: 29/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 2.33, SO 137, WHIP 0.98

How far you have fallen Evan Longoria, I thought for sure I would see you making your consecutive trip to my All Star game. Makes me a little bit sad. With the Rays offense hovering right in the middle of the MLB pack, 15th to be exact, there is not a player that screams All Star this season, at least not one that screams louder that James Shields.

Shields is having the best season of his career, and is playing like the sporting community thought he would this year. His ERA is 6th best in the bigs, 6th best in strikeouts, and has .86 percent quality start average. He also has seven complete games along with three shutouts.

There is also a nice sabermetric stat known as “tough losses”. Guess what that stands for. Shields has five on the year… and his record is 8-7. You can do the math.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Player: Jose Bautista
Age/Position: 30/Right Field
2011 Stats: BA .334, HR 31, RBI 65

I should have put Bautista as the starter last year. Going in to the break he had 5 more HRs and and 7 more RBIs than Vernon Wells (who I chose). Maybe it was his .237 batting average that turned me off, and turned me towards Wells with the .287 BA. And maybe he was giving me the same kind of fits Curtis Granderson is giving me this year. Up until that point the best season Bautista had ever had, in terms of power, was in 2006 when he his 16 home runs in 117 games with the Pittsburg Pirates.

This year I know the power is legit. When you are batting .334 and lead the lead with 31 jacks at the break; you are coming to my All Star game.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Player: Paul Konerko
Age/Position 35/First Base
2011 Stats: BA .319, HR 22, RBI 67

Holy 35-year old power (I’ll get to you later Lance Berkman), what is getting in to you Paul Konerko?! I mean I saw you doing this same type of thing last year, but at age 34 I told myself there was no way you were going to keep this up, let alone do it even better the next season. I was wrong. I ask for apology. You have been hitting for a consitent power, with an above average BA for seven straight years now. Paul Konerko ladies and gentleman! Just 13 home runs shy of 400. I tip my hat to you old man.

CLEAVLAND INDIANS
Player: Travis Hafner
Age/Position: 34/Designated Hitter
2011 Stats: BA .325, HR 8, RBI 35

You bug me Cleveland Indians. It is always so hard for me to nail down some one that deserves to be selected, hands down. Last season, like usual, the Indians were terrible. This year, they are a bona fide playoff contender. They are a good team. No real super stars. Last year I explained how I held a small baseball flame for Travis Hafner, but he never quite made it happen. Finally, this year he makes some noise from the get go and then goes and gets placed on the disable list for over a month. Even though these numbers are missing over a months worth of games, I am putting him in. I do not care what you say. Sure:

- Asdrubal Carbrera may be 26-years old, and leading the team in BA, HRs, RBIs, runs and OPS, but he gets minus points for biting on Ichiro’s pre-swing plate appearance ritual.
- Sure, 26-year old MLB sophomore starting pitcher, Josh Tomlin, may have 10 wins (4th best in the AL) and a WHIP of 1.06. I am holding firm to my Hafner selection. And even though this Josh Tomlin is 12-2 in his first 15 MLB home starts—something that only one other player has done since 1961—I am still standing by my Hafner selection.

Hafner is the key I tell you, THE KEY!!!

DETROIT TIGERS
Player: Justin Verlander
Age/Position: 28/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 2.15, SO 147, WHIP 0.87

Currently holds a 12-4 win/loss record, which is one short of CC’s league leading 13 wins. This is the only place where CC bests JV.

****WARNING: FAST AND FURIOUS MOVIE-TO-SPORTS ANALOGY ALERT****

In the original The Fast and the Furious, Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, and Vin Diesel’s crew assemble a tricked out Toyota Supra to take the Race Wars that are held at some secret location in the middle of the desert. Right after the finish putting the last decal on the Supra, Paul Walker and Vin Diesel take the Supra out for a test run. The two pull up next to a condescending white guy in a Ferrari at a stoplight.

So far, the Toyota Supra is Justin Verlander and Paul Walker is the Detroit Tigers owner, Mike Ilitch. The Ferrari is CC Sabathia and the condescending white guy is Hank Steinbrenner and Yankee fans everywhere. Vin Diesel is Vin Diesel.

Looking over to the Ferrari, Paul Walker says, “Nice car. What’s the retail on one of those?”

Douche bag Ferrari guy, “More than you can afford, pal,” While revving the throaty engine “Ferrari.”

Paul Walker and The Diesel stare at this asshat, un-impressed.

Vin Diesel turns to Walker and utters two words, “Smoke him.”

Which is what happens, and which has also happened this season. Earlier in the column I showed CC’s terrible quality start percentage. Verlander has a MLB best .95 percent. Out of his 20 total starts, Justin Verlander has put out nineteen. CC has started 20 as well, but only shown up for 12 of them. Verlander edges him in strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, walks allowed, complete games, shutouts, etc. You name it, and Verlander has done it better.

