Monday, February 29, 2016

Top 10 WWF/WWE Entrance Themes: #5-#1

Last time, we covered #6-#10 on my list of all-time best wrestling entrances. Technically I didn't put WCW in the title, but that's because WCW never had any good music. That's not my fault; that's on them. I also didn't put TNA or ECW in the title, but I've never seen any of either of them, so I have no excitement at any of that music.

Anyways, less about what's not on the list, and more about what is on it. Here are my five favorite entrance themes of all time.

5. The British Bulldog


So I made a small concession from the "rules" I laid out at the beginning. Obviously Rule, Brittania! is not a song created especially for the WWE. However, I've been unable to find a version of the song that has as much pace and drum as the wrestling entrance song does. So, I'm denoting this song as unique, and allowing it on my list.

Which is good, because some of my strongest positive memories are from my younger days when the Bulldog was at his height. Maybe the best pop in WWE history was for the British Bulldog when he made his way down the aisle at Summerslam 1992 at Wembley Stadium. The song has a victorious, "good guy" tone, and when you're a kid watching wrestling, that's what you like.

4. The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase and Money, Inc.


The laugh at the beginning is absolutely priceless, and the fact that Dibiase "sings" his creedo over the music is brilliant. "Everybody's got a price!" The tune is good, and it's got that old wrestling feel to it, reminiscent a simpler time, when good guys were good guys and bad guys were bad guys.

My favorite tag team back in the day was the Natural Disasters, and they feuded heavily with Money Inc, so I learned to hate this song. Now that I'm grown and I can appreciate how great those villains were, I find the song delightful.

3. Triple H (The Game)


It's taken a long time for me to get into any of Triple H's music. First he had that prissy tea-drinking music, and that was obviously not much fun. He then moved to DX, and while that was a bit better, it still wasn't quite my style. He later used the "Cerebral Assassin" theme, which sounded odd and grating; obviously I wasn't a fan.

He finally landed on The Game, and a mere fifteen years into his professional wrestling career, I think he's finally found the right theme song. It's got a big pop (as you may remember, that's huge in my book), it's heavy, and it fits great as a soundtrack for a march to the ring. I watched this year's Royal Rumble, and seeing Triple H stomp towards the ring to this song had an epic feel to it.

2. John Cena



I actually missed most of the John Cena era in professional wrestling. The majority of my exposure to Cena and his music has been through YouTube, video games, and my occasional run through all previous Royal Rumbles on DailyMotion (this has happened more than once). But every time I've seen him make his entrance to this song, the pop in the crowd has been unbelievable. The opening builds great, and the song itself is great. The song actually kind of needs the crowd sounds surrounding it for full effect (which is why I chose the clip above), but it's awesome either way.

1. Hulk Hogan



It's pretty unfair that Hogan is at the top of this list, but the truth is the truth. There's never been a guy who consistently gets the level of pop at his music that Hogan does. He was the dominant figure in wrestling for 15 years, and every time his (WWF) music played, the crowd went crazy. It turns out he's a little bit crazy in real life, and maybe not the hero that he was in the ring, but he'll always be The Real American in our hearts and minds.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Top 10 WWF/WWE Entrance Themes: #10-#6

There are a few things in sports/entertainment that just seem like the coolest home-team experiences ever. Baseball has hitting a walk-off home run or striking out a guy to end the game. In football, returning a punt or kickoff for a touchdown is electric. An overtime goal in hockey makes the home crowd explode.

Professional wrestling has always tried to capture this feeling a couple times every week through two main methods. The first is through surprise wins like the small package or quick roll-ups. These are especially effective in title matches, and can be a launching pad for a great rivalry (see the entire career of the 1-2-3 Kid).

The other way is through judicious use of entrance themes. Some high-heat heels are outnumbering and pummeling a weaker opponent, and then a big-time face's entrance theme pops and he runs down the ramp and intervenes, to the delight of the fans.

The first type of moment relies on an interesting scenario and maybe a fun rivalry. But the second type only needs great music and a good wrestler. I've always loved a great entrance theme, and since I'm back blogging again, it's a great topic.

A couple of rules I set for myself:
  1. I eliminated songs that I recognized before they were entrance themes. This eliminates, for example, CM Punk's use of Cult of Personality (even though it was such a ridiculously awesome fit). This also bumps the Macho Man's Pomp and Circumstance from the list.
  2. I tried my best to set aside the quality of the wrestler. This wasn't totally possible, since some of that electricity comes from the crowd's reaction. But for example, The Rock's theme song is bland, so while the crowd loves him and cheers loudly upon hearing his music, his song won't be on this list either.
  3. It's a subjective list. Some people will tell you the DX theme is a must-have on the list. I just didn't like it much, so it's not here. This is truly "my" list, not an attempt at a universal "correct" list.

And now, the list.

10. Matt Hardy


I actually really like Matt Hardy's theme music, probably higher than my 10th favorite entrance theme. But my WWF-watching experience only included the very beginning of Matt Hardy's career. So my personal experience of watching matches and being excited about the sound of Hardy's music is pretty limited. But the song is boss, starts fast, and stays loud.

9. Undertaker (original)


There's something to be said about the classics. There have been some twists on the Undertaker's music over the year. I enjoyed the Ministry of Darkness style (though the random Latin or whatever was a little over-the-top). His biker music was less my thing. But the original is always great, a memory of a younger WWF. The bell tolling is still a wonderful interruption that serves as the pop you need out of an entrance theme.

