Vol. 4 No. 1

August, 2004


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Exile in Manager Street

In 1986, the Greater Midwestern Baseball League was in full swing. It had its own league and individual custom team logos. It had overactive team owners, controversy and a close race to the end. The Wrigley Fillies won on the last day of the season. I owned the Fils. This era was the beginning of the national Rotisserie craze where a generation of baseball fans left the team concept to root for individual players. We had our own league by-laws, and several revolutionary Commissioner rulings that, in retrospect, captured the time very well.

The Landis-Chady Rule gave the Commissioner the power to make decisions “for the best interests of the league” and to decide rule and transactional disputes. In modern baseball, with its scandals and its murky ownership fraternity, the concept of an independent commissioner has been lost to the archives.

The Over-the-Hill Rule stated that no team owner could split salary burdens or contract fees with another team. Our league had a hard salary cap from the draft and throughout the season. It would have gotten to be an accounting nightmare to keep track to split salaries.

The Aikens, Sconiers, Motley & Wiggins Rule. No, this was no a law firm. This rule stated that any player suspended for substance abuse, league violations or otherwise suspended by the major league office could not be replaced, reserved or released. There was a rash of bad major league behavior. We decided to penalize a team for having drafted such a player.

The Tony Fernandez Rule dealt with the major league tendency to call up a lot of minor leaguers in September but never use them properly. A team caught by a top prospect rotting on the bench during a pennant race would not be penalized but an option had to be chosen between a) activating the player with the minimum salary to the 23 man Roster, b) keep the player on the team's Farm Club, or c) activate and keep the prospect on the 15 man Winter Roster. As you can tell, we had a fairly complex team structure, with a Farm roster of minor leaguers, and a Winter Roster for continuity from season to season (just like real major league GMs).

The Steinbrenner Rule. Which league does not need a King George Rule? Our Rule dealt with the concept of signing players to long term contracts after two years of service. The normal time frame was three years then a player was a free agent for the next season. If you signed a player at the end of year two, it meant that the player's salary would increase each year automatically. If you wanted to keep a favorite player, we decided you had to keep him, no matter what happened to him. Players with LTC had to be kept by the team, either reserved and kept on the Winter Roster between seasons. The rule penalized the big spenders who made bad decisions on hot prospects who lost their skills.

The Dave Winfield Rule dealt with a situation to find a loophole in the existing rules. Under this Rule, any player on a team's 15 man Winter Roster who was cut before Draft Day could not be re-drafted or resigned by his old team until after the first statistics were published. An owner could drop a high salary player on draft day, screwing up the strategy of other owners, then try to pick the player back up cheap later on in the draft. That idea was quickly torpedoed.

The Tony Phillips Rule stated that “any player to be named” in a player trade had to be an active player on the trading team's roster, reserve list or farm club who is available to be signed at the end of the season, and the name of said player would be sealed in an envelope and given to the league secretary to be opened at season's end. It kept the problem of fudging names of secret deals by sending the player name to the league office.

The David Sequi Rule stated that if a Farm roster player was activated less than two weeks at the major league level then returned to the minors but not activated by our league team, our league team would not lose that player. In the era of 15 day disabled lists and quick call-ups and returns, we felt that a prospect who gets to the Show at intermission should not be lost.

The Greater Midwestern Baseball League kept the usual statistical categories: wins, saves, ERA, strikeouts HR, RBI, SB and average. However, the first season the stats were hand computed using the weekly charts from USA Today. Yes, before calculators and Excel spreadsheets, those boring school lessons of adding, multiplying and long division made their way into the beast called the weekly league standings. Yes, it was a helluva lot of work.


Long division is the dinosaur fossil in today's elementary and secondary schools. A slide rule, if seen, must seem like The Missing Link. But as a kid, we used to get a copy of the Baseball Almanac, and pour through the player statistics in Spring Training to get a grasp of the winter trades and prospects for our rooting interests. We needed evidence to back-up the playground arguments on which team would be in the pennant chase. During the season, we would read the box scores like crime scene investigators and at times push the pencil to the newspaper margins to calculate if a favorite player was reaching that coveted .300 batting average.

So in a ten team, 23 player league, the league stat man would have to run through hundreds of calculations each day. Each team owner did the same. Can you say obsessive behavior?

But then an accountant owner decided to take the rein and run the company computer floppy drives with a spreadsheet to spit out the standings after manually imputing the data. It saved some time. But the sweaty manual brainpower was still the back-up for any disputes.

The GMWBL faded away like the Gold Rush as Rotisserie baseball fever cooled when most of the owners moved, got new jobs, or the family demands took precedent over a time consuming hobby.

