Brewers gone crazy this week with Yuniesky Betancourt proving he's not the complete lost cause we imagined he was. In geographical terms he's perhaps the North West Passage – people think there's a proper ballplayer there somewhere but it takes many attempts from many different people before that ballplayer is finally found. Or perhaps he's just crap and has hit a lucky streak, who knows? Still, if Yuni can hit golden form then perhaps there's a chance for all the teams in the fantasy baseball league? Obviously not, but with only one week of the regular season left to go there's more fire and excitement around than there is on your average day on Tottenham High Road. There's still lots to play for so on with the review of the week that I like to call the “weekly review”...
Stinky Cheese (249.3) beat Social Anxiety All Stars (248.7)
There's few countries out there that have dominated a single sport for as long as Kenyan runners have dominated long distance running. Sure, there's been the occasional Hailie Gabreselasie who emerges to shake things up a bit, but generally if you bet on Kenyans winning any race further than 1,500 metres and chances are you'll win. Which makes it difficult for runners from any other country, particularly those from Europe where there isn't the same recent history of success. In fact, the only European athlete I can remember who regularly stood up to the Kenyans or other Africans in long distance running was the German runner Dieter Baumann who was noted for looking more like an accountant than a sporting great. At major tournaments Baumann would always be seen struggling mightily to keep up with the African runners in the hope that his immense sprint finish would pay off. Which it famously did in the Olympics of 1992 when he won a surprising gold. However, that's not the best thing about Baumann. Unfortunately, Baumann failed a drug test in 1999 and his career looked over. However, Baumann asked an independent agency to continue testing him for the drug and the tests revealed that the level of Nandrolone in his system would vary significantly according to the time of day and, moreover, was regularly at such high levels that it would have been very detrimental to his athletic performance. As a result, Baumann came up with the ingenious suggestion that someone had been tampering with his toothpaste and putting Nandolone in it. The German athletics federation reluctantly went along with it but, to this day, there's been no satisfactory explanation from Baumann or anyone else as to why someone would tamper with his toothpaste, who could have done it or what possible alternative explanation there could have been. Of course, the most likely explanation is that Baumann was indeed deliberately taking drugs but the problem with these issues is that there is so much claim and counter-claim going on that feeling certain is pretty difficult. Indeed, as Joe Posnanski and other top sports writers have correctly noted, the Baumann drugs issue is as difficult to figure out as the winner of the Stinky Cheese vs SAAS match-up where Stinky appears to have just edged out his competitor by .6 of a point thanks to outscoring him by a mere four points on the last day as both teams posted decent scores. Cheese's highest scorer by far was a certain Prince Fielder (40), with Fowler and Carlos Santana adding 21 each. His pitching was remarkably consistent as Guerra (20), Niemann, Verlander and Masterson (19) did well. Felix Hernandez (35), Kotchmann and, wait for it..., Yuniesky Betancourt (both 27) and Salas (24) top scored for SAAS who will be cursing Gio Gonzales (-9) and Joe Saunders (-7) as his bid to top his division has pretty much failed.
