Thursday, 3 December 2015

The Dombrowski effect.

This entry will be focusing on the winter off season for the Boston Red Sox. The story was familiar [not least because I wrote twice about in the heat of the summer dog days] and seemingly everywhere I looked on Social Media was outcries and disappointment regarding those Red Sox of Boston, Massachusetts.  The team that ended the season, was very different to the team that started it, and hopefully, will be different still to those that open Spring Training in February.

End of 2015 Roster: [The players that started the final game of the season, By Position, not batting order]
C - Blake Swihart
1B - Travis Shaw
2B - Dustin Pedroia
3B - Deven Mererro
SS - Xander Bogaerts
LF - Rusney Castillo
CF - Mookie Betts
RF - Jackie Bradley Jr
DH - David Ortiz.
SP - Rick Porcello [L]

Beginning of 2015 Roster [Ranked by position once again]
C- Ryan Hanigan
1B - Mike Napoli
2B - Dustin Pedroia
3B - Pablo Sandoval
SS - Xander Bogaerts
LF - Hanley Ramirez
CF - Mookie Betts
RF - Shane Victorino
DH - David Ortiz [Although their first series was in an NL city [Phillies] so was unavailable to play DH.

There's a stark comparison to the beginning and end of the season here, and those outside of Boston might feel it's a coincidence that things happened and the team got better towards the end of the season [it wasn't], by playing so well a play-off place wasn't entirely out of the picture, but the horrible start really was too much to do in the second half, even when key players that in many peoples' eyes were a reason why they team was scuffling, were replaced in the line-up their replacements just delayed the inevitable, and others got traded [Napoli, Victorino], some got injured and shut down for the season with nothing to play for. [Buchholz,Sandoval,Hanley, and at one point Pedroia was on the DL]

At some point in the season the old regime left, when Ben Cherrington was thankfully replaced by former Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski. In a short time there, the feel good factor has increased, even with him just being there [or was that just me] ? I know I was more excited for him arriving, then I ever got for Christmas as a young 'un.

Anyway, back to the point here and this past week, Boston have signed two new players one being back up Outfielder, last played for the New York Yankees, Chris Young, and finally an ace, in 7 year, $215M man, David Price [with an opt out]. I've never understood the point of opt out agreements , but I guess they make sense from a business point of view. The rotation is finally looking like it could last and as of this morning, it looks like this:

David Price,Clay Buchholz,Rick Porcello, Wade Miley/Joe Kelly, Eduardo Rodriguez. Henry Owens and knuckleballer Steven Wright will also be in contention for a rotation spot, if management think one or both of Miley / Kelly are better suited to the pen.

Before this, the Red Sox pulled off a monster trade with their previous reluctance to trade prospects not Dombrowski's preferred action, particularly in this instance where the players dealt were blocked at their primary positions in acquiring a new Closer Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel will replace the previous closer Koji Uehara, who will probably pitch in the 8th inning going forward now.

The Bullpen now looks like this as of writing :
Junichi Tazawa, Robbie Ross JR, Tommy Layne, Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara, Heath Hembree, Jonathan Aro. Much healthier overall ! There are other names who could potentially be in the mix, but right now, I think they'll probably open up on Triple A.


The team need to move on from Hanley/Sandoval,and, as of now, the plan is for Hanley[Right Picture] to play 1B, but there are several players available via FA who already know how to play 1B that I'd sooner see in Fenway, who arguably would be a better fit, and the most prestigious of those is Chris Davis, who declined Baltimore's arbitration offer, although there are a few other interesting options who would provide more versatility at 1B than Davis, such as Mark Reynolds, or potentially a player like Justin Morneau. Another position that proved problematic is 3B, although there aren't many intriguing FA options there, with Juan Uribe heading the pack followed by David Freese, former Red Sock Will Middlebrooks, and recently released Alberto Callaspo.  I doubt 3B changes unless a trade occurs involving Sandoval.
Pictured above [left], Sandoval on being announced as a Boston player, which was arguably, his finest appearance, it just seemed to get worse from there. The Ramirez era was different, with Hanley being one of the few hitters that seemed to start the season off on the right foot, but now his short term future in Boston seems to be a little cloudier with Hanley probably having more trade value [although salary might have to get eaten] to move him, He's not really an Outfielder any more, and some would say never was, especially with the emergence of Castillo and JBJ finally starting to figure things out, and the fact he wasn't going to displace future superstar Bogaerts and at this point, he doesn't have a position to play regularly, unless he's the one to replace Ortiz after he retires at the end of 2016, as Ramirez's bat still appears to have plenty in it and could extend his career a few seasons' in the long term.

Middle infield in general doesn't appear to have any issues, although one worry would be keeping an ageing Pedroia [pictured] on the field, and could perhaps limit him to four starts per week in order to keep him healthy and fresher. It could be argued, given the positional flexibility Brock Holt has, he could give all defensive players a breather once a week and be more than a Monday/Thursday guy in the process, but not quite an every day player either. That's certainly an option, but I'm not a back-room staff member so the approach they go with will probably have been discussed already, this is just how I'd play it if I were approached on things*.

It's not just on the field that the Sox are making moves, with the 2016 season being a new beginning for the Red Sox [NESN] announcers as long time game caller Don Orsillo got bumped out of the booth, despite the protests from fans, and Orsillo remained as professional as they come, and already has a new job out west doing first radio, than eventually becoming the Padres television commentator. I know the Padres will love him , and the Red Sox will continue to feature Jerry Remy and former radio play by play guy Dave O Brien. Best of luck to Dave, but a huge part of why Don was so beloved in the NESN booth was with his relationship with Remy, and it just won't be the same without his infectious enthusiasm for baseball greeting us every night.

Finally, its a good thing that John Farrell will once again be in control of the Sox, after undergoing cancer treatment in the 2015 season. A great announcement late last season that his cancer was in remission, and a well handled announcement that he'd be back in the dugout. The Red Sox are certainly trending upwards, and long may that continue in the reign of Dombrowski.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

No time left .....

This morning, Tim Sherwood, has been sacked as manager of Aston Villa FC.

It's not the right move at this point of the season, and I don;t think this would ever be the right move. A manger needs time to gel with his new signings. and to get them playing the way they're designed to do so. I remember a time about when Gordon Strachan moved clubs, and it didn't work out, and he replied that he was trying to rush the style, instead of letting it happen naturally and I think this was the case here, there were signs of turning a corner and , maybe could have gone on a run, all they needed was a result somehow, and I'm certain a run would have been the next step, and everyone will have forgotten about the start, it's often the case that it's not how you star,t it's how you finish, and they would have finished a lot better.

There's been rumours of late that David Moyes ,or Brendan Rodgers could be in the frame to take over, and I hope the owners, where-ever they are are reading this because I don't want either. If the board feel that either is the answer though, I'll learn to cope with David Moyes who , in all credit to him, does have experience of managing at a shoestring budget.

I'm not even angry , I'm going to take people back a few years, to the summer of 2010 when Martin O'Neill was forced into resignation over a dispute about transfer budgets. Sure, his vision wasn't shared by the chairman, but the chairman could have tried to compromise, but from what I remember this wasn't the case. Ever since that day, the purse strings have been tightened so much that a club the size and stature of Aston Villa, can never compete in the real world any-more. Money has ruined this game, and I was glad to see a small demonstration in effect from travelling fans to say as much and the Bayern Munich fans had a banner with them when they played a champions league game:

While any game I've been to hasn't been that high, football is no longer a game for everyone to enjoy, you have to almost be a millionaire to do so, and even then, they're not happy!

You can only fault certain people for so long, but others have to take accountability, and the fault on this past five years of uncertainly lies squarely at the door of Randolph D. Lerner, wherever the hell that door is. I know that he's tried to sell the club, but I don;t think he ever went all out to ensure it's survival long term in the top 20 in the country. If you're having trouble, give the club to me, I'll run it while you find a proper buyer instead of the mickey mouse offers you've been getting lately, and I'm not even sure any of the "proposed due diligence " that you had been doing were real, and just told to the press in order to drum up attention, but the real attention comes from on the field, in which has been heavily stifled. Things have to change, and now.

