Another girl, another planet. Another week, another update. Fresh from another seven days of baseball excitement (in my case another few days reading FanGraphs chats despite the fact about 12 minutes after reading each I can't remember a single thing that's been said). Still, it takes my attention away from Wimbledon (or “Wimpleton” as BA seemed to call it on Saturday) which I insist on watching out of some strange sports loyalism thing. You may call it masochism, but if I was truly masochistic what am I doing supporting a baseball team with Mark Kotsay and Yuni Betancourt hitting on it, huh? Actually, I think I'd rather watch Yuni swing away at umpteen first pitch breaking balls in the dirt than actually go to Wimbledon but watching it on telly passes the time as I find myself a few days into a massive holiday and already finding myself bored. In fact, I've been to loads of sporting events and the least memorable was the womens doubles tennis final I went to about 10 years ago. Actually, it was relatively memorable but mainly because the start was delayed so I went to the pub with a mate and stayed there for most of the game, pint in hand watching the final on the pub TV rather than being bothered to walk the 300 metres to the actual court. Mind you, I've never been to a golf tournament and I reckon I'd probably rather stay in the pub for most of that as well. Anyway, join me for some vague commentary on a sport that actually matters. No, not baseball but fantasy baseball...
Chin Music (202) lost to More Than A Feeling (256)
There's always been questions about human perception since the times that humans first began to have some measure of reflective cognition (millions of years ago for most of us, perhaps a couple of decades ago for those in Chicago). At a simple level, there's the conversations you used to have with your best friends after smoking a couple of exotic “cigarettes” at the age of 17 about whether your dreams are reality or reality is but a dream (my dreams are about the sole thing as boring as my daily existence so I don't really give too much of a toss either way). At a more complex level there's detailed discussions about the nature of cognition, neuroscience and, errrrr, other scientific stuff that completely escapes my meagre intellectual powers. One thing that I do really struggle with is remembering people faces (and names and most other relevant pieces of information) so I can totally understand how you might be asked by the police to provide information to make a photofit and have it end up looking like this. Its the little touches that make the whole story so bizarre. In most countries without computer generated photofits they have someone with some passing connection to artistic talent to draw the photofit but here they've obviously chosen Tony LaRussa after 17 double vodkas to draw the picture. Secondly, they didn't even take the trouble to use proper blank paper but have clearly drawn the picture on a third-year's Math jotter. Thirdly, the fact that the picture was not only accepted by police as possibly helping lead to an arrest but was shown on national TV, meaning numerous TV execs didn't question its usage. Fourthly, it led to an arrest! Saying that, I've never actually met anyone from Bolivia so, for all I know, there's plenty of people in downtown LaPaz whose facial features look like they've been scrawled by an alcoholic, alzeimer-ridden geriatic. Who doesn't have any fingers. Of course, lest you think this is merely an attempt to deride deprived Latin American countries, have a look at this attempt from the artistically-challenged bobbies in Hampshire, England. Still, the weird perception of various police artists is but a mere bagatelle compared to the perception of SC that his pitching line-up is acceptable. SC's pitching scored only 55 points, with good scoring from Stauffer (25), Carpenter (23) and Pineda (18) being outweighed by poor scores from Venters, Matusz (both -13) and Lackey (-12). His hitting was slightly better, due to Reyes (28), A-Gon (24) and Ryan Braun (22). Overall he was comfortably beaten by MTAF who had a massive 43 points from Longoria, ably assisted by Sergio Santos (31), Pedroia (26), Anibal Sanchez (21) and Leo Nunez (20).
