Tagged: Doug Fister

Restoring Old Leather…Part 3

This is a three-part series on how I’ve come to recapture my love for America’s favorite pastime.

So it’s been nearly two decades since I paid careful attention to baseball. When I was working in financials before the 2008 crisis, I would get the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post daily. I’d save the sports sections for my lunch break and read some highlights and box scores over coffee and cigarettes. That’s the most I would do and I was certainly more engrossed in football (college, pro, and the sport that’s called football by the rest of the world), even to the exclusion of other sports.

Some of you may have already done the math and realized that I was hardly paying attention to baseball during an important time. The creation of the “Evil Empire” of the Yankees dominating the late 90s and early 00s that led to, for me, a heartbreaking moment of witnessing the end to the Curse of the Bambino.  The Yankees letting the Boston (sorry, I’m still enough of a Yankees fan that I’m not going to type their entire name) Red $%# make history by being the first team to ever come back from a 3 game deficit to win the ALCS. I also remember bits and pieces of the Subway Series, mostly because I saved a magazine issue that ran a story about it. 33% of the championships for a 15 year span for the Yankees. I wasn’t alive the last time another team in baseball could make a boast like this. Instead, I was spending most of those years studying, watching football, and guzzling beer.

The Yankees will always be the Evil Empire. (www.thegreedypinstripes.com)

The Yankees will always be the Evil Empire. (www.thegreedypinstripes.com)

The market crash taught me an interesting lesson about the notion of value. It’s an idea that’s tossed around often. Frequently interchangeable with words like price, cost, worth…but ultimately misunderstood. I started questioning what I valued. When the Yankees won the World Series again in 2009, I wasn’t paying much attention to sports at all but I watched some of the games. I always loved watching Mariano Rivera close games and he will probably forever remain my favorite Yankee of all time. But this time around, it was different. The thrill was gone…I had misplaced my values.

I’ve worked in education where I’ve taught children of all ages. I’ve taught the self-discipline and techniques of martial arts to kids as young as four and had the pleasure to watch them become fine teenagers and young adults. I’ve helped kids talk to their parents about problems and helped parents figure out how to give their kids the needed direction to straighten them out. I still have a little paper helicopter figurine an ingenious little 4th grader made me one day because he was so excited that I, an Asian man, was his substitute teacher. On the last day of a five month teaching assignment for an elementary school music teacher, the entire third grade class marched through the halls with handmade cards, placed them in a basket by my door, and gave me a hug.

I worked in the financial industry as a mortgage trader working with non-securitized whole loan packages. The sort of toxic assets that weren’t supposed to be packaged in those CDOs (Collateralized Debt Obligation) that spooked the market and brought it crashing down in 2008. Don’t blame me, I know guys that were willing to buy those things off the big banks who wouldn’t admit to the losses they needed to take. Forget supply and demand, the sky was falling. Sellers felt like what they had was worth more than the price they were hearing from the buyers – worthless.

The 2008 crash hit nearly everyone, and hard. (www.theamericangenius.com)

The 2008 crash hit nearly everyone, and hard. (www.theamericangenius.com)

I pretty much lost my shirt over the financial crisis and the rate I was paid to be a substitute teacher was nice while I was working except, when spread out over the year, I wasn’t making enough to get out of my mom’s house. We live in a social world, full of human interactions. Some of these interactions are emotionally fulfilling relationships that may be called friendship. Others involve exchanges in goods and labor and the relationship is labeled as business. They usually mix as well as bleach and ammonia.

There’s a really great book about human behavior called Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. If you read the excerpt I linked to, you’ll see how baseball has this element where social norms clash with market transactions in a variety of ways. If the Nationals really consider me part of their “family” and care about me, why do they charge so much (or at all) for their games and concessions? Anyway, it made me think about the human element to sports, the language we use to describe the game, the minor league system, and so much more. I’ve come to find that baseball is a fantastic analogue for life. You may want to argue that all sports are analogues to the struggle that is life. If sports are a reflection our lives and society, then I would argue that we should try to live a baseball life over any other.