Craig Counsell's Steakhouse (99) lost to MSKM (205)
If there's one thing that I've got kinda tired of recently it is people complaining about the All Star Game and saying it isn't what it used to be. True, TV audiences have been declining and, personally, I'm less interested than I used to be, but I'd like to think that this is primarily due to earlier infatuation with baseball becoming a more mature, serious (but equally passionate) concern with the game. The fact you're no longer as interested in the All Star Game isn't due to the quality getting less or the increasingly necessary pitching changes ruining the tempo of the game but the fact that you're no longer a 12 year-old who is giddily excited by the promise of seeing players you've never really seen before. And that's not really such a bad thing in itself – you love baseball just as much as you did previously but now there's things like kids and a partner that are rightly more important. Anyway, seeing that 3rd baseman from the Orioles doesn't mean much given you can watch him on the Internet any time you like. Still, visions of progress aren't always what they cracked up to be. Trendy art types in London between the wars were occasionally taken with the Blast manifesto of pseudo-fascist Wyndham Lewis and his adoring huge canvases of geometric architecture and the robotisation of the masses he so hated. Nowadays he's regarded as the self-important, pretentious, misanthropic loser that he undoubtedly was and his movement is regarded as worth an interesting chapter or two in histories of UK art, but not really as something that you want to emulate. And doubtless that's a sign of progress in itself which is something MSKM is vaguely making as he won for the first time in ages, albeit thanks to a lacklustre week from CCS. MSKM was well helped by Ianetta and Pence (both 25), while Reynolds, Headley and Kershaw (all 19) did enough to make up for Gavin Floyd's meltdown (-29). Nova (27) and Cano (26) helped CCS but ultimately you're unlikely to win if you've got hugely bad weeks from Karstens and Villanueva (both -24) and Maholm (-19). The well-known fantasy baseball saying “If you play with Pittsburgh pitchers you'll get burned” springs to mind...
Little Lebowski Under Achievers (189) lost to Poughkeepsie Footpickers (221)
Last week I mentioned Esperanto in a desperate attempt to find a link between any subject and fantasy baseball. OK, so I failed but at least I put the effort in – its a bit like Tony LaRussa's mind games that have no effect on anyone whatsoever (except to gradually convince baseball watchers that he has a screw loose) except possibly in his own head where he convinces himself he is a psychological genius. This week the repeated craven inability to spell of some BCB contributors has raised other linguistic questions. I refer, of course, to the complete failure of a number of posters to spell the word “moran” correctly. Esperanto, of course, is an attempt to create a language and keep it standardised, missing the point entirely that languages evolve and what is originally regular and fully of common sense eventually becomes irregular and strange. Turkish springs to mind as a language that, under Attaturk in the early 20th Century, was hugely standardised to make it easier to learn and to encourage a spirit of national unity. Interestingly, American English went through its own, less well known standardisation under Teddy Roosevelt when the 1906 Simplified Spelling Board drew up a list of 300 standardised spellings. Some of them, such as changing mould to mold became well used but others, such as sithe instead of scythe and mixt instead of mixed did not and were rejected as quickly as LLUA will be wanting to get rid of Correia (-33) and Bud Norris (-21) who single-handedly ruined his chance of beating Poughkeepsie. Of course, he had fantastic weeks from Holliday (44), Kipnis (29) and Trumbo (27) but going one better than CCS's motto he's learned that if you play with NL Central pitchers you'll get burned. Poughkeepsie can thank decent scores from a number of players with Ellsbury, Pujols (both 26), Avila, YoGa and Buehrle (all 25), Sandoval and Asdbrubal (both 24) for keeping him on track.
The Braun Supremacy (164) lost to Harvey's Wallbangers (197)
In readiness for the BCB fantasy American football I've been doing some serious preparation. Yep, fantasy sports are fun and exciting but, in my warped and weird mind, doing your research and working out who represents best value and which unheralded players might contribute in surprising ways is the best part of the whole process. As a result, I've spent a lot of time doing my preparatory investigations and they've begun to bear fruit already. I don't want to boast too much but, as a result of a couple of late nights on the NFL and other football websites, I'm now not only able to name most of the NFL teams but can spell most of them correctly as well. At the risk of giving away some of my super secret information I'm preparing to get a few Buffalo Bulls players on the basis that they're always in contention. There's a guy called Scott Norwood who I'm already highlighting as being likely to have a good year and I'm sure they've got similarly talented guys hidden away elsewhere on their roster. If TBS was taking a similar approach to his fantasy baseball doubtless he'd have a number of talented players such as Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco and Sammy Sosa (and other non-PED taking paragons of the game) rather than non-achievers like Francisco Liriano (-16), Matt Guerrier (-1) and Nolasco (-3). Lincecum (28) and Kinsler (22) were the only players to make a positive note for TBS while HW boasted the likes of Granderson (34), Latos (29), Quentin (23) and Aramis Ramirez (21) as he sneaked his way to a relatively meaningless win.
