Brees firestorm puzzling

The death of George Floyd has caused outrage across the United States. I don’t have polling data, but I feel safe in stating that 99.9 percent of Americans believe that the treatment Floyd received at the hands police officer Derek Chauvin was abominable and should be punished with a prison sentence.

Police brutality is abominable. Racism is abominable. I believe a very large majority of Americans believe that black lives matter. A large majority also believe all lives matter, which is puzzling since longtime Sacramento Kings TV broadcaster Grant Napear was fired for saying just that.

There are a lot of things that puzzle me about the response to the tragic death of George Floyd, and one of them was the response to an NFL quarterback’s stance on kneeling during the national anthem. I am speaking of Saints superstar Drew Brees, who incurred the wrath of many by saying he found it disrespectable.

Michael Thomas, the Saints’ star wide receiver, even warned Brees that he should watch his back after his comments. His rebuke was one of many from high-profile athletes. It’s puzzling because it seems like everyone shouts about first amendment rights until someone with an adversarial position speaks their mind.

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past four years, you should know that former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial discrimination in 2016, and many Americans felt he was disrespecting the military and the flag of the United States.

That list of Americans includes me. By the way, Kaepernick’s disrespect of the American flag is not new. In 1968, two African-American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, each raised a black-gloved fist when the National Anthem was played after Smith won the 200-meter race in the Olympics.

There is a time and a place to protest racial discrimination. – but not during the playing of the national anthem.  When the national anthem plays before a Saints game, Brees says he thinks about his “two grandfathers who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marines.

“We still have a long way to go, but I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better and that we are all part of the solution,” Brees said. What is so outrageous about that?

I have many questions about this. Since when did patriotism become an affront to some people seeking racial equality? Why do people associate the American flag with racism? I can understand the association with the Confederate flag but not an American flag that once united people of different races, colors and creeds.

I have another question. What is so offensive about stating that all lives matter? That’s what the 60-year Napear tweeted to DeMarcus Cousins when asked for his opinion on the Black Lives Matter Movement. Is it racist to believe that all lives matter? If that’s true, my deduction is that we have a lot of racists everywhere.

I agree with Brees about the idea of finding things that unite us as Americans. We can unite around the ideal that police brutality needs to be eliminated. We can unite and agree that the death of George Floyd was tragic and that no one should be pinned to the ground by a knee to the neck by a police officer, or anyone.

Why can’t we unite around the fact that we are all Americans, living in the greatest country in the world? I didn’t say we are living in a perfect country. Like Brees said, we could all unite and agree as Americans that we are in this together and can do better together as we show mutual respect and love for each other.

 

 

When a loser wins

Have you heard about the Lonesome Loser?

Beaten by the Queen of Hearts every time.

Have you heard about the Lonesome Loser?

He’s a loser but he still keeps on trying. – Lonesome Loser by Little River Band

As we wait and hope for a new fantasy season to start, I thought I’d tell the story of how I became a fantasy player. Amazingly, it was just three years ago when my oldest son invited me to play in his fantasy football league. Frankly,  I knew very little about fantasy football, but I thought I’d give it a try. So, I put up my $25 and started a journey into a strange world of statistics and semantics. It was a world I didn’t know existed, but it was a world I soon found fascinating. Just a few months later, in a strange turn of events, I was crowned champion of the Negative Equity League. I won!

Know that I wasn’t accustom to winning. In six decades of life, I had grown accustom to losing – especially in sports and games, where I can point to a long litany of  losses. Take for instance the time when I was dealt pocket acces in Texas hold’em. I made a big bet, and the player across the table called. On the flop, I saw my hand improve to three of a kind.  I splashed my chips across the table to go all-in. Much to my surprise, my opponent flipped his over, indicating he was all-in, too. He had three jacks. A this point, most people in my shoes would have felt good. But someone accustom to losing always expects the worse. And they’re seldom surprised. On the river, the fourth jack popped up.

Sports were even worse. I was never a good basketball player, but I practiced for hours in my driveway until I perfected a 20-foot corner jump shot. This was before the three-point shot was part of the game, so no one would guard you that far out. With the clock winding down, our star player missed a shot in the lane. Unable to get his own rebound, he managed to slap the ball out to me, where I had been waiting patiently to take “my shot.” Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined a chance to win the game with a buzzer-beater. But here it was. I was standing in my spot, unguarded, and I took my shot. In my mind, I saw it clearly – nothing but net. In reality, it was nothing but air. Nothing but another dark, tear-stained page in the life of the lonesome loser.

