Rob Neyer has a fantasy baseball game

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neyer.jpgESPN’s Rob Neyer sits up in his little cottage up in the Pacific Northwest making people think that he’s this calm, peaceful guy who just researches and writes about baseball all day, but he’s really a ruthless multi-media kingpin:

Imagine Sports Inc., a leading online fantasy sports gaming company,
today announced a deal with baseball analyst and author Rob Neyer,
whose “SweetSpot” blog is a popular long-running feature on ESPN.com.
Under the partnership, Imagine Sports will work with Neyer to produce
fantasy baseball games based on statistics from the past using the
“Diamond Mind Baseball” simulation software.

Call me paranoid, but I think Rob rushed this announcement to steal my thunder. I mean, I can’t go into detail right now, but because of this press release, my marketing team and I are going to have to totally rethink our rollout of “Craig Calcaterra’s MicroLeague Baseball ’10”.

But I’m willing to let bygones be bygones here. In fact, I’ve even accepted Rob’s invitation to join a league test-driving Rob’s new game. The problem: my opponents, who consist of a who’s-sorta-who of baseball quasi-royalty, are all likely better fantasy players than I am. Really, I truly suck at this stuff. So in order to win, I need to use the only advantage I have — the heartless deviousness I perfected during my legal career — in order to have a chance at victory.  My gameplan:

  • Doug Glanville: Former Cubs, Phillies and Rangers centerfielder and current New York Times columnist. I fear Glanville more than any other player in this league. He’s an Ivy League educated engineer, he knows more about baseball than I ever will and based on his writing he’s thoughtful, balanced, reasonable, well-rounded and admirable.  My only hope against him is to engage in psychological warfare: Since the game allows you to use any player from history, I am going to draft a late-career version of Glanville in the first round and constantly offer him back to real-life Glanville in a trade for a Cy Young quality pitcher. Even if he doesn’t eventually bite, the struggle between ego an reason may throw him off his game long enough for me to gain an advantage.   
  • Joe Posnanski: I’ll do the same think with Poz, but instead of Glanville, I’ll offer him back Duane Kuiper. Substitute the ego-reason distraction with the 7,000 word blog post my proposal will inspire and the same effect will be had.
  • Gordon Edes: In less than two years Edes has gone from the Boston Globe to Yahoo! to ESPN Boston.  Like all the others he’s way smarter than me, but given his track record, there’s a good chance that he’ll move on to some other fantasy game before the season is over.
  • Rany Jazayerli: Harassment campaign. I’m going to start a second blog called “Craig on Rany’s Fantasy Team,” and second guess his every move. If history is any guide, he will become flustered and trade for Yuniesky Betancourt, ensuring victory for me.
  • Jonah Keri: There are a lot of possibilities here. Jonah’s a new father of twins and he’s writing a book, so he’s obviously going to be fatigued, so I may not have to pull too many dirty tricks.  But if I do, I know that he’s one of the last 11 Expos fans left on the planet so I may be able to rip him off in trades involving Warren Cromartie and Sean Berry. If that fails, I’ll just bribe Rob to take his team away from him and give it to one of my friends in D.C.
  • Norm Warner: I don’t know Norm, but I believe he’s in sports radio here in Ohio. I’ll have to consult my WKRP in Cincinnati library in order to come up with the proper hijinks and shenanigans to derail his team.
  • Josh Wilker: He of the fantastic Cardboard Gods blog and, soon, book. I love Josh’s work, but this should be pretty easy considering he’s going to limit his roster to enigmatic looking baseball players from 1975-1980.
  • Rob Neyer and Charles Wolfson: Charles Wolfson actually works for the company putting out the game and Rob, of course, is the name on the box so I’m just going to assume they’ve rigged the whole damn enterprise. If they don’t want word being spread that the game is crooked, crooked crooked, they’ll have to intentionally tank the season, right? Sure, they may choose not to, but do they really want their integrity questioned like that?  Up to you dudes, but if I were you I sure wouldn’t want to finish in, say, the top five.

So there you have it. I’ll keep you updated throughout the season, but like I said, I’m a terrible fantasy player. And I’m even worse at Diamond Mind games than I am at roto and other stuff. But I think I got the mental edge.

