Friday, November 17, 2006

Bad Fantasy

Over the past six years, I've played all kinds of fantasy sports - NFL, NBA, MLB, Golf, NCAA Brackets, Superbowl office pool, even Cricket. I've done the rottiserrie, the head to head, the pick 'em games, the salary cap - manual draft, automatic draft, offline draft name it.

Now, I'm officially done. I'm retiring.

Last year I was able to successfully get off NBA and MLB, but I pulled a Roger Clemens on the Football Fantasy this season. At the end of this season, I'll hang up that one too. That'd leave me with only two more guessing games - 1) NCAA brackets 2) NFL Pick 'em. That's it.

Some say that it is totally possible for them to separate their passionate following for a team from their fantasy. I admit. I can't.

1. It is impossible to put together a great roster: When I'm creating a team, I'm constrained because I can't draft anyone from the other teams in the division (AFC East, AL West). It goes directly against my fiber to even think of a Willis McGahee or a Francisco Rodriguez. How could I? There's no choice.

2. Even if I avoid the divisional foes on my roster, I can't control what others do. If my opponent chooses to play Corey Dillon against me, that ruins my weekend right there.

3. Say, I have the Pats kicker on my roster, and Pats are 3rd and 10 at the opp 35 yard line. As a fan, an incomplete pass should leave me cursing. But I find myself thrilled because now my fantasy team has a chance for 5 points if Gostkowski hits a 53 yarder. Of course, Pats would end up punting and give me the worst of both worlds.

4. At home: I can't plan anything on sundays. No guests, no relatives, no chores because it is time to sit down on my ass and follow every freaking point as it goes down in the books. Result - an unhappy household. After all a man would want some kind of consolation when his opponent had just gotten lucky on a 41 yard TD pass. Instantly my mind starts calculating. That's 4 + 6+ 2 = 12 !@#!#)*points, all because the stinking Raiders couldn't defend the pass. While I'm deeply engaged between the laptop and the TV, nothing else gets into my fuming ears. Anything the wife says at that point is totally muted out - only adding to more drama in the living room.

5. Takes too much of my time: I'm not the kind who will draft a team, set up my playing roster each week and take a back seat until the results are in. Just like following the real teams, I want to be closely engaged. In fact, I'd like for TV technology to allow for the ESPN bottomline to appear while I'm watching any channel. That'd be sweet, won't it? Back to the point - Even though there is no proof, like most other devout idiots out there, I too believe that I have some control over game events. It is not superstition, but something like that. My wife calls it stupidity. Anyway, bottomline is that the fantasy team becomes another real team for me, just like the A's, Pats and Jazz. Maybe it is psychological. The prescription is to let go of it and keep it real.

Fandom in itself is expending energy on something outside of our own tangible control - or so, they say. To extend that to an imaginary fantasy world is asking for too much. I quit!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

10 things I think, I think

1. Some people just like to say "College Football is better than NFL". Excuse me?! How can a system as flawed as College Football compete against a well oiled NFL machine. Yeah, I know all about players playing for passion in college as oppossed to money in the NFL. Let me clue you in on something : Nothing in America goes truly by passion. If NCAAF is not a direct gateway to the NFL, college athletes just won't care enough to play it.

2. Non-Golfing reasons for why Tiger Woods is so popular:

a. Name. "Tiger" What a name! It has to be the greatest first name in the history of athlete names. Well, don't argue that golfers aren't athletes. That's a different post. You know what I mean here.

b. Race: Tiger is 1/2 Asian (Mother is Thai), 1/4 Black, 1/8 Native American, 1/8 Chinese. 1/16th Caucasian. Admit or not, we are all a little bit racist in this regard. Being a multiracial specimen, most people can think of Tiger as their own and hence like him a little better than the next guy.

c. Non-Controversial: The guy never says the politically incorrect statements. Be it women playing the PGA, or his relationship with Lefty, he never publicly says the wrong things. That basically gives no room to hate him.

d. Emotion. The great ones always display their emotions beautifully during the game. Whether it is in success or failure, they make sure they look good on TV. Jordan, Kobe 'esque. Tiger's 'long putt-fist pump', his 'bunker shot-sand in the eye' moves are right up there with the best of them.

e. Looks. Does it automatically make me gay to admit that another guy is good looking? "Not that there's anything wrong with that", but seriously, Tiger's looks play a huge part in his popularity.

