Balls in the DiRT

No. 715

Hank Aaron

April 8th, 1974

The Hammer! A few times and far less often than we hope, do our heroes maintain themselves thru the stains of time.  Too often, they seem to creatively find ways to shatter those illusions, like a soft-grip of a favorite snow-globe of our youth.  Those delusions are ours and not theirs.  Rare is a hero that sets off on a knight’s quest towards one of baseball’s Holy Grail’s, only to carry with him a quiet dignity of fotitude and stoicism that relies more on substance than of flash – and for that we must always give thanks to Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron.  Give him the unconditional love he deserves.  Remember 715.  Remember a man that did not masquerade or exploit his talents to gain his seat at the table, he earned his place in the Pantheon.  Celebrate The Hammer!

He is a Saint and an example of all that is good within us and what we can achieve by just putting our head down and getting to work – regardless of outside distractions.  It is a shame, that on that night, in the 4th innning, what he felt after hitting Al Downing’s pitch over the left field wall, was not joy at the accomplishment, but relief.  Babe Ruth was larger than life, with larger appetites, and while he was gregarious and still maintains a popular place in the church of baseball – The Hammer was a contrast of muted poise.  Babe Ruth would have embraced it all, the energy, the party; where as Hank – under constant harassment by the media and fans, appeared as concerned with it all as a man does with a child asking for a new balloon.  There were more flamboyant superstars during Aaron’s 21 year career that shined brighter and preferred to hover in the spotlight –  while Hank comfortably went to work in the shadows that they’d cast.  He was just a man, doing his job and wanting to live a normal life, like anyone else.

Here it is, in his own words, from Hank Aaron’s autobiography, “I Had a Hammer” about that night:

When I was alone and the door was shut, I got down on my knees and closed my eyes and thanked God for pulling me through.  At that moment, I knew what the past twenty-five years of my life had been about.  I had done something that nobody else in the world had done, and with it came a feeling that nobody else has ever had – not exactly, anyway.  I didn’t feel a wild sense of joy.  I didn’t feel like celebrating.  But I probably felt closer to God at that moment than at any other in my life.  I felt a deep sense of gratitude and a wonderful surge of liberation all at the same time.  I also felt a stream of tears running down my face.

Aaron retired after the 1976 season with the Brewers and ended with 755 Home-Runs.  He is a sports hero we deserve, and we should remind him how much we appreciate all that he exemplifies, what is good within us.  It isn’t about shouting, asking where your 15 seconds of fame and notoriety are, despite being attached to the digital freeway, looking for instant gratification, and validation.  It’s about grace, quiet dignity, hard work and perseverance – that in time, we too have a shot at being exceptional – it may not mean we will be an all-timer – but it does mean we can walk with our head held high, knowing we gave it all we had – just like the Hammer!



 

Go Home Hostess, you’re drunk!

Baseball is back and this seamhead is pumped – at least for a while.  Meaning the Rockies, of course they are 2-0 and in first place, all by themselves – regardless if we have seen how this story usually ends in June.  It’s just 83 more W’s for my prediction to come true, as I wrote here back in February.  Just remember, Crazy is a term of Art – Insanity is term of Law, and I am still not insane – I have a sticker to prove it.

But what we have decided to do, is provide some help with your Daily Fantasy Baseball needs:  It will not be as full-blown as our NBA coverage until next year, but it will help you get an idea of who to consider – so without further ado….

Consider that 4 players for the Colorado Rockies have a batting average of .500 or better against Milwaukee’s Wily Peralta and that Tulo, in 14 plate appearances against Peralta has 3 singles and 4 walks.  The other 4 are Nolan Arenado, Nick Hundley, Justin Morneau and Corey Dickerson.  The issue being for some is the possibility of rest.  No Rest for these guys? Then we could look at a road sweep to start the year before welcoming the National League Champion Cubs (sarcasm) for the Home Opener Friday.