8. Jeff Jarrett


Jeff Jarrett's music has that perfect balance of attitude, fun, and volume. As is the case with most of my favorite entrance songs, it starts hard and fast. Long buildups are dangerous, because you lose the pop when the guy comes running out to save a tag-team partner or interrupt an interview. Jarrett did just fine in both regards.

7. Chris Jericho (Y2J)


I'll be honest, I wasn't the biggest Chris Jericho fan at the beginning. He feuded with Dean Malenko back in his WCW days, one of my favorite grapplers, and you weren't supposed to like him, so I didn't. He moved to the WWF and continued his cocky attitude, so I continued to dislike him. But with some time, and a couple of face/heel turns, I've come to appreciate Jericho's charisma immensely.

And now that I've got some distance from his younger days, I can really appreciate his entrance music. It's got such a head-bouncing beat that you can't help but appreciate it. And when they use the countdown, get outta here. That's half of the fun of the Royal Rumble, and you get it over and over when Jericho wrestles. Good stuff.

6. JBL


I've always been a fan of the theme songs that aren't just some rock song. JBL moved from a terrible song as a member of The Acolytes to an awesome deep country celebration that smacks of the old TV show Dallas. And if you've got any questions about JBL's validity as a heavyweight champion and not just a goofy placeholder, listen to that heat. Anybody the fans hate that much deserves the gold.

Initially I was going to include all ten on this post, but I've noticed that when a webpage loads a lot of embedded YouTube clips, it tends to suffer, sometimes substantially. So I'll do another post finishing out the rest of the top ten. Look for it soon!

Monday, February 22, 2016

We Have to Talk About Dennis

Here's what we're talking about, for reference:



The moment I saw the above clip showing Dennis Wideman pummel a referee from behind, I knew this was a thing.

Let's review what happens in the incident.
  1. Mikko Salomaki (#20 on Nashville) gives Wideman a check along the boards.
  2. Wideman spins as a result of the hit, his head pounding into the glass.
  3. Wideman begins to skate back to the bench, visibly affected by the hit.
  4. The linesman, #91 Don Henderson, skates backwards in front of the benches, watching the play come back down the ice.
  5. While the puck is played just a few feet away, Wideman beelines towards the bench. He shoves Henderson in the back, pushing him violently to the ground.
  6. Wideman skates past the fallen Henderson and enters the bench area, seemingly oblivious to what just happened.
We got some additional information after the fact. First, the concussion spotters in Calgary relayed to the Flames' bench that they believed Wideman may have endured a concussive hit, and recommended that he be evaluated. Wideman refused this evaluation and remained on the ice for the rest of the game. Afterward, Wideman was diagnosed with a concussion.

No shit.

I don't really understand the people who don't believe that Wideman was affected by a concussion when he made that inexplicable, unprovoked, out-of-character act. He doesn't have a history of overly aggressive play, and his behavior was not the behavior of someone who had his wits about him.

I've heard people say that they've never had a concussion, so they can't speak to the actual experience. That is, of course, incorrect. Have you ever been injured? Or nauseated, whether due to excessive drinking or stomach bug? Of course you have. And when you were, did you feel like dealing with people? No. You were rude and single-minded, and perhaps downright aggressive in trying to get wherever you needed to go (probably to the bathroom). When you're not feeling like yourself, especially when it's due to discomfort or pain (both of which are perfectly reasonable to assume Wideman was experiencing), you can be an asshole. I don't play hockey, but I can imagine that in a realm where you're used to checking people, checking another person when you're feeling crappy and trying to get to your bench as fast as possible seems like a reasonable possibility.

So, if Wideman were concussed, his actions make some sense. If he weren't concussed, he'd have to basically be a supervillain, which I don't think he is. As a result, I'm confident in saying that he was concussed during the incident.

With that as an established fact (for the purposes of this blog post), Wideman deserves a twenty-game suspension for his actions.

Whaaaaat?!?

That's right. Wideman had an opportunity to play by the rules, and he chose not to. When he refused to be examined for a concussion, he was accepting responsibility for anything that might've happened as a result of his concussion, namely, the hit he laid on a linesman.

"That's not fair," you say, hands on hips. "How is he supposed to have the wherewithal to make the decision to have himself checked for a concussion, especially if he himself has a concussion?" Well, go ahead and slide those hands off of your hips and turn them into thumbs-ups, because you're absolutely correct. Dennis Wideman, or any concussed player, can't be expected to make that call.

How fortunate, then, that the NHL pays people specifically to do this for them. The NHL provides two concussion spotters, one for each team, for every single game. Teams are allowed to provide their own spotters (and usually do), but there is always at least one person whose sole job is to take that responsibility away from the players.

Except, just kidding, the teams don't have to listen to spotters at all. As I mentioned above, Wideman refused to be evaluated for a concussion, and that was the end of his concussion "process" that night.

The Flames' trainer has the authority to pull a guy out of the game, and if the trainer has trouble with a player, it behooves him or her to inform the head coach, to ensure that players are protected from themselves.

I listen to The Hockey PDOCast regularly, and about a week ago they had Eric Young as a guest on the show. Young is a professional wrestler who said he's had multiple concussions, though he was careful to not mention any in particular. Among other parts of a very interesting interview, Young said that he thinks that, if given the choice between taking on the full risks of hockey in its current state and just passing on hockey, most players would choose to take on all the risks.

