Baseball has brought back the beard

Sports Illustrated put together The Definitive Guide to MLB’s Best Facial Hair. And it’s awesome.

The fact that baseball players are sporting such daring facial hair these days is fantastic. Well, at least in my opinion it is.

The last US president with facial hair was William Howard Taft in 1913. Our country has basically been in a dreadful facial hair drought.

But baseball players are leading the way in bringing the hair back. Other professions should follow suit.

Game 1: Don’t Jump to Any Conclusions

Tonight is the 2015 MLB season opener between the Cubs and Cardinals at Wrigley Field. The Cubs go into this season with high expectations, so many Cardinal fans will be waiting to jump to conclusions based on the outcome of this game. They best be careful.

I remember going to St. Louis for the 2012 Cardinal home opener, which also happened to be against the Cubs. This was a special game for Cardinal fans as they celebrated their 2011 World Series victory. However, it didn’t take long for the festive atmosphere to die down.

By the top of the fourth inning the Cubs were ahead 9-0. They went on to win 9-5 and I went on to be harassed as I made my way out of the park. I recall a drunk idiot violently expressing his feelings about how Theo Epstein wouldn’t be able to save the Cubs.

The Cardinals went on to the NLCS in 2012 only to lose in game seven to the Giants. The Cubs? They may have rained on the Cardinal home opener parade (actually real rain did that too) but they finished dead last in the Central Division in 2012.

We’re yet to see whether Theo’s efforts will ultimately bring a World Series victory to the Cubs, but we do know Cub fans have plenty of reasons to be excited. One of those reasons is tonight’s MLB opener at Wrigley.

Lester, Rizzo, Maddon and company will be front and center under baseball’s spotlight at one of the best baseball cathedrals on Easter Sunday.

Win or lose for the Cubs tonight, it won’t matter. This is going to be a fun season either way.

Cheers to a great opening game. Go Cubs!

Taking the Easy Route

This is a follow up to my last post.

I’m sorry to report that the Hummingbirds were defeated in the championship by Something Different. Yes, that was my opponent’s team name.

It’s bad enough losing to an idiotically named team, but what really burns is that the “manager” of Something Different used the easy button then walked away.

What does this mean?

Strat Instant Draft
Strat-O-Matic Online Baseball has a button that will instantly draft a team for you. I can accept this. Give me a random roster to manage. It’s a way to quickly get things underway.

I get it. The easy button is there for a reason. Use it if you want.

What’s hard to swallow is that the championship went to the one person who let the computer make every decision possible during the entire season.

Our league had eleven managers that actually played the game. They managed their players and had fun doing it. But they all lost.

Taking the easy route can be viewed as lazy or genius depending on the situation. The jury is still out for which is the case here.

Either way. It’s a game and I had fun. Congrats to Something Different.

Meet the Hummingbirds

I’m one game away from winning my first Online Strat-O-Matic Baseball championship. For a nerd like me, this is epic.

uniformsTo celebrate this accomplishment, I’ve created a collage of all the players on my team’s roster, along with a mock-up of what their uniforms might look like. After all, this is fantasy baseball at its best. Why not have fun with it?

(The jersey is actually a design copied from the 1942 Oakland Oaks, available for purchase through Ebbets Field Flannels.)

But there’s more to this effort than just celebrating victory. I’m celebrating diversity. I’m celebrating balance.

Let me explain.

The Woes of Drafting a Team

Every time I start to draft a Strat team using their All-Time Greats player set, I’m faced with tough decisions.

Do I go for crazy offensive power or opt for dominating pitching? Lord knows I can’t have both with the 80 million dollar salary cap.

Do I go for speed? On-base percentage? Maybe I stack my team with sluggers and pick a home run friendly park.

I’ve tried many different approaches, some met with success and others not so much. But with this recent team I had one focus: balance.

Creating Balance

In order to create a balanced team I needed to have an even distribution of lefties and righties, with some switch hitters thrown in.

I also needed to be careful with my funds. It’s easy to go for the expensive players thinking they will guarantee victory, but this seems to always create problems with balance.