Golf was a sport I spent a lot of time attempting to develop my skills. Golf was my father’s favorite sport, and he spent hours teaching me everything he knew. In his prime, Dad was a scratch golfer, but I was never that good. Still, I carried a five handicap when I was 16. That summer, I was on the verge of qualifying for the U.S Junior Golf Tournament before I knocked a ball out of bounds. Three years later, I lost I missed a short putt on the 18th hole and then lost a playoff to finish second in the club championship.

My dreams of being a football star in the NFL were dashed at my first high school football practice. I had a bad habit of shooting off my mouth in those days, and I recall bragging that I would be a starting wide receiver on the team as a freshman. I was already unpopular, an my boasting inspired my teammates to teach me a lesson. When I jumped up to receive a pass, one of the players put his helmet into my back. At that time, I was already experiencing some back problems, and this cheap shot ended my competitive football career.

In spite of my football injury, my love affair with the NFL has continued for more than 50 years. I followed the exploits of the game’s greatest players and had the privilege of watching many of them play in person. As a sportswriter and a sports editor, I met the likes of Roger Staubach and Boomer Esiason. I have always found this game to be fascinating. So, when the opportunity to play fantasy football was presented, I jumped at the chance. But my knowledge of football was not much help as I embarked upon my journey into the fantasy world.

After four games, my fantasy team’s record was 0-4. It was no surprise for the Lonesome Loser, who had a long tradition of losing. But I was having fun and learning about the game. What happened next was unprecedented. I won eight straight games and was in first place in my division, tied for the best record overall, entering the final week of the regular fantasy season.  In week 13, my son snapped my streak. However, my 8-5 record was still good enough for second place in the regular season and a first-week bye.

Things didn’t look good in the fantasy playoffs after my starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, was hurt during my bye week. Wentz, who finished the 2017 season second in the league with 33 TD passes, went down with a season-ending ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury. I had picked up Wentz off the waiver wire, and he had been a key to my long winning streak, When my first playoff game rolled around, I had my backup quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, in my starting lineup. Roethlisberger, along with my rookie running back Alvin Kamara, performed well enough. But Kamara’s teammate, Mark Ingram stole the show with 32.1 fantasy points.

The rest is history. Okay, my victory probably won’t go down in the annals of sports, but it was certainly edifying for me.  After winning the championship in my first try, and four more public league championships in baseball and football in the past three years, I believe I now have the credentials to write about fantasy sports.  I’m well aware of all the experts and pundits with far more impressive credentials than a guy who just finished his rookie season. There are plenty of books out there on the subject of fantasy football. Fantasy Football for Smart People, Fantasy Football for Dummies, Fantasy Football Basics, Fantasy Football Guidebook, Fantasy Football Tips and Fantasy Football for Winners, just to name a few. But there’s no book entitled Fantasy Football for Losers. Someday, I may wrote that book. For now, I write these columns for you.

If you have a long history of losing, I want these blogs to be more than  encouragementfrom a loser who finally won. I want it to be a primer of sorts to playing fantasy football and baseball. Perhaps you’re a casual football or baseball fan who is intrigued by the game. Or, youmight be a fantasy player’s spouse, girlfriend (or boyfriend) who wants to play, too. If you’re in the latter category, wouldn’t it be fun to beat your significant other at his/her own game? Keep reading, and I will show you how to do just that. You, too, can be a fantasy winner if you will only believe.

 

 

 

 

The winning formula

At the beginning of each baseball season, I like to draft my public leagues weeks before the season starts. This strategy is contrary to many who believe you should wait as late as possible to draft. This year, I drafted two teams in February – before the shutdown.

That seems like a long time ago. Things have changed in the past three months. The fantasy stock of some players has risen in the past eleven weeks. Consider a trio of New York Yankees players – Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and James Paxton – who have benefited.

I also have some beneficiaries on my rosters. Rookie sensation Yordan Alvarez has had time to heal from the soreness in his knees and should be ready to play. On my other team, Andrew McCutchen is raring to go after having extra time to heal from his ACL surgery.

If you haven’t drafted your fantasy baseball team yet, you’ll certainly be considering some changes in the rankings since March – assuming we actually have a baseball season.  If you have drafted your teams, like me, you also considering the changes in the rankings.

The draft is just the first step. What you do after the draft is more important. My key to success in season-long leagues with daily moves is working the waiver wire. every day, and twice on Sunday. Your willingness to grind daily is your guaranteed way success. I wouldn’t have won four league championships without doing this.

Daily moves fantasy baseball is different than fantasy football, where there is a fraction of the number of games and also a smaller player pool. The draft matters more in football than baseball, but the waiver wire is still very important. In baseball, the waiver wire is critical.