When I consider that information, and all that I know about hockey players from working at an ice rink, I know that if players can get away with staying in a game despite a concussion, they will, without a doubt, try to stay in the game. I have to believe that people who get paid to be in the NHL business know this as well. That means you have to take the choice away from them. Concussion spotters need to have some level of authority, as they do in the NFL.

But that's big picture stuff. Let's focus on the specifics of this incident.

The NHL suspended Dennis Wideman for 20 games as a result of the hit, and Gary Bettman upheld the suspension as the first level of the appeal process. The second level takes the question to an arbitrator, and we'll see what they think. But I think both sides have been arguing the wrong battle here.

The NHL's position is that Wideman was not experiencing concussion symptoms, and is thus responsible for his actions. Wideman says he was concussed, and thus not responsible for his actions.

Both of these positions are idiotic.

First, if Wideman was concussed, he's still responsible on some level for his actions. If he had robbed a 7-11 while concussed, he'd still be held responsible for the robbery. And as for the NHL's position, get serious. Clearly Wideman was concussed. The people who want to see Wideman fully punished argue that he had his full faculties, but I don't think that's necessary.

I think that you can suspend Wideman 20 games and say, "The player was given the opportunity to be evaluated for a possible concussion. When he refused, he indicated that he was not suffering a concussion, and had full command of his faculties. As a result, we have no choice but to defer to the player's own judgment in determining his culpability in this infraction."

The best source for Dennis Wideman's state of mind at the time is Wideman himself, in that moment. And at that moment, Wideman said he was not suffering from the effects of a concussion. Enter that into evidence.

Case closed.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Five Podcasts In

A couple weeks ago I talked about my experience in getting "back" into the podcasting game (The GoodPointJoe Podcast). Now that I've got a little more experience under my belt, I wanted to offer a look behind the curtain at what my experience has been like.

For starters, the process of getting things set up was an arduous one. I had to try multiple file hosts before finding Archive.org to be a viable option. I'm not certain that the file transfer speed will work if I ever get more than a half-dozen friends as listeners, but it will suffice for the time being.

Another piece of the puzzle is that iTunes requires each podcast to have "cover art." Initially I used an image from my heavy Terraria days, when I spent my downtime at work recreating various pieces of pixel art. It was a fine enough placeholder, but if I hoped to ever get more than passing interest in my podcast, I knew that I'd need some kind of legitimate cover art. So, I put out a message on Facebook to see if any friends might be willing to put together a little something for me. I got a few messages, and now I've got something that's homemade and customized for my podcast:


The resemblance isn't exactly uncanny, but it's goofy and personal, so I like it. I'm still waiting for the artist to provide me with some contact information so I can share it with you, but as soon as he does, I'll post that information on the sidebar.

So what have I learned over these five podcasts? Well, like last time, here are a few thoughts on how things have been, and how I expect things will go in the future.
  1. While I've "done" five podcasts, I've only posted four to the feed. The fifth one was an attempt at a solo podcast. It went okay, but I played it back and found that it wasn't quite what I was looking for. I learned a ton from that experience, though, and I'm planning to re-record it in the near future, incorporating those lessons.
  2. Guests definitely drive the podcast, in more ways than one. It's miles easier to have a conversation with someone else than it is to do a one-man show, where it's more like a presentation. Guests also open up a lot more avenues for comedy, which I feel is pretty important for an entertainment-based podcast.
  3. The other side of it, though, is that it becomes more difficult to push the conversation along with a guest. My fantasy baseball podcast ran almost two hours, because my guest and I followed just about every line of thinking we came across. So one thing I want to do is become a bit better at directing the conversation, and pushing it when needed.
  4. These first few podcasts, posted or not, have been a great opportunity to learn and grow. I'm getting more comfortable with the logistics of the process, and, to a lesser extent, getting a better feel for content creation. It's a process, and I'm a long way from where I'd like to be, but I'm on my way.
Podcasting is a different animal from what I've done in the past, even from when I did the Joe and Joe Sports radio show. But it's exciting and interesting, and I'm looking forward to continuing down this path.

I'm happy to hear any feedback you've got. Email me at GoodPointJoe@gmail.com, or throw me a tweet @GoodPointJoe.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Fantasy Baseball Categories: New School vs. Old School

I've been playing fantasy baseball for something like twenty years. For about half that time, I've pondered the idea of whether or not on-base-percentage is a superior fantasy statistic to batting average. And even after a decade, I'm still not sure.

Obviously, on-base percentage captures a more complete picture of batters' plate appearances. And as Moneyball taught us, reaching base and avoiding an out is almost as valuable as actually making contact and getting a hit. So shouldn't your fantasy team be rewarded for that?

Well, maybe.

The most important factor in determining whether or not you should use a category for your fantasy league is not how well it reflects the level of a player's contribution towards his team's success. While you do generally want the best players in baseball to be the most valuable players in your fantasy league, you don't necessarily need them to line up perfectly. I'm sure that OPS+ and FIP and the dozens of other new statistics offer a new numerical method to determine the effectiveness of players in various circumstances. But that statistical fidelity doesn't satisfy the most crucial factor in competing against friends or co-workers in fantasy baseball.

