Posted on: August 30, 2008 9:11 pm

I'm Addicted to Roto Baseball

This is my confession: despite being in last place in my roto baseball league - my spot for the 2nd year in a row - and despite racking up more dollar cost transacations than a small country's GDP, I am hopelessly addicted to roto baseball.

I know, it's not as eyebrow-raising as David Duchoveny's recent admission. Baseball rarely causes such pause for thought, unless it's your first time hearing Manny Ramirez's nickname. And roto baseball, by law, generally isn't viewed with tremendous excitement except by baseball geeks like myself.

My league, the Capital City National League, is a keeper NL-only pool that counts 13 lucky souls as managers each trying to outsmart and outplay each other for the grand prize of approximately $1500. Not as exciting as that teaser mortgage you considered a couple of years ago, but not chump change either.

So, why am I in dead last again? Like last year, my pitching blew up, plain and simple. Last year it was bad luck, this year it was bad gambling.

Last year, Brad Penny was my ace by default when the Chris Carpenter Fiasco hit me square in the scoresheet after his first start. The quality in pitching experienced a sharp drop-off after him. To put my pitching squad in perspective, let's just say that Josh Hancock was one of my better pitchers. We all know the tragic ending his story had.

This year, I took a gamble on some highly-touted rookie pitchers, as well as a couple of old hands. Some have worked better than others, others not so much. Here is my current squad of pitchers, with those obtained by me in the auction draft in bold, and the dollar/point costs associated with each (free agent pick-ups and players obtained in trades are identified as such):

Johnny Cueto, 10
Chad Gaudin, 1 (trade)
Jair Jurrjens, 10
Clayton Kershaw, 5 (minor league draft last year)
J.C. Romero, 10 (free agent)
Jeff Samardzija, 10 (free agent)
Chris Volstad, 10 (free agent)
Kerry Wood, 2 (trade)
Barry Zito, 10 (trade)

At one point or another, I also had Pedro Martinez until I couldn't take it anymore. Homer Bailey also caused major conniption fits. Dave Riske lived up to his name. Bob Howry was just disappointing.

The obvious question is whether or not these players are worth the dollars/points they now possess in a 270 dollar/point draft. I'd say most are mispriced. Some, like Wood, are obvious bargains.

My hitters aren't too bad, either:

C Brad Ausmus, 1 (free agent)
C Josh Bard, 12
1B Rich Aurilia, 7
2B Luis O. Rodriguez, 10 (free agent)
3B Omar Infante, 10 (free agent)
SS Felipe Lopez, 16
MI Kelly Johnson, 5 (keeper from last year)
CI Yunel Escobar, 5 (trade)
OF Jim Edmonds, 2 (trade)
OF Geoff Jenkins, 1 (keeper from last year)
OF Jason Michaels, 10 (free agent)
OF Skip Schumaker, 1
OF Jayson Werth, 5
U Josh Anderson, 10 (free agent)

My minor leaguers consist of Cameron Maybin and Jordan Schaefer, whom I see has already started to shrug off the effects of his season-starting 50 game ban for HGH.

For a keeper league, it's really not a bad lineup. Missing some power (I used to own Matt Holliday, Chase Utley, and Garrett Atkins), but a decent base for next year.

And what makes it all addictive is the dynamic nature of baseball: the call-ups, the injuries, the trading, the plethora of what ifs, each of which could possibly set me on the path of respectability, payoff deliverance and roto salvation. The number-crunching and statistical analysis are just an added bonus.

So, without delving into the deeper world of psychoanalysis, this is the current state of my roto world. It's not for everyone, but for the guy in the middle of it all, it's awesome.

Feel free to share your roto anecdotes, teams, misfortunes... We're all in this together.
Category: MLB
Tags: Roto
Posted on: July 7, 2008 12:05 am
Edited on: August 30, 2008 9:13 pm

Recommended Off-Season Reading

We're getting right into the thick of baseball season as trades and trade rumours hit the press with full force. For the next couple of months, baseball will be front and centre in our sportscasts as the race to the post-season gets closer.

