Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The 2009 Mixtape

So, I don't send out a Christmas card or anything - let's be honest, you don't want to hear about my incredible year when you're out of work, or my boxed dinners if you're married with kids, or my bar experiences if you're actually a fun person. Instead, like every year, I've put together a mixtape of the best music I heard in 2009 - rules are simple: 1.) fit on a CD 2.) don't suck. It doesn't.


Passion Pit, "Sleepyhead"
As per every other year, I'll start with the track I listened to the most in 2009 - "Sleepyhead" is an absolute masterpiece, hitting all the senses at once. From the oddly-looped samples in the background, to the chopped-and-screwed trills behind the bridge solo, to the low end just beating in . . . just an awesome pop song, one that isn't quite "pop" but definitely isn't "electronic," just "awesome."

Phoenix, "Lisztomania"
From the first second of jangly guitars, you know something amazing is on tap . . . but the left-field surprise is that the song is about exactly that expectation, that build-up. It's a great song about how impossible it can seem to write a great song - using Franz Liszt, who created an absolute hysteria in the late 1800s as a concert pianist in Europe, as the anchor. When Thomas Mars notes songs go "from a mess to the masses" then tells himself "this is your time/ this is your time/ this is you-r time.." he's not just talking about TMZ. Then, the song just ends - bliss, then silence. Metaphor is best subtle.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Heads Will Roll"
Almost like the spiritual (and literal reverse) of the Killers' "Mr. Brightside" - the night shimmers while the song does, but Karen O is the predator. Jagged guitars mix with smooth synth, plus organic-yet-cold drums and low end - try not to shake your ass to this in the car. The YYYs can still be edgy, even when being as cosmopolitan as possible.

Japandroids, "Wet Hair"
Just three lines, repeated about 50 times each - although each change in inflection and timing changes everything. Just two guys, overdubbed guitar and drums - although the wall of sound is impressive and inviting. That's all it takes. "We run the gauntlet/ we must get to France/ so we can French kiss some French girls" is summer in so many syllables.

Surfer Blood, "Swim"
Fun fact: these guys used to call themselves Jabroni Sandwich, which would be the stupidest shit I've ever heard if I hadn't spent all year listening to a band called Japandroids. Luckily the songs are better - just a massive anthem, in and out in 3 minutes, the way it's supposed to be.

Matt and Kim, "Daylight"
In a lot of ways, the 'idea' of Matt and Kim is much more successful than the band itself - their first record was "neat" in all of the ways that can be bad (or, more properly, annoying), but until "Daylight" it didn't all come together. A half-dozen commercials later, and you'll definitely recognize the song (if you don't already hate it), but it's still an absurd anthem I'll take with me.

The Big Pink, "Dominos"
The drum intro portends great things, like the "Mature -N" tag on a Cinemax late-night direct-to-DVD movie. You're expecting the song to just blow up - but the Big Pink has all the time in the world. Fuck that - you can sit through a little bit of an interlude before we break into the FUCK YOU chorus . . . five words, stretched to about 12 syllables, and the best MGMT impression you'll ever want to hear. British people: still awesome.

Animal Collective, "My Girls"
A slow-building, consistently-beautiful swinging ode from Animal Collective's Panda Bear (aka Noah Lennox, also featured later) to 'his girls': his wife and young daughter. The music and lyrics swirl and wrap in on themselves, almost like a Celtic knot, ending in a plaintive refrain: "I don't mean/ to seem like I care about material things/ like social status/ I just want/ four walls and adobe slats/ for my girls" . . . then the OOOOoooooooohhh! takes it away and we start it all over again. It's a post-modern serenity prayer, and it's the best song I heard all year - not particularly close.

Grizzly Bear, "Two Weeks"
When the keyboard and oh-ohs begin, pretty much the last thing you expect out of Grizzly Bear is for the low end to drop and a light drumroll to carry the tune through the verse - but that's exactly what happens, and Grizzly Bear does it all over again.

Florence and the Machine, "Kiss with a Fist"
If Neko Case is my indie-rock love affair (and make no mistake, she is - I would sit in her bushes for hours if I weren't scared shitless of her), Florence Welch is the rough-and-tumble UK response. Note that I'm assuming this song is metaphorical, although I guess the domestic violence overtones could go a variety of rad directions on their own. ELIN NORDEGREN WOODS JOKE HERE AMIRIGHT?

The XX, "Crystalized"
Languid, sexual, restrained but only barely, with elements of soul, electronic music, and even R&B. Of all the tracks on this CD, this is clearly the one with the best shot at "crossover" appeal - not Cadillac commercials, but sustainable chart-topping viability, soccer moms to douchebags like me.

Mumford & Sons, "Roll Away Your Stone"
Like a smart Dave Matthews Band who learned to play bluegrass instead of elevator music, a shit-stomping exploration of the self - with a COMPLETELY AMAZING banjo. It's not just the banjo, though - the entire sog oozes credibility, and "Darkness is a harsh term/ don't you think?" asks two questions at once: is it the "name of the term, or the time spent serving the term?

Girls, "Lust for Life"
Song titles matter. Listening to this track with the title in mind proves the rule.

Akron/Family, "River"
What's this? An extended nautical metaphor using a variety of musical styles, ranging from whistling to woodwind sections? Sure, it's not a brand-new formula for indie rock - it's basically what would happen if the Decemberists spent less time in drama class or at Ren Faires and instead smoked weed and spoke like regular fucking human beings. That's a good thing.

Atlas Sound, "Walkabout (ft. Noah Lennox)"
If you know much about Bradford Cox and Noah Lennox, the fact that it's a song about growing up, growing old and holding onto/releasing dreams and beliefs is completely unsurprising. The heavy Beach Boys influence is only slightly surprising. That it's an impeccable pop song makes perfect sense.

Big Boi, "Shine Blockas (ft. Gucci Mane)"
Don't tell Big Boi that rap has passed the Outkast formula by - he'll just prove it hasn't with this retro/funk kick to the dick, with the enigmatic Gucci Mane in tow. "Word to LeBrown James/ he some chicken chow mein/ anyway/ you done say some silly things" - he's talking to you, assholes. Even a Tyler Perry reference, for those huge TBS fans in the fucking HOUSE HOLLER.

Raekwon, "House of Flying Daggers (ft. Ghostface, Inspectah Deck, GZA & Method Man)"
Stunningly, Deck starts off: "We pop off like a mobster boss/ angel hair with the lobster sauce" . . . and we're off, with that same tremor and magic you've wanted since 36 Chambers (probably, Cuban Linx the Original). Not only does Deck sound relevant, Method Man is absurdly good, but most important: the Iron/Chef balance is back, and Ghostface goes fucking crazy: "from Benetton rugby skullies/ Oshkosh conductor jumpers/ the train hats fit me lovely/ Rae's job is to make sure the coke is fluffy/ While I politic his birthday bash with Puffy/ bagged Nia soon as I linked up, the kid ain't inked up/ I'm an old mummy, my gold weigh as much as King Tut/ slippers, robes is minked up, under the do-rag bro/ my three dimensional fade is clean cut" . . .

The Hood Internet, "Solid Gold from New York"
AZ/Ghostface mashed up with the Golden Filter - and it sounds like the way the song should have to start. The stark, street-oriented versus play brilliantly off the glittering synths, almost like an audio tour of the City itself.

Kid Cudi, "Make Her Say (ft. Kanye West, Common, & A-Trak)"
The best Lady Gaga song released, ever. Beautifully vulgar perfection.

Roll Deep, "Shake a Leg"
And now, calypso! I have a grime fixation, so this is no surprise - sure it wasn't released this year (in the US), but I hadn't heard it, so eat a dick son. "Know what would be dandy?/ a little glass of brandy" is my new favorite put-down.

Major Lazer, "Pon de Floor (ft. Vybz Kartel)"
The video says more than I ever could.

Biggy Smalls vs. Miley Cyrus, "Party and Bullshit in the USA"
Yep. Yep. Yep.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Top 15 Albums of 2009

OK - since I NEVER F-ING POSTED all year (OK I did, but not at the . . . prodigious . . . pace of yesteryear), I've been pretty bad with music updates. For that reason I'll expand to 15 this year - but I won't like it, and I will probably drink enough to fight you as a result. If you want, drop me a line and I'll upload some of these so you can "sample" THEN CLEARLY GO BUY IT IMMEDIATELY AND IN CONJUNCTION WITH AMERICAN COPYRIGHT LAWS. Get me a smoothie while you're out, with the PlusProtein add-in? Thanks, dollface.

