Fantasy Baseball 102: Auction Drafts

POSTED ON FEBRUARY 14, 2016

If you’re like me, when you first heard as a noob that you had a $260 auction budget to stock an entire team of 25 players, you thought: “That’s impossible. These people are high.” Well, apparently some of us are high, but that’s besides the point. Yes, you can stock an entire team of major leaguers with the weekly food budget of a family of four and you will (they shop at Whole Foods). If I told you that your auction budget was $260,000,000, you’d say, “Oh sure, I can do that.” Now, you’re the LA Dodgers or the NY Yankees. Well, just eliminate the extra zeroes and there ya go. You can do it.

This is more a how-to than the strategy behind a draft, although I do give you some tips. You really need to come up with your own strategy. In the next installment, I’ll provide you with some links to help you come up with your own, but I can’t give away my own. I’ve already said too much.

What is a Snake Draft vs. Auction Draft?

If you’ve never played before, you’ll hear a couple of terms tossed about: Snake and Auction draft. Just so you know the difference, in a Snake Draft, every team drafts in order. In other words, if there are 12 teams, each team is randomly given a spot in which to draft. The team which draws the first spot logically drafts first and so on. When all 12 teams have drafted in Round 1, the order flips in a serpentine fashion. The team that drafted in the 12th spot in Round 1 will draft in the 1st spot in Round 2. In other words:

Round 1: 1-12

Round 2: 12-1

Round 3: 1-12

Round 4: 12-1

And so on…

The problem is this. Say you’re in the first round. You have your heart set on Andrew McCutchen. He is your precious. Those brown eyes, that sense of humor, that .OPS+. He is perfect. You Must Have Cutch. You are in the 11th spot. The 9th pick has gone by and no one has picked him yet! Woohoo! You got him! #10 makes his pick… and Andrew McCutchen and his beautiful brown eyes are gone. FUCKETY FUCK FUCK. Damn you Team 10! Damn you to hell for eternity and your children too! Cutch is mine!  Okay, it’s a bit harsh, but you know, it’s Cutch. (Seriously, the team who drafts lasts statistically is at a disadvantage even though they are compensated with another immediate pick.)

andrew-mccutchen

An Auction Draft stops this scenario. You can have your Cutch and no one has to go to hell as long as you’re willing to name your price. Each team is again given a random order but this time, it’s to bid on a player. When your turn is up, you pick a player and a bid. Everyone else can also bid on that player too, so… it is on.

Let’s break down the ESPN auction screen so it’s not so mysterious.

Below is ESPN’s Mock Draft screen. It looks identical to a real Auction Draft screen. The teams appear across the top of the screen. As you can see, the software has randomly selected me to bid 5th. The software will highlight your team a golden yellow color. (The little blue circles around the other teams indicates that they are bots.)

Screenshot 2016-02-13 at 9.30.55 PM

The auction has not started yet. On the upper left hand of the screen, you can see the countdown. Draft begins in 2 minutes, 13 seconds. Do NOT CLICK AUTOBID under the countdown. I did that once by mistake when I did not have any pre-set settings and it drafted someone who was really injured. I was NOT HAPPY. Stupid HAL.)

There are 10 teams in this draft. The software defaults to who it projects to be the top ranked players. Heyyyy, Mike Trout. You can do your own rankings prior to the draft. You can re-sort during the draft by clicking on any of the columns–R, HR, RBI, SB and so on. It will not change the order of the computer’s rankings, but it will change how you view the players. You can also do a Nomination Queue. Instead of automatically nominating the next player from the computer’s pre-sort if you haven’t highlighted anyone, the computer will nominate for bidding the player from your queue. Drag the player’s name to the area on the screen on the lower right hand side (it has a red box under it). If someone else nominates the player however, the player will disappear from your queue.

If you are looking for a particular position, you can filter by Position on the left hand side of the screen. If you are looking for a player on a particular team, you can filter by Team. Across from that, there is another drop down tab labeled Show. You can sort by 2016 Projected Stats, 2015 Stats, or Player News. (I strongly encourage you to do a Mock Auction Draft to play with all the settings.)

The software will alert you when the auction begins. The first team clicks on the player of his choice from the Player list. His name and face appear on the screen. In the following screen shot, the third team up (confusingly named Team #7) was making his pick. You can tell it’s the 3rd team up because there is an arrow next to the team.

Screenshot 2016-02-13 at 9.34.13 PM

(Edit: @longfootlefty brought up an excellent point. I did not explain that big red BID BUTTON accurately. I re-wrote the following paragraph since his comment.)

Team #7 picked Josh Donaldson and his initial bid was $1. To do a manual bid, you enter your bid in the text box labeled Manual Bid, then click the yellow BID button. Your other option is to click the red BID button labeled with ESPN’s suggested recommended amount. For Josh Donaldson, that means your initial bid is $37. You can do that, but it’s usually a high amount. If you don’t want to waste time, go ahead–I’m not your momma–however keep in mind that if you bid low, you might get a bargain. Bid low and let the other players bid the player up. Once that initial bid has been placed, that BIG RED BID BUTTON turns into a +$1 button. If you want to bid for anyone in an increment of $1 higher than the previous bid, you click on that big red Bid button. It becomes very useful. You want to bid quickly. You don’t have much time if you’re interested in a player. You can also enter a manual bid if you want to increase in an increment higher than +$1.

There’s a total of 25 seconds to bid on any player. It’s hard to see, but the next bid was $5, followed by a $12 bid. Another team then bid $17 on him at the 19 second mark. If someone bids on any player within the final 9 seconds, the clock resets to 10 seconds, giving someone else an opportunity to bid on the player. There is no “sniping” allowed (aka bidding at the very last second and allowing no one else an opportunity to bid).