For people who might peruse past postings, and even those who might even read ths blog on a casual basis, you'll know I'm big on the NHL. Aside from the NBA, I'm pretty much a fan of most sports that get played in our continent. But, being Canadian, it's hard to not have more than a passing interest in the NHL. As the NFL dominates a large swath of the American landscape, so does the NHL in Canada (and most of the U.S. northeast). No surprises there, I'm sure.

But, with this being the off-season for hockey - regardless of how late they push the Stanley Cup Playoffs - I thought some people might enjoy the following books to help pass the time before training camp opens in mid-September. I've read each of these books and highly recommend them to interested hockey fans. All are written by knowledgeable people, and all are filled with interesting arguments, stats, and stories.

In no particular order...

McCown's Law: The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments

by Bob McCown (with David Naylor) - Doubleday Canada

For those that are unfamiliar with him, Bob McCown is the host of The Fan's Prime Time Sports, syndicated throughout Canada on radio and aired on Sportsnet. He intervies all sorts of athletes and he can be abrasive, curt, and of course, opinionated. Perfect characteristics for hosting a radio show. And now, he's an author (of sorts) with this book which, as the title suggests, are 100 arguments about the game of hockey. The arguments can be about particular players (e.g. who is better: Gretzky or Orr?), rules of the game (e.g. what are some ways to improve the game?), or societal impacts (e.g. what will be the biggest news headline of all time when it happens?).

And, for a guy who doesn't really spend a lot of time listening to McCown, he makes some great points. In fact, I've heard from others who don't like him at all that this book makes some really compelling arguments. It's an easy read. Each argument, like chapters, averages about 3-4 pages long, meaning you can read it in snippets if that's all the time you can afford, making it perfect for summer reading.

I'd highlight that a lot of these arguments are current, as in they discuss items all the way up to the 2006-2007 season, so it might be something you want to read sooner rather than later.

Yzerman: The Making of a Champion
by Douglas Hunter - Seal Books

Another book where the title is self-explanatory. Chronicaling the professional hockey-playing life of Steve Yzerman, its written by award-winning writer Douglas Hunter who charts Yzerman's path from junior hockey in Peterborough and first-round draft pick by Detroit, through the low points of his career (the bad knee, the close call to being traded to Ottawa), and finally dispelling all his critics with several Stanley Cup victories.

I'm going to state that I'm a little biased here, because I think Steve Yzerman is quite possibly the best hockey player of the past 30 years. He didn't have the stats of a Gretzky or Lemieux, but he had tremendous skill (6th overall in career points), unquestionable leadership (when he was made captain, he was the youngest captain in the history of the NHL), and - this is where he differs from the rest of the "stars" - was humble beyond words.

In short, he was the quintessential athlete, and one who could serve as a role model to anyone.

The Best Game You Can Name
by Dave Bidini - McLelland & Stewart Limited

Borrowing its title from the famous Hockey Song by Stompin' Tom Connors, this book makes my recommended list because of its uniqueness.

Bidini, as some (and I doubt many reading here) may know, was the guitarist for Canadian rock band The Rheostatics. Being in a popular Canadian rock band has many perks including, apparently, the inclusion in the annual Exclaim! Cup hockey tournament featuring other musicians.

This book is a unique read because Bidini alternates each chapter with the lead-up to the all-important tournament, and interviews with former NHL players. Except, it's not the Stars that Bidini sought out; instead, he went out of his way to interview the former grinders of the NHL. The 3rd- and 4th-liners who, back in the day, were on the ice to make life miserable for the opposing team's top forwards, or to slug it out with their enforcers.

It's a brilliant book with many interesting stories. My favourite has to be one told by former Islander Brad Dalgarno concerning a fight he had with the Rangers' Joey Kocur. It's painful to read not just because of the damage Kocur inflicted on him, but also because of how badly Dalgarno didn't want to fight, but essentially had to in order to keep his job. It was a different era in the NHL and you really get a sense of how difficult it could be for these guys.

The Home Team: Fathers, Sons & Hockey
by Roy MacGregor - Penguin Books

Former Ottawa Citizen columnist and now National Post columnist Roy MacGregor's book interviewing both the stars of the NHL and their fathers is a great book examining the familial bond that forms from the game. A number of years ago, former players Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey and Marty McSorley went on a tour of Europe with their fathers. The tour was to promote the game of hockey and let the fans in European countries get a chance to see some of the biggest names in hockey right in their home towns.