15: The Hood Internet - Mixtape Vol. 4

While not quite on par with the ridiculous "Vol. 1", the fourth installment from the Chicago DJ duo matches up the weird/experimental (Weezer over faux italo?) with legit bangers (AZ/Ghostface over the Golden Filter) and shit that just works (SPOILER: my favorite song of the year over "Back Dat Azz Up"). And it's free. Sick.

14: Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

Easily the best AC album, and contains two of the best songs of the year ("Brothersport" and particularly the superb "My Girls" - more on that one later).

13: Major Lazer - Guns Don't Kill People, Lazers Do

Sure, it's inconsistent, jokey and smacks of a one-off . . . and there's a 4-song stretch in the middle that completely sucks (CHOKE ON SOMETHING LARGE, AMANDA BLANK) . . . but the bookends of the album are more fun than watching Cowboys fans lose. A car banger if there ever was one.

12: Roll Deep - Street Anthems

Cheating a little - this is a "retrospective" singles collection. Still, it's everything right with the UK Grime movement, in a tidy package.

11: The XX - xx

It's like Zero7 for smart people - breezy, seemingly-effortless, but with real depth and power. The drum machine actually allows for the band to open up, instead of being a constraint. Just a stunning, out-of-nowhere debut.

10: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Yeah yeah - it's a collection of obvious influences, almost like an indie-rock hybridization experiment (you can see the Mendel squares: "Dominant trait, Stone Roses - recessive, Pixies). But it's a GOOD one - full of harmony and that odd, cloudy-but-sunny disposition that make it work in the car or on the boat.

9: Dizzee Rascal - Tongue n Cheek

So the dude goes out and makes an electroclash album - and why not? Dizzee doesn't sound as fierce, as hungry, as he did in his first albums - but growth is a good thing, and sounding comfortable over an Armand van Buran beat works much better than chatting shit about geezers and gunplay. My British rap fixation continues unabated (insert own abating joke here).

8: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!

Probably the best-named record of the year, because it really is a blitz - the YYYs keep the angular guitars, but lose the Joy Division for some New Order. Holy shit, it's an actual dance album - and Karen O's squawks and howls and lyrics fit the dance floor like a fucked-up bloody glove. This is the album the Killers wish they'd made instead of Sam's Town. "Get your leather on", indeed.

7: Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come

John Darnielle might be the best songwriter of this generation - he spins a story better than anyone, and can create consistent yet interesting album better than anyone this side of David Berman. A Biblical album without references to God, a spiritual journey that stops to ask questions, and a teacher who doesn't pretend to have all the answers - just a great, great album.

6: Japandroids - Post-Nothing

Beach songs about French kissing French girls, changing (or losing) dreams while growing up, or just simply reminiscing - all over the kind of fuzzed-out, devil-may-care attitude that takes years to master but minutes to hit hard. It's hard to sound this lackadaisical - and even harder to actually make the music matter as a result. Gorgeous.

5: The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You

Honestly, this was not an album I thought I'd enjoy (along with similar-yet-different group Mumford & Sons), but I and Love and You blew me away at first listen. The North Carolina bluegrass roots collide with an alt-folk mentality that reminds you of Wilco but quickly runs right past its influences - heartfelt and smooth, yet jagged with loss and despair.

4: Girls - Album

Everyone has the same thought their first listen through Album: "the dude who made this is totally and completely fucked up." Of course, the first song proclaims the singer is "fucked in the head" - it's not exactly subliminal, but it's still important, and his loss is our gain. Ranging from surf to 50s R&B to a hint of rockabilly and calypso at times, this is a beach record that wears its influences proudly but uses them to reinforce lyrical themes, rather than the other way around. An incredibly impressive effort from Girls.

3: Passion Pit - Manners

The new era of pop music will accept anything as an instrument - whether it's vocals or computer manipulation or banging on a trash can. Passion Pit's expansion to a full band pushed the falsetto and computer-assisted vocals further to the back but heightened their effect, creating soaring anthems that never cross into "Wind Beneath My Wings" schmaltz for longer than a second or two. Taking the 'build/release' formula of electronic music into the mainstream - the future is grand.

2: Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Part II

A swaggering FUCK YOU to anybody who thought OB4CL2 was vaporware of the music world, or would be a pussy-footed effort like The Blueprint 3 - instead, Raekwon and especially Ghostface blow the doors down then pillage all your snacks and shit. I'm not sure it was the second-best album on artistic merit, but it was certainly the album I listed to the second-most this year.

1: Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Unreal. Surreal. Perfect. Thomas Mars and Phoenix have come a long way in a short time, not by pushing boundaries, but by settling comfortably within their current vein and simply making pop music from a 60 degree angle. This album will always be the sound of 2009 for me, even if I want to murder a child every time I see the car commercial butchering "1901".

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lessons Learned?

Well, the big ol' 2-1 split this week (2-1 ATS for the season), but we learned something from every game, didn't we kids?

-Utah/USU: A lot of points is a lot of points, especially in a grudge match game. Note to self: if you don't have a strong analytical edge, stay away from big numbers. This is kind of like falling down the bar-whore ladder at closing time - in the absence of something compelling, just get the fuck out.

-USC/NCSU: This one was pegged pretty well by the major tout guys, actually, and everything that needed to happen (low-scoring game; correlative factors) did. I'm not sure we had much edge here, but following well-reasoned advice in a game without much in the way of contradicting factors is always a smart policy.

-Oregon/Boise State: I think I nailed this game basically exactly, at least as far as what I needed to do to get to the highest-percentage place for a pool. Oregon's rushing attack indeed could not take advantage of Boise's several mistakes, and a sloppy game indeed went to the superlative home field advantage. Sometimes, Occam's Razor is the way to play, especially as evidence mounts to support it (and sample sizes get larger). This could also be construed as "when it's obvious, don't do anything stupid" and/or "don't buy into major-conference preseason hype when contradicting factors emerge, you believe-everything-you-read ninny." Point taken.

Next up: weighing factor-based computer rankings while teams get connected through early play, plus the Week 1 NFL lines. Holy shit, what a week.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

It's that time again . . .

Football season begins, which means drinking myself into oblivion with 80,000 of my closest friends every weekend. The season is a total grind - you're worn out by the time November gets around, or at least you are if you're like me (NOTE: don't be like me). This year, I'm in a bunch of confidence-type pools, so I figured I'd outline my process here, for posterity if nothing else (and so I can figure out what the fuck went wrong when I get plowed under). I generally cash in these, although I win pretty infrequently - that makes me think three things:


2 - It seems pretty likely I get a good handle on the "easy" games every week, but miss (at least in the sense that I don't break away from the pack) on the go-either-way types.

3 - I'm a fucking retard who talks himself into long shots for ridiculous reasons at least once a week.

I'll start with the Thursday college games, just to get warmed up (there's no action this week in any of my pools, because the NFL hasn't started and/or the dudes running it are lazy, lazy men).

Utah St @ Utah (-21)

According to Sagarin, Utah should be a 30+ point favorite on a neutral site. USU is just awful, and Utah doesn't have any sort of reputation for starting slowly. Unless Utah slams on the breaks (or inclement weather, but it's 90 and 10% chance of rain), I'm OK with going there, even acknowledging that USU was better than their record last year, and Utah will be markedly worse. Utah

South Carolina @ NC State (-5)

Bizarre game here, and tough to get a handle on because of USC's carousel of QBs last season and NC State being, well, average. I think USC is exploitable on offense (TAKE THAT, SPURRIOR HAIR CUT!) but I can't see NCSU really dominating on the offensive side of the ball either. Both Dr. Bob and Sagarin aren't big on the -5, so I'll sit on USC and hope Stephen Garcia can complete better than 53% of his frigging passes.

Note that in a "pick-the-winner (no line)" pool, I'd likely ride NCSU here - the five points are that important. I'm in both types, so I'll probably list the results independently.

Oregon @ Boise St. (-3.5)

This game is unreal, really - it looks like the line is basically perfect. Vegas, you win again (note that it opened at 5.5 - Vegas, you're full of fucking tards, but at least the market can bail you out). Oregon has only a handful of starters returning, while Boise lost its front 7 and skill-position guys. BSU's RBs are very solid, though - possibly better than the departing Ian Johnson on a per-carry/success basis. None have proposed after a Statue of Liberty, though, so I don't know any of their names off-hand - they're numbers in a douchey spreadsheet, and will stay that way until and if they rape/rob/fail their way out of school (clearly I'm an Iowa fan).