Baseball has been quite reluctant to adopt instant replay to correct calls. The human element of umpiring is part and parcel of the game. We may not agree with an umpire’s strike zone but we often forget that baseball players come in various heights. So imagine…

Eddie Gaedel's strike zone was almost non-existent. (www.sportingcharts.com)

Eddie Gaedel’s strike zone was almost non-existent. (www.sportingcharts.com)

Is Fister really adjusting to a different strike zone? When Ramos frames the pitch down is it less believable because Altuve’s chest is about half a foot lower than Marisnick’s? Even though the ump is supposed to consider a number of things, don’t we just care about consistency? That’s the human element, the X-factor that requires the personal touch making every game just a little different.

George Carlin had an amazing part to his act where he compared baseball to football. Although I think he may have been more of a football fan than a baseball fan, I think the comparison still holds today. It also makes you think about what we value and how we place value on things. Kid acts out in class. Is it an error? Or a penalty? I suppose what I want to everyone to ask themselves is that if life is such a battle, how do we win? Is tearing down another a worthwhile act to win? What if we helped each other avoid making errors? Would this world be a better place?

Baseball is a celebration of quirks and history. If it weren’t for baseball fanatics creating the Rotisserie League, would we even have fantasy sports leagues? Fantasy is one of those ways that I’ve come back into following players and teams. A way to keep my interest going and fill out my knowledge of the game the way I used to trying to memorize the stats on baseball cards. I came back to this sport because we can all use a bit more celebration in our lives. I hope you’ve enjoyed reminiscing with me and exploring the ways that life applies to baseball. Let me know what you think and let’s discuss this beautiful game.


Predictions Which Are Sure To Go Wrong

Let me begin by apologizing to everyone for jinxing their favorite time. I have the ability to ruin a good thing in baseball when I suggest the individual or team will be successful. Don’t believe me, ask the people I play fantasy baseball with. In the last two years I have drafted Roy Halladay, Kris Medlen, Jurkson Profar, Mike Minor, Matt Kemp, Albert Pujols, ect. Understand now? So in keeping with this tradition I thought The Winning Run might offer up our own predictions for every team heading into this season. I am sure that we, myself and two contributors, either are completely wrong or just ruined the season for someone by believing in them. If this happens, we are sorry, but nevertheless here are our predictions.

The American League East

  1. Tampa Bay Rays

  2. Boston Red Sox (1st Wild Card)

  3. New York Yankees

  4. Baltimore Orioles

  5. Toronto Blue Jays

Not every bounce may go David Ortiz and the Red Sox way this season.

Not every bounce may go David Ortiz and the Red Sox way this season.

The Rays, Red Sox, Yankees, and Orioles could finish in any order 1 through 4. The Blue Jays are the clear favorite to finish fifth in the East. The Rays have the youth to stay healthy which the Yankees lack and the pitching which the Orioles lack. Repeating as World Series Champions is a difficult task. Nearly all the breaks when Boston’s way last year. It is time for the Rays to harness their young talent and win the American League East.

The American League Central

  1. Detroit Tigers

  2. Cleveland Indians (2nd Wild Card)

  3. Kansas City Royals

  4. Minnesota Twins

  5. Chicago White Sox

Nick Swisher and the Indians are a very good team, too bad the Tigers are in the way.

Nick Swisher and the Indians are a very good team, too bad the Tigers are in the way.

The Tigers may well be the best team in baseball. Miguel Cabrera and the rest of the offense will put up plenty of offense while the pitching staff led by Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer could make short work of the opposition. The Twins and White Sox are both in full rebuilding mode and are fighting to stay out of the basement. The Indians are putting it together and could win the division if it was not for the Tigers and their dominance. The Royals will remain in the hunt for the post season well into September, however the youth which will make the Royals winners for years to come will fall just short this year.