It looks at some of the famous families of hockey - the Hulls, the Howes, the Dineens - and shares some of their memories with the reader.

Its a book that takes a look at the fathers & sons who would go to draft day and have to endure the tension and sometimes the tears that would flow when the final pick was called and there was still no team to call home.

Its a game about the impact of hockey on families, something we think about when its presented to us, but often just take for granted. Seeing it all levels is a real eye-opening and enlightening experience, and while it may not have the brashness of McCown's book or the happy ending of Yzerman, it's in the realm of Bidini's where we get to see a side that's generally hidden from us.

Hopefully you'll pick up one of these books at some point and enjoy them as much as I did.
Category: NHL
Posted on: June 29, 2008 9:45 pm

Spanish Fly

Hats off to the Spaniards for finally getting rid of the monkey on their back and winning a major soccer title.

Of course, no one should have watched this game expecting a thrilling match, which is what made it decent. It was a solid match. While the Final wasn't as exciting as some of the other matches in the tournament (e.g. the overachieving Turkish squad), it definitely had a good pace to it between two highly skilled clubs - a big difference from the defense-first Greek squad that won four years ago.

The only disappointing sight was seeing Cesc Fabregas play as well as he did, and whether or not he'll show the Gunners the same kind of enthusiasm later this fall. My guess is since he wants out of England, we'll have to make do with his flashes of brilliance as opposed to the solid all-around games we saw this time. Liverpool fans, on the other hand, must be pleased with Torres, even if he waited until the final game to silence some of his tournament critics.

Anyway, congrats to Spain and to their fans. Well-earned.
Category: Soccer
Tags: Euro Cup
Posted on: June 29, 2008 9:31 pm

Jagr: A Primer for a Prima Donna

The latest twist in the Jagr Goes To Russia saga is an acknowledgment from Jagr that there has, in fact, been an offer made to him from Omsk of the new Continental Hockey League (though we're now told it's in the neighbourhood of $7 million, not $12 million), which would fit into the salary cap I discussed a little here.

Fine, whatever. I guess when you're a new League and you're trying to instill some kind of legitimacy in it, you'll throw some cash at a recognizeable name in the hopes that both fans and other players will come. This is understandable. We saw it in the old WHA when Bobby Hull played for Winnipeg, and it looks like we could see it again with Jagr.

But what floors me in all of this are some recent comments he made in an interview with reporters in the Czech Republic. You can read the full article, here. But in the meantime, riddle me this, Batman:

1) "I have come to realize that I play my best hockey when I'm under pressure." As banal as this comment from Jagr sounds, what does this mean? I'm serious. That he was under pressure in Pittsburgh back in the 1990s? That "pressure" means when he's entering the final year of his contract?

He explains this as "When a team relies upon me and expectations are high." Call me crazy, but shouldn't all teams be relying on all of their players? Isn't that why they're paid such great salaries? Or, maybe Jagr believes that if a team only pays him $6 million (the reported contract offer from the Rangers) instead of $7 million, they're not relying on him anymore. Maybe they don't take him seriously?

It gets better.

2) "I'd like to sign with a club where I'd be given this type of reliance, where I'd be told, 'This is your team'." & "But at the same time, it is difficult for me to surrender the leadership role."

I wonder how Ted Leonsis feels about these comments, where ridiculous money was given to Jagr to lure him to Washington not that long ago. There, Jagr was THE MAN.  There WAS NOT a bigger name in that dressing room. It was his team to influence any way he could in bringing a Cup to Washington. And he did nothing. Three years with the Capitals, he helped them to the playoffs once, where they lost in the 1st round.

What was the result of the "leadership" he brought to the Caps? Alienation from the other players. I guess they just didn't understand his "leadership" skills.

3) "I would be happy if it was a clear sky, but nothing is clear. I do not know where I will play next season."

I gotta call BS on this one. As Glen Sather put it, if he really had any intention of playing in New York - which, for a guy who clearly wants the spotlight on him, there's no better place - he would have made more than one inquiry, especially this close to free agency on July 1.