I can no longer give my all in trying to make plans to go watch the team I've loved since childhood, and to continue to try to do so wouldn't be worth my money [not that I have much]. The sooner Lerner is out the [seemingly none existent] door the better for all associated with the Mighty Lions [which by now might be seen as cubs]. The thing to do now would be bring someone in that gives half a damn [Tim apparently did, I could see it in his body language]. This is going to happen time and time again with unrealistic expectations from fans, and probably owners alike and I'm tired of it.

If I was somebody with influence in the world, no doubt the club would be sending me free stuff, here is the link to the story I'm talking about:

Sorry, but that isn't right either as the fans that care every week that pay for their season tickets, and their club merch should really take priortiy, over someone, who probably never went to Villa Park.

If anybody that goes to VP every game are reading this, I still love you, the club and the players that try their hardest, but I can't take this anymore and the muppet in control is killing this club from inside out.

I'm off to apply for the job now, hopefully I get it as I don;t trust anybody else right now.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

It's Premier League Soccer Season once more !

I've always stated this in the past, I'm excited for the turn of the new Premier League season, but I have genuine excitement to follow the plights of Aston Villa once again, not "excitement" of going to the games and hoping for a result. This is genuine excitement to a club I've been frustrated by time and time again, I genuinely believe this season is our season to accomplish something positive. Tim Sherwood has a feel good factor about himself, and that has so far rubbed off on the players, [most of which, weren't in his mould] last season Now he's had the chance to buy players in his mould, I fancy the team to turn a few heads, surprise a lot of people and not be fighting relegation for much of the season [if at all].

I don't expect the team to suddenly click, gel and play well from the off, I don't think anybody does, but I do expect a sense of pride, which disappeared for most of the past three seasons [although I don't blame any one individual] but wholesale changes, and clear outs had to happen before it got late early again. There's no shame in a team going out there and playing well and just coming up short, there is no honour in not trying at all.

Tim has been very active in the transfer market, bringing in 9 new faces [well 8, plus one conversion of a loan deal] and they have been [in no particular order]:

Jordan Amavi, Jordan Ayew, Jose Angel Crespo , Micah Richards , Idrissa Gueye, Mark Bunn, Scott Sinclair [Loan Conversion], Rudy Gestede, Jordan Veretout.
There have also been outgoings[In no particular order]:
Andi Weimann, Darren Bent, Fabian Delph, Christian Benteke, Callum Robinsion [Loan], Ron Vlaar, Tom Cleverley,Aly Cissokho[Loan],Shay Given, Matt Lowton, Enda Stevens, Yacouba Sylla,

Plenty of new faces for the team to get used to over the coming months,and hopefully Tim Sherwood will be able to keep the good times rolling in starting with victory today on the road to newly promoted [playing their first ever home game in the top flight] Eddie Howe's Bournemouth. It definitely won't be an easy encounter, as newly promoted sides tend to start with a bang and a win.I do think Sherwood has all the pieces in place to prevent this though, and although it couldn't be earlier in the  campaign, these kinds of games tend to linger in the sub concious in a tough to take defeat stays aroubnd longer than a draw or a hard fought victory. There may be just under 12,000 capacity at Bournmenouths ground, but it will feel like about 50,000 .

I believe in Sherwood. and I expect come the end of the season, everyone else will too !

Up the Villa !

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Re-Tooling the Boston Red Sox. [Another look at a disappointing campaign so far]

As I started to write this, merely hours after a slightly humiliating 11-1 loss in game one, and a slightly less embarrassing game two [DH] Loss, it has become more apparent to me [ and others of the Fenway faithful, and the Red Sox of the UK, and probably other countries too] that things have to change. I will look at the players I would look to move on to try to salvage a respectable second half to the 2015 season.

The rotation is an absolute sham at best, and it's clear that it's never going to change, despite the better performances, its still way off where we [I] would ideally like to see it.

Clay Buchholz still frustrates the hell out of many people, and is still equally able to perform heroics to shut the opposing team out, which helps us believe he's back, then next time out get rocked through 3 innings giving up 5 or more runs. He could command a lesser named quality arm though so I'd see what I could get for him and if it helps improve the team, deal.

Eduardo Rodriguez - Good addition to the rotation, but he needs to stop tipping his pitches , this could mean altering his mechanics slightly, or perhaps change his role slightly, to work through the issues. I don't think we've seen enough of him to know what he's really like, but chances are, he's young and this is just standard growing pains each pitcher has once in their career. Chances are good he's a better pitcher than he's performing right now, and he could get a good return also, despite only being traded for last year, he's still pitched well enough to over see the bad outings, unlike....

Rick Porcello - Ugh. Enough already. I don't think he's going to work out as a Sox pitcher. Offer him for cash or draft picks, I don't think he has any value left right now, but it would probably cost too much to outright release him.

Who-ever the hell isn't on the DL. This needs to be addressed. More depth is needed.

Now, offensively, why do the Sox have players down in the minors that are better defensively [JBJ] [and aren't bad offensively [Castillo, maybe soon] ] than Hanley who is fighting every out to make 'routine' plays. Hanley is essentially, a Short stop by nature and he's playing each ball as if he still was, and that's costing a few runs here or there, but then so is Panda. I can't count on my body [fingers and toes] Errors the 3BMan has produced though in all fairness, Sandoval is trying to make up for them with the bat.

I'm not trying to claim I know what's best for the team, but people States side might be able to know that little bit more,

Cindy, a Sox fan in Mass stated
"We are all pretty discouraged. The season is over, they have some bad contracts. They always get us excited over prospects [Moncada] but they never seem to pan out [Lavarnway]. Personally my biggest complaint is that they will let their own guys go (Ellsbury, Lester) but give big money to Free Agents who are never worth the money, or just can't play in Boston [Crawford]. Not sure about their scouting department either, they never seem to make it work with trades"

Given, we're currently approaching the trading deadline [non waivers] it'll be worth keeping a close eye on to see what happens this time around.

Erica, in Massachusetts had the following to say
" I think this team needs an overhaul from top to bottom. Since 2010 [when John Henry bought Liverpool FC] the team has finished 3rd,5th,1st and 5th in the AL East and could be looking at 5th again. Cherringtons' tenure is a WS victory, and three last place finishes, he needs to go and so do the clubhouse cancers, Big Papi needs to realise he can't do whatever he wants because of the past. Sandoval needs to go, where he can instagram during a game for someone else. Bring back the Dirt Dogs. Hanley also has to go. You know why they won it all in 2013? They won because of the bombings during the Boston Marathon, and the city needed them, leaned on them, and the team got their priorities straight. Players these days just want the celeb status, which is easy to get in a big market team like Boston".

It certainly does feel like there's no passion, pride or excitement to play for the Red Sox looking in, but perhaps those on the inside see things we don't for three hours a day, although those three hours [sometimes more] are the most important in a day and we aren't impressed from what we can see.

A different take is seen from International fan [where baseball is an international game] Andre in the Netherlands who had the following to say:
"It looked well in the pre season where Hanley Ramirez came back from the Dodgers, which added so more power, but when his gun stopped shooting, the runs dried up and the pitchers aren't the best in the game, [it made it difficult to win] , although Clay Buchholz and Uehara bring the level which is suited to them. It does seem that Panda [Sandoval] can only really produce in the playoffs, like he has the past two times with the Giants. Bogaerts is the teams MVP this year and is the only player with a BA above .300. For next year, they need to stay healthy, invest in the rotation and then we can all enjoy Sweet Caroline more than ever" !

As of July 25th, The Red Sox have had 3 walk off hits, 2 of them coming from the bat of potential team MVP Xander Bogaerts although it seems, Sandoval and Hanley are a running theme [amongst complaints], although these two aren't the cause of [all] trouble with this years team. Take...

Mike Napoli - This hurts to write, but the team would be best off either moving on from Napoli, or changing his role, to occasional Monday/Thursday guy. Sadly he cannot contine to be the teams primary first baseman any more, despite his solid glove work, his average is woeful, sitting just above the Mendoza line at .206 as of Saturday 25th July [aided with his .421 8/19 efforts over the past 7 games]. It could be enough to secure a trade partner, but trading Napoli might not be well received from the faithful. We'll have to wait and see on that front but his season line sits at .207 with 32 Runs scored, 11 Home Runs, 33 Runs Batted In and 3 Stolen Bases.

