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Requiem For A One-Eyed Batter

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Requiem For A One-Eyed Batter

Posted on 12 September 2012 by Gary Perilloux

A day like any other? Hardly. Soon, Larry Mize would plunk a 140-foot chip into the final playoff hole cup at Augusta, giving Greg Norman the most bitter defeat of his career at The Masters.

But the day belonged to baseball, really. Here we were, a dozen general managers, an auctioneer, several wives, girlfriends and hangers-on in a downtown watering hole about four Mickey Mantle home run blasts from the Mississippi River.

Doug’s, a Beaux-Arts establishment, sported 20-foot ceilings, massive maroon drapes, heavy tables with captain’s chairs, a dartboard and jukebox at the back and a curved-screen, cathode-ray tube piping The Masters in over the bar, helmed by a discreet bookie who’d triple as our barkeep and auctioneer.

Draft Day – all’s right with the world, and just as we pored over our cheat sheets, penciling in last-minute strategies in our Rotisserie reveries, the scene-stealer burst through the door with a stack of research in one arm and a stack of neon yellow caps on the other.

Lyman Gore, a wiry, 40-ish attorney with curly, dishwater blond hair, strode in from a nearby print shop with a gleam in his one good eye and a gift for every Fantasy Baseball owner at the table: A purple logo printed on the yellow caps, LSU-like, but this was no Eye of the Tiger. No, Lyman – confident of claiming his first championship – lavished upon us custom caps with a purple bat striking a purple baseball festooned with his trademark glass eye and a caption below his team name: “Cyclops – In the Bat of an Eye.”

CYCLOPS CAP

Laughs cascaded to the ceiling, and the loudest was Lyman’s, a hoarse cackle that crinkled the corners of his eyes and that echoed through every River City League draft until, finally, two decades later he would claim his first title.

‘I Hate Pitchers’

Pitchers were the bane of Lyman’s existence. It was as if his mind’s eye suffered from a loss of perspective the way his physical eye suffered from a lack of peripheral vision.

Seated with his roster sheet and inside baseball publications – typically at a separate table – he’d grab his thermos and swill some coffee of the Irish kind. When it came his turn to nominate a player in the draft auction, he’d slap his thermos on the table and mutter an oath, “I hate pitchers,” usually followed by the corollary phrase, “with a passion.”

Year-in, year-out, the Cyclops couldn’t seem to break that cycle. The pitchers seemed to hate Lyman as much as he hated them. He’d spend big on sluggers and base-stealers until someone would say, “Lyman, when you gonna draft a pitcher?” His rejoinder: “I hope never.”

Some years he’d sit out the bidding altogether until, at the first break, one of us would say, “Lyman, when you gonna draft somebody?” His rejoinder, “I’m saving my money,” reflected his upbringing as a banker’s son, and then the corollary “I don’t want to blow it all on pitchers” would precede another cackle and a round of good-natured ribbing.

But clearly a pattern was setting in. Lyman, who scouted spring training and pored over player rankings with the best of us, usually exceeding the preparation any of the rest of us could muster, slowly but surely sank into a bidding paralysis. He seemed not to want to pull the trigger and, eventually, seemed incapable of doing so in the crucial moments of the draft.

Fantasy baseball purists know the pitfalls. Never spend too much, too early. Never bring up a player you don’t want to own. And never get so excited about a player that your bid is out of proportion with the player’s Fantasy, not real, value. Sometimes the most modest of bids is excessive. One year, my brother Glen, playing with a Canadian oil man named Lloyd Thomas as his partner, listened while someone opened one of the first bids with “Kevin Ritz, starting pitcher, Colorado.” Now these were the 1990s, and Coors Field was the ultimate hitter’s crib: One simply didn’t draft Rockies pitchers if they could be avoided – and never early in the draft. To his horror, Glen heard the oil man bellow a second bid for Ritz from behind his bushy mustache. A split second of silence ensued, then came the thundering sound of my brother’s foot stomping and the exclamation: “Lloyd!” Wounded, the oil man defended himself: “Well, he won 17 games last year. He’s worth at least one more bid.” Ritz also had surrendered 105 walks and 125 earned runs the prior year to go with a WHIP of 1.601 and a 5.28 ERA.