In stating the obvious, I'm going to suggest that Jagr has a pretty high opinion of himself. Much of what was revealed in this interview is somewhat contradictory from what fans and owners have seen. There's no questioning his talent - and in a talent-hungry Continental Hockey League, he just might look like the Jagr of old, relatively speaking.

But it's unfathomable that Jagr is portraying himself as this earnest, misunderstood hockey player. On the contrary, he has once again shown his true colours.

I would like to think Rangers fans are happy to see him go. They've actually got a pretty good team, even without Jagr. In fact, losing him might actually make them better.
Posted on: June 28, 2008 1:05 am

Continental Hockey League: Grasping at Straws?`

Much has been talked about in recent days concerning the alleged contract offer Jaromir Jagr received from Omsk of the new Continental Hockey League (CoHL)*, the successor to the disbanded Russian Super League. There has been fear in some minds that contracts such as his will lure talented hockey players from the NHL to this new league.

*(I'm going to refer to it as the CoHL, since the CHL is already well-acknowledged as the Canadian Hockey League, in which Canadian major junior teams play)

History and common sense would dictate that this is unlikely to happen, even if Jagr does jump the NHL ship for Russia.

Consider the following points on this:

1) The CoHL, like the NHL, will have a salary cap - considerably smaller than the NHL, for that matter. According to Eurohockey's website, the CoHL will have a salary cap of roughly $23.5 million, about 70% of which is spent on 21 players, and the remainder spent on 4 "star" players. Since Jagr's deal calls for approx. $12 million per season, he would take up half of this team's budget, assuming they can spend their salary cap any way they see fit. If each team attempted to lure a "star" player with this kind of cash, it would leave a huge dearth of talent between what such a player would make and what would be left for the rest of the team.

Essentially, the CoHL would be uncompetitive, as you would have 24 players fighting it out for the remaining $12 million. So, a bunch of scrubs making $500k/year, and Jagr. Have a good time!

2) If you're an NHL player, odds are you are either married or dating someone. Where would you rather raise your family: a country whose civil liberties have been eroding since the collapse of the Soviet Union, where mobsters have infiltrated all levels of government, and whose standard of living hasn't approached that of what lies in North America, or North America? That assessment of Russia and its former states may not be accurate, but it's definitely the perception of life in Russia to the average North American.

I know what you're thinking: Well, you would just sign in a cosmopolitan city like Moscow or St. Petersburg and life wouldn't be so bad. Sure. Until you get traded to Minsk in Belarus, or Kazakhstan. How does that sound? Maybe if the player is really good, they could have a no-trade clause. But most that go there likely won't have that luxury if the above dollar example holds true.

Oh yeah, you also get paid in Roubles, which looks great at the moment given the high price of oil. But when the U.S. currency reverts back to historical norms, that contract will be a whole lot less appealing. And let's face it: playing on an NHL team with a salary cap of $56 million is nothing to sneeze at, so is it really worth throwing all of that away? If you're not wanted in the NHL, that's another story, but if that's the case, you're probably just not good enough anyways.

3) Ask yourself this: what trophy would a professional hockey player prefer to play for, the Stanley Cup or the Gagarin Cup? That's what I thought, too. No knock against Yuri Gagarin, but there's no history with this new Cup.

4) If Jagr's contract report is true, all it tells us is that the CoHL will target players who have moved well past their prime. So, do we really care, then, if they go overseas? If Sidney Crosby were to be a UFA, would he go to Russia in his prime?

5) Given everything I've mentioned above, the creation of the WHA should be proof enough that even a new hockey league created on home soil that throws stupid money at hockey players won't necessarily succeed. Sure, there might be more money now in Russia than what the CoHL had at the time, but given the points made above I doubt it will still entice the red-blooded hockey player who knows where the real prestige lies. Don't believe me? What about point #6?

6) David Beckham's stupidly overpriced MLS contract shows that just because you pay a player a lot of money doesn't mean others will follow him, especially if the League he is going to is widely considered a step below from others like the EPL, Serie A, and La Liga. I sincerely believe that the rich talent and history in the NHL will make it compelling enough for the vast majority of hockey players to stay in North America.