Why isn't Vijay Singh any more popular? On the Golf course, he dominated Tiger in Tiger's prime for about 2 1/2 years. Still, he isn't anywhere on the 'most liked' list. Go back to points (a) through (e), and see if it fits Vijay. He is an ugly desi-Fijian, who shows no emotion, no signature moves, openly says the politically incorrect statements, and has a Singh at the end of his name. Poor guy. Actually, I do like Vijay better than Tiger.

3. Did you know that my favorite baseball player is Scot Hatteberg? I think he has the best At-Bats. He can pull the ball, hit it to the opposite field, hit for average, hit for power, walk, his outs are always useful, he puts such good wood on the ball, he is clutch, doesn't strike out a whole lot. I can't say enough great things about Hatteberg. He is my boy!

4. I can't sit through a soccer game even if a naked cheerleader is running around with 'em boys.

5. Talking about cheerleaders, I always wonder why that is not a part of Baseball. If not in all 81 home games, at least they could come out on the weekends and the playoffs. There is plenty of room in the foul territory for them to dance. I bet it would increase ticket sales.

6. NBA's biggest day is the opening night. The next best is when Lebron's in town. The rest of the season is just so-so. And why the hell is NBA playoff's so freaking long? If I were the commish, I'd bring the first 2 rounds to a best-of-5. Even better - just get in the top 12 teams instead of 16. I know, I know! It all comes down to money, doesn't it?

7. "Superbowl is the biggest day in all of sports in the world", according to Americans. Wouldn't it hurt them to know that nobody outside of U.S really cares? And if not for the ads most Americans won't care either.

8. Racial Oddities: Ever wondered why there aren't any black catchers in Baseball? What about white wide receivers in the NFL? Is there any pure black golfer in the PGA? Where 80% of the athletes in Football are black, why is the entire offensive line of most teams white? There are no black kickers/punters in any team, college or pro. How about running backs? No whiteys in the backfield. (No. Fat fullbacks don't count). Outside of QB's and kickers, name 3 white guys in the NFL that are not fat.

9. Of late you have probably read several geniuses writing about how Baseball has more parity than NFL given all the different world series winners and how badly the big spenders are failing. I'll believe there is parity when some team other than the Yankees or Red Sox make the playoffs from the AL East.

10. Of Sachin Tendulkar, Peyton Manning, and Alex Rodriguez who is the least clutch? I can't decide.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Saves - Big Hoopla!

I'll go on the record and say this. "Saves are Bullshit!" No! No bullets at the end of it, Sayee. Just plain BS!

Well, as I was prepping myself over the last 2 weeks to blog this mess out of Baseball, in comes a phenomenal day in Baseball history. Its amazing that this went completely under the radar too. Saturday, July 15th 2006. The scorecards across the MLB full schedule included 11 blowouts and 4 walkoffs. Yep, that meant no saves credited in the majors across the board. The last time this happened was on Sep 15, 1978. Twenty Nine Years. 4700 days of Baseball when someone got a save. Wow! So much for a stat that I don't even like. Let me explain.

In my opinion, no other stat in Baseball, or any sport for that matter, has such a game changing effect on the outcome. Saves affect the way managers think. You'll never see a closer come in to pitch the 9th inning in a 4 run game. No matter if the opponents are the Yankees or Royals. But the moment a lead off batter gets on base, "Wild Thing" starts to play on the PA systems. All this simply owed to the fact that the 'book' identifies this new development as a save situation.

