Friday, March 31, 2006


The Draft
Draft Day is done, and so is the clean up, I think. We had a few people unable to be online at draft time, but those of us who were there had a good time. The conversation has an ebb and flow. There's the joking and joshing as we arrive in the minutes preceding the start of the draft and once it's underway (there's a countdown clock and you can tell people are watching it) the (mild) smack talk shows up as we ridicule each other's picks and curse in symbols when someone snags the guy we were going to grab this round. The Kansas City Royals receive their requisite mocking. Then in the middle rounds (this thing lasts 25 rounds) things die down, it gets so quiet I sometimes wonder if I'm the only one still online, but as the last couple rounds roll around, the chatter picks up again and people often make their adieux as their final pick approaches.

We run a keeper league in a non-keeper setting. Each team owner/manager is allowed to retain four players from his roster as it stood on the last day of the previous season. The first couple seasons we were using a service that let us just check a box beside the names of players we each wanted to keep and come next year, they'd be waiting for us. We had a couple of issues with that service and moved to Yahoo! which wipes the slate clean so maintaining keepers is a matter of recordkeeping by the commissioner. Actually, the commissioner is supposed to keep all of the rosters over the winter (which is only as successful as the current commissioner is at keeping track of where her dad moved that particular pile of papers) and in the month preceding draft day, post the rosters, and as people name their keepers, keep a running tally of them. Everyone is asked to put these players on their exclusion list so they won't be in anyone's queue and get drafted by someone else.

We've had mixed results with this. We usually have a conversation about when to draft our keepers, but I think we've finally got that part down. You don't have to draft your keepers at all, draft other players whom you cut when you pick up your keepers after the draft. It works as a built-in "Oops" mechanism: if you drafted someone you didn't really mean to, you still have a chance to pick up someone you want during the draft. Learning that the player you just drafted announced his retirement that morning, something you learn only through our draft-time chitchat, might mean you'd rather have a player who's actually going to play this year. Oops factor to the rescue.

People not excluding players is the problem, and every year we have a couple keepers drafted by another team by mistake. This year we had it in spades. Two owners/managers apparently hadn't had a chance to put any players on the excluded list and neither of them was online for the draft; of 52 keepers, at least 40 of them were drafted by those two teams. After the first five or six keepers who were snagged by the MIA, it became something of game guessing which keeper they were going to draft next. It was funny, and frustrating, and in the late rounds I decided to play it safe, decided to draft my keepers, only to see Jason Varitek headed south. I spent the next evening sorting who had whose and which players to drop and add from which rosters. I ran into problems with the "Can't Cut List", a feature Yahoo has that prevents anyone from moving certain players to avoid stacking of rosters. Next day I finally found out the commissioner can shut the damn thing off! Once I did that, things went fairly smoothly and I think, I hope, everyone has his correct players before opening day, when the stats start counting.

Here's my opening day roster:

Aaron Hill* (New Hamshpire-AA)
Brian Schneider
Bronson Arroyo*(Pawtucket-AAA)
David Ortiz* (Boston)
David Wright*(Binghamton-AA)
Dontrelle Willis
Jason Varitek* (Boston)
John Buck *(Auburn-short season A)
Jose Guillen
Josh Beckett
Josh Towers* (Syracuse-AAA)
Justin Morneau*(New Britain-AA)
Ken Griffey Jr.
Lenny DiNardo(?*)
Mark Ellis
Matt Clement
Mike Mussina
Moises Alou
Russ Adams*(Auburn-short season A)
Tim Wakefield*(Boston)
Ty Wigginton*(Binghamton-AA)
Vernon Wells*(Syracuse-AAA)
Vinnie Chulk*(Syracuse-AAA)
Yusmeiro Petit*(Binghamton-AA)
Zach Day

Again, a mix weighted to Red Sox and guys I've seen play in person*. I've been scouting them in the minors, I guess.