The software will warn you when time is about to expire (Going Once, Going Twice, Sold). As a newcomer, I don’t recommend muting the software, although you will get so tired of hearing that voice. It’s a good warning, and the software alerts you when it’s your turn to bid. It’s one night. Just try to deal with it.

Beware of the yellow PASS button. If you click that, you can no longer bid on that player. There is no warning–Are you sure you want to pass on this player? If he’s a piece of shit, okay, but… just beware. I like to keep my options open. Remember all the purposes of bidding.

So can I bid $260 on one player because I’m a smart-ass?

The software will not allow you to run out of money if you bid like a moron, as I did in this mock auction:

Screenshot 2016-02-13 at 9.49.15 PM

I paid $100 for Cutch. Oh yeah. I got him. I told you, he’s mine. Remember, the budget is $260. I have now spent $100 on Cutch and $40 on Bryce Harper. To summarize, I have spent $140 on 2 positions. That leaves me $120 to fill the rest of my roster spots. I’m in a little bit of trouble. It’s tough to see, but at the very top of the screen shot, there’s a tab that says “Maximum Bid.” When I click on that, the very helpful people at ESPN tell me that I can do one crazy bid of $98 and then the rest of my bids must be $1 each to fill out the rest of my roster spots. I just gave you a great example of how not to bid on auction night.

Again, the software will not let you go broke. You cannot bid $260 on one player. Do not try. It will say “Maximum bid $236.” I tested it to be sure. So, if the maximum bid you can make on any one player before you have spent any of your money is $236, that would leave you with $24 for the rest of your auction. One dollar for each of the rest of your roster spots. If you do this, I will drive cross-country to wherever you live and smack you, you eediot. 🙂

On the far right hand of the screen, you can select other teams and see how they’ve drafted from a drop down list. I wouldn’t worry too much about that during the draft. Focus on your own team.

Should I save money from my auction and use it for my budget during the season?

@happytwinsfan asked a great question. Does it roll it over into the season for his free agency budget? Will chaco send us a refund check? Sadly no. You will lose your money. Spend every dollar of that $260 during your auction or as close as you can come. You do not want to have a dollar left.

Should I do a mock auction?

Have you been listening? Yes, I strongly encourage you to do a couple of mock auctions beforehand to get comfortable with the software and to make sure the software is compatible with your computer. Find a 10 or 12 team mock auction draft, preferably roto, but for the purpose of getting comfortable with it, it doesn’t really matter. Just get the feel. Here’s the link. Play with all the features.

We can also schedule a couple of mock drafts too. Remember to draft a little silly during your mock draft. This is not the time to show off. Do not give away your strategy. The purpose is to get comfortable. (Although, as you get close to show time, you might want to do a dry run with strangers to see if your strategy is functional.)

Also, you may have noticed there is a space on the bottom on the screen for chatting, so if you want to talk during the draft, you can. I have found there is very little chatting during the real draft. Mock drafts with friends, sure. But during a real draft, focus. Ignore anyone who tries to distract you or tries to rush you into making a decision.

A few things:

  • Try to stick to your budget. Don’t get into a pissing match or let ego get the best of you. Remember your tier rankings. There is almost always someone comparable to your must have player.
  • Know how to nominate. Nominating doesn’t mean you’re going to continue to bid on the player. Remember that every dollar spent by your opponent is one less dollar in their budget. This is a game within the game. This is a very important thing for a newcomer to realize about auction drafts. The experienced players know this well.
  • Know how to allocate your resources. Have a skeleton budget at least. How much do you plan to spend on offense? Pitching? Your best laid plans may go askew, but at least have an idea of where you want to spend. Remember, while any player can get injured, pitchers are especially prone to getting hurt. We all know this as fans, but when we’re drafting our teams, we tend to develop amnesia. Kershaw or GTFO, right?

You might read that newbies shouldn’t do auctions drafts and get intimidated. Nonsense, I say. I did it my first year playing and it was sooooo much fun. I have tried snake drafts, and it’s like being asked to crawl when I have flown. If I could do it, you can too.

Advertisements

Spring Training Tour 2016: My Day at Mini-Fenway

POSTED ON MARCH 5, 2016

Fort Myers, Fl — Yesterday, nbjays wrote that his bucket list is a Spring Training Tour of either Florida or Arizona. Apparently, I am touching upon the zeitgeist.

As a child, Spring Training was my dream vacation. Not Disney World, not Hawaii, not Paris. Spring Training. I was an odd little girl. Going to see my New York Mets in spring training was it. It seemed liked this magical Shangri-la, where fans could interact with their favorite baseball players against a palm tree backdrop. I could meet Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, and Darryl Strawberry! I subscribed to the Daily News for the sports section with my allowance, and in the Sunday paper, I would check for the coupons in the winter. You see, I forget the company, but one would always run a promotion: “Win a Trip to See Your Favorite Team in Spring Training.” I would zealously fill out 3×5 cards to enter more submissions every year like their rules said. I never won, of course, and I never got to go.

Now, I get to live that dream every single spring. My team allegiances may have changed from the Mets to the Tampa Bay Rays, but my passion for the game has not.

Every year, I cross a new facility off my list. Yesterday was Jet Blue Park’s turn, also known as Mini-Fenway, the spring home of the Boston Red Sox. The facility is located in Fort Myers, Florida, about a two hour drive south of my home in Clearwater, Florida. The weather was absolutely perfect, if 70 degrees, low humidity, and sunny is your sort of thing.

The park is very new, built in 2011. The roof is white, slanted, and canopy style, giving it a distinct Florida feel. It is a very useful feature, I realized later, for keeping the sun and foul balls from our heads. Right outside of the park, they have a monument park with retired numbers, including Jackie Robinson’s. I loved that. I had never seen that at a spring training facility before.

DSC_1216.jpg

They also had a statue of Ted Williams playfully touching a young boy’s baseball cap. I liked that too.