Poughkeepsie Footpickers (137) lost to Craig Counsell's Steakhouse (304)
Sometimes the phrase “David vs Goliath” doesn't quite do the situation sufficient justice. When people think of the town Berwick-upon-Tweed there's a number of things that come to mind. Firstly, is undoubtedly the finest soccer team in the whole world, nay, universe and their 1969 Scottish Cup 1-0 victory against Glasgow Rangers. Secondly, there's Berwick's history of being continually fought over by the Scots and the English throughout the centuries. And thirdly, there's the story of how Berwick-upon-Tweed, a small town in Northumberland was at war with Russia for centuries. The story is that, as part of a 16th century peace treaty between Scotland and England, Berwick was described as being of England, but not part of England and was thus always mentioned separately in any official Acts of Parliament. As a result, when Britain declared war with Russia in what became the Crimean conflict (despite the war actually taking place all over the West of Russia, including in the Baltic region) Berwick was specifically mentioned, while when the final treaty was signed Berwick was left out. As a result, Russia never officially came to terms with Berwick and the war has continued to this day. Of course, like all good stories these days, some nincompoop has proved the tale to be entirely false but this hasn't stopped the town putting on a “Berwick at War with Russia” weekend, including such activities as a battle re-enactment (doubtless involving thousands of Russian troops approaching and any remaining Berwickers legging it as quickly as possible), events at the local museum and a Russia vs Berwick bear baiting competition (possibly). Of course, with his team 0-11 at the start of the week, Craig Counsell's Steakhouse had about as much chance of overcoming the odds as Berwick would in a war with Russia but he miraculously pulled out a stunning victory, including putting on over 100 points in the final day. Clayton Kershaw more than made up for a poor last week with a massive 65 points, while Capuano and Keppinger (both 24), Lucroy (20), A-Rod and Andrew Miller (both 19) helped out. Poughkeepsie had anaemic batting (highest scorer being Ellsbury with 16) and his pitching was merely adequate, with Sabathia (25), YoGa (19) and Harrison (18) top scoring.
Bumpin' Ugglas (156) lost to Stinky Cheese (208)
One of the most boring debates in all sport must be the interminable dreariness of discussing exactly what counts as a sport and what doesn't. OK, so in Formula 1 the best driver doesn't always have the best car and so might not win, dressage seems like a throwback to the chivalry of 15th Century France and some sports have traditionally had a unique approach to physical effort. The one sport/game that always gets brought up in these debates is chess, as if the excitement of watching two men move small wooden pieces around a nicely patterned piece of wood is somehow magnified or diminished depending on whether the magic word “sport” can be appended to it. Anyway, I'd call chess a sport but solely on the basis that it would allow me to claim the Fischer-Spassky 1972 World Championship as one of the all-time sporting events I'd have loved to have been present at. Not all 21 matches, of course, as that would have been ridiculous and involved spending more time in Reykjavik that any sane person would wish, but at least the first few games. Not only was the excitement of the match heightened by the existing Cold War shenanigans of the time, but Russia had held the championship for years and Fischer was the up-and-coming youngster displaying precocious talent. Fischer made a ridiculous blunder to lose the first match and then forfeited the second match (to go 2-0 down) after making repeated demands about the cameras in the room. At this point, Fischer appeared likely to give up and leave the country, leading to political pressure being put on him (including phone calls from Henry Kissinger) before he agreed to continue. Of course, history shows that Fischer played brilliant chess to win two of the next three matches and went on to win 12 ½ to 8 ½ and secure the title which he would end up not defending as his antics became increasingly bizarre. Still, he'd played a part in the greatest chess match in history and even defeated Spassky again when the two played an unofficial match in Yugoslavia in the nineties. Well, BU vs SC was a similar meeting of two geniuses to Fischer-Spassky's 1972 match although whereas one game involves perhaps the greatest intellectual challenge of game-playing known to man the other is merely a game of chess (ho ho ho!). SC went out to an early lead before being pegged back by the determined play of BU who levelled things up before SC went into the final day 30-odd points up and consolidated nicely in the final day to win it. Top players for SC were Verlander (35), Bourn (24) and Nelson Cruz (22). BU was badly let down by his hitting (101 points), with only Castro (22) and McCann (21) putting in any real scores, while Trevor Cahill (23) was the only pitcher to score over 15.
