Posts Tagged ‘mlb’

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WARNING: Epic Video Game Rant Alert

November 21, 2018

I just finished playing the 2018 MLB season as the Mariners in MLB The Show. Like… all 162 games. I played every single one of them.

Not only that, but I updated the rosters of every MLB team every single day. If someone went on the DL, I took them off the MLB roster. If some random reliever for the Padres got called up in real life, he got called up in my game. I did every single transaction for every single team every single day (unless the player wasn’t in my game, which was rare).

I also used the exact same lineup and starting pitcher that the Mariners used for every single game… up until the last week of September. My team was in contention and the real Mariners fell off.. so they started putting out some janky lineups and started Roenis Elias in the second to last game – a must win for me. I had to veer off course because I needed to win every game possible.

It came down to the wire. It was between the Mariners and the Angels for the second Wild Card and both teams were within 2 games of each other for the last month of the season, but in the last week, we matched each other win for win and loss for loss and entered Game 162 tied at 86 wins.

I had Paxton on deck to start, but I decided to start Erasmo Ramirez instead and save Pax for the WCG. If Erasmo ran into early trouble, I had the option of bringing Paxton in later.

Healy hit an RBI double in the second and then Cruz hit a 3-run homer to give me an early 4-0 lead by the 4th.

Erasmo went 5.2 innings, giving up two hits, one walk, and no runs while striking out 7 before giving up a double, a walk, and another double to get chased in the 6th and it was a 4-2 game heading into the 7th.

Seager hit a 440 foot blast high up and off the right field foul pole to make it 5-2.

Colome struck out the first two batters in the 8th, but then he walked a guy and gave up a hit, so I brought in Diaz for a 4-out save, even though he had pitched in back-to-back games. He promptly gives up three runs. I can’t even remember the last time he gave up a run. He had been utterly dominant. He gets the last out and we go to the 8th tied at 5.

Meanwhile, the Angels-As score has been on the ticker this whole time and they are tied at 6 late in the game.

Healy gets his third hit of the game in the 8th and Zunino comes up in the middle of an 0-3 with 3 K performance. So I pinch run Maybin for Healy and pinch hit Vogelbach against a RHP and he hits a long fly to deep right center that looks like a pop up, but Maybin is running around the bases like it’s not going to be caught and it gets over the fence! 7-5!

Diaz strikes out the side in the 9th to secure the win.

And the Angels lose.

Awesome. I’m in the WCG against the Red Sox and I get to pitch James Paxton in that game.

But wait… my roster has been cut back to 25. They have Paxton in AAA. No worries… I’ll just make some changes…

Nope. I’m told that I can’t call him up to my MLB roster because a player has to be on the MLB roster or the Disabled List on September 1st to qualify for the postseason.

In real life, Paxton was on the DL on September 1st… but I had turned injuries off in my game and instead of using the DL, I just moved players to the minors when they got hurt in real life.

I can’t use Marco Gonzales either. Unreal.

162 games played with an absurd amount of time doing all the transactions and this is my reward.

On the bright side, Chris Sale was also on the DL on September 1st and he’s not on the Red Sox roster for the WCG. I’m facing David Price instead.

And it’s all up to Felix Hernandez.

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MLB Futures Results & Postseason Sweats

October 1, 2018

I figured I should post how I did on the massive amount of action I had on MLB win totals and prop futures.

Here’s a link to my initial write up on my plays before the season: 2018 MLB Win Totals

I added a few plays after that post and a few World Series futures during the regular season.

Win Totals

Red Sox o90.5 – This was never a sweat +1u

Yankees o93.5 – I can’t ever remember thinking I might lose this one either. +2u

Cubs o93.5 – The Cubs never seemed super strong and wobbled off and on pace most of the year and didn’t cover until the last week of the season. The absence of Yu Darvish all season and Tyler Chatwood’s inability to locate the strike zone were big factors in making this a sweat. +2u

Mariners o81.5 – The Mariners drastically overperformed in the first half and a second half slide may have hurt their postseason chances, but it didn’t affect the over on this play very much. +1u

Marlins u65 – I predicted this would be a sweat and it was my last play to be finalized. The Marlins ended with 63 wins and had a makeup game against the Pirates cancelled, which felt huge with just a couple games to go. +1u

Tigers u68 – The Tigers were yet another team that didn’t come through until the last week of the season, but finished comfortably below their win total at 64 wins. +2u

Pirates u73.5 – I said before the season started that this was my least favorite play at the time and it ended up being pretty ugly as the Pirates finished with 82 wins. There were some brief periods of time where it looked like I might be drawing live at the under, but the Pirates were well above pace for basically the whole season. -1.1u

Nationals o92 – Welcome to bizarro world. I still don’t get it. The Nats seem to be living out a curse after thinking they could afford to bench Stephen Strasburg in the playoffs early in his career because they thought they would have plenty of opportunities for postseason success. Well, they haven’t been wrong about that, but they didn’t win a single playoff series during the Bryce Harper Era and that era could very well be over now. It’s bad enough that a team as good as the Nationals didn’t make the playoffs, but they barely finished above .500. This bet should have been a lock and it was pacing under basically the whole season. The Nats are a joke. I’d be very surprised if Bryce comes back. -2.5u

Rays u78.5 – I mentioned in my preseason write up that the Rays lost 6 of the 8 best players off their 2017 80 win team. They entered the season without a full rotation. They traded their ace away. And then they went out and won 90 games, all while revolutionizing the game of baseball by creating the “opener,” by having a relief pitcher start the game and pitch one or two innings. I thought this might have been my best value play before the season started and it ended up being one of my ugliest. -1.05u

Royals u71.5 – A huge laugher. The Royals won 58 games. +1u

Athletics o75.5 – I will once again refer to this article as the reason that I made this play. Despite betting the over, in my preseason write up I still thought the fact that Fangraphs projected the A’s for 80 wins warranted an exclamation point. Well, they won 97 games and I still don’t get it. Their lineup is above average, but not great and their starting rotation seems like it’s been filled with AAA types and has beens all year and yet… here we are… with some people claiming the A’s look like the best team in baseball. Goodness. I think the bullpen is pretty dynamite, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this run ends in a blow out loss against the Yankees on Wednesday. +2u

Blue Jays o81.5 – I said before the season started that if Josh Donaldson gets traded at any point this season, this bet is toast and, well, he’s on the Cleveland Indians now. So yeah. Toast. Granted, Donaldson was injured all season, but my thought was that if the Blue Jays traded him it would be because they had no chance at contending. -1u

