RIP Tim Wakefield

Tim Wakefield, my favorite Red Sox player, passed away this past Sunday from brain cancer. He was 57.

(Yes, it’s a bit unnerving to realize he was only 3 years older than me.)

I became a fan of his when he came to the Red Sox in 1995 and had two-third of a Cy Young caliber campaign. (Having him on my fantasy baseball team that year didn’t hurt.) He’d come up with the Pittsburgh Pirates and thrown almost 100 brilliant innings in 1992, but couldn’t repeat it in 1993, and got sent down and then released. A knuckleball pitcher, he relied on a pitch which was notoriously hard to control. Go read up on how baseball pitches work, and then read how knuckleball pitches work, and frankly it’s almost hard to believe any pitcher manages to throw strikes with them with any regularity.

It’s easy to love the great sluggers like Albert Pujols (and I do love Albert Pujols), but I also love the quirky players who bring something unusual to the game. Ichiro Suzuki’s unbelievable ability to make contact. Mike Boddicker’s ridiculous curveball. And Tim Wakefield having an almost 20-year career in the Majors throwing a knuckleball.

One of my enduring baseball memories was attending the Red Sox/Twins game on July 24, 1995. This is the only time I recall attending a game at Fenway where I sat in the bleachers. Wakefield started the game and gave up a triple to Chuck Knoblauch. He then struck out the next two batters, while Knoblauch danced around third base. Finally, while facing the next batter, he looked over at Knoblauch and cocked his head towards home plate, saying “If you’re going to go, then go.” Knoblauch went, and Wakefield threw him out on the steal attempt. Presumably on the knuckleball, since he rarely threw anything else, although he did occasionally throw a “fast” ball which was probably slower than most pitchers’ breaking balls.

The other memorable moment was in a game I didn’t watch, since I refuse to watch Yankees playoff games, and none more so than the 2004 ALCS. In game 3, the Yankees were tee’ing off of Red Sox pitching, to the tune of 10 runs in 3-1/3 innings. While the Sox were not completely out of it, Wakefield came in and threw 3-1/3 innings himself, giving up another 5 runs but likely helping save the rest of the pitching staff for the team’s historic comeback over the next 4 games.

Wakefield supposedly had a team-friendly contract which got renewed every year until the end of his career. I haven’t been able to find details of this deal, so maybe I imagined it, but as a very durable mid-rotation starter and long reliever, he probably appreciated the job security and he objectively made plenty of money while being able to stay with the Red Sox for the rest of his career. Sometimes it’s not all about the money. And he did win 2 championships with them.

Although he never got the attention of David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, or other star players, Tim Wakefield was an ever-present part of the Red Sox for a really, really long time, baffling pitchers (and catchers) with his ridiculous stuff.

Thanks for everything, Tim.


I’ve been thinking about newspapers recently. My generation might be the last one to read newspapers in large numbers, and in fact I still get the newspaper delivered every day, which is probably rare even among my generation today.

I don’t think even my generation has a true understanding of how important and influential newspapers once were in the United States. They were effectively the only form of mass media in the 19th and early 20th century, and major newspaper publishers could be major figures in public life. But their influence waned as new mass media technologies were developed – radio, television, and of course the Internet.

When I was a kid, my parents subscribed to the Boston Globe daily, and the New York Times on Sunday. We’d walk up to the local newsstand to buy the latter. I, of course, bought comic books instead, and that’s where I started with newspapers: The comics page. I was a big fan of Garfield, and I also remember cutting out episodes of The Amazing Spider-Man and taping or pasting them to paper to gather whole stories to read. Later on I discovered Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbes, and others, though honestly the quality of strips dropped off pretty quickly after those two. (The heyday of newspaper strips was long before I started reading them.)

For three years in high school I had a history teacher – Dr. Paul Gottlieb – who every year said we should read the newspaper and that we could supersede the regular syllabus to discuss current events, so long as we actually talked about it. I never took him up on it, but a few other students would half-heartedly try, mainly to try to defer talking about the class materials, but it never worked. Obviously Dr. Gottlieb had been around this block a few times.

(Aside: While I was pretty much a C+ student in his class, Dr. Gottlieb was one of my favorite teachers in high school. He died – from a heart attack, I heard – a few years after I graduated. So I never got to hear his recitation of the history of the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringens. I think I’m now older than he was when he died.)

I also was a delivery boy for the (now defunct) Newton Graphic in high school, one of two weekly papers in my home town. I picked up the route from a friend of mine. It involved the papers being delivered to my house in a stack, and I’d have to fold and rubber-band them and then walk or bike around the route delivering them. And I’d get paid, thus supporting my comic book habit. I wasn’t very good at it, mostly in that I wasn’t able to carry a bag full of papers without really hurting my shoulder. So I’d wrap the bag around the handle of my bike and ride around, which worked great until the day I was booking back home with the empty bag flapping off the handle, and it flew right into the spokes of the front wheel, throwing me off the bike and leaving me with badly skinned hands and knees. But no permanent damage, fortunately.

