Woo hoo! It's been a long time a-coming, but a change is gonna come. Or perhaps not. But, whatever the case might be, its been a couple of weeks since the last update but a lot has changed. Some teams have won games, some have lost games and, bizarrely, while some players have performed really well others have rather struggled. In other words, not much has changed at all. MTaF wins, BU wins, CCS loses, TBS loses. Not so much a change is gonna come as the ridiculously predictable is gonna come. And that's not as exciting a story line but, hey, what do you want me to do. I'm not gonna go out there and start fixing results or bribing people, am I? Who do you think I am, some Turkish soccer official? Hopefully not because then there's be a heap of angry fantasy baseball players round my house ready to kick off and we can't be having that. Perhaps all those thoughts of aggression explains why most of the write-ups this week seem to have a military or violent theme or perhaps its simply due to residual anger at strangely mutating strike zones in San Francisco. Who knows? Who cares?
Stinky Cheese (430) beat MSKM (347)
There's something about liking a certain sport that is, I'd argue, fairly arbitrary. On the one hand, there's no denying that different sports have different qualities that may attract different people but, on the other, it is very hard to identify the intrinsic qualities that make baseball such a perfectly-fitting sport for most of us. Sure, we can waffle on about the consistency needed across a marathon 162-game regular season, the artistry exhibited by a diving catch in the outfield, the sheer power of a towering home run or the general greatness of the Brew Crew but, all too often, there's a small part of our brain that is aware that these are mainly just post-facto generalisations. At a basic level we like baseball because we like baseball. We may have been brought up with the game and reminisce about the glove that our Dad bought us when we were five or we may have only come to the game recently after recovering from a long illness when baseball seemed the only thing on telly but it doesn't really matter. In a sense, baseball (or any other sport) somehow chooses us as much as we choose it. If you're born in the States chances are you'll be a fan of American football or baseball, born in the UK and there's very high odds you'll be obsessed with soccer, brought up in New Zealand and your religion will be rugby. Or, alternatively, be born in the icy wastelands of Canada in an Eskimo family and be brought up as a huge fan of ear-pulling. Yeah, that's right. This year's Eskimo games have featured the fantastic sport of ear-pulling although, as of yet, I've been unable to find any information on the recent winners of an event which basically involves your ears being tied by twine to your opponent's and you both pulling until one of you gives up. Or someone's ears get ripped off. But there are these photos which exhibit the strangeness of the event and make you glad that your evenings are spent relaxing and watching some hardball action rather than sitting in a freezing gym in the tundra having your ears torn to shreds. I'm sure there's a bit of initial excitement in watching one of these matches but, after that, they must all seem rather dull, samey and predictable. Rather like Stinky Cheese mashing up on my team this week when, after a couple of days and an early SC lead, his eventual victory seemed set in stone. Having a batting line-up anchored by Pirates is perhaps finally catching up with my team as only Markakakakakis (40) and Yunel Escobar (32) did anything on the hitting side. Votto scoring only 8 didn't help matters much either. Floyd (50) and Kershaw (34) scored well too. SC rocked to victory thanks to the surprising talents of Perkins (40), Masterson (39), Murphy (34) and Vernon Wells (31). Gutted!
The Braun Supremacy (305) lost to Never Gonna Give You Upton (349)
Its funny how certain countries get a strange reputation. New Zealand is known for sheep and rugby, Spain for siestas and bullfighting, Holland for canals, hash and tulips and Switzerland for cuckoo clocks, mountains, ski-ing and chocolate. Of course, this is no more than cheap and easy stereotyping which does not reflect the diversity of each county and it is easy to forget the little secrets that each county likes to keep quiet about. While everyone is by now aware of Switzerland's history of an approach to banking ethics that makes the UK's bankers look like moral guardians of all that is right and pure, it is hard to reconcile the smooth running image of the county with the fact that the country did not allow voting for women until 1951. Yep, it took until 6 years after the end of the Second World War before the country saw fit to allow half their population to vote. Pretty incredible that a major European country, especially in financial terms, only allowed women to vote just over 50 years ago, huh? Except that it's actually a lie. It was 1971 when they allowed women to vote. Its not really surprising that the Swiss Tourist Board are quite happy for images of lovely large mountains and ski-ing to fill their posters. Equally unsurprising was TBS'd defeat in this match as, despite NGGYU having a weak week, they sat down in the corner and eventually took a beating. Although they were in contention with a couple of days to go the inevitable eventually happened as Hudson (30), Prado (29), Stubbs (27), Porcello (26) and Lincecum (26) couldn't quite muster enough points. NGGYU won thanks mainly to big weeks from Beckett (42), Rollins (41) and Justin Upton (40).