Far more important is that the game is fun to play.

The best example of this is the use of pitcher wins as a category. I have an owner in my main league who's asked me multiple times if we should swap out wins and replace them with quality starts (not demanded mind you, just asked). His reasoning was that a pitcher could pitch poorly but still pick up a win. In this regard, pitchers on strong offensive teams get a value bump, and pitchers on weak teams leak a little value. Additionally, relief pitchers get completely shut out of the "quality starts" category, while they can vulture a win from time to time. His position was that quality starts would be a better representation of the "essence" of what a win should mean: a strong outing by a starting pitcher.

Only problem is, that's not what a win is. A win is when a pitcher satisfies the rules that dictate when a pitcher gets credit for a win. The nuances of those rules are part of what make fantasy baseball exciting. When you need one win and you've got no starting pitchers left, but Tony Watson just entered a tie game in the 8th, you've got a shot. That win is fucking ALIVE.

Anybody who's a football fan knows that those nuances are what make the game interesting. Every time there's a review on possession, or a question about an out-of-bounds play, or clock management issues, football fans go nuts. They talk and talk and talk about those nuances. Terms like "forward progress" and "football move" come into play, and everybody becomes a review official. Nuances are what make everyone feel like their team's got a chance, and those chances are what you would lose if you switched out wins for quality starts.

In fantasy baseball, the standard 5x5 categories create a lot of varied value from a lot of different players. I have a friend who plays in an 8x8 league that uses hits, batting average, and on-base percentage. Well guess what? The guys who get a lot of hits also have high batting averages and high on-base percentages. So everybody's looking at the same guys, because they register in six of the eight categories.

That's not interesting.

Interesting is making a choice between an AVG + SB guy or a HR + RBI guy, based on other factors like fielding position, injury history, your roster makeup, category depth, etc. The nuances that separate one player from another are what make fantasy baseball exciting and interesting.

If you're hoping to run a simulation, there are plenty of digital options for that. I got a huge kick out of player MLB Front Office Manager (despite its scathing reviews). My cousin and I used to play in simulation leagues using the All-Star Baseball games of the late 90's. And with the current age of PC gaming, there are dozens of well-designed options available.

But if you're playing fantasy baseball, you're looking at a different kind of experience. You want to be able to watch real games happen in real time, hoping for certain outcomes. You want to be able to rejoice at home runs and strikeouts. You want to check your lineup every day to see what happened, and how you might be able to do better tomorrow.

When you're considering what sort of statistical categories to use, I strongly recommend that you focus on those fun moments of watching GameCenter, checking box scores, and exulting or lamenting with each batter. A little simplicity will go a long way.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Re-Podcasting

As some(/most?) of you know, I've made a triumphant return to podcasting.

Previously, the other Joe and I ran the show called "Joe and Joe Sports." I did a couple dozen episodes, many with Joe, some featuring other sports-knowledgeable friends. That was followed by a show I ran on my own, called "...and Joe Sports." That had maybe a dozen more episodes before it faded into antiquity.

If you'd like to revel in the past, you can find the entirety of our old radio shows here.

Recently, I found myself pining for the days of yore, when I'd produce marginally interesting content and have a buttload of fun doing it. So I talked to a couple of friends, thought up some topics, and set out to start podcasting again.

Of course, I wasn't really podcasting "again." I was podcasting for the first time.

When I used to work on TalkShoe, they had their own recording system, their own call-in feature for guests, and their own listening mechanism. I simply recorded the material and presumed people would listen at their leisure. And I suppose they did...the four people who ever listened. We never publicized our radio show beyond mentioning it to a few close friends. And so, unsurprisingly, it never got much beyond an in-house experiment.

This time, I'd like to push that boundary a little.

It was an arduous process, but I finally got my first two podcasts posted to iTunes. I won't share the details of the process, but suffice it to say it took me nearly a week (with time doing other things, obviously), and about ten different failed attempts along the way. Anyways, as I said, there are two shows available right now. You can view them (and the channel itself) at The GoodPointJoe Podcast.

The currently listed shows are a 2-parter on the rest of the NHL regular season this year. I imagine many of the shows will be about sports, since sports offer so many opportunities for discussion, debate, and opinion. I hope to also include shows about video games, movies, board games, and anything else I feel like talking about. But in general, expect more sports shows than anything else.

As far as frequency, I haven't really decided. My short-term goal is just to get the next podcast done. But it's nice to think about what might come to pass down the road. Here are some random thoughts I have about what I'd like to look into as far as this new podcast:
  1. How hard is it to generate content on my own? I can write a blog post without anyone else, but one-man radio shows are a trickier nut to crack. I imagine it'll take some practice before I feel confident in carrying a show on my own.
  2. How challenging will it be to create non-sports content? I've listened to a podcast called Geek's Guide to the Galaxy, which focuses on various geeky topics. It's entertaining from time to time, but having at least 2-3 people on that show is a must, in order to keep the conversation lively.
  3. Because of the value of guests, I'm going to have to start working on a network of people to draw from when I want to do shows.
No matter the difficulties, though, I'm looking forward to getting back into the game. I've been fighting a cold this week, but it seems to be dissipating a bit, and I'm eager to resume my efforts. So subscribe to the podcast, and stay tuned!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Cam Newton's Post-Superbowl Press Conference

You're going to hate this post.