I had to deliver in the rain, which led to a couple of complaints that I was being lazy and throwing the papers on the steps where they got wet. So I had to go up to each door and put the paper somewhere dry. I’m sure I saw it as an annoying inconvenience rather than learning a lesson from it. (Aside: Not that I don’t take responsibility for my, well, irresponsibility, it’s just that after over 35 years it feels like it was done by someone else, and that I’d do a better job and better react to the experience than I did then. Of course, maybe I’m fooling myself!)

I had a couple of routes during the years I delivered, for reasons I don’t remember. And I’m sure I got less out of it than I should have, but “I got less out of it then I should have” could be the tag line for my whole teenage years.

And now, a discontinuity: When I went off to college at Tulane, I started reading the paper every day. I don’t know why, I just did. The New Orleans paper of record was the Times-Picayune, which has since merged with another paper. I’d walk down from my sixth-floor dorm room and across the street to buy a paper from the vending machine. I imagine it cost about 50ยข an issue, but I don’t remember. But I don’t really remember clearly reading this paper. Maybe I read it all through college, maybe not. I suspect not, because I don’t think I was reading a paper when I went to grad school at Wisconsin in Madison.

That changed in the spring of 1993 when I started playing fantasy baseball. This was at the very leading edge of being able to compute the weekly results by computer, which our league commissioner handled, but it was really before the World Wide Web, so if you wanted to follow your team you had to buy a newspaper, read the box scores, and tally up the scores yourself. (Before this, league owners would compute their scores by hand from the box scores in the newspaper. I’m sure it was delightful.)

Madison had – and I think still has – two daily newspapers, the Wisconsin State Journal, published in the morning, and the Capital Times, published in the afternoon. (This was a weird holdover from the days when many papers would publish two – or more – editions per day, a practice which ended well before my time.) Since I wanted to see the box scores every morning, I subscribed to the State Journal. I think the Cap Times was a slightly more left-wing paper, but the State Journal had really good sports coverage, in particular they would publish every box score of every baseball game, even if a game ran late and they had to run it a day later. I learned how important this was to me when I became immersed in fantasy baseball when I went back to visit my parents that summer and found that the Boston Globe definitely did not do this, which was immensely frustrating.

To further feed my fantasy baseball habit, I bought USA Today once or twice a week, as it had detailed baseball transactions. I also bought USA Today’s Baseball Weekly, which featured in-depth coverage of the ongoing season combined with fun historical articles. It was a competitor of The Sporting News, which had been the preferred paper for fantasy baseball owners for years, but for whatever reason I picked and stuck with BW. I even cut out a stack of articles from it over the years, which I still have sitting in my office upstairs. While these papers are both still going, I suspect they lost much of their readership to fantasy web sites in the early 2000s. Both of these papers I picked up from the newsstand rather than subscribing – these were the days when convenience stores would have racks of papers, so it was easy to find them.

Madison had at least two other newspapers while I lived there, one being the weekly free local paper Isthmus, and the other being The Onion. Yes, that paper. I kind of regret not saving some of my copies of The Onion from when it was a local humor weekly, as keepsakes. Especially the one with my all-time favorite headline, “Chick Corea Falls to Communists”. Anyway, I think Madison may have had another local weekly – probably entertainment-focused, and maybe others I no longer remember, but those are the four I recall.

Another thing which was in vogue in the 90s were weekly newspapers which would collect political and other cartoons, as national syndication could be spotty for some artists. It was a great way to follow, for example, Tom Toles, or other favorite political cartoonists at the time. Once newspapers started going online, these papers largely went away.

I think initially I was buying the Wisconsin State Journal at a nearby convenience store, and only during baseball season, but once I finished school and got a real job I subscribed. This was a little exciting as I lived in a fancy (for Madison) apartment building with a locked front door, so everyone in the building who subscribed got their papers dumped in the atrium outside that door. The delivery person did write the apartment unit on each paper, though, so everyone knew if they’d gotten theirs or not.

In 1999 I moved to the Bay Area, and again I chose my paper based on its baseball coverage, going with the San Jose Mercury News, which like the Wisconsin State Journal had excellent daily baseball boxscores. What it also had was a muckraking sensibility which regularly exposed scandals in local and state politics. As the newspaper industry has contracted, the Merc has changed ownership a couple of times, but the paper is still pretty solid, with national, local, and sports/finance sections – plus comics pages, games pages, weather, and a pretty hefty Sunday edition. Between my recent visit to Boston where I bought a Globe exactly once, and accidentally receiving a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle last week, I have a new appreciation for the Merc‘s standing among daily newspapers.