Little Lebowski's Under-Achievers (314) lost to Bumpin' Ugglas (419)
I've always had a bit of an interest in different languages. At school I ended up studying French and German as well as the classical languages and in recent years have picked up a smattering of Portuguese and am starting to learn Japanese. Being brutally honest I can't really speak any of these languages even partially although, in true British fashion, ply me with a few pints of beer in central Lisbon and my brain tells me every local can understand the most subtle nuances of my Portuguese witterings. I've even got a book on Esperanto sitting, relatively untouched, on the bookshelf at the top of my stairs. Mind you, being entirely made-up, Esperanto is a cool language. My favourite bit is that the prefix ek- can be added to any verb to mean a smaller version of the original version. As an example, if you put ek- before the word meaning “to look” it will now mean “to glance”. Of course, this is particularly relevant in baseball terms as it explains why David Eckstein was destined to be so small. Given their performance this week, LLUA could be called an ek-fantasy baseball team. Sure, they've got all the right signs of competing, but somehow the end result is always a bit less than expected. Colby Lewis (51) and Adam Jones (47) put up huge weeks but were badly let down by non-descript pitching from the likes of Haren (-21!), Beachy (-14), Norris (-7), Duensing (-1), Phil Hughes (2), League (4) and Correia (4). BU was in cruise control due to a remarkably steady week. Only Freeman (35) and Hosmer (32) scored over thirty but there were a host of others contributing, most noticeably Cordero (29) and LoMo (28).
Bringing Home the Bacon (300) beat The Team That I Refuse to Name (282)
If I was absolutely forced to pick two sports that I felt summarised the essence of sport I know straight away which two I'd pick. Darts and boxing. Don't get me wrong, I'd rather sit down and watch baseball than any other sport in the world but I think both these sports distill one particular element of the sporting contest into its finest and most brutal form and then base their entire game around it. Darts is tension personified. Unless you're the imperious Phil Taylor, most darts players are of an equal standard and can knock out the occasional 9 dart finish in practice but put them on the oche in front of a baying crowd of 2,000 jigging up and down to The Fratellis and its a different matter. You may well be able to hit double 16 after double 16 in your own bedroom but when a place in the World Championship is on the line it seems almost impossible. There's little strategy, tactics or thought into darts playing but being able to deal with tension is almost the nature of the game. Boxing is a simpler matter. You make a mistake in almost any other sport and you may lose the title or even look a complete idiot in front of thousands of spectators but, fortunately, the result of a mistake in these sports does not normally include someone punching you very hard in the face. Saying that, Britain's new heavyweight champion, who goes by the fantastic name of Tyson Fury went one step forward by looking an idiot via punching himself in the face. In the wake of David Haye's lamentable showing against Wladimir Klitschko its fair to say that Britain is not exactly endowed with quality big men. Still, if they ever make a sport that can completely distill the pure, unadulterated essence of punching yourself in the face I'd be willing to stake my money on TTTIRTN putting up a decent run at the title based on his performance this week. Faced with a slumping BhtB who struggled to put up one of the lowest scores of the week TTTIRTN completely face-planted with a mere 257 points. Weaver (35) and Vogelsong (31) were the only pitching standouts for TTTIRTN while Swisher (31), Hafner (28) and Hart (27) scored reasonably. BhTB wasn't too much better but can thank Tulo (38) and Marcum (34) for seeing him through this one and keeping him in-line for promotion.
Phoenix Fire (347) lost to Poughkeepsie Footpickers (521)
Now, I'm more than prepared to go on record and say I'm somewhat of a fan of technological advances and I guess that everyone reading this is too – apart from SRB who posted a picture of Ted Kaczynski the other day. To be honest, that wasn't a huge surprise to me as I've recognised a number of his comments on the relative merits of Counsell, Betancourt or Wilson as a regular shortstop seem to have been culled straight from primitivist and anti-technologist icon John Zerzan's seminal (and by seminal I do truly mean having the intellectual merit of jism) work “Future Primitive”.. Where things become particularly fascinating is when the rapidity of changes combine with divergent levels of development to lead to huge disparities in technological advances. Perhaps it is due to a childlike fascination with war stories, but this somehow always appears most clear in all its horror when remembering tales about how Polish cavalry attempted to charge German tanks during Blitzkrieg advances into their country in 1939. Of course, tanks had been around for a while by then and this was clearly a bit of an urban myth but it is true that groups of lancers on horseback during World War One would regularly try to attack positions fortified by copious machine guns. Equally true, is the story of the Battle of Omdurman of 1898 where a force of about 25,000 British, Egyptian and Sudanese troops took on twice as many Dervishes. Armed primarily with spears and a few ancient firearms the Dervish troops repeatedly piled forward in attack despite the fact they faced Maxim guns and up-to-date artillery. The results were astonishing – about 10,000 of the Mahdi's Dervish troops were killed while the British-led forces lost a grand total of 47 people. The word “bloodbath” is overused but fits the criteria pretty nicely here. Equally adept at bringing the severe pain this week was Poughkeepsie who, armed with the heavy guns of Ellsbury (47), Stanton (40) and Utley (39), did some severe damage. When the dust and gunsmoke cleared the only survivors for Phoenix were Encarnacion (40) and Isringhausen (35).