Here's the thing - BSU is probably a .5-point favorite on neutral turf. Add 3 and get the line, right? Wrong, fuck face - Boise's something like a 5.5-point favorite at home, according to Massey (not Mark - although that would be AWESOME) and just never loses there. Oregon's not a fantastic road team, although they're very good early. I wouldn't bet this game if you gave me the money (NOTE: that's a lie), but if a pool forced me to, I'd take Boise and pray the entirely-new Oregon line can't take advantage of the mostly-new Boise front 7, because Oregon's advantage should come on the ground, at least in theory. I hate this fucking game.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Oh. My. Science.

So there's been a lot going on, and a lot of catching up to do . . .

Manny. Fuck.

Just in case you're the last apologist on the planet, now it's pretty safe to assume that anybody on Earth who had a.) money and b.) any common sense is, has or tried to beat the MLB drug testing policy. That's just how it was - it happened. To be honest, I would have done it too - both for the drive to become the best, and because HOLY SHIT TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS. That doesn't mean it's right, and there is absolutely no way to endorse its effects on children (which is really the true downside to athletes using), but there it is.

There are SO MANY great things about the Manny story, though. First, his excuse is, essentially, a "piss-the-bed" excuse - it requires about the same level of self-delusion as the time you woke up after a night of drinking and thought, "hey, I really sweated a lot last night - it is kind of hot out here, after all, and I'm nearly certain the sweat isn't localized in the crotch region either *whistles*" . . . and I assume everyone's been there. Oh, you haven't? Awkward. Manny's supposed infertility is awesome - dude's not even 40, and already has a kid. Good work, Boras - apparently your deal with Satan does not include believable lies.

Luckily, it appears that NO ONE CARES! Seriously - it was a two-day story and now . . . gone. Does this mean we're finally getting over the media-fueled hysteria and can start to focus on real issues (like, oh, teaching kids the dangers of steroids, or teaching players how to do them more safely so they don't die at age 44)? Probably not - it's likely apathy. What a world.

The most interesting part though? If reports that the MLB investigation was triggered by elevated synthetic testosterone levels are accurate, then holy shit . . . that means whatever steroid Manny is using is NOT CURRENTLY DETECTABLE BY MLB. All he had to do was keep that 4:1 ratio, and no one would have ever found out. We always suspected that, much like the Acme Anvil Company versus the Road Runner, rogue chemists were multiple steps ahead of testing. This is literal proof - this is the puff of smoke the Road Runner left behind, or the sour taste in your mouth left after a continuation of that hack analogy. Apparently, still - no one cares.

A-Rod. Fuck You.

Selena Roberts still, well, sucks - seriously, her righteous indignation over the "culture of masculine impropriety-slash-rich people are awesome-tude" during the Duke Lacrosse Shitshow makes Louis Farrakhan look like MLK (note: that comparison brought to you by the Rooney Rule). However, the A-Rod book (awesomely titled "A-Rod" - no shit!) is simply brilliant. If we ignore, well, any semblance of journalistic integrity, and simply take all this shit at face value, we learn:

-A-Rod had a clubhouse attendant put toothpaste on his toothbrush after every game. This is not only epic douchebaggery (not even the richest, most entitled fuck on Wall Street really thinks he's above toothpasting), it's also just amazing. Like, the first thing you're thinking after a game, at 11pm or whatever, is "boy, I really want to brush my teeth, but I'd like that to be facilitated for me so it is just a little bit less demanding of me and my time"? Shouldn't a wealthy pro athlete think "boy, I should send that clubbie out for hobags" instead?

-His pickup line was something along the lines of "who's hotter, me or Jeter?" Durrr, he fucked Mariah Carey and Jessica Biel while you traipsed around with manly Canadian strippers, you dense fuck. Boy, I wonder - who could it possibly be?

-Seriously, it just keeps going from there . . . Bitch Tits? Awesome.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Coming attractions . . .

My life has been hysterical lately, so I have great posts on the way (look for the Manny analysis tomorrow) . . . however, to start: CBS's "The Unit" is a startlingly good TV series. It's actually better than 24 at this point, with the same need to set reality aside but with a much more appropriate use of tension, character development and audience interaction. Considering where it started (and how much I hate network TV), it felt like a good "props" section. I mean, whatever.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

RIP Mark Fidrych

The Red Sox AA affiliate played in my hometown (Bristol, CT) for a few years in the early 80s before moving to New Britain, and a bunch of prominent future Red Sox (Wade Boggs, Oil Can Boyd, Marty Barrett, Bob Stanley, etc.) played for the team for at least a short time. When I was a kid, they used to put on a charity softball game in town where former major leaguers would play personalities from ESPN (since it was in town) and other media outlets. The field where the game was held, and where I would later play high school ball, was this neat old field built near the beginning of the century. As a result, you were fairly close to the field and got to talk to all the players.

One year, when I was about 10 or 11, a family friend was asked to be the honorary third base coach. Knowing that I was a big baseball fan, he worked it out so that we could walk on the field before the game, watch the guys getting ready, and meet a bunch of the players. It was great; some of the players (Luis Tiant, Ozzie Virgil and Bob Stanley) were incredibly nice, and some others (Jim Rice and Bill Buckner) were rude or dismissive.

One person who stuck out especially though was Mark Fidrych. He stopped warming up and talked to my mom and I for about 10 minutes. He was impressed that I knew so much about his career (I was a bit of a baseball nerd even at that age), and he talked about being in the majors, making the All-Star team, and how lucky he was to be a major leaguer for even a short time. For a kid like me, getting to talk with a former big leaguer was a dream, and I was walking on air the rest of the day.

In talking to sportswriters and other people inside baseball in the years following that encounter, I found out that it really wasn't out of the ordinary. Fidrych was an incredibly kind person, and someone who realized how lucky he was to play in the majors.

So it was that I was sad to hear that Mark passed away yesterday after an apparent accident at his farm. It's a tragic loss, as he leaves behind a wife and a daughter. It's also tragic because the world lost a kind person far too soon.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Anatomy of a Drinking Draft

So on Saturday, we had our 10-man live draft with my good buddies from home. It's a 5-player keeper league, where each keeper replaces a pick in rounds 1 through 5 - it's normal 5x5 but with OBP instead of BA (because we're progressive like that). Last season, I went into freefall late in the year as my pitching staff became decimated and injuries to key players (hi Ian Kinsler!) took their toll on my non-core stats.

An interesting thing happened - Lance Berkman didn't play a single game in the OF last season, forcing me into a situation where I had Berkman, Fielder and Howard all competing for 2 spots (1B and UTIL). Normally I would be apoplectic about being locked into my UTIL slot so early, but I genuinely feel all three are top-20 talents. In an effort to get younger, I made a trade, sending Howard (less valuable than usual in this league because it ends earlier and usually Howard's end-of-season tear coincides with his team sitting at home watching the playoffs) for BJ Upton (giving me much-needed youth and athleticism, insanely important in a keeper league). This made my five keepers David Wright, Lance Berkman, Ian Kinsler, Prince Fielder and BJ Upton - a very good collection of talent (all rated inside the top 35, with four potential top-20 guys) but not even close to the best in the league at this point, so I'd have to make up some ground in the draft:

Rim Job Larry
Berkman Lance 1B K
Fielder Prince 1B K
Wright David 3B K
Kinsler Ian 2B K
Upton B.J. OF K
McCann Brian C 6
Young Chris OF 7
Dunn Adam OF 8
Vazquez Javier P 9
Lowe Derek P 10
Myers Brett P 11
Tulowitzki Troy SS 12
Santana Ervin P 13
Fuentes Brian P 14
Danks John P 15
Street Huston P 16
Carpent Chris P 17
Drew J.D. OF 18
Duchscherer Justin P 19
Johnson Kelly 2B 20
Dukes Elijah OF 21

I selected 4th, and Dan Haren and Jake Peavy were off the board before it got to me. At this point, I made a snap decision - with basically every top-tier starter off the board, I would try to use a modified version of the old auction-draft move of piling 80% of your resources into position players, then filling your staff with high-K/low-WHIP guys, often using multiple relievers, even middle relievers. With our league having 3 SP slots and no mid-week changes, I wouldn't necessarily be able to run it to its fullest effect - I'd still need something for wins, and with a 10-team league, Ks from starters are still huge since the pool is deep.

Either way, I took the plunge, picking for value at 54 with the best catcher available (since I figured ESPN's hype would make Weiters/Ianetta/etc. overhyped; I was wrong) and possibly the best player available. I then capitalized on undervalued resources to fill my OF slots (OF is startlingly shallow this year, even in 10-team leagues) with Young and Dunn, who I likely should have selected in the reverse order, but since it was on the wheel no one cares.