A player that might garner interest on the trading front is Young Out Fielder, Mookie Betts. The Sox will be unlikely to want to move him, but he has had a good season so far and his numbers look like this: A .264 Average with 51 Runs, 10 Home Runs, 45 Runs Batted In and 13 Steals. He is on pace to scrape a 20/20 season, which is quite valuable for the fantasy circles, although it's nice to see in real terms, it's not going to help win any more or less than the Sox currently manage.

The full line-ups numbers( In no particular order) [excluding Napoli and Betts]

Dustin Pedroia - Hitting at .287 with with 35 Runs Scored, Nine Home Runs 34 Runs Batted In and One Stolen Base. Placed on the DL this weekend, it's unlikely he can contribute much more to the cause as he's scheduled to be activated mid - late August, so will likely get a handful of games before rosters expand to 40 for September, where he might lose ABs to prospects, or other players.
David Ortiz - Hitting at .234 with 35 Runs Scored, 17 Home Runs, 47 Runs Batted In and 0 Stolen Bases.
Hanley Ramirez - Hitting at .263 with 50 Runs Scored, 19 Home Runs 46 Runs Batted in and four Steals
Pablo Sandoval - Hitting at .257 with 29 Runs scored, Seven Home Runs 30 Runs Batted in and 0 Stolen Bases.
Xander Bogaets - Hitting at .310 with 40 Runs scored, Three Home Runs 47 Runs Batted in and 4 Stolen Bases
Brock Holt - Hitting at .284 with 31 Runs scored, Two Home Runs, 23 Runs Batted in and five Stolen Basis .
Ryan Hanigan - Hitting at .221 with 16 Runs scored, One Home Run Nine Runs Batted in and 0 Stolen Basis

Other guys that start on occasion
Alejandro De Aza - Acquired on June 3rd, De Aza has a line of:.258, 31 Runs Scored, Six Home Runs 26 Runs Batted in, Five Stolen Basis
Shane Victorino [Injury has disrupted his season] - .247 Average, 10 Runs Scored, One Home Run, Four Runs Batted in and Five Stolen Bases
Rusney Castillo - .230 Average, Six Runs Scored, One Home Run, Six Runs Batted In and One Stolen Base.
Blake Swihart - .237 Average, 18 Runs Scored, One Home Run . 11 Runs Batted in, and One Stolen Base
Jackie Bradley Jr - .133 Average, 2 Runs Scored, One Home Run , Two Runs Batted in 0 Stolen Bases, although a great defensive player, benefits from every day ABs and hasn't been able to translate this into the big leagues [yet]. He is highly cherished in the Sox, but it might be in the teams' best interest to move him on in a deal involving pitching.

It seems like a good time to take another look at the rotation [or what's left of it]...

Clay Buchholz - Currently on the DL but has pitched 113.1 Innings, while giving up 41 Earned Runs Walking 23 while striking out 107 batters resulting in an ERA of 3.26 with a WHIP of 1.21. Perhaps I've been a little hard on Clay this year as his numbers are better than most people might realise.
Justin Masterson - Recently returned from the DL but results haven't been great overall giving up 33 Earned Runs in 50.2 Innings pitched while striking out 40 batters, walking 22 to the tune of a 5.86 ERA and a WHIP of 1.60. Appeared in relief in a loss to the Tigers on the 25th July so his role seems to be middle relief right now.
Eduardo Rodriguez - A rookie who has had mostly good outings with some horrendous showings [take Tuesday's 2.1 7 ER allowed] to an overall tune of 54.1 innings pitched, 28 Earned Runs, 46 Strike Outs resulting in a 4.64 ERA and a WHIP of 1.27 and is scheduled to take the hill for Sunday Night Baseball.
Rick Porcello - 112.2 Innings Pitched, 69 Earned Runs allowed with 90 Strikeouts, 26 Walks and an ERA of 5.51 accompanied by a 1.37 WHIP .
Wade Miley - Has started the second half hot giving up one Earned run in 13 Innings but has failed to be awarded with a Win. Overall he's posted 114.1 Innings Pitched giving up 55 Earned Runs while striking out 83 batters, walking 44 with an ERA of 4.33 and a WHIP of 1.37.
Joe Kelly - A struggle since the opening weeks, Kelly recently got demoted to the minor leagues to work on location and it remains to be seen how much it will pay off as Kelly has pitched a total of 80.0 Innings Pitched while surrendering 51 Earned Runs while striking out 66, walking 32 to an ERA of 5.74 and a WHIP of 1.49.
Steven Wright - The Knuckle-baller has been up and down from Pawtucket and has stuck around long enough to register 48.1 innings, giving up 26 earned runs while striking out 27 walking 16 and registering a 4.84 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP.

I won't speculate here who I think the Sox will move for, but like most fans, I know of which players that could be available, which ones I'd like to see don a Sox jersey, and which ones currently doing so I'd be happy to see the back of. Fact is, it's more probable than not the Sox are going to be selling come the trade deadline on Friday. although if Hanley, Sandoval and perhaps Ortiz move on this week, Red Sox fans' worldwide will have something to cheer for, but complete change is probably needed in order to properly move on, a Fresh start could erase some painful recent memories, while respecting the traditional traditions of a Red Sox Team, although one are I wouldn't change is the manager, he's good for the team, and delivered a World Series his first year in charge, and he can only do so much where upper management fails him. Believe in Farrell, he will make us rise again.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

The Highs and Lows in Sport....

We've all been there, in various forms of sport, whether its a rags to riches tale, a home-grown success story [ie Andy Murray at Wimbledon], Record breakers [Schumacher in Formula 1, Sir Chris Hoy in successive Olympic Games, Sampras Grand Slam record from Tennis], or whether it be a pitcher throwing a perfect game in baseball, to be watching / associated with it is pretty special. It might only be bettered by being the one that is actually doing it.

Some selective Sports Highs for me

Football League Cup - Aston Villa took on Manchester United at Wembley stadium and performed  out of their skin to win by a 3 goals to 1 margin, and as a 7 year old I was extremely happy watching it on the television. Little would I know that be the last thing they'd ever win since I was born [I'm not counting 1996 here as I don't remember anything about it, but it did happen].  While it was great to see things are very different now and what could have been with a couple of different decisions, who knows ? [I'll get to that at another time though].

2007,2013 Boston Red Sox winning World Series' and being best in the world [ as far as they can be]. 2013 was more recent, and I can recall watching their entire run unfolding thinking, no matter how far down this team get, they never seemed to be out of any game [Post season Grand slams proved this to be one reason why]. [Of Course, they had pitching back then] so this wasn't difficult ! Their most recent triumph in franchise history, might never be bettered on an emotional level for me [except maybe if I was there], as when they sealed the 27th and final out against St Louis, in Game 6 - Fenway Park, Boston Massachusetts - I was sitting in a couch in New Jersey USA [in a Phillies household] and a baseball novice. We will always have that together, thanks for being part of it guys, you made it extra special !

2014/15 - New England Patriots Super Bowl campaign. With many lows in the early part of the season, The Patriots looked devoid of talent, they looked finished and many were questioning whether it was time to give up, move on and introduce Jimmy Garoppolo. There have been many Tom Brady backups over the year [most famous of all, Matt Cassell] but it's crazy how Jimmy has as many Superbowl Rings as Peyton Manning. Anyhow, but for a bit of begging to switch defensive match ups, and some rookie pluck from Malcolm Butler, this might never have happened where as time was running down, the ball on the half yard line, instead of unleashing Beast Mode, the Seahawks elected to pass, and Butler intercepted it in the goal line. What followed was an offsides penalty, moving the ball 5 yards, than a 15 yard penalty [with an ejection] and from the grimmest and most perilous of positions, the Patriots supporters' suddenly had another victory to celebrate and one which they will never forget.

FA Cup Semi Final - Aston Villa faced Liverpool in an encounter the Claret and Blue were probably expected to lose given what each club has spent over the past few years in recruitment of new players, however, Tim got them playing well, playing with freedom, and it appeared a bit of pride and they held out in a 2-1 victory to get to the FA Cup Final ! Euphoria [well for Villa fans it was]. At that moment, life couldn't get much better [as we shortly found out] but us Villains had something to talk about other than #LambertOut.