Let us say that its a tie game in the 8th inning with Jeter-ARod-Giambi-Sheffield coming up. We don't need a book to call it a close game. But still, you'll only see a Kiko Calero come in and not Huston Street. If I were managing, I'd rather have my best pitcher out of the bullpen try and mow down the heart of the line up, and keep my 2nd best option to beat Posada-Bernie Williams & Cano in the 9th. This doesn't even cross the managers mind. He'll promptly send in Kiko in the 8th and end up giving up the go ahead RBI to one of the mighty sluggers. Well, the closer is of no use now and he will just sit in the freaking bullpen and rot, while the 9th inning is taken over by the 3rd best pitcher out of the bullpen.

Very rarely a closer is used in non save situations. Its either that a closer hasn't pitched in the past 3-4 days and hence gets a workout in a blow out affair, or its extra innings. Extra innings are a bit dicey. Depending on when the game was tied, a closer might have already got his work done in regulation. If not, a home team closer is used only in non-save situations and an away closer more often than not is not reserved for saves no later than the 11th inning. I don't condone the closers usage in such rare occurances.

The role of the best relief pitcher in a team would have been different had it not been for the category 'Saves'. That is wrong. Stats could aid in planning strategies, but not directly affect a playcall. The Rivera's and the Hoffman's are still very highly rated in my ranks. Its the managers that I have a problem with.

Some other categories are also guilty of this, although to a lesser extent. Wins, chasing milestones like "Hitting for the Cycle", sitting out the final AB to ensure a .400 batting average for the season (I'll detail that story in another blog) etc.

Also, 'Saves' has made millionaires out of relief pitchers. Not that its bad, but I bet this whole thing was a creation of Rollie Fingers' agent, who saw the big picture many years ago. The end result was that the stat got its popularity, the closers and agents got their money, Dennis Eckersley went into the Hall of Fame, and everybody is happy. Except the fan who would have liked Huston Street to pitch the 8th inning.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Baseball Nugget Jul 10 '06

I thought it might be fun to share some interesting Baseball news, stat, event etc with ya'll. Here's a few to kick it off, and as I find more stuff, I'll continue to post them here.

* Willie Mays, once led off and hit an infield single off the first pitch of the game, stole 2nd base on the next pitch and stole 3rd on the 3rd pitch. Ty Cobb was probably the best at this though, stealing, 2nd, 3rd and home in the same inning 5 times in his career. "He did everything except stealing 1st base", someone quoted.

* Twins turned 2 triple plays in the same game (4th and 8th inning), against Red Sox on July 17th 1990.

* Today and the Day after tomorrow (The days before and after the MLB All star game) are the only 2 days in any calendar year when there are no major American games (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAA) scheduled.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Third base

A’s third baseman Eric Chavez’s batting average against Yankee starter Randy Johnson is 0.320. But when playing at Oakland, in day games, in the 9th inning, with runners in scoring position, his average against southpaws drops to 0.163! The whole world knew this.

The only person who thought differently was Yankees’ third base coach Larry Bowa. Owed to his bad knees, Bowa typically does not walk all the way back to his dugout between innings. From his seat in the third base foul territory, he frantically began to signal the Yankee dugout, rubbing his behind once, blinking twice, hopping thrice, and wiping the sweat off his forehead. Joe Torre, who plays a hell of a charades, understood the message and ordered his pitching coach, Ron Guidry, to dig up the stats for the situation. In an effort to buy time, Jorge Posada walked up to Johnson and continued their conversation from the previous inning about the badly cooked beef they had had for lunch. “George Costanza is in deep shit", Posada quipped.

As the umpire walked up to break the chit-chat, Guidry approached the mound carrying a #41 long sleeve shirt. He explained that Chavvy's average went up to .400 when pitchers wore short sleeves. A’s manager Ken Macha stood at the footsteps of his dugout and sneered. He knew how to counter the Yankees’ move. According to ESPN, Johnson always starts out 2 balls & no strikes, after changing uniforms in the middle of an inning while facing third basemen. Common knowledge! He signaled Chavez to wait for the third pitch before taking a swing.