By then, the jig was up, laughter knifed through the auction tension, and I don’t have to tell you who laughed loudest.

The Comeback Kid

Still, Lyman couldn’t break his lovable loser mold. He’d overcompensate in ways that led to more mirth. When time came for our Minor League picks, Lyman amped up the levity by selecting farm hands for the peculiarity of their names: Razor Shines, Motorboat Jones and Boof Bonser all spent time riding the Cyclops bench.

And yet Lyman flourished in his role as our league’s commissioner. Our River City League began nearly 30 years ago when Rotisserie founders Glenn Waggoner and Daniel Okrent penned the first edition of the classic, Rotisserie League Baseball, and we original owners read it. In those days, we crunched our own stats by hand – ugh! – and delighted in the delayed discovery of who was winning. Lyman joined a couple of years later, when we’d begun receiving weekly faxed stats from a service in Maryland.

When, a decade later, Web leagues burst onto the scene, Lyman stepped up to the plate as our online commissioner. On any given summer night, you could go to our site, glance through the standings and there in the chat room Lyman would be lurking, as sure and certain a presence as the moon outside.

We exchanged hundreds of emails about transactions and trades over the years, often never seeing each other between drafts because we lived in different cities. And then a funny thing happened.

Lyman embraced the baseball strategies of John Benson with a passion and began moving up the standings from his perennial also-ran status. Most miraculous of all, he embraced pitchers. With Benson behind him, Lyman learned that pitchers could be his friends, especially the innings-eaters with low ERAs, stingy WHIPs and frequent W’s in a holy pitching trinity. He learned to eschew saves – you can’t win every category, the reasoning went, so don’t overpay for a bunch of unpredictable relievers.

Gradually, he applied the same systematic approach to hitters. He climbed from 4 pitching points, 21 total points and 10th place (last) in 2001 to ninth a year later, with 14 pitching points and 37 total points. In 2003, he scaled to third place with a balanced line of 24 points in batting and 23 in pitching. The next year, he claimed second place (44 points) in the most competitive year in our league’s history.

And then it happened. In 2005, the Cyclops claimed the no-longer mythical championship, beating my Peripatetics team by 4.5 points and recording the league’s best balance: 26 batting points, 23 pitching points. I couldn’t have been happier if I’d won myself, and I almost felt the same way in 2006 when Lyman edged me by 2 points to take his second consecutive crown.

If anyone deserved to gloat, it was Lyman, but he remained uncannily gracious as a champion and continually competitive in the succeeding years. Shortly after the All-Star Game this year, I pulled into our office parking lot after lunch, heard my phone buzz with what I expected to be a work email and read the impossible: Lyman had died after surgery and a brief illness.

Eternal Summer

I’ll never know what going to war is like, fighting with brothers in arms on foreign soil. But this felt like someone blasted my bunkmate out of our foxhole. I lost it. When I posted a brief email to my fellow owners a few moments later, it stated the unfiltered truth about Lyman: “Devastating: It will never be the same without him.”

Fantasy commissioners aren’t supposed to die, they’re supposed to go on forever – longer than Bud Selig, God love him. Several other league owners had died over the years, but none in mid-season and none more dedicated to this silly, romantic, guts-and-glory game we pursue.

The best I can do is step off the pitching mound and hand the ball over to the late great Mike Royko, whose posthumous collection of columns in 1999 began with this requiem on the final day when his beloved Chicago Daily News ceased publication in 1978:

When I was a kid, the worst of all days
Was the last day of summer vacation,
and we were in the schoolyard playing softball,
and the sun was going down, and it was getting dark.
But I didn’t want it to get dark.
I didn’t want the game to end.
It was too good, too much fun.
I wanted it to stay light forever,
so we could go on playing forever,
so the game would go on and on.

That’s how I feel now: C’mon, C’mon!
Let’s play one more inning.
One more time at bat.
One more pitch. Just one?
Stick around, guys.
We can’t break up this team.
It’s too much fun.

But the sun always went down.
And now it’s almost dark again.

Elsewhere, the sun is rising, and I see Ray Kinsella tossing a baseball to his dad, the catcher. Ty Cobb is filing his spikes, and Shoeless Joe Jackson is lacing up his cleats, staring down Cobb. Satchel Paige is on the pitching mound, staring over his shoulder to see how far Jackie Robinson is cheating toward second base.