DSC_1223

As soon as you walk inside, surrounding the stadium, there were tents full of food, craft beers, and even a live band playing. The smell of food was intoxicating. This is not the normal spring training experience. It felt like a carnival. They were playing The Outfield’s “Your Love” as I explored the tents. I sang along–I love that song. I complimented the beer lady on the park. “This place is absolutely gorgeous.”

DSC_1226.jpg

A few Red Sox fans razzed my Rays gear. One of them was wearing a pink Boston hat. I smiled at her and bit my tongue before I said, “Whatever, Pink Hat.” It’s Spring Training. Be nice. I complimented her on her lovely Rays blue colored shirt. She looked confused.

We arrived early to see batting practice, but apparently, since the Rays won 10-3 the day before, Kevin Cash didn’t think the Rays needed batting practice, I suppose. Still we got there early enough to see Chris Archer warm up. Besides at Tropicana Field, this is the closest I have ever been to a pitcher warming up. IT WAS AWESOME!!! Enjoy.

20160304_122554rt

20160304_124756rt

20160304_130121rt.jpg

20160304_124938

Standing next to me is another uber-fan I’ve never met before. She apparently sells “Got Stripes” t-shirts to benefit Chris Archer’s Archway Foundation. He does a lot for youth organizations, not only in the Tampa Bay area, but pretty much every major league city he visits. One day, she saw his friend and mentor Ron Walker wearing one of his shirts. She had no idea how he got one. She and I start talking baseball. Baseball–bringing people together. I gave her Twitter account (@Archer22FanClub) a follow and told her I would buy her tank top, and I will. We’ve been messaging each other this morning. Very cool baseball chick.

I bought tickets 12 rows behind the Rays dugout off of Stubhub for $35. Not too bad. I don’t do this every day. JetBlue Park has some very cool features, one of which is an exact replica of Fenway’s Green Monster. The dimensions of the park are identical. No Pesky Pole though. I looked. The scoreboard is also manual, just like Fenway’s.  Someone comes out with a ladder and updates everything manually. You can see in the ENEOS Motor Oil advertising where the door is. My seats afforded me a perfect look:

20160304_131046

That was pretty freaking cool. Here is a close-up of the scoreboard:

DSC_1252.jpg

As for the game itself, Archer looked sharp against the Red Sox’s “A line-up”, with the change-up already looking like it is in season form. He didn’t pitch long, of course. The Rays had a slim lead most of the game but lost eventually, 7-2; it was basically Pawtucket beating Durham. It was the later innings when the regulars were out when they faltered. This is the point in Spring Training when you can’t put too much stake in the results. It’s basically a lot of white noise. You go for the ambiance and camaraderie. For example, the older gentleman sitting next to me was a Yankees fan visiting from Connecticut. He asked me about the Rays stadium situation. He’s an expert on the situation now. He may have regretted asking the question. 🙂

20160304_145524

A few game notes: Pablo Sandoval looked big as a cow, but the man can move. He was agile and his reflexes were fast. He ran down that first base line with a speed that I could not believe for a man his size. He reached first on a Longoria error, and he hustled fast. He also moved laterally well. Of course, that also made me wonder, if he did lose just a bit of girth, how much faster could he be? There was another time when he needed to leap just a tiny bit in the air for a ball, and he couldn’t, presumably because of his size. It cost his team a hit.

Hanley looked like shit playing first and made a costly error at first. That’s going to be an interesting experiment. It looks to me like the Red Sox may have three DHs at the moment.

The only mildly sour spot: yes, they played Sweet Fackin’ Caroline. These people. I survived.

Right now, the song going through my head is S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M.’s Lovely Day. It was a lovely day. The beer even tasted colder and better yesterday.

DSC_1463

Today, I visit the Twin’s spring training facility, Century Link Sports Complex, also in Fort Myers, for the first time. Orioles v. Twins, this time, bern seating. I can’t wait.

Spring Training 2016 Day 2: Twins, Orioles, and Rays, Oh my

Originally posted on 3/16/16:

On Saturday afernoon, I visited Hammond Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Minnesota Twins, and then decided at the last minute to go to Ed Smith Stadium to see the Baltimore Orioles’ spring home, since they were playing the Rays and it was on the way home. For those keeping count, that’s three games in two days with ease. Suck it, Arizona and @longfootlefty. Road trips are fun, and they also give me lots of time to sing loudly in the car.

It’s funny, I don’t normally think of Fort Myers as the spring training home of the Twins. The Red Sox take ownership of the town. I’ll never make that mistake again. Hammond Stadium at the Century Link Sports Complex holds its own against JetBlue Park.

20160305_130514

20160305_130944

The stadium was built in 1991 and was renovated recently in 2014. It had a decidedly different look than Jetblue Park. It had a plantation, almost Churchill Downs feel. There was no mistaking we were in the South. I also felt like I was walking into a cathedral of baseball. You can even see what looks like a cross as you entered. It is an eminently photogenic stadium–that’s a waterfall fountain in the front–and I am starting to get a little jealous. Even spring training homes are prettier than my team’s real stadium. Okay, a baboon’s taint is prettier than my team’s stadium, but I have digressed.

The parking lot has rows named after past and present notable Twins.

Another key significance between Jetblue Park and Hammond is that Hammond had bern seating. My seats today were economy bern seating as the Twins were playing the split squad Orioles, and I had no vested interest in either team. For those unfamiliar with bern seating, those are grassy areas in the park where you can pop a squat and watch the game. Hammond also encourages the fans to walk around the stadium itself. The park is set up such that you can walk the entire perimeter, which is different than JetBlue. I did not mention that JetBlue did not want fans without tickets atop the “Green Monster.”

20160305_131429

20160305_133118The only place to get the line-up was on this whiteboard in the walkway:

20160305_132227rt

The Orioles did not have a good afternoon.