Unfortunately, here are the lows.

2004,2007 New England Patriots number is called by the Giants of New York, and in 2007, a perfect season was denied via the helmet catch [which one could argue was a trap, but that's not for me to say]. Anyway, having lost to a 'fail mary' on the dying seconds, the same situation occurred again with the Patriots down by 3 with seconds remaining. This game could also be remembered for the sitting down Touchdown. Either way the end result was the same, and the Giants knocked over the Patriots for the second straight game, and coming off the back off recent Red Sox success, this game hurt Patriots nation the globe over and in one way, reminded us in life, we shouldn't expect to win all the time, and in sports, it is occasionally OK to cry.

2014 Fifa World Cup - England crashing out at the group stage. I wasn't all that bothered that England went out of the cup,[although I cared a bit ] it was more the manner in which they went out of it. Tired, boring, one dimensional football which saw defeats to Italy [although a pretty good performance] and Uruguay meant not even a win over Costa Rica could see them advance, but they couldn't even manage to do that. 1 point, 2 goals scored, 4 conceded. Need a new direction? We'll see. I think maybe a manager that is a great motivator, and isn't afraid to drop players, perhaps we can tempt Mourinho when a change is made ? The shocking campaign, made me simulate and take charge of an England team in the world cup using proper tactics, and players being played where they were meant to be played, and not taking those played out of position in the real thing. I got them to win it, then win the following European Championships [coming up in 2016 in reality] although I couldn't replicate 3 in a row [done by Spain in the 2000s] and if you're reading, Head of the FA, I'm available should you need a new manager !

And finally:

2015 Fifa Womens' World Cup - A sensational tournament [at least by previous years] in which I was captivated by every match, and I can tell that the women's' game isn't all about the money, unlike the mens, in which players move clubs for over £40m, I'm pretty sure it would be nice to have that cash available in the women's' game, much less be able to throw it away on one player. It was all about the game and the players, which is great to see, and the Lionesses should be proud of themselves for achieving history and making their first semi final ! To lose in the way they did wasn't deserved [to anyone] much less the better team throughout much of the semi final, and to see Laura Bassett [arguably player of the tournament] put through her own goal, on a defensive instinct, 99 times out of 100 would go harmlessly out for a corner kick, she must feel so terrible, while in other sports there is a saying. Hopefully next year, with a world cup, it hurts more because next year doesn't exist being a 4 year cycle, and to all the lionesses, I thank them for playing with pride, playing with good energy, playing with commitment and fighting spirit. I'm so proud of them all, and I hope to go one step further [maybe 2 by winning] in 2019, but I will also look forward to the 2017 European Championships with a renewed sense of pride. [Should any of them ever see this] #ThankyouLionesses ! It's been an emotional ride, but one for the better !

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Fantasy Baseball - Roto League Tales...

This week I will review my roster, and season so far in an ESPN hosted league, entitled Beer and Whiskey Baseball. [How could you not like it]?

As of the morning of June 24th 2015 I sit in 5th place with an overall score of 69 points. There are 12 teams in this league, and each category has a scale of 12-1 and your ranking in each category gives an overall score. 12 for being the best in that category, and 1 point for being the worst. To have a chance at winning the league, you would need to be top 3 in most [if not all] categories. We are allowed to keep any 8 players every year, and only allowed to keep a player for three years [whether traded or not] per cycle. An example - A Player drafted in 2012 would be eligible to be a keeper up until and including the 2015 draft, but they wouldn't be allowed to be kept in 2016. Any keepers are subjected to salary- and each year kept inflates total cost, for example: a Player drafted in 2014 for $26 will be over $30 for his final year of keeper eligibility, before being returned into the draft system,

The categories used for hitting are R,HR,RBI,SB,AVG and for pitching W,SV,K,ERA,WHIP.

My seasonal line so far 11,8,8,10,3 7,7,8,5,1 . I will reveal the actual numbers later but the roster I have now is as follows:

Catcher - Derek Norris [I also used Wilson Ramos for a while at U].
1st Base - Yonder Alonso - Recently got the starting gig on my team as I demoted someone to the bench, but you'll find out who later!
2nd Base - Joe Panik [Steal alert for a keeper next season at only $1]!
3rd Base - Chris Davis- in his final year of keeper eligibility.
SS - Andrelton Simmons - Drafted for $3 this year, an early possibility for a keeper for 2016.
2b/SS [in some leagues this slot is named MI] - Kolten Wong. I kept him for $1 going into this year so is keeper eligible for 2016.
1B/3B [In some leagues this slot is named CI] - Justin Turner. Recently acquired via FA when dropping Ryan Zimmerman to Waivers. Zimmerman was drafted by me for $11 [had multi position eligibility, but cleared Waivers so would be $1 potentially to keep.
OF - Jason Heyward - I was able to keep him [for the first time] this year and I paid a little higher than I would had he remained in Atlanta, because I felt at the time, his move to Bucsh would be an advantage. $22. It remains to be seen what I'll do with him for 2016 but I'm enjoying his recent hot streak !
OF - Mookie Betts - Dynamo in Centre, originally a middle infielder, adjusted well and was kept at $1. Plenty of value in the long term and I won't be giving him up easily !
OF - Josh Reddick - Picked up from FA in Early April, Reddick has often been one of my top hitters over the last 7 days although has cooled off slightly of late.
OF - Steven Souza Jr - Drafted in 2015 for $4 and will likely be kept for the same price come 2016. Helping to contribute in four out of five categories.
OF - Gerardo Parra - Plucked off the FA market as an injury replacement on June 10th, has been consistent, but nothing special and is not on the radar for 2016.
UTIL - Jace Peterson - A good addition to my roster, added June 11th as cover for Simmons and Wong. Will likely be in and out of the team the rest of the way or until promotions [or people return from the DL].

SP - Jon Lester - $12 keeper for this season and is performing better and better as the season goes on and more often than not goes at least 6 innings.
SP - James Shields - Drafted for $22 and has provided nice W-L totals and contributed in most categories eligible.
SP - Jordan Zimmermann - Drafted for $25 and hasn't really performed at the levels I know he can perform at, and when on form, he's arguably, one of the best at preventing runners from scoring. He's coming off three straight losses, although his last performance was tolerable.
P - Kenley Jansen - Drafted for $15 and has been worth every cent since he returned from foot surgery. No brainer.
P - Jacob DeGrom - Drafted for $15 and has a sparkling 2.34 ERA on the season and rarely gives up more than 3 ER a start. Might be a nice trade piece later in the season, but as of now, I'm looking to consolidate my mid table finish to try to turn it into a trophy next year.
P - Jason Grilli - Picked up the Day the Braves traded Craig Kimbrel and has delivered 20 Saves for an ERA of 2.73. Not really sure what my long term plans are for Grilli but I'm enjoying the Saves for now !
P - Craig Kimbrel - Originally selected as a keeper for $25 , I traded away Gio Gonzalez and Cody Allen on June 9th. Elite as you get, if you ignore the base runners allowed !
P - Matt Shoemaker - a P o D guy going off matchups via the 411 advice.
P - Brett Anderson - Another P O D guy, but was a good bet for his last start in a 6 inning W.

My bench is devised of both Hitters and Pitchers.
BN - 1B Mike Napoli - Looked amazing in Spring Training but hasn't looked the same hitter since. This could be two things , one, the pitchers didn't have the arm strength behind them yet or two - he's pressing, and trying too hard to replicate what we all know he's capable of. Perhaps Option C is in play and he's slowly becoming a Monday - Thursday guy . Either way, I paid $5 for him on draft day so could be a very cheap keeper, if he can turn the ship around.
BN OF - Michael Taylor - Nothing against players with their first name Mike, Taylor has fantastic short term value here with Jayson Werth on the shelf until the latter half of the season, and should contribute where Speed is scarce [at least for me].
BN SP - Steve Matz - Next in line for promotion for the Mets and is coming soon, should be shortly before the ASB.
BN SP Matt Moore - Returning from the DL in, maybe the next couple of weeks, Often a slightly rough time of it after returning from TJS [the three most feared letters in fantasy baseball] Moore has a high ceiling and I'll be hoping for an amount of wins in the second half with an ERA in the low 3.00's perhaps with a view to locking him up for 2016.
BN - SS Corey Seager - Stuck behind Jimmy Rollins in the pecking order, Seager might otherwise have been up already had he been in another organisation. When he does arrive, it should be for good and I'll be looking for a good average, speed and some power to show what he can do and should be a useful player upon his activation. Could he help provide the difference in Runs scored, RBIs and HR to bridge the gap remains to be seen, but he should at least contribute to at least two categories.