I don't even know who's going to read this post, but I'm positive that 99.9% of people who read it will feel differently from me, and that's okay. I just figured I'd give you a heads up before we really dive into it.

The Super Bowl was last night, with the Denver Broncos beating the Carolina Panthers by a score of 24-10. There are plenty of stories coming out of the game, from Peyton Manning's legacy to his specific mention of Budweiser in his postgame interview, as well as the obvious debriefing of the actual plays in the game. But one story that people seem to have latched onto as much as any is the tone of the postgame comments from Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

The first I had heard of it (I didn't stay glued to the television for postgame garbage) was on Twitter, where I saw a 30-second clip of just the very end of Newton's discussion with the media. So, my initial exposure was that he answered one question with "No," then walked out.

The actual full discussion is here (NFL.com won't let me embed the video, apologies):

https://sports.yahoo.com/news/cam-newton-goes-from-superman-to-incredible-sulk-in-poor-postgame-showing-070021525.html

So, it's not quite as much of a blow-off as it had first seemed to me. He answers six or seven questions, though he's curt, and he mostly doesn't volunteer more than the most basic response to each question. He's obviously crushed, and he doesn't hide the fact that he's upset.

This isn't really new for Newton. All season he's been someone who wears his emotions on his sleeve. It just so happens that when you go 17-1, most of your emotions are positive, confident, and celebratory. After coming up short in the Super Bowl, it's understandable that he'd be crestfallen.

I don't think anyone is upset that he was upset. The sense I get is that people believe that Cam Newton should've...said more? Or had better posture? I mean, what exactly were people hoping for out of that interview? I've seen Twitter links to other quarterbacks who "do it right," and it's basically that they give longer answers that still don't really mean anything.

Let's look at one example.

Reporter (paraphrased): I know you've studied Denver, was there anything they did today that was different from what you saw coming in?

Newton (quote): "Nothing different."

So, what would the Twitter-verse have expected from a "correct" quarterback in this circumstance (using the same negative response)? A nice Robot QB would say something like, "I do not think they had a gameplan that surprised us. They just did a great job of executing it, and we could not counter it."

(If I learned anything from Star Trek: The Next Generation, it's that robots can't use contractions.)

Okay, sure, that's a little more pleasing to the ear. But does it matter? Unless you're a reporter hoping for quotable material from these postgame interviews to pad your word count, who gives a damn between the two answers? You feel better about the second one because someone's unhappiness isn't being shoved in your face. In Newton's actual response, his disappointment is palpable. He's devastated. He knows he has an obligation (whether official or moral) to meet with the media after the game, apparently in the same room as someone from the Broncos who's jubilantly getting interviewed nearby. So Newton shows up and answers a few questions when you know he probably just wants to go ten rounds with a punching bag, or spend an hour in the batting cages.

He's upset. That's okay.

Every year I watch the Capitals lose in the playoffs (except for year 2 with Oates, which mercifully ended early). Every year they interview the players afterward, and their responses fall somewhere in between Cam Newton's and Robot QB. They're disappointed, they don't offer long responses, and as a fan, I appreciate that they're sad and pissed off and emotional. So am I, dammit.

I don't need to hear my team's players offer platitudes about effort or luck or next year. I don't want to hear that. What we all want out of being sports fans is to have a connection, to our city, to our fellow fans, and to the players. When Alex Ovechkin sits in stunned, motionless silence after the Caps lose a series, it's like looking in a mirror (except Ovie has less fat and fewer teeth). When I hurt, it's some small comfort to know that they hurt too. That this connection I seek isn't totally in my head. That we're sort of, barely, a little bit in the same boat.

The only things that really matter are the actions people take. If Cam Newton became an actual villain and stopped giving his time and money to those less fortunate, then sure, get mad. But my guess is that Newton will be the same generous man he's been all along.

My favorite Capitals story ever is from 2010, after maybe the worst series in Capitals' history. They were the number one overall seed, and had gone up three games to one against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. If you've followed the Caps at all, you know where this story goes next. The Caps lost three straight games, being eliminated in the first round during a year with incredible hope.

Among the players on that team (and still on the team today) was Brooks Laich. Laich was an assistant captain, but he declined to speak with reporters after the game. You can decide for yourself if you would prefer Newton's style of press conference or no press conference at all.

That evening, a woman and her daughter got a flat tire driving home from the game. They were waiting for AAA when an SUV pulled over and the driver got out to help them put the spare tire on. That driver was Brooks Laich. Worst loss of his career, a defeat rough enough that he didn't want to talk to reporters, but when someone needed a hand, Laich was there. Actions are what matter.

Words are wind. It doesn't bother me that Cam decided to spare us some hot air.

Friday, February 5, 2016

2016 Salary Keeper Machinations - Part 2

Click here to look at Part 1, where I discuss the rules of the league as well as my hitters.

Here we go with Part 2. One thing to note: this league uses non-specific pitching slots. The only difference between starting pitchers and relievers is the stats they produce. I can play up to 10 total pitchers, in any combination of starters and relievers.


PITCHERS

Jose Quintana - $11, C
I took a chance on Quintana in a pre-season trade last year. He wasn't terrible value at $6, but now that he's $11, he's definitely not on my keeper list. Plan: Release into draft.

