Edition No. 11
May 18, 2012
We are 20%, almost 25%, through the 2012 baseball season. It is flying past, and yet, if you are at or near the top of the standings, each day is long and the end of the season cannot get here fast enough. Conversely, if you are behind in the standings, you just want more time to make a move. Last year, the Bums were mired at the bottom 2 months in, and finished second. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You need talent, depth, patience, luck, and most of all, you need to not lose significant time to injuries for your best players . . . . .
The standings through Wednesday, May 16, 2012, are as follows:
My thoughts about the standings are as follows:
The Wahoos are off to a solid start. Pitching to me seems more random over time than hitting. Power is good, so I drafted for home runs, and so far, that approach (which I try to implement every season) is working pretty well.
I like my team and my players. The Wahoos have had a lot of injuries to top picks – Berkman, Sandoval and Chris Young, arguably the best player in baseball the first 2-3 weeks of the season, have missed a lot of time so far. With Berkman now back, the Wahoos are down to a mere 5 players on the DL (not counting closer Sergio Santos, who the Redbirds shamelessly poached this morning) . . . If/when the injured Wahoos return, good stuff . . . but anything can happen, and usually does.
The Bums are not bums --- they have a solid team and are a decent bet to win it all this year. Pujols is off to a very slow start for a second year in a row (shades of David Ortiz’ 2009-10 springs) but my hunch is that Pujols will still hit 25 home runs and drive in more than 100 runs.
The Cubs and Monarchs are also strong teams and should be in the hunt all season.
The most interesting thing about the standings is that spots 5-11 are separated by about 180 points (this has actually widened a bit since Sunday, when #s 5-11 were separated by a mere 100 points). One great night or one bad night can result in big changes in the standings. I expect the top 11 teams will be in the hunt all summer.
Josh Hamilton, who (as noted in this column multiple times over the years) is one of my favorite players, is off to a great, maybe even historic start. His 4 home run game a week ago Monday was only the 16th time ever a player has hit 4 home runs in one game. That accomplishment is more rare than a perfect game; the only other individual one game accomplishment that is more rare (cycles, no hitters, perfect games, etc.) is a 20 strikeout game, and that has happened only 6 times (Roger Clemens has 2 of those).
Hamilton is on pace for 75+ home runs, but I doubt he’ll get there. He is however, a decent threat to be the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzmeski in 1967. Given Hamilton’s propensity to run through walls and play like a maniac, he is also a good bet to lose more time to injury (he missed some games a couple weeks ago with back spasms). Hamilton’s other demons are also well known. Here’s hoping he keeps the main thing the main thing, and finishes this season with epic numbers.
Hamilton is the Natural – I think Tulowitzki is the best all around player in baseball (although this year he is off to a middling start by his standards), but in my view Hamilton has the highest ceiling. He does amazing things on a baseball field, and at this point, nothing he does is really a surprise – he is just fun to watch every day, and the beauty of baseball is that every day, you might see something you have never seen before.
Hamilton is likely to see some mean reversion, if for no other reason that pitchers at some point may just start walking him a lot, a la Barry Bonds circa 1999-2004, but Hamilton swings at more pitches seen (56%) than any player in baseball, so who knows . . .
It is amazing how important relief pitching is. Closer failure (due to injury and/or ineptitude) this year seems more prevalent than I can ever recall . . . and it seems like this year, I’ve had a lot of pitchers left in longer than 6 innings once they have achieved a Quality Start, resulting in a loss of a Quality Start (I hate that rule – if you get thru 6 with 3 or less runs given up, it seems ridiculous that you can lose the QS – because if the starter gets you into the 7th, or longer, he has taken a burden off the pen. And, why should the starter be punished when subsequent relievers allow a fourth run to score? I think we should have a new category – BQS – the Blown Quality Start).
Most Interesting players in baseball (i.e., if they are hitting or pitching and I come across it on TV, I watch):
Dustin Pedroia (no one gets more with less natural ability)
Most Frustrating Aspects of HSL Baseball*
*(I am on my fourth season of having the Major League Baseball Full Access package on my cable subscription. Tracy got it for me so that I would stay out of her hair during the summer and watch baseball games in our basement (affectionately known as the “Buffalo Lodge” – a doff of the cap to either Fred and Barney, or Kramden and Norton, I can’t recall which) . . .the Lodge has a nice flat screen, so I can basically swing bats and channel change during the evenings and manage to catch most of the at bats of my players in an evening (if I want to)). This “total access” thing is both good and bad. Good in that you can really follow your team pretty closely. Bad in that you can obsess over your team. But I digress. The point is that, when you watch that much baseball, you see stuff, you get a feel for what might happen, and like the lookout on the Titanic, having knowledge and foresight, and being able to do something about it, are sometimes two very different things:
“Smell ice, can ya?” Indeed.
Anyway, the frustrating aspects of the HSL include:
Most Gratifying Aspects of HSL Baseball
There was recently a discussion of “best” or “favorite” concerts ever on the message board. There is no accounting for taste (or lack of rational behavior or intelligence, but we’ll let the 2012 elections stand as testament to that assertion). The message board posts indicated a wide range of musical tastes and interests . . . . ranging from “easy” (“Do you feel like I do?” asks Peter Frampton) to “more difficult” (“Gouge Away!!” implore the Pixies) to just flat out obscure: who knew that Bob and I would both be among the 30 people at an R.E.M. concert at the Drumstick in Lincoln in the fall of 1981? Conspiracy theories abound, but I will chalk it up to good musical taste, a sense of adventure, and great timing.
On that note (and no pun), Weezer is headed to this area --- Harrah’s Stir Cove, July 29. I think we should all go – I will buy the first round of the evening. There are a million excuses you could come up with why you wouldn’t go. There is only one valid answer. Be there, or relegate yourself to the rest of your life being characterized by chicken a la king, AARP discounts, adult diapers and 9 p.m. bed checks. Weezer is one of the best, if not the most iconic bands of a generation (that would be the late ‘80’s-late 90’s alternative era); more accessible than Nirvana, but compelling, edgy, creative, fun; their sets rock and we would be lesser men for blowing this off.
An anthem for a generation of action sports enthusiasts, record store employees, slackers, and others who would deign to date my middle daughter Taylor. We all know people who resonate to this music. For one night, we can become like them.
The St. Olaf campus has barely returned to normal after the euphoria that hit when the Ole’s women’s Ultimate team received a coveted at large bid to the National Championship tournament this weekend in Appleton, Wisconsin. In 2011, the Oles (pronounced “O-lees”, not “O-lays” like drunken bull fighters) finished 6th in the nation in 2011, and this year are looking to bring home a national crown. Tracy is headed to Appleton tomorrow to take in the action this weekend, and promises frequent updates; I am scrambling to find live scoring updates on ESPN.com. Tay is her usual low-key self about the whole thing.
(You can fill out as many brackets as you want in the HSL Division III Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Championship contest)
(I took Tay in the first round of my D3 Women’s Ultimate Fantasy Draft last March, and she has not disappointed).
From the sublime to the spiritual – if you are looking for a great worship alternative on Sundays, come to The Bridge Church at 9:45. 32nd & Lake St, just across from Salem Baptist. I promise that you will not be disappointed. . . You will be challenged, uplifted, and energized. Led by co-pastors Josh Dotzler and Myron Nelson, the worship service is incredible, and the congregation is making a difference in Omaha by getting out of the seats and into the streets.
What Does it All Mean?
It is baseball. It is fun. It is a part of our culture, our lives, our spirit, it is a large part of what makes us us. Enjoy the rest of the season because it promises to be wild. Lotion-Focus-Peace. TB