Consider staying away from Pujols and Trout against Iwakura of the Mariners.  In 26 and 27 at-bats, both Trout and Pujols hit below .200.  However, if they can get to him, it is usually for xtra-base-hits.  In Trout’s 5 hits he has 4 singles and 1 HR and Pujols’ 5 hits are for 2 singles and 3 doubles.  What you have to consider, is the price worth the performance?

Consider neither pitcher for the Orioles or the Rays are gonna stop anyone from htting the ball around the yard and consider that Oakland could shell Texas Rangers’ pitcher Ross Detwiler.

Consider Daniel Murphy and his excellent matchup against Jordan Zimmerman.  Murphy is 16 for 50 against Zimmerman with 5 doubles, 3 HR’s and only 2 strikeouts.  Others that have good matchups are both Mike (Giancarlo) Stanton and Christian Yellich against Shelby Miller – both are a combined 6-11 with 2 HR’s, 2 singles and a double.

Consider these guys by position, for your lineup today that have the best matchup and best potential:

1B

Daniel Murphy

Steve Pearce

Jose Abreu

Justin Morneau (if he plays, took a throw to the neck last night)

2B

Robinson Cano

Ian Kinsler

Adam Rosales

3B

Josh Harrison

Chris Johnson

Mike Moustakas

Nolan Arenado (if he plays)

SS

Hanley Ramirez

Juan Uribe

Tulo (if he plays)

C

Salvador Perez

Welington Castillo

Nick Hundley (if he plays)

OF

Lorenzo Cain

Andrew McCutchen

Mike (Giancarlo) Stanton

Desmond Jennings (4HR’s against M.Gonzales but strikes out 19.4% against him)

Shin-soo-choo

Ben Revere

Corey Dickerson

P

Carlos Carrasco

Anibal Sanchez

Brandon McCarthy

 

 

 

Diamonds in the DiRT

It was April 2nd, 1996 and a peppy kid dreamed to be exactly where he was now – except no one really dreams of being in Cleveland.  The city by the lake isn’t the kind of place where dreams come true in sports – hell, nothing good in Cleveland has occurred in the form of championship recognition since the 50’s with Jim Brown and Otto Graham winning titles.  Sure Cleveland’s had its moments. The Indians were good for a stretch in the 90’s, the Browns in the 80’s – they had and lost LeBron, only to get him back – but still the bridesmaid, never the bride and their hopes were always creatively ripped out of their chest only to be shown their still beating heart – Kali-Mah!

But on this Opening Day in 1996, new beginnings and hope belonged to the visiting team.  It was a sunny, brisk 38 degrees, with the wind blowing out to centerfield at a cheery draft.  Jacob’s Field, the epicenter of tribe fans wearing red, white and blue – a bunch of wahoos.  Long sufferring baseball fans in Cleveland had witnessed the eclipse of the dark-ages of baseball in their city, no longer made fun of by Hollywood and each season was a year long celebration that few players/fans ever experienced.  The Tribe was loaded and fresh off a 100-win season and their first World Series appearance since 1954 – they would win 99 games in 1996 and again have the best record in baseball.  Do you remember Kenny Lofton, Julio Franco, Carlos Baerga, Albert Belle, age less Eddie Murray, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Sandy Alomar, Omar Visquel – this was Cleveland’s Steel Curtain of baseball – the crowd was like a pack of crazed jackals and into town come the Yankees to start the season and another frenzied march to glory, to finally capture a title – all the Yankees brought with them was a new manager and a new shortstop.  “It’s our year!” – Cleveland fans shouted.

Game 1 of the season is rarely a hitchhiker’s guide to the future, but on this day – the God’s of baseball anointed a team, a manager and a shortstop for the next decade.  The Yankees would go on to win their first division title since 1981 and their first World Series since 1978.  Joe Torre would win the first of his 1,173 victories as manager of the Yankees – establishing during his 12 year tenure, 12 straight post-season appearances, winning 10 AL East crowns, 6 AL Pennants and 4 World Series Championships.