Mike Fiers - $1, B
Fiers was actually in the same trade as Quintana, but I released him during the season, then re-acquired him off free agency for a dollar. He had a lot of ups and downs, but for $1, I'll probably take a flier. Plan: Keep if there's room.

Drew Pomeranz - $1, B
Late in the season, when I realized my best shot at getting enough points to reach 2nd place was with saves, I grabbed every closer I could. Pomeranz got a couple shots at saves late in the year, which was enough for me to go for him. But in 2016 as a back-end starter, even $1 is too much to pay. Plan: Release into draft.

Wade Davis - $6, C
After keeping Davis for $1 last year, I expected to let him go after 2015. But now he figures to be the closer all year for Kansas City, and $6 for a closer with excellent peripherals is a steal. Plan: Locked in as a keeper.

Kenley Jansen - $11, B
Jansen is probably my toughest call among pitchers. His value is certainly high, as a high-end closer. But $11 is a goodly sum. He'd probably cost $15-$18 in the draft, so I think I'll keep him, but he'll be on my trading block. Plan: Keep or trade.

Kevin Jepsen - $21, B
Jepsen was a fill-in closer who pitched well last year, but all that free agent budget I spent on him brought his contract to an ungodly number. Might pay $1 for him in the draft, but also might not. Plan: Release into draft.

A.J. Ramos - $1, B
Easy keep, one dollar for a closer is great value. Plan: Locked in as a keeper.

Shawn Tolleson - $1, B
As I said, one dollar for a closer is great value. Plan: Locked in as a keeper.

Tony Watson - $1, B
I kept Watson last year for $1 as a filler for my pitching staff. I dropped him during the season and reacquired him for $1 again, so I'm looking at a similar player situation. But my team is stronger this year than it was last year. Plan: Keep if there's room.

Joaquin Benoit - $1, B
Benoit is basically Watson except older, with a slightly higher chance of getting a few saves. So, same category. Plan: Keep if there's room.


PITCHERS - MINOR LEAGUES

Jose Berrios
Berrios is a strikeout pitcher who is going to be in spring training this year, with a chance to make the team out of spring. He's got tons of upside, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what he can do.

Lucas Giolito
Giolito was kept going into last season by another team, but they found themselves in a roster crunch and waived him, making him available for the midseason minor league draft. I scooped him up, and he immediately became and still is my best starting pitcher asset, even if he doesn't pitch in the majors in 2016.

Henry Owens
Owens was the only minor-leaguer on the team when I took over last offseason. He costs me nothing to keep, so I'll keep him, but he gave up 7 runs on three separate occasions. I'm not optimistic.

Jameson Taillon
Taillon was a big time Pirates pitching prospect, but he's undergone two big surgeries in two years, including Tommy John in 2014. We won't know much until he starts pitching again, but that should happen sooner than later.


KEEPER PLANS 

Now that I've gone through all of my players and given each of them a "plan," it's time to start sorting out what we might actually do this season. Here are all the players I listed as possible keepers, sorted under their various designations.

Locked in as a keeper
Manny Machado, 3B - $21
Mookie Betts, OF - $10
Shin-Soo Choo, OF - $1
Wade Davis, P - $6
A.J. Ramos, P - $1
Shawn Tolleson, P - $1

Keep as long as he doesn't suffer injury setbacks
Jung Ho Kang, 3B/SS - $1

Keep or trade
Alex Rodriguez, U - $2
Kenley Jansen, P - $11

Keep if there's money
Hunter Pence, OF - $15

Keep if there's room
Chris Colabello, 1B/OF - $1
Logan Forsythe, 1B/2B - $2
Mike Fiers, P - $1
Tony Watson, P - $1
Joaquin Benoit, P - $1

Just in looking at this list, I feel like I need to put out some trade feelers. I think all of these guys have value, not to mention my eight minor league keepers. I should have enough salary space to take on an expensive and high-quality keeper hitter, so that'll be my target.

Based on my (lack of) starting pitching, I think I might be looking at another year of riding relievers and hoping to finish 3rd, waiting for my prospects to blossom into something. Obviously the draft will dictate a lot of that, with who's available and how expensive they are. But I've already got a base of at least three closers, with an option for a fourth in Jansen. It doesn't make sense to just get 2-3 solid SPs, because they won't rack up enough wins to make a difference.

If, however, the trade market happens to have some appealing starting pitchers at reasonable prices, maybe I'll head down that road.

So this is where I am right now. As I get closer to the keeper deadline, and as I make transactions, I'll post updates.
"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring."
-Rogers Hornsby

Thursday, February 4, 2016

2016 Salary Keeper Machinations - Part 1

I'm in a salary-based fantasy baseball keeper league that is probably my most fun fantasy league right now. I have other leagues with more friends, but the framework of how this league is set up really piques my interest.

Last season I finished in third place, which paid for my entry into this year's league. The league just opened up, so I'm starting to look at my options for this coming season. I like writing, and I like talking about this league, so I'm going to post my whole roster with relevant contract information, and give my thoughts about each player. If you have any input, I'm happy to hear it.

Here are some of the basic rules to help you understand how the league works.

The league is run through CBS, and uses their position eligibility rules. The scoring is 5x5 rotisserie with on-base percentage instead of batting average. There are 12 teams in the league.

During the auction draft, players are put into type A contracts at their sale price. After the first season, you can keep any player on an A contract for the same price, moving them to a B contract. After that season, you can keep players on B contracts by paying $5 more and moving them to a C contract. Players on C contracts cannot be kept.