While there, I enjoyed what I was told is a rare delicacy, only available in a few rare corners of the world:

20160305_140436

Game notes: The Orioles made count ’em, five errors in this game in a 13-2 laugher. I expected the mercy rule to take effect as their B-squad made their best Bad News Bears impersonation. Quite honestly, it was six errors but the official scorer took mercy on them. Third basemen Steve Tolleson was responsible for three of them. It was ugly. The Twins collected 16 hits, but it’s difficult to gauge how well they did since the Orioles only brought their AAA squad with them. Their pitching was as bad as their defense, allowing three home runs. OF Hyun soon Kim, signed out of Korea, is 0 for the spring, but it is still early. On the Twins side, Ervin Santana pitched well, and Buxton is very, very, very fast.

Berm seating was relaxing. With the score ridiculous, I laid down the last couple of innings and caught some sun.

I then pointed my compass north and headed towards Sarasota, the last leg of my tour, Ed Smith Stadium. These are some beautiful quaint stadiums. None of these stadiums are behemoths. They are intimate showcases. I like this stadium because it is ensconced in a neighborhood. It is not gated and separated from the environment like the others. You walk, and all of a sudden, look at what we have here. It also gives good face.

20160305_181258.jpgThis one has a Spanish tile roof and stucco walls. The rotunda:

20160305_181608

20160305_182402

20160305_184819rt

Game time is 7pm, but I arrived in plenty of time to do my favorite thing, watch my starting pitcher warm up for the night. The weather again could not be more perfect. Drew Smyly is our man tonight.

20160305_183402rt

20160305_185119.jpg

The bullpen area was cool, and they had seats, so there I decided to stay the whole game. LHP Enny Romero was milling about the bullpen. He smiled at me and asked me, “Hablas espanol?” I said, “Si, seguro. Es de Santo Domingo?” He nodded and said, “Si.” I said, “Mi mama es de alla.” He nodded and smiled and went back to work. Not long after, a deep line drive foul ball came into my area. I lost the ball in the lights and it bounced next to me. I didn’t see where it went, but it bounced into the bullpen. Romero gave it back to me. The usher came to make sure I was okay. Other than embarrassed I didn’t catch the ball, yes, I was okay. This stuff does not happen to me normally. The ball is very cool. It is stamped with the FL Spring Training insignia.

20160305_192602

20160305_203651

Again, the Orioles did not look good in a 10-6 loss. They are 0 for Spring Training (0-5-1). It is very early, so there is no cause for alarm, but the fans were definitely restless. RHP Kevin Gausman looked good, so that is one bright spot, striking out 3 while pitching two scoreless frames. Most of the Rays’ damage came off of Todd Redmond and some minor leaguer. In total, they allowed the Rays 17 hits. Their spring training ERA is 8.31, solid 30 of 30. Again, early in spring training, this is a lot of white noise, but patterns will start to develop in the coming weeks that will be cause for concern if things do not start to straighten out.

Smyly was sharp also, throwing two perfect innings, and striking out Davis, Trumbo, and Wieters. The Rays’ defense again, left me less than impressed. Three errors. It is early, but one thing I was concerned about with some of their off-season moves is that they sacrificed defense for offense. Momma is not happy with that. Poor defense will ultimately hurt their pitching, their core strength, and I hate sloppy baseball. Most of the Orioles’ six runs were gifts thanks to woeful defense. They have to work on that. But back to pictures…

It was Fireworks Night, so the weekend was topped with fireworks. I don’t think I could have picked a more perfect ending.

20160305_222327

I took one last picture on the way out. It shone bright like a diamond.

20160305_222626

Can you tell I did not want this weekend to end?

This was by far the most diverse fan base of the three stadiums we visited. White, blacks, Latinos. I notice these things because a lot of times I notice I am different. I can’t help noticing. I am alone. I am conspicuous, the token. (I played a game at mini-Fenway: spot the black person. There was one darker than me.) It has been that way most of my life because I overachieved a little, so I know how to navigate, but my preference was last night. A beautiful pastiche, a swirl of color. It felt so good to see so many different beautiful faces. Very cool, Orioles.

I also really enjoy talking to my fellow fans. I meet so many great fans. I spoke to this wonderful Orioles fan from Maryland most of the game yesterday. Really nice man, knew his stuff. In Hammond Stadium, same thing. Spoke to this great woman from Minnesota, enjoying the game. This is the great part of Spring Training, shooting the breeze with people on a lazy day in a meaningless game. Baseball means so much to them that they traveled all the way here just to experience a meaningless game, and I was honored to share it with them. I wish you could all had been there with me. I had the best time.

(I went to the gift shop and I thought @scoutsayswietersisabust might want to buy this for some special lady friend… bowchickabowwow…)

Spring Training 2016 Part 3: Yankees v. Phillies, Glutton for Punishment

POSTED ON MARCH 7, 2016

I thought I was done with my little Spring Training tour for now, but I woke up Sunday feeling malaise that it would be a day without baseball in person. Kevin S. to the rescue! He helpfully reminded me that the Yankees would be playing the Phillies but a stone’s throw from me at Brighthouse Field. Bah, the Yankees. He sweetened the pot by mentioning Tanaka would be the starting pitcher. Now, my interest was piqued. Since it doesn’t take much more convincing than “Do it!” for me to do something, I was sold. This game, however, would require family involvement–the children.

We arrived at Brighthouse Field early to see Tanaka warm up. I have been to Brighthouse Field more times than I can count. I have always thought it an attractive Spring Training and minor league facility, but now that I had the memory of Ed Smith Stadium, Ed Hammond, and JetBlue Park so fresh in my mind, I found it lacking somehow. Familiarity in this case has bred contempt, although I know objectively, there is nothing wrong with it. I noticed its flaws–the power lines you can see in the distance–instead of its beauty, or maybe it was because it was jam packed with Yankees and Phillies fans. No, seriously, the moment I saw it from the distance, it was like an old annoying boyfriend. I wanted the shiny new exciting stadium I met last night that seemed flawless with its perfect sunset. I know I was being unfair.