So when cyberbarf tech guru Rocky called with the need of finding a substitute General Manager for his Task Force 121 fantasy baseball team, he called upon yours truly. It is like calling up an old soldier from the Individual Reserves. A situation no one ever believed would happen. But the World is in a different time, and this time things would be different--- the league was totally computerized and web linked.

Yahoo! apparently wants to be the counterculture Bill Gates. It wants to control everything you want to join. Volunteer to ruin your life with specialty pages including every fantasy sport league. Rocky's public league (he knows no other owner in the 12 team all MLB basic stat rules) is as anonymous as the Internet. Rocky is a baseball fan but not a fanatic. He is Cub fan so like most of real America, he is often depressed, frustrated, angry. doomed and labeled as potential loser in the nation's unpublished yearbook. To take out some of the loathsome moves of real managers and general managers, and to kill time, and/or to fill up his personal home page with more links than Yahoo servers can handle without going Code Red, he joined a baseball league last season.

He asked for some pre-draft suggestions just before the real season started. Well, I don't live near any spring training camp; I did not watch any preseason contests on the Superstations; and I rarely have time to pick up the wet ink of the sports pages. So I gave general advice which boiled down to snapping up the best available pitchers first. I made one bold prediction: that Roy Oswalt of the Astros would win the most games in the NL because he would be in the shadow of Roger Clemens and Andy Petitte.

Rocky's computerized random draft took in account, in theory, his top 20 player selections. He got Oswalt. He got the fastball reliever Wagner from Philadelphia. He got little else except a few more Cubbie players than the average team manager would want. (One team owner quickly tried to corner the market on all the Phils so Rocky relished the idea of having the Phils closer on his team.)

So the season began without much fanfare. Rocky mostly let his time sink or swim on its own accord. He did not make any trades, and made only necessary injury player pick ups. He was mired in the middle of the pack, like a person becoming a statue of fear in a pit of quicksand. He started to put his weekly standings on his personal blog in order to fill space, or rant about how millionaire children were killing his team stats.

Then summer started and he had even more free time than normal. Then, his personal computer began to act strangely. Fearing the worst, he made a back-up of his hard drive. Just when he was going on vacation, the hard drive crashed for good. He was without his connection to the Outside world, and his fantasy sports league site. So he contacted yours truly to help him out when he was without basic free range computing power.

I agreed, figuring from the occasional rants of his blog, that he did not give 100%, 24/7 attention to his stewardship of the Task Force. But if you volunteer for a tour of duty, micromanaging echos from the past begin to creep under your skin. You get involved. You are involved. You are running the club now. You got to do a good job or you'll look bad. You don't want to look bad. That would look bad. So you throw yourself into initially looking at the team roster each day, and checking to see who may be pitching that evening, and what player would need to be benched or activated in order to collect the most potential points for the day.

The Yahoo sports site was fairly point and click friendly. However, as I took over the daily grind, I wanted to see what the heck I was running. Did the bench guys stats count? What were the options of the DL? What was the WHIP ratio? How did replacement or waiver moves operate? It took me a week to find the generalized rules of play governing the league. It was buried in a sub-menu of a sub-menu. By that time, I had pretty much figured out how to handle roster moves.

I quickly learned that I needed to be on a DSL and not a modem line. Otherwise, the transaction windows would not register the moves. I would point and click click click click the YES key for a transaction, later to find that it never went through. However, at the office, the transactions were fast and posted almost immediately in the league standing main page. Very cool.

The roster page was set up on a daily basis. Two batter bench players and a regular team plus utility player. The pitching staff had to have 2 starters, 2 relievers, and the rest pitchers of any kind. Rocky had cultivated a team dominated by outfielders-- six. So the bench and utility slots were filled with OF. If another position player sucked or was not playing, he could not be benched or replaced without waiving him. I started scratching my head on this Virginia Reel of getting six outfielders into four active slots on a weekly basis.

Again, getting more involved than initially thought, I found that deep inside ESPN baseball pages, that site had a page of four-day advance pitching probables. I started printing those pages out for two reasons: first, to determine when a starter had to be activated from the three bullpen bench slots, and second, to try to determine which OF had a better shot at hits against a weak pitcher. I was trying to predict the future by educated guesses in each game preview.

Then Ken Griffey gets hurt, so there is a key to put him on the DL (like an extra bench player). So I DL that OF, and search the list of available batters for a replacement. The league site sorts the available players by season, weekly or average totals. It ranks them by some unknown methodology. I tried to find familiar names, competitive teams or something that the team needed. At the time, Rocky's team stats were running low on runs scored, stolen bases and batting average. If you are not an avid fan of the modern game, base stealing is a dying art form (because chicks love the long ball). It is hard to find 300 hitters who steal bases. So I emailed Rocky with the notice that I got him a new Board Game......... (Milton Bradley, the Dodger CF).