For the 22 year old shortstop, thrown to the wolves in Cleveland, all he did was become the first rookie shortstop to start the season for the Yankees, since 1962 – record his first-ever hit off El Presidente-Dennis Martinez, for a home run – building a resume for dramatic moments the rest of his career.  Career-In Memoriam, we do not get to watch Derek Jeter play shortstop for the Yankees anymore and it’s amazing to think back to that brisk April day in Cleveland where the legend began.

 

With Opening Day approaching, a time where we move past the winter of last year’s struggles to blossom once again on what might be.  A time to share a hot dog and a beer with someone special, a time to return to your youth, looking forward to it like a birthday party.  Baseball is seductive to anyone with an enduring interest, knowing exactly how it should be played, secretly believing they could do it – if only the good lord saw fit to make them less inept.  At least Fantasy Baseball let’s you prove your GM skills.  So you weren’t successful today, like baseball, there’s always tomorrow’s lineup.  In honor of the approaching National Holiday here are some alternate position examinations:

Yogi

Catcher

Matt Wieters – had Tommy John surgery so his issue becomes how many at-bats can he get to, but if he can reach at least 400 of them, he should bounce back.

The Beast, Double X

First Base

Aside from Goldschmidt and Miggy there are several other 1st basemen to consider.  Like Adam Lind for the Brewers who gets a shot to start full time and should hit in the 5 hole were he could hit 20+HR’s.  Someone who was productive last year that should see a regression this year is Chris Carter.

Jackie

Second Base

Chase Utley – the Phillies could be terrible but Chase will bat 3rd and will have a chance to provide a surprising rebound – not sure what kind of dead-cat rebound it’ll be, but it could be considerable, for stretches at a time.

Cal Ripken Jr

Shortstop

Stay away from Xander Bogaerts and Jean Segura as both are slotted to bat 8th.  For Xander, batting 8th in what might be the best offense is bad news – batting 8th is never a positive for your lineup.  For Segura and Bogaerts potential on the field does not equate fantasy value consistent enough.

Brooks Robinson

Third Base

Kris Bryant – whenever he gets called up, he has the potential to be a dominate player and another in a growing list of young talent in the game.  But the questions remain, relating to his strikeout rate – almost 30% last year in Triple A.  What does that mean for daily leagues?  It means that you should watch his Batting-Average-Balls-In-Play, because if that doesn’t negate the strikeout rate then he will be a consistent hit-or-miss play.  Either way he will be fun to watch.

Clemente, Mays and Aaron

Outfield

Christian Yellich – is getting a lot of press and is part of one the best outfields in the NL – however consider how often he hits fly-balls – less than 20% of the time.  If you believe he gets 600 plate appearances this year, only 120 of those will generate fly-balls – then multiply that by his Home-run/Fly-ball rate which was 15% last year (3.5% higher than his average) – that is 18 HR’s and he is batting second and likely will not steal as often in front Mike (Giancarlo) Stanton.

Michael Cuddyer – has only recorded 500+ plate appearances once in the last 3 years and now that he is with the Mets and still batting 5th, there is not much to suggest that he has much value left in the tank – or the health to sustain solid numbers.

Corey Dickerson – has the batting average talent, but struggles against lefties and until you see that change you have to pay attention to that matchup.  However if he gets 600 plate appearances he could be a top 5 outfielder with a healthy Tulo and CarGo.

Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan and Warren Spahn

Pitchers

You have to look at how many innings they pitched last year.  Example being Bumgarner pitched 270+ innings in 2014 and so expect him to have rest and lightened workloads to save him – plus the Giants only win in even years.  Too many innings is the result we see from all those pitchers breaking down – it has the Tigers worried for Verlander and Wainwright is 700 innings removed from Tommy John Surgery.  Think of it like this – pitchers usually are in the 25-30% risk for injury category and Wainwright is more like 40%.  So look for those new young guys that have the promise for consistency like Jake Arrieta, Jacob DeGrom and Carlos Rondon.

 

As they said in Bull Durham: “it’s an easy game, you catch the ball, you hit the ball, you throw the ball…and sometimes it rains

3rd Stone from the Sun

You just got lesson number 1, Don’t think….