Each team gets $280 of salary. Each team can keep up to 10 A, B, or C keepers, and up to $100 of salary. There are also minor league contracts, but they don't suffer any limitations, so they'll just be an afterthought here. I'll mention who I've got on minor league deals, but only so you have a full picture of my team.

Here we go. The players will be listed with their position eligibility and their contract status if I choose to keep them (players who just finished C-contract seasons have already been removed from my team).

*** indicates player has multiple position eligibility

HITTERS

John Jaso, C - $6, B
Jaso was a spot-filler for me towards the end of the season. He did a fine job of posting mediocre stats to close out my run, but he's barely worth a roster spot. Plan: Release into draft.

Carlos Santana, 1B - $30, BSantana was one of a few "high OBP" targets in my first draft. He was also 3B eligible, increasing his value. But his bat was limp, and he's just a 1B now. Plan: Release into draft.

***Chris Colabello, 1B/OF - $1, B
Colabello had an insane BABIP, so it's fair to expect that he won't be hitting .321 again. But if he hits .275 with 20 HR, $1 is a reasonable price. I've also noticed that position flexibility is pretty useful, even if it's these two positions. Plan: Keep if there's room.

Robinson Cano, 2B - $35, B
Cano was a guy in that second tier that I'd hoped to capitalize on: strong, reliable players who wouldn't cost the $50-$60 that a guy like McCutchen or Goldschmidt would cost. Well, it turned out Cano was a real disappointment. Maybe he'll bounce back. I might end up with him on my team. But not at this price. Plan: Release into draft.

***Logan Forsythe, 1B/2B - $2, B
Forsythe is a curious case. He's projected to hit about .260 with 17 HR and 6 SB, making him the 12th-rated 2B. But that means he's a started in this league (we use MI spots as well). As long as he gets playing time, he should be fine. Using one spot out of ten might be too much for him, though. Plan: Keep if there's room.

Manny Machado, 3B - $21, B
Don't need to waste brain cells on this one. Plan: Locked in as a keeper.

***Jung Ho Kang, 3B/SS - $1, B
The only hesitation I have about Kang is that he was on the shelf to end the season last year. But if he's healthy, he's more valuable than Forsythe. He's expected to return in April; that timetable works for me. Plan: Keep as long as he doesn't suffer injury setbacks.

Mookie Betts, OF - $10, C
Betts was one of a short list of holdovers from the original team I picked up before the 2015 season. He really came into his own last year, which is nice, except that this is the last year I can keep him. Ah well, nothing lasts forever. Plan: Locked in as a keeper.

Hunter Pence, OF - $15, B
Pence is a rough decision. After a lifetime of durability, he muddled through injuries all year in 2015. Despite that, his pace would've put him at 27 HR, 120 RBI, and 90 R. If he's healthy, $15 is a good price, but it's a fair chunk to spend. Plan: Keep if there's money.

Kevin Kiermaier, OF - $6, B
Kiermaier is a nice player, but $6 is too much for a guy whose claim to (minimal) fame is solid defense. Plan: Release into draft.

Jayson Werth, OF - $9, B
Werth is a 36-year-old player coming off of a pretty bad year. Maybe he bounces back a little bit, but no way am I spending $9 and a keeper slot on that. Plan: Release into draft.

Shin-Soo Choo, OF - $1, B
Choo was one of the brightest spots on my team. That I managed to get a top 25 outfielder for a dollar made it even more exciting. No question about this one; the price is oh so right. Plan: Locked in as a keeper.

Khris Davis, OF - $7, B
This is a guy with a lot of power upside, but his inconsistent play and marginal batting average make him a risky play. I think, at worst, he'll be available for $4-$6 in the draft, so $7 to keep him isn't worth it. Plan: Release into draft.

Evan Gattis, U - $25, C
Gattis was a decent play last year when he was catcher-eligible, but he played almost exclusively at DH in 2015, and is only utility eligible. That won't do. Plan: Release into draft.

Alex Rodriguez, U - $2, B
A-Rod is one of my most difficult decisions. He's only a DH now, and at 40, a decline is almost inevitable. He popped 33 homers last year, though, and that kind of power isn't common in today's game. At $2 he's a keeper, but I might dangle him to see if I can divest. Plan: Keep or trade.


HITTERS - MINOR LEAGUES

*** Kyle Schwarber, C/OF
Schwarber was my first mid-season minor league draftee, and so far it looks like he'll pan out fairly well. He's already projected as a top five catcher, and if he can develop further in an improving Cubs lineup, the sky's the limit. Might just be an outfielder down the line, though.

Yoan Moncada, 2B
I acquired Moncada in a trade when I thought I was out of the running in July. Our fates were intertwined from that point, where he flourished and my team jumped up the standings. He's still probably a year away from getting to the big leagues, but he's trending very nicely.

Javier Baez, 2B
I'm not real excited about Baez at this point. He seems to be kind of a quadruple-A player; too good for the minors, but lacking the plate discipline to make it in the big leagues. Hopefully he develops an eye for the strike zone this year; next year he costs money to keep, and I can't see paying for him if it's a repeat of 2015.

Rafael Devers, 3B
Devers is probably two years from producing. He's a 19-year-old Red Sox prospect, but they say he can really hit. We'll find out down the road.