Phoenix Fire (267) beat Bumpin' Ugglas (235)
Sometimes there's a lot to be said for having a DIY ethos. True, it can often end up in home-made tattoos that even Corey Hart would blush at or moany fanzines straight from the bed sits of politically naïve students “slumming it” in the suburbs of London, but, as the saying goes, if you want something doing you might as well do it yourself. For example, I'm sure there were many of us who, in the aftermath of the Fukushima reaction explosion, tutted loudly at the TV, shrugged our shoulders and said “hmph – don't know what all the fuss is about, that nuclear reaction stuff looks like a piece of piss!”. Unfortunately only one Richard Handl of Angelholm, Sweden has actually had the guts to try it out himself using the standard approach of ordering equipment over the Internet and then starting your reactor in your own kitchen. Still, sounds like he hasn't done any harm unlike David Hahn, the guy known as the Radioactive Boy Scout who almost made a nuclear reactor in his shed after collecting radioactive elements from household items and befriending nuclear scientists who were only too keen to help answer “theoretical” questions of nuclear physics from an interested writer. While he survived his experiments and managed to retain his Eagle Scout “Atomic Energy” badge the reckoning is that he was exposed to about 1,000 times the recommended dosage of thorium and, when arrested in 2007 for trying to steal smoke alarms (presumably part of a new project to get his Eagle Scout “Mass Arson” badge) was forced to undergo treatment for the numerous radiation-caused sores on his face. Phoenix Fire showed just as much guts (and stupidity) as any inventor of home-based nuclear reactors in taking on Bumpin' Ugglas and, shock horror, managing to beat him in a close finish. PF's hitting did rather little apart from the impact of Dan Uggla (31) so can thank his pitching staff and, in particular, Valverde (31), Papelbon (27) and Kuroda (26) for getting him the necessary points. BU came close with Starlin Castro's big week (38) and Ryan Zimmerman's return to form (26) doing well. While some pitchers scored decently, mainly Storen (23) and Dan Hudson (22), he'll be cursing Cahill (-20) and Tommy Hanson (-17) for losing this one for him...
Bringing Home the Bacon (351) beat Chin Music (250)
Who would you say was the Pride of Wisconsin? Obviously for many of us it would be the legendary figure of Craig Counsell although his recent abject failure to not get a hit against the Astros may have diminished his standing for many. Anyway, according to my TV the other day, the Pride of Wisconsin is Gwen Jorgensen. Yep, that Gwen Jorgensen, the triathlete runner who recently got on the podium of the London leg of the World Triathlon championship. Surely you remember now? No, didn't think so... Now, perhaps she is a fairly well-known figure in Wisconsin, but there's no way she seems to me to be the best living sportsperson from the state, let alone the greatest person from Wisconsin ever (which, for a laugh, should surely be Aldrich Ames, Kato Kaelin or Bernardine Dohrn). Now, obviously I'm just jealous because I checked up the Wikipedia page to see famous people from the town that I live in and top of the list is the fact that a friend of James Logie Baird (who sort of invented the TV) lived in the town. Not Baird himself, but a friend who slightly helped him out with his invention. Now that's prestigious. Perhaps not as prestigious as BhtB who is rapidly becoming the Pride of the entire nation of Scotland (where, as you all know, fantasy baseball is a religion gazed on with as much loving awe as the other national sports of lounging on sunbeds, stealing satnavs and getting drunk, projectile vomiting and trying to stab the nearest passer-by) for managing to easily beat CM and consolidate a good finish in the division. For this accolade he can thank Romero's 49 points and solid weeks from McCarthy (26), McGehee (25 – hooray!), Infante (24) and Shields (23). CM had a bit less to shout about although Morse (29), Bay (25) and Braun (21) did well as he slumped to defeat.