Now that I had my position players solidly filled (and with what might be the best position-player lineup I've ever had in fantasy baseball), I started on the pitching. Vasquez is an obvious choice, in hopes that moving to the easier league and out of US Cellular knocks down the gopher balls while increasing K:BB ratio slightly, although he's still been valuable for years, while Myers fits exactly the role we're looking for while giving a good shot at Ws on a solid second-place team. Lowe goes exactly against the grain of the high-K lineup, but the value was way too solid at that position, and his WHIP plus ERA should still help. Tulo was the only non-garbage SS left (and was likely a steal), Drew shouldn't go that low even with his injury history, while Carpenter would have never made it back to me and thus forced my hand. I grabbed Dukes on a flier, knowing that I could DL Upton and add Jason Motte to get another reliever into the starting lineup.

Overall, I'm pretty damn happy with the draft - it's yet another all-offense/questionable-pitching RC team, but that's been my MO for years, and I'll just have to run waiver-wire games to keep the staff solid (or ditch SP for the Royce Rings of 2009; which I'm fine with).

Monday, April 6, 2009

Auction Draft: Teams Breakdown

First off, this is amazing - absolutely ridiculously funny. Hat-tip to HighHeat on SoSH for this. Sick.

Here's how each team wound up in the auction team draft:

Milwaukee $3.75
Yankees $8.50
Oakland $3.50
St. Louis $2.75
San Diego $1.50

Cubs $8.25
Colorado $1
NY Mets $8

White Sox $5.50
Reds $3.25
Florida $2
LAA $8
Toronto $1.25

Atlanta $3
Baltimore $1.75
Cleveland $7.50
LAD $7.50
Seattle $2

Arizona $4.25
Detroit $3.25
KC $3
SF $1.50
Tampa Bay $8

Boston $8.25
Houston $1.75
Minnesota $3.75
Philly $4.25
Texas $2

If the season plays out exactly according to the PECOTA predictions, my team's wins alone will be worth $51, with at least another $20 in playoff earnings and assorted bonuses based on division leads at the milemarker points - can't complain about that. At least not until the first major injury to the Yankees - and let's be honest, I'm freerolling the AL East with this setup. Life is good.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

On Balancing Ranges in an Auction-like Nerd Setting

Clearly, two of my favorite things, poker and baseball, have shockingly little in common. However, poker has informed much of my fantasy baseball gambling, including what I consider to be an epic draft from yesterday. We went back-to-back with our live draft, which I will outline a bit tomorrow (because I'm insanely hung over) - the concept is deviously simple: six men, drafting every team in baseball auction-style (arbitrary $20 action value; increments of $0.25), with each win for your teams worth $0.50 from each of the other five players, plus $7.50 paid to each of the division leaders after the first 2 months, second 2 months, and end-of-season. Depending on how you draft, costs can spiral somewhat rapidly - something like 35% of the trials result in at least one player losing $100. It's not "large potatoes" by any stretch of Dan Quayle's imagination - I'm simply pointing out that the fiddy-cent increment is kind of a red herring.

I used Baseball Prospectus's projected standings (PECOTA-enhanced); in terms of recent performance, they are by far the most predictive, although I did sprinkle with a hearty dose of common sense. Because I'm a massive, massive nerd, I needed a way to properly set valuation of teams in such an environment - I knew from last year that the 'best' teams would go for something in the range of $8 to $9, but also knew that $9 was the max anyone would pay. In order to jigger some valuation out of the deal, I figured that the worst team (Pittsburgh) would be 'worth' $1 and the best team (Yankees, at 99 wins - I know, fucking kill me) would be 'worth' $9. I then set up a spreadsheet to set the 'baseline' values and determine what each team should be worth between those two extremes. It turns out, since all teams need to be picked, an 81-81 team (such as, oh, the Angels) is worth about $4.40 or so - not surprising, but indicative of the odd valuation that a limited money environment forces.

I knew that I would have to overpay for a top team - my goal going in was to maximize EV, even at the expense of my best-case scenario (note: this is exactly the opposite of how I filled out my NCAA brackets; fuck my life). I figured if I could get one guaranteed 90+ win team, one other potential division winner, and two .500-level teams, my guaranteed 'shitter' 5th team would be successfully offset, and I'd be freerolling the division championship or wildcard scenarios. I was willing to pay out the ass for one great team, look for value in underrated teams in shitty divisions, and wouldn't worry too much about my last team unless I could get lucky (foreshadowing: I did not get lucky) - plus, I wanted to nominate secretly-shitty teams like the Angels, Astros and Marlins to bleed out dollars so I could dominate the late rounds.

The first team nominated was, of course, the New York Yankees, the probable best team in baseball (again, fuck me). I started the bidding at $5, effectively announcing that I wanted to be the proud new owner of the worst team since the SS. This was by far the weakness in my "system" since I set an arbitrary price for the team - however, I got the Yankees at $8.50, an amount that should be profitable unless I do something catastrophic the rest of the way. Luckily, I did not Thurmon Munson the rest of the draft.

The Angels were, predictably, massively overrated - although their division is TURRRR-BULL like Chuck Barkley's blowjob story, they're simply not a great value compared to the Yankees, even though they went for exactly the same price ($8.50). We were drafting with Cubs fans, so even though I love the Cubs in this kind of scenario, I wasn't willing to pay the $9 it would take (note: I also couldn't).

I did acquire the 'mediocre' fillers at reasonable prices - I got the Brewers and the Cardinals for $3.50 and $2.75, which are massively undervalued resources, and even give me a little bit of division-winner upside. I was able to leverage the low amount of remaining dollars into the A's at $4 too, giving me the second probable division winner to fill out my plan. I got stuck in a late-game bidding scenario where everyone could outbid me, so I wound up with the second-to-last of the shitty teams, with the Padres - make no mistake, the Pads are terrible, but hopefully the craptacular NL West can at least propel everyone to equivalent mediocrity. Still though, it looks like I should be +EV on the whole, with some upside to win serious money. Nobody's other picks really inspire any fear - I'll post each of the teams as soon as I get the spreadsheet. Good times.

Wait until tomorrow, when I'll compare the great success of this auction with the total misguided nightmare of the actual fantasy draft . . . note to self: draft a pitcher someday. God.

Friday, March 20, 2009

This Is How We Chill From '93 Till . . .


So . . . uh . . . we drink too much. There's that. I tilted off everything - Wisky sucks like fucking Paris Hilton, except I would be much more comfortable with the green-tinted night vision camera, which is absurdly beat. I am terrible at sports betting.

Also I took Bob Morris, which is retarded - I did win a prop by knowing it's in Chicago, but yet I still want to fall into a fire. On the bright side, OSU is Crying Gaming Siena so life could be much worse. I might only lose a dozen this session.

A few great Brent quotes in the interim:

"I need a onesy with a butt flap . . . not for dudes inserting, for poopies outserting."

"I am not the president of the wyoming school for the deaf"
"but you're getting close"

"if you don't love the goo goo dolls, you're no friend of mine"


Loooooooooooooooong time between updates - such is life. Beer has switched to liquor, which is going great. More football resulted in more seal-clapping adventures, including Brent hitting multiple houses with his attempts to throw in the wind. It was . . . poor. Quite poor.

The WVU over/Mizzou -12.5 worked like clockwork, and life is suddenly slightly more easy . . . except I spun that into relatively big moves (3u) on Utah -2 and USC -2. Early in the week, I had Utah at +1, and a friend got +2.5 early in the week, so -2 is basically the "Bring out the Gimp!" moment of the tournament for me. Plus, Zona is up early, so I'm pretty much getting the date rape "C'mon, I won't tell anyone" treatment in the first few minutes. My 'system' (stealing from KenPom and Sagarin; converting to ML/'true' point spread) is doing amazingly well for big conferences and TERRIBLE for small conferences, so Utah will likely do me raw. If only Michael Cera had remembered his tiny bottle of lube.

We had another kid party, which was sweet - the Friday night dinner break is epic, just no games for two hours. We filled the time with Guitar Hero - here's a brief shot of what the setup looks like:

You can see the projector and several key televisions with the undercard games (or MacGuyver when Brent is feeling like a saucy fob), as well as a child who may or may not contribute to failing on that particular song. Riley was also the subject of a series of drunk-Troy barbs, including the epic "Riley looks like a less-attractive Justin" (to Riley's parents, of whom Justin is most likely one). He also told Justin that his kid was most likely gay. Twice. In succession, with no remorse. Just unreal.