The exterior is similar to Ed Smith’s–Spanish Mediterranean stucco with tile roofs and arched entrances. Outside the main entrance is a fountain with a statue of Steve Carlton. (Picture taking had a degree of difficult today of 10,000 because I had to play mommy–if it’s not my picture, I’ll credit the source.)

 

There is definitely a party vibe at Brighthouse Field. The thatched roofed tiki bar in left field run by Frenchy’s, a popular local bar/restaurant chain helps to nourish that feel. A lot of people get SRO tickets and just hang out there for the whole game. You can get your foofoo drinks here. It’s very crowded to navigate and the air is rich with cigarette smoke. Now, I don’t mind the smell of pot–it’s like incense–but cigarette smoke irritates the hell out of me. I avoid this area.

mikeheckendorn-20110314202958

There is a playground area, much to my chagrin, where you can’t even watch the game. If the kids want to go play, the parents can’t see any of the game. A nice amenity would be a television in that area. Yes, I suppose they want you to watch your kids, but I am at a baseball game. I suppose I am here because I want to watch the game. Guess where I spent a couple of innings?

o

You might be aware that Hooters girls are the ball girls at Brighthouse Field. Clearwater is the home of the original Hooters, so naturally, the Phillies want to honor this historical landmark. If you are ever visiting locally and you must have boobs with your wings, I would recommend Wing House over Hooters. The wings are much, much better, and the girls are just as pretty (actually they are dressed in black shorts and tops, which is much more flattering than that ugly orange). Or, just hire a hooker and eat wings with her. Why get sexually frustrated? Have your wings and eat them too. Wow, I have really gone on a tangent here. Back to baseball.

The vibe was definitely not as laid back as it had been for the past three spring training games. I heard a Yankees fan yell, “Phillies suck!” One, yes, we know. Thanks, Captain Obvious. Two, no one yells that at a Spring Training game. No one heckles. (Unless it is Jim Norton heckling Alex Rodriguez at a Spring Training game and posting it live on Twitter. Did anyone else see that last year? It was hilarious.)

Watching Tanaka warm-up, Yankees fans were harassing him for an autograph. I have been to a lot of Spring Training games. I have been to a lot of games at Tropicana Field. I have never seen anyone harass a starting pitcher while he is warming up. I said to one fan, “He’s working; he can’t sign your autograph right now.” Don’t you want your pitcher properly warmed up and focused? Would you want him thinking about anything else? I know this is just Spring Training, but this is prep work for the season. There’s etiquette. My god, New Yorkers can be so annoying. I’m a New Yorker. Thanks for reminding me why I left. They were making Phillies fans look so good.

I picked a great spot in the berm that was nicely positioned next to the bullpen. The field has a strange set up for the bullpen–the two teams are parallel to each other so there are no secrets here. I got great shots of Tanaka. I could practically whisper sweet nothings in his ear, but I didn’t, because I have manners. And I don’t speak Japanese.

20160306_125012.jpg

20160306_125120rt

Tanaka looked freaking awesome. That’s my scouting report. His control is a fucking dream. Catcher said here. Here it went. There. There it went. Amazing pinpoint control. Could probably thread a needle with a baseball. All 10,000 of his pitches looked like they were working to me.

It wasn’t all bad Yankees fan though. On the berm, I was sitting next to this dad and his two young daughters, age 9 and 6, who hit it off with my kids, age 7 and 4. This dad is a Yankees fan, but somehow was still nice. His wife was at home with their two year daughter, and they were expecting their fourth daughter. “Kept trying for that boy?” I asked. “Yep.” he replied. “Gonna keep trying?” I asked. “Nope.” he laughed.

#41 started warming up in their bullpen. I asked pregnant dad if he knew he who he was. “Nope.” Since the Yankees still insist on no names on the back of their uniforms because it is 1957 and free agency doesn’t exist and players never shuffle around, I had to look him up. The reason I was curious is because a big burly Yankees fan had saddled up to the bullpen and yelled, “You know who else wore #41? Tom Seavah! (sic).” I want you to hear his accent. “You gonna be just like you him. You got great stuff! Look at you, hitting your spots! Whatta fastball! Tom Seavah! Don’t you forget!” If my eyes rolled any harder, they would have popped out of their sockets. You heard it hear first. Non-roster invitee Anthony Swarzak is the next Tom Seaver according to big burly Yankees fan. Pick him up for your dynasty leagues.

The “You suck” Phillies won 6-5 and I was happy, because seriously, Yankees fans. You made me root against your team even during a Spring Training game, and nobody cares who wins a Spring Training game.

Dan Haren Remains My Hero

One, because his Twitter handle is @ithrew88. Two, because he’s smart and hilarious. Three, I suspect he’s pretty liberal in his politics based on his tweets.

Chris Sale is making me worried that I don’t love my son enough.

I tweeted him back that if he didn’t carry his son in a Baby Bjorn in the clubhouse until he was 18 years old, he didn’t love him enough. Sorry.

To you non-breeders, this is a Baby Bjorn. It is not a tennis raquet for newborns, as I initially thought before I had children.

babybjorn-baby-carrier-miracle-carry-your-child-facing-outwards-from-five-months

Twitter is fun!

Oscar Charleston STILL Needs a Movie

I posted this on another website previously on 2/16/16 but I really should have been writing it here, for myself. I’m re-posting it here in case that other website fails. Its traffic has plummeted since I stopped writing for them, and I want to make sure this post lives. It’s the piece I am most proud of writing, and Oscar Charleston is a passion of mine.  