Case in point is one of my championship teams from 2019 – Team Revenant. By the end of the season, I had six players on my roster that I had drafted in February. In fairness, I’ll say eight since I dropped Mike Trout and Aaron Judge late because of injuries.

Even with those eight draft picks rostered in September, I had dropped 68 percent of my original team. There is a caveat to this is – I played in an ESPN league where there is no player acquisition limit for the season and players can be added and dropped daily.

Just for grins, let’s go back in time to early February of 2019. I drafted Mike Trout in the first round of the draft. That’s never a bad thing. Trout is like the Mississippi River – Ol’Man River – he keeps rolling. I did drop him in September when he went on the IL.

My second-round pick was Aaron Judge. Drafted No. 20 off the board, I held on to him until late in the season. Judge electrified the sports world in 2017 and has spent more time on the IL than in active duty since that time. He’s overrated, and I will not draft him again.

My third-round pick was Justin Verlander. Verlander, my first pitcher drafted, was gold. I wasn’t going to trade, or drop Verlander unless he  got hurt. At 38, he’s proven to be very durable.

I drafted Anthony Rizzo in the fourth round and Eugenio Suarez in the fifth round on this team and held both of them throughout the season. These were (and still are) two solid players. Rizzo always hovers around 100 runs and RBI. Suarez hit 49 homers last year.

I drafted James Paxton in the sixth round last year after he was traded from the Mariners to the Yankees. I dropped him midyear – which might have been a mistake. I drafted Matt Carpenter in the seventh round, which definitely was a mistake. I dropped him midyear.

I drafted Felipe Vazquez in the eighth round, my first relief pitcher off of the board. He racked up 28 saves before he was suspended on September 17th on child pornography charges. Obviously, I dropped him then. Losing an elite closer hurt, but it happened late in 2019.

I drafted Scooter Gennett in the ninth round. Gennett was exhibit A of what a difference a year makes in baseball. After a breakout season in 2018, he was a popular pick until a preaseason injury. When he returned from injury, he was awful.  I dropped him early.

Tim Anderson, my 10th round, was (is) an underrated player. Last year, he hit .335, with 18 home runs and 17 stolen bases. That was his third straight season with 15-plus HR and 15-plus steals. Amazingly, he was being drafted in the 13th and 14th rounds this year.

After the 10th round, I wound up dropping every drafted player during the season except for Carlos Martinez (16th round) and Yasmani Grandal (17th round). I thought about dropping Martinez because he was erratic as a closer. I held Grandal, who was a true asset.

Enough about history. Let’s look at 2020. In a month, I had 17 acquisitions off the waiver wire on one team and six on the other. I completed two trades on each team. The reason why I picked up so many players off the waiver wire was because they were available.

On the Roto Dragons, I acquired position players Danny Santana, J.D. Davis, Kyle Tucker and Ryan McMahon. I also acquired pitchers David Price, Mark Melancon and Jordan Hicks. The latter was on the 60-day IL. He was the Cardinals closer before his injury in 2019.

One player I picked up off the waiver wire and then dropped was Willie Calhoun. Calhoun got hit in the face by a 95 mph fastball from Dodger left-hander Julio Urias. The pitch broke his jaw. The delay will help Calhoun, and he’s still on the waiver wire as of now

On Team Seltzer, I nabbed position players Scott Kingery, Sin-Soo Choo and Nick Solak off the waiver wire. I dropped Ryan Braun to pick up Solak. This was before it became apparent that the the universal DH was coming. Braun could get more at bats in the DH.

Solak, who has ADP of 292, finished last season with 32 combined homers, 91 RBIs and a .290 batting average. When he was promoted by the Rangers in mid-August following the injury to Nomar Mazara, Solak produced and hit in the cleanup spot in September.

I also acquired pitcher Josh James off the waiver wire. James is expected to be moved into the starting rotation for the Astros. He had a 37.7 strikeout rate in his first full season as a reliever in 2019 – seventh best among pitchers who had at least 60 innings pitched.

I love fantasy baseball, and I love drafts. They are always exciting. Things never go the way you expect, and you have to think fast and often during for an hour, or so. Then the draft is over. But the season goes on, and the championship is won in the trenches.

In the trenches, the waiver wire is your weapon. In 2019, I won three league championships in three tries because I was willing to grind it out.  You can do the same thing, but you must keep your head in the game for season (which will be shorter in 2020).

 

Don’t go on tilt

While the importance of stats is always emphasized by fantasy sports writers, there is more to fantasy success than stats alone. Managing your fantasy team also involves managing your own emotions. You can’t afford to go on tilt.