You can see the drums on the right - however, what you can't see is that the drums are being manned by the three-headed retard hydra:

Yep - that's four drumsticks among three drummers, playing on one drum set. The highest they managed was like 92% - which is surreal. Three monkeys banging the drums with three typewriters got a 95 earlier. It's a hot drunken mess at this point, which is fiiiiine.

The Mormons are getting faceraped early, and Brent and I nearly just rolled a futon into the beer Christmas Tree (all the empties are being hung . . . hanged? hung? . . . from a base to look like a Christmas Tree - yep). So basically I'm reliant on Tim Floyd to save me, kind of like the Charlotte Hornets circa 1492. I'm 100% sure I'm fucked. Totally fucked.

Brian just got accosted by Troy's kid (~14 months), who immediately fell on a drum stick and cried. Troy told his kid that he should "wait until you can walk then kick him in the face" - Brent then told the kid to "wait until you take chemistry and learn biology then you can . . . I mean . . . yeah, biochemistry, right?"



So work's done forever (or until Monday...whatever) and the drinking has re-begun . . . the penalty Mike's (this time: Lime, which tastes like AIDS sherbet) went down gross and we're on to beer.

After a solid morning split, the wagers are WVU/Dayton over 129 and Mizzou -12.5 . . . I have that game with Mizzou as a "true" 14-pt favorite, but they look like total balls right now. Cornell is just staying solid on D and Mizzou is complying by taking terrible 3s on the break and not defending the interior in the slightest. Bodes poorly for a supposedly-solid defensive team - they're porous like crazy girl diaphragms.

We just had a lengthy conversation about how much it costs to remove hair via laser - I don't even know how or why, but it turns out that $300 is not enough to do armpits, and the average gross backhair costs around $5k.

My brackets are atrocious - it looks like Armageddon but with more black lines. If WVU follows through on their pending terrible loss, I'll be fucked like it's Eagle, CO - totally sweet. I think I even called that shot via email earlier in the week. Stab me in the face. When checking Brent's bracket (he's in just as much shit as I am), a couple derogatory lines were thrown out, and Brent responded with "You, sir . . . uh . . . IDON'TTHINKYOURFACEISATTRACTIVE." Interesting.

Pitt isn't really pulling away from ETSt., which might be interesting, but we'll chill for now - it's like talking during a no-hitter.


Yeah . . . my sincerest fake apologies for the lack of late-night updates last night; we threw a 1-year-old party for a while, with the wives and children stopping by to make sure various Daddies hadn't drank themselves into a coma or a divorce proceeding. So far, so good - although seeing a 1.5-year-old passing out beers was pretty awesome, I must admit. Especially when he tried to "drink" from a (sealed, obv) can of Michelob Golden and left a GIANT Cheetos chunk on the rim, which was both disgusting and kind of impressive.

Although even that paled in comparison to Tony DRINKING THE CHEETOS BEER no less than an hour later. That's right; he not only pulled the Cheetos beer from a cooler at random, but it still had enough fake-cheesy flavor for him to recognize it (and nearly puke). Chester Cheetah, you make some deliciously disgusting food products. God drinking is awesome.

After that, there was drunk food (frozen pizza and Wendy's) and a pow-wow session with online poker while I excoriated Michigan for being stupid fucks because God I hate Michigan. I split the fade of the Big 10, then lost two epics by taking Binghamton +21.5 and VCU +8.5, resulting in a basically all-around craptacular day. It happens. Early action is on OkSU at +2 and Marquette at -4.5 (which I HATE as a number, but it's a sympathy pick for JC's homerism - don't be surprised if USU bounces the Golden Christ Warrior Eagles Whatever from the tournament entirely).

I'm not super encouraged about the rest of the games either way - Utah's line is all the way up to -1.5, so hopefully you guys playing at home with your play money (or in a pool) got that game at +1 . . . getting the game 2.5 points from the tip line is just absurd.

One event that we missed out on: there were plans for a midnight football game, using a glow-in-the-dark football. I can't even fathom how poorly this would have gone, but it would have been awesome, and I'm sorely disappointed it did not come to fruition. Maybe tonight?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mormons, Bears, Bulls, Bigots and more Mormons


Quick entry while I sweat the suddenly-possible cover by Nova . . .

RC: "Prop for $X: who was the greatest player in Gonzaga history?"
Tony/Troy/JC: "Adam Morrison!"
Brent: "Feliz Navidad!"

Holy shit. Also, Feliz Navidad is actually just as far from the correct answer as AdMo . . . Definitely getting rough. Real rough.


"What are the odds of me waking up on the floor with your feet on my face, versus the odds of you waking up on the floor with my balls on your chin?"

So basically that's where it has gone - we grilled on the patio during the "dead period" once UW got up fairly large . . . I added UW -6, so I might actually accidentally win a game. Weird.

The key, though, was throwing the football around out back while grilling. Brent is well on his way to out of his mind, and had the Jake Christensen/Brett Favre Memorial "Throw The Ball 90MPH On A Line" Problem (also known as "mashing the x-button for every pass") . . . we tried to play 500. That failed. Brent and Troy would try to track the ball in the air, then wave their hands wildly, then it would fall about 8 feet away. Simply stunning.

The best part was watching Brent try to catch regular passes - he looked like he was wearing oven mitts, or trying to catch the ball with the back of his hands like a clapping seal. High comedy - I would definitely take Warren from There's Something About Mary before him at a tailgate game.

Brent was just asked to say something retarded for the blog . . . mission accomplished: "The capitol of Djibouti is Djibouti." Thanks.

UW looks pretty great, and the SEC 'revival' may have been premature due to LSU just overmatching a less-athletic Butler team. I'm adding Villanova at -15, mostly because it's in Philly and American's SOS was rough . . . but I really need the 3 points from home-field advantage to stay in it. Thinking about just fading the Big 10, too, and going Clemson (-4.5) and Texas (-4.5). Further bulletins as events warrant.


So the UNI game was a shit circus - just all sorts of awkward, including multiple iffy charge calls that nearly sent Brent into convulsions. It's kind of sad, actually - he would have won a posthumous Oscar had he simply succumbed to the poor officiating (and Lunesta).

I've now officially lost every game, which is sweet - I can't complain yet, I mean, it's not like I spend hours and hours (of billable time) investigating this stuff. I'm really smart. Ugh.

We have a couple of choice Brent quotes so far:

"BLEED IN YOUR SKULL (to Robbie Hummel)" . . . when he learned about Hummel's fractured vertebra, it changed to:
"I'm going to Pur-Doody in Tony's mouth" (the sixth or seventh such reference - I seriously have no idea)
"Captain Mother-Jizz-Mouth made my cocktail with Diet . . . dick."

Everyone (but me, obv) had the UNC under at 163 . . . the game was on pace for well over 600 points for a while, but these guys required zero scoring in the last 1:50. To a man, they were complaining about UNC's sportsmanship - like it was a low-brow move to keep playing. Apparently, Roy Williams has no class for allowing the team to continue to play hard . . . then, all sorts of high-fiving when the over missed. I love this weekend.

Oh, then Brent described the time Troy's wife saw his penis - it included the epic line, "put a little barbecue sauce on that, and it's a smokey leee-ink . . . "

So yeah - the smokey link. I guess. Unreal.


Forgot to add this (from during a Nemanja Calasan FT attempt):

TROY: "He's Serbian."
BRENT: "He looks like Dwight Schrute's brother. Mose Schrute. He likes beets."



UNI . . . not good. Purdue is very 'athletic' (and can't swim - hiyo! Insert own joke here!) and UNI is not. Brent is screaming and dancing and breaking things - he's referred to multiple people as "HUGE FUCKS" and he and Troy just each chugged a 24oz Natty Ice. Ahhh, 5.9% alcohol by volume . . . you never did me wrong. It makes me long for the halcyon days of the St. Ides Case O'Forties, "The beer to have when you don't have to remember.

Brent: "We got'em right where we want'em . . . we're gonna get Johnny Fuckface outta the lineup, we're gonna have seven less turnovers . . . that's what's gonna happen." Thanks, Adolph Rupp!

Brent also just referred to the opponent as "Pur-Dookie . . . like poop." Nah, we get it dude.

Troy: Q: "Is there a reason why we're not watching UNI?" A: "They're at halftime? And that one you're watching on the 4-way channel? That's a live look-in at the game we are watching."
Troy: "Oh. That answers that."

So the wheels are well on their way off - Cal is losing to Maryland, which is just fantastic because I'm completely resigned to losing every single game I attempt to cap, like some sort of reverse Midas Touch where every spreadsheet I touch turns into quadriplegic porn or infanticide.