More Than A Feeling (342) beat Never Gonna Give You Upton (170)
In these days of Manicheaen black-and-white dichotomies it often seems that everything is carefully packaged so that we can easily identify who the good guys are and who the guys are we're meant to avoid. OJ Simpson is clearly a bad guy and so too are Colonel Gaddafi, Kim Jong-Il and Bono. Meanwhile, you can't say a bad word over here about such “national treasures” as Sir Paul McCartney, Princess Diana and Richard Branson (making you wonder if the phrase “national treasure” is a synonym for “annoying, self-regarding twat”). Mind you, when a national trendy liberal paper has Margaret Thatcher publishes a list with Margaret Thatcher as the nation's top “treasure” and Tony Blair at number four you do wonder what's going on a bit. Of course, delving into the history books is the surest way of finding characters who are more difficult to pigeon-hole as whatever the consensus view of a figure is will be sure to be questioned by some new historian keen to make a name for themselves with the result being that historical figures often appear more balanced and rounded that present day characters do. One of the classic examples is Oliver Cromwell who was influential in the Parliamentarian cause in the Civil War and became Lord Protector (effectively King) once he'd helped push through the execution of King Charles I. Was Cromwell the passionate revolutionary desperate to see an end to monarchical despotism or the conservative landowner who, in the final years of the war, sought to suppress the radicals among the Parliamentarian forces? Was he an influential and very under-rated soldier who commanded the respect of his troops or the bloodthirsty slaughterer of innocent civilians in the siege of Drogheda, Ireland. Was he the loving father he was portrayed as or the man who when he was a baby was abducted by a monkey? Yeah, believe it or not, when he was a new-born a pet monkey took him out of his cot and stole him away onto the roof of the house where he had to be rescued. I would love to be able to claim something that strange happened to me when I was younger (being abducted by a monkey when you're an adult might be a bit too much) just to be able to drop it into conversation every so often. Then again, you'd probably end up being called “Monkey Boy” or “Simian Fancier” or something causing similar primate-based offense but sometimes you have to take the rough with the smooth. Of course, we all know that Corey Hart ran for years with a pack of coyotes and that the stories of his Amish background or his paleolithic heritage are merely cover stories for the truth, so I think animal abduction is possibly more common than we often assume. Anyway, NGGYU could have his entire pitching staff abducted and replaced by monkeys and it wouldn't have made much difference as his staff scored only 30 points as Marquis (-21) and Cueto (-16) went into full meltdown mode. Jake Peavy (27) didn't do too badly and his weekly score was matched by Cocococococo Crisp but he needed higher scores than that as MTaF continued his impressive form. Ervin Santana (47), Ian Kennedy (36), Hamels (30) and Homer Bailey (20) led a very good staff, while Victorino (23) and Kubel (22) headed up a decent but unspectacular week from his hitters.
Gold Glove Gamels (293) beat The Team That I Refuse to Name (196)
Most of our lives are made up of the banal and boring quotidian events that aren't really worth writing home about. The average American spends about a third of their life sleeping (unless you're crazy like Maggie Thatcher and can get by on four hours sleep a night), about a quarter at work and 16% watching TV, leaving not much left for anything that's particularly fun. Plus, there's all the little things we do that over the years add up to substantial amounts of frustration like trying to open jars, doing the washing up or trying to remember where we just put something (which amounts to at least 5% of my life so far). Interestingly, I read the other day that the average human spends about two weeks of their life waiting for traffic lights to change leaving unanswered the question of the amount of time it would be for the average human if TLR's drunken traffic-light sleeping incident is removed from the calculation. Still, if Mr LaRussa's decided to take some of my traffic light time on his back then I'm not exactly going to complain about it. I'm guessing he's also eaten up a lot of other people's allocation of curmudgeonly behaviour, petty retaliation and slurring as well which I guess is almost a form of community service he's offering. Its the equivalent of GGG who appears to have taken all the bad luck in the league upon himself as his win this week will most likely be relatively meaningless as he'll finish third in his division despite one of the best overall records out of the entire league. Still, at least he has his pride and will be smiling at the performances of Greinke (36), Cliff Lee and Mike Napoli (both 29), Gardner and Furcal (both 23) as he beats out TTTIRTN relatively easily. TTTIRTN didn't offer up too much although Zambrano (27), Hart (22) and Alexei Ramirez (21) can all feel good about their efforts last week.