Going on tilt is a poker term used to describe someone who is letting their bad luck affect the way they play. For example, if someone has lost a bunch of hands in a row, or suffered one bad beat, he or she might start playing recklessly.

Let me show you how this applies to fantasy sports by sharing a story from my own experience. This is a story of how I went on tilt in my fantasy football league in September 2018. Hopefully, you will learn what not to do from this story.

As the curtain went up on the NFL season, I drew the No. 1 pick in my league. That year, the choice was between Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley. These two were the best, but I took Bell because he had more touches than Gurley the previous year.

It’s been well chronicled why Bell held out and why he never reported to the Steelers.  When I realized my first pick wasn’t going to play in the opening week, I made a smart move. At that time, I didn’t realize just how smart it was.

On the Wednesday before week one, I made the decision to pick up James Conner, Bell’s backup. He was available on the waiver wire, and I added him. I only wish I could go back in time and stop there. If only I had known.

If only I had known how Bell’s handcuff was going to play like an elite running back until he was injured late in the season. But I didn’t know. Worse, yet, I didn’t think it through. After a restless night, I traded Conner away one day after I got him.

The trader on the other end of the deal was my own flesh and blood, my son. Nathan could see my emotions had kicked in as soon as Bell failed to report to training camp. He knew his father, the defending league champion, was on tilt.

While anger is usually the emotion that puts the poker player on tilt, fear is often the emotion that puts the fantasy player on tilt. It was only the first week, but I feared my season would be ruined if Bell held out the entire season.

Nathan told me he would trade for Bell. Like me, he knew I owned a rapidly depreciating asset, and he wasn’t going to pay top dollar. Nathan is a risk-taker by nature, and a smart trader. He would give up his RB1, but it would cost me.

Nathan would trade me Christian McCaffrey for Bell, but I had to throw in Conner and Devante Adams. In retrospect, I can justify trading Bell and Conner for McCaffrey. But putting Adams in the deal was a fear-driven decision.

I knew how good Adams was when I traded him. He was my No. 2 pick, and he went on to lead the league that year in fantasy points. But it gets worse. Later, I actually traded McCaffrey back to Nathan for David Johnson.

In summary, I managed to trade the top fantasy back (McCaffrey), the top receiver (Adams) and one of the top backs (Conner) for David Johnson and some other players that I later dropped. This is what a man can do on tilt.

Going on tilt is more likely to happen in football than baseball because there are fewer games. A typical fantasy football regular season is only thirteen games, while a baseball season can involve as many as 162 games.

But it can still happen. For example, I drafted Jose Ramirez in the first round on one of my teams last year. After an MVP-caliber year in 2018, the Indians third baseman was simply awful in the first three months of 2019.

How awful? Ramirez hit just .218 in April, May and June, with a mere seven home runs. As the season neared the halfway point, I was seriously contemplating trading him for whatever I could get for him. Anything.

Ramirez put me on a tilt, and the only reason I didn’t offer him up in a trade was because he had 18 first-half steals. I had hoped Ramirez would be a five-category stud, and he had turned into a one-category dud.

But that one category was stolen bases, and stolen bases are hard to come by in fantasy. There was another reason why I didn’t trade him. I had paid top dollar for Ramirez, and his trade value last June was low.

I love to buy low and sell high. After all, I’ve been a financial advisor for thirty years, and I’ve traded individual stocks. Buy low, sell high has always been my mantra – in playing the stock market and fantasy.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here about buying low and selling high. This is a principle to live by but not a principle to enslave you. On rare occasions, there’s a time to cut your losses and sell low.

In the case or Ramirez, I held him – and I was glad I did. The slugger looked like his 2018 self in July and August, batting .327, with a 1.105 OPS before he fractured a bone in his hand and missed September.

There’s a lesson to be learned in the two examples I have cited. Things are seldom as good as they seem, and they are seldom as bad as you might fear. Regression works both ways, so keep things in perspective.

If you are going to be successful in fantasy, you must learn how to control your emotions. This principle can be applied to fantasy, stocks and playing poker. When something goes wrong, stop and breathe. And wait.

This also applies to life. It’s inevitable in your life that you will face adversity at some point. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, just wait. How you respond to that adversity will determine the trajectory of your future.

My years of experience has taught me the importance of not going on tilt in life. If you expect some things to go wrong, you have already baked that into the equation. This is called managing your expectations.

Do you remember Murphy’s Law? Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Murphy was a pessimist, for sure. I prefer the late Benjamin Disraeli’s advice. “I am prepared for the worst but hope for the best.”