My Totals

Runs - 470 [need 4 more to have a share of first] Home Runs - 109 [Need 6 more for a top three berth] Runs Batted In - 423 [Need 15 more to have a share of third place] Stolen Bases - 75 [Already in the top three in this category, and have a lead of 3 over fourth place]. AVG - .2558 - Need to add at least .200 points to be competitive in this category, currently sit in 10th.

K's - 644 [Need 45 for a look inside the top 3] Wins - 43 [Need 5 more to re-enter the top 3, and have been in and out of it all season]. Saves - 50. [Need 12 to enter the top 3, but have had a run of saves over the last fortnight sending my team up to 6th and have a comfortable cushion of 12 over the team below]. ERA - 3.918 - Having fought with an ERA above 4 for much of the season, recent movement has seen it dip below that number for a stretch and I'm hoping it continues to fall and I'll need it to be around 3.450 to get a top three spot perhaps] Finally, WHIP - 1.330 [ The top three sits around 1.181 and lower so I'll need my pitchers to stop issuing as many base runners to really see it come down.

All in all, its pretty promising beginning to the season, in one I was projected [after the draft to finish 3rd] I still reckon I have a chance of accomplishing this, and I'm excited for every pitch to see where I inevitably end up.

I should also mention I have 2 players on the DL, Jacoby Ellsbury [whom I drafted for $29 is still my leading Base Stealer, despite being sidelined for over a month] and Matt Holliday who appears to be transitioning into a line drive hitter for good average rather than that of a power guy with middling average who I selected as my final keeper for $25. He was hitting over .300 before being placed on the DL.

Swing Betters, Swing [unless you're facing my pitchers] .

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Fantasy Update - Tales of a Public League Part 1 .

I will eventually revisit the other leagues/ Fantasy goings on I've posted about in earlier entries, but this week I thought I'd update you all on how I'm doing in another specific league [if you've read my earlier post about the MLB Draft, you might be able to guess which segment of the standings I'd be].

If Not, then I'm about to update you all on my standings in 'Yahoo Public 114594 [H2H based 5x5].

I'll jump right to my roster [as of Tuesday 16th June 2015]

C) Wilson Ramos [ 19 7 31 0 .265]
1B) Chris Davis [33 14 38 0 .232]
2B) Jace Peterson [27 2 28 7 .278]
3B) Nolan Arenado [33 16 50 0 .274]
SS) Carlos Correa [4 2 4 1 .324]
OF) Giancarlo Stanton [43 24 62 4 .265]
OF Dexter Fowler [42 7 18 11 .240]
OF) Byron Buxton [2 0 0 0 .200]
UTIL Mookie Betts [27 6 28 10 .253]
UTIL Joey Gallo [9 4 8 2 .261]

BENCH - Mitch Moreland [20 8 31 1 .307], Jean Segura, [24 3 17 8 .279] Starling Marte [36 12 45 13 .286], Martin Prado 24 4 24 0 .272]

SP) James Shields 7 Wins, 104 Strikeouts, 3.59 ERA 1.22 WHIP
SP) Michael Pineda 7 Wins, 78 Strikeouts, 3.74 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
RP) Mark Melancon 21 Saves, 16 Strikeouts, 1.99 ERA, 1.04 WHIP
RP) Cody Allen 14 Saves, 39 Strikeouts, 4.39 ERA, 1.46 WHIP
P) Zach Britton 17 Saves, 35 Strikeouts, 1.69 ERA, 0.94 WHIP
P) Joakim Soria, 16 Saves, 19 Strikeouts, 1.78 ERA, 0.83 ERA
P) Chris Tillman 5 Wins, 49 Strikeouts, 5.58 ERA, 1.55 ERA
P) Shawn Tolleson 2 Wins, 9 Saves, 33 Strikeouts, 2.61 ERA, 1.10 WHIP

Bench Jose Quintana 3 Wins, 68 Strikeouts, 4.03 ERA, 1.38 WHIP

DL Jacoby Ellsbury. [29 1 6 14 .324]

The Categories in which the league uses are R,HR,RBI,SB,AVG and pitching W,SV,K,ERA and WHIP.

Overall I've won the following Categories
Runs 7 Times [2 Losses and 1 Tie]
Home Runs 9 Times [1 Loss 0 Ties]
Runs Batted In 7 Times [3 Loss 0 Ties]
Stolen Bases 4 Times [2 loss 4 Ties]
Batting Average 4 Times [6 Losses 0 Ties]

Wins 3 Times [6 Losses 1 Tie]
Saves 9 Wins [1 Loss 0 Ties]
Strikeouts 4 Times [5 Losses 1 Tie]
ERA 4 Times [6 Losses 0 Ties]
WHIP 4 Times [6 Losses 0 Ties]

Altogether, I've seen my Boys in this league mash for:
316 Runs, 101 Home Runs, 324 RBI, 48 SB and a Batting Average of .264
25 Wins, 76 Saves, 452 Strikeouts, 3.95 ERA and a WHIP of 1.33.

My overall record [W-L-T] is 55-38-7 which is good for third place overall 11 Games back of first. There are 12 teams overall and the top 6 qualify for the play-offs at the end of the fantasy season. The playoffs take place Week 23-25 and start September 14th and end October 4th.

As of now, my only glaring weaknesses are Wins and Stolen Bases, but come the play-offs, I reckon it will be a clearer picture of whether I need them or not, and I'll have a few decisions to make regarding them and whether or not it might be worth a risk to potentially jeopardise other categories in order to strengthen those.
If they started today, I'd have a match-up with the 6th ranked team starting on Monday.

This is the league I'm second most confident in achieving a trophy at the end of it all and I look forward to updating you all at some point.

Monday, 15 June 2015

The Boston Red Sox.....

Much has happened to this storied franchise over the years, but I don't think I've ever seen such a comedy of errors in such a small space of time before. Sure, errors happen to every club, and most players, but I've never seen them grow in frequency and each one more embarrassing [to look at] and probably be a part of, than the last .

There seems to be too many egos in the locker room, and although it's nice to see a homecoming, I'm not entirely sure the winter hot stove was handled anywhere near the correct way.

Winter Incomings - Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval,Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson, Robbie Ross, Alexi Ogando, Ryan Hanigan
Winter Outgoings - Jon Lester , Will Middlebrooks, Yeonis Cespedes, Alex Wilson, Anthony Ranaudo, Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster.

[This list includes most of the players leaving/ arriving though there are some I haven't mentioned].

At first glance you might like the incoming players more than the outgoings, although closer analysis reveals the Red Sox [Cherrington] didn't fill needs, just took what they wanted with an open cheque book resulting in $95M and $88M on Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez alone. The Sox didn't actually NEED Ramirez or Sandoval, they WANTED them. I can see that a 3rd baseman might have been needed, but I would have liked to have seen promotion from within [if applicable] perhaps using a player like Bogaerts shifting across in the Spring to see what might be needed longer term. Hanley is an entirely different situation, with the same sentiment, un-neccessary [at least to play him in an unfamiliar context. I think it might have been acceptable [now] if he was being played at short although I do think that would have caused problems too. While everything [for now] appears to be working itself out, this team isn't as strong as it could be. I do think two players whose names will be first on the team sheet is 2Bman Dustin Pedroia, who appears to be fully healthy and very reliable defensively [which was never an issue] and CF Mookie Betts [who could be a star of the future].

It's becoming more clear that Victorino might never top 2013 in his career [particularly his post season grand slam], and his career in Boston is getting shorter, not least because of his ongoing, more frequent injury problems. It's good to see Rusney Castillo getting an extended look, although he'd be the one I'd have used at LF instead of signing up Hanley Ramirez which could in turn have freed up JBJ [Jackie Bradley Jr] to play RF, or place him in CF and have Mookie patrolling RF. Either way, has to be better than a [second] fumbling player called Ramirez in the OF right ?