Aaron Judge, OF
Judge is the Yankees' top hitting prospect, which makes him big news. But he's 6'7", and height can be a problem for hitters (see Richie Sexson). He's highly touted, but I might try to move him. The height really does scare me.


That's the end of part 1. Part 2 will go into my pitching staff (a hodgepodge of miscreants and nobodies), and take an overall look at my team's keeper options. See you then!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

2015 Games of the Year

A few years ago, I did my own "Games of the Year" list, where I talked about not the games that were released in that year, but those that I myself played that year. A friend of mine suggested doing the same thing in an email thread that we share with some other gaming buddies, and so a few of us shared our experiences from 2015.

But for those of you who aren't on that email thread, I figure I spent the time writing up everything, so I might as well share it. Here's my list for 2015. Also, you can see on the sidebar that I'm trying to keep track of the games I play this year, in the hopes that I maybe do this kind of post again at the end of 2016.

Honorable Mention: Rock Band 4
The newest iteration of the Rock Band franchise was...fine? I haven't gone through the whole campaign, but after advertising it as a "Rock Band RPG," it strikes me as being pretty similar to Rock Band 2; hardly a role-playing game. If you're interested, I wrote about what I thought a true Rock Band RPG could be like on my blog.

10. World of Warcraft
So here's the thing about World of Warcraft. Before Warlords of Draenor turned it into a glorified smartphone game, it was already a glorified smartphone game for me. I'm not good enough to raid or PvP, and outside of that, it's just gold-farming. I don't dislike gold-farming per se, but as I play it more, I'm realizing that it's less of engagement and more of a habit. I'm thinking 2016 won't have WoW on its list.

9. Heroes of the Storm
If we were considering sheer volume of time, Heroes would rate higher on this list. I played pretty often with Chip and Nick, the quicker matches being less of a commitment than games like CS:GO or League of Legends. The lack of items and summoner abilities takes a layer of complexity off the game, but it does have some unique heroes like Cho'Gall, Murky, and The Lost Vikings. Heroes is good for at least an occasional diversion.

8. Card Hunter
If I had only played the first 5 or 6 levels of Card Hunter by the time I wrote this up, it'd be higher on the list. It's a fun card-based game that functions like D&D. The problem is that the game kind of over-complicates itself over time. While you start out with a weak 15-card deck, as your characters advance in level, the deck gets stronger, but also bigger. Anybody who's played any Magic knows that the smaller the deck, the happier you are. Still, it's fun enough that I'll keep it installed at least.

7. Creeper World 3: Arc Eternal
There were, apparently, two previous Creeper World games, but I never played them. This was an impulse purchase for I want to say like $0.79 during one of the Steam sales. It's not an overly complex game, but it does offer a new take on tower defense style games. I enjoyed playing it as much as I did, and I could see myself getting back into it. Unconventional tower defense games are almost as much fun as...

6. Defender's Quest: Valley of the Forgotten
...conventional tower defense games. Defender's Quest was another game I purchased during a Steam sale over the years. I began playing it before last year, but I jumped back into it when I had a stretch of regular Twitch streaming a little while back. It's a bit of a grind, but my kind of grind. I haven't finished the "new game+" yet, and it's an easy game to stream, so I expect to play it some in 2016 as well.

5. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
There was a stretch there in 2015 when CS:GO was my game of choice. Missions were an interesting addition, and it swayed my focus on a day-to-day basis. As always, I watched for interesting investments, though the time of quick profits has passed. I haven't played it in a while, but it was a huge part of my year, and I'd be surprised if I didn't get back to it at some point this year as well.

4. Magic: The Gathering - The Deckbuilding
So here's the thing about Magic. I didn't play a ton of matches of Magic. But "playing Magic" means different things for different people. For me, deckbuilding is far and away my favorite part of the game. I bought some sealed content and spent time all throughout the year building and rebuilding decks. I love trying to figure out the interplay between the various cards, and talking about it with other people or reading about it. Magic was definitely a big part of my gaming 2015.

3. Dead Rising 2: Off the Record
I remember playing a demo of the original Dead Rising and running out to buy a used copy at GameStop the same day. I played the shit out of it, and I continue to play the shit out of Dead Rising games. I didn't buy Dead Rising 2: Off the Record right away, because it's basically a remake of the original Dead Rising 2 with different cutscenes. Still, it was a lot of fun.

2. NHL '16
I'm always a fan of NHL games. I actually played a fair amount of NHL '13 this year as well, but it seemed silly to include two hockey games. NHL '16 was part of the bundle I got when I bought my Xbox One, because I knew I'd play it. I haven't tried Franchise Mode (or whatever it's called these days), but the Be A Pro, Hockey Ultimate Team, and just exhibition games are all crisp and fun. Hockey is great.

1. Dungeons & Dragons
D&D is the best game ever. I've always liked cooperative games with a lot of freedom, and no game satisfies that hunger like D&D. It's a fun game to play with friends, it's a great environment for humor and creativity, and it still incorporates battle-based challenges. It takes more time to set up a game than other games, and requires coordination with your group in order to make things happen, but with Tabletop Simulator and now (the superior) Roll20, it's a great time to play D&D.

Top 500 Songs - Dave Matthews Band

This was always going to be the hardest of my band lists, because I like so many of DMB's songs, and have liked them so differently over...