Next week's match-ups
MSMK vs Bringing Home the Bacon
Never Gonna Give You Upton vs Little Lebowski's Under Achievers
Poughkeepsie Footpickers vs The Braun Supremacy
Harvey's Wallbangers vs Phoenix Fire
Bumping Ugglas vs More Than A Feeling
Chin Music vs Stinky Cheese
Social Anxiety All Stars vs Gold Glove Gamels
The Team That I Refuse to Name vs Craig Counsell's Steakhouse
Power Leagues. MTaF still top but GGG makes up for his bad luck by second-place. Actually, that doesn't really make up for it as scoring loads of points (but not getting enough wins) is rather the main element in his bad luck but I doubt he'll be quibbling too much as he'll be too busy smashing mirrors, walking under ladders and spilling salt to care.
More Than A Feeling – 1052 (15-2, East)
Gold Glove Gamels – 977 (10-7, West)
Poughkeepsie Footpickers – 953 (9-8, South)
Stinky Cheese – 879 (13-4, West)
Phoenix Fire – 871 (7-10, East)
Bumpin' Ugglas – 853 (12-5, South)
Little Lebowski – 806 (8-9, East)
Bringing Home the Bacon – 778 (12-5, West)
Social Anxiety All Stars – 776 (7-10, North)
Harvey's Wallbangers – 764 (7-10, South)
MSKM – 747 (9-8, North)
Chin Music – 730 (6-11, North)
The Braun Supremacy – 716 (6-11, East)
Never Gonna Give You Upton – 675 (6-11, South)
The Team I Refuse to Name – 618 (6-11, North)
Craig Counsell's Steakhouse – 614 (3-14, West)
Not a great week yet again for the North. SAAS is edged out in a thriller by Stinky Cheese, Chin Music is thrashed by BhtB and TTTIRTN was roundly humiliated by GGG. Only MSKM had a win but that hardly counted as it was against CCS who couldn't even make triple figures. At least with that win he's won promotion (woo-hoo!) with a meagre 9 wins. Any of the others could sneak into second-place but SAAS (7) looks to have it won unless he loses and CM (6) makes up about 200 points or TTTIRTN (6) makes up about 400. Not impossible, but pretty unlikely.
Believe it or not, there's still nothing to play for in this division. Poughkeepsie (10) wins to close the gap as Bumpin' Ugglas (12) lose, but with a week to go there's nothing that can change. Harvey's win (7) to move ahead of NGGYU (6) but both teams will have to keep themselves content with the losers play-offs (if, indeed, such a mythical beast emerges from the rain-soaked ashes of the ESPN fantasy baseball website).
MTaF win again (boring!), with their 15 wins by far the most in the league but things are tight behind as LLUA lose (8) and Phoenix Fire (7) win to take the battle for second into the final week. PF has a lead of about 100 points in points scored so will probably just need to win the final week and have LLUA lose to manage to take the final promotion space.
Stinky Cheese's dramatic win (13) puts him in line for the title in the toughest division in fantasy baseball as BhtB (12) wins as well. Realistically there's a huge 400 points gap in points scored between the two so it'll take something major for BhtB to take the title. Still, he'll probably settle for knocking out GGG whose valiant challenge has come to naught as a win moves him onto 10. CCS got blown out and stays on 3 wins.
The major issues still to be decided:
Runner-up in North: SAAS (7), Chin Music (6) or TTIRTN (6)
Runner-up in East: LLUA (8) or Phoenix Fire (7)
Winner in West: Stinky Cheese (13) or Bringing Home the Bacon (12)