Of course, continuing the chess analogy, this all means that Stinky Cheese will become an anti-semitic, America hating weirdo who will live out his dying decades as a recluse in Reykjavik (not many people know this, but “Recluse in Reykyavik” was the working title for the film that eventually became “Sleepless in Seattle). Of course, for all I know that is a fair summation of SC's life at present so perhaps he's not complaining too much...
Social Anxiety All-Stars (269) beat Little Lebowski Under Achievers (220)
Its perhaps a bit of a truism that one of the areas that sabermetrics still needs to work on is assessing which players are particular injury risks and which aren't. Sure, when you're putting your fantasy team together most of us find it relatively easy to have a good idea which players are better bets than others but to what extent do you risk going with an injury-prone player? For every Rickie Weeks who manages to stay injury free (cross-fingers) there's a Josh Hamilton with his repeated visits to the DL and his claims this week that he can't play as well during the day because he has blue eyes. While this has resulted in a fair amount of laughter I can sympathise with Hamilton as I believe that it is only due to my upper lip being unnaturally large that I have been unable to take my place among the greats of curling. That and the repeated false allegations of corruption and fraud that unfortunately marred by time as treasurer of the local curling club. Anyway, it seems funny that even when Hamilton is not injured he is able to find ailments to explain away his poor performance. It's like Charles VI of France who was hideously burnt while taking part in a theatrical performance which involved wearing sticks and sticky tar while someone else waved lit torches around (obviously someone forgot to do a risk assessment on that) and later went relatively mad, once getting scared by a lance falling and attacking his bodyguards, killing a number of them, and ending up believing he was made of glass and forbidding anyone to get close to him. Of course, that's very different from Josh Hamilton who actually is made of glass and, as a result, has sat on the DL for most of the season after rupturing a disk while opening a can of coke, breaking his wrist while shaking hands with Rangers Captain and dislocating his shoulder while signing his prescription for a year's worth of painkillers. It would have been pretty handy if someone could have told SAAS that this would happen when he bidded for him in our auction 73 weeks ago (is it me or does the auction really seem months and months ago?) but at least Hamilton and his dodgy eyes scored 21 points for him this week as he beat LLUA. SAAS was also helped out by Felix (30), Joe Saunders (29), Beltre (22) and Pierzynski (20). LLUA, on the other hand, only really had 5-homer week Ty Wigginton (32), Beachy (25) and Adam Jones (23) and that was never likely to be enough.
The Team That I Refuse to Name (189) lost to The Braun Supremacy (192)
I'm not really into travel that much (in fact, I get slightly queasy thinking about the shortest car ride but that's mainly due to my appalling driving “skills” which regularly result in near-death experiences for myself, other drivers and nearby pedestrians) but I wouldn't really mind going to North Korea. OK, so its not the most luxurious destination and, God knows, the political regime there is abhorrent, but I'd love to see the Airirang festival in Pyongyang. For those of you who aren't aware of it, the Airirang Festival takes place in a massive stadium in Pyongyang and involves mass gymnastics, dancing and ridiculously impressive displays of turning over bits of card to make cool pictures. Believe me, its a lot better than it sounds as watching this video makes clear. Performances continue over a two month period, with participants often selected from the age of five with many expected to continue performing in the festival throughout their working life. A bit harsh, methinks but it certainly makes for some talented performances. I've a friend who works in South Korea and was invited up to watch it (presumably the thinking being that Westerners will become immune to believing any criticism of North Korea if they watch some neat gymnastics there for a couple of hours) and it was one of the best things he's ever seen. Mind you, he's spent much of his life watching the English national soccer team so he doesn't really have many positive experiences to compare it to. Still, even if the Airirang festival involved a couple of middle-aged drunks waving scraps of torn newspaper in the air while mumbling the greatest hits of ELO it'd be more exciting and involving that watching the continuing efforts of TBS's Adam “Big Donkey” Dunn. Still, TBS had the good sense to keep Dunn on the bench as his -4 score (4 ks) in the final day would have seen him lose this one. It was all about the pitching this week for TBS as Tim Hudson (42), Lincecum (31) and Matt Cain (25) more than made up for hitting that was essentially Alex Gordon (27) and a bunch of non-entitites. TTTIRTN slipped to two games back in the league, as would be expected when your weekly top scorer is JJ Hardy (28). Swisher (21) and Vogelsong (20) were the only other guys doing all that much as he lost again.