Statisticians everywhere were cracking up. They knew that the two managers had forgotten that this was a doubleheader day. Chavez was 0-16 facing lefties on the first game of a doubleheader.

The umpire was impatient because of the hold up. Pressed for time, Johnson changed his clothes right on the mound. Disgusted by the sight of the Big Unit’s hairy torso, Chavez forgot all about Macha’s command and swung at the first pitch. He popped up weakly to the foul territory on the third base side. A-Rod ran a few steps outside the diamond, and while looking up for the ball, failed to notice Larry Bowa standing there. It was Bowa's responsibility to move away from the play, but he was busy dreaming about his promotion after calling a heck of a strategic play. A-Rod collided with Bowa and dropped the ball. Chavez ended up launching the next pitch to the right field stands for a game winning home run.

Bowa’s brainwave had far-reaching consequences. Guidry was sacked for not realizing that it was a doubleheader. Bowa ended up in hospital. A-Rod twisted his ankle and went on a 15-day DL. Posada ended up with food poisoning. Steinbrenner got mad and fired George Costanza for putting them up at a cheap Ramada. Statisticians were disappointed that the perfect 0 for 16 stat had been corrupted. Chavez was benched that night for missing a sign for the third straight game. At the end of the day, Johnson faced the worst of it. He was fined and sent to jail for indecent exposure in front of 35000 fans in broad daylight.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Comeback wins!

"Its not over until its over" is probably written off as just another cliched usage. If you think harder, baseball is the only team sport where this is true. Say you are down 5 runs in the bottom on the 9th and 2 outs. Technically you are still alive. The odds are long, but still positive.

American Football, Basketball, Soccer, Handball, Hockey and Rugby are all controlled by the clock. If you are down by 5 scores in the last 2 minutes, you might as well head to the bus. In Cricket, if its not time, its overs. If you are down to 7 runs required from the last ball, technically you are screwed. (barring extras, of course)

A Baseball game can be never-ending. You can't say that about other worldly things. I think I figured out the title for my book : "Time, Space and Baseball"

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

20-20 - I don't think so.

Back in the 70's, when Test Cricket was the only kind played, it wouldn't have taken a genius to come up with the one-day version. With sports getting sucked into the business and entertainment age, Cricket had to catch up sooner or later.

I still love the long version, though. Test Cricket offers the perfect balance between offense and defense, and also its called such for a reason. Only the superior talents survive the drill. Its a game of skill-both finesse and power, its a test of endurance and most of all its a mind game. Only the serious fan can get the intricacies, much like Baseball except that the endurance factor is tested within the game and not built into a long season. I digress.

The big disadvantage though, is that it is not easy to market it. To survive in a sport-business, presentation is key. That's what brings in the corporate bigwigs and the fringe fans. "You don't sell the Steak, you sell the Sizzle". The evolution of ODI's was a no-brainer.

But now, the new buzz word is 20-20. I've seen a couple of these games myself, and call me "old-school", but sorry! I'm not buying this one. The way it exists today, there is absolutely no balance. Its like someone came out of the blue and created a batsman dominated gala that is force-fitted into a 3 hour schedule to suit the go-go corporate life-style of the modern day society.

That is not sport. It is a celebrity showcase. Sure, its fun to see sixes and fours rain, but who's beating who here? The game is supposed to be batsmen vs bowlers, not batsmen vs batsmen.

I partially agree 3-4 hours might be ideal for a sport, but unless such a short version variant can offer the excitement and challenge of a perfectly balanced competition, ODI is the present and future of popular Cricket.

One dimensional sports can get quite boring. You don't watch 3 hours of high jump, do ya?, or would you be enjoying a tennis match where 80% of the serves are aces? or for that matter, Texans vs Niners. All right, I think I made my point.