My current home town of Mountain View also had a weekly local paper, the Voice, part of a network of local papers in the area. The Voice discontinued its print edition at the beginning of COVID in 2020, but continues to publish online. It’s not quite the same, and I miss picking up the Voice every weekend when we’d go downtown for dinner, but I still pitch 10 bucks per month to support them. They do good work.

The Merc is pretty expensive to subscribe to these days, but I still get it. One good thing – for me – about the decline of newspapers is that my paper hardly ever gets stolen out of my driveway anymore. Sure, I could read all this stuff online, but I enjoy reading it on paper. For now it’s worth it to me.

I don’t feel nostalgic for the eras of newspapers of the past, though I do think they served a valuable role in investigatory news which has been seriously degraded over the last 20 years. It would be nice if we could have that and what we get from the Internet, but it seems it isn’t to be. I wouldn’t be surprised if all but a few big national papers and some niche local papers like the Voice fold completely in my lifetime.

It’s strange to think that my life has been witness to the end stages of the newspaper as a business and social phenomenon.

The Baseball Hall of Fame is a Clown Show

Yes yes, David Ortiz made it into the Hall this year.

But Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were not admitted in their final year of eligibility for admission by the voters. Almost certainly because many of the voters believe they used steroids.

It doesn’t really matter to me whether they used steroids, or if they were entitled jerks. They’re scapegoats. As far as I’m concerned, the Hall of Fame is meaningless as long as Bonds and Clemens aren’t in it.

I believe that Major League Baseball willfully turned a blind eye to players using performance-enhancing drugs for decades, dating back to amphetamine use in the 1940s. The owners reaped the rewards of players like Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Palmeiro and others breaking records in the 1990s and 2000s. The buck stops with the owners and their businesses, who fostered and facilitated this environment.

Baseball and the owners should admit and publicly apologize for their culpability in the PED scandal. They should grant amnesty to every player suspected of using PEDs through (at least) 2005, and by fiat put any player with even a borderline case for election into the Hall. That’s the very least they should do, given the huge benefits they reaped.

Barring that, every player in the Hall who played between 1946 and 2005 should be removed from the Hall.

Are the players culpable? I don’t care. The owners’ shadow games have muddied the waters too much for us to know what happened, and in any event the owners share whatever blame the players deserve due to their (at least) negligence.

Until then, I say that the Hall of Fame is a joke. A clown show.

2018 in Review

Of the many personal looks back at 2018 I’ve read over the last couple of days, I think the most memorable to read was that of Peter Sagal on Twitter. My year wasn’t that great – I doubt many peoples’ was – but it was still pretty great.

I rarely talk about work here, but a lot of the great was due to work. Over a year ago we had some shuffling on my team after which one of my long-tile colleagues jokingly asked me how it felt to be the senior engineer on the project I was on. That question caused me to realize that this was a point where I could continue cruising along the way I had been – plugging away on my assigned tasks – or I could step up to more of a leadership role. I don’t at this point fully recall how my head worked through it all, but as you can guess I decided to do the latter. (“Up my game” was a phrase that went through my head.) I wrote a little bit about this last year, and this year felt like the payoff of what began back then.

Anyway, the past year-plus has involved shepherding the project through some major milestones, helping to plan and organize them, and also helping to onboard two new hires.

It was a year of learning a bunch of new skills, and a number of lessons too, some of which also opened my mind about, well, working with people and just plain interacting with people. It wasn’t all stuff that was right in my wheelhouse, and it was certainly frazzling and exhausting at times, but I can look back and feel like I – and the whole team – accomplished some great stuff.

One thing I’ve been working on embracing through all of this is the value of being positive: Giving people encouragement and speaking up when people do good stuff. I’m a bit of a cynic at heart so this doesn’t always come naturally to me, but there are so many opportunities in software to be negative – many of them part of the normal flow of the job, because software development means bug fixes, revision, refinement, and critique. I’ve been finding that it helps to balance out dealing with the negative parts by also emphasizing the positive. (At least I think it helps! It helps me when other people do it.) This seems obvious in hindsight, but it’s such a wide-ranging principle that it’s something I’m still working on, and I keep thinking of more nuances to it, things I can improve on or should stop doing.

And as you might imagine it’s only a short hop from thinking about this at work to thinking about it in my personal life, social interactions, and on the Internet.

So anyway, I’ve grown a lot the last year (I think), but there’s always more to learn and new ways to improve. Plenty to keep working on in 2019!