Perched on the front row of the bleachers, Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis casts a quizzical eye at Shoeless Joe and glares at the first baseman, Chick Gandil. Beside Landis, Bowie Kuhn engages A. Bartlett Giamatti in a scholarly debate on free agency, and next to them, wearing the golden cap with the purple eye, sits Lyman Gore – thermos in one hand, stat sheet on his knee.

He winks.

Today, Gary Perilloux’s RCL team stands in sixth place, a point behind the late Lyman Gore’s Cyclops, who are tied for fourth and leading the league with a .282 team batting average. 

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manny machado

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Finders Keepers/Welcome to the Bigs, Kid: Manny Machado (Special Double Edition)

Posted on 10 August 2012 by T.J. McDonald

Welcome to the special double edition of Finders Keepers/Welcome to the Bigs, Kid. Late Wednesday evening, the Baltimore Orioles shocked the baseball world and fantasy community, at large, by announcing the call up of their top position player prospect, 20 year old Manny Machado.  If you are familiar with either of this series of articles you know what will follow. But if not, here is what will. In this piece, I will give a little background on Machado, welcome him to the bigs and go into his long term fantasy value as well as give my overall keeper potential grade.

Manny Machado is a 20 year old shortstop prospect in the Baltimore Orioles organization.  He was drafted 3rd overall in the 2010 Major league draft, was Baseball America’s #11 prospect coming into the season and was ranked #9 in their mid-season rankings. He projects to be a potential All Star with plus grades for both hit tool and power from scouts. He hit .266 with 11Hrs and 59 RBIs in 19 games this year in AA.  While profiled as a shortstop, the Orioles plan to give him time at third upon his promotion as they are in the thick of the playoff race.

The Orioles are in a three way tie atop the wild card standings and only 4 and a half games back of the AL East leading New York Yankees.  It looks as if the Orioles are doing everything they can to make their first playoff appearance since 1997.  While Machado has not been lights out this year in AA, since the AllStar break, he has hit a .275 with four HRs, 11 BBs and 15 Ks in 104 plate appearances and was on a tear his last ten games hitting  .444 with three doubles, two triples, three HRs and seven RBIs.

If he can live up to even half the expectations most have for him it will not be hard to outperform the dismal production of the revolving door of Orioles third basemen this year who’ve hit a combined .245 with 13 HRs and 45 RBIs on the season. The one catch here may be his defense.  He has only played two career games at third with one error, so some could argue the O’s are throwing him into the fire at the hot corner without the proper minor league experience at this position.  However, the Orioles have struggled defensively at third, with Wilson Betemit making a team-high 13 errors at third and Mark Reynolds making six errors at the hot corner in 15 games and also the Orioles do not seem to overly concerned about the tranistion.

As Oriole’s vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette told the team’s official website,”Manny should be a plus defender, wherever we play him. He’s a five-tool player, and he can help our team. I think he improves our team, and it’s important here (for this club) to be strong.” When Manny himself was asked by the media before Thursday’s game about how comfortable he was playing third his response was, “I’m very comfortable out there. Every day I try to be proactive, I try to take a couple ground balls at third base after I catch my grounders at short. I am pretty comfortable out there. So, I’m really looking forward to it.” He started at third base Thursday night going 2-4 with a triple and one run scored.

Now for his fantasy value in yearly leagues. I wouldn’t drop anyone of good to decent value for him. As @FantasyRundown stated yesterday on Twitter, “Human nature to get excited about the latest and greatest, but I would not drop anyone of significance for Manny Machado.”  However, I suggest if you have a bench spot or start the Logan Forsythe and Willie Bloomquists of the world, pick him up.  Just keep in mind, many top prospects struggle when they first get called up.  Case in point, Mike Trout struggled in his first tour in the big leagues prior to this season.

Once Machado gains his dual eligibility (3b/SS), it will be a major asset going forward and since he will be playing third primarily depending on your leagues rules it shouldn’t take long to add 3rd base eligibility to go along with his short stop eligibility. With this dual eligibility he could be a valuable asset onany yearly league owners bench.