More Than A Feeling (456) beat Harvey's Wallbangers (364)
One of the downsides of watching a lot of baseball and reading a lot of non-fiction is that I rarely get time to read enough fiction. This year I think I've managed “Crime and Punishment” (an attempt to seem intellectual) and, errr, I think that's about it. When I was younger I used to read fiction a lot – I loved Catch 22 and read it about 3 or 4 times but mainly just dissolved into some meaningless detective novel and simply chilled. Saying that, I was relatively happy reading anything, but would draw the line at anything that resembled “hippy writing” and this included any writers from the Beat generation. Jeez, if Jack Kerouac needed copious amounts of alcohol and illegal drugs to be able to write properly then he couldn't be much of a writer, could he? Of course, my views have mellowed somewhat and I'm only able to get through typing this paragraph thanks to a pint of stout, a pile of out-of-date analgesics and a telephone sitting on hand with my dealer's number on speed dial, but you might as well be smug and puritanical about these things when you're so young you can't prperly indulge in them. As a result of my self-imposed fiction curb I never ever read any William Burroughs (and, to be honest, I'm not entirely gutted about that fact) but he's always had a weird place in my subconscious. Not so much due to his writing but due to the events of Thursday, 6th September, 1951. That was the date Burroughs and his wife attended a party in Mexico City that, by all accounts, was becoming as exciting as an Astros-Padres match-up. Which is not very exciting at all. To liven things up, Burroughs and his wife decided to re-enact the William Tell story, with Burroughs taking a pistol and trying to shoot the glass that his wife balanced on her head. His wife, Joan, uttered the famous last words “"I can't watch this - you know I can't stand the sight of blood”, Burroughs raised his pistol, pulled the trigger and, well, even if you don't know the story you can guess what happened... Equally predictable and dramatic was MTaF's storming victory over HW. MTaF were anchored by some crazily high scores from MadBum (54), Pedroia (51) and Ian Kennedy (42) as his strategy of picking up pitchers starting against the Crew pays off. Morrow's 37 more than made up for Jason Vargas's poor week (-33). Although he lost, there were some solid points for HW from Michael Young (35), Aramis Ramirez (35), Nathan (33), Granderson (31), Quentin and Axford (both 30) but just needed a bit more from the black holes of Brett Wallace (2), Jorge Posada (2) and Ian Desmond (8).
Gold Glove Gamels (439) beat Chin Music (300)
Years ago Britain fought against Russia in a seemingly critical conflict called the “Crimean War”. Given that fighting did include the Crimean peninsula but stretched as far North as the Baltic states this was as accurate as referring to the Second World War as the “Great European War” or the Napoleonic Conflict as the “French Skirmish”. Despite the geographic inaccuracy, the war is best known for the Charge of the Light Brigade, where miscommunication led to a cavalry brigade getting almost decimated at the hands of the Russian troops. However, my favourite story about the war is the presence of Lord Raglan, commander of the British forces who comes across as, well, slightly on the wrong side of sane. Raglan (or, should I say, Field Marshal FitzRoy James Henry Somerset) was by no means the worst British commander in history, although his early tactic of sending small numbers of British troops up against massed Russians was, errr, somewhat questionable, but he was a man of his times. Unfortunately, his times were still the Napoleonic Wars of 40 years earlier resulting in the unfortunate fact that on every occasion he insisted of referring to the enemy Russian troops in the Crimean War as “The French”. Indeed, for Raglan the enemy was always “The French” regardless of their actual nationality. Rather like Norman Schwarzkoppf calling the Iraqi troops “Germans” during Desert Storm. Or something similarly crazy. Only marginally less crazy is the way GGG is clinging on in the promotion race after seeming completely out of it a few weeks ago. CM didn't put up too much competition, although Carpenter (32), Braun (32) and Lackey (30) tried their best. Matusz being demoted and Clayton Richard sitting on the DL can't be helping matters. Nice hitting from Gardner (37) and Zobrist (32) coupled with solid pitching from Worley (40) saw GGG through fairly easily. Three weeks to go and he's still in the race for promotion...