This leads me on to pitching. I believe that Boston knew it wouldn't be resigning Jon Lester, at ANY price last year, so trading him was the correct move, in order to try to build for 2015, however trading away those pieces could have been a detriment. However, in knowing about the desire to go elsewhere, surely that could have meant they could go harder in an area of need instead of leaving it on the back burner, to go out, make a few signings to in my view, "appease for the loss of key players". I'm constantly reminded of the film [and book] 'Moneyball' in which the Oakland Athletics tried to reinvent the game of baseball, or the way in which it was played.
Of course, it's likely that taking this approach would always end in frustration if it didn't work, so I write the following to Boston Red Sox, Ben Cherrington et al associated with the club currently

Dear all.
While winning baseballs World Series is one of the greatest feelings a professional baseball athlete will ever experience, for its fans it's pretty magical too, however most fans are aware that no team can win every year. I feel compelled to write this letter directed at the upper management most of all as I feel its their blundering about which has caused this pantomime show otherwise known as the Boston Red Sox. I don't know how entertained you are by watching pop ups land in between a cluster of fielders, or watching players run into each other, with seemingly no communication on other pop ups, but I'm tired [Not least because I get to stay up until 3 am to watch games, given I live in the land of the United Kingdom [in England], of it. I don't want to see the wrong people getting the brunt of the fan hate here, and I ask that something is done, and soon. There are worse teams [records] that play better more aesthetically pleasing baseball, but just get beaten by the better team on the day, of late the Sox have been beating themselves and it has to change, Now. I ask, have a look at the structure of the team and fix it . It's not [yet] too late and this team can be great but it definitely cannot go on on the way it has been.
Thanks for reading, I hope to see some real positive changes soon.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The Major League Draft [From a Fantasy Prospective]

This week began the annual MLB Draft. It is a key point in the calendar when previous draftees could [or already have] start[ed] their major league journey and if you play in Dynasty leagues, you might have an advantage longer term with knowledge that non dynasty league players might not have.

Recent Callups [2015] Kris Bryant, Noah Syndergaard, Carlos Correa, JR Graham, Archie Bradley, Corey Spangenberg, Addison Russell, Blake Swihart, Carlos Rodon, Kevin Plawecki, Eduardo Rodriguez and not forgetting Joey Gallo. There are prospects still to come in 2015 Corey Seager, Steven Matz, Francisco Lindor, Slade Heathcott [although he has already been promoted and debuted, it was a quick flash in the pan before being placed on the DL],

Of the above names, I own most of them in some / multiple leagues I am in. Most of any of the names alone, could tip the scales in your favour, but if you own more than one of them [which I do in a few leagues] could mean the league is mine, [or yours if you're in a similar situation] to lose.

Archie Bradley isn't healthy right now, but was pretty good before being hit in the face, although his recent DL stint is unrelated, and is shoulder related. That alone could be worrying, as you never want to see pitchers missing time through arm/shoulder problems, but he's young so it could just be tiredness and nothing too serious. I own him in two leagues and I hope he can contribute both up to the All star Break, and in the second half of the season showing the kind of stuff he demonstrated in his first few starts.

Noah Syndergaard. Yes- all the win here. Despite recent struggles, I wouldn't read much into it as the Mets have been playing with their rotation and recently trialled 6 giving each starter extra rest between starts, which sometimes altars mechanics. I own Syndergaard in three leagues [2 of which are the same two I own Bradley in].

Kris Bryant - Arguably the biggest name on the list in terms of what he'd bring to the show and has a great line-up around him in Wrigley. I was lucky enough to snag him in one league, with many rebuttals in efforts to acquire him via trading in others.

Joey Gallo - Arrived with much fan fare via an injury to other players, I managed to snag him in two leagues [one the same league I own Bryant] and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with him whether it be another trip to the minors, or if he rakes up in the show past when he might otherwise be demoted, in other words will the Rangers have to find a spot for him in the lineup.

Steven Matz - Yet to make his debut, and I am trusting that when he does [around the All Star Break] he will be a mainstay and already have him in two leagues and I'm happy to burn a bench spot waiting for him [in the league that doesn't allow minor league rosters too].

Corey Seager - I owe Corey Schwartz a beer if my acquisition of Seager in a roto league [where at start of games on the 10th June 2015, left me in 4th place] can help me ride a storm and shoot up the board into the top 3, and possible title contention.

Carlos Correa made his debut this week and luckily enough for me, I could add him to my infield that includes Bryant,Arenado,Gallo, [Panik and A-Gon, and with an OF of Harper,Pederson and Trout] I'm pretty happy with my team in this league ! I really need to focus a little more on pitching, as that's probably a reason why I'm not winning ,although I'm in 2nd place. The other reason is lack of speed as I'm last in that category, but this league is really shallow so don't read too much into how I managed to nab such an awesome line up.

This years Draft is well under way now and the number one overall pick [has one of the coolest names] Dansby Swanson. At first glance, this years' draft doesn't have the talent that we have come to know from years previous, but it could be argued we say that every year, but the 2005 draft had some of the biggest talent to choose from, Swanson will hope for a similar career that 2005 first pick Justin Upton [also by the Diamondbacks] has had to date. Upton,Alex Gordon,Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Andrew McCutcheon, Jay Bruce and Jacoby Ellsbury all still have stellar careers at the top of the game, and some other players from this draft took longer to develop but also still have a career in the game such as Cameron Maybin[ who was 10th overall], Colby Rasmus [28], Clay Buchholz [42], Jed Lowrie [45] all took a little longer to adjust to the big leagues, but when healthy are very helpful in fantasy baseball. Chris Davis [Baltimore] was selected with pick #1496, 1063 initially, but didn't sign with the Yankees, nor Angels respectively, Davis eventually went on to hit 53 Home Runs in 2013, so its' not all lost if your name isn't called early on.

Hopefully, I can use this to build for future years, and who knows, one day I'll be writing about how the draft class of 2015 has helped to guide me to multiple fantasy trophies.

-> Many thanks to Stijn Oomen for the suggestion about doing the draft. Thanks dude !

Monday, 1 June 2015

The Fantasy Baseball Mentality.

Its often thought that you need as many power hitters as possible, in order to win the game of fantasy baseball [This might be true]. Apparently the Boston Red Sox [in reality] are trying to achieve this in the real game [where it simply doesn't work]. I will look at the players involved and I have a few things I would do if I were phoned up by the GM Ben Cherrington to offer my insight into how to turn the club around and not let it get to a situation where "it's getting late early".

Firstly, the batting line-up isn't balanced. Players are in the wrong slots, and they just have too many power hitters. The commonly used lineup is:

Pedroia,Betts,Ortiz,Ramirez,Sandoval,Napoli,Bogaerts,[whoever is at RF] (unless it's A healthy Shane Victorino),Swihart.

The first glaring problem [to me] is Ortiz is no longer a number three hitter, with waning power, and a growing inability to constantly be on base, This would be one area I would change. [I will detail below which lineup I would use]. Secondly, there seems to have been an oversight in terms of pitching. While it's nice to have a lineup that "can out-hit any one" Not having the capable pitching to keep runs down in the event they can't produce isn't helpful. I will talk about the rotation first as its fresher on my mind [like that would help].

Clay Buchholz,Rick Porcello,Joe Kelly,Wade Miley, Eduardo Rodriguez [recently promoted from Triple A] .

There's no obvious person [to me] on the staff that could be relied upon regularly, although I have seen signs of improvement from Porcello and Miley, and [to an extent] Buchholz. The staff is lacking an obvious ace like Lester in previous years,Pedro Martinez,Roger Clemens [in the beginning of his career] and other pitchers I may have forgotten about.