Today is the anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s Iron Man streak ending

ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, MARCH 31 AND THEREAFTER - FILE - In this Oct. 5, 1938 file photo, New York Yankees' Lou Gehrig scores the first run of the 1938 World Series against the Chicago Cubs as he crosses home plate in the second inning of Game 1 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. A dozen years before Babe Ruth’s famed ‘Called Shot,’ teammate Lou Gehrig hit an equally dramatic homer. Gehrig was 17 when his high school team traveled to Chicago to take on a Chicago team. In the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and his team down 8-6, Gehrig hit a ball over wall and onto Sheffield Avenue to win the game. The historic ballpark will celebrate it's 100th anniversary on April 23, 2014. (AP Photo/File)
Associated Press
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Today is a significant baseball anniversary. On this day in 1939 Lou Gehrig asked out of the lineup as the Yankees played the Tigers in Detroit. It both ended his Iron Man Streak at 2,130, but also marked the beginning of Gehrig’s very public acknowledgement of ALS, the disease which would come to bear his name. Gehrig would never play again.

While it was clear that Gehrig’s body was betraying him and his baseball skills were abandoning him in the first few games of the 1939 season, some say the ultimate impetus for Gehrig asking out of the lineup happened earlier that day. The story goes that Gehrig collapsed on the grand staircase of the Book-Cadillac hotel where the Yankees were staying and that later, as he sat in the hotel bar, he told manager Joe McCarthy that he couldn’t play anymore.

The Book-Cadillac is still there. It deteriorated over the years and then was renovated. It’s a Westin now — the Westin Book-Cadillac. It’s a wonderful hotel and the bar area still has much of its old charm, but the grand staircase is gone, replaced with a couple of escalators. I stay there whenever I’m in Detroit. I’m friends with one of the Book-Cadillac’s bartenders and I try to see him whenever I’m there. When I sit in that bar I often wonder if Gehrig sat near where I was, telling McCarthy that he just couldn’t do it anymore. There are a lot of ghosts in Detroit. Gehrig’s is mostly in New York, but there’s a little bit of him in Detroit too.

Cal Ripken would later break Gehrig’s record. I doubt anyone breaks Cal’s. But in some cases the record holders are less interesting than those who were surpassed.

More talk of a juiced ball

VIERA, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Washington Nationals practice balls  during spring training workouts on February 18, 2014 in Viera, Fl.  (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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At the end of March we linked a story from Rob Arthur and Ben Lindbergh at FiveThirtyEight which sought to figure out why home run rates have spiked. Their theory was that it was either randomness or a juiced ball. They tested baseballs and found no evidence of a different ball, so that seems to have ended that.

Except it didn’t end it because, as so often is the case in the early part of a season, we are seeing some statistical, well, let’s just call it “interestingness” and people don’t like to let such interestingness go. To that end Yahoo’s Jeff Passan — acknowledging the Lindbergh/Arthur study — asks once again if the balls are funky.

It’s all based on exit velocity of baseballs, which Passan notes has spiked. He doesn’t come to any conclusions — just not enough data — but the very act of asking the question in a column and Passan’s acknowledgment that he sounds like a conspiracy theorist tell you that that’s his hunch. And it could be the case. I still think the ball got juiced in 1987 and again, on a more permanent basis, in 1993, but there’s no evidence to really support that. Just one of those “can’t think of anything better” sort of situations.

For now, though, it’s May 2. And I suspect that for as long as there have been May 2nds in a baseball season, people have looked at the stats and suspected something weird was afoot. Maybe something weird is afoot. We just can’t really know.

A-Rod knows how to keep his bat dry

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez watches his RBI single during the first inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
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Alex Rodriguez had a big night in a losing effort last night. He homered and drove in four. In the past week or so he’s raised his average over 50 points and may be finally shaking off the offseason rust. When you’re over 40 it takes you longer to do everything.

But even if it takes his reflexes some time to get up to speed, you can never take away the knowledge and experience of a savvy veteran with a high baseball I.Q. For example, whether he’s hitting or not, the man knows that it’s important to keep your bat dry on a rainy night:

Sean Burnett opts out of his Dodgers deal, to sign with the Braves

Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sean Burnett walks off the mound after being pulled during the eighth inning in Game 2 of baseball's National League division series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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In early April the Dodgers agreed to a minor league contract with pitcher Sean Burnett after he didn’t make the Washington Nationals’ roster out of spring training. He was assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma City. As is usually the case, veterans like him have an opt-out if they don’t make the big club after a certain amount of time, and Burnett has opt-ed out, realizing that he’s likely not in the Dodgers’ plans.

But he could be in the Braves’ plans. They stink on ice. Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that he’s signing with them and will report to Triple-A Gwinnett tomorrow.

Burnett, 33, hasn’t appeared in the majors since he pitched three games for the Angels in 2014 and hasn’t pitched regularly in the bigs since 2012. Tommy John surgery will do that to a guy. He did toss eight and two-thirds scoreless innings for the Nationals during spring training and has allowed only two earned runs in seven and two-thirds innings of relief work for Oklahoma City. There may still be something there. Innings will need to be eaten in Atlanta this year. Burnett may be able to eat them.