Now for keeper leagues. Pick him up as he is a very highly rated prospect and a highly rated prospect can be very valuable keeper and or trade asset. Keep him for the rest of the season and go from there or even flip him immediately to the owner in your league who is enamored with prospects. Either way it is a win/win. At worst, he can be dropped come keeper time and at best, you have either flipped him for valuable pieces and/or have the next big thing on your fantasy roster come keeper time. He may lose shortstop for next year but if he does not, having dual eligibility will make him that much more valuable. When a prospect is called up prior to the expanded rosters in September it gives you a larger sample size than just the normal September callup small sample size. This enables you to have that much more of a look at the player. Allowing you to make an even better asset of him as a player and potential keeper, come keeper time. Percent owned as of Thursday August 9th: 2% ESPN, 8% Yahoo and 35% CBS. He is currently only shortstop eligible. I grade his keeper potential as an A.

Will you be picking up Manny Machado or did you happen to have have him already rostered?  Let me know in the comments and, as always, be sure to follow me on Twitter @FantasyzrTJ for all your fantasy baseball needs.

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DomonicBrown

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Welcome (Back) to the Bigs, Kid: Domonic Brown

Posted on 02 August 2012 by T.J. McDonald

Tuesday, the day of the MLB trade deadline, the Philadelphia Phillies traded CF Shane Victorino to the Los Angeles Dodgers fo reliever Josh Lindblom and Double-A pitcher Ethan Martin. In a separate deal also Tuesday, the Phillies then sent RF Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants for RF Nate Schierholtz, Double-A catcher Tommy Joseph and Class A pitcher Seth Rosin. After the trade dusts cleared the Phillies were left with two vacant starting outfield spots, leading to the call up Tuesday of a once heralded and once-top five prospect in all of baseball, Domonic Brown. Making this his third stint in the majors, I will now go on to profile this post hype prospect and his potential value for yearly and keeper/dynasty fantasy leagues.

Domonic Brown is a 24 year old right fielder drafted in the 20th round of the 2006 Major league draft out of Redan High School in Stone Mountain Georgia. Following the draft he planned to attend the University of Miami to play wide receiver on the football team but the the Phillies offered him a $200,000 signing bonus to choose baseball instead, which he ultimately did.  He was ranked as the 48th best prospect by Baseball America in 2009, #15 in 2010 and #4 in 2011.  Baseball America also had him ranked as the Phillies best prospect in 2009, 2010 and 2011. He initially made his major league debut on July 28th 2010 and had another stint in the majors in 2011. In 280 major league ABs he has not met expectations with a career line of .236 with 7 HRs and 32 RBIs.  However in 1989 minor ABs he hit a solid .296 with 58 HR, 106 SBs and a .343 OBP%. He has added left field and center field to his resume and Charlie Manuel said he could see time at all three outfield positions. The initial plan was to have him in the lineup Tuesday night, but a delayed flight out of Syracuse meant he did not arrive until game time. He ended up pinch-hitting, knocking a single up the middle in the eighth inning to improve his batting average to 1.000. He was in the starting lineup Wednesday batting 6th and playing left field. He went 0 for 4.

Now as for his fantasy value, I know a lot of yearly and even some keeper/dynasty league owners may have given up on this once heralded prospect.  However post sleepers come along more frequently than most think. A recent example being Alex Gordon and with Brown only being 24 he has the potential to be the next one. In yearly leagues he is a somewhat a debatable add due to his past disappointing performance at the major league level. However depending on your roster strength and teams needs, he could be a valuable piece to your team for the rest of the season. If you are looking for an outfielder with good speed potential and a high OBP% he is your guy. Due to the open spots left in the Phillies outfield by the departures of Pence and Victorino, Brown should get very solid playing time for the rest of the season. The Phillies will want to know if he is the player they thought they were getting when they drafted him in ’06 and if he fits into their long term plans.  This will lead to him being an everyday player and a possibly a valuable waiver wire add for the stretch run in yearly leagues.