ACF8D95I’ve been meaning to write about Oscar Charleston because ever since I learned about him, I’ve been obsessed with him. I want everyone to know who Oscar Charleston is, just like you know who Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb are. Just like you know Cool Papa Bell and Satchel Paige. This seems like as good as time as any to write about him. We’re still a few days away from Spring Training, baseball news is trickling like water from a shallow stream, and Nick Jr. keeps reminding me it is Black History Month.

Oscar McKinley Charleston (1896-1954), the Hoosier Comet, was a left handed centerfielder, and sometimes pitcher, who played in the Negro Leagues from 1915 until 1941. Here’s his line: .339/.401/.545. Buck O’Neil, first African-American scout, described him as “Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Tris Speaker rolled into one.” Bill James ranks him as the fourth greatest ball player of all time, behind Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and Willy Mays. Not just fourth greatest in the Negro Leagues, but greatest to ever wear a mitt and wield a bat. David Schoenfield of ESPN wrote that “he might be the greatest ballplayer who ever lived.” A classic five tool player, he was “Willy Mays before Willy Mays.” That basket catch thing Mays did? Charleston owned that. He played a very shallow centerfield because he knew he could catch anything over his head with his speed and an uncanny ability to know where the ball was.

“At every stop, including Cuba in the winter, Charleston hung great catches as if they were paintings….when he went back for a ball, legend says he performed acrobatics that have eluded everyone else in the position’s history, leaping, spinning, making catches behind his back.”–John Schulian

A teammate of Oscar’s, third-basemen Dave Malarcher said this: “Some people asked me, ‘Why are you playing so close to the left-field foul line?’ What they didn’t know was that Charleston covered all three fields, and my responsibility was to make sure of balls down the line and those in foul territory.”

Imagine a chocolate skinned man, six feet tall, weighing 200 pounds, with hard grey eyes, giant hands, a barrel chest, and gangly legs who feared no man. He was known for playing with a ferocity and a temper on the field–spikes-up–which earned him the comparison to Ty Cobb. Charleston, writes David Bernstein, was not the “black Ty Cobb,” but rather Cobb was the “white Oscar Charleston.”

The comparison was unfair. Accounts say that Oscar hated the comparison that white sportswriters were making of him. “The Black Ty Cobb.” Hmmmph. Ty Cobb was a wealthy man, in comparison. Oscar rode broken down buses. He had little money. Oscar also had another side to him than his bad temper on the field. While Ty Cobb was pretty much just an ornery asshole by all accounts, Oscar could also be charismatic and a show-boater on the field, a crowd-pleaser and a fan favorite. He was well loved by his teammates, especially the younger players, as he took them under his tutelage. Reportedly, he was very protective of them. He was also supposedly a bit shy and reserved off the field, allowing his personality to shine when he played.

Okay, he sounds pretty cool, right? But I know what you’re maybe thinking. What’s so special besides being really good at baseball? Lots of ballplayers are great at baseball and don’t have a movie. Although Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb–the two players he is most compared to besides Mays–do have big screen features. Why does he need a movie? Let’s discuss some more.

Oscar was born in Indianapolis, the son of a construction worker, and all of his brothers were boxers, which probably made him a tough son of a bitch at an early age. At the tender age of 15, when most of us lazy bums were playing video games and fretting about zits, Charleston lied about his age to army recruiters. I’m guessing he thought the Army was easier than the ass-kickings he was getting from his brothers. This earned him a ticket to the Philippines in 1910 with the Negro 24th Infantry, not exactly a cushy assignment. While in the army, he ran track and set a record for the 220 yard dash: 23 seconds. He was also the only black player in the Army’s previously segregated Manila League Baseball Team.

He returned home in 1915, when he decided to try out for the Indianapolis ABCs, a semi-pro barnstorming club, which pre-dated the Negro Leagues by five years. In his rookie season, he got into a shoving match with an umpire during a game against a white team which resulted in assault charges. So, um, he may have punched the umpire during the shoving match. Laid him flat. The brawl that followed involved fans and police. This is just one example of many. Have I mentioned he was a bit of a hot-head?

oscar_charleston

Cool Papa Bell recalls another story when Charleston faced down some Ku Klux Klansmen who were taunting them after a game. Oscar stood up to them, tore the hood off of one, and then he still wasn’t done. He then “dared him to say something.” They ran. Have I mentioned I really, really like Oscar Charleston? Maybe you can tell.

During the winter, Oscar would go down to Cuba and play in the winter leagues. During one game, Oscar spiked a Cuban second baseman, as was his running style. Unbeknownst to him, that second baseman had a brother in the Cuban army in the stands. Several armed infantry men jumped onto the field to attack Charleston. Charleston knocked them out. I imagine it went something like this.

Charleston was inducted into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.

During his playing career, he played for the Indianapolis ABCs (1915-1918, 1920, 1922-1923), New York Lincoln Stars (1915-1916), Bowser’s ABCs (1916), Chicago American Giants (1919), St. Louis Giants (1921), Harrisburg Giants (1924-1927), Hilldale (1928-1929), Homestead Grays (1930-1931), Pittsburgh Crawfords (1932-1938), Toledo Crawfords (1939), Indianapolis Crawfords (1940), and Philadelphia Stars (1941). He also managed several teams and was even an umpire for awhile.

And we’re still not done. Branch Rickey–yes, the Branch Rickey–hired Charleston as a scout and manager of the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers because he knew nobody knew the Negro Leagues like him. He is reported to have recommended Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella to Branch Rickey. Charleston was instrumental in the integration of Major League Baseball, even though he knew it would eventually mean the death of his beloved Negro Leagues. According to his niece, he wanted to live to see it happen.

After he retired in 1949, he worked as a baggage handler in Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Railway Station. One of the greatest ballplayers who ever lived worked as a baggage handler after he retired. He died five years later at the age of 58 from a stroke followed by a heart attack. His death went virtually unnoticed in the press.

Even his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976 was overshadowed by his fellow inductees.