Please follow me on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1

 

Seeing red with the DH

I have been a vocal opponent of the designated hitter coming to the National League because it removes some of the interesting managerial moves, such as late-game double switches. But the universal DH is clearly coming in 2020, and it will probably not go away again in the future.

So, bring on the MLB season and the universal DH. The St. Louis Cardinals – my favorite team – will be a beneficiary of the new rule. The DH will put another bat in the lineup for the Cardinals, creating more offense. This is good news since the Cardinals struggled to score runs in 2020.

The Redbirds have a number of players to plug in at DH, and I don’t expect any one player to fill that role regularly. Tyler O’Neill and Lane Thomas were battling out for the starting left field job. Either one of them could fill the DH spot in the lineup, leaving the other one to start in left field.

Another beneficiary could be utility man Tommy Edman. Edman didn’t have a firm position entering 2020. He saw most of his starts at third base last year, but the Cardinals are paying Matt Carpenter too much to leave him on the bench. How about Carpenter at DH and Edman at third?

If that’s not enough, how about another possibility. The Cardinals recently signed Brad Miller, a utility man who was swinging the bat very well for the Phillies last year. He hit 12 home runs in just 118 at bats in Philadelphia and had an OPS of .941. There’s some serious pop in his bat.

There’s even another dark horse who might see some time in the DH role. The dark horse is Rangel Ravelo, who became one of Cardinals manager Mike Shildt’s favorite pinch hit options late last season. Ravelo showed promise during his three years playing AAA ball in Memphis.

Regardless of who fills the role, the Cardinals will benefit from a universal DH. The Redbirds have plenty of depth, and putting another solid hitter in the lineup may be just what the Cardinals need to make it back to the National League Championship Series. I can only hope.

 

Tale of American greed

The talks in Major League Baseball’s attempt restart the 2020 season are stalled, and the optics are bad on both sides of the dispute. With 15 millions unemployed and untold numbers struggling to make ends meet, millionaires and billionaires are holding baseball hostage because they are greedy.

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to the owners and players in the sport with a clear path to return. Social distancing is not a problem on the baseball diamond. Why can’t they come together and be a model of togetherness in a divided country that can’t seem to agree on anything.

For the fan, it’s all about the game. But for owners and players, it’s all about the money. I was hopeful on Monday when the news broke that the owners had made a proposal to the players to start the season in early July. Then I found out that the owners’ proposal includes a revenue split with the players in 2020.

It came as no surprise to this was a nonstarter for the players. As we await a counter from the players, I am beginning to wonder if there really will be a 2020 season. MLB had revenues in excess of $10 billion last season, but there will be nothing close to that this year, with a short season and empty stadiums.

So, owners are looking to cut costs, and the biggest line item is player salaries. The owners agreed in March to pay players on a prorated basis, but they assumed that would be for a season with business as usual. But no fans in the ballparks is not business as usual, so the owners want to renegotiate the deal.

If owners agree to pay prorated salaries – 50.6 percent in an 82-game series – it’s hard to imagine they will turn a profit this year. So, what would be their motivation to agree to restart the season and lose money? The answer, again, is optics. While most businesses can’t afford to operate in the red for a year, this one can.

I did a little internet research on all 30 owners of MLB teams. Based on the most recent information  I could find, twenty of the 30 have personal net worth of more than $1 billion. The 30th is $400 million. The owners can afford to use the 2020 season as a loss leader. If they don’t, they will lose the PR battle.

Billionaires are smart businessmen, so I suspect they already know what I just said. My best guess is that the revenue-sharing idea was just part of the negotiating process. Owners are hoping the less-affluent millionaires will blink first and agree to a pay cut. If they don’t, they may offer to play more than 82 games.

 

 

 

 

Who is the NBA G.O.A.T.?

Now that “The Last Dance,” the documentary miniseries about the career of Michael Jordan has aired, I’d like to commemorate the upcoming anniversary of one of the greatest single-game performances in NBA history. Spoiler alert. It’s not Michael Jordan in the 1998 NBA finals.

Let’s start in October 1979 when Magic Johnson began his rookie season with the Los Angeles  by leaping into the arms a surprised Kareem Abdul-Jabbar following the latter’s sky hook that won the opener. Calm down, Magic. This is only the first game, and we’ve got a long way to go.

Johnson, known for his enthusiasm on and off the court, had already had his share of success in basketball. Johnson picked up his moniker after he had a triple-double of 36 points, 18 rebounds and 16 assists as a 15-year-old sophomore playing for Everett High School in Lansing Michigan.

Johnson finished his high school career with a state championship and two All-Star selections before heading to Michigan State. In 1979, in his sophomore year at Michigan State, Johnson led the Spartans to the NCAA championship, beating Indiana State, led by a guy named Larry Bird.