Phillies o76.5 – It’s weird that this bet was never really a sweat because the Phillies ended up winning only 80 games. On August 5th, the Phillies had a 70% chance of making the playoffs and the Braves had a 37.3% chance. Well, the Phils ended up finishing 10 games behind the Braves in the standings, so… it was a pretty severe collapse and my bet on the over was a lock all season long that looks close at the finish line. +2u

Astros o97.5 – TThis was a late add to my ledger and it probably wasn’t a great idea. Any bet on o97.5 is going to be a sweat. The Astros were near a 98-win pace most of the season and even injuries to Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Brian McCann couldn’t stop this team from winning a franchise record 103 games. The team I thought looked like the best in baseball before season started didn’t disappoint. +1u

Indians o94.5 – There was no softer division in MLB than the AL Central. The ALC featured three teams that lost at least 98 games and the Twins finished in second place with a record six games below .500 – after winning six straight to end the season! I didn’t expect the Twins to be so bad this year, but I did think the other three teams would be terrible and I expected the Indians to grab a ton of extra wins and cruise to 100+. Instead, they seemed to struggle their way to 91 wins despite playing in the worst division in baseball, while rocking a lineup of All-Stars and three Cy Young caliber starting pitchers in their rotation. Were they just not trying because they didn’t need to? The Tribe was trending below pace almost all season with some brief glimpses of hope to stay hot. This was probably my most disappointing loss of the year. -2.2u

Orioles o73.5 – Why? Why did I do this? Another late add… I just can’t go a season without losing money on the Orioles. Every year I bet the under and every year they burn me. So this year, for literally no good reason, I bet the over. Seriously. No good reason. I was already over on the Red Sox, Yankees, and Blue Jays in the same division. It was well known they would probably trade Manny Machado before the deadline. I can’t explain why I did this. It just feels like a pure torch. The Orioles lost 11 more games than any other team in baseball. -1u

Giants u83 – I literally bet this within minutes after Madison Bumgarner suffered an injury that would keep him sidelined for two months. Johnny Cueto was hurt. So was Jeff Samardzija, I think. How the hell were the Giants going to compete starting the season with the top 60% of their rotation on the DL? The Giants were actually pretty close to an 83-win pace up until they reeled off a very thoughtful 11-game losing streak to start the month of September. +1u

Win Totals Score: +7.15u

Player Props

Jose Altuve o199.5 hits – Altuve was on pace for well over 200 hits before missing nearly a month after the All-Star Break. -0.5u

Luis Severino o15 wins – Sevvy won 19 games despite struggling a bit in September. +0.575u

Justin Verlander o14.5 wins – JV won 16 games. +0.5u

Nolan Arenado, Joey Gallo, and Rhys Hoskins MLB HR leader – I got at least 21-1 on all three of these bets, but J.D. Martinez had a healthy lead most of the year before Khris Davis ran away with the HR title. -1.3u

Carlos Correa for AL MVP – This 9-1 shot seemed decent after Correa hit .315 with 18 RBI in April, but he hit under .200 in May, August, and September, and missed the entire month of July with an injury. His final numbers are gross: .239-15-65 with a below league average .728 OPS. Yikes. He might be a good bet for MVP next year if his odds see a huge increase. -0.5u

Player Props Score: -1.225u

New York Yankees to win AL East – The Red Sox started off hot and never looked back. The Yankees won 100 games and basically never had a chance at the division. -1.35u

World Series Futures

Seattle Mariners 50-1 – 17 straight years without a postseason appearance and its not looking promising on the horizon either. -0.5u

Los Angeles Angels 20-1 – I was drinking that Shohei Ohtani Kool-Aid and if the Angels took off, I wanted to cash in. Alas, they might never put a real team around Mike Trout. -0.5u

Cubs 9-1 – I wouldn’t be surprised if I could get the Cubs at 9-1 today, but at least I got this team in the running. They play the Brewers in game #163 today for the division title and I’m not rooting for them because…

Brewers 25-1 – I’d rather have my 25-1 shot not have to face elimination in the Wild Card Game. The Brewers are substantially better than they were when I made this beat. Their lineup is sick. Their bullpen is good. Their starting pitching is… probably going to prevent them from winning the World Series.

Braves 40-1 – The sweat is real. This is a team that could feasibly win the World Series. They have the lineup. They have the pitching. This means I have 3 of the 5 teams that made the playoffs in the National League and my chances of getting one of them to the World Series is pretty strong. I will not be rooting for the Dodgers against the Rockies because I want the Dodgers to face elimination in the Wild Card Game. Because the Dodgers scare the shit out of me. I can’t believe they are even here. They are the biggest threat to my World Series futures and I truly believe the Dodgers are the best team in the National League. It’s also worth noting that I bet a full unit on the Braves and only a half unit on all my other World Series futures, so this is definitely my biggest root.

Indians 9-1 – I bet this somewhat late in the season when the Indians were kind of struggling and really getting overlooked because the Red Sox and Astros were so good. I’ve already talked about how let down I was by the Indians win total. They are a better team than that. They are easily the most underrated team heading into postseason play and it would not surprise me one iota if the Indians won the World Series this year. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer are a problem in a playoff series.

MVP Futures

Jose Ramirez 45-1 – Damn, damn, DAMN. It wasn’t that long ago that it looked like I was actually going to ship this bet. As recently as late August, it looked like Ramirez was the front-runner in a tight AL MVP race, but after hitting .185 with 2 homers in September, the sweat appears to be over. I haven’t chalked this up as a loss yet because a small part of me is probably in denial. There is just no chance the voters are going to pick Ramirez over…

Mookie Betts 14-1 – I think this is a winner. Betts led MLB with a .346 average while joining the 30/30 club and playing superb outfield defense. He also led MLB in WAR, runs, wOBA, and *gasp* slugging percentage. It’s easy to forgive the paltry 80 RBI Betts posted when you consider that he batted in the leadoff spot and still outslugged boppers like J.D. Martinez and Mike Trout. I would be shocked if Betts doesn’t win the AL MVP and I lose this bet.

Overall: +3.575u

Betts is a lock for +6.5u and hopefully the Braves or Brewers can win the World Series and make this a huge year!

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2018 MLB Win Totals

March 15, 2018

First off, I’m no expert. I might even be a terrible sports bettor. There’s evidence of that. In 2016, I had a year so brutally bad betting on baseball games that it bordered on self-destructive. I could have closed my eyes and picked randomly and my results would have been better. 100%. It was an incredible bad run.

On the other hand, I’ve actually won money betting on sports five of the last seven years. Unfortunately, that epic 2016 wiped out any chance I had at having a career profit in this form of gambling. The reason I have been successful in other years is because I am quite good at fantasy baseball (which I tally as sports betting) and I am quite good at making season long wagers, including betting on team win totals. When I say I am quite good, I just mean my results have been good. It’s not like I’m putting any super in-depth effort into my calculations. I look at the totals and if I find a side I think is more likely than not to come in, based on the superficial evidence that I have, I bet it.