My personal life didn’t have quite the same feeling of accomplishment, but I had a good year there, too. I didn’t take a lot of vacation last year, but we did have a nice two-week trip back east to visit our families and stay at our beach house over the summer. And I went to the World Science Fiction Convention.

I also had a grand old time all summer following my Boston Red Sox, who jumped out to a big lead early in the season and never let it go. I felt like this team’s offense wasn’t close to the level of the 2013 team’s wrecking crew, and beyond Chris Sale I was pretty concerned that the pitching staff wouldn’t carry them deep in the playoffs.

And boy was I wrong.

David Price reinvented himself as a control pitcher, the bullpen went from question mark to exclamation point, and the offense kept coming up with big hits at the best times, especially hometown hero and mid-season acquisition Steve Pearce, who must have found the whole thing an unbelievable experience.

And then there was Andrew Benintendi, who I think provided more sheer fun and enthusiasm than just about every other player in the postseason put together:

Benintendi saves ALCS game 4
Great leaping catch in World Series game 2

All of which added up to a surprising and very satisfying World Series championship, the franchise’s fourth this century, and a lot of great October entertainment for me!

We’ve wrapped up the year in a low-key manner. Unfortunately Debbi came down with a bad cold on Christmas Day and it’s lingered through New Year’s. We did manage a trip up to San Francisco, and also out to Half Moon Bay and Pacifica, as well as having people over for games and to hang out on New Year’s Eve afternoon, but otherwise we’ve been hanging out at home trying to get her well.

Hopefully she’s turning the corner and that 2019 will start looking up shortly.

At Long Last, A Baseball Game

Last night I went to a baseball game in person for the first time in several years. Honestly my baseball fandom has flagged in recent years, but I followed it closely for almost 20 years so I don’t feel too badly about it.


I’d actually been invited as part of a group to a luxury box at AT&T Park. I’d been to a Giants luxury box once before, and it’s very nice, but when I got there it wasn’t what I expected: Rather than one of the paneled boxes in the second deck, the “Corona Beach Club” appears to be where the news photographers used to set, so it’s in front of the first row along the first base line, about 3 feet below field level. The view from the box looked like this:

(click for larger image)
(click for larger image)

The folks hosting the box sprung for a fair amount of catered food, for instance this:

The food spread

It was all quite yummy. Well, the sausages were standard ballpark sausages with moist buns, so that wasn’t great, but I mostly stuck to the soft tacos.

It was a pretty exciting game. Admittedly, with only 4 games left the Giants weren’t playing for much, as all that was left to decide was whether they’d be hosting their wild card game or not, and they’d clinched their wild card spot earlier that day when the Brewers lost. Still, the Giants jumped out to a 6-0 lead, then watched it collapse in the 7th inning, backed by a grand slam, and then they retook the lead in the bottom of the 7th, helped in part by a successful suicide squeeze (I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in person before), and eventually won the game 9-8. It took three and a half hours – I think a third of it making up that seventh inning.

Looking towards home plate

The team was also celebrating the 60th anniversary of “The Catch” by Willie Mays (which actually happened on September 29, but there are no games scheduled for that day this year), and Mays (who is 83 years old) came out in a very spiffy car, and was driven around the field occasionally throwing baseballs into the crowd. I snapped a couple of good pictures of him, the second one being just as he tossed a ball into our box (no, I didn’t catch it):

Willie Mays in his car

Willie Mays tossing a baseball

Occasionally Major League Baseball is a little too wrapped up in celebrating itself, but it’s hard not to appreciate when a team does something like this for one of its greats.

The weather was great, the game was fun, I got some good pictures, and even enjoyed riding CalTrain to and from the park (and the walk home from the station at a little after midnight was kind of pleasant, too). I’m gonna have to go see another game or two next year.

Celebration of winning a playoff berth

Fantasy Baseball 2012

2011 was a pretty frustrating fantasy baseball season for me: I drafted what I thought was a terrific team, and then got slammed by injuries and slumps (such as Albert Pujols’ ineffective-then-injured first half, Rafael Furcal having nothing left, and Chad Billingsley turning into a pumpkin) and struggled to cover for the pieces, ultimately finishing 8th out of 16 teams. On the bright side, finishing 8th gave me the first overall pick for 2012, so I decided to come back for my 20th year of fantasy baseball.

My keeper roster was tough to figure out, since Albert Pujols and Cliff Lee seemed clearly better than anyone else I had to keep, but they also used 3/4 of my keeper years. I considered not keeping Pujols and drafting him with the first pick, but I had trouble figuring out how to turn James Shields (or Ryan Zimmerman) + 5 more years into something equivalent to the guy I was planning to take, Roy Halladay. So ultimately I traded Lucas Duda and Jamile Weeks for a 3rd and a 7th round pick, and kept Pujols. I tried mightily to acquire enough years to keep Shields, but couldn’t do it, alas.