Joe Kelly - Is better than how he's pitching, I'm just not sure if he's suited to the AL East. Has a record of 1-4 with a 5.83 ERA, 1.46 WHIP and 46 Ks.
Rick Porcello - Has had an indifferent start and was rewarded with a contract extension back in April [without pitching a ball]. Has a 4-4 record with a 5.37 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 50 Ks. If Porcello can make it past the 6th inning, he'll usually reward Fantasy owners with a W [or a QS].
Wade Miley - Has definitely improved since his last start in April where he gave up 6 ER in 2.1 IP and has a season line of 4-5 with an ERA of 4.97 and isn't missing that many bats with 33 Ks and a WHIP of 1.42.
Eduardo Rodriguez - Dominated the Texas Rangers on his debut with a scoreless, 7.2 Inning performance. Prior to that, he had pitched 48.1 innings in Triple A, with 44 Strikeouts, and a sparkling 2.98 ERA.
Clay Buchholz - Not sure where to start with Clay who is just as capable of giving up 7 runs in an inning than he is to pitch an 8 inning shut-out. His actual numbers on the year are 2-6 with an ERA of 4.33, 62 Ks and a WHIP of 1.29 [ that's quite good for this part of the season].
Previously, in the rotation has been Justin Masterson. Masterson was previously a member of the Red Sox, before being traded away in July of 2009 to the Indians, and would go on to have a career year with them in 2011. [ERA 3.21, 216 Innings pitched]. From there he was traded to the Cardinals in July of last year and returned to the Red Sox as a Free Agent for the 2015 season. His season so far has a 2-2 record with an ERA of 6.37 a WHIP of 1.67 and 24 Strikeouts. Justin is currently on a rehab assignment after being placed on the DL in mid May.

I don't think the rotation is as bad as their records actually suggest, but I would have liked to have seen a bigger effort to acquire a number 2 pitcher, to bolster it and can perform as an ace if adjustments need to be made.

Now to the line-up issues.

The lineup posted above, hasn't always looked like that, and recently Pedroia and Betts switched positions in the lineup, which is one thing I would have done myself.

The full changes :

1) Dustin Pedroia - 2B
2) Pablo Sandoval - 3B [although I don't agree with the signing, I feel it was done to appease missing out on Jon Lester]
3) Hanley Ramirez - LF. It's cool to see Hanley return to where it all started for him, although in a slightly unfamiliar position perhaps.
4) Mike Napoli - Recently awoke from a season long slump and appears to be finding his offensive prowess again and could help shape a game from the first inning if the men in front get on, he'd have more chances to drive them in hitting here.
5) Xander Boegarts - SS . Too good a hitter to be hitting down in 8th and would stabilise the lineup that little bit more, and would see more pitches hitting in front of ...
6) David Ortiz - DH. The DH hits for the pitcher, although as I mentioned above Ortiz isn't the same guy that could terrorise a teams pitching staff within a full season series.
7) Blake Swihart - C. The primary option at back stop now. Since losing Jason Varitek back in 2011 to retirment, the Sox have struggled to replace his presence, both as a catcher and a playcaller, although in a few seasons' , Swihart could one day be in the mould of Jason.
8) Brock Holt U. Its unclear what position he will play on any given day, given his ability to play anywhere on the field, although with uncertainty on the OF, he will likely see most of his time now at RF. He's a great hitter and is hitting .286 on the year so he gets a base hit just less than 3 times out of ten trips to the plate.
9) Mookie Betts. While his range in the field isn't doubted, I don;t feel he can properly deliver with the bat in the 2 hole at this stage of his very young career, and with him hitting ninth, would help make Pedroia even more valuable with the blend of speed and power that would turn the line-up over at a very successful rate.

There are plenty of good - great players down in the minor leagues just developing their skill set further to better equip themselves when they get the call to Fenway Park.

I'm pretty sure that as I write this, this won't be the final line up past the trade deadline, I'm almost sure some offensive players will be shipped away for some pitching, as that's one thing that's been obvious to everyone that pitching has always been an area of need. It could be looked at another way by some GMs, there are players in the minors which wouldn't ever get the call so they will agressively pursue these.

It will be fascinating / annoying waiting to see what happens though !

Friday, 29 May 2015

Wembley Memories !

It's been a while since I've written about Aston Villa, and some big changes have happened of late. Paul Lambert tried his best, but ultimately, I believe the job became too much for him and he has since been replaced by Timmy! [Tim Sherwood]. Sherwood has shown the passion for football that once helped him as captain of Blackburn Rovers lifting the premier league trophy under the management of Kenny Dalgleish [and recently stating how he hates to lose] Tim could start to become a legend if he can mastermind one more victory this season and all the pressure would be on Arsenal to retain their title.

The last time I visited Wembley Stadium [as it is now] I witnessed Tom Brady distribute a 45-7 beat down over the St Louis Rams in a wonderful performance in which Tom Brady went 23/35 for 304 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INTs. TE Rob Gronkowski had 8 catches for 146 yards with 2 scores on the hallowed turf and Michael Hoomanawanui also played [I just like saying his name out loud, you want to try it to, don't you]? The Rams didn't start out too badly, converting a 50 yard pass from Sam Bradford on the games' first drive [which at the time, Patriots fan in me wouldn't let me appreciate, but I knew it was special from the roar], but really didn't get a look in after this due to the Pats being more than ready for the Wembley crowd. If I was writing Ones to Watch back then [look out for that over on UKFirstDown], this game would have been an amazing chance for the Rams to prove they belonged and victory there would have evened their record at 4-4, and could have proved a catalyst to possible post season glories, [I would have said that too].

Before that, way back in 1990's [at the old Wembley, with the twin towers, and this logo ]Wembley Stadium (1923) logo.svg

I witnessed the England Schoolboys play Germany Schoolboys in a final of something, which obviously, the Germans won, although I'm pretty sure I saw a special performance from future sensation Michael Owen in that game. I remember being a young , smaller person [with a lot more hair] believing one day I'll see Aston Villa lifting the FA Cup at Wembley.

Fast forward to the year 2000 I thought I might get that chance, but it wasn't to be as they lost to Chelsea, which transformed Chelsea into eventual world beaters. [Not because of this triumph, but it certainly helped]. A few weeks later it closed and a few years later, Wembley Stadium, as we knew it would be demolished.

Fast Forward again to the year 2007 and Wembley reopened. It now sports this logo.

Wembley Stadium EE logo.png
 It leaves me a little deflated [leave it], as the old W for me was everything growing up !
 It also bought with it regular season games within the NFL calendar and eventually saw the Patriots come over and play [first in 2009 victorious over the Buccaneers, and in 2012 detailed above].

30th May 2015 will live in the memory banks forever as the day Aston Villa finally made it back to a final with a chance to lift a trophy, having already beaten more favoured opposition in Liverpool back in the Semi Final [which shouldn't, in my opinion be held at Wembley] and will undoubtedly be up for the challenge. To borrow a phrase from the other type of football I care about, AVFC, #DoYourJob and the title is yours. In watching videos on the internet earlier, I thought that, there can't be any other option than lifting the trophy, it's not possible to us to go there and see them lose [again], but there is no tomorrow.  It feels like our name has been written on the cup since the campaign kicked off, but there's a lot of hard work to between the lines. They've had better chances to lift the title and didn't even make the final [Bradford semi fnal league cup] and haven't won the FA cup since 1957, it's long over due and if on the day, Villa can't win the cup, I may get over it one day, but if a cup being held aloft by Fabian and co is how the day ends up, I'll never forget it, and I'll be so honoured to have watched it on the television, wishing I could have been there in person.

I've been to Wembley in different guises, but I would trade it all in to be in the crowd to see a potential FA cup victory this year in 2015.

I love you Aston Villa, through hard times, through glorious times, I will always be a Holte Ender. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Fantasy Baseball, Tales of the SABER WAR.... Part 1 !

Saber War is another rotisserie based format and this is also hosted via Yahoo and is a 14 team, 14x14 category league. This might seem a lot but in addition to the usual R,HR,RBI,SV,AVG cats on hitting we also use XBH, GIDP for negative points, Ks for negative points, BB [Walks], CS for negative points and Sacrifice Hits and Sac Flies. On pitching, IP,SV, ER for negative points,HR for negative points, Ks, Replacing Wins with QS, and also for negative points, BB allowed, Wild pitches and HR allowed.

Now, You may remember from previous instalments that I've always favoured H2H because I found them easier to win, and a look at my Fantasy Sports CV would indicate that to be correct with 100% of victories coming in H2H play, but this year I feel more in touch with roto and up until midweek I was 2nd in the league and have alarmingly slid down to 6th place at start of play 25/05/15.