Unless it’s the Seattle Mariners. In that case, I always bet with my heart and I always bet the over and I basically always lose.

With that said, these are the 2018 totals I have played so far this year. I’m posting these because it’s fun and I want to write about them, not because I think I’m a genius and think you should bet them too. But if you want to sweat with me, by all means, let’s gamble! I realize not everyone goes to Vegas as often as I do, but betting the totals in the spring is one of the best parts of going to Vegas at this time of year.

Detroit Tigers under 68 wins – 2.3 units to win 2 units

This is a pretty low total, but the Tigers won 64 games last year and lost Justin Upton, Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Alex Avila, and Justin Wilson since the 2017 trade deadline. I expect Miguel Cabrera to have a bit of a bounce back season, but this roster is undoubtedly worse than last year’s version. Outside of Cabrera, Nicholas Castellanos is the only real impact bat they have left and the rotation behind ace Michael Fulmer is filled out with has beens and never have beens. That doesn’t mean they will win less games, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team lose 100 games in 2018. For what it’s worth, Fangraphs has the Tigers projected for 70 wins and PECOTA has them at 68, so there’s no huge edge here, I just expect them to suck royally.

New York Yankees over 93.5 wins – 2.5 units to win 2 units

I love the Yankees this year. Wait, did I really just type that? Love? The New York Yankees? Ew. But seriously, this roster is stupid good. They won 91 games last year and emerged as legit World Series threats way ahead of schedule. Yes, Luis Severino emerged as an ace and Cy Young candidate, plus Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge have MVP potential already, but the rest of the prized Baby Bombers are still working their way up. This team is primed to be contend for a long stretch of title runs. Oh, and this winter Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins gifted the Yanks with NL MVP winner Giancarlo Stanton. Because that’s what they needed – another MVP threat capable of a 60 homer season. The lineup is absolutely loaded and the additions of Neil Walker and Brandon Drury provide the Yanks with above average depth in the infield while prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar continue their development. I actually think the rotation is underrated behind Severino and I think most pundits agree the Yankees have the best bullpen in baseball. The Yankees are the most improved team in baseball since the end of last season and they were already a 91 win team. Fangraphs has them projected for 95 wins and PECOTA has them at 97. This total has already moved up to 94.5 and I would be really surprised to see the Yankees win less than 94 games. A lot would have to go wrong.

Miami Marlins under 65 wins – 1.3 units to win 1 unit

The Marlins did win 77 games last year, but also jettisoned four All-Star level players in Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Giancarlo Stanton this offseason. Those guys combined for 19.5 WAR – or roughly two Mike Trouts. The remaining lineup isn’t the worst. J.T. Realmuto, Justin Bour, Cameron Maybin, and Starlin Castro are capable major leaguers, but health is definitely a concern on the Marlins. The rotation is absolutely terrible. Fangraphs has the Marlins as a 64-win team and PECOTA has them at 66. There’s definitely a sweat here, but it’s worth noting the betting line has dropped to 63.5 wins. The Marlins are projected to be the worst team in baseball and it’s not hard to imagine them trading away more of their best players and losing 100+ games. The projection systems typically don’t predict 100 win teams or 100 loss teams, but they obviously happen and the Marlins are primed to lose 100 in 2018.

Pittsburgh Pirates under 73.5 wins – 1.1 units to win 1 unit

As we near the regular season, this is probably the play that I’m liking the least. I knew I wanted to play the under on the Pirates even before they traded away Andrew McCutchen, but by the time I was able to bet it, the line was much lower than I was hoping for. As 2017 opened, it looked like the Pirates had one of the best outfields in baseball and two of those guys are still with them team. Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte both had down seasons in 2017 – and both could bounce back. Corey Dickerson takes over for McCutchen, but the rest of the lineup is basically the same as last year’s 75 win team. The rotation lists Ivan Nova as the ace – which no team should want – and behind him are capable, but still mostly unproven arms. I don’t think the Pirates will be good this year. They aren’t going to flirt with .500. But if I could go back in time, I probably wouldn’t make this play. It feels like action for the sake of action. Fangraphs has them at 75 wins and PECOTA has them at 78. Even Westgate in Vegas had them at 74.5 wins last time I looked. Still, there’s hope on the horizon as the Pirates managed only 75 wins when they still had McCutchen and ace Gerritt Cole. They are definitely worse in 2018, but if Polanco and Marte have healthy seasons, they could easily finish with 75 or more wins. Not a great play and not really one I’d recommend today.

Washington Nationals over 92 wins – 2.5 units to win 2 units

The Nats are still absolutely loaded. They have potential All-Stars at every position except catcher and center field. Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Trea Turner will probably all get NL MVP votes – and any one of them could feasibly win it. Daniel Murphy has been on an insane run since the 2015 postseason, also putting up MVP-type numbers, but he’ll open the season with injury question marks. The Nats also have Victor Robles, a top 5 MLB prospect, ready to take over in center, possibly as early as this year. The rotation is anchored by three time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, still one of the two or three best pitchers in all of baseball. #2 Stephen Strasburg has also cemented his status as a top 10 MLB starting pitcher and perennial CYA candidate. Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez are the #3 and #4, a back end that most teams would be jealous of. The Nats could probably use another starter, but their rotation is already very good and primed to win playoff series. The bullpen added Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, and Brandon Kintzler to help out drastically in an area that was a weakness before last year’s trade deadline. The Nats are still in their window of World Series title contention and the NL East doesn’t project to have any other playoff candidates, so 92 wins seems low for a team this loaded that has won 95+ in four of the last six seasons. The projection systems disagree, however, with Fangraphs projecting 90 wins and PECOTA at 89 wins. On the other hand, the betting line is now up to 94.5 wins, so I actually love my bet.

Boston Red Sox over 90.5 wins – 1.15 units to win 1 unit

One of the benefits of the extremely slow hot stove season was that as soon as rumors of an impending signing emerged, I tried to fire a bet before Vegas adjusted their lines. The second J.D. Martinez was rumored to go to the BoSox I locked in at 90.5. Their over/under is now at 92. The Red Sox won 93 games last year even though Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts had relative down season and David Price missed a huge chunk. All three of those guys should be more productive this year and Boston added JDM’s monster bat and get a full season from rising star Rafael Devers. Andrew Benintendi is already an established stud and probably a future superstar. He should be better in 2018 also. Dustin Pedroia will start the year on the DL, but I don’t think that matters much. Eduardo Nunez will open the year as the starting second baseman and he’s actually probably the better player at this point in their careers. Chris Sale anchors the rotation and remains one of the three best pitchers in baseball. This is still a very good baseball team, although I do not think they are as good as the rival Yankees. I would be shocked if the Red Sox didn’t lock up one of the two Wild Card spots this year. Fangraphs has them at 93 wins and PECOTA has them at 89. I don’t expect this bet to be much of a sweat.