After winning an NCAA title, Johnson was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers and wound up in the NBA finals against the Philadelphia 76ers. The teams split the first four games. The Lakers  won the fifth game at home, 108-103, but Abdul-Jabbar suffered a sprained ankle in that game.

Flash forward to May 16, 1980. Abdul-Jabbar stayed home as his teammates boarded a plane for Philadelphia. No one expected the Lakers to have a chance in Game 6 in Philadelphia – except Johnson. The Magic Man reportedly told his teammates on the flight: “Never fear, E.J. is here.”

Lakers Coach Paul Westhead decided to try something different. He inserted Johnson in the starting lineup at center, instead of the point-guard position. Johnson jumped for the ball in the opening tip and then played every position on the floor in front of a sellout Philadelphia crowd.

I watched every minute of this game on tape delay because the NBA finals weren’t televised live.  I believe it was the best one-game performance I have ever seen. Johnson, 20 at the time, scored 42 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and dished out seven assists as the Lakers won 123-107.

With the “Last Dance” being crammed down our throats every night this week, most pundits want to give Jordan the greatest of all times (G.O.A.T.) award. Those who don’t want it to be awarded to LeBron James. But from my perspective, Johnson was the best overall NBA player.

I’m not alone. Pat Riley is a prominent Jordan/James dissenter. Riley, president of the Miami Heat, coached Johnson from 1981 to 1990, as the Lakers won four more NBA championships during the Magic years. He puts Johnson first and James second for their abilities to do it all.

Another player that also should be in the G.O.A.T. discussion is Bird of the Boston Celtics. Johnson and Bird brought the NBA into the forefront with their fierce rivalry in the 1980’s. They faced off in the finals three times that decade, with the Lakers winning two of three in that series.

I’m not sure if I saw all 19 games, but I saw most of them, and it was something special if you loved team basketball. No one since that time, including James, had the all-around game of Johnson. I believe Johnson could have scored as many points as Jordan if that had been his goal.

But Magic was an unselfish superstar who didn’t beat his own drum. He was glad to let  to his teammates share the spotlight. His pinpoint passing put him fourth on the NBA all-time assist leaders. The four ahead of him are John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash and Mark Jackson..

James, the player I put second on my G.O.A.T. list, actually plays a similar game to Johnson, although he wants more of the spotlight than Magic. Both men had the size, speed, acceleration and court vision. James is third on the all-time scoring list and seventh on the all-time assist list.

No one that saw Jordan play doubted his overall athletic ability. He was a great defender and scorer. But he was also a selfish player who loved the spotlight. He ushered in the Kobe Bryant era, where players “want to be like Mike,” which means the star of their respective teams.

The teams I’ve enjoyed watching the most through the years are the Lakers and Celtics of the 1980’s and my team, the San Antonio Spurs, who won five titles of their own from 1999 to 2014. The reason is that these teams played like teams, with unselfish play the common denominator.

 

Understanding ADP

When you prepare to draft a seasonal fantasy team, whether it’s baseball, football, basketball, hockey, or tiddlywinks, it’s important to know the average draft position. ADP is nothing more than the average number pick that a certain player is being drafted across the combined results of multiple drafts conducted on a specific platform.

ADP is the industry standard, and it provides valuable information to you on how a player is being drafted across all leagues. Once drafting season begins, all the major sites (ESPN, Yahoo, CBS, Fantasy Pros, etc.) will compile their own ADP lists. It’s a valuable tool but it just a tool. The fact is that the public gets it wrong sometimes.

For example, let’s assume we want to calculate Christian McCaffrey’s ADP. There are 10 fantasy football drafts to date, and McCaffrey was drafted No. 1 overall in all 10 of them. McCaffrey’s ADP is 1.0. However, if McCaffrey was drafted No. 1 in five of those drafts and No. 2 in the other five, he would have an ADP of 1.5.

In addition to overall ADP, it is also frequently calculated by position. Currently, Aaron Jones’ ADP is 14, but he also has an ADP of RB9, which means he’s the ninth running back to be drafted on average. The more drafts, the more meaningful the information because a larger sample size is always more reliable than a small one.

When looking at ADP rankings, look at various drafting platform. You will find significance variance – especially as you move further down in the rankings. But if you have an average of all the large platforms, this is more significant. You will want to know the ADP of the players you are interested in to see if a player can be drafted at a value.

In baseball, ADP is also a valuable tool. It’s useful to know how the overall market views the available player pool, which is larger than football. But the sample size is smaller because less people play fantasy baseball than football. With baseball, I am more interested in seeing how the professionals view the players than the general public.