I went into the draft with two solid starters – Lee and Jordan Zimmermann – and with Halladay I figured I’d start working on hitters. A good strategy, since the pitching pool felt quite deep this year. But the hitting pool seemed so shallow that this year really tested my maxim that you can always draft hitting.

Here’s the team I drafted:

Pos Player Team Round/
Age Comments
C Miguel Montero ARI 2/17 28 I took him in the 4th round last year, and he had a breakout season. I sure hope he can do it again.
1B Albert Pujols LAA Kept 32 Let’s see whether moving to the American League perks up his bat this year.
1B Ryan Howard PHI 14/209 32 Taking a gamble that he’ll play this year and hit a bit.
1B James Loney LAN 16/241 27
2B Neil Walker PIT Kept 26 Another guy I’m hoping will repeat his 2011.
3B Ian Stewart CHN 12/177 26 Whether he’s really my third baseman remains to be seen. I have other options as backups.
SS Jimmy Rollins PHI 4/64 33
OF Nick Markakis BAL 3/43 28 Another year, another weak outfield.
OF Josh Willingham MIN 7/97 33
OF Alfonso Soriano CHN 8/113 36 Drafted purely for his power.
C Tyler Flowers CHA 24/373 26 Marginal backup catcher, maybe Pierzynski will get hurt and he’ll break out.
C Gorman Erickson LAN 25/400 24 Might get called up if the Dodgers can’t stand their current options.
1B/3B Mat Gamel MIL 10/145 26 At least, I hope he plays enough – and plays well – to qualify at 1B this year.
2B/OF Howie Kendrick LAA 4/49 28
3B/OF Martin Prado ATL 7/107 28
SS Clint Barmes PIT 23/361 33 Another guy I just hope plays and hits some dingers.
SS Jonathan Villar HOU 22/348 21
SS/OF Grant Green OAK 25/393 24
OF Peter Bourjos LAA 18/273 25
OF Brett Jackson CHN Kept 23
OF Domingo Santana HOU 21/335 19
OF Michael Choice OAK 24/383 22
SP Roy Halladay PHI 1/1 34 I don’t think there was anyone else available who was clearly a better choice for the first overall pick this year.
SP Cliff Lee PHI Kept 32 I was surprised he fell to me with the 8th pick. Taking him was a no-brainer, as Halladay and Sabathia had already been picked.
SP Jordan Zimmermann WAS Kept 25
SP Matt Garza CHN 3/33 28
SP John Danks CHA 6/81 26
SP Ryan Dempster CHN 9/129 24 How did I end up drafting so many Cubs?
SP Brett Cecil TOR 19/289 25
SP Josh Tomlin CLE 20/305 27 There wasn’t much left in starting pitchers at this point.
SP Julio Teheran ATL Kept 21
SP Wily Peralta MIL 21/321 23
RP Addison Reed CHA 13/193 23
RP Grant Balfour OAK 15/225 34
RP Sergio Romo SFN 17/257 29

I’m definitely gambling on a few players coming through rather than washing out (Mat Gamel, for instance), and as often happens I hate my outfield. But it could be much worse, and I do have quality starting pitching. It’s not a world-beating team, but it has potential.

Farewell to Tim Wakefield

Tim Wakefield is my all-time favorite Red Sox, for several reasons, but here are two:

1) I picked him up for my fantasy team when he came to the Red Sox in 1995, and he promptly had the season of his life (despite fading down the stretch). We might never see a knuckleballer have a season that great ever again (considering we only see a really good knuckleballer about once per generation).

2) He helped save the staff in Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS when the Yankees were pounding all comers (including Tim) into the dirt en route to one of the most lopsided playoff victories ever. Wakefield threw over 3 innings and saved other good pitchers for Game 4 and the Sox’ historic and unique comeback.

Plus of course he’s one of the longest-tenured Sox (17 years!), pitched longer than most (he’s 45, one of the few players last season older than me), and seemed as dedicated to the team as anyone. While David Ortiz has been the face of the franchise this past decade, Wakefield has always been right there, usually an average starting pitcher, but never as flashy as some of the other players.

Wakefield retired from playing baseball today, which is the end of an era for the team as far as I’m concerned.

I saw him pitch in person a few times, but none more memorable than one game at Fenway in his magical 1995 season, against the Twins. As I recall, he somehow loaded the bases in the top of the first inning, and then got the next two hitters. Chuck Knoblauch was the Twins’ leadoff hitter (before he went to the Yankees he was a great player), and he spent much of the inning dancing around third base. From my vantage point in the bleachers it looked like Wakefield finally got frustrated with Knoblauch, looked at him, and waggled his head as if to say, “If you’re gonna go, then go.”