Photo(11)

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.

A. Bartlett Giamatti

The cruelty of February has been on display.  In one week we lost a ‘Dean’, and a ‘Shark’, sprinkled in between some other strange things afoot.  Word is Boston has put out an A.P.B. on a precocious princess who doesn’t understand “when”.  The sports-media continuously acts like a co-dependent spouse in an abusive relationship – still trying to make up for getting picked last, only to wait for another sip of jock-strap tea.

Do we really need hand-writing analysis of A-(f)Rod’s apologetic letter, is there an outcry for more articles of how he spends his day and the troubles of being A-(f)Rod?  I’m pretty sure we get who he is and every athlete like him – like in any relationship, we want trust.

If given the chance to increase your earning potential tenfold, are you sure you would avoid a magic-pill that promised you wealth and fame – with the only downside being what people think of you on twitter/FirstTake as you do whatever, whenever, however you want?

Not one of the millions of wrestling fans complain about HGH/PED’s/Steroids et al – No one cries out in disgust when an actor does it playing an action hero. Remember when you saw Rocky IV, and after seeing Rocky run in the billowy snow, lifting wagons full of boulders and people, chopping wood etc – remember how big you thought Rocky was, how ripped – there is no way he looks like that cross-country-skiing – and whats worse is he was twice that size in the last Expendables movie – and Stallone is 69 – So why is A-(f)Rod always singled out as a bad guy for whatever it was he did, (#TheTruthIsOutThere).  Besides we were told by Nike: “Chicks dig the long ball“, so what were we gonna expect?

It’s because it’s baseball.  Baseball is what we are, Football is what we have become.  Baseball is a church.  It’s playing catch with your Dad, warm sunny days and hot dogs, cold beer, green grass, brown dirt and a snow white baseball with as many stitches as beads in a rosary (108) – and every Spring, every team has a chance – including the Rockies (at least until July when they fold like carnies after the Fair).

It’s the history and the records – we know what “56” means – we know the two people who have over 4,000 hits – we know the top 3 career HR hitters – even if we feel cheated that they cheated – is it not what we would do already every day, in some way?  In the Future, we will have someone who has an artificial eye, then what – create ‘special’ leagues for those who replaced a lost body-part with a robotic component and scream they have an advantage?  The guy lost an eye for cryin-out-loud!

I don’t know, I love the game and I am a realist, or maybe I’m still in recovery and still disappointed I did not have a magic-pill to get me that elusive 8th gold medal of debauchery – not even sure I qualified, the rules keeps changing – but soon there will be baseball, and birds will sing, and we’ll worry less, we’ll dress a little more comfortable and everything will be in harmony – until July, when we all start thinking about football again because the Rockies are choking like a fat-kid chipmunking saltines and peanut butter .  Anywhoooo…..

It’s a golden era for California baseball and you’d have to go back to New York in the ’50’s to find a time and place comparable to what’s going on in the land of waves, sand and palm trees.  In the 46yrs of baseball in SoCal, the last time the Angels, Dodgers, and Padres all finished above .500 was 2007.  So with the additions the Padres made this off-season you’d expect them to improve their win total from 77 wins last year.  Does James Shields give them 8 more wins? Is 85 wins the magic number for a wild card berth?  The Padres have only won 90 games 4x’s in their history – the same amount of times they have made the playoffs – 3 of those in the wild card era, (last one 2006).

So what that means is, the National League West is a lot more difficult for the teams that play in the Mountain Time Zone.  You expect the Dodgers and the Giants to compete for the division, but you could also expect the Padres to contend for one of the wild cards.  And here is where we get a little nuts – The Dodgers have NEVER made the playoffs 3yrs in a row and have failed to win 90+ games 3yrs in a row since ’76-’77-’78, and the only time the Padres AND the Dodgers won 90+ games was in 1996.  Granted there is another Wild Card now, so…..