Kansas City Royals under 71.5 wins – 1.15 units to win 1 unit

I bet this before the Royals re-signed Mike Moustakas, so I wasn’t thrilled when I saw that take place. It really seemed like the Royals were going to lose all of their important free agents. Still, the Royals lost 5 of their 10 most valuable players – including by far their two best in Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain – and 13.6 WAR total from a team that managed 80 wins last year. The lineup is substantially worse than last year’s version and losing Jorge Bonifacio to an 80-game suspension didn’t help things. The rotation is rounded out with #4 and #5 types after ace Danny Duffy. PECOTA hates the Royals, projecting a paltry 65 wins and Fangraphs much more positive 71 wins still falls below this total. The actual betting line has dropped all the way down to 68.5, so another one I got in when the price was right.

Tampa Bay Rays under 78.5 wins – 1.05 units to win 1 unit

On paper, this team looks absolutely terrible. If you look at their projected starting lineup and ask yourself if you would want any of these guys starting for your favorite team, the answer would be no. Maybe Kevin Kiermaier? His defense is truly amazing, but his bat is just okay. The Rays lost or traded away 6 of their 8 best players from last year’s 80 win team. The Rays are also projected to open the season with a 4-man rotation and a bullpen day, an unprecedented strategy in the modern day as far as I know. There was some excitement surrounding top prospect Brent Honeywell, but he will miss all of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. With the Rays moving all their most valuable pieces, it’s a bit of a wonder that Chris Archer is still with them. It’s my hope that the selling process continues and Archer finds his way out of Tampa before the end of the season. The arms behind Archer have potential, but are still mostly unproven at this point. 78.5 wins felt like a gift, but Fangraphs sees the Rays as a 78 win team and PECOTA has them at a ridiculous 83 wins! That is crazy to me. This roster looks like garbage to me right now and it will probably be even worse by the trade deadline. The books seem to agree. The line has dropped all the way down to 74.5 wins and the juice is even higher at -115 for the under. I feel like I crushed this bet and wish I had put more money on it.

Oakland Athletics over 75.5 wins – 2.1 units to win 2 units

I 100% made this bet because of this article. I wasn’t targeting the As as a potential play, but if a sportswriter picks what he thinks is the absolute best over/under play, what am I going to do? Not bet it? Yeah right! I agree the As are underrated, especially since they don’t have anything approaching a star player outside of maybe Khris Davis? But then you look at the projected starting lineup for Oakland and compare it to someone like, say, Tampa Bay that is projected for more wins and Kiermaier in center field would be the only clear upgrade if these teams were to make straight up swaps of their position players. The rotation is also underwhelming but respectable. There’s almost no chance this team will win as many as 80 games, so this could be quite the sweat, but I think it will come through. Fangraphs projects 80 wins (!) and PECOTA has the As at 76. Interestingly, the betting line has dropped to 74.5, which is tempting to pile on, but I’m going to holster my itchy trigger finger on that.

Chicago Cubs over 93.5 wins – 2.2 units to win 2 units

The Cubs had a World Series hangover for most of the first half in 2017 and still managed to finish with 92 wins. They posted 97 and 103 wins the two seasons before that and this roster hasn’t seen much turnover since they became perennial title contenders in 2015. Yu Darvish replacing Jake Arrieta seems like a wash, at worst, and the Cubs now get a full season with Jose Quintana as their #4. Goodness, Quintana might be the ace if he played for the Mariners. Tyler Chatwood, Mike Montgomery, and Eddie Butler provide the Cubs with solid rotation depth if a starter goes down. I’m kind of perplexed by the decision to make Brandon Morrow the closer. I mean, I can see signing the guy, but it’s hard to imagine him closing out games for the Cubs for an entire season. I’m certainly targeting Carl Edwards Jr. in my fantasy leagues with the hopes of picking up 15+ saves to go along with his already sexy ratios. Fangraphs has the Cubs at 94 wins and PECOTA has them at 92, so this total seems like the perfect line, but the Cubs have averaged 97+ wins over the last three years and I see the 2018 version being right on par with that kind of win total. This is a team that feels like they have something to prove this year.

Toronto Blue Jays over 81.5 wins – 1 unit to win 1.05 units

Fangraphs coerced me into this play. They have the Jays projected for an absurd 87 wins. I don’t see that happening, but it hardly needs to for me to win this bet. They just need to be better than .500 and if Fangraphs thinks they will be 12 games above .500, a bet on the over can’t be that bad. PECOTA feels differently; they have the Jays projected for 80 wins and the books have dropped this total to 80.5. A healthy Jays lineup actually looks pretty decent. Randal Grichuk and Curtis Granderson are definitely not sexy additions, but they should be better than what amounted to the least productive corner outfield combo in all of baseball last year. Teoscar Hernandez isn’t currently listed as a starter on the Jays depth chart, but I’ve read fantasy magazines that have projected him for a 20/20 season in 2018, so… seems like they should be aiming to get him some playing time. Justin Smoak will probably regress from last year’s 38 homer season, but whatever the Jays lose from his production should be made up for by having a healthy Josh Donaldson for a full season. The rotation is solid and underrated and Roberto Osuna has emerged as one of the best closers in all of baseball. The biggest obstacles the Jays face is age and injuries. Troy Tulowitski and Devon Travis are always hurt, plus Aaron Sanchez has had some difficulty staying healthy. The Blue Jays did acquire Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte to provide infield depth for their constantly injured starters. The Blue Jays had a massive down year in 2017 and won 76 games. It’s not hard to imagine them improving my six wins if they can stay healthy and get more production from their corner outfielders. If Donaldson gets traded at any point this season, this bet is toast.

Philadelphia Phillies over 76.5 wins – 2.3 units to win 2 units

I’ve been wanting to be the over on the Phillies all offseason but I felt like the line was too high. As soon as I heard rumblings that Jake Arrieta was signing with the Phils, I finally pulled the trigger. Interestingly, the line hasn’t moved at all since the Arrieta signing became official and Fangraphs actually lowered their projection from 76 wins to 75 wins. What? I can’t really make any sense of that. The 2018 Phillies remind me a lot of the 2015 Cubs before that season started, but they don’t have quite the same pedigree. The Phillies don’t have an Anthony Rizzo or a Kris Bryant, but they have good, young players all throughout the 25-man roster and a lineup full of a potential breakout candidates. Even with the Arrieta signing, Aaron Nola is still the best pitcher on this team and Jerad Eickhoff and Vincent Velasquez have shown flashes of brilliance in the past. In all likelihood, the Phils are going to make a massive free agent acquisition during the next offseason and emerge as legit contenders in 2019, but I wouldn’t be all that shocked to see them win 80 games in 2018 and be players for a Wild Card spot deep into the season.