Decisions, Decisions
The season hasn't started yet and already I've had to make the decision of whether to go to a specific game or skip it. My extended family used to have a lot of gatherings. There are 23 cousins in my generation and for a long time most of us lived within shouting distance of each other and our grandparents house. Time and distance has increased to the point that over the past few years the only time we seem to get together is for calling hours and funerals. This week an invitation to a birthday celebration for one of my uncles, his 80th. Since the chances to gather with family are getting scarcer, it's hard to say no, but it's the first Saturday the B-Mets will be home, one of the rare day games they play, and everybody knows baseball was meant to be enjoyed in daylight. When my dad told his ladyfriend about the celebration, the first thing she said was that if there's a ball game I wouldn't be there and that the family wouldn't be expecting me. I did skip Easter dinner last year to be at the ballpark. I wrestled with this for a couple days, and when I saw a day game the next Wednesday in Syracuse I figured that was my consolation prize. I'll be at the celebration, but I'll be wearing my baseball earrings.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Into the Home Stretch

to mix sport metaphors....

It is now less than a week to opening day for the majors and only 10 days to Opening Day. Which I'm making into a day/night doubleheader. Syracuse has a day game, Binghamton a night game. I know I'll have to leave before the end of the Sky(gak)Chiefs game, but that's fine (as long as it's not rainy - don't know if I can sit through two wet games in one [cold] day.)

I've sent in my ticket order, can't wait to see where they put me this year. Between the hike in gas prices and other financial constraints, I've had to cut back on the number of games I can go to, no Friday night games this year. This is particularly disheartening as I keep hoping next season I will finally be able to afford a real season's ticket.

Chase Revisited
While prepping for the fantasy draft, I read (okay, skim through) a couple of baseball annuals. My favorite has long been Street & Smith's; interesting articles, lots of good stats, meaningful but brief analysis of each team's strengths and weaknesses. They also include info on the minor league systems of each team, this year's has a big sidebar on each team's main page highlighting the franchise's top ten minor leaguers. Number 10 for the Mets? Chase Lambin. S&S says he's much better at second than shortstop. Haven't I been saying that along?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Soon, soon

It's been a quiet winter in Lake Woebegone....

Not much has been happening baseballwise, just the slow countdown on the clock beside my vitamins until it got to the one month mark, then BOOM!

The World Baseball Classic is registering on my consciousness, but not making much of an impact. So far, I've watched only one game, not even all of that one, Puerto Rico against Cuba. The game, which surprisingly (or not) ended after seven innings because of a mercy rule (but not merciful enough, the game lasted waaaaaaay too long, even for a 9-inning affair) was fun to watch because my dad's favorite Yankee, Bernie Williams, hit a homer right after we turned the game on, and because a former B-Met was pitching for PR, Dicky Gonzalez.

I'll tell you how long that game was: the Syracuse University basketball game started after the WBC game started and SU finished before the sixth inning was over.

Speaking of SU basketball...

I pay attention to it only because my dad does, and usually he can't bear to watch. After they won the Big East tourney game 74-73 over Cincinnati with some excellent play by Gerry MacNamara and the second game in overtime 86-84 over number 1 ranked UConn again much thanks to G-Mac, he figured they were done. "They won't win a third game. Nobody's ever won a third game, especially after an overtime win." Are you forgetting what happened in 2004, dad? Which made the 58-57 win over Georgetown even sweeter. I finally caved, and watched the last 2.25 minutes of the Pittsburgh game. SU was leading when I switched the channel, but it was nailbiting time, especially when Josh Wright had to take four foul shots. Devendorf was hiding his head, clutching the coach's hand on the sidelines at that point. It was an incredible win. If they make it to the Final Four I might just have to watch.

So long, Kirby. A lot of baseball fans I know were greatly saddened by the death of Kirby Puckett, died of a stroke at age 44. He played during my self-imposed exile from baseball, so I have to depend on their remembrances, but from everything I've read, from fans and professional writers, he was exactly the kind of player I love, those who love the game and let it show daily on the field.

As for Barry Bonds, I'm not withholding judgment per se, but waiting until I've read the book except in Sports Illustrated to offer comment. But I will say this, from what I have read and seen over the past few years, I would say Barry Bonds ranks right along side Pete Rose in thinking he is above the Game.

It's nearly Draft Day! Time to get my wish list in order. I'm starting with a nice core of 4 keepers from last season: Dontrelle Willis, Jason Varitek, David Ortiz, and David Wright.