MSKM (267) beat Phoenix Fire (209)
Earlier on in the season there seemed to be nary a day going by without some superstar baseball player (or Corey Hart) going on the DL with an oblique strain, giving rise to many questions about the cause of the injuries. Was it due to increased workouts focusing on core muscle groups, was it related to usage of certain PEDs or was it due to the ridiculous pogo-stick craze that rampaged through Major League training camps during spring training? Unfortunately Pope Albert's recent injury was only a relatively common arm injury thereby removing the possibility for an increase in these discussions. Of course, Albert had a pretty clear excuse for his injury (unless you believe MLB faked footage to cover up for the fact that he was injured as part of a bizarre Cardinals ritual involving Pujols, Dave Duncan, two bowls of custard and the collected molten wax from exactly 17 candles) which makes the whole thing disappointing. You see, I believe all injury excuses by sportspeople have to be judged by the excellent standards of female world tennis number one, Caroline Wozniacki, who tried to cover up an injury caused by running into a treadmill during the Australian Open earlier this year by claiming that she had been attacked by a kangaroo. In a further attempt to shed her image of being boring she recent snuck into a Novak Djokavic press conference in disguise as a journalist and started asking him questions. Most bizarre is her relatively low public profile despite the fact she looks like this. Equally strange, but considerably less good looking, is Nick Markakis and his return back to some semblance of form as he joint top-scored with Brandon Phillips (both 29) for MSKM even if it was done primarily with singles (10) rather than home runs (1). Votto (23), Street (22), Clippard (21) and Ubaldo (19!!!) also contributed nicely. PF was never really in this one after the first couple of days, although Halladay (31) put up significant figures. Fister (22), Konerko and Chris Young (both 20) also helped out.
Never Gonna Give You Upton (264) beat Gold Glove Gamels (240)
Most wars have relatively boring names. The vast majority are named after the participants or a geographic area (the Gulf War being the most dull recent version), while countless earlier wars have been named after the length of time they took, such as the Seven Days War, the Thirty Years War or the Hundred Years War. Of course, the latter examples rather beg the question of what these wars were called before they ended- the Hundred Years War could hardly be called the Hundred Years War when it had only just started so perhaps on the day it started they just called it the One Day War and then started counting upwards? However, there are exceptions and perhaps the most memorable for generations of British schoolchildren was the War of Jenkins Ear. Of course, they could have called it the Nine Year War or the Anglo-Spanish War (Part 28) or it could just be referred to as the War of Austrian Succession of which it was part, but when you've got a chance to name something “The War of Jenkins Ear” you don't normally turn it down. Especially when that something is a war which has started due to the captain of a merchant ship called Jenkins having his ear chopped off by Spaniards. Anyway, they'd have to come up with a pretty spectacular name to the NGGYU – GGG match-up to do justice to the impressive comeback mounted by NGGYU who was 75 down after the first two days and outscored GGG by 38 points to snatch victory at the end. NGGYU's win was due mainly to BJ Upton regaining some form (32) as Johnny Cueto (23) was the only other player to score over 20 points. GGG had good pitching from Greinke (28), Price (26), Lee (24), Putz (23) and Wade Davis (19) but his hitting was slightly less powerful, with Zobrist (20), Youkilis (19) and Seth Smith (18) the only position players to score over 10 points.