So I redid the line-ups on a daily basis-- activating pitchers who would pitch that day; and rotate the OFs off the bench against perceived weaker opponents. Yet, several times the player benched did better than those active players on any given day. The frustration -- that is the emotional rollercoaster of rot-league baseball.

Then without much notice, I began adding and dropping players from his roster in an attempt to balance his team to add raw totals to his weak point categories (especially the ones where he was not far away from jumping two or three slots). A middle reliever was dropped for a suddenly installed closer (in an attempt to get more saves.) Takastu is a ChiSox import with a 51 mph change up, and no heater. I emailed Rocky that he would be having sushi tonight. He was not pleased. Not a big fish fan. But the maneuver was not fishy, as last week Sushi got two saves for the club.

A review of this league showed no trades between owners. This was a stranger to stranger waiver wire heavy positional contest of wills. I got into the spray of the wire moves. Suddenly, the league recent transaction list around All-Star break was all TF 121 moves. I could image the rest of the owners waking up one morning to see the sudden rash of transactions and ponder: geez, what got into that owner? damn, somebody woke up! this guy must really want the title! It got some other owners making moves, too.

TF 121 was in a shakey fifth place on the onset of the Move. It piled on some points and got into a solid four, knocking on the door to third. But the Cubbies went into hibernation and the team has sank back toward fifth.

Rocky's vacation is over and he is back on-line. But he has not fired his assistant GM. Not yet. Maybe he wants me to continue hanging with a digital noose around my neck. Or maybe he does want to win that damn public league title. Wait, Ram just hit three homers for the Cubs and TF 121 had one of its best offensive days of the season; its back in fourth place on the come line at this crap table.

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“My Baby's Sick”

Rocky, the tech guru, has a serious problem. His baby is sick. Real sick.

A man and his PowerBook have a special bond like Michael Jackson and his infant child.

But what happens with the laptop starts acting like a rebellious teen? It is too old to send away to the orphan's home.

It is the sick feeling of doom when your entire life, work, information, contacts, calendar, banking and net access information is lost in the tomb of a crashed hard drive. The mantra has always been back up back up back up. Even if one backs up, where does one go without a huge back-up hard drive? Rocky ordered a new hard drive. It was to be sent by FedEx next day. It never arrived. He left on vacation without the prospect of having his PB functioning. He was as steamed as a lobster.

So he returns from his Midwest vacation tour, to have the new hard drive ready to be installed and rebooted with his data. He completes the install then tries to transfer the mirror image of his lost hard drive. Well, the results were not perfect. His reaction was natural:


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Kerry on Wayward Sons

John Kerry stated in his acceptance speech that he was going to say something that FDR could never had said: if you want more go to “”

In the season of politics, Kerry's acceptance speech was criticized by life-long Democrats on both CNN and MSNBC as lacking any substance or concrete plans for his rhetoric.

So if you go to the candidate's web site looking for specific answers to his generalizations, you will find no specific or concrete plans to back up his rhetoric.

Like a Hollow Man candidacy, a candidate who speaks of doing better without stating exactly what he would do differently, is a candidate without substance.

Critics of President Bush have always stated that Bush II is a president without substance. His campaign will run on his record as president, for good or ill.

It will come down to a Yale student body president type of election: popularity contest.

The closest piece of reality I found during this DemoConvention week was that Must See NetTV piece called “The Land” at It is parody of This Land is Your Land featuring the two candidates. It is a must see icon for any swing voter. Both candidates will hate the comedy digs. The Guthrie estate does not like its song catalog used for political speech, but this is still America and political speech is still protected fair use.

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macMinute reports that the The iTunes Music Store is now offering free audio downloads of speeches given at this year's Democratic National Convention. Audio bytes include former Vice President Al (No More) Gore; former President Jimmy (I have the Prize) Carter; Senator Hillary (Don't Go There) Rodham Clinton; former President Bill (I Went There) Clinton; Senator Ted (the Head) Kennedy; Barack (Osama) Obama, Illinois State Senator and US Senate candidate; Ron Reagan (the breathing one), and Teresa Ketchup Kerry, wife of John Kerry.

iTunes was for the Music, Man..............

It is turning into a digital B&N. What's next, audio books? Road maps?? Text zines??


Bends & Trends

After the disaster of the Florida 2000 hanging chad election, the pols decided that electronic voting would be the answer. Well, the answer has raised more questions of voter fraud, interface problems and the lack of accountability. eVoting will not be a factor in 2004.
The instant rattling bloggers were granted press credentials at the DNC in Boston. It must have been the Dean hangover on the net thing. The new media, not being controlled by the Demo leaning old media, is a new trend in the political speech arena as the networks coverage wanes to an hour a night.


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