Brian, Debate, Feature, Outfield, Player Profile, Prospects, reality blog

The Tragedy of Potential


Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!

-Anne Frank

Mike Darr was an above average fielder.

Mike Darr was an above average fielder.

The Phoenix night grew older as Mike Darr, Duane Johnson, and Ben Howard sped down Interstate-10. The friends had been out drinking, celebrating Darr and Howard’s final night of the off-season before spring training started later that morning. Darr was slated to be the San Diego Padres’ Opening Day center fielder. It was February 16, 2002.

When Oscar Taveras got in his red Chevy Camaro in Sosua, Dominican Republic, on October 25, 2014, he’d had over 15 alcoholic drinks in about two hours. His girlfriend was in the passenger seat. Taveras started the car and began driving to Puerto Plata, his birthplace. Taveras was one of the top prospects in baseball and was all but guaranteed to be the starting right fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015.

At the time of their deaths, Darr was 25 and Taveras was 22.

When I was 22 years old, I had just graduated college and set out to live in Los Angeles to be the “next great writer.” I had it all planned out, too. Step 1: Find an apartment. Step 2: Attend UCLA. Step 3: Flat out strike it rich. It was as stupid as it was simple.

But I was young and brash and really had no fear of anything. It’s truly a beautiful age to be. The world has no expectations of you. Even though the deck is stacked against you (because, really, chances are you’re going to be a nobody-can’t-hack-it…chances are), you have no inkling of that being true. How naïve and brazen you are when you’re young. There you go, hightailing it, living your life to the fullest, flipping the bird to everyone, even Death, because there’s nothing in the world that can stop you.

I made it to L.A., the City of Angels; found myself a dingy apartment in the neighborhood of Palms; even got accepted into the UCLA Screenwriting Program. I used to get martinis after class with a friend of mine, who later went on to write for People and Spin and AP, and we would talk about screenplays, movies and the craft of writing. We were the best writers at UCLA, soon to be the best writers in the industry.

Unfortunately, when you’re young, you can’t tell if you’re talented at something or not. It’s true, either you are or you aren’t, but it’s tough to tell. I lasted a year in L.A. Clearly, I was not.

Whenever a talented person passes away young (a la James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Cliff Burton, etc.), my brain always takes me back to the time when I was hightailing it. When I was grooving through life without any breaks.

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Brian, Debate, Players of the Week, Questions

In Memoriam Chris Shelton


Chris Shelton. Cousin of Alex Smith. Fan of home runs. R.I.P.

Here lies Chris Shelton’s fantasy career. Cousin of Alex Smith. Fan of home runs. R.I.P.

From the time the words “Play Ball!” are first belted out on Opening Day, until the first week comes to a close, there are always hundreds of storylines that nobody could have predicted. Wacky stories will often be accompanied with “You can’t make this s**t up.” It’s why some of the best movies, especially lately, are based on “true” stories. This world is filled with incredible, sometimes unbelievable, happenings.

One such story came about in the first month of the 2006 season. Detroit Tiger’s first baseman, Chris “Red Pop” Shelton, selected in the 2004 Rule 5 draft from the Pittsburg Pirates, devoured American League pitching for the first 13 games of the season. Shelton had nine home runs before playing in his 14th game, the fastest American League player to do so. Needless to say, Shelton was a sought after commodity in fantasy leagues. Managers salivated over the power potential he possessed. The second coming of Mark McGuire was in our midst.

Sadly, after that 13th game, Shelton’s monstrous power retreated as fast as it had materialized. He only had one more home run that month, and only six more before being demoted at the end of July. Since that demotion, “Red Pop” only played in 63 more games before leaving the game for good. His magical fairy tale was over, and he turned back into an orange pumpkin.

Even though fantasy managers shouldn’t be surprised by fluke success stories like Shelton, it is still very tempting to think that this guy might be the real deal. For every Shelton, there is a Jose Bautista. Let’s take a look at some hitters who have jumped the gun and are treating this marathon like a sprint, and we’ll try and determine who is going to make it to the finish line and who is going to flame out.

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Debate, Questions, reality blog, Spring Training, Wooden

WBC: Fantasy Baseball’s Crystal Ball


The World Baseball Classic is a flawed tournament (ridiculous pitch counts, missing stars, too much risk to MLB franchises for the players who do participate, and a cockamamie run differential rule that led to the horrendous brawl in Saturday’s Canada-Mexico showdown). That being said, it is still enjoyable to see baseball on your TV screen that means (a little) more than the typical, yawn-inducing spring training games you’d otherwise be watching this time of year. It’s also fun to watch from a fantasy perspective, as it can serve as sort of crystal ball for what we should expect in the coming season from some of the biggest stars in the game.