Harvey's Wallbangers (189) lost to Bringing Home the Bacon (206)
Sometimes the seemingly barbaric is actually understandable. As part of the ongoing wars at the time, English monarch Henry V once laid siege to the French town of Rouen. The English had successfully blocked off the town and no food could get in. Rationing was adopted but soon the townspeople began to starve. Finding it increasingly difficult to ensure there was enough food for everyone the commander in the town ordered the women and children to leave the town. However, to their surprise Henry did not look after them but, to the contrary, refused to let them leave the beseiged areas and left them to forage on their own in the ditch outside the city walls despite the face there was no food available. Those in the town then had to look on as their friends and family ran out of food to forage and slowly starved to death outside the city gates. Of course, while Henry's actions rightly seem barbaric (and quite rightly would be condemned if they happened today) he too had little food to go around and, moreover, the approach to human rights at the time was, shall we say, slightly different. If Henry was a man of his times and thus lived according to the moral code of the 15th century can we condemn him for his actions at Rouen? Equally barbaric (no, not really) was BhTB toying throughout the week with HW, putting up a 40-odd point lead in the first day and then keeping HW's hopes up by letting him remain in touch until finally clinching in the last week. BhtB was helped out by Shields (31), Alburquerque and Ricky Romero (both 28), while Carlos Pena (21) topscored on the hitting side. HW's pitchers put up a mere 19 points with Soria's 22 points being wasted by a poor performance from Fausto Carmona (-26) and the rest of his staff. His hitting was fairly good, primarily thanks to Michael Young (41) and Matt Kemp (26).
Power Leagues. Not having time to put together a carefully crafted (i.e. totally random) selection of cultural artifacts as part of naming each league, this week I've gone all arithmetical and have named each league after some of my favourite numbers...
League 1 – One
Never Gonna Give You Upton – 883 (4-8, South)
MSKM – 817 (8-4, North)
More Than A Feeling – 753 (10-2, East)
League 2 – Two
Chin Music – 746 (5-7, North)
Social Anxiety All Stars – 727 (4-8, North)
Gold Glove Gamels – 699 (6-6, West)
League 3 – Three
Bringing Home the Bacon – 698 (9-3, West)
Harvey's Wallbangers – 690 (6-6, South)
Poughkeepsie Footpickers – 682 (5-7, South)
League 4 – Four
Stinky Cheese – 680 (9-3, West)
Bumpin' Ugglas – 679 (9-3, South)
Craig Counsell's Steakhouse – 676 (1-11, West)
League 5 – Five
Little Lebowski – 636 (5-7, East)
Phoenix Fire – 619 (4-8, East)
The Team I Refuse to Name – 587 (6-6, North)
The Braun Supremacy – 489 (4-8, East)
- Next week's match-ups
MSKM vs Little Lebowski's Under Achievers
Chin Music vs The Braun Supremacy
Social Anxiety All Stars vs Phoenix Fire
The Team That I Refuse to Name vs More Than A Feeling
Never Gonna Give You Upton vs Bringing Home the Bacon
Poughkeepsie Footpickers vs Stinky Cheese
Harvey's Wallbangers vs Gold Glove Gamels
Bumpin' Ugglas vs Craig Counsell's Steakhouse
Hopefully will be play-offs for all the teams (top two into the main play-offs, rest in each division into a kind of plate tournament) but I'll need to make sure of that. Providing I can sort out the play-offs myself it'll be the four division winners against the four second-place teams with it being seeded so that the division winner that has scored the most points plays the second-place team with the least points etc.
As planned, the division winners get automatic promotion to the next league with the two second-place teams that get the furthest in the play-offs getting promoted too (if its a tie then it'll be done on regular season record of wins/losses and if a tie then on points scored). As suggested, due to the managerial change, if More Than A Feeling wins its division then it won't get automatically promoted but instead will have to be one of five teams fighting for three automatic places. I hope that all makes some sort of sense but its really early in the morning and I'm managing to confuse myself...
At present, that would give a line-up of (seed numbers in brackets based on whether first or second in league and then points scored):
More Than A Feeling (1) vs Little Lebowski (8)
Bringing Home the Bacon (4) vs Stinky Cheese (5)
Bumpin' Ugglas (3) vs Harvey's Wallbangers (6)
MSKM (2) vs TTIRTN (7)