New Jays GM a fantasy dud

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Though he is a quick learner, apparently.
10 years before replacing J.P. Ricciardi and assuming the title of Blue Jays interim general manager, Alex Anthopoulos took part in Scoresheet fantasy baseball, a game of which I also happen to be a fan.
I’m not going to do a full rundown — if you’re interested, click on the link — but Scoresheet leagues tend to be drafted somewhat similarly to regular fantasy leagues, with the caveat that most are keeper leagues. The big difference is that no categories are involved: games are simulated by the Scoresheet software using actual stats that each player accumulates during each of the 26 weeks of the season. Also, defense counts and managers can employ tendencies, such as when to put the bench into play, whether to sac bunt with anyone but the pitcher and when to pull the starter. It never works perfectly, but it’s still plenty of fun to watch unfold, and there’s a simulated postseason that uses a mixture of September stats and full-season stats to try to come up with the fairest possible result.
As is turned out, Anthopoulos discovered the game long before I did. Thanks to a hot tip from Rotoworld’s Nate Stephens and a little digging, we see that Anthopoulos took part in the 10-team AL-only Harwell League in 1999 and 2000.
In 1999, his “Big Uns” team finished an incredible 49-113, a full 23 games behind any of the league’s other nine clubs. It scored 542 runs and gave up 989. For comparison’s sake, the 1962 Mets scored 617 runs and allowed 948.
Things got ever so slightly better the following year. In the turnaround to end all turnarounds, Anthopoulos’ club went 111-51, a full 62-game improvement. The “Big Uns” scored 1,170 runs and allowed 788. To put that in perspective, one major league team has reached four figures in runs scored in the last 50 years, that being the 1999 Indians at 1009.
So, obviously, this league had some balance issues. Anthopoulos went from worst to first in the regular season and then won the championship 4-1 in the best-of-seven series. Keying his turnaround were some big offseason deals. He moved Mark Mulder, Freddy Garcia and Nick Johnson for Tim Hudson and Paul Konerko. Next was Konerko, Darin Erstad, Kelvim Escobar and one-time top prospect Ryan Anderson for Jason Giambi and Jim Thome. He then spun Thome for Eric Chavez. He somehow managed to swindle away Manny Ramirez, Jorge Posada and Troy Glaus as well, though that did cost him Chavez. Less impressive was trade of Michael Cuddyer for Ron Villone, though that would never come back to haunt him.
To put it mildly, he was an active owner during his two years in the league. But that all changed after 2000, when he got an entry job with the Expos and left fantasy baseball behind. Or at least declined to continue playing under his own name.
Anthopoulos is no lock to keep his GM job once the Blue Jays name a new president, but outgoing CEO Paul Beeston is recommending him for the job. He certainly has my support, and only partly because of the Scoresheet background.
No, the far more significant factor is that, if his team name is any indication at all, he apparently was a “big” Married with Children fan.

Orioles re-sign Michael Bourn to a minor league deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04:  Michael Bourn #1 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a single in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.

Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.

Shelby Miller is in the best mental shape of his life

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 24:  Shelby Miller #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the first inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller had about as bad a season as one can have. He was the headliner in the trade that sent 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, All-Star outfielder Ender Inciarte, and highly-regarded pitching prospect Aaron Blair to the Braves. It was a trade that was pilloried at the time and continues to be pilloried to this day.

Miller didn’t do then-GM Dave Stewart any favors with his 2016 performance. He went 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA and a 70/42 K/BB ratio over 101 innings. That included a bout with mechanical failure, as he kept hitting the mound with his follow-through. He went on the disabled list. And after that, he was demoted to Triple-A. After getting fired, Stewart expressed remorse over acquiring Miller — or, more accurately, giving up Swanson to do so.

So, the 26-year-old Miller heads into 2017 without any momentum. To his credit, though, he’s going into the new season with a very positive perspective. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:

I’m just in a really happy place, away from the field, on the field. […]

Maybe it’s just the way I go about everything, trying to be positive in every single aspect of life. Baseball’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. I know bumps in the road are going to happen. Last year was obviously not just a bump, but a huge mountain. Right now, that’s completely behind me. I’m not worried about any of that.

I’m really ready for this year, ready to redeem myself so much.

Even pitching coach Mike Butcher sees the change in Miller’s mentality. “He’s not a different guy. But you can see there’s a presence in him. That’s what we need. Just be Shelby Miller. You don’t have to live up to anything. Just be yourself.”

Manager Torey Lovullo, too, praised Miller. “I saw a guy who had spent a lot of time taking care of his business in the weight room — he looks fantastic, in fantastic shape,” he said.

It sounds like Miller is not only in great mental shape, but great physical shape, too. Is it the “best shape of his life”? Only time can tell.