My good friend BG said it best: If you boost one aspect of your team, you take away something somewhere else.

It was important for me to have some speed, some power, good utility players, at least one all-star, solid pitching (including a good bullpen), and above average defense. Oh, I wanted a core of dependable players; players that would be healthy day in and day out.

I felt meeting these goals would build a balanced team that could match up decently with any opponent.

Of course this also meant selecting a home field that was neither too hitter friendly or too pitcher friendly. I needed a ballpark that was just as balanced as my team would be.

In the end, I think I did ok. It’s time to introduce the team.

The Huddersfield Hummingbirds

The Hummingbirds have players from nearly every decade, spanning from 1905 to 1989.

Leading off is center fielder, Richie Ashburn, from the 1958 Philadelphia Phillies. He’s a steal (pun intended). For under 5 mil he brings stellar stats and lighting speed (.350/.440/.441).

Batting second is second baseman, Roberto Alomar, from the 1992 Toronto Blue Jays. (I apologize that his picture above is from Cleveland. I chose quality over accuracy. Again, balance.) Roberto is a top-rated fielder (1e8) sacrificing nothing with his bat (.310/.405/.427). He’s 7.49 mil, but worth every penny.

Batting third is right fielder, Chino Smith, an all-star from the Negro League. Chino brings the golden bat (.388/.435/.621). He has serious RBI potential and always seems to come up with the big hit. Plus, he looks like a total badass.

In the cleanup spot is first baseman, Hank Greenberg, from the 1938 Detroit Tigers. Hank was one of the first Jewish sports superstars. One of his nicknames was “The Hebrew Hammer” because of his home run power. He hit 58 home runs in 1938 and is a great slugger (.315/.438/.683) for under 9 million dollars.

Batting fifth is left fielder, Ben Oglivie, from the 1980 Milwaukee Brewers. He is the yin to Hank Greenberg’s yang. Hank brings right-handed power and hits right-handed pitching well. Ben has left-handed power and hits left-handed pitching well. In 1980 he hit over 40 home runs and had over 100 RBIs. He brings a stat line well worth 5.56 million dollars (.304/.362/.563).

Batting sixth is third baseman, Bill Madlock, from the 1979 Pittsburg Pirates. Bill brings a good mix of hitting and speed with a .298 batting average and over 30 stolen bases (.298/.355/.438). He’s cheap and perfect for the six spot.

Batting seventh is shortstop, Bud Harrelson, from the 1971 New York Mets. Bud has a gold glove (1e19), stellar speed, and a great bat. Even though his stat line is so-so (.252/.319/.303) he is excellent for bunts and hit-and-run plays. Plus, he’s another switch hitter in the lineup.

Batting eighth is a catcher platoon of Jody Davis (1984 Chicago Cubs) and Jerry Grote (1969 New York Mets). Although they’re both right-handed hitters, Jerry hits lefties well (.252/.313/.351) while Jody destroys right-handed pitching (.256/.315/.421). Both are solid catchers with decent arms.

Batting ninth is the pitcher. Ken Hill (1992 Montreal Expos) is my best hitting pitcher (6NR) but also won 20 games for the Hummingbirds with his arm. This was a great surprise seeing that Ken is number three in a four man rotation. Eddie Plank (1905 Philadelphia A’s) is my ace (2.26/1.04) but struggled this season going 14-19. The rotation is rounded out by Nick Maddox (1909 Pittsburg Pirates) and Jim Kaat (1971 Minnesota Twins).

I owe it to my bullpen to give them some credit as well. Wilcy Moore (1927 New York Yankees), Craig Lefferts (1984 San Diego Padres), Gary Lucas (1981 San Diego Padres), and Mark Williamson (1989 Baltimore Orioles) combined for 30 wins and 44 saves. It should also be noted that 75% of my bullpen sports a creepy mustache.

My bench players contributed greatly, but because of laziness I’m only listing their names in the roster/photo listing below.