My lineups as of now are C Miguel Montero, 1B Chris Carter, 2B Yangervis Solarte, 3B Mark Reynolds, SS Andrelton Simmons, CI Adrian Gonzalez, MI J.J Hardy, LF Justin Upton,CF Cameron Maybin, RF Will Venable, OF Gerardo Parra and Billy Burns, UT1 Ian Desmond, UT2 Mark Trumbo and on the bench I have Corey Spangenberg.
Pitching wise I have the following names:
SPs Michael Pineda, Mike Leake, Bartolo Colon, Dan Haren, Garrett Richards, Tim Hudson, Stephen Strasburg.
RPs Joakim Soria, AJ Ramos, Jake Petricka, Pat Neshek,Joe Smith, Brad Zieglar, Drew Storen and Tony Watson,

[On the DL I have Jacoby Ellsbury and Austin Jackson hitting wise and one pitcher on the DL Mike Minor - I live in hope he will pitch again ] !

I may be 6th right now with 2322.00 total points, but I've never been more than around 833.00 points behind the leader [which is currently where I'm at] and at one point was within less than 500. I feel good about this league and I fully expect to win a trophy at the end of the season [although 1st place would be amazing, anything less than third will be a failure compared to where I've been most of the season]. It's not as if I've suddenly started losing points, I've just been scoring less than the teams around me. Yesterday I scored 49 points, compared to the 133 by the team directly behind me, 113.50 by the leader to slightly extend his lead and the teams in 5th place and 3rd place scoring 58.00 and 65.50 respectively. If I can get down to less than 750 behind by the weekend, then I might be onto another good run to get me up there again. I will update this story shortly, at an interval that seems appropriate.

thanks for reading, till I write again stay well !

Monday, 18 May 2015

Fantasy Baseball Analysis... Time to panic?

I thought I would take the time to write about a specific league this time so the league I will focus on in this edition is based off of Yahoo, and is called 'Baseball Fan Dynasty League'. From what I remember about this league, is originally [way back in maybe 2006] it used to be called something slightly different, then a series of events occurred which helped to set up Dynasty League Baseball [which I won in its inaugural year], and now we have the BBFDL. In its current guise, we have 16 teams [6x6 categories] with standard Dynasty league rules, [in which we name our team after a historical, or current major league franchise] and we have a minor league farm of up to 8 players at the start of the season. The league is Head to Head based [H2H]. My team is the Colorado Rockies and my roster looks like this [as of Monday 18/05/15].

C - Wilson Ramos 2/$6
1B - Mike Napoli 2/$9 
2B - Johnny Giavetella FA [Free Agent, or No contract assigned]
3B - Pedro Alvarez 2/$9 
SS - Danny Espinosa 1/6
CI - Jose Iglasias 3/$3
MI - Stephen Drew 1/$1 [short term fill in ]
LF - Josh Reddick 2/$12
CF - Gregor Blanco 1/$4
RF - Gerardo Parra 1/2 [Picked up this morning for Carlos Beltran 1/4]
OF - Jarrod Dyson FA
OF - Brandon Guyer FA
Util - Mark Reynolds 1/3 [Picked up this morning, after placing Ike Davis on the DL] 

SP - Madison Bumgarner 2/$35
SP - Cole Hamels 1/$27 
SP - Mike Leake FA
RP - Dellin Betances 1/$10
RP - Jake Petricka FA 
RP - Justin Grimm FA
P - Jered Weaver 2/$7 
P - Chris Tillman 1/$3
P - Tim Hudson FA

Bn - Jarred Cosart 2/$12
Bn - Eddie Rosario MiL [Promoted from the Minor Leagues, but hasn't earned enough ABs [At Bats] to qualify for a contract]
Bn - Scott Atchison FA
Bn - Zack Duke FA [This league counts Holds, no other reason why I'd add him]. 

I also have the following on the Disabled List [DL]
Alex Cobb 2/13 [Acquired earlier this season in exchange for Adam Wainwright, a rare trade that nobody wins] Sorry !
Jordan Schafer 2/5Ike Davis 1/20.

My overall record so far is 13-50-9, good enough for 16th place. In what has largely been an expected rebuilding year for me [apparently, every year of late is a rebuilding job], I'm finding it a lot tougher than I thought it would be, although I have placed everyone on the Trading Block to enable a quicker rebuild process than it otherwise might be. 

While it is early in the season, I'm still only 27 Games back from first place [so if I can reel off two 12-0 wins, I'll be right back in the thick of it]. In addition to Eddie Rosario from the 'farm' I also have Christian Villanueva a young third baseman in the Cubs system currently at Triple A, Zach Lee a Right handed Pitcher in the Dodgers system currently at Triple A, Justin Nicolino, a 23 year old pitcher in the Miami system, currently at Triple A. I'm big on third baseman [apparently] as 23 year old Richie Shaffer in Double A of the Rays system so is a bit further away [Dynasty rules]. In the 2015 Minor League Draft, I added reigning Minor League player of the year, Steven Moya, an exciting OutFielder in the Detroit Farm System, Sean Coyle, a MI/CI of the Boston Farm system and catcher, Chance Cisco. 

I might be biased, but I don;t think the team I've put together is that bad, but I could be wrong from the inside looking out I feel as though I've been closer to winning than losing, although records don't accurately reflect that [can you tell I've been watching Moneyball lately] ?
The only way from here is up , though knowing me, I'll find a way to go backwards !

Til' I write again folks it's been a pleasure. 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Fantasy Baseball Addiction

Hi, I'm Matt and I'm a fantasy baseball addict.

Many people will already know that, but I felt like I needed to take a moment to explain / talk about my hobby.

I've been in some Fantasy baseball leagues since 2007, or at least I've been an active player since before then , although some leagues that existed back then, now don't.

I joined a new league for 2015 called 'The Perfect Game' League, in which it rewards defensive play as well as hitting an occasional home run. I'll be honest, My team has been banged up since the draft, and I've seen Alex Cobb, Adam Wainwright, Kenley Jansen [although this one was expected], Matt Weiters hit the DL [Cobb has since undergone Tommy John Surgery and will not represent my team until around mid 2016]. Now, last week [in the midst of going 0-5] I made a couple of trades. I traded away Andrew McCutcheon [5 year contract] [my first round pick], Jon Niese [2 years], Craig Kimbrel [3rd pick IIRC, 4 years] , in exchange for Carlo Gonzalez, Ryan Braun[2 years], James Paxton [and boosted my minor league farm] acquring Mark Appel, Steve Matz and Alex Myer. That wasn't all either and in a seperate deal, I exchanged Yonder Alonso and Minor Leaguer Henry Owens [whom I selected with my penultimate Major League draft pick] for Edwin Encarnacion [2 years] and Minor Leaguer Noah Syndegaard. As of now, I hold a 119 point lead in the weekly matchup against the leagues' other winless, cellar dwellar. I've made some moves via FA also and that is not limited to dropping players I issued a contract with after the draft [Weaver 3] or picking up Evan Gattis on a 2 year deal.

This could very well be the last H2H league I join for a long while as my passion I once held for Head to Head has wained, and now I've grown more interested in Roto leagues, and in 4 Roto leagues currently, I'm in 2nd place in 2 of them, 5th in the third [although it's my longest standing roto league]and the fourth isn't going to plan as I'm sitting down in 10th. That doesn't mean I'd be looking to leave any leagues I'm currently in, but I won't be looking to join any new H2H leagues for 2016 and beyond [for the forseeable future], nor will it be likely that I join redraft leagues either.
The standings of my longest tenured roto league after the first month saw my team down in 10th overall with 51 roto points [and as of writing this, they have climbed up to 5th place with 67.5 roto points] with a rise to the category lead in Runs, and being 2nd in Stolen Bases, Wins [although in a three way tie for that position], and just a shade outside the top three of Ks [Strikeouts] and RBI.

To sum up, for the most part I'm relatively happy with most of my teams, and over the course of the season I will address each of them to voice my discontent at how I've let them become the leagues' laughing stock, or marvel at my genius as I look down on everyone from the top position. I'm in no doubt that a few public leagues I joined this year, in an attempt to spruce up my Fantasy Sports CV will have to be the first to go to get my numbers down as well to better enable total concentration on getting another Fantasy victory.

Till I write again, Stay safe !