The American League West

  1. Oakland Athletics

  2. Los Angels Angels of Anaheim

  3. Texas Rangers

  4. Seattle Mariners

  5. Houston Astros

Moneyball has reinvented itself and Oakland will find new ways to continue winning. Their pitching will carry them while they will over power the rest of the West by doing all the little things. The Angels will be healthier and have better pitching, but the pitching still is not quite there, and the offense relies too much on power, so when the bats go quiet the Angels will lose ground. The Rangers have had too many injuries this Spring to dig put of an early hole. Texas should be back in the race next year. Robinson Cano is now the man and he will be enjoying an extra month of vacation as the Mariners will be out of the hunt by mid summer. The Astros will be a major threat. Not now, in the future. 2014 is about not losing 100+ games again.

Every team is playing to win this trophy.

Every team is playing to win this trophy.

The National League East

  1. Atlanta Braves

  2. Washington Nationals (1st Wild Card)

  3. New York Mets

  4. Philadelphia Phillies

  5. Miami Marlins

Will Bryce Harper be his own worst enemy again and get hurt?

Will Bryce Harper be his own worst enemy again and get hurt?

The Atlanta Braves will get more production from B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla, things could not have gone worse for these two in 2013. A rebound by two of the regular line up and the signing of Ervin Santana should pick up what was lost when Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy went down for the season. Washington Nationals have the tools but should fall just short. Injuries remain a constant worry for Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. Both the offense and defense are among the best in baseball, but they still have not bridged the gap to the elite even with signing Doug Fister. The Mets will pass the Phillies as New York is building towards the future while Philadelphia is still dreaming that it is 2008. The Marlins will be better, but they need more time before the can get out of the basement.

The National League Central

  1. St. Louis Cardinals

  2. Cincinnati Reds

  3. Pittsburgh Pirates

  4. Chicago Cubs

  5. Milwaukee Brewers

Speed could kill.

Speed could kill.

The Cardinals will once again be the class of the National League Central. The Cardinal way should have an easier time winning the division this season, as they are among the best in all of baseball. The Reds lost Shin Shoo Choo and Bronson Arroyo but they will have a full season of Billy Hamilton tearing up the base paths. The Pirates, like the Red Sox, had nearly every bounce go their way last season. Pittsburgh should see I slight step back this season, but not like in their two decade absence from the playoffs. The Cubs and Brewers are both a mess. Neither is in a quick rebuilding cycle and both should be out of the race fairly quickly. Look for a fight to stay out of the basement of the Central.

The National League West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers

  2. San Francisco Giants (2nd Wild Card)

  3. Arizona Diamondbacks

  4. Colorado Rockies

  5. San Diego Padres

The Dodgers, and their highest payroll in Major League Baseball, should keep the momentum of 2013 going as they should have the West won easily in time to align their rotation for the playoffs. The Giants should stay with the Dodgers for a while this year, but ultimately their season comes down to how healthy Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson, and company can stay. If healthy San Francisco could do some damage. The Diamondbacks cannot keep pace with the Dodgers and Giants and will be a strong 3rd place team all season that could dictate who does and does not make the playoffs. The Rockies and Padres are full of young talent. Colorado has Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki to lead their revival. San Diego is still seasoning their young talent at the Major League level. Look for San Diego to be the best last place team in baseball.

World Series

Once the playoffs go through their paces the Cardinals will play the Athletic’s in the World Series. Oakland will win the World Series over the Cardinals 4 games to 2 as the Cardinals finally tire out due to late post season runs the last several seasons and the Athletic’s and their intangibles finally win a World Series in the Moneyball era.

A's win the World Series

A’s win the World Series

Love our picks? Hate our picks? Regardless this is what we think will happen in 2014. If we are correct in our picks it will be by luck, because anyone who knows baseball knows it is never predictable. We have had Opening Day now lets get going and see how the season works out.

D, J, and B