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.

Astros sweep as Twins lose 18th straight in playoffs

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — Shaken up by a scandal before the virus outbreak shrunk the season, the Houston Astros barely played well enough to reach the playoffs – with the rest of baseball actively rooting against them.

Well, they’re not ready to leave yet.

Carlos Correa hit a two-out, tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning for the Astros, who produced another stifling pitching performance and swept Minnesota over two games with a 3-1 victory Wednesday that sent the Twins to a record 18th straight postseason loss.

“I know a lot of people are mad. I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here,” Correa said. “But what are they going to say now?”

Nine months after Houston’s rules-breaking, sign-stealing system was revealed, the Astros advanced to the Division Series in Los Angeles. As the sixth seed, they’ll face the Oakland Athletics or Chicago White Sox in a best-of-five matchup starting Monday at Dodger Stadium.

“I don’t think they necessarily thought that they had anything to prove. They just had to play ball,” said manager Dusty Baker, who took his fifth different team to the playoffs and advanced for the first time in seven rounds since winning the 2003 NL Division Series with the Chicago Cubs.

The Twins are 0-18 in the playoffs since winning Game 1 of their Division Series at the New York Yankees on Oct. 5, 2004, a total of seven rounds lost. Since that date, the Astros are 43-35 in postseason play, winning 10 of 15 rounds with three trips to the World Series.

Kyle Tucker hit two RBI singles for the Astros and made a key throw from left field for the inning-ending out in the fifth.

Rookie Cristian Javier worked three hitless innings in relief for the victory in his postseason debut and Ryan Pressly pitched a perfect ninth against his former team, giving the Houston bullpen a total of 9 2/3 scoreless innings in this wild card series with three hits allowed.

“From the very beginning, we envisioned ourselves back in the playoffs and playing real well,” Tucker said. “So we never counted ourselves out at any point.”

Nobody on this Twins team has had a hand in more than six of the playoffs losses, but for the second straight year one of baseball’s most potent lineups limped through a brief postseason cameo. In a three-game division series sweep by the Yankees last year, the Twins totaled seven runs and 22 hits. Against the Astros, they mustered only two runs and seven hits.

“We put a lot of balls in play, it seemed like, but they were up in the air and, yeah, it seemed like we played into their trap,” said Max Kepler, one of four starters who went hitless in the series. “At the end of the day, we didn’t get the job done.”

Nelson Cruz gave the Twins an RBI double for a second straight game, this time in the fourth inning against starter Jose Urquidy. Luis Arraez aggressively tried to score from first base, but Correa took the throw from Tucker and fired home to beat Arraez to the plate to preserve the tie after third base coach Tony Diaz waved him in.

“I don’t know why he sent him,” Correa said.

Then in the seventh against losing pitcher Cody Stashak, Correa drove a 1-0 slider into the tarp-covered seats above right-center field for his 12th home run in 52 playoff games.

After winning 101, 103 and 107 games in the last three regular seasons, winning the 2017 World Series and losing the championship in seven games to the Washington Nationals last year, the Astros stumbled through the 2020 season at 29-31 under Baker and new general manager James Click with a slew of injuries after the COVID-19 pandemic cut the schedule to 60 games.

They had the third-worst road record in the major leagues, too, but none of that mattered this week against the third-seeded Twins, who were out of sorts in their two biggest games this year.

Jose Berrios was one of the few who were locked in with five strong innings to start, with just two hits allowed. His two walks were costly, though, issued right before Tucker’s single in the fourth.

“I don’t think anyone was ready to leave, to end this way,” Cruz said. “That’s life.”

KIRILLOFF FOR BUXTON

Already missing third baseman Josh Donaldson, the Twins held another one of their most valuable players out: center fielder Byron Buxton. Baldelli declined to confirm whether Buxton was experiencing a recurrence of concussion symptoms that kept him out of the last two regular season games. Buxton was picked off first base after pinch running for Cruz in the eighth.

Kepler moved to center, and Alex Kirilloff – the 2016 first-round draft pick – played right field to become the first Twins player in history to make his major league debut in a postseason game. Kirilloff singled in the fourth. With the bases loaded in the first, he flied out to end the inning.

FEELING BLUE

Both teams took issue with plate umpire Manny Gonzalez’s strike zone, with Astros slugger George Springer the first to visibly complain. After being called out on strikes in the fourth, Springer barked, “No way, man!” multiple times on his way back to the dugout.

Then in the sixth, the Twins lost left fielder Eddie Rosario to ejection after he argued a called strike two that would’ve given him a walk if it were called a ball. After swinging and missing at strike three, Rosario yelled again and was quickly tossed.

First base umpire Tim Timmons missed consecutive calls in the eighth inning on grounders by the Astros when he called the runners safe. Both were reversed to outs after replay review.

UP NEXT

The Astros, who have reached the AL Championship Series in each of the last three years, will play Monday against either the A’s or the White Sox. RHP Lance McCullers Jr. is the only member of their regular season rotation who did not pitch in Minnesota.

The Twins enter the offseason with 10 players set to become free agents, including the 40-year-old Cruz who led the team in home runs and batting average (among players with a qualifying amount of at-bats) for a second straight season. Their 2021 opener is scheduled for April 1 at Milwaukee.