That places the Rockies in a weird spot, so stay with me…Crazy is a term of Art and insanity is a term of Law – The Marquis De Sade did a lot of crazy stuff, but wasn’t insane until he was jailed – remembering that will save you a lot of headaches – and saying the Rockies have a chance is just crazy.

If we assume on “paper” that the Dodgers and the Nationals are the two best teams in the National League and could be the two best teams in all of baseball – we will assign them each with 91 wins – based on lots of different formulas.  Aside from those two teams no one else really stands out – based on those same formulas run, we’ll list the Cardinals, Cubs, Giants, and Pirates with 83-86 wins.  Leaving the Padres, Marlins, Mets, Reds and Rockies around 76-81 wins.

So from there we make the leap that two playoff spots will be occupied by the Dodgers and the Nat’s, leaving 9 teams vying for 3 spots.  Now, it’s a bigger leap of faith to think the Rockies can go from 66 wins to 86, but the ’13 Orioles were a 78 win team before they won 96 and the AL East in 2014.

All of this gets flushed down the hypothetical toilet, if the Rox cannot stay off the training table.  There is no way we use 15 different starting pitchers again is there? Tulo+CarGo have to be all done with shortened seasons, right? Maybe Latroy Hawkins goes out in style – maybe Rex Brothers remembers how to pitch – maybe Jordan Lyles was for real until a freak injury – maybe DJ Lemahieu unloads a LSU-days stat-line to go with his gold glove D…

The point is they have a lot of guys that are decent ballplayers and all it takes is a few things to go there way.  The Rockies were better than their 66 wins last year, and if all pistons were firing, they might have been more like a 77 win team – this year, with a few breaks they could get to 86 (only 9 more wins above expectations).

Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It’s 25 hits. 25 hits in 500 at bats is 50 points, okay? There’s 6 months in a season, that’s about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week – just one – a gorp… you get a groundball, you get a groundball with eyes… you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week… and you’re in Yankee Stadium.
— Crash Davis

The Dodgers and the Padres have history going against them and the Padres defense is not very good.  So why not us?! The Rockies have the best infield in baseball, when healthy, and the last time we saw a great defense, average starters, strong bullpen and a healthy Tulo was ’07/’09.

So the Rockies could be due, it’s possible – it worked for the Royals – or maybe I’ve caught a bad case of Spring Fever again.  I am NOT insane, Opening Day is 49 days from now!!! (first pitch in 40 days).

“This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.” Think about that for a while.
— Nuke Laloosh


***Update – Tonight’s NBA Fanduel Ideas – by ‘The Man in the Iron Mask***

Here is the breakdown:

 Must Haves:

  1. (PG) John Wall – Playing against Cleveland tonight who has given up 44.3 points per game in Fan Duel scoring over their last 5 contests.  Combine that with an All-Star hangover for the Cavs and John Wall is averaging 42 Fan Duel Points per game for the season, look for yet another consistent performance.  Our prediction analyzer shows Wall will score 22 points to go with 12 assists tonight.
  2. (SG) Kevin Martin – Playing against Phoenix who has given up 40.3 points per game in Fan Duel scoring over the past 5 contests combined with their latest effort to tank the back half of the season this should play out for a huge outing for Martin.  Add to it, Rubio is back in the mix and Young was traded at the deadline; someone has to score – so look for Martin to get you at least 35 Fan Duel Points tonight.  Prediction analyzer shows Martin scoring 29 with a couple of assists and one steal.
  3. (SF) Kris Middleton – Milwaukee plays one of the worst teams in the league over the past 15 games in the Denver Nuggets.  Add to it, the Nuggets really don’t want to win and are giving up an average of 37.4 points per game in Fan Duel Scoring – Middleton is a lock.  Our prediction analyzer shows Middleton scoring 21 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists.  If he can throw in a steal and a block you might squeak out a 40 point performance for the $6,600 you will spend on your lineup, which happens to be the team average spend.
  4. (PF) Paul Millsap – Let’s just say, Toronto is giving up 45.2 points per game in Fan Duel Scoring and Millsap averages 33.9 for the season.  This is a marquee matchup so look for Atlanta to prove it is a power house and Millsap will lead the charge tonight.  Prediction analyzer shows Millsap scoring 24 points, 13 rebounds and 3 assists.  You should get a 40 spot for this spot on your lineup.
  5. (C) DeMarcus Cousins – He is second in Fan Duel scoring for the season at 45.5 so does it really matter who he plays against? He is a lock, every single night – if you can make his overwhelming $11,000 fan duel salary work then you know you are going to get a 50 spot.