Complete Roster as Pictured Above

Row 1

  • Richie Ashburn
  • Roberto Alomar
  • Chino Smith
  • Hank Greenberg
  • Ben Oglivie
  • Bill Madlock

Row 2

  • Bud Harrelson
  • Jody Davis
  • Jerry Grote
  • Eddie Plank
  • Nick Maddox
  • Ken Hill

Row 3

  • Jim Kaat
  • Wilcy Moore
  • Craig Lefferts
  • Gary Lucas
  • Mark Williamson
  • Billy Cox

Row 4

  • Bobby Clark
  • Doc Cramer
  • Ken Boswell
  • Sandy Alomar Sr.
  • Mark Koenig
  • Dick Ruthven

In Conclusion

Balance is hard to achieve in anything, but well worth it. The Hummingbirds went 95-67 on the season and will hopefully win the championship. Although nothing is guaranteed in baseball, balance is definitely an important factor.

Battle of the Chosen Ones?

Teams are still fighting for playoff spots, so I know I’m jumping the gun here. However, at this point it isn’t difficult to imagine a 2014 World Series with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.

The Angels and Nationals both lead their respective leagues in wins. If I was a betting man, this seems like a safe bet.

Oh, but baseball loves to spoil predictions.

We’ll see what happens but make no mistake, if the poster boys of Major League Baseball face off in the Fall Classic it will be epic.

Wrigley Field Tarp Troubles

A brief but heavy downpour caused a rain delay during the game at Wrigley Field on Tuesday, August 19, 2014, between the San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs. The rain was said to have lasted between ten and fifteen minutes.

I’m certain the players and fans all expected the game to continue in no time, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

The grounds crew put the tarp on crooked and left a large part of the infield exposed, thus causing swampy conditions that only some decent sunlight could correct. Sunlight was about the only tool the grounds crew didn’t have available considering it was a night game.

After a four hour and thirty-four minute delay the game was cancelled. However, according the the rulebook the game was complete and the Cubs were winners by a score of two to nothing.

This was great news for the home team, but for the playoff-contending Giants, losing this type of game was unacceptable. So, they protested the decision.

The Giants got their way and the game was eventually continued. The Cubs held on to their lead and ended up winning anyways.

Now if the Giants fail to make the playoffs by one game they can’t blame the Wrigley Field grounds crew.

October Baseball in June

This summer I was finally able to wrangle enough friends and coworkers together for a private, 12 team Online Strat-O-Matic baseball league. It’s sad how thrilled this made me.

The season ended last week but for four lucky teams, including my Keswick Kingfishers, it’s playoff time; October baseball in June.

The Kingfishers are a tweaked version of my Twin Peaks Owls, which was a version of my New York City Seagulls. They won a fewer games than the Seagulls but more than the Owls, and once again topped the division.

Hack WilsonA key offensive addition has been Hack Wilson.

For the Kingfishers, I’m using Hack’s 1930 Strat card. That season he hit 56 homers and had an MLB record-setting 191 RBIs. He did not get close to these numbers throughout my Strat season.

He did boost the offense. But will it be enough?

I’m tied 2-2 in the first round of the playoffs. Winner goes to the World Series.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention my other big name player. I have a guy by the name of Babe Ruth. He has yet to hit a homer, though. Say what?

I’m using the Babe’s Boston pitcher card. He may not be a big bat in the lineup, but his ERA is awesome.

Twin Peaks Owls: Another Strat Adventure

Owls Strat Standings

I’m ashamed that my entire Strat-O-Matic online baseball season with the Twin Peaks Owls passed and I never once shared any information.

Well, it’s never too late.

Pictured above are the final standings. I once again successfully clinched my division and went to the playoffs, where I once again lost in the first round.

This team was a duplication of my New York City Seagulls. I wanted to see if a team that was successful in one league would have the same success in another.

Although the Owls did slightly worse than the Seagulls, both teams did win their division. One variable that changed was my shortstop. Since I failed to acquire Luke Appling in the draft, I had to choose a different player.

However, the biggest difference between the two seasons, in my opinion, was injuries. Since this lineup is relatively injury prone, success depends heavily on health. I had more injuries with the Owls than the Seagulls.

I think I’ll continue to tweak this team until I at least go the World Series.