On the next pitch, Knoblauch broke for home plate, and he was tagged out at home. Side retired with no runs.

Kirby Puckett – still a great hitter, but in his last season, though no one (including him) knew it at the time – didn’t start, but he came in to pitch-hit with 2 outs in the ninth and the Red Sox leading. On – I think – the first pitch, Puckett hit a rocket to left field which was snagged by the shortstop to end the game.

Wakefield was a really fun player (“how the heck did he get that pitch anywhere near over the plate, never mind getting a called strike?”) and a class act. I’ll miss him a lot.

Fantasy Baseball 2011

I was able to make it up to Wondercon only for Saturday last weekend because my fantasy baseball league decided to hold our annual draft on Sunday. 5 of our local owners gathered in a conference room at Apple and spent close to 10 hours drafting our teams. I probably put less effort into this draft than any one I’d ever done before.

My strategy, such as it was, mainly involved drafting younger. Last year’s team was awful, though not so much due to age as due to a lot of marginal players with low upside. I think I did well drafting for youth and guys with upside (but I did draft a few old players; I think some old guys are worth picking in the right spots). Secondarily I wanted to avoid drafting hitters in pitchers’ parks and pitchers in hitters’ parks. I didn’t do a great job at that, although I think any choices were fairly defensible.

Here’s the team I ended up with:

Pos Player Team Round/
Age Comments
C Miguel Montero ARI 4/56 28 I’ve been a big fan of Montero for years now, and I’m happy to have him now that he’s got the starting job in Arizona.
1B Albert Pujols SLN Kept 31
2B Neil Walker PIT 5/65 25 I’m not so comfortable relying on a young second baseman for the second year in a row (last year’s guy, Scott Sizemore, was a bust). But many people seem to think he’ll be fine, and a few think he’ll be very good. He’s off to a hot start.
3B Ryan Zimmerman WAS Kept 26
SS Rafael Furcal LAN 7/112 33 Old hitter in a pitchers’ park. Not really what I wanted, but shortstops has really dried up by now.
OF Nick Swisher NYA 3/40 30
OF Carlos Quentin CHA 6/88 28 Pretty happy with this pick. He has breakout potential, but of course he also has bust potential.
OF Adam Jones BAL 7/104 25 This guy was a top prospect just a few years ago. And he’s only 25! He still has a chance to be a star, I think.
C Miguel Olivo SEA 12/184 32 The perfect backup catcher: Gets a lot of playing time and has impressive power. But, an old guy in a pitchers’ park.
C Ryan Lavarnway BOS 11/342 23 Top catching prospect in the Red Sox’ system – and they need a catcher.
1B Daric Barton OAK 10/152 25 Another “was a top prospect just a few years ago”, and maybe this year he’ll add some power. Another hitter in a pitchers’ park.
3B/SS Jhonny Peralta DET 8/120 29 The perfect infield backup: Qualifies at two positions, doesn’t kill you on average, and has power.
SS Zach Cozart CIN 23/368 25 Cozart has a weird performance history, alternating average with power. If either one shows up, he could make the Majors this year and be a quality shortstop.
OF Pat Burrell SFN 14/216 34 Old guy in a pitchers’ park. But also a guy guaranteed playing time and who has power. In the 14th round, this is the kind of guy you want.
OF Kosuke Fukudome CHN 18/280 34 Probably the first guy I’ll cut when someone better comes along. But he has some hitting skills which ain’t bad for a 5th outfielder.
OF Domonic Brown PHI Kept 25 Top hitting prospect starting the season on the DL due to a broken bone in his hand. I’m not sure I entirely believe in his ability, but certainly the potential for stardom is there; it seems like he has to put a lot of things together to achieve it, though.
OF Brett Jackson CHN 19/296 22
OF Eric Thames TOR 21/328 24
OF Matt Dominguez FLO 24/380 21 20-year-olds who hit well at AA are worth taking a flyer on. Unfortunately he got hurt before the season.
SP Cliff Lee PHI 1/8 32 I was surprised he fell to me with the 8th pick. Taking him was a no-brainer, as Halladay and Sabathia had already been picked.
SP James Shields TBA Kept 28 I agonized over keeping Shields or Zack Greinke. Shields has great peripherals but a serious problem with home runs. Greinke is a little more expensive, has moved to the NL, but is on a team (Milwaukee) with brutal defense, and will miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season with a broken rib. And who knows how long it will take him to be back to his normal self after that. Ultimately, Shields’ peripherals made me decide to go with him.
SP Chad Billingsley LAN 2/24 26
SP Jordan Zimmermann WAS Kept 25
SP Derek Lowe ATL 5/72 38 Probably an overdraft. And he’s the oldest guy on my team. But, he’s been reliable for a long time and doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
SP Ricky Nolasco FLO 6/83 28 Nolasco is a lot like Shields, and plays for the other Florida team. Again, I was sold on his peripherals.
SP Jorge de la Rosa COL 11/168 30 Pitcher in a hitters’ park!
SP A.J. Burnett NYA 11/76 34 If he stays healthy and is anywhere near his usual numbers, then this could be a steal.
SP Homer Bailey CIN 17/264 25 Frustrating prospect who’s struggled for a few years and is starting the season on the DL. But he’s only 25! Seemed worth taking a flyer.
SP Julio Teheran ATL Kept 20 Best pitching prospect in baseball.
SP Jacob Turner DET Kept 20 Second-best pitching prospect in baseball? That may be overstating things, but the difference between him and whoever’s above him is not huge.
SP Kyle Gibson MIN 15/232 23
RP Luke Gregerson SDN 9/136 27
RP Mike Adams SDN 16/248 32
RP Huston Street COL 13/200 27