Have I convinced you yet that this man needs his life story told in a movie? There’s a lot more, but I didn’t come here to write a novel. Hollywood, if you’re looking for a new idea, do this.

I know there are far greater causes in the world, but this is one of my many causes. I want every baseball fan to know Oscar Charleston’s name.

Now I ask you. Who is your favorite unsung baseball player?

Sources:

The Greatness of Oscar Charleston

The Importance of Oscar Charleston

Was Ty Cobb the White Oscar Charleston

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum: Oscar Charleston

American National Biography Online: Oscar Charleston

Baseball Reference: Oscar Charleston

Can You Feel The Love Tonight? Pride Night at The Trop.

rainbowlove_l

As many people are aware, last night was a special night at Tropicana Field. It was Pride Night in the wake of the Pulse massacre in which 50 LGBT people were murdered last week. All the ticket proceeds were going to the victims, and the Rays were holding a blood drive as well as using the 50/50 Raffle to raise funds. While the outcome of the game was disappointing–the Rays lost 5-1 and Chris Archer continues his struggles on the mound–the game itself was secondary to the joy and good will that permeated the stadium. Everywhere people where smiling, hugging, laughing, and waving the little rainbow flags that the Rays gave away. It felt like the most laid back playoff game you have ever attended. You could really feel the love. I know how corny this sounds, trust me. I’m originally from the Bronx.

Normally I’d choke on a cucumber before listening to a song like this, but really, this is what it felt like:

I am so torn between knowing how sappy this is, and sincerely trying to communicate the emotion in that stadium. I guess it’s okay to be sappy sometimes.

It felt like the stadium had a heartbeat. It pulsed. The colors, so vibrant. Everywhere people were high fiving, saying hello, and smiling. Giants fans, Rays fans. We were all there for one common cause: to show love and support to a community that for too long has felt like outsiders, unwanted merely for being who they are. No more. We are all in this together. Tolerance? No. We tolerate things that bother us. Love, accept, nurture, as we should everyone. To have Major League Baseball, which traditionally has been a very conservative sport, open its arms so lovingly to EVERYONE–I thought I was going to burst with joy and pride. My sport that I love so much. Thank you.

Last Saturday, you saw humanity at its worst. Yesterday, I saw humanity at its best. Fans raised $300,000 for victims. They were lined up to donate blood. I am telling you, it was like something out of a movie. Just this positive vibe permeating everything. No hate, just love.

Early in the day, I realized I had a surplus of tickets. I could not in good conscience sell them on stubhub. I had to give them away. I went on Facebook on the Rays page for people going to the game. I saw one person looking for two tickets. Her photo said, “My God Loves Everyone.” I responded to her, “I like your God. This is a legitimate offer, I have 2 extra tickets. They are yours.” I left my phone number for her to text. We coordinated meeting at Ferg’s later. It turns out they were this drop dead gorgeous engaged lesbian couple. They bought me a drink that far exceeded the cost of the tickets. I didn’t drink much of it, but I appreciated the gesture. They were amazing; we have plans to go to another game together.

The National Anthem was sung with the Stars and Stripes surrounded by two Rainbow Flags at its side. “O’er the Land  of the Free…” The Free to love whomever you want, to be whomever and “The Home of the Brave.” The Brave Ones who stand up and say so no more. The past is not acceptable. We can do better.

Sung by Una Voce, the Florida Men’s Chorale

Here is a picture taken of my friends and I as we were leaving the stadium. When I got home and saw it on my laptop, it took my breath away. Every color and nationality is represented in this picture: White, black, Asian, Native American, name it. Every person in this picture is a mutt; we are America. The glow behind us of Tropicana Field looked like heaven. Probably because most of it is obscured, I have never seen the Trop look so beautiful.

raysfans

The sun beckons. This is Florida. I am going to enjoy the morning with my children. Go hug someone. Hug yourself if you can’t find anyone. Be nice to each other.

Happy Saturday. May your team win. Except the Red Sox.

I picked a really bad time to stop drinking whiskey.

 

We Are Orlando. We are the Rays.

imageI have neglected my little blog for awhile. I can’t say I will publish every day. That is too much pressure and I have a lot I need to do. I am a registered nurse who works full time. I have two children and two pets. I am undergoing a divorce, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I write this as I work-out on an elliptical.

Tonight, there is an important event in St. Petersburg, Florida occurring at Tropicana Field: Pride Night. St. Petersburg has a small but vibrant gay community. When I lived in a community of beautiful old majestic bungalows and cobblestone streets a stones throw from Tropicana Field named Historic Kenwood, my ex and I were the token straights on the block. My friend said she felt she was visiting “flat San Francisco.” She also added, you would love San Fran. Noted.

Yes, other teams have had their pride nights. None have had their Pride Nights 90 minutes away from the greatest massacre on United States soil where 50 young lesbian, gay, transgendered, and bisexual people were murdered and 53 were hurt for simply being who they are. Take it in: 103 people. Soak it in. To add insult to injury, these people were mostly brown, Latinos, the face that stares back at me every morning, the face of my children, my family. To add further fuel to this fire, the assailant who shall not be named here used a semi-automatic weapon. He was known to be a danger to society, a domestic abuser and on terror watch lists, yet Republicans decided that there should be no limits on gun rights and this monster should have access legally to a weapon that can do this.

I was told I should not see politics in a game like this. I was told “ewww.” I cannot NOT see poltics. The Rays have rebranded themselves with the LGBT colors and have gone out of their way to make it known where they stand to everyone around the world. Not with a little fucking candle ceremony or a bullshit moment of silence. My moment of silence is done. I am ready to talk and talk a lot and you are never shutting me up until what happened at the Pulse never happens again. Until gay people have no reason to fear loving who they love. Until I have no reason to fear going to a movie theater because some asshole is going to shoot up the place. Until then. Hear my voice.