 Sleepers

  1. (PG) Deron Williams – Really???!!!  Yes really, he is playing the Lakers tonight who are giving up 43.6 over their last 5 contests and 44.4 for the season in Fan Duel scoring.  You combine that with the fact that Jack is hurt – look for a descent game for the price of $5,300 and you should squeeze out 34 Fan Duel Points tonight.  Prediction Analyzer says 15 points, 11 assists and 3 rebounds in 30 minutes of play tonight.
  2. (SG) Wayne Ellington – Yes, I know a Laker on your lineup does not sound promising, but look at the bright side – Ellington has averaged 15 points per game over his last 5 and Brooklyn is giving up 40.0 Fan Duel points per game.  Ellington is a cost of $5,100 so the cost benefit to get his 25 Fan Duel points for the night is basically a guarantee.  Prediction analyzer says Ellington will score 18 points, 4 assists and 2 rebounds tonight in 26 minutes of action.
  3. (SF) DeMarre Carroll – $5,400 salary for one of those players on the Hawks that most people have no idea who he is.  That said, he is averaging over 20 points per game in Fan Duel scoring and Toronto is giving up 38.0 points per game over their last 5 contests.  Prediction analyzer shows Carroll scoring 15 points, 3 assists and 4 rebounds.  Should be a lock for at least 25 points on your Fan Duel Lineup.
  4. (PF) Nene Hilario – Coming in with a Fan Duel salary of $5,300 here is yet another below average cost player with an optimal lineup.  Toronto is giving up 45.2 points per game in Fan Duel scoring over their last 5 games and Nene simply gets rebounds and scores points.  Prediction analyzer shows Nene with 18 points and 13 rebounds.  He should boast at least a 30 spot on your Fan Duel lineup tonight.
  5. (C) Tyson Chandler – Coming off a decent performance last night, Chandler posted yet another double double.  He should cross that barrier again tonight with our prediction analyzer showing him at 14 points and 16 rebounds.  His cost of $6,500 on Fan Duel should prove to be worth the 35 Fan Duel points he will post tonight playing against the Howard-less Rockets. 

Likely Training Table Casualties

  1. (PF) Anthony Davis – Game Time Decision and what can you say, if he plays, you should have him on at least one lineup.  He will get you at least 45 points in Fan Duel and is worth the $11,000 salary.
  2. (PG) Jared Bayless – Game Time Decision with a hamstring issue.  Keep in mind the Bucks just traded for Michael Carter Williams but he is also hurt and unknown if he will play, keep an eye out for this one.  Bayless is only $4,100 in terms of his Fan Duel salary for tonight and the Bucks are playing the Nuggets who are giving up a league lead 44.7 points per game in Fan Duel scoring to the point guard position.
  3. (SG) Dwayne Wade – Bosh is out, Wade hasn’t played in how many games? Look for him to have a big night in preparation for Dragic to join the team tomorrow.
  4. (SF) Tobias Harris – Listed as questionable, Harris was tearing it up before his knee issue came back again.  Prior to the break he was averaging 39 Fan Duel points per game and has an optimal opponent in New Orleans tonight giving up the 3rd most Fan Duel points per game to the small forward position.  Keep an eye on this one as he would be a must have in our list if the injury bug wasn’t hanging out there.
  5. (C) – Nothing to note here other than the fact that there are really only about 6 players that you want to choose from on this list each and every day.  Take Cousins or Chandler tonight and you should be in good shape.