Now for keeper and dynasty leagues, he is a must add.  While he has under performed in the past he will be given every chance to succeed this time around as the Phillies seem to be on the verge of rebuild mode. With everyday playing time and 5 or so weeks left in the fantasy year before playoffs start.  What better time to add Brown let him boost your teams OBP% and steal numbers as well as audition for a potential keeper spot on your team. He is only rostered in 4% of yahoo, 1% of ESPN &  19% of CBS leagues.  While he is still widely available in all leagues strike while the iron is hot. If he goes on a tear in the next week or two his availability will no longer be so widespread.

Will you be picking up Domonic Brown? I did. Or has this once top prospect bright future dimmed to much for your liking?  Let me know in the comments and, as always, follow me on Twitter @FantasyzrTJ for all your fantasy baseball needs.

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What’s happening in my league?

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What’s happening in my league?

Posted on 26 March 2012 by Jared Thatcher

I participate in a dynasty fantasy baseball league hosted by Proboards. We have all 30 teams accounted for and the league is in its second year of existence. People always say the hardest thing about a large dynasty league is retaining owners. So far, this has proved to be true in our league, but we have a great commissioner who fills the teams quickly with quality General Managers.

I joined the league in the middle of the 2011 season by taking over the Atlanta Braves. I know what some of you are thinking… great, young, talented team to take over. You couldn’t be farther from the truth. The GM before me had completely wiped out the minor league system (we can keep up to 75 minor leaguers), and he had already traded away Freddie Freeman, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Tim Hudson, Dan Uggla, and Jason Heyward. Basically I was left with Derek Lowe and Chipper Jones. He had traded most of the guys to Rockies and Astros for a bunch of their aging stars like Todd Helton and Carlos Lee. My team had been destroyed, raped, and pillaged by the other teams during the prior GMs reign. But I was OK with that. I took over the team as a challenge. I wanted to rebuild and make a competitive team out of scraps.

So far I have managed to trade away some of the more expensive and aging players for draft picks (we do a 6 round amateur draft and 6 round minor league draft) and prospects (I have almost all of the Diamondbacks pitching prospects in my system now). My system is becoming better and better by the day but I am still a long way from winning.

Anyway, in this post I will list the transactions that happened in my league this week. Hopefully, they will help you determine the value of certain players or at least get an idea of where to start if you are trying to trade in your dynasty league.

Braves trade to the Rockies:Carlos Lee

Rockies trade to the Braves

Chad Bettis $0.4
Jose Iglesias $0.4
Juan Rivera
2012 #29 overall pick

Lee is a very valuable player on a fantasy team. He qualifies at OF and 1B and ESPN has him ranked pretty high as a first baseman. He hit for .300 last year and drove in a ton of runs on a terrible team. Bettis is one of the better Rockies pitching prospects (and he hasn’t been arrested yet). Iglesias should spend a lot of time at SS this year for the Red Sox if he can figure out how to hit. Rivera fills a hole in the outfield and will be a nice asset off the bench. The #29 overall pick will help the Braves system get even deeper.
Braves trade to the Dbacks:

Dbacks trade to the Braves

Charles Brewer
Patrick Corbin
Adam Eaton
Wade Miley
2012 2nd round draft pick (#37 overall)

Robinson and Norris are young and have a lot of years under team control so the package coming back to the Braves had to be large. Brewer and Corbin are good pitching prospects in the Dbacks system and Eaton, although small, is a good OF prospect. Miley broke into the Majors last year for a couple starts but isn’t anything too special as of now. The #37 draft pick could be very useful in this years draft for the Braves.

Astros trade to the Twins:
Twins trade to the Astros:
This trade was mostly a salary dump for the Astros because they had 3 starting shortstops.
A’s trade to the Dbacks:

D-backs trade to the A’s:

1st round draft pick

The draft pick was the #6 overall pick in the 2012 draft. The #6 pick could really be worth a lot which is why the A’s had to give up promising prospects Green and Sands. I like this trade and I think it will benefit both owners as long as the A’s make a wise choice in the draft.

A’s trade to the Twins:

Rafael Furcal

Twins trade to the A’s:

Twins 2nd rd pick (pick 5)

The Twins needed a starting shortstop and Furcal is a good, middle of the pack guy. The A’s continue to acquire draft picks and should get a huge haul in the 2012 draft.
Well, that’s what’s happening in my league. What’s happening in yours? Please comment about the trades posted and the trades that have happened in your league! You can follow me on Twitter @Jared_Thatcher

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