Let’s have a look at five players who followed their turns in the WBC with monster seasons and five who probably should have done what Russell Martin did this season: stayed home.

Five Who Starred:

(stats in bold were for the MLB season immediately following that year’s WBC tournament)

 

ny_a_santanaj_3001. Johan Santana (2006)

19-6 (1st in league); 2.77 ERA (1st); 245 K (1st); 233.2 IP; .997 WHIP; Cy Young Award

Santana had already won a Cy Young award in 2004 and was widely regarded as baseball’s best pitcher at the time he laced ‘em up for his native Venezuela in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. Although the Venezuela squad didn’t advance past the second round and Santana tied for the tourney lead with two losses, it certainly was by no fault of his own. Santana averaged 8.2 innings in his two starts and maintained a tidy 2.16 ERA. He went on to win the pitching equivalent of the Triple Crown and collect his second Cy Young Award in three years.

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Debate, reality blog, Wooden

The Reality Blog: Numbers Don’t Lie


This is what an outlier looks like.

This is what an outlier looks like.

How the hell did Joe Girardi know Raul (insert curse word here) Ibanez was going to go all Kirk Gibson on us?

That’s the first thing I wanted to know. How does a manager decide to simply bench one of baseball’s greatest statistical stars of all time in favor of a dude who was only eight years younger than the manager himself whose career highlight was a single All-Star berth during the Yankee’s walk-off win (courtesy of Ibanez’ second home run of the night) in this past year’s Divisional matchup against the Orioles? Statistically speaking (disclaimer: I love statistics…I work with them for a living), it was a foolish decision, akin to Michael Jordan deciding he’d give hitting MLB fastballs a try or Grady Little sticking with Pedro Martinez when he was clearly done for the game.

Ever since Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s took statistical analysis to the moon and back and were made rock-stars along the way via Michael Lewis’ glorifying Moneyball, sabermetrics have announced that they are here to stay. New statistics with more acronyms than FDR’s New Deal programs have sprung up everywhere to determine everything from a player’s true run contributions to when a team should bunt and everything in between. Indeed, stats like UZR, OBP, BABIP, WAR, and VORP have been given greater importance among some than the traditional baseball stats we grew up memorizing on the backs of baseball cards, stats like ERA, BA, and RBI.

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Awards, Debate, Feature, Hall of Fame, Questions, Rotoballs, Rumblings, Wooden

The Reality Blog: The Hall of Most Shame (Rose vs. ‘Roids)


We live in the age of instant quotes and misquotes thanks to social media sites. I came across this heavy hitter in a recent online rant against alleged PED-user Lance Armstrong:

"I never used steroids, but I have inspired thousands of Catholic priests."

“I never used steroids, but I have inspired thousands of Catholic priests.”

“I would prefer even to fail with honor than to win by cheating.” – Sophocles

Cute, but I’ve got news for this good-intentioned quote fiend; Sophocles never lived in the era of the $100 million dollar contract. He also never lived in the era of the front page fandom that comes with hitting home runs that switch zip codes in air, collecting Cy Young awards like Adele collects Grammys, or winning games more consistently than Wilt Chamberlain won with the ladies (sorry Quentin Tarantino).

The Baseball Writers Association of America must be suckers for Sophocles’ work, as they famously took a hard stance a few weeks back when they voted nobody into the Hall of Fame for just the eighth time in the Hall’s history. It certainly wasn’t for lack of viable candidates that nobody was enshrined as this year’s ballot boasted MLB’s all-time home run king, and the man with more Cy Young awards than anyone else, among other notable players. No, the BBWAA pitched a shutout because they wanted to send a message to these players, most of whom had more than casual ties to PEDs- there’s no place for cheaters.

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Brian, Debate, Outfield, Player Profile, Projections, Questions

Jason Heyward: Better than Justin Upton?


This was just four years ago!

This was just four years ago!

If you visit Baseball-Reference.com, they have a section of their website dedicated to comparing a player’s stats with historically similar stats (whole career, current MLB years of service, and by ages). Jason Heyward is currently, at the age of 22, compared with Ruben Sierra, Andruw Jones, Jose Conseco, Juan Gonzalez, and Jack Clark. Not bad company.

Who is the only active player to make this comparison list? Justin Upton.

After the 2011 season, when Heyward struggled mightily (sophomore slump) and Upton had his best statistical season to date (fourth in NL MVP voting), if you had told me these two would be at or near the same level, this soon, I would’ve called you a crazy person and Gangnam styled off stage left. In ’11, Heyward had as much chance at being a top 50 fantasy player as Joe Paterno had at living to see his name removed from every nook and cranny of Penn State. It just wasn’t going to happen.

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