Seattle Mariners over 81.5 wins – 1.15 units to win 1 unit

Ugh. I hate it already. The Mariners were fringe Wild Card contenders last year before they got off to a horrible start and then had an epic amount of injuries and fizzled out on their way to a 76 win season. As a homer, part of me will always think these guys have a chance. I still love the lineup, but it’s getting old and the window of contention is closing rapidly and the Mariners have very little help on the way from their farm system. If everyone was starting the season healthy, I think the 2018 Mariners could contend for the second Wild Card spot this year, but the roster has already been riddled with injuries. Granted, Ben Gamel is the only starter projected to miss more than a few days of the season at this point, but half the roster is dinged up or rehabbing right now. It already looks like more of the same and it’s very difficult to remain optimistic as a Mariners fan. I think Nelson Cruz has one or two All Star level seasons left in him, but I’m less sure about Robinson Cano. He’s always struck me as one of those guys that just doesn’t care that much. James Paxton could be one of the best starting pitchers in baseball, but he’s yet to put together a full season. Felix Hernandez has looked like toast the last couple years. Mike Leake, Erasmo Ramirez, and Marco Gonzales are upgrades over the AAA rotation the Mariners used for most of 2017, but it kind of boggles my mind that the Ms didn’t make a push for Lance Lynn or currently available Alex Cobb. They sure could use another starting pitcher. Fangraphs has the Mariners at 81 wins and PECOTA has them at 82 and their over/under total hasn’t budged since the very first lines were released. Since this team seems to be cursed with never-ending injuries, part of me is tempted to bet the under and eat the juice, but the fan in me is probably just going to ride it out and root for my team like always.

Los Angeles Angels 20-1 to win the World Series
Milwaukee Brewers 25-1 to win the World Series
Chicago Cubs 9-1 to win the World Series

I don’t realistically expect either the Brewers or the Angels to win the World Series, but they both seem like teams that could make the playoffs and I like to fire off on a couple of long shots every year (I decided to skip the Mariners this year). I got the Rockies at 33-1 and the D’backs at 100-1 last year and having a freeroll into the Division Series was pretty exciting. The Cubs are perfectly capable of winning the World Series though and 9-1 seemed pretty favorable for a perennial contender. In fact, their odds went to 7-1 after signing Yu Darvish. I will probably fire more World Series bets when the postseason starts.

Nolan Arenado 23-1 to lead MLB in homeruns

I was so close to getting an epic bet in here. Venetian had MLB prop sheets dated February 20th that had Rhys Hoskins at 200-1 to lead MLB in homers and these clowns still had these papers available in their sports book last week. Unfortunately, when I tried to place the bet, I was told that Hoskins is now at 20-1 (as he should be) and I had to hold back tears at the missed opportunity. $50 to win $10,000?!? For a guy that hit 18 homers in 50 games last year? That’s a 58-homer pace! He’s 24 and still developing. Man, that would have been special. Still a long shot, but not a 200-1 long shot. Dammit! Arenado, meanwhile, has averaged 40 homers a season for the last three years and I suspect we haven’t seen his best power season yet. This is a tough bet in a world that includes Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, but Stanton has extensive injury history and Judge was spectacular in 2017 but still has less than 800 MLB at bats under his belt.

Gamble!

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2017 MLB Predictions and Wagers

April 2, 2017

Welcome to the 2017 Major League Baseball season! The Rays have already vanquished the Yankees, but it’s not too late for me to write about what I think/hope is going to unfold this season, so here are my 2017 predictions:

AL EAST

1. Boston Red Sox
2. Toronto Blue Jays
3. New York Yankees
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Tampa Bay Rays

Thoughts: Losing David Price for an indefinite amount of time hurts, but it’s still hard to imagine anyone but the Red Sox winning this division. There aren’t many teams that don’t envy Boston’s loaded lineup and the addition of Chris Sale to the rotation is monumental.

The Blue Jays have a solid, if unspectacular rotation and while the lineup will miss Edwin Encarnacion, Kendrys Morales isn’t a bad replacement. They have holes at 1B and LF, but the Jays should compete for a Wild Card spot.

The Yankees are an interesting team. They unloaded at the All-Star break last year and still managed to stay in the playoff race until the last week or so, all while arguably establishing the best farm system in baseball. They should have some growing pains this year, but they should also hover around .500. This team could be scary good in a couple years, especially if/when they sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado (or both! GASP!) after the 2018 season.

The Orioles will probably make the Wild Card game because I’m wrong about them Every. Single. Year. Their lineup is solid and their bullpen is absurdly good, but Ubaldo Jimenez is currently listed as their #3 starter. UBALDO JIMENEZ.

The Rays have a formidable rotation if everyone stays healthy and pitches to their potential, but that’s been a challenge of theirs in recent years. With the exception of Evan Longoria and Kevin Kiermaier, the lineup features a group of players that would be battling for roster spots on a lot of other MLB teams.

AL CENTRAL

1. Cleveland Indians
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Kansas City Royals
4. Minnesota Twins
5. Chicago White Sox

Thoughts: The Indians rival the Cubs for the easiest route to the playoffs. Cleveland made it all the way to extra innings of Game 7 of the World Series last year, despite missing multiple significant pieces for lengthy periods of time. All the starters are presumably healthy, plus The Tribe adds Edwin Encarnacion and a full year of Michael Brantley to the roster, and Andrew Miller and Cody Allen really shorten the game from the bullpen.

The Tigers are good enough to take second in this division, but I do not think they will be part of the Wild Card race in September. The lineup still has a solid, aging core, but the Tigers have little depth and look like they will be trotting out Jacoby Jones and Tyler Collins in their Opening Day lineup. The rotation is pretty questionable outside of Justin Verlander/Michael Fulmer and the bullpen remains a problem.

The Royals annual championship runs appear to be over. Danny Duffy emerged as an ace last year, but the tragic death of Yordano Ventura has left K.C. with a rotation of guys that will need to overachieve to keep this team relevant.

The Twins are still in transition: they have a number of good, young position players that are still developing at the major league level, but the rotation isn’t going to keep them competitive. Brian Dozier wants to be a lifelong Twin, but the organization is probably better off trading him for future building blocks.