You can watch the Tigers vs. Yankees scene, by clicking here.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Player: Alex Gordon
Age/Position 27/Left Field
2011 Stats: BA .299, HR 11, RBI 50

Since Greinke is done rotting in KC, the door is wide open for anyone to make the All Star cut this year. I am going to make a reach for the guy with only 4 years of MLB experience, Alex Gordon. Why? Why not?

MINNESOTA TWINS
Player: Joe Mauer
Age/Position: 28/Catcher
2011 Stats: BA .243, HR 0, RBI 9

Joe Mauer gets an injury pass on his numbers. The guy was out for two months and did not fare well for the month of June; the month in which he returned. But so far, for the month of July, Mauer is batting .306 and is showing us the player that he is and will be. Talk to me in a month and if Mauer is still batting .240 then I will begin to question his playing ability.

All in all, the guy is the anchor of that team. This is why you see Mauer here and note Michael Cuddyer who leads the team in hits and batting average.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Player: Jered Weaver
Age/Position: 27/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 1.81, SO 120, WHIP 0.91

When you make the All Star team last year with a 7-3 record and 3.01 ERA, then you are definitely making it the second time around when you lead the bigs with the lowest ERA and hold a 11-4 record. Everything that was working well last season, is working even better this year.

Last Thursday, I got to see in person at Angel’s Stadium, Jered Weaver throw a complete game against my Seattle Mariners. Angels won 5-1 and Bobby Abreu hit his 1300th RBI. In other post game news, the Mariners continue to have the worst offense in major league baseball.

Before the game I Tweeted my pre-game feeling was positive. My buddy Mike asked me if I had seen the Mariners lately and afterwards he Tweeted at me: “I hate to say I told you so.”

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Player: Gio Gonzalez
Age/Position: 25/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 2.47, SO 111, WHIP 1.27

Ryan Sweeney was the man a year ago. I threw a dart and it landed on his name, that was the only qualification you needed to rep the A’s—be on the roster. Luckily, Gio is having himself a nice little season and my selection to place him in the game is quite easy. He has the 9th best ERA in The Show, right behind Roy Halladay. His strikeouts per nine innings is healthy at 8.84. That number is better either Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Roy Halladay, and Jon Lester.

SEATTLE MARINERS
Player: Felix Hernandez
Age/Position: 25/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 3.19, SO 140, WHIP 1.15

Oh how you vex Seattle. Do I put King Felix because he is the reigning American League Cy Young winner? Do I put my boy Ichiro who has 3,600 hits over his baseball career? Or do I put the 22-year old new comer Michael Pineda who is like Felix Hernandez 2.0?

When Pineda won his 5th game I joked that Craftsman was going to release a 'Michael Pineda' lawnmower because their product testing showed it could mow thru test lineups with uncanny ability.

In the end, Ichiro is batting .270, which for any normal player is like batting .137. Seriously, it is. Michael Pineda is young and has shown great promise, but he still needs experience. That leaves me with King Felix. It’s weird because I feel myself reluctantly choosing him, even though Felix Hernandez is a top tier pitcher. I probably feel this way because I wanted to choose Ichiro, and for the second year in a row I just could not do it in faith.

TEXAS RANGERS
Player: Josh Hamilton
Age/Position 30/Left Field
2011 Stats: BA .301, HR 11, RBI 49

Did you know you can spell the word ‘bitter’ two ways. A-D-R-I-A-N B-E-L-T-R-E. Sorry Adrian Beltre. I know you have 71 RBIs, but you also ruined baseball in Seattle by making us pay you so much for crappy results, only to start playing better after being released. First in Boston and now in Texas. Josh Hamilton is still the Rangers best player.

Had Josh Hamilton not have broken his arm sliding in to home, I feel like he would likely be in contention for the Triple Crown at the break. He missed more than a month and look at his numbers. He is the life blood of this Ranger’s team.

ROSTER NATURALLY FILLED

C Joe Mauer
1B Adrian Gonzalez
2B
3B
SS
RF Nick Markakis
CF
LF Josh Hamilton
DH Travis Hafner
P Justin Verlander
MR
MR
MR
CL

Remaining players: SP CC Sabathia, SP James Shields, SP Jered Weaver, SP Gio Gonzalez, SP Felix Hernandez, RF Jose Bautista, LF Alex Gordon and 1B Paul Konerko

ROSTER WITH ADJUSTMENTS

C Joe Mauer
1B Adrian Gonzalez
2B Gio Gonzalez
3B Travis Hafner
SS Nick Markakis
RF Jose Bautista
CF Alex Gordon
LF Josh Hamilton
DH Paul Konerko
P Justin Verlander
MR Jered Weaver
MR CC Sabathia
MR James Shields
CL Felix Hernandez

The only player here getting thrown to the wolves would be pitcher Gio Gonzalez. I have no idea if he has ever played any other position. Markakis is such a natural athlete that I know he could make the transition to short stop with the least amount of hiccups. Hafner can step out of the DH and play third, as he has done before in his career. The pitching choices, obviously, make no difference.

Look for Part-2 of my version of the 2011 MLB All Star Game tomorrow.