Overall I think I executed fairly well. I’d really like to have a better shortstop, and to have found someone less risky than Lowe and de la Rosa to rely on. The outfield has a lot of potential but might not realize it. Otherwise I don’t have many complaints.

Last year’s team was a disaster – I finished next-to-last in the league – and I think this is clearly a better team. But our league is intensely competitive, so finishing in the money (among the top 7 of 16 teams) is not guaranteed.

I’ve been getting burned out on fantasy baseball, so this might be my last season in the league. Then again, I’m more excited about this team than I have been for a couple of years, so maybe I’ll be back. Especially if my prospects start developing.

Baseball and Me 2010

2010 marked the first year since I moved to California in 1999 that I didn’t attend a single baseball game – and it’s probably been longer than that, since I was going to Brewers games regularly in Wisconsin, so my run may have stretched back to 1993.

I just wasn’t in a baseball frame of mind this year. I couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for fantasy baseball (and had a terrible draft, eventually finishing 15th out of 16 teams, the first time I’d missed the money since before the Red Sox broke the Curse). While I watched games on television and listened on the radio, I just wasn’t as interested as in past years. It didn’t help that the Red Sox were plagued by an amazing array of injuries and were basically out of it in August. (And despite that they still had the second-best offense in the AL, and the fifth-best record, and were probably even better than their record since they play in the toughest division in baseball. They were only out of it so early because the Yankees and Rays were both excellent themselves this year.)

And it’s not like it wasn’t an interesting baseball year, especially around here where the San Francisco Giants won their first championship since 1954, when they were still in New York. The Giants were a strange champion, with no true star on offense (though Buster Posey may develop into one over the next few years, and he had a fine rookie season), so they did it mostly with pitching, led by Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, two bona-fide aces (Lincecum reaches the Majors, wins 2 Cy Young awards, and then the World Series; what a life this kid has had and he’s still got most of his career ahead of him). But they struggled down to the last day of the season to win their division (which helps explain why Joe Posnanski ranked them as one of the weakest champions since World War II), and then won a string of 1-run games in the playoffs before finally dominating the Rangers in the World Series. But they always seemed to have just enough to win through when it really counted, and the team was generally a likable group of players, which made for fun and often exciting baseball.

As a capstone to my own baseball season, my friend Syd bought the two of us tickets to Game 6 of the series – and the Giants won in 5. Disappointing, especially since we would have had good seats and it would have been awesome to be at a World Series clinching game (or even any game). And it was weird to be rooting halfheartedly (and entirely self-interestedly) for the Rangers in Game 5, even though I knew I was really rooting for the Giants. (Leaving work that day, I said to a Giants-fan cow-orker of mine, “Go Rangers!” He snorted and responded, “Go home!”)

Then this week I learned that ESPN is dropping Jon Miller and Joe Morgan as the hosts of Sunday Night Baseball. While Morgan doesn’t quite drive me as crazy as he does some fans, I love Miller’s broadcasting, and I’m quite sad to see him go. Fortunately I’ll still be able to hear him broadcasting Giants games on TV and radio. Still, it’s the end of an era. (I’d suspected Morgan was planning to retire when they brought in Orel Hershiser this year as a second analyst; Hershiser has potential in the role, so I’m curious whether he’ll be brought back.)