The White Sox are all in on a rebuild, so they are going to be bad this year and it’s going to get even worse when they trade Jose Quintana and David Robertson, with Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier also possibly on the market. On the plus side, the White Sox crushed the offseason and the future looks bright.

AL WEST

1. Houston Astros
2. Seattle Mariners
3. Texas Rangers
4. Los Angeles Angels
5. Oakland Athletics

Thoughts: It pains me to predict the Astros as winners of the AL West, but the recent injury to the Seattle’s Drew Smyly has me concerned. Houston’s lineup is absolutely loaded – they are going to score a ton of runs. Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are both serious threats for AL MVP. The rotation doesn’t look particularly scary, especially if ace Dallas Keuchel’s 2015 Cy Young run was an anomaly. I really like Joe Musgrove and Lance McCullers has filthy stuff, but can’t seem to stay healthy.

I love the Mariners lineup – they added Jean Segura to compliment an absolutely nasty middle of the lineup. Jarrod Dyson, Mitch Haniger, and Danny Valencia are interesting additions that could make Seattle’s offense one of the best in baseball. The Mariner rotation is filled with question marks. Can Felix Hernandez return to ace status? Can James Paxton stay healthy and live up to the immense expectations? Can Seattle overcome the injury to Smyly with Ariel Miranda and Yovani Gallardo starting 40% of their games for the first six weeks of the season?

The Rangers should make the AL West an interesting three team race for most of the season. They have a pretty loaded lineup but their success largely depends on how far Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels can take them. The rotation is really lacking behind those two and Darvish is no sure bet to survive a full campaign.

The Angels are arguably improved over the 2016 version, but Mike Trout can’t carry this team to the playoffs himself. The Halos are starting Ricky Nolasco on Opening Day, so, yeah…

The A’s are similar to the Rays in that they have some upside in their rotation (but way less experience) and a lot of their everyday players would be bench players on most MLB squads.

AL MVP: Carlos Correa, Houston Astros
AL CY YOUNG: Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox
AL ROY: Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox

AL Wild Card Game: Mariners over Blue Jays
AL Division Series: Indians over Mariners; Red Sox over Astros
ALCS: Indians over Red Sox

NL EAST

1. Washington Nationals
2. New York Mets
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. Atlanta Braves
5. Miami Marlins

Thoughts: If the Mets can keep their rotation healthy for the majority of the season, they can win this division. If they can’t, the Nats remain the team to beat and a return to MVP form from Bryce Harper and a full season of Trea Turner could be pretty imposing.

The Phillies might have the most underrated rotation in baseball, plus they have some young players that are producing at the MLB level. They won’t compete for a playoff spot, but they are getting closer.

The Braves are in a similar position, but maybe a year or two further away from contention. They cobbled together a rotation that should be decent enough to keep them out of the cellar of this division.

The Marlins have a great young outfield, but their rotation is borderline laughable – I’m not even sure if they have a legit #3 starter. It’s hard to imagine them not losing a ton of games.

NL CENTRAL

1. Chicago Cubs
2. Saint Louis Cardinals
3. Pittsburgh Pirates
4. Milwaukee Brewers
5. Cincinnati Reds

Thoughts: The Cubs still have the most complete roster in the game and should be the envy of every team in baseball – and they are going to be really good for a long time. I fully expect them to run away with the division again.

The Cardinals should be good enough to take second in this division, but I think they are a starter or two away from being a playoff threat.

You have to wonder what’s going on with Andrew McCutchen, but the Pirates could have an elite outfield and a solid young core of starters in Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow, and Jameson Taillon. Pittsburgh’s infield features no established stars though and the pitching staff is mostly unproven.

The Brewers are rebuilding and while they have some interesting players at the MLB level, they will not be contending in 2017.

The Reds are terrible and have no hope on the horizon either.

NL WEST

1. San Francisco Giants
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
4. Colorado Rockies
5. San Diego Padres

Thoughts: I think I’m in the minority on thinking that the Dodgers are a bit overrated. Clayton Kershaw might finish as the greatest starting pitcher of all-time, but I think the rotation behind him and Kenta Maeda is full of injury risks and question marks.

The Giants, meanwhile, have two legit aces (and one serious power threat!) in Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. Matt Moore is only 27 and is still capable of taking a big step forward and I think a lot of teams would be happy with Jeff Samardzija as their #4. The SF bullpen is shaky, but Mark Melancon should be a positive and the rest of the Giants roster is riddled with guys that play good baseball. It’s no coincidence this franchise has three titles since 2010.

The Diamondbacks and Rockies are both really interesting teams that could be a lot better than people are expecting. The D’Backs were a popular sleeper last year after acquiring Zack Greinke, but he bombed and then they lost superstar A.J. Pollock early in the year. I see a lot of potential across this roster – although Fernando Rodney in the closer position is frightening – and I wouldn’t be surprised if Arizona made a playoff push. The Rockies are in a similar position but they have already been crushed by injuries/ailments to a number of impact players. Even with the losses of David Dahl, Ian Desmond, and Tom Murphy, the Rockies lineup looks loaded and the rotation is as good as the Rockies have ever had.

The Padres should be the worst team in baseball. With the exception of Wil Myers, the rest of the roster is basically a AAA team.

NL MVP: Byrce Harper, Washington Nationals
NL CY YOUNG: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
NL ROY: Manuel Margot, San Diego Padres

NL Wild Card Game: Dodgers over Mets
NLDS: Cubs over Dodgers; Nationals over Giants
NLCS: Cubs over Nationals

World Series: Indians over Cubs

Finally, here is a list of all the wagers I currently have on the MLB season. I’m no pro, so I don’t recommend tailing any of these plays, but I like them enough:

Padres u66.5
Rockies o79.5
White Sox u69.5
Mariners o85.5
Marlins u76.5
Reds u69.5

MLB stolen base leader o62.5

Rockies -1.5 wins over Twins
Mariners -17.5 wins over Padres
Chris Sale -0.5 wins over Madison Bumgarner

Diamondbacks 80-1 to win World Series
Diamondbacks 100-1 to win World Series
Mariners 18-1 to win World Series
Rockies 35-1 to win World Series

Carlos Correa 12-1 to win MVP

HAPPY OPENING DAY!

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2017 Spring Training Trip

March 30, 2017

This past weekend my wife and I crossed off another Bucket List item by making a trip down to Arizona for some MLB Spring Training action. I have to say it was a pretty surprising development. Last month I went to Vegas for some WSOPc events and when I landed in Nevada, I received an email confirmation for a flight to Arizona – something we had literally never talked about doing this year. And then as the time of our trip grew nearer, we started to wonder if Arizona was a place we might actually want to live some day, so we were really excited about checking the area out.