Also Collin has to be ready to punch a clown - UCONN is in shit shape, up 2 with turnovers all over the hell. Ugly like the Horseface Killer (callback joke! Yay!)


Durrr . . . nice morning. The end of the LSU/Butler game was a Benjamin Button-style anti-climax, with a last-chance inbound to cover that resulted in yet another f-ing turnover. Great. That's OK - a lot of people start 0-3. At least Memphis kept the hope alive.

Brent is already going apeshit on the UNI game, and it's 2-2 18:51 in the 1st. Engelseder just made a free throw, which prompted JC to call him "put your Engelseed in my butt" . . . I have no idea.

BYU's loss was so predictable, Jared said that their God has used up "all his power" on Steve Young. So there's that - Mormons can fuck off, at least until the Utah game.

The next action is all over Cal at -1.5 - I have the 'true line' at -3.5, and UMD sucks, so hopefully we're fading the public instead of looking like idiots. Again. Brent said "Gary Williams can get AIDS - I hate him" which led to this exchange:

JC: "Well . . . I guess we all could get AIDS . . . "
RC: "I mean, that kind of requires . . . let's just say you'll need a little help from your wife."

Beer's going down well. Really well. God I hate Mormonism.


Ummmm . . . Memphis is barely hanging on. I have them winning every pool. I just dropped a tire iron onto my dick - that would result in a drunken mess all weekend, since I would officially be rooting for everyone else to fail miserably.

Butler has made a sick run - punctuated by Troy noting that Goose Island 312 Wheat is "better beer than Coors Light." Uh, really? If only that difference were reflected in their respective prices . . . Jesus. I also think filet mignon is better than human feces, and cooked pork is better than trichinosis.

The BYU game is unreal bad - A&M is making the Mormons look like the Washington Generals. On the bright side, BYU just had 5 white guys on the floor (SURPRISE!) and A&M five black guys . . . it looked like Brown v. Board of Education for a minute.

I'm now relying on the Cal Bears to resurrect this session, which is a boner. UNI starts in a few minutes - Brent is a massive UNI homer. Should they be the 12 who wins, he will drink himself into an Ed Kennedy brain tumor. Meanwhile, UCONN's coach is in the hospital - Memphis is now tied, so both might be dead by morning. Totally sweet.


So I just got here and drank my 'ceremonial' Mike's Hard Lemonade (because they no longer make Zima - there's a planet where this makes sense, I promise) . . . it went down like anal. Life is easy.

My early action looks like Tara Reid's saggy boob job - A&M has missed exactly one field goal (they're now 11 for 12) and Butler has 10 turnovers in 13 minutes. No shit - they're on pace for more than 35 turnovers. Stab my neck. Mid-majors. Ugly. Teams that rely on "drive and kick" and jump shooting can go insanely cold in new buildings (or against athletic teams) so it's my own damn fault. I did not know Butler started three black guys, though, which makes me feel a little better about them coming back from 9 (really 7 since I'm getting the points.

Troy just invoked the "touched it last" rule on JC . . . I'm kind of glad I missed the morning run, and if I'm alive at 10pm I'll be insanely happy. Awkward bisexuality jokes are flying fast and furious, with Brent comparing Pogs to touching dudes. I don't even get it, which is a bad sign.

Butler is on the 8-foot projection screen, just adding to my embarrassment, while A&M is on the world's largest non-HD television still in existence. The model name is actually Smithsonian. I'm soul-crushed and it's only noon. Should be fun - I'm telecommuting, by the way, so I'm answering the phones and email from the dude-cave. I can't see anything going wrong there.


It's basically that time again: Live-blogging our retardation as a result of the NCAA tournament, where multiple dudes shirk all semblance of responsibility for 2 to 4 days and drink until they feel like the sponge on the side of the sink. This is an especially poignant metaphor for me this morning, as I used the last of my soap in the shower, and may well be scrubbing myself with Dawn via that sponge tomorrow morning. Life is good, if not slightly degenerate.

We'll get started in a proper sense in about an hour - I'm sure JC is already three Captain and Diets in, since they drove to Sonic for breakfast (without me; fucks).

After last year's debacle playing off the same Bodog account (whereby I was a moderate winner, but we had an f-ing spreadsheet dedicated to keeping track who was up/down) we instead decided to just do a line/spread pool this year, along with the winner-take-all bracket. My current plays:

Alabama State +3.5 (DERP DERP) -1u

Butler +2.5 2u
BYU -2 4u
Oklahoma State +2 1u
Cal -1 1u (could be more; the 'true line' is like -3.1, but I just don't trust Cal)
Utah +1 4u
USC -2 1u
Binghamton +22.5 2u
Wisconsin +2.5 2u

Oh, and I picked Memphis to win. In every bracket. Go big or go home, am I right? Nope, I am an idiot.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Big Gulps Huh? Welp, See Ya Later!


Always good to start down a game in the tourney . . . Anyway. Follow the rest of my picks as they go down (live!) over the course of the next few days - we're doing the "man cave 3.0" weekend again, and it should be . . . bad. Very bad. Very very bad.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

In Re: Nerds in the Springtime

It's the best gambling weekend of the year: March Madness, Rounds 1 & 2! I just had an incredibly interesting email exchange with a friend about vagaries of various brackets - one common (crappy) bracket structure is the "get bonus points equaling the difference between seeds for upsets" meme. Basically, if a 5 beats a 12, you get 1 point - if the 12 beats the 5, you get 7 points. This encourages wild first-round picks, but is it really worth it? Let's look at the math (note: this math relies on a somewhat-odd 1/2/4/16/32/64(!) structure - most are 1/2/4/8/16/32, which does change the Final Four math slightly, but only by a few percentage points):

Here's the odds breakdown for the big seeds (how often you need the lower seed to win to "break even" on rd 1):

15/2: about 8%
14/3: about 9%
13/4: 11%
12/5: 14%
11/6: 20%

If you assume that the higher seed would win the next round, too (so we're 'guaranteeing' the higher seed 3 points):

15/2: 20%
14/3: 23%
13/4: 27%
12/5: 33%
11/6: 60%

Here's the real problem, though: the massive jump between rd 3 and rd 4 makes this just ridiculous. If we assume each #2 seed has a 15% chance of making the Final Four (which would earn you 1+2+4+16=23 points), that means that the #2 seed is "worth" 3.4 points, which is why I used the numbers above. If we assume the breakdown is more like:

1-seed: 40%
2-seed: 25%
3-seed: 15%
4-seed: 8%
5-seed: 7%
6- and below: 5%

Then it's more like:
16-seed has to win 61% of the time
15-seed: 44%
14-seed: 31%
13-seed: 20%
12-seed: 23%
11-seed: something like 14% depending on how you assign that last 5%

Hilariously, if we look at historical data our WAG assumption isn't that far off - over the last 30 years, the chances for a particular seed to reach the Final Four:
1-seed: 42.5%
2-seed: 21.7%
3-seed: 11.7%
4-seed: 8.3%
5-seed: 4.2%
6-seed and higher: 11.7%

So we under-estimated the chances of Cinderella making a run, but past that, we're pretty close. Since it looks like with the notable exception of George Mason and the 2000 FF the seedings have become a pretty efficient market (NOTE: strong chance of confirmation bias after last season), we don't even really need to re-run the numbers. It looks like the best strategy for your "upset pool" at work or with friends is to pick every single 10/11/12/13 to win outright unless you think that the 4 or 5 has a big-time chance to make a deep run.

Oh, and the other big key: correctly pick the championship game. That's about half of your realistically-possible points right there, and it would be nearly impossible to lose under any scenario. Make money make money.

Also, my current first-round picks before the public money rapes the pooch:
Alabama State (+3.5) - very iffy one here, it's right at the Sagarin line but I trusted someone else who loves this line.
Butler +2.5 (it's probably closer to PK)
BYU -2 (LOVE this line)
Oklahoma State +2 (looks iffy with the latest efficiency ratings, but meh)
Cal -1
Utah +1 (should DEFINITELY be favored; money-line play if you can find one)

For reference, the lines for rds 1 and 2 are usually so bad that you don't need a "system" - just use kenpom.com and Jeff Sagarin's Predictatron point spreads, accounting in your mind for travel or probably home-court, and get there. That's the key: Get there.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fantasy Baseball

So, it's that time of year again. I'm in two leagues this year, both largely made up of friends from college. The first draft was today, and I was able to participate live on-line. Our friendly blog owner is in the same league, so I'll stay out of too much strategy analysis. It's a 10 team league, so the pickings got rather slim towards the end of the draft.