If you think baseball is not political, I truly lose some respect for your intellect and ability to think critically. I still like you, even love you, but I believe you to be either simple, or a blind fool in my deepest heart. You can fool yourself and lie to yourself all you like, but that is not me. I will always tell you the truth, whether you want to hear it or not. The ugly truth too. Of course, you should not care what I think of you, just as I do not care what most people think of me. There are a few select people whose opinion of me truly matters to me. I am not arrogant. When they talk and tell me–you are out of line. I listen. They know me and my heart.

You probably think I am an arrogant bitch for thinking this. I am an uppity opinionated woman who does not back down easily and that can upset some people. Sexism still lives and if you think it doesn’t, again, lie to yourself all you want.

I play nice but when you burn me, I will not take it. That is not me.

You got a woman who knows her worth and ain’t prepared to compromise it. You can’t treat me that way. Maybe it’s just some shit we blew into space, but if you meant it, it’s too late.

I will be at the game tonight, which promises to be a special event. The Rays are playing the San Francisco Giants, a team whose city has a rich LGBT history. All sorts of festivities are planned. I will be there early to take it all in, take pictures, and report back here tomorrow. Archer will be pitching for the Rays. He has struggled this season, however most of his issues lie in the first inning. If he can survive the first unscathed, we’ve got ourselves game. Samardzija is pitching for the Giants, and he is always a formidable force. The Rays have been red hot of late. It should be fantastic. This is the game to watch tonight. The biggest party in baseball tonight. And those who can’t appreciate it? Their loss.

Everything the Rays are doing tonight:

  • The Rays are donating 100 percent of the proceeds from tickets sold since Tuesday as well as from the 50-50 raffle to help victims’ families and will have donation centers around the Trop (also at gofundme.com/pulsevictimsfund).
  • There also will be a blood drive (starting at 4 p.m.) with donors getting a voucher for two tickets to any future 2016 game.
  • There will be a moment of silence with the victims’ names scrolled across the video board
  • The national anthem and God Bless America will be performed by Una Voce, the Florida Men’s Chorale.
  • All fans will receive a “We Are Orlando” T-shirt
  • MLB VP of Social Responsibility Billy Bean will throw out the first pitch
  • Commissioner Rob Manfred will provide a videoboard message.

The game is a sell-out. When that ugly dome sells out, it rocks.

Words of Comfort

My team, the Tampa Bay Rays, got swept this weekend by the mighty Oakland A’s in the aptly nicknamed Mausoleum, since it now houses the carcass of what was once a seemingly good team. In the past week, they’ve done the following: lost 1 to KC, lost 2 of 3 to the LAA, and now lost 3 of 3 to OAK. They’re now down 5.5 games for the AL East title to the disliked Boston Red Sox, so that’s pretty much a lost cause. They’re now in danger of losing the second Wild Card spot, holding the slenderest 2.5 game lead over Baltimore. Today, I saw my boys misplay an easy fly ball in the outfield, over throw a ball to first, and get thrown out at the plate for the third out on a sharply hit single to the outfield. They’re just not looking good, and Jobu only helps those who help themselves.

When the Beatles found themselves in times of trouble, Mother Mary comforted them, but for me, books have always been my source of comfort. I just started reading Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn. I usually don’t start my baseball reading until the post-season, but I’ve been a bit melancholy watching my team and I needed a distraction. In it, he writes,

You may glory in a team triumphant, but you fall in love with a team in defeat. Losing after great striving is the story of man, who was born to sorrow, whose sweetest songs tell of saddest thought, and who if he is a hero, does nothing in life as becomingly as leaving it.

I wish I could write like that. Those words are perfect. I have fallen for this team in defeat. He was writing about the Brooklyn Dodgers 62 years ago, but he’s speaking a universal truth to any sports fan. Well, except for Yankees fans. They only know of glory.

Super Sam Fuld

For as long as my daughter has been aware of baseball, Sam Fuld has been her favorite baseball player. Mind you, she is 4 years old. She doesn’t know anything about batting averages, slugging percentage, or WAR. All she knows is that “Sam Fuld is silly.” In 4 year old speak, she sees how Sam Fuld plays the game. Very enthusiastically. With a lot of effort. Just throws with body without any regard as to where or how it may land. He is silly. Every time we would take her to Tropicana Field, Lana had one question, “Will I meet Sam Fuld?” I don’t know, I would say. Maybe. We’ll try. One of the nice things about Tropicana Field and having a small fan base is that it affords lots of opportunities for fans to interact with the players. For whatever reason, whenever Lana was there, Sam wasn’t available. One day, my ex and I received an email from the Tampa Bay Rays. Sam Fuld was hosting a post game juvenile diabetes fund raiser with an opportunity to meet Fuld. I was not in town that weekend, but my ex said he would take her. Excellent.

Lana was so excited when she learned she would finally get to meet Sam Fuld. I asked her in the days leading up to the big day, “What are you going to say to Sam Fuld?” She said, “I am going to tell him, ‘Sam Fuld, you are silly!'” And we both laughed. I said, “You tell him that.” Well, my ex reports that is exactly what she said when she met him. Based on the picture taken, I think Sam got a kick out of it. Lana’s dad also reports that Sam is as nice in person as he seems on television.

Image
“Sam Fuld is silly!”

The kid also got to meet other Rays. I know she has no appreciation right now how lucky she is. Someday, I hope she looks back on these pictures and realize how damn lucky she was. Not many kids ever get an opportunity like that, and yesterday, she was keeping some really amazing company yesterday. And honestly, so were those players. She’s a pretty special little kid. Not that I am biased or anything.

Future Basketball Royalty Wil Myers
Future Basketball Royalty Wil Myers
Chris Archer
Chris Archer
Matt Moore
Matt Moore
Alex Cobb
Alex Cobb
Jose Lobaton
Jose Lobaton
Jamey Wright
Jamey Wright