The National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) is widely viewed by fantasy players as the best collection of fantasy baseball players. The NFBC’s Main Event is the industry’s equivalent of the World Series of Poker. The entry fee is $1,700, so you can bet these are not casual players competing for the $150,000 first prize.

You can learn a lot from studying NFBC and other professional drafts. There is the League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) and Tout Wars, to name a couple more. I find these drafts and their corresponding ADP numbers valuable in confirming some of my suspicions about players I might want to draft in the later rounds.

When I enter a draft, I have already identified 20 or more players I’m interested in. But I want to draft these players at the right price. The reason is because the cost of an early-round pick is much greater than a late-round pick. If I know a player I like has an ADP of 50, and he’s still on the board for the 75th pick, that’s valuable information.

Is Jackson a fantasy asset?

After his 2019 performance, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson could be called an extraterrestrial. Jackson rushed for an incredible 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns and passed for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns. He was the highest scoring fantasy player in the league.

But if you’re reading this column, you probably already know that. The question you’re asking is whether Jackson, last year’s NFL MVP, is worth a first-round pick in your fantasy draft in a few months? Dr. Roto (don’t know his real name) with Sports Illustrated say the answer is yes.

At this point, Jackson’s ADP is 18. When you prepare to draft a seasonal fantasy team, whether it’s football, or baseball, it’s important to know the average draft position. ADP is nothing more than just an aggregated mark that lets us know where a player is being drafted on the average.

Jackson, a second-year player in 2019, went undrafted in some leagues before he compiled 421.7 PPR points. In my home league, he was drafted by my brother-in-law, who also drafted Patrick Mahomes. Jack later traded Jackson to my son, Nathan, who then rode the QB to the finals.

Does this mean you should draft Jackson in the first or second round of your fantasy draft? No. I doubt Jackson will gives you a good return on your investment if you pay with a second-round pick for him. There are three reasons – regression risk, opportunity cost and replacement cost.

The textbook definition of regression is a measure of the relation between the mean value of one variable and corresponding values of other variables. I like analyst Todd Zola’s definition from a fantasy statistical perspective. Todd says regression occurs on elements out of a player’s control.

Jackson set a record for QB rushing yards in 2019. He’s not likely to repeat that because defenses will make adjustments. Mahomes was the Jackson of 2018, scoring 417 fantasy points. The key regression stat for Mahomes was 50 touchdown passes. In 2019, he had half that many.

Now, let’s talk about opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is defined as a benefit, profit, or value of something that must be given up to acquire or achieve something else. Since every resource can be put to alternative uses (e.g. time), every action, choice, or decision has an opportunity cost.

In a fantasy draft, if you select Jackson in the second round, you will be passing up some other players that could be more valuable. Derick Henry was 13th in total fantasy points last year, and Aaron Jones was 15th best. Both of these players will be available in the second round in 2020.

This lead me to the third reason why I wouldn’t draft Jackson in the 2nd round (or any early round) of the draft – replacement cost. Look at the top fantasy players in 2019, based on points.  Sixteen of the top 20 were quarterbacks. In fantasy football, prolific quarterbacks are plentiful.

What if I drafted one of the four top 20 fantasy players from 2019 that weren’t quarterbacks and lost him before the first game was played? There certainly wouldn’t be anyone on the waiver wire that would replace that player in terms of value, so the alternative would be to make a trade.

Something similar to this happened to me in 2017 and 2018 when I lost my first-round picks. In 2018, I lost David Johnson in the first quarter of the first game. In 2018, I drafted Le’Veon Bell with the first pick, and he refused to report to training camp and then sat out for the season.

When I lost Johnson in 2017, I didn’t trade for another running back but opted to play the hand that was dealt. I hit the waiver wire and had the good fortune to pick up a rookie named Alvin Kamara in the fourth week of the season. To make a long story short, I won the championship.

In 2018, I went a different direction and it cost me dearly. On the Wednesday before week one, I made the decision to pick up James Conner, Bell’s backup. He was available on the waiver wire, and I added him. I only wish I could go back in time and stop there. If only I had known.

What I didn’t know was that Bell’s handcuff was going to play like an elite running back until he was injured later in the season. As it turned out, much of Bell’s success in Pittsburgh was a result of the system and a great offensive line. But I didn’t know that, so I decided to make a trade.

The trader on the other end of the deal was my own flesh and blood. Nathan, who knows me pretty well, probably sensed that my emotions had gotten the best of me after Bell failed to report to camp. He knew his father, the defending league champion, was on tilt. So, he fleeced me.