The A-Roids
Round Pick Player Position
1. (4) David Wright 3B
2. (17) Ian Kinsler 2B
3. (24) Lance Berkman 1B
4. (37) Dan Haren SP
5. (44) Brian McCann C
6. (57) Chad Billingsley SP
7. (64) Stephen Drew SS
8. (77) Corey Hart OF
9. (84) Jonathan Broxton RP
10. (97) Ricky Nolasco SP
11. (104) Nate McLouth OF
12. (117) Justin Upton OF
13. (124) Chris Iannetta C
14. (137) Lastings Milledge OF
15. (144) Kelly Johnson 2B
16. (157) Hunter Pence OF
17. (164) Chad Qualls RP
18. (177) Scott Baker SP
19. (184) Ubaldo Jiménez SP
20. (197) Cristian Guzmán SS
21. (204) Alex Gordon 3B

Overall I was happy with my draft. I waited a bit to get in on the pitching, and when I did I made my picks in spurts. My starting offense is fairly low-risk, although it's also for the most part only moderate reward. I probably reached a bit for a back-up catcher (in Ianetta), but I try to have two good catchers on the roster because of the injury risks. My outfield is deep but not particularly outstanding...I'm hoping that the numbers put up by Wright, Kinsler, Berkman and McCann will supplement my strictly-average outfield.

I got caught without a closer last year at the end of the year, and it cost me in some close contests, so I wanted to give a good effort at the position this year. I'm hoping that I made good choices in balancing draft position with productivity. Again, I'm very happy with my starting pitching, and I'm hoping that Baker's fly ball issues are the worst of my starting pitching problems this year.

I was also happy to get Johnson so late in the draft. I couldn't really turn down Guzman and Gordon with the last two picks. Overall I made a few reaches, but nothing too crazy.

My next draft is this week, but as I'll be in class, I'll be relying on the auto-draft option, which I hate.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Talking through heartbreak

Obviously, I'm talking about the UConn game last night against Syracuse. Despite the pain of getting knocked out of the Big East tournament, and possibly losing a #1 seed in the NCAA's, I have to admit it was a great game.

It also got me thinking. I've been a UConn fan since I was a little kid, back to the Cliff Robinson days. My interest in UConn basketball is only exceeded by my allegiance to the Yankees. So, what are the best games I've seen as a UConn fan (in no particular order)?

1) UConn 71 - Clemson 70 (NCAA Sweet 16, 1990): This was the Tate George game. In case you haven't seen Scott Burrell's full court heave, and Tate George's turnaround jumper, then look it up on YouTube. The 1990 season was an incredible one for UConn fans, when the team put itself on the national map, and this game was the highlight of the season.

2) Duke 79 - UConn 78 (NCAA Elite 8, 1990): Yes, UConn lost. Yes, it was on a last-second shot by Christian Laettner. But, this was really the moment when UConn arrived. For a regional power to stand up to such a national powerhouse, and come a few seconds from winning, proved to everyone in the state that Jim Calhoun was building a fantastic program.

3) UConn 75 - Georgetown 74 (Big East Final, 1996): Everyone remembers this as the Ray Allen - Allen Iverson battle. Georgetown had a 10+ point lead with less than five minutes left, but the Huskies scored the last 12 points. The cherry on top was Ray Allen's one-handed leaner to win it.

4) 1999 National Championship: Both national titles were great, but this one was the best. Duke was stacked, with Trajan Langdon, William Avery and Elton Brand. But UConn kept it close in the first half, thanks in part to Ricky Moore's big first half. After years of whispers that Calhoun's teams couldn't get past the Elite 8, this was the team that did it, and most likely propelled Calhoun to the Hall of Fame. I'll never forget it.

This probably read way too much like an ESPN column, but after last night's game, I needed to write a fluff piece.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

My email to Rick Reilly

(Note: this is the actual text of an email I sent Rick Reilly regarding his latest comments on blogs)

Dear Mr. Reilly,
I noted a Newsday interview you did recently, where you talked about bloggers as guys who are holding down couch cushions, or something along those lines. This was the latest in a series of quotes you gave that criticize the blogosphere.

Now, it's cute to talk about bloggers and use the same old criticisms, evoking images of guys in their mom's basement, eating pizza rolls and furiously stabbing at a keyboard. The fact is, though, that it's wrong.

Now, there's no doubt that there are some poorly-written blogs out there. It's just the odds that, with that many blogs, there will be some run by people who can't write, or people who have their own issues.

However, how is that any different from some of the journalism that's out there? Is it different than Mitch Albom's plagiarism? Skip Bayless' consistent slamming of Lebron James? The cases of people like Jayson Blair?

Another classic criticism of blogs is that they allow for commenters to post hateful and sometimes racist and sexist comments. Now, while that may be true, have you had a chance to read the espn.com comments lately? They're not exactly a symbol of fair and pleasant discourse.

Now, here's the truth about blogs. There are many that are run by intelligent, productive members of society who just happen to love sports. Friends of mine who run blogs include lawyers, investment professionals, teachers, policy analysts, law students, MBA students...the list runs long with smart, interesting people with intriguing things to say.

I know that this email won't change your mind on blogs, and I'm not expecting you to write some long, powerful ode to the talented bloggers who are out there. That said, you're fairly popular with the American sports public, and it would make quite an impression if you were to at least stop slamming the bloggers out there.

Whether you actually read this email, or if it ends up deleted by some intern, who knows. But, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.

All the best,
Law student, classically-trained journalist, and proud blogger

The biggest cheaters in the A-Rod scandal? Not who you'd think...

As the only Yankees fan posting on this blog, I feel ethically obligated to at least post something about the A-Rod saga. Now, I have to admit I'm a bit disappointed by the revelations. I've always been a big A-Rod fan, and it's disappointing to me that A-Rod's legacy is now apparently compromised by steroid allegations. I'm also disappointed by the way the press conference and softball interview with Peter Gammons were handled; apparently his press people are the WORST PRESS PEOPLE EVER. Maybe it's the former reporter/PR professional in me, but I think there were probably about one million better ways A-Rod could have come out ahead of the story.

That said, to me, A-Rod isn't even the biggest "bad person" in this story:

1) Whoever leaked the information: So, let me get this straight. Someone tells the players that they'll be tested for performance-enhancing drugs, tells them that the information will be kept secret, and then, names are leaked. Does anyone wonder why the players don't trust any treatment program put forth by MLB?

2. The media: Now, as I've noted quite a bit on this blog, I used to be a member of the media, both for a local newspaper and for a college publication. So, in that time, I've been in a couple of locker rooms, and interviewed a few athletes pre and post-game.

That said, even with that limited experience, it puzzles me a bit when the media hides their heads in the sand as to their own culpability in the "steroid era" (which is a ridiculous term as is), but are ready to burn at the stake any athlete who used, or (as discussed on "Mike and Mike in the Morning" this week) any athlete who didn't turn themselves into the players' version of "Deep Throat."

I'm sure everyone remembers when AP reporter Steve Wilstein spotted Andro in Mark McGwire's locker and asked him about it, and the ensuing fall-out. Whether he did the right or wrong thing isn't the point; the point is that, with that "access" that the baseball writers are always so willing to trumpet, there's no doubt that there are reporters who saw evidence of steroid use and didn't report on it, or didn't mention it to managers or other supervisory personnel for that given team. I'm not advocating that they should have been tattle tales, but it's a little odd that those same reporters are now ready to crucify the players.

Finally...there's a lot of talk about putting some sort of sign in the Hall of Fame about the "steroid era." There are a couple of problems with this. First, there's already a sign in the Hall of Fame that talks about steroid use, and how it may or may not have affected the numbers of the era. Second, and most important, if we're going to do that, shouldn't there be a sign talking about the "greenie era" that preceded the "Steroid era?" All questions for anaother day I suppose.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Weirdest. Week. Ever.

I'm not sure I can really absorb all this, so let's just count down the crazy crazy crazy that happened recently:

1 - NOT AROD. Nope - not when Roberto Alomar might have full-blown AIDS n (and it might cost him $15 million). Holy balls.

2 - ARod admits to steroid use within the friendly confines of a Peter Gammons interview . . . not that I don't love Gammons (it's borderline creepy) but it wasn't exactly a hard-hitting interview. Still, it makes perfect sense with ARod's purported personality defects - however, it's just one more unfortunate data point that shows Jose Canseco's giant, empty head might have been more right than wrong. Sucks.