Obviously the main focus of our trip was to check out the Mariners complex in Peoria and take in a couple games. It was amazing! Everything is so relaxed and accessible that it all has more of a minor league vibe to it. If you arrive early enough, parking right next to Peoria Stadium is free (and even if you arrive after the parking attendants, it’s still only $5) and the practice fields open at 9 A.M. Unfortunately, the MLB squad didn’t come out of the M’s clubhouse until past 11, so we were just kind of standing around doing nothing for two hours. When they did come out, it was pretty cool. A number of players would come right up to the fence and sign autographs and Mike Zunino was catching pitches from a machine right in front of us, carrying on casual conversation with the onlookers – although I must note while he replied to all the stupid things people were saying to him, I could tell he would rather everyone just shut up. Arguably my favorite current M already, Kyle Seager is now #1 without a doubt. While Zunino seemed like he would rather do without the fan interaction, Seager’s social skills were incredible. Not only did he sign plenty of autographs and take pictures, but he was funny and genuine, making fun of a little girl wearing Blue Jays gear and telling me he didn’t want to ruin my 40th Anniversary Sports Illustrated cover by signing it. Leonys Martin was also great with the fans. He signed more autographs than anyone, took a crazy amount of pictures, and did it all with a huge smile on his face. You can tell he truly loves what he does, including all the obligations that come with being a major league baseball player. I also got to witness some interesting banter between newcomers Jarrod Dyson and Danny Valencia. Fans were speculating how many steals Dyson would get this year and Valencia asked him “you gonna steal 100 bags?” and Dyson snapped back “you gonna hit 100 homeruns?”

As far as the actual games went, it was a great experience. I always like to get good seats, so we were right next to the Mariners dugout for both games and the view was fantastic. When the Mariners played the Rangers, Felix Hernandez was trolling his WBC Venezuela teammates Rougned Odor and Robinson Chirinos for the entire first half of the game before taking his leave and getting a cup of water in the face courtesy of Odor. The Mariners beat the Rangers 3-1 on Saturday and then lost to the lowly Padres 2-12 on Monday.

Some notes from the games:

-Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz were both entirely absent this weekend, staying in their rooms with the flu.

-Dillon Overton has pitched well this spring and is a surprising member of the current MLB camp.

-Taylor Motter hit two homers this weekend and seems to have locked up the Mariners utility spot.

-Yovani Gallardo got blasted by the Padres to the tune of 9 hits, 7 ER, 2 BB, 3 HR, and only 2 Ks in 4.1 innings. He carries a 9.24 ERA this spring and while spring stats should always been taken with a grain of salt, this is a spot on our roster we should be worried about. There’s always a chance Gallardo will thrive in the pitcher-friendly confines of Safeco Field, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him either released or optioned to Tacoma before the All-Star break.

-There was a great moment in the Mariners-Padres game where someone hit a routine grounder to short with a runner on 1st and the second baseman blatantly dropped the throw from the shortstop and the umpire ruled the runner out, claiming that the miscue occurred during the transfer. It did not. Without question, the fielder never had control of the ball. At this point in time, the Padres were winning 7-0 and the sun was burning a hole into my neck, so the call seemed whatever to me, but the Mariners fans, including the KIRO 710 ESPN radio guys that were sitting two rows in front of us, gave the ump hell for the rest of the inning. I told my wife that ump would have a conversation with the third base ump after the inning, but he took it one step further and came right over to our section of the crowd and asked everybody if they wanted a “free lesson” on the rules. Just as he was about to “school” us, Leonys Martin stopped by, tapped him on the shoulder, and pointed to the M’s dugout, where manager Scott Servais was standing on the top step, with a big smile on his face, summoning the ump over with his finger.

-I have faith in Jean Segura, but you have to wonder about the make up of a guy that strikes out for the second time in a Cactus League game and slams his bat on the ground, splintering it.

-It’s pretty hilarious watching all the fans try to get autographs from players when they have no clue who they are. Some random, light-skinned minor league player came to sign and the entire section called him “Segura” the whole time. I tried to inform them that it wasn’t Jean Segura, but my claim was promptly denied by a number of fans and I honestly don’t even know what to say in a situation like that. I watched everyone refer to Tyler Smith as “Valencia” as he signed a number of autographs and finally after the 100th time he finally said “Danny’s twice my size.” Also, every dark-skinned player that walked by was “Heredia” and after being wrong about five times, it really was him! All of this, plus a plethora of incorrect “facts” stated by random fans all around me during both games I attended really made me wonder about something: part of me was dying to provide everyone with the correct information and another part of me was realizing how douchey that actually is. So I learned to just shut up and treat it like all the crazy things I hear people say at the poker table.

-I ended up getting four autographs on my Mariners 40th Anniversary SI cover: Kyle Seager, Danny Valencia, Leonys Martin, and Hisashi Iwakuma. I could have gotten many more, but I realize that I’m in my mid-30s and leaning over kids to get signatures from random guys that are younger me is kind of weird and stupid, so I don’t push it. This passivity has cost me autographs from Mike Trout (I eventually got him though), Max Scherzer, Jose Altuve, and Felix Hernandez over the years. On the other hand, I think baseball will always bring out the 12 year old in me and I don’t think that’s something to be ashamed of.

Moving on from baseball, the rest of our Arizona experience was great as well. We loved the scenery and while 80 degrees felt like 95 to us and I still got burned even with two coats of sun block on, I think that’s something we can get used to. It’s certainly more palatable than the constant rain and cold weather that we experience in the Marchs and Aprils of Seattle. Also, the highways were mostly free of traffic, with the exception of Monday morning and even that wasn’t too bad. We ate at a couple of really good restaurants and enjoyed playing poker at Talking Stick Resort. Even on a Sunday night, the room had 37 poker games going, so the game selection was immense. The 20/40 game was pretty good, although not amazing, but Sunday night isn’t exactly one of my target playing times, so I’m curious how the action is during prime time hours. The 2+2 locals pretty much universally insist the 20 game is great, so I’m inclined to believe them.

All in all, we are still on board with relocating to Arizona in five years or so. While I love Washington and being close to family, the Arizona vibe is more appealing to us and its location relevant to my favorite poker stops (L.A., Las Vegas, Denver) is incredibly ideal.

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The Closer By Mariano Rivera with Wayne Coffey

September 4, 2015

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Maybe following up Andre Agassi’s Open with Mariano Rivera’s The Closer wasn’t the greatest idea because the drop off in the quality of the writing was immediately noticeable. Whereas Open was incredibly descriptive, intense, and gripping, The Closer is quite bland in comparison. It probably doesn’t help matters that Mariano Rivera’s story pretty much starts with the Yankees contacting the Panama native about signing a contract with them. As baseball fans know, Rivera quickly arrived with the Yankees and I’m very well versed in how things went from there having read Joe Torre’s The Yankee Years and Ian O’Connor’s Derek Jeter biography The Captain, so this is literally my third time reliving the Yankees’ glory years. I suppose I can only blame myself for that, but needless to say, it made The Closer relatively uninteresting for me.