Nathan told me he would trade his RB1 for Bell. But he I owned a rapidly depreciating asset, and he wasn’t going to pay top dollar. Nathan offered me Christian McCaffrey and two middle-round draft picks for Bell, but I had to throw in Conner and Devante Adams, my second-round pick.

In retrospect, I can justify trading Bell and Conner for McCaffrey. The 2018 season was the year, McCaffrey broke out. And unlike most breakout players, he didn’t regress in 2019. He got better. In an ironic twist, a two weeks of subpar games, I foolishly traded McCaffrey for David Johnson.

There are a lot of lessons to learn from this sad story, but I digress. Let’s go back to the main reason why I wouldn’t draft Jackson in the early rounds of the draft. The replacement cost is low. I can pick up a quarterback off the waiver wire that might finish in the top 20 fantasy scorers.

There is a rule that the fantasy pros never take their quarterback early. In fact, if you follow their drafts, it resembles end up a game of chicken, with 10 or 12 people waiting to the last possible minute to draft their QB. I agree with this approach, and you would be well-advised to adopt it.

 

How ’bout them Cowboys?

The Dallas Cowboys’ decision to sign Andy Dalton to a one-year deal may have been nothing more than an insurance policy in case Dak Prescott doesn’t sign a long-term contract. I expect Prescott will sign a multi-year deal before the July 15 deadline, but I also believe he’s not the quarterback that will lead them to another Super Bowl.

Please understand that I’m not saying Dalton is that guy, although the difference between the two quarterbacks is less than you might think. What I’m saying is that Dalton could be the guy to build a bridge to finding that guy. In the meantime, Dalton is good enough to put them back in the playoffs – even if Prescott decides not to play for the Cowboys.

After a good draft last month, and with a good coach now on the sidelines, the Cowboys are a playoff team capable of going deep into the playoffs. There is a general consensus on this point. However, analysts are divided on Prescott. I think he’s the weak link. Exhibit A is his performance in the biggest game of the 2019 season in Philadelphia.

Facing an Eagles team without their elite tight end, Zach Ertz, and wideouts Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor, the Cowboys somehow lost that game. Carson Wentz, still managed to pass for 319 yards, on 31 for 40 passing. Prescott had his worst game of the year, with 265 yards, on 25 for 44 passing. The final score was 17-9.

The Prescott apologists will argue that the Eagles game was just one blemish in an otherwise brilliant season. He threw for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns, and completed 65.1 percent of his passes. Including the Eagles game, Prescott had four other chances to lead the Cowboys to victory in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter. He was 0-5.

The Cowboys were the only team I watched weekly last year on the way to an 8-8 record. I  remember all too well week 4 in New Orleans when the Cowboys were down by two and Prescott ended the game with a pick. There were three more games later when they could have won, or tied, on the final drive and turned the ball over on downs.

Although the two quarterbacks are a contrast in styles, Prescott is no more clutch than former Cowboys signal-caller Tony Romo, who had the fourth best career passer rating in NFL history. Romo, a much better pocket passer than Prescott, was 2-4 (.333) in playoff games during a career that spanned a decade. Prescott is 1-2 (.333) over his five years.

Time after time, I have watched Prescott deliver the ball late, or throw behind his receiver. There have been other times when he’s had an open player downfield and underthrown him. Even when the receiver caught the underthrown pass, he had to come back to the ball to snag it. A well-thrown pass would have resulted in a touchdown.

After the 2020 draft, the Cowboys have one of the best receiving corps in the game. The acquisition of wide receiver CeeDee Lamb with the 17th pick in the draft was a surprise – not because of the fact that the Cowboys took him but because he was still on the board. This was simply a player they couldn’t pass up in spite of not needing another wideout.

I didn’t expect the Cowboys to take Lamb after they signed Amari Cooper for $1 billion, and with promising wideout Michael Gallup. Remember, while everyone in the fantasy and reality realms were talking about Cooper, Gallup finished 2019 with 66 catches on 113 targets for 1,107 yards and six TDs. That’s more than double his rookie production.

Speaking of fantasy and reality, here is where my two worlds collide. In reality, I believe Prescott is not going to lead the Cowboys, or any other team, to the promised. There are fourteen quarterbacks still active in in the NFL that have won more playoff games than Prescott, including Nick Foles and Blake Bortles. Foles has even won a Super Bowl.

On the fantasy side, it’s hard to make a case for Prescott not being one of the top fantasy quarterbacks in 2020. That’s because he’s got Cooper, Gallup and Lamb running routes, and Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield. Prescott was the No. 2 quarterback in fantasy points scored last year, trailing only the extraterrestrial known to some as Lamar Jackson.