If you want to read more about the new league, you can check this site out:

Hockey fans should not be concerned about this new League. That's my take on it, and history will prove me right or wrong. But I think we can all take comfort from the fact that while some players may make a decision solely based on money, most will see the NHL for what it is: THE premier hockey League in the world, where winning the Stanley Cup is the ultimate achievement.
Category: NHL
Posted on: June 22, 2008 3:32 pm
Edited on: June 22, 2008 3:34 pm

Thoughts From the NHL Entry Draft

For a self-confessed hockey geek, the NHL Entry Draft is one of the best dates on the NHL calendar. All the League's teams get together in one confined space and plot the long-term course of their respective clubs by picking players most fans have never heard of, and occasionally making some interesting deals along the way.

If you're a hockey nut, you watch it on tv every year (possibly recording it if you can't watch it live). And if it's in your home town, you go, plain and simple.

So, when it hit Ottawa this year, it was an absolute no-brainer to go to Scotiabank Place.

In short, it can get tedious at times, especially the first-round. No surprise here, really. A first-round player is supposed to be a prospect who has a bonafide shot at making the NHL in the near future. Special care comes at this point in the draft. However, there is also the time it takes for each team to research its pick, make its way to the podium, call out a name, wait for an over-the-moon 17-year-old to hug his parents, high-five his friends, walk to the podium, get a photo with his new team's brass (and the Commish), and then leave. Overall, it's about 5-7 minutes per team. Times 30 teams, you do the math. Rounds 2-7 are done from each team's table, so it goes by quicker.

The Draft did confirm for me one belief, though: there are many Sens fans in Ottawa, but very few hockey fans. Not long after Ottawa picked (15th overall), about half of the arena started to file out. Those that remained were some other die-hards, as well as fans from established hockey meccas like Montreal and Toronto. Day 2 was worse, with about 1/3 of the original size of Day 1 making it out.

My thinking is that if you're a hockey fan, you want to see the Draft. I mean, it's not like it's the MLB Draft which can take 20+ rounds to complete. There were only 7. Not to mention it will probably be at least a couple of decades before it comes back, so why not go? We can all put our lives on hold for a few hours Friday night and a few hours Saturday.

It was also a great place to see some of hockey's Stars of past years work on excelling on the management side of the game. Greats such as Steve Yzerman, Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, and Kevin Lowe, to name a few, all in one room (not to mention the hordes of reporters, NHL staff, and other team personnel).

In short, it was the League in a fishbowl for the whole world to see.

Finally, there were the draftees themselves. The first-round, rightfully so, is filled with a great deal of importance. However, it's the following rounds where the real drama happens, up in the stands. As the rounds tick down, and upbeat teenagers turn into gloomy teenagers, who in turn become dejected teenagers when the final pick is made and their name still hasn't been called - it's enough to make anyone feel sympathy.

Overall, I was impressed with the event itself, and would encourage anyone who is a hockey fan to attend at least one to see what it's like.
Category: NHL
Posted on: June 15, 2008 10:13 pm

Greece is Out.

I've got no one to cheer for now in Euro 2008.

Any ideas?
Category: Soccer
Tags: Greece
Posted on: June 15, 2008 10:11 pm
Edited on: June 15, 2008 10:14 pm

What's in a Name?

Well, if you're Homer Bailey, plenty.

3 home runs in 2 1/3 innings (5 ER), capping what might be his final start before being shipped back to Louisville, he's appearing less and less like the "elite" pitching prospect most of us were led to believe. Granted, he's young and he's got a lot of opportunity to really turn his early career around...

But judging from the inconsistency last year and the downright awful consistency this year, it's going to take a lot of work. When you continually go up 0-2 on a batter and then serve up a fat longball, you've got some major control problems.

I watched today's debacle fearing the worst and got what I expected. Which sucks. Not from just being a Reds fan, but genuinely wanting to see this kid finally do something decent this year. The lack of run support didn't help matters, either, but how much of a difference would it have made, anyways?

So, can he figure this out, or will he be swept under the carpet with the other Todd van Poppels of baseball?
Category: MLB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or