Although most of the book was redundant to me, there were some things that stood out. For one, Mariano Rivera is a pretty good study of what separates naturally gifted athletes from the all-time greats: unwavering confidence and a short memory. If you are to believe Rivera’s account of things – and I do – his state of mind was pretty much always get in the game and get these guys out. He didn’t let the batter he was facing or the gravity of the situation affect his mental state – he just went out there and did his job. And when he failed, sometimes traumatically, he would completely forget about it by next time he took the mound. It’s an approach that makes a lot of sense, but is hard to execute, and it’s easy to see how he had the long and extremely successful career he did.

A big reason Rivera was able to maintain his superb confidence level was through his faith in God. By his account, there were multiple events throughout his life that could only be explained by divine interference, such as when his fastball suddenly increased by 5 mph early in his Yankees career or when it started cutting naturally, becoming the devastating out pitch Rivera was famous for. Now, I’d never be one to go out my way to knock someone’s faith, but as an agnostic myself, I really have no interest in it and I can’t stand being preached to and, honestly, there’s a good amount of that going on in The Closer. It’s one thing to share your life story and the role religion played in it; it’s quite another to tell people why they should have Jesus Christ in their lives. No thank you.

There was an interesting passage in the book where Rivera shared his thoughts on Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. While he had plenty of good things to say about the two superstars, he was also pretty honest about their weaknesses. Concerning A-Rod, he describes Rodriguez as his own worst enemy and how he doesn’t understand why he always needs to be the center of attention. His description of Cano couldn’t echo my own feelings about my Mariners’ second baseman more accurately. He says Cano has the ability to be one of the all-time greats, but shows a frustrating lack of interest in putting in the effort and hustling. It’s something I’ve seen time and time again from Cano – the dude just doesn’t look like he cares. It’s refreshing to hear a highly regarded former teammate express the same sentiment.

While I lived through the Yankees’ long string of dominance and have read about it on multiple occasions, The Closer does offer one piece of possibly critical information that I did not know beforehand. We all know the Boston Red Sox defeated the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS after trailing 3 games to 0, the most epic comeback in sports history, before going on to win the 2004 World Series and ending one of the longest championship droughts in baseball. What most people don’t know is something that happened outside of baseball before the turning point in Game 4. There was a tragic accident in Rivera’s family during the 2004 season, when his nephew and brother-in-law were both electrocuted and drowned in a swimming pool. As Rivera was warming up in the Fenway bullpen before he came in to close out Game 4, he overheard a fan in the stands taunting him by referencing the tragic death of his family. While Mo claims that this did not affect him before he went out to the mound that night, eventually coughing up a lead that led to a Red Sox win that opened the door for them to take the series, I’m not so sure. Even a mental game champion would have a hard time not letting that kind of low blow (the lowest of low blows) enrage him. If Mariano was incensed by this fan’s comments, maybe it actually did contribute to the Red Sox comeback. Who knows.

All in all, The Closer was an okay sports biography that doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. It’s probably a must read for die hard Yanks fans or big Mariano Rivera supporters, but I enjoyed The Yankee Years and The Captain much, much more – and Jim Abbott’s Imperfect for that matter. Interestingly, I’ve long considered myself to be a staunch Yankees hater, but I have now read four separate books that spent a significant amount of time detailing the Yankees dynasty of the mid-to-late 90s. At the end of the day, I have a lot of respect for the core group of players that were there for pretty much all of the championships: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, and Jorge Posada. Those guys were all class act players that came up through the Yankee system and played their whole careers with the organization. The Closer might not be the greatest sports bio I’ve read, but Mariano Rivera is almost certainly the best closer in the history of baseball.

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Ball Four by Jim Bouton

July 24, 2015

Ball Four has long been considered a highly controversial book – Bouton says it was banned in some places – and essential reading for any baseball fan. It’s also been included on some prominent lists, such as the New York Public Library’s 1996 list of Books Of The Century and Time Magazine’s 100 greatest non-fiction books of all-time. I was kind of expecting the book to blow my mind, but reading it for the first time in 2015 probably doesn’t have nearly the same affect it would have reading it in the late 1960s and early 70s. We live in an age saturated with media exposure where practically nothing is sacred. In a decade where Jose Canseco released his tell-all book Juiced, steroid use amongst MLB players has been exposed, and candid athlete biographies are commonplace – including Jane Leavy’s excellent biography of Mickey Mantle The Last BoyBall Four feels tame by comparison.

But in the late 1960s, things were quite a bit different and Bouton’s book detailing his 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros, as well as his past career with the New York Yankees, shocked the world. Ball Four is notorious for talking about players use of “greenies,” or amphetimines, as a performance-enhancing drug and for “beaver-shooting,” a specific reference to players trying to look up women’s skirts and womanizing in general. Bouton’s description of the rampant PED use is evidence enough that players of past generations probably shouldn’t be looking down upon the steroid use of recent MLB players and the current Hall Of Fame shuns are bordering on hypocritical. Perhaps the biggest backlash from Ball Four was Bouton’s chronicling of Mickey Mantle’s drinking, something most baseball fans recognize as common knowledge these days. After the publishing of Ball Four, Bouton was shunned by the baseball world for some time and by the Yankees, in particular, for decades.

Listening to Jim Bouton read his own book on Audible was a pretty fun experience. It was definitely the least professional performance I’ve heard so far, but that’s to be expected from a former baseball player. You can hear Bouton swallowing and making all sorts of mouth noises throughout the reading, something you almost never hear from the professional dictators. On the other hand, Bouton gets to relive his stories and you can hear the emotion in his retelling, often accompanied by fits of laughter mid sentence.

My version of Ball Four was accompanied by several additions to the original text, including the tragic death of Bouton’s daughter, a truly heartbreaking and almost unbearable sequence to listen to, Bouton’s post-MLB baseball career, and finally his return to Yankee Stadium for Old Timer’s Day after his son publishes a letter in the newspaper on Father’s Day pleading for the Yankees to lift their ban on Bouton. I powered through these sections even though part of me felt they were mostly unnecessary additions to the original text. Bouton’s personal life certainly wasn’t what made Ball Four so compelling. Regardless, I can confirm Ball Four as essential baseball reading, although in 2015 it’s not quite the shocker it was back when it was originally published.