Craig Counsell's Steakhouse (276) lost to Social Anxiety All Stars (331)
Things can change quickly. The Phillies were a historically bad franchise and now they are perennial World Series contenders. The Astros used to regularly contend for the division and now have allied a useless major league team to a poor farm system, leaving them little hope for the next few years. And the Cubs used to regularly find embarrassing ways to fail excruciatingly in their quest for glory and now have turned things round dramatically so that their failures are not embarassing or excruciatingly painful but entirely predictable and boring. In geopolitical terms things can be somewhat different. We've all been used to characterisation of the 20th Century as the “American Century” and it seems a fairly good bet that, despite the rise of China, India and Scotland (spot the interloper...), that this century will be defined largely in terms of the role of the USA. But things weren't always that way. If I was to say that in 1912 Russia had an army of 5.5 million, Germany one of 4.1 million, France of 3.9 million, Austria-Hungary of 2.3 million, Italy 1.2 million and the UK (which was pouring money into its navy but, admittedly, had a rather huge empire to maintain) a mere 800,000 men in arms how big would you guess the US Army was? With most statesmen around the world fully aware that the world was on the brink of war the actual size of the US Army was only 100,000 men. Clearly this reflects the relative isolationism of the States at the time and the fact it had not been involved in any major conflicts earlier, but it still comes as something of a surprise. On a rather more minor level, the continuing struggles of CCS still surprise me every time I look at his line-up and see players like Howard (9), Cano (24) and Miggy (25) sitting there but he still seems to struggle for starting pitching. Trading Kershaw (25) for Baker (21) and Steet (15) may well pay-off but leaves him short of a star with a staff that includes Lohse (-6), Villy (-10), Karstens (25), Narve-dawg (12), Harang (22), Colon (7), Andrew Miller (-7) and Maholm (-16). SAAS depended on some damn fine pitching from CJ (37) and Brian Wilson (36) and John Lannan (32) while a certain Mr Yuniesky Betancourt heaved up a mighty 30 points.
Badly Formatted Power Leagues. Poughkeepsie jumps to the top on the back of two very spectacular weeks while not much changes at the bottom.
Poughkeepsie Footpickers – 1071 (8-7, South)
More Than A Feeling – 1058 (13-2, East)
Gold Glove Gamels – 949 (8-7, West)
Bumpin' Ugglas – 941 (12-3, South)
Stinky Cheese – 920 (11-4, West)
Social Anxiety All Stars – 861 (7-8, North)
Little Lebowski – 844 (7-8, East)
MSKM – 844 (8-7, North)
Phoenix Fire – 806 (5-10, East)
Harvey's Wallbangers – 790 (6-9, South)
Never Gonna Give You Upton – 765 (6-9, South)
Craig Counsell's Steakhouse – 753 (2-13, West)
Chin Music – 721 (6-9, North)
The Braun Supremacy – 699 (5-10, East)
Bringing Home the Bacon – 654 (10-5, West)
The Team I Refuse to Name – 606 (6-9, North)
Next week's match-ups
MSKM vs Gold Glove Gamels
Never Gonna Give You Upton vs Phoenix Fire
Poughkeepsie Footpickers vs More Than A Feeling
Harvey's Wallbangers vs Little Lebowski's Under Achievers
Bumpin' Ugglas vs The Braun Supremacy
Chin Music vs Craig Counsell's Steakhouse
Social Anxiety All Stars vs Bringing Home the Bacon
The Team That I Refuse to Name vs Stinky Cheese
Things stay really tight in this league. MSKM is still in poll position (8 wins) but hasn't won for a while although it seems no-one else is determined to make a serious run for it. SAAS moves to one game behind (7) after beating CCS but TTTIRTN and Chin Music both lose to stay at 6 wins. This one looks like it could go down to the wire as with all teams playing the West you could see them all losing next week.
There's clarity in this division, as Bumpin' Ugglas win sees them move to 12 wins and automatic promotion. Poughkeepsie are the form team in the league and move to 8 wins. Harvey's and NGGYU are both on 6 wins but will perhaps need to win all their remaining games to get through.
MTaF had this one sewn up a couple of weeks or so ago and win again to move to 3 wins. LLUA looks like he has the second play-off spot sorted (7 wins) but Phoenix Fire and TBS (both 5) are still theoretically in this one.
Stinky Cheese (11) is in poll position although BHtB (10) is just behind and clawed out a vital win despite being almost bottom of the power rankings. GGG wins again to move to 8 wins and is still not out of it yet. CCS loses to stay at 2 wins and thereby consolidates his position at the bottom of the division.