3 - Marvin Miller totally flips his shit about the leaked "confidential" samples . . . dude's older than Utahraptor but he's still out kicking, and he's totally correct. Just unreal to hear the only voice of reason from a 91-year-old guy, who probably heard the news on the latest wax grammophone pressing that he picked up on his way home from getting a phosphate at the lunch counter.

4 - In a new book, Manny's wife blames the 64-year-old Red Sox clubhouse attendant for their altercation . . . apparently, the old guy was rude to poor ol' Manny. I mean . . . seriously?

5 - BP's early PECOTA standings have the AL East as the best division in the history of the Planet Earth, with the Sox winning 98, the Yankees 96, the Rays 93, the Jays 81 and the lowly Orioles outhitting every team in the league with a team OPS of .780. The Angels, meanwhile, project to finish sub-.500.\

6 - David Berman breaks up the Silver Jews for no apparent reason, then goes on an absolute tirade against his father, who is apparently a big-time tobacco/fatty foods/other unhealthy shit lobbyist. Wow.

7 - Chris Brown beats the shit out of Rhianna. Note to self: don't beat women. Additional note to self: don't tank career on aggravated misdemeanors . . . rob a bank or something, shoot heroin into a child's eyeballs, whatever. If you're losing (potentially) tens of millions of dollars, go big, you know?


453 - This is totally awesome.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Great Grunts in Rap History

As part of my ongoing lecture series on Great Moments in Rap History, I thought I'd introduce one of our advanced courses: non-language in rap songs. Rappers, at least ostensibly, rely on colorful language (by which I mean n-bombs or, in the case of recent Mos Def, condescension) to make their living, which is apparently one often saturated with marijuana, cocaine, purple lean, and various large-assed women with a preternatural gravitational attraction to the floor. However, the English language cannot constrain the rap - aw hell naw. Often, a great rapper must fill in the blanks of the language with something less erudite and more guttural. With that in mind, I now present Five Great Grunts in Rap History.

5 - Juelz Santana, "There It Go (The Whistle Song)"
Juelz Santana blows the ass off the grunt (literally, kinda/sorta) at about the 1:04 mark, with the epic line "Sit it down, back up/ Bring it on back up/ Move it til you feel something hard in your back, HYUPP" . . . a true tour de force of using nonsense tones, as it even carries the "back up" rhyme into effect. Top down and back at it again, indeed - I run the whistle when I'm truly bombed at the bar. So far I'm 0-for-life, but that's not far from my batting average with every other method, so I'll blame sample size.

4 - Master P, "Make Em Say Uhhh"
A retard rap Odyssey so epic that there's absolutely no need to include times or anything, Master P's all-time dipshit marathon is more than notable for its use of two different nonsense intonations: the titular "UHHHH" and the follow-up "Nanana, nanana." The fact that cadence seems to actually go against the beat of the music, added to the knowledge that Mystikal actually earned money making music even though he sounds like a meth-head Vietnam vet who I'm trying to avoid at the liquor store, brings a somewhat depressing quality to pouring some out for our homeys. Thank God Cashmoney Records decided to produce . . .

3 - Lil Wayne, "A Milli"
. . . the self-proclaimed Best Rapper Alive, and truly the evolution of nonsense excess noise. Sure, we're stretching a little on this song, but the giggle after "Damn I hate a shy bitch/ Don't you hate a shy bitch?/ Yeah, I ate a shy bitch/ She ain't shy no more/ She changed her name to my bitch" (about the 2:07 mark) adds an ethereal quality to a spectacularly promethazine-fueled line that actually makes me giggle along with the manchild just about every time. The fact that he backs it up with giggles both before and after "and I'd rather be pushing flowers/ than be in the 'pen sharing showers" just adds to the surreal quality of the sizzurp-addled mind of a very rich pothead. We'll file it under great grunts because there's no WAY it was supposed to be in the mix until the producer (Bangladesh) heard it and laughed his ass off just like I did.

2 - Clipse, "Trill"
Another amazing 2-fer, this track starts with a very poignant "UH" before exploding into ray-gun synths that kind of remind you that, at one very bizarre point in time, Pharell Williams was an important human being. However, fuck that one - the better one is the absolutely astounding, off-beat "WHUT" thrown into the first line of the chorus (by Pharell, of course - he had to be in the track by contract), followed by "WHUT WHUT" after the next line of the chorus (starts at 0:34). Absolutely the most fun part of any rap song to sing in history - and even better, the song involves multi-tracked "uh" and "whuh" noises throughout, seemingly randomly. The Kings of VA's best song, and a worthy contender for the best grunts ever, save for likely the most important rap grunt in history:

1 - Notorious BIG, "Juicy"
On the shortlist for the most important rap song, period, two vital grunts have propelled "Juicy" onto the must-play list for virtually every DJ that plays to a crowd of predominantly white people (as, clearly, every white kid ages 32 and below are more than likely to know the majority of the words to this track - up to and including the shared wince at the "Blow up like the World Trade/ Bomb center" bit). First, the subtle beginning of the track, with "All good baby, baby, UH" gets the party started, and I don't think I've ever heard anyone not say that line as the track begins. Truly, a masterful beginning, topped only by the chorus-introducing "and it's still all good/ UH" - the song is broken into easily-digestible chunks differentiated by grunts. A grunt fires the listener into the track right out of the gate. BIG wields the grunt like a weapon, not unlike the one his posse used to kill Tupac years later, with similar posturing but markedly fewer awful airbrushed t-shirts or misguided celebrations of Tupac as a "poet" (not even considering "Poetic Justice" - I mean, holy fuck). With that, I don't think there is any doubt about the Greatest Grunt in Rap History.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

And yet we still go on...

A little over a year ago, my blogmate RC and I lost a very good friend of ours. Even though the days go by, there isn't a day when we don't think about our friend since she has passed.

RB, we miss you, and we still mourn the day you passed. You were an amazing person.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

When Hooters goes bad

It's no secret: I'm a dork. Dorks do amazing things, like do research for fantasy golf purposes . . . however, sometimes the sun shines down from Heaven onto hopeful men. One such time happened yesterday, when something great happened: my fantasy golf league is now the most famous one in the world.

No, seriously.

I went to high school with Kyle Moss, who has subsequently found a solid home in sports radio production and, apparently, being mocked on the air by his friends when they fill in for Jim Rome, as happened yesterday. Apparently somewhere between 3 and 5 million heard about true RC fantasy golf domination . . . finally, my team, John Daly's Parking Lot Naps, gets the airtime it has long deserved. Finally.

Obviously, the Naps are leading the league, too - in fact, I correctly played the winners of the first two tourneys this season. It is a day of hope, that fantasy prowess will be rewarded as the true meritocracy that it deserves, and joy, that I did not go with the Payne Stewart plane crash reference that I had chosen initially. Amen.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Face down, ass up/ That's the way we like to drink

It's that time . . . of course, I mean more Tales from the Road!

This weekend's crapshow included a racial component, which brought out everything awesome about the awesomest racists who ever awesomed. Seriously, I couldn't even believe the white people in the crowd - simply stunning. Some highlights:

"I think [the plaintiffs] brought it on themselves - after all, if they hadn't put themselves into that situation, they couldn't have been assaulted."

"I don't think non-citizens should have rights in America. Rights are for citizens." (This same person may have decried Guantanamo later, but I can't recall an actual quotation, so you get shit and like it)

"I mean, I get that none of the [10,000 (literally --ed.)] other times involved any threat of injury, but you never know what the future holds. I don't think you can assume."

"It's not like he was pistol-whipped - stop whining."

"It sounds like whining, when they talk about Constitutional rights."

"So what does 'lawful authority' really mean, anyway?"

"Sure, I would just walk away from someone pointing a gun at me [if I didn't think they were police] - I've done it before."

"I know what you're thinking - 'Illegal! Illegal!' What's your name? PURPLE STICKY PUNCH."

OK so I made that last one up, but seriously, the Biodome reference just kept running through my head. The moral? Well, as always, it's "Don't get sued" - but also, that racial bias knows no boundaries, especially not those outlined by, like, the law. Or the Constitution. Or really even common sense. White privilege: apparently still awesome. White people: probably the problem.

Last note for the nerds: the best exchange is below, but it's really an awkward situation that, should you actually find it funny, you're likely a douche bag like me. Here goes:

Guy: "That wasn't proven! They never proved that!"
Me: "OK - well, 'proof' has a different definition in court than in life . . . this is a civil case, do you think it was more likely than not that [X] happened?"
Guy: "Well, yeah - I mean, that's probably what it was, but it wasn't proven."\
Guy: "I am a preponderance of pretarded."