Anyway, other than being happy for Giants fans, it’s been a glum baseball season for me. I’m not sure why my enthusiasm chose this year to crater, although part of it is having fewer friends to enjoy the game with. While I still talk baseball with local friends Subrata and Chris, my two most-enthusiastic baseball friends over the last decade have been Syd (who moved to Texas a few years ago) and Ceej (who seems to have dropped off the grid in recent years). And then other hobbies (e.g., Magic) have risen to take up a lot of time I might once have spent on baseball.

So I’ve gone from attending 15 baseball games a year to zero, and whether my enthusiasm will bounce back, I don’t know.

Fantasy Baseball 2010

Yesterday we performed our annual ritual of picking real baseball players to join fake teams. Last year was a disappointing year for me as I had a really good team, traded my 3rd-round pick in 2010 for Jason Bay, and then my whole team decided to take June and half of July off. I struggled my way back and finished in 4th place, which ain’t bad (the top 7 spots out of 16 teams pay), but I failed yet again to beat my 1999 performance, when I finished 3rd. Frustrating.

I headed into the draft with the best hitter in baseball, one of the 5 best pitchers, a top third baseman, and another good pitcher. But also down one pick, and with no true prospects in development. So here’s how the draft shook out for me:


Pos Player Team Round/
Age Comments
C Kurt Suzuki OAK 6/93 26 Victor Martinez was the first pick in the league. Suzuki has a little upside and is sure to play every day.
1B Albert Pujols SLN Kept 30
2B Scott Sizemore DET 7/109 25 A bit of a risky pick, as it’s by no means clear the Tigers will stick with him, even though he should be a decent hitter. And unfortunately I have no backup plan at second base.
3B Ryan Zimmerman WAS Kept 25
SS Yunel Escobar ATL 1/13 27
OF Josh Willingham WAS 5/77 31
OF Mike Cameron BOS 8/125 37
OF Conor Jackson ARI 10/157 27
OF Juan Rivera LAA 13/205 31
C Nick Hundley SDN 19/301 26
C Jonathan LuCroy MIL 20/317 24 LuCroy and Exposito are both catching prospects. LuCroy is probably close, Exposito is at least a year away – assuming he keeps hitting.
C Luis Exposito BOS 26/405 23
3B Casey Blake LAN 16/253 36
SS Cliff Pennington OAK 23/363 25
2B/SS/3B Craig Counsell MIL 25/397 39 My one multiposition backup – such as he is, at age 39.
OF Luke Scott BAL 12/189 21
OF Rick Ankiel KCA 28/418 20
OF Domonic Brown PHI 15/237 22 A perhaps-slightly-overrated prospect for the Phillies.
SP Zack Greinke KCA Kept 26
SP James Shields TBA Kept 27
SP John Lackey BOS 2/29 31
SP Scott Baker MIN 4/61 28
SP Justin Masterson CLE Kept 25
SP Charlie Morton PIT 14/221 26
SP Ross Ohlendorf PIT 18/281 27
SP Tom Gorzelanny CHN 22/349 27
SP Daniel McCutchen PIT 24/376 27 Having 3/5ths of the Pirates rotation could be my key to victory!
RP Jose Valverde DET 11/173 30
RP Chris Perez CLE 17/267 24
RP Sergio Romo SFN 21/333 27
RP Hideki Okajima BOS 27/412 34
SP Jacob Turner DET 9/141 19 This year’s “out on a limb” prospect pick, he was the Tigers’ first-round pick in 2009 and has yet to pitch in the minors, but is very highly regarded.
SP Julio Teheran ATL 29/422 19 Another very young, highly-regarded pitcher, but he hasn’t yet shown his potential yet.
SP Cory Luebke SDN 30/425 25 And another prospect, but this one may well be up this year.

I hoped to go back to taking a big bopper with my first-round pick, but there weren’t many left when my 13th-overall pick came around, thanks to our deep keeper rules, so instead I took Yunel Escobar, who is a strong-hitting shortstop who has additional upside. I used my 4th round pick to take Josh Willingham, who can rake when he’s healthy. And I beefed up my rotation with John Lackey and Scott Baker, which should make it quite good.

The first ten rounds of my draft went pretty well, I thought. As I said, my main regret was not having a better plan in case Scott Sizemore doesn’t work out, and not having a quality multiposition backup. Otherwise I have a pretty balanced team, albeit with my usual less-than-dominating bullpen. And I’ve restocked with some high-upside prospects.

Our league continues to get more competitive, as once again I was scrounging for guys to pick with my last few picks. But my list of prospects was very deep this year.

And as always I have no idea whether I’ll truly compete. I have some injury risks here and there (Lackey, Willingham, a couple of old guys), but I’m by no means relying on everyone being completely healthy. I’m just hoping I can come out of the gate strong, since struggling to get back in the hunt after a slow start always sucks.